A good story has peaks and valleys, ebbs and flows that keep the intensity flowing through a long windy journey. If the lovers get their happy ending too early, then what’s the lure to keep readers following along when there is no compelling obstacles left to overcome. Despite all signs pointing to impending wedded normalcy for our intrepid leading lady in Lost You Forever, Xiao Yao’s life was never a calk walk and it would be rash to think differently this time. While I never quite felt the love between Jing and Xiao Yao of the heady variety that I prefer, I definitely feel their commitment and devotion to each other after being through thick and thin to finally reach this point.
Xiang Liu has no one to blame but himself for stubbornly refusing to take a chance with Xiao Yao, even when she gives him so many chances to step up, while Zhuan Xu made a deal with the devil and the price is hiding his love for Xiao Yao away. If there are no guys around to interrupt her wedding with Jing, unlike the dramatic and quite hilarious wedding debacle when she was marrying Feng Long, what could possibly happen now? Read on to find out! This chapter was sooooo long and but each word is worth the exhaustion of translation as the story takes another exciting turn.
Chapter 42 – Soul Dreams Cannot Rest Easy:
It was less than a month from Xiao Yao and Jing’s wedding, and according to tradition the two were not to see each until then. Jing had no choice but to return to Qing Qiu, try on his wedding attire and inspect the final preparations before settling in to wait for the day to arrive that he would marry Xiao Yao.
Other than renovating the Tu Shan clan residence, he also redesigned the living quarters and courtyard where he would reside with Xiao Yao according to her likes: Xiao Yao liked to eat snacks so there was a kitchen built within, Xiao Yao liked to drink plum wine so he planted different plum trees, Xiao Yao liked water play so he had a hot spring diverted into the pond……
Even though the elders already handled everything, Jing’s requirements for his future residence with Xiao Yao was even more detailed so he got to work personally decorating the place and the elders were happy to let Jing do it himself.
Then came word from Hu Mao that Tu Shan Zhen was critically ill and couldn’t take in any food and water, only calling out for his father in bouts of alertness.
Hu Mao was Hu Yao’s brother and both were loyal servants to Jing. Hu Mao was tasked with taking care of Zhen since he was born, and even if Hu Mao hated Yi Yang and Hou, he couldn’t bring himself to hate young Zhen and instead took very good care of him.
Jing couldn’t bear to let Yi Yang have her powers and energy sucked dry and die so he devised a plan to have her declared dead and smuggled out of Qing Qiu. In the past Yi Yang was very social so many people met her before, but now she was scared to be seen so Jing found the best place to situate her was Qing Shui Town.
Even though Yi Yang wasn’t going to die yet, she was gravely injured and even with the best care and recovery at most she could live until Zhen grew up. To keep Yi Yang from killing herself, Jing had Zhen sent to live in Qing Shui Town every spring and summer for a few months to keep him close to see his mom. Now Jing was getting married and he had arranged for Zhen to return in the fall, who knew Zhen would unexpectedly fall ill.
Hu Mao was a thorough person so this news couldn’t be wrong. With twenty more days until the wedding, Jing could make the return trip with plenty of time. But Jing felt unease, that he shouldn’t go, but even if Zhen may not be his real son he was Jing’s real nephew. Plus in Zhen’s eyes, Jing was the father and if anything were to happen to Zhen then Jing would never forgive himself.
Jing decided to go, taking Hu Zhen along to Qing Shui Town plus having You bring along extra guards.
This was the first time Jing asked for the most skilled guards so You was taken aback “The wedding is next month, if Clan Leader has any premonitions then please don’t make the trip.”
Jing replied “If anything were to happen to Zhen, the wedding wouldn’t go on either.”
You bowed “I understand! Clan Leader rest assured that we will make sure you are back for the wedding as that is the sole purpose of our job.”
Before departing, Jing wrote a letter to Xiao Yao telling her that he needed to go to Qing Shui Town and explaining why. He assured her not to worry since he was safely guarded, and would be returning to Qing Qiu quickly.
When Jing arrived at Qing Shui Town, it was already dawn. Yi Yang sat beside the pallet, her face shrouded in black gauze and wearing all black. Her entire form was fully covered other than a pair of autumnal water colored eyes showing.
Jing asked “How is Zhen Er?”
Yi Yang appeared dazed and pointed wordlessly to the pallet. Hu Zhen rushed up to take a pulse while Jing kneeled down and gently said “Zhen Er, Dad is here.”
Zhen could make out Jing and burst into tears, reaching out to embrace Jing “Dad, I’m in so much pain. Am I dying?”
Jing took Zhen into his arms “Don’t cry! Don’t cry! You need to be brave, Dad brought the best doctor here and once you’ve recovered Dad will take you to see the open ocean.”
Zhen weakly said “I want to see the ocean.”
Both Jing and Zhen looked hopefully towards Hu Zhen, who furrowed his brows and set down Zhen’s wrist to examine his eyes and tongue. Jing noticed Hu Zhen’s expression was dark so smiled at Zhen “Sleep a bit, okay?”
Zhen was already exhausted “Yes, I’ll sleep a bit. Dad stay with me.”
“Okay, Dad will stay with you.” Jing placed his hand on Zhen’s forehead and soon he was asleep.
Jing asked Hu Zhen “What’s the illness?”
Hu Zhen replied “It’s not an illness, it’s poison.”
Jing didn’t even try to ask how and anxiously asked “Is there an antidote?”
Hu Zhen dejectedly said “This is a layered set poison and the methodology is complicated, I can’t devise an antidote. Ms. Xi Ling can cure it, but there is little time left….”
The silent Yi Yang suddenly spoke up “Hu Zhen, all these years and you’ve actually improved. You could diagnose this as a layered set poison. Actually, why bring anyone from far away, just ask for the antidote from the person who set the poison.”
Jing said “That’s a solution, but do you know who set the poison?”
Yi Yang pointed to herself “Right in front of you.”
Hu Zhen was so shocked he unconsciously blocked Jing and angrily asked “They say even the most evil tiger won’t eat its own young, how could you poison your own son?”
Jing stared in dismay at Yi Yang, also unable to believe she was the one who poisoned Zhen.
Yi Yang laughed “All the people you arranged here are wily and wilier, if it wasn’t using such a complicated set poison so they believed Zhen was close to death, how could I have lured you here.”
Jing coldly said “I’m here now, give Zhen the antidote.”
Yi Yang was taken aback “You’re not even going to ask why you were lured here?”
Jing grabbed Yi Yang hard by her arm and dragged her to the pallet “Antidote!” Because he was so enraged, his voice was low and his face harsh.
Yi Yang fell on the pallet and looked up at Jing, a sheen of tears misted over her eyes “You really do care about Zhen.”
Jing coldly repeated “Antidote!” and used power in his grip until Yi Yang’s body shook. Yi Yang struggled “The antidote is in the hands of the person who had me do this.”
Jing tossed Yi Yang on the ground and roared “Tu Shan Hou!”
Hou walked into the room with a smile and joked “The one who was poisoned is my own son. I’m not even anxious, my good little brother, why are you in such a rush?”
Jing asked “What do you want?”
“Everyone you have in Qing Shui town has been…….” Hou made a throat slitting gesture “and all your guards have been detained. Right now only my men are here and if I make one call you will be shot full of arrows.”
Hu Zhen didn’t believe it and called out but no one answered. He angrily said “Hou, don’t forget your vow to the ancestors that if you dare harm the Clan Leader you will die a terrible death.”
Hou laughed like he heard a hilarious joke “I die a terrible death? Do you think I’m scared of death?”
Jing asked Hou “If you want to kill me, why haven’t you made the call yet?” Hou smiled broadly “Ever since we were kids, everyone said you were better than me. No matter what I did, you did it better. This time I want a fair fight, to use life or death to determine once and for all who is better.”
Jing said “I have a condition, let Hu Zhen live.”
Hou smiled “He’s the man of your maid, right? Fine, so she doesn’t shed any tears I’ll spare Hu Zhen.” Hu Zhen yelled “No! No, Clan Leader! You can’t agree……” Hou struck Hu Zhen with his palm and Hu Zhen fainted.
Hou smiled “Finally I can have a quiet talk with my little brother.”
Jing said “Fair fight?”
Hou said “Right, until one of us dies, and the one who lives is naturally better. Neither can dispute the result! Even if mother saw it, she must also accept it, right?”
Jing stared at Hou and his sadness and pity was evident in his eyes. Hou smiled back “Since we were kids, mother always helped you cheat. No matter what I did it wasn’t as good as you. Tu Shan Jing, you owe me one fair fight.”
Jing’s sadness was as thick as ink in his eyes “If this is a fair fight, you already chose the method, I will choose the location.”
Hou scoffed “Fine!”
“Then I agree!”
“This is the antidote!” Hou tossed a pill at Yi Yang before walking out.
Jing followed behind Hou silently. Since they were kids, he followed countless times behind Hou, following his big brother out to play, to school, to hunt, to greet their grandmother…..back then they could have never imagined that one day they would fight to the death.
The two rode their winged rides to the outskirts of Qing Shui Town, to an open field by the river. “Here!”
Hou said “Mountains and streams, this is not bad a place for your resting ground.”
Jing looked at Hou who made a gesture to go ahead.
A fog blanketed out from Jing until the entire field was shrouded in mist. Hou scoffed “A fox is a fox, never daring for a direct combat, even generations of descendants can’t change this pathetic habit!”
Hou conjured up a water power based tiger who roamed in the mist roaring. It leaped in one direction and a white nine-tailed fox scampered away.
Hou laugh “Jing, I know your battle strategy is to buy time so that your guards can arrive. Next month is your wedding and you desperately want to go back to be a groom, but let me tell you know that’s impossible!”
The tiger pounced towards the nine-tailed fox, and with Hou being adept at battling since young, many times the tiger nearly captured the fox who only managed to escape at the last minute thanks to the concealing fog.
Hou laughed “It’s not only you who is the descendant of the fox.” The tiger changed color to white and disappeared into the fog.
Many little nine-tailed foxes darted around the fog quickly and the tiger tried to capture each but wasn’t as fast, huffing in frustration while shrinking in size.
Hou knew the foxes were an illusion, but if this continued all his power would be depleted with this useless chase. Hou suddenly closed his eyes and the white tiger closed its eyes. Not seeing, everything turned still, so even if a fox was beside the tiger it did nothing, only hiding in the fog with its senses alert.
Hou was relieved that he injured Jing’s hand and throat so long ago, so Jing could never sing or play the melodious tunes again. The world only knew that the Young Master of Qing Qiu’s musical talent was unparallel, no one knew it was actually an enchanting skill that Jing developed since childhood. If he used the mystifying music now, Hou would need to close off his ears, and a tiger without sight or hearing would find it impossible to kill the fox.
The tiger suddenly moved, leaping forward as if attacking the fox on the left but using his strong tail to whip at the fox on the right. The fox tried to dodge but the tiger tail smashed down on the fox tail and split it in two.
Jing tasted blood in his throat and the thick fog lifted a bit, while the tiger got bigger. The nine-tailed fox wasn’t as fast having lost two tails and with a less dense fog it couldn’t hide as well. Soon the tiger bit off another two fox tails.
Hou said “Jing, if you admit you’re not as good as me, I’ll let you die a quick death.”
Jing’s face was ashen and he tightly pursed his lips, saying nothing. Hou said “Then I’ll keep ripping each tail off one by one so you die in the most painful way!”
The tiger ripped off another fox tail and Jing screamed in pain while continuing to battle with Hou. The tiger bit off yet another tail and Hou roared “Jing, you rather have every organ ripped to shreds and still won’t admit you’re not as good as me?”
Jing’s body shook but his voice was calm “If it was my older brother from before who asked me this, I would immediately admit I’m not as good, there are many areas I can’t match up to him. But asking me now, I can tell you clearly that I look down on you! You’re just a weakling who let jealousy and hatred control your heart.”
Hou’s face was contorted in range and he screamed, and with that deafening scream the entire ground shook and all the fog lifted. The tiger pounced and pressed down on the nine-tailed fox under its paws.
Jing collapsed on the ground covered in blood. Hou yelled “Who is the weakling now? How dare you look down on me? Say it! Who is the weakling!”
Jing said nothing and didn’t even look at Hou.
The tiger ripped another fox tail and Jing’s body convulsed in pain. Hou raged “Who’s stronger than who? You answer! Who isn’t as good as who? You answer me…….”
The tiger raised its front paws and was about to smash the entire fox body to smithereens when suddenly Hou’s entire body froze and his roar stopped, while the tiger’s body began to shrink.
Hou looked down in disbelief as an arrow tipped with a pair of intertwined mandarin ducks protruded from his chest. He touched the tips with the lover birds and murmured “Yi Yang!”
Hou lifted his head to look up towards the sky.
A white flying horse descended and an all black clad Yi Yang was sprawled on the horse and holding a beautiful bow in her hand.
Because she was so weak and afraid of falling off the horse, she used a rope to tie herself to the horse’s back. Now Yi Yang untied the rope and fell off the horse. She appeared too weak to walk but used the bow as a crutch to slowly stumble over.
Hou stared at Yi Yang as the blood dripped from his chest, a mocking smile on his lips “Is that the bow that I designed for you?”
“This is also something you gave me!” Yi Yang ripped off her black face veil and her face was completely shriveled and dried, without any blood or flesh. It was like dried skin directly plastered on bone, except her eyes were bright and shiny like a young girl, making the visage even more ghastly.
Hou made a noise and it wasn’t clear if he was trying to laugh or cry “You’re saving him? You came to save him? If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have ended up like this.”
“You should say that if it wasn’t for you, everything would be different!” Yi Yang glanced at Jing with conflicted emotions. She harmed him time and again but he chose to forgive her. She used to see his kindness as weakness but only after she was truly heartbroken did she understand that hating is easy but forgiving required a stronger vaster heart.
Yi Yang stumbled towards Hou “But I met you first! That year it was festival season and I was in Gao Xing traveling with my girl friends to see the lanterns. There was an accident and I fell in the water, but I couldn’t swim and was caught by a water grass demon. It was you who saved me, and then accompanied me to view the lanterns while rowing on the lake to help me find my friends. I could tell this wasn’t your first time in Gao Xing and asked why you were there. You said “I came to see a girl, I heard she was viewing the lanterns.” I knew I was already engaged but felt this disappointment in my heart. Later I found my friends and they called me Yi Yang, and you heard that and asked if I was Ms. Fang Feng. I said yes and you stared at me before smiling “So it’s you!” You then rowed out towards the ocean and I heard someone calling you “Young Master Tu Shan” and you responded. All my friends teased me because we all thought you were the Tu Shan young master I was engaged to, and you came specifically to see me. I stared at you rowing away, with surprise and joy in my heart, thinking “So it’s you!” I prepared my trousseau and happily waited to marry you. But the news came instead was your grave illness and the wedding called off. Father tried to find out if you were dead or missing, not wanting to marry me to someone who was going to die. He wanted to cancel the engagement but all I could see was you standing within the lanterns with a smile saying “So it’s you!” I ignored my father’s objection and put on my wedding dress, rushing thousands of miles to Qing Qiu with one thought – I would find out who harmed you and kill that person. Even if you didn’t marry me yet, I lived as your wife, taking good care of grandmother. When I learned that Tu Shan Hou harmed you, I decided to take revenge for you once Hou came back to the residence. Months later you finished a big deal and came home from Xuan Yuan Castle, I helped grandmother out to welcome you back and you walked towards me under the lit lanterns and I stared dumbstruck with only one thought “So it’s you!”
Yi Yang used all her strength to shoot out that arrow and now she collapsed on the ground, and ignoring the mud on her face, she raised her head to look at Hou “That moment, all my hate turned into joy. I didn’t care who you were or what you had done, as long as you were alive then I was happy.”
Yi Yang softly asked “Hou, I just want to know, was your true heart there even for one moment?”
Hou coldly laughed “We’re about to die, what does it matter, true heart or not?”
Yi Yang crawled forward and stood up shakily. She looked at Jing “I agreed to set this trap for Hou not to kill you, but to kill Hou. I told you before that I’m not the same as you. Someone who wrongs me, I will make him pay! Zhen Er’s poison has been lifted and I wrote him a letter to let him know all the wrong things his mom and real dad did. I hope that when he grows up, he can repay you on my behalf. Jing, I’m sorry! It’s not that you’re not good, it’s that you’re too good! The heavens knew that you were too good for me, that I wasn’t good enough for you, so that’s why I met him first!”
Yi Yang walked up to Hou and whispered in his ears “I don’t care if you were sincere or faking it this whole time, you promised to be a pair of mandarin ducks with me, lovers forever, in life and in death.” She grabbed Hou’s waist with one hand and the arrow with the other, and used all her remaining power to push the arrow forward until it pierced fully through Hou’s heart and into her heart.
Hou may have been gravely injured with the arrow but he still had power, he could have pushed Yi Yang away. It wasn’t clear if he was dazed or wanted this, but he let Yi Yang embrace him as if he knew what she was going to do. When Yi Yang touched the arrow, he actually wrapped his arms around her to pull her closer into his arms. He smiled at Jing “This time, it’s still not fair. And the person cheating for you is my own wife!”
When the arrow pierced Yi Yang, Hou used all his remaining power to rush forward and kick Jing with all his might “Let’s all die together!”
Jing’s body flew into the air and fell into the Qing Shui River.
With that kick Hou used up all his energy and died, but his body continued to move forward and he fell into the Qing Shui River along with Yi Yang.
Yi Yang held him tightly, nestled in his arms, tears falling from her eyes.
The two pierced together with an arrow tipped with mandarin ducks disappeared underneath the churning waves.
When Xiao Yao arrived at Qing Shui Town, it was already dusk. The field was covered in blood, a winged horse grazing, a bloody mandarin duck engraved bow laying on the ground. The bow reflected the sun but not a soul was in sight.
Xiao Yao knew that Jing was not a fighter, and compared to Hou it was like a forest fox versus a mountainb tiger. The tiger might not be able to catch the fox in the woods, but in a direct battle the fox was doomed. Hou claimed he wanted a fair fight but he chose the method that gave him the advantage. So Jing was going to die either he agreed to the fight or not.
But Xiao Yao didn’t believe it. She kept telling herself that Jing was alive! He must be alive! In twenty four days he was going to marry her, so how could he not be alive?
Xiao Yao followed the river calling out “Jing ——– Jing——–“ But no one answered her.
Xiao Yao didn’t care and even if her throat was parched raw she kept yelling while Jing Ye kneeled before her sobbing “We’ve searched everywhere, Clan Leader hasn’t been found.”
Hu Ya and You walked the field and stopped by a patch of blood. Hu Ya said to Xiao Yao “This is all Clan Leader’s blood, because his powers were ripped when the nine-tailed fox tails were pulled off, his internal organs were severely injured. He couldn’t even stand so must have collapsed here.”
Looking around, he continued “This is where he laid the longest, and he would be severely injured so couldn’t move easily. If he moved anywhere he would leave a trace behind, unless…..Clan Leader went from this spot directly into the river.”
Jing Ye was ecstatic “That means Master must have escaped, he’s still alive!”
You shook her head so Jing Ye’s face fell. Hu Yao continued “You doesn’t believe that. If Master escaped then Hou should still be alive, but You smells Hou’s scent of death.” Hu Ya pointed to the trail of blood leading to the river “That’s all blood from Hou’s heart, and the blood on that final stretch doesn’t have any scent of life, which means Hou was already dead.”
Xiao Yao anxiously asked You “If you smell Hou’s death scent, do you smell anyone else’s?”
Hu Ya said “Clan Leader is the King of the fox tribe. You has no ability to determine if he’s dead or alive.” Hu Ya saw Xiao Yao’s face ashen and about to cry so quickly added “Right now it’s just Hou, she also can’t smell Fang Feng Yi Yang’s death either.”
Xiao Yao said “But you’re certain Jing fell in the river?” Hu Ya added “Clan Leader couldn’t have vanished into thin air, so that’s the only possibility.”
“I’ll go find him!” Xiao Yao dove into the water with a plop and vanished in the waves. Hu Ya yelled “We’ve already send ships searching up and down the river!”
Jing Ye cried “Let her go, if she doesn’t do anything she might have a break down.”
That night Qing Shui River was brightly lit with lamps on ships going up and down the length. There were also tens of water demons searching in the water depths. Deep into the night, even more ships and water demons arrived to join the search. Right as the sun was close to rising, at the darkest and coldest point of the night, Zhuan Xu arrived.
He was in full armor and clearly rushed here straight from an army base without even stopping to change, riding the fastest winged ride to get here.
Xiao Yao was still in the river looking for Jing, from dusk until now she refused to leave the water. She searched every inch of the river floor from Qing Shui Town until when the river met the ocean. A ship brought Xiao Yao back to Qing Shui Town but she refused to quit and wanted to swim back upstream and search all over again. Everyone could see she was exhausted but no one could stop her. Xiao Yao jumped into the river and her legs spasmed so she couldn’t swim. She tightly grabbed onto an oar and still refused to get out of the water, as if she could stay closer to Jing if she stayed in the water, and give him a better chance of being alive.
It was only when Zhuan Xu arrived that he forcefully pulled Xiao Yao out of the water. Her face was blue and her lips black, her eyes blank, with her hair plastered on her face and body colder than ice. Zhuan Xu called her to drink wine but she didn’t respond. Zhuan Xu forced her lips open and poured wine in her mouth. Xiao Yao’s body jerked and she started to cough.
Xiao Xiao dried Xiao Yao’s hair with a towel and used her power to dry her clothes. Zhuan Xu wrapped Xiao Yao up in a blanket to carry her away but Xiao Yao’s eyes remained fixed on the water in abject terror as she shook her head vigorously. Zhuan Xu had no choice but to let Xiao Yao sit by the shore.
Xiao Yao stared blankly at the ships coming and going on the river, and whatever Zhuan Xu said it was like she didn’t even hear it. From time to time she would ask “Found yet?”
By noon, Qing Shui River had been searched upside down, and it wasn’t just Jing not found, neither Hou or Yi Yang had been found either. The only find was a jade bracelet, dark green and malleable, without any design on it but the jade itself was very high quality and exquisite. But it wasn’t finished yet so the bracelet shape wasn’t finished either.
Jing Ye saw it and burst into tears “Clan Leader said the Miss didn’t wear jewelry but a bracelet wouldn’t be too cumbersome, so he was making her this bracelet himself.”
Xiao Yao stood up but Zhuan grabbed her “Where was it found?”
One person replied “Down river close to the mouth to the ocean.”
Xiao Yao yelled “Jing! Jing is there!”
“Because this bracelet was found there, we had men search that area top to bottom and every rock turned over. Nothing was found. Likely carried by the current into the ocean.” Xiao Yao’s voice was tight and sharp “Then search the ocean.”
No one dared say anything other than to murmur “The mouth to the ocean has been searched thoroughly.”
Whether it was Tu Shan people or Zhuan Xu’s people, every person was doing everything possible and searching the ocean area nearby. But it was still the ocean, the vast open ocean, forget looking for one person, even sinking an entire mountain into the ocean it would be difficult to find it. Plus there were lots of demon water beasts and sea monsters in the ocean, and gods had godly powers that were the favorite foods of those sea creatures.
Zhuan Xu ordered “Keep searching!”
“Yes!” Everyone went back on the ships or dove back into the water, and in a second was all gone. Under the bright sun, the river waves churned beautifully forward, not a shred of sadness or awareness that it swallowed up the happiness of two people.
Xiao Yao stood up and stumbled “I’m going to look for him!”
Zhuan Xu said “If you want to go, you still need to eat. If you don’t have energy how can you search. Be good, let’s eat first, okay?”
Xiao Yao wanted to shake his hand off “I want revenge!”
Zhuan Xu shot Xiao Xiao a look and she quickly returned with a ship. Zhuan Xu carried Xiao Yao and flew onto the ship. The ship traveled downstream as Xiao Yao held the unfinished bracelet in her hand and stared out at the water unblinking, as if she wanted to remember clearly the river that so cruelly took Jing away from her.
Xiao Xiao’s powers were strong and the ship was sailing fast. When the sun was dipping low the ship entered the mouth to the ocean. There were countless ships out in the ocean continuing to search. Xiao Xiao halted her powers as the ship slowly sailed forward in the current.
Xiao Yao touched the bracelet and asked “Was the bracelet found here?” Xiao Yao struggled to stand up to jump in the river. Zhuan Xu grabbed her “You can’t even stand, what are you going to do down there?”
The ship wobbled and Xiao Yao weakly fell in to Zhuan Xu’s arms. She still insisted on diving in as her eyes fixed on the water “I….I….I want to go find him!”
Zhuan Xu grabbed her chin and forced her head up to look around her, nearly about to yell “Look! How many people are looking for him? They are stronger and more familiar with this area than you, they know better than you how to look for someone in the water. If you go down I’ll have to ask them to follow you and protect you. Are you looking for someone or causing more problems for them?”
Xiao Yao’s lips were quivering as her body shook. Zhuan Xu embraced her tightly and softened his tone “Xiao Yao, if Jing is alive they will find him.”
Xiao Yao stared at the people in the water, searching in pairs in perfect form, truly looking at every inch and nook.
Xiao Xiao directed their ship to follow along with the search vessels. From the sunset until late into the night, all the ships were far out at sea. It was a dark starless night but the moon was bright and it shone down on the thousands of searchers still looking for Jing. Because everyone carried an illuminating new moon jewel sent over by the Tu Shan clan, thousands of moon jewels glittered in the water like thousands of stars dancing in the waves.
From when Jing fell into the water, two days had passed. All the searchers had lost hope but without Zhuan Xu’s order no one dared stop or give up.
Xiao Yao stared out at the dark waves and murmured “I don’t understand. In the past when things went wrong, I always knew what the mistake was. Some was because he was too kind and forgiving, others because I didn’t trust him and hold onto him. But this time what did we do wrong? He rushed to see a child in need, that was not wrong. He brought along guards, that was not wrong. He wrote me a letter before leaving, that was not wrong. He chose to battle rather than get shot by arrows, that was not wrong. I rushed to him when I received the letter, that was not wrong. So where did we go wrong?”
Zhuan Xu said “Neither of you did anything wrong.”
“If we didn’t do anything wrong, then why did things go wrong?”
Zhuan Xu had no answer for that.
“In the past, if we made mistakes, we corrected it and things got fixed. But what about this time? Gege, you tell me, what did we do wrong? I’ll fix it, I’ll for sure fix it. No matter what I did wrong, I’ll change and fix it!” Xiao Yao’s body convulsed from the pain and not eating for two days, she felt like throwing up but nothing came up.
“Xiao Yao, Xiao Yao.” Zhuan Xu tried to inject power into Xiao Yao to lessen her pain but could do nothing because her pain came from her heart.
The moon gradually disappeared as the sun came up from the East and its red light blanketed the ocean in color. One commander came to report “Your Majesty, we’ve searched for two days one night, many soldiers are exhausted and passed out. Does Your Majesty want us to rest or continue searching, or call more men here?”
Zhuan Xu said “Rest and then continue searching, and order a thousand more water based soldiers here.”
The commander paused for a moment before saying “Yes!”
The exhausted soldiers climbed onboard the ships and collapsed on the deck even before drinking water. Calls of “doctor, doctor!” rose from various directions. Some didn’t even have strength to climb onto the ship and fell back into the water, dragging other soldiers behind. No one dared say anything since Zhuan Xu was there.
Xiao Yao stared at the soldiers before looking back out at the ocean, so vast and unending. Even taking all the soldiers of a kingdom as vast as the wilderness was not enough to even match up with one part of the ocean. She was never going to find Jing!
Xiao Yao said in a low voice “Tell them to stop searching.”
Zhuan Xu said “Perhaps he was saved by a fishing vessel, or saved by merpeople and sent back to land.”
Xiao Yao’s tears fell in large drops “Twenty two more days until our wedding, he needs to mind the time to hurry back.”
After saying that, Xiao Yao toppled forward in a dead faint. Zhuan Xu scrambled to catch her in his arms, she didn’t eat or rest for two days and finally collapsed from exhaustion.
Zhuan Xu carefully wrapped Xiao Yao in a blanket and held her in his arms, staring carefully at her face. Her visage was pale and lips white, in two days it was like her entire body wasted away. Zhuan Xu felt his heart hurt and he looked up into the dawning light before taking a deep breath “Xiao Yao, this too will pass, and one day you will forget him!”
Xiao Yao slept for four days straight, and Yin said her body was healthy but it was like she was gravely ill and couldn’t wake up. Even in sleep she would shake in pain.
Zhuan Xu was anxious beyond belief but could do nothing other than stay beside Xiao Yao. After four days and four nights, Xiao Yao woke up, her body wan and thin as if recovering from a major illness. Zhuan Xu had also lost weight and wanted to take Xiao Yao back but she refused so he had no choice but to stay with her in the East Sea for tens more days.
Every night Xiao Yao would wait, every day Xiao Yao would go in the water. Zhuan Xu had no choice so had Xiao Xiao follow her everywhere. On the eleventh day, with four more days until the wedding date, Xiao Yao said to Zhuan Xu “I want to go back to Sheng Nong Mountain.”
Zhuan Xu brought Xiao Yao back to Sheng Nong Mountain and when she saw the Yellow Emperor she asked “Grandfather, is my wedding dress altered?”
“Is my dowry prepared?”
“Yes, already packed.”
Xiao Yao seemed relieved and went back to her room.
The Yellow Emperor’s expression was somber and he stared out at the mountains in the distance for a long time before asking “Is Jing dead?”
Zhuan Xu answered “Yes, he’s dead.”
The Yellow Emperor closed his eyes and in a moment he seemed to have aged yet another round. He walked stoop backed to his room “These days, you’ve neglected your government affairs.”
Zhuan Xu said “I did not neglect my official duties. Even in the East Sea, I worked all day and during the day it was Xiao Xiao watching over Xiao Yao, I only spend time with her at night.”
The Yellow Emperor wearily said “As long as you know what you are doing. The Tu Shan clan businesses are throughout the entire vast wilderness. Something happened to its clan leader, that doesn’t just affect all the big families, clans, and tribes of the vast wilderness, if you don’t handle it properly, then it might affect the foundation of the kingdom.”
The day before the wedding arrived and by evening the moon was round in the sky and still no word about Jing. The residence was silent with no wedding hustle and bustle, but the wedding decorations long strung up were still there with no one daring to take it down or use it, so everyone acted like it was just any other day.
In the middle of the night, Xiao Yao woke from her sleep as if someone was knocking on her window. She opened the window “Jing……Jing, are you back?”
Miao Pu was beside her “Miss, it’s just the wind rustling the trees.”
Xiao Yao felt dizzy and couldn’t stand up so she leaned on the window “It’s really not him?”
Under the moonlight there were only trees with no shadow of a person. Xiao Yao’s heart broke and asked “Miao Pu, who do you think I’ve not once dreamed about Jing?”
Miao Pu draped a robe over Xiao Yao and handed her a slipper and didn’t know how to answer other than “Your servant doesn’t know.”
Xiao Yao looked up at the moon “I really miss him, and even if I really can’t see him again, seeing him in a dream is better than nothing.”
Miao Pu felt like crying, she had been serving Xiao Yao this whole time and had seen how hard it was for Xiao Yao and Jing to finally get together. Just as they were about to get their happy ending, then this happened.
Xiao Yao said “Likely because I didn’t see it with my own eyes, everything doesn’t seem real. I feel like he will suddenly appear. How could someone just vanish like that? How come he didn’t say goodbye to me? I would rather he died in my arms, that we could say our last words to each other. But what’s this? One day I get his letter telling me to sleep early and not read late into the night, and the night day everyone says he’s gone. How’s that possible, I don’t believe it! Why didn’t he tell me anything? I hate him!” Xiao Yao screamed at the moon “Tu Shan Jing, I hate you!”
The night was silent back.
Xiao Yao wearily lowered her head as the tears came down like rain drops “But I don’t have the heart to hate you. I know that you must be in pain that you couldn’t keep your promise.”
Miao Pu used her sleeve to wipe away the tears “Don’t think anymore, just sleep!”
Xiao Yao said to Miao Pu “Bring me a godly mulberry wood.” Miao Pu didn’t know why but quickly went to bring one back. When she got back, she saw Xiao Yao in the corridor and she had already brought a ladder over. Miao Pu said “Miss, be careful, this branch seems flameless but is entirely a flame. Hold it by the jade handle.”
Xiao Yao took the branch with the jade handle and climbed the ladder to light the bright red wedding lantern. She got down and wanted to move the ladder but Miao Pu understood what she wanted to do
“Let me!” She was trained as one of Zhuan Xu’s secret guards so she was very powerful and easily moved the ladder under another lantern. Xiao Yao climbed up and lit another lantern.
In the dark silent night, Miao Pu moved the ladder and Xiao Yao lit the lantern, one after another, until all the wedding lanterns were shining brightly. With that the entire residence was bathed in warm red light.
Miao Pu saw dark circles under Xiao Yao’s eyes “My lady, let’s go back to your room so you can get some sleep.”
Xiao Yao sat down in front of her dresser table “Do my hair and makeup.”
These days Xiao Yao didn’t even eat, much less get dolled up. Miao Pu was stunned until she realized why and said with a tearful reply “Yes!”
Miao Pu wasn’t trained in doing the elaborate wedding hairstyle and none of the old biddies arrived since the wedding was called off, so Miao Pu did Xiao Yao’s hair in her favorite style and put on a hair ornament that Jing gave Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao looked at herself in the mirror and together with Miao Pu did her own makeup. Xiao Yao asked “Where is my wedding dress?”
Miao Pu opened the chest and took out a red wedding dress with gold thread “Miss?” Xiao Yao opened her arms “I want to wear it!”
Miao Pu bit her lit and opened the dress for Xiao Yao to put on. Since Zhuan Xu moved the capital, the style of the West and the Middle Plains had been merging so Xiao Yao’s wedding dress was a design combination of the best features of both cultures. It was ornate like the Sheng Nong style but also free flowing like the Xuan Yuan preference, beautiful and regal.
After she was all readied, Xiao Yao sat down as if she was just a bride waiting for the hour of her wedding ceremony.
Xiao Yao asked “Miao Pu, do you know when the scheduled wedding time was?”
“Do you think Jing knows?”
“He would definitely know.”
Xiao Yao picked up a medical text from the front of the pallet and started reading it while Miao Pu stood there in a daze. She then left to bring back some soup and snacks to plate on the table behind Xiao Yao.
A noon the Yellow Emperor came to see Xiao Yao and saw her wearing her wedding dress sitting on the pallet. The vivid color of the wedding dress and the silence of reading the medical text formed a startling contrast.
It was mid-Summer so the bright sun filtered through the window and illuminated Xiao Yao, but didn’t shine any celebratory air and instead highlighted the sadness of a happiness torn asunder.
So alike! The Xiao Yao reading with her eyes lowered looked so much like her! The Yellow Emperor seemed to see the Xiao Yao before him rapidly aging away in a lonely room, her black locks turning white and her proud visage adding desolate wrinkles. Her old and lonely visage in Cao Yun Court overlayed on the Xiao Yao before him until the Yellow Emperor could no longer bear to look and shut his eyes.
Xiao Yao heard a noise and looked up to see the Yellow Emperor, and then looked out the window at the bright light of midday.
The Yellow Emperor walked into the room and saw the food on the table untouched and said “Xiao Yao, eat with me.”
Xiao Yao picked up a snack and slowly ate it. The Yellow Emperor kept Xiao Yao company from noon until it was completely dark outside and Miao Pu lit the lamps one by one.
Because of Jing’s sudden death, Zhuan Xu was busier than ever these days so when he was done for the day it was already late into the night. He didn’t even stop to eat and rushed to Xiao Yue Peak, going straight to Xiao Yao’s residence. Even as his winged ride was in the air he could see the entire residence bathed in the celebratory glow of wedding lanterns.
When he got close he saw every red lantern lit, asking in a dark voice as his winged ride landed “What’s going on?”
Xiao Xiao said “The Miss ordered it lit.” The lanterns were the highest quality and once lit could burn for nine days.
Zhuan Xu stared down the corridor of red lanterns, not moving or saying anything. Moments later he expression warmed and he started walking towards Xiao Yao’s room.
Xiao Xiao immediately knelt down and carefully said “Miss put on her wedding dress and makeup.”
Zhuan Xu stopped dead in his tracks and his face was thunderous “She put on her wedding attire?”
Zhuan Xu didn’t walk forward but also didn’t turn around. Xiao Xiao was on the ground kneeling, pressed down with her forehead to the ground so she couldn’t see Zhuan Xu but could hear his heavy breathing. With each breath Xiao Xiao’s body trembled.
Moments later, Zhuan Xu abruptly turned around and got back on his winged ride and left.
Xiao Xiao collapsed on the ground in a heap and let out a sigh of relief, her back already damp with a cold sweat.
She walked into the residence “The Black Emperor has matters tonight that he must tend to, he won’t be coming today but will come see Your Majesty and Miss tomorrow.”
Xiao Yao was dazed and didn’t even react but the Yellow Emperor stared long and hard at Xiao Xiao but said nothing, only waving his hand for her to leave.
Xiao Yao asked “Has the auspicious hour passed?”
The Yellow Emperor said “Xiao Yao, Jing won’t be coming back. Your life is still long so forget him!”
Xiao Yao said “Grandfather, I’m tired and I want rest. You go rest too!”
The Yellow Emperor was worried but Xiao Yao said “I’m fine. I just…..need time.”
The Yellow Emperor stared silently before standing up and slowly shuffling out of the room.
Xiao Yao walked to the window to look up at the full moon. Jing picked a full moon night for their wedding likely so they had a round happy ending. But today the round moon didn’t shine on a happy ending pair.
Xiao Yao told the Yellow Emperor she just needed time, but how much time did she need? How long would it take before her heart didn’t hurt anymore?
Xiao Yao asked “Miao Pu, how long do you think before I’m not heartbroken?”
Miao Pu answered “Like a severe injury, it will hurt a lot initially, and slowly the wound will scab and scar, and slowly it won’t hurt as much.”
Xiao Yao looked down, she had been injured before and knew how long it took to stop hurting. To stop hurting she had to forget! But time was like sand, it would cover up everything in the heart.
Jing, I don’t want to!
If the price to pay to not hurt is to forget you, then I would rather be in pain always so that you can live in my heart, until my life reaches its conclusion.
I’ve already put on my wedding dress and said my vows to the moon. From tonight forward, I am your wife!