Scene set up: After listening to an obviously false story of how Yan Xun is in danger because Wen Yue is leading an army 50,000 men to attack him, Chu Qiao sneers sadly as she hopes against hope that what she suspects is not true. Despite his small band of men, Wen Yue manages to fight back fiercely with his military brilliance much to Yan Xun’s mounting frustration. However, at the end of the day, Wen Yue’s small number of 300 proves to be useless against Yan Xun’s vast army of 10,000.
Smiling smugly when he hears the sounds of hoofs thundering towards him, Yan Xun ignores the sword Wen Yue threw at him and focuses instead on continuingly shooting arrows at our hero. Arriving in time just to see a sword coming straight at Yan Xun, Chu Qiao instinctively throws out her sword (yap, the one our hero gave her) that not only saves Yan Xun but plunges right into his assailant. (So at this point, our poor hero not only has Yan Xun’s arrow in his chest but Chu Qiao’s sword as well.)
A mouthful of blood shoots out of Wen Yue as he stumbles backward then forces himself to not fall down. The furious Yue guards (referring to all of Wen Yue’s men, such as the hero’s right hand man Yue Qi or Yue 7) come rushing up, surrounding Wen Yue. With tears in his eyes, Yue 9 turns his hatred filled glare towards the army standing a short distance away.
Sitting on her horse, with the Xiu Li army by her side, Chu Qiao’s eyes widen with shock when she finally sees the figure standing in the snow. Her body frozen, her limbs numb, her heart seemingly ripped out by some unknown hand thrown right into the frozen snow.
Smiling nonchalantly as he flicks off a snow flake, Yan Xun extends his hand towards Chu Qiao and softly says “You are here.”
Cover with blood, the wound on his chest exposed, Wen Yue’s pride and self control are defeated yet again as the truth mercilessly presents itself in front of him. Swallowing the blood that is threatening to escape, Wen Yue asks himself silently “Yu Wen Yue, how much longer are you going debase yourself?”
Feeling Wen Yue’s cold gaze, Chu Qiao can’t move, can’t speak, even breathing feels difficult. Everything disappeared at that moment. She stopped seeing Yan Xun’s phony smile, or the mountain of dead bodies, nor the town covered with black smoke. The only person left is Wen Yue, cover with blood, her sword in his chest just as if it pierced her own.
Seemingly transported back to nine years ago, to the time when she chose to stand by Yuan Xun without hesitation. The heavens gave her another chance, yet, she still pointed her sword at him without any hesitation. Her fingers dug into her palms but she can’t feel any pain. Yue 9 glares at her with hatred in his eyes, “You evil woman. My master came to rescue you, but this is how you repay him. From this day forth, as long as there is one of us still alive, we will make you pay for what you did this day!”
Satisfied that he has our hero exactly where and how he wanted, Yan Xun orders his army to attack. In a last attempt to save their master, all of Wen Yue’s guards, along with the men that had been working undercover (so, men who were dressed up like street vendors, scholars, and even soldiers) came running out to fight to their death. I really wished they were able to show this scene in the drama, especially since this is THE event that helped our hero to finally fully understand why our heroine believed so deeply that every person is precious, and that slaves should not be treated like things by their masters.
He Xiao (heroine’s loyal right hand man) approaches Chu Qiao gingerly and asks “General, do we join the emperor to fight?”
Dazed as she stares at the carnage in front of her, Yan Xun and Wen Yue’s faces flash across her eyes. What went wrong? She can’t figure out what she did wrong. Fury, heart ache, regret, sadness, and emotions she can’t even describe overwhelms her, unshakable, making her so tired, so very tired that she could die that very instant.
Chu Qiao finally snaps out of her daze, but much to the shock of both sides, she begins to fight against Yan Xun’s men. After watching Chu Qiao wordlessly slaughtering countless number of his soldiers, Yan Xun finally walks up to Chu Qiao and demands “Chu Qiao! What are you doing?!”
Raising her head, Chu Qiao stares at Yan Xun’s still familiar face but no matter how she tries, she can’t see the handsome and gentle young men she knew in her youth. Finally released from her memory, the real Yuan Xun stands in front of her. The reality is so cruel, the sacred belief she held for so many years crumbles in an instant, like a broken mirror, shattering into a million pieces, impossible to be put back together.
“Yan Xun, you lied to me.”
Without any trace of guilt, Yan Xun replies “If I don’t lie to you, how can I lay a trap for him?”
——————————— 8/22/17 ————————-
Her heart pierced a thousand times, Chu Qiao laughs sadly but the tears refuse to come. With a voice filled with fatigue and hopelessness, Chu Qiao stares at Yan Xun with confusion “Yan Xun, how did you become like this?”
No longer the fearsome general blazing through the battle field, nor the decisive brave Xiu Li General (that’s her army’s name, so that also became her title in the book), at this moment, Chu Qiao is just a woman who has been lied to, a woman who finally realizes her years of unfailing devotion to a man have all been wasted.
With a slight frown, Yan Xun says “ordering you to stay away from the battle field was for your own good.”
Her eyes unnaturally bright, and with a voice as cold as a sword, all the sadness and buried grudge come spilling out, Chu Qiao demands “Slaughtering my men, forcing me to abandon what I worked years to achieve, keeping me away from the circle of power, treating me with suspicion and distrust, monitoring my every move, using me, all this was for my own good?”
“Ah Chu (his nickname for her), you are my woman. Why can’t you just stay behind quietly and wait for my triumphant return like the other women?”
After a moment of stunned silence, Chu Qiao laughs so hard until tears start to flow. Her body shaking and the bitter taste of tears in her mouth, Chu Qiao sighs “So, that’s the kind of woman you want. If that’s the case, why did you even approach me in the beginning? Yan Xun, you can kill Yu Wen Yue, but you should not have used me. You should not have used his feelings for me.”
His expression darkening with disappointment, Yan Xun says “Chan Yuan warned me long ago that your relationship with Yu Wen Yue was suspicious, but I was always overconfident. Today, you finally admitted by your own mouth.”
Almost overwhelmed with the urge to burst out laughing when she heard Yan Xun’s words, Chu Qiao thinks to herself “Chan Yuan?! So now instead of trusting her who, with total disregard of her own life has been giving her all in helping him, he is going to believe the words of a lying scum?” She had once thought he was simply temporarily blinded by hatred, but now, she finally realized he has become a politician through and through. All the promises of wanting to take her home, their ideologies, their beliefs were all nothing in comparison to his thirst for power. In the face of his greed, all obstacles are to be wiped out even if the obstacles are his teacher, friends, comrades or lover…
Seeing no point in talking anymore, Chu Qiao turns to leave. Grabbing Chu Qiao’s arm, Yan Xun’s cold impassive expression finally cracks as he demands angrily “How much longer are you going to act like this? Are you going to him?!” (The drama does show this scene so I will skip over the rest of their conversation.)
Jumping to the final scene in the TV show.
The red hot battlefield suddenly interrupted by Chu Qiao’s voice as she jumps off her horse and runs in between the fighting man then yells again “Stop!”
Fearful of accidentally hurting Chu Ziao with their arrows, Yan Xun’s men all stopped and collectively look towards him.
Standing right in the middle, Chu Qiao yells “Yan Xun! Stop!”
With a dark expression, Yan Xun stares at Chu Ziao for a long moment before he slowly commands “Ah Chu, get out of the way.”
Opening her arms wide open, Chu Qiao calmly replies “Kill me first then.”
Turning around when a deep cool voice says “Star, Move.” Chu Qiao sees Wen Yue standing in a pool of blood, surrounded by dead bodies. With the wound on his chest soaking the bandages with blood, Wen Yue’s gaze is without anger, ever peaceful, seemingly harboring no resentment for the situation he has found himself in.
Her eyes reddening, Chu Qiao stubbornly shakes her head and mutters “I have wronged you.”
The snow flakes swirling around them, the sound of an arrowing breaking through the wind made Chu Qiao snaps her head around, only to see Yan Xun’s arm releasing his trademark golden arrow. Unable to stop the unavoidable, her heart turns to ice as she could do nothing but to watch that fateful arrow screaming towards the lone figure standing in the snow.
The arrow narrowly misses Chu Qiao’s neck then finds its target right into Wen Yue’s bandaged chest. The sound of yet another round of arrows being cocked snaps Chu Qiao’s head around once again.
No longer caring about anything, be it dignity or pride, none of it could be compared to that overwhelming fear blanketing her, Chu Qiao plops down on her knees and bows her forehead to the ground until it was bloody. With tears streaming down her face, Chu Qiao holds out her arms as she pleads “Yan Xun, I beg you, I beg you, don’t! Yan Xun, I beg you…”
Thinking back to all the promises and dreams he shared with Chu Qiao, Yan Xun thinks to himself “Ah Chu, in truth, I never changed. You just never understood what I really want.”
With that thought, Yan Xun orders “Release!”
The world suddenly turns quiet, her ears can no longer hear any sounds. Twenty thousand men on horseback, all letting go of their arrows at the same moment, the sky darkens as the black arrows plunge towards the direction of Wen Yue.
“Protect the general!!” Yue One (I am assuming he is the most senior of our hero’s men) yells even as his body is covered with arrows, a leg already cut off, he leaps up like a tiger to where Wen Yue is. The remaining Yue guard, as long as they have one finger remaining, crawls towards Wen Yue with all their might.
The ice covering the lake shatters under the impact of the arrows. Hopelessly, Chu Qiao watches as Wen Yue falls into the icy water that is red with blood. His eyes never leaving hers, still peaceful, without resentment, without hatred, no joy, no animosity. Just like all those years ago, he looked at her expressionlessly, as she leaves him again and again, as she abandons him again and again, the sword in her hand striking at him.
She is the wound in his heart that would never heal. The wound festers, deep into his bones, and will only heal with death.
Her eyes wide with terror in them, Chu Qiao kneels on the ground as tears silently fall. Crawling forward like a puppet with its strings cut, Chu Qiao watches as the icy water finally covers Wen Yue’s cold calm eyes then disappears into the frozen abyss.
Opening her mouth, Chu Qiao wants to scream but no sound comes out as the cold air rushes into her lungs. Coughing, Chu Qiao stumbles forward then jumps right into the icy lake water.
Cold, freezing icy water mercilessly surrounds Chu Qiao’s body as she swims with all her might, eyes wide to search among the struggling shadows. Wrong! Still not him! A desperate Chu Qiao sobs as her tears mix with the icy water and blood. Her face turning blue, her body numb, Chu Qiao suddenly feels a hand on her waist, pulling her towards the surface.
No! She doesn’t want to go up! Chu Qiao pulls out a knife to cut off the rope that has somehow managed to wrap around her. Suddenly, a hand, colder than the water, shots out to stop her movement.
Overjoyed to see Wen Yue’s handsome face as he grabs her hand then forcefully pushes her towards the surface, Chu Qiao tries to wrap her own arms around him so she could take him up with her.
Taking the knife away from her, Wen Yue writes on her palm with his finger again and again “Stay alive…stay alive…stay alive.” Her tears overflowing as she shakes her head vehemently, her hand latch onto him with a death grip “Together! Together! Stay alive with me! I don’t want to go up by myself. I don’t want to live in remorse. I don’t want you to die! I don’t want that! I don’t want that!”
The force around her waist continues to push Chu Qiao upward. Despite being paralyzed from the cold, Chu Qiao still stubbornly keeps her hands clutched around Wen Yue. She never knew the thought of his death would make her heart so shaken. She finally realizes the hatred (towards Wen Yue) she had imaged was only ever a way for her to fool herself. Too late she finds out that watching him leave is like slicing her own heart open. Yu Wen Yue, Yu Wen Yue, I beg you don’t be so cruel. Don’t leave me to a life of pain. If I can’t repay you, then let me be by your side when death comes. That, would be more tolerable than living in this world. The world that holds nothing but despair for me.
The light becomes brighter and brighter, her vision is blurred by her silent tears. The only thing she can see is his gentle eyes. Her hands grab onto him with desperation as she tries to convey the words that can’t be said. Shaking her head fiercely, pleading in desperation, she is overwhelmed with regret. Why did she tell Yan Xun all the words she had been suppressing for the last year? Why did she anger him? If she begged sooner? If so, maybe Wen Yue wouldn’t have to die. Slowly swallowed by endless pain and fear, Chu Qiao holds onto Wen Yue, refusing to let go.
Yu Wen Yue, ever handsome, for the first time in his life, stares at someone so gently. Like a painfully short dream, the hope he had nurtured for so many years has in an instant received a small response. Encircling her slight frame with his arms, Wen Yue uses the last of his strength to push upwards then gently places a kiss on the corner of her lips. Her tears rush out in an instant, mixed with the water then flows down to the corner of Wen Yue’s lips. Her body completely numb, the force around her waist continues to push her towards the surface. Bit by bit, Wen Yue forcefully untangle her fingers from his. Their hands finally separated, Chu Qiao watches as Wen Yue sinks inch by inch until all that is left is the endless cold darkness.
Her heart breaking, Chu Qiao can’t see anything except his eyes, his gentle and firm gaze that insists “Live, keep living, don’t forget you still have many dreams.”
There was a time she said the same thing to someone else. But now, looking back, she realizes there was always another pair of eyes that never took its sight off her.
The moment she breaks through the surface of the lake, Chu Qiao feels like she died. Yan Xun holds her tightly and yells her name but Chu Qiao couldn’t hear anything because everything in her died within that frozen lake. The wind blows gently, the sun is about to set, casting a thousand rays on the mountains. So beautiful…all the things he will never see again.
Suddenly panicking, her body regaining strength miraculously, Chu Qiao shoves Yan Xun away and starts running for the opening on the ice. Shocked, Yan Sun runs after Chu Qiao and grabs her so she can’t take another step. Flooded with desperation and heartbreak, Chu Qiao falls to the ground as she yells in anguish “Come out! Yue Wen Yue! Come out!” Falling to the ground as her body violently expels a mouthful of blood, Chu Qiao sobs bitterly.
Her sobbing stops abruptly at the sound of Yan Xun calling her name, Chu Qiao turns her gaze on him. What was in that gaze? Fury, hatred, disappointment, sadness…each taking its turn until only hopelessness and pain are left. Chu Qiao stares at Yan Xun as the tears fall, years of hopes and dream shattered, all turning to ashes.
Skipping over the next couple chapters where our poor heroine goes on living but as one who has lost any reason to do so. A quick summary of some important events:
- Yuan Xun has it announced abroad Chu Qiao is the one that trapped and killed Wen Yue. Which means all of Wen Yue’s remaining faithful men begin to come on suicidal missions to kill Chu Qiao and Yan Xun can gleefully kill them all off while Chu Qiao watches hopelessly. There were some debates from certain drama watchers who thought Chu Qiao should’ve stuck with Yan Xun. While Yan Xun might’ve appeared like another good choice for our heroine in the tv show, but in the novel, there was absolutely no chance Chu Qiao could be happy with him. Even without our hero, Chu Qiao’s ideologies about life and view of what it means to love were just too drastically different from Yan Xun for them to work. For Wen Yue, the thought of Chu Qiao in harm’s way is unbearable while for Yan Xun, Chu Qiao’s safety always comes second to his own goal. In fact, I think while Yan Xun could never bring himself to kill Chu Qiao himself but his fear of Chu Qiao often outweighs his love for her.
- Completely broken, Chu Qiao leaves Yan Xun and settles down in a remote village (still in Yan Xun’s country, Yan Bei.). Chu Qiao’s quiet life is shattered again when Yan Xun begins to kill all those he sees as obstacles to his path as the ultimate ruler…inculding his own master (Master Wu), Zhong Yu (the female general that has been fighting along Yan Xun’s side after his parents’ death), faithful men who fought battles for him, and finally, his little sister. (Yan Xun’s little sister never showed up in the drama but in the novel, she was Yan Xun’s last remaining family. Out of fear that those unsatisfied with his harsh rule and taxation on the common people might try to put his little sister on the throne, Yan Xun decides to just kill her.)
- Her remaining hope of Yan Xun as a good ruler for Yan Bei shattered, Chu Qiao retakes her place as Xiu Li army’s general and is determined to save their lives by taking them out of Yan Bei.
- Knowing full well there is an invading army waiting right outside of a particular part of the border, Yan Xun purposefully “allows” Chu Qiao army to leave Yan Bei from there.
- Unable to sit idly by as the refugees barred from the city are about to be slaughtered by the invading army, Chu Qiao leads her army to battle for the people’s sake.
- Without the support of additional men or food from Yan Xun, Chu Qiao’s army is soon facing death either by fatigue or starvation. Showing up at the nick of time to rescue our heroine, Xiao Ce arrives with his army in his usual over the top style.
- This is also the first time we meet King of Qinghai who had tipped off Xiao Ce that Chu Qiao is in mortal danger. Thanking the man who had led King of Qinghai’s army to make sure he could leave safely with Chu Qiao, Xiao Ce says “We owe much to you.” The man lowers his head and replies “No, I am only obeying orders.” Raising an eyebrow, Xiao Ce asks inquiringly “And your master?” Avoiding answering Xiao Ce’s question, the men replies “My master has already stopped Yan Bei’s army and made sure we have someone to meet you at all the exit routes. Please go quickly and we will stay behind to make sure everything is clear.”
- Sitting in the spacious horse drawn carriage that has been arranged for them, Xiao Ce looks around at the soft silk bedding, two fire heaters to keep it warm, and finally at the pot simmering with ginseng chicken soup on the side before remains silent for a long time. Curious, Xiao Ce’s servant asks “My emperor, who is this King of Qinghai really? Did he truly do all these things just so we would owe him a favor?” Looking down at the pitifully pale Chu Qiao who is resting peacefully, Xiao Ce asks “If it was you, who would do all these things for you?” Thinking for a moment, Xiao Ce’s servant replies “I guess it would have to be my mother. Even my own wife wouldn’t go this far.” Smiling slightly, Xiao Ce muses “Yes, very few people like this exist in this world.” Even more curious now, Xiao Ce’s servant asks “My emperor, you know who it is then?” Turning to look out at the vast mountains covered with snow, Xiao Ce answers “Yes, I know. If I doubted before, I am certain now.”
- Standing on a high mountain, a man extends his hand as a fierce falcon lands on his arm. Open the note that was tied to the falcon, the man reads “The invading army has retreated. Safe, don’t worry.” His expression calm and cool as always, the man didn’t miss the teasing tone in the note. Safe…who? Don’t worry about who? Penning a reply to the note, the man writes “Don’t come back, just die there.” The young general laughs happily when he receives the note. Waving his hand towards his tired men, he says “Let’s go! Let’s go home!” A burly man in his forties laughs loudly and teases “General Seven, are you missing your wife?” Yelling back a reply, the young general says “Go away! You perpetual single old man.” There you go, Yue 7 is alive and well!
- After resting her very tired soul and body at Xiao Ce’s palace for a period of time, Chu Qiao tells Xiao Ce that it is time for her to leave since she has too many enemies that would make trouble for Xiao Ce if she continues to stay. Surprised when she finds out from the palace maids that someone in a high position in Da Xia (Wen Yue’s country, and the one that hates Chu Qiao enough that would be willing to go to great length to force Xiao Ce to kick her out of his country) wants to form an alliance with Xiao Ce and that’s why she has been able to rest peacefully in Xiao Ce’s palace, Chu Qiao finally is curious enough to ask Xiao Ce why no one has come to make trouble for her. With a laugh, Xiao Ce replies “Qiao Qiao, think carefully. Who in this world would be this good to you? Who is willing to give up many things for you, who is willing to put themselves in danger for you, to squander away their riches for your sake, to throw away everything, to rescue you from danger but not tell you. There aren’t many people that fit that description. Think carefully. When you get an answer, tell me and I will give you a dowry and marry you off in a glorious manner.” Since Yan Xun turned into a jerk, Xiao Ce takes the crown as the perfect second male lead. Xiao Ce obviously loves Chu Qiao but he also knows that he can’t love her the way Wen Yue does so he is satisfied being her best friend. We get a glimpse into Xiao Ce’s thoughts in this bit: (thinking to himself) Yu Wen Yue, I have always believed myself to be the craziest person in this world, but compare to you, I finally realized how shallow and arrogant I was. Laughing silently, Xiao Ce asks himself “How do you compete with a lunatic?” We have all been foreordained by heaven as pawns on a chess board. I can’t shake that shackle off, Yan Xun couldn’t either. But you, only you have the courage to shake it off and escape, then have the courage to jump back into the whirlpool. In the end, I lost to you, in a manner that I simply can’t complain.
- It of course doesn’t take much for our heroine to figure out who Xiao Ce is referring to but then the thought of Wen Yue being alive soon brought both joy and fear. The initial excitement slowly disappears. Her now cooled mind is in a fierce battle with itself. If this is true, then what sort of status has he achieved! How can someone like him be associated with someone like her?! As a person who has put his life in danger more than once, is she going to personally destroy everything he achieved again? What if she guessed wrong? Then what is she going to do? She doesn’t even have the courage to ask… So a bit of explanation of why Chu Xiao is so scared of hurting our hero again. For Chu Xiao, Wen Yue didn’t just die because of her, he lost EVERYTHING he ever was because of her. Thanks to what Yan Xun told everyone, Wen Yue’s country and his own family believed Wen Yue to be a fool who had walked straight into a trap all for a woman that obviously was just using him to help Yan Xun. Quick to forget everything Wen Yue had done for the country and themselves, Wen Yue’s family disowns him then forbid his “body” to be buried in the family grave site. So in short, our once revered and respected hero had become an idiot whose name can only be spoken in shame to the country and family he had worked so hard to protect.
——————————————-Sept 13, 2017——————————————-
With the mixed feelings of hope, fear and indecision, Chu Qiao settles down in another small town where no one knows her as she spends the Chinese New Year alone. Walking quietly in another festival that is reminiscent of the one she and Wen Yue shared many years ago, Chu Qiao sets a small rabbit lantern on the river and makes a silent wish “Yu Wen Yue, I will be indebted to you for the rest of my life. If it is possible, in the next life, at the right time, let’s meet earlier.” Gently pushing the little rabbit lantern off, Chu Qiao makes the decision that it is enough that she knows Wen Yue is alive and well. Despite knowing that her little rabbit lantern will eventually sink into the river, Chu Qiao still frown with worry when the little rabbit almost tips over. Breathing out a sigh of relief when her little rabbit is saved by a much bigger rabbit lantern’s protection from the ripples on the water, Chu Qiao looks up to see a figure that has been lingering in her dream.
Rooted to the spot as if she has been hit by lightning, Chu Qiao is transported right back to a memory long ago when the sight of him robbed her of all the colors in the world. Quietly staring back at her, his hand also holding a lantern pole (meaning the big rabbit lantern must’ve been our hero’s), his gaze, equally stunned, turns into an expression filled with complexity, then settles down to one of silent focus. The night sky lit up by the festival fireworks, the expression in Chu Qiao’s eyes is one Wen Yue has never seen before, one he doesn’t even know how to describe if he tried. Her gaze is like a desert traveler who stares at an imaginary lake, like an abandoned child dreaming of the warmth of a faraway home, knowing full well that the sight in front of them is just an illusion but unwilling to look away, craving desperately even knowing that it will be forever out of their reach.
Chu Qiao opens her mouth slightly, seemingly wanting to say something but couldn’t. Her lips trembling, Chu Qiao’s lips tug upward to form a smile even as her tears are already overflowing. Suddenly taking off in a run, Chu Qiao has spent her life avoiding, fleeing, pushing away but now, her heart is shaken by the thought that all this is just her imagination, easily shattered with a single touch.
A girl running through the street drew many curious glances from the passerby festival goers but Chu Qiao doesn’t care anymore. Still staring at her, a flash of tenderness appears in Wen Yue’s eyes. Darting through the crowds, Chu Qiao is abruptly filled with fear but not a fear of death nor a fear of being adrift. Chu Qiao has always been strong with a steady heart. In the last 10 years there were only twice where she is filled with fear. The first time was when he fell into that lake. The second time, is now.
Reaching out her hand, Chu Qiao holds onto the corner of his shirt with a death grip. No matter how the crowd push and tug, Chu Qiao refuses to let go until a warm hand covers her hands firmly. Pressing close to him as Wen Yue uses his arms to create a refuge for her, Chu Qiao looks up at Wen Yue with eyes that bore into his face. Pretending to be calm, Chu Qiao reaches out with shaking hands that belies her emotion. This is his eyebrow, long and haughty but was never truly indifferent to those around him, this is his eyes, cold and aloof but one that never looked away from her, this is his lips, stingy with words but was never so arrogant as he appeared. The answer she has been chasing after finally right in front of her eyes, Chu Qiao feels her knees go weak and all the strength leaves her body. A slight moan escaping from her lips, Chu Qiao’s body crumples to the side until Wen Yue’s arm quickly wraps around her waist. All the years passed between them as their bodies touched, Chu Qiao finally breaks down in sobs. Her tears falling on his chest, soaking through his shirt, Chu Qiao demands “Why did you lie to me? Why didn’t you come see me? I thought you were dead….”
Lips pressed tightly together, Wen Yue doesn’t answer. He didn’t travel thousands of miles to see her…he just wanted to be close to her without disturbing her life. (The town they are in is the one that’s closest to Xiao Ce’s country.) Unsure of how to face this side of Chu Qiao, a flustered Wen Yue opens his mouth a few times then finally suppresses all emotions that are threatening to rush out of him and says in nonchalant voice “Don’t cry anymore. I am not dead yet.” Pushing him away, Chu Qiao cries “Didn’t you know to come find me if you are not dead?! Didn’t you know to send me a letter?!”
Staring at a Chu Qiao crying her heart out as he has never seen her done before, Wen Yue all the sudden feels like all those near death experiences, the desperation and the two years of hopelessness were nothing in comparison. Waving his hand arrogantly towards her, Wen Yue demands “Come here.” Wiping away her tears, for the first time in Chu Qiao’s life, she doesn’t want to go against his wishes. Leaping into his embrace, Chu Qiao cries “You lunatic!” Crossing through thousand miles of mountains, through the hatred of nations, through life and death….he is still waiting, as he always did.
That night, she slept deeply like she was immersed in a warm bath. Finally waking up bit by bit, Chu Qiao opens her eyes to see a rather displeased Wen Yue standing in front of her frowning as he asks “Do you know what time it is?” At that moment, she thought she was seeing things. Still dazed, Chu Qiao stares at Wen Yue with a very serious expression. The sight of Chu Qiao’s expression made Wen Yue swallow the rest of his speech. Turning around, Wen Yue is about to leave but stops when he feels a tightening of his shirt and looks down to see a hand clutching the corner of his shirt so tightly that her knuckles have turned white.
The memory of the night before come flooding back, a red-faced Chu Qiao releases her grip, sits up and is stunned the moment she looks outside asking “Why is it dark?” Still grumpy as he lights another candle sitting on the table, Wen Yue thinks “She is the one asking?” Last night, after they parted, Wen Yue had returned to his private residence. Wide awake the whole night until dawn finally came, Wen Yue waited and waited at home for Chu Qiao but she never came. Huffy, Wen Yue thinks to himself “I won’t go find her and see instead if she comes to find me.” His patience all gone when the figure he waited for still didn’t show up by the time the sun went down, Wen Yue finally goes searching for Chu Qiao. Pushing open the door to see her blissfully sleeping in her bed, Wen Yue couldn’t help but feel disgruntled as he thinks back to the one night and day he spent in anxious waiting…apparently all by himself.
Blissfully ignorant of Wen Yue’s frustrations, Chu Qiao rubs her eyes and says stiffly “Why are you here?” Immediately realizing she had said the wrong thing, Chu Qiao lowers her head silently. Both seemingly unsure of how to handle themselves as they venture into a brand new territory of their relationship, the room falls silent as the moonlight dance across the floor
“What are you doing here?” Flustered by Wen Yue’s sudden question, our heroine, the female general who has always been calm even during the worst battles can hardly quiet her heart that is beating like a jumpy rabbit.
With a forced calm, Chu Qiao coughs then replies “I…I had some business to take care of.”
“Are you done with your business?” comes the next question.
“Then when are you leaving.”
Forced to keep answering, Chu Qiao replies “In the next day or two.”
“In the next two days? So is that tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.”
A bit angry by this point, Chu Qiao retorts back “Tomorrow.”
“Oh.” Nodding, Wen Yue sits down on the table, pours himself a cup of cold tea but instead of drinking it, just shakes it gently in his hand.
With one eyebrow raised, Chu Qiao glares at him and asks “And you?”
“Me? What about me?”
“Why are you here? When are you leaving?”
Allowing a small smile to escape, Wen Yue thinks “Two years apart, this little fox has become more sly.” Nodding, Wen Yue replies “I am here for leisure. I will be here for a while.”
Done with the conversation, Wen Yue stands up, heads for the door as he says “Since you are leaving tomorrow, then I won’t bother you any longer. Rest well.”
Surprised, Chu Qiao jumps up and calls out before thinking “Hey! Stop there!”
With a calm mild expression, Wen Yue turns around and asks “Do you having something else to say?”
Knowing that Wen Yue must be egging her on on purpose, Chu Qiao glares at Wen Yue for a long moment until she finally looks down and whispers “So…I am not really in a hurry to go.” Seemingly afraid that Wen Yue would misunderstand, Chu Qiao quickly adds “I don’t have much to do anyway when I get back.”
Utterly a rather meaningful “Oh.” Wen Yue nods and says “Go get dressed quickly. Tonight’s festival is even more lively than last night.”
————————————————————-Sept 27, 2017————————————————————-
Perhaps it is because her feelings have completely changed from the day before, the festival really seems much livelier that night to Chu Qia. Flowers blooming, cool breeze blowing, our heroine, feeling like the whole world is filled with beauty, generously gives 10 coins to a little bagger who stares at the money in his hand in disbelief as 10 coins managed wisely, could last an ordinary family 10 years. Amused by Chu Qia’s good mood, Wen Yue exclaims dryly “Someone is s so generous!” Turning to reward Wen Yue with a glare, Chu Qia replies sarcastically “The rich are always such cheapskates. I am in a good mood, so what?” His mood exceptionally good as well, a smiling Wen Yue walks up to the beggar and hands him a banknote for 200 gold pieces then says “Don’t be a beggar anymore, why not go buy yourself a mansion?” Catching up to Wen Yue who ambles off after leaving the stunned beggar rooted to the spot, Chu Qia looks at Wen Yue up and down with suspicion. Shooting Chu Qia a scowl, Wen Yue demands “What are you looking at?” Replying with a snort when Chu Qia says “Such a surprise. You of all people would have moments when you are stung by your consciousness. Why? Burdened by too much money?”, Wen Yue retorts “There are plenty of things you don’t know.”
Seemingly quite familiar with the town, Wen Yue lists off a few restaurants when Chu Qia’s belly begins to complaining loudly of hunger. Unable to last until they make it to any of the restaurants on Wen Yue’s list, Chu Qia ignores Wen Yue’s reluctance and refuses to take another step once the aroma of the street vendor reaches her nose. Resigned when Chu Qia sits down before he even had time to protest, Wen Yue watches as Chu Qia quickly orders two bowls noodles, half pound of beef, a plate of roasted peanuts and a bottle of alcohol.
Perring at Chu Qia with curiosity, Wen Yue asks “I thought you don’t drink?” Her hand holding the chopsticks pausing momentarily, Chu Qia gives Wen Yue a causal smile “I had responsibilities before and was afraid of messing up if I drank, but now I am just a free soul so it doesn’t matter.” Reaching out a hand to take the cup away from her, Wen Yue says with a frown “Don’t drink anymore.” Not bothering to reclaim her cup, Chu Qia shrugs and whispers “Such a prude.”
The food came quickly and as expected, the wine Chu Qia ordered wasn’t anything to boast about. It was obvious from just by the smell that the wine has been mixed with water, designed to fool those who are clueless about such things. The food was bland as well, but at least there was plenty, so much so that as hungry as Chu Qia was, she only managed to finish half of her bowl of noodles. Standing up to leave, Chu Qia and Wen Yue turn to see a crowd of beggars staring at the remaining half bowl of noodles. Tossing a coin to the street vendor, Wen Yue says “Give them each a bowl of noodles.” Walking away from the street vendor who happily agreed, Chu Qia asks “Are you addicted to pretending to be Budda now?”
Judging them to be rich folks who are rather generous, a boy who looks to be 12 or 13 approaches them and eagerly asks “Master, grant me a mouthful of wine?” Looking over the boy with interest, Wen Yue turns and tosses the street vendor another coin and says “Give him a jug of wine that is not mixed with water. I am not paying for it if he doesn’t finish it. Beat him up then take him to the constable.”
Overjoyed, the boy thanked Wen Yue before eagerly going off in search of his win. Amazed, Chu Qia asks “How could such a small boy finish a jug?”
In a matter of fact tone, Wen Yue replies “If you don’t let him try, he will never know what it is. Only after suffering once can he learn.” Stunned for a few seconds, Chu Qia asks silently “Only after suffering once can one learn… But Yu Wen Yue, how many times have you suffered, but why haven’t you learned?”
Deep in thought, Chu Qia is surprised when she feels a stab of fiery pain on her cheek as the sound of firecrackers filled the air above her head. Instinctively turning her head towards the sound, Chu Qia is suddenly pulled forcefully backward and lands in Wen Yue’s embrace as he looks towards the direction of the firecrackers with eyes filled with fury.
Raising her own head, Chu Qia realizes that a restaurant had set off the firecrackers on the second floor without paying attention to those who were walking on the sidewalks below. Besides Chu Qia, there were also several passersby that were hurt but the sounds of firecrackers had drawn out their loud complaints.
“Did you get hurt?!” Wen Yue’s expression darkens even more when he pulls Chu Qia’s hands away from her face to see two spots that were slightly red. Unused to Wen Yue’s stare, Chu Qia quickly replies “No problem. It doesn’t hurt.” and tries to pull her hands away from his but Wen Yue would not budge. Embarrassed, Chu Qia protests “I am really okay. I haven’t been disfigured.” Somewhat assured, Wen Yue retorts “A woman’s face is vital, yet you don’t care at all. But then, I guess since it is you, then it doesn’t matter if your face is disfigured or not.”
Glaring at Wen Yue whose old habit of sarcasm resurfaced yet again, Chu Qia counters “Oh, YOU are pretty.” Accepting Chu Qia’s words as a compliment in a matter of fact manner, Wen Yue turns to walk towards the restaurant. Afraid that he would raise a ruckus over something so minor, Chu Qia asks Wen Yue when he returns after a short time “Why did you go over?”
Dismayed when Wen Yue replies “To remember its name.” Chu Qia exclaims “I can’t believe you would hold a grudge over something so small?!”
Raising an eyebrow, Wen Yue replies “What are you thinking? I just thought it smelled good and was going to come back for a meal tomorrow.”
Irritated, Chu Qia wonders silently “It’s not like this before but why am I always losing when I talk to him now?” Deep in self reflection, a frowning Chu Qia doesn’t notice the small triumphant smile forming at the corner of Wen Yue’s lips.
—————————————————————–Oct 5, 2017————————————————————
Walking along the lake, away from the festival crowds, Chu Qiao and Wen Yue relish in the serene silence as their steps become slower and slower, neither willing to bring up the two years time they’ve spent apart. Fate has reunited them unexpectedly, far away from their countries, from intrigue, from political battles, in a land where there is only quiet peace, flowers, birds, a place where their strained nerves can finally relax. Yet, as her gaze lands on Wen Yue, Chu Qiao knows that despite his blasé sentence of “I am not dead yet.” the difficulty of escaping a death trap, the hopelessness of being abandoned by his kin, and the hardship of achieving what he did in the short period of two years could not have been easy.
I accidentally left a small part out a few scenes ago before our two leads reunited so here is a quick summary in order for this next scene to make sense. After Chu Qiao had made the decision to give up on going in search of Wen Yue so as not to bring any more harm to him, she wandered around until she came to an old tree where the townspeople had hung many personal belongings on the branches, believing that the tree could grant one’s wish of protecting loved ones. Tossing the jade pendant she had kept close to her after snagging it from Wen Yue (remember the steamy bath scene? Yap, that time) up into the tree branch, Chu Qiao looks up in stunned disbelief when the pendant makes a clinking sound after hitting against another pendant just like it. (If I remembering correctly, I don’t think the drama showed the part where Chu Qiao stole Wen Yue’s pendant not realizing she was stealing from him. When Wen Yue asked for it back, a huffy Chu Qiao had lied that she tossed it into the lake. Wen Yue’s pendant was actually a twin, so he had another one just like it. The pendant was obviously very important to Wen Yue but I don’t think the novel explained why. Anyhow, since Chu Qiao’s pendant ended up right next to its twin on the old tree, then that meant Wen Yue had also come by at one time and used his last remaining pendant to pray for Chu Qiao’s safety.)
Finding herself and Wen Yue back at the old tree, Chu Qiao raises her head and asks “This tree supposedly could grant a person’s wish of protecting his/her loved ones if they would leave a precious belonging behind. Do you believe it?” Narrowing his eyes, Wen Yue replies slowly “No, I don’t.”
With a smile that doesn’t give away her emotions, Chu Qiao holds out her hand and asks “You really don’t?” Looking down, Wen Yue sees the two white pendants right away and is stunned into silence.
With tears in her eyes, Chu Qiao whispers “Yu Wen Yue, I thought my chance was forever lost. I thought I would never have the opportunity to repay your debt.”
Staring intently into Chu Qiao’s eyes, Wen Yue finally releases a heavy sigh as he wraps his arms around her and says quietly “Who says I want your payback?”
With tears rolling down her cheek, Chu Qiao nestles herself against Wen Yue’s embrace and closes her eyes as his familiar scent envelops her. For the first time in her life, Chu Qiao feels like joy is so close to her. Suddenly raising her head, Chu Qiao smiles and says “Yue Wen Yue. It’s so good to be alive.” His heart stabbed by a flash of pain, Wen Yue knows that in this world no one else could understand better her words than the two of them. Placing a gentle kiss on her cheek, Wen Yue whispers “Yes, It’s good to be alive.”
——————————————-Oct 11, 2017———————————————–
Quick summary of what’s going on while our two leads are having their touching reunion:
- The novel covers a small flashback from the aging emperor that makes it clear how unforgivable it was for the emperor to kill Yuan Xun’s father who had risked his own life, time and time again to protect the emperor whom he had regarded as a friend/brother. Unfortunately for Yuan Xun’s father, he should’ve never trusted in a friendship with an emperor who will do anything to safeguard his throne…even if it means killing his old friend despite knowing deep in his heart that someone as loyal as Yuan Xun’s father would not betray him.
- Yan Xun in the mean time is becoming colder and more ruthless now that he doesn’t have to hide his scary side from Chu Qiao. Truly alone without Chu Qiao by his side and having killed off all the friends/family he once had, Yan Xun continues to blaze a path of blood and cruelty to secure his total control on Yan Bei. Having long realized that their once precious hope of peace and prosperity under Yan Xun’s rule was never going to happen, the poor people of Yan Bei has no choice but to try their best to survive under their new emperor’s rule.
- His expression dark and unreadable as he gets word of Chu Qiao AND Wen Yue’s whereabouts, Yan Xun comes up with a plan to convince a younger “brother”, a long time secret ally, to marry off the princess of his nation to Da Xia for political reasons. Unbeknownst to him, his secret ally whom he had always assumed was like a younger brother to him was actually a younger sister…Princess Hong Ye of the nation of Huai Song. Smiling sadly as she reads Yan Xun’s careful words that all but names Wen Yue as the person that would be perfect for the marriage alliance, it doesn’t take much for Hong Ye to figure out that Yan Xun is only hoping to muddle the political waters for his own benefit since he knows full well our hero is not likely to allow anyone to tell him who to marry. I am assuming the character Xiao Yu in the drama (hero’s penpal who turned out to be the master spy of Xiao Ce’s country), is based on Princess Hong Ye. The big difference of course is that Princess Hong Ye’s penpal is Yan Xun not Wen Yue.
- Princess Hong Ye is in love with Yan Xue but she also knows clearly that the one Yan Xue loves is Chu Qiao. Shaking off the foolish hope that if Yan Xun knew her true identity he would not be asking her to marry another man, Princess Hong Ye slowly says to the empty room “If this is what you need, then as your little brother, I might as well help.”
Back to our two leads:
These days, Chu Qiao can’t help but feels like every moment she spends is time she’ve stolen. When no one is around, Chu Qiao often finds herself spacing out as she quietly stares at the sun rising then falling day after day.
Without any excuses or reasons, Chu Qiao moved into Wen Yue’s vacation house merely because he asked if she would be willing to spend New Years with him. After thinking a bit, Chu Qiao agreed. It was an extremely simple New Years. There was no palace fanfare, no songs nor elaborate feasts, but what they had instead, was a rare tranquility, a true peace in their hearts.
These last few days, she and Wen Yue have been to many places together. They’ve strolled through old Buddhist temples, walked through long winding back alleys, eaten at various street vendors, and even squeezed themselves in with the masses on the New Year festival.
Surrounded by a mass of people as the fireworks dazzled the night sky, Chu Qiao stares at a slightly frowning Wen Yue who is trying to protect her from the crowd while not forgetting to take the time to turn around and scold her. Mesmerised by Wen Yue’s face as the brilliant light from the fireworks shins on it, Chu Qiao wonders at the beauty. Yes, beauty. Chu Qiao really couldn’t think of another word to describe what she is seeing. Feeling that she has been transported to another parallel world, Chu Qiao looks at the warm lake, the happy crowd…and Wen Yue who has shed all of his defense… this man who used to never have a kind word for her, who pointed his sword towards her but then always extending his hand when she needs help, Chu Qiao feels like every moment she spends with Wen Yue who had almost died for her is another moment she has stolen from heaven. The world looks magical under the dazzling light of the fireworks, but Chu Qiao only has eyes for one person.
Standing at the half opened doorway of her room, Chu Qiao waits as Wen Yue stares at her, looking like he wants to say something but unable to bring himself to open his mouth. After what feels like forever but also seems like a blink of an eye, Wen Yue finally says “Go to bed.” Nodding slightly, Chu Qiao replies softly “You too.” Closing the door inch by inch until the room falls into complete darkness, Chu Qiao stays behind the door with a hand on it and waited for a long while until the sound of footsteps walking away finally comes. The wind suddenly starts blowing fiercely and cold air sneaks through the cracks of the door into the room. Leaning her head against the door, Chu Qiao slowly closes her eyes in the dark.
Next week we finally get a glimpse into our hero’s head!
ps. For those who have been reading the comments on this post, it should be obvious that there are several other sites that actually translate Princess Agents the novel in its entirety. I was pretty impressed by a number of them and thus feel the need to remind you guys again that this post was never meant to be a translation of the novel word by word…I am far too lazy to do that. If you have read my recaps then you know I tend to skip over things I am less interested in so this translation will only cover parts that I particularly liked. By the way, a big thank you to all the comments of encouragement. They really do mean a lot to me.
———————————————————Oct 19th, 2017———————————————————————-
- Wen Yue returns to his room and started to chat with Yue 7 who was smiling brightly because he had just received a letter from his wife. From the two men’s conversation we gathered that Yue 7’s wife gave birth to a baby boy not long ago. Mo Er, the child who was rescued by Chu Qiao and Wen Yue had also been adopted by Yue 7 and his wife. Inquiring after Mo Er, Wen Yue was satisfied when Yue 7 informs him that the boy is doing well.
- One of Wen Yue’s man walks and reports to him about the political mess in Da Xia.
Left alone with Wen Yue after the man finishes his report, Yue 7 frowns and asks “Master, there is something I don’t understand…”
“I know what you want to say. You are wondering why we don’t just use this opportunity to take control of the Wen family and defeat those who oppose us, right?”
Startled my Wen Yue’s words, Yue 7 immediately kneels down but decides to say what’s in his heart anyway “I know it’s not my place, but that is truly how I feel. Da Xia betrayed us and so did our clan. Master, after the two years of humiliation you suffered, why are we still extending a helping hand to them? Why can’t we just go back to Qinghai. Miss Chu Qiao is here so we don’t have to worry about them using her to threaten us. Qinghai is so vast, so even if they unit together we would not be scared of them.”
His brave speech met with a long silence, Yue 7 finally gathered enough courage to look up only to see Wen Yue staring at the sky, his face blanketed by the shadow of fatigue, filled with deep etches of the vicissitudes of life.
“Yue 7, no matter how badly the clan treated us but it is still our childhood home. No matter how bad Da Xia is, but it is our native country. Right now, Da Xia is facing enemies from all sides, how can we have the heart to add fuel to fire? Plus Zhao Che (7th Prince and the one who had fought on the battlefield with Wen Yue. Currently the only one left to become the next emperor of Da Xia.) had done plenty for me in the past.”
Stunned, Yue 7 is rooted to the spot after Wen Yue leaves and he is left alone to ponder his master’s words. Deep down, Yue 7 knows Wen Yue is right but the overwhelming feeling of resentment refuses to dissipate whenever he remembers the two years his master had suffered and makes him wonder “Does master really not mind one bit at all?”
Of course Wen Yue cares. Standing in his pitch dark bedroom, Wen Yue chuckles. How can he not care about the childhood where he spent like a dog trying to survive in the place he had called home? How can he not care about the defeat and hopelessness that came repeatedly after each attempt to achieve his ambition? How could he possibly not care about the betrayal and derision that welcomed him after he returned from narrowly avoiding death? No, he can’t forget. Not even in death.
He doesn’t want to relive the wave of feelings that came over him just now at hearing Yue 7’s words. The ambition to have glory, to be the one above all, to be able to summon hundred with one yell is every man’s dream and a deadly temptation to all. After escaping death and returning to find instead of a warm welcome, what greeted him was abandonment by his country, his name dragged through the mud and open shame as the public enemy to the very people he had worked so hard to protect. He is not a saint, how can he not have hatred in his heart.
Watching Da Xia losing repeatedly to Yan Bei’s army, he couldn’t help but felt a sense of justice being served. Considering Da Xia’s political chaos, he had even thought about sending his own army to take over Da Xia. It would’ve made it so easy for him to wipe away all the memories of his own humiliation as he towers over those who had once dared to ridicule him.
However, when the time came to take that final step…he hesitated.
On the field of Qinghai, all those starving eyes are still waiting for him. Those same people who had so generously accepted him and his men so they didn’t have to die in the wintery cold. If Yue 7 and his own men knew what’s in his heart they would’ve stared at him in disbelief and ask “Master, are you really going to give up all these glorious lands for a few Qinghai peasants?”
Yes, they are just ignorant peasants who are the descendants of inmates that had been banished to a desolate land. In the past, he would’ve agreed with them because after all, a man has to give up certain things to achieve one’s ambition. Hesitation and emotions were for the likes of women. However, something has changed in him. When he was abandoned by the whole world, someone opened a door for him. The house was old and leaking from the rain, but there he sat drinking the heart warmest soup he had ever tasted in his life. At that moment, he suddenly understood Chu Qiao. He finally understood the girl who had stubbornly told him to wait and see. He thank the heaven for a chance to experience what he did, or else he might’ve never come to understand her. He would’ve never understood the joy of creating and safeguarding. Much to his surprise, he found THAT joy was no less than the feeling that came with conquering and destroying.
As for Da Xia, the hatred, and the dream of conquering all…
Wen Yue slowly closes his eyes and tells himself “I know how to discern what is most important.”
Yes, he still needs to fight, to use everything in his power to protect and to compete. He still needs to outsmart those who are conspiring and meet his enemies on the battlefield. Even if his goal is not to take over Da Xia but neither can he just sit idly by and watch it fall into someone else’s hands.
With his eyes closed, Wen Yue smiles sadly. He and Chu Qiao have always been like this. They meet and leave at all the wrong times. Fate continues to push them towards an unseen path so they are always missing each other. After everything he has done, in the end he is just a young man still in his twenties. Despite the hard life he has led, he too dreams that one day he could triumphantly return as a hero and with everything in his possession offers them to the girl he loves while declaring “Here, these are all for you!” But, a dream is just a dream. Leaning back against a chair, Wen Yue’s smile widens with a rare innocence.
————————————————————————Oct 24, 2017—————————————————–
Wen Yue slept deeply that night. Waking up at dawn, Wen Yue leans back tiredly against his bed as his mind replays the nightmarish memories.
His body froze by the frigid lake water, a dazed Wen Yue could only stare numbly at all the seemingly countless shadowy figures around him. Suddenly, a hand came out of nowhere to grab him and begins to swim frantically ahead, leaving a trail of blood in the water. With fierce red eyes, Yue 9 pulls Wen Yue along as he swims with all his might. The sunlight shining through the water, carrying with it the thundering yells of “Long live the emperor! Long live the emperor!” Without a doubt, Wen Yue knew they were chants from Yan Bei’s soldiers bowing to Yan Xun, celebrating his death.
The chanting became louder and louder until Wen Yue couldn’t hear anything else. He had failed so completely. In his life, he had never failed so badly, and now he will probably die here as well. His body without an ounce of warmth left, Wen Yue could feel the blood draining from him, taking with it, the last of his strength. His attention drawn by a sudden loud sound, Wen Yue looks up to see Yue 9 hurling himself violently against the lake’s icy cover again and again, attempting to break it with his head.
“Bang – bang- bang!”
Feeling like his heart is abruptly pierced through to the core, Wen Yue finally understood. Yue 9 came to his family at the young age of four years old. Wen Yue had always thought it as a matter of course that his men should die for him, never doubting his assumption.
However, at that moment, he remembers a memory from long ago when a girl had stared at him coldly and firmly declared “No one is born a slave.”
No one is born a slave.
“Bang!” Another loud sound accompanied by the splatter of blood cuts off Wen Yue’s thoughts. Even in the water, Wen Yue could still feel that burning metallic smell of blood. His body instantly filled with energy, Wen Yue pushes aside Yue 9 and uses Chu Qiao’s dagger to start digging into the ice with all his strength.
“I can’t die!” Wen Yue whispers to himself. “I can’t die! There are still many things I want to accomplish!”
His body frozen, his lungs near exploding, his wounds exposed, but Wen Yue’s body refuses to stop and mechanically wields his arm for survival. “I cannot die! I cannot die! I cannot die!”
A large ice chunk finally shatters and Wen Yue’s body is propelled to the surface by the pressure. Sucking in air to fill his desperate lungs, Wen Yue yells “Yue 9! We are saved!”
Seeing no signs of Yue 9, Wen Yue dives back into the water searching deeper and deeper until he finally finds Yue 9’s body at the bottom of the lake. With much difficulty, Wen Yue pulls Yue 9 to the surface and tries frantically to revive him as he yells “Wake up! I command you. Wake up!”
Never in Wen Yue’s life had he cried in such an uncontrollable manner. But that day, he did it for a slave. On that vast nothingness, Wen Yue howled like a grieving wolf.
Three days later, Wen Yue was finally reunited with Yue 7 who had managed to survive somehow. Wen Yue’s loyal Yue guards had led his remaining men searching tirelessly for three days in the water roundabout but due to the cold of the lake water they’ve already lost twenty plus men.
Wen Yue’s guards transported their near dying master up to the Dragon Mountain. Eventually recovering after 6 months, what awaited Wen Yue was a shattered future.
On that fateful morning, Wen Yue sat like a statue and stared silently at the reports that his Yue guards had brought back. Walking in to see his pupil had not moved from sunrise to sundown, Wen Yue’s master asks in a casual tone “Where are you going to go?” Overwhelmed with the feeling of uncertainty he had not experienced for many years, Wen Yue answers “Master, there are no more paths for me to take.”
The white haired old man smiles kindly before reaching out with one wave of his hand to shred the map on the wall and says quietly “If there is no path, then just make your own.”
Confused, Wen Yue looks at the map that had all the nations torn out of it, leaving only vast lands that had once surrounded those nations. Continuing with his wise counsel, Wen Yue’s master adds “Child, the world is filled possibilities. How do you know if this map can only be this big?”
Back to our two leads next week! I felt like I had to include this part because it shows clearly how our heroine’s vision for a new world finally become our hero’s as well.
—————————————————————Nov 1, 2017————————————————————–
The next morning, one of Wen Yue’s men come rushing into town carrying with him urgent news. Looking around at the somber expressions on everyone face, Chu Qiao suddenly understood and left the room quietly.
Half of an hour later, Wen Yue is ready to leave.
Chu Qiao accompanied Wen Yue all the way to the outside of the town gate. Yue 7 and the rest of the men silently backs away until only Wen Yue is alone with Chu Qiao. Turning around to look at Chu Qiao who had silently followed him to a rather forlorn spot in the wild grass field, Wen Yue says in a quiet and calm voice “I am leaving.”
Nodding, Chu Qiao replies “Oh, be careful on the road.”
Frowning slightly, Wen Yue wonders why they are always like this. After the initial elation of their reunion, they would start to pull away from each other. It’s like neither of them knew how to act so they are left with saying polite nonsense.
“After I am gone, where are you going?”
“Me? I might go to Bian Tang (Xiao Ce’s country) for a bit.”
Frowning as she thought for a moment, Chu Qiao suddenly laughs “I don’t know either. I might just travel around and stop for a time if I find something tasty and somewhere with a good view. Who knows.”
“Are you…going to go to Yan Bei?”
Smiling slightly, Chu Qiao replies “I lived there for many years. I have seen all there was to see. Plus, my body is no good anymore, I can’t handle the coldness of the north.”
Seemingly understanding something, Wen Yue nods stiffly, unable to say all the things that have been circling on his tongue. This was just a lovely dream after all. An illusion that will shatter when the time comes. Everything is all wrong. Even them, standing together is against what should be. Fate has already spoken. Like attempting to hold sand, the more he tries, the faster it disappears. His expression stoic as ever and seemingly unwilling to waste another breath, Wen Yue starts to walk away.
“Yu Wen Yue!”
Pausing at the sound of Chu Qiao’s urgent call, Wen Yue could feel her small hand, cold, gripping the corner of his robe in that familiar stubborness.
Her voice breaking with a hint of tears in them, Chu Qiao continues “I thought I would never have the chance to say that to you, but thank heaven you are all right.” The corner of her mouth rising into a small smile, Chu Qiao pours out her heart “Yu Wen Yue, I have done many things and walked many roads in my life. Some of them were right, some of them were wrong but I have never had any regrets. I know my own heart and I don’t owe anyone…except you. You alone, I owe you so much to the point I can ever repay. Now that you have returned safely I should be staying by your side and use the rest of my life to repay you but I am no longer the person I was before. After everything, I no longer have the courage to go back in. After the battle at Yan Bei, Xiu Li general is dead and the one who survived is just an ordinary woman who lost her dreams. I no longer have the capability to stay by your side.”
The winds come through, making a tingling sound of the wind chime that is hanging on a decrepit pavilion nearby. The insistent tingling sounds seem to be the heaven’s jeer for mortal’s futile attempts to fight against fate.
Suddenly throwing her arms around Wen Yue, Chu Qiao slowly presses her face against his back. A tear escaping, Chu Qiao whispers “Yue Wen Yue, I am sorry.”
Their bodies pressed close together, this is the first time she is the one to embrace him. So much time has come and gone between them. Right from the beginning, this was a big joke played on them by fate. After experiencing so many trials and surviving the countless obstacles, the shackles of fate is still on them.
Releasing her tightly grasped hands bit by bit, Chu Qiao finally backs away from the embrace. With her arms now empty, Chu Qiao smiles and says “Take care.”
Walking away briskly, Wen Yue jumps on his horse and with a snap of Yue guards’ whips, the warhorses charge away in unison, leaving a cloud of dust behind.
He never looked back. Not even once. Chu Qiao stared at Wen Yue’s ever handsome and proud profile on horseback until he can’t be seen anymore.
In the novel, Chu Qiao is actually from the modern time period so as she stares after the direction Wen Yue just left, she remembers an old memory she had with her best friends when they were each taking turns saying what they would do if they finally find “the one.” When it was Chu Qiao’s turn, our heroine simply said “I will be very good to him. Very very good.” With the timing of where this memory was brought up, I think the author is trying to point out that Chu Qiao does love Wen Yue but not staying by his side, endangering him, and making him a laughing stock again is her way of being “very very good” to him.
Feeling ticklish when a horse stuck out its nose to gently nuzzle her face, Chu Qiao turns to see her horse “Meteor” looking at her with concern in its eyes. Meteor has been in Wen Yue’s care all these years, but now that he is returned to her, he is still just as affectionate towards her. Accidentally swiping across her own face as she softly pushes Meteor, Chu Qiao is surprised to realize her face is covered with tears. Turning her head back to look at Meteor who is trying to push her towards the north direction, seemingly wanting to carry her to chase after someone, Chu Qiao pats the horse and mutters “Good Meteor.” Laying her face against Meteor’s neck, Chu Qiao strokes the horse’s mane gently. Her horse has already aged some…just like her heart, pierced through with holes filled with countless scars.
“Let’s go.” Chu Qiao sits up and pulls the horse towards the south.
I am not usually the type who likes self imposed separations in stories but here in Princess Agents I actually think it makes a lot of sense. Both of our leads paid and are still paying a heavy price for what they went through. The cost is not only damages to their bodies but to their mental well being as well. Our heroine had a grandiose vision and the betrayal of her most precious pupil (because in a sense that was what Yan Xun was to her, she to him) shattered not only her dream but her self confidence…including her confidence to stand by Wen Yue’s side.
————————————————————————Nov 8, 2017———————————————————–
Skipping over a few chapters but here are some scenes I feel are important:
Chu Qiao shows up at Xiao Ce’s palace but doesn’t stay too long before she says her farewell to him. Leaving her Xiu Li army in Xiao Ce’s care, Chu Qiao admits “In these past few months I keep wondering if I was wrong. Was I too naive in believing I could change this society? That I could make this world more fair? My only hope was that the poor would be able to eat, they would no longer be forced to become slaves and that those in power will stop killing them at will. I was not blind to the fact that no society can change overnight, but someone had to try, someone had to take small steps so big strides can be taken later. I didn’t have this lofty vision in the very beginning. I just wanted to escape and live a good life, but then I met Yan Xun and my heart started to beat again when he described his homeland Yan Bei. I thought to myself that maybe me coming to this world was fate and I can be of some value, but my dream shattered. I was over confident. I thought I was strong…strong enough to change many things and protect many people but in the end I found out I was too weak. My friends and family left me one by one. Not only could I not protect them, I caused many people to die.
Xiao Ce frowns at Chu Qiao’s words and is about to protest when she stops him and continues on calmly “I am not a good leader. My men believe in me, yet because of me, they are repeatedly thrown into danger and war. They bled and died. I cannot give them the life I promised them. I only saved them once. I have no right to selfishly ask them to go into battle with me. I wondered now if I had only done what Yan Xun asked back then and disbanded them at that time then many of them would not have died. They would be married with kids by now.”
Her voice breaking and unshed tears in her eyes, Chu Qiao says with a laugh “People don’t always have to achieve some grandiose achievement in life. Being married, raising kids, aging happily is another path. But I realized that too late. They are dead and nothing will bring them back. My hands are covered in blood and I can never wash them clean again.”
“Chu Qiao.” Xiao Ce says with a firm voice “These are not your fault.”
Replying in a low voice, Chu Qiao counters “But I was responsible. They believed and followed me but I couldn’t protect them. They died one by one yet I couldn’t even give them a good burial. Do you know? Every night I can still hear their cries in the freezing wind. They are crying to see their home, to see their aging parents. They were all so young. Some of them only fifteen or sixteen years old. They should’ve been with their family but because of me, they died in the icy wilderness.”
Pleading with Xio Ce who is looking at her with obvious worry in his eyes, Chu Qiao asks “Xiao Ce, help me. Take care of them. If you can’t trust them, then disband them and give them some light jobs but let them live on your land, get married and stay away from the battlefield. There are no winnings to soldiers on battlefields. All the wins belong to generals but only endless killings and deaths are left to them.”
Nodding with some difficulties, Xiao Ce asks softly “And you? Do you still hate Yan Xun? Will you still go back to him?”
Shaking her head lightly, Chu Qiao answers “I don’t hate him anymore. No one understands that in reality, he is the one suffering the most. I saw with my own eyes the pain and hatred he suffered. I saw the humiliation he went through. All those are not something a bystander can understand. I can’t pretend to measure the hate in his heart. Where he has ended up today, even if the method was wrong, there is no denying that fate has driven him to this point. Everyone has the right to choose his or her own path. He has chosen his own path, even if it’s one I can’t agree but I have to respect his decision. In this world, who can really be perfectly in the right and who has the authority to say someone is completely in the wrong? Each of us has our own measuring stick. He and I can no longer travel on the same path, but that doesn’t mean we have to be sworn enemies.”
“Then what about Yu Wen Yue? Why are you not with him? He has done so much for you, do you not love him?”
“Love? Maybe that’s true.” With a slight laugh Chu Qiao admits “In truth, I don’t know what counts as real love. However, I do know that love doesn’t necessarily mean being together. Sometimes, letting go is a form of love.”
Rising her head to let the wind blow gently across her face, Chu Qiao mutters “He is like the defense minister of Da Xia after all. How can someone like him be with someone like me. I know if I just say the word he will abandon all the glory for my sake. But Xiao Ce, how can I do that? He has suffered then conquered so much to finally shatter the shackle of shame and climbed to his station today. He is different from me. Even if his country is corrupt and his clan cold blooded but he is still someone with a country and a home. I understand the weight of that responsibility, the heavy charge that rise above personal pursuit of love or freedom. If he abandons all for me right now and go wonder the world with me, do you think he will really be happy in the future? No, he won’t. He is a man. A man should soar high in the sky he has made. One day when he is old, he will understand and be glad for the decision he made today.”
Lower her head, Chu Qiao smiles sadly, “Plus, I am tired. I have labored for 10 years. I don’t have the courage to keep going down a path I can’t see clearly. I am still a woman and there comes a time I just want to rest.”
Realizing Chu Qiao has made up her mind, Xiao Ce hides his own aching heart and bids our heroine off with a playful wave “Qia Qia, travel safely! Remember, anytime before the age of 30, if you can’t find someone to marry you, you can always come back to me!”
Leaning out of her carriage, Chu Qiao waves back and yells “I’ll take that as a blessing from you and be sure to marry myself off before I am 30!”
Watching until the carriage finally disappears from sight, Xiao Ce shakes his head when his man asks if they should send some men to protect our heroine and thinks to himself “Everyone has the right to choose their own path. Qia Qia, go well.”
Time jump to a year and half later…
- Chu Qiao’s initial plan of wandering around aimlessly on her own met a quick demise when three kids insisted on following her. Settling down in a small quiet town, Chu Qiao opens up a travelers’ lodge with the kids.
- Despite being only 21 years old, our heroine’s once healthy body has been ravaged by her years on the battlefield. Gently touching the silver hairs that are already showing up, Chu Qiao calmly accepts her aching bones and various ailments that require a daily regimen of medicines.
- Content with her quiet life, Chu Qiao doesn’t actively seek out any news but thanks to the nature of running a lodge, our heroine still hears plenty from passing travelers…such as the news that Wen Yue had promptly accepted the marriage alliance proposal (remember the bit about Yan Xun writing to his pen pal who turned out to be the very princess he was trying to marry off to Wen Yue?) but just when the court officials are busy celebrating, Wen Yue reveals that he already has a wife back in Qinghai so if the princess wants to marry him, she will have to be satisfied with the position of a concubine. Needless to say, the marriage alliance proposal didn’t happen.
- Other noteworthy news that came from travelers’ gossip: Thanks to much support from Wen Yue, 7th Prince has a good chance competing for Da Xia’s throne. Another big news that is still generating much gossip even after a year is Yan Xun’s colossal wedding where he married 18 wives (all chosen for political purposes) at the same time and held a big feast for 18 days. All the wedding guests marveled at the beautiful palace Yan Xun had built right into the side of a cliff, making it seem like it is hanging in midair. Everyone knew the palace was built for Yan Xun’s love, Xiu Li general, but after her disappearance, no one knew where she is. Some say she has changed her name and married Xiao Ce. Some say she married our hero and is leading his army at Qinghai. Some say she never left and is living in the beautiful palace Yan Xun built for her. Of course, no one could guess the truth that the famous Xiu Li general is managing a small lodge, spending her day quietly walking along the lake or playing chess with the old men in the neighborhood. (The palace came from a story Chu Qiao had told Yan Xun a long time ago about a king who had built a palace floating in midair for the woman he loved.)
- Skipping over the next bit where some daring thugs unwisely tried to pick on Chu Qiao and her three kids…then ended up getting beat to a pulp by our heroine’s very excited kids who were finally allowed to use what she had taught them. (One of the kids is a smart 18 year old boy, Ping An who harbors a crush on Chu Qiao but his budding feelings were promptly annihilated into nothingness the moment our hero shows. Stunned when she finds out from one of the kids that the 18 year old boy harbors a crush on her, Chu Qiao falls silent when the teary girl (who has a crush on Ping An) tells her “But I know you don’t like him. Because the one you like is the owner of the jade pendant by your pillow.”
- Alarmed when she starts getting wind of something brewing against Xiao Ce, Chu Qiao promptly sets off on the long journey to see Xiao Ce personally. Her long trek halted by a broken bridge that has been washed away by the river, Chu Qiao is instinctively weary when she meets another group of traveler who is obviously quite dangerous. Settling down to camp in the miserable weather to wait for the bridge to be fixed, Chu Qiao politely tells one of her kids to share their extra dinner with the mysterious group. Deciding it is better safe than sorry when her kids excitedly eyes the delicious looking pastries the mysterious group gifted them, Chu Qiao orders the pastries to be thrown away. Interestingly, the mysterious group is obviously just as guarded against our heroine’s group, since they had also throw out the dinner Chu Qiao had sent over.
- Trying to ignore a sense foreboding when two days later she meets the same mysterious group again while they were being attacked by a wolf pack, Chu Qiao sends her people in to help but coldly refuses to disclose her name when a servant from the group attempts to find out her identity.
- All pretense of politeness gone when both groups meet a third time due to a mudslide caused by heavy rain, heated words are exchanged and swords are drawn as both sides are convinced that these “unfortunate” meetings are purposefully done by the other group.
- Certain that the mysterious group must have some evil purpose against them, Ping An pulls out his sword in one swift movement and is about to go running forward until Chu Qiao’s quiet voice stops him “Ping An, don’t be brash.”
Like a stream of cold water suddenly injected into a boiling pot, the straining tension was immediately interrupted by Chu Qiao’s words. The deafening silence between the two groups is eventually broken by what sounds like boots stepping on loose pebbles and a low voice of surprise “Master?”
Without saying anything the man ignores Du Ji’s (another one of our heroine’s kids) angry yells of “Stop!” and calmly walks towards Chu Qiao’s carriage. Duo Ji tries to draw his sword but only manages to pull it out half way before the man casually knocks the sword to the ground. With a furious snort, Duo Ji charges towards the man but the man just ignores him, quickly steps up to Chu Qiao’s carriage and lifts its blind. Her mini crossbow cocked and ready, Chu Qiao aims towards the carriage door but stops when the sunlight finally reveals the man. Calmly looking back at Chu Qiao with cool hard to read eyes, the man continues to ignore Duo Ji even when the young boy charges forward with his fingers forming the shape of claw ready to deliver a deadly blow to the man’s neck. An arrow shot out from the crossbow, right past the man’s ear, past Duo Ji’s outstretched arm and effectively freezes everyone in motion.
“Duo Ji, stay back.” Chu Qiao orders quietly without any hint of anger but with a tone that will not be disobeyed.
Rising his eyebrows, Duo Ji asks “Miss?!”
Swallowing the rest of his questions when Chu Qiao just silently stares at him, Duo Ji backs away but continues to stares at the man with hostility.
With a yelp, Jing Jing (one of the kids) who was sitting with Chu Qiao in the carriage points at the direction of the man and exclaims “Ah! His pendant is the same as older sister’s!”
————————————————————–Nov 22, 2017——————————————————————–
Standing against the wind, a white round pendant glistening in the sun hangs on the man waist.
Her expression softening, Chu Qiao suddenly puts her hand on the man’s shoulder and jumps down from the carriage as everyone stares at her in stunned silence. Smiling at Ji An and the rest of her group, Chu Qiao softly orders “Don’t just stand there, go and clear the road quickly.”
“Ah?!” Wide-eyed, Ping An looks at Chu Qiao then looks at the man before finally asking with a thunderstruck expression “Older sister, you guys know each other?”
Her expression relaxed mixed in with a hint of elation, Chu Qiao nods.
Ping An really wants to ask who the man is but before he could open his mouth, a single glance from the man effectively silence anything he would’ve said.
Turning to tell the man “Follow me.” Chu Qiao starts to walk away but stops when Duo Ji rushes forward and demands “Where are you going?!” Giving Duo Ji a comforting look, Chu Qiao replies “Duo Ji, don’t worry, he is my friend.”
Not exactly comforted by Chu Qiao’s words, Duo Ji looks at the man with some uncertainty and probably would’ve protested more but once again, the man casts a single cold glance towards Duo Ji’s direction and the poor young man immediately feels like he has been plunged into icy water. While Duo Ji is still trying to snap out of the intimidating gaze of the stranger, Chu Qiao and the man has already walked away.
The weather extremely good with the sunlight shining its golden rays on everything in sight, Chu Qiao and the man walks quickly until they arrive at a beautiful waterfall.
Turning around, Chu Qiao looks at the man who seemingly hasn’t changed in the year they’ve been apart, opens her mouth to say something but the wellspring of words refuses to come and eventually turns into a small smile.
Still the same as ever with his slight frown and wearing an expression seemingly suggesting that he is impatient of standing there with her, Wen Yue asks “What are you smiling about?”
Shaking her head Chu Qiao continues to smile as she replies “Nothing. Is just that we always meet under strange situations.”
Not surprised when Wen Yue just coolly turns to look elsewhere without replying to her comment, Chu Qiao asks “What are you doing here?”
Giving our heroine a short curt answer that really doesn’t explain anything at all, Wen Yue replies “To do stuff.”
Nodding, Chu Qiao asks “Oh, so you are going back now?”
The conversation drops off into silence as Chu Qiao and Wen Yue stands together, neither saying anything more.
In flash of an eye, they have been apart for almost two years …and he is now amongst the most powerful people in the land. Even though she has been living in the middle of nowhere, Chu Qiao hears of Wen Yue’s news from time to time and every time she does, she wonders if the man she knows is the same as the cold hearted fierce legend that everyone is talking about. She has also heard many rumors concerning Qinghai.
Rumor has it that even though Qinghai technically counts as a state belonging to Da Xia but it elects its own officials through tests that are open to everyone instead of choosing among the nobles. Rumor has it that Qinghai has already written new laws that encourage farming and protects those who are in business. Rumor has it that Qinghai has already abolished slavery. The wealthy are still allowed to purchase slaves but the slaves have the right to redeem themselves once they have sufficient money. Moreover, the law even dictates that slave owners cannot kill their slaves or they will be severely punished. Rumor has it that Qinghai is no longer as barren as the legends had described. In fact, people say the land is vast and many have already found prosperity on it.
There are also rumors that King of Qinghai has earned himself the title of being a robber. Every year the King of Qinghai would bemoan how poor and desolate Qinghai is. Listing off the many floods, droughts and catastrophes that have beset his pitiful people, the King of Qinghai would cart away seemingly never ending amount of various resources from Da Xia in the name of crisis relief…only to turn around and sell it right on the market so all the money could be funneled into Qinghai. Relying wholly on Qinghai’s army to hold off Yan Xun’s army, Da Xia has no choice but to turn a blind eye to Wen Yue’s blatant robbery.
Rumor has it that this man is many things to different people. To the people of Qinghai, they endearingly call him the father of their land. To the people of Xi Meng (referring to the whole continent this story is set in) he is a robber. Finally, to the officials of Da Xia, he is a vampire sucking so much from them that even his good friend, 7th Prince had supposedly told him to not go overboard and leave some scrap for others.
Rumor has it, that even though the people of Xi Meng hates him but the brave ones are already planning to move to Qinghai. Every day the gate of Qinghai is bursting with people…filled with those who hope to sneak past the guards and move their whole family into the promise land.
The elders of the Da Xia angrily accuses Wen Yue’s gatekeepers of purposefully allowing the Xi Meng citizens to slip through but our hero just innocently complains that Qinghai military is sorely overextended due to the fierceness of Yan Xun’s army and requests immediate financial assistance (in carts full of gold of course) if he is expected to tighten the gate security.
So many rumors but as Chu Qiao stares at the man standing in front of her, all the rumors suddenly evaporated like smoke. He is still the same. Not some awe inspiring Father of Qinghai, not the hateful vampire of Da Xia. He is that same cold, proud and ornery man, the man who fought through numerous situations of life and death with her, the Yue Wen Yue who repeatedly threw himself in danger to rescue her.
The initial excitement and jubilee of seeing him giving away to the mixed emotions that came with all these thoughts, Chu Qiao peers at Wen Yue closely only to see that while he is still as handsome and icy as ever but there are already lines etched into the corner of his eyes…eyes that hide fatigue and exhaustion deep within.
Biting her lips silently, Chu Qiao remarks “It has only been a year since we saw each other, but you’ve aged.”
Caught off guard by Chu Qiao’s words, the weariness in Weu Yue’s eyes fade away as he looks down at her face.
He is only twenty six years old. A number that should not be connected to being old in any shape or form. However, these years of ordeal, the hardship of battlefields, and the seemingly unshakable stain of blood all culminated like an unavoidable wave of shadow lurking in his eyes.
Hiding behind the splendor is countless sleepless nights and loneliness. He is still as handsome as ever, but his heart is already exhausted. Of course he aged, how can he not?
Staring at Chu Qiao, the year long frustration Wen Yue has been harboring…including that slight immature stubbornness, all fade away the moment she asks “You have been well this past year?”
Unfazed when Wen Yue stoically replies “Well or not, I am still alive.” Chu Qiao knows that Wen Yue wasn’t trying to be facetious, but he was simply telling the truth. Only people like them could understand that there is no living well or not, just being alive is good enough.
“I am pretty good as well.” Without any prompt from Wen Yue, Chu Qiao explains “I opened a lodge and is doing well.”
Stunned by Wen Yue’s answer, Chu Qiao looks up at him and asks “You knew?”
“I have stayed there three times.”
Ignoring our heroine who is too surprised to say anything, Wen Yue demands “It has been a year. Are you done thinking?”
“Um…thinking? Thinking about what?”
His brows tightly knit together as he stares at Chu Qiao with a “You are really good at acting…” sort of expression, Wen Yue doesn’t explain his question but continues instead “Or are you really planning to operate a lodge for the rest of your life?”
Speechless, Chu Qiao stares at Wen Yue, not knowing how to answer…because that’s what she thought.
“Or are you planning to marry some random man before you turn thirty?”
Completely speechless again, a wide eyed Chu Qiao can’t think of anything to say…because that was exactly what she had planned.
Utterly embarrassed, Chu Qiao demands “Who told you?!”
None too pleased, Wen Yue replies “Who else? Of course it was Xiao Ce. Don’t you know? The lodge across the street from your place is his, and I own the lodge behind.”
Dumbfounded, Chu Qiao remembers those two neighboring lodges that always seemed to be sorely lacking in customers. Before today, Chu Qiao had always patted herself on the back believing her own well managed lodge was the reason for her competitors’ bad business.
Suddenly remembering something, Chu Qiao looks up and asks “So, you knew who we were right from the start?” (She is asking if Wen Yue knew right from the beginning when their two groups met this time.)
Shaking his head, Wen Yue replies “No. I have been to your place, but I have never seen you guys.”
Nodding, Chu Qiao realizes that she has indeed stayed home most of the time this past year.
“Why are you out this time?”
Not knowing what to say since this after all involves Xiao Ce’s national security, Chu Qiao just obscurely replies that she is going Xiao Ce’s direction.
“Humph…” Wen Yue sneers coldly.
“Master.” Standing far away to give the pair their privacy, Wen Yue’s man informs him “The path has been cleared. We can set off.”
Left alone again with Chu Qiao, Wen Yue stands silently for a moment before turning around to leave.
“Yu Wen Yue!” Calling out suddenly, Chu Qiao urges “If you come through again, you can come visit me.”
“I don’t have the time.” Wen Yue replies coldly then turns back around and asks with a dark expression “I will be going back to Qinghai. Are you coming with me?”
Floored by his matter of fact attitude, asking such a question with the easy manner of a friend asking “Haven’t you eaten?” Chu Qiao stares at Wen Yue blankly seemingly trying to discern if those words really came out of his mouth. It’s always like this. She can face everything with perpetual tranquility but when it comes to him, all her calm composure turn to mush.
“Xiao Ce said you have a one track mind and that you just needed some time to figure things out after all you’ve been through.” Looking at Chu Qiao with his matter of fact expression again, Wen Yue asks “So have you figured things out? Are you going back with me?”
“But, you…your position in Da Xia? And your family…”
His brows immediately knit into a frown, Wen Yue retorts “You don’t have to worry about those things. You just need to say if you are coming with me or not.”
One flock of birds flew by overhead…Two flocks of birds flew by overhead…Many flocks of birds flew overhead…But Chu Qiao is still silent.
Suddenly angry, Wen Yue demands “Are you going or not?!”
“I will, I will, I will!” Chu Qiao yells back as she and Wen Yue’s loud voices echo loudly in their eerily silent surrounding.
Immediately putting on an air of confident carelessness the moment he hears Chu Qiao’s answer, Wen Yue nonchalantly declares “It was good we met here since that saved me a trip to go talk to you. Don’t go wandering around anymore. Go back to your place and I will send someone for you when I am done with my business.”
Turning around, Wen Yue is about to saunter off when a voice stops him in his track.
“I can open a lodge in Qinghai anyway.”
Spinning around, Wen Yue glares accusingly at Chu Qiao…
Returning to the carriage, Chu Qiao is greeted by Mei Xiang (her trusty maid in the novel) who has been waiting for her with a big smile. Chu Qiao knows exactly what Mei Xiang is thinking but she can’t bring herself to say anything because everything happened today has been so bizarre that even now, her heart is pounding out of control.
Was she too hasty?
“Miss.” Mei Xiang smiles as she adds a soft cushion for Chu Qiao then continues “In this world, not everything can and should be evaluated with cold reasoning. I have often thought that Miss is too rationale. In my humble opinion, sometimes being impulsive is not always a bad thing.”
Laughing with amusement when Chu Qiao looks at her in surprise, Mei Xiang explains “Don’t you know Miss? Everything you are thinking is clearly written on your face. Compare to the Miss who buried all her thoughts deep within, Mei Xiang prefers the Miss right now.”
The carriages start to move and Duo Ji walks over to ask in a concerned voice “Miss, are we leaving with those people?”
Throwing back the carriage blinds in a huffy, Jing Jing yells “Of course we are going with them! We will even be living together later! Humph!”
Pouring a cup of tea for Chu Qiao, Mei Xiang sighs softly and encourages her master “Miss, not everyone will wait for another person year after year. There are certain people that if you don’t reach out and grab hold of now, you will surely come to regret it if something were to happen later on.”
————————————————————-Dec 6, 2017———————————————————————–
Chu Qiao and Wen Yue’s journey hit another snag when they arrive in the next town and finds out that the storm the night before had also destroyed the bridge over there. Settling down in a lodge for the next two days as Wen Yue’s men are helping the local officials to fix the bridge, our OTP finally gets more time together.
Relaxing in her courtyard (Wen Yue is staying in the next building next to hers) as her kids chatter on happily with the lodge employees, Chu Qiao looks up at the bright moon and realizes this would’ve been the day of mid autumn festival back in her own world. In this world, there is no such thing as mid autumn festival but they do have white moon festival. The white moon festival originated from a song, one that Chu Qiao had heard of in the army. The song tells the story about a man riding off to the battlefield as a lowly foot soldier and when he finally returned home as a general, what greeted him was a crumbled house, his wife taken by someone else, his parents and son long died of starvation without even a gravestone to mark their graves.
Chu Qiao still remembers the last line of the song “The moon shines on my soul, urging you to come home.”
Because of the song, White Moon Festival became the Reunion Festival, encouraging everyone to cherish their loved ones, to not lose focus on what’s important and be left with bitter regret when it’s too late.
“The moon shines on my soul, urging you to come home.”
Stopping with the knitting in her hand, Mei Xiang turns around to look at Chu Qiao and compliments “It’s so lovely. I have never heard of Miss sing before.”
Taken back, Chu Qiao belatedly realizes that she was singing unconsciously.
With a smile, Mei Xiang asks “This is a good song. Can Miss appreciate the meaning of this song now?”
Cocking her head, Chu Qiao remarks wryly “Mei Xiang has discovered a love for giving out advice lately.”
Replying with a small laugh, Mei Xiang protests “I have never been educated so I only know the simplest things, unlike Miss whose knowledge is so vast. However, sometimes the more one knows the more one thinks until the brain is all jumbled up, missing the simplest common sense.”
With a soft smile, Mei Xiang sings
“Day after day, I climb to the top of the house, to look past the edge of the village,
but there is no sight of you. My groom is far off protecting the borders.
The thugs came to kick down our walls, my children are without clothes, our parents are starving.
The emperor is far away, the soldiers are not home, the abominable village head is the king of the village.
The cold wind blows, the freezing snow destroys our home,
The moon shines on my soul, urging you to come home.”
The melodic sound of flute suddenly joins in with Mei Xiang’s sing and promptly captures everyone’s attention with its crisp but lingering music.
Standing up abruptly, Mei Xiang runs back to the room and comes out with a cloak to put around Chu Qiao. With a soft smile, Mei Xiang says “Miss, you have been tense with worry these past few days. It’s time to take a break. The moon is lovely so why don’t you go take a walk around?”
“Mei Xiang….” Chu Qiao wants to protest but she couldn’t say anything after seeing the encouragement in Mei Xiang’s eyes.
“Miss, Mei Xiang is ignorant. I don’t understand anything about duty and honor. The only thing I know is that my Miss is a good person. I hope for you to be happier. That song is not meant for you.”
The moonlight touches Chu Qiao’s face as she remembers the last half of that song:
“Summer turns to winter, the snow is falling, my groom doesn’t know the way home in this vast world.
My child died of the plague, our parents are without food, the only choice was for me to sell myself to obtain nourishment.
My groom had great ambitions, unwilling to dwindle as a poor peasant. Ten years I spent waiting for your return. My hair is grey with the burden of life. Time has come and gone, I don’t wish for wealth, I only ask to have you by my side.”
“Mei Xiang, go get my light green cloak.”
Surprised, Mei Xiang stares at Chu Qiao with uncertainty.
With a sudden laugh, Chu Qiao stands up “I can’t just wear white and black every day like I am going to a funeral.”
The moonlight shining on her path, Chu Qiao quietly takes one step after another as memories come flooding back, each like a painting carrying its own heavy burden. Grudge, bondage, hatred, entanglements, helping hands, reunions, struggles, joy, separation, sadness, life and death…
These emotions that have been suppressed deep in her heart, finally pushed out by the lyric of that familiar song, all come bursting out.
She had long used logic and detachment to freeze her heart in a layer of ice, suppressing all emotions that she deemed as unacceptable.
One year, two year, many many years.
At the back of the hill, the attentive lodge owner had planted many purple flower vines surrounding an aged pavilion. Sitting with ease on a pavilion step with one leg bent and another extended in front of him, Yu Wen Yue is holding a green flute, playing a few playful common village melodies.
Quietly, Chu Qiao stands as the wind gently tugs at her light green cloak while she stares Wen Yue who is a short distance away. It seems like she has never looked at him this closely. The years had been difficult but gone by so fast. She had felt sorry for herself in the past, believing herself to be unfortunate. However, come to think of it, compare to the general in that song she is indeed very fortunate. Her house hasn’t crumbled, her family still alive, and the one she loves is still standing at the same place…if she would just turn around, she could reach out and touch his hand.
Despite being separated by thousands of miles and a love that is ridiculed by the whole world, he has come this far with his unwavering determination, breaking through countless barriers, building a sanctuary for her.
The tower of ice in her heart, formed by logic and cold reason suddenly crumbling, Chu Qiao says to herself “Maybe, I can be selfish just this time.”
Putting down the flute, Wen Yue turns around and sees Chu Qiao standing a short distance away lost in thought.
“Why are you here?”
“What? You can come but I can’t?” giving Wen Yue a smile, Chu Qiao walks over, kicks Wen Yue’s leg and says “Move.”
The moonlight shining on her face, Chu Qiao sits down as Wen Yue pulls back his leg “Yu Wen Yue, the bridge will be fixed tomorrow, then you will be going back to Da Xia?”
Nodding, Wen Yue looks over at Chu Qiao curiously “Why?”
“Then, when are you going to come see me?”
A look of astonishment flashing across our hero’s eyes, Wen Yue looks at Chu Qiao up and down like she is harboring some sort of conspiracy.
“Do you have to wait until the emperor dies? Or until 7th prince takes the throne? Then can you withdraw yourself completely?”
Not waiting for an answer from Wen Yue, Chu Qiao rests her chin on her knees and suddenly offers “Yu Wen Yue, let me sing a song for you.”
Unable to remember how he managed a nod, Wen Yue could only see the bright clear eyes of the woman in front of him. Eyes seemingly without the world’s sadness in them. She is staring at him quietly, smiling, just like in his dreams- with eyes so clear, without someone else’s shadow…just him.
“A long long time ago, you have me, I have you. A long long time ago, you left me to soar high above. The world outside is splendid, the world outside is filled with regrets. While you are enamored with the world outside, I will be here to give you my blessing. I will always be here waiting for you with every passing sunset. The sky might be drizzling with rain but I will still be here waiting for your return.”
“A long long time ago, you have me, I have you. A long long time ago, you left me to soar high above. The world outside is splendid, the world outside is filled with regrets. If you feel the world outside is filled with too many regrets, then know that I am still patiently waiting for you. I will always be here waiting for you with every passing sunset. The sky might be drizzling with rain but I will still be here waiting for your return.”
Shaken as Chu Qiao’s soft velvety voice penetrates the serenity of the night, Wen Yue’s heart trembles with each note she sings.
With eyes still crystal clear, Chu Qiao reaches out her hand ever carefully, inching bit by bit towards Wen Yue’s hand. Nervous like a girl with her first love, Chu Qiao’s trembling fingers tips finally touches Wen Yue’s finger then softly close around it.
With a look of shock still plastered on his face, Wen Yue turns his head to stars at Chu Qiao. Sitting on the steps holding hands like two children, neither Wen Yue nor Chu Qiao breaks the silence.
They have always stood on opposite sides, so now that they are suddenly on the same side they are not sure what to do.
Wen Yue wants to laugh but instinctively knows better so he ended up frowning which created a rather interesting expression on his face.
Having finally released the ball and chain within herself, Chu Qiao instantly feels a rush of courage. Still holding onto Wen Yue’s hand, Chu Qiao asks with wide eyes “Yu Wen Yue, is Qinghai good?”
“Eh?” Caught off guard by the question, Wen Yue takes a moment before answering “It’s okay.”
“Is it pretty?”
Without a romantic bone in him, a certain someone answers “There are a few places that are not bad.”
“Is Qinghai cold then?”
“It’s not cold in the summer, but cold in the winter.”
Still hopeful, Chu Qiao asks “The people there must be genuine and kind.”
“Have you lost your mind? How can any place be without a few bad apples? People are the same everywhere. Being selfish is human nature.”
“Ah?” Frowning, Chu Qiao exclaims “Then Qinghai is not so good after all…”
“When did I ever say it was good?”
Speechless, Chu Qiao thought to herself “Is that what a man should say when he wants to convince her to run away with him?!”
Curious when Wen Yue adds “But that place has one good thing about it.” Chu Qiao asks “What is it?”
Smiling triumphantly, Wen Yue declares “Over there, what I say goes.”
Laughing at his own words for a moment until he realized he was the only one amused, Wen Yue’s laugh trails off into silence.
“Star, When did it happen?”
Puzzled, Chu Qiao asks “What are you talking about?”
Seemingly having difficulty getting the words out, Wen Yue was silent for a long time until he finally says “From when did you not hate me anymore?”
Raising her fist in protest, Chu Qiao points her finger at her head “Who says I don’t hate you anymore? I remember it all right here!”
Sneering as he casts a look of disdain over at Chu Qiao’s direction, Wen Yue tells her “We are starting to say things we don’t mean are we?”
With a move that seems the naturalist thing in the world, Wen Yue turns over his hand to envelop Chu Qiao’s cold fingers in his palm.
Years of hardship, years of persistence were all waiting for this one simple move. Turning his head away so no one could see his face, Wen Yue’s mouth widens into a huge grin.
No kisses here in the novel unfortunately…but that doesn’t have to stop us from inserting one in our imagination right?
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