He’d been waiting anxiously. Ye Hua heard her firmly tap on the hotel door. He swung it open quickly. And there she stood looking very human, his Qian Qian. She wore a conservative black, penciled skirted, tailored suit. Crisp, white, dress shirt closed up to the top button. She came off like a teacher, businesswoman or someone very professional.
Her long, dark hair cleanly pulled off her beautiful face and arranged in a neat low ponytail. She wore smart-looking tortoise-shelled framed glasses. Simple pearl earrings. Pointed-toe black Valentino pumps, with a three-inch heel that accented her outfit perfectly.
Minimal makeup. Qian Qian’s long lashes were black, dense and thick with mascara and a radiant glow exuded from her skin. Her full lips looked their usual hue but glossy. Luscious and kissable.
She smiled brightly, and it was blindingly beautiful. Qian Qian walked into Ye Hua’s room and went directly to the glass wall. She quietly watched the scene of busy people in motion down below, while he indulged and relished in her stunning image.
With her arms crossed over her chest, Qian Qian complained, “I hate wearing such bland, dull colors. I truly detest dressing in muted, neutrals black and white. I prefer bright shades but today’s concept is…”
Ye Hua grinned, but it was mostly directed at himself. He thought back on the reason why he’d named her SuSu. His choice made due to the soft, neutral colors of her attire at the time. In retrospect, he now remembered how much she loved vivid hues. She adored the red wedding quilt, and almost ran into a raging fire to save her beloved crimson wedding dress. So there was an irony in his choice of name for SuSu. How could he have been so wrong?
Turning to face Ye Hua, she spun. In a single fluid pivot on her toes, Qian Qian gracefully turned, met his gaze and her small hands moved in a sweeping downward motion. She explained the reason behind her ultra professional attire.
She declared, “Today’s concept is…we’re Professors. Not from Beijing because they might be aware of each other. But when we get to Henan at Baima Si (White Horse Temple) we’ll say we’re from North America. The United States. Berkeley College. We’re here to view and appreciate their ancient system of record keeping.”
Ye Hua pointed to the breakfast pastries, an assortment of fruits, French-dripped New Orleans’s style coffee and requested, “Eat first Qian Qian. I highly doubt they’ll have any records that go back that far.”
“Ye Hua, don’t underestimate the monks at Henan at Baima Si. They’ve kept accurate records since the beginning. At first, they carved symbols in bone. But when I was there it was wood. There will be something. They are articulate and take pride in their history. We’ll see.” Qian Qian happily chirped as she bit into the slice of fresh ripe summer watermelon.
In silence, Ye Hua watched Qian Qian eat and didn’t say anything about Mo Yuan. Even though, it was on the very tip of his tongue. Not because Ye Hua didn’t care, in fact, he hadn’t slept a wink the night before. Thinking about them being together, and perhaps intimately made him insane with jealousy. If anything, in many ways, he was the one interfering with their long-established relationship.
70,000 years of self-infliction to fed someone their precious heart’s blood, wasn’t something to take lightly. For all Ye Hua knew, she and his brother could have been lovers before the Ghost War. Why else would Qian Qian display such utter dedication and devotion towards Mo Yuan?
Theirs wasn’t merely a simple Shifu and disciple relationship, and Ye Hua recognized that fact.
In all honesty, Qian Qian conceding to him and his request was generous and charitable. She could have easily said no and canceled their wedding from her end. Whatever monetary compensation Heavenly Grandfather required, wouldn’t have made an impact whatsoever. The Fox Clan was loaded and filthy rich.
So he held back his real feeling, words and instead, joked, “Qian Qian, you look like a naughty teacher. The sexy kind all the boys have a crush on and think about when they’re alone masturbating.”
Amused, she smirked seductively. She deliberately pushed her glasses down the bridge of her nose and peered over at Ye Hua.
Qian Qian casually took tiny sips of her coffee and stated, “Let’s get our dates straight.”
She reached over and picked up the pad of hotel stationery and a pen. She and Ye Hua then began to exchange timelines.
Ye Hua met SuSu on the eighteenth day of the third month of the lunar year. March 18th. Between his frequent absences, another four years went by. After being discovered by Heavenly Grandfather, she died almost three years after her arrival in Celestial Heaven. She killed herself on a twenty-ninth day of the sixth month. June 29th.
Qian Qian curiously pondered in a low voice as if she were talking to herself, but she was asking him. “Ye Hua, if SuSu jumped from Zhuxian Terrace, she wouldn’t have lived. You, an immortal was barely alive and close to death. How could a mortal who’d just given birth, in her weakened state, withstand the killing energy?”
“I think you made it and ended back in the mortal realm without your memories.” Answered Ye Hua but he felt quite absurd, suggesting such a nonsensical idea.
He was intelligent enough to know what he was theorizing was impossible. Privately, Ye Hua was starting to doubt himself a little bit. Could he be wrong about Qian Qian? The world was infinite. Was it possible there could be two women so identical that he’d become confused? If so, could SuSu still be out there?
He reaffirmed mentally. No! Qian Qian was SuSu. Plain and simple.
Qian Qian sighed almost sadly. She stood and helped Ye Hua with his navy suit jacket and replied in a gentle tone, “Ye Hua, what you’re suggesting is fantasy. Undo-able. Unrealistic.”
She patted his shoulders to straighten out the little creases and moved to the front of Ye Hua. Qian Qian neatly arranged his tie, and he distinctly saw the expression in her eyes. And that solemn look in her gaze was one of pity. She felt sorry for him.
After a long taxi ride, they finally arrived in Henan at Baima Si (White Horse Temple). The exterior of the temple was scarlet red with tradition stone tile roofing.
They entered the main foyer, and Qian Qian softly explained, “They’ve restored and repaired most of the buildings, but the foundation hasn’t moved since it was first built.
“This used to be a garden and the location where my king, Emperor Qianlong, first saw me.” Qian Qian nostalgically reminisced, when they arrived at a now wide-open concrete courtyard in the center of the temple.
There were life-sized terracotta statues of animals, throughout the temple’s entrance and courtyard.
Stunned by Qian Qian’s statement, Ye Hua’s words rushed out quickly in utter disbelief. “Did you just refer to a mortal man as your king?”
She smiled coyly and chuckled softly, “Just habit. I served the Emperor for almost thirty years.”
Finally, they came to a long hall with beautifully carved wood scrolling overhead. Two onyx pillars with ancient engravings and they were breathtaking. Placed in the center of the lavishly red-toned decorated room, was the divine representation of the Buddha. The enlightened one.
Qian Qian quietly removed her shoes, stepped closer to the statue and kowtowed several times. She then sat back on bent knees, eyes closed, hands held together in prayer, and swiftly her lips moved as she silently began to recite a well-practiced mantra. She kowtowed again when she was through and returned to Ye Hua, smiling. It was interesting watching her. Completely intriguing.
Still beaming, she affirmed, “Now, it’s time to find what we came here for.”
Qian Qian asked to meet the senior member at the temple and greeted him with a low, respectful bow. She explained both she and Ye Hua were professors from the United States. Their sole purpose was to examine the ingenious system of record keeping at the temple. The old annuals to be specific.
Qian Qian declared they’d purposely selected Henan at Baima Si, out of all the temples in the world, due to their unsurpassed mastery and articulate methods. Just superb.
She was quite the actress. Oscar worthy.
The monk proudly led them to the place that held the old records. Qian Qian expressed her awe and admiration for such a wonder. She gushed and complimented Henan at Baima Si for their unparalleled unique methods, and their inventive system of precise knowledge and safekeeping of their history.
Politely, Qian Qian urged, “Your system of classification appears refined to perfection. So much so, that I believe if I asked for a specific year and month, you’d be able to easily find it for us, due to your unsurpassed knowledge and organizational system.”
Ye Hua watched the senior monk swelled up with pride. Their method was indeed highly organized, and the way Qian Qian carried on made the monk blush ever so slightly.
He earnestly agreed, “Yes, I could easily. We do and have used the same system consistently since the beginning.”
She was performing, and it was utterly believable. Qian Qian’s eyes flew open wide in wonder, and she asked in a low tone of disbelief, “Could you find the records for June?” and she told him the year.
Without hesitation, the monk left to fulfill her request. After a few moments, he brought back a beautiful rosewood plank with sharp, carefully carved writing. He placed it down most gingerly. Delicately.
Qian Qian and Ye Hua stepped closer to the precious wooden slab, and she declared in absolute wonderment, “This is the most exquisite thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life!”
“Let’s see. May I?” Qian Qian stepped closer to the tablet. Her sharp eyes quickly read the written characters indented in the ancient wood.
She declared in false astonishment, “Such details! Professor Ye Hua, look here. It states the discovery of a young blind woman, at the temple’s entrance on the 24th of June. A freed slave named Chen. How interesting. Wouldn’t you agree, Professor?”
She glanced at Ye Hua, who appeared slightly confused and disturbed at the new revelation.
“Thank you so much for your time and assistance.” Qian Qian bowed respectfully to the Buddhist monk.
She then held out a thick envelope full of money. An offering. Qian Qian presented it with both hands, “I would have preferred to bring something more useful as my offering to the temple. Regrettably, we rushed directly from the airport, so please accept my humble donation.”
Qian Qian bowed deeply with both hands extended towards the monk. She bowed again and bid him farewell with the utmost respect.
As they walked out of the temple, Qian Qian turned to Ye Hua and stated triumphantly, “I’m Chen. I was the blind woman. The freed slave. Chen was me during my heavenly trial, and I was here when SuSu was still alive.”
Ye Hua’s head was spinning. Reeling. Not just from the new information but the chaotic, hectic surroundings. He was overwhelmed by the constant busyness. He explained he needed quietness to gather his thoughts.
Qian Qian wanted to eat out, but Ye Hua insisted on going back to the hotel. Instead, they opted for the gourmet restaurant on the top floor of their hotel for dinner. The waiter looked at her as if she was insane when she ordered an assortment of fruits, ice cream and a bottle of wine for dinner.
After the waiter took their orders, Ye Hua in puzzlement asked, “How did a blind woman survive the shark tank atmosphere in a royal harem?”
Qian Qian haughtily replied, “First Empress, Xiaoxianchun, protected me. I saved her life. Due to my lack of sight, my other senses became keener, highly sensitive and heightened. Especially my sense of smell.”
She continued, “One day, I joined Empress Xiaoxianchun for tea, and noticed her drink had a different scent than mine. So, I said something and inquired why they weren’t the same. It turned out that someone, well…one of her chambermaids was trying to poison her, to gain favors with the second Empress. The fragrance I detected was the subtle floral scent of Nerium oleander ‘Sweetly scented killer’ exuding from her deadly brew. After that I was untouchable.”
Qian Qian slowly sipped her wine, and delicately swished the fragrant liquid in her mouth, before she finally swallowed it down.
Ye Hua’s head was pounding. He challenged, “What about the scar on your wrist? The mark from crimson fire. Explain that.”
Lifting and extending her arms, she posed in a way that exposed her right wrist.
Qian Qian directly explained, “This is the last movement of the spell to seal the Bell of the Yellow Emperor. Who was the immortal I was dueling? Qing Cang. And what is his magic? It’s crimson fire. Ye Hua, the scar came from him. His magic was powerful enough to blind, take my memories, powers and turn me into a mortal, so a scar on my exposed wrist was cake for him.”
Ye Hua sighed and poured himself a glass of wine, and they finished their meals in silence.
While walking out of the restaurant, Ye Hua was questioning and doubting himself. Could he be wrong about everything? Was it possible Qian Qian was right? He needed validation. Now.
Wordlessly, Ye Hua yanked Qian Qian into the empty private bathroom by the elevator and locked the door behind them. He lifted her by the waist and sat her on the marble vanity behind her.
“Ye Hua, what are you doing?!” She questioned confused by his erratic behavior.
“I need validation.” Ye Hua whispered and kissed Qian Qian fiercely. At first, she fought and resisted him, but her opposition weakened and faded. She kissed him back with the same level of hunger and urgency.
His hands moved to push up her skirt when Qian Qian suddenly broke their kiss and slapped him forcefully across the face. Her face was red as she glared at Ye Hua hatefully. She forcefully pushed him back, instantly jumped off the counter-top and swiftly ran out of the bathroom.
Ye Hua didn’t chase after her. He’d found what he was looking for…proof. His validation. Regardless of what Qian Qian said, he knew her kiss, and she was SuSu.
The knock was soft, and then Bai Qian heard the remorse in his gentle voice, “I’m sorry Qian Qian. I shouldn’t have been so forceful but I love you, and I can’t help myself.”
How heartbreaking Ye Hua’s voice sounded behind the locked door. Bai Qian’s hand shook as she reached for the door handle, but stopped short of turning the knob. Instead, she helplessly dropped and sat on the floor by the door. Tears ran down her face.
“Qian Qian, I can’t help myself. I’m sorry.” Ye Hua apologized, and then cloud jumped into her room.
Out of thin air, suddenly Bai Qian saw Ye Hua’s shoes appear in her sight as he stood before her.
To be continued…….