Ships passing in the night…..
Marriage…he didn’t know what to expect but it was as Bai Qian described. It was merely for formalities and a way for both clans to save face. It was a political move purely and Ye Hua didn’t see her during their first month of marriage, but they exchanged two courteous letters:
Dear Bai Qian,
I pray that you’re comfortable in your new home. If there is anything you need or desire, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Dear Bai Qian,
Nai Nai informed me that you’ve had some insomnia due to the constant brightness in Nine Heavens. May I suggest requesting soothing tonic or elixir from the Medicine King in your behalf? And I’ve noticed A-Li has quite grown chubby and plump, so I worry that you’re wearing yourself out caring for him personally without a wet nurse. Please don’t hesitate to call on me for anything.
She merely replied to the first:
To Crown Prince Ye Hua~
Thank you for your consideration and hospitality. I’m fine.
And to the second correspondence her returning letter read:
To Crown Prince Ye Hua~
I’ve adjusted fine and there isn’t any need for medical intervention. Nai Nai tends to over worry too easily. A-Li grows more and more everyday. It’s a pure pleasure for me to care for him personally.
Ye Hua saw his son every other day from noon until six in the evening, and during these times, Bai Qian went out on excursions to places unknown. She did said she had lovers, but he didn’t anticipate for her to meet with them so quickly considering they were still newlyweds. And many times, while he held his adorable chubby infant son in his arms, he couldn’t help but wonder who was holding and embracing her in their arms.
In his jealous mind, he envisioned the picture of her laid out on a bed with her thick locks of black hair spread out underneath her, inviting glorious naked body for someone else to drink in the sight of her.
He worried if she were being kissed, loved and worshiped by another man, while his possessive mind played tricks on him, and images of another man laying between her silky thighs flashes before his eyes. But what could he do? She had told him the truth from the start.
In the second month of their marriage, Ye Hua spotted Bai Qian once briefly. Or he saw her backside as she entered her chamber with A-Li cradled in her arms, and there wasn’t anything to discuss or ask, so they didn’t even exchange a single written word.
Just as during the first month when A-Li came to him, Bai Qian left Nine Heavens and as he’d done before, Ye Hua assumed she was with her lover or lovers. In secrecy, he became the green eyed monster of jealousy and envy, while at times his resentment grew so severe that he could barely breathe. When it became too much to bear, he went to Mount Junji alone and silently cooked a meal to eat, while recalling his most joyful moments.
During their third month of marriage, he went to the little thatched hut as usual, and threw several sweet potatoes in the roaring oven. It had been one of SuSu’s favorite things to eat. It was now winter and the crisp chill in the air made his breaths visible. He wondered if it might snow as he strolled to the front steps to see Bai Qian standing, and staring up nostalgically at the smoke billowing from the chimney top.
This meeting was the first time Ye Hua had seen her since their wedding, and why did he suddenly feel so nervous? She was absolutely stunning with her hands shoved in a muffler, and dressed in a snow white colored cloak.
Bai Qian spoke first, “Crown Prince Ye Hua, what are you doing here?”
For unknown reasons, Ye Hua felt as if he were invading on her privacy, her home and confessed shyly, “I come here often because this is my happy place. It helps me calm my mind and my thoughts but I never expected to see you here.”
“I come here often also. I return here to reflect and remind myself that everything did happen, because at times it all feels like a midsummer nights dream, my life as SuSu that is.” Bai Qian beamed most beautifully and added, “We must visit at different intervals and miss each other like ships passing in the night. Since you’re here today, I’ll go.”
Bai Qian politely rounded her arms and began to bow her farewell when Ye Hua blurted, “I have fresh hot sweet potatoes in the oven. It will only take me a second to get them. I see that you’ve lost weight. I understand you don’t care for the cuisine in Nine Heavens.”
“It’s true… I find the foods bland and lacking flavor. It’s considerably unusual because aesthetically everything appears delicious. I suppose staying for one potato wouldn’t kill me.” She replied nonchalantly causing Ye Hua to make a mad dash to the kitchen. He retrieved the scorching hot potatoes, placed them in a basket and grabbed a towel. He sat on the top step, set the container down as she sat on the other side of it.
Ye Hua gingerly handled the hot yam with his fingertips and wrapped the towel on one end. He began to peel the coal like blackened outer skin as he’d done for SuSu, but Bai Qian stated graciously, “I can do it myself but thank you.”
She reached out and accepted the edible treat from Ye Hua’s hand, then carefully peeled off the burnt darken skin to reveal the fresh hot steaming soft golden flesh underneath. She closed her eyes and deeply inhaled the sweetness of the roasted bulb vegetable. Bai Qian smiled and took a big bite, then speedily sucked in sharp inhales surprised by the intense heat. Swiftly she breathed in and out to cool the inside of her mouth before swallowing.
Ye Hua grinned at her and teased, “You should let me do it for you. I told you they just came out of the oven.”
Slightly nodding her head to acknowledge his wise suggestion, Bai Qian carefully held the savory yam with both hands as if to keep them warm. She raised her sights heavenward and a tiny smile of satisfaction curled up her full lips.
“What was it like?” Ye Hua asked. It was something he wanted to ask her from the start.
Without taking her eyes off the sky, she replied casually, “What was what like?”
Ye Hua took a bite of his yam and returned, “What was it like after you jumped from Zhuxian Terrace, and when you returned to immortality.”
Bai Qian lowed her gaze to the ground, chuckled before answering, “Honestly? It was a complete and absolute mind-fuck. Imagine if you will, the confusing sensation of two minds, two memories, two identities abruptly merging into one.”
Momentarily she paused as if to remember the moment and continued, “I instantly knew I was myself the immortal Bai Qian, but mortal SuSu’s memories were more recent so more dominating, very fresh and raw. Also, I underwent intensely severe pain. My body, mind and heart…everything ached. Then I asked Zhe Yan for wine and cried. I cried for a long time.”
“It took a few hours for me to gather my composure, then I remembered A-Li and rushed back for him.” Bai Qian stated as she blushed from her candid confession.
Ye Hua couldn’t swallow from the lump in his throat. It hurt his heart to hear she’d cried and felt such pain from his inabilities, his utter failures to protect her.
There was silence between them and then Ye Hua said in his soft voice, “I heard you came back like a raging tornado, and threw the guards that stood in your way up in the air with blasts from your Jade Purity Fan, then yelled aloud ‘Surprise bitches, I’m back and you are all fucked!'”
It was true. There were many rumors of that day when she returned. The stories and accounts grew more elaborate and more exaggerated daily.
Rolling her eyes, she smirked, giggled and shook her head amused, “How ridiculous!” Bai Qian snorted and genuinely laughed most entertained, “No, that never happened. I did rush back but in my haste, I failed to change my clothing. So… I was still wearing SuSu’s white gown which was shredded and covered in blood.”
Suddenly quite earnest, Bai Qian asked, “Is your entire family sensitive with such weak constitutions? I ask because they were all standing outside your chamber, and turned sheet white ghost when they saw me. Your side consort SuJin plummeted to the ground which was actually very convenient, because it was the perfect position for me to retrieve my eyes. And your mother who had been holding A-Li swooned then collapsed, passed out cold but luckily I caught and clutched him before she hit the ground.”
“Did you have something you wanted to say to me? You must have felt resentful towards me?” Ye Hua hid his fears and asked even though he was afraid to hear her reply.
In reflection, Bai Qian’s perfectly arched brows rose, and she blinked repeatedly looking somewhat confused, “Say to you? No. If anything, I was concerned we would be battling over A-Li, but then I heard you were in a coma so I intended on leaving.”
“But I couldn’t take a step because of your mother. Oh, my nine tails! She was hanging onto my dress and begging forgiveness. I told her it was all just a part of my trial and still, she wouldn’t let go. It was quite an outrageous scene. She plead with me that Zhe Yan said you would awake sooner if someone you cared for stayed near, and your side consort were rather hysterical, unable to fulfill the task at hand.”
Bai Qian grabbed another potato and said without emotions, “So I stayed because it was rather embarrassing…the way your mother carried on. It would have reflected poorly on me as a High Goddess to refuse someone in such despair, and you know the rest the moment you woke up.”
“Bai Qian…do you not feel any resentment or the need for revenge for what you endured as SuSu?” Ye Hua questioned as he wondered if she could honestly feel so…so indifferently in regards to undergoing such acts of inhumane brutality. Could she indeed be this benevolent and magnanimous?
To his question, an expression of calm wisdom transformed her appearance, as her big brown eyes exuded warmth and generosity when she replied softly, “報復 Bàofù…revenge? No, when one plants the foolish seeds of vendetta, the twisted vines that grow are covered in thorns, and it’s usually the planter who bleeds most from those thorns. When seeking revenge one should dig two graves…my beloved Shifu once told me this after I had my heart broken by a man.”
It was difficult to believe so he pressed the issue, “How can one just forgive and forget such terrible things? I think you hold everything inside and it’s unhealthy. Have you considered expressing yourself through painting or writing? It might feel therapeutic and you could write something loosely based on your trial.”
“Painting or writing about my heavenly trial? Hmm? Well, I do have a flair for the dramatic. Perhaps, I’ll consider it.” She rose, patted her stomach and exclaimed, “Oh my. I guess I was hungry after-all. I’ve eaten two instead of the one as I intended. Now, I feel sleepy from the starch overload but thank you for the unexpected treat.”
She turned to go but Ye Hua suddenly grabbed her hand and held her back. There was still a nagging question he had to ask her and that question was this, “Did SuSu ever love me?”
Bai Qian lowered herself to his eye level and answered without delay, “Crown Prince Ye Hua, yes, extremely. You were the only one for her.”
“Then when did she fall out of love with me? When did she begin to hate me instead?” These were the grievous questions that had kept Ye Hua up many, many nights.
How tender Bai Qian’s beautiful visage became that it tensed, clenched his heart and her words were even more tender when she said, “She never ever stopped loving you. Even after everything and all she endured, she never regretted a single moment with you or hated you.”
“If you still love me then why can’t we have a normal marriage? Why can’t we live as we once spoke of and desired?” The yearning words rushed out of his mouth.
She gently caressed his cheek with the smooth backside of her hand and corrected, “SuSu started to love you after your second month of marriage and she died loving you. However, Crown Prince Ye Hua, you must understand, I, Bai Qian never began.”
“Also may I give you a bit of advice? The next time your grandfather steals your woman, fight back instead of pulling another innocent woman into your messy rebound revenge love affair. It’s getting late and if you’ll excuse me, I’m meeting someone today.”
Gracefully she whirled around and silently disappeared into the dense forest. Ye Hua watched her go and felt like a disloyal scoundrel. He’d promised SuSu that he would devote himself entirely to her alone, but watching Bai Qian go perhaps into another man’s waiting embrace, he realized he was falling in love with her.
He was an unworthy and undeserving fellow because after vowing fidelity to SuSu, his pounding heart began throbbing and ache for Bai Qian.
During her time in Nine Heavens, Ye Hua sent several gifts ranging from precious vintage wines to overly extravagant jewelry. Bai Qian, however, responded with a note or a short message expressing her gratitude but returned everything.
But the day after impromptu their meeting on Mount Junji, Ye Hua presented her with a precious one of a kind ink plate, also known as the Double Jade Dragon Ink. A superb item he’d received as a gift during his coronation, several brushes in different sizes, blank scrolls with a note that read:
Express yourself and your inner thoughts… If for nothing else, then for your peace of mind.
The items sat on her desk for days before Bai Qian finally opened a blank scroll, stared at it for hours then slowly wrote out the following:
報復 Bàofù: Revenge: Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms Fan Fiction
To be continued…..