It was known from the moment she’d entered Nine Heavens as Ye Hua’s Crown Princess Consort. Bai Qian’s private quarters – the Hall of Beautiful Youth – in the west wing of Ye Hua’s Xiwu Palace were off limits to all Celestials. She never accepted any visitors, refused their gifts and all offerings. Nobody was exempt from her set rules, and that included him along with anything he sent as well.
Bai Qian drew a clear defined line, intentionally distanced herself from others for her and A-Li’s security. The terrible experiences that she’d endured as SuSu made her prejudice, bias towards the Imperial Royal Family and she lacked general trust in their intentions.
However, in complete secrecy, one Celestial fellow boldly snuck in and out of her bedchamber every Wednesday. He showed up like clockworks, after Nai Nai took A-Li to Ye Hua for a full afternoon of debauchery and overindulgence. A man that was well known for his love for beautiful ladies, and that daring man was Ye Hua’s third uncle, Lian Song.
Once a week right at noon, Prince Lian Song and Bai Qian drank wine until they were thoroughly wasted, then enjoyed the afternoon laughing together often to the point of tears. Lian Song mysteriously charmed his way into her life, oddly became her first friend in Nine Heavens.
Maybe it was their commonalities or that they were closer in age, but friendly dialogues flowed effortlessly, freely between them as they drank themselves into oblivion. While riding their liquid euphoria, they usually reminisced, even yearned for the long gone past, and exchanged stories of their foolish youthful follies.
Bai Qian freely told him about her happy and carefree times as a Kunlun Disciple. She admitted she had a secret crush on her Shifu, Mo Yuan, in her youth while Lian Song confessed about his hectic days and nights chasing after women. He frequently had her in tears when he openly spoke about his many, many failures in his quest for sweet love. Although after too much wine, he often became blue, melancholy and candidly spoke of Ye Hua and sometimes even SuSu.
He divulged information about Ye Hua’s stern and his difficult upbringing. Lian Song frankly discoursed of Ye Hua’s behaviors and habits; why his young nephew was the man he was today, and why he chose such a difficult path to do things as he did. And it was accurate to concluded that he knew nothing about the ‘real Bai Qian,’ but through Prince Lian Song, she came to understand that she knew nothing about the ‘real Ye Hua’ either.
Moreover, there was a genuine sorrow, a sincere sadness that they had once been intimate enough to conceive a child together but in actuality, they were more strangers than anything else.
He identified her as SuSu, while Bai Qian from her trial as SuSu regarded Ye Hua as the ambiguous withdrawn cold Crown Prince who’d pretended to be a carefree, but penniless mortal. He approached her and lied about having a preexisting marriage agreement repeatedly. Then he’d married her under pretenses and mostly out of spite.
Bai Qian regarded herself as nothing, but a rebound for him from his broken love affair with SuJin, and still held some resentment about being dragged into a messy love triangle by Ye Hua. She knew her pregnancy was merely his payment for saving his life.
Fully Bai Qian accepted this to be factual, because she was there when he spoke the painful truth aloud, and even now she could vividly recollect the agony, the injury when his harsh words slashed, cut into her heart. Then in an instant, she wasn’t his wife but someone he was ashamed of and hid in isolation. Even in total seclusion Ye Hua ignored her for years before taking her eyes, and in the end wanted to marry her solely out of pity.
So Bai Qian was well aware of the sad conclusions and the sorrowful results, but never heard about the reasons, the actions that created and triggered the why. She never knew all the extenuating circumstances that contributed, formed and shaped SuSu and Ye Hua’s outcomes most tragically.
As Lian Song spoke of the past, Bai Qian mentally created a timeline and understood Ye Hua’s sudden, frequent disappearance; why he couldn’t tell her anything. She became aware of his absurd plans to run away with her, after faking his death during the Mermaid war, and his silent heartbreak as he helplessly watched SuSu suffer. His actions were foolhardy, rash and extreme but he was trying to appease everyone, to protect her and his child while took too much upon himself. All his sufferings and selfless efforts were in vain, like throwing fragile eggs against a rocky cliff.
It was sad but they were doomed from the start. It was inevitable that he and SuSu would end in failure and catastrophe. Bai Qian reflected, thought back to when she was Ye Hua’s age, and questioned herself what she would have done in his situation. And in the end, after hearing everything, she did feel something for him.
However, what she felt wasn’t sorrow for lost love, yearning or anything of the romantic nature. No, more than anything, she sincerely pitied him. That sad sentiment kept her up all night, as Bai Qian tossed and turned in bed for hours struggling to fall asleep.
The substantial weight of her newfound knowledge sat like a massive boulder on her chest. Made her exhalations harbored, difficult and feel as if she couldn’t breathe.
She needed fresh air. Haphazardly Bai Qian threw a robe over her nightgown, and mindlessly wandered around the many empty courtyards to clear her head. But her mind ran wild, as bits of new information spontaneously filling in the many blanks of her preconceived notion, and similar to matching puzzle pieces. Suddenly the obscure mental picture unfolded with full clarity.
Her old picture was wrong. This made her smile because Ye Hua had sincerely loved SuSu. For some odd reason, this new awareness felt like restoration for all those years of loneliness, doubting and crying alone. She was alone but she wasn’t the only one who had shed countless tears. They were forced apart by unfortunate circumstances, but it was entirely possible that he cried more than she.
Such sad, bittersweet, tragic love between them but knowing these things felt like redemption. Perhaps even the start of her emotional recovery and tears ran down her face. She was in complete denial but this was something Bai Qian needed, because she had lost her faith in love during her heavenly trial.
Finally, Bai Qian now understood the hidden ‘why’ behind his reasoning and if anything, she had contributed, or even been the catalyst that forced Ye Hua to select such a difficult road. He elected the most challenging path when he selflessly agreed to marry her to save his uncle, Prince Sang Ji and Shao Xin.
He might have saved them from death by sacrificing himself, and his future by committing himself to a woman three times his age. Such a shocking revelation that came too late…feeling most ashamed with herself. Bai Qian squatted low to the ground, hugged her knees tightly to her chest and rocked herself, then willingly accepted all responsibilities.
She was the damn start of everything when she decided to ignore the marriage proposal from Prince Sang Ji, and in retrospect, he was a suitable candidate for her to marry- it wouldn’t have been terrible to be his wife. But her egotistical decision made poor Ye Hua the pawn, the collateral for his grandfather to use in his ambition to become joined with Qingqiu by marriage.
Almost incoherently Bai Qian mumbled, “Everything started with me. It was me…”
“What are you doing out here in your nightgown? Is everything alright? Are you ill?” Ye Hua’s soft voice sounded tense and edge-like with worry. He saw her tear streaked face and his eyes widened as he fussed over her, “Are you crying? What’s happened?”
Bai Qian dropped her gaze and murmured, “I’m so foolish and should have married your uncle, Sang Ji. I never anticipated they would force someone of your age into such a predicament. Never did I imagine this would happen.”
She raised her eyes to him, her gaze was full of remorse, and another revelation came to her as she asked in a slight stupor, “Ye Hua, do you think your grandfather deliberately married SuJin to break you two up, because of your engagement to me? Your grandfather knows Nine-Tailed Foxes marry once with one mate, and maybe he split you two up so not to offend me? My heavens, I fucked it up for everyone…for you and her… What do I do? I know…”
“Luckily, we haven’t consummated our marriage yet so we could certainly annul it…” Bai Qian blurted out then stared off blankly into space, silently considering all the feasible options barely aware Ye Hua had her in his arms.
Gingerly stroking back the loose hair around her face, he asked with worry, “Qian Qian, are you drunk? Why did you drink so much? I can smell the stench of wine coming from you. What are you talking about and why would I want to annul our marriage? I’ll make some sobering tea for you to drink before going to sleep. Let’s put you back in bed.”
Ye Hua carefully led her toward her chamber and stated, “I think you’re too intoxicated and I can’t make sense of what you’re saying. What does Uncle Sang Ji and SuJin have to do with us?”
Her voice sounded so far away that Bai Qian almost couldn’t recognize the sound of herself uttering, “I know everything. I saw all the scars on your body. I know why and what you did or tried to do for SuSu.”
“It’s late but finally, I fully recognize all your sacrifices, struggles and I might have done things differently in your shoes. But I’ve never been in such a predicament. Still, I respect the difficult decisions that you made in your desperate crusade to protect everyone. Furthermore, regardless of the unfortunate consequences, I understand you and your choices.” Abruptly she stopped walking, turned to Ye Hua and tenderly held his handsome, chiseled face with both hands.
Bai Qian saw a glimmer of hope in his darkened eyes when he felt her light touch, but it fizzled away with every spoken word, “Ye Hua, I’m giving you an out, releasing you from your undesired commitment to me, and proposing we make things right. Hence, settling everything between us before things become complicated.”
“I pity you and feel apologetic toward you. I’m sorry, Ye Hua, for everything that you were forced to endure and I’m offering you freedom, a full pardon so you can live as you choose. You’ll always be A-Li’s father. That will never change but let’s part and go our separate ways. Hmm?” Everything made much sense to her, but Bai Qian couldn’t understand his bitter response.
Ye Hua’s reaction was shocking when he roughly grabbed her hands, and yanked them from his face. His eyes flashed a look of danger, and turned shiny black like two sparking polished onyx stones. His smooth cheeks flushed slightly, and his jaw tensed while his challenging glare bore into her. It was apparent her words caused great offense, but she wasn’t sure of the reasoning?
He questioned outraged, “Did you say you feel sorry for me? Do you pity me? Pity?! Qian Qian, this is such fucking bullshit!” Ye Hua scoffed in utter disbelief with his teeth clenched, and he appeared to be struggling to keep from raising his voice, but he half growled out, “You said you would let me go as if it were that easy for us to part. I can’t believe this shit. You’ll give me freedom, a full pardon…as if marrying you was my punishment or sentence.”
Ye Hua looked up and his mouth formed a perfect O, as he breathed slowly to calm himself. He suddenly looked so sad and his lips flattened in a line, before he spoke words that made her waver momentarily, “Marrying you wasn’t my punishment, although it was the greatest present I’ve ever received in my life after A-Li. I don’t know about you but my heart races when I see you, and I can’t stop myself from wanting you to fall in love with me.”
“Did you know that just looking at you sometimes breaks my heart, because I want to touch and kiss you. I want you to be mine, is that so wrong? In my entire life, I’ve never been selfish or held someone back for my sake, but you’re going to be the only exception. I’m never going to let you go.” Ye Hua sounded so close to tears. He lightly cleared his throat but refused to look at her face and whispered out, “You’re drunk and I think we should talk about this after you’ve sobered up.”
He spotted a servant, and subtly motioned for them to come to him when Bai Qian replied, “What if I told you that I can’t ever fall in love with you? Never. Would you still want me if I told you that; I made someone a promise to never give you my heart? Would you be satisfied with merely a shell of a person?”
“What?” The expression was one of sheer puzzlement as Ye Hua demanded, “Why would you agree to such an absurd arrangement? To whom did you vow such nonsense? Another man? Your father? My older brother? Are you in love with your Shifu, my older brother, Mo Yuan?”
“My love rival in your writing is Mo Yuan and you say you’re not angry, but I see the hostility written between the lines. You think these words from you will discourage me, but it’s the other way around. You’ve triggered me even more and I’ve never lost to anyone, not kept my words or not gotten my way once I put my mind to it.”
Ye Hua now sounded as if he was belittling her, and what started out was her attempt to console him and his efforts, suddenly shifted in another direction. When Bai Qian sarcastically brought up the white elephant standing in the room. “SuSu. You didn’t get her and you promised to devote yourself entirely to her, but instead, here you are now wanting me. Do you understand why I think your love is fickle?”
“Boom, there it is…right on the tip of your forked tongue. Ultimately, you speak what’s really on your resentful mind. Qian Qian, you say and act so forgiving, so generous but if you recall correctly, SuSu left A-Li and me behind. I was ready to marry her and I almost died to make that happen. I was faithful to her til the end of time but unfortunately, her time came to an end when you returned and that’s where we began.”
She signed and completely gone was Bai Qian’s intoxication haze, so she appeared more like her calm, reasonable self, “Ye Hua, you married me, Bai Qian, because I was SuSu. Let’s be honest with each other.”
How entirely resigned and defeated, Ye Hua sounded, “Yes, it’s true in the beginning, I did but am I a bastard for not hanging onto a ghost? For not waiting for her to return because I know it’s impossible and will never happen? I would have waited an eternity for her to come back to me if that were possible. But I know she’s gone and I’ll cherish our memories, but is it a sin that I still want to carry on? Qian Qian, is it a crime that I want to love again?”
“I never wanted things to be this way between us, but you’ve forced my back up against the wall and I’ve run out of options. Qian Qian, let me remind you that I AM your legal husband and you WILL obey and honor me. You WILL serve my male rutting needs, because I feel that I’ve been patient long enough, and if you want to play this game…then put on your big girl panties and let’s play hardball, shall we?” Ye Hua’s sudden arrogance made her tremble, and she wondered if she’d unintentionally shook a hornet’s nest.
To be continued…..