Over the years, I’ve had this conversation about why Bai Qian drank the amnesia potion with many readers and Vanessa, my darling editor. Everyone has their opinion. I’ve gone back and forth, but I think Vanessa was right about this one.
Her Fox’s ears perked as she caught bits and pieces of the ongoing conversation. Right outside the entrance of the den stood a courier from Nine Heavens with a delivery. “Gugu, it’s for you, and it looks fancy-schmancy.” Strolling back, curious and wide-eyed, Migu smiled, handing Bai Qian the scroll with the Celestial seal.
The scroll itself was unassuming—possibly a note to mention a custom or protocol regarding her upcoming nuptials. The Celestials were a haughty bunch compared to the more genial White Nine-Tailed Foxes. They had so many rules she would need to learn. With a full glass of Zhe Yan’s private vintage peach wine in hand, Bai Qian sat closer to the hearth to read the unexpected letter written by the mysterious man, her future husband, Crown Prince Ye Hua of the Dragon Clan.
“What does this young fellow have to say now? He has quite a bit of energy considering he just awoke from a sixty year coma.” Speaking casually to herself as she unrolled and opened the document to reveal the most exquisite calligraphy she’d seen since her Shifu Mo Yuan’s, and it read:
Your Royal Highness, High Goddess, Bai Qian, Queen of Qingqiu,
I pray your seclusion has invigorated your cultivation and blessed you with excellent health. May your reign remain ever prosperous and peaceful.
I’m aware this isn’t typical. Please forgive my impertinence for writing to you in this unusually intimate manner with our pending wedding a fortnight away.
I understand the great meaning behind our ancient clans joining through marriage. However, I’m sorry to inform you of a significant disruption within my family, along with clarifying some of my grandfather’s deceptions. I’m sure he means best, but after much consideration, I’ve concluded you’re in the dark about me, my life, my emotional situation. Not telling you the truth may cause more profound offense in the future had you discovered the unpleasant revelation on your own.
I’m a fake: smoke and mirrors, fabrication. What you see on the outside doesn’t define me or the one I use to be. As a husband, I have nothing to offer you. My title aside, I am merely a broken man with a broken heart. I’m flawed, far from perfect, where my heart should be, there is a hole, and numbness has taken over my entire being. Detachedly my body goes through the motions as I fulfill my obligations and carry out doing what’s expected of me.
You see, I fell in love with a kindly, gentle mortal woman while you were in seclusion. You and I were already promised to marry at that time. So the fault lies with me, but it was out of my control, in my shallow defense. It was out of my control.
Have you ever felt that constant ache, that inner longing as if a part of you was missing and you were incomplete? I had all my life endured in silence that unexplainable loneliness until I met SuSu then I felt nothing but love. Call me a fool, but that love for her remains in me still and grows daily even in her absence.
My beloved was a nameless orphan when we met. I gave her a name, and she gave me herself and utter devotion. She taught me love, sacrifice, and loyalty. In return, I broke her heart, failed her miserably, and couldn’t protect her from the prejudices against mortals. I did everything wrong and found no solace in knowing my actions were the lesser of evils. Towards my trusting, naive wife, my deeds were murderous and brutally barbaric to the point she chose to leave our newborn son and leaped from the punishment platform.
My soul aches because I didn’t get there in time, appearing too late to save her. I did follow after her and felt the brush of silk. The sleeve of her gown slipped through my fingertips just like her as SuSu slipped from my life.
I was too late… one fatal step behind her. But in my mind, I feel as if I pushed her from Zhuxian Terrace personally. The guilt for being alive while she turned to dust consumes me continuously.
High Goddess, Bai Qian, I know myself well enough to know I’ll never get over my love and wait for her to return to me. Our son will know his mother was a beautiful mortal; whatever affections that remain will shower like rain only on him while we wait for her to come back. She’ll return if not for me, for him because had it not been for our son, A-Li, in her womb, I believe SuSu would have left much sooner than she did.
It’s shameless of me to divulge my baggage in this inappropriate manner, but from my knowledge, your beauty is unparalleled, and you are of a compassionate heart. Your level of intelligence is one of a scholar. You formerly lived as the young man Si Yin; seventeenth disciple favored student of the greatest highly revered, deceased Shifu of Kunlun Mountain, High God Mo Yuan.
Gugu, someone of your elevated status deserves only the best. That man isn’t me.
I come to you a fragmented man with an unusual request. Please refuse this marriage agreement between you and me. Sadly a puppet, I am powerless in this matter. It’s my earnest hope, and I beseech you to refuse our prearranged union because I’m no longer suitable or deserving of you, your Highness.
Humbly Ye Hua
Sending High Goddess Bai Qian such a self-damning letter could have been a devastating mistake, but when Ye Hua received and read her reply, he read it once then again and again…again.
To thee of broken heart and spirit, I send my heartfelt condolences for your loss. Please allow me to join in your earnest hope for a safe return of Consort SuSu. Crown Prince Ye Hua, self-blame is the cruelest form of self-damage. May the wait for your honorable mortal wife be short, followed by a joyous reunion.
Firstly, thank you for your candor. Since you were so open and forthcoming with me, allow me to do the same.
I’ve heard much of your sadness and sorrow. Stories of you and Consort SuSu are all the rage in the mortal realm. Every teahouse and opera have their renditions of your bittersweet, dramatic, and oh so tragic love story about a Dragon God and his human wife. Of course, no story would be complete without a villainous foe or nemesis. Sadly your enemies surrounded you.
I understand your self-contempt; however, you and SuSu couldn’t have won against the Skylord and Consort Sujin. Filial piety can be a real struggle and, in your unfortunate case, heartache when dealing with our elders. Trust me; I know a thing or two of this nonsensical hierarchy. I am the youngest family member and had the lowest seniority on Kunlun Mountain.
You were out of your league. In a catch 22, up against a double-edged sword, wedged between a rock and a hard place. You weren’t evil enough, which is a blessing but still hold bitterness in your heart. I can only surmise since I heard from a reliable source that you tried to kill Sujin rather than allow her into your palace. Therefore, some animosity must remain.
I get that because I, too, am a holder of grudges.
Crown Prince Ye Hua, I’m sorry to say I will not oblige you and cancel our nuptials. Clan matters do hold some precedence, but I have my reasons too. I don’t expect you to love me, nor do I desire to take Consort SuSu’s place in your heart.
Your son A-Li is just an infant and, while waiting, will yearn for maternal love. You may take another wife and have more children, but what will become of your firstborn son who will learn scorn and prejudice due to his human mother’s blood flowing through his innocent veins?
Who am I? Gugu! High Goddess Bai Qian from Qingqiu, and I’ll be his shield. Who in their right mind within our eight realms and four seas would dare to speak slanderously of Imperial Little Prince A-Li while under my protection?
We may never be lovers or form any romantic affections, yet wouldn’t it be comforting to have someone on your side? Someone with the power and bearing to protect Consort SuSu when she returns might be what you need precisely.
We could be partners. I could be someone you need. I’ll be your resourceful confrere who has your back and doesn’t tremble or waver in your controlling grandfather’s presence or anyone else.
Fragmented sharer of secrets, allow me to reveal one of mine. I wasn’t in seclusion but missing, poof as in lost.
My last memory is struggling to reseal Qing Cang in the Eastern Bell using the spell taught by my Shifu before his death. After that fateful night, I vanished for many years. My family said they searched everywhere, but I had disappeared, then suddenly, one day out of the clear blue sky, I dropped and ended up in Zhe Yan’s orchard.
He said I appeared nearly dead, with physical injuries, judging by what appeared like breast milk stains on my attire, possibly postpartum, and had sustained trauma to my eyes. Bright lights cause me severe pain. I asked for his amnesia potion and apparently drank it since I have no recollection of my lost years.
Now, this is where it gets confusing. My desire to and actually drinking of the forgetting potion have me vexed. It’s a real mystery. A lifetime of being surrounded by my brothers and males contributes to me being thick-skinned and fearless, so why would I, one who greets conflict head-on take such a cowardly way out?
I heard your mother offered you the same potion to forget SuSu, but you refused. Despite the pain, you didn’t want to forget her. I find that considerably noble and swoon-worthy.
It might disappoint you, but I must marry you if out of curiosity alone. I conversed with three different people who met, spoke, or saw you with Consort SuSu. Senior Disciple, Second Prince Die Feng, Zhe Yan, and Bai Fengjiu all had encounters with your human wife.
They’ve all said that I resemble her more than a bit, and the coincidental time frame is perplexingly close. Did I mention I returned ascended? My calamity happened during that missing time. Immortality doesn’t come cheap or easily. We, too, must pay in our ways, but I’m thinking maybe a devastatingly tragic love story with my lover taking my eyes may have been the hefty price I paid.
By now, you must think me a wildly insane Fox. Yes, I most certainly have an overactive imagination, and it’s a crazy theory, but imagine if that were the case. I must confess I do have a deep want to see you or at least young prince A-Li, and it would all make sense to me. Then I know precisely why I drank from the river of oblivion.
Hope springs eternal.
I must have hoped doing so would give you and us another well-deserved chance. I drank away all our past sorrows so we could start anew with a clean slate. I gulped the amnesia-inducing liquid to wash my mind and heart for a happily ever after with one I loved to death. I’m nearly certain that someone is you. What do you think, Ye Hua? Do you think I could be your SuSu?