‘There are many kinds of healers in this vast universe. Some educate themselves in medicine for status, honor, and recognition. Others become doctors and gain great satisfaction caring for suffering people and treating those in need. Some rare gifted individuals are born with an intrinsic ability to pre-detect illnesses before any symptoms as if the disease itself challenges their healing skills like a riddle or an unsolved puzzle.’
My Shifu Uncle Zhe Yan told me this when I used to bring injured animals I found on Kunlun Mountain for him to treat. I was young, a toddler; this was before my growth spurt and formal training as his disciple had begun. “Which one are you, Uncle Zhe Yan?” I had asked, and he smiled ear to ear, replied, “All of the above. I’m one of the ancient ones, the old gods, Medicine God, you silly little dragon.”
I then questioned, “Which kind of healer will I be?” Zhe Yan had rounded his graceful hands into the shape of eyeglasses, earnestly gazed into my eyes, and declared, “Based on your parentage, I’m going to go with the latter. Though shaped like your father’s, your nose is as sensitive as your mother’s, and those cute little ears of your will unmistakably have Fox’s hearings. You’ll know because you’ll hear the prayers from those in need. It’s a life-calling perse.”
“Aya! This clever little Ying’er! You are a natural-born healer if I’ve ever seen one. I’m going to devour you like one of my peaches before you try to steal my position as Medicine God,” Then he chased me around his orchard until he needed a nap.
I didn’t take his words to heart because he had been drinking peach wine all afternoon. I figured he was teasing me, which Zhe Yan relishes doing, but he was one hundred percent accurate. As usual. There’s a reason he described it as a ‘life calling’ because I hear their calling via prayers, offering, sobbing, and weeping for their ailing loved ones.
It’s impossible to ignore. I’ve tried, but regardless of what’s happening in my life, it’s inevitable. By forces greater than gravity to areas where my medical expertise is most needed is where I travel. Outbreaks such as epidemics in the larger towns and capitals aren’t the places that summon my aid. The greatest heartfelt prayers and plentiful offerings come oddly from the remotest areas, where the poor and wretched reside, where other doctors and physicians wouldn’t step foot in the human realm, is where I frequent to those who prayed for a miracle.
Today, the most urgent benedictions came from one area deep within a heavily wooded forest in the human realm. It’s not the prayer of one but many, and as I move closer, I understand why. There’s a small party of four horses—two men kneeling and another standing close by a body carefully laid out in the shaded area. Closing my eyes, I sniff the wind circulating around them. It’s a young female, and she on the precipice, standing at death’s doorway.
She’ll die before nightfall.
When I began my weekly visits to the human world, Uncle Mo Yuan adamantly instructed me, “Ying’er heal those you can by making their sufferings more tolerable. But remember never to use magic to extend one’s life. Their destinies also outline their deaths. Heal, but don’t revise or re-adjust Star Lord Si Ming’s designs. I know you understand my deep meaning.”
I did understand. I’ve never strayed from his instructions. I have always followed his advice staying within the boundaries he established long ago. But things have changed. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I know I’m about to break that rule because I acutely heard one man say to the other over the hopeless sobbing, “Ye Hua, I fear Mo Yuan’s bride-to-be isn’t going to make it. Bai Qian is dying.”
What is this crazy situation?! What a twisted hand of destiny to be dealt? Mother and father have already met, but she’s to marry uncle, Mo Yuan!? I finally understand why my brother A-Li has been on a doozy of a tirade with Lord Donghui and the other elders. It does appear my uncle has the upper hand advantage.
“Excuse me, travelers? The village elder told me you were seeking a physician?” To my offer of assistance, one of the men stands tall, chest puffed out, his intense penetrating gaze assessing me as friend or foe. I know those dark eyes anywhere.
That’s my arrogant father alright giving me the most offensive visual glance-over before inquiring most distrustingly, “Do you have medical experience?” He asks, then immediately follows up with a blatant threat in a deep grumble, “If not, fellow traveler, keep going your way. May your memory be poor, forgetting ever seeing us if asked by others or mine be the last face you ever see in this lifetime.”
“Ye Hua!” His companion, one of the kneeling men, pops up, boing like a leapfrog upon hearing this, and scolds father, “Aya, Ye Hua, don’t be so scary! This nice…”
The pleasant-faced man’s words hang in the air, on the tip of his tongue as he peers into my veil-covered head to determine my age. He can’t see my face since I wear a cover to conceal my eyes, so his gaze moves to my hands, taking note of their youthful appearance before continuing, “This nice young lady may know of a physician or anyone with medical know-how.”
This friendly chap seems to possess the manners father is lacking. Arms rounded, he politely bows while apologizing for father’s rude mannerism, “Pardon my friend’s impudence. Young lady, are you aware of where we could find a healer or doctor? Our… fellow companion is very ill. We’re more than capable of paying for any services rendered most handsomely.”
Had I discovered mother alone, I could have merely used my healing spell directly on her body. Her recovery would have been instantaneous, but I haven’t that freedom with all these humans staring at me with both hope and significant distrust. “I’m the only healer in these parts. My cabin is around the next bend. If you follow me, I’ll be able to treat your friend there properly. I only have a few revitalizing tonics on hand.”
I’m not a good liar, but it sounds convincing enough. Magic springs forth from thin air, a place with a warm bed and a clean water source. Perhaps not my most intelligent choice and far from a moment of brilliance when I recreated the only cottage that came to mind. Over the ridge, around the curve, awaits grey smoke billowing from its chimney, the little thatch hut on Mount Junji where father first met mother when she was SuSu.
What is this feeling—this deja vu? Why is my heart racing and aching as if pierced by a dagger? There’s nothing unusual about this cottage. It’s common, simple, and humble enough. Why does it feel like I’ve returned home after being lost in the wilderness?
Standing back, I’m watching the others take Bai Qian inside, but it’s our mysterious and veiled hostess who has my full attention. From the back, her narrow shoulders, posture, slight build look identical to Bai Qian. Hell, if you stood them side by side, I’d go as far as to say, picking out the real Bai Qian would be difficult if not impossible.
If I were a believer, I would declare this extraordinary meeting a sign of divine intervention, and this young girl was a goddess or deity. Yet I must ask myself, from where did this healer magically appear? On my soul, I swear I checked this rural area of the mountain myself, and there was nothing here this morning. Suddenly stands a cottage that appears lived in with a full array of ingredients and items for medical tonics. Being a logical man, I’m perplexed beyond comprehension; however, never before have I been as thankful as I am at this very moment.
I know I’m dying. It’s not blood, but my spirit has been spilling from my body with every passing second. Prince Ye Hua’s anxiety-filled voice that had been clear enough for me to follow now has become faint murmurs like shadows, dewdrops, and seafoam. What a shame all his efforts have been in vain. I wish I could apologize and tell him how sorry I am for not being more resilient.
My life was like a short-lived flower. My life was one big contradiction. Lovely and sorrowful. I felt the sun shining on my face and grew under its warming rays. I felt the rain pouring down on my body and shriveled up from the freezing shower. I endured by finding solace in knowing when the darkness intensifies, and the light becomes even brighter. The deeper the suffering, the greater the nirvana will be.
Something is happening. Is this the Nirvana? It’s warm, and a bright luminous light is beckoning me to open my heavy eyes. Maybe it’s Queen Mother greeting me. No, it’s someone I’ve never seen before. It’s a strange girl with deep-set almond-shaped eyes, the same shade of emeralds staring back at me, and one word comes to my lips, “Changying,” I whisper before fading back into the darkness.
To be continued…