It's with great joy and relief that I announce the end of the second arc. The second arc was much harder to write than the first arc, but perhaps it was also ultimately more fulfilling. It answered some of the questions of the first arc and provided the foundation we needed as we go towards the final arc. Thank you for following me on this journey and trusting me with where I would like to bring you.
Hope you will enjoy the end of the second arc!
Chapter 12: The sunset though beautiful is brief
Hsiao’s eyes crinkled into a deep smile, the deepest I had ever seen on his face, “I’m not allowed to say no, am I?”
I laughed as he followed me into the circle of dancers, “No, you are not. It is the woman’s prerogative tonight!”
We danced all night, we drank all night. I had many envious glances from the other tribal women but Princess Bai Ying had secretly decreed that Hsiao was all mine.
With a wine gourd each, we went out to the balcony at the Grand Hall again and watched the full moon. In the silence, Hsiao held my right hand, the palm of which had two black dots and one red dot.
Hsiao never asked why I had lied about my gender or dressed up as a male, he didn’t even asked if I was really a Fortune Teller. That is why I like him, I thought out loud to the moon.
And that is why I am willing to bet my life on him.
In the morning, before we departed, Princess Bai Ying came to my bed chambers and she brought a huge pile of female clothing, “Yue, it’s a travesty that you are wearing male clothing. Bring this with you.”
I gave an embarrassed chuckle, “Elder sister (though I was older than Princess Bai Ying), in truth, I find female clothing very inconvenient to wear.”
“Preposterous,” Princess Bai Ying said as she instructed Xiao Shuang to start helping me wear one of the garments, “Aren’t you worried Hsiao will be attracted away?”
I sighed as I let myself be dolled up by Princess Bai Ying and Xiao Shuang. I couldn’t even bear to tell Princess Bai Ying that I was technically supposed to marry Hsiao off to her and his childhood sweetheart back in the palace.
When we were done, Princess Bai Ying gave me a pleased smile and a tight hug, “Little sister, you must take care of yourself and come to me if Hsiao ever bullies you.”
I returned her hug, “Elder Sister, if Hsiao ever needs your help, please help him. He is a good man.”
After we left the bedchambers, I noticed that some of the male guards would look at me strangely. I guessed I really wasn’t suited for female clothing.
I smiled at Hsiao who paused for a moment before he nodded in reply. He didn’t seem very happy. I felt a faint pang of disappointment.
“I wanted to wear male robes but Princess Bai Ying insisted that I must wear female robes when I left. I know I look quite awful but let’s bear with it till we leave,” I said apologetically, as if ugliness was my sin.
Hsiao’s eyes twinkled at my words then he smiled, “I agree you shouldn’t wear male robes when we are out. But not because you look awful, rather it’s quite the opposite and I got annoyed at the stares of all the male soldiers.”
My eyes widened in surprised as Hsiao patted my head, “It’s alright. I have enough brains for the two of us.”
I gave Hsiao an annoyed glance and Hsiao leaned towards my right ear and whispered, “You look beautiful.”
I flushed as Hsiao walked off nonchalantly. I remembered the older Moon Maidens saying that in a relationship, there will be one party that eats and the other party that gets eaten. Was I the pig who got eaten?
Even the Great King Xue sent us off at the fortress gates, when Hsiao and I left on Black Beauty and Brown Beauty.
What struck me most were the rays of sunlight that fell on us as we rode down the Xue mountains and left the eternal winter of Xue. I was reminded that Xi Yang was looking for me, and suddenly felt guilty for I knew despite Big Brother Xi Yang’s harsh words that he had always cared for me. He must have been worried over these last few moons.
At the base of the Xue Mountain, Hsiao was strangely silent. There was a wariness about him that seemed unnatural. He lifted up his head and seemed to survey our surroundings before he said, “Yue, I shall scout ahead first. You wait here, ok?”
Although Hsiao smiled at me, I felt unease in my heart. I nodded and gave my usual happy grin, “Don’t take too long.”
I watched as Hsiao entered the forest ahead, and I could feel the heaviness of each anxious thud in my heart. Hsiao did not know any martial arts… what if he had sensed the assassins ahead?
I tried to stay calm and wait patiently. I strained my ears to hear anything. After all, Hsiao had always been proven right in the end?
Suddenly, I heard the metal clashing of swords. I did not even think and pushed Brown Beauty to move ahead.
When I entered the thick forest, I saw Black Beauty in the middle while there were at least a dozen black-robed figures surrounding the centre just like when I first met Hsiao. However, these black figurines seemed even faster and more ferocious than the previous time and I could smell the bloodlust.
My heart rose to my throat when I saw a white figure dancing through the trees with a slim bladed sword. I recognized that figure; I knew that sword. He was like the lone star careening through the River of Stars, boldly dashing forth towards his destiny, a champion star that was its own unstoppable force of nature.
I felt tears of relief and anger rush to my eyes, I did not know if I should be angry at Hsiao for never telling me he knew martial arts and letting me foolishly protect him, or relieved that he knew and was safe.
I was transfixed by Hsiao’s movements, even the way he sliced through the black robed men had a certain refinement and grace. I could see that even while he defended himself, he calculated how to minimize the damage on the men while ensuring they would be immobilized.
I was so mesmerized that I did not even sense when someone placed a blade on my neck.
“Stop,” the masked man declared as he pressed the blade into my neck.
Hsiao froze and his eyes blazed at the man with an ice cold anger that I did not know Hsiao could possess, “Try it and I will kill you a thousand times over.”
Before the masked man could say anything, Hsiao dashed forth faster than any of us could react and plunged his sword into the man while pulling me away. But, in order to do so, Hsiao had bared his chest towards the man’s blade such that it pierced into his chest instead of my neck.
I cried in alarm when I saw the blood gushing out of Hsiao’s chest, “Hsiao!”
“Stay behind me,” Hsiao said in one sharp breath, as he took out the foreign blade from his chest and now sparred with two swords in both hands. There was no more mercy or grace, as he slaughtered the rest of the black robed men quickly and efficiently.
When the last black robed men fell, Hsiao’s figure collapsed in a pool of black blood. I ran worriedly towards Hsiao, his face was deathly white and his lips were slightly green, “There was poison on the blade.”
“It’s all my fault,” I cried as large tears dropped down my cheeks on to his face.
“Don’t cry, Yue,” Hsiao said as he leaned in my embrace and his eyes started to close.
“I won’t let you die,” I said. With great determination, I vomited out my divine heartstone, the source of my divine essence. I broke the heartstone into two, and forced one half into Hsiao.
I quickly swallowed back the other half, and broke the magic sun bead in my other hand before I completely blacked out.
In a while, I felt a familiar warm energy course through my veins and I opened my eyes. It was the same handsome face I had always seen after I had created a disaster. Though, this time was probably the worst.
I croaked, “Xi Yang Ge Ge (哥哥 – Big Brother), you must save Hsiao, his fate is my fate.”
And then I really blacked out.
Prince Sun/Xi Yang
I was a legend even before I was born. The longed for Crown Prince, the legendary ruler of Heavens, the Promised One. The list of accolades went on and on, I was famous before I knew, great before I started.
Even before I knew my name, I knew I was called the Glorious One. It was said that the day I was born, ten suns rose and from then on, I was titled Crown Prince Sun.
Even as a baby, my temper and powers were boundless. I was once so angry that the sun did not rise for two days. It was an eclipse that sent the Heavens into anxiety and the Earth into terror. I remember my father, my mother and all the maidservants coo-ing and cajoling me to no avail. My father got so annoyed that he threatened to dash a bolt of lightning at me. At that point, the Moon God had rose to give light to the citizens, and had came to me.
The Moon God carried me away and brought me up to the moon. He smiled at me, and said, “When your father and I were young, we used to create chaos in nature all the time too. Indeed, you have inherited that power.”
He laughed as I watched the stars dance around us, “Because you are still young, I will protect you.”
I could not recall why I was upset in the first place. But, the next morning, the Moon God returned me to the Jade Heavenly Palace and the sun rose.
The Jade Emperor shook his head at me, his first-born son, “Too powerful for his own good.”
The Moon God had shook his head too with a quiet smile. Perhaps, he knew then that everything would have its own balancing force.
Born into such greatness and power, I was more arrogant than anyone and everyone allowed it. The only one I feared and respected besides my father, was my uncle, the Moon God. So, you could only imagine the anger I felt when the Moon God announced the birth of his niece.
When I arrived at the Temple of Matrimonial Bliss, I saw Uncle looked towards the cot with such love and doting that my heart raged. There was always more heat in my body than I could contain.
I peered over the cot to see what creature deserved such adoration and came face to face with a scrawny shriveled looking… baby. My hand reached out to poke this baby to see if it was alive. My face was filled with quiet revulsion, when the baby reached out to me. Its little fingers curled over my little finger. Somehow in that moment, I decided not to burn the cot.
Uncle told me that the baby was called Yue, though I had laughed because this ugly wrinkled thing was as far as could be from the beautiful moon.
I had largely ignored Yue as she grew up around Uncle. A more ugly and annoying thing I could not find, I could not see how she bore any resemblance to my great Uncle. She would always call after me, “Xi Yang Ge Ge” and I would disappear. She could never follow me because she did not have much powers of her own.
I did not know when things changed. Perhaps, it was my sixteenth birthday, and Yue was about eight. Gods and goddesses came from near and far with the most rare and magical of gifts. The divine sacred orb of the east, the magical sand from the lava fields, the purple cloak of doom… there were more gifts than my eyes could see. Yue had arrived with Uncle Moon. She had gotten rounder over the years and was no longer shriveled. She had beamed at me like a young cherubic moon as she passed me her present. It was two clay dolls, one young boy and one young girl, similar to the figurines that were in Uncle’s Temple… but somewhat rougher and more raw.
“I had made these dolls for you myself,” Yue chirped, “You always seemed to look so wistful in Uncle’s Temple…”
A young goddess from the flower tribe laughed coquettishly at Yue’s gift, “Mud dolls for the Crown Prince?”
I kept the clay dolls carefully into my robes and glared at the young goddess, “Do you have something to say against my little sister?”
The young goddess’ eyes quickly fell down in apology and she excused herself. Yue beamed at me, “Xi Yang Ge Ge, do you like them?”
Slowly but surely, Yue and her Xi Yang Ge Ge spiraled around me like the planets that revolved around the sun. When a spider demon hurt Yue, I was so infuriated that I exterminated the entire spider demon tribe.
I had fallen for the moon at such a young age. Perhaps, Uncle had always known I would love the moon when he first carried me up to cool my first anger.
Perhaps, I was always afraid of my own anger and powers. Perhaps, I still often thought of Yue as that shriveled little baby and was waiting for her to grow up.
Father had thought I would break many people’s hearts, but it turned out that my heart was broken even before it had the chance to love.
I watched as the girl I had been searching for the past few moons, laid on the forest ground with a bloodied man in her arms. I quickly transferred my internal energy into her body, and she regained a little of her consciousness.
Yue looked at me beseechingly, “Xi Yang Ge Ge, you must save Hsiao, his fate is my fate.”
And then, she fainted.
Yue Er, in a few moons, you have grown up already – but all for another man.