Dear readers, I'm sorry I haven't been updating as much as I wish I could - I have been very blessed in my real life to have people celebrate my birthday one after another - and I've just been swimming with cake and dinners!
But, honestly I am looking forward so much to present to you my entire vision of The Sun's Dark Love! I even get emails asking about Yu An's story, oh gosh, I can't wait to properly start on that one. But, trust me, you will rather I finish this story before we start on the other one (which I'm not sure if it will start shipping wars - cos it's hard enough to only choose one when I plan the story).
Without further ado, here's chapter 17! I will try to get chapter 18 up very soon too (about half-way written) and I think we stand in good stead to finish the whole story by chapter 20/21?
Chapter 17: A Thousand Years Too Early
Wang Huan stood overwhelmed for a long moment as Xi Yang's words slowly started to weigh on her. There was so much she didn't know --- so much she misunderstood. She felt a space in her heart being filled up by something substantial - it was heavy, with the burden that only duty can bring, but it was also light, with the buoyancy of something that felt very much like joy.
She felt the warm and firm touch of Xi Yang's fingers on her cheeks, wiping off her silent tears.
She looked at Xi Yang and asked rather innocently, "Am I very young and ignorant in your eyes?"
The end of Xi Yang's lips lightly tipped up, "Then, am I very old and wise in your eyes?"
"You always answer my question with another question," Wang Huan sighed.
"Because you ask hard questions," Xi Yang smiled, but his smile faltered a little as the sky turned dark with the falling of the sun.
Wang Huan knew then that Xi Yang needed to leave. Xi Yang looked into Wang Huan's eyes, "I have to return to the Heavenly Realms - I left Heavens in a rather chaotic state and there's a lot for me to resolve before our engagement ceremony." He paused, with a slightly worried look, "Tradition is such that we are not allowed to see each other in the days before the ceremony."
Wang Huan nodded, smiling ruefully at the purple dust on Xi Yang's robes, "You do need a bath."
Xi Yang shook his finger at Wang Huan and his smiling eyes turned stern, "Although our sources point to Princess Mei Yan being the one who ordered for your food to be poisoned in the Heavenly Realms, we don't have any substantive proof. The rules of the Dark Realms are also tricky - it allows in-fighting and killing between the tribes, 'survival of the fittest' as you call it. However, since the Heavenly Realms and the Dark Realms have a non-conflict treaty, the only way we can catch Princess Mei Yan is if she tries to sabotage your engagement to me again... in this regard, An Hun and I have spoken to Yan Zun about acting as a spy for us with Princess Mei Yan. To be honest, I still don't completely trust him and I have my concerns if Princess Mei Yan will - even though the Spider Demon Tribe has long been allied with the Envy Tribe - he could double cross us both. But, at the end of it all, it doesn't matter - I just want you to be safe. I will do anything to make sure the ceremony goes through successfully and that no harm ever comes to you. So, Wang Huan, don't do anything rash - just wait in your courtyard till I come for you."
Wang Huan nodded as Xi Yang gently placed the loose strands of her hair behind her ear. She gave Xi Yang a soft smile, "I promise to wait for you."
It was amazing to Wang Huan how much an experience could change a person's feelings. Before she went to the mortal realms, she had spent her days smoothly in the courtyard. Although she had a desire to travel one day, she kept it deep within her heart, and her days quietly passed into each other without much fuss or trouble. If she was a pool of water, it was one that was forever still without ripples.
But, now that a stone had fallen in, her heart was pressed upon by wave upon wave of longing.
She missed Xi Yang. She missed the world outside. She realised that keeping the promise not to travel outside the courtyard until the day of the engagement ceremony, which was about a week away, was suddenly unbearably long.
So, Wang Huan was very happy when Yi Mei had came from the Heavenly Realms with her gown for the engagement ceremony.
When Yi Mei arrived, Wang Huan quickly pulled Yi Mei into her chambers and asked after Xi Yang. Yi Mei looked at her in mild surprise, and exclaimed, "Why! You changed your mind about Crown Prince Sun pretty quickly!"
Wang Huan's cheeks reddened a little and she said, "I'm just curious if Xi Yang had trouble when he returned to the Heavenly Realms since he sought the royal pardon for my childhood friend for me..."
Yi Mei nodded solemnly, "The royal pardon of the Spider Demon Tribe caused a huge uproar in Heavens! After all, many of the gods still remembered how the Spider Demon Tribe ruthlessly preyed on the divine heartstones of many small gods and deities! The fierce opposition it caused... " Yi Mei shook her head, she looked carefully at Wang Huan for a moment before she spoke in a hushed tone, "Some said Crown Prince Sun had been bewitched by you!"
Wang Huan gasped in disbelief, "Bewitched?"
Yi Mei nodded, "There was a lot of unhappiness. But, finally, Crown Prince Sun managed to garner enough political support to pardon the leader of the Spider Demon Tribe, the only son of the previous Spider Demon Tribe leader, who was only a child when the crimes were committed... the consensus was that the current leader would have to accumulate enough good karma and deeds before the entire tribe can return."
Wang Huan stood silent in her reflections. Although she had always known how far-fetched the idea was of having Yan Zun return to the Dark Realms, it was only starting to dawn on her, what a huge undertaking it must have been for Xi Yang......
Wang Huan regained awareness when she saw Yi Mei waved a hand in front of her, "Now, don't worry about Crown Prince Sun. I've never seen him fail in anything before. You should worry more about yourself."
"Myself?" Wang Huan asked softly.
Yi Mei nodded, "I'm only telling you this because I really like you. The history of the engagement ceremonies for the future bride of the Jade Emperor has usually not gone well. The reason why there is a grand royal engagement ceremony first is to see if the bride is able to carry the overwhelming fate of becoming the Heavenly Empress of the Heavenly Realms."
Wang Huan's eyes widened and asked, "What happens if a bride is unable to accept such a fate?"
"Well," Yi Mei said while looking slightly pensive, "The first bride of the Jade Emperor, the Fertility Goddess, she is said to have fallen into a coma before the engagement ceremony. The Moon God himself told all the gods that she did not have the matrimonial fate to become the Jade Emperor's bride... it was after that that the current Heavenly Empress had the chance to become engaged to the Jade Emperor."
Wang Huan felt slightly relieved that the Moon God had announced that Xi Yang and her shared a royal matrimonial fate. She asked curiously, "What is the Moon God like?"
Yi Mei's eyes sparkled, "He is the most distinguished and elegant god in all the realms. To see him smile is to see the glow of the full moon shine on you... he is gentle and pure like the morning dew, deep and sophisticated like the ..."
Wang Huan intercepted Yi Mei with her laughter, "He sounds extraordinary."
Yi Mei nodded fervently, "He is!" Her eyes faded a little in intensity, "I requested to be a Moon Maiden, but the Moon God told me that the task of connecting emotional threads is not suitable for me."
At this, Yi Mei sighed even more, "The Moon God must know about my unrequited affections for Yao Feng."
Wang Huan gave Yi Mei a gentle smile, "Why do you think Yao Feng does not return your affections? Didn't he escort you here today?" Wang Huan recalled Yao Feng being the head of the royal guards that escorted Yi Mei to the Dark Realms.
Yi Mei scoffed, "It's not because he was worried about me. It was Crown Prince Sun who told Yao Feng to escort me down. The only person Yao Feng has affections for is probably Crown Prince Sun."
Wang Huan paused thoughtfully and asked, "How about we test Yao Feng's heart?"
Yi Mei looked at Wang Huan curiously, "How do we test?"
"By pretending to like another male and making him jealous!" Wang Huan answered, recalling how Xi Yang reacted to Yan Zun's name.
Yi Mei paused and then asked, "Do you have a suitable candidate?"
Wang Huan nodded, "We could try my brother, Prince An Hun. I don't mean to be boastful, but he is the most good looking prince in the Dark Realms. Actually, I've never seen him have a female partner, but he certainly does not lack suitors - male or female."
Wang Huan paused, "I have to admit that An Hun's personality is not exactly gentlemanly, but I am confident that he would be excellent enough to cause Yao Feng to be jealous."
Yi Mei smiled, "Why not?"
So that was how the reclusive Princess Wang Huan rode in her small carriage towards Prince An Hun's palace. Ordinarily, Wang Huan's carriage will not garner any attention, but because her carriage was being escorted by a troop of royal guards from the Heavenly Realms - this made the carriage stand out like a sore thumb in some of the dark immortals and demons' eyes.
Wang Huan felt the carriage stop abruptly and the sounds of Yao Feng arguing with another travelling party. Yi Mei lifted up the veil covering the windows of the carriage to check on Yao Feng.
Wang Huan suddenly realised what it meant for a beauty to stop traffic. In that moment, there were no more arguments and all eyes fell on Yi Mei. Wang Huan had almost forgotten the effect of Yi Mei's beauty - soft, luscious and gentle, like the butterfly that flits from flower to flower, leaving an uncatchable but intoxicating scent. What more the fact that Yi Mei was a Heavenly goddess whose pure aura was unparalleled in the dark realms?
With a flick of his hand, Yao Feng caused the veil to fall again. He sternly informed the other travelling party to make way for the Dark Princess Wang Huan's carriage - and they were on their way again. Leaving tons of open mouths agape.
Wang Huan fell back into her seat with laughter as Yi Mei fell back with a frown.
When they arrived at An Hun's palace, An Hun was busy with some official matters so the servants brought Wang Huan, Yi Mei and Yao Feng to one of An Hun's private chambers to wait.
Ever so often, Yi Mei would give a curious glance to Yao Feng, but Yao Feng seemed calm and unperturbed as he stood at the door, as if ready to react upon the slighest motion. Wang Huan had informed Yao Feng that the Heavenly Empress wanted to prepare a gift for her closest brother, Prince An Hun, so Yao Feng needed to escort Wang Huan and Yi Mei to Prince An Hun's palace so that Yi Mei could get an idea of what was suitable for Prince An Hun. Yao Feng had easily complied with no hesitation.
Wang Huan realised why Yao Feng had no hesitation when An Hun arrived.
Even Yi Mei was surprised when Yao Feng gave a tight brotherly hug to An Hun when he stepped in. It was only then that Wang Huan realised Yao Feng had became sworn brothers with An Hun... something about An Hun saving Yao Feng's life when they went to the purple deserts to bring Yan Zun back to the Dark Realms.
An Hun turned to Wang Huan and Yi Mei with a smile. He bowed gallantly at Yi Mei. Yi Mei had to admit that An Hun was astonishingly beautiful - but compared to his dark intriguing beauty, Yi Mei still preferred Yao Feng's bright clean looks, like the warm glow of a summer's day.
"Goddess Yi Mei," An Hun nodded respectfully," Please convey my thanks to the Heavenly Empress for her kind affection to my sister, Princess Wang Huan."
"I will," Yi Mei curtsied back gently, "The Heavenly Empress is very pleased to have Princess Wang Huan as her future daughter in law."
The servants arrived with tea and they all exchanged a few more rounds of pleasantries. Finally, An Hun asked politely to speak with Wang Huan in private for a moment and Yi Mei and Yao Feng exited the chambers.
An Hun laughed, "Enough with your wide-eyed accusatory looks. You should know by now that I will tell you what I think you should know --- curiosity always kills the cat."
An Hun's expression darkened, "For some reason, the Envy Tribe is having an official tribe ceremony on the day before your engagement ceremony... it's not clear what it is, but it certainly is suspicious... it could be to create an alibi for Princess Mei Yan. Whatever it is, you should avoid Yan Zun."
"Yan Zun?" Wang Huan asked, her brows furrowed. Ever since that day in the courtyard, she had not seen Yan Zun again. She had sent letters to Yan Zun's quarters through Xiao Mi, but there were no replies.
"Although Yan Zun promised to help us regarding Princess Mei Yan, my gut instinct is that he is hiding something," An Hun said, "I have men watching Yan Zun and the Spider Demon Tribe in the purple desert as well... but I don't trust him."
Seeing Wang Huan's conflicted expression, An Hun patted Wang Huan lightly on her head, "Don't worry too much. Just stay in your courtyard. Avoid coming to my palace in future, Lie Hun has been making increasing attacks towards my side of the tribe... it won't be long before the final blood is shed between us two."
At this, Wang Huan took out a icy cold blue bead from her robes and passed it to An Hun, "Lan Ye gave it to me. It's one of her new secret pills - if you take it, you will have all the signs of death for twenty four hours. But, you will still be conscious and alive. You only need to reverse the flow of your 'qi' from your heart to the stomach temporarily and the effects will immediately wear off."
An Hun shook his head and placed it back in Wang Huan's palm, "With the state of your divine powers, you better keep it for yourself instead."
Wang Huan lied, "I have a few."
An Hun laughed, "Wang Huan, it's still a thousand years too early for you to lie to me."
When Wang Huan exited An Hun's chambers, she was surprised to see an extremely downcast expression on Yi Mei's face. They bade farewell to An Hun and left An Hun's palace.
In the carriage, Wang Huan asked Yi Mei what had happened.
Yi Mei gave a mocking laughter to herself, "I praised An Hun after both Yao Feng and I exited, hoping to get a reaction from Yao Feng... but not only did he agree with my praise, he praised An Hun even more. Why... I'm starting to wonder if Yao Feng is a potential male suitor of An Hun!"
Yi Mei did not say any more and Wang Huan didn't know how to respond. She didn't think Yao Feng actually liked An Hun - Yao Feng was just the type of young god who had the tendency to place the male gods and immortals he admired on unrealistic pedestals. He had great interest in battle prowess - of which Xi Yang and An Hun had many.
Wang Huan heard a slight ruckus outside the carriage again, and so this time, she lifted up the veil and looked outside. She was surprised to see a throng of minor dark immortals and demons outside of her small courtyard with tons of presents in hand. Engagement gifts?
"We have come bearing gifts to the beautiful goddess visiting Princess Wang Huan," Wang Huan heard one of the demons said admiringly.
Yi Mei lifted up her head in surprise.
But to both of their shock, Yao Feng swept all the presents aside with one strong swipe of his arm. He announced boldly, "It's a thousand years too early for any of you to seek an audience with Goddess Yi Mei. Scram!"
These dark immortals and demons were over-awed by Yao Feng's display of power and quickly escaped. While love was important, it's not worth losing a life over!
Yao Feng tsked and shook his head as he escorted Wang Huan and Yi Mei down from the carriage.
Yi Mei asked Yao Feng hesitantly, "Why did you chase them away?"
"None of them looked strong enough," Yao Feng tut-tutted in disapproval, "Only if they dared to stay will I let them present you the gift."
Such simple words but Wang Huan saw Yi Mei's face lit up like an ember in darkness. Why, she thought, if only those immortals and demons could see Yi Mei now, perhaps someone would be willing to risk his life for her. Wang Huan smiled, But, till then, it looks like Yao Feng would have to do.
Later that day, after Yao Feng and Yi Mei had left, Yi Mei's own feelings inspired Wang Huan to ask Xiao Mi if she had any plans after Wang Huan was engaged to Xi Yang... Xiao Mi had been with Wang Huan for a great part of Wang Huan's life and she wanted to make sure that Xiao Mi also could find her own happiness.
But, Xiao Mi shook her head determinedly and asked to follow Wang Huan to the Heavenly Realms. Xiao Mi looked so frightened at the thought of leaving Wang Huan that Wang Huan quickly promised that she would bring Xiao Mi to the Heavenly Realms.
After the long day, Wang Huan closed her eyes to try and fall asleep. She hoped that some of her restlessness was able to have been soothed by the day's activities.
But, she could not fall asleep. She kept hearing a tapping sound at her window.
She shook her head... it must be her imagination. Yao Feng had left a small retinue of guards outside her courtyard when he left. There was no way anybody could approach her courtyard...much less her bedroom window.
Except, there was a secret pathway. A pathway from childhood.
Wang Huan rose up from her bed and went to the window.
She pushed opened the window and saw Yan Zun outside.
Many, many years ago, when they were children, Yan Zun had set out a secret pathway to Wang Huan's window. It would be invisible to the average immortal's eyes - a pathway that Yan Zun made using his own powers and sealed with both their bloods.
"You are watched all the time such that it was hard for me to come find you," Yan Zun said. As if it was perfectly normal for him to be outside her window.
Well, it was --- once upon a time.
"Can I?" Yan Zun asked lightly.
Her body reacted before her heart could. Wang Huan felt her hand reached out of the window.
Wang Huan felt her whole body heat up as Yan Zun smoothly stepped into her bedroom after grabbing her hand.
"The Dark Lord gave me some precious wine in celebration recently. I will call Xiao Mi to prepare some dishes and the wine and we can enjoy it in the moonlight in the courtyard," Wang Huan said and quickly stepped out of the bedroom before Yan Zun could respond.
When Wang Huan called for Xiao Mi, Xiao Mi was shocked when she saw Yan Zun. She quickly lowered her eyes and went to prepare the dishes and wine.
They both sat down at the stone table and stools in Wang Huan's courtyard. For a moment, they remained silent in the moonlight.
Finally, Wang Huan asked, "Did you want to come back?"
Yan Zun's eyes fell down on Wang Huan's nervous hands, "A part of me no, but a greater part of me, yes."
Yan Zun looked up into Wang Huan's eyes, "A part of me wondered if I was too late."
Wang Huan did not dare to ask what Yan Zun was too late for. She left Yan Zun's words hanging in the air, as if it was a spell that needed one final action to take effect and she didn't dare to provoke it.
Finally, Yan Zun smiled, "So much has changed in the Dark Realms."
Wang Huan smiled, almost in relief, "Time has a way of moving forward without any fear or desire."
"But, I was relieved that your courtyard has not," Yan Zun continued, "Seemingly untouched by time."
"We have both grown up," Wang Huan said softly.
Xiao Mi arrived with some food dishes and the wine. Quietly, she placed the dishes and wine on the stone table and then quickly left the two again in silence.
Wang Huan poured for Yan Zun a cup of the Dark Lord's wine. It was bitter the last time she drank it.
Wang Huan smiled at Yan Zun, "This is from the Dark Lord's precious wine collection. Try it."
Yan Zun swiftly drank the wine in one gulp. His eyes pierced into Wang Huan, "Bitter."
Wang Huan smiled, "I thought it was bitter the last time I drank it too."
Before Wang Huan could pour the wine into her mouth, she felt Yan Zun's hand pressed onto her wrist.
"Did you agree to marry Crown Prince Sun so I could return to the Dark Realms?"