I have not written a chapter in the first person narrative in a while. But, this chapter definitely needs to be written in Wang Huan's point of view. I hope you enjoy it!
Chapter 18: Love is Madness
"Did you agree to marry Crown Prince Sun so I could return to the Dark Realms?"
I looked at the gentle and delicately carved handsome face before me. Very long ago, there was a moment when I thought I would never be able to see his face again - see what would this face be like when he grew up. When he grew old.
When I saw Yan Zun, I saw my childhood. Those days when he came to play in the courtyard - I have not met An Hun yet - those days when we fantasized what it would be like when we grew older, became more powerful, and could roam the world together.
When I saw Yan Zun, I saw our young innocent childhood days - untouched by death.
"Crown Prince Sun did promise to bring you back to the Dark Realms if I married him," I answered simply, "But, that was not why I agreed to marry him."
Yan Zun took the bottle of wine on the table and swung it up high, pouring all the liquid into his mouth. He placed the bottle back down when there was no more.
"You can't..." I started to say when Yan Zun rose up to leave.
"I know I can't walk out the front door," Yan Zun's words barely hovered in the air, when he vanished.
I realised then that I could no longer send letters to Yan Zun anymore. For, there were questions I could never have answers for.
The days passed uneventfully until finally it was the day before the engagement ceremony. I was positively beaming for my solitude in the courtyard was beginning to feel like imprisonment.
Perhaps because the courtyard was especially heavily guarded, the day went by undisturbed. I woke up, washed up, ate a sumptuous meal - displaying no signs of being a blushing bride.
As I was about to head to bed for some attempt of a "beauty" sleep, Xiao Mi shyly suggested that she combed my hair as a slight modification of the tradition where the mother combs the daughter's hair on the eve of her wedding day.
Xiao Mi made me put on simple but lovely red robes. I never even knew I possessed such a piece but Xiao Mi said that it was part of the gifts Yi Mei had sent over.
She took a jade comb and started to recite softly as she threaded the comb through my hair:
With the first comb, the couple will be together till the end
With the second comb, the couple will grow old together till their hair and brows turn white
With the third comb, the couple will bear many children and grandchildren
With the fourth comb, the couple will enjoy great happiness and fortune.
When Xiao Mi finished, she solemnly declared, "Mistress, to have served you in this life, I have no regrets or complaints."
I reached out my hand to hold hers, "I've always thought of you as a sister."
Our reflections smiled at each other in the mirror.
Despite Xiao Mi's well-wishes from the combing ceremony, I did not have a good sleep. A dream I had been trying to forget my whole life had caught up again with me. Perhaps, to be more precise, it was not a dream, but a badly remembered memory.
I remember the bed, soaked with tears and sweat. I remember the pale face of my mother. Her eyes closed, lost in a sea of her own thoughts, with her forehead wrung in pain. The Dark Lord's eyes had flashed with such violent intensity that I shuddered. He ordered Xiao Mi to pull me out of the room... I shook my head, clutching the blanket on the bed, with all the might my fingers could muster, willing myself to grow claws... but Xiao Mi pulled me out.
I woke up, my own bed, soaked with the same tears and sweat. If memories could be re-lived, why can't I relive the moments of happiness instead?
As my breathing stabilised, I started to hear the frenetic tapping sounds from the window, like a mad man hollering for a sanity he could not recall.
Yan Zun? I frowned. I laid down back on the bed and pulled my blanket over my head. Hoping that this was merely an extension of my bad dream.
But, the tapping won't stop, and the sense of unease growing in my heart reminded me of the time before mother no longer woke up, or when Yan Zun was pulled away by the guards of the Dark Lords, time and time again, when someone I loved was taken away with no return.
I jumped out of bed and ran quickly to the window. I pushed opened the wooden windows and did not even blink in surprise when I saw Yan Zun's face.
He looked at me for a moment - wordless.
"Why are you here?" I said in a tone that was half pleading, pleading for what, I did not know.
"I need you to come with me," Yan Zun said in a strong and formidable tone that I did not recognise from him.
"I can't leave the courtyard," I said shaking my head.
"It's Xiao Mi! Princess Mei Yan is going to kill Xiao Mi if you don't come with me."
"But, how? Princess Mei Yan shouldn't be able to enter my courtyard," I said anxiously.
"Xiao Mi went to see her," Yan Zun intoned, "There isn't much time left."
I'm sorry, Xi Yang.
I took Yan Zun's hand and he pulled me down from my window with ease.
"Close your eyes," He said and I felt the world spin around me.
When he asked me to open my eyes again, I looked with horror at the sight of Xiao Mi kneeling on the ground before Princess Mei Yan with blood dripping out of her mouth.
"What did you do to her?" I shouted as I held Xiao Mi's body in my arms.
Princess Mei Yan looked at Yan Zun first with an almost appreciative cold smile, "So, you did manage to get Wang Huan out of the courtyard."
I anxiously tried to track Xiao Mi's pulse from her wrist, but it was complicatedly erratic. Princess Mei Yan laughed at me, "Why don't you ask Xiao Mi what she has done to you?"
I looked at Xiao Mi's eyes, they were filled with regret. I heard Princess Mei Yan's increasingly gleeful laughter, "Well, since I was Xiao Mi's first mistress, and she appears to be lacking breath now, perhaps I can explain to you. Do you remember when the Dark Lord asked the Bee Demon Tribe to send a young demon girl to be your servant? The Bee Demon Tribe though allied with the Greed Tribe looked down on your heritage and sent a young orphaned bee demoness called Xiao Mi. Well, that poor young orphan after being abandoned by her tribe, was abandoned again..."
"The person lying in your arms is not Xiao Mi. She has never been Xiao Mi. She is Xiao Yin (小印 - small mark) from the Scorpion Demon Tribe," Princess Mei Yan's laughter reached a high crackle,"She killed the original Xiao Mi and took her place."
"Since you have been useless and hiding in your courtyard, I have also relatively ignored you. In fact, I had almost forgotten about you if not for your sudden royal engagement," Princess Mei Yan continued, "But, when I commanded Xiao Yin to poison you with the ambrosia poison when you were in the Heavenly Realms, she failed me. Now, she is paying for her incompetence. All the scorpion demons have to ingest a poisonous worm linked to the current leader of the Envy Tribe as a vow of obedience - since, she failed my orders, she has to die."
I immediately bit my finger down hard and placed it in Xiao Mi's mouth.
Princess Mei Yan laughed, "Since the poisonous worm entwines with the demon's divine heartstone since birth, no antidote can ever reach it - it is a ticking bomb. She is being eaten up from the inside."
My insides raged with the heat of a fury so hot that I felt the hairs of my skin burn. I glared at Princess Mei Yan and carefully focused my divine powers on the dark greed energies that hovered around her, "Remove the poisonous worm from her. I order you to remove the poisonous worm."
If the poisonous worm was removed, at the very least, Xiao Mi would not disappear without a trace from the realms - she would have a chance to reincarnate in the wheel of life.
I saw Princess Mei Yan froze for a moment as if something icy had went down her spine. She shook it off and transformed a parchment with an ink brush, "Write that you are eloping with Yan Zun and I will remove the worm. She's as good as dead anyway."
I took the parchment from Princess Mei Yan and intoned coldly, "Remove the poisonous worm."
With a quick flick of Princess Mei Yan's hand, Xiao Mi spat out a mouthful of dark purple blood onto the ground.
I held her cooling body in my arms tightly as she turned her head back to me, "I'm sorry, Mistress, I'm so sorry."
"There's nothing to be sorry about," I said shaking my head, "More than anyone I know that you have never hurt me."
Then I smiled, "If you are sorry, come back and repay me in your next life."
I felt her heart go still in my arms. As I closed her eyes, she turned into a small dark blue scorpion.
I brandished the brush roughly over the parchment and threw it to Princess Mei Yan.
"Are you sure we shouldn't kill her now?" Princess Mei Yan glared at me as she held the parchment in her hands.
"We are even now," Yan Zun answered coldly, "The next time we meet, we will be as good as strangers."
"Just don't ever be found again," Princess Mei Yan said, "I'm sure the Dark Lord has already sensed Wang Huan has left the courtyard... I'm going to go. If I see you again, don't blame me for being cruel."
While Yan Zun and Princess Mei Yan was talking, I was trying to discreetly reach for the sun bead that Xi Yang had given me before... but before I could hold onto it, I heard Yan Zun said softly, "I'm sorry, Wang Huan" and then I heard no more.
Xi Yang was drinking tea under the moonlight with the Jade Emperor in the inner garden of the Jade Emperor's palace when he felt something hot erupt within his heart.
He clutched his chest as the weight of what was happening hit him in full force.
"I have to go," Xi Yang announced and stood up quickly.
"Xi Yang," The Jade Emperor intoned strictly, "You know it's against the rules to go to the Dark Realms before the engagement ceremony."
"To hell with the rules," Xi Yang declared as he summoned a thunderous flying cloud, "What good are rules if my bride is gone?"