The long-awaited meeting between Jin Mi and revived Phoenix! The intensity of this chapter is so satisfying, but also makes my heart ache.
Additional note: There's technically only four more updates and then we reach the epilogues (5). There's chapter 23.4, two parts of Chapter 24 and the final chapter. The final chapter is very short so I will try and combine it with Chapter 24 - I know you guys will kill me if there's a long wait in between. Unconsciously, we are so close to the end!
Chapter 23: No Door For Redemption (Part 3 of 4)
I was guided towards the backyard. From far, I could see a sea of fiery red flowers, in the midst of which was a small river. In the river laid a Fei Yan pavilion*, there were musicians playing, the sound of stringed instruments mingling with the flow of water. He was leaning on a rail supported by a row of short posts**, a table in front with two or three parchments scattered around, a half-opened bamboo book*** that was slightly yellowed in his hand, he was concentrating on it. His side profile was half in the light and half in darkness, as if an illusion.
The surroundings were ablaze with blossoming flowers, but nothing was more eye-catching than the red vermillion powder at the tip of his brush. My heart shook.
The demoness led me to the stone steps before the pavilion, "The Great One, the Water Goddess seeks an audience."
I half-closed my eyes. A gush of wind swept by causing the sea of flowers to ripple into each other, the sound of the instruments immediately stopped. The surroundings were entirely silent. After a moment, there was a soft discordant sound.
Someone lightly laughed, the musicians frantically bowed down, "May the Great One punish us."
"All of you are not to be blamed, even I am afraid of the Water Goddess," His tone was cold. What was clearly a sharp insult, also carried a layer of ambiguity, resembling the bloodstains remaining on the knife blade, "All of you can leave."
"Yes," After a flurry, all the surrounding people exited.
My eyes downcast, in a moment, a pair of brocade boots appeared in my gaze. My heart suddenly skipped, a thousand words and expressions were stuck in my throat, but I did not know how to start.
"Why? Is the Great Water Goddess insulted that I did not go out to greet you such that you can't even deign yourself to speak?"
His one "Great Water Goddess" pierced my whole self in pain.
"Xu Feng (Phoenix's first name)......" I hurriedly lifted up my head to look at him and my eyes struck into a pair of icy cool eyes, "I..." I already didn't know what I wanted to say, even just looking into his eyes, I felt so contented that I became almost dumb.
He lightly raised his brow, as if impatient he turned his gaze away, "I heard the Water Goddess will ascend the position of the Heavenly Empress in spring next year. I must congratulate you. Have you come to deliver the wedding invitations today? The Water Goddess' courage is indeed becoming greater to enter into my manor -aren't you afraid of being able to come but not being able to go?" He casually flicked the strings of the qin (musical instrument), the outburst before the massacre, "Or, are you betting that I don't dare to kill you?"
"Xu Feng......" I did not know what to say, but I unconsciously went to grab his arm. He paused, his eyes darkened in a moment, as if he was extremely angry, and yet also disgusted to the extreme, he stretched his arm and his demonic aura heavily threw me away and I fell to the floor.
"The Water Goddess, please observe propriety!"
My palms hurt, a burning sweltering heated pain, but the pain was far beyond what was in my heart... his disdainful gaze was like a blade that plunged into the centre of my heart, cruelly gashing out a spout of fresh blood......
He flicked his sleeve as if he was worried looking at me one more time would taint his eyes. He turned to walk away from the pavilion.
Anxiously, I got up to chase after him. But, my feet lack strength and I painfully fell to the floor again. Seeing that his feet was already going down the stone steps, my whole body started to tremble. This was my last chance, if I missed this, there will never be another chance! The mortals still have a chance to reincarnate, but we only have one lifetime, a long and never-ending one lifetime, if I could not see him again, such a long thousand years, ten thousand years... what a cruel punishment...
In a moment, my face was full of tears.
I shouted after him with a tear-soaked voice, "Xu Feng, I'm wrong, everything in the past was my fault! You can kill me, skin me, but... please don't ignore me... I know I'm wrong......"
He suddenly stopped in his pace.
"I did not know, I really did not know, I thought you murdered my father. I promised to be filial to my father, to repay him for everything, but he incinerated into ash... everything was gone, no father, no direction, I did not know where to go... I misunderstood you... I thought...."
"You thought?" He immediately turned around to observe me. The force of the turning of his robes was frightening, "What a you thought!" He suddenly laughed, full of derision, "For those two words, you unhesitatingly took my life! The heartlessness of the Water Goddess is indeed unattainable by anyone since the birth of heavens, I have finally understood."
Indeed, I am so ridiculously wrong, so ridiculously beyond hope or cure... what should I do?
I frantically looked into his cold gaze, suddenly a clarity hit me... I knew, I only had this chance, if I didn't get killed by him in the next moment, then I would be imprisoned by the Heavenly Emperor again. A thousand words and expressions, but there was only one thing, one thing that I have never told him.
"There is one thing, you can believe it, you can don't believe it..." Both of my eyes steadfastly looked into him, I gripped my palms so hard that blood seeped out, "I love you......"
He did not move. A lone flower floated down before his eyes. He looked down upon me from his lofty position, for a moment, a reflection of the fiery red petals flickered in his eyes, but slowly, a layer of unclarity and disdain, and finally all out fury.
He coldly huffed, his lips tightly pressed, "This time, what is it that you want again?"
I was stunned, and could not answer.
He suddenly lifted up his head and laughed, "Re-enactment? Who would have thought after so many years, your lying skills have deteriorated? Previously, you collaborated with Ren Yu (first name of Night), using emotional threads, a few strands of hair, to trick me of my life, and won completely. Now the two realms have not even begun war, and the Water Goddess already has ascended to the stage and got into character..."
'But ---" He suddenly leaned down and squeezed my chin, "Do both of you so look down on me? Do you think I will fall down twice at the same spot?"
"No," I was squeezed extremely painfully by him. It was only my chin, but I felt like my heart was being equally squeezed into a ball, even blinking was painful, "No... I never knew of Ren Yu's plans, I am speaking the truth... I love... you..."
Tears quickly flowed down my face and fell onto his hands that was squeezing my chin. He paused, as if he was burnt, he quickly retracted his hand and looked at me, full of disgust.
"I remember clearly before I died that the Water Goddess gave me two words -- Never Ever! Xu Feng will forever engrave it to heart, will never forget. Water Goddess never ever loved me, how can she suddenly change personality overnight and love me? If not, Water Goddess has such a unique preference, you like someone who has already died? Ren Yu is extremely meticulous, has he not taught you well? You need logic and proof in order to lie, then the person will believe you."
I looked at him, the tears clouding my eyes, "I was fed the Unfeeling Pill from the moment I was born, it destroyed emotions and killed love... until, that day when I personally saw your soul disperse, I spat it out... I did not know when I fell for you..." I murmured in my low voice, "Maybe, it was by the pond at Liu Zi... or when I pretended to die... or maybe, it's when you held the announcement and turned back to me with a smile... or maybe it was that year when you asked 'Little Demon, where do you come from'? I am not clear, I do not know... but I know, seeing you get hurt, I will get upset, so upset that it's like all my insides are being eaten by bugs......"
"Unfeeling pill? Destroying emotions and killing love?" His hand slowly pressed onto my throat, "I know all of the pills in the Six Realms, and I have never heard of such a pill. Even if there is such a pill, why would your heart move for me before the pill is out? Are you too stupid or you think I'm too stupid?" His grip tightened and I felt my throat about to break, "Speak, why has Ren Yu sent you? I don't believe he is so stupid to use the same tactic twice! Do you think you can leave unharmed once you enter the Demon Realms?"
Although every single word of his stabbed my heart, I did not blame him. I had wronged him first, even if he took my life, I would not even begin to be able to repay half of my debt to him.
The scenery in front of me became even blurrier and I slowly closed my eyes. Actually, to die in his hands may also be a kind of happiness.
Suddenly, he loosened his grip and I fell into his cold embrace. He let me leaned into him and did not push me away, such an action caused a very faint hope to burst in me.
But then, the next moment he coldly said, "The Water Goddess' love for the Heavenly Emperor is indeed so touching as to shake the heavens. For him, you are willing to give up your stature? And him, to solidify his throne, he does not care about his fiancee's life, to send you to me. In all of the realms, there is not a more heartless husband, or a more loving wife. Good, very good, this opens Xu Feng's eyes!"
I was about to reach out to hug him but there was no strength. My wrist moved a little and then weakly dropped down. I could only with much effort opened my eyes to him, "No, never... no.. Ren Yu... it was... it was always... it was always only you..."
I did not know if it was my mistaken impression, but I felt the cold air freeze before my forehead.
"Ha ha!" He arrogantly laughed, one hand holding my slowly sinking waist, another hand lifting my chin, our gaze met, "Water Goddess is so confident? What makes you think you can attract me again to be tricked by you? I think, my wedding invitation with Sui He has already been sent out to the Heavenly Realms three months ago. If you did not receive any, I can give you one now!"
He looked at me and spat out each and every word, "If you say such ridiculous words like you love me again, I will immediately kill you. Say once, kill once!"
A wind swept by, my heart broke into pieces, there was only silence.
"Announcing---" A guard flew and bowed before Phoenix, "To report to the Great One, the Heavenly Emperor has led a million heavenly soldiers to the entrance of the River of Forgetfulness saying that he will immediately announce battle if the Great One does not give up the Water Goddess!'
My heart turned cold and my fingertips lightly shuddered.
"Indeed!" With one hand, Phoenix grabbed me tight, his white lips at my ears, I felt the thinness of his lips lightly swept pass my ear lobes, "So it turns out, your goal for today... ah, the Water Goddess is held hostage by the Great One, the Heavenly Emperor breaks out in fury, to save the Water Goddess, he has no choice but to attack the Demon Realms, to be the hero of justice and right all wrongs!"
*A traditional chinese structure (see picture above).
** A balustrade
Comment: I actually really love Phoenix's reaction and I think it's very telling that emotionally, Phoenix still loves Jin Mi and finds himself unable to stop his heart's reaction to her and he is doing all he can to remind himself rationally that he hates her. I also love how all his logical and rational arguments ultimately backfire - indeed, because Night won't use the same tactic again, indeed, because Jin Mi cannot logically at all hope that Phoenix would love Jin Mi again --- the only reason why Jin Mi would risk her life and do what she did must be that illogically, beyond all hope and cure, she loves Phoenix.