“…To be honest, when you brought her over back then, I was very, very happy…” The way he spoke was just like someone narrating a story. It was as though he would lose control of his emotions if he did not speak in this manner.
Chen Lan started to feel an intense cold rise up from the soles of his feet. He was frozen in place and could not even open his mouth to speak or shift his line of vision. Instead, he could only stare at the finger of his older brother tugging at his sleeves, as well as that pale and frail looking face that was within the peripheries of his vision. Chen Ruo seemed to be organising his words as he muttered on endlessly.
“… I know I shouldn’t have made her stay behind, I should have let her return… What was the use of her remaining here? There were too many noble daughters, and my seat on the throne was precarious. I wasn’t able to protect her… I should have let her go back… But I didn’t.” He said it in this way with his eyes closed. Drops of water dripped down from his wet hair and coalesced on his trembling lashes, just like tears.
“I thought, if I let her return, her father would immediately arrange a marriage for her and give his blessings to another man. So, I couldn’t do it. I obviously knew what would happen, I clearly knew everything, but… but I still kept her by my side.”
He clearly knew that she would be bullied, he knew everything. But he kept her from leaving, all because of his desire, the mere desire of seeing her once in a while. Then what happened? He tossed her aside once again, pushing her into a lonely corner in the depths of the palace in anticipation that once stability returned to the courts, he could take her into his arms once again. That moment would probably bring him a warped sense of satisfaction, right? Forcing her world to shrink smaller and smaller, leaving her in ruins so that apart from him, she had nothing else. Just like that, using the excuse of protecting her, he indulged in others and allowed them to trample and humiliate her. In the end, all these were exchanged for that scene of her shrunken on the ground as she looked quietly at him with deathly stillness and an ashen expression of hopelessness. Back then, his entire figure was trembling slightly. Yet, he had to maintain a smile as he joked with the concubines crowded around him. One step by one step, he distanced himself from her. Back then, as long as he turned his head to look in her eyes, he would have rushed forward without a care to hug her. But alas, that would have caused her to lose her life immediately. Hence, he forced himself to hold back, gradually walking further and further away.
Chen Lan looked at him. He looked at the face of his older brother which seemed to be choking back tears, his entire body trembling.
“… She was chased out of the palace. I immediately sent people out to search, but she was already missing…” Chen Ruo suddenly stopped midway. Then, he removed the hand that was covering his face and gazed at the brother who looked exactly like him with pitch-black eyes.
At that moment, Chen Lan suddenly felt the temperatures around him plunge to below zero. A formless and ugly object seemed to contract around him like a snake.
Chen Ruo’s fingers gripped his wrist instead as he gazed fixedly at Chen Lan.
“…Ah Lan, you will help me, right?”
He knew. He knew the person who took Jin Xiu away was him. Looking back, would it even be possible for Chen Ruo to be kept in the dark? If he really loved Jin Xiu sincerely. At that instant, Chen Lan suddenly understood. He did not respond and only kneeled down with bent knees, before taking his leave.
The moment Chen Lan left the palace, he immediately departed from the capital. He did not bother about anything else and galloped straight to Wuzhou without stopping once. The journey that should have taken one month only took him ten days to complete. He rode the horse straight into the Prince’s Manor. Jin Xiu was in the middle of tending to the flowers in the courtyard with a group of servant girls when she heard the clamour of horses and people. The moment Jin Xiu turned her head, she felt a gust of wind and before she knew it, she was already in his arms.
Chen Lan was battered and exhausted, the pungent smell of sweat emanating from his body. His breathing was ragged and his heart was pounding. Jin Xiu allowed him to hug her, gently waving her hands as a gesture to dismiss the servants. Then, she heard that man tell her- Jin Xiu, let’s flee!
She widened her sightless eyes abruptly, then slowly closed them again. She merely patted his back softly, before saying in a gentle voice. Let’s go in first, you can explain to me slowly. However, her heart was as still as a desolate wilderness. Where could they flee to? There was nowhere they could go. Just like their daily routine in the past three years, she poured him a cup of tea and quietly listened to Chen Lan speak. Then, she extended an arm and touched his face with a smile. Those sightless eyes looked at him without wavering.
“Where can we flee to? Ah Lan, all the land under the sky belongs to the emperor, and all the mortals on the land belong to His Majesty. Where can we flee to?” She calmly asked him as she carefully caressed his face.
“Many years back, I abandoned my duty. Today, are you going to abandon your duty as well?”
Chen Lan’s entire body shook and abruptly lifted his head. That beautiful and quiet girl looked at him with inexplicably warm eyes, before smiling.
“Chen Lan, do you want to abandon your country?”
He widened his eyes and looked at her, unable to say a word. Jin Xiu’s smile gradually faded into desolation. Just like a child, she buried her head into the crevice of his neck.
“Ah Lan, every time, you were always the one who told me that you would take me away. This time, I’m afraid it won’t be possible…”
See, the man before her had seen all her tears of misery in this lifetime. Crying on your shoulders through the night. This will be the last time. Chen Lan could feel a scalding hot wetness seep into his clothes, his skin, melding into his blood and bones. This was the only girl he loved this lifetime. He was unable to protect her, unable to keep her in his arms. She whispered into his ears, these three years of marriage was plenty enough to make up for her entire lifetime. All her past humiliation and suffering had been cleared up just by being by his side. She even felt as though the build-up of pain and difficulties, as well as her uncertain future, was all in exchange for these three years. She told Chen Lan, obtaining the companionship of my husband was enough for this lifetime.
Chen Lan lay on her lap with his eyes closed. Slowly, he spoke to her aimlessly about anything and everything. And when the watchman sounded the fifth gong that night, he opened his eyes to look at the girl he loved so deeply, only to exclaim in shock, “Jin Xiu, your hair-”
The hair of that girl had turned white overnight, her originally black and silky hair had now turned snow white. However, she had not noticed.
Jin Xiu fiddled with her hair and grinned unexpectedly. She said look, my heartbreak for you far exceeds my sadness over him.
Then, a maidservant cried out in shock. She said, Master, things are not good! Soldiers have surrounded the Prince’s Manor!
Jin Xiu turned her head and smiled at the maidservant. When the maidservant saw her head of white hair, she was so shocked that no words came out. She said with a smile, bring me outside then. In the end, she stepped out of the front gates. Among the sea of armoured horses and golden weapons, a phoenix sedan stood out in the centre. The sound of clashing metal reverberated in the air and low voice of a man echoed through the entire skies of Wuzhou.
“Under the edict of the Emperor, we are here to escort our Madame back to the palace.” She straightened her back and lifted her skirt before stepping onto the sedan. She took a seat steadily and gathered her hands in front of her. Jin Xiu’s snow-white face was completely expressionless. She did not tell Chen Lan, she was already pregnant. She had originally planned to surprise him with the news, but looking at things now, it was no longer necessary.
Chen Ruo… She brooded over this name and discovered that she was indifferent. Before this, she held neither affection nor hate for this man. But this was only before this. Her happiness, be it the first twenty years of her life or the next twenty years of her life, had been completely ruined by the hands of one person. What he owed her, he would return one by one from now on.
Jin Xiu closed her eyes and leaned against the walls of the carriage. Suddenly, she felt cold and thought of Chen Lan. At this point, he was probably blaming himself in sorrow for not knowing what to do. Hence, her heart started to hurt as well, it spread through her chest, causing a suffocating pain. The pain that overflowed from within her caused her to nibble her fingertips, and even though blood flowed, she was numb to it all. Just like this, she left the man she loved.
Chen Ruo, Chen Ruo.
Hatred and resentment filled the deepest parts of her heart and suddenly, she felt like this entire matter was a huge joke. Five years ago, would she have been able to imagine herself calling out the name of that man with so much hatred and resentment? She bit her fingertips and thought of Chen Lan again. Only after thinking about him desperately could she finally breathe. She had once heard a maidservant sing with a tender voice on a beautiful spring day. The first wish for a husband’s longevity. The second wish for a wife’s good health. The third wish is to be like swallows on their beams, to stay by each other’s side forever. 
At this point, these might no longer hold true.
Chen Ruo, Chen Ruo–
Her blood stained fingers clutched her chest as her snow-white hair cascaded everywhere. She had never held so much hatred for someone before.
On the seventh day of the seventh month, the magpie bridge  had just opened. The phoenix sedan went straight through the palace gates and was carried into the sleeping chambers. Chen Ruo helped her down the carriage and the instant he saw her head of white hair, his entire face became ashen as though a bolt of lightning had struck him.
On the contrary, Jin Xiu smiled sweetly as a maidservant supported her down the carriage. The moment she walked past him, the corner of her lips hooked up and she covered her lips with her sleeve. Then, she whispered softly like a ripple of water.
“It didn’t turn white overnight because of you, your majesty.”
Chen Ruo ordered the palace servants to close the doors and at that moment, there was only the two of them standing opposite one another in the entire palace hall.
Chen Ruo had once imagined this scene many times, but when he finally saw Jin Xiu in person, he realized that reality did not meet any of the scenarios that he had imagined. The girl opposite him wore plain clothes with a head full of white hair, deprived of any semblance of emotion as she looked forward with a pale, snow-white face. Suddenly, Chen Ruo felt a chill run up from the bottom of his heart. He subconsciously extended a hand towards her, but the instant he came into contact with her face, Jin Xiu hit his hand away. He was stumped for a few seconds. Then, he reached forward to grab her hand firmly with even greater force, while his other hand moved up to stroke her face. This time, Jin Xiu could not dodge and merely let him stroke her face. Only, the corner of her lips twitched as her sightless eyes looked straight at him. She slowly spat out two words.
“What?” He asked in a hoarse voice. She called him Chen Ruo. In the past, she didn’t address him in this way, she called him Ah Ruo…
“I’m pregnant.” She flashed a warm and faint smile. Then, a venomous form of hatred was seen in the abyss of her eyes.
“!” Chen Ruo retreated a step back. However, Jin Xiu extended an arm and grabbed the hand that was on her face. She exerted more and more strength, but Chen Ruo could not feel any pain. He only looked at the girl before him in utter shock. Her smile became even sweeter, even warmer, and even more beautiful. Her fingertips pressed a little harder, “Since this is the case, will you let me go?”
“I won’t.” Chen Ruo’s complexion became even more dejected. He finally stopped moving back. Then, fresh blood oozed out of the hand that was being tugged at by Jin Xiu, causing a streak of bright red to appear.
After saying these two words, the red mark between his brows became even more radiant. On the contrary, his expression was calm once again as he repeated himself in a low voice, “… I won’t.” There was no way he would let her go, no matter the circumstance.
Jin Xiu’s fingernails dug deeply into his flesh, her smile as bright as the fresh blood that was dripping out. She said softly, “I knew you would be like this…” For no one understood this man more than her.
 Line from <Longevity Girl>, mentioned once in part 2 and again in part 6. What a bittersweet line, for it frames the three turns of her life.
 Magpie bridge: A folklore bridge across the milky way, formed on the seventh day of the seventh month to allow lovers to reunite. Also mentioned in part 2.
T/N: We finally get to see things from Chen Ruo’s perspective… Buckle up, there’s only one part left!