My take on Su Su’s / Bai Qian’s thought processes and what really pushed Bai Qian into taking the forgetting potion. I think the drama did an unfair thing by taking away what I felt might have been the primary motivation, which was that in the book when Bai Qian awakened, she knew that she was engaged to Ye Hua.
The Me Before You
I collapsed to the forest floor, tired from my trek. I’d been wandering for days, the sun having moved across the sky many times, but I still hadn’t been able to find a way out of the damned forest. I muffled a groan; the ground was hard, and I was tired of sleeping on the forest floor. Admitting defeat for today, I let myself sit back against the tree, setting my basket down beside me. Sighing heavily, I leaned back and closed my eyes. It seemed that I would be spending another night in the forest.
I stared up at the orange sky. It would be dark soon, and the stars would come out, along with the moon that would be smirking down at me for being the idiot that couldn’t even find her way home. Wrapping my scarf and outer layers more closely around me, I nestled into the roots of the tree I had found, trying to protect myself from the light breeze that had begun to blow across the forest floor. Thankfully, it was the middle of summer and wouldn’t get too cold tonight.
And in that encroaching darkness, as my body ached from the continuous walking I had done for these many days, a certain peace fell over my mind. In that moment of peace, my thoughts began to wander down avenues that I was sure I had pondered before, but I’d never been able to figure out any answers.
Why I was alone on this mountain? Where were my parents? I couldn’t have raised myself, but I couldn’t ever remember living with another human being. I didn’t even know my own name. How had I ended up at Mount Junji, living in an old hut? My head began to ache, as I struggled to remember my past. But, no matter how hard I tried to remember, there was nothing. No answers. A big well of nothing. I frowned, wondering in frustration at the blankness I encountered every time I tried to think about my past.
As the crickets chirped in the darkness, soft sounds the only evidence of a forest teeming with life, I felt my mind expanding for a moment, allowing for a moment of clarity. Maybe it was the exhaustion, the lack of true sleep, the aches and pains . . . hunger or dehydration . . . whatever it was, I felt my brain begin to truly process and analyze.
The stillness on this mountain wasn’t normal. The fact that I was all alone wasn’t normal.
I wrapped my arms tightly around myself and fought back the tears that sprang up. I was so tired of being alone. But even when loneliness gnawed at me in the endless hours of solitude, I’d kept myself isolated. I’d chosen to avoid other people even when I had the chance for human contact. The animals I rescued were company, but they did little to hold loneliness at bay. And even those animals left . . . or died . . . and then I was alone again.
Shifting restlessly on the hard ground, I tried to find a comfortable position. Giving up when no comfort could be found, I glared up at the moon, wondering at how easy I found to accept my circumstances at other times. Why hadn’t I investigated when I woke up that morning on the bridge all alone except for a kitten? How long ago had it been? Had I missed the essential clues that might have helped me to find my family?
A feeling of desolation spread through my body. And why, I thought to myself, was it so hard to think at all? I rubbed impatiently at my aching head. My mind was slow, something that I could realize now. In the darkness of the night, as I sat alone in the forest, I knew there was something really wrong with me.
There was a sudden wind, the call of the owl, and my mind turned for a moment. I saw an animal bounding across the forest, and then other creatures racing along. I frowned slightly, wondering what had scared them. Hearing a near silent thud near where I sat, I got up to investigate. A few feet away I saw a small bird had fallen to the earth. “Poor creature,” I murmured sympathetically, carefully picking it up and beginning to walk once more, following the other fleeing animals. Reaching into my basket, I grabbed some fruit, nibbling on it and offering some of it to the bird.
As I walked in the dark, stumbling over roots and mysterious mounds, I wondered what had I been thinking about as I rested. Had it really been just minutes ago?
No matter, I didn’t remember any of it; the only thing left behind was the headache my thoughts had given me. If I didn’t remember those thoughts, then they must not have been important. Nodding in agreement with my conclusion, I continued walking.
It was only as the sun broke through the clouds, dawn arriving with a glory of colors, that I found myself in front of my hut. I sighed in relief. I’d finally found my way back.
I’d seen the sun rise and set eight different times, and I was as tired of that forest as I could be. Promising myself to be more careful next time, I cradled the bird close to my body and walked into the hut, so glad to see my home again.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In all that time on Mount Junji, despite how lonely I got, I never left that mountain to go down and live with other people. I didn’t know what my heart had been looking for even when it constantly ached, even when I forgot why it was aching and could only stubbornly suffer the pain.
It turned out that it had been looking for you.
SuSu and Ye Hua
When he came into my life, everything changed. I had someone to talk to . . . someone to take care of. I wasn’t alone any longer.
But he was also someone who would talk back to me and tell me stories. Someone who came looking for me when I was gone too long in the forest.
I had begun to crave his company when he wasn’t near. I missed him when he was gone, and that was only after 12 days. It took the longest time for me to realize what all of these new emotions meant.
After having run out of food, I steeled myself to ask him to leave. It broke my heart when I realized that I couldn’t keep him, but I’d had to face reality even as I’d cursed myself for being so useless that I couldn’t even take care of one man. That morning, I’d hardened my heart and made the decision to throw him out. If only he would leave.
But Ye Hua was always surprising. He actually insisted on repaying me.
“I . . . I don’t mean to drive you away . . . I can’t afford to take care of you.” I could barely eke out those words past the lump in my throat. My entire body shivered as I forced myself to look into his eyes briefly, striving to show him how serious I was.
“You saved me . . . Naturally, I should stay to repay you.” Ye Hua jumped up, refusing to leave until then. But repay me how?
“You don’t need to repay me.” I’d blurted out, still a desperate hope lit inside of me. What had I really done for him? He would have better luck if he found someone else to better care of him. The poor guy already wasn’t the best fighter, I thought, remembering how I’d found him injured at my door. And if he couldn’t even feed himself on top of that . . . I couldn’t bear to think of him suffering because of a bad own . . . what was I thinking?
“I am not an ungrateful person. I must pay this debt of gratitude.” he’d said those words so earnestly.
Could I ask him for my heart’s desire? I didn’t want to think about how the two of us would survive together. All I knew was that my heart had begun beating rapidly, as I struggled to figure out what was right. I had spent days with him, feeding him and tending to his injuries. A flush spread across my face when I remembered that I had even slept in his arms, inhaling his scent, so much so that it had become a familiar part of me. Every morning for the past 10 days, I had awakened in his arms. And I found nothing wrong with that. In fact, my rest had been blissful.
But even so, I insisted on rejecting the repayment. I fought against my craven nature. How could I ask him to stay with me forever just because I had helped him a little?
But he insisted. “You can take some time to think about it.” He’d looked at me, a sort of desperation flashing in his eyes. What was that? Why was he desperate, when it was me who needed to make this difficult request? I had to think, but it was difficult while his gaze was glued to my face.
I looked at him uncertainly, finally venturing, “But I am really not lacking anything.” I kind of hinted that I wouldn’t ask for anything easy. Should I . .. could I? His entreating expression hadn’t changed.
“If you really want to repay me, why don’t you devote yourself entirely to me?” My heart pounded rapidly when I made the request, my face heating from the brazenness of my words. And he’d said nothing. Oh . . . god! He said nothing. I began to explain desperately, backtracking, and turned away from the condemnation I was sure to see in his eyes.
“All right.” He hadn’t balked, but had agreed instead. “I promise. To devote myself to you.” He strode towards me, quickly closing the distance between us.
My heart began to pound once more, excitement racing through my body at his closeness. It confused me even more. And I’d blurted out a proposal of marriage.
He’d smiled and agreed to that, as well.
I really hadn’t done much. Were you really that grateful, Ye Hua? As I stared up at his face, I thought that this was the face that I would look at for the rest of my life. And I was happy. I tried to ask, knowing that it was important, about his family. But he’d brushed aside my concerns. And my mind had turned to other things, never quite being able to hold on to the importance of that issue.
We had our wedding.
“Su Su, close your eyes . . . I will never betray you.”
That night, I learned what fire was. When he caressed my body, I began to burn, his kisses awakening my body as nothing else had in my life. Ye Hua’s body brushing against mine made me tremble with need, and the taste of his lips quickly became my drug of choice. When he finally slipped inside of me, I clutched him close, wrapping my arms tightly around him.
Ye Hua was mine now, and I was never letting him go.
Days turned into months, and I spent most of that time in a sensual haze, where all I lived and breathe was Ye Hua. His warmth as he lay next to me. The passion he gave me as he worshiped my body. The peaceful sleep I found in his arms. The stories he told me. And how he took care of me . . . hunting with me, cooking for me.
He’d quietly found a place in my heart, and what began as a relationship of convenience had become love. It was his disappearance that awakened my mind to what my heart had been feeling all along. It seemed that you couldn’t let someone into your bed, into your arms, without your eyes seeing his greatness, and your heart loving him for it.
I remembered those small moments, cherished them, when he disappeared for the first time. He was gone for months, and I didn’t know whether he was dead or alive. My fears drove me, as I remembered his condition at our first meeting. What if someone killed him, and I would never know?
In those six months, I’d been very foolish. Every day I would find my way to the spot he had disappeared, my arms holding the arrows he had left behind, hoping that he would return that day. I couldn’t go look for him, for fear that I would miss him when he returned, and only one fear rode me . . . what if we never found each other again?
The panic . . .the constant worry . . . the anxiety . . . it had created a storm that battered at me, finally breaching the walls around my mind, bringing with it the flood of love that I felt for Ye Hua. And when he returned, I ran into his arms, knowing that I had found my way home.
You became my home, Ye Hua.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I sat in that silent, old palace, locked in for days. It was cold, always cold, but I barely felt the chill on my stiffening body. Hunger would gnaw at my belly, but I couldn’t eat. Various aches and pains made themselves known from the abuse I had suffered, but I paid them no mind.
In that condition, my mind began to work once more. It wondered desperately where he was. Was he alright? I couldn’t find out anything about what had happened to Ye Hua, whether he was alive or dead. A constant heaviness sat on my heart, making it difficult to even breathe. it seemed that ever since I had met him, I had spent more time worrying about him, missing him, than being with Ye Hua.
As I struggled with the reality of my situation, memories crowded into my mind.
“I am just a mortal who wants to achieve immortality through cultivation and have learned some minor magic.”
I remembered that morning when he saved our home from burning. I tilted my head to the side, my mind struggling to comprehend. You weren’t just a mortal, were you, Ye Hua?
He didn’t just have some cultivation. He was a celestial being. And not just any celestial being, but a prince. Everyone here kept calling him Crown Prince.
I wasn’t stupid. I had seen the clouds, and I knew that I was no longer in the mortal realm. We were in the heavens, but where? And Ye Hua was . . . a Crown Prince.
“I want to go back.”
“I happened across a monster and fought with it.”
Ye Hua had explained his injuries when I’d found him at my door, when I’d taken him in. There must have been some truth in that statement.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“Dragons are from a clan of ancient gods. Most of the time, they appear in the mortal realm to subdue monsters.”
The only monster I had heard about was the Golden Lion, and my snake had fought him.
What did I know? There had been a great battle that day. Witnesses claimed that both sides had been injured. The dragon, my dragon, had subdued the Scarlet Flam Golden Lion. My dragon was the snake that I rescued. My snake who turned out to be a celestial being . . . a dragon who had to leave once his presence was made known. A dragon who promised to return.
And then . . .
“And then the Golden Lion was subdued by the black dragon you took care of . . . And then it met you.”
Those whispered words as I’d hovered between the land of waking and sleep. What had he meant?
“Ye Hua, I want to go back.”
Ye Hua had powers. He wasn’t a mortal as he had claimed. His family were all celestial beings. And Ye Hua was a celestial being, like my dragon. Bitterness welled up inside of my heart.
He had to have been the dragon. Dragons were associated with royalty. And wouldn’t the Crown Prince be the bravest dragon of all?
It was too much of a coincidence to run across two celestial beings in quick succession when I had never come across another soul on Mount Junji in all the time I had spent there.
A cry began to build in my heart, but I wouldn’t let it past my lips. My heart sank even further. He hadn’t told me anything. Not even the fact that he was the beloved dragon that I still missed to this day.
Silent tears, never far from the surface, began to flow once more, wetting my cheeks. I’d been ready to die with him. I clenched the hands that had held onto him into fists, struggling with my feelings of betrayal, but I didn’t even have the luxury to think about that betrayal. Ye Hua’s fate weighed heavily on my mind.
Even as his mother took me into her service and began to teach me how I was to live in the Nine Heavens, even then I could only wonder desperately if he was alive. No one would tell me anything.
As I struggled to adjust to this suffocating life of servility, the same thoughts circled through my mind on an endless loop. Was Ye Hua alright? He had lied to me. If he returned, could we even have a future? What about our child?
Even in all of that confusion, one ray of hope stayed. He had been my snake, and he had come back to me.
“Ye Hua, I want to go back to our life together.”
But I also knew that he was my husband. I had taken vows with him. And even this . . . was not enough for me to cut off all ties. My ill treatment at the hands of the Celestial clan and the injuries they had caused weren’t enough for me to hate him.
“Crown Prince.” I heard the servants greeting him outside the doors of his mother’s palace.
My heart lifted with joy. Ye Hua was here. He was back! He was alive.
That was all I could care about for today.
Destroying Su Su
“I have always held a clear distinction between love and hate. I can tolerate no wrong. If you betray me . . .”
“What would you do?”
Crown Prince Ye Hua.
“If you betray me, these oaths will become null and void. I will leave you, never to see you again.”
Everything was null and void. It had to be.
I stared at my bloodstained hands, amazed by the damage that Zhuxian Terrace had done to my body before spitting me out. I could see my hands. The color of the blood hurt my eyes. Looking around, I stared at the peach blossoms flowering around me. My eyes. Zhe Yan had healed them . . . to the best of his ability.
I could see again, but it felt as if I was still sitting in the dark that had surrounded me in my last days in the Nine Heavens. The feelings of suffocation, of constant pain and anxiety had reawakened in my heart. There was no peace to be found. Not even now.
“. . . You have to tell me what happened . . . Did you do something shameful and are afraid I’ll tell your Fourth Brother?
Shameful? Had I done something shameful? I’d fallen in love . . . only to be betrayed by the man that I had so completely loved. My shame was my weakness. My shame was . . .
I’d spent years, thousands of years trapped in this arrangement with the Celestial Clan. When Sang Ji fell in love with Shao Xing, Tianjun insisted that I would be engaged to the next crown prince.
While I was there, Ye Hua was given the title of Crown Prince, and I was now engaged to him. I was engaged to the man who had fathered my child. I was engaged to the man who loved another . . . to the man who had betrayed me in such a manner.
I would have to see him again. My body trembled, my eyes filling with desolation. I was engaged to Crown Prince Ye Hua. The man that I would have to see many times in the course of my long lifetime. My body recoiled at that thought.
I had never questioned why my parents had entered into this engagement when the fox clan was renowned for loving truly and loving only once. Why, when my brothers had chosen their mates, I had to be stuck marrying for political reasons? In truth, I hadn’t cared.
When the engagement was first settled with Sang Ji, I was young enough that marriage seemed very far off. When he ran off with Shao Xing, I was happier that I would be free. But Tianjun hadn’t let me go, and I had spent thousands of years alone, no one daring to romance the promised one of the future Crown Prince of the Celestial Clan.
And I would have to go through with this arrangement. The fire in my heart grew, even as the darkness oppressed me, as I struggled with that reality.
“Zhe Yan. I remember you have a medicine. When taken, one can forget the things one does not wish to remember. Am I right? . . . In the years that flew by, I merely experienced a heavenly trial. Since this trial has already passed, there are some things that need not be remembered.”
I sat in my room, the same thoughts running through my head. Zhe Yan’s medicine sat in front of me, but I had promised him that I wouldn’t take it quite yet. That I would think on it.
My thoughts were the same. My intent clear.
I couldn’t marry Ye Hua. I couldn’t face him in the future. Not with the memories of his betrayal running through my head. I had survived my heavenly trial, but to what end? I couldn’t create chaos by ending this marriage . . . then what could I do? How could I find my way out of this storm?
Su Su . . . I . . . had been so weak, so fragile. And that weakness had led to a depth of emotions of which I had never thought myself capable. I had never thought to love so deeply that I was now broken. Ye Hua’s betrayal had broken me. Could I ever put myself back together again?
I had never loved. Never wanted to love after Li Jing’s betrayal. And then to fall . . . and fall so deeply. There had been so much joy. Passion. I had been loved by him, and I had submerged myself in my love for him. And that thing called love had weakened me, leaving me open to pain, betrayal and despair. I had never questioned his missing parents. His disappearances. I had been willing to accept his fiancé and his side consort. My mind cringed at those memories. I had accepted everything until I realized that he did not love me. There was only pity.
The one thing that had stayed true about me, the only similarity that I could see, was that I would not be pitied. Staring into the liquid of the bowl, I struggled with the darkness rising up inside of me once more. I hated myself at that moment. Almost as much as I hated him.
I pressed a hand to my heart, my thoughts jumping to another. A Li, my child. The little one that I had had to leave behind. The one that I feared touching out of fear that I would love him too much; I was afraid my love for him would chain me to that palace, married to a man who didn’t love me.
I couldn’t think about all I that I had lost. All that the poor mortal Su Su had lost. I knew, even as Bai Qian, that I would have no right to A Li. They would keep us apart. To live a life without my child, knowing that he was my child? A complete rejection of that thought moved through my body. I couldn’t leave my child. I couldn’t.
“I want to go back.”
I turned my head, gazing into the far off distance. That voice. Who was it? It took two heartbeats to realize the voice had come from inside of me. It was her. Su Su. Her fear . . . her hatred . . . her love still rang inside of me, her cries drowning out the shattering of my heart. It was the cry of the woman who had called for her husband during the birth to their child, even after his horrendous betrayal. And Ye Hua hadn’t come.
Su Su had fallen in love. She had felt all of the ecstasies of that emotion and then the depths of despair. I had had no choice in her love, but now was feeling all of the despair. And the shameful truth . . . the truth that I wanted to hide from everyone, even myself, was that the echoes of her love still lived inside of me. Tears welled up in my eyes. How? How could I still yearn for Ye Hua? I wouldn’t.
I clenched my hands into fists. I hurt so much that I was afraid that I would go crazy. I was tired of hurting. Tired of the pain this love had brought me. I had never thought that I would ever love another so, and now that I did, I never wanted to love anyone again.
If I drank the potion, if I forgot, I could live without despair.
I could go through with this engagement. I could then marry the Crown Prince as the Goddess Bai Qian, Queen of Qing Qiu. Who would ever suspect that I was that mortal Su Su? After all, there was a difference of heaven and earth between the two in status. We were nothing alike. We couldn’t be anything alike.
And I would never be that weak again. In those darkest hours, as I struggled with betrayal . . . depression . . . loss . . . I made that decision. I did so with the knowledge that I would have to marry Ye Hua. I did so with the knowledge that by marrying him I would have my child once more. Things would be as they were supposed to be, and I would never be at risk for being hurt again. My heart would never be as vulnerable to loving so deeply; I lacked Su Su’s innocence and her neediness, both of which had caused her downfall.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I should have hated you, Ye Hua, but that hate was coupled with the very real mortal love that still burned inside of me. Su Su’s love still beat in my heart, and I was afraid that it would drown out every ounce of common sense, that it would drown me.
That was why I really drank Zhe Yan’s medicine, Ye Hua. To erase that love . . . I ruthlessly erased my memories . . . I erased Su Su.
“From now on, there will no longer be Su Su of Mount Junji of the Far East. When I wake up from the dream, I will forget everything in the dream.”