Time flashes and two years past since Yue’s death. CQ was indeed kept in Yanbei, by its people.
Before the ice lake, right after the division with Yanxun over the penalty of Xiuli Army, CQ had withdrawn herself from the frontline of the politics & warfare of Yanbei. It took her almost two years to bring a sign of future prosperity for the land by infrastructure constructions and economic/trade stimulating policies. During the two years, she spent most of her time with the locals of inner Yanbei, such as the tribes at the Huihui Mountain where YX’s mom used to live for the warmness of the hot springs, and the nomads of Shangshen grassland where CQ planned to open a stud farm when she was in jail together with YX. By the time when she met Yue in the old temple where they had the hotpot jointly, CQ was actually in charge of the security of the inlands and the logistic supplements of the frontiers, meanwhile, Yue had created great casualties of YX’s armies with his talented tactics and hindered YX’s step towards Daxia. That’s the reason why CQ and Yue gave congrats to each other for being promoted in the beginning of their conversation.
Anyway, with all the efforts she gave to Yanbei, CQ won a great popularity and respect among the people across the state. She was so beloved by the people, that they started to follow wherever she was going. By the time when CQ arrived in Beishuo, the border city where she fought to protect and forced YX to retreat from his invasion of Zhenhuang, she found a huge crowd of people standing outside the city gate, silently, watching her leaving; plus, the whole troop of the Xiuli army, ca. 9000 soldiers, prepared, to leave together with her. Ping’an was also there, and his younger sister Jingjing. CQ collapsed with tears when Jingjing held her waist and pleaded her to stay, followed by the waves of pleas of her staying from the crowds. Out of such a great responsibility she has for the Yanbei people and the Xiuli army, CQ remained in Yanbei but no other choice, even knowing exactly who was behind all these.
Great changes had happened on the power split of the whole Ximeng continent after Yue’s death. To declare his triumph over Yue, YX faked Yue’s body and send it back to Daxia. Despite their efforts to make clear cut with Yue by exile his body from the family cemetery, the Zhuge family had fallen from the summit of Daxia’s powerhouse. Back in Daxia, Yue was considered as a traitor of the state, a shame of the family, a loser who lost everything for just a woman, and as a collateral damage, Zhao Che was exiled again to the eastern border of Daxia, thus, vanished from the center stage of Daxia’s political play. The younger son of the emperor Zhao Chang had grown slowly to the actual ruler of the state. Obviously that without Zhao Che and Yue, it has been more and more difficult for Daxia to defense itself from the attacks of YX. YX on the other hand, had held firm of the power in Yanbei and summoned the most sever tax policies to support his wars. As for the two other states on the continent, Li Ce had become the emperor of Biantang and managed to stabilize his ruling of the state; Nalan Hongye, the princess of Huaisong continued as the real ruler of her state (Some words about Hongye, she falls in love with YX while keeping a pen pal relationship with him. She’d tried her best to support YX politically and economically, since a stronger Yanbei means a weaker Daxia, i.e., a securer environment for Huaisong. The drama took part of her story and revised it to Princess Liang, but Hongye was a great politician who has less to do with the spies. The pen pal relationship was changed to Yue in the drama). The four states are balanced in a weak deadlock.
Meanwhile, a new power emerged from southwest of the Ximeng continent recently. No one has any clue on the outset and the real capacity of its leader, according to the traders and the inspectors, the only thing for sure is that he called himself The Lord of Qinghai. A sultry land with barren soil, full of ferocious beasts and noxious insects, nothing barely grows, for thousands of years, Qinghai had been a land of exiles and criminals, and some would even prefer death rather than being exiled to the place. Astonishingly, a mysteries power raised from there in a flash, announcing its existence by attacking the southern back of Yanbei while YX almost conquered the Yanming Guan (the most important throat) of Daxia and forced YX to back to defense. By the time when YX arrived, Cuiwei Guan, the southern throat of Yanbei had switched its owner already. YX is somehow sitting on the fires now: to the east, his battlefield extended alongside its border with Daxia; to the north, there had been persistent insults from the nomads of Quanrong; to the south, the vast plain of Yanbei is opened to the Lord of Qinghai by losing the Cuiwei Guan; worst of all, there have been constant unrest from its people back in its inland.
CQ settled in a simple yard on the mountainside of Huihui Mountain. During the two years, seldom did she step out of the yard. Night after night, she gets up after everyone falls asleep and sits alone waiting for twilight. The news of the rebel of Datong Hanghui arrives all of a sudden, with a badly injured solider came in and plead CQ to go and save Zhong Yu. CQ is suspicious in the beginning, then a handwriting from Zhong Yu herself arrives. CQ hurries to meet Zhong Yu, but it is too late. Zhong Yu has been deathly wounded and she explains the rebel to CQ. There had been sever nature disasters in the inner Yanbei and people barely get anything to feed themselves, yet YX insisted on the harsh tax rules to support his wars. Mr.Wu had to stand out for the people knowing what would happen to him. Zhong Yu dead waiting for the arrival of Mr.Wu, but he actually had already dead beforehand. Furthermore, Huanhuan, the youngest sister of YX who had been saved and raised by Mr.Wu also gets killed. CQ meets YX for the first time after Yue’s death when Huanhuan dead in her arms, and YX was tracing Huanhuan. The last emotion of CQ towards YX vanishes, the 9000 soldiers of Xiuli army is confronting a 20 000 troop of YX, prepared to fight.
The Xiuli army managed to break the Siege of YX’s troops and caused great casualties to YX. With a high mobility of light arms, the Xiuli army moves towards southeast of Yanbei and heads to Biantang. CQ’s plan is clear, she would break out of Yanbei through Longyin Guan and reach Biantang with the Xiuli army, but YX is determined to prevent her leaving. He sends the message of CQ’s whereabouts to Zhao Yang who holds the heavy troops Daxia defending the Yanming Guan, and to win some time for Zhao Yang’s heavy troop to transfer, YX spreads the news about CQ’s leaving so that the Xiuli army is bound by a great crowd of people following CQ (Again!). Now there is only 5000 Xiuli soldiers left. In the front, Zhao Yang is arriving with his 100 000 heavy military. On the back, thousands of civilians are following them. Right beside, the city of Longyin Guan shuts down its gates. The Xiuli army and the civilian are totally exposed to Zhao Yang’s troops, and CQ understands that this is how YX would force her back.
But the answer is no. So many people had dead, and their life shouldn’t be lost in vain. Without Mr.Wu and Zhongyu, Yanbei is just YX’s Yanbei, and CQ cannot bear to stay in it anymore. Sieged by the troops of Daxia and exposed to a severe winter, hindered by thousands unarmed civilians who are running out of foods and supplies, CQ sees a pair of eyes watching her from the sky with full of peace, ”Stay alive!” says him to her. “I know,” she smiles and answers to the sky, ”I can hold on, as always!” She looks back to the camps of the people and says it calmly: “I will protect you, as always!”
In half a month, the whole continent of Ximeng has witnessed the most brutal battels between the Daxia troops and the Xiuli army. Fighting to the last drop of their blood, the Xiuli soldiers protected the civilians. Frightened by the indomitable warriors of Xiuli and moved by their resilience, the Daxia troops withdrawn following the order of Zhao Yang. Daxia has changed its strategy from attack to siege. However, the people, young and old, women and kids, are freezing and starving. They started to beg the guardian troop of Longyin Guan city to open the gate and let them in. But the troop is ordered to only open the gate when CQ agrees to come with them. While CQ almost gives in for the sake of the people, another wave of Daxia’s attack arrived. Never like this has CQ thanked for the attack from Daxia, for saving her from the dilemma that overwhelms her spirit. The devastated civilians start to run to the Daxia side and surrender, and CQ understands their strait. Feeling relieved, CQ is too tired to fight. All she wants is to have a rest, she asks the eyes on the sky would it be good if she comes and joins him, and forgets to avoid the arrows that are aiming at her.
Back in YX’s headquarter, A-Jing is begging for a let go of CQ. Finally, YX accepts the reality that he has lost CQ forever. When he is about to order the commander of southern river town of Tangshui to give way of Xiuli army for their retreat to Biantang, he receives a report that the city of Tangshui had already been conquered few days before, and Li Ce, the emperor of Biantang, has passed the city and headed to Longyin Guan leading a troop of 200 000 by himself. Soon, YX figures out that the Tangshui city was not conquered by Li Ce. It is the Load of Qinghai who had paved the way for Li Ce and supported his troop to arrive Longyin as fast as possible. YX starts to realize who the Load of Qinghai actually is.
Same as for Li Ce, when he arrived to save CQ and the rest of the Xiuli army, he had had a brief conversation with the delegator of the Load of Qinghai about the following arrangements of supporting Li Ce’s troop returning Biantang, it is so obvious that all the concerns are focusing on the safety of CQ, and who else this can be?
CQ recovers slowly at Li Ce’s Jinwu palace. It is like a repeating of the times several years ago, when CQ rehabilitates from the poisoning, but CQ has changed so much. The sparks in her eyes distinguished, the optimistic talks about her ideals and ambitions stopped, and there is no hope left for her future. Li Ce feels the pain CQ feels and tries his best to encourage her to live on not for the others, but for herself. Knowing that she will leave soon, Li Ce inspires CQ to rethink the final parts of the battels at Longyin Guan by saying “Qiaoqiao, think carefully, who else in the world could be so kind to you. Willing to sacrifice everything he has, including life, to save you, without telling you. Such person is rare, so think about it thoroughly, and tell me your answer once you figure it out. I will prepare you a good trousseau, and arrange you a glorious wedding.”
Again and again, CQ revises all the details of those battels, who is capable to scheme and accomplish all the tactics, all in all, who can be so kind to her. She is drowned by happiness and hope, finally, she smiles with tears. Quietly, CQ leaves from the palace of Biantang. By the time of the New Year, she arrives in Xianyang, the border city between Biantang and Daxia, where CQ and Yue fight jointly against Liu Xi (disguised by YX). Daxia is right ahead of the road, but CQ becomes hesitate. Being its greatest enemy, she is still a wanted in Daxia. How could she get back there without any negative impact to him and his people? She had endangered him so many times, how could she do it once more? What if…what if Li Ce was just guessing and he is wrong?
Instead of continuing, CQ stays in a hotel in Xianyang for the new years’ festival. Soon, it is the lantern’s fest again. The town is crowed with cheerful people and CQ wandered aimlessly among them alone. In the last lantern’s fest that CQ could recall, Yue bought her a little lantern of rabbit, soon she was separated from him for a firework scared her pony. That night she ended up with YX in a hunting trap…She still remembers that late in that night, a weak candle light in Yue’s room distinguished when knowing her return. CQ feels a bit lost among the joys of the fest, she pays for a little rabbit lantern and holds it as if it is exactly the one Yue handed to her. She follows the crowd to the riverside where peoples put their lantern in the river and make their wishes.
By the time when CQ puts her little rabbit on the water, killing the last spark of her hope, she makes the decision that she will not go and look for Yue because she wants his life settled in peace. The little rabbit flows away and quickly falls in danger of been submerged by a big wave, luckily, a bigger version of the same rabbit lantern flows beneath it and prevented its drown. CQ is relieved watching the two rabbits flow away side by side and rises her eyes from the river, right there, on the other side of the bank, she sees Yue standing up holding an empty straw of rabbit lantern, same as her. By the time she sees him, he sees her as well. Both are shocked, then, the gaze between them becomes still. Suddenly, she starts to run towards him, through the crowds like crossing the hardest route of her life, finally, she reaches to him. She stops by holding his clothes, while he holds her tight in his arms.
ddmcmc: For those who are eager to learn more details of the ice lake and the reunion, here is a link to a beautiful full translation of novel starting from before the ice lake until after the reunion: