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The Summer Triangle

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This is the first truth: Anybody could see how this would end.

It's not that difficult, after all, to predict the future. Fortunetellers may use coins or bones or their own innate sense of what lies beyond, but most of it boils down to one thing: knowing that people will inevitably find a way to screw up their own happiness. Or someone else’s, if they’ve already managed to destroy their own lives.

Take this couple, for instance. They’re brave, they’re kind, they’ve got amazing hair, but they’ve got one problem. And it’s a big one. You see, one of them’s going to die in the other one’s arms and there’s not a damn thing they can do to stop it.

Oh, I am no fortuneteller. I’m just a mere sentient porcelain vase with the power to rule the world.

You may think I'm crazy, but it’s true. Men have fought wars, killed men, and ruined a perfectly good love scene all to get their hands on me. And what for? It’s not like I’m going to do anything but look pretty on their table.

Yeah, I’m gorgeous. And possibly, somewhere along the line someone may have heard something about anyone who possesses the Vase of Infinite Power and Wisdom will rule the world. People always believe in nonsense like that. It might even be true.

But what do I care about that? All that means is I have to watch perfectly good kids like these ones go through pain again and again thanks to that greedy jerk.

Once there was a couple that was the most perfect couple in the world. Zhao Hui was a brave young warrior, strong and true, a master of the sword and none could lay a hand on him. And Yan Yu was a beautiful fighter, clever and courageous, and her appearance hid her own skill with a blade, much to many men’s downfall. They were tied together for lifetimes to come, destined to be examples of fidelity and devotion.

Much to their misfortune, however, there was a warlord, Shi Hong, who coveted all that he could not have. And there were two things he wanted most of all: Yan Yu and ultimate power. And he concocted a way, he thought, that would give him both.

First, he sent his men to take Yan Yu. She fought, but in the end, he took her from her home. He left a letter, saying that if Zhao Hui wanted Yan Yu back, all he would have to do is bring the Base of Infinite Power and Wisdom to him, and he would exchange it for the woman. But Shi Hong had decided that he would try to seduce Yan Yu into loving him, so that when the vase was given to him, she would never want to leave his side.

But she was true to her lover, and though Shi Hong touched her body, he could never touch her heart. Each night, she thought only of Zhao Hui and prayed for the day when they would be reunited.

When Zhao Hui returned to his ruined home and read the letter, he knew what had happened and he knew that though he wished to slaughter the man without delay, the only way Yan Yu would be returned to him was if he delivered the vase.

Here, I’m going to skip ahead a little. Yes, there’s a pretty great story about how he battled his way through mountains and forests, nearly died at the hands of bandits before meeting an Immortal who nursed him back to health, and finally, his tests of courage at the temple in order to obtain me, but this is the thing. It’s a really long story and you don’t have the time right now. You’ll just have to wait for the 40-episode drama to come out next year.

Zhao Hui fought his way through the courtyard, destroying all who would dare to stop him with the skills he had learned from the Immortal and the twin swords of the Dragon King that he had won that brutal winter.

At last he reached the inner sanctum, where Shi Hong lay consorting with his women. Yan Yu was brought forward, still unmoved to Shi Hong’s side and her heart leapt as she saw Zhao Hui standing there. Shi Hong would have killed him there, but there was something he wanted more than his enemy’s life at the moment.

Zhao Hui flung the bag containing the vase towards Shi Hong, whose men revealed it in all its porcelain beauty. He, in return, shoved Yan Yu towards Zhao Hui, and it seemed for a moment, as if all would be all right. Though the vase lay in unworthy hands, no one had learned how to properly use its power, and more importantly, the two lovers were reunited.

But Shi Hong would never let Zhao Hui win. For though he had obtained the vase, he would never let Yan Yu go back to her lover. And thus he cruelly stabbed her in the back as she reached towards her lover. Zhao Hui could only clutch Yan Yu in his arms, in one last embrace.

Yeah, it’s a nice epic story, full of true love and sorrow and some great martial arts sequences. But it was bound to end tragically – those types of stories always do. You watch enough of them and you can see the ending a mile away. Too bad the kids never do.

This is the second truth: No one can change your fate.

If you’re meant to do something, you’re going to do it. Try to avoid it and you’ll only end up making it come to pass. I’ve seen it countless times and honestly, you’d think people would just give up.

Take those kids, for instance. The optimistic might think that if the two of them are reincarnated and meet again in a different time and a different place, things might unfold differently. And they’d be right – up to a point. Yeah, things can change. Someone else can die.

It was no longer the days of old when the two met again. They could scarcely know that they would meet at an auction house. Zhao Hui had come on a whim, to kill a few hours before a flight back home the next day. He had not intended on coming to this particular auction, but a chance sighting of a catalog and a valuable vase with a strange history sparked his interest.

Yan Yu, on the other hand, had always intended to come here. Her partner, Shi Hong, had been obsessively tracking down this vase for years, though he never told her exactly why. She had often thought of leaving him, but these thoughts always passed before she could take action on them. What good would it do? Once Shi Hong had a hold of something he wanted, he would never let it go, unless he planned on throwing it away.

So the winner was a foregone conclusion, as was the instant connection between Zhao Hui and Yan Yu. Though their names had changed, their hearts had not and they were drawn to each other. One glass of champagne, and one dance was not enough for the two. Soon, they were embracing in a side room, blind to the menace from Shi Hong outside.

I’d just like to point out that you don’t have to predict the future to know what’s about to happen next. Those poor, stupid kids.

A few minutes later, as a knocking interrupted their reunion, they realized just how dangerous their situation truly was. As Zhao Hui grabbed Yan Yu’s hand, they ran down the hallway, knocking over the men standing in their way. They cleared the building and made it outside, into the rainy night. Surely they would be safe soon. He had gotten the vase – he could let them go.

But as before, Shi Hong was a man with a powerful grudge and a remembered hatred for the one who had thwarted him in the past and once more in the present. A gunshot rang out into the night and Zhao Hui clutched his chest. This time, it seemed Shi Hong’s target of vengeance would be the boy, not the girl. And once more, a person was left screaming as her lover’s heart stopped before her eyes.

The universe may be completely unjust and unfair, but it does like to balance things out. Funny about that.

And I get tired of the same old thing. You see, it always ends the same way for those kids. He could be a reporter while she’s a detective. She’s a doctor, he’s a soldier. She’s a dancer while he’s running from the law. It’s always going to end the same way – with someone bleeding to death while the other one has to live their life as a shell of the person they were before.

Because here’s the funniest part of all. It’s not as if the other one dies immediately after their lover. No, they can keep living on for years or even decades. It’s just that a part of them is gone forever that they’ll always feel the lack of, like the phantom pain of a limb chopped off.

That may be the saddest part of the story. Somehow, they keep enduring through all of this, hoping that one of these times, they’ll find a way to change it.

And I already told you how that works out.

This is the third truth: I’m just a vase.

No, really. I am.

This is what you need to know: I cannot give you the ability to change time. I cannot give you what you truly desire. I cannot give anyone mastery over another's heart. And here’s an extra truth I’ve never told anyone: there used to be one who could and we were brothers.

My brother was forged in the same oven alongside me, made from the same clay. We were identical in form, in substance, in everything, but one: spirit. You see, one day, he was imbued by the Gods with the power to change the world. And he could not handle it.

He was tortured with the knowledge that men would fight over what he could do, that they would use his abilities to torment the rest of humanity. He did not trust that there was someone out there who would use him for good instead of selfish reasons, and day by day, he grew more and more desperate.

One rainy day, as we lay together on the shelf in the temple, he fell from his place and broke into a thousand pieces. They called it a horrible accident, but I knew better. He had summoned up what power he had within him and crashed to the ground. At the time, I could not understand why he would do such a thing. To be touched by the Gods, to be given their favor?

And so I was passed off as him. No one could tell us apart – we were twins, after all, with just one difference: you will get nothing from having me except grief and pain.

Hey, I tell everyone I’m not worth it. But no one listens to a vase.

It was the 22nd cycle of the War of the Summer Stars and both sides were equally matched. While the army of the Golden Flower had taken Niu Lang, the army of the Silver Tree had held Zhi Nu for quite some time. It now came down to who could take possession of Tian Jin Si and end the war for good.

Neither side was a clear winner and people were growing weary of the battles. It was said that there was one way to end it: an item that could shape the destiny of humanity. A vase, possessing an amazing power—

You know, I’m getting sick of that story. Let’s tell it a different way.

All right, you know the players. Look. There’s our hero again. You can't miss him. He’s the cute one with the charming smile, the gorgeous voice, and really shiny hair. He’s the holographic idol of countless people’s dreams, the voice that conjures up promises of a better life where peace and love are supreme. He might be a liar, but who wouldn’t want to believe him?

He’s never been to war, but he’s been in every battle – or at least his music has. Because he’s loved across the universe, even though he comes from the side of the Golden Flower. His music transcends all conflicts, all boundaries. No matter what ship you’re on, somewhere on it, you’ll hear his voice crackling from a com system as people sit huddled around it, enraptured in his songs of love, loss, and a chance to be reborn. He’s everywhere.

And where’s Yan Yu? She’s there, though it’s not surprising she’s on the other side from Zhao Hui. Isn’t that how it always works? But she’s just as beloved. A formidable negotiator, a woman of peace and diplomacy, it was her that authored the treaty to bring the war to an end. She’s trusted by both sides, respected by all the councils, and it’s her voice that will be the one to announce the war is over.

Now it’s time for the final treaty signing and it’s happening on a ship unconnected to either side near Tian Jin Si. The man who captains this ship isn’t a member of either side. When war happened, he was too busy selling weapons to both armies to worry about which side would prevail. Because he already knew who would be the winner: him.

You see, Shi Hong’s a master of hiding his intentions, and he’s convinced the councilors that he’s the right one to host the event. After all, he’s never publicly declared his support for one side or another. Naturally, his neutrality means that when the two representatives meet to sign the treaty, he’ll have no reason to sabotage the process. No reason… unless you count his arms deals, and the little matter of who the representatives of the sides are.

Because Zhao Hui and Yan Yu are meeting up right now as the beloved members of both sides and it’s actually what Shi Hong wants. He’s not going to kill either one of them yet. He has to get them in the same place in order to finish his master plan. This man – he thinks he’s figured out how to unlock the vase’s power, and after years of research and a few memories coming back, he knows nothing’s going to happen unless everyone’s together again.

That’s right. I’m there, too. You didn’t think this story could happen without me. Look, I may not be a magical tool of power, but he doesn’t know that. He just knows that he’s going to kill them both and then--- well, he hasn’t thought this plan out this far beyond blaming each representative’s murder on the other side and making a tidy profit off the escalation of hostilities.

He’s a stupid, violent man, but if a vase screams this on a spaceship does anyone hear it?

Of course not, you’re saying. Vases don’t scream. They certainly don’t talk to you as you’re trying to avoid fire from a crazed madman who insists you and your lover have to die in order for him to rule the universe. You’re just hearing things.

But that’s just it. This is why I am telling you all of this. Because I’m hoping somehow you’ll hear me and stop all of this. One of you has to have learned something from this whole mess. I know you’re meant to be together and if you just manage to survive this, you’re going to live a long, happy life of peace and joy. You just have to not get shot in the next few minutes.

You need to listen to me right now, Yan Yu. That’s right. I know Zhao Hui can’t hear me. I’ve tried before, and his ears are too clogged with the sound of his own laments to hear me. That’s why he sings, you know. He doesn’t want to hear the truth of life: that the Gods will not save you.

They will not come down from the skies and magically dematerialize that phaser in his hands. They will not teleport you to safety as you hide behind this console, his laughter echoing in your ears. They do not have lasers to shoot him down. Believe me, I’ve read all the sacred texts on this subject.

So that’s why you need to know one more thing: I lied to you when I said you couldn’t change fate. Because maybe I can’t and Zhao Hui can’t, but I’m pretty sure you can.

You see my brother told me something, as he lay broken on the floor. “What power I have is yours,” he said. “I give you a blessing and a curse. Your curse is that you will see the future and not be able to stop it. Your blessing is that you will find the one who can.”

It’s not much of a blessing, but it kept me going for thousands of years until this moment, when everything makes sense. Because it’s you who’s going to stop this.

You know how to unlock my power. You know how to use me to end this war, to save your lover, to bring this cycle of suffering to an end. I know you have the strength to do it.

You pick me up and I know what my purpose. Somehow, it seems I’ve always known what I was meant to do.

Your aim is straight and true, as it has always been. I connect with him and oh, yes, this will finally stop him. You and Zhao Hui remember all the pain you went through because of him, and I let you know that sometimes, even the gods can be surprised.

After all, no one really expects a vase to the head.

Look, I may be an ancient vase of mystery and magic, but in the end, I’m porcelain and they’ll never be able to remove all the shards from his head. You better believe I found a way to take him with me.

I may be passing on now, but I can see you two embracing in front of me, his bleeding body on the floor, and it’s pretty damn awesome. Now I know what my brother meant about a blessing. Because I brought two lovers together, ended a war, and made a nice dent in a man’s skull. What more could I ask for?

Indeed, it’s as it was meant to be.

After all, anybody could see how this would end.