When her brother Ziqi had explained what he and Xiang had done Lu could understand their motivations and loved them both for it. But she also knew she had to go back to Xiang, and could see from her brother’s expression that he understood. Loyalty and honour motivated them both.
Xiang’s expression, after his initial brief anger on seeing her in the camp, justified her decision. How she would carry out the decision she had made on the ride back as to what she would do would depend upon the opportunities presented – or if it seemed some other way out would be possible.
She also saw the understanding in Xiang’s companions’ eyes – their own loyalty to him was equally strong, and they had in other contexts experienced some of the same passions as she and he felt. It was also evident that they were aware of the likely end of this journey, and were making allowances for the two of them to be alone together – for which she was grateful.
Xiang made some more attempts to get her to leave of her own accord, but she chose not to do so. She knew that he had to some extent accepted her decision to stay with him, but, given the situation, felt honour bound and cared for her enough to give her the option. Their mutual loyalty was unspoken.
They had a perfect evening, and as she drifted to sleep in his arms she heard Xiang whisper that he wished to love her in the next life and beyond: she roused herself enough to return the sentiment. They woke still entangled and happy, enjoying the moments before “reality” had to be dealt with.
‘This is one reason why I came back,’ Lu whispered, continuing the conversation from a few hours before. ‘Being and talking with you. I am truly glad you persuaded me to join you when we first met.’
‘So am I. One day, one lifetime, we will be together in that valley…’ Xiang had rarely looked so handsome and truly happy. ‘For a while at least,’ he added, acknowledging his nature. ‘I am a man of action – and I should listen to advice more.’
‘I will hold you to those remarks.’ They were not saying their farewells, but making sure all the right words had been said, whatever came to pass.
‘And I you.’ He smiled. ‘All my poetry about you is true.’
‘If you say so.’ Some was flattery, and pleasing enough as such.
‘It is only you, and all that is said and done between us that matters.’ Xiang blushed slightly on the admission, and then kissed her. ‘Let us stay together a little longer…’ She complied willingly.
Xiang asked her to dance, as he had done regularly during their relationship. As always he watched with rapt attention and a faint smile, and she enjoyed the dancing and being watched by her lover, looking at him in the brief moments when she had the opportunity, enjoying his pleasure as much as her own, both of them remembering previous occasions, including those when he had joined her. Did he understand her intentions at the present, and why she was doing it? She was increasingly immersed in the dance and its rhythms, binding the two of them together, whatever came to pass, drawing strength for what she was about to do.
As her steps took her close enough she took his sword from its scabbard – it had taken some practice with her dances to acquire the knack of doing it smoothly and for it to be at the right angle, depending upon her intent and, sometimes, his. Xiang was now totally immersed in what she was doing, watching her and the blade. Yu sensed, however, that he did have some idea of what she was about to do, and loved her enough to accept her decision, done for love and honour, knowing his own likely fate. She would have only one chance or her courage might fail her.
The sword was as sharp as Xiang had always kept it, and said it was, and she hardly felt the pain. Blood was trickling down her throat and she was leaving this life. Perhaps she would be reborn soon and become the companion of Xiang’s old age, or they would be long a-searching for each other…
Till we meet again.