"Welcome back, Your Highness," two tall and enigmatic men said as they bowed before me.
"Hello," I responded slowly, not quite sure where I was. Was this perhaps a dream? I didn't remember ever leaving my bed for months.
"Your Highness, please walk towards the netherworld," one of the men said as he waved his arm, pointing at something behind me.
I turned around and in the distance, I could make out a black gate which I presumed was the gate to the netherworld.
Did that mean I actually died?! Well, obviously...
I felt a tightness in my heart as I realized I had indeed left my son. Although he had let me go, he was still someone I loved dearly, and I could not help this feeling of guilt that welled up in my chest. Seiran, I hope you take care of him well. I'm counting on you.
I heard one of the men exhale loudly, as if he exhaled his frustrations towards my motionless form.
"Your Highness, please be on your way. Many people are waiting for you in Heaven, and we're on a tight schedule, you see."
One of the men pushed my back, and I begrudgingly started walking towards the gate.
Every step I took was like a key that opened up different locks to memories I did not even know I had. A tidal wave of emotion slammed against my chest, drowning me to a degree that I could hardly breathe. There were just too much to register all at once, and when I stopped walking to grab on to a nearby boulder, all the memories started molding itself together until it became a natural part of me.
Hence, the first thing I thought of was...
...DAAAAAAAAMN JIN DIED!?
Did that affect his trials? Did I cause his death in a way? Dear Jade Emperor uncle, please don't punish him so severely! You can punish me instead!
I sweated while I blanched, and one of the imps timidly wiped my brow.
"Welcome back, Your Highness," they greeted while kowtowing.
I couldn't hear them, as I was too busy pondering over the punishment that would be bestowed upon Jin. I didn't know what kind of trial my uncle or Siming had given him, but perhaps dying early meant failing the test. But wait, didn't Jin die with me during the second life and passed it? Where was Jin? Was Jin in the soul prison?! I curled up in a ball, my mind a mess.
I wandered through the netherworld for days, thinking of our intended demise and how I could turn the tables. How was I going to save Jin? Could I wheedle my way through uncle's heart and somehow make the punishment lighter?
"It's Her Highness!" A group of women called out in the distance.
"What is Her Highness doing?"
One woman cupped her hand over her mouth to whisper, "She looks like she's plotting murder!"
"Your Highness," a woman's serene voice drifted into my ear. "We've been looking all over for you! Please change into these clothes immediately."
Through the corner of my eyes, I saw imperial maids bringing with them dressing screens and elaborate red silk cloth.
Red?! Why, that was the color of blood! Was I to die together with Jin in the soul prison? Wait..there wouldn't be any blood if it was a soul in prison...what was I thinking?!
"Her Highness looks quite fidgety doesn't she?" One of the maids giggled.
"Shhhh...don't spoil it!"
"Hurry, the make up!"
"We don't have much time~"
While my head was in chaos, I didn't know what the maids were doing to me. It was only when a thick red veil completely covered my head and my sight, did I realize I had been blanking out the whole time. I was gently ushered into a palanquin, and was still in deep thoughts even as the palanquin stopped, and I was helped out and guided by the elbow as we walked.
"Your Highness, everything will be okay," a woman's calm voice soothed my nerves.
"Why do you sound so sure?" I asked skeptically.
"Because I can see what you cannot," the woman chuckled.
I wanted to lift the veil off my face, but her grip on my elbow was strong enough to keep me from doing so. Somehow, I had this strange feeling that people were bullying me today.
I could sense that there were many people around me, and their previously boisterous voices had turned into hushed murmurs, as if my presence had deliberately cut off their ability to speak.
The hand on my elbow tugged at me to stop.
"This is your stop, Your Highness." The woman's hand on my elbow disappeared together with the sound of her footsteps.
I started fidgeting with my hands, unsure of what I had to do. Was my vision blocked intentionally so I didn't know how I was going to die? Were my parents and uncle here right now? Where was Jin?
I heard a low and deep chuckle come from right in front of me. "This time, you are mine."
"Jin!?" I squeaked. My hands started to tremble, as I recalled what we had been through in the third life with no memories of each other whatsoever. So Jin was not punished for failing because he died? What was I doing here then?!
"Congratulations, my little Juju." Another deep voice came from my left.
"Uncle?!" I jumped.
Huh? I was thoroughly and utterly confused!
"Your Majesty, I think she is thoroughly and utterly confused," Jin said with a chuckle, reading my mind as if the words were printed right on my forehead. This was not the first time I wanted to ask how he was able to do that, and it made my heart flutter in response.
"Then, we shall now commence the ceremony," uncle said.
"What ceremony?" I was bewildered. Since this was not a death sentence as I had previously thought of, could it be...?
"Did I not promise you, Juju?" I could hear the teasing tone in his voice.
I suddenly remembered the words he spoke in our third life, and I involuntarily whispered, "That in the next life--"
"--I will marry you," he finished for me.
My heart hammered against my chest. I was glad that I had a veil covering my face, as he could not see how red I had become.
"D-Did you wait long?" I was stammering! My heart was beating so fast that it actually pained me. Although I had been married in my third life, that was the corporeal life that was in the past. This time, this marriage was one which would last for all eternity.
"I would wait forever. This is nothing to me," Jin replied, and I could hear a smile in his voice.
As the Jade Emperor started to open the ceremony with a few words to the audience, I could hear my parents' voices in the background.
"My Juju is getting married! Wuhuhu!" I could hear the clogged snot in my father's voice.
"Oh stop crying, dear. Just be glad that our daughter is finally getting married! I thought she was going to become a spinster all her life!"
"Wuhuhuhu! No, I oppose this marriage!"
"Oh shut up, dear." I heard a loud whack, and my father's cries miraculously disappeared.
During the whole ceremony, I was still caught up in my own thoughts. My heart could not slow down as I recalled everything Jin and I had been through. I recalled him as a potato, crying over the fact that I had injured myself. He was such a cute potato, and a part of me wished he stayed like that forever. But then again, I wouldn't be able to marry him as a potato, so I was still quite conflicted. I recalled him as a girl, one who always had a ready smile on her face. I loved her thoughtfulness and her kindness, and I fell even deeper than what I had thought was possible.
I finally recalled our last life together. We did not know of each other's past, yet still, we had fallen in love despite fate tearing us apart. I had married Zephyr and also had a son with him. Although the love I had held for Zephyr was one purely familial, I did not regret my decisions, and I knew Jin did not hold those against me.
We took quite the long way to get here, but it seemed every trial that we had faced brought us even closer together. The memories of our struggles could never be erased, and the friends and family that we had known together throughout our lives made it so much more worth it. Right now, I was going to live the way my son wanted me to live.
The veil suddenly lifted from my face, and I closed my eyes as the sunlight suddenly pierced my eyeballs. Once my eyes had adjusted, I realized that I was looking at Jin through a blurry film of tears. He reached out to wipe away the tears with his thumbs, his hands gently stroking the sides of my face as he looked at me with such a loving expression that turned my legs into mush.
"What are you standing in a daze for? You can kiss me now, you know." His smile turned roguish as his eyes twinkled like the stars.
I laughed and sniffed back my snot. "What are you saying? You're obviously the one who wants to kiss me the most."
A slow smile spread across my face as I countered with those words. I recalled the scene on the balcony, as he stopped just before his lips met mine. He had probably been wanting to kiss me for the longest time but was too afraid to do so! This was finally his chance (and mine!). Hohoho~
As if my smile was the cue, he abruptly leaned down without any warning whatsoever, and kissed me.
He kissed me for a very long time.
- The Bishie's Queen
First and foremost, I am a neko who loves to write. I'm a cat lady~ and also a medical student in the throes of insanity lol. I'll probably only write one story on here before I completely vanish into thin air, so all I can say is:
Thank you very much for reading! *bows*