The wound from Zhuo Yihung’s blade that had penetrated straight through his wife’s back would eventually heal, physically. It is her emotional wound that determines the course of the rest of the story. After fleeing from her husband and from Wudang, Lian Nichang falls unconscious. She awakens to find herself with white hair. Upon seeing her own reflection on the surface of a pond, she screams in utter disbelief, as no young woman of her age would come to acquire white hair in such a way!
And so, she decides to go to a cave and live in seclusion, still leading the lifestyle of a saviour of the poor and victimised, killing off the wicked and corrupt, tyrannical feudal lords, rapists, those who abuse defenceless women, children, and the elderly, those who oppose her ideas of justice. She still takes it upon herself to uphold all the justice and goodness of the world, considering that the legal system of the time is generally useless. She becomes the most famous hermit in the region, a heroine among the oppressed and disadvantaged.
Zhuo Yihung comes to discover a mysterious flower called “Yao-taan” that has the power to turn white hair black again. Hidden away in a mountain valley, the flower grows in a bubbling pond covered in thick swirling mist. However, its healing properties can only be put into use when it blooms and blossoms. And this flower only blooms once in a decade, or it could well be over a decade. The waiting, the patience involved could become torturous.
Of course, as Fate would have it, Zhuo Yihung finds his wife again. Yet this time, despite his incessant begging for forgiveness, she remains indifferent. Her white hair signifies the pain that remains activated deep in her heart after episode upon episode where her husband could not embrace and protect her as he had promised on their wedding night. Each time he finds her, under whatever circumstances, he would try to win her back. Again and again, she would reject and escape him, setting off abruptly by flight and speed. Even after his attempts to persuade her that the Yao-taan flower will heal her, she remains under the intense conviction that physical wounds may heal, but emotional wounds do not. At least, not hers.
I don’t want to retain that metaphorical white hair with me; I am too young to be carrying around that metaphorical white hair, even though it may only be metaphorical. I may not be able to get rid of all the pain I have been through. Yet, I believe I am empowered enough to dilute the pain. My physical reality and my emotional reality must align as harmoniously as possible. That is my intention. Forgetting is impossible. Detachment remains a possibility.
In this physical reality, I could never be with Countryboy, as I was from the beginning forbidden by my morals and principles. There was no way that I could live with his baggage — baggage that is unchangeable and ever-present. Nor would I ever dream of changing that very fact of his life. For without that baggage, he would not be who he is now.
I have accepted it. His life and mine could never join together in the way that the most devoted birds make their nest. I knew it from the moment I met him — the silhouette of an emotionally worn out middle-aged man coming to open the glass door of his house especially to greet me for the first time in our lives. I had accepted it even before I knew it. When he opened that glass door, my Fate was sealed.
Now, even my dreams of being his make-belief wife are momentary ethereal pleasures that I must detach from. For the past 3 years, I have been telling myself to stay as grounded in reality as possible. I kept telling myself that “One day, I will marry someone else. One day, I will have babies with someone else”. And those 7 weeks when I was living next door to Countryboy would become ghostly remnants of my long-lost past.
Of course, telling myself over and over that if I ever do get married, it has to be with someone else, not Countryboy — that really has not helped. The fact that Countryboy was never an option for me to begin with was a fact of life that I had completely accepted from the first moment I met him. Yet the thought of potentially being with another man remains a mental and emotional difficulty. I have now come to a conclusion that it is no use trying to replace the past with the future. Countryboy and whoever it is that I potentially end up marrying are 2 completely different people, divergent as the sweet and the savoury.
Before I met Countryboy, I used to think that the only valid reason I would get married is to have children. And I still do think that way, generally. However, does that not sound so ironic? Story of my life really…ironies.
For as logic would have it, to marry someone especially to have children is to assess the suitability of my prospective husband by way of the checklist method: does he fulfil this and that criteria? Does he meet such and such requirements? In my case, I really don’t think my standards are too high at all because I have myself met them without question.
Not that I mean to brag about my level of intelligence (I am normally quite a modest person); however I really think it quite silly (and in the long term, stupid) to marry someone whose levels of intelligence and morality are too far below mine. And there are great benefits to selecting a potential husband by carefully weighing up the pros and cons, and especially by asking the all-important question: what kind of a father would he be? I do not understand women who end up marrying bastards, not that I expect other women to be exercising my kind of method in their selection process. Afterall, these things are highly personal.
Yet how ironic could it possibly be for me?!! Falling completely and helplessly in love with Countryboy was possibly the most illogical thing that could happen to me. For why on earth would one even look twice at someone whom one knows with absolute certainty that the object of one’s uncontrollable affection is not even a possible compatibility, both by way of lifestyle and by way of certain permanent fixtures in his life that completely conflict with my own values?!! Now, just writing down such a complicated sentence does not even make sense! The sentence structure doesn’t quite make sense. The content definitively doesn’t make sense! So that’s it! This whole thing has been completely senseless!
And I will tell you another instance of ridiculous irony that will always stay with me, although Countryboy may have already forgotten about it as it would not have meant the same thing to him. He told me once that if I ever have trouble dealing with my children and their mischiefs as they are growing up, call him up he told me, and he will give me advice. I could not help thinking: “Yes, children that I will have with someone else, not with you”. And it weighed heavily on my heart. As time passed by, that emotional weight turned into intense pain, until the time came when I felt I was about to collapse because of it. I miss him from the bottom of my soul. And by Heavens, I wish he knew…just how much…
There are such a vast range of reasons as to why love may have to be kept secret. Forbidding circumstances are a common thread weaving through all such reasons. Morals. Principles. Boundaries. Yet even if circumstances permit, there is the question of…is the object of your love ‘ready’ to hear your grand confession? What will happen to your friendship if you do confess? Will you lose them as a friend? I certainly did not want to lose Countryboy as a friend. In any case, he would not have been ready to hear my confession. I must admit that I had in fact fallen helplessly in love with a man who is not quite as spiritually mature as I, even though his physical age is 21 years ahead of me.
After everything I have been through, I am now of a position that love confined to secrecy must be one of the most sacred kinds of love. To love someone from the bottom of your soul, and not be able to tell them for reasons beyond your control, that is a curse and a blessing together. The curse is that the crying may never stop. It may become less and less frequent as time passes by. Yet there is no guarantee that it will stop altogether. The wound burns so intensely like a volcano exploding at the core of an iceberg.
The blessing is that the purest love endures throughout the most unbearable pain and suffering. As cruelly as the pain and despair of the secrecy rage on as though they are determined to torture the fabric of your soul to collapse, the purity of that love will transcend all. Despite being wounded by a thousand blades, the heart that carries the purest love rises like a balloon sailing gracefully through an embracing sea of clouds that remains a finely vapourous blanket — soothing, nurturing, and renewing itself even while immediately below it, the volcano of pain explodes uncontrollably.