A Normal Day
That year, they were still just children. And then, they met.
When I woke up, I look at the unfamiliar canopy above me in a haze, then I belatedly recall that I am outside, and not in my own palace hall. I slowly get up and get dressed, thinking to myself, where has Xi Xi gone wandering off to now, throwing I – this master of hers – to the back of her mind.
I attend to myself with the clean water that had already been prepared in the room, then wipe my hands dry before heading out, upon pushing open the doors, the sun brightly shines down, causing me to squint my eyes, starting to walk forward as I go and take a nice stroll.
I remember Xi Xi telling me, this place is called Mount Qi Yun, a mountain that just happens to be located in the middle of this vast land. This mountain is like spring throughout all four seasons, with singing birds and fragrant flowers, a pleasant scenery, the perfect vacation spot. The most important thing being, this mountain had unknowingly been given tacit approval several hundred years ago, that it does not belong to any one kingdom, any one person.
Mount Qi Yun is just Mount Qi Yun, the holy land appropriate for friends of the imperial families of the three kingdoms, a good place for the gathering of allies.
I stroke my chin, beginning to recall why I am also in the traveling group this time.
Originally, princesses should not be brought along in this gathering of the three emperors that comes once every five years, in this male dominant society, only princes are worth being proud of and worth showing off. It cannot be helped that my Father Emperor has not a single male offspring, hence creating the situation of him doting on my [older] twin sister – An Ke Zi – only. As a matter of course, for such a special trip, Imperial Sister would become the main subject of attention. And as for why I would be the tagalong, is solely due to Imperial Sister pouting her red lips as she mutters the words, “So boring, why are everyone going all males, Father Emperor, I want Ah-Lan to come along with me.” And then, I too, am extremely honoured to follow along to experience the world outside.
On this Mount Qi Yun, inside the summer resort that can be said to be luxurious, where I reside is but a little little little corner. I did not go see the emperors of the other countries with Father Emperor, nor did I go meet the princes of the other countries with Imperial Sister, I just slowly walk along the pebbled pathway alone, leisurely and carefree.
This morning I have gotten up a little early, the sun has yet to restore its vicious nature, a slight breeze blowing against my face brings along a unique fragrance of plants, so tender, cosy, lazy. I half squint my eyes as I let out a yawn, such gentle and comfortable weather, cannot be more suitable for a nice sleep.
Coming in my direction are two people who appears to be palace maids, unfamiliar faces and unfamiliar outfits, the moment they see me, their paces come to a pause, their eyes circles around my face a few times, then happen to both cover their mouths as they softly let out a laugh, quietly mumbling something under their breath, not to mention casting strange looks at me from time to time.
I do not show any reaction to their rude behaviour, just continuing to look ahead, walking my own path whilst turning a blind eye to them.
Just that, no matter what, I’m still an ordinary person, I just cannot possibly understand those strange looks I got from them. Such strange looks as though I was dressed in a Batman costume, but are instead very proudly saying to them: “Hello all, I am Spiderman.”
After walking far past them, I finally come to a stop, I reach up to strongly rub at both my cheeks, then carefully look at the palm of my hands. Very good, there is no black, nor is there any red, this means that Yuwen Rui did not draw a turtle or anything else on me this time. But, since he didn’t do anything, why were they looking at me like that?
I find myself feeling very puzzled.
Suddenly a burst of cicada cries reaches my ears, I raise my head to look at the towering trees surrounding me, falling into a daze. Only seeing the luxuriantly green trees full of vigour and vitality standing high and mighty in this tree garden I’m currently in, thick foliage blocking the scorching sun, but occasionally there are the few streaks of light rebelliously piercing through the gaps, casting spots of light around the place. I close my eyes, the distant birds tweet in response to the nearby cicadas, casting a delicate and light feeling over me.
I have once desired such a dreamy and beautifully natural scenery so much, but have moved on from it with the passing of time, now that I have come across this desire of mine, I emptily find, I am already not the original me.
The longing I once had, have all been reduced to ashes.
Just as I am making a rare show of sadness in a cultured manner over here, a voice of calling is heard, “Over there, the palace maid in blue, come to me!”
I look in the direction of the voice, only seeing – between the trees, approximately twenty meters away – a young boy in green clothing waving at me. I ignore his little arm that has been strongly waving around this entire time, calmly standing at my spot, looking at him from afar.
“What are you dilly-dallying for ah, quickly come and help me, I’ve caught a huge huge fish, quick quick!” He says more anxiously, constantly looking back.
My feet make a move, then slowly, I head towards him. When I arrive, his back was facing me as he very carefully holds up the fishing rod, lips continuing to speak, “Come come come, give me a hand, it’s about to come up, come up.”
“Quickly ah you-” He takes time to turn around, and upon seeing me, the rest of his words remains stuck in his throat, followed by a burst of earth-shattering laughter, “Hahahahahahahahahahahaha, hahahahahahahahaha.”
I look at the boy in front of me, approximately eleven or twelve years of age, delicate features and fair skin, in a body of – not necessarily the best, but definitely not considered bad quality – green brocade robes, the colour looks just as fresh as a vegetable that had just been pulled out the ground. I find it a little pitiful, such a pretty boy, say, why would he suddenly lose his sanity……?
“Haha, haha” He runs out of breath from laughing, loosening one hand from the fishing rod to support his waist, speaking disjointedly: “Ah, could it be, could it be that you think by writing the word ‘king (王)’ on your own forehead, it would make you a tiger? Hahahahaha, I’m dying of laughter, there’s actually someone this stupid, hahahahaha.”
I ignore his ridicule, walking past him, and come up to the little pond behind him, looking down, the lightly rippling surface of the water clearly reflects the black character on my forehead, but it is not ‘king (王)’, rather, it is ‘abundant (丰)’. The word ‘abundant (丰)’ has a very short vertical stroke, in addition with the idea of the tiger – ‘king (王)’ – leaving a strong first impression, those that don’t take a closer look would most likely see it as ‘king (王)’.
I could feel the corner of my own eyes constantly twitch, I, I, I……
Yuwen Rui, you are indeed a cow, you bull, you big red bull.
I look at that face in the water, vaguely showing slight emotions breaking out, deep down, I constantly hypnotise myself: calm, An Ke Lan, you must stay calm. I take a few deep breaths, satisfied to see myself recover that emotionless face. I reach out for some clear water and clean the writing from my forehead, feeling very helpless towards the one who has not stopped laughing behind me.
“Hahaha, you’re too funny, hahaha,” The boy in green’s voice sounds like it really is becoming increasingly happy, “Aiyoyoyo, my stomach hurts to death, say, how could you be so funny, hahaha, I’ve heard of others plugging their ears to steal a bell, heard of others gifting money to have people hit them, but have never heard of anyone writing on their own forehead to act like a tiger, hahahahaha.”
I ignore him, minding my own business as I get up, preparing to leave.
“Don’t go ah you, hahaha, fine, I won’t laugh at you anymore, is it not just because you want to be a big tiger?” The corners of his lips intensely turn up, eyes showing no signs of not laughing.
I stop in my steps, fixing my gaze onto him.
He reaches up to rub his own face, changing into an expression of seriousness, “In fact, I shall not lie to you, just now I truly thought you’re a tiger, this idea of yours is in fact not bad, -puff-, truly not bad.”
The fishing rod slightly sinks down and down in this moment, he hurriedly turns and grabs it with two hands, words still spilling from his mouth, “I’m really not lying to you, I almost thought you were that tiger, oh right, also the mightiest, most formidable big tiger on Mount Qi Yun, come come come, big tiger, give a hand, give a hand.”
I look at the boy in green with his back facing me, then look at his slightly stuck up butt, raising my foot to decisively kick at it. After kicking it, I am hit with the sudden realisation, so the dream I had last night of kicking someone is real ah, turns out the one I kicked is this block of vegetable.
And so, with a sound of “pu-tong”, the fresh green vegetable becomes a water boiled vegetable.
The boy in green clearly did not expect me to ‘kick the ball into the goal’, blankly standing in the water for a few seconds before pointing at me, saying: “You you you, you actually dare to kick Young Master – I! You audacious one, do you know who my father is? My father is Meng Peng Fei! Just you wait, I’ll definitely have my father throw you into the water and have you soak in it for three sichen (six hours)!”
Oh? Meng Peng Fei? Yun Ze Kingdom’s famous Military Commander Meng Peng Fei? The super General Meng Peng Fei loved and supported by all soldiers? The Meng Peng Fei that has an iron military advisor wife?
“You shameful brat still dare to be yelling there!” A boorish male voice is heard, then a burly man with a face full of beard enters the water and pulls up the boy in green’s back collar, carrying the boy out like carrying a radish. He curses and scolds: “You little b*stard, I’ve told you not to run around everywhere, not to run around everywhere, yet you still bring me trouble, watch how I sort you out once we get back!”
“I I I, Father, it’s her, it’s her who kicked me down!” The boy in green points at me, complaining: “Look, I’m completely soaked through!”
“Soaked your head! Watch how your mother sort you out later!” The bearded man pushes away the boy’s wronged look, turning to say to me: “This young lady, apologies, this damned son of mine has presumably done bad again, I truly am very sorry, very sorry, I’ll teach him a good lesson once I get back.”
Having said that, he one-handedly throws the boy over his shoulder, taking long strides away. The boy in green on his shoulder tries hard to swing his short arms and legs around, flapping around whilst yelling at me: “Stupid fool, stupid tiger, just you remember, don’t let me see you again, if not, I definitely won’t go without teaching you a good lesson, -aiyo! Father! Don’t hit my butt! I’ll tell Mother you’re abusing me! Aiyo don’t hit me, don’t hit me! It’s swelling up, it’s swelling up!”
I watch this lively father and son pair disappear out of sight, feeling slightly warm at heart, vegetable’s father, appears to be a very straightforward man. Meng Peng Fei, indeed has a well-deserved reputation.
I don’t turn around and head back, but continue to aimlessly wander around, I casually make my way around this huge tree garden, the scenery along the way is vast and grand, I gradually grow captivated, starting to feel like I’m no longer in the mortal realm.
Then, just as I felt like I didn’t seem to be in the mortal realm anymore, a person appears within sight.
Under a big tree on my left, a male child in golden clothing is leaning against the trunk, resting, his eyes tightly closed, his face vacant. I come to a stop, just quietly watching him, not making a sound.
I scrutinise his face carefully, oh-ho, yet another handsome seedling. His appearance is different to the fair and clear skinned men of Yun Mi, it’s the type with bronze skin filled with vigour. Nor are his features elegant like those of Yun Mi men, but rather, handsome and sharp, giving off a sense of great power like a sword. His appearance, although young and tender, vaguely reveals a domineering air, a body of gold clothing that represents royal status, which also means, this boy is royalty. I casually glance over that belt at his waist that is adorned with characteristics of his kingdom, looks like this boy is a Yun Zhan prince.
“Why are you not speaking?” He suddenly asks, his voice slightly hoarse, eyes still closed.
I say nothing, what does he mean why am I not speaking, is there any other reason why I don’t speak, is it not just because I’m too lazy to speak?
The golden boy appears to fire up, “Why are you not speaking? Are you laughing at I – this blind person – too?”
I grow a little curious, -ah-, blind, he’s blind?
“You’re blind?” I hear my own voice laced with curiousness.
The golden boy’s temper is presumably not so good, fiercely opening his eyes which lacks focus, as he roars, “Get lost! You’re the blind one! I’m not blind!”
“Then……” I find that his pupils actually have a vague gold glow, “You’re a mute?”
“……” The golden boy’s anger is somewhat cut off, followed by another roar, “Are you a fool? How could I be a mute? Can you not hear me speak!?”
I plug my ears with my thumb, such explosive anger at such a young age ah, this is no good, no good. “So you’re not a mute ah, are you blind then?”
My voice suddenly turns sympathetic and compassionate, “So you really are blind ah, how pitiful.”
“I’m not pitiful! Why am I pitiful?!” The golden boy immediately denies, seemingly trying hard to conceal something but exposes himself even more, “Should Father Emperor want to bestow Mi Er to him, then he shall bestow her to him! I don’t care! I don’t care at all! Nor do I care if Mi Er doesn’t like me anymore, because I’m blind!” His hand again and again strikes at his face, I’m really afraid he’ll punch a hole into it.
“Say.” I go up and sit beside him, “Do you really hate him?”
“He snatched away Mi Er! Mi Er was originally mine!” The golden boy hatefully says, “But he is my imperial [younger] brother, I cannot hate him.”
“Very good.” I pat his shoulder, “Please don’t carelessly go up, exterminating him, and snatch Mi Er back.”
The golden boy’s expression freezes, “Eh, what are you saying?”
“Please don’t carelessly go up, exterminating him, and snatch Mi Er back.” I repeat, not troubled by it.
“Shouldn’t you be telling me ‘where in the world is there no grass, why love a single flower only’?” He is once again angered, “General Mo would always comfort General Zhang like this!”
“Ah.” I put my hand down with loss of interest, “So you have your own final thoughts.”
He once again freezes, “Eh, right, I know myself ah. Where in the world is there no grass, why love a single flower only, what does one Mi Er mean, I will have countless more Mi Er to come in future. “He spreads a smile at me, “Very well, you, be my woman from now on.”
I extend my hand and wave it in front of his face, “Aren’t you unable to see?”
“A bit, I can only see a bit.” He tries his best to widen his beautiful eyes, “Who are you? I’ll go collect you from your family in future.”
“I take a step back, “I am a palace maid under the Yun Mi Kingdom’s thirteenth prince, I’m called Ah Dou, you must remember to come pick me up ah.”
“I shall go tomorrow.” He vows, “You must wait for me alright.”
“Sure.” As if I’d wait for you, idiot. “Well, see you tomorrow then.”
“See you tomorrow!”
I shake my head and sigh, this is the ignorance caused by lack of knowledge regarding the situations within other nations ah, the thirteenth prince of the Yun Mi Kingdom is currently playing chess with Tang Seng in western paradise. (He’s already passed away)
Having bid goodbye to the blind golden boy, I sure feel rather exhausted, as I walk around, preparing to head back, I happen to run into Yuwen Xiu who is looking around in all directions.
I sigh, -ai-, this direction idiot, he’s lost again.
“Ah-Lan!” Yuwen Xiu sounds extremely pleasantly surprised, that pair of peach blossom eyes that are showing its first signs of elegance are glimmering with emotions, “You’re here! Go go go, you’re wanting to head back to where we’re staying, right? I just happen to be going the same way, let’s go together!”
I fall silent, who says you’re going the same way, where you reside isn’t even my courtyard, alright. But I am a kind-hearted child, I obediently nod at him, “Oh.”
Yuwen Xiu’s steps are hurried as he pulls me along in running forward, when suddenly, a sound of “ci-la”……
Yuwen Xiu’s fair white face instantly flushes red, trying his best to hide his butt, “I, I, I was careless just now and got scratched by a tree branch, but how did it tear just like that?!”
All I can see is still those two smooth white butt cheeks, “Ah, so fair.” I very flatly state.
“Look look look! What do you think you’re looking?!” He hides his butt with one hand and covers my eyes with the other, “Watch out you don’t grow a sty!”
“Seventh Brother’s butt, is so fair.” I dully repeat again, even if I can only see darkness before me, my mind can still see Yuwen Xiu gritting his teeth right now, ah, my current mood, sure is feeling great.
“You little lass, damned lass, not allowed to tell anyone!” Yuwen Xiu fiercely threatens.
I still wanted to speak up to annoy him some more, when a teenage boy’s voice that had just broke, is heard, “En, don’t tell anyone what?”
Yuwen Xiu hurriedly let go of the hand covering my eyes, fumbling through his speech when he sees the arriving person: “Bro-, Brother, I, I.”
The arriving person, is none other than the handsome and elegant, young Yuwen Rui who indifferently casts him a glance, reaching up to undo his own cloak and throws it at him, “Put it on.”
Yuwen Xiu hurriedly wraps the cloak around him tightly, “I’m not lost, I just wanted to wander around, en, wander around.”
I lower my eyes, this little direction idiot Yuwen Xiu’s current look of ‘there is no three hundred taels of silver hidden here’ sure is cute. (Comes from an idiom story that refers to the stupidity of revealing what one intends to hide by a deliberate act. Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6i-uB0Pi9fQ)
“Ah-Lan.” Yuwen Rui spreads his arms towards me, “Come here.”
I walk towards him, leaving him to pull me into his arms. He holds me and walks for a while before suddenly asking: “Ah-Lan, do you like tigers?”
“……” I fall silent for a long while, then say: “Don’t like.”
“Oh.” He also falls silent, after a while, he says: “Looks like I need to work harder to make you get used to and then like tigers.”
I, you, f*ck you.
“Do you like tigers?” He once again asks.
I once again ponder for a long while, dully saying: “Like.”
“Very well.” He nods in satisfaction, those long and fine fox eyes filled with a smile, “I thought, you would like it too.”
I feel a little hurt, why, why, why did I succumb to the evil force……
“[Older] Brother, what is this tiger tiger thing you’re both talking about?” Yuwen Xiu’s pretty face pops up as he curiously asks.
“Nothing.” Yuwen Rui replies, his voice like light clouds and gentle wind, a faint smile sitting on his handsome face, “Alright, let’s head back.”
Then suddenly, Yuwen Rui lifts me up, Yuwen Xiu step by step follows along by his side, as the three of us return to the courtyard together.
On a particular day several months later, I hear the palace maids spreading word everywhere, Yun Ze’s General Meng Peng Fei was suspected of rebelling, his entire household arrested and beheaded, not one person spared. I think of that boy in green and the burly man by the pond, think of all that yelling and subtle warmth, and feel a little saddened at heart.
Fate may pass by with a brush of the shoulders, life could also perhaps go in a flash.
That day was just an ordinary day, clearly, extremely ordinary.
I know this might be a confusing start, not to mention there’s already quite a few character names being thrown in here, but trust me, you’ll slowly be introduced to the characters properly as you read on. This ‘prologue’ was originally a side chapter that was just thrown into the middle of the story to fill in some of the plot, but I felt that it kind of ruined the flow of the story itself, so I just took it upon myself to make it a prologue, it makes more sense this way.
Our female lead had time traveled into an unknown time period that the story is set in, in this time, the land is divided into three main kingdoms: Yun Mi Kingdom (which our female lead belongs to), Yun Ze Kingdom, and Yun Zhan Kingdom.