I seem to have not slept like this for a very, very long time, the world within my dream is like my breathing, so close and warm. By my side, he and her, as well as the others, still exists, my life is still filled with shades of black and white, my memory filled with those shades of grey, the overdue, beautiful memories.
How realistic that life was, yet I am unable to feel the liveliness and beating of my heart.
That’s right, I died.
I coldly wander away in my dream, when the light appears, I show no hesitance at all, as I head towards it, and then calmly open my eyes to see the light blue canopy above. I try to move my own little thumb, and in the end, I can only find it ridiculous that I’m acting like I’ve gone back to being one of those severely ill patients, after waking up from a coma, the first thing to do, is use the slightest movement to check whether I have any energy.
I cannot help but to admit I despise diseases, absolutely despise it.
I think that, if I had the opportunity to give myself a name when I was born, then I would definitely give myself the name ‘Wu Bing’ (no illness – reference to the author’s pen name), I pray for a life without illnesses, never to experience pain again.
Right when I am blankly staring at the canopy above, falling into a daze, the door is gently pushed open, followed by the sound of pattering steps approaching the bed, when the arriving person sees me, they cry out in pleasant surprise: “Princess, you’re awake!”
I slightly turn my head to see the person’s face, dumpling-like mouth and apple cheeks, turns out it’s Xi Xi. I don’t respond to her words, and only circle my eyes around the room a good few times, before dully asking: “Xi Xi, did we move palace halls?”
Xi Xi turns and adeptly wrings the towel before coming up to my side, her tone light and fast: “No such thing has happened, why move palace halls when there’s nothing wrong? Princess sure is a person of great prestige that’s very forgetful, do you not remember where this is at all?”
I close my eyes, simply leaving her to wipe my face, thinking to myself, how could I not know where this is, my childhood days were mainly spent with Yuwen Rui leading me around to play, and his room, is naturally not unfamiliar to me. Although it has already been three or four years since I’ve last come here, the furnishing in here leaves a deep impression.
Although those exquisite sheer curtains has already been replaced with new ones, it is still that sort of light blue colour that looks extremely elegant and graceful. The quietly hanging wind chime may already be behind the times, but is still hung at the head of the beautifully carved bed. That short legged table may already be old, but is still covered in the tablecloth that Yuwen Rui and I had both tie-dyed together.
All these are things of the past that have been kept to this day, this is Yuwen Rui treasuring things for old time sake, sentimental but doesn’t match with him as a person, tut tut, this guy sure is a mensao. (闷骚 / mèn sāo refers to someone – usually to describe men – who are reserved and thoughtful on the outside but actually holds passion and wildness within. The actual translation would be ‘Man Show’ as the term comes from the Chinese pronunciation of the words, but it sounds too cheesy for my liking XD)
“Princess, you really have gone too far this time, how could you disappear without any news at all? Did you know how worried for you this servant was, how afraid I was that something had happened to you?” Xi Xi complains as soon as she opens her mouth, “Although this servant knows nothing will happen with your noble body and blessed life, I still cannot help but to think this and that. Now that you’re back, this servant can finally let out a sigh of relief, but do you have any idea how this servant has been spending her nights? Every night when it is time to sleep, I would always get up wanting to check on you out of habit, but upon lifting the blanket, I immediately realise you’re not there. Then as I sleep, I would always think about whether you are sleeping well or not, whether you’re kicking your blankets away or not, after countless tossing and turning, do I barely fall asleep. The next morning, I would once again routinely get up early to check on you, and then fall into a daze as I face the clear water in the basin.”
Met with Xi Xi’s angry eyes, I dully speak up, “Xi Xi.”
Xi Xi halts her complaining, “What’s wrong?”
I rub my own eyes and yawn, “I don’t kick the blankets when I sleep.”
Xi Xi’s brows instantly curls in laughter, “Of course this servant knows that, this servant is only wanting to specifically tell Princess about my own thoughts, Princess needs not bite down onto my every word.”
I shake my head at her, “These words cannot be said without reason, if others were to know, I would become a joke.”
Xi Xi covers her mouth to lightly laugh, “Looks like Princess is still aware that you must protect your own reputation, truly amazing, very amazing.” She reaches out to touch my temple, and with skilled movements and appropriate strength, starts to massage it, “Princess may rest assured, the matter of your disappearance has been suppressed by Eldest Gentleman and Seventh Gentleman. Eldest Gentleman has sent out news saying he has invited you to stay at his estate for a while, outsiders naturally dosn’t know of the truth. Within this short time, the people in the palace hasn’t had the time to look deeply into your matter either, only seeing it as you and Eldest Gentleman are very close to one another, hence not questioning it. Since Princess has already returned now, then it is about time to return to the palace. After all, the Yuwen Estate is not the little palace hall of ours, living here is still considerably inconvenient.”
I of course understand the little meanings behind her words, “When did Eldest Cousin return?” If I have not remembered wrong, he should originally be in Suzhou taking care of matters regarding the imperial use of brocade silk.
“Eldest Gentleman returned on the fifth day after Princess’ disappearance, originally, Seventh Gentleman and I were almost unable to keep the matter hidden anymore, was about to let the news leak out, fortunately, Eldest Gentleman had rushed back.” Xi Xi laughs out loud as she recalls this: “Sure enough, Eldest Gentleman has the best approach, Princess has no idea, at that time, Seventh Gentleman had almost frozen into ice under Eldest Gentleman’s look. Seventh Gentleman is usually such an unruly one, but in front of Eldest Gentleman, he too, can only accept his share of lecturing, that scene sure was really funny.”
I feel very helpless, with someone like Eldest Cousin, isn’t getting caught by him no different to seeking your own path to hell? Seventh Brother, the result is as I had expected, but I really did not want for it to be like this.
“Oh right.” Xi Xi’s tone of voice suddenly turns serious, but within that seriousness, there also carries the pleasure of seeing other people’s misfortune, “Princess, I must notify you, this time, Eldest Gentleman is……extremely angry.”
I pause upon hearing this, eh, Eldest Cousin is very angry? Ah, no way, he and I are so close already, anger harms harmony ah. I was just thinking to myself, when Xi Xi calls out, “Eldest Gentleman.” I reflexively look towards the doors, only seeing a good-looking man elegantly step in with an air of indifference, seating himself at the table, and then without a word, he starts to look at the books placed on the table.
From the side, I look at his perfect side profile, those sharp brows that almost reaches his temples, those long and fine fox eyes, that tall and straight nose, and those thin lips, looking at half his face alone, one can see his handsome and outstanding elegant demeanour, this is Yuwen Rui, history’s most unrivalled black belly, mensao, petty and capricious man.
I think I sure am going to suffer a disaster, because from start to finish, he has not once spared me a glance, only fixing his eyes on the book in full concentration, occasionally picking up the cup to take a sip of water.
“Princess, would you like some snacks?” Xi Xi breaks the silence and asks this.
I nod, I believe I need to recover my energy to raise my level of resistance, level of endurance, and level of defence against the cold.
And so, the scene within the room turns extremely strange, Yuwen Rui sits at the table intently reading a book, as though everything around him is nothing but air. And I’m at the side, leaning against the bed as I pick at the snacks, slowly biting and chewing, not making a sound, nor attempting to get his attention.
The formidability of the means he takes to is not something I knew of for just one day or two, in this moment of danger, I should wisely protect myself, all will be good as long as I don’t provoke him. But matters always progress in a way I don’t expect it to, I watch dots of red rapidly emerge along the back of my arms in shock, calling out in extreme confusion: “Ah?”
What the heck is going on……?
Following my one sound of “ah”, a dark shadow looms over me, that handsome face of Yuwen Rui’s, is still masked with distanced politeness, but his slender and long fingers were tightly holding my hand, narrowing his long fox eyes, he coldly ask Xi Xi who was stood at the side: “What’s going on here?”
I stare at my own arm, only seeing that my originally fair and tender skin already covered in red pimples, and it is continuing to spread with intensity, I raise my arms feeling very confused myself.
Xi Xi, to tell the truth, I would also like to ask you, what is going on here?
In face of Yuwen Rui’s questioning, Xi Xi appears extremely innocent, she grabs my hand in great surprise, shakily inspecting it as she stammers: “Pri-, Princess, what, what, what’s wrong? Could it be smallpox? Or could it be poison? Oh heavens, how horrific!”
……Yuwen Rui and I fall silent.
I feel very helpless, Xi Xi, firstly, what the heck is the smallpox about, secondly, what the heck is the poison about, thirdly, what kind of strange thing did you feed me?
“Xi Xi.” Yuwen Rui speaks up, his thoughts unpredictable within his long and fine eyes.
Xi Xi respectfully bows her head, “Yes, Gentleman.”
Yuwen Rui strokes my arm filled with ‘red dots’ back and forth, unable to make out the emotions in his voice: “What is it this time?”
Xi Xi stands straight upon hearing this, speaking in one breath: “To answer Gentleman, this time it is one liang (两 = 50g) of wolfberries, three phoenix flowers (Delonix regia), five lu tian jiao, two liang of yam, milled and mixed within the snacks!”
I feel the corners of my eyes uncontrollably twitch, Xi Xi, what kind of a mess are you playing with here?
“Very good.” Yuwen Rui’s tone is extremely warm and gentle, “Then you tell me, what did I say to you before.”
“En, ah, Gentleman had instructed this servant to take care of Princess’ body with nutritional dietary.” Xi Xi’s voice is still ever so righteous.
“Extremely good.” Yuwen Rui’s voice is so tender as though it would be dripping with water, “Then, could the red pox of yours this time be helping her to discharge toxins?”
Xi Xi replies: “This servant had only wanted to enhance Princess’ resistance against mixed nutrition, who knew it would turn out like this……Gentleman, this servant definitely didn’t intend for this.”
Yuwen Rui softly laughs, yet his eyes were so cold it instantly makes one shiver, “Your doings sure coincide with my liking, wait for tomorrow to come, and I shall tell Mu Yi to also come along, to witness your……” There’s a slight flicker within his pupils, as he lightly hooks up his lips into a small smile, “Great capability.”
As the facts have proven, this lass – Xi Xi – has also been firmly locked within Yuwen Rui’s death grip. The very moment she hears the two words of ‘Mu Yi’, her expression instantly twists, upon hearing the following words she had already started to step back, “No no no, in fact, this servant also has her share of thoughtlessness, this servant shall go brew Princess’ medicine! Gentleman stay and accompany Princess, this servant will be right back!”
Having said that, she flees the scene with flying speed, and within a blink of an eye, her shadow was completely out of sight. I sigh, Xi Xi, you sure are my beautiful confidante ah, to even put to use the self-infliction tactic for my sake (a trick to gain the trust of another by enduring suffering to oneself), but can you possibly tell me, why the heck, why the heck this handsome man, who should be asking about my wellbeing, should be showing me utmost concern, should be feeling endlessly distressed for me, is just holding onto my hand without saying a word, his eyes still courteous yet cold?
Life is indeed not like those idol dramas we’re all very familiar with.
I find this atmosphere very strange and uneasy, such uneasiness is just like having an endless nosebleed but not feeling any pain, although not feeling any pain, you are still seeing a huge amount of fresh blood that is associated with pain.
En, I like this analogy.
I extend my left hand – free from his hold – towards the little table at the side, to grab the teacup, but halfway there, I hear Yuwen Rui speak up.
“En? Did you have fun going out to play.” Yuwen Rui’s voice sounds very normal.
I bring back that hand of mine, dully saying: “Ah, play, oh, has Seventh Brother returned?”
Yuwen Rui’s hand that is holding mine loosens, thin lips hooking up into an elegant curve, “It’s a miracle that you still know to think of Yuwen Xiu, did you know that day you lost him, he almost wasn’t able to return to the minister estate? Fortunately, fortunately, someone pointed him in the right direction, for him to return to the estate in one piece.”
……Yuwen Rui, you’ve gone too far, how could you bleat the topic back in the opposite direction whilst clearly indicating something else.
I raise my head, very honestly saying: “I was sold, so fun.”
“En, of course I know it’s fun.” Yuwen Rui puts on an expression as if to say he understands my happiness very well, “It doesn’t feel bad to be a maid, right? What? Want me to send you back again, you can play around for another few days before returning?”
I shake my head, reaching out to tug on his sleeves, “Don’t want to, there’s no grapes in the Meng Estate. Eldest Cousin, I want to eat grapes.”
Warmth smooths over Yuwen Rui’s handsome face, yet his voice still carries coldness, “No grapes, hence why you finally came back? Oh right, how could I remember it wrong? It wasn’t that you came back, it was I who had brought you back.”
I think to myself, this person is indeed very calculative, I ignore his unfriendliness, shaking his sleeve as I once again speak: “Ah-Rui, grapes, I want to eat grapes.”
Yuwen Rui suddenly narrows his fox eyes, intently staring at my face for a long while, then finally turns his face away and lightly coughs a few times, saying: “Fine, give you grapes to eat, the cherries in the garden have also just ripen, I’ll have Xi Xi bring some over to you later.”
I look at Yuwen Rui’s good-looking face with suspicion, since when did he become so nice to speak to? Then not long later, after I see myself in the mirror with a face fully covered in mini versions of cherries, I fall silent.
F*ck, Yuwen Rui, this joke of yours has gone too far, I curse you with a face full of bananas, a face full of green beans, a face full of black rice……
Someone gently wraps their arms around my waist from behind, and a clean and smooth chin grazes my ear side, followed by a clear and cold voice that carries ridicule, asking: “Ah-Lan, are the cherries, tasty?