Why everyone only has eyes for the emperor? Isn’t Yan Xiao Wu a good choice? The final chapter will be released on Easter.
After living outside the city for ten days, my injury is almost healed. An aunt in the same village changes the dressing for me. Gradually, I discover she looks at Yan Xiao Wu in an increasingly strange way.
On a certain day when she is changing my dressing, she asks me: “Girl, is Xiao Wu your older brother or man?”
I reply: “He is my brother.”
“How come you don’t resemble each other?”
“I look like my mother and he looks like his father.”
“Oh ……” Aunt is momentarily at a loss, then she says, “Then does your brother have a partner for marriage?”
Here it is! The legendary ‘la pi tiao’! (la pi tiao is where someone, not just a pimp, would solicit and encourage people, pulling them in to have some ‘fun’ with prostitutes. So, Ling Shu is saying this woman is like she’s trying to pull in a client.)
I sigh with emotion. Yan Xiao Wu has grown up and has reached the age of marriage. A lot of girls in the village throw flirtatious glances at him, but he is really dim-witted and always cannot get them. I had worked hard to raise him until all grown up now, so it is time to marry him off.
“No marriage partner yet. My brother is twenty-one years old this year. Because our parents died early, so up until now, his marriage still has not been arranged. My brother is quite skilled at martial arts, can hit the fields or serve in the army. He is an honest man, but unfortunately no girl is interested in him ……”
“How can!” The aunt interrupts me, “Xiao Wu is a man of striking appearance. It is rare to see such a handsome young man. Many girls in the village like him! If he is not married, then just leave this matter to me!”
“In that case, have to trouble you to ……” I smilingly say.
Grandfather always hoped that Yan Xiao Wu and I will end up together. He said Yan Xiao Wu is an honest child with a one track mind, will treat me well for a lifetime and can also protect me. However I always feel that he is like my big brother. Sometimes he is very dim-witted, so feel more like a younger brother. After all, we are like brothers which is different from Liu Xi. However, I don’t know what is so good about Liu Xi …… If I know, then I can find an exactly the same person to like.
Wait until I leave Yan Xiao Wu in good hands, my injury is more or less healed, I can then leave the capital. I need not be an imperial physician anymore. Hence I can find a man to marry and give birth to as many children as I want!
The aunt is very efficient because after only two to three days, Yan Xiao Wu is already taken. A flush of embarrassment appears on his face when he runs to me and says: “Let’s go.”
“What?” I tug on my ear and look up at him.
“The girls here are ……” Yan Xiao Wu is lost for words for a moment before saying: “too bold!”
I give careful thought to it and come to the conclusion that other people is not bold. It should be Yan Xiao Wu is too dull.
I pat the chair and say: “Yan Xiao Wu, sit down. I have something to say to you.”
He looks at me in horror and hesitantly sits down.
I mull over for a while, take a deep breath and say: “Xiao Wu ah …… you’re not young anymore, already twenty-one years old.”
He nods stiffly.
“I cannot always look after you. You’ve grown up, so you ought to fly on your own.”
Yan Xiao Wu continues to be at a loss. After a long time, he says: “When did you ever look after me?”
“Before dying, grandfather entrusted you to me ……”
“Did you say it the other way round?”
“I raised you up ……”
“You’re definitely saying it the other way round!”
“You should get married now ……”
“You are saying it the other way round, the opposite!”
“Since I’ve found a girl who is willing to take you, just get married la.” I pat his shoulder to calm him down, “This is a nice place, with the mountains on one side and water on the other. Transportation is convenient and it is near the civilized capital. The girls here are also very beautiful. I find that you’ve difficulty understanding things properly. If you see one pleasing to the eye, quickly get married.”
“Hey ……” Yan Xiao Wu gloomily stares at me, “Did your brain get kicked by a donkey, or got caught in the door? Why do you suddenly worry about my marriage prospects?”
“I’ve already said I cannot accompany you all the time. After settling one of the most important events in your life, I’ll be able to leave.”
Yan Xiao Wu is stunned for a moment. “Where are you going?”
“Anywhere will do since I’ve never been out of the capital in my whole life. It is rare that I can come out, so naturally I want to go on a sightseeing tour all over the place.”
“I’ll accompany you because I’ll be worried about you travelling alone.” Yan Xiao Wu says firmly, his words stern.
I give a hollow laugh and can’t be bother to argue further with him. I just ask him: “How about that girl?”
Yan Xiao Wu’s face immediately turns red, and he runs as fast as when he came.
I become lost in a deep reverie when looking at the doorway, then break into a smile.
That night, I head all the way north, like an out of control stray dog.
I want to go to many places and also think of a lot of places. Finally I decide to go north, just because …… a carriage happens to go up north on that day.
Besides me, there are three more people in the carriage. They seem like harmless travelers. I hug my luggage and sit in the corner. In spite of the bumpy ride, I still can sleep.
In my dreams, a gaze follows me everywhere. A dark pair of eyes, glistening gently with moisture, like the eyes of an elk, look at me and say: “Ling Shu, don’t go away, okay?”
“I like Ling Shu ……”
He must surely like me a little, should be a little only. I think that is probably not enough. I need a lot of love. If there is not enough, then I don’t want any.
Dawn comes and goes several times and darkness also comes and goes several times. Finally, I arrive at one of the transit county town in the north. The guests in the inn speak in all kinds of different accents. The lady boss says go west is the Western Liang desert, go north is the prairie and go south is the mountain ridge.
“Girl, the north is not suitable for your soft and tender skin.” The lady boss is an attractive middle-aged widow who drinks and teases loudly with the guests.
“But I am already here ……” I scratch my head and say, “Anyway I don’t know where to go ……”
“Then you might as well work here for me. I’ll pay you a salary. Wait until you’ve thought it over, then only leave?”
I repeatedly nod and say: “Okay, good!”
She smilingly strokes a finger down my nose, “Little girl, you’re not afraid that I’ll chop you into pieces to make meat buns?”
I shudder. Then she smiles again and walks away.
I’ve worked for a few days in the inn when the lady boss says: “Little girl, you’re very clever with your hands, what did you used to do?”
I think for a while and say in embarrassment: “I was a butcher ……”
She opens her almond eyes wide, chuckles and says: “Little girl is really humorous. I like you more and more!”
Winter comes early in the north. When the first snow falls, I just realize that I’ve stayed for two months. That day, snowfall as big as goose feather is floating in the sky. A group of people push open the door, come in and shout for mulled wine.
The lady boss steps forward to greet them, while I shoot a few glances at them in the corner. They are wearing the military uniforms of Chen country.
“Yo, why you’ve time to come here to drink today?” The lady boss smilingly greets them.
“Resting. Our garrison has been relieved.” A soldier says, “Will we be transferred to another place a few days later?”
“What’s going on?” The lady boss is surprised.
“Didn’t you receive the news? I thought you’ve quick access to the news here. General Hua has been stripped of his military power because he spoke disrespectfully to His Majesty in front of many officials. He was punished by being locked up to reflect on his mistakes. The peasants in the feudal fiefdom jointly appealed that the Hua family occupied arable land by force and improper management and discipline of the servants so that they committed heinous acts. His Majesty got angry and imprisoned General Hua. Currently, the defense of the border had been handed over to the newly promoted Piao Qi General (it was a title/rank of a general in ancient times).”
“This ……has changed too quickly ……” The lady boss is stupefied, “General Hua was rewarded handsomely not long ago ……”
“That was then, this is now. Storms gather without warning in nature and bad luck befalls men overnight (A Chinese idiom meaning something unexpected may happen at any moment). General Hua is really too arrogant ……” The soldier says until here, then looks around and lowers his voice to say, “The birds are over, the bow is put away. Boil the hound once it caught the rabbit. (Both Chinese idioms meaning to get rid of somebody once he has served his purpose). The threat from Western Liang had been successfully removed, so General Hua is not useful anymore.”
“But General Hua is still the emperor’s relative?” The lady boss also lowers her voice, “Isn’t imperial concubine Hua pregnant with the dragon baby?”
“She had a miscarriage.” The soldier says, “It is all a result of the schemes between the concubines in the imperial harem. The daughter of the Minister of Revenue gave imperial concubine Hua some drug which caused her to have a miscarriage. General Hua beat the Minister of Revenue up in anger. Otherwise General Hua will not be out of luck this time? Anyway, there is nothing about this situation that is pleasing. His Majesty also lost a prince. Thus he was in a bad mood for a long time. During the imperial court session, most of the officials did not dare to speak aloud. Even the voice to ask His Majesty to select an empress has ceased.”
“Tsk tsk ……” The lady boss repeatedly shakes her head, “These things inside and outside the palace can be really complicated. We’re a lot simpler. Since you’ve to go soon, drink more wine today, my treat!”
“Okay! The lady boss is such a frank and straightforward person!”
Imperial concubine Hua had lost the baby …… his mood must surely be very bad …… but he will definitely have another child in the future ……
When the sky is getting dark, a few soldiers with their arms around each other’s shoulders, stagger out of the inn. I am shutting the door to close shop. Suddenly a powerful force presses against the door. I exert myself physically to push twice but it does not move. Hence I look out through the crack between the door and the frame.
A menacing voice says: “Open the door.”
I am frightened until trembling. When I am about to exert myself physically to lock the door, it is pushed open.
Cold wind and snow are blowing in. A tall figure is standing in the doorway, the face looking like cold frost.
“Song Ling Shu! I am totally exhausted looking for you!” Yan Xiao Wu says fuming with rage between gritted teeth.
“Xiao Xiao Xiao Wu ……” I stammer.
“I almost got killed because of you!” He grabs my shoulders and shakes them.
“How?” I feel dizzy and light-headed, swing one of my arms and pat his head.
Yan Xiao Wu stops his action and his eyes immediately become red, “I nearly can’t see you alive …… how can I lose you as he’ll kill me …… Luckily, I found you again ……”
“What?” I’m still confused.
“Come back with me!” Yan Xiao Wu looks serious, “Otherwise both of us will be dead.”
“Damn it, can you be clear about what you’re saying!” I cannot stand it, so I give him a slap in the face.
“Liu Xi has been looking for you like crazy! If you still don’t go back, he would die for you!”
Only the sound of the wind and snow.
“Why is he looking for me?” I look suspiciously at him.
“He likes you. Don’t tell me you don’t know? Don’t tell me you don’t like him?”
I try to struggle free from his grip and say: “Can his liking feed me? Either you stay or leave, I really like it here.”
The sound of hands clapping can be heard at the back. I turn around and see the lady boss walking down all smiles. She walks to my side and looks at Yan Xiao Wu with her pair of beautiful eyes. Ultimately, she gently lifts up her skirt and kicks him out!
I stare at the lady boss dumbstruck, look at her closes the door slowly and says: “We are closed for the day. Please come early tomorrow.”
Then the lady boss turns around to look at me, points her thumb at the back and asks: “Your man?”
The lady boss smiles: “At first glance, he looks a bit silly.”
I say: “A closer look is not any better than at first glance.”
6 of 7 Main story segments