“Gugu, no, I mean Xiao Wu. Yes, I’m Xiao Wu.” Bai Qian replied as they both intently studied each other’s uncertain expressions.
How odd? She’d given the mortal permission to address her by the informal name, used by only family members. For some reason, Bai Qian sounded so stiff, so she decided to use the one more comfortable to her.
Ming smirked and questioned, “Gugu? How old are you?”
Annoyed Bai Qian wrinkled her nose and retorted, “How old are you? Haven’t you ever been taught it’s rude to ask a woman her age?”
Ming shrugged his shoulders, shook his head at her somewhat amused and said, “I’ll be 21 in two months, and I’ve heard that women who get offended when asked about their age do so because they’re old.”
Curtly Bai Qian lied and responded, “I’m the same age as you but my birthday was earlier in the year. So…let’s just treat each other informally without honorifics.”
“I’ve never treated you with honorifics, Princess.” Ming snorted and walked towards his hut carry his day’s catch single handed with Bai Qian nearly on his heels.
She followed him into his home, and it felt warm and cozy. Again, there was something aromatic and delicious cooking, a mouthwatering scent of a hearty stew lingered in the air. The kitchen had more products than before. There were many foods in the process of drying for preservation and storage.
Varieties of vegetables, edible roots, fruits and different jerked meats on long ropes hung from the crossbeams overhead. In large storage bins, there were various grains such as barley, rice and wheat filled up to the top. She wondered why there was such a bounty of food items.
She curiously asked, “Why do you have so much food? Are you expecting guests or throwing a banquet?”
Casually Ming placed the rabbits he’d caught and stated, “Princess, I know your maids serve you whenever you’re hungry but for some winter can be long and unpredictable. It’s always wise to have an abundance of stored food because the land becomes barren, and there are fewer animals to hunt.”
“I can give you…” Ming swiftly cut her off and sharply stated, “Just because I asked your name doesn’t mean we’re friends and I don’t accept handouts. I’m not a beggar. If you’re bored and here to support the poor, Princess, go help someone else.”
Bai Qian’s eyes narrowed as she asked, “Why are you so defensive?”
She gave him a dirty look, pulled the mushrooms and herbs she’d gathered out of the skirt of her dress and threw them on the countertop.
Her mouth set in a hard line when she indignantly declared, “Look, I don’t judge people by their financial or social standing! I’m not here to give or offer you anything of monetary value. I just wanted to get to know you a little but take these mushrooms and shove them where the sun don’t shine! That’s all I’ll ever give you!”
Furiously Bai Qian stomped out of Ming’s hut, and cloud jumped back to Qingqiu the second she was out of his sight.
Ming snickered amused after observing her lash out and furiously leave his hut after her fiery outburst. He noted, Princess had a temper. She was a hothead, easily triggered and spoke quite freely. She wasn’t precisely the refined, rich girl he’d imagined but strangely, he found these traits in her utterly charming and even more appealing.
He didn’t chase after her because he knew she’d be back. Unfortunately for Ming, the mortal version of Crown Prince Ye Hua, High Goddess Bai Qian held grudges and didn’t return to the mortal world for over two full years.
In immortal terms, it was only two days, but it was longer than she expected from herself. Bai Qian would have waited for much longer but started drinking, thought about his rude treatment towards her and decided to visit him in her drunken state.
Two years and four months had passed since she’d stormed out of his hut. Ming was shocked when she didn’t return. He’d expected it would be a few days, but when weeks passed by without a single sighting, he began to worry. He went to the tea house where they’d first met but never saw her on his frequent visits.
As more time went by, Ming considered Princess might have gotten married or finally lost interest altogether. Never did he expect, she’d suddenly show up drunk in the middle of the day two years later.
Princess was loaded. She could barely stand upright and staggered sideways, but she looked exquisite. Dressed in a flowing dress, the same vivid shade of irises in full bloom, she was stunning.
She looked different, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Little did Ming know, Bai Qian was in full High Goddess mode. Her luminous aura which she normally concealed gleamed, and glowed brightly around her like a shimmering aurora. To him, she looked like an angel.
If he didn’t know better, he would have questioned if she were an Immortal Goddess. Slack mouthed, Ming was openly staring at her when she finally set her unfocused, hazy sight on him and out of her beautiful mouth came the following.
Swaying Princess pointed and slurred, “Mortal boy, you have some nerve! You rude and arrogant brat! You’re lucky, I’m not 50,000 years old anymore, or I would have blasted you with my magic!”
She violently threw out both hands to show a massive explosion indicating, that’s what she would have done to him.
Princess almost fell when she added, “Just for your information, mortal! I’m not a princess but a QUEEN!”
With that, her eyes rolled back, and she began her rapid descent to the ground. Wasted drunk. Ming caught her before she hit the hard surface. He laughed. Never in his life had he seen someone act so insane from intoxication. He could barely contain himself. His eyes watered with his held back laughter. He quickly placed her on his bed, covered his mouth and ran out of his hut so that he could freely laugh out loud.
After two years of absence and not a single visit, Princess dramatically returned to Ming’s life with a bang.
Bai Qian groaned as she slowly brought herself to an upright position.
With both eyes still closed she mumbled, “Migu, water.”
She felt a cup handed to her and drank its contents in a single gulp. Weakly Bai Qian signaled for another cup which she drank just as fast, parched from overindulgence.
She whimpered, “Oh, my head. I don’t remember most of yesterday. How did I get home?”
“Well, Princess, you unquestionably know how to make a grand, dramatic entrance.” A soft voice replied.
Bai Qian wondered why Migu was calling her ‘Princess’ when she heard, “I understand I made you angry but two years is a bit extreme. You should have warned me that you hold grudges.”
Perplexed, she softly repeated after him, “Two years is a bit extreme. You should have warned me…”
She promptly opened her eyes saw Ming and screamed at the top of her lungs.
“How did I get here!?” Bai Qian yelled as she flew out of his bed.
She began to talk herself down, “This is just a dream. Yes, I’m dreaming. I wouldn’t have returned to this place. I’m going to open my eyes, and I’ll be in my bed. Xiao Wu wake up!”
Reaching for her eyes, Bai Qian hollered in disbelief, “Oh, my tails! My eyes are open! This moment can’t be happening!”
Swiftly she nervously glanced down at her appearance and patted her hair to see if it was a mess. Finally realizing she was displaying her immortal aura, she instantly screened it and attempted to act calm and collected. She smiled as if nothing was wrong and blinked most innocently.
“You should have corrected me much sooner. Had I known you were a Queen, I would have bowed or something.” He teased.
Bai Qian attempted to mask her discomfort and coolly asked, “Who are you referring to, Ming? Who’s a queen?”
“Well, you are and if you’re not 50,000 years old anymore then are you over a hundred thousand years old? Should I call you Gugu or my Queen?” Ming’s tone was light and jaunty.
She nervously chuckled and said with a forced smile, “I say strange things when I drink. I have terrible drinking habits and talk nonsense. Just forget everything I said. Now that I’m awake, perhaps it would be best if I left.”
Ming’s eyes became wide as he exclaimed, “My Queen, you must eat before you go or you’ll blast me with your magic! I’ll set the royal table forthwith!”
With his hands gathered together politely, Ming walked to the kitchen as servants do for royalty. Backwards so not to turn his back towards her and with his head lowered submissively. Once he was out of her view, she heard him lightly sniggering at her.
Inwardly she wanted to beat herself senseless for her lack of control. She’d sunk to a new low and drunk popped in on the mortal man with whom she was still furious. Not only had she performed a drunken visit but also spouted intoxicated rubbish she couldn’t remember.
Bai Qian cheated and used her magic to make herself presentable. She planned to be polite, eat and quickly leave. After this time, she was unquestionably never coming back…out of pure shame. While she ate silently, she felt his piercing eyes watching her every move.
Eventually, she cautiously raised her gaze, and there he was openly staring at her. It was unnerving. The stirring sensation inside her when their eyes met.
“Princess, you looked amazingly beautiful when I first saw you yesterday. I can’t explain it, but there was a phosphorescent light around you like a halo.” Ming said in his soft voice.
Bai Qian suspiciously asked, “Did you poison my food? Why are you acting nice to me all of a sudden? A glow? It was probably the sun reflecting the color of my gown.”
He casually sipped his tea and declared, “Perhaps it was the way the sunlight caught your dress. Anyway, I knew you were angry but two years? Did you even once consider that I might be worried about you?”
“Why would you worry about me?” Bai Qian nonchalantly asked while spooning food into her mouth. Once again the meal was excellent.
A small smile came to his shapely lips when he confessed, “I don’t know why either but I was…concerned.”
His candid words were entirely unexpected. Instantly Bai Qian glanced up at him with an expression of puzzlement, and it was identical like a mirror to the one on his face.
To be continued……..