“After being stalked for a month, I guess I’d unknowingly grown accustomed to you being a nuisance,” Ming stated as he casually crossed his long legs.
Still slowly drinking his tea, he continued to scrutinize her most carefully. It wasn’t something he could pinpoint, but Princess appeared entirely different today. Privately he wondered if his profound curiosity caused him to hallucinate momentarily.
If Ming was entirely honest with himself, it wasn’t mere curiosity but genuine concern, but he wasn’t ready to accept that terrifying fact. For now, he told himself it was but minor interest. Nothing more and nothing less.
But here she was as if she’d never left. As if the last two years never happened and she’d been gone only a day or so.
“What did you do during the past two years? You must have had a lot of idle time after you stopped chasing me around.” Ming asked nonchalantly.
Princess stopped eating, glanced up and just replied, “I kept myself busy. Don’t worry. After today, I won’t bother you ever again. So… Ming, you can go back to your quiet private life before we met.”
Coolly Ming crossed his arms over this chest and answered, “Princess, I’d like to part ways immediately also, but I’m one of those particular about debts.”
Bai Qian snorted and replied, “Finally, we seem to have something in common. For what could I possibly be indebted to you?”
“Well, you slept in my bed last night like an inn and the meal you’re having now. I say let’s consider it like bed and breakfast for one night.” He replied casually without a hint of a smile on his face.
She momentarily studied his expression, slowly nodded ‘yes’ in agreement that she understood, reached into her dress and placed down a pearl the size of an acorn on the table. He laughed.
“You set the ground rules yourself that you weren’t here to offer me anything of monetary value. You said you’d only give me mushrooms so, after five pounds, I’ll consider us even.” Ming continued in the same soft, relaxed tone.
Princess boldly put out her hand as if to shake on the deal and answered, “Five pounds of mushrooms it is then. Easy enough. I like your simplicity. Bed and breakfast for five pounds of fungus? No problem.”
He shook her hand to seal the deal, pushed the pearl back towards her and plainly stated, “We’ll start tomorrow. I’ll see you in the morning. It’s time for my nap. I didn’t sleep well last night due to your loud snoring so you can see yourself out.”
“I don’t snore!” Bai Qian half shouted immediately.
Ming was already in his bed. She heard the distinct sound of the bamboo frame shift from his weight when he indifferently replied, “Sure, Sure. We’ll just say you don’t snore if that makes you feel better.”
Bai Qian mumbled under her breath, “I don’t snore. It’s not about saying I don’t, but I absolutely don’t snore!”
He heard her sigh deeply a couple of times, wash her dish in the sink and quietly left. Ming pretended to sleep when he heard her go. He softly chuckled to himself. He didn’t know why he said anything about debt, but at that very moment, he merely wanted to see her again.
Ming was greeted by a vast mountain of wild mushrooms on his front porch the following morning. He was leaving for the day with his bow and arrow and what appeared to be a packed lunch.
Princess sat in her usual place on the steps wearing an off-white dress. He inwardly thought how beautiful she looked, but didn’t display any expressions to give his private thoughts away. She swiftly turned back when he lightly cleared his throat.
She declared in a flat mono-toned voice, “This is more than five pounds, so we’re even. Maybe I’ll see you around in town. Bye.”
He picked up one of the mushrooms, studied it intently and shook his head displeased, “No, these are different than last time. I was referring to the one you threw before you stormed out of my hut. Follow me. I’m hunting on the west side of the mountain, so maybe you’ll find some there.”
Princess snapped back sharply. “You never said it had to be a specific variety!”
She blew out a forced exhale that made her cheeks puff out and spoke, “Fine, just for today, I’ll follow you, but after that, it’s farewell for us.”
Ming’s eyes grew large as he retorted, “As it should be! Do you think I enjoy being bothered by a nuisance? I’m more inconvenienced than you, Princess. Only because I’m a kind and patient person, that I’m able to put up with you.”
He almost burst out laughing when he saw her violently kick a rock by her foot out of frustration. She angrily glared at him and mumbled something that sounded like curse words under her breath, but she begrudgingly followed a few paces behind him.
All day while Ming hunted, Princess stayed closely with him. She carefully inspected the base of all the tree trunks looking for mushrooms. Occasionally she’d hold one up for his inspection. When she saw him shakes his head they weren’t the correct ones, she mumbled under her breath and resentfully side-eyed him with a grumpy grimace on her face. He held back his urge to laugh at her grouchy expressions.
When they stopped for lunch, she asked in a snippy tone that barely concealed her aggravation, “Could you help me out and show me what I’m supposed to be looking for or give me a hint? All the ones I’ve picked today aren’t the ones you want.”
Ming picked up a branch, drew out the shape on the ground. She yelled, “That’s a wild truffle! Those are the rarest and most difficult to find. It will take me months to find five pounds of truffles! Are you insane?”
Indifferently, he shrugged and aloofly replied. “No wonder those mushrooms were so delicious! Who knew? I didn’t know those truffles were so unique and difficult to find. I guess we’ll get to know each other quite well while you fill your quota, Princess.”
Princess exhaled with force, and her cheeks crimsoned with frustration. She dropped her head in straight defeat and exclaimed, “I don’t even remember where I found those that day! Out the many varieties of fungus, it has to be a truffle!”
She complained, “Everything is so complicated with you!”
Swiftly she stopped eating, rose and restarted her search when a sudden rainstorm pelted down on her.
He watched in silent wonder as Princess turned her lovely face upwards towards the falling rain. She closed her eyes, smiled and raised her hands up with both open palms facing up. She appeared astonishing beautiful and left him speechless.
She stayed like that for what seemed like an eternity, and finally came back towards him with a beaming smile on her beautiful wet face. Ming saw her appearance and swiftly dropped his gaze. Her damp, light-colored, drenched dress was now a second skin and entirely transparent.
She exclaimed, “Now I feel clear headed. I’m moving to the other side to look over there.”
Blushing Ming cleared his throat and whispered, “Princess, I think we should head back. You can’t go around looking like that.”
“Like what?” Bai Qian asked as she glanced down at herself.
Her eyes flew wide open mortified and in complete shock. Her gown was stuck on her as if were painted on and her erect nipples were visible. The thinly layered dress glued to her upper thighs. She swiftly covered her breast with her hands, while Ming still politely diverted his gaze sideways so not to look at her.
“I have some clothes you can change into for now. They might be big, but you can wear them while your dress dries. You can’t walk around town looking as you do.” Ming swiftly gathered everything and led the way, while Bai Qian followed behind still covering her breasts with both hands.
Back at the hut, Ming laid out some clothes and swiftly left her alone. He blushed when they walked past each other. After he left the room, Bai Qian peeled off her soaking dress and put on the oversized men’s clothes. She had to roll up the sleeves thrice due to the long length.
Had she been alone, she would have merely used magic to resolve her issue, but Ming was in the other room, so she just complied. She felt silly wearing men’s clothes that were entirely huge on her. So petite, she appeared to be swimming in his robe.
She stepped out of the bedroom to hear Ming declare with a big grin, “Princess, you should have been born a man. You truly look better like this. It’s quite unfortunate you were born a female.”
He spun her around, examined her more closely and nodded that he thought she looked exceptional in men’s attire.
Bai Qian’s eyes narrowed as she angrily glared at this insolent mortal. He’d just told one of the most beautiful women in the immortal world, that she looked better dressed as a boy.
To be continued……….