Shao Qing Yuan~
If the Bai family motto is ‘Battle Born and Born to Defend.’ The Shao family motto would be, ‘What a bunch of pretentious phonies! Those Bai bastards aren’t anything special or flawless as they seem. If we dig deep enough, we’ll find some dirt on them. Pure white as their name, my ass! I bet they keep only one wife because they prefer men!’
My father detests Lord Bai with a genuine passion. He curses his fellow minister every night and day, wishing misfortune to befall upon their entire clan. If there was an opponent God to the God of War, I’m positive. I’d bet my life on it. My bitter father would set up a golden shrine and pray to him to strike down the Bais’ morning, noon, and night.
It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when my father and Lord Bai were close as brothers. They attended the same academy, same classes, and scholars known for their highly insightful strategic intelligence. They were very similar in several ways except for their physical abilities.
Lord Bai was born on the battleground and fit as a finely tuned instrument. He began his training as soon as he could walk, mastered all forms of martial arts, and had already experienced bloody battles standing beside his General father, uncles, brothers and cousins when he was eleven years old. They say he picked up his first weapon, the spear, before he could even speak. Oppositely, my father has always been a bit portly due to his excessive love for food and drink. He has never mastered anything physical, let alone anything remotely related to martial arts, and the sight of blood makes him faint.
The two men, regardless of their physical differences, remained close friends until the Mongol invasion. For the first time, my father and Lord Bai firmly stood opposite ends with vastly different opinions on the matter. My father recommended sending one of the princesses to create a blood bond for peace through marriage. Lord Bai countered, saying Ming’s imperial princesses were not pawns, and there was a time to show one’s true strength and a time to settle peacefully. If the Emperor granted a princess this time, what would they demand the next, the Empress, and after that, would they covet the throne?
The Emperor took Lord Bai’s advice, and our army led by Commander Bai Zhi drove the Mongol invaders back without lives loss or many casualties. As a reward for his excellent service and merits, the Emperor bestowed the newly promoted general his favorite cousin, beautiful Princess Meixie, to become his wife, unaware my shy father had been in love with her all his life.
Since that fine day, the Shao family motto became, ‘What a bunch of pretentious phonies! Those Bai bastards aren’t anything special or flawless as they seem. If we dig deep enough, we’ll find some dirt on them. Pure white as their name, my ass! I bet they keep only one wife because they prefer men!’
One would think over the years that hatred would dissipate but what’s that theory cause and effect? Maybe his hatred went right into my sister because she was far away in another country, but in our household, Bai Qian’s name became synonymous with enemy ever since my sister saw Crown Prince Mo Yuan.
My sister was five when she decided she wanted to become his legal wife, the Crown Princess, regardless of the Emperor’s decree. As Wan’er’s desire grew stronger every year, mysterious Bai Qian seemed to grow larger than life along with my sister’s will to take her down like an evil force in need of eradication. Yet this little princess isn’t what I expected. Innocence exudes from her every pores. I would go as far as to say the energy she puts out is the opposite of Wan’er.
She’s been unconscious for nearly three days, and the fever has taken hold, currently ravaging her exhausted body. Looking at this tiny mass of a body collapsed, defeated from unfathomable sorrow and broken-hearted, it’s frustrating that I can’t do anything to ease her suffering.
Colorless…she’s ghost white, long black sweat-drenched hair all a mess in her face. Weak, broken, drowning dressed in men’s attire four sizes too large yet still manages to shine like a diamond. My sister might go insane when she finally meets her adversary face to face and realize the rumors about her uncomely appearance were all fabricated.
Foolhardy Wan’er danced around the weeks after hearing she was ugly. Ha! It serves her right for having such an obnoxious heart Bai Qian isn’t homely, ordinary, or unpleasant. Far from, even in her sickest state, she’s the most beautiful female I’ve ever set my sights on, so imagine her dressed up in full regale. The harem women are going to go into a bloody frenzy.
Call me a traitor, but I’d like to watch this girl beat the ‘great high and mighty, self-obsessed, I-love-admiring-my-reflection-all-day Shao Wan,’ but she needs to regain her strength if they are going to duke it out in a battle of wits for control of the harem properly.
“Ye Hua, I think we need to find a physician for Bai Qian. Her coloring looks terrible. At this rate, I fear, we’ll be delivering a corpse instead of escorting a bride-to-be.”
Ye Hua is anxious too. He hasn’t voiced it, but I know his expressions all too well. “I agree. I’ve sent Sujin ahead to search for a village in hopes of finding a physician or healer. Anyone. Where the hell are we going to find someone to help her in this damn remote forest? Why didn’t you study medicine in school!?” He yells at me, and I know it’s nothing personal but fear of failure. He’s worried sick that he won’t be able to deliver his future sister-in-law safely.
“Ying’er, I don’t think you should leave Nine Heavens while father and mother are away,” Changchang whined while carefully peeling tangerine’s skin into flowers and butterfly shapes, then feeding Yingpei the mandarin slices one piece after the other.
Her voice was sharp and blunt as usual. “It’s Thursday. I always visit the mortal realm on Thursdays. Mother, father, and Uncle Mo Yuan’s trial has nothing to do with me.” She shoved bottles of healing tonics and elixirs into her carrying bag and murmured, “I’m still going to live my life as I’ve been doing all along. As long as I don’t use my magic as fath…” Changying’s voice faltered momentarily, “As Uncle Mo Yuan instructed. No foul, no harm. I use only human medicines to alleviate their suffering, and I’ll stick to remote areas where medical aid is impossible to find or non-existent in my usual places.”
On her toes, Changying speedily spun around, peered down over her nose at her twin and little Yingpei, whose facial features were changing daily, looking more like their mother. “Don’t worry about me messing things up. You, stop feeding poor Yingpei. He’s stuffed but too polite to complain. I need to get away from everyone here for a few hours for my sanity’s sake.” She said before vanishing into the mortal realm on the first cloud that passed by.
To be continued…