報復 Bàofù V: Atonement: Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms Fanfiction 18

Qing Yuan~

We have separated ways from the other travelers. Before parting paths, Ye Hua drew them detailed maps of how to get to the capital and lied our destination was further up northeast to the grasslands, the land of the horses, Mongrol.

Without others as a buffer, there hasn’t been a day of peace within our little group. If there’s such a notion as ‘Love at first sight,’ surely there must be an opposite coequal like ‘Hate at first sight.’

Let me pre-emphasize by stating an indisputable fact that my friend Ye Hua isn’t known for having a warm personality, but he is polite unless it’s a gaggle of fawning women. In that case, he becomes an ice block with legs and is openly abrasive, and I’ve seen many sides of him, but this show of blatant hostility for someone is new to me.

Oh, my Sky Lord in the Heavens, this kind of hatred is rare, but he despises Sujin with genuine zeal, and she likewise loathes him to the same extreme degree. Things get heated. They quarrel and clash over everything, with Qian Qian and I getting dragged in the middle. 

Just the other day, we took refuge under a dense forest of bamboo trees and waited for a sudden rain shower to pass. Qian Qian and Sujin, as girls do, ran to play in the rain when Ye Hua scolded her like an overly protective father, “Qian Qian, you’ll catch a cold.”

“In case you’ve forgotten, it’s summer! Sujin ranted, “The rain is warm and refreshing! It’s hard for her to be cooped up in a wagon all day, and why is it taking so long to reach the Forbidden City?! Fourth Prince, are we lost because of you?” She barked back with her hands firmly planted on her hips in a defensive stance, standing drenched in the pouring rain.

Ye Hua ignored her as if she wasn’t there and countered by declaring like the know-it-all that he is, “This is bear and tiger territory. Dà xióngmāos black and white-furred bears may appear harmless, but would eat a skinny girl like you in a single bite.”

Case and point: Sujin lost that one. Ye Hua’s point held validity, and she stood corrected, but that was only one of their disagreements, and many more would come.

One morning, Ye Hua made his usual breakfast of thick savory congee and had caught a fat young pheasant on his predawn patrol. He suddenly threw a leg into Qian Qian’s bowl from the spit and roasted bird, mumbling as he did, “Nothing but skin and bones. Eat more.”

She saw the poultry leg in her bowl, gasped in sheer horror, turned a shade of sickly green, and almost dropped her bowl until Sujin swooped in and removed the meat. She shoved the warm drumstick intended for Qian Qian into her mouth and scooped, like a mother hen put some of her warm congee into Qian Qian’s bowl, glaring at Ye Hua, her nemesis.

Tearing and chewing the roasted meat between her teeth, Sujin growled in a menacing grumble, “My Qiana doesn’t eat meat. Aya, this fourth Prince is dense.”

Cupping her hands together, she implored the heavens as unswallowed food particles flew from her lips everywhere as she prayed towards the Gods in Celestial Heaven.

“Please, for our little Empress’s sake, let Crown Prince Mo Yuan have more sense than his bird-brained, younger, inferior, mentally and emotionally challenged brother, who is significantly lacking in his male area.”

Dramatically shaking her head at him with false sympathy, Sujin continued to shred Ye Hua with verbal insults, “We saw you taking a bath, and what a shame. Perhaps, you’re still growing. Let us hope that is the case. It was like Ali’s, so small…hardly visible, and we were close.”

Sujin didn’t understand those fighting words, of insulting a man’s nether region was a declaration of war like throwing down a gauntlet that she had tossed out too casually and carelessly, therefore conflict began.

“Coldwater, I’ve seen pigs with better manners than you.” Ye Hua flatly replied without looking at her face.

“At least I have manners, unlike some rude, ignorant people who throw meat into a Buddhist person’s food bowl. So inconsiderate. You should have asked. Qiana is older than you.” Replied, Sujin with a condescending voice full of snark.

Ye Hua snorted, “Same birthdays.”

Qian Qian eagerly piped in after raising her hand, drawing all the attention on her, and nodded. “She’s correct, Ye Hua. I was born actually ninety minutes before you, so technically, Sujin is right. I am ninety minutes older than you that makes me the senior, I’m your Jiejie.”

“You are his Jiejie! Bwahaha!” Sujin repeated after Qian Qian in a blasting tone. The girls giggled and hugged each other, and to this, rolling his narrow slanted eyes, Ye Hua sighed from pure frustration, inhaled, and on his exhale, mumbled. “Ridiculous. Ninety minutes.”

“Here eat the whole thing since your wide backside needs it.” Haphazardly, he flung the cooked poultry into Sujin’s lap the way one would toss scraps at a stray dog.

Qian Qian and I stared at each other with matching shocked expressions. Our eyes saucered, and our jaws dropped in disbelief, gaped mouths, we exchanged the “Oh, no, he didn’t go there?” face. 

The battle intensified. Sujin ridiculed and jeered, “Fourth Prince, Hua Ye,” She often messed with his name intentionally or was mocking Ye Hua since that was the name he came up with when the others were around. “Hua Ye, are you perhaps in love with me? Have you fallen for my beauty because everyone knows bullies only torment those they fancy? And why exactly are you sneaking peeks at my lovely backside?”

“When hell freeze over, demon. I might glance at you once only to confirm your demise.” Ye Hua replied in his monotoned voice, and his tone wasn’t offensive, yet it was outrageously offensive. I had recoiled and cringed at the second-hand burn I felt directly at Sujin. “As for your backside, IT’S BY FORCE. I must endure seeing that massive rear that blocks the sun.”

Sujin’s twisted contorted face turned all shades of pink before reaching a deep red. What she said wasn’t profanities but her tone was blasphemous considering Ye Hua was a Prince, son of the first and legal wife to the current Emperor, “I hate you and your face! Especially your girly voice matches your sissy looks!” She spewed, and her combative insults flew through the air like speeding arrows.

I chuckled and spoke up jovially to defuse the hotly tempered atmosphere, “Everyone, calm down. Let’s settle down. This kind of unfriendly conversation is unnecessary over such a delicious bowl of congee. Aya, I think you and Sujin were cats and dogs in your past lives the way you bicker.”

“I’ve had cats and dogs, and they never fought as Ye Hua and Sujin do,” Qian Qian stated between dainty bites of her porridge.

A thought had suddenly popped into my head that made me grin and laugh so I shouted in jest, “I know! Spouses! You two must have been married in a past life and met again to work out old unresolved grievances.”

Sujin’s eyes turned sideways as she glared at me in a flash and hissed, turning her full anger on me, “Take that back! Yuan’er, I thought we were close friends, but now are you cursing me!? I’d kill myself if I had to marry a jerk like him. I would hang myself on one of these trees at this very moment.”

To this comment, Ye Hua responded, “Now. Let’s bow to heaven and earth instantly.”

After hearing Ye Hua’s sarcastic marriage proposal, Qian Qian’s big round eyes grew wider as tears began to swell. Her bottom lip quivered and she suddenly plopped down her bowl, bolted up, and ran away sobbing. 

“Grrrr! You did it again! You hateful, despiteful, mannerless, feces for brains, I’m the biggest jerk on this planet, Grand Duke Fourth Prince of an outhouse! You made my Qiana cry again!”

“I’m going to pray your tiny sea cucumber of a penis shrinks up like an old eunuch’s privates.”

She threw the emptied and dried gourd shell, her makeshift bowl at him, “I might slit your throat, so sleep with one eye open!” Sujin hollered in Ye Hua’s face before running after Qian Qian, and I inwardly wondered why this trip was taking so long?

Mo Yuan~

Shao

Delay

Safe

Mo Yuan stared at the tiny parchment in his hand. He flipped the small strand of paper between his graceful fingertips before setting it on fire. The message from Ye Hua had come by a carrier pigeon, and it explained why they hadn’t reached the capital yet. His pressing concerns lightened after seeing his brother’s note.

In contemplative meditation, the mala beads of dark bodhi seeds rolled, passing as his thumb firmly pressed against the wood-like balls, rotating them towards himself. He silently offered prayers to the great Buddha for his brother’s safe return since this time of three months was the longest they had ever been apart.

“Your Highness, Imperial Consort’s servant, is here again. She says her mistress is unwell and requested your presence. She is also upset you haven’t flipped her tag to serve you in weeks.” Eunuch Bao’s faint whispery voice still had a childish pitch like a prepubescent boy. Perhaps castration at such a young age was the cause, but it wasn’t unpleasant. If anything, it came off cheerfully and upbeat.

“Illness or in need of physical attention? Have her pick one or the other.” Mo Yuan’s sigh turned into an airy moan of utter exasperation when he exhaled. “Send the royal physician to her residence to secure her health. Remind Imperial Consort Shao that I’m abstaining with profound difficulties and deep temptation from having her and Consort Chung serve me until the end of their first trimester for our children’s safety.”

“Your Highness, it’s not healthy for a man your age to refrain from your nightly release. Would you like me to summon one of the new girls? I hear some of them are quite pretty, agreeable, and talented. Wouldn’t it be a tremendous blessing if another carried with your divine seed and the inner palace became full with pitter-patters of little Princes running around? ” Most politely, Eunuch Bao spoke persuasively while filling Mo Yuan’s teacup.

Such a comment made the serious young Prince chuckle despite his earnest disposition and shake his head, amused, before casually sipping the newly brewed tea presently before him.

“The footfall of children? You visit the harem.” Mo Yuan teased only to have his servant moan his grievance, “Your Highness, that was mean and a low blow. Aya, Eunuch Bao is a eunuch. Your Highness knows this already and is teasing this servant.”

Mo Yuan snorted, laughed aloud, and choked on his tea until the bell tower sounded, ringing steadily. His other servant rushed into his working chamber in utter despair, tripped on his long green eunuch’s garment, collapsed, crumbled to his knees, and cried in grief, “Your Highness, The Emperor… The Emperor has passed. He is gone.”

The massive main gate bell tolled on, and a rush of collective moans, wailing, screams of shock, and cries of lament followed for the recently deceased Emperor. Unbeknownst to Mo Yuan, the new Emperor, royal father’s untimely death spurred a new competition with the highest stakes inside the perfumed inner palace.

The race to give birth to the first imperial heir, preferably a prince who would be looked upon as the auspicious child due to timing after the royal coronation of the new Emperor had commenced. Those who coveted the Empress seat merely needed to give birth to the first son and make sure Bai Qian never reached the Forbidden City alive.

To be continued…