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 To Henan

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I was still in daze when someone knocked on my door. It was the Devil.
“:Are you alright?,” he asked while looking at me strangely.

“What are you staring at?!”

“Come down. After eating breakfast we’ll be going.”

Lian Er helped me change. If I see him again, he’ll see what I’ll do to him. How dare he stole my first kiss? I’ve imagined multiple times how it’ll be. But never this.

“Why is there only one handkerchief now? I remember clearly that I packed three.”

“I lost them.”

“You lost not one but two?”

I glared at her.

While eating porridge I remember that I don’t even know little Thief’s and the Devil’s name.

“What is your name, little Thief?”

He looked at me with his puppy eyes.

“I’m an orphan. I don’t have a name.”

“From now on your name is Hei Tou (black bean). It’s my favorite bean and easy to remember.”

He doesn’t seem to like it.

“Let’s call him Xuan Ye,” said the Devil.

“I’ll call him what I like. What’s your name?”

“Xuan Chen.”

“Oh, you give him your family name.”

I didn’t know at the time that that wasn’t his family name.

“If someone ask, say that’s he’s my little brother.”

“He can also be your son.”

“Do you want to be the mother then? We can pass as a family.”

Hei Tou’s eyes seem misty.

“I’ve never had a family. I don’t even know who my parents are. I’m so happy now that you’ll be my parents.”

I was about to say that we were kidding. But I saw Xuan Chen shook his head.

“We’ll be your parents till this journey ends. Let’s go buy your some clothes. My son needs to be the most handsome son in the world.”

“Don’t you want to know my name?”

“Nah, why would I want your name?”

I really want to strangle him. He really gets on my nerves.

“You need to at least know your wife’s name. My name is Chen Meng You. That’s my maid Lian Er.”

I’m really unlucky. How did I become a mom without getting married? My first kiss was stolen by a stranger. Thinking about the kiss, I touched my lips. So this is what a kiss feels like. It wasn’t as nasty as I thought. It even felt nice. I shook my head. What am I thinking? I hope I’ll never see that bastard again. How dare he?

“Can you ride a horse?”

“Of course.”

“We need to buy a horse, too. You own me pretty much now. Do you have the means to repay it?”

I glared at him. But my glare doesn’t work on him as it works on Lian Er. So hateful.

After buying all the things we need, we went to Henan. Henan is a three day ride from here. He is really rich. He didn’t even blink when he was paying for the horse. He bought a nice black horse for me. I and Lian Er sat on a horse, he and Hei Tou on another black horse. And his servant on a white one. He and Hei Tou really looked like father and son. Looking at them, I remembered when I was little my father used to taught me horse-riding. He was the best father. When did he become like now? He doesn’t even think about my feelings anymore. I was the pupil of his eyes. Now power is the first place in his heart. I’m a pawn now.
“Why didn’t you bargain with the seller? It’ll be much cheaper.”

“He was in need of money. That’s why he sold his best horse. If you can help someone, why not do it?”

“Helping is good. But you’re practically being ripped off.”

“I don’t see it that way. He chose the right way to earn the money he needed. He could’ve chosen the bad way. That little money is a gift to him for choosing the right way.”

“You call that little money? Besides people rob others because they don’t have money. Hei Tou’s the same. He was hungry. What can he do but rob? The rich rob form the poor and the poor rob from the poor. The current king needs to watch his officials better. There are so many corrupt officials. The ones who is suffering are the peasants.”

“You think you know politics so well? What if he’s a king but the power is in those officials’ hands. What can he do if his hands are tied? The money that I give him wasn’t that much.”

“A king who can’t control his officials is a useless king, no matter what reason. What do you do that you’ve gotten so much money to spend? You don’t seem to be the working type. Your hands are too smooth. Your clothes are of simple pattern but the fabric is expensive. You must be a son of a very rich guy. Since you’re so rich, you must’ve a house in the capital. Why are you staying at an inn? Did you run away from home.“

He blushed.

“You can say that my father is very rich.”

“What are we doing in Henan.”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing? Why are we going then?”

“I just want to see more of the world before taking over the business from my father.”

“So you do business. I want to see more of the world too before marrying that pig.”

“Pig?”

“He stays all day in his grand home. Pampered to death. What can he do beside eating and sleeping?”

“Who the hell are you marrying, that’s so useless?”

“I wish I know. I’ve seen him once when I was little. He was a pig then. He only knows how to eat. He must be the same now.”

“People change.”

It’s not that I never have wondered what the prince will be like now. When I was seven, I saw him. I went with my father in the palace. He was ten, I think. All the other princes were sitting there studying. He was sitting there eating. I keep wondering why the king has appointed him to be the crown prince. Maybe he did change. Will he like me? Will I like him? It’s not that he needs to like me. In the palace there are three thousand women for the king to pick. When he becomes king, he’ll surely take a concubine. And I will be sitting in my room, like all the other concubines, waiting for him to come. How can a king have so many women? Some he didn’t see in years. Will I become one of those women? If I’m unfaithful I’ll be beheaded or I’ll be send to the cold palace. Why can a man have many wives and a woman can’t have many husbands? It’s so unfair.

“You’re feet aren’t bound.”

“What if they aren’t?”

“They’re beautiful.”

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Comments: Feet binding was a practice in China in the 10th en 11th centuries for court dancers. But it became common for all classes except the lowest class. Sometimes even the lowest class do it, to get themselves a husband. Small feet was the fashion. Kangxi emperor tried to ban it, but was unsuccesful. It was the fashion. I can’t imagine how it’ll hurt. Even now women go to extreme ways to get beautiful. I’m happy that Xuan Chan find her feet beatiful.

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