Training with the courtesans is more difficult than I imagined. Dancing, calligraphy, drinking, smooth talking and playing instruments. All are some of the things they need to know. They are practically scholars with a bad name.
I used to look down on these people. The noble class looks down on them. I was one of them. I looked down on my own mother. I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t make an honest living. Not that this is not honest work, but she couldn’t have found something more appealing to do.
Now I kind of understand her and it make me appreciate my father. If he didn’t took her home, my fate will be as one of these girls. I got all the things I want in the past and the best brother I could’ve wished for. But I’m doubting if my fate will be better as the emperor’s wife. The smallest thing could get me in trouble. Living in the palace is like living in hell. Both are a prison. I understand why they want to break free. I want to break free too. No worries and just live a simple life. But that’s a dream for me now. A beautiful dream that’ll never come true.
I’m now more with the courtesans than with Yun Wen. Since I can’t leave the temple every day, some days they come to the temple. The nuns aren’t that happy that courtesans are coming here. But since a temple is open for everyone they can’t do anything about it.
I learned dancing, dressing myself and learning what she called demure ways. I can’t understand how girls lived. How do they stuff little bites in their mouth and always pretending to be fragile? It’s really hard training those demure ways. My mother wanted to train me but give up half way. Now I don’t even have the chance to learn from her. I used to ignore her, now I regret it. If I could turn back time, I’ll treat her better. If only I could turn back time.
Today is a month ago since I lost Sweet Corn. I sneaked out when everyone was asleep. I went to the river and sat there playing the Pipa. I closed my eyes and immersed myself in the music. Tears were streaming by the time I finished. I felt a hand wiping away my tears. I opened my eyes and saw Yun Wen there. When did he get here? How could he walk without a sound? We just looked at each other without saying anything. I felt that he understood my pain. It’s been days since I last saw him. Yun Wen kept disappearing for length of times. Since I’ve almost mastered The Phoenix Moonlit Dance, I see him less.
I played another song.
“Why are you here?”
“I wanted to see you.”
Usually he’s a flirt, but this time I felt that he meant it.
“I need to go back.”
I stood up and walked away fast.
“Do you still love him?”
I stopped in my tracks. I swallowed.
“There’s no love in my life anymore.”
“You know, you’re bad at lying?”
I kept walking. He’s fast. He’s walking next to me now.
“Don’t cry anymore. I hate seeing y… women cry.”
“Yun Wen, don’t be kind to me. It feels strange if you’re like this. I don’t know how to deal with this Yun Wen. Can’t you just be your playful self?”
“What if this is the real me? I don’t want to act in front of you too.”
I didn’t know what to respond. He’s really a strange man. I can’t seem to get what he’s thinking. I must be stupid because I also don’t get what Xuan Chen is thinking.
Suddenly he pushed me. I was about to yell at him when he fell on the ground. He was breathing heavily.
“Are you alright?”
He didn’t answer and I panicked. I shook him. He felt cold. One of his hands was clutching his foot. Finally I saw the snake head next to his foot. It was so dark that I could barely see it. He seemed to be in a lot of pain. Then I remembered that I’ve read in a book that you need to suck the poison out. I didn’t think twice and began suck the poison out of his foot.
“Are you taking advantage of me?”
I ignored him and try to pull him up. He stood up but fell again on top of me. I tried to push him away but he held onto me.
“Who’s taking advantage of whom? Can you let go, we need to go to the temple so I can bandage you.”
“I can’t walk. My foot hurts like hell. Let’s sleep here.”
“What if more snakes come?”
“I’ll kill them all. Even in this state, I can still kill a few snakes.”
“Then you can sleep here alone.”
I tried to push him again. He pretended to have fallen asleep. Since I can’t move I fell asleep too.
I woke up hearing him calling for his mom. He seemed to be having a nightmare. His forehead was really hot. He was having a fever. I tried to escape from his embrace. But he held me tighter. I could only lay there and hear him babble in his sleep. He kept begging his mother to not leave him. He said that he’ll be a good boy now. He also begged someone to not kill him and his mother. He was moving and sweating a lot.
He suddenly woke up. I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep. He wanted to stand up and realized I was still in his arms. He carefully stood up and went to the river. After while I felt his lips against my cheek. I opened my eyes and slapped him.
He smiled while rubbing his cheek.
“Is this how you treat the sick?”
“This is how I treat perverts.”
He took something out of his pocket and gulped it down with water.
“What is it?”
“Medicine against snake poison.”