Anyone here like to munch on pumpkin seeds? 🙂
Normal words = present
Slanted words = past, word emphasis and thoughts
The Man and Woman stood speechless, looking over the tombstone that just drifted ashore. There was slight movement inside the box and the young woman’s eyes fluttered open. When the afternoon, sun’s glare shone on her face, she squeezed her eyes shut again before shivering.
The Woman gave the Man a doubtful look before placing a small hand on the princess’ frail shoulder and shook it gently .
“My Chau?” She asked softly near her ear. The princess’ eyes unfolded wide almost immediately when she heard the familiar voice of the Woman and she shot her upper body up.
“My lady?!” She asked, staring at the Woman amazed. Her ruler gave her a weak smile.
“How are you feeling?” She asked. My Chau did not answer and looked around, perplexed. Her eyes then landed on the Man who looked back at her silently.
“Where am I?” She finally asked.
Fear was beginning to cross her eyes when realization that she suddenly woke up in the middle of nowhere in a strange tomb with her lady’s and the master of the Northern nation’s eyes on her with nobody else in sight. She could not remember clearly the sequence of events that happened prior to her awakening.
“You are at the beach, in a coffin that came from beneath the ocean.” The Man answered slowly and literally.
“. . . .” My Chau stared stiffly.
The Woman wanted to slap her forehead at his abrupt explanation that could make anyone pass out from a heart attack. She shot him an annoyed scowl.
As his words registered in My Chau’s head, she jolted from her shock.
“How is that even possible? How?!” She desperately tried to get out of the tomb, but from centuries of lack of leg usage, she readily fell over. The white lily flowers decorated on her black hair was scattered all over the place. Both the Man and Woman held on to her before she could crash her face into the sand.
The Woman tried to find Kim Qui, but the mysterious turtle was nowhere to be found.
“My Chau, calm down.” She tried to sooth her princess to no avail. Her own heart was beating rapidly itself. “Do you remember anything before you came to be in this tomb?”
“No…” My Chau shook her head quickly. Her eyes were wide with fright and confusion. The Woman licked her lips and went into deep thought. Apparently, My Chau is not fully aware that she is dead and that this is only her lifeless body talking. Which is only natural. The reason as to why Zhao Shi and his wife are brought back from the dead, both her and the Man have yet to unwind.
But how could she break it to My Chau that she is no longer alive? The poor girl is already scared witless enough. She peeked at the Man and mouthed, What do we do now?
He got the Woman’s message and took My Chau’s hands in his palms lightly.
“I think you should come with us back to our little hideout. We will explain everything gradually after you have your rest, your highness.” He said quietly. His mild words seemed to appease the princess a little and she gave a small nod.
Back at the cave, the Man told My Chau everything that has happened ever since the Woman’s arrival in his country. However, he left out the fact that she was technically a living corpse. On the way back to the cavern hideout, he figured it was best to have the princess of Yuenan remember things one by one until she learns about the rest on her own. Revealing so many things at once was probably not a good idea in her state of mind.
Of course My Chau did not believe everything at first. Everything was just too unexpected and at times, impossible to even occur, but she knew neither the Woman and the Man liked to joke around. But she could not help, but find the whole entire thing absurd and left to sit on her own for a moment.
The Man let her be and went out the cave to hunt and collect more firewood.
While My Chau processed the spoken words, the Woman cooked dinner from the scraps that were packed for the journey. After a while, she got up and sat by the Woman and stared into the flames inaudibly.
The Woman gave the princess a little look before she went back to her stirring.
“My Chau, tell me something. Do you remember anything before you got here?”
“Not really. I remember dreaming about something, but now, anything I try to collect is in a haze.” She answered uneasily. My Chau frowned as she hit her head a couple of times, hoping any recollection would suddenly pop inside her mind.
“Do you remember who you are?” The Woman asked encouragingly. My Chau lighted up at this a bit.
“Yes, my lady. I am called My Chau, princess of Yuenan and daughter of King An Duong Vuong. I have one younger sister and one older brother. My husband is…” She trailed off at the last part and a strange light rushed to her face.
“Zhao Shi…” She whispered the name and looked down to the ground. Her eyes looked at somewhere not currently present in front of her.
“Where is he? Where is my husband? Why haven’t I seen him?” My Chau began to ask and stood up to look outside the cave. The Woman got up as well and tried to press My Chau down to sit again.
“He isn’t here.” She said quickly. She made note to keep an eye on the princess at all times in case she ran off spontaneously on her own.
“Your husband said he had some errands to attend and will not be back until several days later.”
My Chau frowned at this and her eyes darkened.
“He would rather do some silly business rather than see me after such a long time?” She demanded irritably and crossed her arms across her chest. The Woman laughed uncomfortably.
“Actually, he was searching everywhere for you. Zhao Shi pleaded to us very well to help him look for you when he was injured. He will be back soon. The reason why he left us today seemed really urgent.” She remarked. My Chau huffed, but did not say anymore.
The Woman noticed her eyes softened up a bit.
The Man returned and all three people ate their dinner in silence. My Chau fell asleep quickly once she was done helping the Woman with the dishes.
Once the princess, was in deep slumber, the Woman crept towards My Chau’s bedding and sat across from her in meditation form.
“What do you think you are doing, if I may ask?” The Man asked, amused from his corner.
“I am trying to look into her dreams to find any reminisces I could find of her past. We might get some leading answers this way.” She whispered back quickly.
Since both the Woman and Man are created by supernatural and heavenly essences from the beginning of time to be the soul masters of their countries, they were provided with many inexplicable powers the day they were born. Among the many gifts, immortality and the ability to dive into their people’s minds, dreams and characters were a few. But this is only something they can do with their own citizens. The Man cannot automatically know the minds of the Woman’s people if he wished to do so.
He furrowed his black brows slightly at this, “Even so, is that not invading her privacy?”
The Woman scoffed and rolled her eyes contemptuously at the Man.
“As if you do not use shady methods as well to get your way.”
~ ~ ~ ~
Princess My Chau was born to a family of five. The number five turned into a four when her late mother died when her youngest child was born. My Chau had two siblings; her older brother, Prince Anh Dung and her younger sister, Princess Khanh Chau. The ruler of Au Lac at that time was King An Duong Vuong, their father.
The royal family had a very good reputation within their country. They were renown for their just and fairness over their people, courage in dire times and prowess in fighting. However, there was no one that could possibly be that perfect. The people of Au Lac only had a few bad impressions of the royal family and one of them was the middle child, Princess My Chau.
Of the two sisters, My Chau was the more beautiful one. While she was the most beautiful in the land of her time, Khanh Chau was much more virtuous and intelligent.
Famous for her alluring good looks, My Chau was spoiled, impudent and had a horrible temper as she often got what she wanted from any person that crossed paths with her. Men adored her and she reveled in it. Women detested her.
Instead of spending her time studying royal, academic materials and martial arts, she was out playing with her maids everyday and bought new silken dresses and accessories every chance she got.
Her family was not blind to the middle princess’ overindulged behavior. Unfortunately, King An Duong Vuong was too engaged in running the country and with the war against their Northern neighbor, too busy with his soldiers out in the battlefield. Prince Anh Dung, the heir to the throne, gave up on his pampered younger sister over time and focused on his studies instead.
One morning, the first thing My Chau said when she woke up was:
“Maid!” She screamed as she wiped the sleep out of her eyes. A girl, about fifteen dressed in plain, pink robes, came scurrying in with a perpetually, fretful expression on her pretty face.
“You need something, my lady?” She asked quickly. My Chau got out of her mattress and the maid hastily fixed the blankets and pillows neatly.
“Is my bath ready?” The princess asked. She looked at the maid as she organized and cleaned a few things in My Chau’s room. It would seem her female servant was working more briskly than normal today.
Strange. What is that little floozy in a hurry for?
“Yes, my lady.” Was the faint reply.
My Chau heard a shout and a loud crash sound behind her. Twisting her head around, she prepared to yell and demean the little maid.
On the ground was a clay cup flipped upside down. White, face powder spilled all over the floor. The maid was already down on all fours, earnestly cleaning up the mess she created.
“How can you be so careless?” The princess berated. “That powder cosmetics was a special gift from my favorite aunt!”
“I am extremely sorry, my lady. I was reckless. It will not happen again.” The maid bowed her head on the ground profusely while her body trembled. She would surely get a painful beating now.
My Chau attempted to reign her hands back. She sorely wished to cuff the ears of the maid, but even she did not hold as much power as it is to be believed. If her older brother or father caught her using violence as she pleased around the palace, she would get struck as well.
“You better clean up every last bit of that powder or I will tell the palace guards to whip you.” My Chau bit out. The maid nodded her head and kept her eyes on the ground.
“Hmph. I have noticed you are being more absentminded these past few days. Do you have nothing inside that head of yours now or are you hiding something from me?” My Chau demanded. Unwilling, to let the maid clean with peace of mind.
The female servant’s body stiffened in the midst of gathering powder and she nervously shifted her eyes.
“I-I am not hiding anything from you, your highness.”
My Chau glared at the maid for a long minute.
“Fine. Is my bath still warm?” She snapped.
“Well, put some flower petals in the tub. I want to come out with extra fragrance today. I have an important visit with the high general of Ha Gian later.”
My Chau’s beautiful dark eyes softened dreamily when the word high general left her mouth. Minh was his name. He came from a wealthy, respectable family with a background of being well-sought after from many ladies of her country. The general left a very gentlemanly impression on My Chau when he came to have tea with the royal family the other day.
Minh was smart, well-read, skilled in a variety of arts and handsome. My Chau thought he was the perfect match for her and perhaps, he will ask for her hand today.
She began to undress and stepped inside the bath house.
A different maid came in to adorn a bright, new outfit on My Chau after her bath, and then left to let the princess eat the hearty breakfast brought to her.
The sound of a woman’s muffled groaning continued from a place nearby as My Chau stepped into the palace’s personal library. The middle princess was quietly embroidering a piece of cloth by herself in a room nearby when she coincidentally heard the maddening noise.
This time, the voice sounded very male.
My Chau felt her stomach get tingly and her head heated up. She marched over to the sound behind the storage closet within the back of the little library and yanked the doorknob open.
Two shocked faces squarely faced her own stunned one. The strange noise faded in the air.
The woman who had her skirt pulled up above her waist with her body squeezed between the legs of a male servant was no other than the maid who spilled the face powder in My Chau’s bedroom.
My Chau paid no mind to her maid’s startled voice. Her eyes went from the two palace servants’ faces to their current unseemly and scandalous body positions. The young maid saw and turned a deep shade of red from extreme humiliation and shame and immediately left the space between the man’s legs for him to sit their dazedly with his lower parts unclothed.
She immediately went to her knees and kowtowed to the princess.
My Chau’s astounded embarrassment turned into fury. She was not too certain why she was so angry, but the thought of the possible reason as to why the maid was in such a hurry when cleaning up her room was something like this…two lowly servants involving themselves in this tryst…
It annoyed her. It was difficult to explain, but it really did irritated her.
Without a word of warning, My Chau used her long fingernails to grab the maid’s right ear to pull her body up to throw her to the ground again.
The man’s voice shouted out and he crouched over to the maid’s curled up body. She shouted faintly in pain.
“How dare you.” My Chau spat. Her crossed eyes trailed over to the male servant. He looked like someone she knew who worked in the kitchen.
“You,” She pointed her finger to the young man’s head. “I suddenly feel like eating pumpkin seeds. Go fix it for me to eat while I practice my embroidery.”
The male servant swallowed the thick saliva in his throat and silently glared at My Chau for a bit before disappearing to bring back the pumpkin seeds. She was ignorant to the look he gave her.
“Your highness. Please forgive me. Please do not tell the King and the crown prince. I beg you!” Lanlan, the name My Chau finally remembered was the maid’s, called out from beneath her feet.
My Chau stepped away from the maid’s grasp and sneered down at her.
“You dare to sneak out with that servant for one of your meetings while you are under my service?” She questioned. Lanlan could only stare at the coddled princess helplessly.
At this time, the male servant came back with a little, brown sack of pumpkin seeds and handed it to My Chau. She could not believe her eyes as she stared at the sack handed to her.
Her eyes went up to the man.
“Where are the seeds I ordered?” She demanded. He looked confused.
“These are the pumpkin seeds you ordered, your highness.”
My Chau’s lips curved up maliciously. Words cannot describe her outrage at that moment. She gently took the sack and to Lanlan and the young man’s stagger, she poured all the seeds from the brown bag on his head.
One by one, each seed hit the ground and fell all over the floor of the library.
“My lady, what are you doing?!” The female maid exclaimed, horrified.
“Apparently, this stupid kitchen servant you were consorting yourself with earlier does not know how to serve his superiors the correct way. I am a princess. When I ask for something, it is supposed to be served to me delicately with etiquette. Including some simple pumpkin seeds that should have been cleaned and laid out on a white, porcelain plate. This is such common sense, I ought to fire you both!”
She threw the empty sack into their direction.
“Why, you spoiled little b-” This time, the kitchen servant stuttered indignantly, but Lanlan quickly covered his mouth and turned her head to look at My Chau worriedly praying that she did not catch on to the last word.
Luckily, she did not. My Chau might be educated in specific areas that is fundamental to being royalty, but she was not particularly intelligent nor sharp. It had been mentioned before that her only strong point was her pretty face.
“Pick up every last seed before you even think of leaving the room.” She ordered the young man.
“What is going on in here?” Another male voiced entered. Everyone turned to see My Chau’s brother, the crown prince. He was garbed in elegant, red robes with all his black hair up in a little bun at the very top of his head.
My Chau let out an annoyed sigh. This was entirely the lowly servants’ fault. She better not be getting any bothersome lectures for this.
“Anh Dung, you are finally here to help me.” She said boredly. The crown prince raised an eyebrow at this.
“Help you? You do not look like you are in need of any help, little sister. As for the other two next to you…” He moved his eyes to the rumpled and sorry looking forms of Lanlan and the new, young cook, Luu.
Seeing the protective and loving look in Luu’s eyes when he looked at the maid, the prince can pretty much sum up the relationship between the two.
He can also guess why his little sister would be upset over this. With her abrasive personality, despite her looks, not many men were willing to stay with her for long, and so it was not surprising if her life lacked a lot of genuine love. It did not help that their family were always busy with their own responsibilities.
It was not just about the ill-prepared pumpkin seeds. He thought as he looked at the little brown seeds spread out on the ground.
Their parents’ middle child had seriously been spoiled for way too long.
“Luu, I understand you are a new cook here in the palace. Am I mistaken?” Anh Dung asked the male servant.
“You are not mistaken, my lord.” Luu answered obediently.
“Tell me your age.”
“I am turning twenty in a few weeks, sir.”
Anh Dung nodded and turned to Lanlan.
“Has what has been going on between you and him occurred for a while now?” He asked her gently as he helped her up.
“Yes, my lord. We are planning to marry by the end of this year when everything settles down.” The maid replied gratefully.
“Then I can only congratulate you both. You both may leave.”
The two servants said their thank yous and left the library. My Chau looked on in a huff and made her way to leave as well, but Anh Dung’s hand landed on her shoulder to pull her back a bit forcefully.
“Pick up every last seed before you even think of leaving the room.” He said simply and went out the door in an unhurried stride.