(Chen Xiao as Zhu Zhan Ye*) (Liu Shi Shi as Yu Zhu*) (Hu Ge as Xu Long Hui*)
*actors I would like to see play the characters in my novel
“Yu Zhu!” Lin Yu ran in her multicolored silk scarves trailing her like gentle mist, “I heard from the horse thieves that you’ve gone and gotten on some young lord’s bad side?” She sat down and gulped a cup of tea, “I ran out of the dance house as soon as I heard the news!”
Yu Zhu sighed as she carefully stiched gold silk into a creamy white handkerchief, “Some silly little lord came to trouble me.” Yu Zhu frowned, “I can’t be sure, but I think he was the one chasing me the other night. I tried to make him leave by being rude, but that only made him mad. So he made some stupid little challenge.” Yu Zhu rolled her eyes, “I hope he’s rich enough to steal from” She smiled wickedly, “I’ll know more by tomorrow, I guess.”
“That’s men for you.” Lin Yu sighed, “Sometimes they’re so thick, I wonder if their head is only made of bone and nothing else.” Yu Zhu laughed, and Lin Yu said eagerly, “If he’s making trouble for you, I’ll bite his head off.”Lin Yu’s serpent tongue flickered out as the skin on her hands turned into light white scales. She twirled, and twenty scarves rose in the air, “Have no fear, with as wonderful snake demon like me by your side, we can get this done in no time.”
“Lin Yu, stop.” Yu Zhu ordered sternly, “We’re suppose to be keeping a low profile, which means no magic. If any taoist priests or monks senses your magic, they’ll kill you on sight”
“Let them come.” Lin Yu said haughtily, “I’m more than a match for them.”
Yu Zhu said nothing, but in the silence was the truth. Lin Yu’s aunt had been imprisoned by a powerful monk, both girls were weary of what might happen if Lin Yu’s true identity was discovered.
“Not a lot of people believe in ghosts and demons in this age, and most would scream at the first sign of supernatural beings.” Yu Zhu warned her, “What would Zhu Hao think if you turned into a snake?”
“he’d probably laugh as if he imagined the whole thing.” Lin Yu muttered, but she too wondered if he would turn against her. Lin Yu crouched by Yu Zhu, “But how can you make a hundred handkerchiefs in the night?”
Yu Zhu smiled, “It’s fine, I would never make a promise I couldn’t keep.” She got up and opened a drawer, inside were eighty or so fine handkerchiefs already sewn, the gold thread gleaming in the candlelight.
Lin Yu gasped, “When did you do these?” Yu Zhu shrugged, “I couldn’t sleep. So I sewed, it was comforting.”
Lin Yu looked at Yu Zhu sadly, “Is it because you miss Wei Yun?.” Lin Yu’s eyes clouded, “I get sad too, sometimes I wonder how elder brother is doing.” She sighed and then smiled, “But they said only a few years, and then we’ll get to see them. Everything will be fine. So stop being sad.”
Yu Zhu put on a smile, it felt her face hurt, “I’m not sad.” Then her eyes sparkled, “I’m going to make someone very miserable though.” Lin Yu nodded eagerly, “In that case, i would love to help.”
Yu Zhu shook her head, “The last time you helped me embroider, you sewed three dressed together, please don’t help.”
Lin Yu pouted, “I can only learn if you let me.”
Yu Zhu rolled her eyes, “That stuck up young lord will probably make me a servant for life if I can’t deliver these by tomorrow, I’ll teach you next time my life isn’t on the line.”
Lin Yu smiled, “If he know who you really were, you would turn his life upside down in an instant.”
Yu Zhu shook her head as she stitched another delicate butterfly, “you make me sound like trouble.”
Lin Yu cackled, “We’re the most famous thieves in the country right now, what else do you think we are if not trouble?”
Zhan Ye started the map of the kingdom, his fingers tracing the blue dots, “First the mountains of the north.” He muttered, “And the south eastern region, and now Bei XIng.”
“Young master,” Bao Lu bowed as he came in, “It’s time for dinner.” He lead the young man into the simple yet elegant dining room. His personal silver chopstick were placed at the table. “I’ve checked the foods already, they are safe.” Zhan Ye nodded still preoccupied with a thought.
“He’s been getting bolder and bolder.” Zhan ye said as he sat down, “The midnight thief started with little towns but he’s been moving east to the bigger cities and towards the war.” Zhan Ye smiled without humor, “If he keeps going east, perhaps I will go back to battle after all.” Zhan Ye glanced at Bao Lu and sighed, “You’ve been my old friend since we were young. I want to hear what you think. Sit.” After a intial moment of hesitation, Bao Lu bowed and sat down.
“Your elder brother won’t like you going towards the war.” Bao Lu said as he poured wine for his master, “He doesn’t want you near the battles.”
“The war is winding down.” Zhan Ye replied, “The Emperor of Dian doesn’t have enough resources to keep going.”
“Neither do we.” Bao Lu sighed, “What do you think will happen?”
Zhan Ye took a sip of the ice cold wine, “What always happens when two powerful empires fight to a standstill, they forge an alliance through marraige.”
“We can hardly give any of our princesses to that cursed Emperor.” Bao Lu frowned, “Xu Long Hui’s wives die as as soon as they marry him.”
Zhan Ye grinned jokingly “We could also always give him He Yi, she would probably kill him before he gets a chance to kill her.”
Bao Lu coughed awkwardly, “Princess He Yi is not only beautiful, but she is also an accomplished young woman, you shouldn’t talk like that about your future wife. Even if the announcement hasn’t been made, she’s still someone who will be very important to your future.”
Zhan Ye put his head in his hands, “I’d rather talk about something less of a headache,” He shook his head as if to clear a bothersome thought, “let’s talk about the midnight thief instead” Bao Lu grinned a little, “We’ll have to return home once you catch the thief.” He looked at his master and remarked, ” Sometimes I think you want this chase to continue as long as you can.” Zhan Ye picked up his chopsticks, “Let’s eat. we have a lot to do tomorrow.”
The Dian Kingdom
Xu Long Hui sat on the golden throne, though he was still handsome, there were a few silver strands in his hair. It was a startling contrast to his coal black eyes, as he was no older than thirty. He looked out the window, towards the Princess’s pavilion. Tonight the demoness who lived in his heart slept, tonight he could go see her.
“Your majesty. The battles are at a standstill. We can not win, nor can they. Harvest time is almost upon us. What should we do?” The old advisor looked at the Emperor who said nothing. Xu Long Hui got up without a word and walked out. His feet carried him past the Empress’s pavilion, which was decorated with pale white silk, signifying the death of his third empress. He walked past the silent pavilions that were suppose to hold his concubines, but since he didn’t have any, these empty palaces were meaningless. He walked towards the glittering princess pavilion, where long ago a little girl lived and laughed. He had destroyed that too,
Hua Er stood in underneath the linden trees, her eyes turned to the stars. Xu Long Hui silently waved the attendants away. For a moment, he enjoyed the silent warmth of her presence, it seemed like an ember to his cold skin.
“Your imperial majesty,” Hua Er bowed gracefully, her pale lavender robes billowed around her slim figure. He came over, there was a hint of a smile on his lips, “Hua Er, we are two old friends. I’ve told you, you never have to use any formality with me.” Hua Er straightened too but did not answer, Xu Long Hui looked up into the sky, “were you thinking of Yu Zhu again?”
“It’s been five years.” Hua Er said, “Every night I come out here and wonder if she’s looking up at the stars. I wonder, perhaps, if she still hates me, as she should” Hua Er’s voice quivered, “Or may she’s forgotten about me.” She cleared her throat and smiled at Xu Long Hui, “Have you been well?” They both could not bring themselves to admit that Xu Long Hui looked tired and sick, the battle with the demoness had taken a great toll on him.
He nodded, a lie that both of them could see through.
“As long as i get to see you once every few months, I am more than content.”
Hua Er could not help it, she felt the tears slide down her cheeks and fall onto the cold granite walk, “I am sorry i can not do more to help.” She sighed, “Hong Yan Su’s ambitions have grown. You’re wasting away as we speak” Hua Er felt angry with herself, “And here I live, like a useless, decorative flower.”
Xu Long Hui shook his head, “My late father adopted you in thanks for all you have done for us.” He took a silk handkerchief from his pocket and gave it to her, “He made you a princess so that I could protect you, look after you, and find you a good family to marry.”
Hua Er shook her head, “I’m not marrying anyone. I’ll be by your side.”
Xu Long Hui looked into her heart shaped face and felt a pain far worse than anything the Demoness could give him, “I won’t be here for long. She became too greedy for power, too ambitious for strength. She’s dying. Perhaps I will last another year or so before she drags me to the grave.”
He looked at her apologetically, “I don’t know if Yu Zhu can ever come home.” But a light of hope came to his eyes, “However, I intend to keep you safe, should the empire fall.”
Hua Er looked into his eyes and put a hand on his heart. Xu Long Hui didn’t back away, he closed his eyes and felt the warmth of her hand through the layers of silk. “Yes” She smiled sadly, “It’s almost time.” Xu Long Hui looked at her, not comprehending her words, but just enjoying the moments he had with her. Reluctantly he stepped away from her. “I can’t have her knowing about you.” He said as he backed away from her. “She’s killed too many already.” He sighed bitterly, “She killed all those innocent women I’ve been forced to marry for the sake of the country. I too, am a monster.”
Hua Er looked at the self hatred written on his face and closed the gap between them. She laid a hand on his cheek, “She can’t hurt me, You only come here when she’s asleep. She doesn’t even know I exist.”
Xu Long Hui was stunned at her gesture and said almost as if to himself, “I thought I wasn’t able to feel again. Why? Why is it like this when I’m with you.” He needed to move away, but a strange sweetness overtook his soul, it immobilized him.
Gently, hesitantly, he slipped an arm around her waist. With her head on his shoulder, Xu Long Hui felt a feeling that he knew had been creeping back into his body ever since the first time he touched her hands. He sighed, this was the moment he wanted to live in forever.
He closed his eyes and savored the sweet smell of Hua Er’s fragrant scent. She smiled tenderly at him, “One day, it will be me protecting you.”