Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Fiction: The Princess Who Cannot Marry (Chapter 2)



   Happy Chinese New Year Eve!

   Dear readers, thank you so much for the warm response to Chapter 1. I am so incredibly excited to share this story with you. Honestly, sometimes I get overwhelmed with how much I want to share, but every time I read someone's comment, my heart gains in strength and somehow I manage to overcome my insecurities and try my best to forge on. 

  I've put more thought into the military hierarchy and changed Hu Zi from General to Captain in Chapter 1. Age-wise, Yu An is just on the cusp of turning eighteen and Hu Zi is about a year younger, so he is seventeen. It's a bit too unrealistic (teehee) for Hu Zi to already be a general. Even the great Huo Qiubing (of Da Mo Yao) was only a Captain at eighteen and was made a General around twenty. 

  Generally, the Emperor has his own private elite guards (this is headed by Hu Zi's father Hu Jun) and the military. The military hierarchy will briefly flow like this (from bottom to top): Soldier - Lieutenant - Captain - Lieutenant Colonel - Colonel - Lieutenant General - General - Second in Command - Unit Commander. 

    Now, on to the story! 

Chapter 2: The Fox Meets the Wolf

(i)


  The Grand Yan Empress had called for a carriage and Yu An's own private maid, Xiao Qing (小青 - little green) to fetch Yu An back. So, when Yu An was led out of the Grand Yan Empress' palace by the servants, she was surprised to see his long tall figure leaning on a large pine tree, his head towards the moon in the clouds. 

   Before Yu An could say anything, Hu Zi had already turned his head towards her. She did not know what had given her away. 



   She did not know how long she had already been at her grandmother's residence, but she knew it must have been long, for she had sat until her feet had gone numb. She had stayed till her grandmother stopped wanting to speak, and could hardly open her eyes. That was when she knew the Grand Yan Empress would be too tired to think of anything else anymore. That was when Yu An decided to leave. 

  Yu An had exited the Grand Yan Empress' palace slowly because her feet were all pins and needles, but suddenly, upon seeing this stubborn boy waiting outside in the cold, she felt the soles of her feet being instantly warmed. She hopped step by step, entirely unbefitting of a princess, towards Hu Zi.

  Even though Xiao Qing looked in mild horror at the princess hopping like an awkward chicken towards Captain Hu Zi, the man himself had a calm imperturbable expression. 

   Yu An almost fell and she steadied herself by holding Hu Zi's shoulder, a familiar action she always used to do as a child. Sometimes, she felt like Hu Zi was intentionally distancing himself, but every time when she needed someone, he would be there. When Hu Zi turned fourteen, he asked to join the military - a step surprising to everyone since his father was the Head of the private elite guards. But, his innate maturity, sense of integrity and the excellent martial arts skills he inherited from his father, led him to rise very quickly within the military and silenced the naysayers who thought he would get by based on his connections. In fact, he was the most highly praised captain and considered to be the most likely captain to be promoted to lieutenant-colonel soon. 

  Yu An smiled at Hu Zi, "I haven't seen you stayed so late in the palace again ever since you joined the military." 

  Yu An knew that once Hu Zi joined the army, he no longer wanted to make use of the private elite guard's privileges in remaining in the Royal Palace after the sun sets. But, still, she liked teasing Hu Zi. 

  "Since you are here," Yu An continued, her eyes clear and determined, "Why don't you bring me to see my father?"

  Xiao Qing felt her head go dizzy as she cried, "Princess! It's so late already. The Grand Yan Empress ordered me to bring you back to your residence."

  Yu An smiled sweetly at Xiao Qing, "Xiao Qing, why don't you close both your eyes so you didn't see me at all? If you didn't see me, then you have no need to bring me back."

  Yu An turned her head eagerly at Hu Zi. Hu Zi said nothing but he gave a short and sharp whistle. Yu An saw a beautiful dark grey horse galloped from afar, like dusk arriving on the evening wind. 

  Without an additional word, Xiao Qing watched the Princess disappear with Captain Hu Zi on his dark steed. No, Xiao Qing shook her head, she never saw the princess.





(ii)

  Few people would dare to visit the Yan Emperor's private palace late in the night. But, luckily, Princess Yu An was one of the few people. 

  As Hu Zi silently brought Yu An down his steed, Yu An looked thoughtfully at Hu Zi. She said concernedly, "Since the military starts daily training around the hour of tiger* every morning, you had better not wait for me. I may stay up all night talking to father."

  Hu Zi did not answer as he signalled for his steed to ride away. 

  "Sometimes I think you are part donkey!" Yu An huffed at Hu Zi and then left him to simmer in his own quiet thoughts. 

  The earlier anxiety that Yu An had felt in her heart started to coil tighter inside of her. It did not cease until she was brought into the Yan Emperor's study.

  When she entered and saw her father's pale face at his study, she wanted to immediately run towards him. But, years of palace upbringing, caused her to reflexively bow down first and pay her greetings. 

  Hsiao shook his head lightly as he beckoned for Yu An to rise, "It's so late already, Yu An. Why have you come?"

  "I was worried," Yu An said, then gave a soft smile to father, "I did not think I would be able to rest till I saw you. I just came from seeing the Grand Yan Empress. She was fine when I left her."

  Hsiao's eyes clouded with worry, "It's good that you went to see her... I was discussing with the officials earlier on the preparation for the royal funeral for the Grand Yan Emperor."

  Yu An could see that her father was extremely weary emotionally. 

  "Father, let me play you a song," Yu An said, "Can you lend me your flute?"

  The dullness in Hsiao's eyes momentarily brightened. He felt the edge of his lips reluctantly being pulled up as he took out his jade bamboo flute from his robes and passed it to his daughter. 

  Yu An closed her eyes for a long moment, as if she was remembering something. 

  And, then she started. 



   Light high notes - sweet, almost happy, but only almost. It was a yearning sweetened with longing, a longing that grew deeper, longer, with each step. So, quickly, one fell back into the past, those younger simpler days. And, then the still waters, the slow steps of growth, the goodbyes. 

  As Yu An was playing the flute with her eyes closed, she did not see the shocked expression on Hsiao's face when she started playing the song from her memory. 

  As the song reached its final notes, Hsiao started to recite**: 

    For a few times, as the flowers fell, we sat with the tune of my flute, 
    My love is just behind the red-brick wall, but the distance I look on is as far as the milky way,
    The stars in the sky are not those of yesternight, as I stand alone here, who do I bear the cold night wind and dew for? 

    When Yu An opened her eyes, Hsiao and her exchanged a look. While Princess Yu An dearly loved her mother, there was no doubt that Princess Yu An was her father's daughter. 


  Hsiao looked curiously at Yu An, "Where did you learn that song?"



  Yu An gave a slightly sheepish smile, "I heard the faint melody of this song while at grandmother's residence... I kind of imagined how the tune must be like."



  Hsiao paused for a moment and then nodded appreciatively, he smiled at his daughter, "This was the first time I heard the song being played like that."



  "Like what?" Yu An asked.


   "Hopeful," Hsiao finally said, "Surprisingly hopeful."

  Hsiao took in a deep breath, as if he was finally breathing after a long day. Yue had wanted to be with him as he tried to grieve or grapple with whatever feelings was falling upon him, but Hsiao had sent Yue off after a while - she still had their two new-born twins to nurse. But, deeper than the comfort that Yue had given him, was the surprising hope he felt from his own daughter - which made him think, did he ever give his father that same kind of hope? That same kind of hope that endures beyond their own lives? 

  His father after all was a true dragon that had given up his throne at its peak. How many men have been able to give up their power when they were the most powerful? 

  This was the Grand Yan Emperor, who had woken up one morning and taken a brisk stroll in the royal gardens. He had marvelled upon the beauty of a flower and bent down to pick it. And yet, it was at that moment, as if struck by the perfection of the flower's beauty, he had fallen to the ground. The royal physicians stated that he had passed peacefully with no pain and only an enlightened smile on his face. 

  Hsiao closed his eyes and thought about how he had often asked his father in the last few years if he wanted to see Qing again. But his father had always smiled and even said once, "Why call back someone who has seen through this world?"

  But he could not let go, Hsiao thought, he could not let go.

  Hsiao nodded at his daughter and said, "The Grand Yan Emperor's funeral will be the grandest the Yan Kingdom has ever seen. His body will be placed in the Royal Temple for forty-nine days for the citizens to pray for his soul and give their blessings. We will hold a grand ceremony on the final day. You should play his favourite song for him that day."

  Yu An blinked back the surprise in her eyes softly. She did not know why but it felt like her father's grand plans aimed beyond the funeral itself - as if he was waiting for someone.  

  Hsiao even managed a soft smile, "In the royal messages to our neighbouring kingdoms, I know Yue had indicated a preference for them to also send young eligible males as their representatives at the grand ceremony."

  Yu An groaned, no matter how serious the event, her mother will not lose focus on matchmaking her. She often inwardly rejoiced at the fact (albeit guiltily) that the two sons of Queen Bai Ying of the Xue Mountain Tribe, her mother's closest royal friend, were ineligible - the eldest was sickly and never left the mountain and the second had married quickly to a Xue Mountain Tribe girl when he was young. 

  Hsiao patted Yu An lightly on her head and Yu An knew that her father wanted to be alone again. She gave her father a comforting smile and passed her father back his jade bamboo flute. She bowed to indicate that she was retreating. 

   Her father frowned, "How are you returning to your palace in the late of the night?"

   "Xiao Qing is waiting with a carriage for me," Yu An said sweetly with a straight face. For it was true, Xiao Qing was waiting somewhere in the palace for Yu An. 

  As Yu An was guided by the servants out of Hsiao's private palace, she started to replay in her mind again and again her father's words. 

  When she finally reached the exit and saw the boy again, waiting, his eyes towards the sky. She did not know why, but she felt as if something fell through her heart. 

  Something small, soft and indiscernible like the night dew. 

My love is just behind the red-brick wall, but the distance I look on is as far as the milky way,
    The stars in the sky are not those of yesternight, as I stand alone here, who do I bear the cold night wind and dew for? 
     
(iii)

   Hu Zi gave a whistle for his steed and walked towards Yu An. Yu An gave a wide-eyed glistening look towards Hu Zi, "Hu Zi, I'm hungry."

   As stone-faced as Hu Zi can be, he frowned then said, "I will send you back to your palace and you can order Xiao Qing to prepare food for you."

  "No, you know what I want," Yu An smiled. 

  "I was fourteen and didn't know better," Hu Zi shook his head, as if mildly shuddering at the memory. 

  Yu An sighed as she looked down towards the ground, "Alright, though I feel so empty inside."

   Hu Zi narrowed his eyes at Yu An and Yu An watched him grimaced as he gruffly said, "Fine."

   Yu An laughed as Hu Zi carried her up onto his steed and they rode off into the night. 

(iv)

   After Yu An left, Hsiao walked out of his study towards the bamboo garden situated at the back of his palace. 

    Sure enough, he was there. The moment Hsiao heard the song on the flute, Hsiao knew that this man must have come. 

    How many years since he had last seen him?

    The emperor bends down to no one, but Hsiao started to bend down on his knees. Many years ago, a young boy had sworn to a man that no matter who he became in the future, the young boy will always be this man's disciple.

  And, how can a disciple not show his teacher respect? 

   "Shi Fu (teacher)," Hsiao greeted. 

   Hsiao prided himself for being a clever cunning fox, and his father was also the same kind of cunning fox. But, his teacher, Hsiao knew, was an entirely different kind altogether. 

   His teacher, Hsiao could sense strongly with all his predatory instincts, was a great untameable wolf. 




*The hour of the tiger is around 3 to 5 am.
** I translated the lines from the poem "绮怀 " (Qi Huai - loosely translated as longing) by 黄景仁(Huang Jing Ren ):
                                                    几回花下坐吹箫,银汉红墙入望遥
    似此星辰非昨夜,为谁风露立中宵







The Princess Who Cannot Marry
Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

33 comments:

  1. Happy Lunar New Years Decembi~

    We Vietnamese also celebrate it although we call it Vietnamese New Years instead haha.

    I can't wait to eat all the food and receive all the red packets. That is always the best part~

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    1. Happy lunar new year Little Winter!

      Haha I have to give out red packets. I wish you great blessings for the year ♡

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    2. You can tell I am pretty young compared to other members of the c-novel community since I told you I will be receiving the packets right? xD

      Thank you; you too. I wish you good health, strength and happiness~

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    3. Aww thank you. Health is the greatest wealth. I guess to sound younger, I will state this is my first time giving red packets ;)

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  2. Aww I was so rooting Yu An and An Hun, but I can't help but jump ships now (prob continue switching ships, lol). Despite his quiet appearance, Hu zi will always have Yu An's safety and best interest at heart <3
    Thanks for the update!

    -SL

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    1. Awwww SL, that's such a lovely and adorable thing to say. ♡ You are absolutely right. Thanks for reading :)

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  3. Awesome! Lovely chapter! Such great male leads, I don't know which to pick yet :)
    I really like the way you paint each characters' personalities.
    Anyway, happy Chinese new year!

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    1. Happy Chinese New Year ♡ thanks so much for your sweet comment and reading my story. I'm really glad you like each character, I've actually spent a lot of time just thinking abt each one of them in their own separate interior life ♡

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  4. Thanks decembi , Happy Chinese New Year for you and fam:) oh now you add twins haha how cute , i will wait few years till the twins get big to get more story from you hihi twins story :D, meanwhile i'm happy with Yu An story :)

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    1. Hahahahahaha Hanny, you made me laugh. Omg that's too far away. Thank you for reading Yu An's story ♡♡♡

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  5. Yay! New update =) I must say, that I check this blog daily for goodies. Thank you for writing!! Going off to read XD

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    1. Happy New year! Which culture are you from Decembi?

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    2. Awww so sweet Hanako! I hope I did not disappoint you. ♡ I'm Singaporean Chinese and culturally, I celebrate chinese new year.

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    3. oh cool. =) Im Chinese canadian, and I celebrate as well. =) Add oil for the story!

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    4. Thank you! *hands you a digital red packet*

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  6. thank u what a new year present...love it....wishing u n ur family a happy wealthy and healthy new year!!!! marie

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    1. Wishing you good health, good luck and much wisdom for the new year Marie ♡ thanks for your well wishes.

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  7. yay!!!! happy cny!!!!! thank you so much for updating!

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    1. Happy chinese new year! Thank you for reading ♡♡♡

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  8. thank you for new chapter. i like it very much and also the captain. i so love these stone face guys. but it is better not to meet them in real life. no happines ensured. chichichi. envious about your celebration. we dont have anything here. i am looking forward for next time. thank. thanks. karol

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    1. Hello Karol, thank you for reading ♡ I'm really happy that you like the chapter and the captain! Interesting tidbit abt stone faced guys in real life!

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  9. Happy New Year Decembi! I only start giving ang bow (cough cough) a few years back too. It is always my favorite part of the new year because you suddenly feel so popular. Haha.

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    1. Happy Chinese New Year ♡ hahaha why do i feel so awkward giving the red packets? I shall try and seek out this new popularity haha

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  10. i'm more excited about the mysterious sfifu then anything else.. hehe.. it sounds like he's going to play a big role. is he? gah... that'll be a spoiler.

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    1. I've always been excited to write abt Hsiao's shi fu who is all kinds of awesome. He won't be disappearing ;)

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  11. Replies
    1. Happy lunar new year ♡ thanks for reading

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  12. Gong Xi fa Cai! Thank you for the new chapter.
    Im on vacation so on mobie WiFi tablet so cant type many words. but ive read all ur posts including Dian Xian novel. Will posts thoughts when I get back.
    Looking forward to ur next update.

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    1. Gong Xi Fa Cai ♡ have a great vacation! Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

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  13. ...I couldn't hold back in the end . I have such weak will power and the temptation was too strong hahaha. I read the first and second chapter right after each other, and I'm overcome with feelings. I don't know if I'm over-emotional about this, but Princess Who Cannot Marry definitely takes a much darker tone in comparison to Little Moon's Matchmaking Mission. There are always so many gems in your writing!! I'd basically just be reiterating you if I tried listing them all down though haha.

    But there are several parts that are so well done, at least in transferring emotionally that I just have to mention. I felt my eyes heating up when I read how Hsiao's father died, it was so short, but also somehow extremely heartbreaking. And I think I just have a soft spot for fathers in their old age and the way he was at peace when he died cause it reminds me of mine. So I really felt for Hsiao at this point .
    Also, in Chapter 1, the scene where Yu An finds out about her grandfather's passing. The subtle change in her actions, like when she hides her face in Hu Zi's chest, made me feel just... sad. I think it was written wonderfully cause it felt so realistic in portraying her shock in finding out, and her subsequent emotional reaction that she couldn't hide, but didn't want to show publicly, which was also a subtle indicator to her comfort and closeness to Hu Zi in that she chose/ was comfortable enough to bury her head into his chest.
    I think overall, Yu An is a really strong character because she hasn't shed one tear (or at least, we haven't seen her cry) and is instead trying to comfort everyone even though she's obviously affected by his death just as much. I love her so much already haha.
    (I don't want to make this into an essay so I won't go into detail, but I just remembered loving the Dowager Empress scene as well.)
    I don't know how you do it, but I was completely immersed in the world of these two chapters. I'm also in a melancholy mood, so ;)

    By the way, after rereading this chapter, I kept looking at Hu Zi's name, and then I suddenly thought of 胡子 and I couldn't help laughing. It's the pinyin's fault.

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    1. Dear Karma,

      Thank you so so so much for your lovely comment. Gosh, it really made me so happy - as my husband can attest. It's an incredible feeling when there's that sense of connection between what I'm trying to write and like-hearted readers. I have so much gratitude <3

      The Princess Who Cannot Marry, I think, definitely feels different from Little Moon (traditional romantic comedy) and The Sun's Dark Love (fantasy romantic comedy? Dramedy?), because it has less of a comic bent. I think it's also more grounded and the pace is more natural now, because I'm more used to writing. When I first started out - everything was new - narrative structure, tone, flow, characters, there was a lot to juggle and I was really going with my gut. I think Little Moon was so fun to write though, I don't know if this is a clear description - but basically, I had this whole world in my head and I was picking up interesting bits to write and hoping it forms out a fun and touching narrative for the readers. What I learned from Little Moon is that readers actually like finding out about the little bits and details that I thought of but never thought of fleshing out - like Hsiao's mother, Hsiao's brother, Wu Kingdom, etc - and I really did think the final arc was a bit rushed. I think I learned some lessons from Little Moon and employed it in The Sun's Dark Love - so that flows more natural and I had a lot of fun with it, and got to sketch up more of the mythology in the world. With more experience now, I think I can finally handle some of the ideas I have also wanted to tackle in Little Moon (but didn't know how). I do hope it's a richer experience, because The Princess Who Cannot Marry takes at least twice the time to write for each chapter compared to the previous two stories. I think it takes a lot out of me emotionally and also because there's so many things to keep track!

      Thank you so much for sharing with me those parts that connected with you. It honestly helps me a lot in writing. I have lost dear loved ones and so when I write, I do write from a very personal and real sense of grief. I actually really dislike writing about death, but it's such a real part of life, and an almost natural and inevitable part of the cycle, and I try my best to give it lots of dignity even in my stories.

      I'm really glad you picked up Yu An's small gestures. I worry that I love Yu An too much. I don't want her to be perfect, and I want her to be very flawed and real. And yet, I just can't help liking her and rooting for her. And gosh, all the male leads I'm going to write. I don't know what will happen to me, because I really do fall for all my characters and I won't know what to do if I can't give them all a happy ending - although I've planned everything already (haha). But, I'm willing to give everything a chance and see how the natural chemistry pans out.

      Yes! The pinyin plays a huge part in the naming. I try to also pick names that look good in English and don't have a natural english counterpart. For Hsiao, I used Hsiao because Xiao just makes me think of small. Also, I have avoided dragon (long) so far because readers will read it as long (vs short) instead of dragon (long). Hahaha.

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  14. thks for the chapter, it was lovely and i could feel the characters coming alive like i m there next to them. bravo to you for writing so well. hope that i m not too greedy here to ask for the transaltion of heavy sweetness to be up soon... just cant wait for the encounter between jin mi and phoenix.

    i m signing off here by wishing you and family a bountiful good fortune, good health and happiness in the year of goat. goat xi fa cai

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    1. Dear Irene, awwww thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. It really means very much to me for having the characters feel alive to you! Thank you.

      No, it's not greedy at all. The translation is in progress, but I have to catch a flight so we will see!

      Goat Xi Fai Cai <3

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