Yue Mian road her horse all the way to the market area, she stopped in front before the entrance and looked over, there were too many people ahead, so she couldn’t ride her horse in. She jumped off and walked with him beside her. The big horse made it awkward for her to pass through without being glared at by the citizens.
She managed to arrive safely at her destination and went around to the back, she tied her horses reins to a pole and walked into the store from the back entrance. As she walked in she was greeted with a smile from the lady who worked for her mother, she was currently mixing the ingredients for lemongrass tea and she could smell the pungent flavour the lemongrass was giving off.
She smiled lightly at the lady and asked, “Is my mother out front?” to which the lady smiled and nodded indicating that she was correct. Yue Mian walked past her and met her grandmother in front who was looking through the stores’ supply list and crossing some items out.
She walked over to her grandmother who was surprised to see her and smiled, “YuMi, you’re here? What a wonderful surprise this is, come, sit with me and tell grandmama what brings you here.” She sat down opposite her grandmother and slouched, her chin was placed on the inside of her palm that was supported by her arm that was placed on the table with her elbow supporting her head up.
Her grandmother frowned and said, “Young lady sit up straight! Where is your table manners? What did I tell you about your elbows being on the table?”
Yue Mian looked at her grandmother and smiled, she sat up straight with her back against the chair rest and cupped her right hand with her left inside her sleeves and looked at her grandmother with an innocent face and asked, “Like this grandmama?”
Her grandmother Ye Ning couldn’t help, but laugh, this grandchild of hers was truly silly and adorable. “Mn, now young lady, does your grandfather know you are here?” Yue Mian smiled awkwardly and shook her head then slouched again into her previous position and said, “Grandfather is with Emperor An and the Naiad Empire’s Emperor, I came here because I wanted to speak to mama about something.”
Ye Ning smiled naughtily and said, “Is it because you found your husband-to-be?” Yue Mian’s eye widened and she frowned, she hit her hands slightly against the table annoyed and said, “Grandmama, how can you think of such a thing? Do you really want this granddaughter of yours to belong to someone else and never see me again?”
Ye Ning chuckled behind her sleeve and answered, “Of cause not child, you know grandmama doesn’t want you to leave my side, this old lady will be lonely without my naughty grandchild around.”
“Grandmama, I’m not naughty,” she said while pouting. “Alright alright, your mother is out front with the customers, go say hello to her, I still have things to finish up before we go home, you must let me know if you want anything alright YuMi?“Yue Mian nodded her head then left to see her mother.
Arriving at the front of the store she frowned, it was bustling with chatter; sitting at the tables, there were many people, men, woman, old and young speaking to their heart’s content with smiles on their faces while sipping on the refreshments and nibbling on the passion fruit buns that were made this morning.
One of the employees noticed Yue Mian and told her mother. Ni Xing’s attention went to Yue Mian and she smiled, she motioned with her hand for her to come over and she did. She hugged her mother tightly placing her head right under Ni Xing’s breasts.
Giving her mother a little squeeze she said, “Mama, don’t work too hard today.” Ni Xing smiled and patted her daughter on the back while saying, “YuMi, have you come to visit me today?” she brushed the hair that was dangling infront on Yue Mian’s right eye away and smiled gently waiting for a reply.
She let go of her mother and looked at her; Ni Xing knelt down and held on to the sides of Yue Mian’s arms, with an awkward smile she smiled at her mother and nodded, “Mama, I no longer want to be the Emperor’s goddaughter.”
Ni Xing’s eye widened, “Silly child.” She got up and greeted her customers one last time then took Yue Mian by the hands and led her to the back where her grandmother was; when they reached the back her grandmother wasn’t there anymore, it was just the two of them.
The two of them sat down on the cushioned chairs and gazed at each other; this mother and daughter pair had a strange relationship that only the two of them understood.
Breaking the silence Ni Xing asked, “What happened?” Yue Mian hesitated before answering; before she never cared about how she came into this world, nor did she care about other human beings, she just cared about her martial arts, the rest were just formalities and things she needed to do in order to live a little longer.
“An Cheng called me a fatherless bastard,” she said after lowering her head, today was the first time she was called this and felt hurt, she wanted to beat him up, but he was the Crown Prince of the Empire and hurting him would cause trouble for her grandparents and mother. She did not want to implicate them and held back all her anger.
“Mama, who is he?“, she looked back up at her mother with glossy eyes and asked. Ni Xing’s heart trembled, seeing her daughter like this was a first for her. Yue Mian was fidgeting the whole time and biting on her bottom lip and was not looking at her making eye contact like normal.
In the beginning, she wanted to tell Yue Mian who her father was, but since she had no interest before, she never mentioned it.
“YuMi, are you sure you want to know? she asked confirming her daughter’s previous question. Yue Mian hesitated before nodding her head slowly with a raised brow.
Ni Xing smiled and was about to say something when her thoughts stopped, [How do I say this so she can understand?] she thought. She was stuck inside her head and was brought back when Yue Mian called out to her, “Mama?”
Ni Xing smiled then said, “Should I start from the beginning or do you want to know who he is?”
This question puzzled her, does she want to know of the story between her parents or just who he is? Listening to the whole story would be bothersome so just finding out who he is, is what she wanted to know. “Mama, who is my father?”
“Yue Mian, your father is the Jīlěi Empire’s Emperor.”
Hearing this, her little heart sank, her father is an emperor? Why?, “Mama, how can Emperor Rong be my father?”
Ni Xing’s eyes lowered as she slowly nodded her head, remembering the past, and how her decisions had affected her life, she did not regret having given birth to her daughter, but their situation was pitiful.
She took her daughters hands in hers and said, “Your father fell in love with me when I got sent to his palace to work, back when he was still the Crown Prince.”
“Mama, why did you work for the Jīlěi Empire’s Crown Prince?” she asked. Her mother wasn’t making sense.
“Ah that, well baby listen, back when I was younger, your grandparents wanted to marry me off to Emperor An.”
“What? Why?” she asked with more confusion, a wave of emotions hitting her from the inside, [Why am I learning about this only now?].
Ni Xing chuckled and shook her head, “Yes, before the current Empress I was the one he liked, Emperor An from two generations ago and your grandfather are soldiers who fought alongside in battle when the Xiěyè Empire was still expanding and that was when they were younger. Your grandmother and the previous Empress fell pregnant at the same time and also gave birth on the same day. Emperor An and I were friends before, our parents arranged for us to be married when we were of age.”
“They did?” asked Yue Mian in astonishment.
“Mn they did, we did not know of this and over the years we grew close, Emperor An was like a brother to me, but he wanted to be more than just friends and one day he told me about his feelings. After this, we could no longer be friends because things became awkward for both of us, our parents sensed it, they found out what happened and to please Emperor An they wanted to force our marriage.”
She sighed then continued, “The night before we were going to get married, Emperor An came to our house in the middle of the night and told me he didn’t want to force this and helped me escape, later on, I found out that he married the Naiad Empire’s first daughter and at first I was afraid that your grandparents would lose their lives, but they did not because the Emperor and Empress thought of us as family.”
“Then what happened?” she asked enthusiastically.
“I needed a job and the Jīlěi Empire’s Imperial Palace was hiring servants, I took the job and work for several years until I was moved to the Crown Princes Palace. He was already married due to political reasons, but he never loved his wives even though he has children with them. I was cleaning the room’s one day and he walked in, this was the first time we met and he must have fallen in love with me at first sight.”
She stopped talking and looked at Yue Mian who was looking at her with eager eyes, she smiled and asked, “YuMi, do you believe in fate?”
“Fate?” she looked at her mother puzzled, shaking her head indicating no, “Your father believed that he and I were brought together by fate, why he thought that? I wouldn’t know. After that day he began requesting for me and made me do the silliest things like bring him tea, listen to the poems he recited and wash his body whenever he took a bath.”
“He treated me differently then told me he loved me. In the Jīlěi Empire, the relationship between a Royal and a servant is forbidden but his father the Emperor allowed us to be together, trouble came when they found out I was having you. The Emperor wanted to kill me before you were born, but kept us alive because your father was his Empire’s, Crown Prince.”
Her tone went soft as she continued, “YuMi, there are certain and unjust ways things are handled in the Jīlěi Empire. After you were born, your father wasn’t allowed to see you because you are a female.”
Yue Mian’s eyes squinted, she wanted to ask why, but seeing that her mother was no more telling the story with passion in her eyes she kept the question in her heart, hoping her mother would answer it without her asking.
“All children born between a Royal and a servant must be male or else they will kill them, but you are the Crown Prince’s child, so we got exiled, when you were six months old I ran away with you because the place we stayed in was so lonely. Your father sent us money and put a roof over our heads, but could never visit us and sent me many sad letters.”
She sighed then continued, “I loved him, but I loved you more, I decided to return home; I asked an old friend of mine to help us escape and she did, when we returned Emperor An was happy, he found out about what happened; I told him to stay silent, after he agreed I asked him if he could take you in as his child.”
“That’s why he keeps spoiling you, I know for him it must be hard, but he loves you too, so YuMi you must not stay mad at Crown Prince An Cheng, okay?” she asked Yue Mian who nodded her head.
This was an interesting story and she wanted to know more about her father, she asked her mother to describe him and other details about his life. Alongside the thing brewing in her heart, the thirst for adventure began forming.