“Get your hands off of me!” as much as I tried to fight back, the guards’ strong hold against my wrist prevented me from doing so. I was dragged out of my own chamber.
I peered up at Hua Er. The guards yelling drowned out what she was trying to say to me, but her dreadful, watering dull brown eyes struck me the most. Every kick, every movement I’ve done, has failed me.
I let loose my body, relaxing a bit before sheepishly smiling at her. A guard pulled me up and forced me on my feet. We walked into the halls and past a few consorts’ rooms. Some even glanced my way too. I could feel them whisper about me.
The guards were rough when they handled me.
My body hit the cold, hard cement floor of the palace prison, which I never knew I’d ever set my foot in. My sides hurt, my legs hurt, everything was sore. I think I was beaten before even being thrown into this cell, but I was panicking too much to have noticed.
My palms were sweaty and cold, just like my cell. I stopped to catch my breath.
Inhale for two seconds, exhale for three.
What happened? The harem was peaceful for once. Everyone seemed to get along, and the girls were never fussing over one another.
And now this happens.
The only thing on my mind was the Emperor, and what he’d have to say about all of this. Would he defend me?
I let out all my emotions when the guards left me. I covered my face with the sleeves of my hanfu and sobbed silently. Three words: What the fuck.
I didn’t know what to do. Where do I start? In jail for doubtlessly no reason, everyone I knew before this adventure would never see me again. I will rot in this cell and die in ancient China, a foreign place I didn’t even live in! Thinking about it, I realised how insane this was. I was either in a coma or a lengthy dream, and neither of them sounds very pleasing.
My heart was beating as I heard slow footsteps towards the hall. I wiped my tears off before seeing my saviour.
“The Emperor arrives!” a man yells, but it was faint.
When he reaches my cell, my heart skipped a beat. I’ve never been so happy to see this man. I rushed to the front of the cell and gripped onto the metal bars, pushing my face against them to look up at him. “Your Majesty! Help me! I don’t belong here! Your guards are crazy!”
But as I finished my plead, he stared at me with aloof, not even a sympathetic look on his face. His lips were pursed, his eyes were dark and unresponsive, he looked frightening. The Emperor looked at me with pure bitterness. I whimpered under my breath.
I pulled back from the bars. My butt collided with the ground. “Your Majesty? Why-”
“Your murder attempt was pitiful. Who are you working for?” were the words that came out of his mouth when he saw me.
I felt my heart stop. Heat rushed to my head. I began to feel nauseous like I was about to faint and blackout. Tears began to well up in my eyes, but I couldn’t hold it any longer. I didn’t want him to see me cry, yet I broke down crying. Even he was against me.
“What? Your Majesty, I don’t-”
“Don’t you dare lie to me! I gave you everything! I rewarded you, came to your chamber almost every day, respected you, and treated you with love, and you repay me like this? You... You deserve to get hanged! You deserve a hundred flogs and sixty slaps to the face, you disgusting-”
“I am under too much stress to be doing this right now,” the Emperor groaned, before he walked away from me, he turned his head to look at me once more. “Your betrayal sickens me.”
He flicked his hanfu sleeve and walked away. I could hear the fury in his footsteps, and I still was oblivious to what was going on. I could barely think in this cell because of the white noise in my head. My heart was still racing, and my heartbeats were quickening every time I thought about his words.
You deserve a hundred flogs and sixty slaps to the face.
The Emperor is against me, therefore the entire palace is against me.
Everything was going great until this. I crawled back into the corner of the cell and hugged my knees. The musty ancient cell made me want to puke. My hands were dirty, my feet were dirty, my hair was tangled. I looked like a hot mess. I felt like shit.
The cell was empty, surprisingly. It felt like I was the only one in here. I could hear my heart beating rapidly. Deep breaths, Carmen. Deep breaths.
It’s over for me, isn’t it? I’m never going to see my family, never going to see my friends, I’m never going to graduate university, and I’m going to die a virgin.
I can’t die a virgin.
I wept louder into my arms. The emptiness of the cell amplified the noises I made with my sorrow, yet it comforted me as I was alone. The noises I made comforted me, knowing that I was there for myself.
I got too tired from crying, so I fell into a deep sleep.
“Carmen?” I woke up to a familiar voice, the voice I’ve never heard in ages. I groggily got up from the warmth surrounding me.
The setting of a hospital room was in front of me. My mother, my father, my little sister stood to the left of me, all of them raised their eyebrows in concern. Cherry turned around frantically and gasped. They all had glossy, bloodshot eyes.
“Carmen!” everyone squealed in unison. The happiness illuminated the room and had me soak up the energy from everyone around me.
As I was in the middle of all of the kind embraces, my loved ones’ voices were muffled. I was too baffled to hear what anyone was saying, and while the nurses began to check my health, I still couldn’t believe it.
Everything was just a coma and I was okay. A smile subconsciously played on my face and I threw the blanket away from my body to leave.
“You’re good to go!” the receptionist said with a grin. She signed off the papers with ease and handed it to my mother.
During the whole ride home, I stayed quiet.
“How long have I been gone for?” I asked when I reached my room.
My sister Cara sat in the corner of my bed. I missed seeing her two pigtails on the side of her head. Cara grimaced. “A month...”
“We really thought you died,” Cherry whispered. “We’re glad to see you. Everyone was bawling their eyes out even more on the second week of your coma.”
“Time for dinner!” my mother yelled from downstairs.
As my sister and my best friend got up quickly, I closed the door. “Wait.”
“Listen, I was waiting in your room, watching you sleep lifelessly on that bed, and I am hungry!” Cherry protested, still getting ready to leave.
“No, no, wait,” I exhaled heavily. “You two won’t even be able to handle what I was dreaming about.”
“I’ve always wondered about that, like, what people going through coma would dream about in their head...” Cherry rested her head on my pillow and took a long sip of her drink.
I hesitated to tell them. It was a long story. A very long one. Vivid as well, may I add. I took another breath and sighed. “I... landed in ancient China, okay. And-“—I put my finger to my lips to shush Cherry’s smirk—“It was weird. Okay, my name there, was Han Ying Yue, but they called me-”
“Noble Consort Han?” Cara questioned, bugging her eyes out.
“Y-Yeah? How’d you know-”
“Noble Consort Han,” she repeated.
“Dude, yeah, I don’t know how you would-”
“Noble Consort Han,” they spoke in harmony.
“Okay, stop!” I screamed.
The room lights began to flicker. A storm raged outside. My windows burst open and glass shattered; there was an explosion of glass. Every tiny particle of glass past me. My room began to lose colour. My vision was blurring but I was quick to catch the curtains when they were about to drop.
“Cherry! What’s going on? Please tell me this isn’t a dream. Cherry, we were in that car accident, right?” I lunged towards her, holding her back.
This is a dream. This was all a dream. I should’ve known.
“Noble Consort Han,” the voices surrounded me, ridiculing me into a state of insanity. I let out every noise from my throat into the room. My hair was practically trying to run away from my head due to the wind.
I should’ve known this was a dream.
I should have—
“Noble Consort Han?” a deep, male voice woke me up to reality.
I don’t even know if this is reality anymore.
My head was pounding when I got up from the cement ground and faced the eunuch. “Y-Yes?”
“Sorry for waking you up, but I brought food for you.” he laid the plate and pushed it into my cell.
A piece of bread.
Well, a bun, to be exact.
“Thank you,” I murmured.
I watched the eunuch leave quickly before providing me with a cup of water.
Looking at the bun, I don’t think I even had an appetite anymore. Nonetheless, I still shoved it into my mouth. Stale and unappetizing... I wanted to puke.
I banged my head lightly against the wall.
How did I get myself into such a situation?
I forcefully chugged the cup of water, letting the liquid flow into my throat and washing down the foul taste of the bread.
”Shit!" I groaned while throwing the cup towards the corner of the cell in front of me. I watched as the cup hit the metal bars and roll around.
This was my entertainment.
Rushed footsteps began to approach my cell, I crawled back into my corner and closed my eyes. I sat there for a while until a familiar voice spoke out towards me.
That recognizable voice. The voice I know so well. My eyes abruptly shot open and my body let out a sense of relief. My tensed shoulders dropped down and I slowly began to gain my consciousness.
“Ying Yue! Are you okay? Are you hurt? What happened? What did His Majesty say? Did he visit you? Are you-” Hua Er was already out of breath bombarding me with questions that soon started to make my head hurt.
“Hua Er,” I replied while trying to get up with all the little energy I had from the bun. “I d-don’t know. I really don’t. The foolish Emperor had gone insane on me and said I betrayed him. I never touched him at all. And yes, I am malnourished right now, can you believe they just gave me a bun?”
Hua Er’s eyes were glistening. She pursed her lips and took small breaths. I knew she was trying to hold in her tears, but seeing her doing that, makes me want to cry. She looked stressed. Her perfectly done braids on her hair were already loose, the flower pin on the right side of her head was on the verge of falling, and I can tell she put herself under pressure because of me. I gripped tightly onto the cold metal bar to refrain myself from have another mental breakdown.
“I miss you,” she started but I could barely understand her through her choked back tears. “The palace maids said you poisoned him. I don’t believe it at all! My mother is going to be an alibi and Uncle Bin will be attending trial—” Hua Er paused, leaning back to think for a few seconds—“It must be the Empress! She was in the room when the Emperor was drinking that wine. That filthy wench!”
I should’ve known. I was too overwhelmed to rationally think this through. The Empress would’ve most likely plotted against me. But this early, though? And obvious? If Hua Er’s mother and Uncle Bin both help me win the case, then the Empress will surely be executed.
How stupid was I, to not suspect her? I should’ve prevented it by sending Lei Shu to the Empress’s chamber, but I was too kind.
There is nothing wrong with being too kind.
No more “should haves”, I need to try and deal with this and be on my feet the next time.
If there is another ‘next time’.
That’s quitter talk. I need to do this. I can’t let her win.
“What did you do?” Jaxon appeared beside Hua Er. He looked at me with a dull look. He looked terrible, but... attractive? His eye bags were heavy and visible and he looked paler than usual.
I gave him a small smile. ”Jaxon."
”Ca- Ying Yue! Are you crazy? You’ve been here for almost a month and you already got yourself in trouble?” he went off on me, I know, but I couldn’t help but stare blankly at his perfect facial features.
“Ying Yue did nothing wrong! It was that vile witch that got her in here.” Hua Er cut Jaxon off in frustration.
“Hua Er’s right, the Empress must’ve done something to the Emperor’s drink to frame me. I had nothing to do with this,” I began to feel exhausted and kneeled on the floor to sit cross-legged. “If I have to coax the Emperor in and rush into things, I have to face this.”
I didn’t intend to guilt shame him, but it came off that way. I mean, he deserved it. What did he expect?
His eyes wandered off away from me when I was speaking, and I can already tell he felt apologetic. “This is all my fault. I’m sorry. I’m going to get you out of here if that’s the-”
“Hey! You two! You’re not allowed to be here!” a prison guard yelled, followed by a rush of footsteps. Hua Er and Jaxon quickly gave me a determined look before they ran out.
And of course, I was alone again. It didn’t take long for me to wish I was dead. I was singing songs in my cell, reciting Shakespeare, dancing, doing anything I could do to entertain myself, but at the end of it, I began to fall asleep again.
But I can never fall asleep in this prison, somebody or something had to interrupt my damn sleep. But this interruption was different. This interruption was what I would’ve died waiting for.