The Empress Wears Gucci

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It was peaceful. Too peaceful. The ringing noises in my head were gone. The awful pain in my head, and as well as the rest of my body, just disappeared.

The sound of a loud whirlpool surrounded me like it was about to engulf my entire soul and existence. The most furious, most powerful breeze forced me deeper into wherever I was going to go. Inhale. Exhale. It was simple. I was at peace. I barely panicked. It was at that moment, I already accepted everything that had happened.

I remember a couple of days ago, I took the best nap I’ve ever taken. I woke up with the ‘nap scars’ or whatever people call them. As soon as I woke up, it felt very confusing to me. What time was it? Did I eat yet? Where was my mom? Where was my dad so I can ask him where my mom is? The point is, the beginning of the session was so tranquil and calming, you feel like nothing can get to you. In the end, it’s more like a mystery, a sudden feeling of danger.

I am having that moment at this very second.

My little meditation ended, and I found myself waking up to two foreign women staring down at me curiously. I squinted my eyes and shaded them from the sunlight with my hand.

“Is this heaven?” I asked, sarcastically.

The words I had spoken, that was flying out of my mouth, were foreign. It was as if I could understand it. It wasn’t English. I didn’t like the language. It sounded funny to me, but it sounded familiar as well.

The two foreign women chuckled, then offering me a hand. I cautiously accepted, then getting up from the ground. My clothes were dirty but at least my shoes were in proper condition. It was eight hundred dollars, I’m obviously going to care about it more than anything else. I observed the women, making small mental notes in my head. They wore dull coloured robes and had their hair messily tied up for the most part. One of them, the older one, stuffed all of her hair in a towel-like material.

Where the hell am I?

Both of them were Asian and based on what they were wearing, I put the puzzle pieces together quickly. I have never been this glad to be Asian for a long time.

“Hello,” I tried to act as confident as I could. I am quite glad that I watched a whole TV-drama about Ancient China. “May I ask where I am, and how I got here?”

It’s like Google Translate is in my head.

The older looking woman gave me a soft, pitiful smile, right after looking at me from my head to my feet. She widened her eyes when she looked down. “You’re near the village’s small pond. Are you a foreigner? What area are you from? Your clothing looks rather.. unfitting..”

Alright, don’t answer my second question. The younger one, that I’m guessing is her daughter, raised an eyebrow. “The shoes you are wearing are very well sewn... Who had sewn that for you?”

I was speechless. I don’t know how I’m supposed to get out of this situation. This was messed up and bewildering. A part of me wished I had died so I wouldn’t have to wake up in an unknown era, an unknown area, and with unknown people. I looked around, looking at anything but them. I debated whether I should tell the truth, or make up a massive lie.

I wasn’t going anywhere if I told a lie. I wouldn’t know what to lie about either. This whole situation is out of hand, and I wish someone would tell me that everything was just a well-thought prank and I could go home to my family. I had nowhere to go. Being someone who was a little slow at school, but amazingly good at people interaction, I knew I could get them on my side.

I sighed heavily, taking a deep breath, and letting it all out. “Uh, I’m not really from this.. year?”

The two villagers both looked at each other, then looking back at me. They laughed.

My blood boiled as I balled up my fist. How dare they laugh in my face like I was lying to them! “This is no joke, lady! Look at me, I am clearly a foreigner. I’m from the year 2018. With due to respect, I am not to be joked around with. I was in a severe car accident, a painful one I may add, and now I’m in some foolish place, with foolish technology, and foolish people! So don’t you dare laugh at me.”

Two pairs of eyes widened as I ended my outburst. The younger female furrowed her eyebrows while pouting a little. “What is a car, may I ask?”

“Does that really matter right now?” I exclaimed. “A car, miss, is a transportation. It has engines, runs on gas mostly. It’s like a horse carriage, but more advanced. In my world, we don’t use horses and a car is just a machine to help us get around.”

“Where are you from again?” the older one questioned.

“2018, ma’am,” I responded back, a little less aggressively. “Now please, I need to get home, and I don’t know how to.”

They both looked at each other again, then nodding in unison. The older one smiled. “There is a fine gentleman in the royal palace, apparently he has been in the same situation as you, darling. Something happened to him, and he was sent back in time. Maybe you should go and visit him, perhaps?”

“When did he get sent back? How old is he? How long has he been here for?” I asked, frantically.

A moment of joy sparked in my mind, but I tried to hide it. I thought I would be the only one struggling through this. In fact, time travel seemed to be more of a science fiction thing to me. There were a bunch of conspiracy theories, most of them I’ve been updated on, but time travel sounded so weird to me, I never believed in it truly. Until right now. If I am going to go through an unfortunate event, I am glad that there is at least someone to go through it with.

“Sorry miss, but we don’t have that kind of knowledge to answer you,” the younger female chimed in. “All we know is the time of when he was discovered, which was a week ago. Nobody else knows except for us, because of our family relations to one of the Emperor’s royal bodyguard.”

I am so lucky.

“How do I get into the palace?” I was determined to find out where this guy was, and I was determined to find it before Cherry’s birthday. If I don’t get back before her birthday, I have failed miserably.

The younger one furrowed her eyebrows in concentration. She looked down at the ground and sighed. “I’m afraid you can’t just enter the palace like that, I highly doubt the Emperor will let you talk to his trusted royal guard.”

This guy walks into this era and he already got a job? I need to learn from him. “Royal guard huh? Well, let me talk to your family member, maybe we can send letters or something.”

“Letters take a long time,” she explained. “And regardless of the relations to my cousin, it’s impossible to have a conversation with Li Feng... He never leaves the palace, it’s not allowed.”

“So why can’t I just go-”

“It just doesn’t work like that,” she paused. “What’s your name?”

“Ca-” I interrupted myself. I’ve never used my Chinese name, nor I’ve ever needed to, but I was genuinely so lucky that I remembered it. “Uh, Han Ying Yue..”

“My name is Hua Er,” the younger girl introduced herself, then patting the older woman’s shoulder. “My mother’s name is Lei Shu.”

“Excellent, now we are on a first name basis, how about we become friends and help me out of here.”

“Miss, Emperor Xue is looking for concubines,” Lei Shu said, studying my face. “Y-You are quite beautiful, you have very rare beauty in fact. You may be able to get into the palace quickly.”

Rare beauty? The only make up I’ve had on is my eyebrows, and I highly doubt I was ‘rare beauty.’ If I have rare beauty, the concubines in the palace must be ugly. “A concubine? Is it like an Emperor’s side chick or something?”

“A what?” they both asked at the same time.

My English comes up when the word is foreign to them. Good to know. “Concubines are females that.. share the Emperor, right?”

They nodded.

“That’s ridiculous,” I laughed. “Why would I want to be a foolish man’s toy?”

“Don’t say that so loud!” Hua Er half-whispered, swatting the air in front of her.

“Let’s go back to my residence,” Lei Shu said, as she turned her back against us. “We can talk privately there, and.. get you some new clothes.”

We walked for a little while. As we walked past the markets, many eyeballed me. I couldn’t blame them, the females were very traditional and covered every inch of their skin. On the other hand, I wore a crop top and shorts. It wasn’t a very long walk, but I was tired nonetheless.

I could tell they weren’t as poor as the other villagers, as their house wasn’t made messily. It was a medium-sized house, a typical ancient Chinese house, but had a modern twist to it. It wasn’t made of cheap materials but made of a type of white brick. I’m not an expert in houses, but if I punched it, it wouldn’t topple over. The door was wooden, of course, but not polished and sandpapered properly.

As we walked inside, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. There was a medium-sized circular wooden table in the middle of the kitchen. The stove-like equipment was on the left side of me. I could clearly tell there wasn’t much in this house, but I haven’t been to the bedroom yet.

“Have a seat,” Lei Shu spoke, then kneeling on a cushion-like object.

The aroma of tea gently built up in the room. It was an earthy scent and smelled very organic. I assumed a natural and organic tea would be a little bit expensive for them to buy, but I felt very disrespectful to question them about it.

I took a longing sip. It tasted very familiar, I reckon it was a type of green tea (I’m a tea expert). Curiously, I took another sip of the thick, vegetal liquid. “What type of tea is this?”

“Xinyang Maojian,” Hua Er replied immediately, then flashing a small smile. S

he wasn’t unattractive in my eyes. She looked like a typical Asian girl and reminded me of my younger sister a little bit. I wondered why she didn’t go and “sign up” to be a concubine, but I guess I’d ask her later on when they bring up the topic again.

“It’s the finest tea,” Lei Shu bobbed her head. “There is more if you want, Ying Yue.”

It was weird how she called me by that name. My parents don’t even call me by my Chinese name. Carmen is long gone, and Ying Yue is my replacement.

However, it could be my alter ego. That’d be pretty cool. Carmen, the beautiful kick-ass girl, who takes no shit from everyone else, versus Han Ying Yue, the beautiful, virtuous, and gentle flower girl. Who will win? Let’s find out!

I immediately snapped out of my thoughts. “O-Oh, that’s great! May I ask, when will I head to the palace?”

“Tomorrow morning. You can get some rest at night time, we do have a spare bed for you to sleep on!” the mother replied back, she then poured more tea into my little teacup.

If I am truly going to the palace, I need to fix my behaviour and vocabulary. I refuse to go to the palace acting like a foreigner. To win the Emperor’s favour, I need to be an innocent, fragile helpless girl.

I need supervision. For God’s sake, I’m heading to a random area, with no idea of what to do and how to act. It would be rude of me to ask Hua Er, but I need to get out of here and surprise Cherry on her birthday. I hope Lei Shu forgives me. “Ma’am, I am going to be alone in the palace, and I’m afraid. I don’t know the courtesies and proper manners in a place like this, is there any way I can have someone with me?”

Hua Er kneeled down between Lei Shu and me, then taking a small sip of her tea. I made strong eye contact with her, almost like I was going to seduce her. “Ying Yue, I can go with-”

“Nonsense! I will not allow you to,” Lei Shu slammed the table, causing both of us to jump. “Hua Er, do you know what you’re getting yourself into? How am I going to farm efficiently without you?”

“But mother, it won’t be long! She’ll just talk to Lan Yun and-” Hua Er pleaded.

I didn’t understand why she wanted to go so bad, being a maid for me would be a lot of work. If I do become a concubine, I can imagine my chamber to be messier than my room back at home.

“Absolutely not! I know the devastation of your previous visit, but you shall not leave me. Besides, Ying Yue will be at the palace for a very long time as Lan Yun still hasn’t figured out the way back to.. wherever they want to go.”

The scolding mother. I’ve been there and I’ve done that... many times. I couldn’t sit and watch them argue the entire time, but I was helpless. I did what I would’ve never done before. I grabbed Lei Shu’s hand and clasped it between my hands. “I understand you are a little frustrated over this whole thing. Please forgive my selfish behaviour, but there is nobody else that can look after me. Your daughter will come back to you, I promise. I will make sure nobody harms her.”

I looked Lei Shu deep in the eyes, pleadingly. The infamous puppy dog eyes and a small frown plastered on my face while I leaned my chin on the table. A fake tear rolled down my cheek. I hated manipulating people, but this was for desperate measures.

Her eyes widened at the sight of me. A horrifying expression on her face played out, and I could tell deep inside her head, she was pitying me. The wrinkles on her face enhanced as we both made longing eye contact. I didn’t pull away. She exhaled loudly, then looking back at Hua Er. “Fine, you can go with Ying Yue. You will be her lady-in-waiting.”

Hua Er grinned, showing her pearly white teeth. She then bowed down to her mother, pressing her hand to the ground. “Thank you, mother! Thank you!”

Lei Shu then turned to face me and immediately looked stern. “If anything happens to my daughter, you know I will-”

“I know,” I nodded quickly, giving her a small bow. “Nothing will happen to her, and I will make sure of that.”

“Shall we eat now?” changing the topic, Lei Shu got up and began to grab pots.

At night, I slept on a very uncomfortable bed. By bed, they did not mean the bed I was thinking of. It was a bit annoying and hurt my back a little, but it was better than nothing. This was extremely hard for me, due to my privileged life back in 2018. 2018. It was so strange saying that. I had to get used to it because I’m sure I’ll have to spend a few more hours in this place.

But right now, I think I’ll have a good rest for the big day.

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