“I am going to miss you so much,” Lei Shu sobbed, burying her face in her daughter’s chest. “Please be careful. I love you so much...”
“I will mother, I love you too, I have to go now.” Hua Er responded, then pulling away. She took her mother’s hand and held it.
I walked a bit further, leaving them alone to say their goodbyes. I felt many emotions rushing through my body, it was really overwhelming. I was anxious to face the Emperor but excited to go back home. I really wish I had my phone...
They dressed me up in a much fancier attire than they are wearing, which I am very grateful for. I wore a less fancy hanfu, beige with a navy blue sash. My hair wasn’t pinned with jewellery but was styled down. I was ready. I thought.
When we arrived, the guards ushered us in a certain format, a double-file line. It wasn’t a big crowd of girls as I thought it would be, I guess the Emperor isn’t sexually aroused this time of the month.
I laughed at my own thoughts. I crack myself up, and I’m sure everyone around me as well can agree, I am funny. It’s not being cocky or anything, I just am.
The palace was huge, definitely huger than my house. It looked so ancient and vintage, and if I only had my phone with me, I would’ve taken some gorgeous pictures. The first thing I saw when I walked in, was red. Red everywhere. I don’t know why I thought that was relevant to me at the time, but it was like a big warning sign to me.
Red meant danger, seduction, violence, love, anger, and so much more other things that can make someone laugh or cry. I didn’t know how to feel about that much colour in a place like this, but I might as well suck it up.
Besides, red is my favourite colour.
The walk was pretty silent except for my small sentences of fascination. Hua Er explained the the palace rules and the building to me, as well as laughing at my interest in the palace. I was still nervous, I think I was shaking as well, but my mind drifted off to the view and distracted me for a while.
We stopped walking and waited for the Emperor and the Empress to call us in. It was a wide hallway and all of us could fit in it. Hua Er had told me to follow what the other ‘future concubines’ do, as she couldn’t be able to babysit me the entire time.
There were only soft conversations between the other girls, but hopefully, they were respectful, because I hate getting into fights.
“Send in the girls to seek audience!” a eunuch ordered.
We all walked in an orderly fashion, but I was shaking underneath my flowy hanfu. The only thing on my mind was a question, which was ‘what did I get myself into?’ My heart was pounding rapidly, my hands were getting clammy, and my breaths were abnormal. I gave Hua Er one last look before kneeling down.
We kowtowed to the Emperor, and I followed what everyone else was saying. “Great blessings to the Emperor and the Empress.”
Never in a million years, would I expect myself to be doing all of this. I would’ve hated to suck up to a couple of people who were probably snobby and stuck up, and not to mention, mock the ones who are less fortunate than them.
Hopefully, this Emperor Xue is not a tyrant, and we can get along just fine.
“You may all rise,” the Emperor said, observing all of us with a grim expression. Although he looked a little bit strict like he has never laughed for days, he is a little bit attractive. Unfortunately, I’m not here to look for love.
Besides, I can sense jealousy from the Empress if I ever breathed around Emperor Xue’s space. It was also weird to me that the Emperor was involved in concubine selection. I’ve heard only the Empress was involved.
While I daydreamed, the Emperor had brief conversations with the girls, questioning them about their names, abilities and interests. Alas, it was my turn.
“What is your name?” the Emperor asked as we both made eye contact.
I seduced him with my eyes, raising my eyebrows a little bit. If this doesn’t work, I don’t know what will. “My name is Han Ying Yue, Your Majesty. This is my lady-in-waiting, uh, Hua Er.”
I didn’t even know her damn last name. I wanted to curl myself into a ball and roll away from this place.
“Your lady-in-waiting looks oddly familiar,” the Empress said, with a devious smirk on her face. “She’s the one who tried to be a concubine. It’s quite unfortunate that it didn’t work out.”
I don’t even need to describe the tone of her voice as she said that. An infant can tell that she was throwing a massive amount of shade towards Hua Er.
Also, I don’t recall concubine selection looking like this. Usually the emperor wouldn’t be with the empress as of now. I don’t know what the traditions were... But the dramas I watched... This was far different.
One or two girls near me snickered, as well as the Empress. The Emperor looked as still as a statue, watching my every move. Glancing over at Hua Er, he raised an eyebrow.
“Why is your lady-in-waiting dressed like that, shouldn’t she clean herself before coming here? You know it is very disrespectful to come like this to the palace, so tell me why would I accept such behaviour?”
My jaw clenched subconsciously and my muscles tightened up. The fact that they teamed up on Hua Er made me sick. I bowed, putting my head down then looking straight towards the Emperor.
“My lady-in-waiting sacrificed her one hanfu for me, hence she is wearing a less pleasant attire, Your Majesty,” I spoke elegantly, I was even shocked at how full of grace I was speaking in. I faced the Empress and let a deep breath out from my nostrils. “It is a bit disrespectful, isn’t it, Your Majesty? To belittle someone due to something they could not control?”
“You foul-mouthed peasant! Apologize immediately! How dare you disrespect your superiors!” the Empress exclaimed, immediately standing up from her throne and widening her eyes in shock.
Boy, she was mad.
There were dramatic gasps in unison, I didn’t look around, but I knew all eyes were on me. What did I get really myself into?
I looked at Hua Er from the side of my eyes, then looking away to face the Empress again. No matter what, I’m not getting Hua Er in trouble. I chose to stand my ground. “And how dare Your Majesty disrespect my lady-in-waiting? I’d rather you insult me.”
I could sense the fury in the room, and the strong source was the Empress herself. I glanced quickly at the Emperor, his expression was a little less grim. He looked amused, obviously smirking at this scenario.
The Empress did a quick motion with the sleeve of her hanfu, for dramatic effect of course. “You-”
“Your Majesty, please appease your anger!” I kowtowed to her, as my head pressed against the ground, I smirked a little to myself before getting up to face her.
“Enough!” the Emperor roared, standing up from his throne. His wife sat down frantically, still giving me a dirty stare.
“My apologies, Your Majesty,” I bowed, then facing him. I peered up at him innocently as my lips curled up a bit.
“I have picked,” Emperor Xue said, glancing towards me. “Li Fen, Ming Xia, and Ying Yue. You three are the new concubines in the harem.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” all three of us said. I gave a small bow, then raising my head to grin at the Emperor. Of course, he gave me a bored expression.
The Empress looked absolutely pissed, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. Her expression changed while the Emperor placed his hand on her’s.
“As you all may not know, your purpose here is to serve the Emperor. You will be accompanied by His Majesty at your chamber later in the weeks,” she beamed at us, well, except for me.
She sighed. “My sisters, please be well behaved. Concubines who do harm will be strictly punished... This is a competitive system... Winners will win... Losers will lose. Not all of you will be the lucky bunch.”
Blah, blah, shut up. I want to leave already and sleep. This day was such a mess. I looked around the room to search for the so-called Lan Yun. I searched for a guard with short hair, but all of them had smoothly conditioned hair, some tied their hair in a bun.
They had healthier hair than mine to be honest. I suspect Lan Yun perhaps got hair extensions... if it was invented at this time.
After the Empress and I’s public beef, we all got up and was escorted to our chambers. The room itself wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. It was by far, better than mine at home. The bed was comfortable and way better than the one I was sleeping on last night.
I was given a set of nightclothes to put on, and I don’t want to admit it, but it was genuinely cosy.
Unfortunately, Hua Er slept on a lower bed than me, but I had suggested to her that we can take turns with the bed throughout the days being here.
I thought deeply about the ‘assembly’ and what our roles were. I suddenly shot up from my bed and tapped Hua Er’s shoulder. “By ‘accompanying His Majesty in your chamber’, what does the Empress mean by that?”
“Well, you may have to talk to His Majesty, entertain His Majesty with instruments only if you can play, be at his service I guess,” Hua Er took a long pause and broke the eye contact with me. “You may have to bear children for His Majesty.”
“What?” I hissed, furrowing my eyebrows in disgust. “Why didn’t you tell me that earlier? I am not going to do that, that’s rape!”
“His Majesty wouldn’t force you, but you should know that there’s night attendance and-”
I was furious. If only Hua Er and Lei Shu told me that this was the case, I would’ve backed out and become a maid or something. My heart sank. “I have to have sex with the guy?!”
“Don’t be disrespectful! The walls have ears, miss,” she whispered softly, then sighing. “I’m sorry. We should’ve told you sooner I-”
“Yeah, you should’ve,” I snapped back at her, then returning back to my bed.
This is just one big nightmare that I can’t get out of. I regretted everything. I can’t believe what I got myself into, what I’ve done, and if only I didn’t go into that stupid car.
Cherry’s birthday. I missed Cherry’s birthday.
A flashback of Lei Shu’s voice played in my head. Lan Yun has no idea how to get back to the present, and that is a big, big problem. The fact that Cherry’s going to know that I disappeared after the car accident just makes it even worse than it already is. She might think that I have escaped or ran away from the scene.
Or she might have the idea of me being kidnapped.
Oh, God... I imagined my face on every TV screen right now, and my parents with a reporter, begging for me to come home or for someone to find me.
My parents. My family. My sister.
I broke down in tears, the realisation of me never coming home hit me. I sobbed on my pillow to make sure Hua Er didn’t hear me. My heart sank as I gripped onto my bed sheets.
What if I died and this is just me living another life in another universe or something? Or what if this is a whole dream and I’m in a coma?
No matter what, I am going to find out how to get out of here. There is no way I’m staying here, in somewhere that has no wifi and electricity.
I need to talk to Lan Yun, and I need to talk to him soon before I lose my mind. I leaned the back of my head back into the pillow and wiped my tears.
I was still in disbelief. How could this even happen? I couldn’t think about any possible solutions, all I thought about was my family and my friends.
I spent all night over thinking on how to solve this puzzle, but thinking about all the problems that come along with my solution to this mess, it just terrified me. All I know is that the only way to be able to go back home was to talk to Lan Yun and try to find a way to get the hell out of here.
Crying will not solve my problems.