Tea Leaves and Silver Rings

3:00 A.M.

Match Thirty: 3:00 A.M.:

Yao and Ju were sound asleep in their bed when this occurred.

A shadow cast over the couple. Eyes rested on Ju before a hand moved the sheet from her shoulder. The clan leader shivered when a cold breath landed on her shoulder. Slender fingers ran down her back. Ju turned and pulled the sheet up over her again.

A faint voice rang in her ear.

“Ju! Ju! Ju!”

The clan leader slowly opened her eyes as she felt a cold breath on her cheek. “Who’s there?” A woman in a long red dress stood over her. Her pale complexion and deep red lips gave her a haunting image. She didn’t even appear to be standing on the floor. Ju couldn’t read any emotion on her face. This uninvited guest stared at her with a cold, blank look in her eyes. Instinct in the clan leader screamed fight or flight. Her hand clutched the sheet on top of her.

“Uh… who are you?”

“Just a visitor.” Her voice sounded beautiful, but could put the fear of death in the strongest man in the world. The woman sat down on the bed as Ju narrowed her eyes at her.

“How do you know my name?”

“I know all and everything.”

“What are you doing in my house?”

“I told you before, I am here to visit you.”

“What do you want from me?”

“Nothing much. How much do you know about me?”

Ju slowly shook her head. “Not much, should I?”

The woman patted her on the head. “There is so much you don’t know.” The clan leader stared at her.

“Who are you really?”

“I have no name.”

“Why not?”

“I have no use for names. Why do you humans insist on naming everything? It all seems so pointless to me.”

The room around them felt like it was freezing. Frost appeared to be forming across the mirror on the other side. The clan leader gave her uninvited guest a strange look. Who was this strange woman? The more she spoke, the more the clan leader wanted to run away. Ju turned to Yao, but the woman turned her face back to her.

“Don’t worry about him. He won’t be able to hear us.”

Ju didn’t know how to take this. She tried to reach for her husband, but the other woman pulled her arm back into place.

“I told you, you will not reach him.”

“What do you want from me?”

The other woman smirked, but only for a second. “What I want is to be free.”

Ju stared at her, blankly. She still couldn’t read this woman. Her eyes glanced over at Yao. He looked so peaceful as he slept beside her. How could be sleeping through this? Ju looked back at the woman in front of her.

“Why would I want to be free? That’s what you want to ask me, right?”

The clan leader refused to say a word. It felt like staring down Ivan before she married Yao. Both had a slow, fierce glare that could freeze blood cold. Ju figured that she could deal with this woman the same way she dealt with Ivan when she first met him. Her uninvited guest stared her deep in eyes.

“Am I right?”

“Yes. Why do you want to be free?”

The woman sat back, smiling. “I just want to walk the earth again like the old days. I miss the feeling of the sand at my feet.” She sounded so sincere when she talked about the beach. However, that fleeting moment was replaced with her cold nature.

“I have been trapped in the Land of the Dead for far too long.”

“But what does it have to do for me?”

“Ah, yes. What does it have to do with you?”

“Yes.”

The woman patted Ju on the head. “My little caged birdy. Your role will become known to you in all due time.”

Ju narrowed her eyes at her. “You make no sense.”

The woman drew back her hand. “Answer me this, what has your husband told you about me?”

“What?”

“What has your husband told you about me?”

“Nothing, I guess. Why?”

The woman smirked and shook her head. “Shameful.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why don’t you ask him yourself?”

“Because you are in front of me.”

The other woman shook her head. “You humans want the answers fed to you. It wouldn’t hurt to actually dig up the information yourself.” She flipped back her long dark red hair.

“But then again, newlywed wives are so trusting of their husbands. They just follow them blindly because of love.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Why don’t you ask him yourself?”

“Ask him what?”

The woman smiled as she leaned closer to her ear. “Ask him who the Woman in Red is?” She stood up and disappeared.

“Hey, wait!” Ju shouted. “Who the hell are you? What did you want with me? What the hell are you talking about? Come back here!” The temperature of the room returned to normal. Yao slept through the whole conversation.


7:00 a.m.

Yao awoke around sunrise to find his wife sitting up, eyeing him.

“Good morning, dear,” he said. “You’re up early.”

“Yao,” Ju said. “Who is the Woman in Red?” Her husband sat up with all of the color drained from his face.

“Who told you about her?” he asked.

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