Author: snowberryrose PM
Stories and reflections that come to me as I watch and re-watch HZGG, including the newest versionRated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 9 - Words: 26,944 - Reviews: 16 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 12-02-12 - Published: 04-19-12 - id: 8041255
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AN: So in my mind I typically disown HZGG III, especially the existence of MianYi. Never mind he was historically real; it just seemed too cruel for YQ to leave him, no matter the circumstances. But my muse works in mysterious ways and this story came to me while waiting for my much-delayed flight this past weekend. Who knew being in an airport could be so inspiring? I really should have been doing homework, but this story was just begging to be written. It's terribly unrealistic and altogether too hopeful, sort of a best case scenario alternate-universe piece. But since I'm at heart an optimist, I think it suits me. Besides, I see MianYi as an innocent; he deserves a loving family and a happy life. He shouldn't have to pay for his parents' mistakes.
He was five when his mother passed and he was sent to XueShiFu. Not that he minded it terribly. Uncle Er Kang and Aunty ZiWei had always been nice to him. In his childish mind, they seemed to show him more constant care and love than his own mother. She had always seemed to carry a terrible sadness about her. At times it seemed she couldn't stand the sight of him. At other times, she almost smothered him in attention. He had heard that she was a wonderful artist in her youth and had begged her to paint for him. She had smiled sadly and said, 'Maybe tomorrow.' But tomorrow never came and he learned to stop asking. When she passed away from sickness, he felt bad that she was gone, but he didn't quite miss her as everyone else thought he ought. Maybe he was too young to truly understand death. Or maybe he was just glad to leave the Palace where so many people seemed to look at him with pity. His only friend was 15-Ah-Ge, and Ling Fei Niang Niang always treated him well. But he knew, given the family ties between Uncle Er Kang and Ling Fei, that he would always be able to visit. Besides, there was Cousin Dong-er to play with at the Fus'. He had been jealous of Cousin Dong-er once. Dong-er had both parents who not only doted on him but also obviously loved each other. At XueShiFi, he was treated like family and the jealousy faded. Well, Aunty ZiWei was his paternal aunt, but even Grandpa and Grandma Fu treated him as they would treat Dong-er. It was like there had always been two boys living at XueShiFu. His days were filled with laughter and fun. Even when learning lessons, he could count on Aunty ZiWei teaching them some trick or other. And Uncle Er Kang would always take the hour before dinner to help the boys with their martial arts training. He felt loved at the Fu's and felt that he had no other parents then Aunty and Uncle.
When he turned seven, he was sent to Ji Shi Fu along with the other Royal children. Though Dong-er was still too young, MianYi begged so hard that Grandpa Ai, as the Emperor chose to be called, was forced to concede. Besides, it was normal for Royal princes to have a book companion and Dong-er was of sufficient high birth, and the proper intelligence, to quality for the position. He renewed his friendship with 15-Ah-Ge and the three boys would become inseparable in the passing years. That first morning, Ji Shi Fu was much impressed with both boys. MianYi even heard him mention to Grandpa Ai that he would have expected no less from a son of Zi Wei and Er Kang. The master also noted that MianYi was very much like his father at the same age and that it was pity Wu Ah Ge was not there to see his brilliance. MianYi basked in the praise, not for himself, but because he had brought honor to Aunty ZiWei and Uncle Er Kang. He wanted more than anything to make them proud and never regret taking him into their home. He shared the good news with Dong-er and both boys rushed home at the end of lessons to share the news with a proud Uncle Er Kang and Aunty ZiWei. As he got ready for bed that evening, however, MianYi recalled Grandpa Ai's reply. He had said that wherever Yong-qi was (and MianYi knew Yongqi was his father, the fifth prince), he would be proud to have a son like MianYi. MianYi wondered at the comment. As far as he knew, his father had died from pneumonia shortly after MianYi's birth. At least, that was what everyone in the Palace and the official records said. But from Grandpa Ai's remark, it seemed as though his father was alive. When Aunty ZiWei came to tuck him in, MianYi could help but ask, "Aunty ZiWei, what happened to my father?"
Aunty ZiWei's gentle smile seemed to falter a split second before she replied, "Your father dear? He died of pneumonia when you were still young. You were still a baby at the time. He was my brother and I know he loved you very much. Before he left, he made me promise to take care of you."
MianYi nodded at the familiar sounding story and felt reassured.
ZiWei looked at him curiously and asked, "Why do you ask dear?"
MianYi, having been brought up to be an honest child, replied, "Well, today when Ji Shi Fu told Grandpa Ai that he thought Dong-er and I were both doing well, Grandpa Ai said something that sounded like my father was still alive. But he can't be if he died so long ago."
Aunty ZiWei nodded, gave him his good-night kiss, and bid him sweet dreams.
That night, as they prepared for bed, ZiWei told Er Kang of the conversation.
ZiWei said, "I'm worried. He's starting to ask and though I deflected him this time, what about next time? Ji Shi Fu is right, MianYi is very much like Yongqi. And for all her faults, ZhiHua was no dummy. He's too smart to be satisfied with our standard answers for long. I think we need to tell him the truth."
Er Kang sighed, "We knew this day would come sooner or later. I had hoped it would be later. I agree, MianYi deserves to know the truth. But I kind of want him to enjoy his childhood a little longer. Besides, we've never really discussed how we would tell him."
ZiWei nodded: "We need to write Yongqi. As much as I love MianYi as though he really is Dong-er blood brother, Yongqi is his father. We need to respect his wishes in this matter."
Er Kang agreed: "Let's do that. I think we still have time."
Surprisingly, the reply the couple received from DaLi was from Yongqi, XYZ, Qing-er, and XiaoJian. The four agreed unanimously that MianYi deserved the truth. It was XYZ who gave them the idea of telling the whole story as a bed time tale to both MianYi and Dong-er once the boys were a little older. ZiWei and ErKang nodded at each other and decided to respect their wishes.
Over the next few years, MianYi gave little thought to his initial question. However, one day when he was ten and he and Dong-er were practicing martial arts in the Imperial Garden while Aunty ZiWei visited Ling Fei Niang Niang, he overheard a startling conversation between two old maids. They, like Ji Shi Fu had years prior, compared both boys to their fathers. One of them also remarked how it was pity that Wu Ah Ge had abandoned Wu Fu Jin and his newborn son so long ago. Wu Ah Ge would have been the heir apparent and little MianYi might have been the heir's heir. So distracted by their comment, MianYi didn't notice Dong-er's incoming fist and received a punch that knocked him to the ground. Dong-er immediately apologized and went to help MianYi off the ground. MianYi only nodded dazedly and said that he wasn't feeling quite well and would like to go home. Dong-er nodded and they went to find Zi Wei.
Once home, Aunty Zi Wei made a great fuss over the bruise on MianYi's face. Dong-er quickly went to fetch the special ointments and kept repeating apologies. MianYi just smiled at him and said it was not his fault, that MianYi had been the one not paying attention. Dong-er nodded gratefully but still insisted on visiting the kitchen to instruct the cook to make MianYi's favorite foods for dinner. As Aunty Zi Wei applied ointments to his bruise, MianYi couldn't help but ask, "Aunty Zi Wei? I heard someone say that my father had abandoned me? Is that true? Did he not want me?"
ZiWei looked at the hurt and insecurities in the boy's eyes and sighed, "Oh MianYi, of course your father wanted you. He loved you very much."
MianYi was insistent, "Then why did Gui Mo Mo say that he left us? Aunty ZiWei, is my father alive still?"
Aunty ZiWei looked at him sadly, "Dear MianYi, I've been afraid that you would ask. I fear before I answer your question, I must tell you a rather long and complicated story. Can you bear to wait for your answer?"
MianYi, desperate to know the truth, could only nod.
Aunty ZiWei finished applying the salve and said, "Good. We will start tonight; your Uncle Er Kang and I will share our stories with you and Dong-er."
So, over the next month, Er Kang and Zi Wei slowly told the boys everything. From ZW's auspicious meeting with XYZ, to the group's desperate flee for their lives, to the complicated family background of XYZ and XJ, and finally to the difficult decision of YQ, XYZ, and Qing-er to leave the Palace and venture to DaLi.
The last night, as she ended the story, ZW added, "MianYi, you must understand, though your father never loved your mother, he loved you very very much. The six of us, your Uncle Er Kang, me, Qing-er, XJ, XYZ, and your father, we shared a bond stronger than even blood. We had been through life and death more times than we could count. Your father married your mother to save XJ's life. He never intended to abandon you. Had he been able, he would have taken you with him to DaLi. Such as it was, he could only tell your Uncle Er Kang and I to care for you."
Dong-er, much moved by his parents' story, could only lean into his father, who wrapped an arm about him. Er Kang also spoke up, "MianYi, your Aunty ZiWei speaks the truth. We only hope you can understand. I grew up with your father. We were perhaps not as close as you and Dong-er are but I also thought of him as a brother. He never meant to hurt you. He just wanted the freedom to choose his own happiness. Before he left, he told me that he hoped you would have a happy life and that you would never have to choose between your duty and your heart and bear the burden that comes with such a choice. He wanted you to love and be loved and know the joy of having a caring family. He just wanted a bright future for you."
MianYi had been silent since the conclusion of the story. It would have been easy to hate his father, or even XYZ, but he found he had only admiration for all the people in the story. Seeing Aunty ZiWei and Uncle Er Kang's worried looks, he said, "Uncle, Aunty, you needn't worry about me. I don't blame him or any of you. Maybe if I had grown up in a different environment, I wouldn't have understood. But I grew up here, as a member of the Fu family. I've seen how you two love each other. I've experienced the true meaning of brotherhood with Dong-er. I've loved and been loved, just as my father had wished. Maybe I'm still too young to fully comprehend what it all means. But I know I have never been prouder to be my father's son. He's a brave and talented man who stayed true to his promises. He just wanted to take care of those he loved. I hope that if I ever meet him, I will have the chance to tell him that I do not blame him. Uncle, Aunty, you two have been like parents to me, and maybe it's unfair to say it with my father still alive on this earth, but I truly feel that way. I know officially my titles and status are different from Dong-er's, but I hope you know I see myself as your son too."
ZiWei and ErKang both looked proudly at the nephew and the maturity he was showing. ZiWei remarked: "MianYi, I'm glad you can understand. Even before you came to us, I've seen you as one of our own. I know you are only ten, but you have shown such maturity regarding the truth. I hope you don't blame us for keeping it from you for so long. We wanted to tell you, but we also knew we needed permission from your father and other members of the family in Da Li."
MianYi smiled at his aunt: "I know, Aunty. I know you're by nature an honest person. You and Uncle both are. I'm glad you told me the story a little at a time. I think it makes it more bearable to know the details." He was silent for a bit before adding hesitantly, "Do you think…would it be alright…can I…maybe…would I be able to add a letter next time you write to them?"
Uncle Er Kang smiled at him encouragingly, "Yes, MianYi, you can write them. In fact, I think it would be a good idea for both you and Dong-er to write letters. They are, after all, your uncles and aunts and cousins. Though we're separated by distance, we're still family."
ZiWei also smiled, "Yes, indeed. Besides, it's always good to have another opportunity to practice your penmanship."
Dong-er and MianYi both made a face at the thought of more work, causing the adults to chuckle. As the adults left the room, Dong-er hung back. ZW and EK looked at each other and allowed their son to stay with their nephew. Despite MianYi's brave front, they knew he had thoughts best shared with a brother.
Dong-er sat next to MianYi on his bed: "MianYi, tell me, what do you really think?"
MianYi smiled a bit sadly at his cousin: "Dong-er, I don't know what to think. Everything I said to Aunty and Uncle is true. I am proud of my father, of your parents, of everyone in the story. But you must admit, it is a lot to handle."
Dong-er nodded: "It's one thing to treat everyone in the story as characters and quite another to think that they are real. Especially when it comes to my parents. I mean, I know they love each other, but I didn't think they had to go through all that trouble to be together. I think up until now I've taken their happiness for granted. Everyone has always said they are such a perfect couple, but I always thought of them as just my parents and quite bland. It's odd to think of all the excitement they experienced… MianYi, I think if you father and XYZ in the story shared the same kind of love as my parents, then perhaps they really didn't have a choice."
MianYi sighed: "I know. It's hard to blame them. It's also hard to blame my mother. She really was just doing what she was told, her duty. I think she genuinely cared for my father, which is what makes it all the more tragic…Maybe it worked out for the best; I was never close with my mother. I don't think I would be who I am today without growing up here with you as my brother and Aunty and Uncle as my parents. But I still can't help but feel abandoned. How could my father leave me with such heavy responsibilities? Did he not know the amount of pressure I would have to face? Surely he must have known what it's like to be a mother's sole hope."
Dong-er replied sympathetically: "I don't think he abandoned you. I think he would have taken you with him had he been able. From what I can tell from the stories, I think XYZ would have treated you well too. She seemed to love children and though you were not hers, you were your father's son. I'd like to think her love for him would have been strong enough to include you."
MianYi: "Dong-er, you can be so like Aunty with your optimism and ability to see the good in everyone... I feel so much older now, much more than ten."
Dong-er agreed: "Me too. But I think we've both always been more mature for our age; you because of your childhood and me because I am my parents' child. I don't think I can understand quite yet the depth of emotions my parents or the other couples experienced, but I hope someday I can have the happiness my parents share. Cheer up MianYi, you still have us and our family. As you said, perhaps it worked out for the best. You are here now. Though your last name is different, I for one consider you a Fu. You always have family."
Dong-er waved aside MianYi's thanks and added: "Write to your father. Get to know him and allow him to get to know you. I think it'll be good for both of you. I'm sure he feels a lot of guilt after leaving you just as you have fears that he abandoned you. You can allay each others' worries. I know I am certainly excited to get to know our cousins. Alright now, I'd better go back to my own room. You should sleep too. We've still got lessons tomorrow."
MianYi nodded and bid his cousin goodnight, grateful that he did have such a loving family.
Over the next few years, many letters were exchanged between BeiJing and DaLi. Dong-er found a constant pen-pal in their cousin Nan-er. At first, MianYi would tease him about writing to a girl, but Dong-er just brushed the words aside and insisted that Nan-er was an interestingly friend and that they had long debates about martial arts. Besides, Dong-er would retort that Nan-er was technically MianYi's half sister, so there's nothing wrong with writing to family. As for MianYi, he found that Dong-er was right and the letters between him and his father served as balms for both of them. ZW and EK were both relieved that they no longer had to hide the cross country correspondences from the boys. The secret seemed to bring the family closer together.
In the blink of an eye, MianYi turned twelve. That year, his Uncle ErTai and Uncle SaiYa finally returned to BeiJing for good. Life with the Fu family seemed to overflow with happiness and ring with the laughter of children. Xi-er, the eldest daughter, proved more like her father than her mother in temperament, for which Er Tai said he was thankful. Her brothers, the twins, were quite another story. It wasn't that they were irresponsible, they just had such out of the box ideas that trouble seemed to find them regardless. The youngest, Fu Yi, at age 10 already had the bearings of a lady but would often ruin the effect by scampering about with her twin brothers. When Grandpa Ai met the Fu cousins, he laughed and said poor Ji Shi Fu might ask to retire early with the twins at school. He also remarked that Fu Yi must keep Uncle Er Tai busy and that she will be a handful for any suitor who comes calling. When 15-Ah-Ge met the cousins, he smiled warmly and speculated on all the fun the boys would have together. He also seemed much taken with Xi-er, who also seemed to enjoy his company, causing the adults to raise their eyebrows in speculation. When he first learned her name, he chuckled and said to Dong-er, "Well, all we're missing is a Nan-er and a Bei-er and then we'd have a complete compass rose!"
Dong-er and MianYi looked at each, both wondering if they should share the secret with their friend, that they did in fact have a cousin Nan-er and a cousin Bei-er in DaLi. A few days later, after much consultation with the uncles and aunts, the two invited 15-Ah-Ge over for tea and spilt the whole story to 15-Ah-Ge and the other cousins.
Poor 15-Ah-Ge seemed quite overwhelmed by the information but resolutely nodded his head, saying, "Well, I guess that explains a lot. I've heard my mother talk to your mother, Dong-er, about someone named Huan Zhu Ge Ge. I never asked because it really wasn't my place, but I'm glad I know the truth now. This doesn't change anything, really, though at least I know now why Huang Ah Ma would visit Shu Fang Zhai randomly and take me along to see the parrot there sometimes. Thank you for trusting me with this information."
Xi-er also spoke up thoughtfully, "It's strange to think that my mother almost ended up with Uncle Er Kang. Father and Mother always chuckled when I asked about how they met and now I know why. I do agree with 15-Ah-Ge though, it changes nothing really. I mean, certainly, we have a larger family than we thought we did, but for all that they're so far away, they're still family. I just hope they're prepared for a lot of letters because I for one am quite curious about my other cousins."
15-Ah-Ge smiled at her and nodded: "And I am quite curious of my brother, your father, MianYi. From the history books, I can tell he's a good man. I'm glad he's still alive."
MianYi smiled at everyone in relief. They did not look at him in pity but rather accepted everything with genuine warmth. Not for the last time was he thankful that fate gave him such a loving family.
When MianYi turned nineteen, the event the adults had hoped for came to pass and Xi-er and 15-Ah-Ge were wed. Prior to the wedding, Aunty ZiWei and Aunty SaiYa had talked with Xi-er at length regarding the implications of her marriage. They knew that the two shared sincere emotions, but 15-Ah-Ge was most likely going to be the next Emperor and Xi-er would have to share him with other women. Xi-er had merely smiled sadly at her mother and her aunt and nodded her understanding.
Xi-er: "Mother, Aunty, I know what you're trying to say. But I also know that happiness such as yours is rare in our world. I must be practical. I care for him and I know he cares for me, but we each must bear our responsibilities as well. He is a great man and will do great things for this country, I cannot ask him to give it all up because of me. You should know, he agonized over the decision and wrote extensively to DaLi for advice. Aunty XYZ has also written to me. But we are not them. I grew up knowing how the court functions and I have accepted it. Please, mother, aunty, be happy for me. I will be spending my life with the man I love. If I gain additional sister along the way, well, they'll be family. I'd like to think that I love him enough to extend that love to those he might care for."
ZiWei sighed: "Oh Xi-er, I had so hoped that you children would have the kind of happiness I have, but I see it is not to be. I wish you well. I know he will treat you fairly. But if you ever feel sadness, XueShiFu will always be your home."
Xi-er nodded gratefully and turned to her mother. SaiYa sighed, "My daughter, I know what's it's to enter a political marriage. I was fortunate to have found your father and I believe you are fortunate to have 15-Ah-Ge. I also wish you well. You have more patience than I have ever had and I think your kindness will serve you well."
Xi-er nodded gratefully and the three women hugged.
MianYi, meanwhile, found Fu Yi sitting in a tree in a secluded corner of the garden, flinging pebbles into the pond. She has grown up to be quite the beauty, just like her sister, but age has not made her any more docile or lady-like. Indeed, she had insisted on being include in all the martial arts lessons with the boys and could give even 15-Ah-Ge a fair fight. MianYi looked up at her uncharacteristic sullen face and called up to her, "Yi-Yi, what are you doing up there? You know your mother will scold you again if you rip your dress."
Fu Yi glared at him in annoyance, "Hmmp, like she didn't climb trees when she was young. How hypocritical. Go away, MianYi, I want to be left alone."
MianYi shook his head, "You have worries, why not share them with someone?"
Fu Yi continued glaring at him, "And I suppose you think that someone should be you?"
MianYi smiled a little, "Well, we are such good friends, why shouldn't it be me?"
Fu Yi snorted and threw a pebble at his head.
MianYi, who was used to such behavior, expertly dodged the pebble and smiled even more, "Alright Yi-Yi, you leave me no choice but to come up and join you." So saying, he flew up to sit next to her on the branch.
Fu Yi turned to him and demanded, "And who invited you?"
MianYi replied, "Well, you're not pushing me off, so I assume it's alright. Yi-Yi, we've known each other for so long now, I know something's bothering you. Please, tell me about it?"
Fu Yi stared at him for a long moment and then her expression softened, "Very well. Since you're so insistent." She sighed and looked off into the distance, "Jie Jie's (older sister) getting married."
MianYi nodded, "I think we've all suspected this event since they first met."
Fu Yi turned towards him, "Maybe so. But I don't like it."
MianYi tilted his head questioningly, "Oh? I thought you liked 15-Ah-Ge?"
Fu Yi tossed another acorn, "I did. I do. And I know sister's happy."
MianYi, "So what's the problem?"
Fu Yi explained, "I'm not stupid. I know he's going to be Emperor someday. It's a miracle Grandpa Ai hasn't married him off to some other lady already to secure that future. But it's only a matter of time. How can she marry him knowing that he won't be hers alone? That someday there'll be other women? Other children not hers? That he will never wholly be hers as he is now? I don't know if I can do it, though I'll most likely have no choice in the matter. I'm seventeen, of marriageable age, from a good family, and have nothing seriously wrong with me, who will I be married off to?"
MianYi tried teasing her, "Nothing seriously wrong with you? I don't know about that."
When she didn't respond, he grew serious again, "Yi-Yi, it'll be alright."
Fu Yi turned to look at him, "How do you know? Your father abandoned your mother for the woman he loves, didn't he? Why can't 15-Ah-Ge fight for my sister in the same way?"
MianYi sighed, "I know because your sister and 15-Ah-Ge have probably discussed this. She's not stupid either. She knew, perhaps from the beginning, the kind of future that 15-Ah-Ge would have. She's had a lifetime to prepare for it. Besides, think about it Yi-Yi. When my father left, Grandpa Ai was still young, the other Ah Ge's were still young, the chance of one of them making a good heir was pretty good. It's different now. Grandpa Ai is older and of all the Ah Ge's, 15-Ah-Ge is the most suited for the position. Would you have him abandon this country?"
Fu Yi stubbornly shook her head, "Then why doesn't he let her go? Let her find a man who will love only her? Share his life with just her?"
MianYi, "Don't you think he gave her that choice? The 15-Ah-Ge we know would never force anyone to do anything, least of all your sister. She chose to stay with him. She loves him enough to want to try for him. You should support her choice. In the coming years, she'll have moments of weakness and jealousy. For all her logic and kindness, she is still human. She'll need her sister by her side."
Fu Yi sighed, "I know. I think we've always tried to protect her, the twins and me. For all she's our older sister, somehow I've always felt the need to look out for her and not the other way around." She smiled a little, "The twins must be giving 15-Ah-Ge quite the talking-to right now."
MianYi chuckled, "Oh yes. I quite fear for his life."
The two friends sat in the tree a while longer when MianYi broke the silence, "Yi-Yi, are you really worried for yourself?"
Fu Yi looked at her hands, still clasped around her pile of pebbles, "Yes. Call me silly, but I want the kind of love my parents have. The kind Aunty ZiWei and Uncle ErKang have. The kind that enabled your father to abandon all he knew, the kind that can cause Uncle XiaoJian to forget a lifetime of revenge and anger. The kind that that gave Aunty XYZ the motivation to change herself, to give up her freedom, if only for a little while. I know it's next to impossible given the circumstances of my birth and station, but I see it working out for them. I see what is possible and I don't want anything less."
MianYi remarked, "Yi-Yi, I never thought of you as a romantic."
Fu Yi replied, "I suppose sister always seemed the more romantic type huh? And here she is, being all practical. But is it romance, really? MianYi, is it so wrong to want my husband to care just for me? To be able to wake up next to the person you love every morning and not have to wonder when he would have to leave you? You're a boy, you're probably looking forward to the day you can have multiple wives. And it'll be soon for you. Princes like you are married sooner or later. After Sister's wedding, you'll be next."
MianYi sighed, "I don't think it's wrong to want what you want, Yi-Yi. And for the record, I think I stand with your father and Uncle Er Kang on the multiple wives bit."
Fu Yi glanced at him in surprise.
MianYi continued, "I of all people know the tragedy that comes from such a situation. As you say, my father abandoned my mother for the woman he loves. I've wondered, what would it have been like had he stayed? Would my mother have been happy? Would I have had the happy childhood I did? Or would it be marred by the constant competition between my mother and XYZ? Marred by my father's conflict over his paternal responsibility for me and his love for XYZ? Would XYZ have stayed? And even if she did, what if she had children? Would I be friends with my siblings? Or would we be mortal enemies? I cannot fathom not being close to my family; I much prefer what I do have. I don't think a person's heart is meant to be split, for men or women. You speak of choice, Yi-Yi, but my father didn't really have a choice, did he? A man's life was at stake. And that man was his love's brother. Sometimes, it's beyond the control of anyone."
Fu Yi insisted, "But that doesn't make it right!"
MianYi agreed, "It really doesn't. But it's the hand fate has dealt us, it's up to us to make the best of it."
Fu Yi threw another pebble, "So what am I supposed to do? Wait patiently until my marriage is appointed to some stranger I've never met? All for the good of connections? I won't. I refuse. I'll run away to DaLi before I let that happen."
MianYi chuckled, "I don't think Grandpa Ai would do that to you. At the very least, he would ask you first. Besides, any man who marries you will have his hands full. You would be more than he could handle; so much so that he would never have the energy for another wife."
Fu Yi returned to glaring at him, "Oh I'm glad you think it's funny."
MianYi just smiled sadly, "It's really not and I know it. But I have faith Yi-Yi, that things will work out for you."
Fu Yi asked, "How can you be so sure?"
MianYi started to reply, "I…" but was interrupted by SaiYa's voice calling for her younger daughter. He coughed and said, "You'd better go. You don't want to keep your mother waiting."
Fu Yi made a face, "She probably wants to go over the ceremony again. Honestly why sister chose to have a combined Mongolian-Manchu wedding I wouldn't know. So much bother." Still, she flew off the tree and started walking away. After three steps, she turned back and smiled gratefully up at MianYi, "Thank you." Then, she yelled a reply to her mother, picked up the hem of her skirt, and ran to find the other women to prepare for the wedding.
MianYi could only look after her retreating figure and wave absently. Before this conversation, he hadn't given much thought to his own marriage. But in speaking with Fu Yi and voicing his thoughts, he realized he wanted the same thing she did; to have one person to love and to hold his whole life. To know the pure joy that he sees between Uncle Er Kang and Aunty ZiWei. To experience the type of passion that allowed his father to choose a different path. As he watched Fu Yi's figure fade from view, he strongly suspected that the person of his wishes had been sitting right next to him on the tree branch.
Fu Yi's words for the future soon came to pass. Shortly after the wedding, Grandpa Ai called MianYi into his study one day for a private audience. He first discussed MianYi's essay regarding a recent conflict in the border provinces and then brought up the subject of marriage.
Huang Shang, "Well, Mian Yi, 15 Ah Ge's marriage has reminded me that you and Dong-er are about marriageable age as well. As a prince, you must be matched with someone of suitable background. Tell me, have you given any thought to this matter?"
MianYi replied, "Grandfather, I am in no hurry to be married…"
HS waved away his reply, "Nonsense. You're at the age now. General Li has a daughter about your age I believe. It would be good to have a link to the military to protect our dynasty. What say you?"
MianYi tried again, "Granfather, really, I am not looking for a bride."
HS raised an eyebrow, "Oh really now? Are you telling me that no one has aroused your interest?"
MianYi hesitated, "Well…"
HS nodded, "Ah! So there is someone. If she's from a proper family, I don't see why I can't hear your opinion in this matter. I made a mistake with your father, appointing his marriage to your mother without fully hearing his opinions. I do not wish to repeat it with you."
MianYi replied honest, "Well, there is someone. And I think you would approve, but I don't…I think I would like to speak with her first."
HS raised an eyebrow, "I see…Well, you go do that and let me know. Meanwhile…do you think Dong-er would like General Li's daughter?"
MianYi shook his head, "As for that, I'm afraid you will have to ask Dong-er, grandfather."
HS replied, "Very well. In a week, I hope you will let me know about that lady of yours."
MianYi nodded and bade his grandfather good-day.
When he returned home that day, Zi Wei and Er Kang sensed that something was different, but they did not pry. Instead, they allowed MianYi to go to the tree in the garden. Ever since his talk with Fu Yi, he had chosen it as his thinking spot. And so Fu Yi found him there when she heard he had returned. The two had always been close as children but since their talk, they seemed to grow even closer.
Fu Yi joined MianYi on the tree branch without waiting for an invitation, "MianYi, what is the matter?"
MianYi glanced at her solemnly, "Well Yi Yi, you predicted well, Grandpa Ai asked me regarding my opinions for my marriage today."
Fu Yi blinked, "Oh….Did he have a lady in mind?"
MianYi sighed, "Yes…General Li's daughter."
Fu Yi nodded, "That makes sense. She's from the right background and it would do well to have an alliance with her father. He is well respected by the soldiers. I hear she's also quite the beauty. Are you going to marry her then?"
MianYi shook his head, "No…I…No…"
Fu Yi looked at him, "No?"
MianYi repeated, "No…Yi-Yi, remember our conversation prior to your sister's marriage?"
Fu Yi smiled wryly, "Of course."
MianYi continued, "Remember what you said about wanting your husband to love only you?"
Fu Yi nodded.
MianYi, "Well I happen to agree with you. I also have no wish to marry a stranger. I also wish to be with someone for whom I care deeply, just her."
Fu Yi, "Ah. So there is someone else then. Did you tell the Emperor? I can't imagine him refusing you if she's from the right family."
MianYi looked at her intently, "She is. She is from the right family. She's perfect in every way. I know if I told him, he wouldn't object. But…I'm afraid…"
Fu Yi, "You? Afraid? That's a new one…what are you afraid of?"
MianYi, "I'm afraid…I'm afraid she doesn't feel the same way."
Fu Yi shook her head at him, "Oh you silly. Have you tried asking her? I know it's not really done. But maybe I can help you. It's less awkward if a girl asks her. And for all I'm a tomboy, I'm still a girl. So, tell me who she is. If I know her, I'll definitely help you."
MianYi hesitated, "Well, you definitely know her. One could say you know her better than anyone else."
Fu Yi blinked at him, "What do you mean?"
MianYi took a deep breath and reached for her hands, "Yi-Yi, can you not tell? The girl is you. Ever since our talk in this tree, I've been thinking about it. I've tried to picture my future and somehow, you are always in it, always by my side. I know you want someone to love only you, to care for only you. I so want to be that person. I don't know how it happened, how our friendship became so much more to me. But I do know that what I feel is real. I've been so afraid of losing you, losing our friendship, so I didn't say anything. Now that Grandpa Ai is bringing up the subject of marriage, however, I need to take this chance. I cannot marry anyone but you, but only if you're willing. Yi-Yi, are you? Will you share your life with me?"
Fu Yi pulled her hands away, "MianYi, I…"
MianYi looked away, "I see. It's alright. I'll always be your friend. Know that. We can pretend I never said anything."
Fu Yi shook her head, "MianYi, no, that's not what I meant…I…this is so sudden…I…"
She took a deep breath, "I've been thinking too. Since our talk. About why I always feel so comfortable around you, why I was willing to share my thoughts and dreams with you. About just what kind of man I'd want to spend my life with. And somehow, somehow my thoughts always drift to you. I tried to deny it…."
MianYi turned to look at her hopefully, "Are you saying…"
Fu Yi blushed, "Yes. I'm saying, yes."
A huge grin spread across MianYi's face, "You said yes. You did. I wasn't dreaming, yes? You said yes!"
Fu Yi laughed at his giddiness, "Yes, MianYi." He moved to hug her, but only caused the two of them to lose their balance and start to fall of the tree branch. In panic, he grabbed her into his arms and softly landed both of them on the grass below. She scolded him for forgetting that she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself but made no move to extract herself from his embrace. He just smiled down at the girl in his arms, "No matter. Now that I've caught you, I'm never letting you go." As she smiled up at him, he spun her in a circle, causing her smile to turn into happy laughter.
Fu Yi yelled at him to stop, though her words were punctuated with breathless laughter, "MianYi, enough, you're making me dizzy!"
MianYi finally stopped his spinning and gently set her on her feet, "I'm just so happy, I feel like I'm floating."
Fu Yi smiled at him, "Me too. Though, MianYi, don't you find it rather ironic?"
MianYi looked at her questioningly, "Ironic?"
Fu Yi nodded, "Yes, from what Grandpa Ai says, my obsession with martial arts was quite like XYZ was, though he did say I do make more of an effort with book learning. And you are often compared to your father. Isn't it ironic that we should find each other? Like father like son?"
MianYi looked at her thoughtfully before breaking our into a large grin, "No, Yi Yi. Not irony. Fate."
Fu Yi gazed back at him and repeated, "Fate…yes, perhaps it is."
Laughing, she flew back up into their tree branch, causing him to join her. He reached for her hands again and this time, she didn't pull back but rather rested her head on his shoulder. As the couple watched the sun set, MianYi could help but send a thought towards his father, "See father, your wish came to pass. I have found my own happiness, without having to choose between love and duty. Thank you. Fate has been kind to me. I hope she has been kind to you as well."