...in which Xiao Yan attempts to be an 'elegant female'
Yong Qi tipped the glass of wine lightly and turned it by its long stem, watching the red liquid swirl around. It was a good thing that he decided not to drive today as he rather needed the soothing effects of the Merlot while he waited for his guest. Then again, considering how nervous he was, it probably wouldn't matter whether he drank a glass or a whole bottle; in this state, he'd crash the car without a single drop of alcohol.
Glancing at the clock on the wall, Yong Qi assured himself that it was still slightly early so there was no point getting anxious. His guest was nothing if not punctual. It was simply his own nervousness that was making him restless. It was rather silly, really; if he was nervous now, how would he be feeling when the real time came? It was not as if he had much reason to worry, right?
At seven in the evening, right on the dot, the manager of the restaurant opened the door to the private dining room, to show in the guest, a middle aged man in a smart suit and carrying a briefcase. The man's name was Ou Yang Yu and he had been known to the Imperial Family for quite a long time. If Yong Qi wasn't sure of his discretion, this meeting would definitely not be taking place. Then again, Ou Yang Yu had his job precisely because he was discrete, as part of his job depended on making things that were not to be revealed until the very right moment.
"I apologise for being late, Your Highness," Ou Yang Yu said.
"You know as well as I that I am early, and you are on time, Mr Ou Yang," Yong Qi smiled.
The usual small talk filled up the time that it took for the waiter to appear with menus, pour Ou Yang Yu a glass of wine, refill Yong Qi's glass and for them to order their meals. Only when the waiter had disappeared, closing the door behind him that Ou Yang Yu turned to look at Yong Qi with a knowing smile, but still, he waited for the prince to begin the conversation. It was probably obvious to the older man why they were having this meeting; one only met with Ou Yang Yu for very specific items that Tiffany and co. could not offer. There was no point beating around the bush.
"I suppose I should just get right to it?"
"I am at your disposal, my Prince," Ou Yang Yu said, smiling.
"I need a ring." Yong Qi was trying to keep his expression neutral, but a smile was threatening to break onto his face. He knew this meeting would fill him with all sort of anticipation but he was not prepared for this level of excitement, knowing that he was about the confide in someone a secret that would have to be kept from the rest of the world a little while longer.
"Ah yes." That was all the response.
"An engagement ring," Yong Qi continued when his companion did not seem inclined to make any further comment.
"Yes," the Imperial Jeweler said, smiling wider now and looking quite like he was anticipating a very exciting gift. "I have been wondering when you'd approach me with this request."
"No, I don't suppose it's a surprise. I suppose you came prepared?"
"Of course, sir. Do you have any request? On the cut, or the gold, perhaps? The style?"
No doubt the man's impressive brain was already rushing through a dozen designs, ready to fill in the blanks with Yong Qi's request. There was no doubt that he would make a master piece of whatever Yong Qi asked for, so the prince did not hesitate in saying, "No diamond."
Yong Qi knew this particular request was probably rather disappointing to Ou Yang Yu, considering he specialised in diamonds, but this was the one point where there could be little negotiation. On any other aspect of the design, Yong Qi was willing to depend on the man's guidance and expertise, but not this. Still, Yong Qi felt obliged to explain this admittedly rather odd request, considering what he was ordering was an engagement ring.
"Xiao Yan had professed on more than one occasion that she found it overused in an engagement ring." Of course, what Xiao Yan actually said was in reference to something else; she probably wasn't even thinking of her own engagement ring when she told Yong Qi this. It was not like Xiao Yan to hint, especially when it concerned taking their relationship further. However, it was precisely because she didn't mean it as a hint that made Yong Qi determined to tuck away that throwaway comment for future reference. He continued to speak when Ou Yang Yu simply reacted to this uncommon preference with a nod and a sip from the wine glass. "Perhaps leave that for a secondary stone in the wedding ring. But for the engagement ring, white gold, a pearl, I think, with emeralds."
"Yes, I think that would set off the pearl nicely," the jeweler said, reaching for his briefcase. "Perhaps I could show you some designs?"
Yong Qi grew up knowing that diamonds and emeralds were all within his reach, but that didn't mean he particularly paid attention to how they could be assembled in any kind of jewellery or what each gem meant. Yet it was this that made the meeting with Ou Yang Yu all the more interesting and oddly educational. The jeweler's love for each gemstone showed in the reverent tone he used to describe the meaning of each possible combination to Yong Qi. He only paused in his explanations long enough for the waiter to come in with their food and was otherwise so engrossed in his explanation that if Yong Qi had been less interested, he would probably had felt rather overwhelmed and annoyed. Still, Yong Qi was delighted to know that his almost arbitrary choices based on vague references Xiao Yan made at one time or other in their conversations actually created a rather moving message.
"These designs are, of course, just guides," Ou Yang Yu said towards the end of the evening, snapping his pen shut and shuffling the rough sketches in front of them. "I will put unique touches on it when I begin the work, of course."
"Yes, that would be great. If you could just email the design to me before you start."
"I think a smaller pearl would do fine, since it cannot be cut into shape. If it's too big, it will drown out the emeralds."
Yong Qi simply smiled and nodded, but was rather too lost in his thought to make a verbal reply. "Hmmm..."
Yong Qi chuckled to himself before turning back to his guest. "I was just wondering what the press will say when they see it's not a diamond."
The other man smiled. "With any luck they won't realise it's an engagement ring and you can announce it in your own time. In any case, I will make the ring first, and if there's any adjustment that needs to be made to the size, you can always take it back to me, and then I would be able to use those measurements for the wedding set as well. I suppose you might want to wait for Miss Xia's input on the wedding set?"
The waiter reappeared then again with the bill, which Yong Qi grabbed before Ou Yang managed to. Their conversation about the ring paused while they had the obligatory argument about who would pay, an argument which Yong Qi won. He only spoke again when they were left waiting for the waiter to return with his credit card.
"Yes, I think so, let's wait on the wedding rings. I don't think she'd quite forgive me, or even say yes, if I have everything planned out before hands."
"I would like to be the first to offer you congratulations if I weren't afraid it might jinx things to say too much now." Ou Yang said with a smile. "However, I am sure she will say yes."
Yong Qi could not help returning that smile with a wide grin. "Well, let us hope so!"
"Do you have a deadline for me, sir?"
"Well, any time before August would be fine."
"Plenty of time, then. I can email you the design at the end of the week and I am sure it will be ready by the end of the month."
Yong Qi nodded and signed the bill that the waiter held out to him along with the credit card.
"You do realise why I can't meet you at home?" Yong Qi asked as they were walking out of the restaurant.
"Of course, sir."
"My father and grandmother knows of my plan, but that's about it."
This was a bit of an understatement. In actuality, telling his father and grandmother of his definite intentions had resulted in a talk with the Prime Minister about a "hypothetical" situation of Yong Qi proposing to Xiao Yan (the Prime Minister was not fooled about the hypothetical nature of the conversation) and whether parliament would choose to disapprove. Of course, Yong Qi knew in this day and age, parliament's explicit approval was always more as a formality than anything, though when spoken of, it always sounded a lot more intimidating. Besides, if parliament wanted to express disapproval they would have done so long before things got this far. Xiao Yan was Chinese, apparently didn't have any family with any political ambitions or radical preferences, and that was all that parliament needed to know. In fact, he had a feeling the more liberal portions of them probably rejoiced at the fact that she was a Han. In any case, the Prime Minister and parliament needn't know when he was going to make his intentions official.
Ou Yang just smiled before shaking Yong Qi's hand, because they have reached the prince's car. Er Kang who was waiting to open the door for Yong Qi, raised an eyebrow as he saw who accompanied the prince. Later, when he slipped into the front seat next to the chauffeur, who remained impassive as if he didn't know who Ou Yang Yu was, Er Kang turned around and looked at Yong Qi in the back seat.
Yong Qi just smiled.
"I don't need the pressure, you know," Er Kang said with mock discontent before turning around as the car backed out of the parking space.
Yong Qi simply smirked.
Zi Wei ran from her bedroom down to the living room, tossed aside a cushion and grabbed her bag as the phone continued to ring. She fished it out and saw that it was Yong Qi. "Hello," she answered a little breathlessly.
"You ok?" her brother asked.
"Oh yeah, sure, I just ran around looking for my bag," she said, sitting down on the couch.
"Ok, where are you and is Xiao Yan with you?"
"No, I'm at home."
"Where's Xiao Yan?"
"Somewhere with He Jing, why?"
"Oh great! I want to talk to you!"
"Me? What's going on?"
"I'll come over in a minute, I'll explain then."
"Yong Qi - " But he had already hung up. Zi Wei stared at the phone in her hand. That was weird, especially for Yong Qi. He was apparently keen on seeing her without Xiao Yan knowing. If she wasn't related to him and if she didn't know better, she'd think -
Zi Wei smiled at the absurdity of it and but she was still puzzled, fifteen minutes later, when Yong Qi joined her in the couch of the living room at Shu Fang Zhai.
"What's going on?"
Yong Qi didn't answer but just reached into his pocket and pulled out a small blue velvet box. Zi Wei gasped as she saw it. Her eyes widened even more as Yong Qi opened the box to reveal a ring.
Zi Wei blinked once, then looked up at Yong Qi's rather hopeful face and chuckled, "I love you, Yong Qi, but I really hope you're not planning to offer that to me."
Yong Qi rolled his eyes and set the ring down on the table in front of them. "What do you think?"
"I think you're sitting with the wrong girl."
Yong Qi just shoved her shoulder lightly and said, "Seriously, Zi Wei."
"It's beautiful," Zi Wei smiled. "I think she'd love it."
"Do you think she'd say yes?"
Judging by the slight hesitation in his voice and the way his brows came together slightly in worry, Zi Wei knew he was sincere in his question, though she couldn't understand how he could possibly wonder that. She gave him an encouraging smile and said, "Oh come on. You've been together for almost three years. I'd wonder if she didn't expect it sooner or later."
"Does she? I didn't think Xiao Yan was the kind of girl who would fantasise about weddings."
Zi Wei laughed. "All girls do at some point, you know. Anyway, you know the press have been fighting over this exclusive story for ages and I wonder who would get the first headline up. Who knows with how electronic newspaper work these days. Xiao Yan may not expect it this soon but you know it's definitely a long time coming for the press."
"Do you think I should just wait then? Maybe till she graduates?" he asked worriedly.
It was rather adorable how Yong Qi was genuinely concerned that there might be some small chance that Xiao Yan would say no, but in a way Zi Wei could understand why. She knew that Yong Qi and Xiao Yan had talked about the idea of marriage because it was impossible not to considering how often the press speculated on it, especially recently. They both knew what they were working towards but when that event would take place was always like a pink elephant in the room, always present, never touched on.
"I think she'd say yes, no matter what," Zi Wei told him with a reassuring smile. "Of course you're going to have to wait until she graduates to get married, but I think she might need the time to actually get used to the idea. I mean, I know she'd have thought about it but it won't be so real until she really has that on her finger."
"Yeah I suppose you're right."
"What is it? A pearl and..."
"Emeralds. Emeralds for fidelity and goodness, pearl for purity and love. Well, that's the general idea anyway. Ou Yang Yu was a lot poetical about it."
Zi Wei laughed. "So is there something you want to tell me other than just to show me the ring?"
"I don't know. I just felt like I needed show someone, so that if I start acting weirdly you'd know why and keep Xiao Yan sane or something," Yong Qi said.
"I'm the only one who knows then?"
"No, Huang Ah Ma does, and Grandmother, which I suppose means the Empress knows too. Ou Yang Yu knows of course, he made the ring. And Er Kang was there when I met with Ou Yang so..."
"You might want to let Xiao Yan knows before you tell anyone else," Zi Wei said with a smirk.
"Yeah, but not yet. I do have a plan, you know."
"In good time," Yong Qi said. "Speaking of, though, how are you and Er Kang?"
"We're fine," Zi Wei said, "even if he does spend more time with you than he does with me."
Yong Qi laughed. It was an old complaint, really, and he knew Zi Wei didn't really mean it. After Zi Wei came into the palace, Er Kang had been transfered from being Yong Qi's head of security to being Zi Wei (and therefore, by association, Xiao Yan's as well). The change was merely due to a need to have a competent, experienced security officer who Zi Wei knew and can ease her into the system of having such intense security. Yong Qi had merely commented on the loss of having someone who knew so well when to back off without him having to request it, but otherwise, it didn't affect his day to day activities at all.
For Zi Wei, however, somehow during all the time that Er Kang spent protecting Zi Wei, a spark developed between them. As their relationship grew, and eventually was made public, it was obvious that Er Kang's feelings for Zi Wei might affect his decisions regarding her protection. So Er Kang was transferred back to protecting Yong Qi. Then again, Zi Wei and Xiao Yan spent so much time together and Yong Qi spent so much with Xiao Yan that it never really even mattered who exactly Er Kang was on duty for. Still, Er Kang did still have to be on constant alert when on duty, so there were times when Zi Wei would jokingly complain that Yong Qi was commandeering all her boyfriend's attention and time.
"Is he going to ask any time soon?"
"If you don't know, how would I know?" she asked. It was not something they have talked in details about either, but the reason was a lot more relaxed than Xiao Yan and Yong Qi's situation. With Er Kang, Zi Wei was just content to let things develop in its own place. "But I don't mind. Besides the press will be all over you after this becomes public that they probably won't have time to speculate about us so it's good."
"Zi Wei, you underestimate the press' ability to multi-task. Trust me, when they are busy reporting about this, they will also be speculating more than ever when you are getting engaged. This is speaking from experience."
"It wasn't suddenly that the whole world expected me to marry Qing Er. Yong Zhong was getting married then and according to the press, that meant that the rest of us who had a significant other had to do the same."
"Well then maybe the press should be more concerned about our older brothers who aren't married yet before worrying about me. Anyway I won't be putting any pressure on Er Kang so he won't care about pressure from anywhere else."
Yong Qi was about to answer but then Xiao Yan and He Jing's voices sounded out in the hallway. He grabbed the ring off the table and shoved it in his pocket, before turning to greet them.
Yong Qi slowly opened the door to Xiao Yan's bedroom, and peeked in, relieved to see that she was still fast asleep. It had taken all his will power to wake up so early to make sure that he was at Shu Fang Zhai before Xiao Yan was awake, especially when his girlfriend had an unnerving ability to just wake up with the dawn. Even Zi Wei was not awake yet and he had startled the staff of Shu Fang Zhai by appearing so early that morning. But considering it was her birthday - or at least the day that the orphanage she grew up in decided was her birthday - he was able to convince the housekeeper to let him in without waking either Zi Wei or Xiao Yan.
He quietly entered the room and closed the door behind him. On the bed, Xiao Yan was facing the wall, but at the slight click of the door as it closed, she turned over to face him. Yong Qi held his breath for a moment, leaning against the door, hoping that she would not wake up just yet. When after a few minutes, Xiao Yan didn't wake up, Yong Qi slowly let out the breath he'd been holding and approached her.
He sat down gently, making sure not to wake her, and just watched her sleep for a long moment. His heart was beating too wildly and for a moment he was absurdly worried that it might actually wake her up. The feelings that rushed through him were not just the anticipation and nervousness of what he was about to do, but also a sense of awe as he realised that if what he was about to do was successful, this would be the first thing that he did every day: watch her sleep, and watch her wake up. Or maybe it would be the other way around; the one doing the sleeping would be him and the one doing the watching would be her. In any case, her face would be what he saw first every morning, and what he saw last at night. The idea made him smile. He wanted to lean down and kiss her, but that surely would wake her, and he needed to do something else before she woke.
Slowly, he picked up her left hand and slipped the ring on her third finger. Then, leaning down, he raised the hand to his lips and gently kissed it.
Xiao Yan stirred again, and this time, her eyelids were fluttering slightly, as she slowly rose to consciousness. Yong Qi supported himself on his elbow and placed tiny kisses on her cheek until she opened her eyes.
"What are you doing here so early?" she mumbled, her eyes and voice still full of sleep.
"Wishing you happy birthday," he whispered.
"It's not really my birthday, you know," she told him, again. He would do something for her "birthday" every year, and every year, she'd remind him that it wasn't really literally her birthday; she didn't really know when her birthday really was. And every year, he told her that everyone deserved to celebrate a birthday and this was hers. He hoped that this year he'd given her another reason to remember this day.
He watched, almost holding his breath again, as she raised her hands to rub sleep from her eyes, which were now closed again. Then, as the ring brushed her face, she froze and frowned in confusion before opening her eyes. Her eyes immediately widened as she saw the ring on her finger and she sat straight up, wide awake now.
"What - " she gasped, staring at the ring first before looking at him. Yong Qi didn't say anything at first, but just smiled at her. "What - what is that?" she whispered, finally, as if she couldn't believe what she was seeing.
"That," Yong Qi smiled, nodding at her hand, "is a ring."
Xiao Yan blinked. "I - Are you - Did you - Yong Qi?" she gasped weakly.
Yong Qi sat up as well and took her left hand in his, saying teasingly, "I think I'm the one who's supposed to be doing the asking."
She still stared at him in amazement, but then gave a small chuckle. Then she said faintly, "You're really going to have to say it, so I know I'm not hallucinating."
Now that the moment was here, Yong Qi couldn't think straight and he wished that he rehearsed something and hadn't thought to leave everything to the emotions of the moment. He struggled for a moment to form words, and the words that eventually came out were not what he expected. It was too whimsical but they were spoken before he could take them back.
"Xiao Yan, in vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you. I beg you to relieve my sufferings and consent to be my wife."
There was a short silence. Then, "No."
So the words that he said weren't what either of them expected, but the idea was there, so this answer was definitely not the one he was hoping for or expecting. He simply stared at her in horror, opened-mouthed, his heart sinking and ready to break, not noticing the amusement that danced in her eyes until she burst out laughing.
"I'm sorry, that's what you get for quoting a proposal that was rejected! I'm just playing the part!" she said.
A rush of relief swept through him but his heart was still hammering against his chest. She still had not said yes yet.
"It's not the context, it's the sentiment that mattered," he said, pretending to look hurt.
"Well, at least you didn't ask whether I expected you to rejoice the inferiority of my circumstances, to congratulate yourself on gaining relations whose stations were so decidedly below your own," Xiao Yan continued, still not able to curb her amusement. "And you're lucky I didn't quote the entire reply!"
"Xiao Yan," Yong Qi moaned, "please...I'm serious."
She stopped laughing and instead looked at him for a long while with soft, dreamy eyes. "You are, aren't you?"
"Yes. Marry me," he said, taking both of her hands in his and holding tight. Forget fancy speeches and words. There was only one thing that mattered at that moment. "I love you. Marry me, just me, without the famous quotes, without someone's words. Just me and you. Please."
It was probably not the most coherent speech he had ever made in his life, but Xiao Yan apparently didn't mind; her eyes lit up and shined with pure happiness, and she smiled. There was little that was more beautiful to Yong Qi that moment than that smile. "Yes," she whispered, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Yes, yes, yes, of course I'll marry you."
"Are you sure?" he asked warily but couldn't help but give a shaky laugh at himself.
She giggled, "Definitely." Then she leaned in and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. "I love you," she whispered before kissing him again.
"Don't scare me like that again," Yong Qi said against her lips.
"I didn't mean to," she giggled again. "I really didn't mean to say no. Honestly I would say yes to anyone who said to me 'in vain have I struggled', but both the quote and the chance of being someone who would actually say no to a proposal from you was too good to pass up!"
He sat up, leaning against the headboard of the bed, and pulled Xiao Yan into his arms. "Well, one thing's for sure, I'm never quoting Darcy to you again." But he was grinning at her.
"You forget that Darcy isn't supposed to be great with words, I think," she said. "Did you honestly plan to quote that though?"
"No. Actually I wasn't planning anything, I wanted to say whatever I could come up with at that moment."
"And you came up with that," Xiao Yan said, laughing.
"And I came up with that. I should just ask again," he said.
Xiao Yan entwined their fingers together and held up their hands so they could see the ring. "You can, I won't complain, but you know the answer already."
"Which one, the first or the second?"
"Both answers were suitable to the question."
"I guess I was kind of asking for it," he grinned. "It was a bit of a fright though."
"Did you know that in Japan when you are offerred a gift, you're supposed to refuse it at least three times before reluctantly accepting it?" she asked cheekily.
"Yes, but seeing as we are neither Japanese nor in Japan, I don't see why that's relevant. And I wasn't offering you a gift, I was offering you marriage."
"Yeah, but you should know that it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their favour; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second or even a third time. After all, I should be striving to be an elegant female considering I want to marry into the imperial family, should I not?"
Yong Qi groaned. "I thought we were done quoting Pride and Prejudice."
Xiao Yan giggled, "No, you said you were not going to quote Darcy anymore, you didn't say I can't quote Elizabeth."
He burst out laughing. "Love, you're not quoting Elizabeth. You're quoting Mr Collins!"
"So what does that make you?" she laughed.
"Confused," he answered. "I would rather you not indulge in the kind of elegance which consists in tormenting a respectable man."
"Then I won't anymore. You know," she said with a sincere smile, "between you, Darcy and Collins, I would much rather marry you."
"I hope so," he whispered, "seeing as I'm real and they're not."
"Thank you, by the way," she said, snuggling up against him.
"For keeping the ring not a diamond. I didn't expect you to actually remember that or to even pick it up at all."
He chuckled, "A normal woman would want a diamond. Your engagement ring is supposed to cost a small fortune. This ring didn't cost me half so much."
"But to make up for it, there is obviously meaning behind your choice of gem, isn't there? A diamond would just mean it's a convention."
"Yes," he smiled, taking her hand and turning it over to reveal the ring. "The emerald is a preservation of love, and faith and fidelity, but it also represents hope and brings the wearer harmony, reason and wisdom. The pearl, on the other hand, symbolises a happy marriage. This is a gold pearl, which is meant to bring prosperity. So there you are, everything I wish for us in our marriage is all in this ring. But no, this isn't exactly a conventional engagement ring. Or at least, modern convention. A traditional convention would involve some sort of jade, but jade doesn't really made a very pretty ring, honestly."
"I don't really want to be conventional, honestly," she smiled, stroking the ring with her other hand.
"Well, your response to the proposal wasn't quite conventional either," he teased.
"You admitted that you asked for it. I can't believe you would actually quote Austen though."
"All the results of a literary education courtesy of He Jing. She's obsessed with that book. And the 95 series. And Colin Firth."
"I know, I'm just amazed that you listen to her enough to remember."
"I think some of it probably seeped through by osmosis or something. Though why are we talking about Pride and Prejudice, where the characters take a few hundred pages to come to an understanding, when we already have an understanding and could be doing other things a lot more interesting?"
"Like what?" she asked coyly.
"Like this." And he leaned in and met her lips in a kiss.
When they emerged from Xiao Yan's room a while later, they made their way down to the dining room, where Zi Wei was having breakfast.
"Morning," Zi Wei said, looking up, but not looking at all surprised to see Yong Qi already here so early. She just smiled knowingly. "Happy birthday," she told Xiao Yan.
"Not again," Xiao Yan groaned. "It's not really my birthday."
Zi Wei didn't answer that but just smiled at both her brother and friend. Yong Qi wasn't sure whether Xiao Yan had hidden her hand under the table on purpose or not, but he just smiled secretly and helped himself to breakfast. Xiao Yan remained likewise closed-lips and just pulled the paper to her and started reading it. With her right hand. Her left remained under the table, resting just beside Yong Qi's knee.
He could see Zi Wei looking impatiently between them and smiled innocently at her. Of course Zi Wei woud realise the reason for his early arrival that day, even if he didn't tell her of his plan before hand.
"Oh for goodness' sake!" Zi Wei exclaimed finally after they refused to say anything. "Will you just tell me so I can congratulate you?"
"On what?" Xiao Yan feinted ignorance.
"Give me your hand," Zi Wei demanded, holding out her own to take Xiao Yan's hand. "Not that one, the other one!"
Yong Qi chuckled to himself as Xiao Yan, as if trying to taunt Zi Wei, slowly extended her left hand. Zi Wei exclaimed excitedly upon seeing the ring on her friend's finger. "I knew it!" Both Xiao Yan and Yong Qi laughed as she stood up and walked around to their side, hugging them both and kissing them both on the cheek. "Oh this is wonderful, you're going to be my sister!"
"Yeah you can't get rid of me now, can you, Zi Wei?" Xiao Yan asked, laughing.
"Who said I wanted to?"
I'll be honest, the entire plot of Xiao Yan Zi's family in Let the Years Sculpture Our Love was supposed to be written for The Prince and Me. You'll find that it makes a lot more sense in this context. The details have been changed for Let the Years, of course, from what I originally intended, to fit the period setting.
What happened was that I managed to write myself into a corner regarding something else with The Prince and Me, and I also wasn't feeling this whole plot in the modern setting, so I really struggled writing it. I started experimenting an alternate version in the ancient period setting just to get myself out of a block, and suddenly a week later I had chapters 12-15 of Let the Years. At the beginning I was afraid this premise was too unbelievable for that setting but it seemed to work. After that it was all just running downhill and I ended up with the latter half of Let the Years.
So what does that mean now for The Prince and Me? I really am very reluctant to abandon the story, because I once imagined what the wedding scene would be like already, and there are little bits and pieces that I wanted to put into future chapters if I continue it. But to get to those moments that I want to write just seems like a herculean effort now. I don't think I can get back to the place I was when I wrote the start of that story. Trying to finish it now is looking more stressful than fun, which was what that fic started out as. So I'm going to just stop here and call it a vague ending. I'm sorry about that, I've put off admitting this for a long time. I've actually thought about removing the story altogether, but I think I should just leave it alone now. Thank you for reading the story in the first place, and I hope you can still enjoy what there is of it.