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Chapter 2 Chapter 2
Chapter 2 In the mansion of the Highness of Xiangdong, at the wedding ceremony, I wore s.h.i.+ny decorations, with a red cloth covering my face, so I could see nothing but the ground. This made me feel like I was a puppet with my strings drawn by the wedding director to complete all the complicated procedures. The decorations made my figure striking and charming, but they were heavy to carry. The ceremony lasted until night came, and the guests dropped off. One of the maids for this wedding told me that the red cover began its usage in weddings during the Jin Dynasty, the dynasty before ours. Before Jin, no brides used anything to cover their faces. I agreed with her that I should follow the wedding customs. But when she later disappeared from my sight, I immediately took off the cover to look around my new room. The whole room was decorated with red things. Red quilt, red bed curtains, and the red wedding dresses I was wearing The golden incense thurible was sending out thick smoke, which made me upset and restless upon smelling it.
”Has the concubine slept? ” ”But our Highness has not come back yet. . . Maybe the lady is tired from the long journey to our mansion.” I smiled when I heard the two young maids. ”I heard that the concubine is a cursed woman. . . ” ”Don’t bring up anymore of these nonsense rumors.” ”This isn’t just a rumor; it was mentioned by the maids who came to welcome her. They said when the carriages arrived in Xizhou, suddenly a heavy wind came and blew away the trees and roofs and pillars of the residences there. ” “Really? The mother of our Highness believes in the mysteries of destiny and fate. If she heard about this, how would our concubine be able to live with her?” “Even the Highness may despise her. The concubine’s future could be hard. . .” Hearing their conversation, I grew worried. If what they said was true, I was already a loser on my first day here? How could I fail my mom’s expectations so easily?
”Your majesty. . .”the maid outside called with respect.
”Who’s given you two the boldness to gossip here? Go on and get over to Madam Su for your punishments! In addition, tell the madam to find the people who told you these rumors, have them beaten twenty times, and driven out.”
I rushed to my bed and covered my head with the cloth, sitting as I should on the edge of the bed.
When he came in, for the first time of my life, I felt extremely uneasy.
His steps approached; his breath was near my ear. “You are the talented girl Xu Zhaopei of Donghai Yan County? The one who knows the Four Books and the Five Cla.s.sics well, skilled in lyre-playing, chess, calligraphy and painting, the grand-daughter of the Supreme Military Officer Xu Xiaosi of the previous Qi Dynasty, and the daughter of the General Xu Kun?”
Hearing his comments, my heart released. He did not deny me. “Yes, it is me,”I replied lightly. ”Though my looks are not as pretty as the national beauties, they aren’t bad. Besides, I was born into a family with strict education and etiquette. Aren’t you satisfied with me?”I asked with some temper, but he simply ignored me and laughed. He took off my head cover. He was handsome, even with an eye dark and unable to see. He had an inborn quality befitting a king. When he saw my face, he was surprised and happy. ”Are you willing to marry me?”
I didn’t know how to answer him. ”Or would you be willing to marry someone beloved and live an ordinary and casual life?” He spoke my heart. Every word he spoke out was my soul’s desire. But his innate n.o.bility made me feel pressured and my breath became heavier. I knew he was testing my true att.i.tude toward a half-blind man，even though he was a Highness. ”Would you mind marrying me? Someone cursed by fate?”I replied. Thinking of the hard snow and roaring wind, I still could not comfort myself from the fear of that sudden change of weather. “What’s your opinion?”He smiled; the expression was beyond my understanding. Like it or not, both of us would become someone’s chitchat in the royal families. How would his mother treat me? Would she take me into the family despite my difference? He took up my hand. I could feel his warmth. “Zhaopei, after a long wait, finally I have you.” I was surprised by his affection as he spoke. My complaints about this marriage from the beginning disappeared because of him, though I didn’t know why he said such a sentence. Could this marriage be a good one? Would it ease the burden of my destined difficult life? I had no idea. “Would you like to listen to my story about the storms on the way?”I told him everything, including my sadness about leaving home, but I did not mention the nun and her predictions.