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The morning of a certain day.
I was lying in my room, limbs spread out before turning over to rub against the bamboo pillow, feeling pretty comfortable.
Suddenly, something pushed against the door from outside. The door caught on its bolt and refused to open. I gave a start as my ears rose to listen. From the space between door and doorframe I could hear the sound of rustling clothing. That person stood quietly outside for a bit, seemingly fixing their belt, before a soft and tired voice called out, “Is the one inside awake?”
“Not awake,” I covered my head and replied.
He sounded like he was smiling. “The food’s been left by the door.” Afterwards he hesitated, as if speaking to himself. “Someone not awake can still reply so smoothly, now that’s strange.”
Are you complaining?
“About that…” he wanted to say, but stopped. There was only the sound of his footsteps by the door.
It was pestering me beyond endurance.
I knitted my brows, straightening up as I rubbed my eyes. “Hurry up if you’ve got something to say…” I didn’t hear the anticipated reply, but a light cough, sudden and unexpected in the deserted courtyard. It seemed he’d already walked far away…
This person was so weird.
I struggled inwardly before dropping my shoulders to lift aside the bedcovers. My eyelashes drooped while my eyes opened, and I lowered my head to grope beneath the bed for my shoes. After putting them on, I opened the door and was hit with a blast of air that made me shiver. My eyes were as sleepy as slits as I squatted dazedly by the door. I was too lazy to even look for my food, choosing instead to grope around until I my fingers felt a plate. Then I carried it into my room and placed it on the table.
I yawned and went back beneath the covers before falling asleep.
Afterwards, I felt something was off. My ears were pressed against the pillow, but there was a fine noise being carried my way. My eyebrows furrowed as I tried to figure it out. It sounded like someone happily pecking at grain. My head turned and I clutched my pillow to look…
As I waited for my blurry vision to clear, I saw a green parrot perched gingerly on the side of a bowl atop the wooden table, burying his head to a merry feast.
This lousy bird, how did it get into my room? Wait, let me think. When Fang Hua delivered breakfast this morning, I carried it inside as usual before sleeping. Could it be…
I rubbed my face with the covers, getting rid of crust from my eyes to sit up and stick my neck over. Huh…looks like I really did forget to close the door. Fang Hua was a good person but too hardworking. He was more timely than the wet nurses at the palace. Before daybreak, he’d finish preparing the food regardless of whether other people or animals were still sleeping. That should be amended.
I yawned again, giving a big lazy stretch. Then I draped my robes over myself and took a look. The food on the table was still warm…there were thick slices of red braised pork, slick with oil, and a small bowl of diced chicken with corn. A single parrot feather floated atop a large bowl of soup.
That little fellow stretched his wings with his back to me, blocking my view completely as he buried his head in the food.
Wait a second…
Was this bird food? It was obvious that it wasn’t. Then whose was it eating…acting so shifty-eyed like that.
I tightened the belt around my waist, body swaying as I sat by the table to grab a pair of chopsticks. A single hand wave was enough to brush him onto the table. “Get lost, keep your distance.”
The parrot seemed stunned, then utterly discomfited.
I ignored him, lifting the bowl of red braised pork and stuffing it into my mouth…
It stretched out its wings, perching on the bowl of soup as it swooped at me, scattering feathers everywhere as it cried shrilly, “Hooligan.”
I sucked up the last traces of oil before shooting him a glance and saying simply, “I am.”
It seemed to be a sharp and clever animal who understood me, because it suddenly turned sullen. Those small mung-bean eyes gave a devious glance at the kernels of corn in the diced chicken bowl.
Oi, this was a new dish that I hadn’t tried before. I moved aside my sleeves and placed a hand on my waist, grinning as I lifted the dish towards me. The parrot grew indignant as it stuck a claw out to step on the edge of the bowl.
“You want to eat?”
It didn’t reply.
“This is…diced chicken!” I picked a piece up with my chopsticks, holding it in front of him. “Thousands of years ago, you two were the same kind, but you’re still so greedy. If you really want to eat it, it’s just a domestic animal. Take it and go far.”
It rose up, so angry that its feathers were standing on end. I silently ignored him and wiped my mouth with my robes, curses, to fall so low that I was fighting over food with livestock…thinking back, the palace had everything…tears…
For the sake of a single bowl, we glared at each other. I sighed with feeling as I finished, calmly continuing to finish up the table before me like an autumn wind sweeping everything before it. A head animal was still an animal, and no match for a human, much less a high-quality hooligan like me. Under its hostile gaze, I lifted my eyebrows, dizzy with my success. Before his face, I chomped loudly on the corn, then picked up pieces of chicken to chew. I didn’t spare the parrot a glance as I turned to scoop up some rice.
Suddenly, a piece of bird poop went flying through the air to land in my bowl…now that was what you called eye-catching… I lifted my expressionless face to look at the chief culprit. It joyfully flapped its wings, looking delighted–no, looking very delighted.
I was smiling too, lifting my index finger to wave it back and forth. The smile disappeared as I swooped and caught it, intended to pluck its feathers out.
“Yifuyifuyifuyifu,” its sharp little mouth cried out in a hurry, as it used all its strength to resist. It hurt when I got pecked, and its glossy feathers thrashed wildly beneath my hands. Its body was extremely smooth and slippery, and a swoop of its feathers had it staggering into flight before it added under its breath, “Curses!”
It had perfectly mimicked my voice when it learned this word. I laughed aloud. The table had long turned into a mess, food and soup splattered on the ground. A dark shadow fell from skies and a pair of wings struck me behind my head, before the parrot flew towards the exit. I didn’t even have time to react before I hear a voice from outside the door.
“I’m telling I’m telling I’m telling…”
This little animal.
If he wanted to tattle to Fang Hua, see if I didn’t pluck out all his feathers. I pulled up my robes and broke into a chase. But there was already no sign of the person…ah, I mean the bird.
It was already late autumn.
Though the wind was extremely cool, it still felt warm when the sun shone on me. A bamboo pavilion had been erected over a pond, accented with white muslin veils. Vaguely, one could make could a figure dressed in a moon-white robe inside, neither real nor unreal. Astonished, I went to take a look.
He sat on the ground in a thin layer of robes, looking over a few pots as if spacing out. There were many flowers by his side, their fragrance carried by the breath of the wind.
“You woke up?” he asked me.
“Un,” I replied vaguely, looking around me. I didn’t see anything, so I drew closer to crouch by his side. “What are you doing?”
Truthfully speaking, a person like me didn’t have any hobbies beyond minding other people’s business.
He lifted his eyes to peer at me. Beneath the folds of his white robes, I could see the tail of that parrot hiding behind his body. He only smiled, just looking.
He seemed so cold that I started to have a guilty conscience. I wondered whether the intelligence and eloquence of this bird had already blabbed out everything to Fang Hua. Forcing a smile, I backed away and prepared to make a stealthy escape.
And yet, he chose this moment to open his mouth, eyes staring intently at me as he spoke like a lonely gentleman of a good family. “I want to brew some wine, but I don’t know how.”
If you didn’t know how to brew, would I know instead?! I was still an amnesiac.
I lifted my eyes to look at the skies, but couldn’t resist looking back to him again.he was dressed very simply, but the first rays of the sun that shone on his face outlined his jaw, forehead, and eyebrows, making it a bewitching sight. You could even say it was completely picturesque, like jade so fine it approached the appearance of snow. His charm stopped me and my timidity in its tracks.
I shook my head.
“To want to brew wine…hehe, Lord Hua’s tastes are elegant and refined, however…” I pointed with my finger as I glanced uncertainly at his side. “This is the first time I’ve heard of putting flowers in wine.”
He lowered his head, holding back a smile. The curve of his eyebrows seemed to suggest a flirtatious air.
“Y-you drank alcohol?” I scooted over suspiciously.
“Just a taste,” he smiled gently, expression as mild as always. Yet that elegant profile held a different charm than usual.
That…’just a taste.’ I looked over and discovered a large jug of wine by his side, the top off and the contents completely empty. Right now he was leaning against the ground, looking at me as he pointed at the empty wine jug. “There used to be a person who could brew delicious wine every time. But I’ve wasted all the jugs…”
“I had a passing whim to drink again, I can’t capture the same flavor when I’m brewing, even though I was the one who taught her how to make it in the first place. Now I keep thinking that I’m missing something.”
I crouched there as I listened, unsure of how to reply. His hands rested on mine, the mole beneath his eye dark red.
“Can I entreat you…to brew together with me?”
“What entreating?” I rolled up my sleeves. “I’ll just go ahead and help you.”
I took the chance to glance at the parrot burrowing into Fang Hua’s robes and bared my teeth in a show of strength. Since I was helping its master, its tattling wouldn’t have much effect on him.
Fang Hua stared at me in a daze. He was very attractive. Blood rushed upwards as I lowered my head, focusing on grinding, picking, and laying out the flowers to dry. He stayed silently by my side, not speaking. Occasionally, I’d look his way and catch his gaze on me every time.
Strangely enough, an odd feeling rose in my chest. It almost resembled fermenting wine, slowly growing sweeter and more mellow. Time flew by like water until the evening sun cast its oblique rays upon us. He quietly watched me as I foolishly continued to work, wasting half my day by his side. My legs had long turned numb by the time the wine jug was full. Taking advantage of my work, he grabbed a small dish with his long, slender fingers and ladled out some wine. Giving me a broad smile, he lowered his head to taste a sip.
“How is it?” After working for most of the day, I was using my sleeves to wipe my face.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve tasted this flavor.”
“Really.” I took a sip from his plate.
This flavor was very queer…it was obviously astringent and not tasty at all, extremely clashing for the taste buds. I choked and started to cough uncontrollably, ladling up a large spoonful of water to rinse my mouth.
The liquid that had just been brewed in the jug tasted like nothing except flowers. There wasn’t a hint of alcohol, yet he raised it to his lips and drank greedily…as if it was excellent wine.
This person was pretty weird, enjoying himself like this so much…
I stared at him while he was totally unawares. After a while, it seemed he’d been reckless enough. His body relaxed and sluggishly collapsed in my lap. I stiffened in response, my scalp turning numb as my face grew hot in surprise. “Aiya, what are you doing…a man and woman…” Shouldn’t be so intimate together.
My voice gradually faded out.
He raised his head to look at me, not knowing where to point with his hand holding the jug. He ended up hugging the container to his chest instead. Even his gaze seemed intoxicated, and my attempts at persuasion gave up to let him do as he wanted…
He didn’t seem to have any alcohol tolerance at all.
“What exactly is romantic love in this world…?” A soft voice asked searchingly.
Yeah, what exactly was it? My heart echoed his question.
His hand clutched at the front of my clothing as he scooted closer. That tipsy gaze turned towards me as he spokely indistinctly. “How far have you and Zichuan gone? Have you tasted the flavor of romantic love?”
I lowered my head to look at him, probably wearing a strange expression on my face. This guy…what exactly did he want to hear? When I didn’t reply for a long time, he drew closer, making me topple backwards from the weight. In the end, he ended up lying on top of me. He seemed to regard me with a disdainful glance that almost seemed a bit cold…and yet, it was a distressful look as well.
Why did he always make my heart pound and ache?
“He’s my husband,” I forgot to dodge the question and replied honestly. “The two of us are blood relations.”
“Teach me. I can do it too…”
He flipped over, hand resting around my neck. His cheeks were as red as peach blossoms, and his eyes seemed to shine with a light that was both intoxicated and stupefied beneath his slender eyebrows. He was looking at me with an expression of suffering…
My chest felt stifled as it strove to beat out of my chest. I hastily pushed him aside and got to my feet in a panic, back facing him as my heart pounded like thunder until it was hard to breathe.
There was a laugh, but it sounded immeasurably lonely.
Astonished, I turned my head. He was half-lying on the ground, head propped in his hands with effort. Soft light illuminated his features and his beautiful expression of longing as he gave a self-ridiculing laugh. “Look at me…” Fang Hua kept laughing until his body trembled, before finally hiding his face away. His voice was low as he spoke. “It seems that we’ve only met recently. Yifu shouldn’t scare you like this…”
He was drunk, so I couldn’t tell whether he was laughing or crying. At the very least, he was still clutching the wine jug to his chest, and that laugh was cold enough to chill the liver. For a long time afterwards, I remembered the words he spoke.
He said, in the lonely dusks to come, only that jug of wine could be warmed…
I didn’t understand him then. By the time I did, it was too late.
 blood relations (肌肤之亲) －jifu zhiqin, basically bonded by blood, or family.
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