Waiting for ‘Him’
"Why isn't it raining yet?.”
Bai Ge accompanied Cui Ti to sit under the pear tree to bask in the sun. She couldn't help but chuckle at her mistress's negative attitude, "Why are you so gloomy? The day is beautiful, the sun is shining, why would you want it to rain?.”
But her laughter quickly dissipated as she noticed a change in Cui Ti's expression, she reached out to touch her forehead but hesitated, feeling it would be undignified. Her eyes filled with sorrow as she said, "Mistress, don't think about these things."
She was sure Cui Ti had a high fever and burned her brain, otherwise why had she been 'looking' at the wall since yesterday?. Could it be that the mistress doesn't want to continue being a bird in a cage, and wants to die early?.
Bai Ge's heart sank as she imagined her mistress committing suicide, her voice shook as she spoke softly and cautiously, "Please listen to me, mistress. It's better to live than to die. As long as you live, there's still hope. Otherwise, those people in the North Courtyard will wake up laughing hearing about your death.”
Cui Ti tilted her head and stared blankly at her, "What kind of nonsense are you talking about?.”
"I..." Bai Ge touched her nose, feeling embarrassed for speaking her thoughts aloud.
Despite the fact that Cui Ti and her sister Cui Dai shared the same mother, it was not an exaggeration to say that they were enemies. If Cui Ti were to pass away, Cui Dai would not just wake up with a smile, she would die from laughter.
Bai Ge lamented that she followed a master who was bullied, and pretended to slap herself: "I see, it’s only this maid’s nonsense. Mistress, don't take it to heart."
"Where's the litter of rabbits we raised? You go and release them secretly."
"Let them go?" Bai Ge's eyes widened as she imagined the delicious roasted rabbit slipping away from her grasp. "Why do you want to release them?”
Cui Ti's face grew somber as she explained, "Because Cui Dai's men will be arriving in a few days, and they will mercilessly kill the litter of rabbits, breaking their legs and arms.”
Cui Ti knew this because of her dream since Cui Dai had described it to her in vivid detail. She ordered someone to unscrew the heads of the litter of rabbits, be it big or small, none of them escaped her poisonous hands.
"Okay, okay, I’ll let them go!" Seeing her mistress’s face turn pale and her knuckles tense, Bai Ge was too flustered to continue asking, and got up to go to the rabbit cage.
Cui Ti's stiff posture slowly relaxed, and the falling pear blossoms landed gently on her thin shoulders as the spring breeze blew by.
Her vision was as dark and impenetrable as ink, her skin pale and bloodless. The white gauze bandages covering her eyes only served to accentuate her serene and gentle demeanor.
"Mistress, the maid is back."
"Were they all released?.”
Bai Ge nodded immediately: "Yes!.”
The more affirmative she was, the more suspicious Cui Ti became: "Not even one of them can be here, we have to let them all go."
"Let all of them be released. The rabbits will be jumping and running more happily than staying with us."
Bai Ge had her hands clasped behind her back, hiding a plump and gray rabbit which was struggling against its fate.
After a moment of contemplative silence, Cui Ti let out a soft sigh, "Bai Ge, I may not be able to see, but please do not deceive me."
These words hit Bai Ge where it hurt the most. She stepped forward, revealing the gray rabbit, tears streaming down her face, "I had no intention of deceiving you, mistress. Tomorrow is your eighteenth birthday, this rabbit is my gift to you. Please do not make me set it free.”
Cui Ti was stunned.
She has always known of Bai Ge's loyalty, and that Bai Ge not only regards her as her master, but compared to Cui Dai, Bai Ge is the younger sister who really respects her as an elder sister.
"All these years, I have dragged you down."
"Don't say that." Bai Ge hugged the rabbit tightly, not willing to fall for the tricks of the other party which were to soften her heart.
Anyway, it's out of the question, tomorrow the rabbit will be sacrificed for the mistress sake!
Hearing that her trick didn't work, Cui Ti pursed her lips and persisted: "Isn't there still rice in the jar?.”
The rice was specially sent by Cui Dai yesterday.
Bai Ge was so angry that she was about to cry: "It's the mistress’s birthday, let's not eat the rice she gave us! She came to humiliate us, so, don't be wronged like this!.”
If Bai Ge ate the rice delivered by Cui Dai, she felt that she would grow a head shorter!i
The smile on Cui Ti's lips faded, hearing her maid’s response.
Worried about making the mistress sad by saying the wrong thing, Bai Ge was about to say a few soft words, when Cui Ti replied gently, "The rice is from the Cui family. What does the rice from my family have to do with Cui Dai?.”
"If she wants to humiliate me, I will not back down. If she wants me to die, I will live a good life. But first, we need to feed ourselves," Cui Ti said with determination.
This gray rabbit died miserably because of her. But in this life, she hopes that it will be a happy fat rabbit jumping around.
"Leave it be," Cui Ti said, and Bai Ge reluctantly let go of the rabbit, but to her surprise, the gray rabbit didn't run away immediately. Instead, it rubbed against the corner of Cui Ti's skirt, looked back for a few seconds, then hopped into the grass and disappeared into a rabbit hole.
Cui Ti couldn't see this scene, but Bai Ge described it to her with a smile, "Mistress, at least this rabbit knows how to be grateful."
"But, I'm still hungry."
The corner of Bai Ge's mouth twitched, and it still hurts to think of the loss of the litter of rabbits.
"Anyhow, I'm going to cook for the mistress now."
After leaving the courtyard, Bai Ge took a few glances at Cui Ti and sighed: "The mistress is just too kind."
Why does the family not celebrate their daughter's birthday? This time it seemed like there would at least be a few delicacies but the rabbit meat also ran away.
They were both born to the same father and mother, so why is the mistress’s life so hard unlike her sister?
Bai Ge forced back the tears in her eyes, and turned around to cook.
The mistress is right as the rice belongs to the Cui family and as the eldest daughter of her uncle, it is only natural for her to eat rice from her own family. Therefore, we shouldn't throw it away just because it was given to us by Cui Dai.
March 3rd is not only Cui Ti's birthday, but also Cui Dai's.
The north courtyard was filled with the sounds of celebration as her father and mother threw a lavish banquet for their beloved daughter, while only a few people spared a thought for the blind girl living in the dilapidated house in the south courtyard.
Even if one thought of her, it would be with a sense of pity, as a blind woman would never be able to ascend the social ladder. She had been deemed an ill omen by her parents from the moment of her birth.
But that should not take away from the fact that today is also her right to celebrate her birthday.
"After today, the mistress will be a woman and she can start thinking about marriage," Bai Ge said, tears streaming down her face as she looked at her naturally beautiful mistress with red eyes. "I wonder which gentleman will be fortunate enough to marry her."
Cui Ti sat there in a daze.
The air was thick with the humidity and earthy scent of the freshly fallen pear blossoms.
The prior day, it had rained in the middle of the night, and Cui Ti was so excited that she hadn't been able to sleep well for half the night. She laid there with her eyes closed, lost in thoughts of her past life, uncertain if it was all just a dream, and worried that Pei Xuan wouldn't come to meet her.
Bai Ge thought of her as a kind and gentle person, but she knew that among the wealthy and well-born children of the city of Xijing, Pei Xuan was the only one who was willing to marry her and hold her in his heart.
But there was still something that puzzled her, if Pei Xuan didn't truly love her, then why would he go against the odds to marry her?
In the dream, Cui Ti had been in a relationship with him for three years, and Pei Xuan didn't kiss her many times. The most intimate moment with him was when he came back from the pub, and hugged and touched her in a daze of drunkenness.
He was afraid that he would identify the wrong person, so he asked her identity first, but as soon as she told him he was the "lady", his breathing became disordered, and he bit Cui Ti’s lower lip in a daze.
But this bite woke him up.
The sober Pei Xuan has a different personality. He is gentle, restrained and polite, a gentleman's model praised by everyone in Xijing.
He took off his coat and placed it on her shoulders before speaking softly, "It's all my fault. I’m sorry I scared you."
That moment was the closest Cui Ti had ever been with him.
Despite this, she missed the opportunity to repay him and have children for him.
Yet after that, Pei Xuan quit drinking, and instead drank tea at home or sometimes outside.
He would still kiss her, hug her, be well-behaved, but unlike ordinary couples who were very intimate, she still couldn't find anything wrong with him, except for not consummating their marriage.
"My mistress has a nose and two ears, so isn’t she perfect?" Bai Ge was still counting how good her mistress' appearance was with her fingers.
When Bai Ge’s words fell into Cui Ti's ears, she suddenly understood that she was obsessed.
Pei Xuan was willing to promise her a white-headed covenant, clean her body, and not raise other women outside. In fact, she should be satisfied. In Xijing City, the most dazzling gentleman became her husband.
Truth be told, it is not necessary to have love to live.
Or was it that Pei Xuan is not a normal man. It could be that he doesn't need someone to carry on the family lineage, or he suffers from a hidden disease and cannot do that.
Bai Ge, Cui Ti's maid, was unaware that her casual words had set Cui Ti's mind racing.
As she picked up a white rice dumpling with her chopsticks, she said to Cui Ti "Make a wish, mistress."
On her 18th birthday, Cui Ti made a heartfelt request to the heavens:
"I want to meet him."
Meanwhile, in the north courtyard, Cui Dai was basking in the praise of her guests, but her mood was soured by the absence of her favorite dish, spring pancakes, from the banquet table.
In contrast, in the south courtyard, Cui Ti savored the delicious rice dumplings and smiled contentedly.
After celebrating her eighteenth birthday, she wanted to 'look' at the wall again. Bai Ge couldn't figure out what was so good about the wall, so she adjusted her mistress position in a confused manner.
"Bai Ge, do I look good today?.”
Bai Ge laughed and replied, "You look beautiful, mistress. You should know that true beauty shines through even in simple clothes."
She strongly praised Cui Ti's beauty, and Cui Ti raised her eyebrows: "Okay, I get it, stop boasting."
The gentle spring breeze blew through Cui Ti's hair, ruffling her clear eyebrows. Her water-red dress and a pair of embroidered shoes had faded over time, the intricate patterns barely visible anymore.
Cui Ti tied her hair with a delicate pear wood hairpin, and waited patiently for hours, until the sun reached its zenith and the afternoon began to wane.
"What's the matter, mistress?.”
"Go and spread a bigger straw mat against the wall."
"Mistress, how can we have extra big straw mats?.”
We are poor as hell!
Cui Ti was silent, and soon laughed: "It's okay, go get the one on my bed."
Bai Ge didn't understand, and felt that the mistress was possessed, but still turned around and followed her instructions.
After laying out the straw mats, she asked full of doubt: "Mistress, why do you want to spread the straw mats here? It just rained, and there was still water on the ground. Wouldn't the mud get mixed with the water and make the mats dirty?.”
Bai Ge waited to hear her next words, and after waiting for a long time, the mistress shut her mouth again.
"Slow down Master. It rained last night, the ground is slippery!.”
The young man was dressed in a pear-blossom white spring shirt, and he was in high spirits: "It's good to run after the rain. The air is fresh, and it's best to go out to relax. Besides, I'm not allowed to have fun after the test is over. Aren't you afraid that I’ll suffocate.”
As the kite suddenly broke, 'he' frowned: "My kite!.”
"Oh, mistress, why is there a kite floating near our courtyard?.”
Cui Ti tilted her head when she heard the sound of the kite, "Don't talk, just take a few steps back."
Why is she acting so weird?
The spring breeze was warm and gentle, and the leaves rustled and danced in the wind.
Pei Xuan stood outside the wall in distress for a moment, gritted his teeth, rolled up his sleeves and began to climb the tree.
As he made his way to the top of the tree, he moved towards the top of the wall to stabilize himself when suddenly his servant shouted loudly, startling him and falling towards the other side of the wall.
Pei Xuan feared that this fall would hurt his muscles and bones and prevent him from participating in the palace examination. But he quickly got up, massaged his waist, and checked that his hands and feet were all right. It was only then that he had time to notice the straw mats on the ground.
‘Strange,’ he thought, ‘Who would put a straw mat here?.’
Then, ‘he’ looked up.