Friday, March 21, 2008

Royal Fury

The smells from the market was rather overwhelming today. And the heat was overbearingly persistent, seeping through each weave of clothing, every pore on the skin. Moisture gathered in a vain attempt to insulate and placate the protesting sun-beaten surface.

She wished she had let Pika accompany her. Then she could enjoy the shelter of her lacy, white parasol without suffering the aching arms. Pika could have carried the large embroidered bag full of documents too. Who knew paper could weigh so much?

It was strange how listless and easily fatigued she felt nowadays. The sun leeched the energy from her body as the nights wove a noxious cloud of languor over her bones. It took more will than normal just to accomplish anything these days.

She hastened her steps. Although she knew Bernard would wait patiently till she arrived without complaint or even a reproachful look, she was too excited to delay her news. If only her footsteps could match her racing thoughts and spirits.

She beamed inwardly as she imagined his delight when he heard. It was a definite coup brought about by her considerable skills at wheedling, cajoling and pretty persuasion.

Night Wind always got what she wanted and this was no exception. Now if only her father was as easy a challenge. But one thing at a time. She had a plan and all was going according to her precise machinations.


"I do not understand, my love. What is this?" Bernard cast a bewildered glance at Night Wind before drawing his eyes back to the stack of documents and books before him.

"It is the official letter of appointment from my uncle, the Minister of Trade. And some of the court journals for you to study. You can start by being one of the interpreters for the court in charge of foreign imports next week. It is a good position that will allow you to rise within the Royal Court, especially with my uncle as your protector.

That way, you can slowly rise to my father's attention without rousing suspicion and win his approval if we plan very carefully." Night Wind stopped for breath, her face aglow in her enthusiasm.

Bernard kept his eyes down, trying to gather his words carefully.

"But Night Wind ... I do not intend to live out the rest of my life here. The life of a court-appointed official does not interest me. I miss home and at some point would like to return to it. I seek a simple life back in the gentle hills and soft lakes of home," Bernard looked softly at the silent princess as he reached out to take her soft hands tenderly in his grasp.

Night Wind's eyes widened as a startled gasp paused and welded itself in her throat. His words started an obdurate path of icy realisation.

He did not intend to live here. Which means he did not intend to live the rest of his life with her. When was he going to tell her he was planning to go home? Did he know how hard it was to work her wiles into obtaining the kind of position and status even the most affluent and influential families would kill for ... for him? A foreigner?

How dare he? How dare he?

She trembled with suppressed rage as she narrowed her eyes to cover the widening blades of bitterness within her soul. Her throat closed in an angry vice on the stagnant gasp of shock, transforming it into a silent scream of fury.

Bernard rubbed his thumb soothingly across the smooth skin of Night Wind's knuckles, keeping their hands out of sight of the other customers in the little Parisian-style cafe. He was concerned at her silence but woefully unaware of the maelstrom of pain he had just unleashed upon his own head.

"My love? Speak to me. You are uncommonly silent."

Glittering splinters of resentment hurled themselves across the small table, unerringly pinning the soft dove grey eyes blanketed in blue confusion.

"Perhaps I have taken too much upon myself and spoken too much and too often. I was perhaps foolish to place too much meaning in your words and actions. In my land, declarations of undying love mean you will die first before recalling that vow. I had not realised that it means till you run away home.

Excuse my presumption in trying to elevate your lowly position such that you can aspire to deserve the love of a royal princess. I had forgotten my place and in such, yours.

I beg your pardon for such a misunderstanding on my part. I will take back my offer of position, status, love and respect and will no longer trouble you."

Her breath caught as she sprang from her seat and whirled around in a fury of yellow ruffles and lace.

"Wait! No! Night Wind, please! I did not mean that. You misunderstand!"

Heads turned and bodies pivoted in outright titillation and unbridled curiosity to watch the young couple race towards public scrutiny. Some heads shook as they wondered at the younger princess' recklessness and wild behaviour. Consorting with the foreigners. And in broad daylight too. However, how doing so in the shadows of night would be a better option, was a notion that escaped the rapacious dissection of the whispering crowd.

As Bernard raced after the furious winds of fortune, another was laying the dams of stone to trap a feckless breeze.


"Princess, there is a rumour from one of the servings maids. I .... I am not sure if I should tell you," Una murmured to the ground.

Alarmed, Night Cloud looked at her maid. "What rumour? Is it about the herbs we give Night Wind each night?"

"No, no! Not that, Princess! It is about her though. They are saying that she runs out to consort with a tall, white-skinned man during the day in the open streets and shops! Everyone has seen them and they touch and speak loudly and familiarly with each other in front of everyone! They are the talk of the whole country now."

Night Cloud clapped her hand to her mouth, aghast. Her eyes widened till the whites of her eyes filed the bleached pallor of her shock-whitened face.

"What? She has been frolicking with him in public view? What can she be thinking? Of course ... it is not her thinking. It is the evil spirit. This is disastrous. We need to see Troubled Waters immediately ... Call the royal carriers now!"


"Father, you should hear how they talk about her! Her behaviour is beyond reprehensible! How will we be able to retain our royal dignity and honour at such outrageously immoral behaviour. Father, we all love and adore our little Night Wind but she is bringing unbearable shame to the Royal name!"

Golden Lily slanted a pointed look towards her aunt as she studied her bristling father's reaction.

"Yes, Brother. What is even worse, she is abusing her position as princess! Why, just two days ago, she asked my husband to confer a position on that bloated dead fish foreigner! How mortifying! My beloved Prince was too embarrassed to even confide this in me as he feared hurting my royal pride. I had to find out from one of his aides. Surely this cannot be allowed! My husband's honour has been tainted by Night Wind's selfish desires!

Brother, I demand some recompense and assurance that this will not continue!"

The chubby princess stopped to catch her laboured breath. Her maid fanned faster to relieve the purplish flush across her florid face and eyed the straining golden pins holding her embroidered, beaded top together in concern. They looked ready to pop. Just like the princess. The maid resisted an unwise urge to giggle and hurriedly looked away.

Golden Lily smiled at Princess Willow Fan as she directed a look of concern across at the Prince.

"Father, are you alright? You look unwell. I am so sorry we have to be the bearers of such ill tidings as it is obvious that it distresses you. But we felt that your Royal reputation cannot continue to be besmirched by Night Wind's behaviour. She is behaving more like a common harlot than ..."

"Enough! Silence! Get out! All of you! Get out!" the Prince stood and drew his looming presence over the quaking females.

"Out! Out! All of you! Out!"

As the assorted princesses, maids and eunuchs left the room hurriedly, leaving only the Royal Guards at the door, the Prince sank back into his seat, fists clenched and teeth grappling to bite into the ugly hands of fate that gave him both the greatest jewel and biggest millstone of torment.

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