Friday, 14 October 2016

Runaway Dragon and Missing Phoenix part 1

Li Sai Man is a constant enigma; his unspeakable action towards Chun Sik Sik is a source of (heated) discussion among The Foundation 1984 viewers. This is my take on LSM, spinning off from Ep 11 of the Foundation 1984, inspired by the conversations in the comments section of the Maiden Phoenix Rising. Romanisation is mostly Yale Cantonese or at least a terrible attempt at it. The Foundation 1984 is the property of TVB Hong Kong, and it’s my love to Michael and Barbara that made me write this story. Rated S for “safe”. No, seriously, it’s safe ^_^

The hollow after the deed... Ep 11 TF 1984

"Sai Man, look! The rainbow is here!"

The cheerful girl turned her petite body towards her lover, her face glowing like the rainbow. Suddenly, she gasped when she felt a sharp metal object, its tip glowing in the morning sunlight, thrusted into her abdomen, piercing her light blue dress.

Then, upon entering her skin, the object stopped short from piercing it completely.

Although she suddenly felt a small but sharp pain, she also registered that the pain didn't go further. Confused, Chun Sik Sik looked up to see her lover, Li Sai Man, the second prince of the Tang Dynasty, looked back at her with mixed expressions. Cruelty was the first she registered, a cruel expression she never thought Sai Man had. Then she saw sadness and love. Immense love. Then regret.

Then her lover's expression changed. Determination was clearly etched on his handsome face. A part of Sik Sik screamed inside when he lifted the object, which was now clear to her that it was a knife, to another striking stance. He was going to kill her. The love of her life was going to kill her!



Yet, she received the next surprise of her life when Sai Man swiftly turned his body and threw the knife into the bush a good distance away from them. A gasp was heard, then Li Sai Man jumped towards the bush. Sik Sik heard a fight, which ended with another gasp and a "You will regret this!"

Then the Second Prince emerged from the bush, his clothes soiled with blood. Hyperventilating, he met Sik Sik in the middle. Her dress tainted with a small red blotch, the girl was making indecisive steps towards him out of curiosity, which made slower by her fear. When she saw that the person behind the bush was dead, she stopped short and turned away. Her lover was a murderer, and he was going to kill her too!

Yet, he prevented her from running.

"Sik Sik, wait!" He grabbed her arm and spun her to face him.

"Let me go! Let me go, you murderer!" She tried to wriggle out of him.

"Sik Sik, listen! If I didn't kill him, he was going to kill you!"

"What nonsense!" She whipped her head to face him to say what she knew. "You were going to kill me anyway! You already injured me with your knife!"

That stopped him. "I did," unexpectedly, he confessed. "But I regretted it the moment I shoved the knife to you." He bent down to examine her wound. It was a superficial wound, barely grazing the skin, but it was a testament of his cruelty, of how far he would walk for the throne. His heart sank. He didn't deserve her. She didn't deserve to be treated this way.

Li Sai Man looked up at Chun Sik Sik with regret and love. "Sik Sik, this is a mistake. The throne is a mistake. I just want to be with you!"

She faltered. He could have killed her anyway right then, but he didn't.  He just had to pierce the knife further, and she'd be dead. Was it possible that he truly regretted his action?

"Then...what should i do?" She asked tentatively. "What should we do?"

He rose and grabbed her hands with urgency as he looked into her eyes. "We need to run!"


-xxx-


One year later

Chun Sik Sik chopped the eggplants attentively. The sun was low on the horizon, soon it would be another sunset for her and Sai Man. Soon, Sai Man would return from the field, sweaty and dirty, but usually with a tender smile that always melted her heart. She knew how hard Sai Man was in working in the field to ensure they would have enough for the winter. Since today was a particularly hot summer day, she wanted to treat him with a special meal. Surprisingly, one of Sai Man's favourite dishes was braised eggplants. A very cheap dish, now that they lived in seclusion with limited budget, but he loved it anyway.

It's not that they didn't have money, but they preferred to lay low and spend only the bare minimum while waiting for a better production of Sai Man’s crops.

The Second Prince Li Sai Man was now a farmer... Sometimes Sik Sik wondered at the turns of events that carried them here.

One year ago, on the day they decided to run away from Cheung'on, Sai Man managed to grab some gold and silver ingots with him along with his sword. Glaring several times at her husband Li Ching for taking part in an event that almost caused Sik Sik's life, Cheung Cheut Chan (張出塵) shoved her pearls and rubies into Sik Sik's shivering hands. Li Lok Wan also dumped some gold bangles, a gold necklace, a set of changing clothes, and a small knife into Sik Sik's bag. The three of them then ushered Sai Man and Sik Sik away out of the Li Mansion on horseback. Just outside the mansion, Miss Tao Chiu Yi showed up, telling them to take another route, for she was going to distract her father's minions as long as possible. Knowing well that she had the best intention, Li Sai Man changed course and left her after saying thank you.

Their destination was Fusu in the southeast direction, the kingdom of Yau Yin Hak, a.k.a the Dragon-beard Man, who Sai Man knew would protect them. There were some options to go there from Cheung'on, but his impromptu route seemed to be the better route, for it took a less travelled street within the capital city (as less-travelled as possible for a city of more than 600,000 inhabitants). Outside the city walls, they decided to disguise themselves. Sik Sik bought clothes from a beggar (for Sai Man) and an poor old lady (for herself). She then made themselves dirty and dishevelled, while managing to hide their treasures in their frumpy garments. Sai Man wrapped his sword several times and hid it inside a tattered jute bag Sik Sik found in a gutter.

Sai Man and Sik Sik didn't encounter any obstacles except for a burglar about an hour's ride outside the southern city wall. Sai Man defeated the burglar with little effort, but they realised that the burglar was attracted to Li Ching's healthy horse, which admittedly was a contrast to their current appearance. Although the black horse (called "Thunder") was of a non-distinctive nature, its obvious well-maintained state had betrayed the lovers' disguises. Still, they couldn't dump Thunder, for they needed him for their escape. Thus later, they decided that Sik Sik had to disguise herself as a normal errand boy, while Sai Man wore a dark, simple clothing, wore his hair down and donned a fake beard Sik Sik (as a boy) obtained from a theatre group somehow. Thus, they looked like an eccentric master with his errand boy. Sai Man just had to be careful not to embrace Sik Sik in public, for it would invite questions if a grown up man embraced a young boy in an intimate manner.

During the course of their one month journey, Sik Sik also changed her boy clothing style and hair style 2-3 more times afterwards to shook off their trail. Sai Man himself had truly grown a beard and couldn't care less about combing his hair, hence his appearance had considerably changed compared to when they left Cheung'on.

Having finished chopping her ingredients, Sik Sik poured oil into the wok, tested the temperature with her chopsticks, then quickly fried the eggplant slices. She smiled. This dish was the first dish she made during their runaway last year, and that was actually a good month after they left Li Mansion. When she still lived with Madame Li and her husband, she'd cook meals for Sai Man, of course, but those meals usually involved expensive ingredients Madame Li provided for her. Yet during their escape, they would just buy food at simple food stalls, food that they'd take away to eat along the road. Of course they also hunted to feed themselves, but Sai Man was adamant that they left the Tang territory as soon as possible that she never had time to properly cook for them.

She did argue on the third week of their escape that they might have shaken off their pursuers, and perhaps it was time to relax a bit. She missed wearing women's clothing, she missed being hugged by Sai Man, in public or privately. Sai Man had been very careful around her. First, he didn't want to hug her too tight, for he feared it would open up the small wound his knife had inflicted upon her. Then when she had recovered from her superficial wound (which took only two days), he slightly kept his distance from her. It took her coaxing and actually stumping her foot impatiently on the third week for him to admit that he truly felt guilty for not being very adamant in refusing to go along with the plan to kill her (yes, kill her), hence he didn't feel he deserved her.

"You're too good for me, Sik Sik," he had said, looking more towards the ground under the tree where they had their lunch break. "I don't deserve you..."

"But you ran away with me..." Sik Sik was confused.

"Only to protect you. Sik Sik," he turned to face her, "I want to keep you safe. Uncle Tao will not rest until you die, for he thinks only your death made me available for his daughter."

It was a while before she asked, "Is it true?"

"No!" He shook his head vehemently, his voice rose an octave. "The truth is, had I been wretched enough that day to kill you, I'd still not be able to marry my cousin. I will instead try to kill her father for his wretched suggestion in killing you." He turned his attention back to the ground, his voice dropped a tone. "Or perhaps I am the one whom I should kill for killing you."

The truth is, Sik Sik was also scared to be around Sai Man. For the first few days, she was grateful that he took a distance from her. Her disguise as a boy helped providing another alibi. But after a week passed, seeing how Sai Man truly regretted contemplating the unspeakable idea, let alone shoving that knife into her, Sik Sik slowly forgave him. By the second week, she had started to accept him again. By the third week, she missed his embrace and caress, thus her protest.

She sighed and took Sai Man hands into hers. "Sai Man...the most important thing is that you regretted it. I saw how you defended me against that robber back then. You were very fierce. I also saw how you were very protective of me in this journey. The truth is... I have forgiven you. Now, i think you need to forgive yourself."

Li Sai Man looked up to see the accepting countenance of his lover. Tears welled on his eyes as he suddenly grabbed her. Feeling her embracing him back, he then kissed her sweet lips. Fire ignited within him, but when he noticed her faster breaths, he disentangled himself.

"I'm sorry. I truly miss you actually, but we must be careful. I promise you, when we're out of the Tang territory, I will rectify this problem."

That was enough for Sik Sik. The kiss and embrace were a bonus for her. But a surprise await her a few days later when they passed by a small monastery on a green hill. The monastery was just an hour over the Tang-Fusu border, off the road to the Fusu capital, already in the Fusu territory. A small, easy to miss, sign indicated the monastery's location on top of the hill.

Knowing how prayers soothed Sik Sik, Sai Man suggested that they visited the monastery for prayers. They were in the Fusu kingdom anyway now, so they could relax a bit. Li Sai Man was not a believer, but things started to change when he found Sik Sik in a nunnery two years ago after their first row. He still didn't believe in superstition and that human couldn't do anything against Heaven's will, but he was more willing to accept the presence of the Unknown now. Now, especially now in the run, he truly knelt gratefully in front of the Buddha statue and let Sik Sik's chants carried him away. When they finished, they saw a monk, about Sai Man's age, sitting a respectful distance from them. Sik Sik was the one who initiated the conversation with the monk. Then, suddenly Sai Man asked if the monk was able to officiate a wedding.

"I've never done that, but I don't see why not," smiled the monk. "Do you want to marry a woman in particular?"

Sai Man nodded. Realising that Sik Sik was still in her boy clothing, he then explained that she was actually a girl, and they were lovers. Witnessed by a very surprised Sik Sik, Sai Man then told the monk that he had wanted to marry her, but they were still on the run because his family didn't approve of their union. Sik Sik herself only had a very old aunt in an isolated part of the country, so she practically only had him as her de facto family.

"That is," Sai Man suddenly realised he might have jumped the gun, thus he turned to address his lover, " – only if you want to marry me, Sik Sik."

Tears welled in Sik Sik's eyes as she whispered, "I thought you'd never ask..." She accepted Sai Man's hands with blushed cheeks, then she lowered her head in shyness and gratitude.

Witnessing this interaction, the monk smiled. Admitting that there was something strange with Sik Sik the boy, he then agreed to conduct a ceremony if the Abbott agreed. After all, he wasn't part of that monastery.

"Oh, where are you from?" Sik Sik asked curiously.

"I'm actually from Cheung'on, Tang," the monk said. "I'm here to see if this monastery has some original Buddhist manuscripts in Sanskrit. I'm concerned with the originality of many of our Buddhist texts. But I'm glad to be of service for the two of you."

Their wedding ceremony was very simple, but at least Sik Sik got to wear her own tunic now. Coincidentally, that was the blue tunic she wore the day Sai Man almost killed her. Before the ceremony, looking at the vague red spot on her abdomen, regret clouded Sai Man's face again. He brought her hands to his lips and kissed them. Then he said,

"I herewith solemnly swear that if i ever intentionally injure you again, let me be reborn as the lowest kind of animal in the next life."

Sik Sik swallowed her tears. "No you won't. Because you're now going to promise that you'll take care of me, and you'll keep that promise."

He smiled. "Yes, I will keep that promise."

After the simple yet profound wedding ceremony, the couple bode farewell to the monks, particularly the Abbott and the monk who officiated them. They had introduced each other, of course, before the ceremony, and now they felt like they'd known each other for quite some time, not just earlier that day.

"Master Yuen Jong," Sai Man bowed to the young monk at the monastery gate, "Thank you, and do take care."

"My pleasure," Yuen Jong (玄奘) bowed back. "I hope your family will approve of your union soon, my dear friend. Such a pure soul like you will melt their heart, Madame Li, I'm sure of it."

Sik Sik blushed as she was now acknowledged as Sai Man's wife. "Are you going back to Cheung'on soon?" she asked, half to divert the attention from herself.

"Yes, tomorrow perhaps," the monk replied as he studied her. "But only to make a plan to leave again. I'm now planning to go to the West to collect some original Buddhist scriptures. We don't seem to have them here in the Central Plains."

“How are you going to do that?” Sai Man was curious.

“I suppose by walking,” the simple reply of the monk surprised the Second Prince. “I am not sure anyone’s up to walking to the West, but I have no horse, and I have been dreaming about doing pilgrimage for Lord Buddha anyway, so I feel I need to do that.”

“Master...” Sai Man started, but then held himself. He wasn’t sure he’d say the right thing. Upon Yuen Jong’s encouragement, he resumed. “ – do you think you can do that? Going to the West with friends will still be hard, let alone walking there alone. Why, myself and my wife, during this journey we had to suffer a lot...” he looked at her in love and regret, she squeezed his hand and smiled at him. “...I made her suffer a lot, but at least it’s still in the Central Plains, and there’s the two of us.”

Yuen Jong smiled and looked at the sky. “I believe Lord Buddha will protect me.”

“But why would you do that?” Sai Man still didn’t get it. “Going all through the troubles all by yourself...”

The monk studied the Second Prince for a while before replying. “Young Master, you seem to have been born in a privilege family indeed. Yet you chose to abandon your riches in favour of this fine lady, who admittedly has very little riches. Why did you do that?”

Sai Man looked at Yuen Jong, then at Sik Sik. Reaching for her hands, he replied, “Because I love her.”

“That’s your answer,” the monk smiled again. “Your love brought you to her, your love made you go through the trouble because a life separated from her is suffering for you. The same with me –” Yuen Jong moved to face the West and bowed, “ – my love to Lord Buddha moves me to walk the journey there. I long to see His birthplace, I long to see the tree under which He sat and received enlightenment. I am not naïve, I know it will be a hard journey. But if I don’t do that, I’ll always wonder in the comfort of my monastery why I didn’t do this when I have time and energy.”

Li Sai Man considered these words for a while before nodding. “Well said. In that case, there’s nothing else I can do other than wishing you good luck.”

The newlyweds bowed to wish the monk luck and then they parted ways. Sai Man gently helped Sik Sik, now wearing her own womanly clothes, mount the faithful Thunder before guiding the horse down the hill. Before they lost sight of the monastery, Sai Man and Sik Sik looked back. They saw Yuen Jong standing still facing the West, his face like a shining moon. The Second Prince wondered if he’d ever see that monk again.


-xxx-


An hour later, the newlyweds stumbled upon an empty house while trying to take shelter in the rain. They checked the house; Sik Sik found a letter from the owner to their neighbour, saying that he was moving to the capital town of Fusu for a week to visit his daughter, and he might sell this house if he liked living with his daughter's family there. Therefore, if the neighbour would be so kind as to find a suitable buyer, he'd be so grateful.

The letter was dated yesterday. After pondering the possibility of the neighbour showing up that night, Sai Man suggested that they rested in that house for the night, and they'd leave some money for the owner tomorrow. If the neighbour visited, they'd just rehearse the story they told Yuen Jong, plus that they were now married. And if they liked the house, who knows, perhaps he could buy the house for Sik Sik. The jewelleries that Madame Li and his sister provided for them were still available; they'd been doing a good job in managing their expenses and keeping their assets safe.

Sik Sik was happy for the house, for she'd wanted a place of their own for a while. The house was small, but it had two bedrooms and a common room they could use as a dining room as well. A small but intimate veranda faced the backyard, now full of unkept vegetation and a small patch of vegetable garden. She found the kitchen adjacent to the back veranda, explored the garden, and then cooked an early dinner for Sai Man and her. The menu was the braised eggplant, the only vegetable that she could harvest. That, plus some rice she always carried with her along with some basic spices. Despite its simplicity, Sai Man looked very pleased with the menu. He even claimed that it was the best dinner he ever had with her. Sik Sik wasn't sure if he was just saying that to please her, but this she was sure: when they made love that night, she was very pleased. He was too, judging from his shining face during and after their first official union.

It was not the first time they made love; the first one was right after Sai Man and her made up after their big row over the fact that Sik Sik used to be Kong Fung's lover. Ever since, Sai Man had visited Sik Sik several times in the evening, such that Li Ching (李靖) and his wife had accepted it as a fact that the Second Prince and Sik Sik were now lovers in a sexual sense too. Although the first union was very memorable for Sik Sik for it was the first time she knew the beauty of a union between a man and a woman, this time was more special for her. Not only because they were now married, but also because Sai Man had totally open up and was very gentle with her. Unlike their wild and demanding first encounter and the possessive encounters afterwards, the first encounter after their wedding ceremony was slow and assuring. The paradoxical, unexpected freedom they gained by being on the run had made Sai Man treasure the pleasure of being with Sik Sik without any burden. This time, Sai Man really took time to explore his wife's body and curves, and he helped her to explore his in return. He treated her like a treasure he couldn't believe he deserve and behold, he made her felt like a queen with his touches, kisses and gaze, despite them now being on the run.


-xxx-


Sik Sik scoped the cooked braised eggplants and placed it neatly on the plate.   It smelled and looked delicious; Sai Man would love it. Her second dish was buried underneath the sand oven in the backyard, a whole chicken, spiced generously like Sai Man liked it. She went to the backyard and checked the chicken, satisfied that the chicken was baking properly. She'd be able to take it out soon. She smiled and proceeded with the third dish, which was sautéed young kailan. Hastily, she checked the sun’s location. Sai Man should be returning soon, unless he was delayed again because of an impromptu discussion with fellow farmers. That had been his habit as of late, since he became a farmer. Li Sai Man wasn’t just ploughing, scattering seed and weeding in the field. He also chatted with fellow farmers about farming techniques (he liked to learn more, being a newbie in the field) and other issues like price equity, winter stocks, water supply, etc. Those activities didn’t bother Sik Sik. She could always heat up her dishes again if he was again late for dinner.

Sik Sik finished cooking her kailan dish no time, right before she heard a familiar noise in the front yard. Her husband had returned!

"Sai Man!" She almost ran towards the door. Yet the door already opened. Li Sai Man, darkened from days in the field yet looking healthy and happy, entered the house. A familiar person followed suit.

"Sik Sik, look, we have a guest for the night. Guess who!"

Sik Sik blinked and then smiled. "Why, what a surprise! What brings you here, Big Sister?"

Cheung Cheut Chan, or the Lady with the Red Sleeves, also known as Li Ching's wife, entered the room in her graceful signature red dress. Upon seeing Sik Sik, she ran towards her and embraced her tight.

"Sik Sik! I missed you so much! How are you doing?!"


-xxx-


Cheung Cheut Chan placed her chopsticks on the table and sighed in satisfaction. Empty plates on the table were the testimony of the delicious meal that they just had for dinner.

"Sik Sik, you're still the best cook I've ever known," she leaned on her chair and patted her stomach, which actually remained slim despite her ample portions that night. "I ate too much, how would I be able to sleep now??"

"Now you know why I ran away with her," joked Sai Man as he caressed Sik Sik’s hand. "Because I don't want her to cook for others!"

Despite the lethal circumstances that actually surrounded their escape, Sik Sik laughed. She had long forgiven her husband for his lethal oversight, and she loved it when her friends and loved ones ate all her dishes. Her surrogate sister was never a big eater, that is until they met. Since staying at the Li Mansion and starting to help in the kitchen, Sik Sik had changed Cheut Chan's eating habit, such that the latter would only give kitchen access to Sik Sik once a week, lest she'd be overeating every day. That "rule" was of course relaxed when Sik Sik started dating Li Sai Man, for of course Li Mansion must give the best to the Second Prince. And that also entailed dinners cooked by the best chef in the mansion, i.e. Chun Sik Sik.

"Sister, you never need to worry about being overweight. You don't have that in you." She rose and collected the cutleries; Sai Man also rose and helped her. Cheut Chan lifted her beautiful eyebrows upon seeing this. She knew Sai Man loved Sik Sik; him abandoning the dreadful and unspeakable plan that he concocted with her husband Li Ching was enough evidence. However, when they were together in the past, at times there was an air of subservient in Sik Sik towards Sai Man. But now, Sai Man was actually helping the girl cleaning up without being asked to. What gives?

On her part, Sik Sik realised that Sai Man might wanted to to chat with their guest, so she told him to sit back. He still persisted in helping cleaning up, hence Cheut Chan found herself alone for a few minutes in the simple living room that also functioned as a dining room. The living/dining room was simply decorated, but it was clean and comfortable. A Buddhist altar was placed in a nice corner of the room, most likely it was Sik Sik’s. Some summer flowers decorated the nooks and corners of the room. Cheut Chan felt warmth in that room that had nothing to do with the excess summer heat. She was debating whether she would continue her plan or not when her hosts reappeared. Sik Sik carried a tray of tea, but Sai Man was the one who served Cheut Chan the tea. He also proudly announced that the guest room was ready for Cheut Chan anytime she wanted to rest.

“You must be very tired from your journey, Sister,” Sik Sik gently commented. “We are not offended if you want to retire early tonight.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” Cheut Chan waved her hand before sipping her tea. “I had lunch with Yau tai-gor today in his palace, so I had plentiful of resting time before coming here.”

“When did you actually arrive in Fusu?” Sai Man took a sip of his own tea before offering his guest some dried lotus snack that Sik Sik made.

“Yesterday afternoon,” Cheut Chan’s dainty hand took one lotus snack; she ate it also daintily. “Yau tai-gor said hello. He asked when are you two going to visit him again. I thought you two must have seen him quite regularly, given the vicinity, but apparently, I was wrong.”

Sik Sik smiled. “See... we originally thought that we would have time to visit him often. But then my husband plunged into the world of farming, and he lost himself there...”

Cheut Chan lifted her eyebrows. “Is that true? So, you’re not the Second Prince anymore?”

Sai Man chuckled. “Hardly. And please don’t call me Second Prince. I’m just a farmer now. I know more about farming now than governance.”

“That’s not true, Sai Man,” Sik Sik corrected him excitingly. “You spend a lot of time talking with the farmers here about farming management. You also plan to write a proposal to Yau tai-gor, right, about how to improve farming here?”

Sai Man smiled sheepishly before he admitted that. Cheung Cheut Chan smiled back and said that the Dragon-beard Man was lucky to have the Second Prince of Tang in his kingdom.

“He would definitely treasure your council if you work with him,” she said, referring to Yau Sui Hak. Then, tentatively, she resumed. “Also...someone else is missing your council tremendously.”

The air in the room suddenly changed as husband and wife turned to their guest. Said guest inhaled sharply before slowly resuming. “Second Prince... my husband also sent his regard. Also to you, Sik Sik. He wishes that he could be here with me now to visit you.”

Uncomfortable silence descended for a while before Sai Man broke it with a whisper. “How is Councillor Li Ching doing these days?”

The Lady with the Red Sleeves considered her answers carefully. “Not really good. He is seriously considering retiring, but at the same time, he couldn’t bear to see the people suffering. The Emperor has increased taxes lately, and also imposed on another rice tax.” She stopped, desperately restraining herself from spilling more beans.

“Another tax?” Sai Man’s voice rose an octave higher. “But the people of Tang already suffered from more than enough tax. And for rice??”

“Yes, for rice! Something that everyone eats!” Cheung Cheut Chan rose and paced the room back and forth, helpless in controlling her own emotions. Apparently, her flood dam already burst open. “The Emperor couldn’t care less whether people are suffering or not; he only cares about his endless concubines! Also, when my husband had enough of it and braved himself to give him some advice, the Emperor said that my husband should just keep his opinions on himself, lest he would be jailed! Now my husband and some ministers who trusted him had suspected some fraud in the Treasury department that was linked to the Third Prince Manor, but we couldn’t investigate further because... well, the Third Prince and Crown Prince are one item. So...”

Cheut Chan suddenly returned to the table, her red sleeves fleetingly followed her abrupt movement. “Second Prince, please! I know I should have kept my mouth shut, but I cannot remain in silence. My husband was a fool for suggesting what he suggested to you, that led you to run away. But he – no, Tang needs you now. We cannot let the Crown Prince become the Emperor, there will be civil war!”

Li Sai Man shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Madame Li...”

The red sleeves moved as fast as her owner, as she enveloped Sai Man’s cold palms with her own. “Second Prince, I often see you as my little brother at times. Of course I shouldn’t see you like that, or beg you to do this. I have repeatedly asked my husband to leave Cheung’on and retire somewhere, but he said that, now Second Prince is not with us anymore, it is up to him Li Ching to help the Great Tang.”

“Madame Li, I have a family now here,” Sai Man’s voice faltered.

“But isn’t the people of Tang your family too?” tears now welled in Cheut Chan’s eyes. “You used to say that, I still remember. I know you have a problem with my husband before you left... But perhaps this time we can talk it through together... to find another solution?”

“Sister!” Sik Sik, who had been silent the whole time, suddenly spoke up. Surprised with her tone, both Cheut Chan and Sai Man whipped their faces to face her. Sik Sik’s whole face was darkened in disappointment; her big eyes moist. “While you are fretting about your husband, please don’t forget that it is my husband that we are talking about here.”

“Sik Sik...” Sai Man rose to calm her, but she made a gesture to stop him.

“I’m sure you two have a lot to talk about... this new solution. I just hope it doesn’t involve killing me again so that Sai Man can get his royal uncle’s support again.”

With that, she briskly walked out of the room into the back garden. Pale-faced, Li Sai Man looked alternatingly between his guest and his retreating wife.

“Madame Li, will you excuse ourselves. Please enjoy your tea.” He then strode into the backyard, calling his wife all the way.

Wrong-footed, the Lady with the Red Sleeves stood in the empty dining room. She then sat, covered her face and sobbed. This was a mistake. She should have never come here.


-to be continued-



Author’s note:

Okay, that’s the first part of this instalment. I hope it’s no more than 2-3 parts, cos I don’t like long stories. That’s actually the reason why I never wrote a LSM/CSS fanfiction to fix what LSM did to SS. Because it would definitely entail a long story that changed the whole series. Still, I hope I piqued your interest to keep reading Part 2 later.

“Yuen Jong” is my poor attempt to Cantonise Xuan Zang (Hsuan Tsang 玄奘). I got the idea to include Xuan Zang’s journey to the west into the Foundation when I saw the 2016 Xuan Zang movie. Something Xuan Zang said in this fanfiction would be very important in part 3.

By the same token, Li Ching is Li Ching (李靖), Cheung Cheut Chan is Zhang Chuchen (張出塵) and Yau Yin Hak is Qiu Ranke, the Dragon-bearded Man. Input on Cantonese/Pinyin romanisation is more than welcome.

I thank TinyGin for her comments that inspired me to write about the paragraph after LSM/SS’s wedding ceremony.

I looked up online for horse travelling speed. This site tells me that a horse ride of 20-30 miles per day (at least 60 km per day) is a good ride in medieval days. If Sik Sik and Sai Man were constantly riding Thunder, resting just for lunch, dinner and rest at night, then I take 20 miles per day, which is ~ 30 km per day. If they travel the whole month, they'd at least cover 900 km, which was about  midway between Chang'an (modern Xi'an) and Hong Kong. Taking into account the terrains etc, then I think one month of travel to Fusu makes sense. Fusu's location is still obscure to me, only that Fusu was southeast of Cheung'on
  


7 comments:

Tamuyen Truong said...

I love these fanfictions Icha! It was very creative of you to take a spin on what would happen to Sai Man and Sik Sik after he killed her foe the throne. This ending is perhaps something that we would all prefer other than I having Sik Sik dying. I definitely enjoyed this first part of the fanfiction! It has been so long since we talked? How are you Icha? I've missed talking to you! You have posted so much that it was so much fun reading all your posts that I've missed over these months!

Icha said...

Tammy! How are you! Oh, how I've missed you so...!!! I hope life has treated you well, my dear friend?

Have you read the Foundation fanfiction that you requested months ago? It's here:
http://riverandlakerealm.blogspot.com.au/2016/05/the-old-lady-waving-her-hand-foundation.html

I hope you like it too.

As for this alternate version of the knife/rainbow scene, I'm actually surprised that some friends understand that LSM "needed" to kill SS to rescue the country. These friends are also dear to me, and they love MB as well. So it's interesting that actually some MB fans at least understand the "necessity" behind LSM's action. I put "needed" and "necessity" in quotes because I disagree with those notions, but I can understand where they came from, and I respect their opinions on this topic too.

So as I said before... yes, Li Sai Man was, and is still, the most enigmatic character that Michael had ever played. He's not Yang Kang, but he can definitely be him in the "right" circumstances...

Which actually made me glad that Michael took this role, and also that Barbara took the role of Sik Sik, for it brings forth another nuance in their amazing performances.

TinyGinTX said...

Hi there! This is definitely imaginative and I like where you've taken our star crossed lovers...they're married! While I'm happy to see them settled down as farmers I'm glad for Big Sisters entrance into the plot. The country is suffering from LSM's absence. I'll be interested to see how he makes his way back into the kingdom with SS by his side.

Icha said...

Thanks a lot, TinyGin! Yes, I agree that that LSM is too big to be separated from Da Tang, so Big Sister did need to return to the plot.

It might take another week for me to finish part 2, but it's definitely coming!

TinyGinTX said...

Gah! So I started watching The Foundation again and guess which scene I just finished watching? Gah! It's so heartbreaking! I shed tears again as he killed her! Wahhhhhh! I need your second installment of this fanfic soon to get my head in a better place! They deserve a happy ending!

I noticed that his resolve is solidified when SS declares that she can't live without him. She says this the night before when he comes to visit her and it's pouring rain. She says this and he becomes more convinced he needs to go through with it bc she'll just be miserable if she cannot be by his side. Poor thing!

WAAAAHHHHH!!!!!

Icha said...

Gaaahhh!!! That sceeene!!!

I hope i have time tomorrow afternoon to write more cos I've been flat out like a... An ironing board? Anyway, crazy schedules! But i miss LSM and SS, so i doooo want to write again!!

I didn't notice what you just observed; you mean LSM will definitely leave SS for the throne even though he didn't kill her, cos she was not of a royal blood?

Poor, poor Sik Sik... Too much love can kill indeed...

Icha said...

Hi TinyGin, I hope you get this message. I've just posted part 2 of Runaway Dragon here:

http://riverandlakerealm.blogspot.com.au/2016/10/runaway-dragon-and-missing-phoenix-part_29.html

Hope you like it and it soothes you...