The thirtieth was two days away. To welcome the New Year, every one of all ages in the capital was glowing, practically ready for war; the statement could be extended to everyone in the nation. The people prepared to welcome the New Year long ago. New Year goods were on sale three months ago. Some didn’t mind riding to the East or crossing the ocean to the West to bring back the rarest items for entertainment. Those people began preparing for the New Year half a year ago. They invested exorbitant sums of money into New Year celebrations.
The Western Region often said people of the Central Plain were sick in the head during the latter’s New Year celebration period, because the Western Region folks saw the celebration as ridiculous. After all, people splurged, sung into the night and paused their economy and work. They dressed in all red as if they thought it was aesthetically pleasing. People would be prancing on the streets instead of walking. Really, they resembled mad men; gambling and drinking went on all day and all night long. The Western Region’s businessmen found it startling. Admittedly, the thought was due to the Western Regions’ folks being scared silly and stereotyping; to be fair, they weren’t far off the mark.
With two more days until New Year’s Eve, every household had colourful lanterns out. They wore red clothing and green hats. It was as if everyone was competing to see who could give the New Year the grandest welcome. Naughty kids would laugh, chatter and cheer on the streets with their parents, crash into people left, right and centre, yet refuse to apologise. Despite that, the people on the roads were so accustomed to it that they considered it the norm. They’d just give the kids a smile and light kick to get even. The entire city’s joy was akin to a dam pushing up against a floodgate.
The imperial palace went along with the carnival. They already began burning incense and what have you all day. A star could be spotted above Jinling City every now before bursting into countless light filaments, feeding the people’s excitement. The smell of joy from bamboo, firecrackers, wine and pork cooked with garlic dispersed in the air! The commoners weren’t the only one start preparing food to welcome New Year.
Lots of families were philanthropists. They would always open their doors before New Year’s Eve and set up dozens of tables. Anyone who passed by could come in and enjoy a hearty meal regardless of status or anything else. Guests would come and go, and it would go on for three days straight when New Year came.
While everyone was in a festival spirit, the air within my one metre radius was ice cold. Even those who passed me would shiver. I had a beautiful and calm maiden walking next to me. She hid her rage underneath her calm demeanour. In spite of having a beauty next to me, nobody was envious of me. If anything, they kept their distance from us.
General Manager Bai agreed to attend the temple fair with me, yet she didn’t say a single word. I tried to break the ice.
General Manager Bai’s voice was firm, and she didn’t have any issues. If things continued down the same track, I’d seen be labelled the scummiest human alive… She looked at me as if I was some tainted object ever since I impulsively hugged and kissed her. Every interesting stand or place with nice delicacies we passed by, I’d do everything I could to cheer her up.
“General Manager, Bai, look at this. Have you seen this before? Th-.”
“This is one of the biggest families in Jinling. We can go in to eat some nice d-.”
“As for th-.”
“Die. Die. Die. Die. Go to hell!”
‘Hey! Listen to me, god damn it! Scolding me once or twice if you don’t like what I say is acceptable, but why do I have to cop insults when I never said anything, too?! Also, you were just outright cursing me at the end! What do you want?! Did my kiss transform you from a eunuch into a witch?! That’s a one-of-a-kind profession change!’
General Manager Bai must’ve been seething with rage. Considering her usual refined speech, she was probably angry enough to blow an entire city away. I couldn’t stand the atmosphere anymore. The atmosphere wasn’t remotely close to a walk at a temple fair; it was closer to negotiating with gang leaders as I did in the past!
I couldn’t help blurting, “We’re buddies. You can’t keep being angry with me for that, can you?!”
“Buddies?” Bai Lian wouldn’t even spare me a glance: “You sure are sincere with your friends.”
Bai Lian sounded as if speaking to me was insulting the word friendship.
‘I treat you as a friend, while you want give me déjà vu…?’
Bai Lian stopped in her tracks and glared at me as if she wanted to rip my head off: “What was it about, then?”
I answered without thinking: “Would you believe me if I told you it was because you’re too pretty?”
Bai Lian widened her eyes: “Say that one more time!”
I frantically waved my hands: “No, no, no, let me explain again.”
“All right, let’s hear it. I’m all ears.” Bai Lian folded her arms and stared at me. From her appearance to her gestures, she was unbelievably feminine: “That was the second time. Today, you…”
“Kiss” was apparently a word General Manager Bai considered too humiliating to say. Unable to articulate the word, she bit down on her lip and remarked, “In short, that’s that. What do you have to say about your debauched behaviour?”
‘Debauched?! Who?! I didn’t do it on purpose!’
I never purposely kissed Bai Lian either time. I just felt an intense impulse in my legs and mouth. By the time I snapped out of it, General Manager Bai had almost passed out.
After listening to my explanation, Bai Lian maintained her disdainful look: “Impulse? Couldn’t control? So, you’re debauched?”
‘Don’t take bits and pieces to create your own narrative! I just used the wrong words! It really does me sound debauched with that description, but I’m not!’
I clumsily exclaimed, “I meant I couldn’t control myself!”
Bai Lian frowned and looked at me even more disdainfully: “How does that change the fact you’re debauched?”
Helpless, I gave up trying to clear it up: “Fine, fine, fine, I’m debauched, happy now? I don’t know what was the matter with me, either? Maybe I’ve had a crush on you for a long time. I can’t control myself as soon as I touched your hand.”
So focused on talking, I didn’t notice Bai Lian’s face turning bright red.
“You didn’t resist; I suppose you didn’t think it was so bad. Maybe sparks between us flew because the lucky star of love aligned and the heavens willed it. Once firewood is engulfed in an intense fire, you can’t stop it. You know what? You should quit working as a eunuch. You should go to the Ministry of Personnel to change your hometown, dress up as a girl, leave the palace and get married to me…”
“You! What should I have expected besides a grunt from a pig!”
Slap! My face copped another one.
*When speaking of changing her hometown, that’s a loose translation. There’s no real way to translate it accurately. If you wanted to be more accurate, I’d translate it as “place of ancestral origin”.