I Wish to Win the Beauty’s Heart
“General Manager Bai, even if you want to be frugal…”
I took hold of Bai Lian’s hand. Hot flushes instantly surfaced on her face; however, the weird phenomenon didn’t kick in again. I pulled her over and gently shook her by her thin arms. Although her sleeves were loose, it was a size larger than it should’ve been. To be precise, her arms were thin enough to give that impression.
“You’re essentially skin and bones. You can eat a piece of meat or two, can’t you?”
Bai Lian jerked her arm back and glared daggers at me: “It’s none of your business. What does how much I eat have to do with you?”
“I can’t bear to see you suffering,” I replied. I copied her tone from before, “It breaks my heart to see you starving.”
Bai Lian’s face was figuratively up in flames: “D-D-Do you not know I’m… What are you…”
Despite watching her facial-expression transformation demonstration, I didn’t have the slightest clue as to what she said.
A group of mischievous kids ran past and shouted, “Come and catch a goldfish!”
“Wh-What is catching goldfish?! Let me try!”
Bai Lian zipped over to the kids as fast as a rabbit with an arrow up its rear end. I think she didn’t look my way to avoid making eye contact. I wondered, “Why is General Manager Bai making such a big deal out of me encouraging her to eat more? Actually, I just realised… how come she just changed the way she referred to herself?”
I couldn’t find any explanation, but whatever. The plan was to stroll around the temple fair with her, so I decided to just kick back and relax. I held my hands behind my back and followed behind them to catch goldfish.
“I can’t bear to see you suffering,” Bai Lian recalled Ming Feizhen saying.
Ming Feizhen casually stared at Bai Lian’s face that was bright red and hot with his head on an angle. His voice was gentle, yet firm, rousing her emotions. Hearing those words in that voice and with that look on his face felt the same as being immersed in a hot spring.
“It breaks my heart to see you starving.” When Bai Lian heard the heart-warming remark, her defences wavered. Usually, Bai Lian would never react that way if someone said those exact lines. If anything, she’d scoff at them, yet she had removed the barricade to her heart and her armour. Those two statements that sounded as if they were said out of care but were actually lines men said to flirt with women were lethal to her after she poured her heart out.
Bai Lian usually ate very little, yet she finished a bowl of soup three days’ worth her usual intake, and she even ate a clay oven roll after. She rarely exchanged more than five sentences with anyone and refrained from speaking unless necessary, yet she shared everything, including that which she least wanted to recall. She even shared her time in a refugee camp with Ming Feizhen. She never shared that part of her history even with Brilliant Consort. She didn’t consider it something to be embarrassed about; they just happened to be miserable memories. Those were the most bitter and miserable days of her life. Merely recalling it would keep her up for days. For whatever reason, though, she took the initiative to share it all with him.
Bai Lian revealed her major and minor quirks, weaknesses, past and experiences she had kept sealed away all those years. Maybe they were important. Maybe they weren’t. At the end of the day, they were only a girl’s feelings. Still, they were a necessary part of her.
Bai Lian never deemed it necessary to share those things. Perhaps she never was aware letting it all out was the only way to ease the pain and stifling feelings. The fact she was lonely and isolated herself made it impossible for her to realise she needed someone to share her most genuine feelings with. She never knew she had accrued so many feelings and experiences. She didn’t know who to share all of it with. Perhaps nobody cared to hear her out, either.
Bai Lian couldn’t comprehend why she shared everything with Ming Feizhen. For one reason or another, she felt it was safe for her to share it all with him. She didn’t think he would laugh at her or claim she was making a big deal out of nothing. He quietly listened to her as if he was a reliable elder brother who would pat her on the head after she was tired from talking and lend her a shoulder to rest on. Merely thinking back on how she poured her heart out led to her cheeks burning up.
‘Wait! I don’t want him to pat me on the head! I don’t want to lean on his shoulder! H-He’s an uncle! Elder Brother? What am I saying?! Yuck! Yuck!! Ptoo! Ptoo! Ptoo!’
Bai Lian had no idea why she even imagined Ming Feizhen in those roles; she never conjured such ideas before. Perhaps it was the kiss. Perhaps it was the second kiss.
Bai Lian never considered herself a woman. That didn’t imply she thought of herself as a male, having said that. She simply considered herself unique. That didn’t lead her into believing herself to be superior or inferior. That was her self-defence mechanism.
When Brilliant Consort brought Bai Lian to the palace from the ruins of a city, she was merely a lowly commoner. Brilliant Consort was kind enough to grant her food and clothing. Brilliant Consort, by all means, could’ve sent Bai Lian back onto the streets with a single command and pretended they never met.
Living as a eunuch was the only way Bai Lian could keep her shelter; in essence, it acted as her shell. She only ever wanted to hide in that shell so that she never had to face reality. Ming Feizhen, however, pulled her out from said shell all the time and kept her from returning to it.
Dressing in female attire, being called Madam Hu and being forced to call Ming Feizhen “Dear” gradually disintegrated Bai Lian’s defences. When she stood before the mirror, she tried to persuade herself she was only a eunuch.
After Ming Feizhen kissed her today, the emotion she felt most wasn’t disgust, to her surprise. She, instead, found she didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t understand why she was besotted with the kiss; that was on flipside of disgust and hate. Her heart palpitated. Her emotions kept telling her, “It’s time.” Therefore, she no longer disputed being called a maiden, began to smile and no longer found Ming Feizhen unlikable. She could no longer refer to herself the way she once did. She gained an awareness of things she was never aware of. For instance, she gradually grew aware of what she liked, cared for, could smile and was a girl.
The emotions weren’t so prominent before Bai Lian shared her heartfelt thoughts with Ming Feizhen. Once she shared them, she felt as though she was naked before him. That was why she felt defenceless against him when he showed care (read: flirted).
Bai Lian felt her heart race faster than ever. It wasn’t adrenaline; her heart thumped with joy.
When Bai Lian looked at Ming Feizhen again, she couldn’t stop herself snorting to herself: “Hmph, why does he still look stupid?!”
Bai Lian had to quickly get away from Ming Feizhen to bring her heart rate down. She hated his unruffled attitude.
‘Why does he look completely unruffled when I’m so nervous? Why is he smiling stupidly as if the sky falling down was no big deal when I’m worried? Doesn’t this mean… Why does it seem… as though I’ve fallen for him?’
*Bai Lian usually refers to herself as 咱家. When she changed, she switched to using 我. In English, they’re both translated as “I,” “My,” etc.