I leisurely walked behind General Manager Bai. The naughty kids taught her how to fish. The view of her smile from the side looked gentler than ever.
If Bai Lian was a refugee as a child, she wouldn’t have been one of the capital’s refugees; there never were any refugees in the capital. Even if there was a sudden surge in people from other regions coming into the capital, it wouldn’t be as disastrous as she described. If Brilliant Consort adopted her, I would assume it was on the way back to the palace after the former visited her own family.
‘From Luoyang to the capital… Was she a citizen of the city Guard General Tie sieged during his rebellion? That certainly would be a miserable childhood I don’t even want to imagine.’
Bai Lian didn’t seem to notice me watching her play fishing with the children the entire time. Out of nowhere, she shuddered. If that wasn’t a startled reaction, it would’ve been a nervous reaction. I didn’t have the slightest clue as to what she was so nervous about. She seemed more bothered the more I looked at her. Was she thinking I’d eat or her or something, I questioned.
A kid suddenly pointed to me and shouted: “You’re acting weird, Uncle! Do you have a crush on her?!”
‘You looking for a spanking, Kid?! Open your eyes and look carefully, runt. Even if I’m an uncle, she, he… That’s not a her!’
Bai Lian turned her red face over to me and lowered her head: “What… are you looking at me for?”
‘I never looked at you! … Okay, it was only for a brief moment. I don’t have a crush on you, though!’
“I’m watching to see if you’ll catch anything,” I answered. Since they didn’t catch anything, I smirked: “Not even one? Move aside, kids. Watch a professional in action.”
I gently pushed the small and thin net down into the water. With a gentle wrist flick and Tai Chi’s gentle pull method, I flicked a goldfish up, impressing the kids and Bai Lian.
Bai Lian: “You’re quite good. I couldn’t do it.”
“You’re good, Uncle. You’re a professional goldfish fisherman!”
“Goldfish Man! Goldfish Man!”
The hawker manning the goldfish stall was surprised: “Are you the legendary lolicon, Goldfish Man…?”
‘You, you, you and you are Goldfish Men! I hate you whoever came up with using Goldfish Man to mean pedophile! I can forgive the kids, but you run a goldfish stall; are you in any position to be talking about me?! Don’t you think the title is more befitting of you?!’
Bai Lian titled her head: “Ming Feizhen, what’s Goldfish Man?”
‘Don’t. Bloody. Join them!! Knowing you, you won’t stay here once you learn what it means!’
Owing to me being lover and appreciator of life, I took Bai Lian away from the kids. We went to another stall. We were both full; she wasn’t a big eater. As for me, I ate a hundred baskets of buns. As such, we avoided snack stalls and visited stalls with entertainment.
Bai Lian curiously scanned everything as if it was her first time there. She’d keep asking me about this and that. She tried her hand at every game. When I held my money pouch under a flame and looked inside, I sighed.
‘Is this… the cost of picking up a girl?’
Subsequently, I dragged General Manager Bai away from stalls with all I had.
“Wh-What is this?!”
“Basinball. Just throw the bowl into the basin, and you win. It’s designed for idiots.”
“No, no, what would we do if the ball hit someone? The people are ugly enough already. Are you trying to turn them into walking monstrosities?”
“What about that?!”
“Setting off firecrackers. What’s so fun about that?”
“Let’s try it!”
“No, no, you might blow up your hand. Those are counterfeit goods. The ones in the palace are premium quality. Come on, let’s not play that.”
“Martial arts busking. Basically, they put a rock on his chest and smash it with a hammer.”
“Let’s try that!”
“No Way! You want to commit murder?!”
We spent over two hours at the temple before we knew it. We practically visited everything they had to offer. Bai Lian dragged me around and played as if fatigue wasn’t a thing. She had goldfish, prizes, the hammer she used to nearly send a performer to Buddha and a satisfied look. I remarked, “You like games that much?”
“Yeah,” Bai Lian responded with a nod after stopping to think. She shyly added, “I never knew about them. Today is my first time trying them.”
“Hmm… At least I know what you like now.”
It would’ve been better if I didn’t have to spend my money…
Bai Lian, eyes on her goldfish, quietly mumbled, “Thank you.”
There was nobody else around us, so I assumed the thank you was for me.
‘Did I just here that right?! Bai Lian said thank you?!’
“What?” Bai Lian asked whilst glancing up at me. “I was angry with you at the start of the day. However, I probably never would’ve known I could smile so much if it wasn’t for you.
A smile slowly surfaced on Bai Lian’s face. Her eyes smiled, making her smile incredibly sweet. She added, “Today was the happiest day of my life. Thank you.”
That was the first time I saw her smile so happily. Time froze. My heart skipped a beat. I had a strange feeling. I needed to do something; else, I’d fall in a weird direction. I searched my brain for a response: “Y-Y-You’re welcome.”
My stuttering was so embarrassing.
“Eh? What’s that?” asked Bai Lian, turning her attention back to games.
“This? Just throwing bamboo rings.”
“How do we play it? How do we play it?”
The owner rubbed his hands and smiled: “Watch closely. You throw this bamboo ring at the prize you want. If you get the ring around it, you can take it home right away. It costs ten coins for three rings. If you want to play, you must pay.”
Bai Lian immediately paid: “Three rings! I want two. Ming Feizhen, you can have one. Let’s do this.”
Bai Lian appeared as if she had a panic attack, and her face was red. I finally realised she turned her attention to games after thanking me because she was embarrassed. I relaxed after realising that. I suddenly had an urge to tease her.
Bai Lian suddenly tossed a ring without even looking, not scoring anything as a result. Somewhat frustrated and seeing me dawdling, she said, “You playing or not? If not, give it to me.”
“Al right.” With a smile, I placed the ring on Bai Lian’s small head.
Bai Lian froze: “Wh-What did you put it on me for?”
I looked into Bai Lian’s eyes and smiled: “Didn’t the vendor just explain? Whatever my ring lands on, I get to take home.”
Bai Lian’s face went from white to red faster than I could blink. Her cute eyes widened… and widened… and turned violent. I was going to say, “I was just joking,” but she already launched a kick straight at my shin. I couldn’t use my qi to shield me. Thus, I had to take the full brunt of it. It didn’t hurt, but I was wearing white pants!
“What did you kick me for?!”
Bai Lian wrathfully glared: “Your fault for not watching your mouth, glib tongue and shady jerk. If I was a girl, I would never like you.”
Bai Lian took the ring off her head and tossed it. She didn’t score a prize; however, owing to her putting her strength behind it, she snapped the table’s leg. The prizes fell off, breaking five porcelain prizes…
On a positive note, Bai Lian showed more emotions than before. I didn’t know what sort of changes happened in her mind, but it was a good sign if you asked me. I was glad to see more sides to her. She probably would’ve gone nuts if she kept bottling up of her feelings and thoughts in the palace. The fact she shared her thoughts with me tonight was a huge step for her.
I only thought Bai Lian’s angry look was particularly cute. Seeing the pitiful vendor, I couldn’t resist laughing. My laugh rubbed off on Bai Lian, apparently. She started to smile, too.
“What are you laughing about?”
I had to catch my breath before I could answer: “The vendor just said he had three generations of his family’s antiques there. I did a count; you broke antiques from all the way back during the Tang Dynasty and beyond.”
The awkwardness between us disappeared as we shared a laugh. The people around were fearful of us; we did just smash a vendor’s stall, after all. Not to mention the fact we stayed there and laughed afterwards. Anyhow, since Bai Lian thought the vendor was pitiful, she decided to give him all the prizes she won.
“Ah, man, now I have to wash my pants first. Look at this shoe print,” I griped as we walked.
“I’ll just pay you back, whinger. You’re the furthest thing from a gentleman,” grumbled Bai Lian, looking at me out of her peripherals. “What’s that?”
I took a look and replied, “Bamboo tube water dragons. In essence, you fill up the tube with water, and then apply pressure to fire the water.”
“What’s it for?”
I looked down at my dirty trousers; a prank came to mind. I bought a bamboo tube.
“This.” I aimed the bamboo tube and pressed down on it, spraying Bai Lian with water.
Startled, Bai Lian reacted stupefied. She was totally confused. Meanwhile, I jovially looked at her. My joy only lasted for a brief moment. As I watched the water course down Bai Lian’s hair to her neck, I saw nothing but art. Her white clothes were wet. The material she wore underneath for whatever purpose was also wet, thereby leading to it slipping a little. I could see through her wet clothes. I could see the generous cleavage on her and nosebleed-worthy hips.
‘W-wait… Did I just see cleavage? Where the hell did they come from?!’
My flabbergasted expression gave Bai Lian a hint as to what I saw. She flipped out: “What are you looking at, Jerk?!”
Bai Lian shoved me aside and ran into the crowd. As for me, I spaced out in place. It took a while for my brain to function again. The first thought I had was, “Bai Lian… has breasts?”
*Goldfish Man – I sneaked what it meant into the body so that you wouldn’t be confused. Feel free to try calling someone Chinese a Goldfish Man and see what happens. I take no responsibility.
**Basinball – It’s not a real English word. I made it the term up.