Purple Tulips Arc I – Chapter TWO

Chapter TWO

 

There was no other person inside the room except for the two of them so the one called Lixue must be her. She tested her name in her tongue.. Lixue.. Lixue.. Great! It sounded nice and it did not have a bad or funny meaning. One problem solved but another one was added to her countless dilemma as a woman with no recollection of her past experiences. The problem was she did not know how to react or what to reply to the middle-aged woman. Eliminating all the other options, she chose to just smile to make herself appear more amiable. Given the right situation, smiling was harmless so when you do not know what to do, just smile.

The woman did not seem to notice her troubles as she proceeded to touch her forehead, checking her body’s temperature. She had the urge to flinch away from the woman’s invading hand but suppressed as it may cause unnecessary concerns. She did not the woman to have bad opinions of her seeing that right now the woman was her only source of information. Besides, she came into the conclusion that the woman was close to the past her, judging from the amount of attention she was giving her.

“You look all right now. You were bedridden for two days and three nights and you had not woken up even once. Last night, your fever was so high but what’s baffling was that despite the high temperature, your face was too pale.what Your breathing was so shallow… We thought that you would…” Listening to the woman ramble about the events last night, her mind spun as she tried to deduce what happened to her. Okay, so she was sick but how did she get sick? Was it an inborn sickness or acquired and if so, then what caused it? The woman continued to talk. “Ai, let’s not mention what happened anymore. It’s a blessing that you have recovered. Or do you still feel uncomfortable? Tell this old lady so I will know what to do.” The middle-aged woman fussed over her, just like a mother taking care of her daughter. Looking closely at the worried woman, she could not see nor sense any pretension from the woman and her actions warmed her heart a little. Was she her mother perhaps?

“I’m all right now. Thank you for taking care of me.” She did not know what to call the woman so she did not say any honorific. She wanted to ask why she was sick but thinking that she might arouse the woman’s suspicion, she hesitated. Even though the woman appeared genuinely concerned for her well-being, she did not trust the woman enough to tell the woman that she lost her memories, that being the most important and only secret her current self had. She did not even know the woman’s name or her relationship with her. Keeping her secret to herself for a while longer seemed to be the more logical choice and her best course of action. She still needed to collect more information about the woman, herself, and this place so in the end, she did not ask.

“Oh, this child. Of course I would take care of you. I’m your only relative here and your only family left! What are we going to do aside from taking care of each other?” Before she could react, the woman already enclosed her into a hug, caressing her hair in the process. “But Lixue, please don’t make it difficult for this auntie of yours. Why did you let yourself get soaked in the rain? When I found you, you were slumped on the ground, like a lifeless doll!” Leaning back, the woman looked at her with questioning eyes. “Tell this auntie, why did you that?”

She was at a lost of what to say to the sudden question. She could only shake her head and bury her face on the woman’s chest, as if she was seeking for warmth and consolation. Sighing at her unwillingness to tell the truth, the woman just hugged her more tightly and patter her back. “Now, come. You must be hungry, yes? Let us go to the kitchen and see if we can get you a more nutritious breakfast. I don’t want you to be eating gruel when you’ve just recovered from your sickness.” Reaching out to hold her hand, the woman then led her outside the room towards the kitchen while she took this chance to memorize the route. She already had a shelter and assuming that she also had spare clothes inside the closet, all she needed now was food. And that was why she had to know where the kitchen was in order to secure her basic needs as a human being.

Stepping out of the house which contained many rooms, the room she was in a while ago only one of the many, Lixue was welcomed by the early morning breeze touching her cheeks, gently blowing from all directions and carrying with it the sweet fragrance of flowers. Amidst the seemingly unending patch of dewy fake grass, a stone-covered path cut through, leading to a building presumably the kitchen. As they arrived they were greeted with the sight of a bunch of people busily preparing for and cooking breakfast.

“Dou Dou, do you have some decent food left from last night? My niece is in need of some,” opened the woman as soon as they stepped inside the bustling kitchen. The woman kept calling herself auntie and she also said she was her niece therefore the woman must be her aunt. Now that their relation was clear, she would start calling the woman ‘aunt’ from now on.

A woman who looked to be more than twenty but less than thirty summers in age paused and lifted her head up from chopping some vegetables. She must be Dou Dou. “Lixue? I’m glad that you have recovered.” After saying that, she went back to chopping. “We have some chicken scraps and fish. Which one do you like?”

“Oh! Good, good! It seems that we have some luck. Lixue, just tell us what you want to eat. No need to be shy like you always do. You need to recover your strength fast because your supervisor won’t let you off.” Aunt looked at her expectantly. Shy? Was she always shy? And supervisor? That should mean that she worked here.

She was not in the mood to taste fishy food. “I’d love some chicken please. Thank you.”

“Chicken it is! But Aunt Luo, I don’t have extra hands to cook Lixue’s meal right now so I’ll trouble you.” Duo Duo sheepishly said.

“Oh, no problem. I’ll cook, I’ll cook.” Her aunt, who she now knew was called Luo, went to get a chair and set it down in front of her “Lixue, sit here while waiting. I’ll bring you your breakfast when I’m done cooking.” With that, her aunt turned away and busied herself with cooking.

***

After finishing her breakfast, Aunt Luo guided her to her supervisor. She told her that her supervisor was stricter compared to the others and she needed to show her face some more to get to his good graces. After leaving her to her supervisor, her aunt left to do her daily duties.

Her supervisor was a tall middle-aged man with a permanent frown pasted on his forehead. He did not have any reaction when she told him she had recovered from her sickness. He merely glanced at her for a second before shifting his attention back to what he was doing, completely ignoring her then waved his hands in a shoo-ing motion, indicating that she should already scram. She turned to leave but then stopped, realizing that she did not know where to go.

Being an amnesiac really was troublesome.

She was just about to ask when her supervisor gave her an irritated look. Sighing inside at her misfortune while showing an ingratiating smile on the outside, she carefully asked, “Where should I work for today?”

Eyeing her like she was the most idiotic person in the world, her supervisor mocked, “Don’t tell me you turned into an idiot? Didn’t I give you your work schedule already?”

Scrambling to think of an alibi while outwardly she was pretending to be a submissive girl afraid of her boss, looking at the ground and fiddling with her clothes. “I… I don’t know if my work was already done by someone else while I was sick. Please sir, give me some instructions.”

Her supervisor only stared at her for a while. “Is that so? Then go to tend to the flower garden near the lake. Stop bothering me, I have many things to do.” And with that, the supervisor went away leaving her standing in silence.

She still wanted to ask how to go there but the person already left! Ai, she could only depend on herself now and try to find her way. Hopefully, the lake would not be too hard to find. She paused to think for a bit which direction she should go to. The kitchen and her quarters were to the left so maybe she should go right? Praying for her luck, she shrugged her shoulders then turned right.

Leisurely walking on the fake grass while keeping her eyes alert for any signs of a lake, she saw that the place was well-kept and the lot was wider than she had initially thought. Along the way she passed by so many fake mountains and courtyards with their own gardens, big and small. She also saw the stables which housed a huge variety of horses. She could not help but feel awe and lucky at the same time because she got to live in such a place, even though she was just a worker here. On the other hand, she could not help but wonder about the owner of such a grand place. One thing was for sure, the owner was filthy rich!

She saw a young woman with almost the same age as her up ahead. Should she go and ask directions? The young woman was wearing the same type of clothes as her so she must also be a worker like her. Jogging up to the young woman, she smiled at her politely then asked for directions. The young woman pointed to the big house to their left. “You see the Viscount’s house? See that stone path on the side? That leads to the garden and from there you can see the lake.” Seeing that it was the largest house she saw, she assumed that it was the owner’s house. So the owner was a viscount?

“I see. I won’t hold you up any longer. Thank you!” The young woman smiled and walked away. Following the path the young woman told her, soon she saw the flower garden and she was struck dumb by what she saw.

On the vast field, tulips of varying kinds and colors danced with the passing wind. The ones beside my feet possess the color of white. Beside them were crimson-colored tulips. Near the lake and away from where she was were the purple tulips, giving off an immortal like impression. So far away and too grand for mere mortals like her to touch. There were also lily-flowered tulips, ruffled tulips, fringed tulips… Tulips with different colors and sizes and shapes, all seemed to be planted here. The lake water glistened in the morning light, faint wind sweeping across the surface creating ripples across the calm lake. A white marble pavilion was located right in the middle of the field. It did not look out of place, rather, it completed the whole picture adding a sense of mystery. The place was breathtaking. It was a picturesque scene out of a magical realm. If someone told her that here was the land of the fairies, she would nod her head and agree to the person wholeheartedly. It was that beautiful… That magical.

Walking through the field, she bent down to touch the a tulip. The petals were smooth and soft to the touch and wet, the moist from the morning dew clung to the tulips’ soft petals. Its color was red like a ruby, the petals capturing the sun’s rays making it look like it was glowing with radiance. When she finished caressing the petals, she stood up and looked up at the bright blue sky. Closing her eyes, she felt the breeze touch her skin and her hair, making it sway with the wind. The air was cool and crisp, like an iceberg lettuce in a plate of salad. It was like she was in a dream and she found herself not wishing for it to stop. She stood still in silence, humming a random tune, savoring the feel of nature unaware of the observing eyes following her every move.

***

As usual, Fang Jingyi took his early morning stroll in his courtyard. Looking up, he saw a bird fly trailing its flight direction towards the south with his eyes until it disappeared from his sight. South.. He was reminded of his tulip garden south of his courtyard and could not remember the time since he last visited it. His late mother was fond of tulips so his father, always seeking to please his mother in whatever way, planted a whole bunch of it on the field beside the lake. Since then every morning, his mother had taken it into her habit to pass the time in the pavillion in the middle of the field full of tulips. As a child, she would accompany her mother every time and they would sit there in silence enjoying the serenity of the place. Sometimes when his father was not busy, he would join them and they would talk about the most mundane of things. When his mother died, his father still took care of the place but both of them did not frequently visit it anymore. The place contained too many of his mother’s memories and remembering those made their heart hurt due to missing her too much.

Reaching the field and admiring the view, it gave him a feeling of nostalgia. He missed this place.

“Honey, do you want to learn something new?” A beautiful woman wearing a gentle smile turned to a child and asked. The boy looked up to his mother with curious eyes and the woman could not help but to pinch the boy’s cheeks until they turned as pink as rose apples.

“Yes, mother. What is it, mother?” The child asked, moving to hug his mother and feel her warmth.

“Jingyi, do you know the meaning of a red tulip?” The mother asked in a gentle tone, her lips curving into a smile as she reminisce about something from the past. The child shook his head to say the he did not know.

“A red tulip can mean ‘beautiful eyes’ or ‘confession of love’. That is why Jingyi, if you met a woman and you came to love, you could give her a red tulip to signify your declaration of love.”

Hearing what his mother said, the boy ran out of the pavillion, plucked a red tulip, and ran back to his mother. Looking at the boy handing her the red tulip, the woman did not know whether to laugh or cry.

“Do you mean to say that I have beautiful eyes?” The woman asked, still smiling.

They boy nodded and said, “Mother has beautiful eyes. I also love mother very much.”

The woman could not control herself and let out a laugh, shaking her head at the hilariousness of the situation. The boy tilted his head, confused by his mother’s laughter. Reaching out to accept the flower in the boy’s hand, she told her son while still chuckling, “Jingyi, what I meant was romantic love.”

“What is romantic love?”

Smiling softly, the woman replied ambiguously. “You’ll know when the time comes.”

Snapping out of his thoughts, Jingyi walked towards the pavillion when he suddenly heard a sound of humming. Turning his head he saw a young woman standing the middle of the flower, her eyes closed, her hair swaying with the wind. For a moment he was enthralled, thinking that the young woman was a fairy goddess completely at ease in her vast flower home. That was until he noticed her worn-out clothes, unbefitting that of a fairy goddess. He pondered if he should call out to the girl or not when out of a sudden the girl opened her eyes.

Then, their eyes met. Two sets of eyes meeting each other for the first time but there was an unexpected spark of recognition, a strange familiar feeling enveloping the both of them.

His eyes on hers. Her eyes on his. Never looking away, only quietly gazing at each other’s eyes.

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