Reasons by Myint Chel
Princess An of Lize looks to the distance from her swing. With the breeze of the wind blowing gently to her face, she imagines what her future husband would be like. An closes her eyes to avoid the brightness of the sun and wonders about their life in the future. She slows down her swinging and extends her hand upwards to try grabbing the sun. But when she looked down into her hands, there was nothing. She whispered lightly, “Would we lead a good life together?”
“Princess! Princess!” A voice came from a distance.
An looks towards that sharp sound. It was from her maid Sher who’s running towards her yelling, “Prince has arrived!”
An quickly gets off the swing with a surprised look. “What?!”
“Princess, Prince is in the main hall with King Bailing.” Sher pants.
The Prince was sent from Pret, an enemy kingdom. He came to ask for the hand in marriage of Princess An. This marriage isn’t usual, but an alliance to ensure the peace of Lize for this century. An believes forced marriage isn’t a good thing, but she’s the princess and her duty is to protect her kingdom. She knows that in exchange for her rich and easy life, she must do everything for her kingdom, even if it comes to her death.
An immediately rushes to the main hall to find her father and the prince. She’s been waiting for months to see the Prince. She’s always been curious about his appearance and manner. People on the street say one glance is enough to fall for him– he’s the most handsome man you’ve ever set eyes on.
At the entrance to the main hall, An passes a message to the footman. “Don’t announce my arrival.”
She takes off her shoes and leaves them at the entrance as a precaution to avoid being caught and tip-toed inside. An assumed her Father and the Prince were chatting in their seats, so she decided to hide behind the panel. Behind the panel was an area spacious enough to walk through. “There’s finally a use for this other than decoration,” she smirks.
She looks through the spaces between but she doesn’t spot a single person. “Huh? Where could they be?”
As she turned around she saw her Father with another man. The man was handsome and about her age. An couldn’t stop staring because his facial features were none like others. He’s the one man that appears once every thousand years. He looked as ethereal and majestic as those guqin players; but at the same time, he looked strong and lively. An wondered if he could be the Prince. She couldn’t help but picture being next to his side. She squealed, “Eek!”
“Ahem.” Her father coughed. “What are you doing here, and where are your shoes?”
An’s eyes enlarged. She was shaking as she thought of how embarrassing it’d be if the man next to her father was Prince Lien.
“Oh.” An was nervous but she said the truth. “Father, I heard the news that Prince Lien has arrived.”
“He has,” King Bailing replied. “And you haven’t answered my other question. Where are your shoes? Ladies only show their bare feet to their lovers.”
“My shoes!” An covered her hands on her mouth. Her tone was different. “I forgot we” -she shifted her hands up higher to her eyes- “had that tradition.” She peeked between her fingers and let them down.
The man next to King Bailing chuckled. “Pardon my rudeness, but greetings to Princess An. I’m Prince Lien.” He smiled sweetly.
An paused. She let a gulp and started blinking rapidly as she looked around. She didn’t know what to say as she thought no human can be that sweet while looking that well without vicious intentions. Tch. She thought. His nice face is his greatest weapon.
King Bailing walks to the nearest table. “Come, both of you sit down.”
“Now that the two of you know each other, you will set off to Pret in the next three days. During these few days, Prince Lien will be staying here.”
“Father, allow me to show Prince An around.”
King Bailing looked sternly at An. “Don’t mess around creating unnecessary trouble.”
An frowned upsettingly. “Tch, I’m not a troublemaker,” she spoke in a low tone.
After offering, An realized she didn’t want to show Lien around. The castle is so big it’d take hours. She didn’t have enough time for this, but she already offered. “Follow me, Prince Lien.” An decided to show him around for an hour or two then take him to his room.
A few hours have passed and An became tired. She’s shown Lien many places, and she thought he wouldn’t get lost.
“Here’s your room. If you need anything else, you can ask Suihe. She’ll be your personal maid.”
“King Bailing said you’d be showing me around. It’s only been an hour, are you going back on an order?”
“I apologize for my impulsive behavior but I’m very tired. I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t tell Father about this.”
“Okay. But in return, you must do me 3 favors.”
“What is it? Can we skip it today?”
“No, that won’t work.” he says shyly. “Could you take me back to your Father’s wine cellar? I’ll choose a drink.”
“Fine. But that’s it for today.”
An and Lien walk to the wine cellar. Inside, Lien picks a wine with the words Moonlight Moonshine on it.
“Hey!” An grabs the wine from him. “This is my father’s favorite wine. There’s only one left here. You can take anything else but not this one.”
He chuckled, “Yeah, you can’t do that.” “You said you’d allow me to pick out any wine. Would you rather have King Bailing know?”
An felt so annoyed by him. “Yes. I’d rather have that.” She’s not even tired anymore.
Lien raised a brow and snatched the wine back.
An felt so frustrated, “Give it back!” She tried to snatch the bottle back from him.
Without another thought, Lien opened the wine and poured it directly into his mouth. “Want to try? It’s good wine, no wonder it’s your father’s favorite.”
An looks at him sternly, “Give it.” As she drank it, she realized Lien wasn’t as innocent and kind as his first impression showed.
“It’s good right?” Lien walks outside and stares at the moon. “There’s nothing better than drinking wine called Moonlight Moonshine on a day with a full moon.” He sighs.
An thought Lien’s tone sounded sad and out of reflex she came to stand next to his side. She too looks at the moon, and on her tongue she tastes what was left of the wine she drank. The flavor became richer when looking at the moon. She turns around and looks at Lien. “Prince Lien, why did you suddenly want wine?”
Lien nervously looks down and sighs. “Today was the day my mother died. Her last wish was for our kingdom to be safe. That’s why I’m here” -he looks towards An- “to marry you.”
“Is that what you want?” she asked.
Lien smiled. “Yes, to marry you is what I want. I’ve known about you for a long time. People always talk good about you and I know our kingdoms don’t get along well. That’s why I brought up the marriage to my father. It’s selfish of me but it’s a win.
“Well, now you know the truth. Are you mad? I don’t blame you if you were. I know it’s weird to marry someone you don’t love. I don’t care if it’s one-sided, and I understand if you blame me.”
An paused for a second as she was confused because things were going so fast. She stayed calm and without consideration she poured out the first thing that came to mind. “I thank you for bringing this up to your father. Both our kingdoms can have peace thanks to this marriage.”
For the rest of this night, An and Lien stayed up chatting. An realizes she enjoys Lien’s company and would have no problem marrying him. He was genuine and he really didn’t deserve those rude remarks she said in her head. The two fall asleep next to each other in the wine cellar.
An woke when dawn arrived to realize she stayed the whole night with Lien. She immediately woke him up.
“What?! It’s barely morning.” Lien groaned.
“Wake up! We weren’t supposed to be sleeping here.”
“Princess An? What are you doing here” Lien sits up. “Oh, I remember. We were in the wine cellar last night. Don’t worry, I won’t tell King Bailing.”
An grabbed Lien’s hand and pulled him up. “Let’s go.”
“Where are we going?”
An dragged Lien back to his room, opens the door and hands him over to Suihe. Lien was sleepy, and An thought he possibly wouldn’t remember this.
As An walks back to her room, she recalls what happened the following night. Thinking about that event, her face turned red. Suddenly in front of her appeared a man.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Greetings to Princess An. I am Hugo, your personal bodyguard assigned by King Bailing.”
“Father? Why would he assign you? No way. I don’t need one, I can protect myself.”
Hugo chuckled. “King Bailing told me to guard you in Pret. I’m to protect you when danger comes your way.”
“Oh. So you’re coming with me to Pret? You have family here, are you sure you’re okay with leaving them? If you’re not, I’ll convince Father for you. Don’t be scared about the punishments.”
Hugo smiled realizing how kind An is. He at first thought she’d be bratty, but his assumption was wrong. “Don’t worry,” he assured. “I have no living family member and it’s my honor to obey King Bailing’s order and protect you.”
Behind Hugo, An saw someone in black pass by. She looked past him trying to view who the man was and noticed he was heading towards Prince Lien’s room. An was shocked and immediately thought he was an assassin.
“Hugo! Follow that man in black!”
Hugo turned around and saw the man as An said. He ran towards him and An followed, but the assassin didn’t notice and kept going his way. The two were led to the front yard of Prince Lien’s room, but the assassin disappeared.
“Where’d he go?” An asked.
“He’s gone but he couldn’t have gone far.” Hugo looked suspicious. “Don’t worry, I’ll inform the other guards to catch him. Princess An, we should head back and not worry about this matter. I’ll protect you.”
“Thank you Hugo. Let’s go.”
An followed by Hugo, went back to her manor and got up on her little swing. Hugo offered to push her, and she agreed.
As Hugo pushed her on the swing, she couldn’t help but ask about the assassin incident. “Hugo.”
“Yes, Princess An?”
“Do you think it’s a coincidence the assassin came into Prince Lien’s place? I just find it weird he suddenly disappeared. I’ve been inside that manor once when it was vacant and there’s nowhere else other than inside that you can hide.”
“Are you suspecting Prince Lien?”
“Of course not. I know Prince Lien wouldn’t allow a stranger inside here.”
“Princess An, are you sure? You’ve only known him for a day. Plus, we’ve never gotten any break-ins until Prince Lien arrived.”
An put her legs down to stop the swing and got up. “We’ve talked for a while and it’s enough for me to know his personality. Trust me, something is up, but Prince Lien isn’t involved.”
Prince Lien was in the room with the man in black. The man kneeled before him and pulled out a scroll.
Lien looked stern. “What do you have for me, Shisi?” His eyes looked dangerous, and he seemed like a completely different person.
Shisi looked down. “A message from King Liang.”
“Father? What does he want?”
“King Liang wants me to remind you not to forget the reason you’re here.”
Lien let a deep breath out and with his right hand on his right side, he clenched a fist. “Why should I kill him?! Getting the antidote for Mother is enough!” He threw a vase down.
Shisi looked terrified as he tried to dodge the vase. “My prince, you must not question the King. Listen to what he says.”
Lien turns around. “Fine. I’ll get that antidote today. Come back at midnight to deliver this back to Father.”
“Yes.” Shisi stood up from his kneeling position and went away.
Prince Lien waited until it was dark and called his maid, Suihe in. The moment Suihe entered, Lien put his sword to her throat and threatened her. “Tell me, where does King Bailing hide his countless medicines?”
Suihe was stuttering. “I-I. P-Prince Lien, I d-don’t k-k-know!”
“Then who does?”
“Only P-Princess A-An. P-Please don’t kill m-me.” Tears ran down from Suihe’s eyes.
Lien sighed and slit Suihe’s throat. With his whistle he called Shisi and handed Suihe over to him.
“Shisi, did you find where?”
“Yes, here’s the map Prince. Follow it and you’ll find the antidote. I saw Princess An and a man going that direction so be careful.”
“A man?” Lien looked surprised.
Lien and Shisi exchanged clothing. Lien walked past Shisi outside and followed the map. When he arrived at the location, he didn’t see Princess An, nonetheless another man. Thinking it was safe, he headed inside and saw many bottles with different names on them. They weren’t arranged in alphabetical order or any order, and Lien had to look through them one by one. It’s been a while and he heard something from behind.
“Prince Lien!” It was Princess An with another man looking so shocked.
Lien looked so nervous as he had sweat piling up on his forehead sliding down to his throat. Out of nowhere, Lien loudly, “Princess An, thank goodness you’re here!” “I got lost and stumbled across this room with these fascinating colored bottles. Come, tell me what they are!”
“How dare you lie, thief!” remarked Hugo.
“It’s okay Hugo. Come Prince Lien, I’ll take you back.”
Lien had a smirk on his face which Hugo noticed. Hugo pulled An’s hand, “Princess, what are you doing? The King executes everyone who enters this room. You must bring him to King Bailing immediately!”
“Enough Hugo. I command you not to allow anyone to know about this matter. Lien was just lost.”
“Yeah, I was just lost. I didn’t know this place was forbidden to enter.” Just then, Lien saw the bottle he’d been looking for. Lien didn’t know what to do in this situation, but his kingdom was more important. Even if some actions were unnecessary, he must obey his father’s order. He smiled because doing this, he realized how much liked Princess An as a friend. He enjoyed their chats and their time together. A night was enough for him to know how much he would regret this.
Lien blew his whistle and when Shisi arrived, he pushed An aside and grabbed the antidote he was assigned to obtain. He looked back at An leaving the words, “Sorry, An. My kingdom is more important than our friendship.”
As Hugo was pulling out his sword, Lien yelled, “Let’s go Shisi!”
Shisi pulled out his lighter and fire spread through the whole area leaving An and Hugo still inside. Hugo protected An and covered her with his shield. The two were desperately waiting for people to save them.
Hugo didn’t dare talk to An for he thought she’d want time to think alone after being betrayed this way. He left her with the shield and went in front of her to protect her with his armor from the flames.
But An didn’t know what to feel. She kept looking downwards. In her mind, was the scene being replayed. She was angered by Lien’s betrayal but herself even more for being foolish.
A while later, the fire was big enough to catch the guards attention and extinguish it. When Hugo and An got out, there were suddenly arrows and missiles coming at the kingdom. Soldiers started to fight back and on the opposite side was the flag and the soldiers of Pret, Lien’s kingdom.
And scoffed, “They’d planned this so long ago.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll protect you,” said Hugo.
Just before her eyes, she saw her father get shot. The man who shot him was Lien.
An’s eyes turned red and tears started to well up. Her fists were clenched that her knuckles turned red.
“Kill Princess An!” It was a yell from away.
Hugo cleared the way and grabbed Princess An’s hand to take her to safety. At a nearby forest, he stopped to light a fire.
“Princess An, are you okay? You can talk to me.”
An still had tears streaming down her eyes. All she felt at that moment was anger and guilt.
Hugo knew how much An trusted Lien. He recalled the rumors he had heard and consoled her. “I heard Prince Lien needed the medicine to save his dying mother. As you’re feeling sadness, he may be feeling guilt. The two of you have no anger with each other, it was just his father’s order which he simply can’t betray.”
An smiled and looked at Hugo. “Right. We’ve only known each other for a few days and filial piety comes before friendship. He destroyed my kingdom and lied about his mother. I feel hurt from the betrayal but it’s not his fault. I have no one to blame but myself for being too foolish.” An wiped her remaining and last tears. “From today on, we will have no relationship.”
Hugo was surprised An got over it so quickly. He thought it’s best she grows strong. “Life is unexpected. You let your guard down once and you learned your lesson. When it’s safe, you can return to Lize and plan your revenge on Prat. It’s a personal matter now.”