A/N: The last chapter *wipes a tear from her eye* My first completed work! I'm so happy! I hoped you liked it!
The next day was mayhem with Xie Ling and Xie Lan screaming at Xiao Yu who became dizzy from running back and forth.
" Xiao Yu, where's my earrings?" Xie Ling shrilled.
" Is my robe done drying? No! Then how is it going to be ready on time?" Xie Lan exclaimed. Impatiently, she wadded it up around a stick and stuck it over a fire. It slipped and fell into the licking flames. Xie Lan cried for an hour until finally a servant brought a pretty gown for her to wear instead. Xiao Yu was worried that she wouldn't have enough time to bath since she had to help the twins. Luckily Madame Zhu dismissed her because she couldn't comb their hair right.
Xiao Yu spent the next hour bathing in jasmine smelling oil she stole from Xie Ling, who had a dozen bottles of it. When it was time to go, Xiao Yu dressed in simple clothes and hid the hairpiece in her waistband. She hurried outside and mounted her horse. The town where the festival was being held was a few hours away. Xiao Yu calculated that they would arrive about half an hour early. That should leave her enough time to dress up. She waited with growing excitement to see the extravagant festival the prince had planned out. The trip was becoming so boring Xiao Yu wanted to run the rest of the way there.
Finally, much to her relief, they finally arrived. Once everyone was gone, she met Dong Lam at his carriage and changed into her new gown (she had painstakingly made during the whole night) inside Dong Lam's carriage while he made sure no one came.
" All right, I done!" she announced when she stepped out. It was a big change from now and what she looked like before. Her hair was held up in a more complicated way than the simple braid she usually wore. Her mother's hairpiece was nestled neatly in hair, the pearl contrasting beautifully against her black her.
" Beautiful!" he exclaimed and gave her a loving hug. " A lot better than Xie Ling and Xie Lan."
Xiao Yu blushed and thanked him. Brother and sister walked towards the center of all the excitement. Xiao Yu watched with wide eyes, the street performers, he vendors and people. She smiled with joy and laughed harder than she ever had in her whole life. " It's lively here! Everything is so pretty!" she awed. They wandered around and bumped into Madame Zhu.
Their mouths dropped opened unflatteringly. Master Zhu regained his composure first and grinned broadly. " My beautiful daughter, you look lovely! Brighter than a thousand stars and beauty that last longer than they will shine!" he commented happily.
Madame Zhu flared up because her daughters didn't even receive a compliment. " You… you… how dare you!" she shrieked. She slapped Xiao Yu hard against the cheek. Xiao Yu reeled and saw stars dancing behind her eyelids. The other people paused and looked on with anticipation. " You are a back-stabber going against your sister's like this! You are nothing but filthy, good for nothing beggar. After I clothed and fed you all this time!" Madame Zhu shouted. Her fist rammed into Xiao Yu's ear, making Xiao Yu fly sideways.
She knocked into a vendor laden with lanterns. She clutched her head and distantly heard a voice somewhere. She turned and saw everyone else was bowing. She looked up and saw, without a doubt, the prince standing still, peering down at her. She scrambled toward him and bowed. She looked up and brushed her face and realized that she was crying. She looked down and sure enough, pearls were dropping into the dirt. She hastily got up and faced the prince nervously. He was glancing at her and the pearls with interest.
" Take this young woman and tend to her injuries," he commanded to the guard next to her. The guard nodded and moved forward but Xiao Yu, who was frightened, backed up only to cause her head to spin. She leaned forward but the prince caught her. " Never mind, clear a path," he said and picked up Xiao Yu before carrying her to the nearest place that Xiao Yu could be healed. Xiao Yu blearily glanced at her family and saw the twins fuming with anger.
Xiao Yu woke up with her head feeling a lot better but it still had a dull throbbing. She got up and looked around. " Wow," she whispered. The room she was located in was even more exquisite than Madame Zhu's. The sun shone through the paper in the window. All the cloth in the room was made out of silk and had the brightest colors. She got up and walked around. She saw a small cage with a yellow and green bird in it, chirping contently. She began playing with it, not noticing that the prince had entered the room.
" He's lively, isn't he?"
Xiao jumped and whirled around. Remembering her manners, she curtsied.
" No need," he smiled. Xiao Yu looked up and studied his face. He had chiseled features with his long black hair braided neatly and resting on his back.
" Thank you. I remembered that you helped me. My head was hammering painfully," she said.
" All part of a prince's duty," he laughed.
" Do you find everything funny?" she blurted. Her hand flew to her mouth. " I'm very sorry! I didn't mean that! Please forgive me!"
" Quite alright! I'm glad you're not like the mindless maidens I meet. They are always so courteous and quiet. Most girls would've examined the silks, not the bird," he remarked.
" That's good news," Xiao Yu laughed. They spent the rest of the morning talking about whatever came to mind. The prince informed her that the festival was still being held because he had delayed it just for her. Xiao Yu blushed until she was a red tomato when she was thanking him. When he left, she was slightly disappointed that he had to leave.
" I always thought that the prince was vain and egotistic since he was the prince and all. I guess I stand corrected," she muttered to herself. She stepped out of her room and walked down the hall. She saw the guard from last night and she called to him.
" Hello, I was wondering, have you seen people I was with last night? The woman who hit me?" she spoke quietly.
" Oh, yes. They departed last night and left a message for you," he said. He handed her a white envelope and left.
Returning to her room, she opened the letter and read. After she was done, she snorted and crumbled it up. Madame Zhu had written that she would gladly welcome her back when the prince rejected her. She changed into the dress she wore last night and went back outside.
Vendors were rearranging their stalls and workmen were hanging new fireworks up. She walked around, admiring lovely red color of everything. When she was purchasing some bread for lunch, someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around and smiled.
" I was looking for you," the prince explained. " I'm having lunch and I hope you'll join me."
Xiao Yu pursed her lips and nodded. " I'll love to. I doubt this will be fulfilling," she muttered, waving at the bread. He laughed and led her by the hand to a restaurant. It was closed off since that was where the prince and the nobles were staying. Upstairs, the nobles were already sitting down to the magnificent feast. " This is lunch? There's abalone and lamb. Isn't it a little too much?" she asked.
" This is how royalty eats," he said, shrugging his shoulders. She raised an eyebrow and nodded. She sat down next to the prince and waited until everyone started eating before she picked up her chopsticks. She picked up a piece of shrimp and popped it into her mouth, which immediately watered. It was absolutely delicious, swimming with a wine flavor.
" If you add a little pepper to it, it tastes better," he suggested while sprinkling some on his. A little flew in Xiao Yu's face and she began sneezing continuously. Her eyes watered and pearls started dropping on the table. She cleared her throat and wiped her eyes. Everyone was staring at her.
" Those pearls came from your tears, " a noble said in awe. Xiao Yu nodded sheepishly.
" Astounding," another noble breathed.
" Actually its not. I had this gift for as long as I can remember," Xiao Yu said nervously. She put down her chopsticks and got up. " Excuse me," she walked out of the room, sighing. Yet again her stupid gift made her look like a freak.
" You don't look too good," the prince said as he closed the door. She saw, to her distaste, that the nobles were examining the pearls.
" I was always treated like a freak all my life. Here, I just met you and you must think I'm strange. Right?" she said stiffly as she looked at him.
" Of course not. I meet people stranger than you! Why last year, we had a foreign at the palace who was older than I was but barely reached my waist! And then there was a man with hair as red as," he paused to find the color. He plucked at his orange red waistband, " this. So you aren't as strange as you think."
Xiao Yu smiled. " Besides from my brother and my father, you are the only one who said that."
" What's your father's name? Also, what's your name? I never really got it," he questioned. Xiao Yu walked towards the stairs and he followed.
" That's a mystery for you to solve," she smiled artfully. He chuckled and scratched his head.
" I'm not to good at that. Maybe a hint," he smiled.
" No, it will give it all away," she said airily. They continued teasing each other as they walked down the stairs.
Xiao Yu was practically humming as she thought about earlier that day. She was sure the prince was showing her interest, he basically was glowing with it. She was even happier due to the fact that he saw nothing special in her gift, unlike her stepmother. He had done everything to assure her, he even tossed coins into a crowd, saying that it was only a tiny dent in his fortune.
" Why would I need anymore?" he had asked.
She danced around the room excitedly. After a few moments of jumping around, she worked up an appetite. She stepped out of her room to snatch something from the kitchen. As she was passing the prince's wing she heard voices. Not wanting to eavesdrop she continued until she heard the word ' pearls' and her name. She bit her lip and threw manners out the window. She leaned closer.
" That girl is a treasure! Think of the riches she can provide us! You'll be wealthier than you are now and it never ends! Do you think it's genetic?" she heard someone ask. Xiao Yu recognized that it was the noble who had described her gift as astounding.
" Yes, she is isn't it. Maybe we should make a cartload of children and have dozens the amount of riches," the prince answered. Xiao Yu gasped and backed up in horror.
" No wonder you're so interested in her," the noble laughed. Xiao Yu clenched her fists.
" Yes, that's the only interesting fact about her," the prince replied. Xiao Yu let out a quiet, angry sob. So she was wrong. So everything she felt wasn't returned. So the prince was exactly like her stepmother. What was she a pig? Mass-produce pearl crying children for his benefit? She whipped around and ran to her room, crying all the way. She was leaving. She gathered her things and hurried out the inn. The guards asked her questions and she ignored them before she found her horse. She untied and mounted it, casting the inn one last look at the inn.
" Yes, that's the only interesting fact about her," the prince replied. He gritted his teeth. Couldn't this noble tell that he was being sarcastic? As the noble continued insulting Xiao Yu, he rubbed his temples. "Actually, I really like her. She'll make a lovely bride," he smiled. The noble gasped.
" My Prince, you must reconsider. You just met her and know little of her background," he advised.
" I know but… when I first saw her… it was like love at first sight! I got to know her better and she's just perfect!" the prince said, wringing his arms. " I don't care if she cries emeralds! I," he looked around nervously, " I love her!"
" Maybe you should reconsidered," the noble said.
" No! In fact, I'll tell her right now!" he said gruffly. He stepped out and promptly smashed into a guard.
" Sorry, my prince," the guard whispered as he bowed low. The prince waved his hand impatiently.
" What is it?" the prince asked.
" The maiden just left a few minutes ago, in a hurry," the guard told him. " When we asked her where her destination is, she ignored us. She was crying also."
" What? Why?" the prince shouted horrified.
" That was what we were wondering," the guard replied.
" Well, I need to tell her something very important! Find her!"
" Yes, my prince. However, we need a name so we can find the household," the guard nodded. The prince swallowed.
" I…don't have a name. But there's one thing that will identify her. She cries pearls. We search the country for her. We must find her!" he ordered.
It's been three weeks since Xiao Yu had arrived home. Madame Zhu always talks to her in a cocky and superior voice. Xiao Yu wakes up before dawn and grows to sleep long after everyone else, burying herself in chores. She barely manages to forget the prince. Xiao Yu has confined in Dong Lam, who comforts her whenever she starts crying. As time grew on, she missed the prince more and more, even if it was an act.
Xiao Yu was polishing the antiques in the guest hall, were large chairs were arranged in rows for visitors to sit and wait for the hosts when there was a loud knock at the door. She placed the antique down gently and hurried towards the door. She swung the large gilded doors open and curtsied at the visitors. She looked up and her jaw dropped. The prince was shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot at the door with several guards behind him.
" How may I help you?" she stuttered. The prince cleared his throat.
" I want to speak to all the maidens in this household."
" Right… maidens… alright…wait one minute," she stammered. After gathering everyone in the guest hall, the prince explained the reason he was here.
" This maiden was able to cry pearls so one simple way to identify her, is to make her cry. I ask every maiden here to cry at least one tear for me," he said looking around.
Xiao Yu looked around panicked. How was she supposed to fake this one? Xie Lan and Xie Ling took their turns and failed, of course. When it was her turn, she crossed her arms in front of her chest and flipped her braid over her shoulder.
" This is nonsense! How am I suppose cry a tear out of nowhere?" she said defiantly.
" Well," he held out a bottle with a stopper. " This is onion juice… it makes eyes water."
Xiao Yu bit her lip and stared at the bottle uncertainly. " I'm not sticking my face over that."
" You don't have a choice," a guard snapped. She sighed and took the bottle. She removed the stopper, held the bottle under her eye and waited. The fumes stung her eyes and naturally, it watered. Pearls clunked down on the ground and she hand back the bottle.
The prince was smiling from ear to ear. " I found you!" he laughed. He edged closer and she stepped back.
" For what? So you have a cartload of babies?" she snapped, glaring at him.
" You heard that?" the prince asked. He frowned. " I was being sarcastic! I really didn't mean it!"
" Why should I trust you?" she sneered.
" Because, I'm not lying. Please, trust me," he begged.
Xiao Yu stared uncertainly at him. Why would a prince beg like this? " I still don't believe you," she said.
" I swear," he held up the middle three fingers of his right hand. " I swear. I love you. I know it's… sudden and quick but I believe it's love at first sight. If that why you feel insecure, we can take time to get to know each other. However, I know you are the perfect bride for me," he walked up to her and took her hands in his. " Give me a chance?"
Xiao Yu closed her eyes before sighing, " Of course I'll give you a chance. I love you too," she admitted with a shy smile. The prince smiled to and engulfed her in a hug. She turned and looked at her family. Her brother and father were smiling brightly. Dong Lam stepped forward and shook the prince's hand before hugging her. Her father hugged her too. Xiao Yu looked over his shoulder at Madame Zhu, Xie Ling and Xie Lan. Their lips were pressed into thin white lines. Xiao Yu smiled at them.
Xiao Yu and the prince were married the day before his 20th birthday. Dong Lam was appointed general and visited her every so often. She was very glad to hear that he had met a girl, although he has no immediate plans of marrying her. The rest of the family still resides in the mansion wedged between the mountains. She hardly ever visits them but writes letters to her father everyday. Life for her was better than she ever dreamt. She rarely had a reason to cry after that. In fact, she lived happily ever after.