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I was covered in long marks wrapped around my body like wicked thorns, red and swollen. Jiaying was merciless with her whip.

My entire body screamed in pain, barely able to move around when I woke up this morning.

My sudden spite for my mistress came alive overnight especially those times when I'm alone when I found myself drowning with negative thoughts of her.

I tried not to dwell on what she did and instead searched for a reason justifying it, but no matter how I twisted things around and made up excuses for her, I could not find anything to deserve a beating. Not based on her mere speculation and jealousy.

My anger consumed me eating through my skin and into my bones. I felt it in the core of my stomach, wrenching in my gut, my hatred for her and for master Li He ignited.

By the week's end, my back began to heal, though not at all entirely, there's still faint discoloration of the black and purple left that's slowly fading.

Mistress Jiaying knew my wounds will still be visible by the time master Li He comes back and this worried her tremendously, that's why she called me inside the house.

I came to her voice as she called, my head tucked in my chest when I approached. I couldn't help the slight trembling in my body as I stood in front of her. She left her stamp of cruelness, and it's hard not to see without her malicious face since then.

"You needed me, mistress?" I asked in my small pathetic voice and I could not stand the way I sounded in front of her. Without a choice.

Her thin lips twitched and she looked down at me with vindictive pleasure. "Wear this when Li He comes home this weekend."

I looked at what she had on her hand, and it's a thick high collar robe made of cheap cotton - high enough to hide my bruises away from sight. "...and don't let me find out you said something to Li He about me beating you, because if he mentions anything about it, I'll make you pay for it!" She shoved the robe to my chest. "Stay the hell away from my husband, you filthy skank!"

I sucked a breath trying to calm down, telling myself this is only temporary and it'll not last. Things will get better and she'll find out soon enough her assumptions were wrong, and master Li He doesn't see me but a little sister he could annoy and boss around whenever he wanted.

"What're you standing here for? Go, get out of my face!" She hissed with vulgarly, her nose flared, and she glared at me as though the sight of me appalled her to no end.

I stepped back and left, back to what I was doing the endless mountain of laundry I must wash every day. I don't understand since it's only me and mistress living in the manor right now.

Master Li He returned home later that week. I didn't hide in my room this time, I stood by the corridor cleaning the windows when he showed up. I wore the thick robe mistress Jiaying ordered me to wear.

I saw them hugged and then kissed. They were both simpers completely forgetting how bad they fought only a week ago. I scooted back to the wall as I made myself appear small while they make their way inside, but master Li He saw me anyway.

His eyes glided to me with a confused knot on his forehead. "The heck are you wearing, Hui?" His voice sounded scolding. "It's in the middle of the summer, you'll pass out from heat exhaustion!"

"U-ummm." Quickly, I searched for a reason to explain but found nothing to say.

"Oh, don't mind her." Mistress Jiaying interrupted. "She probably just ran out of clothes to wear." Her arms tightened on him, dragging Li He inside with her, but master stalled by the door, his eyes lingered on me with heavy curiosity.

"You pregnant, Hui?" He asked.

I was appalled almost tossing the rag, and kicking the bucket of brown water to him. He grinned, "I'm kidding. Good thing I bought you a new robe you can wear." He lifted a basket held in his hand. "Come inside with us, so you could wear it right now."

I hesitated, my gaze searched for my mistress who had her excitement depleting as master Li He lingered more outside, paying attention to me.

"What're you waiting for? I have your favorite rice cake, too!"

The nicer he is to me, the more nervous I got, but I couldn't say no to him and I didn't want to set off anything that causes his suspicion. I walked inside drawing up a wide smile on my cheeks, pretending to be happy and everything was fine and dandy.

Master Li He settled on the living room, on the wooden sofa. He reached in the basket for the robe and handed it to me. "Go, try it on."

I grabbed it from him and disappeared to my bedroom. The fabric was thin and the collar barely came up to my neck. If I were to wear it, he'll notice some discoloration on the lower end of my nape, so I put it away and came up with a good excuse why I had to wear the thicker robe even in this sweltering heat.

I came back out wearing the same clothes and his smile faded. "What? You don't like it?" He asked offended.

"I liked it." I murmured as I avoided his eye contact.

"Then why not wear it?"

I scowled at him. "Don't tell me what to do!"

"Leave her alone, darling. She doesn't want to wear it." Mistress Jiaying intervened sweetly and I tasted the bane in her sugary words making me shudder in private disgust.

He scowled back at my own audacity for telling him off. "What do you mean, don't tell you what to do?!"

My eyes narrowed. "Exactly as I said."

"What?!" He said with disbelief.

I think he was speechless, although I was not sure since he had nothing left to say, only with an indignant expression on him as I walked back out of the manor overflowing with attitude.

"We gotta do something about that attitude of yours." My mistress shot behind me as I tried to disappear in a rush, not wanting anymore second around them.


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