Temporary happiness

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There were sudden changes ever since that day. Master Hooney for some reason took a liking to Li He, he kept calling him elder brother which made Li He cringed and scowled in irritation behind master Hooney's back. I chuckled it off, I don't know what happened during their private meeting but Li He and I were allowed to speak and hang around each other without being watched like a hawk by master Hooney. Sometimes he'd even jump inviting himself wedged between me and Li He in the middle of our – too often – bickering.

"What's gotten into him?" I asked Li He one day after master Hooney playfully hovered all over him all afternoon.

"I don't know." Li He moaned. "He's too annoying if you ask me. I don't know where he gets all that energy!"

He gave me a side glance.

"He's hyper," I said agreeing with him.

"He must've decided he liked me after all."

"That's good, right?!" I asked.

Li He gave me a casual smile. "It is, I guess."

A few weeks later, the manor came alive with servants cleaning every corner of the house, there were plenty of preparations happening. People are working hard making sure the walls are clean; the floors are shining, and there are fresh flowers decorated all the corners of the house.

I've never seen the manor looked so beautiful. Whoever is coming, they must be someone special, because I've never seen master Hooney put so much effort into something. I also saw a bit of glimmer inside his eyes, a sort of yearning he has for someone as if he couldn't wait for whoever it is who's coming.

I stayed at master Hooney's side until the day of the arrival. Then, I was sent to help in the kitchen, I was to stay there until the visit is over. The head maidservant told me they needed the help that's why they called for me. I didn't think much of it and did what I can to help. I was happy to help. Kitchen duties never bothered me.

I tried to get a glimpse of his guest, wanting to know who it was. Maybe, I'll be lucky enough to get a glimpse of a real prince or princess in their fancy outfit. I fantasized how beautiful they are since master Hooney is such a good-looking man. I imagined the royal bloodline streaming underneath his skin, in his veins consisted of beautiful genes that made them so dreamy just like the books I read.

But, I couldn't get out of the kitchen and every time I tried to get out it seemed like someone is preventing me from going out to the main lobby.

The next day, Li He came over to the kitchen, he told me it's the weekend and he'll be going home just as he normally does. He offered to take me home, so I won't have to deal with the chaos in the manor. I thought of his wife, taking me no time at all to decide.

"Why would I want to go home with you?!" I scowled.

"Lord Hooney wanted me to take you away for a while." He said grudgingly.

"I don't want to go back to your house!"

His lips thinned, and I think he understood why I wouldn't want to come back to that place. Li He loosened a breath and gave me an empathetic look of pity as though he knew something I didn't. "Fine, but don't go out there. You don't need to see anything happening outside the kitchen." He warned before turning around to leave.

I didn't understand what he meant then.

Only half an hour later, I changed my mind and ran out of the kitchen spilling out to the courtyard, searching for Li He. I wanted to come with him after all. I was exhausted and would like a free ticket away from slaving in the kitchen. Maybe his rickshaw hasn't left yet and I could still catch him.

I darted turning sharp corners searching for him until I ran into the main gate where I ran into a bunch of people almost knocking the palanquin they're carrying.

"Oops!'

Aggravated grunts erupted and I bargained for more chaos than I wanted to. I bounced back quick to lower my head to the ground apologizing. I wasn't looking where I was going.

"Watch where you're going you foolish, girl!" Someone scolded.

I raised my head to see who it was, but my eyes naturally wandered into the luxurious palanquin draped with elegant fabrics and to the woman sitting in it. She stared at me, lips pressed together, expressionless. Her natural beauty glimmered effortlessly, and I could tell she's the guest master Hooney had put so much money and effort in preparation for.

I blinked, and then, a man came around, it was master Hooney. He's dressed a bit more elegant than his everyday attire. His hair pulled back and decorated with ornaments matching the princess sitting, elevated in the palanquin.

"What's the holdup?" He asked, a bit impatiently. It had been hot outside and there are far too many people around. I'm sure his patience is getting the best of him.

The breathtaking princess turned to him. "Ah, don't worry, Hooney. It's just a little servant." She murmured, her voice vibrated with a natural sweetness of a delicate woman. Far from my gruff and ill-mannered way of speaking to everyone.

Something inside me splintered, shattering and breaking, unable to control it right in front of everyone's eyes. I felt the walls around me caved in, I trembled, falling apart, lost as I have never been lost before.

It felt like I was punched a million times without seeing where the punches are coming from.

I shuddered, heaving panting gasp of breaths that will soon turn into a breakdown. And before I could make a fool of myself...a hand yanked me back and Li He stood in front of me apologizing. "I'm sorry, I lost her for a second and she winds up in here."

"It's alright." Said the princess in her soft voice.

"Thank you." Li He murmured with a low incline of his head.

We stood there, still as we can be as we waited for the palanquin to move again. I felt his hand tightened on my wrist, squeezing it, urging me to be strong. He said nothing as he pivoted me around, leading me to his rickshaw waiting on the other side of the courtyard.

"You're such a stupid girl, Hui. I don't know what to do with you."

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