Bad omen

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Li He bounced up and down, he sat and stood up, walked and paced restlessly like he had a piece of chopstick being shoved up his ass. I was getting wore out watching him move around like a restless housewife.

"What's gotten into you?" I asked as I sipped on my warm cup of tea.

He whipped his glance over to me, lost for a moment as though he'd forgotten he had me for a company, Li He came back and sat on the chair across the table from me.

Hooney was drawn away from the manor for a couple days and will be gone for a few more. His political responsibility required his attendance at the palace for a gathering. He told me he'll take me to the palace with him one day and let me see how grandeous the imperial palace is. He also told me I should meet his cousins.

I hesitated. "But, Hooney! You know your cousins are princes." I said nervously.

"So? You are my concubine, and I'm a governor-general, I grew up with the third prince. He's about my age, I'm pretty sure you'll get along with him."

"I don't know. I'm not sure I want to meet people like them. They'll intimidate me."

He grinned. "Don't worry, I'll be beside you the whole time. If you ever get nervous, feel free to hold and squeeze my hand.

"What're you daydreaming about?" Murmured Li He yanking my attention back to him. I blinked and found him shoving chopsticks full of food in his mouth like he'd been starved for a few days without a meal.

"Nothing." I murmured back, "but look at you, you're like an antsy child who couldn't hold still. I bet you're not even hungry."

Li He put his chopsticks down, chewing the rest of his food. He looked away to the wall, his mind drowning with his thoughts. Finally, he let out a sharp exhale.

"You know, it's hard to be so damn handsome." He said with a deep sigh like it was a serious problem to him.

I grinned instantly.

Li He heeded to me and rose his elegant eyebrow, expecting my opinion. Stroke his ego or something.

I erupted in wild laughter, could hardly breathe, my chest tightening and I rolled about to fall off my chair. I waited a few seconds, collecting myself together while Li He watched getting red with indignation.

"Stop laughing!" He demanded at once, and I schooled my face to straighten serious for him.

"Must be a struggle for you, huh?" I burst in another round of riotous laughter. I couldn't help it.

"I'm serious, Hui." He hissed.

I ruled a calming breath and shifted back in my chair, straightening my ruffled clothing. I gave him the most serious face I could muster. "What's the matter, Li He? Do you have your eyes on someone else? You know you can pick up another bride or concubine. You're wealthy enough to afford them."

"No, nothing like that." He murmured. "It's more than that actually. It puts me in a tight situation, you know." He sucked a lungful of air.

"Quit beating around the bush!" I frowned. "You know you can tell me anything. I won't tell anybody."

He gave me a long considering look which I returned curiously. I waited for him to say something, but I could tell he decided against it. "What? You don't trust me?"

"It's not like that. I think you should watch your back whenever Lord Hooney and I are not around. I don't think it's safe, and you shouldn't trust anyone. Especially, Niang."

My eyes peeled away from his stare, drifting down to my stomach. It had been two months since my return to the manor and my growing belly had started showing. I rubbed it gently, my thoughts pooled to my unborn child.

"You don't have to remind me, I know. I feel like I couldn't trust her even though she acts civil to me."

A ripple of insecurity washed over me, fearing a bad omen. It was a bad feeling chasing me constantly, making me restless. I found myself at constant vigilance, darting my eyes everywhere, looking behind my shoulders as though I have a shadow of a demon trailing behind me - waiting for that opportunity to snatch my baby.

I felt sick suddenly, my face drained of color and I glanced up to my brother, meeting his shining eyes. That's when we were interrupted, the door to Li He's quarter slid wide open. It was Niang who opened it.

"Niang." Li He and I said in cohesion.

When the lord of the manor is gone, it's usually his wife that's left in charged of the estate. And right now, Hooney is away and Niang reign this place with her rule like her own kingdom.

Her eyes lit up incandescent. A hidden danger in them. Her dark pupils floated from me to Li He and back to me again.

"It is rather improper for a woman such as yourself to be having lunch with another man beside her partner, much less alone in his room."

I stuttered as I began explaining myself. Li He shot up from his seat and barred his arm protectively over my chest. "It's alright, Hui. Go back to your quarter, I'll speak to mistress Niang on your behalf."

I glanced at him, trying to meet his eyes, but his glare had been icy and sharp. His chin jutted to the door, gesturing for me to leave. I didn't have to be told otherwise, I know when Li He is serious and I know when he meant for me to obey him without saying a word. I stepped away from the table and walked toward the door, showing myself out of his room.

My head kept low as I passed the first wife without meeting her eyes. She made it clear she had no intention of wasting her breath on me.

Niang's stare was glued to Li He as though they have an understanding I couldn't comprehend. I walked out to the corridor, when the door slid shut, shutting me out of the room.

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