She devil

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The servants were helping pack my stuff in the carriage for a few nights stay at the palace - when loud screams erupted from inside the manor. Meiling and I both raised our heads searching where it came from. The angry screams originated from inside Hooney's office, and the voices belonged to Niang and Hooney screaming at each other. I've never heard Hooney raise his voice like that to anyone, and that side of him somehow made me nervous.

Meiling and I looked at each other. "Oh boy, sound like the she-devil is pissed, better watch your back, Hui." She shrugged and laughed before getting back to what she was doing.

This was the first time I ever heard them fight, and I was clueless with how to react. My chest pounded, this is nothing like Li He and Jiaying's fight. Niang and Hooney don't care for each other which made this fight unpredictable. People like them don't makeup as regular couples do. They get vindictive and go after harming each other the most malevolent way possible. 

A few more exchanged of harsh words and unrelenting shouting when the door to Hooney's office slammed and he emerged from the manor with his long angry strides. I was already in the courtyard waiting for him.

I debated whether running to him was an option. An angry man needed his space, so I let him come to me. He forced a smile as he approached.

"Hooney..."

"Sorry about that." He knew I heard the fight from the courtyard. Hooney grasped my arm with soft fingers and guided me to the nearby bench. "You shouldn't be working, you're starting to get big."

"It's alright," I stuttered cut short when I saw Niang followed outside angry as a hornet. She could hardly get her balance right, stumbling at the gravelly pathway as she made her way toward us.

"You!...you!" She hissed with clenched teeth. Her eyes wild with rage. "You'd rather take that woman instead of me?!"

Hooney whipped me away from her reach.

"I told you, it's my cousin's birthday, it's not like it's going to be an official gathering. We'll probably just waste the entire day getting drunk like always."

"That's not the point!" She snarled, quivering in tremors. "You're supposed to take your wife! Not a damn concubine!"

Hooney sucked a calming breath, never loosening his protective grip, silent as he reconsiders. 

"That's alright," I stammered breaking the tension between them. "First wife Niang can take my place, I don't want to go anyway."

"Shut up, bitch! This is between me and Hooney!" Snapped Niang right away.

I gasped, eyes widening, shocked with how fast she called me a dog. I was going to let her take my place out of being generous, but the hell with that shit! My arms moved on their own as they flew for that tight bun on her head, ready to snatch that sharp hairpin and stab her with it. 

Hooney got a hold of me before I got to her. 

"Whoa...whoa...calm down...we don't want none of that." He groaned, and held me to his chest, trapping my arms with his stronger arms. I bet he's happy, finally living his fantasy of having two women fight over him.

I kicked the dirt beneath my feet and blew a hard breath.

His glare darted back on Niang who wore a slight upward quip of her lips. Satisfied and pleased with the reaction she gathered. "Keep your concubine under control. She bites."

I growled. I will bite her alright, and I will make sure I tear her flesh out with my canines.

"Stop instigating her!" Hooney snapped. "It's all your fault."

"Of course, blame it on me as always." Niang purred, and turned around, walking back to the manor. It's amazing how fast she cooled off. I thought.

I squirmed for Hooney to let me go, red beyond angry with his wife.

Hooney loosened his lock on me. "Don't mind her, she's trying to get a rise out of you."

"Well, she succeeded!" I scoffed. "Just for that, I'm actually going to the palace just to make her hate me even more."

He smiled. "Oh. don't be that way. She probably didn't want to go in the first place, just looking for an excuse to fight with  me."

*****

We didn't leave that day, the weather became too cold for travel. The winter is already settling in, and the temperature dropped as the afternoon progressed. The harsh wind is too cruel to endure and Hooney decided we're better off staying put until the next day, ordering his people to insulate the carriage with more blankets.

I was glad, my body is waning down to second trimester of my pregnancy. Tired and exhausted constantly, feeling heavy and swollen by nightfall.

I waited for Hooney to come to join me for dinner, but he'd been held by the mountain of work in his office needing his attention. I knew it would be a long night for him, deciding to eat on my own. 

Li He is gone, taking some time off as soon as he found out Hooney is back in the manor. I felt bad for my brother, contributing to the spite I already have for Niang. I know she comes to his bedroom late a night seducing him. I don't know what would come of Li He if Hooney were to find out and the consequences are too upsetting for me to think. So, I pretend I don't know anything.

"Hi there."

I was distracted from my thoughts by Niang. She peeked at my door with the sweetest smile that I thought for a second I was hallucinating. She carried a tray with teapot and cups with her.

"First wife, Niang?" I murmured half surprised, wondering what she could possibly be doing here. "What are you doing here?"

Her smile widened and inclined her head low. "Look, I want to apologize for this afternoon. I was mad because Hooney wanted to bring you instead of me."

"I told you, you can take my place anytime. A palace is no place for a girl like me."

"Oh, don't be so modest." Niang walked inside my quarter. I had yet to invite her in, but I thought it's best not to say anything. The she-devil came here to apologize after all and I don't want to ruin the moment. "You are a concubine to a very powerful man. Of course, you deserve a place beside him."

She set the tray on my table and arranged the cups and teapot. She started pouring the hot liquid in the cups. I watched the elegant movement of her hands and the steam curling out of the pot.

"You know it would be such a shame if Hooney's wife and concubine don't get along." Her eyes lifted regarding me. I met her stare. "What would the entire province think? If the governor-general couldn't even control his women, they'll lose all kinds of admiration for him and we don't want that now, do we?"

"No." I nodded with agreement.

"So, what do you think?" Niang picked up both cups and handed one to me. "For friendship?"

I smiled finding her sincerity genuine and reached for the cup. "For friendship." I murmured and sipped on the warm liquid, relishing the flavor in my pallet and the warm caress of its warmth sliding down my throat - settling in my stomach. 

I noticed Niang only pressed her lips on the cup without tasting the liquid, causing my suspicion instantly.

Her malicious smile emerged as if the devil hiding beneath her sweetness finally revealed itself. 

"Y-you...." The cup dropped from my grip. The excruciating pain in my stomach was immediate and I cringed as I held on the table wincing in pain. Whatever she did, whatever she put in that tea - wasted no time spreading inside me.

The muscles in my stomach squeezed, I could barely breathe from the pain I'm enduring. "Hooney..."

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