White Rabbit and a Liar
“Long ago, there was a gentle, classy, dashing… suave… Just know he was a really, really handsome young hero. The twenty-nine-year-old hero who possessed a strong sense of justice and knowledge travelled the world… and, uh…”
“Stop hitting my face!”
“That’s what you get for lying!”
“Fine… I’ll start over. In short, the really handsome hero met a maiden one day. The only way you could describe the admiration she harboured for him is head over heels because, not only was he strong, but he had a larger-than-life physique, the aura of an alpha and the temperament of a gentleman. Most importantly, he was dashing, cool and remarkably handsome.
“The brash maiden often found herself in all sorts of troubles. The first time the hero saved her, she harboured great admiration and respect. After he saved her a second time, she worshipped him. After he rescued her a third time, he was the equivalent of a god. His appearance alone was enough to make her drool.
“Thus, at some point in time, wicked thoughts flourished in her mind. On a wet stormy night, she could no longer resist those feelings swelling up in her chest. As a result, she pushed him down. The hero resisted with all his might. It was no joking matter, right? The public unanimously concurred that was a morally-outstanding gentleman. Alas, the maiden had a little too much to drink that night, so she wasn’t aware of what she was doing. Sadly… the hero was unable to fight her off. Consequently… In summary, it was tragic. He could smell the alcohol in his own mouth. The poor hero couldn’t sleep that night as he couldn’t get it off his mind. On the other hand, the maiden slept soundly through the night and totally forgot what transpired the next morning.
“Ever since then, the hero avoided getting too close to the maiden. He wasn’t sure why himself. Mayhap it was due to his excellent virtuous character!
I looked into Boss’ round and glowing eyes. “Understand now?”
“What the heck? What sort of bizarro story is that?”
‘Kay, so you didn’t understand a thing.
“And where did you find the two puppets?” Boss pointed to the puppets in my hands that made the story more engaging and immersive.
Whenever I couldn’t do the story justice using words, I used the male and female puppets to provide a visual representation. When I announced the end, the two of them were placed together.
“Uh, I pinched them from Su Xiao’s room to add flavour to the story.”
Wait, wait, wait, that’s not what’s important.
“Do you really still not understand when I made it so clear?”
“The story. Don’t you understand it?”
“The story… Who’s the young guy? Does such a gross person actually exist?”
“… Don’t you think he’s cool?”
“No. Good looks are just a good exterior. More importantly, isn’t he a hero? How did a weak maiden physically control him so easily. What a loser. Hero, my foot. On the other hand, the maiden isn’t afraid to express herself. I like her.”
That was because I couldn’t use my martial arts! Plus, do you realise how strong you are? Are you weak?! You could restrain a leopard with a single hand! How the heck do you manage to compliment yourself when you don’t understand the story?!
I grouchily put away the puppets and asked, “What sort of man do you consider cool?”
“Mm… like my dad? Or…” Cheeks rosy, Boss stuttered, “B-bald is not bad, either.”
Bald? What’s cool about being bald?! That bald monk you haven’t seen again in ages, really?! Who the hell is he?! Why the hell can’t she get him off her mind when god knows where he’s been all this time?!
“I’m the one asking the questions here!” Boss grabbed me by my collar again. “What is that nonsensical story? Did you think you could distract me like that?”
No, you’re the one who didn’t get it! How else can I convey this when the story makes it as clear as can be?! Handsome hero! Who else could it be?!
“Who is it?” asked Boss.
… Boss definitely has comprehension issues!
“Boss, I have a question for you: do… you worship me?”
Huh? No? You don’t worship me? I’m already so… so… Don’t you worship me?
I felt the image I invested all my time into building was starting crumble.
What does Boss see me as?
The world started spinning before my eyes as though what I’d trusted all this time was gradually disappearing.
Is this… how it feels to be sacked by the Rabbit Cult master?
“What’s the matter?” Seeing my poignant expression, Boss went to pat me on the shoulder.
Failing to control my legs, I retreated a step before I realising it. As a consequence, Boss’ hand missed her target.
“What is your deal?!”
“Okay, okay… Do you… really want to know?”
“Haven’t I been trying to find out all this time?”
“Why are you being so wishy washy? Are you worried I’ll tell people everywhere I go or something? Do you distrust me this much despite how long we’ve known each other?”
“I’m not worried about you telling people; I’m worried you’ll silence me…”
I wasn’t sure I should tell her. Boss was the serious type. Who could guess what she’d think if she found out she took advantage of me.
If Boss doesn’t worship me, why did she kiss me? The answer I had for it is no longer looking correct.
“Oh, fine, if you don’t want to tell me… then don’t.”
Serious? I’m winning so easily? Wait, she’s the one who took advantage of me and got away with it.
“Mm…” Due to the heat and amount of thinking she engaged in, Boss had to bush her bangs on her temple away.
My heart beat faster and faster as I watched her every movement. Such a thing had never happened before.
Boss, having finally finished making her decision, said, “You know, I’ve been through quite a bit recently. I was completely useless when the capital was in peril. Song Ou took Liu Shan Men from me. There were lots of challenges and brushes with death when I looked into Gongsun Chi, competed against him in a contest of wits and went after the hostages. Uncle transferred me out of the capital for my own sake, but I’d be lying if I said I felt good about it. I’d have broken down if so much happened at once in the past.” The gaze in her eyes was enough to move hearts. “Some people think I have a heart of stone, only see the world in black and white, am immune to fatigue, don’t understand people, don’t feel pain and only know how to act reckless. The truth is, though, none of it is true. If such a person exists, they have my utmost respect.”
As someone by her side, I knew that better than anyone. Nobody was truly that mentally strong. It was just a case of having a higher pain tolerance whilst charging head first in. It was a case of being able to disregard the fatigue and risk of injury whilst forging forward until you reached your destination. It was a case of being able to put one foot in front of the other until you reached your destination despite not having companions. It was a case of silently bearing with open wounds, or not even waiting for them to close, and continuing on. If Shen Yiren had a special attribute, it was being able to get used to loneliness, pain and being able to numb her emotions.
“But not anymore,” Boss stated in a rather hurried tone that suggested she was worried I’d misunderstand. The heat and tension from her small hand on my collar emanated towards me. “I… have you guys now.”
Perhaps it was impossible for her to sound composed in spite of her best efforts since it had been the first time she spoke to someone not as a leader.
“So I can tough it out. I don’t think it’s suffering. I enjoy every day nowadays. I know I’m doing the right things. I know someone will support me if I stop and pull me up when I trip. If we all fall, they’ll join me on the ground. Among them, you’re the one I trust the most. Ming Feizhen, I don’t worship you. I trust you, and I want you to trust me. I want to become someone you can depend on, and… I want to count on you.”
I wasn’t focused on what she said, but I’d never forget it. I heard those words before.
Boss released her grip on my collar, then took a step back. The sudden increase in distance between us made me feel a little sad.
“Besides my dad, Kuang and Uncle… you’re the only other man I trust most. While I’m aware you have a lot of secrets, a lot of which you don’t want to share and a lot of which you may never tell me, I don’t expect you to tell me everything. I just want you to know that, no matter what happens, I don’t want you to avoid me.” Boss took one more step backwards. “You’ve avoided me a total of seven times. The first time, it was one foot, one inch. The second time, it was one foot, three inches.”
She stepped back a tad when she mentioned the second time, making my heart ache a little more.
“The third time, it was one foot and four inches…” She took another tiny step back, although she still had a small smile. She then stepped forward once. “The fourth time, it was over nine inches… I was still happy then as I felt the distance was reduced, so I thought the distance would continue to reduce until you wouldn’t avoid me.”
“But the fifth time… it was one foot and five inches.” She stepped back again. “The sixth time… The seventh time… I don’t want to count anymore…” She started walking over again until she was close enough for me to hear her heartbeats clearly. “Don’t go.”
I didn’t avert my gaze.
“If you don’t want to tell me, I won’t force you to. However, can you promise… not to avoid me?”
“I won’t go.” I took hold of her hand. “I won’t. I won’t ever avoid you.”
From the look in her eyes, she seemed to understand the countless words I had yet to say.
I shouldn’t have forgotten, yet I forgot for a moment that she was Shen Yiren. She lived a life as bright as the summer sun. She imposed her will relentlessly enough to intimidate grown men. How, then, was it normal for her to look at me the way she did? Nothing actually changed. She just kissed me – big deal. She was still the same Shen Yiren. Why did I need to avoid her? All that changed for me was that I had someone I didn’t want to lose.
“Boss, I…” I suddenly noticed the triumphant look in her eyes.
Boss reversed my grip to take control and grinned. “So you telling me or not?”
“D-didn’t you just say I didn’t have to tell you?!”
“I did, but you never said you wouldn’t tell me or otherwise.”
“I’m not the one who insisted on bringing it up. You’re the one who insisted on listening, okay?”
When Boss joyously raised her head, I thought I saw two furry white ears pop up from her head.
“You’re finally going to tell me?”
Yeah… but I need to make some preparations.
I placed the two puppets into Boss’ hands and plastered their faces together.
“Keep them there. Don’t move them… By the way, do you remember who else there was at the inn in Hangzhou?”
“Your… second brother. Patriarch Bai and his wife, and some other people in the pugilistic world.”
Her memory was as good as I expected.
“Remember the girl by the name of Miss Wen with my second brother?”
“I do. She was thin, tall and quite cute even though she was prone to anger? She’s Muye’s aide. I’ve exchanged a few words with her.”
“That’s right. That’s right. She had a white bunny with her, remember?”
“I do. It was a cutie.”
Every girl I knew would smile whenever they talked about anything cute, and Boss was no exception.
“Do you remember its name?”
“Okay. So, do you… remember having a bit to drink that day?”
“You wouldn’t have done that if you didn’t drink while you were so worn out and sleepy.”
“You pushed me down onto the bed, restrained me and then had me check if there was anyone eavesdropping.”
“And?” I stepped out of the door, closed the doors just enough for my face to be visible and continued, “Recall what the name of the bunny was? Bye.”
Boss looked up, stopped to think, looked down to the puppets and paused for a second. Face as red as if she splashed red paint on herself, she stuttered, “I-I-I-I-I-I…. Aaaaaaaaaaaaahh! That night, I, I wasn’t, you…”
I smiled. “Just joking.”
Boss fell into a mentally and physically paralysed state. “… Huh?”
“Boss, that would never happen given your ability to hold your liquor. I was just joking.”
Boss, I really want to stay by your side. I want to do anything I can to stay by your side for a little longer, so… let me lie to you one more time.
“The truth is, I discovered a collection of valuables in the underground palace and planned to take it all for myself. I’ll tell you more next time.” I shut the door away straight afterwards. As for the kiss, I decided to just let it remain as a nice memory.
A while after Ming Feizhen left, Shen Yiren was heard shrieking in a high-pitch voice nobody at Liu Shan Men had heard until that day. Ming Feizhen stopped anyone from going near her room the first time, but Liu Shan Men would be erased from the martial world if they ignored it a second time. Upon arrival, however, Shen Yiren told the female constables in her usual stern tone, “D-don’t worry! Don’t come in. Yeah, yeah, don’t come in.”
Nobody would ever attribute the scream to Shen Yiren, not knowing her character, nor would they dare to. Some of them thought it was some signal from her that she had been blackmailed or threatened, but it didn’t seem to be the case after they inquired. In the end, they had no choice but to leave since she insisted they left her alone.
Feeling as though her cheeks alone could sear through, Shen Yiren touched her lips, only to make the heat even more intense. “Liar.”
She recalled everything there was to recall, as vividly as it could be, but he chose to cover for her.
She picked up the puppets and used the female one to kick the male one. “Liar… Liar… Liar…”
Was she reprimanding him, complaining about him or calling him stupid? How much of it was fondness? Not even she knew.
After repeating, “Liar” for the dozenth time, she stayed her hands and gently placed the puppets’ faces together again with red cheeks. In a soft voice, she, once again, muttered, “Liar.”
Getting hit in the face – Ming Feizhen actually mixes up homophones in his allegories, which led to him saying lewd things. As a result, Shen Yiren hit him for it, but you can only have one or the other in English, so I had to rewrite as best as I could.