Jul 2, 2010

#7 Opportunity comes knocking...

The farmer's daughter Wu worked hard and groomed well under LuiFei's loving guidance. There were many court ladies seething in envy because LuiFei herself exhibited unsuppressed favouritism for her. LuiFei had seen the same spirit in Wu that she herself had within her as a young  teenager. With no off-spring of her own, LuiFei had her pent up motherly love flowing unharnessed, for Wu.
Wu enjoyed the privilege of attending private lessons with LuiFei over evening's cups of tea. YinHe always accompanied Wu to LuiFei's quarters. On the palace premises itself, to the North-East of the Sky-Well, a two storied building was set away as LuiFei's exclusive residence.  This building was in the rear of the complex and gave her more privacy. Though this stone structure stood apart from the rest, it was in complete symmetry with the main buildings. Greater in breadth than in height with a close heavy platform and a large roof that floated over the base, LuiFei's home exuded warmth. Unlike the imperial buildings, LuiFei had designed the interiors with taste and elegance, not extravagance.

A screen wall faced the main entrance and statues of the door gods welcomed you in. The front facade had an open veranda where she would sometimes invite her students to practice their performances in her presence when she was not keeping well. In the back was a large courtyard facing the north giving a wholesome view of the mountains and from these windows plenty of sunlight streamed in, lighting up the interiors pleasantly. In the centre of the ground level was a shrine for LuiFei's deities and ancesters which Wu never forgot to light incense at, when she came visting. This gesture always touched LuiFei a lot. Wu did this in memory of her own father and prayed for her mother's good health. The topmost level was LuiFei's personal chamber.

The first level was a sprawling hall, very artistically designed and decorated, equipped to recieve her guests. This however was the limit to all outsiders except the Emperor. Mostly the tables were set for the Emperor or his wives. When the Emperor came visiting, no one except the most important of LuiFei's servants and a couple of her favourite concubines were allowed to stay. LuiFei was the most gracious of hosts and it was a treat to see her poised at the table and commanding the servants to bring forth one dish after another,  from the menue she carefully planned for her guests. There was never a dearth of sumptuous meals. LuiFei also kept a keen eye on the choices of each of her guests. No wonder both the and Emperors Di Zhung and Lao Zhung had very high regards for this particular imperial lady. The Emperor Lao Zhung now owned her with great pride!
After a year of rigorous training with the talented LuiFei, on one such winter evening when the Emperor had sent news that he would be visiting her, YinHe came to Wu with a message that she had been summoned by LuiFei. Wu knew this was a lifetime's opportunity that had come knocking at her door.
Wu opened her chest of dresses and after rummaging for quite a while decided that she would dress herself in the finest silks she possessed. It was a Peacock Blue Silk Dress that LuiFei had gifted her a fortnight ago. Wu had happened to be in LuiFei's presence when LuiFei's personal tailor had arrived with newly stitched dresses for a trial fitting.
" This gown compliments your complexion far better.", LuiFei had exclaimed and had the tailor trim it to fit Wu instead. The front had an embroidered peacock perched on a branch. Its long tail trailing down to the hem at her feet. The feathers were exquisitely embroidered in brilliant colours and added beauty to the lovely sheen of the silk.

 Wu had her fresh water pearl necklace out with the matching pair of earrings. This was a set also won by her in a contest that LuiFei had set up between the trainees. This was Wu's prized possession and she could always feel the other girl's eyes burning down her back with envy when she walked past wearing the set.

As Wu set her dainty foot at LuiFei's doorstep that evening, a sudden chill ran down her spine. 
Never had she felt this way before!
YinHe squeezed her hand after helping Wu out of her shoes. Both knew why LuiFei had invited Wu to the tea party with the Emperor. Only Luifei was in the capacity to speed up her cross-over to becoming the imperial concubine. Would she?
Or had Wu been summoned only to be displayed with the other girls, to show off the change brought about by LuiFei's grooming? 
This way or that for Wu, it meant that she was now elevated to the list of the very best girls and that she was quite close to becoming an imperial cocubine. Henceforth there would be no looking back for her.
What lay ahead could only be a taste of the best!


Note to the readers:
The "sky well" is a structure that is essentially an enclosed courtyard formed from the intersections of closely spaced buildings, offering a small opening to the sky through the roof space from the floor up.
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