Chapter Twenty

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Chapter Twenty – The Fever That Never Abated

Oh did they fuss over her!

Xiao Xiao slept for three days, gripped by a fever that refused to break. She shivered as if she was trapped in a blizzard. She tossed in her bed, fitful but still unconscious.

Images tumbled in her fever dreams. Ming Zhu arguing with her father. Ming Zhu striking the kidnapper with her claws. Except that she felt as Ming Zhu had felt and was Ming Zhu in the dreams. Then there were the flash-glimpses of Mother, sitting beside the bed, looking sad, worried and angry all at the time. Her mouth was moving.  She was saying something. Xiao Xiao heard nothing. She simply went back to the darkness.

Sometimes there were sounds of an argument, men and women talking over her head. Sometimes there was soft weeping and the taste of bitter bitter herbs on her lips. Sometimes there was a hint of savory tonic soup.

When she finally woke up, fever broken, her sleeping clothes drenched with perspiration, Mother was there, holding her hand. Xiao Xiao asked for water and Mother helped her lift a porcelain cup filled with clear deliciously sweet water. She sipped it slowly, letting the water moisten a dry. She was very thirsty. She wanted more water.

Autumn walked in with Xiao Xin in her arms. The sight of the little toddler sent a shiver of relief down Xiao Xiao’s back. Xiao Xin was safe. This was all she cared about.

“Are you hungry?” Mother’s voice was soft, almost hoarse.

Xiao Xiao nodded, suddenly feeling the hollowness in her middle. Clear soup was served in a small bowl; she tasted chicken and herbs. She finished the soup quickly.

“When you are stronger,” Mother smiled, the rare gentle smile she only showed to a few. “When you are stronger, I will talk to you. Now rest, daughter.”

The maids helped Xiao Xiao change into clean and dry clothing. She felt so weak, like a day-old kitten.

She sank back into dream once more.

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