༺ XII ༻

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꧁༺࿅ིཽ• –– •❈• –– •࿅ིཽ༻꧂

Shen Mingxia

     After a couple of weeks of getting to know Liwei and our country better, I had agreed to marry him. Most humans would think that we were moving along too fast or that we couldn't be sure of our feelings, but sometimes a person just knows. I honestly can't imagine spending the rest of my life with someone else nor do I want to. I smiled as I remembered his reaction when I told him that I would marry him. He had picked me up and spun me around enthusiastically. I shook my head, clearing my thoughts. Today was an important day and we would have plenty of time to reminisce later.

"Mingxia, stop squirming or else you'll be late to your own coronation. You may have my and Xiaosheng's support, but you've yet to win over the other councilmen. Don't give them a reason to deny your succession," Shuren lectured me as she adjusted the golden fengguan on my head.

I stared at my reflection, dumbfounded at my appearance. I was dressed in a silk red jacket and skirt that fell to the ground. I wore simple red flat shoes instead of lotus shoes to my relief, that were absconded by the skirt. There were shimmering, intricate designs of the dragon, phoenix, and crane that had been embroidered with metallic threading at the ends of the fabric for this auspicious occasion. My entire body felt like there were weights pushing down on me, forcing me to sit. I grimaced at the addition of the phoenix crown on my head. It was adorned with glittering pearls, rubies, sapphires, and other gemstones. I tried to turn my head slowly to count the number of dragon and phoenix designs, each time I ended up with a total of six dragons and three phoenixes.

It was not uncommon for an Empress to have such lavish features on their fengguan because it was a symbol of high status and wealth. However, I always found it surprising to be given the opportunity that I never would have received in the past. The whole experience felt as surreal as the dreams with the hooded lady. Every day, I ask myself if I would ever wake up from this fantasy, but it always ends the same, with sublimity.

I glanced up at my face in the mirror's reflection to find a mesmerizing beauty staring back at me. I blinked a few times and slightly swayed in disbelief that this person was me. My lips were painted in a bright scarlet red that matched the color of my clothes. My eyelids were lined with black paint and extended slightly past my eyelid in a winged fashion. A soft red powder was applied to the top of my eyelids, emphasizing the theme of my ensemble. My skin was dusted with white powder to make my tanned skin lighter and more appealing.

I never understood the necessity in light skin, if anything, I felt proud that I was slightly darker than most. It was proof of my hard work in herb gathering, but now it seemed as though a part of my identity had been stripped away as I was now hiding behind a mask.

Shuren finished her work and said, "Beautiful." She looked at me and noticed the look of unhappiness on my face. "What's wrong? Do you not like the dress?"

I continued staring at my figure in the reflection and replied, "Shuren, this isn't me. I'm not some pure woman that the people want. How can I hope that they'll accept me if this isn't really who I am?"

Her face contorted into confusion for a moment, but then her eyes widened in realization at my question. She sighed deeply, "You'll find that living in the palace is very different from living in Shangzihua, Mingxia. Unfortunately, there are traditions and expectations that we have to live up to. I'm not saying I don't understand what you mean. I've seen it happen with the late Empress as I've told you before. However, you have to understand that sometimes you have to do things that you don't want to do or put everything on the line to fight against the things you don't want."

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