Jul 31, 2010

Guestpost #1 - By MagicEye




 



The remnants of the Bandra Fort on the left and the Bandra Worli Sealink on the right over the Arabian Sea.




To revel in more of such visual beauties please feel free to visit:

http://www.redbubble.com/people/magiceye To view/buy my Art

http://photings.blogspot.com/ For jottings on photographs

http://magictravels.blogspot.com/ For the magic of travel

http://mumbai-eyed.blogspot.com/ For your daily dose of Mumbai

http://wingsandpaws.blogspot.com/ For rejoicing pet love!

http://instantwords.blogspot.com/ a piece of my mind



Deepak

Jul 30, 2010

Moments

http://www.nigerianmuse.com/

One precious moment,
The very first time we kissed.
Love is my treasure!


Sticking to a strict 5-7-5 syllable count

3 cheers to my Blogger Dost!

This is my 101st post of active blogging since October 2009.
As we all know the +1 mark is auspicious and represents progress, I am celebrating the completion of 101 posts and not a round figure 100.
I wish to share my happiness in reaching this milestone with some of my dearest blogger friends. And hence this post is exclusively dedicated to those friends who made blogging more interesting for me....

Deepak Amembal aka MagicEye,
Could never 'click' like him even if I try!
He writes equally well too,
Instant Words on varied topics for you.
Read between the lines, you'll see
Pearls of wisdom in plenty.
A friend, philosopher and guide,
Blogging with him is a joy ride!

Karthik aka The Last Man Standing,
I'm glad at his blog I made a landing.
Hooked onto his crime stories,
College capers and Love stories.
A young chap with a sharp mind.
To me he's been helpful and kind.
Correctly criticising and generously praising.
His eloquence is extremely amazing.

Bikramjit Singh Mann urf Punjab da Puttar
Is one formidable blogger.
He and his random thoughts
Are very humourous.
This moral police was on my team.
Though he has an endearing style,
Before you mess with him,
Please think for a while. ;)
He loves his motherland,
Though he's far away,
More than any of us,
I can easily say!

Ritu Lalit the Pheonix
Has up her sleeve,
Many bewitching tricks.
Her life wasn't always smooth,
But shes laughs off that ugly truth.
Some spirit for life this brave lady's got,
Not one ounce of which have I got?...:(
True to her name,
this dame..
Di, you've been a guiding light,
Learning from you,
My future is bright!

Meghana S. our cutedevil
With not a single bone of evil.
She's a true romantic at heart,
I've loved her poems from the start.
She writes so ur left LOLing,
Chat with her and you are ROFLing.
Extremely brainy thing this,
Also a beautiful and funny miss!

Rumya and her Chitter Chatter,
About anything and everything that matters.
Her blog is full of funny posts,
To that let me raise a toast.
She has exceptional poetic skills,
Her writing is never a run on the mill..:)
Love you my dear cousin,
Have I told you?
Your style is sweeter than a rasin!

Divya Vinekar's Mockery of Love,
is relatively new.
With poems and posts a few.
But each of it is soulful and heart rending,
In every word and every thought.
Her blog is Mind-bending!
The poems are sweet and thought provoking,
Passion in a lover's heart, invoking!

I am not a great poet though,
an ode to friendship I wished to write so!!!
Also to strengthen this friendship and to express my love for them I have invited these illustrous friends mentioned above to contribute guest posts at my blog, beginning tomorrow...:D
This following entire week has been purely set away for my guests at my blog..

Inviting all my reader friends to revel in the rainbow of varied posts and please do leave comments to make this dedication a success! :))
Pretty Please..

Jul 29, 2010

Naisaiku Challenge Week 74

 
An oil painting by Maggie Rex

Twitter Tweet Tweet...
On a wire little birdys meet.
What a visual treat!
Twitter Tweet Tweet
What a visual treat!
On a wire little birdys meet.
Twitter tweet tweet..

To know more about the Naisaiku Challenge read here




BLUE

This is the Thursday Challenge Photography for Fun and Learning..
This week's theme being BLUE, heres a pic I'd clicked in the monsoons of 2007 on our way to Mulshi Dam.
The blue of the sky reflected so beautifully in the waters.....

Jul 27, 2010

Soaking in the rain..

My heart went out to these big and little birdys soaked to their bones in the rains. With heavy feathers they were desperately searching for a safe and sheltered perch which is sadly rare in the cities now. :(

The Black Kite (Milvus migrans)


The Common Tailorbird ( Orthotomus sutorius)


Scaly-Breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata)



The Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis)


Jul 20, 2010

#18 'The Great Without'

The Emperor refused to accept the rumours that fell on his ears.
Only when the admiral of his ship confirmed the odd sighting did he begin to believe. And a cold chill ran down The Emperor's spine.
First people had reported seeing a white figure running up and down the shores at the same site where the ruins of Hong's wrecked ship lay. The Emperor had pooh-poohed it saying ,  "It must be some white gull scouring the beaches for food. The misty mornings must be playing tricks on your minds!"

Then the ship's crew refused to begin journey's in the early hours of the day saying that they'd seen a lady in white walking the ship's decks. She seemed to be searching for something. She stood for some while staring at the horizon and then disappeared into thin air.
There was whispering in 'The Great Within' too. Maids reported seeing shadows and hearing humming of some romantic, lilting tunes in the corridors. The eunuchs could distinctly make out the strumming of a LiuQuin but when they hunted for the player there was none. 

 "Is it her?", he wondered. "Was all that she'd prophecied also going to come true? I'd never thought I'd ever come to believe in spirits and the power they wield over our lives!" The Emperor tried to gather his nerves.

In the pin-drop silence of the night, a week after the celebrations of the New Year was drawn to a close, the last three ships of Hong Zhung's fleet had touched shores. The ship that Hong Zhung was sailing however was still missing. The crew of the ships that had touched base had absolutely no clue.
"It is as if his ship has disappeared into thin air!", Admiral eunuch Yeng He had reported.
"How is that possible?" Wu Zhung had screamed in his face demanding an explanation while The Emperor had looked on without a single word.
His face was calm and unperturbed even if it was his own son who had gone missing. Wu Zhung had then  flown into a nasty fit of anger at Lao Zhung's cold detached manners.
"When you are doing my job of worrying over Hong's whereabouts, there is nothing left for me to do!", the Emperor had smirked and left the court.

Two days later, there had been news of the remains of Hong's ship having been washed ashore at the farthest end of the coastline in the neighbouring province. The minute the news had fallen on Wu Zhung's ears she had shot out of her chambers, barefoot demanding to be taken to the site at once. 
"You will draw unnecessary attention and their tongues will start wagging!", YinHe had pleaded and all his words had fallen on deaf ears, once again.
Wu Zhung had scoured the wreck herself along with the servants and trudged up and down the beach in search of Hong. Not a trace of Hong Zhung's belongings nor his body, were found anywhere. Though the ship looked as if it had been ransacked by pirates, Wu Zhung had guessed that there was more to it, than what met the eyes. 

She then had gone right back to the palace and unabashedly approached Lao Zhung when he was still seated on his throne before the court.
"I know you had everything to do with Hong's ship going missing.  Tell me what have you done to Hong?"
Wu Zhung was screaming her lungs out.
 "I am touched to see that your grief at Hong's death is as much as his own mother's. And one can't think straight when in such grief. " Lao Zhung's eyes were laughing and dancing in excitement even though he maintained an even and peaceful tone while speaking. "Wu, you are so distraught that I must do something to relieve you of the pain." with this Lao Zhung had signalled to his eunuch servants to remove her from his presence.

This had confirmed Wu's doubts of what must have actually happened. It hadn't been the pirates who had picked a random ship to loot which had unfortunately been Hong Zhung's. Or neither was it the storm that had unleashed havoc on Hong's ship giving the crew a gruesome burial in the middle of the sea. Wu Zhung was struck with horror at the fact that it had been her own wreckless behaviour and illicit love affair that had led Lao Zhung to take the drastic step of assasinating his own son. Yet she could not forgive The Emperor for punishing poor Hong Zhung so cruelly.

Wu Zhung had then struggled to free herself from bondage and with a sudden surge of strength in her limbs she had thrown the eunuchs over. She was in such a rage that they didn't dare touch her again. Wu Zhung stood upright in the centre of the hall and while all eyes were glued to her petite persona, her voice boomed loud and clear. With a dreadfully fierce look Wu Zhung had spoken as if she'd been possessed,

"Emperor pay heed with all your senses to my words. What you have commited is far greater a crime than my sin. I had loved Hong with all my sincere heart but you have acted out of ego, envy and lust. I curse you and your Empire. I, Wu Zhung curse Lao Zhung, The Emperor that his empire tumble to the grounds like a pack of cards. I Wu Zhung, curse you that you will see death in the face soon, very soon. And thirsty as you may be on your death bed, you will die for the want of a single drop of water!"

The court froze in time. Wu Zhung had turned around to leave but halted. Addressing the Emperor again she had confessed, " I have also commited a crime and I now know that this is a punishment for my own deeds. I ask for forgiveness before the court and pray her soul rests in peace. Empress Xuan was a very good lady and had not done any wrong to me. I shouldn't have done what I did. Greed led me to do the dastardly act and I rightly deserve this fate!"

With this she had exitted the court. Lao Zhung had stood staring and dumb founded. As Wu Zhung rushed out of the palace into the open courtyards, The Emperor had followed, running down the steps, repeatedly pleading Wu to stop. Wu Zhung didn't ever look back, again. She had left 'The Great Within'. She had  known where she needed to go.

Then all the news began to flow to his ears. His officers and admirals brought in tales of the hauntings. His health began to deteriorate suddenly.
The Emperor lay feverish in bed for the following months while the rain pattered down on his roof constantly.
His concubines couldn't tell whether it was just the grief of losing all his loved ones or remorse over his own deeds.  The doctors couldn't tell whether it was a failing heart or a disturbed mind. For matters of the court Lao Zhung did manage to give a sane reply here or an affirmative nod there but looked easily tired, too. Soon all had given up on hope for his recovery. The Empire was indeed crumbling. For long spells of time he lay delirious, unmoving, tripping back to the point when he'd last seen his lovely Wu. He imagined how it must have been for her from there.

Without an abandon Wu Zhung had ridden away on a horse,  back to the shores where Hong Zhung's ship lay wrecked, in bits.While the eunuchs gave a chase right behind on their own horses.
They had brought back news of how they'd  last seen Wu, a figure in white, dropping off the edge of the rocky cliff like a white feather, to a bloody death on the jagged rocks below.
The huge waves had lapped her up in no time and washed her frail body up between the wooden planks and shards of Hong Zhung's ship on the shore.

"She's gone for good Emperor. You needn't worry anymore!" Admiral Eunuch Yeng He had reported.

Lao Zhung realised that he had poorly failed to keep Wu, the peasant's daughter for himself , even in the luxurious confines of 'The Great Within'. She now lay there on the open shores of 'The Great Without' where her soul had always longed to be. Free.


Would love to know what my readers think of this 'The Great Without' my first story series amd how it was brought to THE END.

Jul 16, 2010

#17 The Yin in waiting...

In the wee hours of that day, Hong Zhung had been dispatched on the most ambitious voyage till date, with an impressive armada. After provisioning at Malacca, they sailed northwards for 5 days before anchoring off Sumatra at the entrance of the Indian Ocean. There his armada was split into 4 smaller fleet of ships. The 3 larger fleet were put in the great admiral eunuch Zhou Yun and 2 other's custody. The fourth and the smallest fleet was under Hong Zhung's direct command. The other fleets were also to touch the different ports as planned and then bring the foreign rulers and ambassadors back to China to celebrate the New Year with The Emperor Lao Zhung. Hong Zhung had himself thought of a parallel plan for himself. He would return the envoys to South-East Asia and set sail for home as soon as possible.  He had picked up the biggest and most beautiful fresh water pearl at Malacca. He dreamt of presenting it to Wu Zhung and of how her eyes would grow large in glee as he presented it to her.  

As accounted by the extensive traveller and Portugese poet Camoes, the Chinese fleets reached Calicut.
Everything had gone as planned until then. A scroll secretly arrived in Wu Zhung's lap announcing the progress of the fleet. 

"I'm coming my darling! Each string on my lute has been lying listless without your fingers to tickle them. I will be standing before you the night before and we shall ring in the New Year holding each other's hands. Fear not my love." 

Having read these words, Wu Zhung's happiness had known no bounds. She began preparing for the great banquet with a fervour that LuiFei had noted was amiss since Hong Zhung's departure.
"What has brought the old Wu Zhung back between us?", inquired LuiFei to which she recieved only a bunch of peonies thrusted into her hands as a reply.The following days passed by as smoothly as silk.
Every evening when The Emperor called upon Wu Zhung she promptly arrived with a couple of her own favourite concubines and performed to entertain him but never gave him an opportunity to get intimate with her. 
"You have become as slippery as an eel, my Wu!", Lao had exclaimed. Her self-confidence had peaked so much that Wu cheekily replied, "Call me Empress Wu and I will be all yours!"  
She missed noticing that even as she'd turned her back on the Emperor with that retort, he was still smiling, possibly jeering at her evident immaturity.

When the evening sun had finally set on the evening  before the NewYear, there was still no sign of Hong Zhung's ship on the horizon. The preparation for the great New Year's banquet however continued with full gusto. The foreign ambassadors were to arrive soon and the royal palace was ready to give them a magnificent welcome. The world would taste the fantastic Chinese hospitality and extoll its grandure for years to come. Between al the excitement nobody seemed to have noticed that Hong Zhung's ships hadn't arrived at the expected time. Wu Zhung couldn't reveal her knowledge of these plans and thus was in no position to ask anybody about the same. She spent hour after hour in dejection, disappointment and anxiety. She was wringing her hand so much that YinHe finally noticed the frown on the usually calm face. 

The next morning, YinHe had found Wu Zhung slumped between the Peony bushes, her face wet with tears in a disheveled state. They hurried her into 'The Great Within' before anybody should notice. Wu refused to participate and play host at the New Year's celebration and the banquet went without a presiding lady. She cared less and less for the Emperor. Wu was a nervous wreck by the end of the day.

YinHe pitied her as he found her writing poems and wallowing deep in her sorrow. He wished he could help his only beautiful friend but she refused to take refuge in him.
" Only if you tell me what pains you, then will I be able to help you. I cannot see you wasting yourself like this!" YinHe finally scolded her but Wu Zhung stayed mum. She continued to stand there in the moonlight, eyes frozen on the distant horizon.

This lone heart longs to see,
One boat on that misty sea!
The sky hath wrapped earth in its arms,
The silent calm sings gloom to me.
The lovely peonies fail to charm.
The clouds have borne,
Yet another morn',
But what I see,
Is only the ebbing sea!

I wish to hold your hands again.
My feet will dance only then.
My voice then shall sing a song .
Waiting for you, my dear Hong.
Need to know you are safe there.
My mind, body and soul now in despair.
To hear your voice ,
My soul craves.
To see you once,
I now live!






Jul 15, 2010

#16 Money AND Love!

Until the next afternoon, Wu Zhung’s movements were slow as a snail. She tediously went through her morning ablutions without exactly paying attention. For the first time she didn’t feel like beautifying herself from top to toe. It had suddenly become a mundane chore.

“Why should I? The eyes that could behold and appreciate my beauty are scouring the seas, not me.” Wu Zhung spoke to herself while her maids patted her long locks dry. Wu Zhung was now in serious self-doubt. It all felt like a dream to her. “Was he just flirting with me? Was it my folly to have fallen for his words? Will he come back for me?” and many other questions riddled her mind.

It was only late afternoon after picking at a few morsels for lunch did she realize that she had completely ignored The Emperor’s summons. She picked up a quill and sat herself down to send write back an excuse for not having appeared before him as soon as she’d received the letter. Just then a scream startled her which was followed by loud bawling that came from the direction of the Emperor’s chambers. She heard the stamping of feet in the corridor outside as all were running in the direction of the sounds. Wu Zhung knew what had happened. This was the moment she had been looking forward to before boarding the vessel with Hong Zhung. She had desperately awaited the death of Empress Xuan.

As if she’d been snapped out of a spell, Wu Zhung felt all her previous ambitions rushing back into her veins. She once again felt the intense urge to walk into the court and gallantly ascend the steps to the throne and sit down right besides the Emperor. Wu Zhung could almost feel the weight of the bejeweled crown on her head and she saw the peasants kneeling before her, hailing her as Empress Wu.

Wu got up from her desk and began to methodically dress herself, donning the attire suitable for mourning. The maids that had arrived at her side were stunned to see her conducting herself so intuitively. None had actually brought the news of The Empress’ death to her and Wu Zhung had already reached for her white silks.

The next 7 days were dedicated to the Inhumation rituals for lamenting the deceased Empress. The Emperor was so engrossed in the funeral customs that he seemed to have completely forgotten about Wu Zhung and she prayed he hadn’t noticed she hadn’t even cared to ask for an apology. The ceremonies continued for days on end and Wu Zhung feigned grief by donning the mourning dresses made from five different materials. Wearing the ‘Five-rank sable’ helped her gel in with the crowd at the funeral hall. She didn’t want to draw the Emperor’s special attention to her in any way, lest he should mention her disrespectful conduct.

Wu Zhung went ahead to offer her condolences at the Empress’ coffin only at that opportune time when the Emperor had excused himself from the ceremony for a while. Scrolls of cloth hung down from theceiling of the funeral hall and there were elegiac couplets written on them in mourning but Wu Zhung only saw these as festoons of celebration. For the first time in her life Wu Zhung was rejoicing from within though she was seated at a funeral. The geomancer had announced the auspicious time and hour of the burial. The very night of the funeral procession, Wu Zhung exulted under her breath, “Lucky hour indeed!” which fortunately was inaudible between the loud chanting of the scriptures. After the burial Empress Xuan’s 9 year old son stood guarding the tomb for a night and a day to observe mourning.

10 days had lapsed since Wu Zhung had failed to appear before the Emperor and Hong Zhung been sent away with the treasure fleet. There was no news from The Emperor at all. Wu Zhung dreaded that this was the lull before the storm but she also continued to hatch a new plan. She wondered whether it would be more beneficial to rule the Empire at Hong Zhung’s side instead of acting as Lao’s Empress? She dreamt of a life where she could have both, money and love!











Jul 14, 2010

#15 Love Birds

Hong Zhung, son of Emperor Lao Zhung was a brave and talented young man. At the fag end of his teens, he was far more matured and knowledgable for his age. His ardent followers attributed that to the numerous voyages he'd made across the seas and shared many a meals with foreigners from all over the world. His intelligence shone bright in his eyes and his ready sense of humour. Besides being witty he was also a very sharp strategist. He planned each journey of his vessels such that time and money was best utilised. Thus he sourced and brought many wonderful treats back in return for silk and tea leaves from his own land. 

Hong Zhung was a soul of the open and vast world. He could never remain confined within the palace premises wrapped up in the politics of the Imperial court. He chose to shun the company of scheming officials and the luxuries of the palace, being content with the earthly pleasures available to him on the oceanic escapades, instead. 

Hong Zhung was an extremely talented musician too which mainly drew Wu Zhung to him.  Despite the disparity in their ages, Wu and Hong Zhung discovered many similarities in each other. Friendship blossomed between the two over the sharing of their likes, and dislikes, their hobbies and interests. The sharing soon became an obsessive topic of discussion consuming them completely. Their conversations were so full of mirth and energy that it sounded like the bubbling confluence of rivers. As days became weeks and weeks merged into months, while travelling from islands to shores, Wu and Hong Zhung's companionship grew into a relationship.Theirs was a happy and loving couple, enveloped in their common interest in dance and music and admiration of one another’s artistic talents.

One night they sat on the deck and composed a song together. She danced gracefully to every verse as he waxed lyrical. He would sing a note and she would pluck her LiuQuin to the rhythm. Thus were born some famous tunes that were hummed for generations later. Many nights the only sounds travelling with the breeze were the lapping of the waves, Hong Zhung and Wu's voices belting out one lilting song after another and the twang of the LiuQuin. One of the songs was inspired from a dream she had of beautiful fairies dancing between peonies.

As their journey neared an end Hong Zhung was petrified. he was so intensely in love with Wu Zhung and emotionally involved with her that it became very difficult for him to accept that she in fact belonged to the Emperor. He swore never to bed another lady again if it wasn't Wu herself. She was taken aback at the kind of commitment this young prince had promised her.

Soon they were back home and in the days that followed Wu Zhung lived in a trance like haze. She flitted about in 'The Great Within' like a dainty fairy herself, her feet almost dancing not walking. She had forgotten all her previous plans and could dream only of Hong Zhung's tender touch. His loving eyes peering deep into hers as if trying to delve into her soul. His words stirring the deepest emotions she had locked up inside her for ages. Hong Zhung had made her feel what she had never felt all her life. As if every sense in her petite body had suddenly been shaken out of slumber. When her fingers touched the window pane they drummed the tunes Hong Zhung had hummed. Even the thumping of her heart seemed to be repeating his name.  

"I am in love.", Wu Zhung had shouted from the terrace of LuiFei's home and she had been overheard. Not only by YinHe and LuiFei but also by one other soul. While LuiFei and YinHe stayed mum on the subject and did not dare probe for the whole truth, news had travelled to The Emperor's ears. 
" Exactly what I'd feared. You were the only one I trusted the most amongst all my lovely ladies, Wu. You couldn't do this to me. Not you!",exclaimed Lao banging his hand down on the side of his table. He was just about to write out an invitation to Wu Zhung asking her to come meet him and share her experiences of the foreign lands. He stopped short of writing, "I missed you!" and wrote instead, " Need to speak to you as soon as possible."
Hong Zhung was promptly dispatched in the wee hours of the next morning with a treasure fleet to Calicut from where they were to proceed on the tail end of the north-east monsoon into the Indan Ocean, cruising south-wards to make landings in Africa. The sudden need for such an expedition puzzled Hong Zhung who was oblivious to the idea that news of his love affair may have travelled.

Wu Zhung was also unaware that the most dreaded thing had happened. She continued to float on cloud 9. She yearned to be in Hong Zhung's company once again and began to hatch a plan for a secret meeting. When a letter from him arrived, bading her Good Bye! 
" Farewell, my darling!", Wu Zhung wished he'd met her before leaving.  



   

Jul 13, 2010

#14 Embarking on a new journey

10 years she waited for her life to change.
10 years she worked towards slowly eradicating poverty from her family's life.
10 years she'd been toiling to raise herself to an Imperial status.
She even gave her all to the Emperor and bore his sons at the risk of losing her magnificent beauty.
Wu Zhung now expected to get back her dues. She had been loyally advising Lao Zhung and seeing to it that he climbed the steps of success. She had invested all her talents in moving closer to her dreams.
"And now is the time for my dreams to realise. I have waited enough!" She said to herself.

Meanwhile The Empress Xuan began staying cooped in her chambers for days together, not turning up in court. There was news that she was very ill from some undecipherable nerve condition . And there were rumours floating in 'The Great Within' that she'd been keeping unwell since she'd returned from the party at LuiFei's home.
"Why don't we send her some Gingko Leaf Tisane? That'll not only settle her nerves but also help her remember the cause of her illness.", commented Wu Zhung with a deep, throaty laugh. YinHe was seeing this dark side of Wu and hated it. He wished she'd never changed. And couldn't believe Luifei could go to the extent of drugging the Empress.

"Why do I get a feeling that LuiFei has been framed?", exclaimed YinHe in Wu Zhung's presence. He was never scared of speaking his mind even before Wu Zhung. 

"Reign your horses YinHe. Your emotions are running wild. Remember you serve Wu Zhung and not The Empress.", commanded Wu Zhung.
Her tone was ice cold and the words like a whip that stung at YinHe's heart. It wasn't Wu Zhung's nature to refer to him as a servant. He was rudely jerked out of the belief that he wasn't a servant but her closest friend. 

" You may disregard my words today Wu for your eyes are shrouded by the veil of greed but that day isn't far when you will be humbled by destiny!", thought YinHe to himself. "I don't mean to curse you but it is a known fact that ego will always take you down."

YinHe only gave a sigh, aloud in reply to WuZhung's bitter reprimand.     

To escape any further specualtion and blame from the people Wu Zhung set off on a voyage in one of  Hong Zhung's trade vessels over the Yellow Seas. She had nothing on her mind except for the news from the Empress. She hoped that it would be of her hopelessly failing health and if luck should comply, her death! Then she would assume the throne besides The Emperor Lao Zhung. She was worthy of the crown after all, more intelligent and more capable than Empress Xuan. 
"It is time for me to become Empress Wu Zhung.", she gloated.

Wu Zhung planned to relax and enjoy, rejuvenate so that once she was back she could get back to her ambitions with double the energy.   However destiny seemed to have drawn a parallel to her own designs. Wu Zhung inadvertently fell in love all over again. As the ships sailed, the wind blew, the waves lashed against the ship's sides and she felt a sudden storm brewing in her heart. She went head over heels for Hong Zhung, The Emperor's son. She failed to contain her feelings for the handsome young prince.

Her eyes twinkled with glee when he turned to her to address her. Wu Zhung had forgotten her old mission and embarked on a new journey onboard the trade vessel heading for the Malabar coasts of India. Her heart had set sail with the wind!




Jul 12, 2010

#13 The two faced coin

Lao Zhung's wife Empress Xuan, mother of Hong Zhung was not such a bright lady. Yet, when Lao Zhung took over the throne a decade ago, after the defeat of the Mongols, Xuan came to assume the throne as the Empress, by her husband's side.She adorned the throne as beautifully as a broach on the lapel but her contribution to the court's ongoings was close to zilch.
Contrasting to that was Wu's personality. She gained recognition for her ready wit, intelligence and flawless beauty as soon as she'd been included in the harem and recruited to the court.

Within 5 years, Wu had picked up the ways of the court. With LuiFei's experienced guidance from behind the scene, she had also successfully become the Emperor's favourite concubine. In the next 5 years, Wu Zhung had given birth to the sons Emperor Lao Zhung wanted. As mother of two handsomly turned out and intelligent sons, she dreamed of one of them being the successor to the Emperor's throne. Wu Zhung had strengthened her position by birthing the Emperor's sons and thus slowly and steadily rose in power. Wu took over the administrative duties of the court and assumed a self-appointed position equal to the Empress.

LuiFei was tracking her progress. Though she had been excessively ambitious about Wu herself, she didn't approve of some of Wu's strategies.
" Don't you think you are taking some hasty and over ambitious steps, my dear girl?" she'd inquired out of anxiety for Wu's safety.
There had been a marked change in Wu's demeanour over the past year.
And Wu replied, as expected in a very cold and resolute tone. " They are called calculated risks!"
LuiFei felt her heart freeze over for Wu Zhung. She began to blame herself for triggering Wu on this path. She was sad that her teachings had been misinterpreted and were being misemployed.
Wu Zhung was rewriting her plan and chalking out a very different destiny for herself than what LuiFei had imagined.
"The girl has much more on her mind than I believed she would ever have. Much more than what I'd wanted for myself too." said Luifei to herself, resignedly.

Wu Zhung compelled YinHe to create a secret police force to spy on her opposition. Though YinHe wasn;t agreeable with how things were progressing too, he had given in because of the emotional bonding that they'd shared . There was a far shrewd and manipulative side to the beautiful, emotional and artistic WuZhung.

There lay a lot beneath the apparent layers to her nature and the Empire was to see the other face of the coin soon.

Jul 10, 2010

#12 Wish

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 12; the twelfth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.


While festivities in the royal palace continued on the event of The Emperor's son returning back from his expedition and the commencement of the New Year, Wu Zhung sat aloof in her chamber. After a decade, a silk scroll from LuiFei had arrived and it now lay in Wu Zhung's lap. YinHe had seen her read and reread it in the full moon light. He stepped a little closer and took a peek, himself.

What one wants and what one gets,
If for the better, the old one forgets,
When wants become things,
For which one craves,
Then wants become wishes,
And one becomes a slave.

When one sets about,
Getting what he wants,
Then little seems too less,
And he wishes for more.
Seldom does he remember,
He never had it before!


The words were neatly written in a slender, slanting  hand with much care. The meaning was also equally crisp to both Wu Zhung and even YinHe.

Wu Zhung was suddenly aware of YinHe peering over her shoulder but she didn't mind this slight invasion of her privacy. YinHe, the Mongol eunuch who had been appointed as Wu's personal servant had been at her side, through thick and thin over the past decade. This sexless being was more of a confidante and had taken great care of her. Wu Zhung could not possibly be angry with anything he did or said for she trusted that it would always be for her own good. So she had immediately guessed that YinHe had something to do with the arrival of this letter from LuiFei. However YinHe had never crossed his line and Wu Zhung realised that  to communicate what he strongly felt about her recent behaviour, he had utilised LuiFei's help.

" I hope that the poem has communicated its hidden message well?", said YinHe in a tone of anxious inquiry, in an attempt to figure out what Wu Zhung was thinking and whether there was scope for a change of heart. 

Greying LuiFei, The Emperor Lao Zhung's 10th imperial mistress was Wu Zhung's friend, philosopher and guide. And Wu Zhung would never dare ignore her words. After all it was LuiFei who had groomed the teenaged farmer's daughter from Kunming and had made her the magnificently seductive concubine that she was today. It was only because of LuiFei that little Wu had speedily risen to becoming the 211th Imperial mistress within two years time of having arrived at the royal harem.  

LuiFei's opening lines ,  "What one wants and what one gets,
 If for the better, the old one forgets,..." reminded Wu Zhung of that stage in her life, almost a decade ago when she was just another peasant's daughter and was suffering a life below the poverty line. She was yearning for wealth and luxury. Dressed in the only cotton frock she had, Wu had arrived at the royal palace seeking help for her ailing mother and hungry siblings with a basket of peonies in her hand. Enamoured by her earthy virgin beauty, The Emperor had immediately included her between the court ladies and sent an handsome amount of wealth home, to her family. Reveling in the luxuries of 'The Great Within' and busy adapting to the ways of the harem, Wu had soon completely forgotten about the hardships she'd seen back on the farmlands. Luifei's poetic words seemed to chide her today for forgetting those days of The Emperor's kindness.

Wu could not agree more at this point that LuiFei was a woman with an alert mind and even wiser ways of handling situations and people. She imagined LuiFei snigger at her childish escapades. LuiFei had aptly penned these lines and with a purpose. Wu realised that the purpose had been achieved.
 
"When wants become things,
For which one craves,
Then wants become wishes,
And one becomes a slave."

These four lines of the poem reminded Wu of that very night when LuiFei had thrown a dinner party for the Emperor and she'd been invited.  

Wu Zhung had enjoyed The Emperor Lao Zhung's favours in plenty. He had fallen head over heels for her beauty. As a young teenager she had absorbed and mastered all that LuiFei had taught her. The art of luring with the batting of her long thick eyelashes and the not- so- obvious but slight pout of her luscious lips.
 
"The come hither glance has to be thrown across at the right moment, mind you!" LuiFei had instructed her in one of the private training sessions held specially for Wu in LuiFei's chambers.

She had learnt the most gracious moves of the ancient fan dance and also learnt to pluck the LiuQuin well and in an enigmatic style. So when she had performed before The Emperor at LuiFei's dinner party, she could feel The Emperor's eyes appraise her from top to toe, with awe. There was a hint of lust in them too but she didn't mind that night.
Wu Zhung remembered how her heart had beat a thousand strokes faster that evening as she presented herself. And how she'd desperately wanted to become more than what she was. She wanted to be the Emperor's next love interest, with all her body and soul. Wu felt the woman hood in her burst at the seams. She did not wish to remain a virgin anymore.
 
" My heart had thumped faster and louder at the idea of being made love to by The Emperor Lao Zhung himself.", she reminisced.
 
And Wu Zhung felt her cheeks blush a deeper pink at the thought that she, the pet mistress of The Emperor now garnered such feelings for someone else! That her cravings were no longer for the Emperor but for his son. That she wished and wanted to bed someone else and had become a slave to these wile temptations. 

"When one sets about,
Getting what he wants,
Then little seems too less,
And he wishes for more.
Seldom does he remember,
He never had it before!"

Hong Zhung, The Emperor Lao Zhung's 19 year old, 4th son from the 1st Empress had been undertaking a lot of expeditions over the YellowSeas. The Emperor out of all his love for his favourite concubine, granted Wu Zhung to accompany him on one such journey to the Malabar coasts of India. He was well aware of Wu Zhung's cravings for 'The Great Without'.
She traversed the oceans and smelt the sweet freedom in the open air. She tasted the salty waters at different shores and absolutely lost control over herself.

" My feelings were so overwhelming that I gave in. As a teenager I had sold my soul and I want to reclaim it as a woman. I wished for true love and I have found it. Hong Zhung is a wonderful man, YinHe. And there is freedom in loving him. His love is not possessive. It is unconditional, without reason, without expectation and that makes it all the more intoxicating. I am addicted, YinHe. Please save me. " Wu Zhung had confessed  to YinHe after her return back to 'The Great Within'. But she hadn't meant it.
Wu Zhung still knew that she didn't want to be saved.

" I cannot deny that I wish for more! I don't want a little of The Emperors' love, I want all of it. And that isn't possible. It is too less for my aching heart. Hong Zhung loves me with all he's got and I wish to bask in its glory." with this Wu Zhung threw the silk scroll away on her bed.

As her silhouette stood by the bay window outlined by the silver stream of moon light, YinHe stood by in utter disappointment and astonishment.
" ...your humble servant wishes you to know that you are asking for trouble. I wish you could see what I foresee." YinHe sighed.

But  Wu Zhung was deaf to all his pleas. She was lost in her trance once again.
" If wishes were horses .... " her voice trailed off with a deeper sigh.


FACTS in the FICTION:

1. LUI is a romanized non-Mandarin variant of the Chinese surname Lei meaning 'Thunder'
FEI means concubine.
LuiFei is the fictitious Emperor's concubine here but in ancient China names of the concubines were actually thus concocted.

2. After the Mongols lost to the Chinese, the adult offenders were brutally butchered but the young Mongol boys were only castrated and brought home as prisoners of war. As many as 70, 000 sexless mongol boys had been taken into the Emperor's harem.Only these sexless beings could act as personal servants to the harem's ladies and besides the Emperor, were the only others to be allowed into 'The Great Within' .

3. LiuQuin is an ancient Chinese instrument played by concubines which is a fretted lute with 4 fine strings of twisted silk strung to a wooden pear-shaped body.

4. Travel and trade across the Yellow Seas dd flourish under the Emperor Zhu Di and the Chinese fleets did visit the Malabar coasts of India.
5. This is the 12th part of my first story series 'The Great Without' and also my entry to the 12th edition of Blogaton. :D Happy Anniversary B-A-T!


The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.








Jul 9, 2010

#11 Hong Zhung

Over the past decade, under the reign of The Emperor Lao Zhung exploration of the different continents of the world flourished. The Chinese armada sailed gallantly across the Yellow Sea undertaking a journey south. The helmsman kept the Pole Star in sight and steered the ship on course. Accurate methods of navigation were soon developed. Precise sailing instructions were provided on manuals made from long thin strips of paper for each regular voyage undertaken. The Chinese marine engineers had built ships with robust frames where each section was contained by water-tight bulk-heads and bolted together with brass pins. Three layers of hardwood were nailed to a teak frame and the planks were caulked  with coir, sealed with a mixture of boiled tung oil and lime. Especially Lao Zhung's treasure fleets were carefully built using this waterproof lacquer.
Lao Zhung's dreams of charting the whole world was about to materialise.

Their fleets were mostly organised under the keen management of Hong Zhung,Emperor Lao Zhung's 4th son  from the first Empress. The captains and admirals of the ships were the eunuchs while the crew consisted of men from the lowest rungs of society. Hong Zhung ran his fleets like the British but with more respect for his men. They were all provided with long white robes as uniforms. Food and wine flowed like water on the ships and all the 150 men were well-cared for. 
The ships brought back from their journeys, soya beans, wheat, millet and staple foods that the Chinese had never known before. The news of the success of Hong Zhung's trade affairs travelled far and wide and even found mention in Ibn Battuta's chronicles. The Moroccan traveller wrote that the trade of the whole world between the Malabar coast of India and China was majestically carried out in the most robust Chinese ships he'd ever seen.  

Hong Zhung was about to return from one such successful voyage on the evening of the Chinese New Year. The scale of the celebrations had thus doubled.However the pompous celebrations in the palace failed to interest Wu Zhung. She only awaited her new found love who was to return from his expedition.
History was about to repeat itself and YinHe could see it.
He confided in LuiFei who was the only other person who could drive sense into Wu Zhung.
Wu Zhung refused to listen.

She feared the murmur in the corridors of 'the Great Within' were about her but that couldn't change her heart. She yearned for freedom too. She wished to sail the Yellow Seas too. 'The Great Within' pampered her but had also fettered th edaughter of the open lands at the same time.
Wu Zhung had paid a price for the luxury she enjoyed and the wealth her mother had been bestowed with.
Wu Zhung had spent her youth in confinement. She had sold her body. Now she planned to reclaim her soul. 
Wu Zhung yearned for the simple happinesses of 'The Great Without'. She wished to washe her face once again in the tinkling, crystal clear waters of the rivers flowing down from the Cloud Mountains.Wu Zhung had recently seen 'The Great Without' in new light, in the company of a better person. And everything looked more beautiful now. Wu Zhung's heart longed to hold his hands once again, to intertwine her own fingers in his. Wu Zhunug wanted to to lay her head on  Hong Zhung's chest and hear his heart beat to the rhythm of her own.
Wu Zhung had tasted freedom and had found her true love! 

Jul 7, 2010

#10 YinHe senses trouble...

Wu Zhung had lost herself in the labyrinths of her past once again.
If YinHe hadn't shaken her by the elbow Wu Zhung was mechanically undressing in her chamber.
She had been mentally transported back to that night when she was finally to lie down besides the Emperor for the first time. That day the mood in the royal palace was of great celebrations. Similar to the fanfare held on this day. That day Wu was very happy and felt like an Empress in the true sense even if she wasn't crowned. But today even  though she was closer to the Emperor's heart and was pampered more than any of his Empress' she felt nothing. Her heart was numb to all the happiness around.
It longed for something else, something more.
YinHe looked on as she began to hum, while her maid brushed her beautiful long locks,

Love hath far more to it than touch,
It does not ask but gives you much.
Love needs no rhyme nor reason,
To arrive it needs no time or season.
Love cares less for distances,
It never leaves, you fear spaces?
It makes a mark deep and true.
Have fallen prey? The judge is you! 

YinHe knew what Wu Zhung meant to say. There was love in each word of the verse.
And he also knew who Wu Zhung's heart was beating for.
Wu Zhung remembered that the evening with LuiFei, in the Emperor's company had been similar to what this evening was going to be. The only difference  however was that this time her heart was throbbing in excitement for someone else. YinHe feared that if the Emperor got an inkling of Wu Zhung's feeling, before anyone he would be the first one to be beheaded. 
YinHe wished from the bottom of his sexless heart that Wu Zhung would go back to being the shy little Wu he'd known some years ago.  

Jul 6, 2010

#9 Butterfly


Wu was ready to go to dine with The Emperor. Maybe she would perform her favourite fan dance for him too. She would look even more splendid in this gorgeous outfit. Wu was happy and there was a spring in her step as she walked besides YinHe to LuiFei's dinner party.

Wu knew she wanted to become more than what she was right now. She wanted to be the Emperor's next love interest, desperately. Wu felt the woman hood in her burst at the seams.
She gave a sidelong glance at YinHe and wondered if YinHe could also hear her heart? It was thumping faster and louder at the idea of being made love to by The Emperor Lao Zhung himself. Her cheeks blushed a deeper pink at the thought.








Wu's heart waxed lyrical.


Beautiful blue butterfly,
Utterly mesmerising butterfly.
Tempted to touch,
Trying very much.
Ever you keep flitting,
Restless, never sitting.
Flirting with every flower,
Liking one then another
You are a casanova, Butterfly!

 There were a thousand butterflies fluttering in the pit of her belly as Wu arrived in the presence of The Emperor.




Note to the Readers:
Above was an acrostic poem in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line spells out a word, the topic of the poem.

Jul 5, 2010

#8 The Yang in waiting..

Emperor Lao Zhung strongly conformed by the Daoist Theory. It had been coined to the Emperor's convenience justifying his need to harness the services of hoards of beautiful women. According to this theory the Emperor was the extreme of The Yang and therefore it was highly essential that he have a physical relationship with as many women, The Yin, as possible.

Emperor Lao Zhung was on one such mission on that winter evening again. LuiFei saw lust in his eyes as he sat across the table from her. The bloodshot eyes spoke of a couple of sleepless nights. And LuiFei very well knew that the longing was not for her. She had known Lao Zhung for far too long now to be mistaken that it was her company he'd come for. LuiFei had known all the while that Lao Zhung's fascination of her body would soon wear off. But she also knew how to keep him coming back to her.The young Emperor had an insatiable appetite for the fairer sex. LuiFei was a sharp mind and had caught the Emperor's nerve. She knew exactly how to please him.

This time it would be Wu. Lao Zhung would remain indebted to LuiFei for bringing to him a virgin of exquisite beauty and charm. Wu's deep seductive eyes were now trained to lure. Wu's lilting singing had a strain of pain in it, enough to tug at Lao Zhung's heart. When Wu danced, there was oomph oozing from every move. Just a little glimpse of her delicate neck ending with the chiseled nape. LuiFei knew that once the Emperor was treated to Wu's company he would stay addicted. She had succeeded in creating her own replica. Wu would replace her. And yet, LuiFei was confident, Wu would most definitely continue to live in her shadow.
"Wu is too naive to have dreams and ambitions of her own.", she thought!

LuiFei's mind had been at work ever since she'd set her eyes on Wu. She'd decided that it was Wu and only Wu who would be her successor to the Emperor's ardour. LuiFei had everything chalked out in the back of her mind. She had drafted a master plan to keep the Emperor hooked. And Wu was the most unsuspecting tool to achieve her ends.
"I've never really utilised my position to my own means but now is the time!", LuiFei told herself.
LuiFei had much bigger plans for Wu than she had for herself in her hay days. She had groomed Wu for this day when she could use Wu's beauty to her own advantage.
LuiFei was extremely shrewd and ambitious as she'd aready displayed by securing her niche in the Empire.
And now she coveted more.

" My dear Emperor I wish to offer you a gift today. A gift I deem is worthy of your stature and your grandure. I have been working upon creating it, designing it, beautifying it for ages now. Your LuiFei's blood and sweat has gone into making it, your majesty.", LuiFei quipped.

"Aah ,I see! Then why make me wait? You must present it before me now.", demanded Lao Zhung in a tone of excitement. His voice had a craving like that of a little child.
" I beg your pardon, my dear Emperor.  Like all good things come to you only through patience, you will have to wait for my gift just a while longer.", pleaded LuiFei.

Two girls training under LuiFei who had also been summoned in the Emperor's presence began to perform one of the folk dance sequence LuiFei had taught them. Another with a painted face sat plucking the LiuQuin, a fretted lute to the rhythm of the dance. There were 4 fine strings of twisted silk strung to a wooden pear-shaped body that the girl's slender fingers were steadily working at. She however refused to look up at the Emperor. This was a frail attempt at keeping the Emperor's mind from the mentioned gift.

The cups of tea were replaced with drinks at the table. The evening was advancing. As the suspense was building, The Emperor began to appear restless. At 27 he was slightly graying and the hairline on his high temple had begun to recede. However his skin was flawless and his shoulders were broader than ever. LuiFei noticed that he looked extremely handsome that evening resplendant in the royal robes. For a minute she felt that her own feelings for his young body would take over her. She wished she could unleash her own sexual prowess on him once again and have it her way. But she feared The Emperor would be turned off by her advances. This evening he was looking for greener pastures for sure. And the mention of her promising gift had indeed raised his hopes. There was no scope for her beauty to lure him, now.
Her plan had to be put into action. She had already sent her own maid in search of YinHe to deliver the message of The Emperor's arrival. LuiFei was sure YinHe would dress Wu appropriatley and present her before Lao Zhung on time. 
LuiFei sent one final prayer up to the Goddess Quan Yin, to bless Wu with a beautiful aura that would rein the Emperor in for good. 


A note to the reader:  
Goddess Quan Yin in Sanskrit is Padma-p├óni, or "Born of the Lotus." abd she is a prime Chinese diety loved rather than feared as the goddess of beauty.

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.

Jul 1, 2010

#6 LuiFei- The Eternal Temptress

Luifei, now beyond her prime was known as the eternal temptress in 'The Great Within'.
She had really belonged to The Emperor Lao Di, father of the reigning Emperor. It was a custom in ancient China that when the Emperor died, some of his favourite concubines were buried alive alongwith him, in the belief that they would give him company in his afterlife too.

When Emperor Lao Di had died of old age, his three favourite concubines were immediately prepared for the burial ceremony but LuiFei the 5th Favourite concubine had foreseen what would come her way. Some years ahead of time she had planned her escape from that early death. She shrewdly succeeded in luring Lao Zhung when the old Emperor was bed-ridden. She escaped the royal palaces under the pretext of accompanying Lao Zhung on his journeys through the provinces and thus evaded the customs.

Lao Zhung had returned back victorious from years of war with the Mongols but the old Emperor was no more. Now as reigning Emperor Lao Zhung took Lui Fei into his own harem as his 10th Imperial mistress between his 200 and odd  numbers of concubines. By now she was well beyond her prime but her feminine charms were as seductive as ever. Flawless skin, Lustrous hair and a curvaceous figure that kept her real age well-concealed and got her the title of 'The Eternal Temptress'. Though LuiFei was quite a crafty lady one couldn't call her mean in anyway. She had done all to secure her position but she never wished any ill for any of her contenders or her juniors. She was a large hearted soul who would share her experiences and train the young girls in all the skills she had mastered over the years.

 LuiFei taught many a tricks to Wu that could have the Emperor eating out of her hands. Lui Fei bowed with a downward glance and then looked up deep into Wu's eyes, holding the gaze steady she batted her eyelids. LuiFei's charms were irresistible. Her every manner and gesture emitted oomph and elegance.
Outside my window,
I know it is raining.
Drops on the pane,
I hear its drumming.

The clouds are dark,
with silver lining.
On my bed of peonies,
I know its raining .

When Lui Fei sang, every word was a flawless note. Her melodic voice was captivating and her graceful moves were as fluid as the Yellow River, absolutely enchanting. When she performed  the traditional fan dance she would lose herself in the music. It almost felt as if there was a celestial aura around her.

When her  performance was over, there would be pin drop silence in the hall. She'd slowly open her eyes from her frozen poise and look at the young faces peering back at her. She seemed to enjoy watching their besmitten faces. She'd then give a little giggle from behind her hands cupped on her mouth, her eyes gleaming with happiness at her audience. And only then would her students be back to some chattering between themselves. As long as LuiFei performed, none could take their eyes off her.

Wu devotedly sat through each class attentively absorbing everything, every move, every note, ever syallable of the song and dance sequence performed before her. Wu had soon proven herself as the best student so far for with every lesson LuiFei noticed a transformation in Wu. There was a time when LuiFei actually felt as if  she was peering into a mirror, when Wu was giving her performance .
Wu had learnt well and fast!