IYUN turned around to see who called her just now.
It was an unfamiliar voice that rang her name behind her ears. But that unfamiliar voice equally sounded strangely familiar.
Shao raced himself with an excited haste towards the beautiful maiden as he yelled, ‘Iyun… hey Iyun, Iyun!’
The young man was more than delighted to see his dearest, since several many seasons he couldn’t even number.
But it seemed Iyun couldn’t remember the face of her fondest playmate in the childhood days… with the askance look in the pretty girl’s eyes right now.
‘Good heavens, you don’t recognise my face, Iyun!’ Shao gasped as he landed in front of the young woman.
‘I… I… well, I don’t know…’ Iyun only stammered through her words.
Meanwhile, in the far distance, Prince Àlà quickened his sprightly steps as he raced up to meet the young maiden. This maiden who had just caught his heart.
Àlà prayed he’d reach her before the two talking folks walked off into the gathering gloom ahead.
Now Shao clenched his fists together in a height of emotion, where he stood in front of Iyun.
‘Ah, how can you never remember?’ he asked Iyun. ‘Goodness… how can you not remember your own? Your very own?’ Shao yelled passionately.
Iyun’s look was a quizzical daze. And from where Àlà was, he could make out untold stories in the expression still. For Iyun’s lost gaze hinted that Shao was strangely familiar.
Àlà’s heart raced up some rapidly pounding beats. As his soul ached and pined for someone so precious but who might nevermore be his.
The young man gazed up to the heavens, with a desperate hope in his wide eyes.
‘Ah, Iyun… I only wish you were mine from the beginning!’ he yearned so much. ‘I wish to the Heavens you were mine from the start!’
Àlà had heard Shao called this priceless beauty by her name Iyun just a while earlier.
And in a long, painful moment, the charming prince wished she was his own right from birth or cradle, in fact.
That she was his own string of beauty beads.
Àlà yearned hopelessly and wished for once that his rare hope, his impossible hope… was simply the reality.
He stared into the darkening evening sky above.
Suddenly, it was as though the Heavens gazed down on the young man with an unexpected benevolence… in the fading afterglow of a set sun.
And just out of the blues, Àlà heard something that changed everything.
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Shao blabbered in the distance ahead.
‘Ah, Iyun… how can you not recognise your own family… your cousin? Your best cousin, huh? It’s Shao… it’s me Shao!’
Those words, those simple words… they were enough to dissolve Àlà’s restless worries.
But just about then, Àlà heard Iyun scream Shao’s name with an enchanting feminine voice.
In that same breath, the lovely damsel flung herself on Shao and wrapped her hands around his cute little neck.
‘Ah Shao, Shao… can’t believe this is you!’ cried Iyun. ‘No, you’ve changed so much! I can’t believe this, really!’
But then, the melodrama wasn’t going to make Àlà jealous one tiny bit. His entire mountain of worries had been submerged in an ocean.
For as certainly as day follows night, Iyun was going to be his, thought Àlà.
And how wouldn’t that be? The Heavens had blessed the young man’s impossible hope with a miracle.
Àlà’s lips curled up in a lovely, glowing smile. One which stayed there like the snowblink in the polar skies… and for as long as forever.
Shao turned around at the sound of footsteps approaching. He sighted the crown prince drawing closer.
A sudden fear gripped the heart of the palace retainer as he saw his master walked up to him.
He remembered he was the one who kept the crown prince that late in the outpost township, as he lingered while visiting his own family members.
Shao felt terrible. He knew he’d taken his master’s generosity for granted. Indeed, beyond what words could possibly articulate.
Shao was totally at loss on what to do or say. The young man stammered through his words as he turned to the prince coming closer.
‘Your… Your… erm, I was… I was just coming to you now when I saw my cousin… I’ve never seen her since childhood…’
The prince nodded with a smile as he came to meet the two. ‘Permit me to say you’ve got a lovely family, Shao,’ he said to his dear servant.
Shao looked at the prince and was more than surprised he wasn’t cross with him at all. He wondered what happened to him.
Àlà turned to Iyun and smiled sweetly. ‘Oh good evening. You must be Shao’s amazing cousin? I believe I’m right.’
Iyun was lost and speechless for a bit. Yet her little heart couldn’t help fluttering all the way through.
How can someone so swing words that they just make your heart race? she thought.
Still the young maiden didn’t know what to say.
‘I’m Iyun’ was her only reply… in a hushed little voice.
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Àlà interposed just as soon. ‘I never knew I’d meet you myself. Shao has always talked fondly about you. And now I know he wasn’t exaggerating.’
The voice which uttered those words… it was a sonorous, quiet whisper.
Shao was at loss at what was happening. The palace servant had never seen his master talk in this fashion.
The young palace retainer immediately wanted to introduce the prince to his cousin Iyun. But Shao remembered Àlà had earlier warned him against disclosing his royal identity in that outpost township.
The prince had come on this tour garbed in a disguised appearance of any regular man from Jaiye. And not in anything suggestive of the royal house.
Yet it was beyond imagination for Shao. That the crown prince of Jaiye could be smitten by his very own kindred… there in the humble Koje township.
It was past fathoming out.
Iyun shot a closer look at the young charming prince.
And she only marvelled. Just who’s this gentleman that fondles your heart so well you want to hold him?! Just who in the world is this lover king?
Àlà interposed the young maiden’s thoughts in a cool, gentle speak. And his response was as though he’d just placed an ear to Iyun’s mind.
‘I am Shao’s friend from Jaiye,’ he whispered. ‘You can call me Àlà.’
The prince’s lips curled up in a lovely smile that lit up his face with a radiant, beaming shine.
And it was particularly that beautiful smile that stuck to Iyun’s mind. Now she couldn’t help wondering at him… and at his effortless charm of smile.
She just let her mind wonder and wander.
He looks so charming. And he smiles, too. How does he do that?
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