YOU’RE an elite Jaiye man,’ the young damsel whispered. ‘Do you know what the dream world is?’
Iyun’s eyes lingered on Àlà as she threw him the unusual question.
And like a dry and thirsty land eagerly embraces the first rains, the prince cleared his throat and sat up.
‘Well, Iyun,’ he began. ‘If I we say dream is our other life, we haven’t exaggerated it at all. It has always been a wonder of mankind,’ continued Àlà. ‘You can call dream the life of our soul.’
Iyun nodded and heaved a thoughtful sigh.
Àlà went on in a bit. ‘If the High Heavens desire to communicate with us lowly mortals, they show us our inward souls when we sleep. When our body is weak and powerless, and we lose control over our will and strength.
‘And it is when we’re that close to being dead, it is then we get close enough to see the life of our souls.’
Iyun interposed him just then. ‘Or when someone is almost drowning, and she sees something so supernatural… in broad daylight?’
Àlà retorted. ‘Yes… well, maybe…’ He stopped. Right then, he thought about Iyun’s rejoinder just now, and he found it somewhat off the grid.
He wondered why she made the statement, that kind of peculiar statement. He seemed unable to figure what the young woman was talking about.
Àlà decided to ask about it. And he only stuttered through.
‘I, well, I don’t seem to get you on that? Why’d you ask something like that? I mean, why… why were you that particular, or something? Did anything bad happen? Did something happen to you, Iyun?’
Iyun felt an urgent, sincere concern in Àlà’s voice. And saw the possibility that he might not even know anything about the event. The young woman was now certain that it wasn’t particularly Àlà who came to save her from drowning only days before.
Since Iyun met Àlà today, she’d been wondering at how much of an exact copy her glorious saviour was. And today, she fully admitted it was indeed something beyond reality that she saw on that day.
Iyun reasoned that the figure she saw might probably be Àlà’s good spirit coming to her in all its heavenly glory.
Or else, it could’ve been that the Heavens took over Àlà’s body in some transcendental transfiguration. Just to save her from death.
Either way it was, Iyun was now certain that the High Heavens indeed came bowing down to save lowly earth.
Àlà’s words jolted the young woman back to life. ‘You didn’t say anything. I mean… why did you ask that? Are you sure everything is all right?’
Iyun wondered at how much Àlà cared for her. ‘Yes, I’m alright, sir; thank you,’ she said sweetly. ‘It’s nothing. I only asked just because,’ she explained.
Àlà only smiled. For he knew what Iyun couldn’t fathom.
The handsome gentleman then sought for an excuse to again meet with the young maiden… as the chirps of nocturnal birds in the wild slowly welcomed the early night.
Àlà spoke. ‘Well, as for seeing something so supernatural while someone is not sleeping, I think I should ask the scholars what to call that.’
He went on. ‘We dream when we sleep but there should be something called seeing another world with our eyes open. So I’ll discuss it with our scholars in Jaiye and certainly come back to you.’
Àlà’s eyes brightened with a smile just then. On the thought that he could see Iyun again.
Iyun was just about to mouth a thank you when her tongue rolled out some other thing in her mind. ‘How do you do that, please?’ she muttered. ‘Can you teach me, sir.’
Àlà looked askance. ‘How do I do what?’
The maiden gesticulated with her hands curling up her lips to indicate a smile. ‘Well, don’t get me wrong; I just like to know how you did that so naturally,’ she said.
She dropped her hands and asked. ‘How did you form your lips to make you smile? Just how can I do that, too… the way you form your lips just now?’
Iyun’s words were so moving. The earnestness with which the damsel asked to know something so natural… no, they really tugged at the prince’s heart.
Shao cleared his throat right then. He’d been quiet all the while enjoying the talk and learning.
But the question about the crown prince’s manner with his lips… his royal lips. No, that was too much of an insult for Shao to take on behalf of the prince.
And it didn’t even matter whether the insult came from Shao’s own cousin, or the prince’s would-be lady. Whichever category Iyun seemed to fall under… in Shao’s eyes now.
The young retainer’s words were almost a snarl.
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‘That is wrong, Iyun!’ yelled Shao. ‘How dare you question His Highn… His…’ he stammered and hesitated on revealing the prince’s identity. Lest he should openly flout the prince’s earlier instruction.
An instruction proceeding especially from those reverent, royal lips.
Shao resumed at once. ‘I mean, how dare you question him about his… erm, about his lips? I mean, his… his lips! Apologize right now, Iyun!’ the palace servant demanded.
Iyun didn’t quite know what to say. She didn’t want the beautiful night to end so clumsy and embarrassing like it was already tending to.
So she succumbed into tendering her apology. But then, the prince saved the day again, before she said a word.
Prince Àlà knew already what Koje was like. He knew the people just couldn’t smile. Nor could they even laugh.
He understood Iyun, that she wasn’t being brash or impolite with words, like Shao was pointing out. He could see how curious the young maiden was to know things. Things in the world of the free… that she couldn’t access.
Àlà was touched to the heart at the humble enquiry. He decided to promptly answer before Iyun would lose face.
His words were gentle when he spoke. ‘You didn’t say anything amiss at all,’ responded Àlà. ‘You asked how I did that, right?’
Àlà decided to put the wonder in plain words.
‘To me, it seemed like I just broadened my lips and then a smile formed there.
‘But the mystery someone could almost overlook because he smiles so naturally, is that a smile is an outward mark of inner happiness. Someone who can smile so naturally can almost take it for granted.
‘It looks as if someone can really control smile, but no they can’t. People just smile when they can’t help the bliss inside.’
Iyun adored and admired the handsome gentleman, with the manner in which he cared for her down to the tiniest detail.
She fancied seeing the young man again and spending another time with him. And that next time, she wasn’t going to bug him with questions and questions.
She was simply going to gaze at him all day, if she ever could. Or simply listen to him speak, and let his gentle voice make her ears tingle.
Àlà broke the brief, meditative silence that followed his last words. ‘Please let me come see you again, please,’ he said now in a gentler voice.
Iyun quieted her mind. ‘You may,’ she replied softly.
From that day, both Iyun and her admirer looked forward to a dreamy adventure across the shores of love’s wonderland.
Yet neither of them fully knew. That they were onto some dire and daring escapade.
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