205 The Exhausted Artist and His Dreams


    Yujia tried to pull away.

    But then, Zixu's hand reached out, latching onto her arm. Yujia froze again, her eyes glancing down at the fingers that gripped around her wrist.

    "Mother..." Zixu muttered again.

    Her heart practically melted.

    Yujia had a few soft spots. One of them happened to be puppies. In fact, any cute baby animals. Or babies. When they were cute, they melted her heart.

    The other was her younger brother.

    This idea brought a heavier feeling to her chest. At the same time, nonetheless, Yujia felt herself recalling the few memories she still had with her younger brother. A lot of those times, through the brief few years she spent with him, she had been the one who took care of him the most. And during this time, her brother had always had night terrors. These episodes came earlier to him than other toddlers his age.

    She was the one who was there for him most of the time, despite her young age, patting his back and telling him that it was alright through his panicked nightmares.

    In a way, Zixu reminded her of him. The way small beads of sweat appeared between his brows, to how he reached out and grabbed her... it was all too similar.

    Instinctively, as if she was acting out a faded memory, Yujia wiped away the beads of sweat with the cloth in her hand. A small whisper escaped her.

    "It's alright. You're fine. I'm here."

    She was sure that Zixu wouldn't quite respond to that, but he did. His grip on her hand loosened a bit- though not too much- and he seemed to stop struggling a little. Yujia wasn't quite sure if he actually felt calmer, or if she was just imagining all of it. She didn't know if she was supposed to wake him up either. She wasn't quite sure how he would feel if she told him that she heard everything. She wasn't quite sure if he would want her to even know these things about him.

    Yujia lowered her wrist delicately, leaning against the bedpost. A few moments later, she determined this pose as uncomfortable no matter how she turned- there was always this awkward slump- so she sat down at the side of the bed, on the floor, leaning her head against her arm. She tried peeling his fingers off her wrist, but it was to no avail. Zixu only gripped tighter.

    She wondered what the story behind Zixu was. What could perhaps make him have dreams like this?

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    Yujia realized that she didn't know anything about that topic. In all the stories Zixu shared to her in the past about his family, he had talked about many people- Yu Ziyang, Mimi, his uncle, and even his father- just never his mother. She only realized that just now.

    It seemed like there was some untold past in that area. But considering that Zixu didn't tell her, he likely didn't want to tell her. And Yujia was in no place to ask or pressure him about this truth.

    She would just leave it be for now, until a day where he felt like revealing it to her, if that day ever came. In the meantime, she would just act like she never heard these fever-induced mumbles from him. For all she knew, they could even be nothing serious, and just some random and crazy words.

    As Yujia leaned against her arm, all the exhaustion from this entire day- running back and forth in the kitchens, making the steamed buns, delivering and handing them out, disguising herself, and taking care of Zixu- finally caught up to her.

    She thought Yu Zixu was a fool for studying so hard that he became ill, but maybe she was the same kind of fool as him. She didn't know when to rest just like he didn't know how.

    Without realizing, as time went on, trapped in her own thoughts, Yujia slowly nodded off to sleep as well.


    Zixu was trapped in darkness. So much darkness. Darkness that rolled under his feet, curling up around him, blanketing everything into a land of no light.

    In this endless darkness, there had been voices. Flashes of images along with those sounds. They sounded familiar. Like memories. Like shattered memories.

    He looked down at his hands. They seemed smaller, younger. He felt smaller. He felt younger.

    He knew this person that he had become. It was someone that he had morphed into in all those dreams- no, nightmares- in the past.

    His hands reached up, clasping over his ears automatically. As if he knew what sounds would come up next. These sounds, he had lived through countless times. Once in reality, and too many more times in his sleep.

    The screaming began. And the pushes. And the shakes. And more, more, more- those screams.

    At some point through this ordeal, the images flashing, the screams echoing, the idea that this was just a figment of his sleep vanished. It seemed real- all too real. He was back to his childhood, reliving these memories over and over again, and there was nothing he could do to stop them. He could only keep himself curled up, in that darkness, in his solitude, his only hope being that these sounds and images would leave. If they would ever leave.

    They said his mother was a crazy woman.

    Yet at this moment, a part of him yearned. A part of him wanted to see her again, her smile, if only just for a fleeting moment.

    He felt himself reaching out to that disappearing figure, one of the last memories he had of her and her smile, basking in the sunlight, eyes glittering. His fingertips barely touched her shadow before she threatened to shatter. He cried out- "No. Mother. Please. Don't go. Stay. Just another moment. You don't have to go there- I'll talk to Father- it's- no- Mother-"

    She only shook her head. Silently.

    Her image faded more and more. He grew more desperate, chasing after her shadow, stumbling over his own feet, crying out. He felt dragged down. There were boulders clung to his feet, shackled around his hands, slowing his every movement to a crawl. Yet still he crawled. Yet still he chased.

    Right when he was about to give up, allowing the darkness to continue engulfing him- that was when she turned.

    "It's alright," she finally said.

    She turned. She turned. For the first time, she turned.

    Zixu looked up with wide eyes. The boulders vanished. The chains broke.

    He felt her hand brushing over the top of his head. "You're fine. I'm here," she said. It was in her usual way, the way she used to so many times in the past. Her hands were warm, in the light. She was the light. She was the sun.

    He was a child, with her.

    "Don't leave, Mother." he whispered in her embrace.

    An eternity perhaps passed. Or perhaps it was only a mere second amongst the everlasting path of time. A precious second that his mind clutched on, unwilling to let go.

    In the next moment, the second was gone. Perhaps it had never even been there in the first place.

    When Zixu looked up, she had faded. The sunlight was no longer there, and he was back in the darkness.

    He opened his eyes.

    There was barely any dim light streaking in through the windows. He was laying in bed. He raised one of his hands, staring at it and his long fingers.

    He wanted to laugh.

    The foolish, pathetic dream of a child.

    He didn't even think that he would have those again. How many years had it passed since he last had a dream like that?

    Those dreams were worthless. Laughable.

    But when his hand reached up to his eyes, why were they just a bit foggy?

    He chased the lingering pieces of the dream away, back to where they belonged in the darkness. Zixu shifted his body, turning in the blankets to face the side.

    That was when he saw her, lying her with her head draped on her arm, sitting on the floor. She was asleep. He glanced over at her hand and his fingers wrapped around her wrist.

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