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213 The Brightest Memory Fragment of the Pas

    The fifth memory was less like a memory and more like a collection of memories. They were tiny snippets that occured over a period of time, each one short and sweet.

    The first snippet was a memory of Yue Ze asking Wei Yunjing what people during her \"future times\" did whenever courting someone. Wei Yunjing gave him a really judgmental look, but he managed to convince her that he was only asking because he was purely curious.

    Thus, she gave him a list of things that these people gifted: flowers, chocolates- which she described to be some sort of sweet candy- jewelry...

    She also gave him a list of activities: cooking a meal for the other, writing them a poem, singing a song with a guitar- which was another one of those futuristic, western instruments- writing letters, watching movies- which were like plays, but with some more futuristic equipment- going shopping...

    So in the following few days, Yue Ze went back on his words that it was only a question of pure curiosity. Thing, most times, went like this:

    \"Wei Yunjing, I like you,\" along with a hand-picked bouquet of flowers that he spent hours rummaging in the fields and mountains to find.

    \"Wei Yunjing, I like you,\" along with a romantic poem that he wrote himself attached to a letter of funny little jokes.

    \"Wei Yunjing, I like you,\" along with her favorite pastries he bought from the best pastry shop in the city.

    \"Wei Yunjing, I like you,\" along with a jar of plum blossom wine that she had taught him to make earlier, only this time, he made it on his own.

    \"Wei Yunjing, I like you,\" along with a classic play that the two watched together.

    \"Wei Yunjing, I like you,\" along with a song, despite the fact that he was very much tone-deaf, and his singing skills were clumsy.

    \"Wei Yunjing, I like you,\" along with his attempt at making her those favorite pastries that would've tasted so much better if he just bought them again from that one shop he went to last time.

    \"Wei Yunjing, I like you,\" along with a stick of candied hawthorn that he bought for her during one festival.

    And it was during this festival that, under the fireworks, he looked at her seriously. It wasn't like before, where Yue Ze would sillily present a few of his shabby, hand-made gifts. He wasn't grinning anymore, staring straight at her.

    Fireworks were booming above them and the arched stone bridge they stopped at. People were passing by them, chattering loudly. The sounds of cheers and applause came from different corners of the streets at performers who were doing all sorts of tricks.

    But at the moment, the two of them were alone in their own world. Yue Ze couldn't even hear all the background noise, his entire attention focused on her.

    \"Wei Yunjing,\" he finally said, \"I really do like you. How much longer do I have to wait before you say the same?\"

    Yunjing's hand went up to her face, running it through her hair. Her lips were turned upwards into a smile again, perhaps from embarrassment. She muttered, \"If I knew that you were such a liar, I wouldn't have told you that whole list of things before. You have to be messing with me.\"

    \"I'm serious about this. I wanted to prove to you that it's not a passing infatuation. It's been so long already. Why do you still think that it's a joke?\" he responded.

    She dropped her hand. \"I do like you too, but I'm afraid of all of this. I've just... always been bad at romantic relationships- in my past life- it's just like... my heart has been played with too many times. I don't know if I can ever have something real again in the future, after all of that.\"

    This was, in the two years that he knew her, the first time that Yue Ze saw this kind of expression displayed on Yunjing's face. Her eyebrows were knitted, lips pressed into a thin line, eyes tearing up, head looking down, as if she didn't want to think about it. As if she couldn't let go of the past.

    Seeing this, he couldn't help this desire rising up within him to help her. He wanted to know what it exactly was that kept her feeling this way. He wanted to help her let go.

    So, he softly replied, \"Tell me about it.\"

    And so she told him. Maybe, despite the painful scars of the past, she wanted to let go of it as well. She wanted to finally have someone to listen to her about it.

    She said that her past life was full of messy relationships. She had been an entrepreneur in that life, and because of her lack of success in her career in her beginning, the person that she had been with for six years, the person that she thought that she would marry, the person that was her first love, and the person that was her first for everything, left her.

    She thought that she was done with relationships after that, even after she achieved success and all her hard work began to pay off. Her company succeeded, money rolled into her account, and she became a big name in the business world. That was when she found him, her second love, and for the first time, she thought that her heart was opening up again. She married him only after a year of dating. It was quick, but she was afraid of losing him like she had lost her first love.

    Yet later, it was revealed that he was only interested in her for her wealth, and that he was simultaneously cheating on her with another woman.

    She couldn't believe how quickly their relationship fell apart.

    Just like that, she was divorced.

    She tried having other relationships after that. They all ended with breakups, failures.

    She wondered if there was something fundamentally wrong with her. If she was the problem, the issue, the one at fault for all of this. Otherwise, it would make no sense. People all around her were happy, content with the relationships they had. If she was not the problem here, then what exactly could explain all of this?

    But then again, what had she done to deserve all of this? What had she done to deserve her relationships all ending so tragically, to deserve her husband cheating on her?

    What was... wrong with her?

    During all of this, her mental health was deteriorating. The divorce and the failed relationships happened right when conflict and issues were rising up within her company. She fell into debt. Her company was sold. Things were falling apart right in front of her eyes, and despite everything that she did, she couldn't put back together any of it.

    The stress, all stacked up, one on top of the other, was getting to her. It was painfully obvious.

    She had long nights of insomnia. She started drinking more. She picked up smoking, although she never had any interest in that in the past. Years of things just dragging on- on, and on, and on- with no end in sight, no light ahead of her, finally came to a stop when she was hospitalized.

    Lung cancer.

    They said it was curable at first. Though maybe because it was her fate, or that it was her own fault, another year passed, her symptoms growing progressively worse. The doctors slowly changed their diagnosis to incurable.

    She could remember her last moments- moments filled with pure delirium- before everything faded to darkness.

    And when she woke up again, she was here, in this odd little crevice in history called the Xiang Empire.

    It was a new chance at life, and she took it.

    This concluded her story, which left Yue Ze a little bit at a loss for words. He couldn't quite figure out what to say. In the past, though she did talk about the future to him, it was always brief, and the things she discussed were always the good parts. The future she talked about seemed like such a paradise, with people that were treated equally, with people living much longer than they did now, with information available to everyone, with technology so advanced. It seemed like the future couldn't hold anything bad. But now, here he was, hearing all of this about it.

    He never knew that she had this side to her. He never knew that the image of Wei Yunjing in his head- the one with her always smiling her bright smile- was actually just something that she projected to other people. Behind all of that, she was suffering, haunted by the truth of her past.

    He glanced up at her, seeing how she had her head tilted up, blinking those tears away.

    She managed to whisper in a hoarse voice, \"Do you see now? I'm someone abandoned. I'm a failure. I'm worthless. You're... a really good person, Yue Ze. You deserve someone better than me.\"

    He shook his head.

    \"Yunjing,\" he spoke carefully, gently, \"You're not worthless. You're not a failure. Look at all the amazing things you've managed to accomplish here! You were the one who taught me to be truly happy with myself. You taught me to see and acknowledge my inner self, and to accept and love myself for that. Why can't you see that for yourself, as well? The Wei Yunjing I know is not someone worthless. She's someone brave. Bold. Persevering. Dedicated. Witty. Kind.\"

    She managed to look at him, her breath catching. \"I...\"

    \"Wei Yunjing,\" he repeated, \"I like you. I like you for the Wei Yunjing I knew yesterday, the Wei Yunjing that I know today, and the Wei Yunjing that I will know tomorrow. Nothing can change that.\"

    Yue Ze then reached into his pocket, pulling out a slightly crumpled red bracelet, braided from red thread.

    \"It's kind of ugly, I know,\" he explained with a laugh, \"But I spent a lot of time making it. You said that men courted women by giving them jewelry in your time, except I know that you don't like any of that flashy stuff. So I made you this. It's not any string of pearls, or any pure gold. But I made it with my heart.\"

    He extended his hand, holding it out to her. \"Yunjing, I promise that I won't be like those other men in your past. I won't abandon you. I won't ever let you down.\" He hastily held up one hand, \"I swear on it- that if I ever do, thunder can strike me, and I can suffer slowly and for an eternity. Has anyone ever made a promise like that to you?\"

    Yunjing actually managed to laugh. \"No, you're so- you're so stupid, put that down-\"

    She reached forward, grabbing his hand with the pledge and pulling it down.

    In return, Yue Ze reached forward and pressed the red-string bracelet into her palm.

    \"Will you accept it?\" he asked, eyes pleading, \"I've tried to prove my dedication already, but give me another chance, and I'll prove it more. I've pledged and promised and did everything I could possibly ever think of already. Will you just... give me a chance?\"

    Yunjing stared at him, expression solemn. \"Well...\"

    \"Please?\"

    Time seemed to stop right there. Yue Ze was frozen in anticipation, both anxiously waiting for the answer and in fear of what he could possibly hear.

    Only, soon enough, that fear melted away with her answer.

    \"Fine.\" She smiled, almost laughing as she relented, \"Alright. I guess I can give you a chance.\" She raised her eyebrows. \"But you better never let me down.\"

    Yue Ze burst out into a bright grin. He lifted her hand, gently tying the bracelet around her wrist. He couldn't stop grinning.

    \"Really? Really?\"

    \"Yes. Really. Gosh, you're so happy.\" She laughed too.

    He was happy. He was definitely happy. This was the best day in his life. He couldn't think of a single thing that would make him more happy than he was right now. Up to this point, everything had been a huge mess of emotions, but it was all worth it. It really, truly, absolutely, most definitely, all worth it.

    \"Yunjing,\" Yue Ze assured, \"In this lifetime, the next, and for all eternity, I will never, ever let you down.\"

    \"Alright.\" She smiled gently. \"I believe you.\"
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