A warm presence surrounded you when you awoke. Not warm like the fires in your village the night before but a soft, gentle warmth. You attempted to move your body to figure out what blanketed over it only for searing pain to shoot through your muscles.
You allowed your (e/c) eyes to flutter open. The sight that beheld you nearly took your breath away. Around you, everything was seemingly decorated in gold and ivory, sheets draped over you made with the finest silks, dyed the deepest if reds and sewn with the goldest of threads. Around the big bed you lay in, lightly tinted, red, translucent curtains hung.
Bringing your arms up over the bed, you felt as if you had single-handedly plowed 10 fields by yourself, aches in your shoulders and arms. A pained groan escaped your lips as it began to ebb.
"You're awake aru..." A soft, feminine voice spoke out beside you. "How do you feel...?"
A young man brushed aside the curtains, revealing a soft, gentle face with caring and wise brown eyes. His hair flowed long and free, dark brown and silky in appearance. The man wore extravagant clothing, most definitely a man of a higher rank than you.
He reached down, a kind hand was brought to your face, the back of his fingers brushing softly against your cheek and causing a blush to appear on them. "You never answered me...are you okay...? Do you need anything aru...?"
"I-I'm okay..." was all you could muster, slowly stumbling with your words. A smile was brought to the corner of his lips, making your heart pound rapidly (and not to mention, painfully) against your chest.
"You seem as though you are in pain aru..." He muttered softly, taking one of your hand and massaging it carefully. "Do you want me to make you some tea? Or would you rather we run you a bath? Anything you need..."
"Y-Your name..." Your voice coming out as a pathetic whisper. "A-And if you could...an explanation o-on what happened..."
"How rude of me. My name is Wang Yao." Hearing the name, your eyes widened and your attentiveness skyrocketed,"As for how you got here, I-"
"E-Emperor...W-Wang Yao...?" You interlude, trying to sit yourself up to inspect his face better. Seeing you grit your teeth in pain due to this, he climbed up beside you, pressing once again against the soft sheets. "E-Emperor Yao..."
"Nice to meet you aru." His smile seemed so true, so intrigued. "Can I continue explaining as you asked?"
"But..." Once again, you tried to lift yourself with little success. He pressed you back down onto the sheets softly. "P-Please...continue y-your majesty..."
"For once...I would really just love you to call me Yao..." He took both your hands, pressing the pads of his thumbs against them. "I'm a person too you know."
"Y-Yes sir y-your-" You bit your tongue. "Yao..."
His expression lightened,"Again."
Leaning forward, he kissed your fingers with the gentlest peck of his soft, warm lips. "Thank you...
"You see, I saw fire to the east of my palace. In worry, I evacuated everyone who was currently in the building. My palace is nothing compared to my loyal servants. But all of a sudden, you bursted out of the blue in a rush." Faint recollections of this memory played in your head, various people outside. "I came over to you only to have you pass out in my arms aru...I figured you lived in the village and took you in."
"M-My parents..." You croaked, realizing they were trapped inside your burning house. "I-I lost my..."
He pulled your body into his arms easily, holding you close and stroking your disheveled (h/c) mess you called your hair. "You are welcome here with open arms...don't you worry..." His fingers stroked your skin softly as you began sobbing. You didn't dare cry on his extravagant clothing but he forced your face into his robes. "Just let your sorrow out...I'll make sure you are taken care of..."
You nodded into his chest, your tears leaving. "How about I inform the ladies to start you a warm bath and have you fitted for robes...? How does that sound...?"
Truthfully, a warm bath sounded delightful right now. Your voice was lost so you just nodded once more. He allowed you to sit a few more moments in his arms before he left you, promising that he'd be back quickly.
Yao was true to his word for in moments, you were ushered down the halls, a slight amount of assistance needed by him to just walk down them. Bringing you into another room, you met a few of the female work-hands before being left alone with them.
They forced you to remove your torn and burnt cloths and sit in a warm tub of bubbly water. One of them worked on brushing your hair out and dipping it into warm water before lathering it with sweet smelling bubbles. Another worked on your fingers, filing them down and removing any dirt beneath them.
"Emperor Yao seems rather interested in you." The one doing your hair pondered aloud. "I can see why! You're a rather beautiful girl. Your hair is rather beautiful."
"And you have such a nice complexion." The one doing your nails said sweetly,"No wonder Yao likes you so much."
"U-Uh..." You muttered, unable to speak. "T-Thank...you...?"
The three in the room laughed, the third coming over and did your toenails,"You will make a good bride for Yao."
"B-Bride...!? I...I can't be a bride to the emperor...!"
The three exchanged a confused glance,"Surely you don't mean that, do you? Emperor Yao has taken such a peculiar interest in you."
"H-He doesn't even know my name...! B-Besides...I'm just a filthy peasant girl..."
You were handed a towel and left alone to wrap it around you. The same women took body measurements after you were covered though the conversation had not dropped. "You know emperor Yao loves an independent woman."
"He's been at your side since he found you."
Left and right, people spoke and moved. Cloths were thrown at you and things swirled, you just snapped. "Please just shut up and stop!" Everyone in the room just paused, silencing and looking towards you curiously. "I-I need a minute...please..."
They nodded, leaving you alone to try on and dress yourself with what you were handed. A particular pair of robes caught your eyes, beautiful red silk with golden embroidery running down the sides. You decided to leave your now silky (h/c) hair down.
The door to your room slid open, revealing a worried-looking Yao. "My workers told me that you were distressed...can you tell me what the matter is?"
You refused to cry and show weakness once more. "I-I'm just merely confused and I still mourn over the loss of my parents is all..." You turned your head away from him.
"I can see that is not the problem..." He reproached. "Please-"
"You don't even know me! How do you already want to marry me!? I have just lost my parents and now I'm being paraded around like I'm a piece of the purest gold! I-I'm confused! I'm hurt! I'm stressed! And now they're telling me you want to wed me!? I-I can't be an empress! I'm a farm girl! I worked in the fields and...and..."
A sharp inhale of breath sent you to your knees in tears. Your body still hurt, now with the addition of your head,"I-I just..."
He came over and knelt beside you, cupping your cheeks and making you look upwards. The worry in his voice didn't leave,"Please come here...just calm down..."
Nodding, you threw your arms around him. He began stroking your hair but immediately stopped,"Ai yah...your hair is softer than the finest woven silk...and it's very luscious..."
"I don't believe we properly introduced ourselves aru." He noted softly, pressing his forehead against yours. "My name is Wang Yao...the emperor of China..."
"My name is __________ ___________...I used to live in a nearby village which burnt down..." You said silently, breaking away and resting your head on his chest.
He kissed the top of your head gently,"How about we get some tea...? We can speak calmly and ease some of these nerves..." You were helped up once more, your body still sore.
The two of you sat in silence, every now and then sipping tea. Yao gave a faint smile,"I-If there is anything you want to talk about...you can tell me aru..." Silence filled the room once more,"That dress looks really nice on you..."
"Yao..." You muttered softly,"Do you really...want to marry me...?"
When silence filled once more, you felt an unsettling feeling in your stomach. He sighed, placing his tea on the table before he smiled. "Yes...I really would like to...but..." Your head picked up in interest,"You don't seem to be ready for this..."
"I just need time." You muttered softly before taking another sip of tea. "It's a lot to take in..."
Yao stood up, approaching you,"You realize you would mostly be more of a figurehead aru."
"But I'd claim such a big title...I'm...I don't know if I'm..." The Chinese man took your hands in his, making you look deep into his brown eyes. "Yao please..."
"Listen _________..." He said sincerely. "I chose you out of all of China...the simple reason is because you understand. You understand hardships and pains I have never had to deal with. I can see you are a strong, independent woman and I'll respect your decision."
You nodded, a small smile tugging your lips. "Can you just promise me one thing if I say I will Yao?" He nodded gently. "I just want you to promise that you'll be by my side..."
"Of course." A smile was brought on his lips as well. "I can do that easily. Maybe we should get some rest...I realize a lot rests on your mind but don't take the night to do so. You're still healing."
Without warning, you were lifted bridal-style into his arms and carried out of the room. You were surprised at his strength as he carried you but apparently not shocking to the help. The room you awoke in was where you were laid down once more.
Yao began to strip of the elegant robes he wore until he was only left with mandarin pants. Another thing you noticed was the large running scar going down his back. He laid beside you, seeing your own expression of worry.
You flipped him to his side, letting your fingers trace the re-healed skin. "Yao? What happened to you...? You lied to me about never facing hardship, didn't you?"
Silence cut into the room once more. When he spoke, his voice was soft but held a tone of darkness. "Sometime...you ignore the hardships until they go away...but they will always return...my younger brother attacked me when my back was turned..."
"I'm sorry I asked..." You muttered, only to be pulled closer under his strong arms. A deep blush enveloped your cheekbones. "Yao...you're really cozy..."
He chuckled, so light and frivolously it made your heartbeat pick up,"I hope that's a good thing. Good night..." His lips pressed against your softly for a second before his head rested.
Curling up closer, you smiled as you fell into a light sleep.