When she had the chance to really allow herself some freedom right now. She was thinking of a girl, a friend of his. Someone whom she could talk to in such a situation at the very least. Since they were awfully limited in what they could do so at the very least.
And why she was seeking her, she was someone who knew what she had gone through as well. There was this common thing which allowed them to honestly think about it right now. She entered inside to find her in the inn. She often came by here, either in the empty garden while she looked from the top. Seeing the night sky just before she wanted to sleep.
Where she came out for supper, as she always ate light since she needed to move around far too often. While in the afternoon and allowing her to really talk to her friends or any travelers, wanting to get away from the noise of the inside. A real and foremost reason why he was here as well.
She was preparing for the evening, but still wanted to get her affairs in order. Which were now a necessity at the very least? To plan for her leaving, or perhaps to think about it. She certainly did not want to remain here and be married. Even if the boy, by all means, was a beautiful person which she could converse with. Not insufferable, not a douche-bag. A fairly decent person.
That told her that she should treasure it. But why treasure something that she never wanted in the first place, nor did she ever dream of it. No matter what many people tried to tell her. Why did she have to treasure something that she never actually wanted or had to do at that point? No more or less than what they tried.
She found her sitting inside, in the same place that she would discover Qingshuang. Away from all else and allowing them to truly practice while they were here, with no distraction. It was between the inn that was close to their mother’s, often using them as the restaurant and the other where they would go. It meant that the inn was often fully booked up, with no other rooms used.
Even as she suspected that they were talking about it right now at the very least. Expanding into further territories, since she had recently bought ones closed to her. Which had been a small clothes shop? And perhaps continuing it, along with making a larger building.
But this was one of the many done over the years, creating a vast garden and a large bench allowing them to do as they wished while they were nowhere. She sat down on them as she looked up. “Anything to ask?”
“About how you escaped your wedding?” She asked. “Or left after.”
“I can tell you quite a little about how I did leave. And a lot of advice that I discovered along the way. Since I mostly was chased around by some of the richest families and any help they could find. Although I did get help eventually if there is anything an excellent map and a ton of money would be important. As much as you can find. And try to bring anything valuable along with you.”
She made a mental note to commit to it. Since the paper was too expensive. Since she was gaining it from someone with a very similar background to hers as it was right now, or as it could be possible to. “So, how did you leave?”
“In the middle of the night, without anyone but myself. I had bought over a cheap dress worn and used by servants, to hide me. Then I slowly walked out, while still making them think that I was asleep. There is a place in my house then, where many avoided as they thought that it was haunted. It rarely was, just that my brother rather enjoyed the company of birds there and it often went to such a degree that it scared them.”
“I made my way through the garden without anyone noticing, and then I left. The rest of it was not easy. But I had waited for the city gates to open upon the first bell and then left Kaifeng. They were looking for me just then, and I barely managed to leave the city. A little later and it would have been impossible. Once I was out of the city, I made my way to the South. Or rather further South. Traveling through small towns and villages.”
“It makes sense since they tend to be small. And another traveler is just another traveler to them.” Without really knowing much while being obvious since they simply did not fit in by any means while they were nowhere at the very least. When they were nowhere at the very least.
She served many of them, and it was apparent. The looks, the whispering, the gossiping about them. But also at the same time, there were plenty of things which they could have done so at least while they were here. She knew full well just how real this was at the end of the day.
“And it was easier since they were fractured. And once I left, it took them time to ask where I was going. Perhaps I left a clue on where I did intend to leave, although I rarely went beyond just a town. Maybe in the next direction, and I made an effort to look for young farmers or merchants. Since they did not find me as strange as the next and entertained it, also because I was careful. Really really careful in how I chose my questions and the tone. The right tone can change things.”
She did not doubt that sometimes it was how anyone phrased questions which were the most important of them all. At least while they were here. Not how they avoided it, but how they planned their move. That was the fine line between success and failure.
Even as she could be sure, her mother would help her, but little else other than that. She didn’t have to look out for any which may have wished to do her harm. A stark difference between her and perhaps many of them at this point at the very least.
There was not anything which they could have done so right now at the very least. She knew that she had the complicit support, one that was not common for them to even think about them right now. This was a huge significant difference, she did not need to go behind their back. Although she was plotting it, having to hide it from her family right now at this point.
No more than they needed at this point while they could have. She had the ingots from her father. And she knew it was a great deal, that was perhaps what she could earn in just a few years. Of doing it every day, she knew as she spent and as she calculated and exchanged cash. She barely even had a fraction of that as her savings, but it was enough for her to last for a short while. But then, she would need to worry.
This meant that she did not. “Can you sew?”
“Not really, never was good at it. Never really learned much other than serving.”
“In a positive way, you can choose to serve in an inn. They always need help. And you are rather good at your job, you know how to pay attention, and it changes. You adapt fast, but can you cook?”
“I can tell a little bit. Although I mostly spent my energy on making cakes, desserts, those are things that I’m good at. Not so much for this.”
“That’s a bonus. I never went into one, so I never actually knew what went behind the doors. But you do, and you have some experience there. So you can also consider suggesting that you help out a little while you stay in an inn there. They appreciate it, although you have to be careful.”
She nodded, but she understood that small towns had much more leeway in terms of what they could accept. And provided she made a good enough account. That meant suggesting that she was an orphan, without parent or child. That way, she could convince them while she went around. “Cash is always more than enough and aim for an older woman. She is always kinder and will take kindly on help, and will be likely to ignore. Staying with some men were some of the worst experiences of my life.”
“Did I just run into something strange?” Qingshuang asked. While they were still asking
“Can’t believe I’m having advice for this,” she commented.
“I didn’t think I’ll be sharing such knowledge with anyone.” She had mostly kept it. Since it was unlikely, and there was still an hour or two before she left to work in the evening.
“I don’t think anyone thinks that they’ll be sharing information about how to run away from their home.” He was right about that, and she hoped that she was unlikely to do so as well. “But either way, so have you made up your mind.”
“I’ll be heading for the cities. Wherever I go. Even as I have no idea, and the wedding is a month or two away. As they are trying to figure out how fast they can run it while they had managed to find a reasonable date. And that’s why marriages often took a lengthy break before they could have them. This was the reality since a lot of things must be prepared. Just as she understood that this was an effort to restore fortunes, and as such, they did their level best to rush it.
As much as it was allowed to. But ample time. “Of course, before marriages, you are expected to start preparing for it. And that means preparing your trousseau, as well as readying for life over there. You are young, and so is your husband. So children won’t really be spoken of for the first year or so, although embraced if it happens.”
“Anything else I should know about marriages while plotting my escape?”
“Prepare to be swarmed by various female relatives.” She took up her drink. This was something which made a large amount of sense right now while they could or was possible to do so while they could have done so. “They always make an effort to appear and help out, since help is invaluable. Thus it is a trade. And major events are all women really concern themselves with. There just isn’t all that much to do so right now at the very least.”
“I knew weddings have a lot, but is it indispensable?”
“For my sister, she needed them. To get into her dress, to be taught what to do, what to say, and also all the traditions and all the offerings. Those were vital, and once she crossed, she was her husband’s, she was no longer with them. And thus it is a time when mothers teach their children the most about it. Marriage is the only thing we can look forward to in our lives.”
Not for her, since she never really had the chance or even the option to find them by this point at the very least. When they could have done so right now when they could have. She was right in that regard. “Although for us it rarely is, although we learn of the various rites. A concubine never has the same rites as that of a wife. And it is simpler. Although even that is a coveted position, provided it is to the right man.”
A chief wife always had more rights. And most families rarely took on concubines, only those at the top could make such an attempt or even try to do so. Or when they were serving the Emperor. Albeit most was unfeeling or cold, anything else which was possible while they were here. Since daughters were sacrificed, they were unlikely to come back. With most growing old in solitude, as they were only meant for one man.
An entire palace for them. But she did not care so much but learned them in case she ever wanted to marry. Her mother wanted her to make a choice, advocating for nothing less than what she wanted. What she personally could. Not suggesting anything for her, which she learned was rare. Most chose one or the other while they could.
But she wanted something. An answer to a particular question. “Do you ever regret choosing this life?”
“It would be a lie to say that I did not. There are days where I have nothing but absolute regret for the situation right now. But I enjoy the freedom, the liberation it brings me just as much as otherwise. But always, if you want it that badly. Even things which bring you absolute misery is not torture for you. It is something that you can take. That is the truth here.”
And she was right. Her mother had no real regret for the situation, even as many pitied her, reviled her, hauled her through coals about her lack of morals. Also, as she mostly shook them and continued to work, for she merely didn’t conform to them on one thing: she was unmarried. But other than that, she had a happy life, she was a mother, raising a child and sometimes even more than that. It would be wrong to say that she did not lead a good life.
That she did not contribute, she was far more helpful than most. Who concerned themselves with families, and instead ignored the plight of them. And she understood that it would be unpleasant. It would be uncomfortable for anyone, and some had already begun to look at her in askance. Wondering why she was still unattached, even as most were already betrothed and some married.
Her mother did not, merely letting those things be. While never taking any of their words into stride if at all. And that was how she should have chosen to do so while they could have at the very least while they were nowhere. When they allowed them to do much while they could have.
“But they will be there, there will be moments when you wonder what it would have been like if you chose a slightly different life when they had the chance to do so while they were here now.” In its own way, she had no mentioned it either.
“No, in its own path something set me onto this path.” Just as she took it, dodging any more questions. Nothing was holding her back if at all. She did not need to worry, she was racing against any clock. But of course, a precise understanding that she had to choose. She had to pick carefully. The price of selecting the wrong choice was high.
And she could not go back. Thus, she had to make them count. If looking back and wondering was all she cared about, then she was not a person with a good life. Neither did she even make a choice to also choose this, if she only looked back? If it was her own, and she enjoyed it, then she could make herself move forward. Make it more bearable.
Wondering about the possibilities did nothing of that, while showing something really crucial, that they did not care at all. Neither did they even bother very much.
“But you don’t have the weight of having your freedom taken away, at least not immediately. It is something that will come, but you can pick, and you can run.” Perhaps to another restaurant far away, making them think that she was escaping poverty or disaster. As long as she proved that she was not without a child, she would be believed.
And she was now rather young, so she could be believed. And trusted to be truthful about her circumstances. And showing her eagerness would be enough, and mistakes would be tolerated as long as it was nothing major. Nothing incredibly large or huge at the very least.
“Thank you.” She had many many things to think of right now, about where she stood and what she could use with the cash. It would make sense to perhaps keep them and probably transfer one of them, and use some of the others for clothes. Or maybe personal items which could be trusted. That much money on anyone was not normal.
Thus she needed to think and plan her trip. She wanted it at the end of the day, and she figured that she genuinely wanted it then she could start the planning all immediately. The route she would take and where she could go and what she would see. It was necessary now, and perhaps she should start this by buying a map first.
Once she had it in mind, she walked to find a cartographer.