One love across lifetimes. That was how it was supposed to be. That was how it had always been for her.
And yet, Chu Yunxiu found she was getting tired. She sighed heavily and closed her eyes, preferring the darkness of her eyelids to the whiteness of her ceiling. Life after life, she had waited and loved. Would things ever return to how they had been?
In what she thinks might have been her first life, Chu Yunxiu was a girl who loved to dream. She had wandered out to the woods one afternoon to lay in a field of daisies. She had dozed off, daydreaming about the day her prince would come to spirit her away. Chu Yunxiu woke up to soft giggles of a girl, light and dainty like she imagined a princess’ would be.
Chu Yunxiu opened her eyes to the prettiest girl she had ever seen, regardless of how shabby her clothes looked. “Hey!” Chu Yunxiu called out. “I’m Chu Yunxiu. What’s your name?”
“Su Mucheng!” The girl’s voice was as pretty as the rest of her, and Chu Yunxiu flushed.
The two played together until it grew dark and Chu Yunxiu had to go. “Mumu, do you need to go home?”
Su Mucheng hummed her dissent and walked Chu Yunxiu to the edge of the field. “I’ll see you, Yunxiu.”
And from then on, the two of them played in that field of daisies every day without fail. Chu Yunxiu would come and find Su Mucheng there, as though Su Mucheng had never left. Days turned to weeks, and somewhere along the way, Chu Yunxiu’s fingers ended up entwined with Su Mucheng’s. Chu Yunxiu would steal kisses here and there, and they both laughed as Su Mucheng tried to steal some back. Chu Yunxiu had never laughed so gaily.
They were happy, then. Those happy days had never left Chu Yunxiu, and she found herself thinking back to them often. Su Mucheng had disappeared one day, only to never return. Chu Yunxiu found herself going back to the daisy field alone, waiting for a childhood love who would never return.
In her next life, she remembered it all. Like a lovestruck fool, she searched for Su Mucheng. Chu Yunxiu traveled anywhere she could, hoping that she would hear Su Mucheng’s sweet laughter once more. Chu Yunxiu never found her.
And in the next life, she searched again. She found Su Mucheng this time, but Su Mucheng was already happily with a man. Chu Yunxiu had sought Su Mucheng out to speak to her, hoping that Chu Yunxiu was not the only one who remembered, but Su Mucheng showed no signs of recollection. Chu Yunxiu stayed in that life as Su Mucheng’s best friend.
In the countless lives after that, Chu Yunxiu always searched for Su Mucheng. Sometimes Chu Yunxiu found her lost love, sometimes she didn’t. Either way, Su Mucheng never remembered her and found a love of her own, seemingly a new person each time. Chu Yunxiu could only settle for the position of Su Mucheng’s best friend, time and time again.
And even now, after who knows how many lives, Chu Yunxiu still failed. She had grown tired many lives ago, but still sought Su Mucheng out in part because of nostalgia and what might have once been love and in part because of habit. Chu Yunxiu had loved for so long, and she was tired now.
In this life, she was once again Su Mucheng’s best friend, though they weren’t quite as together as in past lives, lovers or not. The two were different as could be. On one side, Chu Yunxiu was alone and struggling to keep a once-powerhouse team aloft on nothing but the ideals of capitalism. On the other side, Su Mucheng was now leading a grassroots team that had become the champions in their first year.
Sometimes, though, after they played against each other and Chu Yunxiu could feel her hands cramping, Chu Yunxiu felt as though they were meant to be opponents. It was nothing like the fated rivals she thought Han Wenqing and Ye Xiu were, though she could admit she had watched perhaps one too many dramas. The feeling that coursed through her body when she saw Su Mucheng on the battlefield was electrifying, and Chu Yunxiu couldn’t get enough.
After their teams’ matches, the two would go to a cafe and chat, talking about the newest drama episodes and the hottest gossip. Chu Yunxiu poked fun at her friend, asking Su Mucheng about her latest supposed lover. Su Mucheng would turn the prettiest shade of pink and splutter at Chu Yunxiu, firing back questions about Chu Yunxiu’s own rumored lover.
The rumors said that both the two beauties had lovers in typical sensationalist headlines. Chu Yunxiu knew for a fact she didn’t have a lover, though she still loved Su Mucheng. But Su Mucheng... Chu Yunxiu wasn’t so sure that Su Mucheng didn’t have a lover. Su Mucheng herself had never confirmed the rumors, but Chu Yunxiu wasn’t stupid. She saw Su Mucheng sigh, lost in thought, and knew that look on her face. She had seen it in so many lives, and only once directed at her.
Chu Yunxiu hoped, in her next life and the ones that followed, she would remember how tired she was and vow to never love Su Mucheng first again. Or maybe Chu Yunxiu hoped to not remember at all in her next life. The thought was odd, but perhaps if she forgot, it would be a kindness. Even if Chu Yunxiu fell in love with Su Mucheng again after forgetting, that Chu Yunxiu wouldn’t have to bear the weight of lifetimes worth of longing and unrequited love.
But she was here and now, so Chu Yunxiu took a drag of her cigarette. The news outlets had always described her as too soft, and maybe she was, but she had long since learned that being hard never helped her in life. She stood there, outside of her apartment building, and watched the sky.
The sun rose, painting the sky with rosy hues. The sky had looked beautiful back then, too.
Chu Yunxiu sighed, a deep and heavy exhaustion permeating her bones. Let this be the last life she loved Su Mucheng, Chu Yunxiu prayed.
With that, Chu Yunxiu turned back to her apartment building and headed inside. Su Mucheng had wanted to meet for breakfast. Apparently, she had something to say. Chu Yunxiu didn’t dare to keep her waiting, even as she wondered and hoped about the conversation that was to come.