Today, he hugged me firmly.
If memory served me right, it was the second time he gave me such harsh hug; a hug which grasped me strongly, in the same atmosphere and sky just like this. Both had grayish color, even darker beyond the silhouette of his face that barely visible. Those tears were trickling down his cheeks, fell to his chin. Dropped at the points of my eyes. I desired to gaze at him; I longed to see his messed face. I wanted to say; 'Don't worry, I'm fine'.
I yearned to accompany him like the other night, drinking until late and enjoying the moon wane, while our fingers intertwined to each others'.
Yet no matter how hard I tried to reach out my arms, or merely to open my lips and eyes, all I got was not what I wanted, but rather a fading consciousness. As if there were some big hands, covering my ears from any other voices but his that was getting vague from time to time.
My name. He shouted it – my name, for countless times.
Then a soft whisper that I had only heard just once in my life time,
"I love you."
That morning, he lamented about how often he got asked to do little things which, he thought, were not so important. The sun was peeking idly behind the hill, and there I was, with wooden boxes in my arms, approaching him and slowly nudged at him.
Just like what I expected, his classic reaction emerged. He got pushed a little, frowned, again, glanced at me through the points of his eyes.
"Gan Ning, are you even listening?"
I burst out my laughter. Well of course, since when did I not listen to every single thing that came through his lips?
"I mean, it's not that I don't like to be asked to move all of these stupid boxes into the Oldman's house. But, hey, tomorrow we'll have another war, and we haven't got any day off at all. And Lu Xun, out of millions people in the Wu army – he should be the one who truly understands that rest is vital – asked us to get such work to be done? Really; my shoulders get stiff and I totally want to laze at home by now."
A breeze blew his brownish hair, made it waving, tickled me slowly. He coughed. Somehow, it sounded unnatural. He sheer off a step away and turned his face to another side. I laughed, picked some boxes on the top of the pile from his arms and put them into mine. He got wobbly for a moment and I knew that he glanced at me angrily even though my sight was already covered by a red box that was the biggest of all.
"Shut your laugh, Gan Ning. Don't expect me to warn you if there's any chasm in front of you."
I nudged him again. The tied boxes that once tidily arranged fell from his embrace, landed abruptly unto the damp ground. He grinned - oh how I liked his grimace. The way he winced or raised one eyebrow, just like what he was doing right at this time. His silver iris gleamed furiously, fixed unto me, ah; so appealing.
"You're so kind, eh, Mr. Pirate. All of them fell off and you're smiling a victorious smile beyond a wall. So wicked, indeed, yet still not brilliant enough to impress me."
I dropped the boxes next to him, putting my arms on my waists and stared back. I bent down and put up his boxes, shivered at the chill that came for the second time on my scruff. He held his bangs from the wind's chase, catching me still looking at him with my typical smirk.
"W, what now?"
I shook my head but apparently he was not contented by it, he mumbled softly and joined up to rearrange the boxes. He was definitely a fretful young man; so fussy about many things – mostly were complains and sarcasm words to pick a fight with me. I forgot, but since when did I realize that his face at moments like that was so… beautiful? His ears' tips flushed red, and especially I was driven out by his silky white skin. I remembered the very first time I caressed his hair with my fingertips, rough, he pouted at my commentary. Well… I didn't say that I dislike it, now did I? To be honest, I liked the way the breeze played around his brownish ponytail, and how he closed his eyes, smiled, enjoying things that made him even more attractive.
I became more regretting not to let myself claiming what was supposed to be mine already.
I touched his fingertips. He jolted a little, pulled them quickly but I caught his hand first. A shaky voice came out of his opened lips. He tried to stall, not a meaningful rejection – I knew that actually he wanted it, too. I only needed to grip his hand a little bit firmer until he gave up at last. I smiled, paying attention to the reddish color that began to flush on his cheeks. He glanced at me, then to another side, to me again, over and over for multiple times. On the last time he did so, he stared at my fingers that grabbed him, weakening his objection, cutting down the birds' chirps that once dominating our conversation.
I held my laughter.
"I'm wondering what is so warm inside my chest right now."
I squeezed his fingers again, just a soft squeeze, letting him to bring his face nearer to mine. That blush became darker, I gave a little tap on it before I stood and lifted up my boxes. I knew that he got petrified for a moment before tailing me behind and got beside me, waving hand to Lu Xun and Zhu Ran that had been waiting in front of Lu Meng's house. Even when that Oldman had gone, both of them still came often to clean his house. I didn't really care the reason why those boys wanted us to move these boxes from Lu Xun's room into this plain house. All that I thought of was just how this young man standing next to me, hid his half face into his dark brown scarf before he walked past me.
I knew that he liked me, but I only remained to be silent. I knew it ever since he was still trying to hide his feelings, until the time when he began to be so open toward me just like at this moment, he had always been liking me.
'Really, if you were a treasure, then you're my most valuable collection. The most worthy of all.'
I smiled and continued my walk with him.
Today, he breathed on my neck.
The only thing that I could feel was his uncontrollable breaths on my collar, crawling onto my scruff. It felt warm despite of the cold weather.
His voice was clogged up, just like breaking branches, akin to wilted flower. Those loud, blocked sobs were tingling in my ears. He tightened his embrace, the more his lips getting closer to my ear, the more I could hear his cry. He took short, rushed breaths so many times, his nails embedded into my back. I wanted to tell him but I just couldn't. It hurt, yet warm. Blood was flowing endlessly, but I felt the heat crept in my whole body.
Ah, I felt drowsy. I shut my eyes but I opened them up straight away just to see his face. I wanted to see him, but he just wouldn't turn his face from my shoulder. I could only notice his brown hair that was not tied up anymore. Those strands were hanging loosely unto his shoulders. In a little attempt my eyes swept everything surrounding us, nevertheless I found nothing but stacks of corpse inside an isolated room which he broke into a while ago.
Then I heard his whisper in my ear.
The sun had almost made its way to the peak of the sky. He rolled once under a tree, our favorite place to spend our time together. From here, we could see a little part of Wu right under our feet. People who passed the street looked so tiny, even the dairy cattle that were getting shepherd were more resembled to huge dogs. He waved his hand under his ponytail and furrowed his eyebrows – again.
"Whoa, it's getting hot. I'm melting."
I pulled his long scarf. His retaining arm got tripped, made his head fell right onto my lap. He stuttered, and just by the time he was about to get up, I pulled him closer to my hug and buried his face into my chest. I just couldn't help but to be pleased seeing his weird reaction. After the time passed for two seconds, I let him go, and oh how I was so satisfied seeing his scarcely hidden dark red face.
"The heck are you doing, you lowly pirate?!"
I sneered at him, being defiant for 'more' reaction.
"Oh well, although it's hot I won't take off anything at all even if it's just one piece of scarf," he lifted up his hand up above unto the sky; "I swear."
I leaned unto the big tree, crossing arms behind my head, smiled and shut my eyes. I couldn't see what he was doing at that time but I knew that he was gazing at me through his eyes. The fact was, those grayish eyes that similar to mine were my second-most-favorite-part after all of his attitudes that were starting to be sweet for me. Of course, he had that fair skin and curvy figure; nonetheless, those two gems had been imprisoning me ever since the very first time I saw them flickering sharply in the middle of pouring rain. A really impressive meeting, I knew that he still remembered it either, and there was no one between the both of us that intending to discuss about those moments. Even so, I thought that it would be fairly embarrassing if only he knew that my astonishment ever since then up until now was about those glistening eyes.
The desire that emerged every time I met him; to make him irked just like how often he ignited my anger. The thing that made me more contented to see his enraged eyes compared to anything else.
He drew closer, his body temper felt nearly without a gap. I knew that he wouldn't refuse anymore if I embraced him to make the space between us even thinner so our skins could touch each others', to pull his shoulder with my arm.
I opened one of my eyes. He was staring at the leaves above us, catching me looking at him, and rolled his eyes.
"How could I get stuck with you?"
He leaned his head unto my shoulder, breathed the air through my sharp blonde, playing with a feather that I pinned into my headband. "Really. You've been dominating my live ever since the very first time we met."
I twisted his strands that wouldn't stop tickling my neck.
"Even up until now… I want to know why we can stand getting along for so long."
I knew that I liked him, but I only remained to be quiet. It wouldn't cause any effect even if I were the one who confessed it; he would just turn around and hide things that he did not want to utter.
'I'm waiting for you. So I'll just keep shutting my mouth over it,'
'Just like that.'
Today, he dropped his tears onto my cheeks.
There were so many things that I wanted to ask him when I stared into his eyes; however the tears had been overflowing his eyelids. They were warm, streaming down my face. I was mute. I felt guilty, I felt uncertain, I felt no matter what its term was to be exact that started to tighten up my chest. He looked at me intensely; I could see my own reflection in his eyes.
So pitiful, I laughed. Just for how long did I forget the reality and get hypnotized, with this tussling feeling that kept on going inside my stomach? No matter how heavy my eyes were and how exhausted I was, I only fixed my thought to him. He was beautiful like the sun at dusk that I had ever seen when I voyaged with my ship in the middle of the sea. Even his tears were similar to the raindrops that fell one by one onto the earth. Cleansing dusts out of my face. Wiping blood from the tip of my lip.
I looked so pathetic through his grayish iris. He, who was no longer closing his eyes, now clutching my hand. I was eager to let him know that I was so grateful that this time he was not in the same position as me. Really, how could I even imagine if I should protect him from the rush of arrows that came from the entire directions; from such attack? The finale would only be the same. Whichever the route I had to take, I had to leave him.
I was grateful that he was fine although it might only be physically.
"Gan Ning, please!"
I kissed him softly, as soft as the carroty ray of the sun that also touching his wet hair. He stayed still, letting me embrace his waists closer to me. It was so difficult for me to kiss him appropriately since he was six centimeters taller than me, thus I just nibbled his lower lip and waited for the reaction from that twenty-four-year-old-guy.
He flushed red. Just that, not saying anything, not moving any single inch but his eyes. They were gazing at me intently with glimmers which telling me that they were more beautiful compared to his vicious glare. The fish that once was in his grasp got released and swam away. I stepped back, creating sound of splashing water, and smiled at him.
"Ah, the fish…"
He tried to shift away, I knew that he was not focusing on looking for the fish because his concentration was fixed unto me. He glanced at me for many times, and I always caught him when he was doing so. He looked charming like a lotus flower on the lake's surface. Red, creating ripples, floating. Fresh.
"…Birds might never aware that not all of living things are capable to fly, just like fishes; they might never discern that they live in the water."
He gave me the most beautiful smile I'd never seen before.
"Yet humans are different. They can't fly, but they try to. They can't swim, but they learn to."
I stepped closer to him. He leaned unto my chest, listening to my heartbeat, running his finger unto my torso - following the traces of my tattoo.
"Even more, being a human, you are fully aware that you still need both air and water even though you are not gifted to fly nor swim."
He clenched my arm tightly.
"On top of that… you are still allowed to love them, despite you are not doing anything for them…."
Shutting his eyes, he brought his face nearer to mine, waiting. I diluted the space between us, letting him to feel my breath. That reddish color slightly flushed on his face just a moment before he grasped my hair and finally landing his lips unto mine. I hugged him firmly, I could see his emotion, I could hear his heart beating, and I could feel the heat inside his chest blurting out. The ripples of the water creating soft voices I could barely hear, harmonized with the sound of my jingling bells which following his movement. He moaned, pulling me closer, erasing all of my memories but things we had spent together in a blink of an eye. Fond remembrances and sweetness flew unto my lips when I touched him, yet, being unaware of our shaky steps, we slipped on the slick river stones. The moon started to sneak up and replacing the sun which sought a break. I was out of breath but his rough kisses locked me up. We turned the kisses one to another, fused in the constant, powerful feelings.
I knew that he realized that we were in love, but I just remained to be as silent as him toward me.
Nonetheless, I could not hold back myself that kept on reacting toward him. Warm touches, firm hugs, soft kisses. No matter how often I had ever done all of them, there was no one else that made those things felt as sweet as me and him.
Although we just keep on shutting our mouths and giving signals to each other without any desire to catch them, it felt good already. It was not enough, would never be enough, but it was able to make me happy.
'I want to hear you saying that you like me. I want to express my feelings for you. But I'll just keep silent about it, letting our souls synchronized by themselves.'
'I know it without saying, you are mine already. But that's not enough.'
"Let's drink until late, Gan Ning. Under the tree by the side of the cliff, we'll make ourselves sober under the waning moon. Until we forget about the war on the next day."
Today, I wanted to tell him that I like him.
I wanted to say that I knew that he liked me ever since seven years ago. When I saved him from Zhang Liao and Yue Jin in the battle of He Fei, with tears trickling down his eyes, he hugged me tightly and kept on blurting out thank you, sorry, Gan Ning.
It would be a lie if I said that I was not thinking about his questions at all. Even up until now those questions kept on tingling in my ears; his hoarse voice, with his happy-looking face, he sought for answers through my eyes.
"Why did you save me?"
"Why do you always protect me?"
"What am I to you?"
And up until now I kept on thinking about those questions, although I had found the answers from our strategist after I asked him about his outlook.
"Hey, do you mind if we make an oath, for always being together, forever?"
Lu Xun smiled, he chuckled beyond his two fingers that were positioned in front of his lips. As if he knew everything just like what he had assumed before, his reaction was way too usual. Clear, and straight into my heart.
"The answer is so simple, Master Gan Ning. You do like Master Ling Tong. What else?"
That was the exact time I realized that Lu Xun had a brilliant mind, even about 'love' matter.
I really wanted to say that we were in love indeed.
He pulled my arm toward the edge of the cliff, then spinning around with a bottle of alcohol in his hand. We drank until we got half-drunk; the rounded full moon looked so huge from the way up here. He went childish, throwing the empty bottle randomly and opened the new one, drank it all in one shot. The reddish color flushed again on his cheeks, but this time it was caused due the effect of the alcohol which made him looked like a rookie dancer who got confused with his next moves.
"Hey, Hey, Gan Ning," he waved his hand to me, "can you see me?"
I smiled and lifted up my glass. He laughed with the moon beyond his back, even the crickets were muting their sounds, I could only hear the sounds of his laugh and my bells jingling around his waist.
"Can I have these bells? Haha, they sound funny. They pleaded me to dance."
He laughed again, stopped his spins, a little bit unsteady but he managed not to fall. His gaze was so soft it made me smile again; I felt euphoria inside my heart.
"You know what, Gan Ning? It has always been on my mind, but I have to say it."
I stood and approaching him.
"I'm going to make you happy."
I intertwined our fingers until I felt that it became firmer. The wind, so cold it hurt my spine, however the warmth that once centered in my chest crept into my whole body when he smiled his best smile. He untied his scarf, fasten one side circling my neck, made us connected.
"Actually, I'm really happy being with you."
'Even I want to stop looking beyond the glass. I also want to stop touching you over and over meanwhile my heart still feels the thin boundary that hinders me to acknowledge you as mine. For seven years, we've been playing with each others' feelings, until we stand together, tired in the same surfeit point. There will be the time where you and I will sail together, with an abandoned island as our destination, enjoying the adventure with my own way. I'll show you the beauty of the sea at night, the most suitable place to see the sunrise, and also that one certain location where the dawn always reminds me of you. There will be the time where I'll protect you and telling you the reasons why I do them all.'
'I'll always be by your side. Definitely.'
I answered his smile. "After the battle, I want to tell you something."
"Yi Ling, eh? Liu Bei andLady Shangxiang, and also Lord Sun Quan… I'm sure that it won't only hurt physically, maybe it will hurt their minds more."
I nodded. "But I'm certain that we will win this one."
"Absolutely," he punched my chest playfully, and then placed his fist right in front of me. "It will be our new experience. It's odd that Lu Xun doesn't positioned us in the same team, eh, however we'll get together to protect Zhu Ran for the fire attack, but before that, you'll turn around to the west, right?"
I nodded again. I still remembered the strategy, also Lu Xun's warning about the Shu's officer named Sha Moke that was well-known for his great ambush.
He was right; it would be a brand new experience.
"And after it ends, I'd like to hear everything. In the same location, drinking alcohols. Enjoying the moon." His smile got widened. "Uh, my hand is starting to get a little stiff here."
I replied his fist with mine. "Of course. And don't blame me if your world changed after this."
"Oh, Gan Ning. My world had changed ever since the first time I knew who you are."
'I can't do a thing, the promise is merely a promise already.'
Today, I dreamt in the middle of my clogged breath. In the middle of his screams that yelling out my name, blood that flew out of me, I could feel my soul leaving my body. I dreamt about him, under the moonlight, with floating smile and blissful face. There was nothing else, and there was no pain, only grateful feeling. Then remorse. Then happiness. Then grief.
"It has always been on my mind, but I have to say it."
'I'll leave you.'
"I'm going to make you happy."
'I can't protect you ever again. I'm sorry.'
"Actually, I'm really happy being with you."
With a warm hug and a soft kiss.
"I love you."
This day, I dreamt until my breath stopped.
About something that never happened.
An intercepted feeling that never meant to be spoken.
'Ling Tong, actually I—'