Xi Men sits alone at the square table outside the B&B in Alishan, enjoying the view.
He looked out to the beautiful sea of clouds in front of him.
Xi Men turned his head and looked at Mr. Xu walking towards him with a gaiwan filled with tea, in his hands and deliberately handed it to Xi Men.
(*gaiwan is a Chinese lidded bowl with a saucer used for brewing and/or drinking tea, and is usually made from porcelain)
“Oh, thank you,” Xi Men immediately extends his hands to grab the gaiwan from Mr. Xu’s hand as a form of respect and thanks.
“A cup of tea to warm your body, Mr. Xi,” Mr. Xu said.
“Thank you very much,” Xi Men smiled at Mr. Xu as he puts down the gaiwan on the table.
“I hope it is not too cold out here to sit…” Mr. Xu said.
“Oh, it is okay. It is just 5pm and I believe it will be colder at night. I have my sweater to keep me warm,” Xi Men smiled. “And now a cup of tea,”
Mr. Xu smiled. “We made this tea using our tea leaves,”
Pretty obvious, right? It is tea plantation everywhere… they wouldn’t have bought tea from somewhere else to serve to their customer…
“I see,” Xi Men smiled, as he took the gaiwan in his hand.
He lifted the lid of the gaiwan, dips the lid slightly into the tea and scrapes it across the liquid and the side of the cup, before he dips the side of the lid into the liquid and tilts it; he then smells the fragrant tea, and finally goes for a sip.
“Oolong tea. Nicely done,” Xi Men puts down the gaiwan onto the table.
Mr. Xu looked at Xi Men doing that, “Oh, Mr. Xi, you know the art of how to drink tea…”
Xi Men’s eyes strayed. He as a CEO of a tea corporation, and fancying the art of tea… of course he knows how to drink tea! He could have exposed his identity when he skillfully scrapes the lid and smelling the tea before he drinks it in front of Mr. Xu.
“Oh, I am actually quite fond with the art of tea. So…”
“Oh…” Mr. Xu smiled. “I see. I am glad you love tea, Mr. Xi,”
That was close.
Xi Men just smiled.
“And you know this is Oolong tea with just a sip,” Mr. Xu said.
“Umm…” Xi Men’s smile fades slightly. “I like Oolong tea,” he said.
“Ah, I see…” Mr. Xu smiled.
That is EXTREMELY close!
“Anyway, I have something to attend to. Please enjoy the view. I will come and get you, Miss Yang and Emily for dinner at 7pm,” Mr. Xu said.
“Sure, thank you,” Xi Men smiled.
Mr. Xu smiled, nodded and then he walked off.
Xi Men returned his gaze to the sea of clouds.
“The sun will rise from there,” Mr. Xu pointed to the front. “It will rise behind the mountains,”
“Okay!” Emily happily said, as she zipped up her sweater and cold breeze hits them.
Xi Men looked around the private tea plantation as he finally gets to see the tea leaves that were obtained from here, being sent for production by his company.
He must admit, being so interested with tea; the art, the culture, the taste, the ceremony and everything about tea and also already becoming CEO for Xi Men Corporation – a tea corporation, he hadn’t had a chance to come and see for himself about tea leaves from Alishan.
The famous Oolong tea, from Alishan.
He is glad now.
He returned his sight to the sky.
Seeing the sunrise at Alishan this time actually reminds him of seeing the sunrise in Hualien.
The blue and purplish color with a slight tinge of orange in the sky has basically ‘announced’ that the sun is coming out.
It was spectacular.
Within minutes, the sun has fully risen and brightened up the entire sky.
And Emily jumped for joy when she saw the sun. “Mommy, the sun is up!”
Xiao You smiled upon seeing her daughter’s reaction.
Xi Men smiled too.
Waking up early in the morning for the sunrise is truly worth it.
Or rather, who he is seeing it with.
“Sunrise in Alishan is indeed beautiful. Just like in Hualien too!” Emily said.
“It totally depends on your luck. You don’t always get them,” Xiao You smiled at Emily. “I am happy we get them,” before they both slowly turned and look at the sun again.
He turned his gaze to Xiao You and Emily standing next to him, fancying the sunrise.
‘There is no one else in this world that I want to share this unforgettable experience with… other than Xiao You…’ he smiled. ‘…and Emily, since she is Xiao You’s daughter…’
*End of flashback.
“Xi Men, you are really here,”
Xi Men turned and looked at Xiao You walking out from the B&B. He smiled at her. “Hey, awake?”
Xiao You smiled and nodded. “Sorry that I fell asleep,”
“Don’t worry about it,” he smiled. “With you falling asleep, you gave me time to actually sit here and enjoy the view,”
Xiao You lifted her head and her eyes to look at the view that laid in front of her. “Oh, wow. It is really nice,”
“Yes it is. We’ve been going around the last few days, so today, we have time to actually sit here and enjoy the view, the breeze, the air…” Xi Men said, taking a deep breath. “Refreshing,”
“That’s nice,” she smiled, stuffing her hands into her sweater’s pockets. “Can I sit?” she looked at the chair next to Xi Men.
“Sure,” Xi Men said, pushing the gaiwan in front of him closer to his side, so that it didn’t hog Xiao You’s soon-to-be area.
Xiao You sits down.
“Where is Emily?” Xi Men asked.
“Still sleeping,” Xiao You smiled. “It has been a really tiring trip for her. Great to have times like this where she can actually sleep and rest to reenergize back. You know, we are leaving Alishan tomorrow and we are going to Sun Moon Lake already so it is going to be a new trip and all…”
“Yeah,” Xi Men said. “Alishan trip ends tomorrow, so another new trip and town for you,”
“Yeah. The taxing part is actually the cab or train rides,” she said.
“I do agree on that,” he said.
“But when you reached that place… you’ll basically forget about the exhaustion because you’ll be in awe of the beauty of the place,” she said.
He smiled. “You are right about that, too,”
She remained smiling. She lowered her head and saw the gaiwan on the table. “Enjoying the view with a cup of tea? Nice,”
He looked at the gaiwan, and then he looked at her. “Mr. Xu brought this for me just now. And he said he is coming to get us at 7pm for dinner,”
“Okay,” she smiled.
“You wanna try the tea?” he asked, gently pushing the gaiwan to her but he stopped halfway, “But I already took a sip of it… if you don’t mind,”
She looked at him. “What tea is this?”
“This is oolong tea; the best tea and it is Alishan’s specialty,” he smiled.
“Mr. Xu told you this is oolong tea, huh?”
“I am a tea expert. I will know after taking a sip of it,” he said.
She smiled. “Well, since you are the tea expert, can you tell me what the difference between the tea here and back in Taipei is?”
“No difference in terms of tea. Major difference is only whether it is being packaged by Xi Men Corporation or not,” he smiled.
She laughed. “Sounds like an advertisement to me,”
“But I can honestly tell you there is a difference with you having it here or in Taipei,”
“Really?” she asked. “What is it?”
“The view and environment,” he said.
She smiled. “You are great,”
“Thank you,” he smiled. “If you don’t mind that I have taken a sip out of this, you can have it or a taste of it,” he pushed the gaiwan to her this time.
She looked at the beautiful porcelain cup in front of her, “You don’t mind?”
“If I am, I wouldn’t have offered you,” he smiled.
She smiled, and then she slowly reached forward to take the gaiwan, lifted the lid and straight away takes a sip.
She then puts it down onto the saucer. “Very aromatic. Really, really nice,”
“It is. Now I know why Mr. Xu almost got my real identity,” Xi Men smiled.
“Because the way we drink tea from the cup is different,” Xi Men smiled.
“Different? How?” she asked.
“I lifted the lid…” he reached forward and lifted the lid of the gaiwan, “…scrapes the tea…” he dives the lid into the tea and then scrapes the lid outwards, “…puts the lid back…” diving the lid back into the tea, “…smells it before I drink the tea,” and this time he covers the lid properly since it was just a demonstration.
“You mean, that is the right way to drink tea?” she asked.
“I won’t say it is not,” he smiled. “Judging at the business industry I am doing,”
She laughed. “I am sorry. I forgot momentarily…”
“Don’t worry about it. I have been doing that since I start drinking tea… probably at the age of 6. My dad taught me that,” he said. “I have never specifically asked if that is the right way to drink tea, but I assume it is, since my dad owns the company… I supposed he needs to know the right way to teach me,” Xi Men smiled. “And Mr. Xu already caught the way I did is different from how other people would drink tea… just like you did. So… if I hadn’t told him that I like drinking tea… he might found out I am actually the CEO of a company where everyone here sends their tea leaves to,”
She just smiled.
“If you liked oolong tea, I can give you the tea leaves. I have a lot of them at home… and office,” he said.
“I can buy, it is okay…”
“Why buy when you can get it for free? And oolong tea is not cheap,” he said. “I have a lot of them that I can’t even finish it myself. I’ll pass it to you when I see you in Taipei next week. If what I had is finished, I can always take it from my warehouse or store,”
“Abusing your status again?” she laughed.
“I give away free tea leaves from time to time,” he smiled, taking the gaiwan up for a sip. “So I don’t call that abuse,”
She laughed. “Thanks first,”
“No problem,” he smiled.
She lowered her head as she looked at the gaiwan, before she returned her gaze to the beautiful sea of clouds in front of her.
Xi Men also leaned back his chair as he looked at the view in front of him.
A small laugh suddenly escaped Xi Men’s lips.
Xiao You turned to look at him. “Why are you laughing?”
With his gaze still at the view, “I just recalled. I taught you how to drink black coffee. And now, I taught you the technique to drink tea,” he said, and then he slowly turned to look at Xiao You.
She looked at him, and she swallowed the tiny lump in her throat. “Yeah, I know,” she said with a small smile. “Who knows, you may teach me how to drink something exotic in the future,”
He laughed. “Something exotic…” he repeated after her.
“You actually taught me a lot of things. Confidence is one of them,” she said.
His laughter fades to now a smile. “I remember,” and then he turned to look at her intently, “Just now, you said…”
She looked at him. “Which one?”
“You said, teaching you to drink something exotic in the future,” he said.
She laughed. “No, no, please. I don’t want anything exotic,” she said.
“Hmm?” her laughter slowly dies down.
“You said, ‘in the future’,” he said. “I mean… you do want to… remain friends with me in the future?”
The smile on her face has completely stripped off. She lowered her head. “To be honest, to me, I felt that we have always been friends,”
“Oh,” he said, and for some reason, that statement she had just said… makes him both sad and happy at the same time.
“It’s just that… all this while, we have never been in contact, but we are still friends, right?” she smiled faintly at him.
He swallowed a lump in his throat. “Yeah…”
“And… I guess, things are going to be the same. When I go back to Toronto, I will lead my life with Emily, and you will get married…” she said.
His eyes strayed. “Xiao You, can I ask you one thing…”
She lifted her head and looked at him, waiting for his question.
“Just a casual question. Hope you wouldn’t mind,” he said. “It is just something that I am curious with…”
“Okay. You can ask,” she said.
He turned and looked at her. “How different will things are if I am not engaged?”
“What do you mean?”
“If…” he said. “I mean if… if I am still single, how will things between us be?”
“It will be the same like how it is now,” she answered him almost immediately, or rather, not needing any pause at all to think.
“What if I tell you, I want to give you and Emily a better life?”
She looked at him, switching between his left eye and right eye constantly.
It was silence for a really brief while but it felt like the quietness has been there for eternity.
And then she looked away, “There is no need for that,” she said.
“Do you know that…”
“For what, Xi Men? Do you think my life is not good right now?” she interrupted and asked.
“I didn’t say your life is not good. I just want to make it better for you, and for Emily,” he said.
“I am living my life really well, Xi Men,”
“I like you, Xiao You,”
“But I don’t like you anymore, Xi Men,” she looked straight at him.
Xi Men felt that his heart had shattered into pieces upon hearing that.
He immediately went silent. He swallowed a lump in his throat, before he looked at Xiao You’s eyes to notice those penetrating glares she is giving him; realizing how serious she is with her words as well as the issue.
“Maybe just as a friend. But not anything more than that,” Xiao You said, turning her gaze away from him.
He nodded briefly, for he understood what she meant.
“I love my husband, and only my husband. No one in the world will ever replace him in my heart,” Xiao You said.
He looked at her, and realized that her eyes had turned red and tears are developing.
“Not even you,” she continued, as she stared at him. “Not even you, Xi Men,”
“I want you to know I have never intended to replace him in your heart. I didn’t want to. I know how much he meant to you,” Xi Men said.
A fresh tear dripped down to her face as she hastily wiped it off, and then she sniffed.
“Emily is my daughter with my husband. I know she grows up without a father, but I wouldn’t want anyone else to be her father than her father because it is not the same,” Xiao You said, and then she looked at Xi Men. “There is a level of acceptance towards how a man can receive someone else’s kids. Some can totally accept them fully, but not everyone can do that. I don’t know which category you’ll fall into, and I don’t want to know,” she sniffed again. “And besides, there is no need to know,”
“I am sorry for asking that question and starting this entire thing up,” he said apologetically.
After almost 30 seconds pause, “I am sorry for my reaction,” she said.
“It’s okay. I guess I have provoked you,” Xi Men said. “Your inner feelings… and your sadness when you are reminded about your husband,”
She bites her lips, and then she sniffed.
“I want you to know, with no relation to whatever category you have mentioned earlier… I love Emily. Because she is your daughter,” he said.
“I know,” she replied. “I know,” she repeated, without looking at him. “But thanks,”
“Your desire,” she lifted her head to look at him. “To make my life better,” she said.
He didn’t know what to respond to that.
“But you need to remember. No matter what had happened or had never happen, or even what kind of situation it is; I am a commoner. And you are not,” she said.
He looked at her.
“That itself is already a mismatch,” she smiled.
“Then you’ve probably forgot about how your best friend and mine fought for their love,” Xi Men said.
“But she’s single. I am not,” Xiao You said. “And I have a daughter, with someone else,”
Xi Men looked at her, and then he lowered his head. He swallowed the lump in his throat.
“Your fiancée is the right one for you,” Xiao You said. “Single, elite… must have been pretty too,”
“But I don’t love her,”
“It is not my concern,” she replied.
She is right.
Xi Men could only smirk. She is indeed right. It is not her concern.
“We’ll still be friends, Xi Men,” Xiao You said.
Xi Men smiled at her. “We’ll be friends…” he repeated after her.
“But in respect to your fiancée, whom will become your wife, we’ll just maintain what we have always been, Xi Men,” Xiao You said. “No, or minimal interaction,”
His head straightened. “We’ll see about that,” he firmly said.
“You can’t do that, it is not fair for her,”
“Then what about me? No one has been fair to me,” he said, as he turned and looked at her.
For some reason, the words Xi Men had uttered struck her.
She felt… bad. Her heart felt wrenched up and it is in sorrow.
“No one has been fair to me,” he repeated. “Why should I be fair for someone else? And more over, all I am doing is just maintaining interaction or connection with my friend. I am not doing something illegal,”
Xiao You didn’t respond to that.
“So why should I lose a friend that I truly cherish, just because I get a wife that I don’t love at all?” he asked.
“I am sorry for what happened to you,” she said.
He quiets, for a brief while. “I’ll take it one day at a time,”
She smiled faintly and nodded.
He then turned and looked at her. “Are we cool?”
She looked at him, “Huh?”
“Despite what we have said just now, are we going to be… weird and awkward with each other?” he asked.
“Oh, no, of course not,” she smiled. “Definitely not,”
“Really? You will still treat me the same way you treat me before we had that conversation?”
“Yes, we are friends, right?” she smiled sincerely at him.
He smiled back at her; the charming smile he always had, and the same smile that could melt a lot of ladies.
He leaned back against the chair, “So… I have a question,” he said with a smile.
“Another question?” she looked at him with a totally ‘what are you going to ask this time’ look.
“Don’t worry, something more common,” he said.
“Really?” she frowned.
“Yes,” he smiled. “Do you like Hualien, or Alishan more?”
She laughed as she is relieved at the same time for it is not some personal question.
“Told ya it is something common,” he smiled.
“Yes, something common indeed. Hmmm… can’t really decide in that sense…” she said. “You know, Hualien and Alishan are different from one another. I like them both,”
“Of course I know they are different. They have different views and sights as well as the weather. But what I meant was your personal preference,” Xi Men said.
“Hmmm… still tough…”
“Come on,” Xi Men said. “I am sure one would appeal more to you in some ways,”
“Do you? I mean, one of them appeals more to you?” Xiao You asked.
“Yes,” he smiled.
“Which one?” she asked.
“Oh hey, I asked you first,” he said, pointed at her.
“Hmmm,” she clasped her hands together. “I like Alishan’s weather and the refreshing air… and also the view of mountains. I like Hualien’s easy accessibility, as you know, only 20 minutes from train station to Hualien town instead of an hour drive from Chiayi train station to Alishan… and also the breeze as well as the beautiful sea. I really can’t decide… tell me yours,”
“I like Hualien more,” he smiled.
“I like the beach, the sea, the sunrise, and the entire experience that I was there,” he smiled.
She smiled. “Somehow I agree with you on that,”
“So can I take it that you like Hualien more?” he asked.
“Hmmm…” she hummed. “Well… alright… but let me tell you first, it may just be 1% or 2% extra than Alishan,”
Xiao You and Xi Men turned their heads to look at the door of the B&B.
Emily walked to Xiao You, and then she looked at Xi Men, “Uncle Xi Men,” she called.
“Hi Emily,” Xi Men smiled.
“Hi sweetie, had enough of sleep?” Xiao You smiled.
“Yes, mommy, enough. That’s a nice sleep!” Emily said.
“Sounds good,” Xiao You smiled.
“Wow! The scenery is very beautiful!” Emily pointed to the sea of clouds.
“Yes, it is,” Xiao You smiled.
“Umm… you will stay here with Emily?” Xi Men asked.
“I guess so… why do you ask?” Xiao You asked.
“I want to go for shower…” Xi Men asked.
“Oh, sure, sure. Go ahead,” Xiao You said. “I’ll not come into the room for… 30 minutes?”
Xi Men laughed. “There is no need for that. I’ll be changing in the bathroom anyway,” he rose to his feet, “Emily,” he called.
Emily turned and looked at Xi Men, “Yes, Uncle Xi Men?”
“I’m going back to room for shower, so enjoy the view with mommy, alright?” Xi Men smiled.
“Sure, Uncle Xi Men!” Emily said.
He smiled, and then he turned and smiled at Xiao You, “Enjoy the view, Xiao You,”
“Sure,” Xiao You just smiled briefly.
He then walked away.
Xiao You took out something from her luggage. She stared at it for a while, before she turned to her bed to look and confirmed that Emily has fallen asleep.
She returned her gaze to the item in her hand. And then she took a deep breath. She stood up, and turned around, “Xi Men,”
“Hmm?” Xi Men raised his head from facing his luggage, to look at Xiao You walking towards him.
“I should give this back to you,” she extends her hand out as she stood in front of him.
Hearing the word ‘back’ leads Xi Men NOT to extend his hand out to receive the item, but he tilted his head and from the side of her grip, he can see the item inside her hand. “You will still be here for about 10 days more, why are you giving it back to me before your Taiwan trip ends?” he asked.
“Xi Men, according to…” she turned her head to look at her sleeping daughter and then she turned to look at him again, “…her, you are supposed to give this love shaped stone to the person you love…”
“I told you to keep the stone until you go back to Toronto because Emily likes it, right? It is not like you are going back to Toronto tomorrow. And I will meet you again when you are back to Taipei in 6 days. It is still not too late to give it back to me on the day you go back to Toronto,”
“Just keep it, Xiao You. I’ll take it back on the day you go back to Toronto,” he smiled, as he gently pushes her hand which is still gripping onto the stone.
He just smirked at her, and he returned his gaze to packing his luggage since he is returning back to Taipei tomorrow while Xiao You and Emily will be heading to Nantou’s Sun Moon Lake.