Bride of the Moso Prince (2 page)

At a quarter to four in the afternoon they got to Lugu Lake Town. The town was less than a block of Chinatown LA, with a market place in the center, surrounded by a half dozen shops and a row of office buildings. There were mountains no matter what way she looked at.
She suddenly remembered
another mountain town in the region
where she grew up in. A warm
feeling of homecoming
filled her and in an instant she forgot her worries.
The air was fresh and cool. Sharon inhaled greedily as she was waiting in the center of the market place for Urcher, Charlene’s host that was supposed to come pick her up with a gigantic truck at around four o’clock. Charlene’s host family consisted of a woman and two sons. Urcher was the younger son and according to Charlene, he was amicable as most Moso men were. He had been taking Charlene to the interviews and all that and Charlene seemed to like him. The elder brother however, could be rude sometimes. He often refused to bow to tourists’ demands and would
throw them out of their family-own hotel if they made too many


Nobul got on his motorboat in the middle of the drizzle and headed towards hotel Shangri-la. The lumber dealer had called a moment ago and told him their order had arrived. They had been waiting for it for a month. And since the restriction on lumbering the supply was tight and he had better go get the merchandise before the seller changed his mind.

The lake was beautiful even on a rainy day like this. Thick clouds that loomed above the lake couldn’t hide the brilliance of the sun, and pearl-like algae petals that floated on the water glistened under the bright sky.  Empress Island soon shrank to a tiny patch of green, looking like a boat itself. The island had become his second home for the past year, as he had devoted his time to remodeling the Empress House, the house that his grandfather, the last chief of Moso, had dedicated to his Han wife, regarded today as the Empress.

As the boat was approaching the shore he saw his mother Sadama rinsing potatoes in the lake. Nobul waved to her and smiled. No matter how rich he had become, his mother would never stop working. The bright yellow Benz Atego, which was usually at the factory, was parked on the lakeside. His brother Urcher must have come home for lunch. He shook his head. That nut, he wouldn't go anywhere without this behemoth. He docked his boat
told his
that he was going to pick up the lumber
and jumped into the truck.

Yet as soon as he started the engine, Urcher came over. “Where’re you going, big brother?”

Nobul smiled. Urcher, five years younger than himself, had gotten used to following him everywhere he went. “Going to pick up the lumber. Want to come along?”

“The lumber is ready?” Urcher hesitated. “Bad timing.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I wanted to use the truck. I was going to go pick up someone from town.”

  Nobul laughed, "You
going to pick up someone in this gigantic thing? Honestly, Urcher, girls can't see you when you're sitting this high up. Take the Land Rover!”

  Urcher blushed at his brother's teasing words, “Cousin Onji borrowed the jeep the other day, from

“That’s right. He hasn't returned it? Take the Harley then.”

Urcher hesitated at that suggestion. “The lumber can’t wait till tomorrow?”

“No! We’ve waited long enough. You know how precious it is now.”

“I guess I’ll take the motorcycle then.”

“All right. I’ll be back by midnight.”

“Wait,” Urcher raised his arm, “maybe we should switch. I’m a better truck driver than a motorcycle rider.”

Nobul considered. True, his brother spent more time in the truck that on the motorcycle. Besides, last time he had an accident on the bike and threw himself off the cliff, but fortunately no injury. But that was months ago. Wasn’t it time to wipe that accident out of his mind?

“Well. You should practice to improve your skills. That’s all.”

“All right,” Urcher acquiesced, “although Summer might give me hell.”

“Summer?” Nobul fro
wned as he was releasing the br
, “what’s she got to do with it? Is it her friend that you’re picking up?”

“Her sister.”

“Oh!” the truck rolled a few feet ahead and stopped abruptly. “Her sister in America?”

“Yes. Summer has only one sister.”

“She’s coming? Why didn’t I know about it?”

“Well, I didn’t know until yesterday. Summer was sick the day before.”

“Summer was sick? How’s she now?” He hadn’t come home for three days straight and missed all sort of things.

“She’s better. But her sister was worried when she heard the news and bought a ticket right away.”

What a fantastic sister. Nobul couldn’t hide his smile. He would like to have such a woman for a sister, no, for a lover.

He put the br
on and got off the truck. “You’re right, brother. Summer would give you hell if you scared her sister with your incompetence.”

Urcher was confused momentarily but eagerly got into the truck. “See you later!”

As soon as the truck turned to the road, Nobul ran to his room in the back of the hotel.

He checked his watch. It was almost three. The bus would arrive town at about four. He had an hour to prepare and to drive. The first thing he needed was a shower. The rain had messed him up pretty badly. Then he would need to put on something nice. Quickly he stepped into the shower and scrubbed himself with vehemence. He hadn’t felt such excitement for a long time. Summer’s sister. He had been wishing to meet her for a long time. The woman who would send her sister a package every month. Food, clothes, medicine, as if Summer was living in the wilds.
Her name was Sharon, he knew it, but privately he called her Snow, the Chinese approximation. He imagined she had snow white skin just like her sister Summer did when she had arrived ten months ago. Now the plateau sun had tanned her pretty thoroughly and looked no different from a Moso girl. But she should have a warm smile that reflected her warm heart of a big sister. He hoped she would be taller than her sister Summer, as he himself was over six feet.

After he had dried himself he considered putting on some cologne, but decided not to. It might repel her. She might think that he was putting it on to hide any body odor. Then he decided what to wear. It might delight her if he wore his costume as so many tourist women seemed to love. But she wasn’t a tourist and he didn’t want to shock her. Finally he decided to wear something casual. A beige front buttoned shirt and a pair of brown khaki pants. Before leaving the room he took a wind-breaker with him.
might need it. Tourists came to the region were often unprepared for the cooler weather. Besides, it might be used as a raincoat if it rained again.

He felt excited and nervous when he was about to leave the room. Don’t be silly. He told himself. You’re not going on a date. Snow might have a boyfriend. Even if she didn’t, she might not care for an unseasoned mountain guy like him, however rich he was… But that shouldn’t stop him from trying. He swung the jacket on his shoulder and stepped out of the room.

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