When his uncle Liang had discussed marriages and relationships Xiang Yu had only half-listened – it would be some time before he would, probably, settle down in a position in one of the administrations of the states of China and have to consider such things. In the meantime, Xiang Yu was a young man, and he enjoyed himself when he had the opportunity – but he was always considerate, as befitted his status and honour.
Then he had met Yu. His uncle had approved of her as a companion for the present – she was steady and practical, and her tastes were not expensive: however he was somewhat vague about her future role should they succeed, which Xiang, for some reason, resented. It didn’t feel like a temporary entanglement – though he remembered some occasions where he had been very passionate … for a little time.
He would enjoy what he felt now for as long as it lasted, and should she still be with him when he succeeded to some office she would have some part in his household. Given that formal marriages were arranged it was accepted that passions might run elsewhere, and Xiang had also encountered “arrangements.”
She had finally agreed to dance for Xiang alone – and he felt surprisingly nervous about the situation. He understood that this marked a change in their relationship: it was something desired and anticipated and he was not certain whether it would live up to his expectations.
Yu began and Xiang found the dance formally interesting. He began to understand the pattern of her movements, taking pleasure in seeing how things would go. At some point he moved from merely observing to anticipating what she would do: this was what he had been looking for.
She approached and drew the sword from his scabbard – it was unexpected, but something he now willingly allowed her. Xiang rose after a moment, held her hand, and they were dancing together with the sword, reacting with each other in pure pleasure – this was the dance as it should be, lived together. He felt a sense of wonder: they were acting as one and he suddenly, somehow, loved her unconditionally.
The dance came to an end and Yu looked at him with slight puzzlement, rather than the expected tender embrace.
‘You’ve changed…’ She was smiling.
‘I’m yours whatever you do or say.’ Xiang admitted. He put his uncle’s likely comments firmly out of mind. ‘I mean it.’
Yu stroked his cheeks tenderly: he had not realised they were wet.
‘I can see. Thank you.’ She paused for thought. Xiang half-expected her to say that he was caught up in the heat of the moment and he felt physical pain at the possibility. ‘I care for you, and you have been kind to me … give me a little time longer.’ She was smiling still, and Xiang felt hopeful – though he would accept whatever she offered. Then she kissed him and he was caught up in the pleasures of the moment.
‘Yu,’ his uncle Liang said, startling Xiang out of his very pleasurable reverie-daydream: he had been sitting slightly too comfortably while writing poetry.
‘Yes, uncle?’ Lu was used to his uncle calling him by his childhood name in private – the adult name was for public use, or when he was angry or displeased for some reason, but Liang’s tone was friendly, almost gentle.
It was clear his uncle had read at least some of the poetry scattered on the table: Yu would have to rewrite them now. Liang now spotted one document on the floor and picked it up – Yu’s latest poem, which had slipped from his fingers while he dreamed. Yu flushed slightly – he had not told Liang about the dances with Yu: the first time he had not mentioned one of his … significant escapades to the older man.
‘You really are passionate about her aren’t you?’ Liang said after reading. As he gave the poem back to Yu his attitude was one of tolerant amusement and, Yu sensed, almost approval. ‘Not just your ditties, but your whole attitude, and your expression just now.’
Yu felt himself flush even deeper red. ‘Yes… Suddenly my heart was wholly hers. And I am not certain what she thinks…’ He could not continue.
Liang, more amused than before, put a friendly hand on Yu’s shoulder. ‘Yu, Yu –you are so besotted with her that you can’t see she feels the same about you.’ He seemed pleased at the situation.
‘You think so?’ For once Yu didn’t mind his uncle teasing him about his poetry and his affections, and the happiness he felt now was joyous. He also now understood the significance of Liang’s choice of personal name, accepted what was behind the decision.
‘Go on Yu, go tell her again that she’s your heart’s desire, show her as much affection as you both want and see her respond – and then achieve enough so that what you say here about giving it all up for her is worth it.’