Bride of the Moso Prince (9 page)

             
It was such cozy family picture that Sharon felt uneasy again. She wondered whether they were lovers. After all, cousin marriages were permitted in many cultures. But she felt shy asking Charlene directly about it. Instead, she probed, “How many siblings does Sadama have?”

             
“She is the only child of the last Moso chief and his Han bride, known as Empress. One of the islands was named after her. But the chief had had other lovers before he married Empress. Namu was the grand-daughter of the chief by one of his Moso lovers.”

             
“Oh,” Sharon worked on the information. “So, Namu is r
elated to Nobul and Urcher by
only
6.25 percent of
chief’s blood?”

             
"6.25 percent?"
Charlene
said with a puzzled look
, "let me see.
Sadama and Namu's mother are h
alf siblings
, and they
share one eighth of
the chief's
genes,
one eighth divided by two is one over sixteen, one divided by sixteen is zero point zero
...
" Charlene stopped here and grimaced, "
U
rgh!
I hate math!
Why are you so good at it? It's unfair.
"
             

             
Sharon didn't answer her sister, but thought gloomily: Nobul and Namu are not so much related really. Therefore
they were probably permitted to marry each other.
Perhaps Binma is Nobul's son! That would explain why Nobul doted on the child. But why did Binma call Nobul 'uncl
e?' Is it the custom of the Mos
o? Maybe that was why he was so mad when she brought up the subject of 'father'…

             
“What do you think of Nobul? Sharon?” Charlene broke the silence.

             
“Uh,” Sharon was caught off-guard, “he’s ok.”

             
“Ok? That’s it? So he’s not an arrogant mule anymore? Interesting,” Charlene moved closer to look closely at her sister, “You’re blushing. Did something happen in the cave?”

             
 
“Nice try. You can’t see me blushing in moonlight.”

             
“Come on, Sharon. Tell me. I see the look on your face when Nobul and Namu chatted.”

             
Really? Was she so obvious?

             
“Well,” Sharon yielded to her sister’s coax, “I got scared by a cave worm. And he…helped me out. That was it.”

             
“Um!” Charlene considered, “it was not just ‘it!’ It sounds quite romantic!”

             
“Stop it.” Sharon’s cheek burned.

             
But Charlene wouldn’t. “Sharon and Nobul, how could I not think of it earlier? It’ll be fun!”

             
“What’re you talking about? I’m not here for fun. Besides, they’re a pair, aren’t they? Nobul and Namu. Is the child Nobul’s?”

             
“No, Binma is not Nobul’s child. But Namu is definitely interested in Nobul. In fact, every woman in the village, single or married, is.”

             
Sharon wasn't happy to hear that. “Then he must be very busy at nights.”
             

             
“Maybe. He is called “Prince” by the tourist agents, which really means Playboy. By the way, he hates it when people call him that.”

             
“Really?” Sharon laughed. No wonder he looked embarrassed earlier. “So is he indeed a playboy?”

             
“I have no idea.” Charlene shrugged. “He doesn’t have a regular girlfriend although he does flirt with the tourists sometimes.”

             
“Then he’s a playboy.”

             
“If you insist. But a
millionaire playboy.”

             
“A
millionaire?” Sharon raised her eyebrows again. Mountain elite was all she could
imagine him to be. A
millionaire was too much.

             
“Yes. Hard to imagine, isn’t it. Self made too. He’s a world famous architect and has a company in Chengdu.”

             
“No kidding? What kind of buildings does he design?”

             
 
“Ethnic style hotels, like Shangari-la. He and his brother built this one, from the house itself, to tables, chairs and beds. He has been a carpenter since he was a child, and is especially good with wood carving, which is a distinct feature in his design.”

 
             
“I have noticed it. So did
 
he do all the woodcarvings here in the hotel?”

             
“Some of it. Some were done by his employees. He has a wood-carving factory in Chengdu and also one here in the village. It provides a major source of cash income for the villagers. But I'm sure he did some of the windows. He likes windows and says they're the most important artistic features in a house.”

             
“Really?” Sharon looked at the window frame near her. It was ca
r
ved in intricate geometric patterns constructed with small squares radiating from a bigger square in the center. She wondered how long it would take to carve that many squares. Could a man with such size and blunt manner do such meticulous work?

 
             
“So, what do you think?” Charlene teased her sister, who was still gazing at the window frame.

 

             
Sharon moved her gaze to Charlene. “I think it’s astonishing. China has become something entirely different from the one that I knew. Mountain millionaires, my goodness, who could have thought of it twenty years back…”

             
“Sister, I’m asking what you think of him, Nobul.”

             
“Oh,” Sharon avoided her sister’s eyes and mumbled, “I think he is impressive, sis. And I wonder why you haven’t fallen for him.”

             
“Well,
” Charlene giggled, “
But
you’re right when you call him an arrogant mule. And I don’t care for alpha males.”

             
“Oh? So you prefer the beta male in the family?”

 
             
“That’s not what I mean!”

             
“So you don’t like Urcher either?”

             
“Well,” Charlene stammered, “I mean, Urcher is sweet and he’s been helping me a lot, taking me here and there to interview people. But…”

             
“But what?”

             
“But it’s unprofessional for me to get involved with him or anyone here. After all, I’m here to work.”

             
“Oh!” Sharon nodded and said playfully, “I see. You’re torn between work and personal feelings.”

             
Charlene giggled louder, “
Not that serious. We're good friends. Besides, he might have a walk-marry partner.
Anyway,
let's talk about you and Nobul. I think
you suit each other
.”

             
Sharon chuckled,

What're you talking about?
We’re
very
different.”

             
“Both of you have black hair and brown eyes
, both are born in Sichuan,
speak the same language.
And he's an alpha male, you're an alpha female.

             

Alpha female? I'm not…" Sharon protested.

             
"Hold on," Charlene interrupted her sister, "I haven't finished yet. You're both designers. He designs houses, and you design websites."

             
"
And the two have nothing to do with each other
…" Sharon mumbled.

             

What is he lacking to you? Education?
He’s intelligent even though he hasn’t gone to college.
He's self-taught in everything, including architectural design.
He’s responsible for all the five star ethnic hotels in the region. He also designs the carving patterns and has been commissioned to design the China Hotel in Shanghai. He was named for the ten most promising youth of the nation last year and was a representative of the Moso people.”

             
“Ok, Sis. I got it. He is a successful man. But I’m not doubting his intelligence.
We were both born in China, but we grew up in different countries and
we have different
cultural values
. Come on, you know what I mean, you’re an anthropologist.”

             
“I know what you mean. You think you and he are different. But let me assure you, you’ll find similarities much more than differences.
That's not just between you and him, but between people everywhere on earth. Universality, that's the big truth about human nature.

             
Sharon couldn't help but laughed,

You and your 'human nature' again. What are you trying to do? Are you
determined to make the match for your sister, uh?”

             

Why not?
You’re an adult and you’re on a vacation. What’s wrong with indulging yourself in a little romance?”

             
The word romance struck Sharon. “I can’t. There are consequences,” she said.

             
Charlene was going to argue but Sharon prevented her.

             
“I haven’t seen you for almost a year, and we’re spending our precious time talking about a man I don’t care for,” Sharon changed the subject, “Tell me about yourself, how is your research going? Have you gained a better understanding on the emotions of the Moso?”

             
Charlene smiled. “It’s going well. I’ve been interviewing people every day and I’ve earned their trust pretty well. Their answers are no longer yes or no. They really describe their feelings to me.
Indeed, the emotions of the Moso are not different from emotions of people elsewhere, but their unique marriage custom and their strong Buddhist beliefs make the impassive. That's why they're such peaceful and friendly people. They don't even have the word 'jealous' in their language. Isn't it amazing?

 
             
 
Charlene talked endlessly about her scholarly discoveries in the past few months, and
Sharon
tried hard to suppress her urge to a yawn
. She was
so tired and
sleepy but felt reluctant to leave Charlene.
She probably drifted off at some point, and had no idea how long Charlene had talked. But suddenly she realized that Charlene had stopped and she was aware
of the sound of the night: t
here were ins
ects chirping on the shore. It was then
Sharon heard a symphony of moaning from the farther part of the lake.

             
“What’s making that noise?”
Sharon
asked
curiously
.

             

Mating calls of b
ullfrogs.” Charlene laughed. “
Here are
the lyrics:
'Hey babe! My voice i
s the loudest and my genes are the best! Mate with me! Our babies will be the healthiest
!'
The sound is a major tourist attraction. Often tourists record it.”

             
"So cute!"
Sharon laughed. I
mpress
ed
by
the
thunderous moaning from such tiny creatures
, she sat listened attentively for awhile. Then she
yawned. “I think it’s time for bed, Charlene. Let me walk you to your room.”

             
Sharon insisted on helping Charlene with the exercise the town doctor had prescribed.
The exercise looked simple:
i
t involved sitting on the edge of the bed and lying down on each side of the upper body alternatively.
But to Charlene it wasn't, since problem was in her left ear, she felt dizzy e
ach time
when she
lay down on her left side
, and had to close her eyes tightly for awhile to cope with the feeling of imbalance.

             
Sharon saw the frowning on her sister's face and felt the pain. But she didn't want to start an argument again, so she kept her worries to herself.

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