The headache was so painful that he could hardly open his eyes. Breathing was a chore and Shi Yue gingerly touched his head to make sure there wasn’t actually someone hitting him with a hammer.
He broke his eyelashes open in confusion, hardly aware where he was at all. He had been sleeping, but now he was sitting somewhere.
The more the light hit his eyes, the more the headache lessened until it was a constant dull but endurable pain.
Shi Yue blinked and opened his eyes fully, turning to look at the light.
There was nothing that was emitting light around him, but it came from somewhere above the centre of the round table anyway.
Frozen stiff, Shi Yue looked at the three people who were sitting at the table as well, each of them on one side.
“I don’t understand”, the one to Shi Yue’s right said evenly but with a hint of irritation.
Shi Yue looked into his narrowed violet eyes that were staring at himself.
“It’s not as simple as trying to understand”, the one opposite of Shi Yue said in a serene tone as he looked down at the cup in his hands.
“What is your opinion?”, the one on the left asked Shi Yue with a tired but amused gaze.
The mirror images were exactly like him. The same looks, the same clothes, the same hairstyle.
Shi Yue looked at the three apparitions of himself, surrounding the table.
“I don’t understand”, Shi Yue whispered, overwhelmed with confusion. Where was he? What was this empty room?
“See? He does not understand, either”, the one to the right declared.
“I think he does”, the one opposite rejected with a raised eyebrow and a glance at Shi Yue.
“I agree”, the one to the left nodded.
“I don’t”, the angry one said again.
“Where am I?”, Shi Yue asked, tense. Was this an illusion array?
“Indeed”, the one opposite sighed and looked into nowhere. “Where are we? Are we anywhere at all, in this vast universe…”
“I don’t think that this is what he means”, the one to the left chuckled with amusement but was ignored by the one on the opposite side.
“Is this the time for this?”, the angry one asked.
“Why wouldn’t it be?”, the calm one responded.
“Does it even matter?”, the relaxed left wondered, looking at Shi Yue. “Does it?”
“Of course”, Shi Yue heard himself say.
“Why?”, he heard from his left.
“Why?”, he heard from his opposite.
“Of course”, the one to his right echoed.
“And this is how it is”, the relaxed one to the left said with a soft smile as he spread his fingers.
“Is how?”, the one to the right questioned, calming down a bit.
Shi Yue watched blankly.
“I don’t understand it”, the calm one said with the hint of a smile, sipping his tea.
“Good”, the friendly left one said.
“None of this is making any sense”, Shi Yue whispered, trying to stand up. Instantly, all three pairs of eyes were looking at him cooly.
“This is a bad idea”, the one to the left chided.
“Don’t leave”, the one to the right ordered. "It's... not good, I think."
The one opposite was quiet for a moment. “There is always a choice. Even if it had horrible results, it is a choice. Even if one path means death, it is a choice. There is no such thing as forcing someone. It is merely giving a choice where one has a very bad end. Is this your choice, no matter the result? You cannot say that there was none.”
Shi Yue sat down again. The stares vanished.
“Who are you and what are we doing here?”, Shi Yue tried to ask calmly, looking at them one by one.
The one to the right gave an exhausted sigh. “I don’t know.”
The one to the left smiled. “Hmmm, I don’t know.”
The one opposite chuckled lowly. “I do not know.”
And yet, despite the three answers being the same, Shi Yue felt they were all saying different things.
He looked at the him to the right. “What do you mean by, you don’t know?”
The one to the right rubbed his eyes. “I have no idea what’s going on.”
He repeated the question to the one on the left.
“Suspicions based on pure feeling are not knowledge”, the amused left one said.
They all looked at the one opposite, who tilted his head. “Is there ever something you can truly know?”
The headache was coming back. The conversation was draining him. It felt like nothing was being said, or to be more specific, as if he couldn't tell what was being said behind the few empty words that were actually being spoken.
All of a sudden, the one opposite stood up and gave a low bow. “If you will excuse me, I shall be leaving then.”
“Why?”, the angry one asked in surprise. The standing one ignored him.
"Didn't you just tell me not to go? How come you are leaving?", Shi Yue asked through his headache, trying to keep his wits. What was different about that one?
The one to the left frowned deeply. “Is… that correct?”
“It is”, the calm one said with a flutter of his eyelashes as his eyes closed momentarily. “Let’s leave it at that, shall we?”
‘Shi Yue’ walked away from the table and vanished. Where he had left his place, there wasn't even a chair, and the cup he had placed down had disappeared at some point in time - as if it hadn' been there in the first place.
The one to his left sighed softly and hummed to himself, while the one to his right looked around in unhidden confusion. Exhaustion was written on all of their identical faces.
Shi Yue stared into the direction of the vanished him in wonder, feeling his eyes and consciousness blur.
By the time he opened them again, he was at home. The blankets around him were too warm and he felt his hair stick to his body with sweat. He seemed to have had a nightmare.
“Are you alright?”, he heard a female voice ask. Looking over, he found Ying Hua leaning over him. Her lips were pursed thoughtfully but not with worry, as she could tell he was alright now.
She had grown into such a pretty young woman. The thought randomly came into his mind.
“I have a headache”, Shi Yue said with a deep sigh. “I had a… very weird dream.”
“What was it about?”, she asked, almost curiously.
Shi Yue said up and rubbed his forehead with a blank gaze.“I don’t remember.”