It was a desolate, small country shrouded by a pitch-black sky and laced with dazzlingly white snow. Bleak forests, where birds never laid their eggs, claimed seventy percent of the whole country’s area. Upon the centre of its land stood a castle made of white marble, grand yet unearthly. In the castle lived the rulers of the country: the king, the queen, the older princess, and the younger princess.
Having reached eighteen years of age, the younger princess was neither bright nor brave. Yet, she wielded the most powerful weapon of all: her beauty. With cascading long hair, round large eyes, and fair skin as pale as snow, she was known as a tall belle throughout the world. Her prominent allure won the hearts of princes from rich, powerful countries, many of whom came forward and asked for her hand. After scrutinising the lists of bridewealth and receiving appraisals from the ministers, the king and queen decided to let the suitor with the most expensive offer to marry their younger daughter. They ignored her admirers’ odd appearances and backgrounds completely.
In an elegant, grand wedding dress, the younger princess hopped on the carriage prepared by her fiancé, not even turning her head back when she left the castle. She had mentally prepared herself for this starting from a very early age. There was neither a hint of joy nor a trace of reluctance in her heart. After all, political marriage was a must for the blue-blooded.
Yet, much to her surprise, the coach didn’t follow the planned route, and it even charged into the depths of the uninhabited woods. Among the princess’ shrieks, the carriage finally stopped at a well in the centre of the forest.
Night fell, and not a sound could be heard. It was so quiet that the princess could hear her pants. She peeped out of the window and found that the carter had gone missing. She was wholly oblivious as to when he left, as if he had disappeared into thin air. She didn’t dare to loiter around, and so she waited in her carriage bitterly for the sun to rise.
Slowly the night dragged on. The one thing which bothered the princess the most was neither the predicament nor the unpredictable future, but the ditched well beside the carriage.
She clearly remembered the well.
Never in her lifetime would she ever forget it.
(Flashback of the younger princess)
Six years ago, just before the younger princess’ birth mother passed away, she had given her a golden globe. From then on, the younger princess spent ages playing with the globe. It was the most tranquil moment in her life. The golden glove was no Machiavellian, liar, traitor…
Lost in her own thoughts, a slip of her hand and the globe rolled far away. In desperation, she didn’t ask for help, and she ran into the garden on her own. As she reached the garden, she saw the older princess (the step queen’s daughter) treading on the globe.
‘You want it back? Then get it yourself!’ The older princess commanded her maids to kick the globe into the centre of the garden maze.
There was a fountain delicately and exquisitely crafted by skilled hands. It served as a decoration, and also provided gardeners to water the plants. However, after the first queen’s sudden death, the climate of the whole country changed drastically, turning from spring all year long to a world of ice and snow. Because of the fountain water freezing all the year round, the king gave the order to remove the water, abandoning the fountain as a result. In the end, the entire garden had become a taboo…
The younger princess, who had always been a scaredy-cat, never dared to enter the ghastly, misty maze. Despite this, seeing her beloved globe separated from her, she confronted her fears and barged into the forbidden land. The interior of the garden was pervaded with thorns on withered vines, as if they were claws belonging to terrifying ghouls, stretching outwards from the deep abyss. During times when the princess let her guard down, her dress would be caught between the thorns, making her scream with horror.
The maids lured the younger princess to the centre of the maze under the command of the older princess, ready to murder her. At that moment, they asked themselves. The younger princess has always been affable to us. But compared to our personal gain and our future, she isn’t worth a penny! They threw the ball into the dried-up lake and forced two options upon the younger princess. ‘If you want your ball back, then you’ll have to drink up the juice the older princess made specially for you!’
Of course, the younger princess knew the juice was poisoned. In spite of that, her mind was set on the sorrow of losing her mother and the humiliation from being bullied. She snarfed up the juice without hesitation.
With their goal achieved, the maids cleared the way for the younger princess, watching her clumsily fall into the bottom of the well. The younger princess has a silver-spoon upbringing. She can’t possibly return to the ground on her own. Besides, nobody will pass this way, so she can only wait and die at the bottom of the well. It’s getting dark now, so we should hurry back to the castle and tell the older princess the good news!
They absent-mindedly left just like that, completely oblivious to a pair of clear emerald eyes who had witnessed the whole incident.
The emerald eyes belonged to an unknown young gardener. Only fourteen years of age, following the master gardener’s orders, Ah Ching and his fellow gardeners gathered all the poisonous weed in the garden maze a few days ago. The cover story was to ensure the safety of the people, when in fact they all knew deep down that someone was planning an assassination by poisoning. These things weren’t new to Ah Ching. This time though, he was involved in collecting the weeds. Wouldn’t that make him an accomplice? If this affair came to light, then wouldn’t he be in trouble? After completing his duty, Ah Ching secretly investigated the whereabouts of the weeds. He found that they had been made into a cup of poison and the older princess had gotten hold of it.
The older princess was greatly pampered and always loved to boss around. She was envious of the younger princess’ beauty, and she had attempted to murder her sister before. Unfortunately, she mistakenly poisoned the queen instead. Even though every servant knew the truth, they didn’t have the courage to expose her vice. They feared greatly that they would displease her by doing so. Ah Ching deduced that the next victim would be the younger princess, so he followed her for days and paid special attention to her…
After the maids had left, Ah Ching tiptoed to the side of the pond, shocked upon seeing that the poison had already started to spread through the younger princess’ body. Collapsed next to the globe, her face had turned purple and her limbs were shaking. He carefully approached the princess and fed her a small portion of the antidote. He then made his intentions clear. ‘I can save you, but on one condition.’
‘Just let me die…’ The younger princess had already made up her mind to die.
‘Don’t you want to avenge your mother’s death? It was the older princess who killed her!’ Ah Ching had to mention the painful memory of the loss of her mother, just to get what he wanted.
‘Wasn’t that an accident? Wasn’t she poisoned by being pricked by the weed in the garden maze?’ The poison had reached the younger princess’ heart and she coughed out blood.
‘No! It was indeed the older princess’ scheme all along!’ Ah Ching told her the news he had heard from among the servants.
The younger princess was greatly provoked. Her eyes widened with anger and her ten fingers grabbed hold of Ah Ching’s arm so tightly that his skin almost bled. The urge to avenge her mother had already started to grow in her heart, as well as her will to live. This was exactly what he wanted. ‘I’m going to live with you and I’ll be your partner. You’ll have to eat the same food as I do, have the same drink as I do, and sleep on the same bed as I do.’
‘I can promise you anything as long as the older princess gets her karma!’ Her voice was as thin as paper, but her grits could be clearly heard through her teeth.
Having heard the younger princess’ promise, Ah Ching was in seventh heaven, feeding her the antidote enough to get rid of the poison.
(Her memory was interrupted.)
‘Do you still remember this well?’ A familiar male voice came out from the abandoned well.
‘Who’s that?’ A chill of fear swept over her. Impossible! He should have died… inside the well! ‘Who’s trying to scare me?’
‘Do you still remember me?’ The voice came through the well again.
The younger princess heard it clearly and could delude herself no more. This was Ah Ching’s voice. It had to be him! ‘Ah Ching! Didn’t you die?’
‘A cat has nine lives, and so do I.’ Ah Ching cackled. ‘I still haven’t done the things I promised you, that’s why I won’t die!’
The younger princess found it strange as to why Ah Ching was still hiding in the well and not revealing himself, and she once again doubted his true identity. ‘When have you been all these years? Why didn’t you come and find me?’
‘You can’t even protect yourself, what’s the good of finding you?’ The fine kettle of fish was still vividly playing in his mind. Ah Ching asked her sarcastically, ‘Wasn’t I pushed into the well by the older princess in front of you?’
‘I’m sorry… I couldn’t protect you back then…’ Guilt swallowed her whole. For her sake, Ah Ching was degraded by the older princess. She tortured him to bits and tossed him into the well, where only death awaited him. The younger princess’ golden globe was buried along his side.
‘There were times when I despised your vulnerability and helplessness, but it dawned on me later on! Isn’t this the very reason you needed me?’ Ah Ching was inured to sufferings. He even knew how to comfort himself. ‘Instead of keeping on hating you, I might as well train myself and master martial arts, and then come back to settle this with the older princess!’
‘Thank you for still remembering our promise.’ The younger princess was greatly touched, yet at the same time, she could subtly feel a sense of discomfort. ‘May you show yourself? Let me take a look at you! There is no need to worry! There isn’t anyone but me here…’
The princess studied her surroundings, making sure that she wasn’t under surveillance. When her eyes fell onto the well once again, she was shocked to see a large frog with a crown on its head. The frog’s cold stare caused goosebumps to spring all over her, especially its oddly green eyes. They shared the same colour as that of Ah Ching’s.
‘Ah Ching… Stop fooling around! Would you please just show yourself? I… I’m terrified…’ The princess tried to dart away from its glare. She knew deep down that the frog was Ah Ching, yet she was afraid that it was really him. How could it be? How could a human turn into a frog? Right! I must have been through a lot today, which is too much to take in. It’s all in my head…
‘Am I not in front of you already?’ The frog asked, before spitting out the golden globe hidden in his stomach for so long.
(Flashback of Ah Ching)
Utterly betrayed by his fellow workmates, Ah Ching had his tendons ripped apart, his spine critically damaged, and his throat burnt by hot red coal. The back of his head was smashed with hard objects and his face was splashed with strong acid. His appearance was beyond recognition. Just when his eyes almost surrendered to their cruel fate, a thought popped up in the older princess’ curious mind. ‘This fool bites off more than he can chew. I want him to know that he’s only a mere frog in a well who can never see the greatness of the sea! He can’t even come close to me, the mighty princess!’ She commanded her servants to throw him into the well. ‘Know your place and be a good boy by staring at the sky in this well!’ The princess was diabolical, assaulting him physically and mentally. She could see that he was a young man driven wild by ambition. She just had to see him to die as a lowly frog in a well.
Among the younger princess’ screeches and pleads, Ah Ching, half-dead, was shoved into the well together with the golden globe. A fortune out of misfortune, the torrential showers a few days ago moistened the soil at the bottom of the well. As a result, a lot of momentum was unloaded, allowing Ah Ching to survive. If he still were to sit about here, death was the only way out. Ah Ching started to think. Despite there isn’t a tomb to bury my corpse properly, at least the layer of sand and soil will do the job. That’ll be my official farewell to this world. But is it possible…?
With abscess and maggots swarming all over his face, Ah Ching’s agonizing smile was extraordinarily bitter.
‘Do you really want to die just like that?’ A big black frog came out of nowhere, sticking out its tongue to swallow the maggot crawling towards his eyeball.
Ah Ching froze with disbelief. A talking frog?
‘What? Does showing interest in me let your ego down too much?’ The black frog ate another fresh, living maggot.
Is it the God of Death? Another thought struck his mind. I’m going to die anyways, so why not make a deal with the God of Death? Maybe I could get to pick a good place in the afterlife, and live a better life than this. He bore the pain to croak out a few words, signalling that his throat was hurt and couldn’t reply back.
‘It’s excruciating, isn’t it?’ The black frog observed his wound for some time, then passed him a plump tadpole. ‘It can cure your throat immediately! Swallow it quickly!’ The black, small thing was covered with mucus. It looked slippery and absolutely disgusting.
At the moment when Ah Ching hesitated whether he should swallow it, the black frog flicked its tongue and it ate all the maggots on his face at once. ‘Do you want to be devoured by others, or do you want to devour others?’
Bullseye. Ah Ching swallowed the tadpole swiftly. It wriggled around the inside of his mouth, and it took ages to slide down his throat. The mucus from the tadpole eased the pain in his throat. It didn’t take long for Ah Ching to neither feel the pain nor the presence of the tadpole anymore. Right after he let his guard down, a sharp pain erupted from his body, as if flesh and skin were abruptly ripped apart in his throat. He couldn’t stop wheezing, and coughed up a clump of badly mutilated body tissue.
‘Don’t be afraid. This is necrotic tissues from your body.’ The black frog understood Ah Ching’s worries and calmly explained to him. ‘The melted tadpole replaced them and has become a part of your body. Swallow more of my tadpoles, and you’ll have a new healthy body in no time!’
‘Thank you!’ Ah Ching made a point of thanking it. He felt lucky that he met a kind-hearted magical black frog.
‘No need to thank me. It’s a mutual benefit anyways…’ The frog suddenly realised that it almost spilled the beans, so it changed to another topic hurriedly. ‘Next, you’ll have to swallow a lot of tadpoles in one gulp. Are you ready?’
Ah Ching nodded his head firmly.
The frog drew in a deep breath, and its body doubled its size. After holding its breath for two to three seconds, millions and millions tadpoles swarm out from its body.
Ah Ching no longer felt disgusted and ecstatically wolfed down gulps of this elixir, not sparing one bit of it.
‘Just you wait and see.’ A smile grew on the black frog’s face for the very first time.
In the meantime, man and frog each shared their pasts with each other. Ah Ching was the son of a farmer. Unfortunately, because of the sudden change in the country’s climate, he was forced to leave his hometown to earn a living. He started to work at the castle and worked his way to become a junior gardener.
The black frog was called Jenny, who used to be a girl with luscious, black hair. One day, she ventured into the woods on her own and was attacked by a beast, leaving her critically injured. On the verge of death, a blue frog saved her… ‘Its method really did work. You’ll get to experience the whole thing soon.’
Before the frog could finish its sentence, terror had already engulfed every nerve of Ah Ching inside and out. He wanted to spit out all of the tadpoles, but his body refused to listen. It had already merged with the tadpoles. In the end, he had to helplessly watch different parts of his body being replaced…
He was reborn.
Since then, Ah Ching had transformed into a large frog. As for Jenny the black frog, she had swallowed all of Ah Ching’s human limbs and regained a human body as ‘Ah Ching’.
(End of flashback)
‘Jenny taught me many types of witchcraft, and we would use them to heal the sick and carry out organ transplants. From this, we won people’s admiration and our lives couldn’t be better. By chance, we cured a king who had and he was so grateful that he adopted me as his son. So today, I would like to ask for your hand as a “prince”.’ Ah Ching and the younger princess stalled into the forest together, and talked about their past experiences over the years.
The princess held her recovered golden globe tightly in her arms. She was amazed by Ah Ching’s bizarre adventures, all while having second guesses about his real intentions. Did he come back just to plot revenge against the older princess? Does he really not have a speck of hatred towards me? Or does he have other plans? To no avail, the younger princess knew she wasn’t wise enough to see through his mind.
Having walked the whole night, they finally returned to the palace. There weren’t many servants who came and helped; they were only three to four cats (including the carter last night. He was Jenny, disguised as a ‘personal attendant’ to Ah Ching. She now lived under the alias ‘Ah Nei’.) Facing opposite of them was the older princess. Leading an army of maids behind her, she ‘ran into’ them in the corridor, who were worn out by their journey.
‘Greetings, dear brother-in-law! You two really are a match made in heaven!’ The older princess welcomed the frog prince eagerly. After all, he was a husband-in-law her father had given blessings to, and she couldn’t make him lose face that quickly. ‘Who would’ve expected that my little sister missed her home so deeply? She has returned to visit us in less than a day!’ The older princess ridiculed every detail belonging to her step-sibling.
Laughter arose from the maids. Although the younger princess was down in the dumps, she was too physically and mentally exhausted to think of anything decent enough to say back.
Ah Ching, unable to stand the older princess’ words, put on a façade of sincerity, cutting retorts calmly. ‘I sincerely thank Your Highness for your praise! My good friend, The Toad Prince, is also a good man for his young age. Your Highness would make the perfect match. May I have your permission to be your matchmaker? I’ll arrange a blind date for Your Highness and my fellow friend!’
‘Thank you for your kindness. It’s such a pity that I’m not as loving as my little sister. My only preference is humans.’ It was only at this moment did the older princess notice the frog prince was no ordinary halfwit. She fought back the flames simmering within her, holding the urge to throw a tantrum.
‘Well then my toady friend is out of luck! But I understand the fact that Your Highness doesn’t have a big heart. What a shame!’ Ah Ching let out a yawn slightly. ‘I’m really tired… Your Highness, we shall proceed to our chambers for some good rest. Please excuse us.’ Not even waiting for the older princess’ response, Ah Ching made his exit together with the younger princess, blatantly ignoring the older princess who was shaking with rage.
In the room, the younger princess furrowed her brows as she worried about whether her step-sister would plot revenge against them.
‘There is no need to fret. I’m going to make the first move.’ Ah Ching wasn’t even bothered by the older princess.
‘How so?’ The princess couldn’t believe that Ah Ching was already prepared.
‘You don’t have to know. All you have to remember is our promise that night.’ Ah Ching scanned her whole body, almost as if he were to eat her up. ‘I’m going to live with you and I’ll be your partner. You’ll have to eat the same food as I do, have the same drink as I do, and sleep on the same bed as I do.’
The younger princess went white. She was agitated at that time, so she promised him without giving it much thought. In fact, she had never thought of keeping her promise. Let alone Ah Ching was now an ugly frog! Still though, her step-sister’s despicable look popped up in her mind… After mulling it over, the younger princess decided to get rid of her step-sister first , then she and Ah Ching would discuss how to deal with the promise later on.
At the dinner banquet, the younger princess and the frog princess shared the same plate (a feast of flies and bugs) and the same drink (flies and bugs blended into mush). Despite the revolting food which made her expression twisted,, she didn’t dare to spit it out so as not to upset Ah Ching. Truth was, he wasn’t aware of her behaviour at all. Instead, he was busy communicating with Ah Nei through witchcraft.
Ah Ching: Don’t forget to take the antidote!
Ah Nei: Of course! I have already added the drug in the main dish, desserts, and the wine. I believe nobody will be safe afterwards. I also managed to mix the drug into the dishes for the servants and the guards just now.
Ah Ching: Good.
Ah Nei: Did you give the younger princess the antidote?
Ah Ching: You don’t have to worry about that.
Ah Nei: I thought you really liked her! Turns out she’s only your pawn.
Ah Ching: Don’t be so nosy! You focus on achieving your own goals!
Ah Nei: Ha!
Watching him lose his temper, Ah Nei discreetly let out a dry laugh. She stopped talking and returned to her own business.
(Flashback of Ah Nei)
Jenny was a beautiful girl. She once thought that she would be able to marry into money and live a happy life by her beauty. Sadly, after being toyed with, she returned to being a poor villager once again. Having slept on soft mattresses, she couldn’t be used to grass mats anymore. Having been the apple of one’s eyes, she wasn’t willing to be a reject in others’ eyes for the rest of her life. She was already notorious within the village, being known as ‘the greedy woman’ in everyone’s minds. She had to leave the village, change her name, and lead a new life.
She packed her bags and travelled to the city through the woods in the dead of night. Unfortunately, she accidentally stepped on an animal trap and bled furiously. Her wound was so deep that her bones could be seen. Among her cries for help, the only response she got was from an odd-looking blue frog. Threatened by despair and death, Jenny fell into the blue frog’s snare and turned into an ugly black frog.
She originally thought that after the blue frog had reached its goal, she would leave resentfully. Unexpectedly, it taught her witchcraft. ‘It’s the rules. The person who cast the spell held a huge grudge and wanted to spread misfortune all over…’
Later on, she encountered Ah Ching. After turning him into a frog, they worked together side by side, and they made many of the rich sick by magic. Then, by the names ‘Doctor Ah Nei’ and ‘Ah Ching the magic frog’, they healed them and were well-paid. They led a great life afterwards, with no unfulfilled hunger and worries about the future. They lived happily, and Ah Nei thought ‘he’ could live like this forever. Until he realised that Ah Ching hadn’t forgotten about his past.
‘Is your current life not satisfying enough?’ Ah Nei, same as Ah Ching, preferred to have bugs blended into mush.
‘I prefer life in the old days.’ Despite Ah Ching’s attempt to veil his bitterness, his glare at Ah Nei oozed out a strong sense of hatred. He would rather die as a human than to live on as a frog. He didn’t want to waste time by jumping up and down all day! He didn’t want to have flies and bugs as meals for his entire life! He wanted to taste the best delicacies in the world! He wanted to sleep with the most beautiful woman in the world! He wanted to be above everyone!
‘If you regain a human body, what would be the first thing you would do?’ Ah Nei felt his heart drop. The mush in front of him instantly lost its flavour.
‘I’ll go back there and find the younger princess, aid her in dealing with the older princess, and marry her.’ Ah Ching clearly recalled his promise with the princess.
‘It was her after all…’ Ah Nei gave a bitter smile. He never would have guessed that in spite of the relationship built upon all these years between them, he still couldn’t beat the princess. Indeed, Ah Ching was physically a frog, but mentally he was still a human to the letter. A confident, ambitious man! Apart from the younger princess’ beauty, he set his eyes on her fame, profit and power!
‘Alright! I’ll help you! But I’ll have to live on as the older princess!’ Ah Nei promised. Although I can’t live as ‘Jenny’ anymore, gaining the older princess’ body isn’t bad at all. I heard that her beauty can’t even come close to the younger princess’ beauty. But she’s still very charming. And her mother’s the queen. She has much more fame, profits, and power than the younger princess. Maybe, Ah Ching will leave her for me because of this.
‘First, we have to make a king to contract a “terminal disease”…’ Ah Nei’s heart was in tears, yet his mind couldn’t help but to give advice to the person who hurt him.
(End of flashback)
At the end of the banquet, the younger princess returned to her new chamber, her heart heavy with grief. She laid on the bed and wept aloud until the drug kicked in, which made her fall asleep. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Ah Ching looked at the princess’ divine face and plunged into thought. Should I let go and try this once? To give her the antidote?
(Flashback of Ah Ching)
‘On the big day, you must not feed her the antidote!’ Ah Nei had tried to persuade him by telling him that the younger princess couldn’t be trusted. She was a coward and she couldn’t do anything great. She might even be scared of being killed and might betray them because of that.
‘But we must let the younger princess witness her step-sister’s bad end. Only then would she keep her promise and live with me.’ Ah Ching was occupied with thoughts of the younger princess. He didn’t even think of the possibility of her going back on her words.
‘That won’t happen! The younger princess is trying to use you to get rid of the older princess. After that, she’ll either brush you off with a few bucks, or plot a murder plan against you.’ As a woman, Ah Nei understood what was on the younger princess’ mind. ‘Among all women with good terms, who on earth is willing to marry an ugly frog? Let alone she is the pride and joy of all men!’
‘You’re just crying wolf!’ Ah Ching brutally cut off Ah Nei and walked away sulkily.
(End of flashback)
Ah Ching was perturbed and doubts arose from his mind. Yes, he longed for fame, profits, and power. Yet, at the same time, she was the only person who truly knew him. They had interacted with each other. Besides, she knew how he looked now. He hoped that he could share their future together in the most intimate way possible. A future where they opened their hearts to each other. A future where they could bare their souls to each other.
Ah Ching put the antidote in his mouth and fed it to her by a kiss, enjoying the soft texture.
‘Don’t touch me, you dirty frog!’ The princess woke up in shock. She grabbed Ah Ching who did not know how to react and flung him onto the wall. A loud sound was heard. She thought he was as dead as a doornail, but she couldn’t even feel a tinge of sorrow. She was only anxious about how to explain this to her father. After all, she killed a prince from another country.
There was a knock on the door, followed by a familiar yet strange soft feminine voice. ‘Ah Ching? It’s me. I’m coming in now.’
‘Step-sister?’ The younger princess couldn’t help but to let out a screech. She was deeply afraid that she would report her to their father. Besides, she also found it odd that the older princess had called him by his name directly, and was curious about what was inside her large, heavy bag.
‘Ah Ching!’ The older princess swung the door open. She was attracted to the pungent smell of blood before her eyes had even met the younger princess’. Glancing at the direction where Ah Ching had fallen, she was so horrified at the sight that she dropped the bag. The opening of the bag became loose and its content fell out. It was Ah Nei’s corpse (which was Ah Ching’s human body)!
No! The person who really died wasn’t Ah Nei… From observing her demeanour, the younger princess was sure that the so-called ‘older princess’ was the real ‘Ah Nei’! He had consumed the older princess’ body!
Something had gone wrong! The younger princess spun around, leapt for the door, and cried for help. She hated the fact that no matter how loud she screamed, there was no reply. Except for the three of them, everyone in the castle had fallen into a coma. The guests in the guest rooms and the garden, the king and the queen in their chambers, the servants and guards in every corner of the castle… all of them had passed out.
‘This must be what Ah Nei and Ah Ching did!’ The younger princess thought. ‘But… Why am I still conscious? Could it be that they never intend to harm me in the first place?’ As a princess, she never bared her heart to him. She always doubted his true intentions. To get his revenge from me? To steal the throne? To curse all the people here? Even so, at this critical moment, she realised she had barked up the wrong tree. She stopped in her tracks, as she felt chills running down her spine…
In no time, the younger princess found a small medicine bottle made of glass from the medical bay. She anxiously rushed back to her new chambers. Drenched with blood, Ah Nei pounced onto the younger princess without letting her explain. He snarled at her with fury. ‘Ah Ching treated you so well! Why did you kill him?’
‘I… I didn’t mean to…’ The princess didn’t resist, never letting go of the bottle and letting him clobber her. ‘I’ve found the medicine… To save him…’
Seeing the bottle in her hands, Ah Nei let go of his hand and pointed at Ah Ching lying on the bed, whose eyes were closed. ‘He’s now discarding his frog body and changing back to his human body. Let him rest for two hours. He will be fine when his flesh and soul have merged together. He won’t have to take any medications then.’
‘That’s great.’ The princess couldn’t stop panting. ‘May I go in and see him?’
‘Yes, you may. But you mustn’t touch or disturb him. This is the time when he is most vulnerable, both physically and mentally.’ Ah Nei started to understand why Ah Ching cared so much about the princess, since her sad, big eyes captured the attention of many.
The younger princess approached Ah Ching, who had now regained his human body. Seeing him with his eyes closed, memories came rushing in. It was him who convinced her to live on! It was him who risked his life going against her step-sister! It was him who never gave up on her! He devoted so much time to her that she couldn’t possibly return the favour in her lifetime. What was more, she hit him so hard that his life was on the verge of death!
Dispersing the thoughts out of her mind, the princess swifty poured the poison from the bottle into his mouth. Her actions were so quick that Ah Nei was too late to stop her, even though he had thrown himself at her. Ah Nei, who subconsciously looked at Ah Ching first, was completely oblivious to the princess’ sudden attack with a dagger. She ruthlessly cut open the artery on his neck, and he immediately died on impact.
The princess cackled loudly. I’m safe now!
Would she be that stupid to allow two people, who both knew witchcraft, to stay by her side? Even more, she had almost beaten him to death. Would she not be scared of him taking revenge? The more loyal he had been to her, the more dangers she would face. As a member of the royal family, would she not understand this simple reason?
‘You… really… are… c… cold… h… hearted’ The half-conscious Ah Ching shed a single teardrop, then sank into semi-comatose once again. The spell started to work. He spat out several organs, including the oesophagus, stomach and intestines. The poison which was forced down his throat was thus excreted out of the body.
It was a sickening sight. The princess was petrified and stood frozen. She helplessly watched Ah Ching, who had just recovered his human body, prop himself up and sit on the edge of the bed. He gave a cold smile. ‘You really are cold-hearted.’
Terror seeped into her bones. She now knew that she was stuck in a dog-eat-dog situation. One would stand, and the other would fall. There was no way out. She could only go all-out now.
Using the advantage that Ah Ching hadn’t fully recovered, the princess got the upper hand. She held tightly onto the dagger and stabbed him. She had expected that he would defend himself by dodging with his arms or by moving sideways. Yet, no matter what his choice was, she still had the whip hand.
Yet, contrary to her expectations, Ah Ching had no intention of avoiding her attack. Not only did he let the blade pierce right through his heart, but he also used one hand to hold the princess’ hand with the dagger, while his other hand wrapped around her waist, before finally planting a kiss on her lips.
Has Ah Ching really fallen in love with me? The princess’ heart melted away.
As she let her guard down, millions and millions of slimy tadpoles swam from Ah Ching’s mouth to the princess’…
The sun rose. With people slaving away, the bustle in the castle grew once more. Among the unrest, they poured their heart and soul into their work. Their foolish hearts were blind from the truth about the past.
They would never know that the missing older princess was placed in the long-abandoned well, together with Ah Nei’s soul and Ah Ching’s original body. They would never know that the younger princess’ body was captured by Ah Ching’s soul. They would never know where the younger princess’ soul rested…
The ‘younger princess’ was playing with her golden globe under the eyes of her servants. After two throws, she half-wittingly tossed it into the well. Yet, she didn’t plan on getting it back. Without even turning her head round, she ordered her servants that she would return to the palace. She hopped onto the carriage, lovingly wrapped her arms around the golden cage, and gently whispered to the ‘Frog Prince’ who was now limbless and tongueless. ‘You’ll have to eat the same food as I do, have the same drink as I do, sleep on the same bed as I do. Forever.’