The cherry blossoms fluttered silently into the pond, barely causing a ripple as they fell. Wu Shen watched a spider sprint across the smooth water, dance with the blossoms, while a school of koi swam below. One koi rose to the surface, its silver scales catching the light like a glint of steel. The fish swallowed the spider then disappeared once more to the deeper parts of the pond, nothing more than a slight disturbance shifting the clear blue water.

Shen stood, placed his arms behind his back as he took in the beauty of his lord’s garden. Cherry blossoms tingled his nose. He closed his eyes, holding the perfection of the moment to himself.

“I am sure my lord husband will arrive soon,” Sun Zi whispered in apology.

“You have no need to apologize,” Shen answered. “With the roads harried by rebels, Sun Ang likely found the going slow. My brother will see that he arrives safely.”

Zi opened her mouth to reply, when a loud voice greeted them. Sun Ang stood in the garden, large as all of China. His armor was worn and dirty, a spot of fresh blood stained one sleeve. He laughed as he came toward them, his wild beard and moustache making him look out of place in the manicured gardens. Zi stepped back and bowed to her husband and Shen did likewise.

Ang opened his arms and crushed Shen in an embrace. “My most loyal friend, I have missed you these past few months.”

“And I you,” Shen said.

“Come, let’s drink, I have the need for tea.”

They followed Zi to the tea area located in the center of the garden. Colors of every hue bloomed along the path, precious and innocent. “How were the roads? Were there as many bandits as they say?”

“Bah, bandits do not trouble me; I enjoy crushing the opposition they provide. It is the troubles in the capital that cause me restless nights.”

“Why? What troubles you there?”

Ang grunted, slammed his hand on Shen’s shoulder. “Politicians and advisors. I much prefer an enemy I can see than the ones who maneuver behind my back.”

“Tell me who?”

“Ahhh… my wife,” Ang said as they entered the tea area to discover that everything was already prepared. “You know me too well.”

Zi tilted her head in acceptance. “It is the job of a wife to anticipate her husband’s needs.”

A corner of Ang’s lip twitched as he growled playfully. “You can anticipate my needs tonight. I found the capital lonely without you beside me.” Ang waved his hand. “Sit, sit, both of you.”

Zi sat, her legs tucked beneath her like the stem to a rose. Shen sat beside her and Ang, in his bloodstained armor, across from them. “Tell me, my friend, what you have been up to these long months since I have been gone?” Ang asked. He removed his sword and placed it beside his left knee.

Zi poured the tea, for her husband first, then Shen.

“Rebels attacked the city a few times. We drove them back. They are a poorly trained lot.”

Ang nodded. He sipped from the white teacup, its flowered pattern a contrast to his dirty hands.

“And my wife,” Ang leaned forward. “Did you keep her chaste as I asked?”

Shen nodded. “While I was here, I guarded her night and day.”

Ang laughed. “Good, good! I knew I could count on you.”

Ang lifted the cup to his mouth. It looked out of place in his large hands — far too delicate an object for him to enjoy, far too beautiful. He wiped his mouth with his other hand. “Yes, my friend, I have bad news.”

Shen looked at Ang. From the corner of his eyes he could see Zi tense like a flower caught in a breeze. Her head bowed, waiting for the fall. Ang looked straight ahead, his eyes never wavering from his wife, never revealing what thoughts raced behind their dark veil. The words seemed to hover between them, unable to be spoken and yet understood the way a bee needs the flower. Shen raised his cup, broke the spell.

“More tea.”

Zi shivered beneath his gaze. Ang looked away. Her arm touched Shen’s as she poured, the wind blowing a kiss on his skin. He trembled inside, ashamed. Lowering the cup, Shen focused his attention on his lord and friend.

“You were saying,” he asked, his voice still as the pond.

Ang groaned and lowered his head, then he looked up, his eyes weary. “I fear all men are not as honorable as you.”

Shen was still as the spider walking on the pond. “Speak.”

“While we fought these rebels, other men crept behind our backs — spoiled the sanctity of my bed, the honor of my house.”

“Whom do you speak of?” Shen asked.

“Your brother.”

My brother. The brother who covered for me.

“Your brother dishonored me.”

The brother who warned me.

“I had him slain. That is the price he had to pay for his deeds.”

For my deeds. “My brother?”

“I am sorry, my friend,” Ang said, looking at his wife. “Some men are not as honest as you and I.”

The cherry blossoms fluttered silently into the pond, barely causing a ripple as they fell.

A.R. Williams lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He is currently a member of the Online Writing Workshop, a community of science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers.

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Every Day Fiction

  • I was expecting a reworking of the story of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, or of the story of Gang Bing (that one’s not for the squeamish).

  • Margie

    Beautifully written. I especially enjoyed the pregnant pause between he two friends and wife before the revelation of the brothers death.

  • Isn’t there something very attractive about those clear-cut and fabulous stories in which we know half the set-up simply by virtue of the situation? When the Lord of the Castle returns and asks the Guardian whether he has effectively protected the virtue of his wife, we know there’s a twist in the tale waiting to spring.
    Unfortunately, I don’t think “Blossoms Weep Spiders Fall” manages to serve up the fare. For my taste, the beauty of the garden and the contrast of armour against flowers is repeated too many times. And because the setting takes up so much text, the plot is left to our imagination. The brother, we gather, has paid the price for the treachery of the Guardian, but this is all written between the lines.
    Would it not have been better to tell us clearly what happened and leave more of the setting to our imagination?

  • Very atmospheric, good pacing, excellent description and imagery. I liked it.

  • Nicely told. Good twist at the end too.

    5 stars from me 🙂

  • Timone

    Great read, a lot to unpack. Quick picky note: ‘Sun Ang stood in the garden, large as all of China’ Tripped me up; I wasn’t sure if the garden or Ang was large. Could be better as: ‘Sun Ang, large as all of China, stood in the garden’

  • C.M. Mar

    Subtle, maybe a bit too subtle. I know there’s an analogy in there, but who’s the spider and who’s the carp?

  • J.C. Towler

    Hey A.R.,

    Hope you’re surviving the snow pounding getting thrown on you up there in VA Beach.

    I was expecting a poison cup of tea and a quick escape from the scene of the crime, and was happy to see a different ending.

    What I didn’t quite understand was this: Ang was away fighting. Shen was the friend looking after the wife, Zi. Shen’s unnamed brother was watching Ang’s back during the fighting. So how did Ang know that Shen’s brother had been fooling around with his wife? Even more puzzling; if Ang has been away for a few months, one would presume the brother was a way a few months…how did the brother sneak back for his philandering?

    Maybe I’m missing something…


  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Is it that the brother who accompanied the king(? “large as all of China”) before he arrived bore false witness against the Lady’s guard and was punished for that? Or was it that a brother of the guard betrayed the guard by destroying the sanctity of the guard brother’s bed. Wouldn’t the Lady have a woman as such a guard? I also had the passing thought that all three men were brothers and the king himself had a forbidden liason but since he’s still hale and hearty and because I don’t know the laws of permission of that culture I let that thought go. But maybe that culture has “whipping boys” and a relative of the king had to be punished, necessarily sparing the king who is also the judge in chief, and who had to, in self-judgement, inflict punishment.

    I think the beautifully written description of the lovely garden strengthens the story – that amidst such fine exquisiteness there are horrors.

    The writing of this piece is extraordinarily good.

  • Beautiful descriptive! I’m a little surprised that the wife of the king lived long enough to pour tea, considering the king’s knowledge of her infidelity.

  • I was surprised that Shen and Zi didn’t anticipate Ang, especially with Shen’s brother’s warning, and definitely poison some of his tea . . . maybe Zi will have something prepared for later . . . or is she just going to get beaten? Ang seems the type.

    I enjoyed the story, but the start was a bit slow for me, and I wondered less at the infidelity as I did at their lack of planning.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    A king, of course, would be spared from battle and he remained in the capitol during the fight. Whose blood is on his sleeve?

  • Great story. I love the atmosphere you created. I especially loved how you used the garden in this work.

  • Brian Dolton

    I love me some China-set fiction and there’s much I like about this, but the romantic square didn’t quite balance for me. It took a couple of reads to work out who was who and who had done what to whom; I think the brother needs more introduction (and a name!) than just the offhand “my brother will make sure he gets here”. And the early interactions between Shen and Zi don’t really hint at anything between them, which I think should probably be foreshadowed (I’m asuming the carp/spider thing is supposed to serve as foreshadowing but the spider didn’t seem to relate to Shen nor the carp to Ang).

    Still gave it 4 stars, though.

  • Great story. I really liked all the contrast.

  • Hey, now that’s good.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Brian – I’m not sure this is the case in this culture, but I think the “brotherliness” was stressed because it might be that no one can take the life of a member of the royal family except a higher ranking royal. Normally the king would not be present at executions, but in this particular court case …

  • Nice writing, but I didn’t like the story. It was too slow, no action, and in the end we are left to figure out what really happened and why. If the brother was off fighting with Ang, how did he dishonor the wife? And how did Ang conclude it was the brother, rather than the guy actually there with the wife, that did the dirty? Is this a cultural thing?

    And by the way, how did people conclude that Ang was the “king”? I saw no evidence that he was more than a nobleman-warrior.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Jim – the hint was “large as all of China”- or to put it differently, as great as all of China.

  • I just want to thank everyone who has taken the time to post comments or rate the story. Those comments that informed me why you did or did not like the story are especially helpful. I appreciate your effort and hope that it will help me to craft better stories in the future. Thanks again.

    ~~A.R. Williams

  • Delightfully restrained, like the tea ceremony itself.

  • A significant part of the beauty of this piece
    is that it isn’t so much contrast as bas-relief;
    each detail stands out in relation to the others,
    and yet with such subtlety…
    and the fish eating the spider puts it all into
    a perfectly comprehensible context…

    I only wish I could say I taught you how to do that.

    I can’t imagine anyone not liking this piece,
    but, obviously, there are some criticisms being made.
    I’m of the school that criticism reveals more about the critic
    than about the story;
    even so, if you find it helpful,
    don’t allow me to disuade you from taking it seriously.

  • kathy k

    Beautifully done. I loved it. Great writing and wonderful imagery.

  • Anne Marie

    What I read is that the brother let the “couple” know the king was returning. The brother didn’t do anything other than protect the couple. The wife was dishonored but not by the brother who was slain but by the one who was supposed to be guarding her ….. did anyone else read it this way?

    I think the descriptions were lovely, and even though slow, I felt that even the slow pace lent itself to the mood of the story. No hurrying, no rushing, rather a calm moment of sharing tea together before relating the unfortunate news of the execution of the brother… the only one who is innocent.

  • Must agree with Jim that this was a ‘plodder’ of a story.

    The main reason this story grated for me though, was the dialogue. I assume the Chinese also use contractions. The lack of them gave this story an unreal feel.

  • I posted some comments about the story as a sort of Behind the Scenes or the Making of “Blossoms Weep, Spiders Fall” in my blog post: Behind the Scenes.

    And to my responses to some of your questions are below:

    The blood belongs to Wu Shen’s brother.

    @Brian Dolton

    “I think the brother needs more introduction (and a name!) than just the offhand “my brother will make sure he gets here”. ”

    Good point about giving the brother a name. It would humanize him a little more and create a better reference.


    “Hey, now that’s good.”

    Thank you 🙂

    “I’m of the school that criticism reveals more about the critic than about the story”

    Criticism isn’t always bad. It may make you feel bad 🙁

    But good criticism, constructive criticism, can make you better in the long run. Don’t be afraid people aren’t going to like what you do, because you can’t please everyone and everyone has different taste. Just view it as an opportunity to learn–then you will have the ability to improve.

    Thanks again to everybody for commenting. And also a big tTHANK YOU to Every Day Fiction for publishing my story.

    Today was a good day!

  • Oops…some of the comment was cut off.

    Didn’t use control to copy. Sorry about that 🙂

    @Andy Charman

    “Would it not have been better to tell us clearly what happened and leave more of the setting to our imagination?”

    I addressed part of this in the post here.

    As far as setting goes, readers and writers often have different tastes as to the types of stories they like. Some like a lot of description, others very little.

    I usually like quite a bit of description and allowing the readers to figure some things out for themselves.

    One area I will work on in the future is making sure that I don’t lose any readers along the way when trying for subtlety.


    ” Could be better as: ‘Sun Ang, large as all of China, stood in the garden’”

    Thanks, that’s good advice.

    @C.M. Mar

    “Subtle, maybe a bit too subtle. I know there’s an analogy in there, but who’s the spider and who’s the carp?”

    You may be right on the level of subtlety. I will keep this in mind in future works.

    As far as who’s the spider and who’s the carp read the BTS on my blog.

    @J.C. Towler

    “Hope you’re surviving the snow pounding getting thrown on you

    up there in VA Beach.”

    There’s not that much snow up here. At least in Virginia

    Beach. There have been a few flurries, but the area often gets

    a lot less snow than other cities because of its distance from

    the ocean.

    “(1)So how did Ang know that Shen’s brother had been fooling

    around with his wife? (2)Even more puzzling; if Ang has been

    away for a few months, one would presume the brother was a way

    a few months…how did the brother sneak back for his


    (3)Maybe I’m missing something…”

    (1)Rumors, spies, and innuendo

    (2 & 3)I don’t think you’re missing anything. You’re confusion

    here is likely a fault of my story-telling. Shen’s brother was

    part of a detachment to escort Sun Ang back to the city. He

    was never in the capital, but was going to meet Ang half way

    on Ang’s return home.

    @Roberta SchulbergGoro

    “Whose blood is on his sleeve?”

    The blood belongs to Wu Shen’s brother.

  • Loved the subtlety of the story, and the lush descriptions wrapping it all up.

  • I thought this was a great piece. The description is fabulous, I thought the dialogue fit the characters, mood and setting. I love the kind of story where we’re not held by the hand and told every single detail.

    Two thumbs up from me. 🙂

  • Mary

    You’ve a great eye for details. The tension is exquisite. Nice work!

  • Suzy Kolevski

    What a beautifully constructed piece and I adore the contrast between the beauty of the garden and the danger/power of man. The imagery is impeccable.

  • Gustavo

    I liked this one. Great atmosphere and tension, and the descriptions were perfect – particularly hard to do in such a short piece!

  • TJ

    Well done! I enjoyed it. 5 stars!

  • Pyx

    The setting was equisitely drawn.
    My take on the story was that the husband knew full well who had betrayed him with his wife and had killed the brother because it would actually be a more terrible punishment than putting the guilty party to death.

    Something to consider for future stories, my one stumble was the name Shen…everytime it showed up my brain wanted to read it as “she” which made me back up and lose the delicate thread of the story. That could be just me, but just a caution on chosing names.

    Loved the mood, could almost smell the cherry blossoms.

  • J.C. Towler

    Thanks for taking time to reply, A.R. You’ve got a 5-star attitude about writing that will take you far.


  • Title ???? Hmmmm
    Nice tale of Asian justice
    4 ****

  • Ann

    Overall, this is very good. I’m one of the readers who enjoy a well-described landscape as used as metaphor for the tensions within the story.

    However, I do have a couple of nits to pick:

    You write about the delicacy of the teacup in contrast to the Ang’s brutality twice, in the space of a few paragraphs. In a story as short as this, one mention is enough.

    Also, Shen’s relationship with his brother is as central to the story as his relationship with Zi, and so I echo the call to give him a name, and at least give some foreshadowing or hinting of all the brother had done for him before the big reveal at the end. Perhaps that is where you could mention that the brother was meeting the king half-way on the road, instead of being in the capital the whole time.

    And the smallest nit of all: The bugs that scoot along the surface of the water are not spiders, but insects. I knew them as “Water Striders” when I was growing up.

  • jennifer walmsley

    A beautiful piece.

    Poor Shen knowing that his brother died for him.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Referring to my comment listed as 9:
    I am sorry, my friend,” Ang said, looking at his wife. “Some men are not as honest as you and I.” Obviously he judged his wife as loyal and faithful. I think the king was very sharp in psychological judgements. The third brother may have given false witness, hoping to rid the royal trio of the second runner-up to kingship. It’s a horror for all that family, but particularly the king.
    Some people think that there are no other kinds of betrayals besides sexual.
    The reason I asked whose blood is on the kings sleeve is it may be possible it was battle blood. The words “I had him slain” suggesting it was a legal decision and someone was to carry it out. But if he was royal, he would have to do it himself.

  • Jen S

    Wonderful. 5 Stars.

  • Jen

    That was great, intrigue and romance. I’m glad I read it, even though I was worried about the “spider” of the title. I’m a diehard arcanophobic.

  • Beautiful story. I loved the descriptions. My favorite, by far: “her legs tucked beneath her like the stem to a rose.”

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