Edited by Halley & Larkspar
Chapter 13: Ruo Chan (Part 2)
Yu Ying turned over and said, “Don’t care about them. What remains unseen is deemed to be clean.”
I immediately understood. This was the custom in ChangAn. The nobles would feast and turn semi-intoxicated and would like to watch seductive dancing to find amusement. In order to please everyone, such a show of extravagance was indispensable, thus Lord Lu had arranged for such enjoyment.
The laughter rang out again and when I looked over, I saw an oily headed fat man sitting beside Lord Lu and seemed to have spoken something joyous as he was laughing. There was a charming female in his arms that smiled like flowers.
My gaze landed on the red cinnabar mole between her brows.
The wine cup in my hand almost dropped onto the ground. My expression changed and I lifted the bamboo curtain.
“Ah Jin, what are you doing?” Yu Ying quickly pressed my hand to stop me.
I turned to her, “That is—”
“Shh!” Yu Ying’s expression froze and she quickly beckoned me to quieten down. She looked around and spoke in a suppressed voice, “She is no longer the same as us. You cannot interact with her, not even taking a look.”
“What happened to her?”
“What else can happen!” Yu Ying’s mouth twitched, showing contempt, “The biggest brothel in Yong province, Ning Xiang Guan, was opened by her. She is now famous.”
There was a burst of laughter from the other side of the banquet. I looked through the bamboo curtain and saw Ruo Chan sitting beside a luxuriously dressed chubby male, toasting wine with him as she laughed. That man laughed lecherously and I saw his hands holding Ruo Chan tightly …
The blood in my body turned cold and I was somewhat unable to continue watching as I turned my head around.
My heart was thumping hard, as if that scene was the most inconceivable nightmare.
Ruo Chan’s surname was Chen and her father was the Senior Attendant Counsellor, Chen Kang. This position was not considered high but the Chen family was considered a scholarly clan and Ruo Chan’s mother was a close friend of Mother’s. Thus Ruo Chan and I had been good friends since childhood.
Children of the wealthy would often be influenced by the adults and become snobbish. Even though my family’s influence was not the most extensive, it was ranked among the top ten in ChangAn. Thus, in the circle of noble ladies in my age group, I was like a fish back in water. Ruo Chan also mingled very well but it was not because of me.
She looked pretty and with a red mole between her brows, each smile and frown of hers was more feminine bearing than the females of her age. She was also considerate and empathetic, and would always have the most appropriate solution when problems were brought before her. All of these made the restless and wilful children admire and willing to listen to her.
I remembered Yu Ying’s earlier dream, she had aspired to become like Ruo Chan and marry to… Some memories were suddenly recalled and there was something astringent in my eyes.
I learned about Ruo Chan’s experience through Yu Ying’s lips.
Her father had offended He Kui and all the male descendants in the clan were obliterated, with the females bestowed to He Kui’s troops. I did not know what Ruo Chan had experienced then but Yu Ying said that when she appeared in front of everyone again, she had already become the most famous prostitute in Yong Province.
Yu Ying only briefly gave the gist. Before long she had turned towards a neighbouring young female to chat about the new white jade bracelet on her wrist. The maids shuffling around the tables while serving the delicacies and wine only saw the melodious songs and tunes of the zithers accompanied by the chatter and laughter of the noble women. It was as if the noise outside the curtain did not exist at all.
Natural calamities added to human disasters. I had long learned to keep calm in the face of the unexpected but upon hearing these things, my chest still subtly hurt.
When ChangAn was in chaos, I had already married over to Lai Yang but I was not unfamiliar with certain matters.
The Fu family was tied to the Empress Dowager and naturally supported Prince Chen.
I remembered that before my family met with mishap, there were a few months when the lights of the courtyard, where Father discussed official matters, would be lit up all night and the people entering and leaving wore grave expressions. Even Second Older Brother, who loved to have fun with me, rarely came to play with me. I tried to make him smile but he would only sigh as he stroked my head.
I still remembered at that time Ruo Chan liked Second Older Brother. Every time she came over, she would intentionally or otherwise inquire about his matters of Second Older Brother. In any setting where Second Older Brother was present, Ruo Chan’s face would be inexplicably red and she would be as meek and docile as a little rabbit.
A female who had always treated me like a younger sister, a female who would always take me hand in hand to the gardens to pluck flowers secretly, when she smiled, it seemed like all the flowers in the world had bloomed.
I had never thought that there would be such a day. She had originally belonged to the main hall and all those previously ardent gazes now disdainfully called her a courtesan.
Those laughters were unending. I found it ear-piercing and stood up.
“Ah Jin?” Yu Ling looked at me in astonishment.
“I am a little tipsy and will take a walk.” I replied.
Yu Ying continued, “I will go with you.” With that, she got up.
“No need.” I stopped her. “I will be back quickly.” Saying so, I headed out.
A bright moon hung in the skies and even though Lord Lu’s garden was not large, it was very exquisite. There were flowers, water, shade and pavilions. This was not difficult to understand. Lord Lu was unable to have a bigger house but he had money and in order to stand out, he spent a lot of effort on the decorations.
The guests had yet to disperse and the laughter at the loft was just as lively as the countless lamps of light, but it also accentuated the quietness of the gardens.
The evening wind blew gently as I walked along the long bridge across the pond, watching the glimmer reflected by the ripples caused by the fallen petals.
When I was bored in Lai Yang, I had also imagined what it would be like if I met an old friend from ChangAn and what kind of scene it would be.
Mother had once told me that a female should not be disheveled even in dire straits. Even if one’s family was impoverished, one must always present oneself neatly and prevent others from despising oneself.
Thinking back to such words, they were filled with ignorance of sufferings. But after I left ChangAn, I had always acted according to them. Even though I was not richly bedecked, I was unwilling to wear coarse clothes. Even if I was sick, I would never let myself look haggard or wan. Even though I was not valued by the in-laws, I would not allow myself to be meek and servile. I knew that I was still young and could become more beautiful and would one day stand in front of any enemies, benefactors or even those who came to watch the ruckus, and stand defiantly, showing them clearly that even though the Fu family no longer existed, Fu Jin was still Fu Jin.
However, little had I expected that Ruo Chan would appear in front of me and like this. I was unable to smile and ask her, ‘Older Sister Ruo Chan, have I become beautiful?’, like I did in the past.
As my thoughts ran wild, I suddenly heard a ‘ding’ sound as if something had dropped.
I turned back to look but a figure had already gone ahead first and picked up the jade ornament that I dropped
I was stunned.
Ruo Chan was still wearing the gorgeous clothes from during the banquet but under the moonlight, there was a chilly atmosphere. The round silk fan in her hands was white, concealing half of her delicate powdered face. The cinnabar red mole between her brows was the only conspicuous thing.
“Furen’s jade ornament.” Her voice was soft but indifferent. She placed the jade ornament in my hands and turned around to leave.
“Ruo Chan.” I quickly went up and pulled her sleeves.
Ruo Chan paused and turned around. She lowered her round silk fan and smiled lightly, “I thought that you would be like them and refuse to acknowledge me.”