Chapter 17 – The Empress (4)
… … …
Courtesan aren’t called entertainers for no reason. By standards of society, these kind of prostitutes are well-educated, well-versed in artistic matters and most of all, they are endowed with talents.
For this reason, dancing is a must during the training of the selectees. Dances were prepared such that it would be executed, not individually, but by two people simultaneously. After all, you don’t dance with yourself in a party. On some occasions, the mentors tested their innate skills and gracefulness by letting them manifest their own versions of dancing in groove to the music provided.
Five women were seen swaying to an alluring tune, their movements were agilely calculated and faces conveyed tranquility with just the right amount of sultriness. But only those who had eagle eyes could see that one woman was not favored by the rest. Su Xin was crowded with the other four who were discretely trying to stomp on her feet and bump into her arms. If she caused a scene, the odds were one to four; she could be easily labeled as a liar. Su Xin endured all of this harassment—not bothering to retaliate as she skillfully maneuvered through their petty tricks with an ease of a lithe panther. In turn, earning more compliments from the trainers.
She maintained a composed countenance while her feet ached from the exercise. These girls wanted to get a reaction out of her, and she was not going to give it.
Su Xin’s nonchalance made the women even the more frustrated but they didn’t dare go beyond the limit. If something serious happened to Su Xin, they will naturally be suspected as the doer of the crime. Plus, Su Xin was like an eel out of water; always slipping from their grasp! Thus, they veered their frustration on a defenseless, unsuspecting Shu Juan.
Shu Juan was aware of the women’s unpleasant behaviors. She had witnessed her master artfully dodging their attacks and making her movements as if part of the choreography.
In awe of her master, Shu Juan never expected that their hostility would be diverted to her—an insignificant person. So when Su Xin had told her to keep her distance from the women at all times, she did her best to follow so. But on one unfortunate night, she was cornered by one of the women while fetching her master’s dinner.
Like a snake, the woman approached her languidly. Shu Juan kept her head bowed as she plead silently for the vile creature to leave her alone. Wanting to relish in her small victory, the woman decided to toy with Shu Juan first. She started off by confusing Shu Juan’s perception of her by wearing her most amiable smile. One moment, she was complimenting Shu Juan on her good skin and on another, she was digging her nails on the servant’s face, saying that her skin would be much prettier with a little scratch adorning it.
Shu Juan felt that she had been careless and she brushed the awful memories away from her head. She withheld this information from her master, thinking that it was her own fault. She squatted down to apply the ointment on Su Xin’s beaten feet, when unexpectedly, Su Xin touched her chin and tilted it towards her.
“Remember to take care of your face later.”
“Yes.” Shu Juan whispered a reply, not expecting that her master was so perceptive, and she bowed her head in silent gratitude.
Su Xin was mad as hell. In the first place, she was not a person with a good temperament. In her previous career, she played a vicious persona and was responsible for felonies that would make any woman’s scheming look amateur. These women didn’t know how lucky they were that Su Xin refused to unleash her hidden ferocity. It won’t be so good to them if it did.
As a representation of a shady person who does illegal things to survive1, Su Xin doesn’t need much kindness in her heart.
From the first day she executed her first kill, life has taught her a lesson: Kindness to one’s enemy is cruelty to oneself!
For the sake of her reputation as Xue Yao, she kept herself from indulging to their cheap tricks. If it wasn’t for this and the task, these women had left this world a long time ago.
A predator in the darkness stalking her prey—her steps are slow but precise. Su Xin knows she must bid her time before she strikes.
Su Xin tried to diffuse her anger by shifting her focus on the pale, pink paint on her nails. She never had a nail dyed in her enter life. She was not particularly fond of the strong chemical smell2 of nail polish and it was too troublesome to some of her previous operations. However, the nail polish in ancient china was even more intolerable. It was made from organic materials and raw egg which smelled like decayed matter after several hours from application. As much as she hated it, painted nails were a necessity in ancient china for it was a way of showing one’s social status.
It made her even more irritable.
[The host is found to have a grumpy index of five stars. Do you need a hot cup of chrysanthemum tea?]
What the hell?
[Chrysanthemum tea is recommended to have at home because of its effectiveness to alleviate internal heat..]
Fucking chrysanthemum tea… Is it worth your life?
[There’s no need for that dear.]
Oh, come on.
[All right dear.]
Dear yourself! You ice block!
Su Xin felt that this system might be insane.
Fourteen later returned to normal. His colleagues told him that he might scare the host because of his imprinted robotic demeanor. So, they advised Fourteen to be a little compassionate to her sometimes and urged him to converse with Su Xin like a empathetic human. The AI, unaware of its absurdity, agreed to this and let his colleagues instill a new data in him. That is why upon sensing the host’s distress, he offered a calming treat.
His robotic voice addressing Su Xin as dear sounded ridiculous. No wonder Su Xin became more upset, but still nevertheless, accepted the tea. Fourteen then omitted the new data and vowed to never accept advice from his pig colleagues anymore.
Su Xin felt calm and peaceful as though she was in a quiet, serene environment while she sipped the tea. Meanwhile, Shu Juan was doing a good job in nursing her feet. The ointments in the palace were excellent and was made available to the courtesans. After all, they couldn’t afford to showcase the performers with blemishes on their skin to the influential people of the banquet.
Shu Juan gently blew the soles of Su Xin’s foot as she finished applying the ointment. When she looked up and saw her master’s face, she uncontrollably trembled in terror inside.
She didn’t know why it felt like the Young lady has changed as of late. The change didn’t come from the outside, but from the inside. It seemed like she was serving a different person altogether—one with a much colder personality.
She never felt intimidated with Xue Yao before, they practically grew up together! But this Xue Yao in front of her was too different from the warm Xue Yao she knew.
She hated to admit this, but she had developed an unspeakable fear of the Young lady.
“Shu Juan, raise your head a little higher. I will apply the medicine.”
Shu Juan raised her head obediently and let Su Xin smear the medicine on the gash.
“Many thanks, Young Lady.”
- lit. black eats black 黑吃黑 (hēi chī hēi) – Use of illegal means such as threats and force to solve illegal problems.
- Short trivia(if you haven’t known before): Nail polish smells strong because of the chemical solvents in it such as butyl acetate, ethyl acetate or toluene(derived from petroleum), combined with other other chemicals like camphor and in some cases – Formaldehyde. Yikes.