Chapter 1 – Prologue

TL: cici, Editor: shirani, QC: Noa

Synopsis: The truth, the harsh truth

 

First Published on Ainushi. 

 

The truth, the harsh truth. — the Red and the Black

 

The area around North Nanping Drive of Huashi District in Yancheng City looks like a monster with half a face of makeup.

 

The broad and straight two-way street divides the whole Huashi District into two halves. The eastern half is one of the busiest core commercial areas of the city, while the western half is the forgotten old city district – the gathering area of the poor.

 

As sky-high priced “kings of lands” emerged continuously in the eastern half these years, the needs-to-be-improved old city district had also benefited. The demolition costs rose as the price of land in the eastern district rose, scaring away a gang of developers, and forcibly building a capital fence in the poor narrow alleys.

 

The neighbors, living in dangerous houses, dreamed all day long of  getting rich overnight with the help of these small broken houses with an area of around dozen square meters, and spiritually had a sense of superiority of “Once dismantled, my apartment will earn me millions” in advance.

 

Of course, these millionaires living in slums still had to wear their slippers and queue up everyday to clean their urinals.

 

It was still cool in nights of early summer. The heat accumulated during the day quickly routed. One by one the barbecue stalls which illegally occupy the roads ceased activity. Neighbors who left their home in the day to enjoy the chill outside also went back home early. If occasionally there was an old street lamp that flashed due to unstable voltage, it was highly probable that people who rented an apartment as a group had spliced wires from it without permission.

 

In the prosperous district one street away, the night life had just started.

 

Towards evening, in a cafe down the street in eastern district commercial area, a waitress who had just sent out a large batch of customers finally got a chance to have a rest. However, before she could manually reset her stiff facial features, the little bells hanging on the glass door rang again.

 

The waitress had to force a standard smile with eight teeth visible: “Welcome.”

 

“Decaf Vanilla Latte, please.”

 

The customer, a tall and slender young man with shoulder-length hair, wore a neatly-pressed and serious suit and a pair of glasses with a metal frame. The thin frame rested high on his nose. Lowering his head, he felt for his wallet. The long hair hooked around his jaw and blocked less than half of his face. Under the light, the bridge of his nose and lips appeared to have been whitewashed with a layer of pale glaze, and showed an exceptionally cold temperament.

 

All people have a love for beauty, the waitress couldn’t help but stare at him for a while, estimated what the customer would like and said: “Would you like to replace the vanilla with sugar-free vanilla?”

 

“No, I want more syrup.” The customer handed over cash, raised his hand and the waitress’ line of sight met his.

 

Probably out of politeness, the customer smiled at the waitress. The corners of his eyes hidden behind glasses curved subtly, the gentle and ambiguous glimmer of a smile instantly penetrated his solemn facade just now.

 

The waitress finally found out, although this customer was good looking, he was not demure. His eyes seemed to carry peach blossoms (1). Her face burnt inexplicably. She avoided the customer’s line of sight promptly, lowering her head and dealt with the order.

 

Fortunately, at this point of time, the guy who come to replenish stuff in the cafe arrived, the waitress hurriedly found herself some stuff to work on, and loudly asked the man to come to the back of the cafe and check the shipping list.

 

The delivery man was a young boy about 20 years old. Like he was filled with youth, he entered the cafe like a bullet. He had swarthy skin, and showed a mouth full of white teeth when he smiled. He greeted the waitress energetically: “Hi Belle! You look good today. I believe the business is good today too?”

 

The waitress was paid monthly with a steady salary, and didn’t hope the business of the cafe to be good. Hearing this funny and annoying off-target flattery, she waved her hands: “Not bad. Go to work, I will make you a cup of ice water when you come out.”

 

The deliver boy answered with an animated expression, raised his hands to wipe sweat off his forehead. There was a scar in the shape of crescent moon on the corner of his forehead, which made him look like a Bao Qingtian (2) with the prop placed incorrectly.

 

While the waitress was making coffee for the customer, the delivery boy had checked the list quickly. He leaned forward on the counter waiting for water, and desultorily asked: “Belle sister, do you know in which building Cheng Guang Mansion is?”

 

“Cheng Guang Mansion?” The waitress found this name familiar, but couldn’t recall where she had heard about that, so she shook her head, “Don’t know. Why?”

 

“Oh…” The delivery boy stretched out his right hand and scratched the back of his head, “Nothing special, I heard that they are hiring delivery men.”

 

The waitress was too careless to notice his sign of guilt. She covered the paper cup and answered thoughtlessly: “Let me ask others about this later – Sir, your drink. Please be careful, though. It is hot.”

 

It was probable that the customer drinking coffee was too bored to keep quiet, he glanced at the delivery boy and said drowsily: “Cheng Guang Mansion is not in the commercial buildings, but a private club behind. I didn’t know they were hiring people for delivery. Would you like me to give you a ride there?”

 

The waitress finally realized something was not right, and looked up at the delivery boy with doubts: “Private club?”

 

Seeing his lies exposed immediately, the delivery boy made a face, then ran away with his ice water and delivery list.

 

Behind the brightly lit core commercial area in eastern district, there was a large area of artificial green space and landscape. If you walk towards the inside for about one kilometer, you would see the shadowy outlets of a number of arrogant upscale luxury housings standing inside stacks of landscape — They must build housing here, since “quietness” itself is not valuable, what is valuable is “quietness within the noise”.

 

There were layers of “gold melting places” of various styles surrounding the landscape. They were arranged according to how “stylish” they were: the more expensive ones located inside, while the cheapers ones stood by the street.

 

Among all of them, the most expensive, the best and the most “stylish” one, is “Cheng Guang Mansion.”

 

The owner of this club was not only rich, but also very good at being arty. The courtyard had a retro design, which made it look like a relic protection unit at first glance.

The club was just completed, for the purpose of showing off, the owner held a warm up party, and invited a gang of friends that were either rich or high status.

There were various kinds of guests. There were people who came for socializing, people who came for business, people who came only for the party or the owner, and there were even a lot of people who smelled opportunities, and came to join the party, hoping their face and flesh could help them gain a ticket through the door.

There were various kinds of luxury cars in the parking lot, which formed a noisy stage show of fame and wealth.

 

When Fei Du wandered there, he had already finished the overly sweet coffee. The music and voices could be heard at a distance. He tucked the empty paper cup in the trash bin at the roadside, and then heard someone whistling out of tune not far away: “President Fei, over here!”

 

Fei Du turned around and saw a gang of people standing close by. They were all dawdling “rich second generation” (3). The leader was a very fashionable young man who wore a lot of bits and pieces, and was one of his fair-weather friends, Zhang Donglai.

 

Fei Du walked towards them: “Ridiculing me?”

 

“Who dares to ridicule you?” Zhang Donglai hung his arms off Fei Du’s shoulder, “I saw your car here awhile ago, and have already been waiting for you for a long time. What were you doing? Besides, why are you dressed up like that? Just signed a bilateral trade agreement with the president of the United States?”

 

Fei Du didn’t even bother to raise his eyelids: “Go away.”

 

Zhang Donglai accepted this advice and kept his mouth closed for one minute before his patience reached its limit: “No, I can’t stand that. I feel like I’m walking with my father! How can I pick up hot chicks later?”

 

Fei Du stopped, stretched out one finger, hooked his glasses off, and hung the pair of glasses on Zhang Donglai’s collarband. Next, he took off his suit, rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, and then started to unbutton it.

 

He undid four buttons, exposed a piece of a cryptic tattoo on his chest, then lifted his hands to mess up his hair, picked up one of Zhang Donglai’s claws (hands), took off three large rings that were rougher than thimbles from his fingers, and wore them on his own hands: “How about now, son?”

 

Although Zhang Donglai considered himself worldly, he was shocked by this cool transformation.

 

Fei Du was the head of this gang of rich second generation, since everybody else still had a father and hence they were still “princes”.

Fei Du, on the other hand, didn’t have a mother since he was young, and just after he came of age, his dad had turned into a vegetable in a traffic accident. Therefore, now he has already “ascended the throne”, and was thus one level higher than others in status.

 

He had a lot of money, but nobody could discipline him, thus of course he had become a dandy among dandies —— luckily he had no interest in playing the role of a “genius entrepreneur” and didn’t do anything extraordinary in business. Just being prodigal in a way playboys are would not turn him into a poor man immediately.

 

However, no one knew what had gotten into him recently. He hadn’t hung out with his friends for a while. It appeared that he wished to stop doing those kind of things.

 

Fei Du walked towards the door with both hands in his pocket: “To tell you the truth. I am here only to join the party, and will leave right at 12 o’clock.”

 

Zhang Donglai: “Mr. Fei, that’s not good.”

 

How is meeting a gang of playboys, but leaving before late night different from having not come at all?

 

Fei Du didn’t answer.

 

Zhang Donglai asked: “Why?”

 

“I am courting someone very seriously,” Fei Du answered casually. “Is it suitable to play around while pursuing someone? That seems low class.”

 

Zhang Donglai stared at his billowing shirt and hair, finding it very hard to figure out how he was high class. Accelerating to catch up with Fei Du, he said: “There must be something wrong with you, throwing away a forest full of trees for an old and poor…”

 

Fei Du suddenly turned around and glanced at Zhang Donglai coldly.

 

He had a very complex temperament. When he smiled it seemed like he had a romantic spirit. Once he set his face against someone, however, it seemed like a sharp and serious spirit had seamlessly taken over control, and looked at the outside world with aggressive eyes.

 

Zhang Donglai stopped his words, and was not able to continue. He raised his right hand to slap himself: “Pei, I was wrong, I will definitely apologize to sister-in-law.”

 

The word “sister-in-law” pleased Fei Du for some unknown reason. His tightened lips softened, and he waved his right hand, turning that page “magnanimously.”

 

Zhang Donglai rolled his eyes, thinking his majesty had been seduced by an evildoer, and the nation was in peril.

 

Mr. Fei kept his words. Right at 12 o’clock, he left on time like Cinderella left when the bell rang.

 

He went through many “demons” in the party, bypassed a brainless man who was praising him with a cup of champagne in hands, and entered a grove in search of Zhang Donglai.

 

Zhang Donglai was discussing the topic of “the harmony of life” (4) with a pretty woman. They discussed passionately like there was nobody else around.

 

The brainless man said drunkenly: “Rising in ranks and fortunes with your father gone, Mr. Fei, you’re really the winner.”

 

“Thank you, but my father has not died yet.” Fei Du nodded at him politely, and turned to Zhang Donglai: “Busy?”

 

Zhang Donglai was also a shameless man. He whistled at Fei Du: “Mr. Fei, want in?”

 

“No,” Fei Du didn’t stop his steps. “What if you can’t help but come immediately when you see my sexy body? That will be a shame, won’t it, beauty? I am going.”

 

After that, he ignored the noises made by Zhang Donglai, followed the gravel-paved road and left rapidly. He moved steadily, showing no sign he’d been drinking for hours.

 

When arriving at the parking lot, he had already buttoned up and called a substitute driver, so he leaned against a pagoda tree and waited.

 

At the end of spring and beginning of summer, Yancheng is always filled with the smell of pagoda tree flowers. The smell generally generated in corners, very weak at the beginning, easily drowned by the smell of automobile exhaust. If not disturbed for a while, nevertheless, it will appear again.

 

Hearing music, laughter, and noises coming from Cheng Guang Mansion in the distance, Fei Du turned around and squinted over, seeing a gang of young women playing games with several bald “experienced youngsters” with beer bellies.

 

At this hour, even in Nanping Eastern District, most shops were closed. Those real or fake gentlemen who came for socializing or passing out business cards generally will leave before 12 o’clock. Those who left all shared the common knowledge, that they will join the following special part of the party.

 

Fei Du picked up a white flower from the tree, blew away the dust on it, and chewed on it. He opened his contacts since he had nothing to do, and hovered one of his fingers over the name “Officer Tao,” and gave up when he suddenly realized it was already very late.

 

He stood quietly for a while, whistling with the sweetness of the pagoda tree flower in his mouth. The whistling formed a song gradually.

 

After ten minutes, the substitute driver arrived, and drove Mr. Fei’s flamboyant sports car along Nanping Drive nervously.

 

Fei Du leaned against the front passenger seat, closed his eyes and rested. An app in his smart phone was reading a book. A man’s clear voice read at a steady speed: “…’Incedo per ignes,’ replied Julien…” (5)

 

The substitute driver was a university student who worked for tuition fees and was quite cynical. He thought Fei Du was either a wild, rich second-generation or an unknown artist who had had plastic surgery. When he suddenly heard these words, he could not help but glance at Fei Du.

 

Right at this moment, a car with its headlamps placed in high-beam position came from the opposite direction, almost blinding the substitute driver. The substitute driver cursed “must be sick,” and turned the steering wheel subconsciously. The car with “searchlights” passed at a dizzying speed.

 

The substitute driver who was still dazzled and could not figure out the make and model of that car, was unable to select a suitable criticism between “How great to be rich!” and “A terrible, poor man should not drive,” and was regretful over it. Then he heard the sound “dong,” and turned his head, seeing the phone fall from his boss’s hands.

 

The phone was still playing the soundtrack: “…‘Is a road any the worse, because there are thorns in the hedges on either side of it? The traveller goes his way and leaves the wicked thrones to wither where they are’…” (6)

 

Fei Du already lost his consciousness. He was using this app to help himself sleep.

 

The substitute driver emotionlessly stopped looking at him.

 

So, he just appeared to be elegant.

 

The young substitute driver was thinking of all that nonsense while he was driving along Nanping Drive. On the other hand, the driver of the car with its headlamps placed on high-beam position just now switched the headlamps to a more suitable level after they left, and quietly made a turn, entering the quiet western district adroitly.

 

It was close to one, the street lamp that had been flashing for half of the night finally died out. A wild cat that was patrolling its territory jumped on to the wall.

 

Suddenly, it mewed and all its hair stood up.

 

The weak moonlight hit the ground and lit the face of a man. He lay there with his arms and legs sprawled out. His face was swollen making it hard to recognize the original form, but there was a scar in the shape of crescent moon visible at the corner of his forehead. His forehead was covered by an irregularly torn piece of paper, just like the incantation used to suppressed zombies.

 

The man was dead.

 

The scared cat slithered down the wall by mistake, rolled over immediately, and ran away without turning its head.

 

 

=======================================================

(1) Carry peach blossoms: indicates desires of love/sex

(2) Bao Qingtian:  A famous official in Tang Dynasty, had a scar in the shape of crescent moon on his forehand

(3) rich second generation: descendants of rich family

(4) discussing the topic of “the harmony of life”: some adults behavior

(5) (6) please take a look at “The author has something to say”

=======================================================

The Author Has Something to Say

“…’Incedo per ignes,’ replied Julien…”

“…‘Is a road any the worse, because there are thorns in the hedges on either side of it? The traveller goes his way and leaves the wicked thrones to wither where they are’…”

Both sentences from the Red and the Black

=======================================================

 

Liked it? Take a second to support cici on Patreon!