Quality Check: Kittsune
First Published on Ainushi.
It wasn’t long until the 18th arrived. This was the day that Zhao Yi Bo and Zhao Yi Xuan were going to be engaged.
They changed into a pair of perfectly ironed expensive suits, and they appeared extremely polished. They each perfectly fit the part of a proper groom. I felt like they were especially dazzling the way they were dressed today.
“You’re still not getting changed yet? We’re running out of time.” Seeing how aloof I was, Zhao Yi Bo took the initiative to begin picking out clothes for me.
We’re running out of time? What did that have to do with me? Today wasn’t my engagement party. Besides, what did they want me to come for? Was it a custom of the rich to bring the mistress to the engagement party? That’s a bit too presumptuous and shocking, right?
“I don’t want to go.” Pushing away the outfit that he brought to me, I buried my face under the blankets fitfully. I didn’t want to see them looking so happy and prosperous. It would make me even more miserable than I already was. Besides, I had more important things I wanted to do today.
“You’re the main character today. How can you not go?” Zhao Yi Xuan was gentle but did not allow me to refuse as he pulled me out of bed, and started changing my clothes for me.
How am I the main character? Don’t tell me they wanted to introduce me to their fiancées? Something like I am their mistress, so please tolerate me? But my appearance was bound to make them upset, right? Weren’t they afraid that I would cause a ruckus among the crowd of guests during the engagement ceremony?
“No one is going to want me there, and they’ll definitely make fun of me.” I continued to find reasons to not go. Even though I wasn’t the pitiful cowardly person I used to be, I definitely wasn’t fond of being publicly humiliated in front of a large crowd.
“Nobody will make fun you.” Zhao Yi Xuan once again rejected my reason.
It looked like I had no choice but to attend. I reluctantly and unwillingly climbed out of bed. It was entirely their idea to have me go, so they had better not regret it. Today, the three largest companies in Taiwan were being linked through marriage, so there was bound to be many journalists and media reporters present at the scene. It’d be a wonder if I didn’t make them look bad when I showed up.
I made an excuse to get them out of my room temporarily. Then I opened the desk drawer and pulled out a manilla envelope. I placed it into the handbag that went along with my outfit.
The engagement reception was at the most famous six-star hotel affiliated with the Zhao clan, Superior Yuan Dynasty. The attendees were all famous individuals from the business and government world. Besides a handful of media representatives that were allowed to be present to take pictures, everyone else was completely barred from entering. A large quantity of news vans and feverish admirers were gathered at the main entrance, and several fully armed security personnel were in charge of public safety. Inside the reception area, impeccably dressed waiters carefully examined the invitation cards of every guest that arrived.
Escorted by the future bridegrooms, I entered the venue without a hitch.
The decorations in the ballroom were romantic and gorgeous. It was pretty much the dream of any girl. However, an urge to set everything on fire and burn it all down bubbled inside me.
“Why are you here?” Seeing me come out, Mrs. Zhao who was previously chatting with other rich ladies immediately came over with a very sour look on her face.
“Didn’t have a choice.” I shrugged my shoulders and swept my eyes over the two towering men who were standing beside me on each side. With me being so short and sandwiched between those two, I must have looked like a pitiful hostage who had been kidnapped.
“Do you know what today is? How could you think to bring her here?” Mrs. Zhao criticized them with slight displeasure.
Their expressions turned heavy. “What? We unconditionally reserved the Zhao clan’s best hotel for you all to run an engagement party. As the hosts, do we not have the qualifications to invite a mere guest?”
“What are you implying?” The insinuation in his words made Mrs. Zhao’s hair rise on end. It was as if something bad was about to happen.
Not bothering to heed her any more, they brought me over to the left side of the ballroom towards a long rectangular table. Today’s banquet was buffet-style and all the food was self-served.
Mrs. Zhao stared at our backs and had another bad premonition. She hurriedly rushed off and went looking for backup.
“What about the bride-to-be’s? How come I haven’t seen them?” I swallowed the food that they picked out for me as I looked around my surroundings. In the ballroom, aside from the waitresses, all of the women were wearing exquisite and beautiful evening gowns. However, you could clearly see that they weren’t the main stars tonight because they weren’t wearing the white wedding gown that signified a bride.
“They shouldn’t have appeared yet. You’ll have to wait until the ceremony starts before you get to meet them.” Zhao Yi Bo responded to me as he continued to pick and select delicacies for me.
“What are you two thinking? Bringing your mistress on the day of the engagement party?” A flustered and exasperated man walked hurriedly over to us. Given how similar his appearance was to the twins, I figured he must have been their father.
“Girlfriend, not mistress.” Zhao Yi Bo flatly retorted.
“I don’t care who she is. Today she shouldn’t be here, so have her leave immediately.” He ordered them bluntly. “Your relationship with her is raising whispers from the guests. If the brides’ families find out, it will be a disaster. Besides, you should be getting ready now. The ceremony is about to start soon.”
“Are you asking us to leave immediately, my respected father?” Zhao Yi Xuan’s eyes narrowed dangerously.
“You… never mind, I don’t care. Just make sure nothing funny happens during the engagement party.” After speaking, he left seething in anger.
I started using my eyes to seek out the reporters in the crowd. When the twins get onto the stage a little later for the ceremony, I’ll take the spicy pictures in my handbag and pass them over to the media. Then, my plan was to escape to Japan. When the photos are exposed by the media, it wouldn’t just be the Zhao family that would be affected. It would affect me too, especially since my face was crisp and cleanly there on the photographs.
Before I decided to carry out this plan, I had already thought about my escape route. I had quietly arranged a passport and visa to Japan, and I intended to vanish there after this scandal exploded. At that time, they ought to be preoccupied with dealing with the mayhem brought about by the pictures, and they shouldn’t have the time to pursue me. It was the perfect window of time to think about my next step.
The wedding music slowly started playing, but the two twins remained motionless and stood next to me.
“The ceremony is about to begin. You two still aren’t going to prepare?” I glanced at them with a strange look.
“We’re already prepared.” Zhao Yi Bo smiled slightly.
“Then hurry up and go receive the bride.” I urged them. I had already found a reporter mixed in the crowd of guests, and from the armband he wore, I knew he had to be a reporter from Taiwan Politico. This was a prestigious magazine, and if I gave the pictures to him, I would probably get the result that I wanted. But why weren’t the twins leaving yet?
“The responsibility of greeting the brides belongs to the grooms. There’s no reason for us to stick our foot in.” Zhao Yi Xuan continued to enjoy the cool air while standing next to me.
They were the grooms? But didn’t the newspaper and Mrs. Zhao’s words clearly say that they were the grooms this engagement party was being held for in the first place? Was there some kind of last minute change? Their words left me guessing with suspicion.
“What are you two waiting for? The brides have already come out. Hurry up and receive them!” Mr. and Mrs. Zhao anxiously ran over and ordered them.
“What does it have to do with us? Why do we have to greet the brides?” Zhao Yi Bo feigned confusion, though his eyes flashed with malicious intent.
“You two are the grooms! This is your engagement party!” Unable to restrain his anger, Mr. Zhao shouted. The volume of his voice attracted everyone’s attention, and in an instant everyone’s attention was focused on us. The melodious wedding march, partially due to the fact that the grooms were late and never showed up to the stage, also came to a stop.
The ballroom was completely silent.
“This is an engagement party that you two lovingly put together for your children. Though, this wasn’t referring to us. After all, we’re not the only children that you two have.” Zhao Yi Bo indifferently replied, but the flat words that came out of his mouth sucked the air out from everyone’s lungs.
I lifted my head and looked at him in astonishment.
“Y-you… ungrateful son, don’t think that I can’t control you just because you’ve been playing around in the Zhao family business. I’ll have you two removed from your positions.” Mr. Zhao howled in extreme fury.
“Try it if you can. Do you think you still have any power in the Zhao family business?” Zhao Yi Bo sneered as he looked at Mr. Zhao’s twitching face.
The internal restructuring that they had been doing in the Zhao clan business was all in preparation for this day.
“You…” Mr. Zhao was so furious that his entire body shook. It’s quite likely he might vomit blood any moment now, I thought malevolently.
“Please be careful. Don’t get too worked up. At your age, your body isn’t like what it used to be and you might suffer a stroke.” Zhao Yi Bo continued to speaking, goading a man that seemed like he had dropped dead from anger. “Since it seems like you don’t welcome our presence, we will take our leave now then.”
“Zhao Yi Bo! Stop right where you are this instant!” One of the brides from today, Chen Yan Mei, shouted at him. “Why are you doing this to me? How is that bitch better than me in any way?” She pointed at me and screeched.
Her finger brought the crowd’s attention to me. It was only then that everyone noticed my existence.
Oh, so the scene that’s playing out today isn’t a family dispute. Rather, it’s because of a woman — I could see this train of thought flashing through the crowd’s eyes. I frowned innocently. What did my ancestors do to make Chen Yan Mei hate me so much? She never stops, and whenever she finds the chance, she makes my life difficult. I’m obviously just a bystander in today’s events. Why does she have to drag me into this mess of a mayhem?
“So you really had no idea.” Zhao Yi Bo taunted her with a regretful look as he sized up Chen Yan Mei whose face was twitching.
“You…” Chen Yan Mei started crying on the spot. She covered her face and fled from the scene.
Her father, Chen Zhen Cheng — the chairman of Heng Yuan Merchandise — looked unsightly as he faced Zhao Yi Bo and spoke with a stiff face: “Mr. Zhao, I hope you can give us a reasonable explanation for what happened today, or else…” His words were laced with an unspoken threat.
“For any explanations about this affair, please ask Mr. Zhao Jun Heng and Ms. Lu Ai Mei. After all, this entire event was plotted by them from beginning until end. My only role was to provide a venue for them so they could have a playground for their farce.” Zhao Yi Bo responded effortlessly and heaped the blame entirely on his parents.
Chen Zheng Cheng’s expression turned even more warped, and he quickly spun around, storming away from the banquet hall.
On the other hand, the expression on the other bride’s face, Yan Shui Lin, was completely unfathomable. She seemed completely unfazed by the fact that she had just been rejected by the groom and subject to embarrassment. She only stared at me with eyes full of curiosity. However, I didn’t have the time to carefully figure her out. Zhao Yi Bo tightly wrapped his arm around my waist and brought me along as we left the ballroom.
In the midst of all this chaos, my plan to take the twins down with mutually assured destruction method died without ever coming to fruition.