First Published on Chaleuria
09.1 – A Banquet of the Wealthy
Very soon, Su Mu left the hospital and went back to his villa to recuperate. The villa was enormous, the grounds were beautiful, and the facilities were both luxurious and useful. But Su Mu did not like this place, which was empty and silent and did not feel like a home. If he had a choice, he would have rather stayed in Yao Qian’s little shop.
Convalescence was very boring. The physiotherapist came for two hours every day, and the rest of the time Su Mu was on his own. His father was busy with work all day while his mother put all her effort into properly running her charity and journeyed all over the world. His elder brother had been run out of the family, and only Yang Weiyu visited every few days to chat with him and show him the new clothes and accessories she bought. Su Mu knew that Yang Weiyu had recently gotten Yao Qian to go shopping with her and heard her compliment Yao Qian’s good taste many times. The clothing Yao Qian picked often drew the eyes of her other friends. Clearly, Yang Weiyu already considered Yao Qian to be a good friend.
“Mu, let’s find Yao Qian a boyfriend.”
Su Mu was currently reading a finance magazine. He looked up at his girlfriend’s serious expression and smiled. “All right, but not a rich young master, or Yao Yuan will break my leg again.”
Yang Weiyu very attentively flipped through the wealthy young masters in her mind. He must be handsome and capable… several seconds later, her eyes lit up. “When I was in the States, I met the Lu family’s heir.”
“No!” Su Mu shut his book with a thud and said decisively.
Yang Weiyu had never seen Su Mu so emphatic and was a little stunned. She asked hesitantly, “Why?”
Su Mu realized he had overreacted and hurriedly hid the anger in his eyes. “I heard that after he came back from abroad he likes to flirt with women.”
Yang Weiyu didn’t insist; she had remembered something. Five years ago, the Su and Lu families had both had their eye on the same piece of land in the city suburbs, and each sent their eldest son to personally claim it for their own. Later, Lu Yunbo won by a slim margin. It had been the Su family’s eldest son Su Yan’s first loss since he entered the business world, and the Su family declared that Su Yan was cutting ties with the family not long after the incident. No one knew why this had happened, and Yang Weiyu had not seen Su Yan since then. Now, seeing how angry Su Mu was, Yang Weiyu inwardly surmised that Su Yan being driven out of the family probably had something to do with Lu Yunbo.
Su Mu’s words surprised Yang Weiyu who had been lost in her own thoughts. She looked up and explained, “I’m going over the candidates again.”
“Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time.” Su Mu put his arms around his girlfriend and gently consoled her.
At his attentiveness, Yang Weiyu showed a sweet smile. She deeply loved this man, and she was very glad that he had picked her among his many admirers. She believed that she would be very happy in the future.
After that day, Yang Weiyu didn’t mention the matter again and Su Mu thought she had put it aside. A month later when Su Mu could walk normally again, Yang Weiyu’s birthday arrived. She organized a banquet, and unexpectedly, the Yao siblings were among the invitees.
Initially, Yao Qian hadn’t intended to accept the invitation. She was aware of Yang Weiyu’s intentions, but she had no plans to enter that world, and was certainly not prepared to marry a businessman and be his wife. Like her brother, she didn’t like the cutthroat mutual deception of the business world, and she did not think she would make a good rich housewife. She only wished to lead a calm and ordinary life. But in the face of Yang Weiyu’s enthusiasm, she couldn’t bring herself to refuse, and decided to just show her face before leaving. And since she was going, of course she dragged Yao Yuan—who was more willing to suffer the pain of death—there as her chaperone.
On the night of the party, the Yao siblings intentionally arrived early. They greeted the birthday girl and gave her their gifts, then hid in the corner, chatting and eating, planning to leave shortly. This was their first time mingling with the upper class. This world was filled with splendid gold and jade, brilliant light and vibrant colors, beautiful and elegant clothes, delicious food and wine, and overflowing with jokes and smiles, a world completely different from their own. The wealthy young ladies and gentlemen wore clothes exquisite to the point of extravagance, and wore elegant but deceptive smiles as they weaved through the crowd making polite conversation. As Yao Yuan looked upon all of this, he couldn’t help his disdain and mockery.
The banquet was held for Yang Weiyu, so most of the attendees were young. They didn’t ignore the strangers in the corner: the naturally beautiful Yao Qian and the handsome, wild Yao Yuan. Even in their cheap clothes, hidden in a dark corner, they still drew the gazes of others. As the young masters and ladies drew close to Yang Weiyu to give her their birthday wishes, they also asked about the two of them. Yang Weiyu was very satisfied with this turn of events, and dragged Yao Qian out of the corner and solemnly introduced her to everyone. Although Yao Qian was unwilling, she couldn’t make Yang Weiyu lose face, so she smiled and greeted everyone.
Yao Yuan continued to hide in the corner, leaning languidly against a chair. Seeing his sister become the crowd’s focus and receive dance invitations non-stop, he was actually quite happy. He had long known his sister was outstanding; life had just held her back. After the first song ended, his gaze finally left his sister and landed on several nearby girls whispering among themselves and casting him glances from time to time. Of course he understood what that meant, but he had no intention of having anything to do with them. He got up and walked toward the small balcony to one side.
“Are you Yao Yuan?” A pretty girl stood in his way. He touched the hair at his forehead out of habit and said ill-temperedly, “Is something the matter?”
Despite his attitude, the girl didn’t back off and continued smiling. “I’m Qi Yixuan. May I invite you to dance?”
Yao Yuan looked her over, then turned to the other women looking at him. He knew that if he agreed, more invitations would follow. He made a decision and showed a teasing smile, saying unceremoniously, “So, do wealthy young ladies always offer themselves up like you? I don’t mind.”
“How coarse!” Qi Yixuan couldn’t bear the humiliation and her face turned sheet-white from anger. Without a second thought she picked up one foot and the narrow, long heel of her shoe landed on Yao Yuan’s foot. With a toss of her hair, she whirled and left.
“Silly girl.” Yao Yuan cradled his aching foot and massaged it for a while. He looked up, saw the girl making a face at him, and glared back. Several seconds later he couldn’t help but laugh. Interesting. So not every rich young woman is graceful and noble. Qi Yixuan, was it? A good name.
Yao Yuan pushed open the balcony door, lit a cigarette, and took two long drags. He could finally breathe. The music from the hall faintly drifted into his ear, and through the glass door he could see the men and women dancing. Outside, amidst the trees in the garden, two people were kissing. Such were the lives of the rich: it looked radiant, but in the shadows it was also corrupt and lustful.
Yao Yuan had just lit his second cigarette when the porch door was pushed open again. He looked up and saw Su Mu walking over slowly, still limping slightly.