Beauty to Ashes chapter 8

Chapter 8

T/N: This is the final part, a short conclusion to a short story. Thank you for sticking by~ 

Jin Xiu smiled. “Forget it. Ah Lan is the only thing you can use to threaten me. But the only thing you can use him to do is to force me over here.” Her smile became even more radiant and genuine. It was a smile that seemed to contain and suppress a profound sense of malice.

“Chen Ruo, what you owe me you will return me one by one, starting from today.”

All the happiness that had been forcefully wrenched from her, please return it. After she said this, she turned around to leave, leaving him bleeding behind her.

Before, he had turned his back on her and failed to see her utter despair and hopelessness. Today, she was the one who didn’t turn back, flicking her sleeves as she departed while leaving him to struggle on his own. Retribution. This was retribution for his treatment to her back then. Even though this debt was settled, there was no sense of exhilaration.

Chen Ruo muttered some words to himself and suddenly, he grinned. He would just repay the debts in this way. He wanted her by his side and didn’t care about anything else. If she didn’t want to be happy with him, then she didn’t need to be happy. She could take whatever she wanted from him, as long as she stayed be his side. For this, he was willing to lower himself.

Chen Ruo followed behind the white-haired girl like a soulless being. When she walked through the desolate doors of her previous residence, that girl suddenly turned her head and smiled prettily at him, before slowly closing the sliding doors on him.

From then on, Chen Ruo never got the chance to see that sliding door open up for him. That pretty and decisive smile had severed all relations, becoming the final parting song of the only girl he ever loved in his life.

After that door slowly closed on him, the white-haired girl in plain clothes slowly slumped against the door frame, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. She was back in the land of her nightmares. The helpless and defenceless Jin Xiu of many years back brushed shoulders with her in this familiar palace room. Her entire being was wrought with bitter cold and she could only mutter the name of the man she loved as she clutched onto the wooden bead bracelet on her wrist.

Chen Lan, Chen Lan. She silently repeated her lover’s name as her fingers gently caressed her belly that was still flat. You must be happy, she thought like this before quietly closing her eyes as tears seemed to fall. This time, Chen Lan would no longer be able to appear in front of her and wipe away her tears… Chen Lan, Chen Lan, Chen Lan…

In the sixth year of the reign of Emperor Ruo, the consort of Prince Wu passed away. Prince Wu submitted a petition requesting to be dispatched to guard the borders. It was granted. The reigning emperor instated a new empress, Empress Xiao. The new empress was chronically ill and stayed away from the public eye in the rear court.

In the seventh year, Empress Xiao gave birth to the first son, named Huan.

Hence, this tangled mess came and went just like this. History recorded everything as these few meagre lines.

This struggle that drew both blood and tears was merely like this. After that, time slowly trickled on. Chen Ruo had already sat stably on the throne for twenty years.

Early in summer that year, deep into a dark night, that girl that was getting on in her years was suddenly roused from her sleep in the depths on the palace. In the midst of the vague silence, she slowly reached her hands to her cheeks which were soaked with tears, tears akin to warm blood that would not stop flowing. She had never seen a single thing of this world with her eyes so her dreams were always pitch black and she could only hear sounds. In her dream that night, someone was holding her shoulder and gently speaking to her. She could no longer remember what the person had said, but all she knew was that the moment she woke up, her tears flowed unceasingly. In her lifetime, she had only shed tears in front of one person. Hence, a vivid premonition surfaced in the depths of her heart. Whatever happened, she would soon find out.

She heard a commotion outside. Her child who was a light sleeper came running in. He tugged her hand and called her mother, before asking her what was wrong. She shook her head in a daze without saying a word. The youth also frowned, and just at this moment, the mourning bell rang in the direction of the main palace, shattering the tranquillity of the night like a breaking wave. Suddenly, a few maidservants scrambled over in alarm to pass on a grievous message from the main palace: Prince Wu had passed away. On the same night, the rear court of Chen Country caught fire, and the only person trapped in the fire was Jin Xiu. She sat alone in the sea of fire, locking the palace doors from the inside. She felt a lap of fire gently lick her sleeves… her body… Then, she felt someone hold her hand. That grip was familiar, that voice was familiar – It was that gentle, that warm. The man she loved so deeply told her, Jin Xiu, I will take you away, we shall no longer be apart. She agreed, her smile genuine and graceful. Mm, I will leave with you, let’s never be apart again.

She closed her eyes.

What she didn’t know was that before the burning and locked gates, her husband in name was holding back her tearful son who was about to charge in. He stared blankly at the raging fire and the youth collapsed onto the ground in despair. Chen Ruo loosened his grip and he finally let go. The Emperor of Chen Country turned his back and looked up to the heavens, and finally, for the first time in his life, a wet substance leaked out of his eyes. As it turned out, the girl who he insisted on keeping by his side, Jin Xiu, wasn’t even willing to leave him an intact body. Sitting on the emperor’s throne, he massaged his temples as he watched the youth clutch the urn which contained the ashes that had been scrambled to be collected. Chen Huan, his son in name and the successor of this country, revealed a beaten and bitter smile, covered with a layer of tranquillity.

What could he do? He brooded.

He silently passed an order for Chen Huan to bring the ashes to be buried together with Chen Lan, before closing his eyes. He heard that child ask him whether Prince Wu was his biological father. He did not reply and only asked him to leave. Then, he calmly fished out a small and worn-out bead bracelet. It had been crafted from sandalwood, with intricate auspicious carvings on its surface. The craftsmanship was exquisite and the rounded edges of the beads were glossy and smooth. It was the bead bracelet that Jin Xiu had lost many years back. It was passed down from Chen Lan’s mother, and had been given to him when he left the country. His little brother had childishly gifted him the bracelet and put it on his wrist. He protected it carefully, never showing it to others. That day, he had stood outside the mud wall at Jin Xiu’s residence to watch her quietly, just like he always did. He heard her quietly spill out the grievances in her heart and in the end, she shrunk into a ball, sobbing sorrowfully. It was his first time seeing her cry and at that instant, he had no idea what to do. He had originally assumed that she would never cry, since no matter how sad and no matter how much she suffered, she had always smiled at him. Who would have known that he would finally see her cry, although it was only that one instance. He was at a complete loss and all he knew was that his heart grieved and hurt seeing her tears. Finally, he could no longer hold back and extended an arm to comfort her, only for that bracelet to fall off.

On the day that she was driven out of the palace, she had dropped that bead bracelet on the ground. He ordered his men to retrieve it secretly, but he no longer had the opportunity to wear it for her again.

Chen Ruo gradually closed his eyes. It was as though he had travelled many decades back, for it was warm spring day. He had slowly walked over from his guarded palace. Then, he saw that little girl wrapped in a bundle of blankets on her father’s lap flash a bashful and sweet smile at him. She childishly told him, my name is Jin Xiu… Big brother, what is your name? How did he respond back then? Right, he answered, Chen Ruo.

Back then, it was the third lunar month, 43rd year of the ten heavenly stems and twelve earthly branches. Spring was drawing to a close.

[Book completed] 

 


T/N: So much symbolism, so much to unpack. Fundamentally, every character in this story is flawed. Yet, these flaws are what weaves the story together. A quiet youth who doesn’t express himself, his younger brother who took a step back and a headstrong girl whose decisions at every turn shaped the narrative. The story ends the cycle of misfortune with another cycle, 兜兜转转,百折千回 (p6), in hope that with the right decisions, all that is beautiful will not be reduced to ashes. 

Thank you for reading! 


Beauty to Ashes

Beauty to Ashes

锦成灰
Score 9.4
Status: Completed Type: Author: Released: 2016 Native Language: Chinese
It was a beautiful beginning.She was a precious princess who was treasured by her father. Her life should have been filled with beauty, without winter, only sunshine.She just had to meet him.As she was dozing off, wrapped in a bundle of blankets on her father’s lap in court,He was kneeling below, with a pale complexion and picturesque eyes. A small red mark was imprinted between his brows, akin to a red-crowned crane – alluring and highly venomous.He was a prince from the enemy land being held hostage, possessing an uncertain futureShe was the princess, with royal blood running in her veins.Hence, she became a legend passed down in folksongs on the apricot path: To give her life to the one she loves. Even if there came a day of heartless abandonment, there would be no regrets.But, in this story, there was another person.At her lowest points, he said to her, I will take you away, to the ends of the earth, not leaving, not forsaking – But, unfortunately, he wasn’t the same young man from the very start.Till the end, when everything that flourished receded, she realised. Alas, all her former hate and pain was nothing but a lie.Her one lifetime was the most magnificent beauty. After which, simply reduced to ash.

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