Several months have passed in the blink of an eye. Fall went away, and winter loomed over the capital city of Lunar Empire. The sky was no longer clear and blue, it was always a bleak grey, shallow and empty. Winter made everything seem so still, so silent.
It has not snowed yet, but the temperature had already dropped. People started wearing thicker clothes in the streets; the daughters of the rich and noble gathering at the silk districts to shop for their winter hanfus.
A rumor has been spreading, that the Fat Imbecile of the Yue family got assassinated. Luckily the Yue Clan's shadow guards arrived in time and saved her, but the Imbecile was heavily injured and was now incapable of going out of the house.
That explained why Ling Yue has disappeared from the capital's streets these past weeks, and there was no round figure trailing after the prodigy Ting Fu, observing him from afar like a stalker, secretly hiding her love.
It had been such a familiar sight - the handsome prodigy being tailed by the Imbecile - that the peasants of the capital somehow missed seeing the Imbecile. Perhaps they wanted to tease the Imbecile and laugh at her; with her gone, there was now no more laughing stock, and the capital suddenly turned boring and quiet along with the winter...
Aina, although disappointed that Ling Yue didn't die, believed in the rumor. The assassins had costed her a great fortune, so it was unfortunate that they had failed.
Aina had been shaky for a few days after the failed assassination, but no one has even investigated into the assassins nor mentioned the case. She slowly got more confident. Maybe the Yue Clan Master has finally come to his senses and abandoned that useless daughter of his.
She was wary or retribution and punishments if she was found out, but nothing came her way. Maybe she got away with it...
As Ling Yue disappeared from Ting Fu's sight, Aina jumped in, and the couple have gotten even closer than before. Aina had Ting Fu wrapped around her fingers.
Now, another rumor rose around the capital, that the Imbecile was a cruel third wheel.
Sometime ago the head of the Fu Clan visited Hong Yue to revoke the Imbecile's marriage with his prodigy son, and got rejected out of the Yue Clan's doors. Rumors had it that Ling Yue had begged her father to not revoke her marriage, and that she used her position as the Lady of the Yue Clan to prevent the lovebirds Ting Fu and Aina from coming together.
The noblemen of the capital whispered ugly words about Ling, and those who looked down on her, hated her even more. Many were jealous of her high title, she got everything that she didn't deserve. Everyone knew she was nothing without her nobility, and that she would never get Ting Fu's attention with Aina around.
Aina Yue was the only daughter of a brother Hong Yue had exiled during the Yue Clan power struggle years ago. She did not leave to the Empire's frontiers with her father because of her young age at the time, and she had also wanted the Yue Clan's influence and protection.
Even as Aina depended on Hong Yue's generosity for the silks and jewels that she wore, she harbored hatred towards him and directed all her sentiments towards Ling Yue, whom she has bullied in secrete since her childhood.
Aina Yue was one of the most beautiful ladies of the capital. Her Chi has reached Lower Orange class, considered outstanding amongst her peers. She was known as gentle and kind, sociable and friendly; a well-rounded lady who knew the four "Lady's Arts" like the back of her hand – playing the Guqin, chess, poetry, and art.
They said that she was best with her Guqin, and that her skills were unmatched in the Lunar Empire.
Such a skilled beauty was a good match to the martial arts prodigy of the capital, but then came the Imbecile, playing the third wheel.
People couldn't help but be sorry for the poor couple, and they turned their hatred towards Ling Yue – the worthless Lady who used her title to oppress others.
Soft pink petals floated in the wind in the Yard of Blossoms, even though it was winter and other trees have died. The yard used to be well known in the capital city for its year-round cherry blossoms, but as soon as people found out the yard belonged to the Imbecile, they stopped praising the trees.
In no time, this beautiful yard was soon forgotten in the minds of the capital's citizens, its glory now only for Ling Yue to admire.
Ling Yue munched on the soft green bean cakes in her hand as she lazily leaned into her long chair. Silk pillows engulfed her. A white fur coat was draped over her shoulders, made of the pelt of a rare white fox. Her long hair flowed like black silk, spilling onto the ground.
The shadow guards hiding themselves in the dark stared dumb-founded at their Lady, forgetting just for a moment that she was the infamous Imbecile of the capital.
The raining flowers faded into the background, their colors bleak and dull against the lazy beauty in front of them. Petals caressed her snowy skin, a pink bud stopping between her delicate fingers.
The lady was a white lotus unfurling in winter, ethereally sacred.
Ling Yue's face was still a bit round, but it was significantly smaller than before. The roundness did not ruin her beauty, it gave her the impression of an innocent young lady, fragile and soft. It hid the danger underneath.
"Loan, has there been word from Ash?"
In front of her, a dark shadow stepped out from nowhere, swift and silent like a ghost. The shadow bowed reverently: "My Lady, it was exactly as you said. Ash won over the assassins and are training them according to your plans."
"And the Devil's Pharmacy?"
"Mao has been doing very well, my Lady.
The Devil's Pharmacy is getting recognized by many people. Our income is increasing greatly. Ah, yesterday the Imperial Concubine Li asked for the Devil's Hand to come examine her illness. Mao sent a letter asking if she should go in your place."