Phoenix’s Requiem - Chapter 88
Chapter 88: Demonic Ring
As if it could understand Yun Ruoyan’s words, the little snake wriggled its body as it slithered toward Yun Ruoyan.
Yun Ruoyan knew that, the higher the tier of a snake-type magical beast, the worse its vision. This little snake that had just been hatched had a pair of large, inky eyes, like two flawless black pearls.
Yun Ruoyan couldn’t help but be reminded of Li Mo, whose eyes were similar. The snake continued moving all the way to Yun Ruoyan’s front, staring at her through the pane of glass.
Yun Ruoyan lifted her finger and laid it on the glass. As she did so, the little snake kissed the glass her finger was touching on the other side.
“Wow!” Yun Ruoyan exclaimed. She’d had to fight with snakes twice in the imperial territory, and had long since lost all her goodwill toward such beasts. At the start, she had even been against Lin Qingchen bringing the snake eggs back to her place.
But when she saw this little snake, she was simply blown away by how cute and adorable it was. She turned toward Lin Qingchen. “I wouldn’t have expected it to be so obedient at such a young age!”
“Whitey’s still just a snakelet, like a baby just a few months old. How could it know what we’re saying?” Lin Qingchen responded. “It’s actually a very temperamental beast, not obedient at all.”
“But… its behavior?” Yun Ruoyan was shocked.
Lin Qingchen smiled mischievously before showing Yun Ruoyan her left hand. “It’s only because of this that it’s calm.”
On Lin Qingchen’s middle finger was a dark, ancient ring, on which was carved the image of a snake.
“Wasn’t this the ring that we found in the imperial territory?”
More than a month ago, during their expedition, they’d managed to get quite a haul of treasure in the wild vine spirit’s den deep in a mountain cave, and this snake ring was among the loot. Lin Qingchen had fallen in love with it at first sight, and the party had decided to give it to her. Yun Ruoyan had simply not noticed when Lin Qingchen first began to put it on.
“I unintentionally found that this ring could actually be used to control snake-type beasts.” Lin Qingchen moved her left hand back and forth, and the small white snake began to dance with her movement.
When Lin Qingchen stopped, that white snake stopped as well.
“Grandfather told me that this was a ring brimming with demonic power.” Lin Qingchen took off the ring and passed it to Yun Ruoyan, motioning for her to put it on.
As Yun Ruoyan did so, a pair of black eyes—fully black, including the sclera—suddenly flashed through her mind, giving off a cold aura. It had only appeared for a single moment, but Yun Ruoyan felt as if her whole body had been laid bare. In shock, she turned toward Lin Qingchen.
Before she could ask about what had happened, Lin Qingchen spoke up. “The first time I saw this pair of eyes, I was also shocked. When I handed the ring to Grandfather, he told me that these eyes belonged to the previous owner of the ring. The owner’s long dead, of course, but the demonic energy that he injected into the ring still remains to this day, giving rise to this ring’s power.”
Mimicking Lin Qingchen’s actions, Yun Ruoyan pointed the ring at the snake and wiggled her fingers, but the snake lay there without responding to her actions.
Lin Qingchen told Yun Ruoyan to inject some of her spiritual energy into the ring. The moment that she did so, the pair of eyes once again appeared in her mind. This time, however, they remained in her mind’s eye without disappearing.
Yun Ruoyan could feel the pair of eyes looking at the snake through her eyes, and then the snake began to move following Yun Ruoyan’s actions.
“Does demonic energy really exist in this world?” Yun Ruoyan looked at the ring in her hands, almost disbelieving. The demonic realm, demonic energy, demonic artifacts… these, to her, had always been nothing else than fantastical stories that the bards and storytellers at teahouses and taverns might repeat.
One of her favorite stories was about a large war between humans and demons that took place more than a millennium ago. Armed with their spiritual energy and cultivation, the humans were able to drive back the demons from the land once and for all.
Yun Ruoyan enjoyed the story, but didn’t believe that such a war had truly occurred.
“Grandfather said that a millennium is a long time, and the truth of history has long since been muddled and warped. When he was young, he had even spent quite a significant amount of time investigating whether or not the demonic race truly existed, but he didn’t manage to find much reliable information. But I think this ring is clear evidence of their existence.”
Yun Ruoyan returned the ring to Lin Qingchen. As she put it back on, she happily continued, “Although I don’t have any talent as a beastmaster, I’m able to control and command snake-type beasts with this ring. Whitey here will be my first magical beast.”
In the evening, Yun Ruoyan bade her sisters and grandfather farewell and went back to the Yun household.
When she entered her cottage, she found Xi Lan drying the phoenix orchid petals that she’d picked during their excursion to the Minghuang mountain.
When Xi Lan saw Yun Ruoyan, she happily waved at her. “Mistress, look how beautiful these petals are!” Xi Lan grabbed a handful of petals and flung them into the air. As they drifted back down, they emitted a faint fragrance.
“May I ask if your mistress is present?” Suddenly, a strange woman’s voice piped up from behind Yun Ruoyan.
She turned around to see a plainly dressed woman by the door. She was wearing no makeup nor any ornaments, and neither did she look young. However, her appearance nevertheless exuded a certain charm.
“I am she. May I ask who you are?” Yun Ruoyan replied quizzically.
“Ruoyan, you’re Ruoyan!” The woman’s shock quickly turned into excitement.
“Don’t you remember me? I’m your father’s second concubine!” The woman walked up and touched Yun Ruoyan’s hands. “You’ve grown so beautiful these three years. At the time, I’d even thought that you might not be able to live.”
Yun Lan had four concubines. The second concubine, Qin Jianmei, was one that Yun Ruoyan was more familiar with.
Madam An and Lin Yuemei had entered the Yun household at approximately the same time. Madam An and Yun Lan had had an arranged betrothal as minors, whereas Lin Yuemei and Yun Lan had found an affinity with each other as adults.
Madam An was intended to be Yun Lan’s wife, but no one had expected Lin Yuemei to pop out before their marriage could take place. In the end, Madam An had no choice but to be his first concubine instead.
When Lin Yuemei passed away and Madam An became the wife of the household, Yun Lan took on three more concubines in succession. The second concubine gave birth to Yun Ruoyu, and he had had no heirs with the other two.
For some reason, both the other two concubines had been sent away to external properties owned by the Yun family, and only Qin Jianmei remained in the main household.
In her impression, Qin Jianmei was a friendly, peaceful woman who didn’t like to fight for power. As a devout woman, she would spend her entire day praying, and almost never left her residence. What had caused her to show up at her cottage out of nowhere?
“Madam Qin, what brings you here today?” Yun Ruoyan smiled pleasantly.
When Madam Qin’s expression turned awkward, Yun Ruoyan immediately understood that she must have come to beg for forgiveness for her daughter, Yun Ruoyu.
Ever since Yun Ruoyu had tried to poison Yun Ruoyan, she had been under house arrest on the Yun matriarch’s orders. It had been over two weeks since the incident, and the Yun matriarch had announced that the house arrest would only be lifted when Yun Ruoyan allowed it. In the intervening period, Yun Ruoyan had been so absorbed in her cultivation that she had forgotten about it entirely.
“Ruoyan, I know that Ruoyu has really been too excessive this time,” Madam Qin finally began. “As her birth mother, I claim responsibility for her upbringing. Would you be willing to do me a favor and spare her this once considering our past interactions?”
Yun Ruoyan looked at Madam Qin’s earnest glance and couldn’t help but think back to the period of time right after she’d been expelled from the family academy.
To Yun Ruoyan, that period was like the transition between heaven and hell. She’d gone from being a genius at cultivation to a discarded piece of trash, from the second daughter of the Yun family to an ugly, wretched girl that no one wanted to interact with.
Everyone in the Yun family who had once bowed down to her now took this as an opportunity to spit on, spurn, and trample her. Among them all, only Madam Qin had shown her any kindness and respect. She had continued calling her Miss, even when no one else did so.
After her serious injury during the match with Rong Yuehong, it was Madam Qin who had spared no effort to take care of her for three days and nights.
In the past, Yun Ruoyan didn’t repay this gratitude. She spent day and night blaming herself for being inept without making any attempt to reciprocate the kindness that others had given her.
After her rebirth, however, this was a debt that Yun Ruoyan couldn’t afford not to pay.
“Of course,” Yun Ruoyan responded earnestly, clasping Madam Qin’s hands in hers, “Madam Qin, you have my gratitude. Although you may not be interested in vying for power, I know you well understand what ploys take place in this household. Ruoyu was clearly instigated to do this by someone else. She’s stubborn and temperamental, and I’m sure she hates me after this whole incident. Nevertheless, Madam Qin, I hope you can persuade her to give up on seeking revenge. Otherwise, if there’s a next time, please don’t blame me for being harsh.”
Having received permission for Yun Ruoyu to go free, Madam Qin nodded gratefully before rushing to Yun Ruoyu’s cottage to give her the good news.
Within Yun Ruoyu’s cottage, the maid Xiangcao was attempting to apply a medicinal salve onto Yun Ruoyu’s face. However, her hands trembled and trembled, and she didn’t seem to have the courage to touch the affected regions.
“Imbecile! Can’t you even do something like this right?!” Yun Ruoyu yelled in frustration before grabbing the gauze in her maid’s hands.
Xiangcao was so scared that she immediately knelt on the floor and began to apologize.
Yun Ruoyu looked into the mirror, her chest heaving. Below her neck and collarbone were angry patches of red. Some of the wounds had scabbed over, but flesh was still visible in others. In the humid summer night, a strange stench emanated from her body.
With trembling hands and gritted teeth, Yun Ruoyu pressed the gauze against her wound. Instantly, pain radiated across her entire body. She couldn’t help but scream, sweeping the mirror on the table, as well as the bowl containing the medicinal salve, onto the ground.
As the bowl fell, its contents splattered onto Yun Ruoyu’s exposed wounds and prompted another overwhelming round of pain. Cries of pain and frustration quickly began to emerge from Yun Ruoyu’s cottage.
Madam Qin could hear her daughter’s shouts from afar. She clutched the handkerchief in her hand all the tighter as she hurried to see her daughter once more.