I know, I know, it's a LOOOOONG time since I published the first book, but I do have plans to finish the Girl with Flying Weapons series! For those of you who have read the book, here's the draft of chapter one of the second book, which I haven't come up with a title yet. I've written a third of it already, and hope to have the book out by fall/winter next year.
“Come immediately,” Fang read from the letter in his hand. “Just what does that mean?”
“Who wrote the message?” Shu-Mo, his personal servant, asked.
“Gwang. He told me that I’ve got to help him. He’s at Heavenly Pleasures at the moment.”
Shu-Mo raised his eyebrows. Heavenly Pleasures was the biggest brothel in the city. “Maybe he called for the services of the most expensive courtesan and forgot to bring his purse.”
Fang grimaced. Considering his eldest brother, whose easygoing, carefree attitude sometimes brought problems, this was possible. “But why did he ask me? Gwang knows I don’t visit brothels. He should have asked Ping instead.”
“Ping went on a hunt with Master Shue early in the morning.”
“Yes, but that is today. If Gwang went to Heavenly Pleasures, he would have spent the night yesterday.”
Shu-Mo shrugged. “Maybe Ping told him yesterday he’d be going hunting today.”
Fang ran a hand through his hair. He didn’t feel like going. The first time his brothers insisted on dragging him to a brothel, he had felt irritated. The heavy scent of cheap perfume assailed his senses and made his head spin. Eager prostitutes had latched on his arm as though he were a magnetic stone and touched him like he were a puppy. He had vowed to avoid the brothel ever since, until several weeks ago he was forced to visit Heavenly Pleasures to pay off the debt of his friend, Chow.
But he couldn’t ignore the plea of help in his brother’s letter.
“If Hong…if Lynn happens to ask for me, tell them I’ve gone to the market. I’m buying new jars of Family Luo’s Rose Daughter.” Fang pulls out a small chest from his wardrobe and checks the contents of his savings. “I’ll make Gwang pay the interest for making me go to that place again.”
Fang was glad that in daytime, Heavenly Pleasures looked a lot more normal. The paper lanterns hanging over the door were extinguished of their red glow, decreasing the wanton atmosphere. No hordes of lewd, drunken men staggering into the entrance; only servants hurrying to and fro, busy with tasks of laundry and cooking. Still, two bleary-eyed prostitutes, their makeup smeared over their foreheads, sidled up to him once he set foot inside.
“Hello, handsome,” one cooed, sliding her hand up his shoulder. “Your first time here? We always have special treatment for new customers.”
Fang shook off her hand impatiently and glared at the errand boy who delivered Gwang’s message.
“Tell me where he is. Now.”
He was brought up three flights of stairs, walked through a midair corridor that joined to another building. A man blocked their way.
“He can’t enter.”
The boy slipped him a coin. “He was requested by Elder Sister.”
The man scrutinized Fang for a long time—before moving aside. “Be quick and don’t let the mistress see him.”
Fang felt like turning back, but his curiosity got the better of him. Fingering the hilt on his dagger, which was discreetly concealed beneath his belt, he continued to follow the errand boy, who walked several paces ahead and kept an eye out for people heading towards their direction.
They reached the top floor, made a turn down a corridor, and stopped outside the room on the very end. The boy rapped on the door.
“Elder Sister, I’ve brought him.”
A muffled voice answered in the affirmative.
His body tensed, Fang entered the room. It was lushly furnished with silken screens, smooth, polished bamboo furniture, and ceramic vases. In the middle of the room perched a long, low bench. A woman sat on the bench. Her eyes lightened up when Fang entered.
Moon Fairy. The queen of flowers—the most expensive and popular courtesan in the entire brothel. If Gwang had engaged the services of Moon Fairy, it was quite conceivable that he had underestimated the cost.
Fang looked around for any trace of Gwang, but it seemed the room contained only the courtesan. “Where is my brother?”
She slipped off the bench and glided towards him, her robes trailing in a silken heap behind her.
“Forgive me,” her voice was soft and sensual. “I did not know what other method to ask you come, so I used your brother’s name. He should still be sleeping in Little Chrysanthemum’s room.”
Fang pursed his lips. He detested deception, especially in the name of his brother. “Since my brother is well, I shall take leave. Good day to you.”
“Wait!” Moon Fairy lunged forward and laid a hand on his arm. “Please don’t leave yet. I wouldn’t have deceived you, but I am desperate. Please, hear what I have to say. I won’t dare to hinder you then.”
Her scent surrounded him like an invisible mist—unlike the perfume used by other prostitutes and his servant maids, Moon Fairy’s perfume was actually quite pleasant. There was a subtleness in its fragrance of sweet olive. Her fingers were soft and warm; her tone certainly agitated. Fang fought against the urge to leave and the undeniable fact that the most beautiful woman he had ever seen was now frantic for his help.
With a sigh, he wrenched his arm from her grasp and moved to a bench in a far corner, keeping a reasonable distance between them.
“Make your point.”
Moon Fairy gazed at him beseechingly. Tears glistened in her eyes like diamonds.
“In two months, Madam Jin will auction me off for the highest bidder who would take me as a concubine. I beg you, Master Fang, to buy me.”
If she suddenly took out a knife and threw it at him, Fang could not be more surprised. “But there is more than plenty of men who’d pay a good price for you.”
Moon Fairy shook her head. “It may be wistful thinking of me, but I would strive for a man of my choice. The magistrate’s son, Ho Jiang-Min has been here and told Madam Jin he means to add me to his harem. I have a friend who became his concubine only months ago. She was brutally treated—not only by him, but also by his first wife. I was not able to see her, but I have received news that she has scars to prove it.”
Fang’s jaw tightened. He had never liked Ho Jiang-Min, who was a typical example of rich, good-for-nothing young men. Fang personally witnessed Ho molesting a married woman in the streets and, when Fang was wrongfully imprisoned, Ho demanded a servant maid in exchange for his freedom. He understood perfectly why Moon Fairy dreaded of being sold to the magistrate’s son.
“Then there is General Su,” Moon Fairy went on. “He is old enough to be my grandsire. Although he would not likely force me to bear a son, he only wants me so he could complement his assortment of women.”
A tear streaked down her face; she did not bother to wipe it away. She did not sob loudly, but her quiet desperation spoke volumes already.
“But…why did you ask me? I am sure there are other decent men who are willing to buy you. We are barely acquainted.”
She shook her head, her long earrings tinkling as they swayed. “I’ve only met you once, but your appearance, your manner, your conduct, have deeply attracted me. You have been on my mind in day, and in my dreams at night.” A rosy hue stained her cheeks as she spoke. “I know I am not from a respectable family, and you must marry a girl worthy of your rank and occupation. All I ask is that you allow me to be your servant, or that I serve your future wife.”
Her request was humble. He could not help being sympathetic to her plight. Were it some other way, Fang would have gladly assisted her. He disliked, nay, detested Ho and Su, and would not give any of his own servant maids to them. Part of him was also flattered that this gorgeous, opulent creature claimed to be attracted to him and begged to serve him. But on the other hand, he could not imagine Moon Fairy being a servant in his household. He could not imagine Hong, with her quiet demeanor and preference for simplicity, ordering Moon Fairy around. Not to mention that he wasn’t yet certain that Hong would agree to marry him.
“I can’t promise you anything,” he finally said. “But I will consider the matter carefully.”
Hope flashed in her large, limpid eyes. She placed both hands in front of her and bowed until her forehead touched the floor.
“You are benevolent and kind,” she murmured. “I will pray for the day I can serve you, Master Fang.”