74 Women of the Same Roots

    "Madam, if it continues to rain like this, will we have to close down the Hundred Flower Hall?" Servant Zhao asked quietly on the carriage.

    "No need. As long there are men willing to pay, I will continue to open my doors for my guests." Madam Lu replied. She was quite certain that on rainy days when men are bored, there will be plenty wanting to come over.

    Servant Zhao did not say another word in response. Indeed, she also agreed that men would come to their doors in the midst of heavy rains. It would be beneficial to their cause the more people that came. But, in the end, they were nothing more than a small business that laid in the middle of nowhere, so remote that barely any news would get to them.

    The ride returning to the Hundred Flower Hall was quick, but madam Lu decided to wait it out on the carriage until dawn came, so they would not have to face those sweaty men.

    Servant Zhao sat quietly. Allowing the night to drift by, and the rains to pound upon their carriage, like weary ghosts knocking upon the soaked wooden doors, to the point of breaking, yet never truly being able to come in.

    In the midst of the silence, servant Zhao spoke: "Have you thought of keeping the girls longer this time?"

    Talking with the encasement of rain outside, servant Zhao was sure that madam Lu would not escape from the conversation this time.

    "No, I will ship them off after the third month, and everything will return to normal."

    "Don't you think, they could be doing a lot more for you?"

    "They're farmer's daughters and village girls of the countryside, what can they possibly do for me?" Madam Lu said with a chuckle.

    "When people become desperate, they will be willing to do anything." Servant Zhao warned with all seriousness.

    Madam Lu gave a stiff smile, "Then I await a time when they do."

    "So be it, if you do not want to listen, but know that what I say is the truth." Servant Zhao did not seem to care about what madam Lu thought, but she surely wasn't going to waste her time and effort to convince a woman who didn't want to believe otherwise.

    "Have you found any leads yet?"

    "No, but judging by the state of his body, he has died for about three to seven days now. Maybe the heavy downpour and the animals may have contributed to the quick decomposition of his body." Servant Zhao paused, as her face showed an expression of all seriousness as she said: "It is crucial for you to tell me, how much did Ma Wei know about us?"

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    "Servant Zhao, do you think I am stupid? Do you think I would tell him about what we do?"

    Servant Zhao stopped and let out a smirk, one could see those wrinkles around her eyes tighten, "Do you think I am deaf to the sounds of flirtatious music that you guys do in the middle of the night?"

    "Rest assured, I have not fallen for that man." Madam Lu calmly stated.

    "Is that so? That's not how you looked when you first saw his mutilated corpse." Servant Zhao said it was as though she had been transported to that moment when the white cloth had been lifted, and the expression on madam Lu's face was that of disbelief, seeing the man she had once shared a bed with a few days ago, become a cold wet corpse seemed to be suffocating.

    "After so many years of seeing many things, this simply surprised me."

    "It was also one of the cruelest methods I have seen in my lifetime." Servant Zhao quietly added on. "But Now, I have to ask, if Ma Wei had any enemies."

    At this question, madam Lu slightly laughed and said "He was a businessman, and a large rice merchant at that, do you think that he had no enemies? I knew he was mixing sand in together with the grains of broken rice and sending it to the northern border. So I used the evidence against him."

    "What? Do you know what a large matter you are implying here? Have you ever thought of the consequences that would follow if this was leaked? To treat the troops of the northern border this way is a crime against the whole of the Eastern Jin Kingdom."

    "So what? They're mere exiled criminals who will die in the North sooner or later, I'm showing them mercy by allowing them to die quicker." Madam Lu gave a simple shrug.

    Servant Zhao was not the least bit surprised by what madam Lu said. She had long known that this woman was so cold and ruthless, even to her own employees.

    "If this is found out, you will drag everyone one of us in the Hundred Flower Hall down, and by then, I am certain that we will be abandoned or silenced." Servant Zhao said in a severe tone.

    Madam Lu was silent, yes, if any problem were to arise, the master they were serving would surely silence them. And that woman that resided on the third floor from time to time would surely be the one to do so.

    "We are so similar in so many ways. To be able to live so long, past your most blooming years, you must have some skill of your own." Madam Lu whispered to servant Zhao.

    "This old servant doesn't understand what madam is saying." Servant Zhao's wrinkled face showed a confused look.

    "I have heard that you had once lived in the capital, it was so many years ago wasn't it?" The voice lingered like a fog, "Why would you be so far away from your home?"

    At what madam Lu said, servant Zhao froze, as her hands clenched tightly under her sleeves. Her demeanor changed from that of a servant to that of an equal. Her back straightened as she looked madam Lu in the eyes, "I believe that I am no different from you. You yourself had not been born in this small town and watch it grow to the state it is today, only arriving here fifteen years ago to this desolated Hundred Flower Hall, presumably not by your own choice as well. Do not speak as if you are any better than I am. Because we are all women of the same roots."

    Servant Zhao's each and every word hit her heart hard. She started laughing uncontrollably, "Yes we are." She answered.
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