After Marrying The Paranoid God of War (Rebirth) - Chapter 13.1
Chapter 13: Rebirth
After fainting in the lobby of the familiar pharmacy, Ruan An seemed to have experienced a lengthy and oppressive dream.
However, she was also aware that these scenes were not illusions but rather the true experiences of her past, representing her entire previous life.
In the dream, she found herself in the autumn courtyard—
This place, even the vermilion palace walls exuded a sense of desolation and decay. During the rainy season, the bluestone ground emitted a strong musty smell.
Ruan An’s hands were immersed in bone-chilling water. The delicate and fair hands that were once like soft petals were now covered with calluses and frostbite, unsightly to behold.
Yet, the owner of these weathered hands did not feel pain. She had become numb to the icy water. Ruan An’s eyes were blurry, and where she looked, there were large patches of indistinct shadows.
She coldly chuckled, feeling that her eyes were not far from going blind.
The wooden bucket in front of Ruan An was somehow kicked to pieces by someone, splashing her with dirty water. Then, a sharp and harsh scolding voice suddenly sounded in her ears, “You old 𝚜𝚕𝚞𝚝! Do you think you can stay in this place? Hurry up and get lost!”
Ruan An got up expressionlessly, without saying a word. It seemed like she had long been accustomed to such insults. She identified the silhouette of the water bucket and lifted it.
“You old 𝚍𝚊𝚖𝚗 𝚜𝚕𝚞𝚝! Ugly freak! Just looking at your scarred face makes me feel unlucky!”
The steward aunt in the courtyard continued to insult her. Ruan An, with her back against the sunlight, sought another place in the courtyard to continue washing her clothes. She couldn’t help but squint her eyes, self-mockingly saying, “Well, old thing…”
Her voice carried the hoarse and turbid tone of an old person, with each word seemingly permeated with the decaying breath of a deep well.
And who would have known that, at the age of just thirty, she had already transformed into a woman described as withered and aged.
Six years ago, she thought Huo Pingxiao had died in the borderlands, so she brought her young son to the capital, intending to have him acknowledge his ancestry.
At that time, she had just settled in Chang’an and had not yet passed her prime. While in the streets and alleys inquiring about shops, she encountered the illegitimate daughter of the He family. She wanted to help her cure her blemishes.
Her son, Ruan Xi, was just over three years old at that time, and the child’s stature grew rapidly. The clothes she brought from Jiazhou had already become short. So, after Ruan An visited the pharmacy that day, she took her son to a shop specializing in forging materials, intending to make him a few new clothes.
As soon as they entered the store, several unfriendly-looking young women approached. Both Ruan An and Ruan Xi were dressed plainly, clearly not locals of Chang’an, but people who had come from outside seeking opportunities.
When Ruan An and Ruan Xi lived in Jiazhou, the neighbors were warm and friendly, and the local customs were simple and pure. They had never encountered people who looked down on others so disdainfully. The women immediately approached them and started insulting and humiliating Ruan An and her son.
That day, was also the first time she saw the future Crown Princess, Li Shuying, who was about to enter the Eastern Palace.
Li Shuying was beautiful and treated people kindly and warmly. She helped Ruan An and her son out of the situation. At that moment, Ruan An developed a favorable impression of this noble girl.
Little did she know, all of this was a trap set by Li Shuying.
She remembered that on that day, Li Shuying invited her to the Li Mansion, claiming that her mother needed medical attention. In reality, Li Shuying only did this to test her medical skills.
On that day, Li Shuying tearfully complained to her, “Once you enter the palace, it’s as deep as the sea. I only hope that someone like my wet nurse, Mama Zhou, could be by my side.”
Li Shuying warmly held her hand and invited her to become a court lady in the Eastern Palace, promising her a high salary.
Ruan An thought this might be the quickest way for her to stay in Chang’an.
Little did she know that her nightmare had just begun when she agreed to Li Shuying’s request.
“Mama Ruan, the Empress wants to see you. Come with me.”
The chief eunuch from the Fengyi Palace spoke with a tone of disgust, interrupting Ruan An’s thoughts.
People from the West Inner Court detested those who came from the Servants’ Courtyard, considering it the most filthy and lowly place.
However, Ruan An was the most exceptional presence in the Servants’ Courtyard. She not only had to do menial tasks there but also frequently went to the West Inner Court to carry out tasks for Empress Li Shuying.
She rose from in front of the wooden barrel, silently following the eunuch as they walked through the Yong Alley, heading towards the Western Inner Garden that was filled with magnificent palace buildings.
In her mind flashed the words Li Shuying had once said to her: “Do you know, I detest your hypocritical appearance the most. What’s the point of acting righteous here? You can’t even protect your own son. What’s the use of your medical ethics? I kept you here not for you to practice medicine and save lives!”
Ruan An was a healer, and it was impossible for her to heed Li Shuying’s malicious schemes and use her medical skills to harm others. Over the years, her relationship with Li Shuying seemed like two beasts locked in a cage, engaged in an ongoing game of wits.
She refused to use her medical skills to harm others, but Li Shuying needed her expertise in cosmetic techniques. She also had stubborn nightmares and a persistent headache, inseparable from her medical skills.
It turned out that a person who did wicked deeds couldn’t find peace even when sleeping.
Li Shuying initially resented her stubbornness, first ordering someone to force her to swallow mute-inducing drugs, rendering her voiceless.
Later, when the Crown Prince ascended the throne and discovered Ruan An’s true appearance, he almost treated her frivolously. Li Shuying intervened in time, but her hatred for Ruan An intensified. At that time, Ruan An was in a power struggle with the Noble Consort, and to vent her frustration, Li Shuying personally took a dagger and repeatedly slashed her face.
Ruan An was constrained by Li Shuying not because she feared her but because Ruan Xi’s life was in Li Shuying’s hands. In order to protect her child, she had to continue helping her in treating illnesses and endure the insults from the palace women that Li Shuying allowed.
However, as a healer, watching numerous innocent lives perish in the deceitful and corrupt court, she could only choose to turn a blind eye.
For her, this was like a sharp blade piercing her heart, more agonizing than death itself.
Outside the Yong Alley, separated by the walls of the Dao Palace, was the outer court where the Grand Taiji Hall stood. At this moment, the court officials were attending the morning court session, and there was a faint clamor beyond the red walls.
—— “This servant has seen the Grand Marshal.”
When Ruan An heard the words “Grand Marshal,” she suddenly stopped in her tracks. Through the mottled palace walls’ leaky windows, she caught a glimpse of a tall and stern figure – it was Huo Pingxiao.
Even though she couldn’t see him clearly, she could sense his noble and dignified aura. Huo Pingxiao, not yet in his thirties, was already a Grand Marshal ranking above the Three Excellencies. The Emperor, indulging in his power, officially bestowed nine gifts upon him and intended to grant him a royal title, but in reality, the Emperor aimed to weaken his influence.
That year, everyone believed he had died in battle, but he hadn’t.
Ruan An watched his figure move away under the dazzling sun, while she stood in the shadow of the deep palace walls, unable to leave the inner court. She couldn’t help but bite her lip.
She dared not meet him.
On the one hand, it was because of her hoarse voice and terrifying appearance.
On the other hand, she knew Li Shuying’s malicious intentions. If Li Shuying found out that Ruan Xi was Huo Pingxiao’s son, the child’s situation would become even more difficult.
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