16 A Drop of Red in the Snow (1): Fate Is Toying with the Poor
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Luo Lin sat on the ground that had been frozen over for several days now, the snow piling high around him, the bare branches of the tree above him not offering the slightest shelter. He was already numb to the cold and numb to the pain. How many days like this had he endured when he was younger? He had long lost count.

Maybe it was fate that way toying with him but whatever good things he encountered, they always seemed to run through his fingers as if he was trying to draw water with a wicker basket.

Originally, he had been born into a good family. Even though his mother’s status wasn’t high and she was merely a maid, she had the beauty to change things to her advantage. What a pity that just after the son she had borne for her Master had turned two years old, he fell on hard times and had to rely on his wife’s family, leading to that beloved maid falling on hard times. They weren’t thrown out but they weren’t treated well any longer. Since then, many a night had been spent locked out of the small room they had been given.

Luo Lin had been too young to remember much of the time before so he didn’t miss it much. At most, he wished his father would have taken some time to see him every now and then. But no matter, he had understood. In any case, his mother had never gotten tired of reminding him that all this was his fault, that it never would have happened if he hadn’t been born, that her life could have been easier.

Well, when hard times passed, better times would come. And the situation of his father also turned for the better, making him much less hard-pressed for help. And faintly, he still remembered that maid and the child he had somewhere in the estate. Seeing Luo Lin dressed thinly and emaciated, he grew angry. He didn’t dare to slight his wife but he at least made sure that Luo Lin and his mother were taken care of.

Things really seemed to be looking up. That was until his father suddenly collapsed. After not even half a year of regaining that connection, he already left forever. And with him, there wasn’t a single person left that would have the patience to deal with this pair of mother and son. Thus, they were thrown out of the estate, having to fend for themselves once again, just that now, not even the little they had been given before by the servants would be delivered to them. No, now, they could really only rely on themselves and even though Luo Lin had turned seven years old by then, that was still too young to help out much.

There was a layer of mist in Luo Lin’s eyes when he thought back to those years. He had been old enough to remember it very well, how they had to leave the city and travel somewhere, anywhere to find a way to survive. In hindsight, he was astounded that his mother hadn’t ditched him right there and then. It surely would have been easier for her then.

But no matter, they had managed. Whenever they came somewhere new, he would see her cry to somebody and tell them of how she had recently lost her husband and was now all alone with her son, left to wander the world in search of a place to call her own. A maid had become a wife in the matter of a heartbeat and the love of a century had ended in heartbreak for a young widow that nobody wanted. Surely, there were people out there to take pity on her.

Thinking back, Luo Lin wondered how his mother had ever believed things to work out. There were few good people in the world, he was sure of that. The ones who took her in, how many of them expected her to give everything in return? But she still thought that one day, she would marry one of these men and find happiness. Except that, even when she finally wore red again in celebration, she still wasn’t happy.

Luo Lin shook himself out of his memories and sighed, his breath forming a white cloud in the air. He looked through the mist at the estate where they were currently living and his eyes filled with melancholy.

This winter, he was fifteen years old. In some kingdoms, that was old enough to get married himself. In others, he still counted as a child. But no matter what, he was old enough to understand some things. For sure, fate was toying with the poor. Having found that one good person out there, a place to call home again, his mother would manage to tear everything down all by herself. Where would they ever find hope then?

He did not know yet that not far away, a person offering him precisely that hope was already approaching.