The Divorcee is a Wicked Black Belly Chapter 55: Du Lu enters the picture
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In the next three months, An Ning spent most of her time dealing with construction plans and interviewing people for teaching and other jobs. It was not easy. Nyra told her she needed help so the four queens were hired to be her assistants.
The four queens, representing summer, autumn, winter, and spring, were Alira, Amaya, Kaeyla, and Dawn. Besides their youth and uncommon good looks, the queens did not resemble the prettified interns commonly found in most corporate offices. For one, they were uncommonly strong and very good with their fists. They also unnerved An Ning because she had recently noticed a worshipful glint in their eyes whenever they looked at her. It was unnerving because although her kids were practically teenagers she, their mom, had two more years to go before she reached her middle twenties. It made her feel old, she told Nyra, who merely laughed.
"They look at you like you're their savior, you mean," Nyra said. "And it's true, if it weren't for you..."
"Stop that," An Ning warned. "Stop thinking of the past. It's over and done with."
Nyra nodded, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye. She then looked at An Ning a little apprehensively.
"Can I ask you a question?" she said after a while. "I'm not being inquisitive but merely curious."
"You want to know where the kids' father is," An Ning guessed with a crooked smile.
"Ye..es," Nyra stammered, deathly afraid of offending An Ning.
"He's with a woman he's been in love with for a long time," An Ning said calmly. "He saw her again when we were in M City and he went back to her."
Nyra was so shocked she stared at An Ning as if she had spouted another head on her shoulder.
"Han wouldn't do that. I've seen how much he cares about you. Surely you must be wrong. Han loves you."
An Ning was silent then another smile lighted up her face.
"It's funny but I never believed in that love. It was too pat, to convenient. There are things that even I don't understand, Nyra. So, I refused to believe what is often told me. Han...he was never real. Not on this planet we live in actually. He was just someone that a person once close to me used to manipulate me for revenge. I think he realized now that he didn't succeed so he's thinking of another way to get to me and that's thru my children."
Nyra gaped at her. She opened her mouth to speak but no words came out. She was so surprised by what An Ning said that she remained frozen in her spot for more than a minute.
An Ning saw the disbelief in her eyes and patted her shoulder.
"Don't worry about it. Han will be back and he will again act like there is nothing wrong and ask for forgiveness. But we both know it's all fake and really I've run out of patience with him."
"An Ning, what are you talking about?" Nyra looked bewildered while she asked the question.
"I'm talking about the fact that Han is not really Han and I don't know who the hell he is. I've lost my memory of the last twenty-two years so I don't know what happened before that. I woke up and people told me I was married to Richard who turned out to be Han who claims he is Han but he's actually Richard. I don't know anymore. So, I just ride with the flow and live my own life and ignore everything else. The only thing I'm really thankful about is that I'm not married to him or either of them."
"This story is so weird," Nyra bitterly complained. "Are you sure you're still on the same page? The amnesia could have affected your sense of reality, too, you know."
"Me finding my real mother after twenty years and realizing I'm the daughter and granddaughter respectively of two fucking amazing Amazon women is the reality I'm living in right now. Everything else is a lie."
As if to give lie to her statement, An Ning picked up a call one morning and realized that the world outside was still somehow tied to her however much she wanted to forget its existence.
"Long time no hear, An Ning," greeted Du Lu on the other end. "How are you?"
"Cut the bull and tell me why you're calling me so early this morning," An Ning groused sourly.
It had been a long night and she had just gone to bed an hour ago. There had been an outbreak of measles in the village and she and the rest of the women had to fly to the mainland to buy medicines and other stuff. They also had to isolate the infected to contain the spread of the disease. Dawn was left with the kids but Cas, bullheaded and stubborn Cas, had gone to see Doctor Peng. Luckily, he was already immunized so he was okay.
But of course since he disappeared for some hours, Dawn panicked. They then had to spend an hour looking for him. By this time, An Ning had gone home to rest but had to go out again to search for Cas. Doctor Peng, who had been busy the whole day, finally remembered about Cas and called An Ning, who had to drive to the hospital again to pick him up. Since she was too tired to scold him, she tiredly told him to go to sleep and they'll have it out when they're both awake and in better minds to discuss his behavior.
"Moira was attacked," Du Lu bluntly said.
"What?" Barely awake and needing sleep, An Ning was slow to understand what he was saying.
"I found her in the store last night. Somebody attacked her. She's okay now but the doctor told me if I had been a minute late, she would have died."
"What are you talking about? Is this a joke?"
"No, this is not a joke. An Ning, I'm telling you, Moira nearly died."
"Where is she now?"
"At the hospital."
"Well, anyway. Thanks for telling me. Give me the address of the hospital and I'll go visit her the day after tomorrow."
There was silence on the other end. An Ning looked at the phone, wondering if the signal had been cut.
"Hello? Are you still there?"
"I'm flying her to Saravia today. I think you need to see her to help her."
"Help her? Why, what's wrong with her?"
"You'll see when we get there."
"Wait a minute, why me? You said she's in the hospital? So, she should be okay, right? I'm not a doctor, Du Lu. Better let her stay there just in case."
"These doctors can't help her. I've seen you long enough to know that something strange had happened to her. She was not merely attacked, An Ning. Someone or something tried to steal her soul."
At that point, all An Ning really wanted to do was cut the signal and ignore the call. She was tempted but Du Lu was saying something else.
"So, who do I need to contact to accompany us to Saravia? I called Matt and he told me I can't enter the village unless I'm invited. Who do I call then?"
An Ning sighed and gave up. She reluctantly gave him Nyra's number.
"She manages a company I own in M City. I don't know if she has time to accompany you but you can try if she's free or not."
"Thank you. We will see you later then."
"What?" An Ning prodded.
"You do know that he's with her, don't you?"
"That's it then. See you later."
The helicopter landed some five hours later. An Ning did not go to meet it because she was again busy looking for a site on which to build the school. An entire crowd went with her, the twins, the queens, Taey, a dozen or so villagers, and the architects An Ning hired to oversee the project. They looked at a spot on a hill that overlooked the village and the sea. The architects said they might have to flatten some mountains and clear a large swathe of the jungle if the building were to be build there. There were arguments and protests, of course, which gave An Ning a headache and consumed most of her time.
It was late in the afternoon when she got back. She had almost forgotten about Du Lu and Moira so she was a bit suprised to see Nyra sitting outside the cave house when she and the kids arrived. The twins enthusiastically welcomed Nyra. An Ning, however, went inside after greeting Nyra. Du Lu, who was eating a plate of fruits in the dining room table, looked up when he heard her come in.
"Is that all you're having?" An Ning asked without preamble. "Sarai, we're having guests tonight as you can see. I think I'm in the mood for shepherd's pie. Is that okay, Du Lu?"
"Whatever," Du Lu shrugged.
"With the veggies and other stuff, Ms Liu?"
"Yes and some grilled meat and cassava cake?"
"Okay, Ms Liu."
"Ms Liu?" Du Lu grinned when Sarai left.
"My last name."
"Also Richard's last name."
"I just wondered."
"I used it in my business dealings. To differentiate myself from my father."
"You don't have to explain."
"I'm not," An Ning shrugged indifferently. "Where's Moira?"
"We put her in the room next to mine," Sam said, entering the room. "What happened to her, Du Lu?"
"Let's go see her, shall we?" An Ning cut in. "Sam, can you mind the kids? I don't want them to see Moira just yet."
"Sure," Sam said then went out.
"It seems everybody is already here except Richard and Valerie," Du Lu insensitively said.
"Hmnn…" An Ning said, ignoring his attempt at humor.
Moira was sleeping when they entered the room. An Ning wasn't even surprised to see how dreadful she looked. She looked almost half dead, her hair drenched with sweat and plastered close to her skull. She had lost a lot of weight. There was a look of look-at-me-I'm-dying quality about her that was difficult to ignore. An Ning stared at the tiny dark veins that dotted her skin. They looked like dried blood caught in mid-flow. No wonder Du Lu was frightened. He knew he was staring death in the face which was why he called An Ning.
"Can you help her?" he asked quietly.
"Let's see how really powerful my blood is, shall we?" she quipped humorously.
She took a small knife from her pocket, flicked it open and cut a long line on the skin of her palm. Blood trickled out. An Ning parted Moira's lips with her fingers and allowed the blood to trickle on her tongue. She watched as Moira's tongue wakened and slowly licked at the moisture. An Ning waited until the dotted skin cleared up before withdrawing her hand and wrapping gauze around it.
"She'll be okay now," she said, turning to Du Lu. "You said something about someone trying to steal her soul. What did you mean by that?"
"I've seen the same thing happened to a child I once bought. I brought her home and watched as she vanished while eating a piece of chicken."
"You bought a child?" An Ning was shocked.
Du Lu waved his hand.
"Long story. Anyway, the child had the same symptoms as Moira. And this dotted veins on her skin...it was kind of a jolt to see it again."
"I don't know what happened to her or why someone would steal her soul or something. But it is unusual. But why say someone was trying to steal her soul?"
"I don't know. It fits somehow. Those grey veins looked like they were about to pop out from her skin. The first time I saw it, it seemed to me like the child was possessed. Then it happened to Moira."
"I'm glad you were there to help her though. If it weren't for you she'd be dead right now."
"She's okay now?"
"Yes, she's okay."
"What about you? Are you alright?" Dulu's brows were knitted. He looked as if he was angry about something.
"I'll be okay. It doesn't take that much to get my strength back every time someone drinks my blood," An Ning said, trying to sound jaded by it all.
"That's not what I meant and you know it."
An Ning looked at him in surprise.
"You mean Richard? Yup, I'm okay. I'm not suicidal or anything like that," she laughed. "What's with you? You sound so serious all of a sudden."
"Richard and Valerie are going to be married next month."
The words had the same effect as an atom bomb. It silenced An Ning and wiped the smile off her face. Her gaze turned to Moira, who seemed to be breathing easily now in her sleep. An Ning searched herself. Honestly and truly asking herself what she felt about the bombshell news. Richard and Valerie. Those names she had tried so hard to ran away from. Even her mind had retreated from acknowledging the hurt and pain but now...she felt nothing. Richard or Han...she didn't know both men. She had thought she lived with Richard then Han and yet all that time she had felt like she was living with a stranger who made her feel good in bed but nothing more.
Perhaps it was she herself who have undergone such drastic changes. Sometimes, she found herself thinking about the past. What was it? Was everything really just the result of Yu Yan's malice? She knew she had loved Richard since they were kids but why can't she remember the feeling? Why can't she remember anything of their past together? She told him she loved him, or she told Han she loved him, but was it really true? As for Han, who was he? He died so suddenly he didn't even leave an image or a word in her heart. She only knew that the brothers looked alike but what should she be feeling when she can't remember a single thing?
"I'm glad," she finally told Du Lu who looked surprised.
"Because now my life is my own and my future will no longer include the names Richard and Valerie."
Du Lu seemed to understand what she meant because he nodded his head. He looked at An Ning and seemed to hesitate.
"What is it?"
"Will you allow us to stay here for a couple of months?"
An Ning was surprised.
"What about your work? Aren't actors supposed to be busy with appearances and autograph signings and things like that?"
"I'm too important to sit around and sign autographs," he said haughtily.
An Ning laughed.
"You opinionated, arrogant fop," she said. "Of course, you and Moira can stay. I don't know where to put you though. You can stay in my mother's house in the meantime until we find you a place."
"How about a house?"
"You can rent one, yes,"
"What if I want to build one?"
An Ning frowned.
"Why do you want to build a house here for?"
"But why here?"
"Why? Don't you like actors?"
"Don't be stupid. I'm just asking, that's all. Besides, you're too famous. If your fans find out you live here, we might be overran by crazy people."
"Isn't that rather discriminatory?"
"I suppose so but who cares? This is my village. I run things around here and my word is law."
"Arrogant, opinionated fop," he replied, using her own words to taunt her.
An Ning burst out in laughter.
"I have to talk to my advisers before I can answer your request," she said, still laughing merrily. "But they might not agree though. I told you, you're too famous. Saravia is a quiet village. I don't know how to contain the crowd if they find out you're living here."
"I'll take care of that part. Just let me pitch my tent here, okay?"
"Your tent is going to be as big as a mansion," she pointed out then sighed. "Oh, well. Let me see what I can do. I'll let you know."
Moira groaned, which immediately distracted An Ning's attention. Du Lu watched her with unblinking eyes. The afternoon light played on his handsome face and it looked for a moment as if his eyes had softened.
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