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    "I'll go borrow Brother De's phone first to make a call and inquire," Shanpo said, looking at the long queue of people waiting for fortune-telling. She then headed to the tea restaurant.

    Chu Yuening bent down, pulled out the wooden table from under the stall, and unfolded it. She then placed two small wooden stools on either side of the table.

    Afterward, she turned her gaze to the people outside the car and smiled. "I only read fortunes for two people a day. Everyone else except the first two can leave now."

    In a short while, most of the line had dispersed, but quite a few neighbors who had seen the news remained, eager to see if Chu Yuening was truly as miraculous as the newspapers claimed.

    The first in line was a fashionable woman, dressed in a red leather skirt with black stockings and boots. Her long hair, dyed burgundy, was styled up with a clip at the back of her head, and her slender arms were crossed.

    Upon hearing that others could go home, she glanced back while chewing gum, then returned her attention to the stall, placing her red purse on the table before sitting down and continuing to chew her gum.

    "My sisters told me about a legendary fortune-teller who's arrived in Temple Street, and they say she's spot on. So it's you. Two hundred dollars per reading?"

    Recognizing the woman as the one who had bumped into her, Chu Yuening replied, "If you think it's too expensive, you don't have to have your fortune read."

    "Who says it's expensive? I don't think so. If the predictions are truly accurate, even doubling the price wouldn't be unreasonable."

    Since Ling had come, she had already inquired about the fees. With daily earnings close to a thousand dollars, a two-hundred-dollar charge for a reading seemed reasonable to her.

    As the words faded, Ling, still chewing her gum, couldn't help but express her feelings.

    "However, it's better to earn from acquaintances than strangers, or else Sister Ah Jie's effort of waking up early and lining up downstairs would be in vain."

    Feeling that Ling was an intriguing character, Chu Yuening chuckled and asked, "What do you want to have your fortune told about?"

    Ling remained silent, not yet uttering a word.

    Among the onlookers was an erstwhile guest of Ling's, whose wife had recognized him and now sneered with icy sarcasm.

    "A street walker is nothing but a question of where her future husband could be. Really, who would dare to marry you?"

    Undaunted by the public insult, Ling retorted swiftly, "I don't need to find a husband. After all, every guest tells me that it's like being a new bride every night."

    "You have such a foul mouth. Be careful, I might introduce your husband to more 'sisters'."

    After this verbal spat, the other party fell silent, conceding defeat.

    Husband had only recently returned to the family; she genuinely feared that Cong Ling would introduce him to younger girls.

    Cong Ling taunted, "Born with a face like a boar, short and small. I wonder what's so precious about you."

    Taking out a tissue, she spat out her gum after finishing her critique, looking significantly more serious.

    "Master, I'd like to know where my mother is now."

    After studying Cong Ling's physiognomy and receiving her birthdate, Chu Yuening calculated with her fingers.

    "From your birthdate, you were born in the year of Yi Shen. Your four pillars lack noble elements, and you suffer from the Eight Specials. You have a shallow connection with your relatives, and at the hour of Shen, you..."

    Chu Yuening paused, choosing a milder way to put it. "You face significant obstacles in your career, which is why you haven't been able to change jobs."

    The fortune-telling directly touched upon a sensitive topic—her occupation.

    If it had been someone else, they might have felt offended and left on the spot.

    But Cong Ling was different; she accepted it openly. "Yes, every time I try to reform and find a decent job, either the boss goes bankrupt or there's a fire that burns down the entire shop. But working as a hostess seems perfectly normal for me. I couldn't understand it before, but now it seems my fate isn't favorable."

    "As for having shallow familial ties, that's even more accurate. I've never had an ideal relationship with my parents since I was young; my bond with them is even shallower than the friendships I've formed. If given a choice, I would have preferred to be an orphan from the start."

    Hardly had Ling finished speaking when the neighborhood gossips started chiming in.

    "I told you, it must be due to lack of a mother's guidance that one fails to learn proper behavior."

    "I perceive that this young lady is inherently heartless. Her parents brought her into this world and gave her life, yet instead of being grateful, she complains about them."

    "Regretting it now, aren't you? Must be because her parents aren't paying her any attention, so she couldn't find anyone else and resorted to seeking a fortune teller for an astrological reading."

    "In my opinion, they deserve it."

    With a cold glint in her eyes, Ling listened to the gossip and opened her purse to take out a small box of lady's cigarettes. She inquired, "Does Master mind?"

    Chu Yuening shook her head.

    Only then did Ling take out a cigarette from the box and light it.

    Chu Yuening asked, "Since you're unhappy, why not retaliate with some harsh words?"

    "I've long grown accustomed to it." Leng inhaled the cigarette, a faint worry creasing her brow.

    "You don't have to feel guilty. Your father beat you since you were young, and your mother didn't protect you as she watched it happen. No one can endure constant abuse without eventually fighting back."

    Chu Yuening looked at the person beside her with a composed expression and asked,

    "If you were in her shoes, not having enough to eat, unable to afford books, with an alcoholic father and a submissive mother who never resisted, living every day with insults, complaints, and violence, would you run away?"

    The person was taken aback by the question and, after a moment's hesitation, shook their head. Their gaze on Leng carried a hint of pity.

    It seemed even a lady couldn't escape a tragic fate.

    Upon receiving their response, Chu Yuening turned to Leng. "Since you've already run away, why do you want to find them again?"

    "I'm not trying to find them," Leng said with a bitter smile. "Back then, I ran away from the countryside and sneaked into Hong Kong with a friend. I swore that I would make a name for myself there."

    "For over a decade, I didn't contact them. But when I went back last year, I found out they had already moved, and no one knew where they went. Even though my mother never protected me, when we didn't have food, she still thought about giving me a bite."

    Recalling her unhappy past, Leng's delicate brows knitted together. "In the quiet of the night, I wonder if she worried about me dying when I left without a word. Did she ever tremble with fear for my safety? I just want her to know that I'm still alive."


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