Unsurprisingly, the smaller fighter quickly lost the advantage. But just as the spectators started to worry about him, the whistle blew for an intermission, saving him from almost certain death. During the pause in the fighting, a brouhaha arose in the dark corner of the stands where Mrs. Red Mercury was sitting.
Hot, dry beams of white light illuminated the ring. The audience, left in the shadows, were unleashing a tidal wave of shouts towards the center. I followed the eyes of my friend to into the darkness and suddenly found that the spot she looked was silent. A group of black-clad fighters stood solemnly, and at the very heart sat a person. However, the shadows were too thick for me to make out their appearance and clothes. All I could see was a spot of rusty red in the middle of all the black. In the ring, the small man managed to steal a blow right under the opponent's ribs. There was a sudden burst of fire, and the champion's scream could be heard throughout the arena. Excitement rushed through the crowd. The man behind me who had bet on the champion cursed in a low voice, but the dark corner remained quiet.
I really didn't understand, so I asked my friend again. "Why would Mrs. Red Mercury send her subordinate into the ring?"
The people of Umbraton were not in the habit of keeping fighters, and it was unheard of for a Guild leader to use their men as playthings.
"That man is a traitor who joined a plot to rob his own Guild," my friend whispered back to me.
I considered this and said, "You bet badly. Look at what's happening in the ring. Mrs. Red Mercury clearly wants this traitor dead".
My friend smiled and picked up her binoculars to watch the fight.
The champion was in a rage after being hit by the small man and took a big step forward in an attempt to grab him. The flaming blow seemed to have drained the small man's strength. He dodged, but slower than before, and retreated straight to the edge of the ring. The champion saw this and swung his arm at the small man. The punch hit him in the chest and sent him stumbling out of the ring. The spectators gasped, but soon noticed that the small man had grabbed onto one of the iron chains, preventing himself from falling down from the ring. The champion prepared to follow up with a second blow, but the referee blew the half-time whistle, and he had to withdraw while the small man coughed and slowly crawled back into the ring.
The bright white light withdrew from the stage and slowly turned to illuminate the audience near the center. Suddenly, there was movement not far from the part of the darkness we had observed before. A bloodied captive was pushed out. His head was hanging and his hands were bound behind him. Crookedly, he kneeled on the border between light and darkness. I was horrified. Suddenly, I heard a shout from the stage, and turned to look at where the sound had come from. The small man, who a moment ago was still on the ground gasping for breath, was scurrying across the ring, but was stopped by the referee and attendants. A series of distorted curses came from the corners of his blood-stained mouth.
The sight of the captive brought forth from the stands seemed to have motivated the smaller fighter, and he went on to win the fight. However, it was still uncertain what Mrs. Red Mercury would do to him.
The whistle sounded, signaling the end of the intermission. The beams returned to the ring, and a new round began. I couldn't help but glance at the captive kneeling among the audience. He didn't make any noise. His head drooped. Blood and sweat were dripping from the tips of his hair. When I turned to look at the arena again, the situation had become very different from the first half.
Flames were leaping from the small man's arms, and his outstretched fingers burned red like iron. He trudged slowly towards his opponent. Rocks were falling like rain in the arena. Although he was still on the defensive, he was no longer struggling. Despite being hit by several stones, he kept moving closer to his opponent. The champion was forced to back away from him, but eventually, he could no longer stop him from coming closer. Suddenly, the flames lit up in a flash of light, and the small man caught his opponent's wrists. Smoke rose, and the champion cried out in pain and anger. Then, the small man's fist reached out like a long hook and struck his opponent squarely in the abdomen. There were gasps in the spectators' stands, and someone behind me sprang to their feet and shouted angrily as the attendants pounced onto the ring and dragged the small man away from the champion.
When the small man reappeared, a new pair of fighters had already entered the arena. The small man was wearing a tuxedo with a bow tie. He had put on a fresh undershirt as well, but it was already soaked in blood. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye and saw that he was shivering slightly. He was probably still in shock from the intense fight.
Someone kicked the kneeling captive in the darkness, and a deep, soft voice could be heard asking the traitor, "Do you know his name?"
The traitor wiped the blood from his mouth with a handkerchief and said a nickname with a husky voice. The person with the voice laughed, uttering another name. "You don't even know his real name, and you still chose to trust him?" she said.
The traitor struggled to speak. "Madam, my sister..."
The person with the voice sighed and said, "if your sister were alive, would his lies have lasted so many days?" The traitor seemed shocked. After a moment, suppressed sobs escaped him as he slowly fell to his knees and buried his head in the darkness.
Suddenly, a cold, sharp piece of silvery metal broke out of the captive's chest. It retracted as quickly as it had appeared, and the captive grunted softly and fell. Crimson blood flowed out from beneath him. The weeping sound stopped. The traitor straightened up and stared dumbly at the corpse at his feet, expressions of shock mixed with anger flickering across his face. There was a rustling sound of clothes shifting, and the person sitting in the darkness finally showed their face under the dim light.
A sudden silence fell over the group. The woman's red hair rolled down her shoulders and arms like a silent scarlet river. She looked down at the traitor kneeling at her feet. Though her eyes were focused on him, I felt as if her gaze everywhere, like the daylight on a cold day. I glanced at her, and then I did not dare to look again. From the corner of my eye, I could see glimpses of a lily pinned to her lapel. The flower was so fresh and delicate that one could imagine dew rolling off the tip of its petals.
She held out a hand in front of the traitor. Apparently having made a decision, the traitor gently grasped her finger and pressed his head against the back of her hand.
It was a pledge of allegiance.
After the trip to the Pit, I was eager to learn more about Mrs. Red Mercury, so I asked my friends what they knew about her. There were a lot of rumors about her, and only a few of them were true. But even so, her origins and her resolute decision to marry were enough to make her a legend.
My friend made quite an amount on this bet, so she invited me to a tavern to drink with her. There, I talked to her about Mrs. Red Mercury. My friend had several dealings with Mrs. Red Mercury's guild and recognized many people there, but she had only met her once. "She was born too eye-catching, so there will inevitably be rumors if she shows her face too often." My friend laughed and said when we talked about her.
But there were still many rumors about Mrs. Red Mercury in Umbraton. I had heard some of them, and most of them were so ridiculous that they were laughable. However, the true one was probably her origin. Surprisingly, she came from Lumopolis, and her original name was not Red Mercury, but something that seemed to end with a "na" sound. In any case, it was a common name for the Lumopolis nobles. A person from Lumopolis doesn't end up in Umbraton unless they are exiled. I had no idea how she got through it.
"She was a noble lady who married a humble man in Umbraton," my friend leaned toward my ear and whispered, sounding very sure about it. "Anyway, it's like one of those weird love stories. She met a weapons smuggler in Umbraton when she was young and somehow became determined to marry him. The elders of her family couldn't stop her, so they asked the church to come and said that they would take away her title of nobility, but she still refused to bow down."
"She was probably very young then."
"Of course she was young. Who would do something like that if they weren't young?"
"Even so, the cost of turning your life upside down to gamble on an ambiguous future is not something ordinary people can take," I sighed, shaking my head. "In that case, where is her husband now?" I asked.
"Dead?" I continued to ask. "How?"
"They say he had some trouble with a Lumopolis noble, the Hermes, you know. It could be something to do with business or something that can't be told. Who knows what those people in Lumopolis are doing." My friend laughed. "And then he was caught and killed. The guild he left behind was then taken in hand by Mrs. Red Mercury.
"Didn't Mrs.Red Mercury take her revenge?"
"The Hermes family? Just ask around and you'll know how wealthy it is. Even Mrs. Red Mercury's original family was nothing compared to them."
I started to get tipsy and could no longer remember what my friend said clearly at that point. The only thing I knew was that I was guessing that people like Mrs. Red Mercury would never set aside such hatred.
Later, I was given a chance to go to Lumopolis. While I was waiting for my entry pass to be approved at an inn in the transit zone, I spotted someone I had never expected to encounter in such a place.
Two years have passed since this incident. A viscountess who appreciated my novel requested a Lumopolis book shop to print a few more volumes for the convenience of local book lovers, so the book shop invited me to Lumopolis to discuss the arrangements. I saw this as an opportunity to travel to Lumopolis, so I submitted the sightseeing paperwork for approval before the appointed time and stayed in a transit hotel.
Transit hotels came in all sorts of styles, and rows of buildings with Umbraton and Lumopolis designs lined the streets. The hotel I stayed in was first opened by a civilian family from Lower Lumopolis more than a century ago. Its location was great, with a row of guest rooms and balconies all facing the cool, gossamer morning light. Most days, I stayed in my room and wrote stories. Occasionally, in the evenings, I went to the main hall for dinner, where I'd flip through the paper or a magazine until the hall's lights were doused. I even found a novel of mine on the hall's bookshelf. The most socializing I did each day was with the attendants, who would bring breakfast to my room as they bundled up the guests' clothes and threw them in a cloth sack to bring to the laundry room. The clean clothes would be returned the next day along with the breakfast.
On one day at dusk, the sky was laden with dark clouds and cold winds blew between the walls and railings of the many transit zone houses. Feeling glum, I went to the main hall for dinner, in the hopes that it would lift my spirits. There weren't many guests staying in the hotel, so most had become familiar faces over the course of my long stay. But this time, I caught a glimpse of a wholly unfamiliar figure.
Dressed in the typical Umbraton style with leather boots, a thick coat, a finely stitched black scarf encircling her neck, and her hair all wrapped up in a fancy bronze-colored headscarf, she stood leaning against the counter as she asked something of the innkeeper. Her voice was soft, but she spoke very quickly. I couldn't make out the details, just bits and pieces like "uptown" and "approval"—presumably she was inquiring about something to do with Lumopolis. There was something familiar about her voice that made me follow her with my eyes until she turned around.
Despite the fading daylight and the fact that her nose and mouth were mostly covered with a black scarf, there was no doubt about it—it was Mrs. Red Mercury.
I was afraid to approach Mrs. Red Mercury, but my curiosity demanded that I try. Eventually, an excellent opportunity presented itself. Pretending that I didn't know who she was, I walked up to her and struck up a conversation.
Resting against the desk, she watched as the attendant took her suitcase into her room, occasionally raising her hand to tuck rebellious strands of red hair back into her headscarf. I felt pinned to my seat for a moment, unable to move and only daring to pretend to look nonchalantly around the hall in an attempt to pick out her entourage from the crowd, yet I couldn't find any sign of one. She lifted her scarf again to completely cover her nose, before finally lowering her head and heading quickly for her room. Then I finally understood—she could be traveling in secret.
I waited for the sound of her footsteps to fade before finally exhaling. A person like her suddenly appearing in a transit zone hotel gave me a bad feeling, so I prepared to return to my room early. But after sitting for a moment, I couldn't help but continue to glance in the direction she had gone. After unconsciously casting my gaze that way a few times, I suddenly realized that I was hoping she would reappear. Gathering courage I didn't know I had, I decided to sit in the hall and wait.
An attendant brought me another beer, and by the time I was halfway through it, she finally and slowly emerged from the shadows of the guest room corridor. She had changed her headscarf and was donning a wide-brimmed hat, and her long hair was now in a braid that was hidden between her scarf and coat. Wanting to avoid notice, she only walked through dimly lit areas before choosing a table in a neglected corner—right near the bookshelf at my 10 o'clock. I felt nervous, but with a tinge of joy.
While waiting for the attendant to serve her, she casually drew a book out from the shelf—I could see that it was one of my novels that had been published several years earlier. As if pulled to my feet by an external force, I gripped the wooden mug of beer in my clammy hand and walked over to her.
I stood right in front of her. Too late to turn back now, I thought. I clutched the beer mug and lowered myself, pointed at the book in her hand, and, feigning ignorance of her identity, asked: "Miss, do you like this book?"
"I like the title," she said, smiling calmly as she lifted her head to look at me. She ran her fingertips over the gilded title. "It reminds me of something pretty."
I struggled to breathe, as if constrained by the weight of her beauty. It was like my face had been plunged into cold water or stuck into a freezing gale. I made every effort to breathe without letting my teeth chatter: "I'm very glad you like it. Actually, I wrote it... See, there—that's my name."
I finally managed to strike up a conversation with Mrs. Red Mercury. During our chat, she mentioned how she came to be in the transit zone. It had something to do with her dreams and her missing an old friend.
As I sat opposite of her, I realized that the back of my undershirt was already soaked in sweat. We must have talked about the novel for a while, but thinking back, I couldn't remember a single word of it. The only thing that remained in my memory was a strange feeling, like I was fully submerged in a lake while everyone else was walking around on the shore, as if all the hustle and bustle around me was partitioned off in another world. When I came back to my senses, I was already sitting on the balcony outside her room. We were separated by a small round table set with snacks and glasses of wine, and a thin-necked vase in the center holding a single lily with lush green sepals.
Night hadn't completely fallen yet, but the clouds above blocked out the light, enveloping the area surrounding us in gloomy darkness. I shivered in the cold wind, and thought of how the attendant had just been setting up the meal in the main hall when she suddenly suggested that we go to the balcony to eat. Now, she took off her hat and scarf and tossed them through the window into her room. She was wrapped in her coat and the arms of her chair, but her face was now uncovered. Too scared to look directly at her, I focused on a few locks of her hair that were fluttering freely in the breeze.
"I'm going to Lumopolis, too." She smiled as she wiped her fingers with a moistened paper towel. Only now did I remember that we had talked about our respective itineraries earlier. "I lived in Lumopolis when I was young. All my childhood friends are there."
"Then I went to Umbraton. Everything was great, besides the argument I had with my friend before I left."
"What did you argue about?" I sat up straight to show that I was listening to her.
"I already forgot. All I remember is this rage, like my heart had swollen up and was pounding heavily against my chest. And now, I can't for the life of me remember what the argument was about. Only that it was quite childish." Her clean fingers slowly combed through her hair as her braid swirled around and gently came undone. "Recently, I've been thinking about that friend again—it started with a dream."
"Yes. In the dream, I was back in my old room, with its powder-white walls and golden-brown door. I was sitting in front of the vanity dressing table I always used back then. I could see my friend's face in the mirror. She was holding a comb and was brushing my hair for me." She gathered up her long, flowing hair and looked at me, seemingly sizing me up, before wandering back into her thoughts. "She looked beautiful, much more beautiful than she ever did before. After I woke up, I thought about her for many days."
"So, you're going to Lumopolis to see your friend?"
"In a way," she said with a sigh. "Unfortunately, it'll be hard to pay her a proper visit. But I'll settle for seeing her from a distance."
The hotels of the transit zone were all lit up now in halos of light of various sizes, twinkling through the damp wind and sheer mist. She looked at me with the wine glass in her hand. I was in a trance, then felt the tide of fear gradually rise in me again. The expression on her face slowly faded until only a few traces of it were left—metaphors for destiny, like the fuzzy edges the moon in the misty weather. As the shroud of darkness fell, her face also sank into shadow, along with her long, banner-like hair, which glowed a cold rusty red in the depths of the darkness.
The next day, I woke up to find that Mrs. Red Mercury had left. According to the innkeeper, an airship from Lumopolis had come to take her away. I returned to my room feeling wistful, but inside, a surprise was waiting for me.
I awoke gasping for air, then realized I was lying on my bed, all my body parts still intact. I couldn't help but feel relieved. My head ached with a prickling pain—the mild threat of a hangover. Beyond the curtains, the sky was still dark—I must have woken up earlier than usual, and the attendant hadn't knocked at my door yet. I left my room supporting my head in one hand and headed for Mrs. Red Mercury's room, only to discover that it was empty. Frustrated and disappointed, I trudged wearily down the rest of the corridor until I reached the main hall, not stopping until I spotted the innkeeper.
"Excuse me, do you know if... that lady," I said hoarsely, pointing at the room behind me, "Did she leave?"
"She left early this morning." the innkeeper said, stopping his work and looking at me with interest. "The people from Lumopolis came to pick her up in their airship. I soppose she must be a noblewoman?"
I didn't know whether to nod or shake my head, all I felt was a sluggish disappointment. The innkeeper sighed, "When she came in, I could tell right away that she was different—the beauty, it was almost unsettling." He turned an approving eye to me as he spoke, "I'm amazed you had the guts to go up and talk to her."
I shook my head, feeling a sinking bitterness in my throat as I slowly turned to go back to my room. I sat at the desk, and a few moments later, the attendant arrived with my breakfast and clean clothes. I continued to sit at the desk for a long time, only getting up when the sunlight outside the window became too intense to bear.
As per my usual routine, I went over to the couch to neaten my clothes before putting them away into the closet. I was folding my clothes absentmindedly when something small and withered floated out between the creases. I picked it up, and was staggered by what I saw—
It was a dried lily that had been pressed flat like a bookmark. This was her calling card.
The authorities took their sweet time issuing my approval to enter the city. I was getting anxious to get in, so I asked around about what was happening in Lumopolis. One said that an appalling murder had happened there. When I finally got in, I couldn't wait to learn the details of the event.
I waited three or four more days after this, and surprisingly, my application to enter the city still had not been approved. Baffled and fretful, my appointment with the viscountess and the bookseller mere days away, all I could do was leave the hotel and ask around for news from Lumopolis, trying to find another way in so as not to delay my meeting.
It was during this inquiring that I learned about the recent murder case in Lumopolis, the unfortunate victim of which was the eldest son of the Hermes family. Lumopolis was cordoned off due to the incident, and all applications to enter had been put on hold. Unable to stop thinking about what I had heard, I couldn't help feeling anxious on my way back to the hotel. As I mulled over what Mrs. Red Mercury had said, I kept feeling like her words were full of hidden meanings, and that she may have hinted at this murder. I became so lost in thought that I even forgot about my appointment with the viscountess.
The story spread like wildfire, with even the hotel launderers sharing anecdotes in the hallways, but I found myself somehow disconnected from all the excitement. I was an insider with a secret to protect, and I couldn't reveal my true feelings until this storm had blown over. A couple of days later, applications to enter the city gradually resumed, and approval documents began to circulate along with the outcome of the murder investigation—the killer had been captured and would be hanged in Lumopolis.
I met with the viscountess, but was distracted, trying several times to interrupt her ramblings about reading with questions about details of the murder case. But she stubbornly kept to her topic, as though the loss of two people's lives was no cause for alarm, or, perhaps something she had no intention of mentioning to an outsider like me. There was nothing I could do but suppress my doubts. After our meeting, the viscountess asked the bookseller to take me on a tour of Lumopolis before bidding us farewell.
I impatiently asked the bookseller to take me to see the gallows, and we arrived at dusk.
"The execution hasn't started yet?" I asked hopefully.
The bookseller thought for a moment, then asked, "You mean for the Hermes murder from the other day?"
"It's over." Likely noting the confusion on my face, he added, "The sentence was carried out yesterday."
People weren't normally allowed near the gallows and could only watch from afar. Only a few people were walking by the site, along with a pigeon waddling its corpulent little body along the ground.
"Did you see it?" I asked him.
"Do you know who the killer was?"
"You'll have to inquire with the Hall of Justice."
My suspicion grew. "What kind of person was the killer?"
"I don't know," the bookseller said, shaking his head. "Convicts have to wear prison uniforms, you can't tell anything about them from those tattered things. Their heads are also covered with a burlap bag, or iron helmets with just two eye holes in the case of serious offenses. No one's permitted to see the faces of the convicted during the hanging."
"That would be frightening, wouldn't it?" he laughed.
I felt shaken hearing this and could only force out a laugh. "It's less disturbing when they're masked, I guess."
"More fun, too!" he said, still laughing.
When I met one of Mrs. Red Mercury's former subordinates in Umbraton, I couldn't resist asking them for news about her. I feared the worst, but it appeared that reality was very different from what I had imagined.
I left Lumopolis as if on the run. A friend invited me to stay with them in Umbraton, but I panicked and declined. By the time I went to Umbraton, it was already several months later.
My friend invited me for a drink as usual. The bar was full of people and resounded with dense and fragmented conversion. Already half-drunk, my friend flipped their glass and pointed it towards a place in the crowd, saying: "Look, it's that traitor from the Pit."
I turned my head to look and my eyes landed on the small man in black and vaguely remembered the fight from a few years back. My mind was flooded with memories of Mrs. Red Mercury. If I had run into him a few months ago, I surely would have avoided him, but after what had happened, I acted with calm determination. Holding my glass in my hand, I walked over to him.
"I remember you," I said, raising my glass to him, emboldened by the alcohol. "I saw you in the Pit."
His expression was uncertain for a moment as he and his companions exchanged looks. With my fear and memory of these people's ferocity long forgotten, I continued: "I crossed paths with your principal, Mrs. Red Mercury."
Hearing this, their expressions finally softened.
"Please give her my regards. I'm the writer from the hotel in the transit zone, she'll remember." I watched their expressions carefully, scanning for traces of sadness to corroborate my suspicions. But the young one with an old scar on his face wore only a bland, vague expression.
"She's well, I hope?" I asked, probing.
"She's very well," They looked at each other, sighing slightly, "but she's not the principal of the guild anymore."
"That means you're without a principal now, are you?"
They laughed boisterously: "When one goes, another takes their place. Have you ever heard of a guild without a principal?"
With that, the conversation came to an abrupt halt. I didn't see Mrs. Red Mercury again after that, nor did I hear any news about her.
Gossip from Umbraton and Lumopolis flowed freely in the stream of people that passed through the bar. I heard most of these fragmented rumors, but was unable to glean from a single one of them whether the Lumopolis-bound Mrs. Red Mercury had intended to deliver death to an enemy, or to see a friend from her dream.
The editor of the second edition of Mrs. Red Mercury researched the Weapon Smugglers' guild in Umbraton and the murder case in Lumopolis. The details were shared with readers in the afterword.
Dear readers, it is an honor to meet you in Yvonne's novel collection. We hope you won't be displeased by our selection of "Mrs. Red Mercury" as the overall title of the collection. "Mrs. Red Mercury", though perhaps not Yvonne's best work—after all, it is only a short story—is the one that features most prominently in your discussions. As a faithful reader of Ms. Yvonne's, my first thought after finishing this character saga was: "I want to find the real 'Mrs. Red Mercury'." I imagine many of you must have had the same thought.
To this end, I specifically called on her old guild in Umbraton, paid the 1,000 Nightium entry fee to visit the Pit, and asked someone to check through some files at the Lumo Hall of Justice. I even questioned each of the Hermes family servants about that sensational murder case. Now, I will share my research and conclusions with you all.
Ms. Yvonne's stories are known for being "true", as you can always find some "truths" in them. Take Umbraton's arms-dealing guild for example—To be precise, Umbraton has many such guilds, but some deal in other items as well. This novel was written ten years ago, and it's difficult to ascertain whether there was one guild presiding over the entire trade back then. After all, perseverance enough isn't alone to unravel the complexities of Umbraton.
As for the Lumopolis murder case, it is indeed attested to in the files and is very well known in Lumopolis. The eldest son of the Hermes family, that is, the eldest son of Lachon, the family head, was murdered. As it happens, the fatal wound was dealt by a slender steel weapon, which easily brings to mind that weapon wielded by Mrs. Red Mercury—The "cold silver light" that killed the captive in the Pit. What was not found in the files, however, was the true perpetrator of the killing. They were clearly put to death, but Lumopolis remains reluctant to release the details to the outside world, let alone show the murderer's face. Not even the Hermes family servants who witnessed the murder could say what the killer looked like. Still, there's no need for frustration, this is simply the way of Lumopolis and its nobility. However, the truth will rise to the surface one day. After all, no one lives forever, right?
The editor also shared some personal thoughts on Mrs. Red Mercury's character in the afterword. He believed that readers need not try to find the person that Mrs. Red Mercury is based on, as that is not the purpose of Yvonne's writing.
What we readers are concerned with most of all is the true identity of Mrs. Red Mercury, am I right? However, according to my research, Mrs. Red Mercury is indeed a fictional character. Her exaggerated beauty is the proof. Ten years ago, romance novels were especially popular (and they continue to sell well to this day, of course), and their female protagonists were always stunningly beautiful. Yvonne bestowed Mrs. Red Mercury with "unsettling" beauty purely as a form of deadpan satire of the trends of the day. After all, romance novels are full of couples who come together despite the shackles of status.
So, in this story, what fate did Ms. Yvonne leave Mrs. Red Mercury to? It's just like the question she poses at the end—Did she go to Lumopolis for revenge or to see a friend? Combined with the rumors from Lumopolis over recent years—many nobles were executed or exiled (we're not even sure why)—we can absolutely guess that, in Ms. Yvonne's setting, love is simply a pretense, and the real reason Mrs. Red Mercury married in Umbraton was for refuge. After all, we readers of Ms. Yvonne's work are well acquainted with her writing habits—she excels at using lies to mask "the unspeakable".
That being the case, is there any way for us to determine whether Mrs. Red Mercury just went to Lumopolis to see a friend? The answer is no, there's not. In the chapter with the hotel encounter, Yvonne is stingy with the authentic and effective information she conveys, as if a river rushed past her and she only leaned over to scoop up a handful of water from it—this handful alone can't define the entire river. In the story, perhaps that poor victim was indeed the enemy Mrs. Red Mercury wanted dead, or maybe she simply missed her childhood friend, or perhaps both were true, but she only told the protagonist the half of it.
Dear readers, you must find my conclusion frustrating. However, "Mrs. Red Mercury" isn't a detective story, nor did Yvonne intend to write a story about "the truth". What she wants to offer us is "reality", the stories from real people's lives hidden by legends. In giving Mrs. Red Mercury the fresh lilies, sharp sword, and stunning beauty, her goal is merely to focus our attention so that we don't miss the moment when the characters meet each other, that moment of "reality"—In that meager handful of water is something more valuable than all the legends put together.