Chapter 42 – Pillar of Nature (22)
First Published on Wattpad, Reposted on Ainushi
“There are always some things about which there’s nothing you can do,” Zhao says while digging a small hole and burying the page about Luobula restriction magic. He pats the ground, stands up, and continues, “either become strong enough to deal with anything, or let go and forget. Does you no good remembering all the useless things, it’s just a waste of space.”
This time, Wang remains silent for even longer.
The Ghost Slayer walks forward, and extends one hand, “We should go, I will bring the Guardian out of here.”
Zhao is already exhausted, of course he doesn’t want to walk if there is another means of transportation. He holds the Ghost Slayer’s hand, who pulls him into an embrace. Their surroundings darken, Zhao has yet to stand still, and as he opens his eyes again, everything is different.
The cloak opens up, and at an instant, they’re back at the mountain pass.
The Ghost Slayer lets go, stands back, and fixes his cloak with a polite greeting gesture. He leaves, and in the blink of an eye, vanishes into a giant black hole.
Zhao looks at him from behind, and rubs his chin in deep thought. As he is thinking, Wang speaks from inside the watch.
“Oh right, Chief Zhao, didn’t you say you left your wallet in the car? Then what was that you pulled out just now?”
Zhao’s pretentiously mysterious expression shatters, and frantically covers his chest. “What do you want? I’m short on cash lately, I can give my body but not my money! What about your guy? What’s he doing with you, and why are you concerned with someone else’s wallet?”
“He doesn’t understand,” Wang’s tone relaxes a bit, “I heard you’re buying a lot of antique books lately, like you’re planning to become an antique vendor. Besides that, what did you spend all your money on?”
“A man eventually has to buy a house and support a family.” Zhao hides his hands in his pockets and dawdles forward. “You don’t get it, little girl.”
Wang laughs lightly, “I died theee hundred years ago, who’s a little girl?”
Zhao agrees, “You’re an old tramp who died three hundred years ago, and you’re asking for red packet money? How can you be so shameless?”
The two keep on squabbling back and forth in the white snow land. After a long while, Wang says softly, “I didn’t say it earlier, but thank you…”
Zhao smiles, and knocks on the watch, “Don’t think a sweet tongue can replace your reflection, email it to me next week. When it’s New Year’s Eve, reading out your reflection in front of everyone will be one of the activities, you won’t get away with it.”
When Zhao leisurely arrives at the mountaintop hut, it’s already evening.
Zhu Hong’s eyes signal a question, and Zhao waves his watch around. Zhu understands, and takes out a handmade woollen doll. She pretends to pass by Zhao unintentionally, and pushes the doll on to his watch without anyone noticing. Two streaks of white smoke swiftly enter the doll, which moves in Zhu’s palm as if alive.
Zhao’s gaze scans around the hut, and he finds that everyone is here; they all look pretty well: Chu Shuzhi stealthily guards the door, with Da Qing laying flat by his legs, Guo Changcheng helplessly tends to a cooking pot in which something is boiling, the students sit around fake monk Lin Jing and listen to his ghosts stories with amazement and fright, and Shen Wei… eh, where’s Shen Wei?
Why did he think that everyone was here?
Zhao’s face darkens, and asks Zhu, “Where’s Professor Shen?”
Zhu is apparently stunned, and her expression is marked with vacancy. But shortly, Shen carries a pile of firewood and enters; he says calmly, “Looking for me?”
It seems Zhu has just remembered, and smacks herself on the forehead, “Right, Professor Shen said the fuel might not be enough for another night, so he went out for firewood.”
Shen puts the wood next to the fire to dry, “Just in case. Did you find Little Wang?”
Zhao glances at him, and replies naturally, “Yea we did. We ran into the rescue team on the way, I had some errands for her to run, so I had the rescue team take her back.”
“Oh.” Shen turns around, and smiles gently and sweetly, “It’s good you’re fine; you must be exhausted, drink some Indigowoad root water, it prevents you from getting a cold.”
Zhao stares at him for a moment, and smiles as if nothing happened. He takes the medicine and guzzles it down in one gulp. He never mentions what happened the other night and the many doubts he has tangling in his mind.
These few days, Zhao has been living quite an inhuman life: first he drank an entire night with Brother Lang, then he drove in the snow for one day, he didn’t sleep all night, then Wang drugged him, then the Pillar of Nature almost killed him, he trod through the snowy mountains for ages, he somehow ended up battling a horde of monsters… And so the sequelae of such an intense lifestyle hit him the next morning.
He wakes up with a sprain neck.
But even with a stiff neck, the boss is still the boss. As soon as he wakes up, he starts ordering people around, and the small mountain hut is in chaos early in the morning… He orders Lin to give him a shoulder massage, and Lin gives him the Shaolin Great Strength Vajra Finger, which almost breaks the Chief’s neck. Zhao is almost in painful tears, and suspects that Lin did it on purpose. The two forget about the important things and chase around the house like adolescents. After some twenty minutes, Zhu can’t stand it anymore, and growls “are we leaving or not”; the two boys finally stop.
Zhao heavily punches Lin, but his neck miraculously moves again. And so, he dawdles away, hands behind his back, and begins packing. He picks up Da Qing, and wears it around his neck like a fur collar.
The female class captain asks out of curiosity, “When did this cat get here? Is it coming with us? I thought it’s a wild cat.”
Zhao the asshole says, “Have you seen a wild cat this chubby before?”
In response, Da Qing courageously slaps him in the face with its paw, fulfilling its wish of beating up the boss violently.
The female class captain walks forward, and out of sympathy, caresses Da Qing’s shiny and smooth fur, “Poor thing, must have been uncomfortable riding on the plane as luggage… Oh right, Big Bro Zhao, our teacher said he will drive on the way back so you can have a good rest.”
Zhao covers the cat-pawed side of his face, hesitates on the feet, and turns around to look at Shen.
They lock eyes with each other. Shen looks down slightly, and smiles mildly.
Shen’s expressions and words are all too subtle. It seems to Zhao that every look on his face conceals endless words yet to be conveyed. His heart suddenly quivers, and thinks of the other night when he woke up and locked eyes with Shen, who had been staring at him all night. It’s as if his heart were clenched, it softens and leaves a tinge of sourness.
Zhao falls asleep next to the driver’s seat as the car goes downhill. When the ringing phone wakes him up, it’s way pass noon and the sun is shining from the West. The car has left the snowy mountains, and there are a few people along the highway.
It’s Brother Lang calling, it seems that he really needs a favour from Zhao. He enthusiastically arranges accommodation for them, and says that last time they haven’t had enough fun: this time they will not return if they’re not drunken.
Zhao hangs up, and his face is sullen… he is not a drunkard, nor is he superhuman. What he really wants now is a bed he can sleep in for eternity, not being forced to drink and chitchat with an old fat guy.
The unexpected tragic turn of events has him devastated, and he isn’t even in the mood to flirt with Shen anymore. He drops the phone and closes his eyes: every second of sleep counts before tonight’s disaster comes.
Shen waits for his breathing to even out, and then he pulls up a blanket around Zhao.
When Brother Lang meets them in the city centre, Zhao comes back to life from his withering, and becomes his usual energetic self once more.
The two start citchatting a bunch of nonsense, and half a bottle of white wine is gone. Brother Lang is a little drunk, but still very spirited, and eagerly calls for more.
Though Zhao makes drinking wine look like drinking water, his face is getting paler.
Brother Lang howls in a thundering voice of mountain singing, and orders the waiter, “Full! Full! Fill it full!”
Zhao doesn’t want to stop him, and generously nods towards the waiter; his smile shows a hint of desperation.
Brother Lang stands up and gives a speech, “I’m not very cultured, and I don’t speak well; I’m just a crude man. The luckiest thing in my life is to have brothers like you. Like the saying goes, ‘friends visiting from far away, is that not…’ Is that not a what? You know what I mean, cheers!”
Zhao can only raise his glass to ‘is that not a what’, but suddenly, Shen holds him back.
Lang and Zhao are both shocked.
Shen raises Zhao’s glass and stands up, nodding towards Lang, and says politely, “Chief Zhao got a bit of a cold in the windy mountains, so he’s not feeling too well.”
Zhao instantly coughs a few in co-operation.
Shen smiles, “But we all owe it to Mr Lang for taking care of us on this trip. I only brought a group of poor students, there’s no way we can pay you back, so let me propose a toast, to you.”
His glass clangs with that of Lang’s, and he finishes the drink.
Brother Lang is quite taken aback: he knows what kind of person he is, he can hang with a gangster like Zhao, but not an intellectual such as Shen.
He never thought Shen would join in, this is a completely new experience for Lang. He gulps down the drink, and dizzily starts firing his words at Shen.
Zhao looks around the table: fake monk Lin avoids drinking using religion as an excuse, but he mumbles some Mantra and keeps gobbling down meat till his mouth is covered in oil, and Zhu pretentiously says “a lady only drinks red wine” and continues eating very happily, Chu only drank half a glass and is already playing dead, Guo… well this poor and honest kid, he’s actually “dead”. A whole table of people… none of them would help their Chief out.
Zhao grits his teeth and makes a mental note of his disloyal staff. He quickly stuffs a lot of food in Shen’s bowl so that he doesn’t get drunk too soon. They work together to get the troublemaker Lang drunk as soon as possible, and they are finally free from this nightmare.
Shen is clearly not used to this kind of gathering. His cheeks are crimson, and his gaze vacant and disoriented. He struggles to stand up, but stumbles, and drops back down. Zhao swiftly catches him, and asks quietly against his ear, “Damn, can you walk? Are you okay?”
Shen doesn’t reply and only wanders in intoxication. As Zhao grabs him, he wraps his arm around Zhao’s waist, rather tightly and assertively.
This time… someone is obviously not quite okay.