Chapter 44 – Pillar of Nature (24)
First Published on Wattpad, Reposted on Ainushi
For a few minutes, Shen doesn’t make a sound. And Zhao is in no hurry: he sits stately in a corner. The hospital room is incredibly tranquil, even the ticking and tocking of the watch is barely audible.
After a long time, Shen sighs, and waves his hand as the hospital gown comes off. In the blink of an eye, he sits in a giant black cloak. His blade emerges in his hand, and he wears the ancient weapon round his waist… this time, he isn’t hiding his face anymore.
“How did you find out?” Shen asks quietly.
Zhao looks at him, and ponders. After a long while, he says, “Actually I wasn’t sure, I was just testing you.”
The look on Shen’s face is difficult to describe.
Zhao smiles and says, “Of course, I wouldn’t have if I didn’t pick up any clues. Like your small puppet messenger that arrived just a while after I reached the Hanga tribe cave. I mentioned the Hell Guard, but didn’t say what he was doing, but you already knew he was leading a few hundreds to the afterlife. I couldn’t help but recall the Hell Guard bowing twice towards the car. I asked Zhu about you, and she only ‘remembered’ you when you arrived. You travel much faster than me, Your Honour, so you must have made a trip to the ‘other side’. And also…”
And also when he stared at him sleeping all night in the hut… this was when Zhao first became suspicious. But now it seems inappropriate to mention that to the Ghost Slayer. Zhao pauses, and swallows down the rest of his sentence.
“And also your breathing and heartbeat stopped so suddenly. I got curious, and asked the Book of Life and Death. It told me that ‘Shen Wei’ is a soulless person from an unspeakable place.” Zhao’s fingers lightly knock on his knees, “Now that I think about it, you gave me a lot of hints.”
The Ghost Slayer does not speak. He probably doesn’t know what to say at all.
Actually, Zhao feels rather uncomfortable as well. He regrets saying everything so directly and bluntly. As soon as he remembers the things he did with “Shen Wei” in the past and his motive, he really just wants to drop dead and have amnesia.
Zhao massages his temples. He can’t help but feel like his IQ just plummeted rapidly tonight, he made so many foolish decisions.
The two remain in silence for long, until Zhao finally decides to face his embarrassing past, and coughs, “I didn’t know Professor Shen was… uh, if I ever offended you, please forgive me, Your Honour.”
Shen shakes his head.
The doubts in Zhao’s mind haven’t decreased, but more and more questions arise. But as he sees the vacant and miserable look on Shen’s face, there’s nothing he can ask.
He washes his cup and gets on the small single bed for visitors. Zhao curls up in the tiny bed a little uncomfortably.
He says naturally, “It’s late, get some rest, call me if you need anything.”
Only then does Zhao realise he’s not actually talking to a real “patient”. He finds himself saying the wrong things all day.
For the first time in his life, Zhao sombrely and undoubtedly realises the cruel truth that he is a complete moron. He decides to shut up, lie on his side, and pretend to sleep.
It’s just that tonight, neither of them can fall asleep.
The next few days. Zhu is the first to sense something different: their Chief Zhao has “changed his evil ways”.
More specifically, he no longer goes drinking with Brother Lang, he no longer spouts bullshit all day long, and he no longer finds excuses to flirt with Professor Shen!
Even when they want to go shopping at the night market and claim work expenses for it, Chief Zhao does not hesitate at all and just grants it; doesn’t scold anyone, doesn’t seem to want to tag along either.
As Shen Wei stays at the hospital for a “check-up”, Zhao brings his laptop and stays in the small visitor’s bed, looking up some peculiar information… One
thing that seems strange, though, is Zhu hears Zhao ordering Guo to bring him some clothes from his luggage at the hotel.
Zhu stares at Zhao with profound thought. All these occurrences make Zhu suspect that something must have went wrong after he got drunk, that he must have did Shen.
Perhaps it was too rough, and he had to be rushed to the hospital?
Zhu feels doubtful. Zhao doesn’t get drunk easily, that day only Shen was actually drunk, Zhao was definitely still conscious and rational. Besides, Zhao’s reputation isn’t bad: those who have dated him all admit that he is willing to spend money, loyal, and always left his relationships on good terms. Nobody ever spoke of any bad habits, let alone rape.
Or perhaps Professor Shen is just too attractive and Chief Zhao lost his mind, turning it into an unorthodox story of coercive love?
Zhu ponders and ponders but still doesn’t understand. She thinks with a hint of envy: is this Shen guy really that good?
At night, Zhao succinctly reminds Shen to “play along”, and who knows how Shen manages that. Anyhow, two days later, the report is out and the doctors say he went into cardiac arrest due to allergy to alcohol.
As Brother Lang bids them farewell at the airport, he apologetically holds Shen’s hands and says, “My brother, if your Old Brother Lang knew you can’t drink, I wouldn’t have let you touch any at all!”
Zhao thinks of who this fat guy is calling his younger brother, and his eyelids twitch inadvertently.
Brother Lang glances towards Zhao while speaking, and as he sees Zhao’s unpleasant expression, he lets go of Shen, “Next time I will make it up to you. You can drink Iron Goddess tea, and I will drink one litre of wine, how about that?”
Shen doesn’t understand why he thinks drinking one litre counts as making it up to him, but he politely nods.
Zhao carries both their luggage, and reminds him, “It’s time to check in.”
Shen hurriedly turns around, “I can do it myself.”
Zhao dashes aside and silent carries away all their luggage.
The SIU boys witness all of this, and led by Lin, they both cough suggestively. Neither of them understands their Chief’s endless misery and helplessness that floweth like a river all the way into the ocean. Intending to cause further chaos, they make all sorts of faces and collectively tease Zhao.
Lin turns around with a look of adoration, and asks Chu, “Are you hungry?”
Chu covers half his face with the boarding pass, and feigns embarrassment, “Oh, I’m fine.”
“Wait here, I’ll get you something to eat.”
Chu keeps covering his face, and acts like his teeth is hurting; he says with a flirtatious tone, “Oh, don’t trouble yourself, there’s stuff to eat on the plane.”
Lin imitates Zhao’s arrogance, and waves his hand, “Is that food even for humans? Even if it were, would I let you eat something like that?”
And that time at Dragon City airport, Zhao bought Shen some junk food “for humans”.
As they recall how silly the Chief was, the guys look at each other smuttily, and chortle smuttily.
Zhu elbows Guo, “Little Guo, do you have anyone you like?”
Guo shakes his head with a red face.
Zhu looks at Zhao from behind and says, “If you do in the future, learn from your Chief, you will become a star of the new generation… but of course, if you want to stay in a relationship for good, be selective in what you learn, that dude usually messes things up in the end.”
Guo’s face and ears redden, but he has a slight feeling that Zhu is openly cursing the Chief.
Zhao turns around and glares at them. Lin and Chu crazily snigger.
The depressed Chief cannot put into words his many embarrassments as his gang of bastardly staff follow him around. He usually has thick skin, so thick that not even the Pillar of Nature could get through, but his face now heats up a little.
On their trip here, Zhao asked the air hostess to change his seat, following behind Shen like a housefly tailing a farting butt, not giving a darn about how silly and embarrassing he looked.
But this time, Zhao really isn’t in the mood. But as he checks his boarding pass, he realises that Lin switched their seats intentionally to two connected seats away from the crowd.
As Lin helps him with his luggage, he whispers in his ear, “You don’t have to thank me, Chief.”
Zhao grits his teeth, “I thank all your ancestors for this.”
But his lousy teammate will not let him go. A difficult three-hour flight finally ends, and they land. Lin realises that Shen didn’t drive since he brought his students along. So the fake monk diligently sends the students on taxis, and turns towards Shen like a matchmaker, all smiles, “Doesn’t Professor Shen live quite close to Chief Zhao, he can drive you back then.”
In his mind, Zhao stabs the little person named Lin Jing into a hedgehog.
Lin feels the grudge, he turns around and sneezes earthshakingly.
Shen smiles, “No need, I will call a taxi…”
Zhao squeezes out a smile, and starts carrying his luggage, “Let me drive you, it’s late, if I drive you it’s…”
He wants to say “safer”. But before he can, he unfortunately recalls that night when he helped Shen with the gangsters. Not only did he beat them up, he intentionally put on a cool and badass pretence, like a stupid and conceited peacock fanning its tail when everyone can see its dirty ass.
The smile on Zhao’s face almost wears away.
Like the poem goes… one cannot beareth reminiscing under the moon.
“Zhao Yunlan,” he turns around and walks towards the car park decisively, and says to himself in his mind, “just how idiotic are you!?”
Zhao drives to his apartment in complete silence, and accurately stops at Shen’s place, “We’ve arrived.”
Shen looks up at the apartment building, and doesn’t move in his seat. He asks, “How did you know I live here?”
Zhao has nothing to say, and only laughs softly.
Shen looks at him, and suddenly says, “Guardian must have a lot of things to ask me, yes?”
Zhao doesn’t speak. The two lock eyes in the rear-view mirror.
After a while, Shen looks down, “Then why don’t you just ask?”
Zhao stays silent for a while, before he says, “You assumed this human form to stay here, it’s probably not for a usual errand. Is it for something very important, Your Honour?”
“No.” Shen says, “It’s just for personal reasons. It’s just… because of someone.”
Zhao doesn’t have to ask who that someone is at this point.