Chapter 66 – Ink Brush of Virtue (21)
First Published on Wattpad, Reposted on Ainushi
When Shen sees their head teacher, he realises that someone intentionally lured him away. His face sinks; when the head teacher turns around, he gives his shoulder a forceful tap, and asks coldly, “Who told you to call me?”
His voice exudes unspeakable pressure, and in the blink of an eye, the head teacher’s soul is enveloped tightly in his body, crushed into immobility. Like a soulless cadaver, the head teacher’s gaze loses focus and blandly stares ahead with disorientation.
Shen tightens his grasp, turns the head teacher around, and bellows, “Answer me!”
No person can lie deliberately in the face of the Ghost Slayer’s blade that judges all good and evil. And yet, the head teacher’s expression is increasingly blank; he cannot utter a word. Shen’s heart sinks; he knows that this human’s memory has been messed with.
Shen lets go of him and leaves without looking back. The head teacher regains consciousness, and watches Professor Shen leave hurriedly with bewilderment… Luckily, he never thinks to check other people’s eletronic devices; Shen never uses that stuff, and he would never think along those lines when it comes to it… not to mention, anyone who dares go against him wouldn’t use these human tricks anyway.
Of course, in Shen’s very gentlemanly mind, he would never imagine that someone would go through so much trouble, with a meticulous plan, just to move his things and steal a few pieces of underwear.
Shen hurried back to his apartment, and busted inside. The living room is empty. His heart almost freezes solid.
He stands stupefied at the door, and a surge of uncontainable brutality rises up within him, like a ginormous dragon that has been in deep slumber for eons suddenly roused by someone touching its reverse scales… Ever since his carelessness which resulted in Zhao’s eye injury, Shen’s heart has been on edge like a dangerously strained string, although he looks fine on the outside.
The emptiness of the living room almost breaks that string… luckily, he hears a voice from the balcony. Shen comes to his senses, and his figure flashes and reappears on the balcony instantly.
He sees Zhao nicely laying on the window sill, lazily smoking, and yelling at the phone, “No, not the ones made of stone, I know… white marble? The heck! I’m not decorating a fucking palace. Don’t be like that, Old Wu, don’t give me this nonsense… no, no, no, you listen to me, do your job nicely, and I will pay you extra bonus. I will not give you a penny less than what you deserve, alright? But I tell you, if you mess with me you’re gonna be in deep shit…”
Shen is greatly relieved. He leans on to the balcony door. Now he realises that he is soaked in cold sweat, and even his palm is cold.
Zhao hears some noise, and sees Shen when he turns around. He wears a smile instantly, and says to the other side, “Alright, alright, don’t argue about unimportant things, I want eco-friendly materials, ok… what Copenhagen, I have to live there, just don’t turn it into the ruins of bio-chemical warfare, otherwise the smell will not go away for centuries…. my wife’s home, that’s all for now, bye.”
He hangs up, puts out the cigarette, and leans against the wide-open windows amidst the chilling winds, opens his arms in his scruffy shirt, and says pervertedly, “Baby come here, your hubby wants a hug.”
Teasing Shen has become a habit of his, but this time Shen really comes forward and embraces him, burying his face into his shoulder. Then he picks Zhao up by the waist
with both hands, lifts him off the window sill, and closes the window. Shen touches Zhao’s icy hands, and frowns, “Silly kid, do you not realise it’s cold?”
Zhao the silly kid places his hands on to the window sill and traps Shen inside his arms. He stretches sluggishly and lazily places his chin on Shen’s shoulder. Closing his eyes, his lips curl up into a tranquil and peaceful smile, like a sunbathing cat with a full belly.
Shen finds him a little weird, and asks, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” This word comes out after a while. Then, Zhao opens his eyes, gazing at Shen’s profile, and says without a change of expression, “Rarely does the great beauty show his affection, I’m overwhelmed by the pleasant surprise… of course, if I can be blessed with a smooch, I’ll be even more flabbergasted.”
Then, before Shen notices, he quickly pecks on his lips. When Shen realises what happened, he escapes at the speed of light and announces, “I’ll go wash my face, pick up Da Qing, and then I’ll bring you home.”
Not a single word about what he saw.
Zhao and Da Qing were planning on going there empty-handed and empty-stomached, but this shameless plan is rejected by Shen, who forcefully pulls the yawning Zhao off the car to shop for a lot of gifts.
The closer they get, the more nervous Shen becomes. If it weren’t for his insistence on keeping promises, he would have ran away.
The door to Zhao’s home is not locked. He doesn’t have the habit of knocking either, and opens the door right away, like he knows that someone is waiting for him.
The place is rather large and appears somewhat vacant. Past the entryway, they can hear the clanging of plates and bowls from the kitchen. Two pairs of brand new slippers are placed at the door.
Da Qing bounces off of Zhao, tiptoes towards the doorway of the kitchen, and politely meows.
Zhao mumbles as he puts on the slippers, “Shameless fat fuq, trying to act cute, as if nobody knows how old you are.”
Da Qing glares at him with a vicious look.
“Oh, isn’t this Da Qing?” The gentle voice of a woman comes from the kitchen. She wipes off the flour on her hands and tenderly picks up the heavy black cat. The sheer weight of the cat almost breaks her wrists. She sighs, “Look at your smooth little face, why are you getting fatter and fatter?”
A ruthless attack on Da Qing’s greatest weakness. It has no response to that. Two fat paws furrily tap on the female owner’s hand, keeping its adorable pretence, with its long body looking more and more like a big, fat and stupid black caterpillar.
Shen reluctantly lifts his lips upwards a little, but he really cannot bring himself to smile.
Zhao’s mother aged well. Her long hair is tied up, revealing a slender neck. She doesn’t look a lot like Zhao, but on a closer look, there is perhaps some resemblance between the eyes and brows. But the shape of her face is much more gentle and pretty, with a hint of a smile even when she is not in fact smiling. She is wearing a pair of rimless glasses.
On a glance, she has the appearance of a well-educated and elegant upper-class lady… perhaps when it comes to taste in a romantic partner, it’s like father like son.
But who would have thought that as soon as this “lady” sees Zhao at the door, her look changes instantly. With a vicious expression like that of “female yaksha”, she growls, “What are you laughing at, like you wanna laugh your teeth off. Get your ass over here!”
Zhao hastily obeys, and Zhao’s mother sees Shen behind him.
She is stunned. She washes her hands, adjusts her glasses, and says with a welcoming look, “Oh, this must be little Shen?”
Zhao puts his arm around Shen’s shoulder, and pushes him towards his mother, “Your soon-to-be son-in-law, good-looking, right?”
Shen is left speechless instantly in great embarassment. He has never hated Zhao more for his disrespectfulness.
Luckily, Zhao’s mother doesn’t take him seriously. She glares at him, and sees the stuff that Shen is carrying, “Oh you didn’t have to bring gifts when you come to auntie’s place, why the formality?”
Zhao points at his own nose, “It’s me, I bought all of that.”
Zhao’s mother beats him with a rolling pin, “No need to bullshit me. You? If you ever have the decency to do that, then I will have no regrets… go pour some water for our guest, and then help me make the wrappings!”
Zhao’s back is stained with the trace of a flour-filled rolling pin, he dares not get mad, “Roger…”
Shen cautiously sits on a corner of the couch. When he’s given fruits, he would take a tiny piece of apple with seemingly no interest. When he’s given water, he would sit upright and take a very tiny sip. When Zhao’s mother finds out Shen teaches Chinese at the University, she says passionately, as if meeting a long-lost friend, “Oh that is great! Wouldn’t it be nice if you were my son, unlike the two men in our family… sigh, I don’t want to say anything about them. Just sit here and wait, auntie will go make you some dumplings, then we can talk more.”
Shen smiles unnaturally. His back is upright and greatly tensed, like a fully-drawn bow.
Five minutes later, Zhao has proven unhelpful in the kitchen… the wrappings are irregular and hideous. He is punished with further rolling pin strikes. Zhao stretches his shoulders, pretentiously dodging, but not actually dodging. While she is beating him with the rolling pin, he whispers, “Don’t make me lose face in front of someone else.”
Zhao’s mother says, “All you do is eat and play, and you don’t even come home anymore, what did I raise you for? Lose face, do you even have any to lose?”
Zhao steps aside to leave her some space, but doesn’t leave the kitchen. All smiles, he puts one hand on the wall and watches her busying in the kitchen. Pretentiously, he asks, eyes rolling, “Where’s auntie? And dad? Why is it only our beautiful miss at home?”
“Your aunt went home for the New Year. Your dad has work tonight, he’s not coming back.”
“Great.” Zhao is relieved. He watches his mother from behind, and cautiously lowers his voice, “If dad finds out about this… I’m dead.”
Zhao’s mother turns around, “What did you do now?”
“Nothing actually…” Zhao’s gaze wanders on to a chopsticks rack. His eyesight has yet to recover fully. He can’t help but squint his eyes. Then, he peeks towards his mother, and continues, “So… um, mum, what do you think about being gay?”
Zhao’s mother doesn’t seem to understand, “Not much. It’s a normal social phenomenon, and it exists even in animals. Sooner or later, the law will recognise it… Why are you asking this? I was talking about your problem.”
“This is my problem.” Zhao rubs his nose, “Don’t be so academic with me. I just wanna ask, if one day, your son came out to you, what would you do?”
“Don’t change the subject, I…”
“Mum,” Zhao interrupts her. His wandering gaze settles, and his expression shifts from “guilt-ridden” to “stout-hearted” instantly. He looks at her with incredible seriousness, “I mean it, I’m not joking.”
The rolling pin drops on to the floor with a thud.
Zhao sighs. He bends down and picks up the rolling pin. The musles on his waist contract, outlining a robust shape beneath the clothes, “I’m afraid dad will find this hard to accept, so I wanted to tell you first. I have thought about this, I can’t hold it any longer, and I can’t hide it from you, you’re the only mother I’ll ever get…”
Zhao’s mother is petrified still. In shock, she takes the rolling pin. After a long time, she stutters, “So… you brought him here…”
Zhao nods. Then, he blocks the door with both hands and his body, and says, “But I have to tell you first, I went through so much for the past months, I used all kinds of tricks and tactics: encirclement, ambushing, Thirty Six Stratagems, this-that and what-not, every single scheme that I could think of I used. It was even harder than a revolution. If you’re angry just kill me, don’t hurt him, I will be heart-broken.”
Zhao’s mother seems to be struck by lightning. She stands motionless for a long time. Then, like a rebooted robot, with a bland expression, she begins picking up the dumpling wrappers and adding ingredients inside thoughtlessly.
Zhao suspects he might have been too direct. He asks, “Ma?”
Zhao’s mother doesn’t hear at first. For a few minutes, she is trapped in a narcotised state, like she doesn’t know what she is doing or what she is hearing, but she only keeps working with her hands on auto-pilot.
Zhao calls her for a few more times, and she suddenly awakens. She begins firing, “What about your work? And… what will other people say about you? Will your future prospects be affected? Right, I… I heard from your dad that you bought a house, do you still have enough money?”
Zhao is stunned. He can’t figure out why coming out suddenly relates to money issues. It seems that her logic is a gigantic mess now, and she is hastily picking up keywords, messily constructing sentences and brainlessly spouting them out.
His mother is well-educated and never had to worry about necessities in her life. Thanks to his dad, she seems to be always in a good mood, and has an open mind. Zhao’s plan is simple enough: if he can take care of his mother, then his father won’t be a concern. And
luckily his mother is easy to communicate with; she is knowledgeable, well-tempered, sharp-witted, and not stubborn at all. She can almost always deal with something rationally.
He formulated many possible reactions from her. For instance, maybe she would be angry at first, or maybe she would calmly suggest discussing this matter for a few hours, or maybe like other mothers she would begin grilling him about Shen’s background… but he never expected such a worrisome and astonished reaction.
Perhaps it’s because he has never been a parent himself.
Zhao is speechless. He really doesn’t know what to say for a moment.
Zhao’s mother seems to have calmed down a little. Her hand stops moving, holding a pair of chopsticks, and she asks after some hesitation, “Are you serious about this or is this some kind of joke?”
“How can I joke about this. Dad would cook me in a pot.”
Zhao’s mother leans aside. A long time later, she takes a deep breath, and says, “Don’t… don’t tell your dad yet. You let me think about this first… who is he? What… what does he do?”
Before Zhao can answer, she pinches between her eyebrows, “Oh, right, my bad, you told me, he is a teacher at Dragon City University.”
Zhao’s mother concentrates effortfully, and fires a load of questions, “Where does he live? Do his family members agree with this? What is he like? Is he a good person? Does he treat you well? I… I remember you had girlfriends before, why suddenly…”
Zhao answers very skilfully, “As long as you agree, no-one in this world will dare disagree. Dad will have to agree with you too, right? As for what he’s like…”
He smiles, “In my heart, he is ‘a perfectly crafted piece of jade, he is one of a kind in this whole wide world’. Just talk to him and you’ll know. And hit me if you’re mad, but besides girlfriends, I dated a few boys before as well. But I’m willing to be completely gay for him.”
Zhao’s mother stares at his expression. Her heart sinks… this cannot be considered selfish; as parents, watching someone fall in love with your child is moving, heart- warming and delightful, but if it’s the other way round, perhaps it would be a bit bitter.
Amidst this bitterness, she says a little snappishly, “I don’t believe you.”
Zhao’s expression remains, but his heart is jumping out with anxiety.
Unexpectedly, his mother continues, “If he really is as good as you say, then why would he want you? Does he not have the right glasses?”
Zhao trips and almost falls kneeling down.