Chapter 69 – Ink Brush of Virtue (24)
First Published on Wattpad, Reposted on Ainushi
Da Qing embarrassingly rolls on to the floor and pounces up like a fat meatball. Its first reaction is a loud roar coming at Zhao, “I can’t believe you have the gall!”
Inattentively, Zhao replies with “uh”.
“You… you you you….!” Da Qing is lost for words. It has been roaming over the world for centuries, and it has seen countless strange phenonmena. Yet, this is the first time it realises what is meant by “love will find a way”.
Now it seems apparent why King Zhou of Shang killed to please Daji, why King You of Zhou pranked his army, or why Emperor Xuanzong of Tang abandoned the affairs of his empire… these foolish men will do anything in the face of beauty!
Da Qing is flustered and petrified. Then, it asks in a feeble voice, “Then… you… what… how far have you gone?”
Zhao rubs his nose, “Not far, we’ve been in bed together, but we only slept; he is shy, he never let me touch him.”
Da Qing is left speechless.
In bed… together… shy… didn’t let him touch……
These words are like a bombing raid; explosions echo around Da Qing and its soul is bombarded with force even greater than thunder and lightning from the Nine Heavens.
At an instant, images of Zhao and Professor Shen together flash across Da Qing’s mind. Every memory punctures an endless abyss in its brain; all of a sudden, this poor black cat experiences some sort of otherwordly wonder and philosophical lament… motherfucker, is there a worse cat owner in this world than Zhao Yunlan?
Da Qing struggles to extend its neck beyond the thick layer of meat, and stares at Zhao for long with deference, admiration and incredulity. Then, truest words have never been said: “What a pervert.”
The black cat bounces back on to the window sill, but with a weakness in its legs, “Do you know what kind of person the Ghost Slayer is?”
Zhao flickers some ashes, “That’s what I want to ask you.”
“I don’t know either.” Da Qing gets serious, “Ever since the beginning, all the deities of the Heavens and all the fairies of the earth, I have seen them all and I know them all. But the Ghost Slayer is a different story. Do you know how serious this is?”
Zhao is not surprised. He saw Shen’s painting… if he has seen Lord Kunlun, then he must be from a time when Da Qing was still ignorant.
“Just tell me what you know.”
“Do you know Houtu?” Da Qing asks.
Zhao hesitates, and then says, “According to the Classic of Mountains and Seas, Gonggong gave birth to Houtu, so she is a descendent of the Flame Emperor. In the Summons of the Soul, Houtu is said to be the goddess in charge of Hell. In some later
folk tales, ‘Houtu’ is usually seen as the counterpart of ‘Huangtian’, so her status seems to be even higher… in some legends, Houtu is thought to be Nuwa.”
“More or less.” Da Qing says, “When Gonggong destroyed Mount Buzhou, and Nuwa repaired the Pillar of the Sky, she then turned into soil, and separated Yin and Yang; that marked the beginning of the order of the universe. Some say that the Ghost Slayer was born from pure dark energy, and some say that he was born in the depths of Hell. But the dreariness of Hell is only the imagination of humans, this so-called dark energy really has nothing to do with Hell… after all, when the Ghost Slayer was around, Hell was not yet formed, why say he was born some thousands of miles underground?”
“So you’re saying that the Ghost Slayer wasn’t born in the depths of Hell?”
“Perhaps somewhere nearby. But I think he is only working with Hell for a mutual partnership, they are not actually related.” Da Qing says, “I can’t say for sure about incidents that are too ancient in time, I can only hazard a guess. Most say that Houtu is the earth, but the true earth was formed when Pangu struck with an axe and destroyed Chaos. Just think, Nuwa repaired the Heavens, she finished her job, why did she have to turn into Houtu and become one with the earth? Was she trying to cover up the true earth? Whatever is down there, it must be somewhat related to the Ghost Slayer.”
The cigarette in Zhao’s hand is almost burnt out, but he does not notice.
Da Qing sighs, “I can only think of so much. These things are too ancient; this water is way too deep, and you… how did you get involved with him? You really just can’t keep it in your pants can you?”
Perhaps it’s even more tragic that he hasn’t even gotten the chance to get his pants off…
“Too late.” Zhao puts out the cigarette and hurls it on the floor among the debris, “You’re telling me this way too late.”
Da Qing says grumpily, “That’s because you didn’t tell me who he was when you first started seducing him! Otherwise I would have stopped you no matter what it took…”
“No, when I say you’re too late,” Zhao interrupts, “I mean you’re late by a few thousand years.”
The black cat stares at him blankly. For one moment, it seems like Zhao is remembering something. But then, Zhao lights yet another cigarette, and stands by the window; the afterglow casts a long shadow.
Da Qing accompanies him while he finishes a whole packet of cigarette. With a whole floor full of cigar butts and an empty pocket, he signals Da Qing to jump on to his shoulder, and walks out.
Da Qing asks, “Where to?”
Zhao says with a cold face, “No. 4 Bright Avenue, I’ll see Chu first, and then meet with someone from Hell… my people will not be taken advantage of by anyone.”
The day workers of No. 4 Bright Avenue have just left. Chu is not here yet. Zhao takes out some dried fish and milk for Da Qing, and enters the library.
He takes out a pair of glasses, puts them on, and then sees Sang and Wang separating panickedly in the corner. Zhao says calmly, “Keep going, don’t mind me.”
Wang tsk-tsks, and hurriedly leaves.
Sang ruffles his own hair; he has a thick skin, and doesn’t seem to feel embarrassed at all.
“Still need Kunlun?”
For some reason, Zhao’s gaze is obscured by the lenses, and seems exceptionally cold. His nose seems even higher, and in these few days he seems to have gotten slimmer. His handsome profile appears somewhat unapproachable and withdrawn.
“No need, all the useful ones have been wiped by someone.” Zhao’s fingers run across the books on the shelves, “I want to find out… about Nuwa.”
“Nuwa creating humans and repairing the Heavens, Chiyou battling the Flame Emperor, Gonggong fighting Zhuanxu… I want all of it. I don’t believe besides wiping out one person, they can even change the entire history.” Zhao adjusts his glasses, and climbs up the ladder.
He crosses his legs, sitting high up on the steel ladder. One after another, he goes through every book he can find. Sang quietly awaits on the floor, and organises the books into a pile.
Most people would assume that someone like Zhao probably never reads anything decent, but his knowledge of ancient texts is exceptionally profound, and he reads at an exceptional speed. He can quickly finish a page as his fingers fly across it; the library is filled with the sound of turning pages.
Occassionally, Zhao would pause for a moment, put down the book, and massage his eyes with force; he would then chat with Sang very slowly.
“Mount Buzhou is the path to Heaven,” Zhao gestures with his hands, and continues with a coarse and worn out voice, “as it is recorded in history, Gonggong and Zhuanxu fought for power; in the end, Gonggong was defeated, and in fury he rode a godly dragon, and destroyed Mount Buzhou.”
Sang listens effortfully, and slowly nods.
“I don’t buy this.” Zhao stares at Sang, “The Flame Emperor battled Chiyou for countless years, the sky, the earth and the universe were in utter chaos, but Mount Buzhou was never affected; Pangu hacked open the sky and the earth with an axe, but Mount Buzhou was still intact. Even if the godly dragon was born with godly powers, would it really be enough to knock down Mount Buzhou?”
Sang is used to ignoring all unnecessary adjectives and nouns. After a while, he says with a weird accent, “If this is impossible, someone must have caused it.”
“Destroying the path to Heaven,” Zhao’s finger lingers on the ancient book, “Huangtian, Houtu… not counting the ones that have fallen, or the ones that have gone missing, then we’re only left with…”
Sang looks up into his deep gaze.
“After Mount Buzhou collapsed, Nuwa repaired the collapsing sky with a giant boulder, and then transformed into Houtu, and dissipated into Hell.” Zhao’s eyebrows are tightly locked, and he continues, “Mount Buzhou was connected to the sky, but not to the earth… Hell was not yet formed at that time. So Nuwa repaired the sky and created the earth… the sky had a hole and was raining incessantly, but what about the hole in the earth? The earth… the ground… soil…”
Zhao gradually begins to whisper, and then he suddenly says, “Hold on, give me the passage about Nuwa creating humans again.”
Sang hands him the book, and Da Qing sneaks in, saying to Zhao, “Old Chu is here.”
Zhao puts away the book, climbs down the ladder, takes off the glasses and hands them to Sang, and pats him on the shoulder.
He is about to leave, but Sang says, “At tat dime, it was orderless, everywon wanted more bow… power. Moun… you said the path to the sky, if it brake, mybee someone, wonted to end…”
He can’t think of the appropriate word; he gestures with his hands, and Zhao instantly understands… he is trying to say “war”. Zhao nods, and leaves. All of a sudden, he has a new perspective.
The universe was first created; it was a time when countless deities fought with each other. The Flame Emperor defeated Chiyou, and gave rise to a new order. Mankind flourished after Nuwa breathed life into figurines made of clay; thus, something called power was born. No matter who it was, perhaps knocking down Mount Buzhou was an attempt to put an end to the old order, and make a new one; to return the world to… back to the very beginning, when it was a peaceful time?
Zhao recalls his weird dream. Who was talking to him in the dream? What did he mean?
Chu isn’t alone, he has a little tail… Guo is dressed like a ball of cotton, and his neck is wrapped up in at least two scarves, covering half his face. His look is that of a new generation Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
And so it turns out, when Chu vanished, Guo thought that he must not fail the mission that Da Qing gave him. And so he went searching for him tirelessly, forcing himself to ask strangers for directions.
His constipated expression and inarticulate words resembled a foreigner learning Chinese.
After over half an hour, cold and red-nosed Guo was luckily brought to Chu’s doorstep by a kind woman.
When she left, Guo didn’t dare knock on the door. He circled around in front of Chu’s door, and couldn’t hear a thing. He couldn’t and didn’t want to leave, but he didn’t dare knock on the door when he thought of how annoyed Chu was at him. Until Chu received the Guardian Order and went outside, only then did he realise a frozen, foolish child has been sitting at his doorstep for long, and so he brought him along.
The atmosphere in the office is stiff. Chu sits at the office desk, one hand in his pocket, and the other fooling around with Zhao’s lighter. He glares at the desk with a menacing expression. Da Qing walks back on forth on the side quietly. The SIU office is only filled with the noise of Guo’s sniffing nose.
Zhao comes out of the wall with a book, and Chu looks up slightly, “What am I here for?”
Zhao sits across, studies Chu’s expression, and says, “No small talk, I just have one question, are you planning on leaving?”
Chu looks down; doesn’t say a thing.
Zhao says coldly, “Take out your hand, I can smell what’s inside!”
Chu snickers, and takes out a small piece of bone from his pocket. The end of it sparkles with a faint glow of indigo; the bone is hollow, with four holes on its side. This is a bone whistle, used to control zombies and other undeads. Because manipulating a dead person’s corpse is disrespectful, the bone whistle has always been considered a kind of dark magic.
Guo sneezes. Chu glares at him, and says slowly, “I think you should send this poor kid back first…”
Zhao ignores him, and says to Guo, “Little Guo, sit down… Da Qing, ask the kitchen to make him some Indowoad Root water.”
“Tell me, what do you plan on doing?” Zhao pressures him, “You’re gonna take this stinky thing and go back into the soil to be your Zombie King? Forever trapped in the shackles of virtue, hiding in the shadows, and always running away from Hell?”
Chu’s face freezes, “Three hundred years ago, I didn’t know the rules. I broke the rules so I suffered the consequence, I didn’t complain for the past three hundred years… otherwise what can a few Hell Guards do to me? And now they just can’t get enough!”
“Extending the shackles of virtue is as expected, if other people can accept it, why can’t you?”
Chu deepends his voice, and spouts out one word after another, “I, am, not, other, people. Let me remind you, Zhao Yunlan, I willingly put on the shackles, but that doesn’t mean I admit I was wrong…”
Zhao interrupts furiously, “You have the audacity to mention the messed up things you did in the past?”
Chu slams on to the desk, “Yes, I said it, so what? I don’t regret it. If I went back in time, I would have still skinned that brat alive, I don’t mind another three hundred years of imprisonment! How are kids and adults any different? There are only two kinds of people: those I can kill, and those I can’t. After all, Chief Zhao, I’m not asking for trouble, they are coming for me. If three hundred years weren’t enough, then it will never be enough… I might as well then, it doesn’t matter how many times I do it. Kids better watch out for me, my bone whistle will dissolve their souls and turn them into small ghosts.”
Zhao slaps him across the face. Fast, precise, firm and loud. Chu’s face is knocked to one side.
Chu doesn’t seem to mind, but Guo anxiously leans back and falls off the chair.
The two men glare at each other with hostility. Da Qing growls softly. For a moment, it seems like they want to fight.
In that moment, a cloud of grey mist seeps in from the window, and rolls down Zhao’s shoulder and arm and turns into a letter.
It’s an urgent note from Shen: “The Hell Guard is coming, no matter what he asks you to do, don’t agree to it, wait for me to come back — Wei.”