T/N: Sorry this is a bit late! Bonus ko-fi chapter, thank you Janeine and a few anonymous somebodies!
Zhuang Qing’s sudden appearance made Fu Li somewhat confused. He took a step to the side. “Mr Zhuang, why are you here?”
“I sensed fluctuations in yao qi just now and thought that a formidable yao was roaming about, so I came to take a look. I wasn’t expecting it to be Mr Fu,” Clad in a branded suit, Zhuang Qing seemed a little out of place when standing in the corridor of this old-fashioned private house. His gaze looked past Fu Li’s shoulders, landing on the photo hung on the wall behind the door.
“Don’t worry. I used a concealment method when using the Thousand Mile Technique. Human monitoring devices won’t be able to capture me,” Fu Li’s understanding of the human world wasn’t very robust, but the him who had been a hotel security guard for the greater part of a month knew just how impressive the monitoring devices in the human world were.
For a moment, Zhuang Qing didn’t know whether he should praise Fu Li for his attentiveness, or whether he himself was making a big fuss out of a minor issue. Perhaps the Zhuyan’s ‘yao emperor’ that had yet to appear had already caused fear to bud in his heart.
This country had a population of over a billion. If the yao emperor were to suddenly rise in revolt, there would be countless deaths. He could not take this bet.
Fu Li turned and shut the door. “Mr Fu, since there’s nothing wrong, why don’t we take a look?”
Zhuang Qing didn’t express his attitude. Seeing Fu Li walk downstairs, he followed after him silently.
The sea breeze carried the unique smell of the ocean. The waves beat against the seawater, producing the sound of gurgling water. Zhou Mu ran the entire way without resting for even a moment, till he caught sight of a familiar silhouette by the sea.
“Mum!” He called out the term of address he had been using for twenty-eight years. He ran to the elderly woman just like a young bird returning to its nest.
“You’re back?” The elderly woman stood on tiptoe and arranged the military cap on her tall son’s head. Seeing the military medal on his chest, a proud smile appeared on her face. “You did a meritorious deed for the army again?”
“What meritorious deed,” The man nearing thirty years old revealed a bashful smile. He removed the cap and held it in one hand, while gripping the elderly woman’s hand with the other. Smiling, he said, “Let’s go back. This place is cold, don’t harm your health.”
“Okay, okay, okay, let’s go home,” The elderly lady beamed at Zhou Mu as she walked slowly. The man who was accustomed to taking wide strides bent his back and took small quick steps. His posture was a bit funny. The tide surged ahead, splashing against their ankles before slowly retreating. Not even half a footprint was left behind at the areas they passed by.
“Mr Zhuang, the time limit of three days is up,” Wang Zhen walked to Zhuang Qing’s side and glanced at the crescent moon in the sky. “This humble one has a duty to fulfill, may Mr Zhuang please understand.”
With drooping eyelids, Zhuang Qing watched the mother and son slowly make their way along the sand hand-in-hand. After a long while, he opened his mouth, his voice so apathetic that it nearly seemed void of emotion. “Many thanks to yinchai daren for your flexibility.”
“How can this be considered flexibility? A soldier defending his country lost his life in the prime of his life. It is only right to allow mother and son to meet one more time,” Wang Zhen took a deep breath. “This mother and son can support each other on the way; they won’t be lonely.”
He turned and noticed Fu Li beside Zhuang Qing. Though he had seen the other party at the hotel when he went to gather souls, he wasn’t very clear of the other party’s identity. Thus, after nodding at Fu Li, he made his way to the mother and son pair.
Fu Li didn’t utter a word from beginning to end, neither did he stop Wang Zhen when he walked forward. His clear and limpid eyes were wide open, and he watched the mother-son pair extremely seriously, as if wanting to understand something out from them.
Wang Zhen appeared in front of the mother and son. The elderly woman didn’t express the slightest confusion and greeted Wang Zhen with a smile. Wang Zhen had always been very harsh towards souls who cried and kicked up a fuss. Instead, it was this sort of rational, virtue-possessing soul that made his heart soften a little.
“Lin Cuirong, Zhou Mu, I’m here to fetch you. It’s time for you to leave.”
Zhou Mu stood in front of Lin Cuirong, his expression vigilant. “Who are you?” His gaze swept across the chain in Wang Zhen’s hands, and his expression instantly became stern. “The sentence for the crime of kidnapping is very harsh. I suggest that you hold yourself back before acting, don’t harm the latter part of your life.”
“Zhou Mu, you already died twenty days ago,” Wang Zhen took out the Soul-Pulling Bell and shook it lightly. The memories that had been forgotten due to death swarmed into Zhou Mu’s mind.
Twenty days ago, a passenger ship ran into difficulties at sea. As soldiers, him and his comrades-in-arms chose to rescue people without the slightest hesitation. Later on, as he was rescuing a tiny child, he encountered a shoal of fish at the seabed. All he remembered was the sensation of countless fish tails slamming against him and not what had happened after that.
“That child…” Zhou Mu rubbed his head and looked at Wang Zhen. “Is that child still alive?”
“Yes. After you were washed away by the shoal of fish, you used your teeth to hold tightly onto the rope and tied the child to the life-saving rope. Your comrades-in-arms pulled the child up,” Wang Zhen smiled faintly. “She’s living very well.”
With a wave of his hand, a scene appeared before Zhou Mu. A little girl dressed in a white dress with white flowers on her head was laying flowers in front of a tombstone. Zhou Mu looked at his mother beside him. There was no shadow beneath her feet.
At this moment, the rims of Zhou Mu’s eyes reddened.
In the end, he had failed to rush back while his mother was still alive.
“Your remains were not found, so the things buried in the memorial park were… your remnants,” Wang Zhen’s tone of voice was heavy. The expression on his face wasn’t sloppy either. “But that girl calls you godfather and said she will visit you every year.”
“So much sentiment. I’m just a bachelor who’s lived for twenty-eight years, yet I now have such a pretty maiden,” A clear and bright smile took shape on Zhou Mu’s face. “It’s a steal.”
Wang Zhen lit a cigarette and held it in his hands without puffing on it. For some reason, he laughed first. “It wasn’t that great a steal.”
“Mum,” Zhou Mu gripped the elderly woman’s hand tightly. “This son wasn’t filial…”
“I understand,” Lin Cuirong extended a hand covered in wrinkles. She took the military cap in his hands, stood on tiptoe and placed it on his head. “My son is a soldier. I am honored that he can be buried in the memorial park.”
The coarse hand pinched his ear gently, just like the times during his childhood when he was disobedient and was hauled back home by the ears by his mother.
“You just refuse to listen. When you were young, the fortune-teller said your bazi
was averse to water, yet you refused to believe him and said that it was just feudalistic superstition. Now do you understand?” Though Lin Cuirong was smiling, the rims of her eyes were red. She turned and bowed to Wang Zhen. “You should be the legendary yinchai daren. Many thanks for letting us mother and son reunite.”
Wang Zhen cleared his throat and forced out a smile. He stamped out the cigarette using his foot and then smoothly picked up the cigarette butt, stuffing it into his pocket. “Let’s go.”
“Bridges return to bridges; roads return to roads. Souls of the dead cannot turn back. Before life, accumulated merit will turn into virtue. In your next life, you’ll be a marquis…”
The ringing sound of the Soul-Pulling Bell gradually drifted into the distance. Wang Zhen and the mother-son pair morphed into mist, vanishing into the night. Wang Zhen’s out-of-tune song could still be vaguely heard.
Fu Li crouched on the sand without any care for his image, an extremely perplexed expression on his face. There wasn’t a human he could ask, so he had no choice but to pose the question to the mixed-blood yao beside him.
“They’re clearly very upset, so why were they still smiling?” Fu Li recalled Lu Renjia, who refused to follow the yinchai even in death, and then thought about this mother-son pair. He felt that human emotions were truly very complex; crying and smiling did not simply reflect unhappiness and happiness.
Zhuang Qing looked at the scene of Fu Li crouching and felt that the other party seemed a little like a confused and ignorant stupid dog. He gave a kick using the tips of his feet. “Get up, don’t squat.”
“Why?” Fu Li simply sat down in a cross-legged position. He looked up at Zhuang Qing. “If I can crouch or sit, why would I bother standing?”
His gaze seemed to be asking, are you an idiot?
Zhuang Qing inhaled deeply and reminded himself that this yaoguai had four thousand years of cultivation and had identification of his status as a good yao. Impulsive behavior easily destroyed cultivation, so he chose to answer the previous question instead. “Because of emotion.”
“The mother’s love and protection towards her son, and the son’s admiration of the mother.”
Fu Li pondered over it for a very long time before shaking his head. “That mother’s soul stayed in the human world for so many days. Did she not think about how her next life would be affected if she angered the yinchai?”
“Therefore, this is motherly love,” Zhuang Qing stooped over slightly, his gaze meeting Fu Li’s large eyes. “Do you not have a mother?”
Even a yao had to be bred by a mother.
Fu Li shook his head and said confidently, “I’m an orphan yao who doesn’t know that all this was very normal. You seem to understand this sort of human emotion very well. It is because your mother was very good to you?”
Zhuang Qing straightened his body, not looking at Fu Li’s face that was brimming with curiosity. Just as Fu Li thought that he wouldn’t reply, Zhuang Qing nodded slightly.
“She was a very good woman and a very good mother.” Zhuang Qing stuffed his hands into the pockets of his pants, saying impatiently, “You’re an old yaoguai who’s lived for four thousand years, why is your sense of curiosity still so strong? Let’s go.”
“So what if I’m an old yaoguai?” Fu Li touched his face. “My human form is even younger than yours.”
Zhuang Qing turned around and looked expressionlessly at Fu Li. “Do you know what kind of old person is most liked by others?”
Fu Li shook his head.
“A person of good moral standing and reputation who isn’t talkative,” Zhuang Qing threw down this statement, turned and strode ahead.
Fu Li stood at his spot and blinked. He replied without thinking, “Human society even knows how to pay careful attention to respecting the old and cherishing the young.”
“It’s not like I’m human!” Zhuang Qing’s steps quickened.
Fu Li caught up to him and shook his head helplessly. “Nowadays, all you young yao really have poor tempers; getting angry the moment somebody disagrees with you.”
Zhuang Qing halted his footsteps, turned and shot a glance at him. The next moment, he used the Thousand Mile Technique and vanished in front of Fu Li.
“Exactly, this explosive temper. If it was those years…” Fu Li recalled the sparkling golden light of virtue on Zhuang Qing and swallowed his words reminiscing those times. “Seems like nobody will dare to do much to him either.”
He lowered his head, wanting to pick up several shells and whatnot by the sea. In the end, he found that the amount of rubbish far outnumbered the number of shells. Moreover, they even gave off a faint stinky smell.
“The people nowadays,” Fu Li shook his head. Using a technique, he gathered all the rubbish on the sand into one pile, forming a tiny mountain of rubbish.
The next day, City Wu’s television station reported a piece of news that attracted the attention of quite a few people.
It turned out that the rubbish at a certain beach had actually been picked up by someone in the span of one night, and the rubbish had been piled up into a mountain. There was even a sign erected beside the mountain of rubbish, with nine crooked words written on it.
Everyone has a responsibility to protect the environment.