Chapter 7 Strange expression
“It’s like this, Big Sis Lu.” Bao Da Tong swallowed. “The death are gone. Those who cannot let go are not just hurting themselves, but also make it painful for the departed.”
“But he hasn’t departed, I can feel it. Every night he stands in front of my window, but I just cannot grab hold of him! I can’t, no matter how desperately I try.” Lu Yan looked at her hand, her expression vexed and full of despair. “He seemed…to be suffering, but he’s unable to speak. I know he must have encountered some trouble! I want to speak with him, but can’t do anything about it!”
“Big Sis Lu, how about this? I’ll hold a ritual for your husband for free. He will definitely reach the other side safely. You should also be strong, even if it’s just for your child.” Bao Da Tong felt a lot of sympathy for Lu Yan, but didn’t know how to comfort her.
He had been living with his father deep in the mountains the entire time. He had learned a lot about Daoism and had weathered rough storms before. However, he had always been very passionate, and wasn’t able to remain unaffected in the face of human misery and helplessness. Although he was usually eloquent, he didn’t know what to say at this moment.
“He definitely has something to tell me. I also have something to tell him, about our child!”
“Big Sis Lu, apart from special circumstances, it is impossible for the world of the living to communicate with that of the dead. Otherwise, things will devolve into chaos. It’s better if you…try to accept that.”
Seeing Bao Da Tong unwilling to help, Lu Yan’s lips trembled as she glared at him. She seemed about to say something but ended up lowering her face into her hands and started sobbing. She cried brokenheartedly by also desperately tried to restrain herself. The result was grief-stricken sobbing while her shoulders shook incessantly.
Wan Li was always softhearted and looked towards Bao Da Tong at seeing the situation. His gaze was just as stricken as Lu Yan’s, making Bao Da Tong’s heart clench sourly. After a while, he finally sighed and patted Lu Yan’s shoulder. “Big Sis Lu, don’t be sad anymore. I’ll help you.”
His words were like a spell, making her stop crying immediately. She looked up, her voice both startled and happy. “Really? Mr. Bao, you’re willing to help me?”
Bao Da Tong nodded. “Yes, I’ll help you. But I must say I cannot guarantee success. Based on your desolate aura, your husband must have passed away a while ago. If he has already reincarnated, then you can only grieve and firmly move on. If he is really still lingering as you say, I hope seeing him won’t be unbearable, and you won’t try to force him to stay. Alright?”
Lu Yan hurriedly nodded, forcefully wiping away her tears, as if this action indicated her willingness to comply.
“The dead cannot come back to life. A meeting like this will only make it harder. I must ask again, are you sure you want to see him?”
“Yes, please proceed, Mr. Bao.”
“You won’t regret it?”
“Fine. I’ll have someone escort you home first.” Bao Da Tong said sternly. “I’m guessing your child isn’t that old and the two of you live alone. It’s already late, you shouldn’t leave your child home alone. Let me know when you’re free tomorrow and I’ll bring my assistant over to take a look. Then we can decide on the next step. Will that work?”
Lu Yan stood up, her expression a little agitated. Bao Da Tong’s guess had clearly been correct, increasing her trust and gratitude towards him. “Thank you, Mister Bao. I have to work tomorrow, but will be home by six. If it’s not an issue, I’d like to treat Mister Bao to a simple meal. Would seven o’clock work?”
“Absolutely.” Before Bao Da Tong could speak, Wan Li responded.
He was afraid Bao Da Tong would refuse her offer of a meal. Although Bao Da Tong might have meant well, Lu Yan was currently emotionally frail. If she could do something for Bao Da Tong, her mood would be much improved. Therefore, this was the best method to do so.
“What Doctor Wan says goes.” Bao Da Tong also stood up. “Then I’ll have to trouble Doctor Wan to escort Big Sis Lu home.”
“No, no need to trouble yourself. I can go back by myself.” Lu Yan was rather reserved.
Wan Li looked outside the window. There were no cars on the road, and not even any bikes. He smiled amiably and said, “No need to be polite. There’s no more public transportation at this time. Let me bring you back.”
Seeing Wan Li and Lu Yan off, Liu Tie who had been eavesdropping the whole time said, “Big Bro Wan is really a kindhearted man.”
“Am I not?” Bao Da Tong glanced at him askew.
“Bao Bao is a swindler.” The mischievous Ni Yang imitated the way the female customers called Bao Da Tong. “Don’t hit me, Big Bro Wan is the one who said you were a swindler. Then again, Big Bro Bao really does seem to have some skills. How did you know she lived alone, and that her child was still at home? Was that something you can tell from her aura?”
“What aura?” Bao Da Tong scolded. “You can tell from her appearance if you’re attentive enough. Miss Lu’s expression was sorrowful and lonely, and also a little alarmed. It’s clearly due to a sense of unease from living alone. She said he husband passed away and she only had one child. Seeing how young she was, how old could her child be? Furthermore, during our conversation she looked at her watch twice, clearly worried about something. Let me also tell you that she isn’t wearing a ring. If I’m not mistaken, she might very well not have been officially married.”
“Big Bro Bao is Sherlock Holmes.” Ni Yang praised. “However, you spoke with such confidence. Are you able to do it?”
“Big Sis Xiao Xia said Big Bro Bao uses tricks to convince people.” Liu Tie said. “However, that woman was so pitiful. I wouldn’t be able to reject her either!”
Knowing Liu Tie and Ni Yang weren’t in the loop regarding Ruan Zhan and himself, and also knowing it wasn’t appropriate for them to find out, Bao Da Tong went with the flow. “Therefore, there are different perspectives on lying. Sometimes a white lie is necessary. If it helps her find peace, there isn’t anything bad about lying.” Bao Da Tong walked to the stairs as he spoke. “But the two of you should remember to always face your weaknesses head on. It’s better to resolve your own problems.”
After speaking, he quickly walked up the stairs.
He had to recite the Daoist scriptures several times because had gone against his father’s teachings of not helping people communicate with the dead. Daoism emphasized letting nature take its course, and there was nothing more natural than life and death in this world! His actions wouldn’t help Lu Yan have an easier time moving on.
The next night, Bao Da Tong, Xiao Xia and Wan Li arrived at Lu Yan’s house together.
“Which floor does she live on?” Bao Da Tong paused and asked.
“She said the third floor.”
“She didn’t allow me to go up yesterday.” Wan Li responded, his head almost bumping into the object protruding from the wall.
This was a suburban area that wasn’t really close to the city. Apart from single-storied houses, the majority of the buildings were three-storied old-fashioned tube-shaped apartments. It was already midnight yesterday when he brought Lu Yan home. There were no street lamps here. Lu Yan carried a flashlight with her, and therefore didn’t allow him to escort her to the door.
“She’s a pure and innocent woman, and even has a child. Of course she wouldn’t provoke a sex fiend like you for no reason.” Bao Da Tong chuckled. Despite walking in the dark hallway of the building, he didn’t forget to attack Wan Li when presented the opportunity.
Only after entering did they notice there were few tenants in this building. In the long and dark hallway, only a few doors had lights coming from underneath. The rest were all pitch black. Although it was no longer raining this night, the weather was very gloomy and there were no lights in the hallway. Therefore, the three basically had to grope around in the dark to find their way upstairs. Xiao Xia didn’t know if it was due to the unfamiliar and dark environment or if it was just in her mind, but she kept feeling as if something was breathing faintly nearby.
“It’s still better than falling into the hands of a bar pet like you.” Wan Li retorted.
After finally making it to the third floor in the dark, they saw there were even less occupied apartments. Only three doors were lit in total. Following Lu Yan’s provided instructions, they found the innermost apartment. They noticed that this floor only had stairs on one end, which meant Lu Yan’s place was at the dead end of the long and dark hallway.
At the entryway, Lu Yan was visibly timid as she opened the door.
“Welcome, please come in.”
Xiao Xia nodded and entered ahead of Bao Da Tong and Wan Li. She felt a little uneasy and kept getting chills down her back. She only relaxed after entering the bright room and having the door shut tightly behind her.
It was a small one-room apartment with plain and neat decor. There was a table already covered in sumptuous dishes. However, there was no bed, so the inner room was clearly the bedroom.
“Sit wherever you like, we can eat right away. I’ll call lil’ Tong out to meet you all.” Lu Yan smiled ingratiatingly, before opening in the door to the room and bringing a child out.
“This is my son. His name is lil’ Tong and he’s five years old.” She dotingly stroked the boy’s head. “Lil’ tong, hurry and greet the uncles and auntie.”
The child didn’t make a sound, merely pulling at his mom’s clothes. Xiao Xia felt her heart was about to break at the sight of the child.
He was pale and skinny like his mom. However, his features were extremely pretty. Dark brows and a pert nose adorned his delicate face and his mouth was a perfect arc. He had large, glittering eyes and his expression contained the childish fear of strangers along with innocence. He was adorable with no imperfections, making it hard to tell if this was a little boy or a little girl. He felt just like a miniature person from an anime.
However, the child sat in a wheelchair!
At that moment, Xiao Xia felt the creator was extremely cruel. Why would such a wonderful and harmless things be crippled!?
“Really, this child isn’t greeting people. My apologies, he’s a little shy around strangers.” Lu Yan explained apologetically.
“No worries at all. It’ll be fine once we get to know each other.” Xiao Xia hurriedly smiled and walked over, crouching down. “Lil’ Tong, right? This auntie brought some chocolate for you!”
Because she knew Lu Yan had a child who had lost his father, Xiao Xia felt extreme sympathy for the mother and son. Therefore, she prepared some candy. She just hadn’t expected that the pair was more tragic than expected. Such a cute child was actually handicapped.
Lil’ Tong looked at the candy and then looked at his mother. Only after receiving permission did he timidly receive the candy and smile at Xiao Xia. The childish smile almost melted Xiao Xia’s heart. She made up her mind to help this mother and son pair.
The meal passed just like that. Although Lu Yan and her son were both very shy, luckily Bao Da Tong had very thick skin and Wan Li was extremely good with words. Therefore, they all had a good time. Perhaps the lively atmosphere affected Lil’ Tong. He seemed extremely happy and even offered some food to Xiao Xia. Whenever Wan Li took care of Xiao Xia, he had to do the same for Lu Yan, doing his best to avoid upsetting the woman who had lost her husband.
After the meal, Xiao Xia insisted on helping Lu Yan with the dishes while also asking what was wrong with Lil’ Tong’s legs.
“He was still fine before he was four. He walked very fast!” Lu Yan concealed the tears in her eyes. “One day he suddenly couldn’t anymore. For the sake of curing his legs, I even sold the house. I spent a year going to all the famous hospitals in the country but none of them could figure out what was wrong. The doctors said it might be neurological, or maybe something had happened that affected him psychologically. Regardless, he’s currently unable to walk. I’m thinking perhaps one day, his legs will suddenly be healed just like how they suddenly stopped working. Very foolish of me, right? But I really don’t know what to do!”
“Is Lil’ Tong…not attending kindergarten or preschool?”
“He’s unable to move independently. No school is willing to take him.” Lu Yan lowered her head.
“It’ll be fine. I will figure out a way to help you.” Xiao Xia didn’t know what to say at the moment and could only comfort Lu Yan. She hurriedly finished the dishes. “I’ll go play with Lil’ Tong for a bit while you discuss business with them.”
Due to her child’s illness, Lu Yan must be having financial difficulties. Since she had sold the house, she could only rent this place. The environment was rather poor here. It was remote, dark and especially unsafe. But as a single mother without much education, she could only find a job as a retail worker. She naturally had no money to live in a better place.
Especially since the child couldn’t go to school or even walk. He had to stay in the empty house every day, unable to enjoy the sun or play like other children. Being locked up day after day, when even eating or using the bathroom was a challenge. It was too pitiful!
Although she wasn’t a psychiatrist, she could tell Lil’ Tong had some signs of autism. It was hard to blame him. He was so young but had to deal with loneliness and neglect. It must be very frightening and painful. This made Xiao Xia think of Ruan Zhan. He must have had an even harder time as a child, right? Not only was he shunned by adults and children alike, he even had to deal with resentment and malice.
It was a shame she didn’t meet him earlier. She hadn’t been able to give him warmth, to give him love. Well, she would first help this pitiful pair, help Lil’ Tong!
“Lil’ Tong, how about this auntie tell you a story?” She walked over and picked Lil’ Tong up in her arms. The soft body and sweet aroma particular to children stimulated Xiao Xia’s motherly instincts. She patiently and gently held him as she told all the children’s tales she knew, one after another. However long the discussions outside took would be however long she would tell stories.
“Lil’ Tong, you have to be the like the third little pig, ok? You have to build a very, very stable house. That way, the bad guys won’t be able to get in.” She stroked Lil’ Tong’s soft hair as she gently spoke.
A voice rang out by Xiao Xia’s ear. It was young and tender, but the tone was very weird. Xiao Xia instinctively turned to look and happened to see Lil’ Tong smiling right at her.
The glance felt like an ice awl burrowing from the top of Xiao Xia’s head to her feet, making her heart constrict!
Lil’ Tong was no longer Lil’ Tong!
The face was still his, but his expression had changed. She couldn’t describe clearly how it had changed, but felt that the expression did not match Lil’ Tong’s cute little face. It was cold, malicious, calculating, cunning and sophisticated. It was an expression only an adult should have, one that was extremely scheming at that.There was also the excitement and bloodlust of a beast that had spotted its prey.
She let out a soft cry and instinctively flung Lil’ Tong from her arms. He thudded to the floor.
At the same time, the door behind her opened with a creak.
Xiao Xia sucked in a breath and saw Lu Yan pounce over from behind. “Lil’ Tong, how did you end up falling from the bed? Are you hurt anywhere?” She frantically picked up her son and looked him over, her face filled with alarm.
“What happened?” Wan Li and Bao Da Tong also stuck their heads inside.
Xiao Xia watched everything in a daze since her mind was still in shock. As Lu Yan held Lil’ Tong, Xiao Xia once again saw his face!
The child was still the same child. What mature expression? Instead, it was aggrieved, panicked and teary, as if he couldn’t understand why the gentle aunty would suddenly throw him away. This made Xiao Xia feel a wave of guilt and self-reproach!