OMF V1C12 Let’s All Take a Step Back

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Qiu Ling sighed and put down Jing Yi. The Zhongs were outside. What would that Daoist do if nobody opened the door?
“Mister Zhong, Madam Zhong!” called Mister Pi outside. “Qiguan Cheng Da came to visit. He agreed to have a look at your son.”
His voice was loud enough to alarm Mister and Madam Zhong on the other side of the house. The two of them hurried back and Mister Zhong’s expression darkened as soon as he saw the crowd of people at his doorstep. “What is happening here?”
Mister Pi dutifully made his way through the crowd. “Mister Zhong, today is your lucky day! Qiguan Cheng Da came. He’ll have a look at your son.”
“He will what?” Mister Zhong didn’t believe his ears. “Why would he take a look at my son?” In every other situation, Mister Zhong would have been ecstatic if a Daoist had come by and shown interest in his son. But it was Qiguan Cheng Da they were talking about here and with all those rumors flying around the last few weeks, he could very well imagine why that particular Daoist had come over.
“Mister Zhong, please, calm down! It’s for your own good.”
Qiguan Cheng Da followed Mister Pi and nodded toward the Zhongs. “Mister Zhong, Madam Zhong, I was told about the heretic —”
“What heretic practitioner!” Mister Zhong clenched his fists and turned to Miss Lian who stood not far away. “My wife had unbelievably good luck that a Daoist came by to save her and our child. How can you vilify such a good man? And that even in front of another Daoist! Haven’t you done enough harm?”
“I haven’t said anything! It was Madam Pan!” Miss Lian pushed the blame onto her neighbor, crossed her arms in front of her chest and lifted her chin. She certainly wouldn’t let others say to her face that she was a gossip monger.
It couldn’t be dismissed that all of this had only happened because she had described the Daoist with such fervency but still. That hadn’t been her intention at all! She really would have liked that man to be a good person. Who could have known that such a beautiful man was a heretic practitioner instead? Well, maybe she should have guessed it. After all, it definitely wasn’t normal that a man was so beautiful. That could only be because of some dark magic!
Qiu Ling looked at the child next to him. “I’m afraid this means that I am to blame for this nasty defamation. I was careless. But this might just be the perfect opportunity to make up for my fault.” The corners of his mouth lifted and he put the child back down. With a last smile at his beloved’s mortal reincarnation, he flew out of the hut of the Zhongs and to the path that led through the forest. He waved his hand and his clothes seemed to change into the robes of a Daoist again.
Even though he himself would never admit it, as the dragon king Qiu Ling was everything but young. Nevertheless, he only seemed to be in his twenties. But now, for the sake of his beloved Qiu Ling used his magic to alter his face. It aged visibly until maybe ten years separated him from Jing Yi’s father who seemed to be in his mid-twenties.
Qiu Ling lifted his hand. Water danced around his fingers and covered his palm to form a mirror. Qiu Ling examined his face and sighed. Pretending to be mortal was anything but easy. Being older definitely wasn’t enough to stop these humans from calling him a heretic practitioner.
He furrowed his brow. He couldn’t change his face too much or the people wouldn’t believe he was the same Daoist Miss Lian had seen that night. He narrowed his eyes and examined himself in the mirror again.
His eyebrows grew denser, his lips became a little thicker and with a heavy heart, even his nose become a little crooked. Well, just a little. Most people probably wouldn’t be able to see the difference and Qiu Ling was in any way still far from looking like a normal mortal. He still hoped it might be enough to not let the villagers view him as a heretic practitioner anymore. He just couldn’t bear to disfigure his handsome face any further.
Qiu Ling dropped his hand and the mirror disappeared. He made sure nobody was in the vicinity and stopped hiding his form from mortal eyes. Then, he proceeded down the path into the village.
On the village square, the conflict had gotten worse.
“If nothing is wrong with the child, then there is no reason to keep the real Daoist from having a look at it!” This was Madam Pan who tried to justify herself for telling the story about the heretic practitioner to Qiguan Cheng Da. Naturally, she didn’t feel to be in the wrong. Everyone knew that something was up with the Zhongs’ child. How could it be wrong? She had only tried to help but those people just didn’t appreciate the trouble she had taken for them!
“A real Daoist?” Madam Zhong didn’t hold back at that. “You aren’t talking about Qiguan Cheng Da, are you? How long has he been gone? One year? Half a year? What could he have learned in such a short time?”
Qiguan Cheng Da gritted his teeth and forced himself to continue smiling. It would be below the honorable status of a Daoist to squabble with oafish villagers just because they were unable to recognize his abilities.
His mother, however, couldn’t let this insult slide. Not only that her son was her pride and joy, Madam Zhong was also nearly ten years younger than her. How could she dare to behave like this in front of her?!
“What do you mean by that, Madam Zhong?”
“I mean that your son isn’t a real Daoist! Even if something was wrong with our son, I certainly wouldn’t ask him to have a look!”
“You —!” Before she had time to scream at Madam Zhong, Mister Pi held her back and tried to appease her. After all, this was what a cultured man would do.
“Please, please. We should all calm down and take a step back. Now that Cheng Da is here he can just have a look at the child. It won’t hurt the boy.”
Madam Zhong nearly erupted. What did he mean everyone should take a step back? This was clearly them picking on her family! She had enough of the loose talk regarding her son! She’d teach them a lesson today!
But before she could even utter a single word the villagers continued as if to cap it all off. “Aiya!” Madam Pan piped up again. “Somebody should just go and get the child! Isn’t he in the house? Pan Chang! You’re standing there already. Go, fetch the child!” She motioned at her husband.
Mister Pan who really stood only a few steps from the door of the Zhongs didn’t wait for their approval and went in.
Madam Zhong stared unbelievingly at the opened door to their house. In there was her first child. Most probably the only child they’d ever have. If something happened to Jing Yi … She wanted to hurry over but Madam Pan thwarted her.
“Aiya, Madam Zhong! Calm down! My husband is only fetching the child for Qiguan Cheng Da to have a short look at him. Nobody’s going to hurt the child.”
“That is still my son!” She tried to force her way through but now even Miss Lian interfered.
“Madam Zhong, Madam Zhong!” She wanted to hold her down but Madam Zhong had tried to pass them with such vehemence that she recoiled when the two women intercepted her.
She screamed and her arms flailed, trying to hold on to something but she couldn’t reach anything and tumbled toward the ground.

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