OMF V1C24 Being an Old Man … Isn’t Easy

Back in the mortal realm, Qiu Ling used the fact that his plan had worked and that he had earned Jing Yi’s trust along the way and tried to get a little extra time with him.
“Oh, right,” he said as if he really just remembered. “Did you come to the forest all alone? Even if your parents don’t know about the mud monsters, it’s quite dangerous to let you go out all on your own!”
Jing Yi shook his head but didn’t explain.
Qiu Ling had expected as much. “Then where are your parents now?”
“My mommy is at home in the village!”
The poor Mister Zhong who still wandered through the forest in search for his son … was completely ignored.
Qiu Ling smiled. “Shall I bring you home then?”
Jing Yi nodded eagerly. He didn’t want to stay in the forest where the mud monsters and the terrible river and all those wild, hungry animals were!
Qiu Ling stood up, extended his arms and pulled the boy into his embrace. Mn, how nice. But he’ll have to be even more vigilant from now on. Jing Yi was just too trusting. If he kept being like this, he’d be abducted if nobody paid attention!
Qiu Ling hugged him to his chest and brought him back to the village. The sun had gone up by now and the first people came out of their houses.
One of them was Mister Pi. His first reaction upon seeing a foreign man with Zhong Jing Yi on his arms was to rub his eyes. Was that really the boy Madam Zhong didn’t let out of her sight for even the blink of an eye? How come he was with a total stranger?
Mister Pi’s eyes lit up. How interesting! He made his way over and barred the man’s way. “Good sir, this child … might I ask where you are heading with him?”
Qiu Ling refrained from rolling his eyes. Aren’t you just asking because you want to hear the gossip? “Ah, might you know this boy? I discovered him in the forest a little way from here. He told me his mother was still in the village so I brought him here. Might you know which house he lives in?”
While Qiu Ling was still talking with Mister Pi, in the Zhong’s house, Madam Zhong woke up. She sat up and paused, thunderstruck. She didn’t care that her husband had left the house. She didn’t even notice that the food she had prepared yesterday went missing. There was only one thought in her mind: My son!
“Jing’er?” She spun around, looking into every corner but Jing Yi was nowhere to be seen. Hastily, she threw some clothes on and ran out of the house. “Jing’er! Jing’er!”
Her neighbor Lian Mei, now Madam Shen, stood at the village square with Madam Pan. The two women turned around and immediately hurried over to see what was going on.
“Madam Zhong!” greeted Madam Pan with sparkling eyes. “Just what has happened? You seem —”
Before she could finish her sentence Madam Zhong had bypassed them and run through the village all the while shouting her son’s name. “Jing’er! Jing’er!”
The child in Qiu Ling’s arms grew anxious. He struggled, obviously trying to get down and run to his mother. Qiu Ling sighed lightly. It seems I can’t even compare to a mortal woman …
He bent down and let him go. Jing Yi ran to his mother at once, jumping into her arms and hugging her neck with his small arms.
Qiu Ling tightened his lips. Wasn’t the difference in treatment a little too obvious? But he had been nice to Jing Yi! Well, he deceived him but the boy didn’t know that and it really was just for his best! Why was he still only getting the bare minimum while this woman was treated so enthusiastically? This was unfair!
“Jing’er.” Madam Zhong hugged her son close to her chest and only then looked up at the old man waiting behind him. Vigilance entered her eyes. “Who are you? Why was my Jing Yi with you?”
Mister Pi who had followed Qiu Ling perked up his ears. Here it came!
Qiu Ling smiled his sagely-old-man-smile. “You must be his mother. I found this boy not far from here in the forest, hiding in a shrub. I don’t know how he got there but he seemed to be terrified so I asked him where his parents were and brought him home.”
Madam Zhong looked at her son questioningly. Jing Yi nodded and took another look at Qiu Ling. The old man had told him such an important secret! He has to help him out.
Madam Zhong turned back to Qiu Ling. “I have to thank you. Jing Yi is my only child. I was afraid when I found him missing.”
“Of course, of course. Don’t worry. He doesn’t seem to be injured. You should go and bring him back inside. I’ll have to be on my way again too.”
Madam Zhong nodded. “Thank you, again. Is there anything I could do to show my appreciation?”
Yes! Qiu Ling thought. Give Jing He to me! But he still shook his head and smiled. “No need, no need. I am on a journey through the whole empire right now and was just passing by. It’s a given to lend a hand in such a situation. I shall return to the forest now.”
He took a glance at Jing Yi for the last time, turned around and went into the forest. He went deliberately slow to adhere to his image of an old man and, well, just in case his beloved wanted to run after him or something. Unfortunately, his beloved turned out to be quite cold-hearted. There wasn’t even the whisper of those little steps.
Qiu Ling felt tears streaming down his face. Ah, this was too hard! Every step he took was torture! He wanted to go back to Jing He’s side! How far could it be to the forest? Just some more steps … Then he could at least hide again and return to his beloved’s side like that.
A smile broke out on Qiu Ling’s lips but just then, a voice interrupted him from behind. “Kind sir, excuse me!” Mister Pi hurried over.
Qiu Ling closed his eyes and muttered an entirely non-sagely curse. What about returning to Jing He’s side?!

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