OMF V1C26 At Least Do It Inside

Finally, after unsuccessfully searching for his son for five hours, Mister Zhong returned to the village broken-hearted. He was sure he had lost his son. Who knew if they’d ever find him again?
Mister Zhong stopped in front of the door to his own home, not daring to open it or even knock. His wife loved their son even more than he did. If he was broken-hearted already … would she be able to cope with it?
Maybe he should go back to the forest and search again? Or maybe he should gather the other men and ask them for help? With all of them searching, they might stand a chance to find him.
Before Mister Zhong could decide the door opened and he found himself face to face with his wife.
Mister Zhong gulped. How to break the news to her?
Madam Zhong stood there, arms akimbo, and glared at her husband. Jing Yi hadn’t said anything but it was easy enough to guess what had happened. “You —”
Mister Zhong might not know how to care for a child but after some years of marriage, he knew the best way to live through the wrath of his wife. He fell to his knees, clasped his hands and plead guilty. “I’m sorry! I took Jing Yi out into the forest without you knowing. I know I shouldn’t have done it! I … I even lost him!”
Madam Zhong whacked him on the head. “What are you doing? Kneeling outside and pleading guilty? At least do that inside where people can’t see! I can hear the neighbors talk already!”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Mister Zhong still didn’t get up. Instead, he started tearing up. “It’s all my fault! I wanted Jing’er to be a little more open, to play with other children and explore the world outside. I thought … I thought if I just brought him there, he’d certainly like it. But he started crying and ran away and I just couldn’t find him anymore. I’m so sorry! I lost our son!”
Madam Zhong whacked her husband over the head again. “Stop crying already! Really, I feel like you’re the only child in this house! What’s wrong with Jing’er being a little quieter? He’s wonderful like that!”
“Of course, he is, of course …” Mister Zhong sniffled. It was too late now. He had already lost him.
“Tch. What kind of father are you? Losing such a small child in the forest! What if anything had happened to him?”
Jing Yi peeked out behind his mother’s skirt at that moment and nodded. Mommy’s right! What if I had fallen into the river and were swept away? What if a rabbit found me and swallowed me whole? What if a mud monster got me and made me muddy? I don’t want to be scolded by mommy!
Mister Zhong stared at his son unblinking. “Jing’er?”
The boy hid behind his mother again. His father wouldn’t dare to take him away again as long as his mother was there. He was sure of it.
Even if his wife wasn’t there, Mister Zhong probably wouldn’t have thought about it again. Almost losing his own child had made him see things in a different light. What if something really had happened to his son?
“Jing’er! You’re alright!” Mister Zhong extended his arms to hug his son but the boy stubbornly hid behind his mother and wouldn’t come out. Finally, Mister Zhong had to give up.
He got up and followed his wife into the house. Like that the incident of him kidnapping his own son was laid to rest. The neighbors discussed for a while but considering the rumors about the heretic practitioner back then and the following appearance of the Daoist Master they didn’t believe gossip about the Zhongs as fast anymore. As such, they didn’t mind Mister Pi and Madam Pan’s stories much and just went back to their normal lives.
But it wasn’t long before the next rumor spread. And yes, it was still about the Zhongs or rather the Zhongs’ boy who had started to behave quite strangely.
Qiu Ling smiled smugly when he listened in on the women discussing the rumor:
“Have you heard about the boy of the Zhongs?” asked Madam Pan.
“Zhong Jing Yi? I heard he’s behaving quite strangely. Well, he always was odd.” This answer sounded quite disdainful but it was no wonder. The woman speaking was none other than Madam Qiguan, the mother of Qiguan Cheng Da, that had been called because of the incident with the supposed heretic practitioner.
Back then her son had been humiliated because the Daoist showed up. Not only had Qiguan Cheng Da not gotten any chance to display his abilities, but he had even been compared to the other man. Of course, the people hadn’t looked at him all that favorably.
Next to a man the cultured Mister Pi had ascertained to be a Daoist Master that wore a robe made of a special thread and had such high abilities that it was an easy feat for him to save a mother and child, Qiguan Cheng Da seemed like the beginner he was.
His mother who had been so proud of her son couldn’t take the pitying gazes of the other villagers. She felt that all of this was the Zhong’s fault, even though she herself had provided her so-called help without being asked. She certainly wouldn’t let this opportunity to get back at the Zhongs slip away.
Even her son Qiguan Cheng Da who had still smiled back then and politely bid farewell, saying that it was great that nothing was wrong with the child of the Zhongs as if he didn’t care for the face he lost had felt different inside. In truth, he had been seething with anger. Should he ever meet Zhong Jing Yi again he’d certainly give back as he was given. Thus his mother venting some of his anger already was to his interest.
“What happened?” Another woman hadn’t heard of the strange behavior of the Zhongs’ child yet and couldn’t contain her curiosity.
Madam Qiguan laughed. “You know the daughter of the Fas?” The other woman nodded. “Well, she went up to him the other day. His eyes went huge as soon as he saw her, then he turned around and fled. It was such a pathetic sight.”
“Now, now.” Madam Pan furrowed her brow. “How can you call that pathetic? The boy was just a little spooked. I thought it was cute.” Even though she loved to gossip and didn’t mind gossiping about a child, she didn’t like the way Madam Qiguan talked about the boy. He was such an obedient child who never made things difficult for anyone. In fact, she would have loved if even one of her sons could be like him. But no, she had to have two troublemakers at home.
Another woman agreed with her. “Yes, yes, it was really cute! He has such a round face and with his eyes going all huge, it was so funny to watch!”
“Yes, indeed!” Even Madam Fa, Fa Chao Fu’s mother, couldn’t be angry at the little boy. “Two days before that, he was with us at the river when Chao Fu fell down. Her whole dress was dirty and I scolded her. Zhong Jing Yi probably just didn’t want to make problems for his mother so now he’s cautious around Chao Fu.”
“He’s such an obedient child,” piped Madam Pan up again. Really, she should let her sons spend time with him. Maybe they’d get a little easier to handle like that?
“Hmph.” Madam Qiguan snorted. “Cute? Obedient? Isn’t it just because he’s such a coward? Even afraid of a little girl. My Cheng Da was never like that.”
Madam Fa rolled her eyes. “Yes, yes. Cheng Da was never afraid of anything. He just went ahead with whatever.”
One of the women snickered, clearly remembering Madam Qiguan’s son spouting all that nonsense about Zhong Jing Yi being a danger to the whole village.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
Madam Fa smiled smugly. “Nothing, I’m just saying that your son isn’t a coward.”
Madam Qiguan couldn’t say anything to that. She couldn’t scold her for complimenting her son, no? But she also couldn’t say nothing. Finally, Madam Qiguan could only snort again and give up.
The other women ignored her and gossiped between themselves. Like that, the rumor of Zhong Jing Yi running away from Fa Chao Fu made its rounds through the surrounding villages.

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