OMF V1C36 You Shouldn’t Lie to Children

Early the next morning, the Zhongs set out toward the capital. It would take them about six weeks to reach there. After all, they would have to cross the plains and pass through the forest at the foot of the Long mountain range before they would arrive in the far north.
Legend had it that the dragon that helped the first emperor in establishing their kingdom had turned into stone and that the capital had been built where its head rested. If any tragedy befell the capital, the dragon would open its eyes again and rise to drive off their foes. Well, there hadn’t been any war that reached the gates of the capital for several millennia so who could say if it was true or not?
Anyway, the Zhongs still had a long way to go until they would reach the Long mountains. Mister Zhong was hopeful though. Wasn’t traveling through their Long kingdom a great possibility to make his son open up a bit more? He should try his best to achieve his goal this time!
For the first few days, Mister Zhong observed his son closely to figure out if he missed home. To his surprise, Jing Yi didn’t look upset at all and instead stayed calm as if all this had nothing to do with him.
Mister Zhong was reassured and started to work on his plan. He pointed out landmarks in the distance, plants growing at the side of the road and animals scurrying around in the vicinity. He was sure that one of these things would spark his son’s interest! Unfortunately for him, his son didn’t react much. He looked over when his father told him to look but turned back just as fast. Mister Zhong sighed and gave up. This child of his … It would never love nature.
This conclusion was proved to be true on the fifth day of their travel. They had reached a small town the previous evening and halted in an equally small inn. Come midnight the weather had worsened. Jing Yi woke up, opened his eyes and looked at the ceiling, listening to the pitter-patter of the rain and the howling wind for a while. Then he turned around and fell asleep again. No, it wasn’t the bad weather itself that was the problem. The true problem revealed itself the next morning.
The Zhongs ate breakfast at the inn, thanked the owner and wanted to set off. Mister Zhong opened the door and stepped outside. The rain had long stopped and only fallen leaves and broken twigs floating on the puddles that dotted the road showed that there had been a spell of bad weather the previous night.
Zhong Jing Yi took one look outside of the inn. His eyes went huge and he ran back inside, sitting down at the table again, his whole face screaming in a silent tantrum ‘I won’t go outside!’
Madam Zhong observed her son, then looked outside and sighed. “Let’s wait awhile.”
Her husband stood in front of the door and scratched his head. “Why?” Didn’t they want to hurry to reach the capital as soon as possible? Six weeks weren’t short and who knew how fast his cousin needed their help?
Madam Zhong didn’t answer and went back to the owner instead, asking her if they could stay a day longer. The woman lifted her brows. She also couldn’t help but wonder why they decided against it at the last moment.
Madam Zhong motioned to the door. “The path isn’t that good after the rain. I’m afraid it could be too much for our son going all the way on such a muddy road.”
The woman didn’t think that it was a problem for a child his age to travel outside after the rain had subsided but she didn’t voice her thoughts. “Oh. Well, if you want to …” It wasn’t her loss. If the family stayed a day more, she’d earn more.
Qiu Ling sat down at another table and observed Jing Yi with furrowed brows. This wasn’t his fault, was it? His gaze wandered to the door and the path on the other side. Those pools of dirty water … This mud … Why did it look so familiar? It seemed like … he had used holes filled with this kind of dirty water and mud to trick Jing Yi four years ago? Mn, yes, it seemed the girls from Jing Yi’s village had fallen into such holes.
He looked back at the petrified child. Uh … Had he gone a little overboard back then? The child was still afraid of mud. “I never would have thought I could be this convincing …” Unfortunately, he also didn’t know how to atone for his sin. For the time being, he could only wait.
Mister Zhong came back in and the family of three stayed in the inn until the next morning.
Once again, Mister Zhong opened the door and stepped out. It hadn’t rained that night and nothing could be seen of the muddy holes anymore. Still, Jing Yi went to the door cautiously, craned his neck and looked around everywhere before deciding it was safe. He set one foot outside the inn and paused as if he wanted to make sure he hadn’t judged the situation too hasty.
Madam Zhong smiled. “It’s alright. Let’s go.”
Reassured by his mother, Jing Yi didn’t hesitate any longer and followed his parents down the road. The owner of the inn watched after them and shook her head. “Weird people,” she murmured and went back in.
Qiu Ling threw her a glance, then concentrated on Jing Yi again. Six weeks outside where it couldn’t be guaranteed that they would always find an inn and where the weather could change each moment … If it started to rain again, wouldn’t his beloved be suffering?
“Thankfully, I can control the weather! But maybe I should try to find a way to help him get over this fear.”
Qiu Ling didn’t dare dwell any longer on the fact that this wouldn’t have been necessary had he not behaved like that four years ago. In fact, had he just left everything to fate neither would Jing Yi be afraid of dirt nor would he have been so isolated. But looking at it that way who knew what would have happened had Qiu Ling not intervened. For a small child, being afraid of mud was certainly better than losing both his parents.

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