OMF V1C105 Trouble at the Teahouse

It had been in the afternoon when Qiu Ling left the mortal realm. While he slept at Jing He’s palace and only woke up when the heavenly empress Bai Fen came by the next day, a few months had already passed in the mortal realm and Jing Yi had turned eight by now.
When Mister and Madam Zhong had woken up the next morning they had first taken a look at the courtyard and the street outside to look for traces of the fight they had heard. They couldn’t find anything, though. It seemed as if everything had been their imagination.
Madam Zhong didn’t think much of it until her son remembered his grandfather some days later. Qiu Ling would probably be heartbroken if he knew that it had taken nearly a week for the boy to even think of him. Most likely, he would be even more heartbroken if he knew that Madam Zhong had just smiled, patted Jing Yi’s head and said: “Don’t worry. Grandfather has something important to do. He might not return for a while. Just spent your time with Shao Hai instead.” If he knew, he’d probably make his way over to the teahouse and clamor that she was a traitor. But of course, Qiu Ling knew nothing of all that, yet.
And Madam Zhong … she was quite relieved when he hadn’t returned even after a few weeks. She just didn’t know how to face him. She liked seeing her son getting closer to Shao Hai and behaving like a normal child for once. Seeing him smile and laugh and running around made her feel grateful to that boy.
She was grateful to Qiu Ling, too, but the expectations he obviously carried made her feel uneasy. She knew, neither her or her husband or her son would be alive without him but could she force her son into a relationship with him in the future because of that? And even now: Could she forbid him from making friends and having a normal childhood? She didn’t think so.
Not having Qiu Ling around freed her of the burden of having to deal with this problem. Deep inside she hoped he would only return when Jing Yi was grown up. She wouldn’t have to fret for the future then. Everything would solve itself.
Maybe that daoist would take a look at her son and understand that he wasn’t the person he longed for. He might give up then. Or maybe he’d still feel interested and Jing Yi would actually reciprocate those feelings. Then they could just become a couple and nobody would have to feel hurt.
The only problem would be if Jing Yi fell in love with somebody else first while the daoist master still liked him. What then? For now, Madam Zhong could only hope that something like that wouldn’t happen. But she wasn’t too worried.
That daoist master … if he wanted someone it shouldn’t be that difficult to woo that person, right? He was handsome and as far as she knew he had a good personality. As long as he didn’t get drunk or felt betrayed, that was. But that was something he’d probably not show when he just met someone. So who knew? Her son might really fall in love with him.
Soon, Madam Zhong had other things to worry about, though.
One morning, an obese man stopped in front of the teahouse, looking at the two stories with a dissatisfied expression.
“Is this the one?”, he asked the two servants behind them who eagerly nodded.
“Yes, yes! The owner is that Zhong Gang but the man working here is his cousin or something like that, called Zhong Lei.”
“Mn.” The man pursed his lips and entered the teahouse. With a dismayed look, he counted the customers sitting at the tables.
On this day, the teahouse was once again completely booked: Every seat on the lower floor was occupied, every one of the small rooms on the upper floor reserved for guests and even the big room for special occasions had found an occupant. The most astonishing, though, was that all of the tables on the lower floor were occupied by women while all the rooms on the upper floor were occupied by scholars. Zhong Gang’s teahouse was just such a strange place.
Seeing the new customer, Mister Zhong hurried over. After a year in the capital and taking care of the teahouse for such a long time, he wasn’t as overly excited as at the beginning anymore. Now he could calmly great the guests, so of course, he wanted to do just that on this day, too. “Dear guests —”
“Hmph, what guests!”, one of the servants interrupted before he could even finish his greeting. “Is your small, dirty establishment good enough to attract the great Li Bo?”
Li Bo was, of course, the obese man in front. He pursed his lips even more but didn’t deign to say something himself. Why would he? He had brought his lackeys with him to do those lowly tasks in his stead! That was the privilege of the rich!
“Uh …” Mister Zhong might have learned to greet customers but he had never been confronted with ones as difficult as this. Until that day the work at the teahouse had been smooth sailing. As such, his reaction was … a bit lacking? “If you’re asking like this … probably not?” Mister Zhong furrowed his brow. “I’m not sure. Could you tell me who this ‘Li Bo’ is?”
The women at the nearby tables chuckled. They had seen Mister Zhong stunned often enough to know he meant every word he said. Unfortunately, Li Bo and his two lackeys didn’t know him and thought he was mocking them.
“How dare you speak to us like that!”, the second servant roared, clenching his fists and shaking them at Mister Zhong.
Mister Zhong was dumbfounded and looked around for his wife. He had tried following the golden rule she had made clear to him: Always be polite to your customers! But somehow it seemed like the golden rule didn’t apply here? Why were they mad at him?
The first servant used this opportunity to chip in the reason for their visit: “What are you getting mad at, Xiao Guo? You shouldn’t have expected anything else from such a shameless person!”
Mister Zhong didn’t know how to react any longer. Unfortunately, it seemed like his wife was in the kitchen. What to do? He couldn’t just go and bring her over to talk to the guests, no?
Thankfully, his savior was near! Shao Hai had seen the obese man walking in and observed the following confrontation. He was a little older than Jing Yi and had already turned nine some months ago. He could see this was spelling trouble.
“Let’s go help uncle Zhong”, he said, gripped Jing Yi’s hand and pulled him over. “Uncle Li!”, he called out and looked up at the obese man with a deadpan expression.
He knew him and his two lackeys. Actually, every one doing business in the capital knew them because those three loved to make trouble! And they always got away with it. In fact, they had offended plenty of people but still didn’t have to pay for it. Making trouble for a family like the Zhongs was as easy as taking candy from a baby for them. And they definitely were the type of people who would a baby of its candy.
Shao Hai’s father, too, had had the bad luck of having to do with this Li Bo once. It hadn’t been a nice encounter. You could even say that Li Bo had ripped his father off but what could he have done? There was no talking things over with Li Bo. If he intended to make things difficult for you nothing could deter him. Well, besides a huge bribe, maybe …
Shao Hai still wanted to try. This was Jing Yi’s family, after all!
Li Bo stared at the children in front of him. He didn’t know who they were but his eyes started to shine at their sight. He bent forward and smiled, making the people around him shudder. “Oh! Who might these small munchkins be?”
Shao Hai curled his lips. “I’m the son of Shao Chen. You did some business with him.”
Li Bo couldn’t remember any Shao Chen and as soon as he heard that he stopped paying attention to Shao Hai and concentrated on Jing Yi. Never mind if that one is from another family, this child would be more useful anyway.
His smile grew even wider. “And what about you?”
Jing Yi clutched Shao Hai’s arm and half hid behind him. Shao Hai straightened up, feeling like he had to claim ownership now. “That’s my bride!”
Thankfully, Qiu Ling wasn’t there to hear that. Though, if he had been, he might have said the same line as Li Bo: “We’ll see about that!”
Shao Hai frowned and hugged Jing Yi to his chest. “What is that supposed to mean?!” That Li Bo couldn’t be thinking of taking his darling away, could he?!
Li Bo only smiled, leaving the explaining to his servants.
The second servant took up where Shao Hai’s arrival had interrupted their act. “Didn’t Xiao Nuo already tell you? They’re such shameless people! Who knows if they can stay?”
Shao Hai frowned even more. “How can you say that about uncle Zhong and his family? They’re good people and only doing business here!”
“Hmph! Good people? Only doing business?”, the first servant snorted. “How can you say that with a straight face? Those people stole the great Li Bo’s horses!”
“Right! You better confess now!”
“Or else we’ll call the people from the justice court over!”
Li Bo smiled patronizingly. “Even though you’ve wronged me like that, I’ll leave you a way out since I’m such a good person.” He gazed at Jing Yi, his smile getting wider.

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