After not seeing each other for a few years, Old Yuan had become even more long-winded.
In the short time it took to drink a bowl of water, he had already listed a hundred possibilities for why Yue Dingtang hadn't returned from the mountain.
"What was he trying to accomplish on this trip? He saved us, but didn't gain anything. He couldn't even get his hands on any treasures. Although he's the young master of the Yue family and doesn't lack these things, I know how eye-catching that Buddhist pagoda is. Even the emperor himself might be tempted!"
"You can know someone's face, but not their heart. Maybe I should go down the mountain and take a look!"
"What should I do with you? You're the only one here. If he comes back with his men and finds you, won't you be in trouble?"
Ling Shu had grown calluses on his ears from listening to Old Yuan's rambling.
He threw his empty bowl onto the pile of straw in front of him.
"I want to eat roasted chicken. Stop nagging and go catch some wild chickens!"
Old Yuan glared, his eyes round with anger. "Do you have no conscience? I'm already injured like this!"
Ling Shu retorted, "If I don't give you something to do, I'm afraid my ears will go deaf. And let me tell you, Old Yuan, I never realized before that you act like an old woman. Is it because you're getting old?"
Old Yuan was furious. "I'm only three years older than you. Do you even know how to count?"
He used to have a bad temper, but in recent years, playing the role of his older brother in the Guan family, he had probably been holding it in.
Now, meeting an old friend and brother, all his true feelings were exposed without any pretense.
Ling Shu was not afraid of his bluster.
When they were in the army, they had fought many times, and their friendship was mostly built on those fights.
But times had changed, and now they probably couldn't fight even if they wanted to.
They could only use their words.
"You're always eating! You're like a pig, but at least pigs can be sold for money. What can you do?" Despite the harsh words, Old Yuan still left.
Although the temple was warm, Ling Shu found it stuffy after a while.
Unlike Old Yuan, who was lazy and afraid of the cold, Ling Shu preferred to go outside and get some fresh air, even if he had to limp.
Ling Shu yawned and tried to go back to sleep, but for some reason, he couldn't.
He tossed and turned, unable to find a comfortable position.
His mind was in a jumble, one moment it was the scene of Yue Dingtang pointing a gun at him, the next it was the Yue Dingtang pressing him against the wall and kissing him, and then it was him sitting shoulder to shoulder with him on the ground after narrowly escaping death.
It hadn't been long since then, but now it felt like a dream, where reality and fantasy intertwined.
He prided himself on being clever, but couldn't help but feel a bit anxious like any ordinary person.
The burning sensation in his chest was unbearable, and the temperature that had just subsided seemed to rise again.
Ling Shu felt that he had never been the kind of person who was so melancholic and sentimental about love and life.
Everyone knew that the old Young Master Ling was a charming and dashing figure, with peach blossoms blooming everywhere he went. While others went to the dance hall to give money to the dancing girls, he went to dance with them, and the girls even rushed to give him gifts. If he didn't accept them, it wouldn't do.
He always had women on his left and right, picking and choosing among them. Others would become flustered and excited just from a glance or a smile from him, and would gladly offer him the world on a silver platter.
Who could have predicted that fortunes would change and that it would be his turn to face the music?
This was probably what he meant when he talked about karma with Old Yuan.
Lost in his thoughts, Ling Shu fell into a dream, but even his dreams were a mess.
He slept with a dull pain in the back of his head, and was awakened by the smell of roasted chicken.
There were also hushed voices, more than one person.
Ling Shu turned over and hesitated between waking and sleeping.
His eyes half-opened and half-closed, just in time to see Yue Dingtang step over the threshold, with a sky full of colorful clouds behind him, gradually blending and interweaving.
'At that time, the bright moon was shining, illuminating the colorful clouds returning.'
These two lines of poetry naturally emerged in his mind, as if the clear wind had blown away the fog, and the full moon had washed away all the worldly dross.
Old Yuan's incessant chatter may not have penetrated his heart, but it did enter his ears, shaking the hesitant thoughts of his injured self and prompting him to question himself even in his dreams.
But all the doubts vanished at the moment he saw the visitor.
The smoke cleared, the snow melted, and the sky cleared.
Even though the years were far from peaceful, his heart had already been redeemed.
"Are you feeling better?"
The first thing Yue Dingtang did was to walk up to him, asking about his condition before examining his spirit. Ling Shu vaguely agreed and relaxed lazily.
Yue Dingtang thought Ling Shu was having another relapse and furrowed his brows, asking the doctor who was currently stitching up Old Yuan's wound, "Can we give him some painkillers first?"
"I just checked on him. He doesn't have a fever and his condition is stable. Once I finish treating this gentleman, I will attend to him immediately," the doctor replied without even looking up.
If it were Old Yuan, he would have probably found a traditional Chinese medicine doctor, but Yue Dingtang had sought out a Western doctor.
After all, among their group, they either had bruises or gunshot wounds, and surgery, anti-inflammatory medication, and painkillers were more effective with Western medicine.
Old Yuan's condition was still good.
When he fell off the cliff, he was stopped by some trees, so his fractures were not too severe.
After taking some anti-inflammatory medication and having his bones stabilized with a wooden board, his external injuries were stitched up and treated with ointment.
In ten days or so, he would be fully recovered.
Yue Dingtang felt that Ling Shu's situation was a bit troublesome.
When he saw the doctor's serious expression as he rolled up Ling Shu's pants, he couldn't help but feel nervous himself.
"After being shot, he moved around. Will it affect his bones?"
The doctor remained silent, pursing his lips and lowering his head to examine the bloody and messy tissues.
Yue Dingtang had never realized that he was a bit prone to fainting, especially at the sight of Ling Shu's blood.
Just now, he saw the doctor cleaning up Old Yuan's wound, and it seemed fine.
Alcohol was poured over the wound, and the dirty blood was gradually washed away.
However, this process was obviously very painful.
Ling Shu's eyebrows were tightly furrowed, and his fingers were trembling slightly, but he remained silent.
"Can't you give him some anesthesia?" Yue Dingtang couldn't help but ask again.
The doctor glared at him harshly.
"Why are you so talkative?" The tone sounded like Yue Dingtang and the doctor were old acquaintances. Yue Dingtang could only smile wryly.
"This is my friend," Yue Dingtang said.
The doctor asked, "So I'm not your friend? You don't trust me?"
Yue Dingtang was speechless.
The doctor coolly said, "So there are different levels of friendship. No wonder I've been in Fengtian for years and you've never come to visit me. Now that you need something, you remember me."
Although he teased with his words, he didn't slow down his actions.
In no time, he removed the bullet from Ling Shu's leg.
"Fortunately, the bullet didn't shatter inside and didn't cause any damage to the tendons or bones. You need to take anti-inflammatory medicine every day and don't move for the next two days. Your rib injury needs to be rested, and your arm is just a minor injury. It's best to go down the mountain to my clinic in a few days, and I'll clean and bandage your wounds again."
The doctor glanced at them and said, "Forget it, I don't think you'll be able to return to the city in your current state. But just in case, be careful not to get the wound wet. If you have the opportunity, make sure to change the dressing when you get to a big city."
After disinfecting his medical equipment, he put it back in his bag and straightened his clothes before standing up. "If there's nothing else, I'll be on my way."
He glanced at Old Yuan, who was standing silently by the door, and slipped his hand into his pocket. "Dingtang, when you asked me to come up the mountain to treat someone, you didn't say that I had to stay behind too."
Yue Dingtang raised his hand to reassure Old Yuan and said to the doctor, "It's just a misunderstanding. He didn't know about our relationship. You can go now, I won't see you off. Remember to take the path behind the mountain and don't let anyone see you."
The doctor was impatient: "I'm not going back to the city. I'm going directly to a family in the town to treat their illness. I'll be back in Fengtian in three days, so don't worry!"
Three days later, they should have completed their mission.
Old Yuan had doubts, but he didn't want to ask in front of the doctor.
Seeing that Yue Dingtang didn't say anything, he had to suppress his desire to keep the doctor there until he walked away.
"Is this person reliable?" Old Yuan asked.
Yue Dingtang replied, "He was my classmate when I studied abroad, and later went to Japan to study medicine. He has been running a clinic in Fengtian for several years and has a good relationship with the Japanese."
Old Yuan became anxious and frustrated, "Then why did you let him go? It's probably too late to catch up with him now!"
Yue Dingtang added, "His uncle from another clan had no children of his own, so he was adopted at a young age to inherit the family line. His biological father and older brother were both from Jinan and died tragically on May of 1928."
Old Yuan was taken aback, looking at the other with a meaningful expression, but said nothing.
"The roasted chicken has gone cold," Ling Shu's voice interrupted his thoughts. Old Yuan turned his head and immediately became angry.
The whole roasted chicken had been dismantled into pieces, with only bones left of the two chicken legs and a large piece of breast meat.
"The wild chicken meat is a bit tough. If it's not a special occasion next time, we can ask the nearby villagers to buy a home-raised one. No need to dip it in oil, just stuff some spices in its belly. It will be so plump and juicy!" Ling Shu, while eating, also criticized and picked at the food.
Old Yuan didn't have time to curse anyone.
He bounced over in three or two steps and snatched a chicken wing, taking a bite before reaching for another.
But he was too late.
The other chicken wing had already been handed to Yue Dingtang by Ling Shu.
"Old Yue went down the mountain to find a doctor for us, and you can't even give him a chicken wing? Eating chicken wings will help you recover faster. Wild chickens flap their wings every day," Ling Shu said, pointing out the benefits.
After eating most of the chicken, Ling Shu had enough strength to give some advice.
Old Yuan laughed in anger, "Why don't you give the chicken leg to him? You're just taking advantage of others!"
Ling Shu replied, "I'm not being formal with you. Here, have the chicken head to make you smarter after you finish eating."
Old Yuan: ...
He really wanted to turn around and smash the chicken head on Ling Shu's head.
It was purely accidental that Old Yuan caught this wild chicken.
He had set up a simple trap, intending to wait a couple of hours before heading back.
But to his surprise, there were actually some foolish birds that fell into the trap.
Although they were not plump and tender, it was better than nothing.
The three of them devoured the chicken quickly, leaving only a pile of bones.
Ling Shu had taken some painkillers and was feeling much better. After sleeping for a whole day, he couldn't fall asleep anymore while Old Yuan was snoring away. So, he wrapped himself in his coat and sat on the doorstep of the Guanyin Temple, facing the stars in the sky.
"Feeling better?" Yue Dingtang sat down next to him.
Ling Shu stretched lazily, "As long as my mouth isn't sewn shut, there's no big problem."
Yue Dingtang said, "Why don't you stay at my place for a while after we go back? Wait until your injury is completely healed before returning, otherwise Sister Ling Yao will definitely ask you about it."
As soon as he mentioned it, Ling Shu's headache began.
"Let's solve the current problem first," he said.
Ling Shu knew without looking in the mirror that he had become very thin lately. If his sister saw him, it would be like a family earthquake.
She would surely interrogate him all day long, making him confess and eat five meals a day like a pig.
He loved to eat, but he was picky about what he ate. There was a difference between being fed like a pig and being able to choose his food.
Suddenly, a hand touched his forehead. Ling Shu instinctively wanted to retreat, but he was already touched by the warm palm.
"You don't have a fever. Go back to sleep. Tomorrow, we have to accompany Deputy Mayor Jin's mother's coffin and put on a show."
Seeing that Ling Shu was not responding as quickly as usual, Yue Dingtang couldn't help but tease him. "What's wrong, do you need a goodnight kiss?"
Ling Shu immediately became wary and leaned back.
"Don't take advantage of me, I warn you. The beautiful ladies of Feilengcui are still waiting for me to come back--?!"
His voice abruptly stopped.
The other party didn't push further, but instead retreated gracefully.
"You didn't say anything, so I assumed you wanted a goodnight kiss. Why are you staring at me like that?"
Suddenly, Ling Shu remembered something and quickly turned to look behind him!
Old Yuan was still snoring, and his sleeping position hadn't changed since earlier.
Ling Shu breathed a sigh of relief, suddenly feeling a bit guilty, like Zhuo Wenjun sneaking around with Sima Xiangru behind her father's back.
He really hadn't sorted out his feelings for Yue Dingtang.
Since he couldn't figure it out for now, he decided to put it aside.
Pondering over love troubles was never Ling Shu's style.
He thought he might as well spend his time eating more roast chicken.
But as he snapped out of his thoughts and carefully considered, he couldn't help but feel that his analogy earlier was a bit off.
How could Old Yuan, who had neither the virtue nor the ability, be his father?
And to hell with Zhuo Wenjun, it's Yue Dingtang who is the real Zhuo Wenjun!