Slowly, leisurely placing one large foot over the other, A-Li lingered and walked the full distance at least a dozen of times effortlessly. He paced the large gated entrance of the former Heavenly Lord’s private residence, and waited patiently for his elder to appear.
Great uncle Lian Song was right behind him when they left Nine Heavens but speedily fell distant behind A-Li. Due to the natural momentum and gait of a young man, perhaps a foot taller than him it would be many more minutes before Lian Song would arrive. A-Li often forgot his great uncle was quite elderly because his youthful face was still the same.
It was Imperial Great Grandfather’s birthday again, but it was impossible to know the old man’s exact age because he was that stinking old. A-Li inwardly wondered why he hadn’t faded into the realm of nothingness, and vanished from his father’s already misery filled complicated life? Why wouldn’t he disappear from everyone’s life and sights as he deserved?
But A-Li knew better than most; it was usually the good that died and the evil ones that hung on, persisted and remained like the vile diseases they were. He was beginning to think his angry and hostile thoughts when his great uncle appeared suddenly. He silently fell and trailed behind him as he had since that year.
That life changing year 40,000 years ago that caused everything to turn for the worst. A-Li vowed he would never forgive the ones who took his hopes, dreams and especially his mother and made everything disappear.
40,000 years ago…..
In life, there were only two things A-Li ever wanted. For the first, he prayed every night and day with Nai Nai. His most desired want and prayer, always. However, especially today because it was his birthday, he wanted a new baby brother or sister! A-Li didn’t care if it was a girl or boy, because they were all separate parts of joining the family he wanted to become.
The second part of his dream was a close knit, intimate grouped family. Where his father, mother and all his new siblings could live together under one roof happily. It would be similar to his great uncle Sang Ji and his family in the North Sea. His demoted great uncle Sang Ji’s exile was his penalty but in A-Li’s eyes, it looked more like paradise to the point that he often envied them.
Growing up without his mother, A-Li didn’t lack for anything due to his father’s constant efforts, and they both held on to the firm belief she would return to them one day.
His father said she was the most beautiful woman in the world. SuSu, a mortal woman he loved and needed to find again. He stated he owed her something that he should have never taken away. For A-Li, he just wanted his mother back because he’d never even seen her face and only knew her from a drawing.
300 quiet years passed without any indications of her return then A-Li went to the Eastern Sea Banquet, and it was he who found his mother again.
She was there just like the picture in his father’s room but much, much prettier. She wasn’t a mortal woman but the Queen of Qingqiu and she recognized his father immediately. She kissed him passionately in front of everyone there for the celebration and A-Li clapped in joy wildly.
They said somehow during his mother’s heavenly trial, she met and married his father, gave birth to A-Li as a mortal. He didn’t know how that could happen, but he didn’t care because she was home and that was all it mattered to him.
What followed was just like a dream when his mother came to Nine Heavens and lived with them, and A-Li finally had what he’d always envied. He had his family and those days were some of the best times in his life. He never wanted or believed those times would come to an end, and he an innocent child thought they were everlasting.
It almost brought tears to his eyes when A-Li recalled how he used to giggle when his parents made love, and slept naked alone always. They were almost obnoxious and made loud noises that made all the servants blush, but they made him giddily chuckle because he knew even then what they were doing.
They were making a baby. Both Cheng Yu and Nai Nai declared it wouldn’t be much longer before his mother became pregnant again, since his parents were so deeply in love. Yes, A-Li also knew his parents adored each other, and he wondered if they were still in bed naked as he ran to his father’s room.
He merrily jogged, skipped and hopped towards his father’s chamber, holding onto the white fox tail in his hand that appeared suddenly. It was his new good luck charm and he carried it everywhere he went.
There was also a secret that A-Li could perform unusual magic with the tail in his hand, but he hid his new talents to show his parents first.
He could now make things happen. Whatever concepts or ideas he saw in his head became tangible items of what he imagined. His ideas and thoughts became real. If he pictured a peach in his mind, a peach would suddenly appear. If A-Li wanted a flower to bloom and thought about how it would look, that’s what would happen.
It was his hidden magic and purposely he waited to brag and show off in front of his parents first. A-Li prepared to do a grand reveal after they surprised him because it was his 301st birthday. He believed his parents were most likely and probably planning a party, because he hadn’t seen them for days.
He envisioned something incredible comparable to a surprise party, news or special announcement of a new baby. Smiling in eager anticipation, A-Li fell asleep waiting for his parents and to his astonishment, they never appeared. Nobody remembered it was his birthday or said anything to him.
So he asked Nai Nai where his parents had gone, and she spoke nothing but instead gave him his favorite steamed red bean buns. When she thought he was fast asleep, A-Li heard her sobbing faintly in the distance but didn’t ask why she was crying because he was afraid.
His birthday came and went. Several months passed and during this time A-Li saw only his father but never his mother. He could sense something was wrong, but nobody told him anything until the night he found his father drunk for the first time in his life.
A-Li heard the crying from outside and his father was sobbing loudly. He was red faced, smelled like wine and hugged A-Li so tightly it hurt a bit. There were many empty bottles on the ground and when he asked for his mother, his father just cried more.
He wondered where his mother had gone. A-Li questioned if she was weak or ill from the new baby. Cheng Yu told him that women get sick at the beginning of pregnancy, and A-Li inquired if that was why she returned home to Qingqiu. Was that the reason he hadn’t seen her in months?
His father sat him on his lap and wept, “Yes, A-Li, your mother is ill and she’s not pregnant anymore.”
Then he cried harder, louder and A-Li didn’t understand what he meant at the time, but then grasped much later that his mother had miscarried the baby he had prayed for the most.
Another year passed and another birthday came for A-Li. When his father asked what he wanted most, he said he wanted to see his mother and didn’t want anything else. His father took him to Qingqiu to see her finally. But his father waited outside and what he saw confused him even more. It scared him because she looked like a ghost.
She laid in bed with her eyes closed. She was beautiful but white as snow was her skin. Her hair was shorter than A-Li’s and braided to one side. He sat by her, held her hand but she never opened her eyes once during the entire visit. His mother reminded him of the princess in the fable ‘Sleeping Beauty’.
At the time A-Li was too young to understand, only believed she was asleep but he later discovered she was in a coma and nearer to death than living. She stayed like this for almost 100 years and then suddenly opened her eyes one day.
The day she awoke, his father rushed to Qingqiu when he heard the news, but A-Li knew it wasn’t good by the grieved expression on his father’s face when he returned. He was sadder than when he used to cry with the Soul Gathering Lamp, and his father drank wine again until he passed out that night.
Then through the naive perceptions of a child, A-Li witnessed his mother’s cycle of agony after her awakening.
Sometimes she recognized him, hugged him tightly while she shook as if she were standing outside in the winter without a coat. She apologized repeatedly. He came to understand those were sadly her good days, because on her sickest days she screamed all day and nobody could get near her.
Nobody could get close to her at all. Especially his father or uncle Mo Yuan. His mother saw his father and said he was Death, there to take her away and threw herself at his feet. She begged to die, scratched, tore at her face with her sharp nails and tried to tear out her eyes repeatedly.
She barbered, cut and shaved all of her beautiful long hair off regularly. A-Li’s grandparents fed her but she fought, vomited and spat out all and everything they got into her mouth. She cried and begged them to let her die.
Then A-Li wasn’t able to visit her for a long time, but eavesdropped on his father talking with uncle Mo Yuan and heard the following; his mother tried to kill herself with her fan and almost succeeded. She was restrained down by Zhe Yan for her self-protection. High God Zhe Yan moved out of his orchard and into the Fox Den due to the severity of her mental illness.
When A-Li saw her again, his mother was much thinner. She stared blankly up at the ceiling with her arms and legs bound in magical restraints. She was tied down like an animal and he begged his grandparents to undo her, but they said it was for her protection.
More years dragged on terribly this way. His mother had moments of brief, short clarity and occasionally smiled when she saw him before she began to weep. Then she screamed, shrieked, shouted, tried to kill herself and then went through another period of silent coma-like trance.
This pattern became the tragic predictable cycle for another two hundred years.
Eventually, A-Li couldn’t take it anymore. Seeing his mother in such a terrible state was worse than when he thought she was dead. He’d learned about Zhe Yan’s special potion, that could make his mother forget everything that was making her sad.
Therefore, for three days straight he knelt before the Fox Den and refused to get up until they made her sorrow go away. The adults agreed and it wasn’t just due to his earnest request. His grandparents, uncles and father also couldn’t endure any more but only A-Li dared to speak the words aloud.
The day of her ‘treatment‘ everyone cried. A-Li’s father and uncle Mo Yuan had wet eyes when they came to say their goodbyes. Because they could never see her again, and it was A-Li who sat beside her alone for hours with his head on her breasts, and inhaled the distinct sweet scent of his mother.
While quietly resting on her warm, soft, bosom A-Li clutched his good luck charm and wished, prayed in earnest that he could take every one of his mother’s unhappy memories away. In his mind’s eye, he saw and pictured a dark orb that held all her sorrows. He imagined it leaving her body and that’s what happened precisely.
The instant he envisioned a marble-like orb; one magically floated directly from out of his mother’s pale parted mouth. A-Li grabbed it without hesitation because he knew what it was precisely, and he desired to understand everything.
He saw through her memories all and everything. He witnessed what she endured as SuSu. He saw her confusion, remorse and the mess she created while in love with both his father and uncle Mo Yuan. He saw the torture that almost killed her and how his mother traded her life for his. A-Li knew her last thoughts were of him and the dead baby when she started to take her last breath.
He viewed every single one of his mother’s sorrowful flashes and within those few, short moments A-Li, the child, became A-Li, the adult, instantly.
After seeing everything, A-Li knew what he needed to do. He needed to collect her debts for her and what he required was 報復 Bàofù.
Carefully A-Li wrapped the dense ball of his mother’s pain in the magic fox tail, and placed it inside the heart shaped locket. A gift from a couple of birthdays previously during one of her good spells.
He told her how much he loved her, that he didn’t resent her at all and not to suffer anymore. A-Li kissed his mother’s face and fed her the large glass of amnesia potion personally, because he wanted most for her to forget everything. He remained beside until she fell asleep, went home to Celestial Heaven and waited for the right time.
That precise time was Imperial great grandfather’s birthday, and A-Li innocently walked into his private chamber. He imaged what he wanted to happen and it did, when the old man’s body froze paralyzed. His great grandfather stared at the little boy with horror filled eyes.
When A-Li whispered, “報復 Bàofù,” and fed the ball of his mother’s distress and sufferings, to someone who was a significant creator of her miseries.
Heavenly Lord swallowed his mother’s painful memories and all those dark, tragic, sorrowful images took over, overwhelmed his old mind. The previous Heavenly Lord, A-Li’s Imperial great grandfather, went insane instantly.
To be continued…..