As early as a few months ago, Father Jiang was promoted by a whole pay grid and was officially among the core leadership ranks. Mother Jiang was given a similar raise and was now the first in command of certain department known for being free from corruption. In Shengtian territory, they were now considered a high-ranking couple with much influence.
Administrative changes at such level usually took place in election years or when there was severe violation of discipline, requiring provisional supplement personnel.
With all the ups and downs they had witnessed in their long bureaucratic career, they were more than clear of the proceedings of such things. However, the more they were acknowledged, the more baffled they became. It was not until the other day when Father Jiang read a classified document that they found out the reason behind all this.
Unfortunately, the two main characters of the document, as it turned out, were their daughter and her boyfriend. He never found out if the document was leaked to him on purpose—which was almost certain—and it took the old couple three days to "shake off" the "after effect".
'Our daughter is on her way to become an immortal and is on a first-name basis with the state...' Rolling that statement at the tip of their tongue was simply unbelievable!
The feeling was so overwhelming that when they were told that their daughter was coming home for a visit, they were flustered rather than pleasantly surprised. Especially Mother Jiang, who had been fussing about since a while ago, muttering to herself the entire time, "What are we going to do? Huh? They'll be here soon."
"So be it. Stop running around, will you?"
"How can I! What are we going to say when she's here?"
"Whatever we see fit. After all, she's still our daughter," said Father Jiang.
Mother Jiang was about to retort, but decided to heave a sign in the end. "Yeah, she's still our daughter."
While they were still pondering over the question, the doorbell rang. Mother Jiang jolted at the sound. However, being an experienced high-ranking official, she soon calmed herself down and went to answer the door.
Opening the door, she saw her own daughter accompanied by a young man. There was nothing strange or offbeat about the latter, who turned out to be quite pleasing to the eye.
Mother Jiang's silence went on for a bit too long and Xiaozhai couldn't help but call out. Gu Yu followed suit and greeted her, "Hello, Auntie!"
"Oh, hello, nice to meet you... Xiao Gu, I presume?"
Mother Jiang came to herself and hesitated before addressing Gu Yu as such, somewhat emboldened. She was having some difficulty in picking the term. Her reaction was understandable, though, for even to the "imperial envoy", he was known as "Mr. Gu".
Gu Yu did not seem to have noticed her awkwardness. Handing out the small gift box, he smiled. "Uh, nice to meet you. Please accept this little gift. I hope you will like it."
"Oh, thank you! Here, please come in."
Faced with mundane pleasantries, Mother Jiang was instantly relieved. The young couple went into the living room and greeted Father Jiang with equal, if not bigger, awkwardness.
Almost as soon as Gu Yu and Xiaozhai set eyes on her parents, it dawned on them right away that her parents had known about it—just as Xiaozhai had guessed!
The government would never let go of such an opportunity. With the daughter as a cultivator and the parents government officials, a great space for possible manoeuvrings was opened up. All they needed to do was to offer two positions and some partial intelligence. If luck was on their side, they would win the daughter to their side; if not, such move would still make the girl think twice when the relationship turned hostile in the future.
All in all, the government stood to earn a great deal for so small a price.
But then, during the boy's first visit to the girl's home, the usual procedure was for the girl and her mother to slip into the kitchen with some lame excuse, leaving the boy in the living room with the father, each parent in charge of their own sex.
It had almost become a fixed pattern, which even extended to the location of each group.
The females would discuss the boyfriend's salary, bonus, house, career, family background, personality and temperament, health condition, and even his performance in bed and the frequency of "doing it".
As for the guys, the subjects of their conversation could be summarized into job, position, goals, workplace environment, room for development, domestic and international issues, as well as the stock market.
The conversation could go on forever. Exactly when it would stop depended solely on what dishes they were preparing.
Today was no different. Mother Jiang dragged Xiaozhai into the kitchen, leaving Father Jiang behind in the living room with Gu Yu, then the two men gazed at each other in a speechless awkwardness… Father Jiang was a talkative man, but exactly what could he talk about with this young man?
Position: chief of Phoenix Mountain.
Goal: becoming Heavenly Immortal.
Workplace environment: still early stage, extremely tough, might face confrontation at any moment.
Please, that was simply embarrassing!
To break the deadlock, Gu Yu said, "Well, Uncle, I've brought you two boxes of Mind-calming Incense. They can nurse your health and help with sleep. Here they are."
With that, he handed over the gift boxes.
Taking over the boxes, Father Jiang saw that the sixty sticks were arranged neatly inside like a work of art. He couldn't help but express his admiration. "Very nice. Thank you for the gift."
And the silent deadlock resumed.
At that moment, the kitchen door opened and Xiaozhai slipped out. Smiling, she said, "Hey, my mom heard that you're quite a good cook and she requested your help."
Gu Yu rose to his feet immediately. Their hands touched briefly when the two brushed past each other in a tacit manner. Apparently, the female pair was also having a difficult time.
Thus, the young couple regrouped and, amazingly, conversations were struck up.
"The key to fried pork in scoop is the batter. Add an egg white to the starch and mix them together into a batter, which would wrap around the pork slices evenly when you roll the pork in it. You won't have uneven layers in this way."
In the kitchen, Gu Yu picked up slices of tenderloin wrapped in batter with chopsticks, heated up the cooking oil to a medium heat, and lowered the slices into the oil. The meat started sizzling. He deep-fried the tenderloin until cooked with a medium heat, scooped them up, turned up the heat, and deep-fried the slices until they were crispy.
Seeing his deft movements, Mother Jiang chuckled. "You really are as good as I was told. Do you always cook yourself?"
"Yeah, I've been doing it since I was little. I cook for her now as well, but she's not fond of meat. Hers are mainly vegetarian dishes."
"Yes, that's right. Her father and I both love meat and she's not taking after us. She's more like her grandfather on that."
Mother Jiang busied herself with assisting Gu Yu as she went on with a smile, "Xiaozhai might look soft-hearted, but she's actually very stubborn. I remember one time when she was just starting middle school and came back home for vacation, I cooked nothing but meat dishes. She simply touched none of the dishes and ate a bowl of rice on its own. Oh my, her father was fuming…"
"Ah? Is that so?"
Gu Yu was immediately intrigued. He was more than willing to heard about his girlfriend's black history.
"Yes! She was more stubborn than a donkey back then and no one could do anything about it. She only softened a little after she went to attend university. She's got quite a temper and you're her first boyfriend. So if she ever pushed it too far, do be patient with her."
"Don't worry. It takes two to let a relationship work and we're doing all right so far. At least, we haven't had any quarrels yet."
Scooping out the sliced pork, Gu Yu added silently in his head, 'Our fights aren't verbal, but physical!'
For some reason, Mother Jiang hesitated at his remark and heaved a sigh.
Women could be rather strange at times and one never knew which word would touch their heartstrings. Mother Jiang was a bit uneasy at the beginning, but gradually relaxed as they chatted on. She was now observing Gu Yu from the perspective of a mother-in-law and the more closely she looked at him, the more emotional she felt.
"She has not been with us ever since she was little, and to be honest with you, we know very little about her. But, after all, she's my own flesh and blood. To tell you the truth, this thing has been on my mind lately and I sometimes even dream about it. I thought maybe when she leaves us this time, she would never come back…"
With a linen cloth, Mother Jiang carefully wiped away the oil stain on the edge of the plate, then turned to open the kitchen door. She said in a low voice, "I'm really happy that you're here to see us today, especially with you by her side."
Gu Yu blinked, then carried the dish out of the kitchen.
Presently, the four sat down in the dining room. There was sign of emotional reaction on Xiaozhai's face, apparently the result of the conversation between her and her father. However, all four of them were now very restrained and reserved.
The tension had finally eased up during the meal. After lunch, Gu Yu and Xiaozhai lingered until well into the afternoon before they bid her parents farewell.
Outside, the glaring sun released its heat relentlessly. The whole city seemed slouched down under the sunshine and the air burnt by the heatwaves.
The two walked hand in hand, neither of them uttering a word.
It was after quite some time that Xiaozhai announced out of the blue, "Actually, I've always thought that the ties of blood are not the same as emotional ties."
"How so?" Gu Yu asked.
"The ties of blood is an innate social relationship. It only represents your responsibility to educate your children and support your parents, but exactly how much you are going to invest in these activities is decided by your emotional bond with them."
"Yep, I agree!" Gu Yu nodded.
"But now, I think I've overlooked one thing. To be honest, I don't feel that much attached to my parents, yet I've ignored how they felt towards me. This bond is also something I should be responsible for."
"Yep, I agree with that, too!" He nodded again.
"Do you even have you own standpoint?"
"Of course. I understand what you said. They were not contradictory."
Gu Yu meant it, for it was simple. Many children nowadays were sent away from their parents for school at a very young age—it was natural that they did not feel attached to their parents. However, the children tended to ignore the care their parents held towards them, which needed reciprocation.
Of course, we couldn't deny the fact that there were heartless parents who would abandon or abuse their own children.
This did not seem much of a problem, but to Xiaozhai, it was essential. Failing to figure it out would very likely lead to the situation Long Qiu faced in her breakthrough—a flaw in the state of mind.
"So, what are you going to do?" he asked.
After a brief silence, Xiaozhai said slowly, "I will be their daughter of this lifetime, and this alone."
"Wow, Xiao Jin Jin!"
"Wow, Silly Jiao Jiao!"
As the dusk set in, in one of the largest nightclubs of Shengtian, Xiaojin and Chen Jiao were hugging happily. They were BFF in high school and only got separated by university. Still, they would get together every summer and winter vacations and remained quite close.
"You've finally made time to see me. I thought you had moved on to someone new!"
"That's right, I did. Here, let me introduce…"
Grabbing Long Qiu by her shoulders, Xiaojin laughed. "This is my girlfriend. Prettier than you, won't you say?"
"Bah! Shame on you!"
Chen Jiao gave her a disdainful comment, but she could not deny the fact that this girl was indeed stunning. With her fair skin, tiny waist, and long legs, she was almost perfect.
"Jin Jin, can we go out? It's too loud here."
Long Qiu, on the other hand, was not impressed by the surroundings. With its dim light, ear-splitting music, and pairs of men and women thrusting against one another on the dance floor doing god-knows-what, this place was repulsive to her.
This club was Chen Jiao's pick and normally, one would not be so straightforward in denouncing others when they met only for the first time, but Long Qiu was one of the Miao people and knew nothing of such conventions. She spoke her mind as she always did.
Chen Jiao furrowed up her brow at the remark right away and said in a disgruntled tone, "Let's go somewhere else, then. We can go to the pub in the next street; it's quieter there."
Barely ten minutes had passed when they left the nightclub. Chen Jiao deliberately fell back and asked Xiaojin in a whisper, "Hey, where did you find this white lotus 1 ? Does she ever have fun?"
"Haha! She's no white lotus. She'd scare the sh*t out of you if she wants to!"
"Hm? Are you saying she's a white lotus b*tch 2 ?" Chen Jiao was baffled.
The remark frightened Xiaojin to the point that she covered Chen Jiao's mouth wither her hand. As mild as Long Qiu seemed, she was not all that harmless. She didn't even need the Golden Silkworm to make a killing move—the Needle Undead Insect alone could do the job!
How ignorant of her earlier that she offered to try the needle insect herself; she fainted at the first strike.
Both Xiaojin and Chen Jiao drove their cars and they were soon in that pub. However, they had barely sat down when Chen Jiao's phone rang. It was her brother.
"Hello? Brother, I'm with Jin Jin… aiya, I'm not going. What the hell is that? What? Can I go another day? I've just got here… gosh, you're so annoying. Fine, fine, wait a minute!"
Hanging up, she was most apologetic when she said, "Well, my brother needs me. I've got to run."
"What for?" Xiaojin was vexed.
"To see some master, a fortune-teller sort of man."
Rolling her eyes, Xiaojin said, "Hey, why don't we go together? I want to have my fortune told as well."
Chen Jiao hesitated at the suggestion, but did not want to discourage her BFF. "Ok, it's just another scam, anyway."
With that, they rushed out again and got into their separate cars.
Chen Jiao led the way in the front and the other two followed. Long Qiu was not a big fan of such occasions and asked, "Jin Jin, why do we have to join her?"
"Tsk, where's your territorial awareness?"
Driving with one hand, Xiaojin gestured with the other as she lectured on, "Whose territory are we on now? Ours! Who the hell dare call himself a master when my sister and sister-in-law are around?"TL/N: "white lotus" could describe a female with the traits of the flower, or, it can also take the meaning somewhat similar to "green tea bitch", describing a female that appears to be pure and lofty, but whose actual personality is on the opposite end of the spectrum. TL/N: by "white lotus bitch", Chen Jiao is specifically taking the second meaning of the term.