Li Yundong felt as though he had the wind knocked out of him right then . He stared at Uncle Zhou, almost hoping that none of this was real, that he hadn't actually passed the Zhuji phase yet, that all of this was just a sick, f*cked up illusion that his personal god had concocted to torture him .
"Yes, boy," Uncle Zhou said . "She tried to take her own life . " Their eye contact ended when Uncle Zhou turned away to stare out at the lawn . "She would rather die than become a tool to be used against you, it seems . "
Li Yundong stared down at his own hands, the hands that he had used to kill He Shao, thinking that he would be protecting his friends in doing so . And yet . . .
The truth of it hit him square in the face: his punishment had already begun .
This . This crushing guilt . This was part of his retribution . It was the karmic consequence that he must suffer for ending He Shao's life .
He had overcome his fear of the Heavenly Thunder, so the Heavens found another way to punish him .
"I should've believed it back then . . . " Uncle Zhou's voice pulled Li Yundong out of his morbid thoughts .
Li Yundong looked up from his hands and saw the regret etched on the older man's face .
"Why didn't I believe it back then? Why?" Uncle Zhou shook his head while staring out into the lawn .
"Believe what?" Li Yundong asked .
Uncle Zhou raised his gaze and stared up into the sky . "When Qinqin was born . . . " A look of reminiscence spread over Uncle Zhou's face . "My younger brother, he . . . " Uncle Zhou cleared his throat . "I couldn't decide on a name for her, so my brother hired a Feng Shui master to point me in the right direction . According to the Feng Shui master, Zhou Qin temperament was affiliated to Gold among the other five elements . " Uncle Zhou chuckled . "I still remember his exact words . He said that he could see a killer aura in Qinqin's eyes, said that she would grow up to become a tenacious and headstrong woman . He then advised me to give her a softer name to counterbalance this inherent tenacity . " Uncle Zhou held Li Yundong's gaze for a moment . "He recommended that I go with the Chinese character, Qin, as in piano . " Uncle Zhou laughed . "Piano . . . I didn't like it back then because I thought it was too soft . And besides, I was an atheist back then, so I didn't buy all that Feng Shui nonsense . " He smiled wryly . "You could say that I was young and arrogant . I wanted my daughter to be powerful and dominating like I was . In the end, I picked another Chinese character with the same pronunciation . "
Realization washed over Li Yundong .
"You went with Qin, as in Qin Shi Huang . . . " Li Yundong remarked .
Uncle Zhou nodded gravely .
"The leader of the Qin dynasty . The first emperor to unify China . Impressive, right?" Uncle Zhou chuckled . "I wanted her to be a conqueror, to be dominating . "
Li Yundong sighed and said nothing . A small part of him could understand Uncle Zhou's motivation for putting all his hopes on Zhou Qin . After all, the Zhou family had a prominent status to protect .
But was everything worth it?
"It's all my fault that she ended up like this," Uncle Zhou said . "The high hopes I had for her have ruined her, and I realize that now . For years she has shouldered all my wishes and expectations on her own . I was blinded by power . I wanted her to follow my footsteps and become my successor . I . . . I never even asked for her opinion, never asked her what she wanted in life . At first . . . At first she was compliant . Did everything I asked without any complaints . Until . . . "
Li Yundong could feel Uncle Zhou's eyes on him .
"Until he met you . . . " Uncle Zhou sighed . "That was when everything changed . She . . . She became rebellious . No, I guess I should say that she finally knew what she wanted in life . " There was a long pause . "She wanted freedom . The freedom to make her own choices and . . . And the freedom to love whom she chooses to love . "
"Then you must hate me," Li Yundong stated blandly . "Your family and daughter are ruined because of me . "
"I won't lie . " Uncle Zhou leveled a piercing gaze at him . "I wanted to put a bullet through your skull, especially during the first few days of Qinqin's hospitalization . " Uncle Zhou sighed . "But once the dust settled, I started to let things go . " Uncle Zhou chuckled sadly . "What is it that they say? That there are ups and downs in life? Right now, my focus is to help Qinqin stand up again . I'll bring her overseas after this and—"
"Tell me about her injury," Li Yundong cut him off . "Why can't she stand up?"
Uncle Zhou lowered his gaze . "Spinal damage . She's . . . paralyzed from the waist down, but the doctors said that she was lucky, that it could've been much, much worse . " Uncle Zhou looked up at him sadly . "I don't think Qinqin saw it as luck at all . "
"Spinal injury . . . " Li Yundong said, narrowing his eyes . "Can you be a little bit more specific?"
"There's a blood clot between the 10th and 11th vertebrae of her spine . "
Li Yundong fought against the sickness in his stomach . "Can it be removed via surgery?"
"Not without great risks . "
"What kind of risks?"
"She . . . If anything goes wrong with the surgery, she… she might lose all her motor functions . Her whole body would be paralyzed . "
Li Yundong couldn't breathe . He rose from the bench so quickly that his movements surprised the older man . "Excuse me, Uncle Zhou . . . I . . . " He cleared his throat . "I have to… I have to go see Zhou Qin . . . "
Li Yundong hurried away from the bench . He had to get out of there . He needed a moment to collect himself .
Li Yundong stared at his own reflection in the mirror, disgusted by what he saw . Thankfully, none of the stalls in the bathroom were occupied . He was pretty much losing his shit here, and he didn't want anyone to be around when he did .
He cupped his hands under the running faucet and splashed more water onto his face .
Zhou Qin could never stand up again let alone walk .
His actions had turned Zhou Qin into a cripple .
Li Yundong gripped the wash basin tighter and clenched his jaw . For a moment there, he wallowed in the feeling of rage boiling inside him, the rage at the He family for ruining so many lives .
Stop it, Li Yundong .
He closed his eyes and tried to calm himself down .
Being angry won't change anything .
Indeed, his old self would've barged straight into He residence and then beat up every single member of that f*cked up family . And considering the power he possessed, he might very well slaughter those animals and send them straight to hell .
But that wasn't him anymore .
He'd been through enough to know that violence wasn't always the best way to deal with problems . A true Cultivator shouldn't be impulsive . If anything, impulsiveness was the exact antithesis of what constitutes good Cultivation—nobody could possibly attain Ishvara without being in the proper state of mind . In fact, his impulsiveness was the thing that had led to this f*cked up situation in the first place .
Li Yundong slowly opened his eyes . Then, he stared at the faucet and watched it close slowly on its own without his hands touching it . While doing so, he imagined the running water being the metaphoric equivalent of his anger, gradually diminishing until it vanished completely, safely held back by a valve .
He sighed and rose to his full height . His reflection stared back at him with newfound resolve .
Fix this, Li Yundong . You've gotta fix this .
Uncle Zhou said that surgery could risk paralyzing Zhou Qin's whole body, but what if there was a way to remove the clot without surgery . There had to be something inside all those medical texts he'd gone through that could help . There had to be . What if Traditional Chinese Medicine had a solution? What if acupuncture or the Three-Prong Flower Gathering could—
Li Yundong froze .
"The Renyuan Jindan . . . " he whispered .
Yes… The Renyuan Jindan!
Su Chan said something about the Renyuan Jindan having curative properties .
"Maybe . . . Maybe it would work . . . " he whispered and started backing away from the mirror .
When Li Yundong returned to room 502, he nearly got the fright of his life: the wheelchair was overturned; and Zhou Qin was down on the floor, crawling towards a cupboard several feet away .
One of her arms was stretched out, and she was staring intently at the glass on the cupboard .
Li Yundong ran over and picked her up in a bridal carry . He heard a surprised gasp from Zhou Qin, but she didn't protest . Li Yundong righted the wheelchair with his foot just as the door opened and Uncle Zhou strode in .
Uncle Zhou stared at the scene for a moment before he had a look on his face which implied that this wasn't the first time this had happened .
"Again, Qinqin?" Uncle Zhou sighed heavily . "Why didn't you ask the nurse for help? Why do you have to be so stubborn?"
Li Yundong sighed inwardly and set Zhou Qin back into the wheelchair .
Zhou Qin was still refusing to meet his eyes, but Li Yundong could make out the redness in her eyes, like she'd been crying before he got here .
Uncle Zhou left the room quickly, probably to look for a nurse, leaving Li Yundong and Zhou Qin alone .
Li Yundong tried to look at Zhou Qin again, but she turned her head away every time he tried .
She doesn't want me here . . . Li Yundong sighed inwardly . He honestly wouldn't blame her for feeling this way . I should go and give her some space for now .
Li Yundong turned around and walked away . At the door, he suddenly stopped .
"I know you hate me and might not want to see me ever again," Li Yundong said gently . "But I promise you that I'm going to find a way to help you stand up again . Take care of yourself for now and . . . And don't give up . " Li Yundong paused to take a breath . "Because I know I won't . "
He opened the door and stepped outside .
"I'll be back tomorrow," he said .
Just as the door was about to close, he heard Zhou Qin's cold voice .
"Go! Go and don't come back! I don't want to see your face ever again!"