Chapter 533: The righteous, the devilish and the wild
The amenities for the hospital wards for veteran cadres were pretty good. They were split into an interior and exterior room too. When Xu Tingsheng entered behind Fang Yuqing, there were four people seated in the exterior room. All of them had their heads lowered frustratedly. Even if one looked up and glanced at him, their heads would very soon be lowered again.
It felt as if they were collectively ready to release a sigh at any time, a sigh that scattered ash across the ground without even the slightest spark.
The atmosphere and vibes here seemed so very representative of the Fang family’s current situation.
The great tower was on the brink of toppling. The sole person who could possibly have become the mainstay of the Fang family in terms of position and capabilities, Fang Yuqing’s eldest uncle, had been incapacitated from the get go.
The other side was swift, ruthless and decisive. The Fang family was like a snake which had its vital spot hit before it could even turn, collapsing into a limp mess. Everyone was left to fend for themselves helplessly.
As their sole purpose of this trip was to meet old Mr Fang, even Fang Yuqing who was walking in front did not stop to greet these elders of his family. Xu Tingsheng, too naturally did not take the initiative to exchange pleasantries with them for no reason.
The two entered the interior room.
Seeing Xu Tingsheng, old Mr Fang did not utter a sound as he simply knocked on the side of his bed with two fingers.
Fang Yuqing’s father went outside.
He knocked again.
Fang Yuqing looked at his grandfather and pointed at himself.
The old man slowly nodded.
Fang Yuqing looked a bit hesitantly at Xu Tingsheng before going outside too, shutting the door tightly.
Only the outsider Xu Tingsheng and the decrepit, dying man who was thin as a branch and had so many tubes embedded in him all over remained in the room.
The old man was sick. Xu Tingsheng had come to understand this the last time they had met. Even so, his spirit and vigour had still been present back then at least as his aura from years on the battlefield and several decades in a high position had still been visible.
He had still appeared robust at that time.
Regarding the robustness of old people, it refers to their bodies for some and their souls and minds for others. Old Mr Fang had only had the latter remaining at the time, yet was mighty enough to appear in the state of the former even despite that.
In Fang Yuqing’s words, with the old man’s physical condition, he should probably have searched for a bunch of specialists three years ago or even earlier. Still, he had forcibly tolerated it at home just like that, relying on Traditional Chinese Medicine to regulate his condition and appearing a few times every year when his condition was best to intimidate potential enemies.
He had been buying time for the Fang family till he ran out of fuel.
Xu Tingsheng thought about how he had once charged on the battlefield while carrying a machine gun with a single hand, his healthy, fierce momentum the last time they had met. Well...old man, with just a dried up skin over your bones remaining, who can you possibly intimidate still?
“What’re you looking at, kid?” The old man asked slowly.
Next, he raised his hand and pointed at the patches and patches of mottled brown spots on his own arm. These could be seen all over his body now, including on his face.
“Are these what you’re looking at? Don’t you think that they’re old man spots. No, they’re dead men spots…”
“What, you don’t believe me?”
Xu Tingsheng thought: Hoho, who’re you trying to scare again? Huh.
“You must believe me, because you’ve never seen them before. I have. I’ve seen too many corpses that couldn’t be buried in time, filling valleys and strewn across the wilderness in neverending, stacked piles. People rot when they are dead, just like how I am right now.”
Xu Tingsheng smiled helplessly, conceding, “Fine, you’re great.”
“That’s true,” The old man said without any humility whatsoever, “Most people only grow dead men spots when they’re dead. I’m different. People like me, we can’t die unless we’ve rotted fully...I’ll live however long I want.”
Xu Tingsheng calmly listened to this old man showing off. It was not that he did not believe these words, though. Some people had an iron-like will such that they could not die unless thoroughly rotted.
It was just that such people generally died very painful deaths.
“Actually, it’s really freaking painful. I’ve taken bullets before, and it’s even more painful than that. It wouldn’t be so painful even if you shot me a hundred times with a machine gun.”
“Still, that actually isn’t the darndest thing. The darndest thing is that having lived for decades, this old man actually can’t even urinate now that I’m dying. I have to use a tube everyday. That old bird in my pants must be seen by all those young girls, them little nurses, this one today, that one tomorrow.:
“Like a limp loach, getting played with by them. Now if I was young, no, it was the same just a few years ago too, if they dared to do this then, they’d be looking to ‘die’. With my indomitable lance, I…”
“Sometimes, I’m thinking: I damn well can’t let those lassies look down on me. I’ve got to stand up tall and let them know how mighty their Grandpa was before, scare them to death.”
“It’s just too bad…”
The old man ranted on, treating Xu Tingsheng like one of those old war buddies whom he would show off to with a cigarette in his mouth as they crouched amidst the trenches against the sound of gunfire. It was just that most of them were dead now. Two were even enemies.
While these words of his might sound dirty, playful or shameless, they weren’t like that in actuality. The old man was really pouring out his mind, not to his family but to Xu Tingsheng.
It was best for generals to die on the frontlines. Having been powerful their entire lives, some people were most unable to stand being weak and helpless, vulnerable and at the mercy of others. It was not sickness and death they most feared.
Just as the hair of beauties turn white, the eventual twilight of heroes is a sorrowful fact of life.
Xu Tingsheng believed that he would actually rather say all this to his two old war buddies with whom he had become enemies. He probably wished to drink some wine with them and reminisce. They had crouched together in the trenches, chatting about whatever was on their minds, such as the young widow of the Li village, the little lass from the Zhang village…
What else was there when men were young? Especially for a bunch of youths who did not know if they would be alive the next day.
Xu Tingsheng did not interrupt as he calmly heard him out.
Then, he said, “You haven’t that much energy. Let’s talk about the important matters first.”
The old man seemed to be offended by that as he suddenly exclaimed, “What important matters? What’s there to talk about? My Fang family has helped you so much. Now that we’re in trouble, it’s only right that you repay us. Just do it! What? You’re still looking for credit? Or could it be that you’re prepared to be an ungrateful wretch?”
Xu Tingsheng gazed at him as he would a shameless scoundrel.
“I want to entrust you with something before I die,” The old man resentfully switched his tone and said earnestly.
“Say it first,” Xu Tingsheng got serious as well.
While this was ‘entrusting before one’s death’, he still did not leap to promise the old man anything. In having said ‘say it first’, it was equivalent to leaving his path of retreat open.
“Marry Fang Chen. This is my dying wish.”
Xu Tingsheng stared wide-eyed in disbelief at the old man who had a sombre expression on his face. If this was fishing, the hook was too straight. If this was a setup, it was much too blatant. If he were to marry Fang Chen now, how would it be any different from leaping into the tiger’s den!
The old man wanted to drag Xu Tingsheng completely into the fray, sharing the Fang family’s fate as it rested wholly on his shoulders. That was far too damaging. Were he not filled with tubes all over, Xu Tingsheng would definitely pounce over and duke it out with him at once.
“Far. Too. Freaking. Shameless,” Xu Tingsheng said.
Actually, the two of them both knew full well that if the old man wished to drag Xu Tingsheng completely into this, those past debts and benefits actually amounted to nothing whatsoever. What truly could tilt the scales was none other than Fang Yuqing.
Otherwise, there would be no need for Xu Tingsheng to get involved in this at all, which was really an irrational move.
What the heck did the Fang family have to do with him?!
Also, although he might get involved now, he still did not intend to get involved completely.
Having used up much strength in his words earlier, the old man had to rest for a bit before he slowly said, “I never cared too much for raising my children before. I didn’t do well with that, and produced no talents amongst them...only when it came to my grandchildren did I put in a bit of mind.”
“Raising the righteous. Yuqing’s cousin-I sought to imbue him with righteousness, ignoring how this might make him unable to fit in at times and waiting till the situation changes for somebody who utilises the righteous to give him power and responsibilities...you have probably seen him before.”
“Raising the devilish. My granddaughter Fang Chen-of the three generations of the Fang family, there’s only she who can become a fox. If she is developed, my Fang family will have no worries for at least several decades.”
“Raising the wild. I allowed Yuqing to run around town, be lawless as his wildness grows. If he has an epiphany one day, the Fang family will have no worries for a hundred years.”
Xu Tingsheng could vaguely guess where the old man was going in suddenly talking about all this. Still, he said nothing, waiting to hear out the rest of it.
“The Fang family’s second generation-their life or death can be ignored.”
“The third generation-the rest can be ignored.”
“Even if my bones are ground and my ashes scattered, there is no need to pay it any mind.”
“I just want these three to live, to have a path out.”
So, this was his actual dying wish. He had fooled everyone, his own sons and daughters included, because they too were pieces to be discarded. He had placed all the hopes of the Fang family on these three.
All the Fang family’s remaining resources and strength, along with Xu Tingsheng, would not be concerned about the remainder in the least.
Some people, having previously seen neverending, stacked piles of corpses filling valleys and strewn across the wilderness...knew that life was always only ever obtained from the midst of death.Previous Chapter Next Chapter