Lan Jue had come several times to Grace Hospital with Zhou Qianlin, so he had become proficient in most of the tasks they usually perform. However, even with his training and Discipline, the process was still a slow one. It was night by the time he’d seen to most of the hospital’s tenants.
As he was preparing to leave for the night, he suddenly remembered one denizen he hadn’t seen yet – that old woman who had left him with such a strong impression the last time.
He climbed the stairs and walked down the hallway to the final doorway before the end. Sopping before the knock, he quietly knocked.
“Come in.” The quiet, quavering voice called out to him. To him, the voice sounded unhappy.
Pushing the door open, he entered.
“Granny Bess. Hello.” Lan Jue smiled pleasantly towards the old woman, who was seated in her favorite spot by the window.
As ever, Granny Bess was dressed meticulously. She stared out of the window, but Lan Jue didn’t know if she were watching the skies or the roads.
She turned her head to regard the young man, with eyes of uncommon clarity. They were gorgeous eyes, that made the viewer think Granny Bess must have been exceptionally pretty in her youth.
Lan Jue nodded amicably. “I’m here to help clean up your room, and clean your clothes.”
“Mh.” Granny Bess nodded her head.
Without any further discussion, Lan Jue set about his tasks. He performed them as he’d seen Zhou Qianlin do, first cleaning the clothes then returning to tidy up the room. By the time he’d finished sweeping, her clothes were ready.
These were all things he preferred, and was very particular about doing properly. He was a bachelor, so he knew how all of this had to be done. When he finished, he approached Granny Bess.
“Hey there, your fingernails look a little long. Would you like me to help you clip them?” Lan Jue asked.
She shook her head, lifting her eyes to stare at him.
He answered by dropping to his haunches. This meant Granny Bess wouldn’t need to crane her neck to look at him.
This was the closest he’d ever been to this old woman, and though he couldn’t understand why, there was something very familiar about her. He was inexplicably fond of her.
“The moon will be out. We had fine weather today.” Darkness had blanketed the world outside, but the clear skies were alive with dots of distant starlight.
“The moonlight is beautiful. Granny Bess, you should have some food.” Lan Jue said with a smile.
Once again the elderly woman shook her head. “The moonlight is enough. When the moon comes out, that’s when I’m needed. You can go.”
Lan Jue’s heart was heavy, worries that Granny Bess was beset by no small number of weights on her shoulders. Her eyes regarded him, clear and bright, but there was something strange alive in their depths. There was a story in there, somewhere.
Lan Jue nodded, and rose to his feet. He opened the door but, with one foot out the door, he heard Granny Bess’ voice calling towards him from behind.
“Be good to her.”
Lan Jue stopped in his tracks, and turned to regard her.
Her eyes were already staring back out of the window. She spoke again, quietly though and mostly to herself. “Don’t let appearances cloud your eyes. Don’t let suffering blot out the moonlight.”
Lan Jue just looked at her, not understanding. But there was substance there, he knew. He bid her farewell once more, then left the hospital.
Granny Bess’ words followed him on the road home. Though he didn’t understand what she’d said, he felt it held some profound significance for him.
By the time he got back to the jewelry shop, his guest was already waiting for him.
“Did you go looking for me?” The Driver stood as Lan Jue entered. He wore a dark grey suit with white stripes, a shimmering vest within, and a dark blue tie. His short-cut hair and impressive figure completely the manly representation.
Still, even so handsomely dressed, there was still an air of rogue-like charm that surrounded him. The chilly flash in his eyes didn’t help.
“Yeah, lemme just change my clothes.” Lan Jue waved to him, indicating that he sit. He exited to his apartments in the back to change.
When drinking, one’s environment and atmosphere were important. He’d been comfortably dressed and busy all afternoon, but now that the Driver had arrived dressed so formally, he had to match him.
When he re-appeared, he was clad in a French grey three-piece suit with dark blue stripes. The cobalt blue tie held the whole ensemble together, and pared well with both the color and style.
A gentleman’s clothes shouldn’t exceed three colors, otherwise it looked messy and fickle.
When the Driver saw him, he smiled. His suit was a product of Wendy’s, and wearing it was a sign of respect and appreciation.
The two gentlemen left the jewelry shop, with the Driver in front and Lan Jue just behind. They walked leisurely towards Wendy’s shop.
The posh interior of the seamstress’ shop was already prepared for their arrival. The sign outside expressed their current disinterest in visitors. Inside, a simple table had been stocked with an ash tray, some dried fruit and a fruit bowl. Beside that was another table, this one over a meter long and more than thirty centimeters wide. Upon it were set a host of various whiskies.
“You sure are a fan of single-malt!” Lan Jue said through a laugh.
The Driver had already snatched up the first whisky in line. Wendy appeared from somewhere in the back, bearing two crystal glasses which she placed on the table for them. She, too, laughed. “Not just him. I thought you also favored the taste. Even me, after smelling your cigar smoke and the scent of whisky I’m starting to enjoy it myself.”
Lan Jue smiled pleasantly at her. “So why did you only bring two glasses? It’s always more fun to drink together.”
Wendy shook her head. “No thank you. I’ll be fine watching you two enjoy yourself, I don’t drink much anyway. If I woman always drinks and becomes a drunkard, how will she ever get married?”
The smile on Lan Jue’s face spread wider. “If word of that ever got out, there’d be a line spanning across the Avenue of gentlemen looking to propose to Miss Wendy Wang.”
The Seamstress responded with a snort, and a despondent look.
“Alright,” the Driver interjected, “don’t pay any mind to this heartless young man. I don’t know why you like that crazy guy anyway.”
“Am I crazy?” The voice startled them, especially since it came from the door they’d locked. A man had someone found his way inside.
His normally scruffy hair had been slicked back and fondly managed today. He was dressed in a fine, wine-red suit. His beard had been cut and cleaned up, making him appear ten years younger.
He bore a bottle in one hand, and an arrangement of flowers in the other. They were white as the driven snow, and looked like beautiful crystals in full bloom. Strangely, they emitted a strange blue mist which formed floral patterns of its own
Wendy stared at him in shock, an expression mirrored by both the Driver and Lan Jue.
The Driver was worse, with a scowl that turned his craggy face. He nearly dropped the whisky bottle in his hand.
The man approached the table and placed the bottle upon it. A silver stag head glinted in the light. Written on the label: 46 year. It was a famous bottle of former era whisky – Dalmore 46. Even in the former era, it was an exceedingly rare find.
The man didn’t stop once he’d placed the whisky on the table. He moved around until he was facing Wendy, and stretched out his hand bearing the bundle of flowers he’d brought with him. “I’m sorry, for making you wait so many years. He’s right, actually – I must be crazy. The obsession in my heart clouded my mind. I haven’t been able to move past what happened all those years ago. But I woke up… and although there will always be things that will never be fixed, those things are gone now. The living must always look forward. I’m sorry you had to wait for me. I just hope, if it isn’t too late, that you could give me another chance? I will do everything in my power to make up for it.”
Wendy’s eyes were wet with tears, and she instinctively took a step backward. She stared at the man before her, and though her eyes were moist no tears would fall for they were also filled with stubbornness, even anger. But even as they watched the hard light in her eyes gradually receded. In the face of everything, that burning anger eased.
She stomped forward and began beating her tiny fists against his shoulders.
He said nothing, did not attempt to dodge or retreat. Instead he smiled and wrapped her in to his arms.
The Driver and Jewelry Master exchanged a wordless glance. Suddenly, the two of them felt it was no longer appropriate to be here.
Lan Jue gave the Driver a telling look before rising to his feet. It was a beautiful moment he didn’t want to tarnish.
The Driver also stood, though his expression was somewhat gloomy, and helpless. But more than that, there was joy.
“Where are you going? Such a happy occasion, and we have no friends to celebrate with?” Wendy, her arms wrapped around the man’s waist, smiled happily towards Lan Jue and the Driver.
“You know, I am really fighting the urge to lay my hands on you.” The Driver growled. “No… it’s more accurate to say I’ve been fighting the urge for years. I’m warning you right now that Wendy isn’t just my business partner. In my heart, she’s my sister. If I hear you hurt her again, I won’t be responsible for my actions.”
Lan Jue reached out an arm and patted the Driver’s shoulder. “You know you’re threatening a Paragon.”
The Driver’s response was thick with contempt. “I don’t care, he –“ He stopped suddenly, eyes wide, and stared from the man to Lan Jue and back again.
Lan Jue shrugged at him, mirth dancing in his eyes.
Wendy lifted her head to look in to the man’s eyes. “You did it?”
The man nodded. “I have. Not because of any power, but because my experiences finally opened my heart, and allowed me to see clearly what I should have learned so many years ago. That was the only way I could discover what was truly important to me. Power, was not what I needed. You are what makes me happy, and I’m sorry it took so long for me to realize it. I will use all the rest of my days making up for this debt. I will love you completely, and with the same zeal as one cooks food.”
The Seamstress laughed.
Comparing endless love to cooking food… surely there was only one person in the cosmos who could make such a metaphor. The Gourmet smiled back at his Seamstress.