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Episode 17: Wisdom of Your Elders

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"What are you doing?"

It had been a very, very trying day. Shen Wei had left him in the hallway with a solemn farewell and an offer to come by later to make dinner. Zhao Yunlan had readily agreed, of course. Spending more time with Shen Wei had the benefit of relaxing him—at least when he wasn't trying to catch Shen Wei in a lie—with the added bonus of a delicious meal. And he didn’t just mean the noodles.

They definitely needed to discuss what they had learned in Dixing, about the Regent, the destruction of the registry, Ding Dun, and how they all conveniently seemed to be tied to their mysterious villain. But right now Zhao Yunlan just needed to shut off his brain. Preferably with a few drinks.

So. Zhao Yunlan couldn't care less how Da Qing chose to spend his off time from work.

On the floor near the bed, Da Qing was splayed out, back legs fully extended, a square of sun casting a red-hued glow around his belly. His eyes were closed in apparent bliss, front paws curled lightly on his chest. Da Qing wiggled across the floor slightly in accommodation of the sun's progression across the sky.

It was not cute.

"I am practicing mindfulness." Da Qing finally deigned to answer in a dreamy voice.

Zhao Yunlan tossed his keys onto the dresser, dutifully removing his boots and hanging up his jacket so as not to ruin Shen Wei's hard work. He wrinkled his nose once Da Qing’s words filtered through the vague malaise in his mind.

"Mindfulness? You? Ha!"

He shuffled into his slippers and moved to grab a bottle of whatever was closest before he planned to toss himself into bed, ready and very willing to blur away the day. Zhao Yunlan might have gotten stabbed today, but Da Qing had had to deal with Zhao Xinci. Out of the two of them, Zhao Yunlan got the better part of the bargain and yet his cat seemed completely unperturbed. "What have you ever been mindful of besides the supply of fish on hand?"

The jibe was patently false, but Zhao Yunlan couldn't resist falling back onto their customary insults. The familiarity went a long way towards settling Zhao Yunlan's rattled nerves. Plus it was always good to keep Da Qing humble.

"Cats are experts in mindfulness. In all of history there was never a creature more wise than a cat."

Like he said. Humble.

"You're so full shit," Zhao Yunlan said with a laugh. Da Qing was a lot like the seniors that hung around the park offering proverbs as they played mahjong. Helpful, but sometimes a little over the top. Despite Zhao Yunlan’s sour mood, he felt a sudden heavy burden crack off his heart like a slab of shale from a cliff, taking the tightness in his chest with it and allowing him to breathe easier.

He made his slow way back to his bed with his liquor of choice. While Shen Wei had thoroughly healed any evidence of his unforeseen meeting with Ding Dun, his body still felt a dragging weight pulling him down. Maybe, there was something to Shen Wei's warnings about exposure to Dixing and the dark energy it contained in abundance.

"You're one to talk," The cat grumbled and flicked his tail in annoyance. "I certainly taught you better to respect your elders and their teachings."

Zhao Yunlan hummed as he took a few swallows from the bottle and capped it for the time being. The bed creaked as he leaned over to eye his unmoving blob of a cat. "And what pray tell, is my elder trying to teach me?"

Da Qing shimmied on the floor with a quiet mew, his paws flexing in contemplation. The corners of Zhao Yunlan's mouth quirked up at the sight.

"I, your wise and unbelievably handsome elder, want to impart a very simple and infinitely useful bit of knowledge.”

“I’m waiting,” Zhao Yunlan said dryly.

“Listen well, kitten,” was delivered with such gravity that Zhao Yunlan choked on a laugh. It reminded him of days gone by when he was just an angry kid trying to understand a world without his mother and Da Qing had stepped up to guide him. There had always been a line of truth beneath the humor that helped lessen the harsh blows of the world. “The greatest wisdom a cat could ever impart is this: lying in a sunbeam will cure your ills."

"Is that so?"

"Yes. Now stop being stubborn and come join me. You’re wasting precious sunlight." Da Qing said imperiously.

It wasn't exactly how he imagined spending his time until dinner, but there were worse ways and at least it wouldn't end with a headache. Zhao Yunlan grabbed his pillow and settled himself in the patch of sun next to Da Qing and stared at the ceiling.

"Close your eyes," he heard Da Qing mutter, "and think of nothing but fish and warmth."

Zhao Yunlan took a deep breath and slowly let it out. Bit by bit, he released the tension in his body until he was lying flat on the floor. A purr began to float through the air, the cadence a well known comfort.

Zhao Yunlan closed his eyes and focused on the soft hum and the warmth of the sun.