Meanwhile, at lmpluvia Street in the Historic District, ripples danced across the clear lake waters while weeping willows cast shadows across the lake as their slender branches swayed in the breeze.
In a pavilion near the lake, an old man was leisurely fiddling with his exquisite tea set. While every strand of his hair was white, there was an energetic gleam on his face. Even when he was just silently sitting there, he exuded a powerful presence.
“It has been a very long time since anyone has visited my home. The place feels somewhat cold from that. Come and taste my green tea. It’s shincha.”
Although the words sounded lonely, there was a jovial Iilt in his voice.
He filled the cup just over halfway with tea before pushing the cup over to Billy who was sitting across from him.
“In this day and age, I must be the only one who could enjoy a cup of tea poured by you, Old Master Bane…” The man smiled before picking up the cup of tea.
He knew all too well that people who could be personally served and welcomed by Old Master Bane. There was only a handful of them in Bainbridge.
“Not bad,” he remarked with a hum.
“Its fragrance is bright and fresh. Its flavor is refreshing and sweet. This is truly an excellent tea. Naturally, the most important factor is still you, sir. Your skills are amazing. Your tea-brewing skills might even be able to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.”
Even after all the flattery heaped on him, Old Mr. Bane did not twitch a single muscle. Instead, he remained calm.
“After all these years, you finally come back, you brat. Still, you haven’t changed,” Old Mr. Bane continued. ”You’re still as mouthy.”
“Yes, it has been years. I still remember the last time I drank tea with you, old man. That was over ten years ago, at least.“
Although there was a smile on the younger man’s lips, his voice was rather hoarse.
Old Mr. Bane gazed at the younger man who used to look so exuberant and high-spirited. Now, his hair was turning gray. Old Mr. Bane could not help but let his stern look fade slightly.
“It has been 23 years,” he said.
“Has it been that long? Time flies…”
The younger man then stopped talking and silently stared down at his cup of tea. He looked somewhat sad.
After a long while, the silence was finally broken by a series of light coughs. The man frowned upon seeing Old Mr. Bane gently thump his chest.
“Old man, has your chest pain not improved?”
It had been over two decades since the middle-aged man left the city. He was surprised to see that Old Mr. Bane’s condition persisted.
Old Mr. Bane shook his head with a helpless look on his face.
“It has been affecting me for years,” he said with a sigh. “It definitely won’t be easy to cure it. Even the old coots in Bainbridge shake their heads in dejection when they’re done with their first diagnosis. Hmph! Bunch of useless quacks!”
The more he talked, the more upset he looked. As for the middle-aged man, his only response was a bitter chuckle.
Old Mr. Bane was probably the only one who would dare talk about those doctors in that way.
“Why not ask the old shaman for help?”
The old shaman he was talking about was Hal Salvatore, the best miracle doctor in Cathay. He could give someone their youth back and even revive the dead.
Those who mingle in the same circle respectfully called him the old shaman.
The middle-aged man was confused. Logically speaking, if Hal were his doctor, Old Mr. Bane’s chest discomfort should be easily cured.
The mention of Hal’s name infuriated Old Mr. Bane even further.
“I don’t even remember how many years it has been since that old coot left Bainbridge. Putting aside the question of whether or not we could invite him back, we don’t even know where he is right now. If not for the elixirs he sends to me every year, my condition would not be this stable. Hmph! Stubborn old coot.”
Although he had taken his medication, he did not stop thumping his chest. When he huffed, the air around him seemed to turn colder. It was evident he was truly furious this time.
“Your temper has not changed at all. You’re still so bull-headed and hot-tempered…” The middle-aged man bitterly chuckled once more before silently pouring Old Mr. Bane a cup of water.
“Don’t just talk about me. You’re the same too.”
As soon as Old Mr. Bane said that, the two men simultaneously thought of something. The air around them gradually became heavier.
“As your elder, l have one word of advice for you, let it go if you can. Those people are not someone you can lay a hand on.”
Old Mr. Bane then went silent. With a cup of tea in his hands, he solemnly looked out at the lake.
Some words need not be said. Those who needed to know them already knew what they were.
“There are certain things I have to do. Every time I think about how my wife looked before she died, I would jolt awake in the middle of the night. My child has grown up. As her father, l have to do something for her and her mother.”
His throat went tight at the end of his declaration. The dejected look on his face made Old Mr. Bane frown.
“If you’re sick of living, I will not try to persuade you. Take care of yourself.”