Mandrake’s scribblings: Sorry for the late post. The last part of the chapter had to be rewritten. And about a certain monkey man who has not post anything, he got lazy after the New Year parties. Enjoy the chapter!
Tai: “We are the police! You are not supposed to be here!”
Tai lifts his gun and points it at the old woman. Zhi Hao quickly grabs Tai by the wrists and pulled the gun away from her direction.
Zhi Hao: “STOP!! PUT AWAY YOUR GUN! SHE IS MY GRANDMOTHER!!”
Tai: “Your grandmother?! But, Zhi Hao! She’s-”
Zhi Hao: “Shut up! SHUT UP!”
Zhi Hao waves his fist angrily in the air, baring his teeth.
Zhi Hao: [That’s right… Amah should not be here. Because she is…]
Zhi Hao steps forward, leaving his teammates behind. Before they can say anything, he turns around and shoos them away.
Zhi Hao: “Leave if you want. I’ll stay here.”
A sharp slap lands on Zhi Hao’s back. Zhi Hao turns in surprise and sees his grandmother behind him wearing an angry expression.
Jia Hao: “Is this how you treat your friends?! Learn to shut that dirty mouth!”
Zhi Hao: “Amah…”
Jia Hao: “What happened to living up to your name?! Are you back to being that naughty brat?!”
Zhi Hao drops to his knees and hugs his grandmother. He grasps her legs tightly and begins to sob.
Zhi Hao: “Amah! Amah! It’s you, Amah!”
For a moment Jia Hao is surprised at the pitiful state of her grandson, but her face soften into a gentle smile. She gently pats his head as a tear runs down her face.
Jia Hao: “Ah Zhi.. I’m sorry for leaving. Please forgive Amah.”
Zhi Hao shakes his head vigorously.
Zhi Hao: “No! No! I’m the one who is sorry! I should have come home! I should have…”
Zhi Hao begins sobbing again. Tai and Chen who wear morbid faces can only look away so he can get a bit of privacy. Jia Hao bends over to release Zhi Hao’s grasp. She holds his rough, strong hands with her small wrinkled ones. Zhi Hao raises his head to look at her.
Jia Hao: “Ah Zhi, listen properly. I know that you have a lot to tell me, but I don’t have much time left. Ah Zhi, you must leave the building at once! Run as fast as you can!”
Zhi Hao: “Amah?”
Jia Hao: “Bad people are using the police to hurt people. They sent everyone into this building to catch them!”
She pulls at Zhi Hao’s hand feebly. Understanding the gesture, Zhi Hao stands up on his two feet.
Jia Hao: “However, the people who are hunted have called for the help of the spirits of the underworld. They are not happy with the people in the building and will punish all of them! The spirits are here to punish everyone!”
At her words, Tai and Chen turn around alarmed.
Tai: “I-Is that true?”
Chen: “Then we have to get out of here!”
Zhi Hao: “But… Amah..”
Jia Hao pets his hand.
Jia Hao: “Ah Zhi, you are a good man. I don’t want to see you suffer. I have begged the spirits to let you go so you have some time to get out. You can go tell the others to get out but you must get out yourself! Don’t waste time, ah!”
And yet, despite her warning, Zhi Hao stands there.
Jia Hao: “Do you still remember what I taught you?”
Zhi Hao nods while sobbing. Jia Hao gives him a wide smile.
Jia Hao: “You should keep learning from whatever life give you. Find a good girl. Start a family. Bear children and raise them properly. Don’t do it all the time but beat them when they do wrong! Children only learn when you beat them!”
Zhi Hao nods at her every sentence. He will keep her words close to his heart. Jia Hao pet his shoulder firmly.
Jia Hao: “Zhi Hao, you have grown into a very strong and good man. I am so happy to see you grow so big.”
She leads Zhi Hao around to face his teammates waiting at the door.
Jia Hao: “Live a good, happy life. You are a policeman, so lead and protect the people. But don’t throw your life away. Be careful!”
She stands beside him and nudge him to go.
Jia Hao: “I have to leave soon. And so should you! Run as fast as you can! Get out of the building!”
Zhi Hao: “A… Amah…”
Jia Hao: “Don’t just stand there! Go! Go!”
Pushing him one last time, Jia Hao slaps his lower back as she has done many times before. Zhi Hao lunges forward and sprints out the door. His grief overwhelms him and he lets out a cry at the top of his lungs.
Zhi Hao: “AAAAH!!”
Tai and Chen: “Zhi Hao!”
Tai and Chen chase after him as he sprints towards the stairs without looking back.
Tai and Chen are running down the hallway leading to the stairs. The other officers gathered around the barricade are bewildered as Zhi Hao has jumped over the barricade and sprinted towards the stairs.
Tai: “Spirits! Ghosts!”
Chen: “They are going to punish us! Run!”
They both shout their warnings at the top of their lungs, sending the officers into confusion. A look of shock and fear reflected across their faces as the two officers kick down the barricade and continue running. The more fearful ones begin to follow suit and run after them. Suddenly a large hand is shoved across Tai and Chen, stopping them in their tracks. Captain Zheng steps out, his face twisted in anger.
Zheng: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? ZHI HAO, COME BACK HERE!!”
It is too late. Zhi Hao has disappeared down the stairs. Zheng turns to Tai and Chen, his eyes bloodshot and his face swelling red.
Tai: “Captain! Spirits and ghosts are hiding in the apartments!”
Chen: “They are going to attack! Tell everyone to get out!”
Their warnings are shrugged off by an angry swipe of Zheng’s arm.
Zheng: “What shit are you talking about? Get Zhi Hao back! I’m going to hang him!”
Chen: “Captain, you have to listen! There are really ghosts and they are going to attack us!”
Tai: “A ghost, Zhi Hao’s-“
Zheng: “SHUUUUUT UUUUP!!”
The captain shouts at the top of his lungs and shakes his fists around.
Zheng: “THERE ARE NO GHOST! YOU ARE NOT STUPID CHILDREN!”
He storms over to a nearby apartment door and punches it.
Zheng: “YOU THINK I WILL BELIEVE THESE LIES!! AFTER THIS IS OVER, I’LL HANG YOU AND ZHI HAO! YOU ALL BACK TO YOUR STATIONS!”
However, Tai and Chen are preoccupied. Something else has caught their attention.
-bsk bsk shhh-
The sound of whispering followed by a shushing sound. Zheng is too angry to hear it while Tai and Chen as well as some officers heard it.
Tai: “RUN AWAY!”
Tai is first to run. He sidesteps Zheng and runs to the exit. Chen and the other officers quickly follows suit. Zheng whips his arm around and grabs Chen by the shoulder.
Zheng: “OI! GET BACK HERE!”
Chen: “GET OFF!”
Having enough of Zheng’s inteference, Chen clenches his fist and punches Zheng straight in the face. Zheng recoils from the sudden attack and tumbles over. Chen seizes the chance and sprints towards the stairs.
-klak klak klak-
Before Zheng can make sense of what happened, the officers have disappeared. He gets up and looks around him. A select few has stayed behind, watching him nervously.
Zheng: “I’LL HANG ALL OF YOU! GET BACK HERE! YOU WILL PAY FOR THIS!”
Zheng yells in the direction of the runaway officers. He turns around to face the ones left behind.
Zheng: “ANYONE WHO LEAVES THIS BUILDING WILL BE HAVE THEIR POSITIONS HUNG! DON’T BELIEVE THIS SHIT!”
He points at each of them, giving everyone a good stare.
Zheng: “FUCKING SHIT!”
He storms down the stairs to the next floor. A sight of disarray greets him. Police officers have left their positions. A good number of them as disappeared and the rest are standing, looking puzzled and afraid.
Zheng: “GET BACK TO YOUR STATIONS!”
Zheng waves his fist angrily at them.
Zheng: “I’LL HANG ALL OF YOU IF YOU EVER TRY TO DISOBEY ME!!”
The officers meekly disperse and return to their positions. Zheng pants heavily as he racks his brain for his next action.
Zheng: “FUCKING IDIOTS!”
Having planned out his actions, he swears in frustration before turning to the stronger men.
Zheng: “VOON! PENG! FOLLOW ME!”
He picks two men that made an impression on him to follow him. With them in tow, he proceeds to descend to the building lobby.
Zheng: *I’ll hang those idiots. Especially Zhi Hao and his team. I’m going to kill Chen…*
He mumbles his threats as the two officers follow him. Reaching the glass door that opens into the lobby, Zheng angrily grips the door handle and turns it.
-kachak chk chk-
Zheng: “What the-”
The door seems to be locked. Zheng looks at the door in confusion. The lock is inwards, facing him. He toggles the lock before turning it again.
No response. The door stays firm. Zheng looks outside beyond the glass door and turns to the two men behind him.
Zheng: “Kick it down.”
The two men nod and step forward. One of them suddenly lunges forward and kicks the door.
A loud sound, but the door is still standing. Immediately after that…
The other man kicks the door. The glass door is unfazed. Not even a footprint of a shoe.
-Thoom Thoom Thoom Thoom-
Both of them start kicking the order one after each other. The repeated kicks rattle the door but it refuses to budge. After a while, Voon loses his footing and falls over, ending the onslaught of kicks against the door. As the two of them catch their breath, Zheng approaches the door. He casts a dumbfounded look and knocks the glass door with his knuckles.
-tung tung tung tung-
Zheng: “THIS IS JUST GLASS!”
He turns to look at his tired men and turns again to look at the glass door.
He slams his fist against the glass in confusion.
Zheng: “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!”
Zhi Hao: “Hahhuu! Hahhuu! Hahhuu!”
[I heave heavily as I sprint across the corridors and down the stairs. Tai and Chen are nowhere behind me. They probably can’t catch up. However, I can still hear their shouts warning the others to run as well. That’s no good… I should be warning everyone too.]
Zhi Hao: “Grh! Hahhuu! Hahhuu!”
[No good. I’m too out of breath to shout. I’m even jumping through the flights of stairs. I must keep running. I must get out. I mustn’t… Break down.]
Jia Hao: “Ah Zhi! ”
[I knew Amah from when I was little. I was a naughty brat. Like any Chinese parent, mom and dad will yell and shout at me. However, the physical discipline was always carried out by Amah. If I ever caused mischief, she would catch me when I come home.]
Jia Hao: “You went and stole sweets from the grocery shop, didn’t you?”
[She would grab me by the collar or the shoulder and spank my bottom.]
Jia Hao: “You naughty boy! Stop stealing and stop shaming your name!”
[She would always bring up my name. My name means ‘ambition’ and ‘bravery’. And because of my name, she expected me to live up to it.]
Jia Hao: “Ah Zhi!
[Being a brat that I am, I never understood her and had an unpleasant protest towards the expectations placed upon me.]
[I grew up into a rowdy teenager. I was prone to fights and even had my own posse for causing mischief. I didn’t steal or break anything anymore. Amah has diligently spanked me over the years to prevent that.]
Jia Hao: “Ah Zhi! You skipped school again! You need to study properly to live a good life!”
Jia Hao: “Ah Zhi! You were rude to Mr. Cheong yesterday! He was so mad! Don’t start fights because someone looked at you the wrong way!”
Jia Hao: “Ah Zhi! You failed your midterm tests! This is what happens when you don’t study and skip school! Get yourself together!”
[However, her scolding did not change over the years.]
[Everything changed one day when I came across a scene. A group of young men hanging around an alley near my usual hangout. They were plotting to rob a business man called Mr. Zhao in his home after he had collected his monthly profits from his shops. They caught sight of me and chased me down, furious that a witness had foiled their plan. A nearby policeman heard the scuffle and arrested all of us.]
[As we were all minors, our guardians were called to the police station. My dad, Tang Chen Yan came to the station as well as Amah, who came in my mother’s place.]
“It’s his doing! He suddenly attacked our group!”
“We were hanging around the back alley when he suddenly jump on us!”
“That’s right! He started the fight, not us!”
[Lies. These boys blamed me in order to escape punishment.]
Zhi Hao: “They are planning to rob Mr. Zhao when he collects his monthly profits! I just happened to come by and they attacked me!”
[So I told everyone about their plan. The boys were terrified but luckily, one of them had a rich and powerful father.]
Alvin: “I am Mister Alvin Yeo. This is a very serious accusation your son has put upon mine.”
[I remember the man talking in English to my father. At that time, English is a luxury that could only be learned in positions of power and wealth. And with those words, my father convinced himself that I was lying.]
Chen Yan: “Ah Zhi! Don’t make horrible lies about people to cover up you mischief!”
[I would protest the claims but I was slapped in the head in response. I had to apologize to the boys and their parents through gritted teeth. The walk home with my father and grandmother was excruciating and suffocating.]
Jia Hao: “Ah Zhi! Come here.”
[Amah came to my room an hour later. She asked me to come out my and grabbed my hand.]
Jia Hao: “Let’s go out to eat.”
[And we walked along the street, Amah talked to me.]
Jia Hao: “Ah Zhi, you did nothing wrong. You did a good thing.”
[Even though I knew that I was innocent, Amah’s words caught me off guard.]
Jia Hao: “Your Papa also knows this. He is very sorry and ashamed that he cannot bear to look at you. He gave me a lot of money so you can eat anything you want for dinner. He will also increase your allowance as well.”
[All the while, she held my hand, her warm gentle touch guiding me as we walked.]
Jia Hao: “You stopped those no-good boys from committing a crime. You have been living up to your name. I am so proud of you.”
[Her happy and kind words. They shook me so much that I doubted myself.]
Zhi Hao: “I did something good?”
[Amah stopped walking and pat me on the back. The same spot where she would spank me for my mischief.]
Jia Hao: “You did very good. You did amazing. You helped someone who was in danger. You saved Mr. Zhao.”
[I cried. I felt I was saved by her words. Even though I was saved after I was punished, Amah saved me.]
[We arrived at a seafood restaurant. It turns out the Mr. Zhao was the owner. Amah told him about my actions and he invited me to his restaurant for a feast.]
Zhao: “Thank you for stopping them, boy! I’ll learn from this and improve my security. I’ll immediate go to the bank right away from now on!”
[Fried chicken, steamed fish, stir fried crabs and deep fried pork. I ate all of it while crying in between.]
Jia Hao: “Ah Zhi, keep these good values to your heart. Be strong. Be kind. Walk on the right path. Keep moving forward, okay?”
[I nodded as I stuffed my crying face with food. I stumbled into this incident by accident. I was still the mischievous naughty child. I felt I never deserve this reward.]
Zhi Hao: “Amah, I promise I will do better.”
[I resolved myself to be a better person, to live my life on the straight and narrow. Amah just smiled and patted me on my back.]
Jia Hao: “Good. I’ll be watching you.”
[From that point on, I straighten myself out. I disbanded my posse and attended study sessions to improve my grades. My name means ‘ambition’ and ‘bravery’. It’s about time I live up to it.]
[I enrolled into the police academy and passed it in flying colors. I got enlisted into the police force and slowly climbed the ranks. The work is tough but I was persevered.]
Chen Yan: “Is that the new uniform? Wow! That is amazing! I’m so proud of you! Your mom is cooking up a feast for your promotion! Quickly, go and call Amah]
[I attained ‘Police Rank 1’ in a relatively short amount of time. My chest would puff up with happy pride as I lived my name and made my family proud. Made my parents proud. Made Amah proud.]
Jia Hao: “Ah Zhi, Chen Yan! Welcome! Welcome!
[The last time I saw Amah was during Chinese New Year. Amah had become frail over the years. Her hands were always shaking. Her back was bent over and hurting. And yet she smiled broadly without showing any signs of pain or fatigue.]
Zhi Hao: “Amah! You don’t need to go out to greet us! Take care of yourself.”
Jia Hao: “I’m fine! I’m fine! Come in! There’s food and drinks!”
[Amah… I’m sorry.]
Zheng: “Listen, Zhi Hao! Be vigilant! We are going to take him down.”
[The man is a mobster kingpin called Jesus Ming. He had a Chinese name, but he changed it to the name of the Christian prophet. He did it out of sheer arrogance because he had consistently escape indictment due to lack of evidence or witnesses of his crimes. But that all changed. I had become one of three key witnesses. There was more than enough to confirm an indictment, but the prosecutors wanted the mobster tried to the fullest extent.]
Zheng: “Remember to keep your claims straight! His lawyers are sharks that pick at any little detail!”
Zhi Hao: “I got it, captain.”
[It was important for everyone. I played my role responsibly. And after a grueling six months of trials and stubborn appeals, Jesus Ming was finally found guilty and sentenced to prison. It was a hard fought victory and everyone celebrated the result.]
[But… Do I really need to be there?]
Bao: “Ah Zhi…”
[I received the news from my uncle who is a police superintendent.]
Bao: “Amah has passed away…”
[I felt like my heart was chewed to pieces. Amah… Amah is…]
Bao: “She collapsed three months ago and was hospitalized. She passed away peacefully. The family had put together a lot of money to see a medium. We had made our peace.”
[I was kept out of the loop. I was not told about her condition.]
Bao: “When Amah is hospitalized, all of the family members had a discussion. We decided to not tell you about Amah’s passing.”
[Why did you do that? Why did you decide for me?]
Bao: “We are sorry for doing that. You had an important case to focus on. Jesus Ming needs to be locked away. We decided that it is for the best. You did a good job in court.”
[WHY?!! THERE WERE TWO MORE WITNESSES!! WHY WAS I NEEDED?!!]
Bao: “Now that the case is closed, we all agree that you should know about Amah. Her funeral will be held one week from now.”
[For that GUY?! THAT SCUM?! You kept me from Amah because YOU NEED ME IN COURT?!!]
Bao: “I’m really sorry. It’s for the best. Nobody wants to interfere with your work.”
Bao: “What the-”
[I did not care about the cost of these things. I can always pay it later.]
-Kraassh Boom Bam-
Bao: “Stop! Zhi Hao!”
[I did not care about my rank. I could get demoted to hell and I won’t feel a bit of regret. I can always climb back up anyway.]
-Krssh Klak Bam Bam Bam-
[But Amah… She’s gone. I won’t see her again. SHE’S NOT COMING BACK!!]
Bao: “Zhi Hao! Stop th-”
[SCREW YOU!! WHO ARE YOU TO DECIDE FOR ME?!! WHO IS ANYONE TO DECIDE FOR ME?!! YOU CHOSE A MOBSTER OVER AMAH!!]
Zhi Hao: “Go to hell…”
[It took a lot of people to stop me. I would flail and thrash around to break free. I would punch and them when they try to confront me. When I was finally stopped, I was crying, pressed down on the floor.]
“I heard that he went wild when he found out about her death.”
“He was nearly kicked out of the police force. Luckily his uncle stepped in for him.”
“He is in despair but doing that is just too much.”
[I heard many whispers like these as I attended Amah’s funeral. I ignored them. How could they understand how I feel? The unfairness. The betrayal. And above all, Amah’s death.]
Chen Yan: “Ah Zhi, it’s your father. How are you doing? Your mother is coming over to check on you. Open the door for her, okay?”
[Despair. Depression. I felt that those words are not enough to describe how I was. I wanted to die. The two things stopping me is my love for my parents… And how Amah would feel if I killed myself.]
Zheng: “Welcome back, Zhi Hao. I hope you already sort out your business. You may be ‘Rank 3’ now but you’ll catch up soon enough.”
[Coming back never felt like coming back. Climbing the ranks? Sure, I’ll do it for the sake of my family. But don’t expect great things from me.]
Zheng: “Police General Lao is speaking!”
Lao: “Officers! Superintendents! Supervisors! The government has requested our aid! A crisis has emerged in our city and all armed forces are called into action!”
[One day, the whole police force got swept up in some huge national operation. I heard that even the Chinese military has been mobilized for this operation in some big apartment building.]
[But in that building, I met you, Amah. You came back from the dead to tell me to escape.]
Zhi Hao: “WAAAAAAAH!!!”
[Even though we didn’t talk much. Even though I didn’t say anything. Amah did something that saved me.]
Bao: “ZHI HAO!!”
Zhi Hao bursts through the front doors, surprising Bao. Finally reaching the outside of the building, he collapses and pants heavily.
-Boom Thump Thump Thump Thump-
Shortly after him, Tai and Chen bursts through the front doors followed by a big group of police officers.
Tai: “We escaped… WE ESCAPED!!”
The men stop to catch their breath. Some begin to commend each other. Bao, confused at the situation, puts away his gun and runs to his nephew.
Bao: “What’s going on?! Zhi Hao! Are you okay?! What happened in there?!”
Zhi Hao: “Amah..”
Zhi Hao begins to sob again. Pressing his forehead hard against the ground, he pants heavily as tears drip from his eyes.
[You tried to save me from those spirits. But you words of encouragement. Your last words to me. They truly saved me. Amah, even though you are gone, you came back and saved me.]
Letting out all his emotions, Zhi Hao cries out at the top of his lungs.
Zhi Hao: “AMAAAAAH!!!”
[I love you, Amah. Thank you.]
Zhi Hao: “So my name means ‘ambition’ and ‘bravery’, right?”
Jia Hao: “Yes. That means you have to work hard and keep facing challenges. Aim for the top!”
Zhi Hao: “Then I should be a policeman! I can protect people and be the top police!”
Jia Hao: “Hahahaha~ Okay, but you have to study hard first.”
Zhi Hao: “Amah?”
Jia Hao: “Yes?”
Zhi Hao: “If my name means ‘ambition’ and ‘bravery’, what does your name mean?”
Jia Hao: “Eh? You don’t know?”
Zhi Hao: “That’s because I keep calling you Amah.”
Jia Hao: “Well, my name is Jia Hao. It means ‘family’ and ‘bravery’.
Zhi Hao: “… Un. Then you are definitely living up to your name!”
Jia Hao: “Hahaha~ Of course I am! I am the one keeping this family together!”
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