Fanatical

Fangirling Chinese Novels

The Healing Sunshine (一厘米的阳光) — Chapter 4.1

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Some time has passed and Jǐ Yi is now in those early teenage years where certain feelings often begin to stir. It seems there has been a shift in how she views “Little Uncle Jì.” Also, there is a bit of a rebellious side to Jǐ Yi. Nothing crazy, but I like it.

Chapter 4.1 — That Person of the Past has Now Returned (1)

This story was translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. All forms of reproduction, redistribution, or reposting are not authorized. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the copy is unauthorized and has been taken without consent of the translator.

 

Two years later, Jǐ Yi and Nuannuan were both admitted into Fuzhong High School [a university-affiliated high school][1].

She was placed into the one and only “advanced science stream class[2]”, while Nuannuan’s parents also pulled some strings through connections so that the two were classmates once again. Zhao Xiaoying’s mother sought out many connections but all to no avail. Eventually, she went to find Nuannuan’s mother and also paid forty-thousand kuai before Zhao Xiaoying was accepted into the school.

Forty-thousand kuai, and still, she was only in a regular class.

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This year, the tuition fees of higher education institutions had become completely standardized. There would no longer be free university education.

But four years of university tuition would not even cost that much. These forty-thousand kuai were merely the “sponsorship fee” for allowing her to simply attend Fuzhong High School. Zhao Xiaoying began more and more to like going to class, but she also more and more could not understand what was being taught. The pressure in Fuzhong was great, and after only half a semester of studies, she had already lost so much weight she was down one size.

Jǐ Yi had never been able to find words to describe this feeling.

When she was very young, during Beijing’s winters, there were very few vegetables available, and every household ate Chinese cabbage as well as tomatoes that had been pickled back in the summer. There had been no computers, no mobile phones, no brand-name cars. There had been dragonflies and geckos and children gathered together, playing with fire and roasting potatoes and sweet potatoes, or even setting fires. Children who grew up in times of poverty always tend to miss that lifestyle…

In those times, most people were happy.

Even if there were problems and troubles, those problems and troubles did not all arise because of money.

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

After she entered high school, Jǐ Yi chose to live on campus in residence.

When winter arrived, however, she finally regretted that decision somewhat. The school had arranged the “benefit” of a morning run each day for all the residence students like her, while Nuannuan and Zhao Xiaoying, who were non-residence students and only came during the day to attend classes, were much luckier and did not need to suffer through this torture.

Today, she had slept in again, and when she and Yin Qingqing, her bunkmate above her, dashed outside, the large group of early morning runners had already left them far in their dust.

“Jǐ Yi, what are you doing?” Yin Qingqing tugged down the zipper of her down jacket, so hot that she stuck out her tongue.

Standing at the edge of the old city moat[3], her hand against the wall made of bricks and concrete, Jǐ Yi stated in quiet voice, “I want to run across the ice to get over there.” She felt that winter morning runs were the most dreadful things ever and basically could zap her of half of her life.

“The ice isn’t very strong…” Feeling apprehensive, Yin Qingqing also leaned her upper body on top of that short wall and gazed out onto the surface of the canal.

A few elderly men with skates donned on their feet were meandering around on it.

From the looks of it, it seemed pretty safe?

After struggling for a moment between the choices of “continue running” and “go across the ice to the other side,” Jǐ Yi decisively chose the latter. Yin Qingqing was a good, obedient girl, and though all sorts of envy tugged at her, she still shouted, “You be careful! I’ll wait for you over where we get stamped in!” as she ran off.

There were no stairs here, only a big slope that was all green grass during the summer and all withered grass in the winter.

Hopping this way and that to evade the dirty mounds of snow and pieces of ice, Jǐ Yi jogged down to the moat’s edge. After extending out a foot, stomping on the surface of the ice, and concluding that it was safe, she began scurrying across it. When those elderly men skating behind her caught sight of her, they called out over and over, “Little lass, go a little slower.”

Turning around, she made an impish face and even did not forget to remind one of the elderly men who had nearly slipped, “Grandpa, you be careful, too.”

Once she had scrambled up the slope on the other side of the moat, she hid herself behind a pine tree, planning out how, when her classmates all ran past this place, she would pretend to pant and puff and then slip in with the back of the group. Right when she was delighting in her scheming, she suddenly felt someone tap her on her shoulder. At once, she withered. “Teacher Zhao… I was wrong…”

She turned, putting on a face of remorse.

But the remorse… froze on her face.

“Xixi.” The man in front of her spoke her name. “I’m Jì Chengyang.”

“Mm-hmm… I know… Little… Jì Chengyang.” Jǐ Yi uttered his name softly.

He was the same as back then, yet, also not really the same.

Back when she was young and had looked at him, she would see his very fair complexion, his double eyelids, and those other very superficial, outward traits. But now… as she gazed upon him again, she found she could notice the calm in his eyes and the quiet, unperturbed composure he carried.

“Why did you cross the ice to get here?”

“I didn’t want to do the morning run,” Jǐ Yi explained somewhat sheepishly, “so I came over across the ice.”

He was about to follow up with another question, but Jǐ Yi all of a sudden let out a “Shh!” and, grabbing him by the sleeve, tugged him over to where she was. Then stooping over at the waist, she concealed herself behind the screen that he and the pine tree had formed. Furtively lifting up Jì Chengyang’s arm, she peeked through the little opening to see that “good, self-motivated youth,” their class prefect, the O great Xu Qing, leading the first batch of their class and running over toward where she was.

Jì Chengyang turned his head toward her.

Immediately, Jǐ Yi put on a pitifully wretched look, begging for mercy.

He therefore could only put himself in a posture like he was leaning against the tree for a smoke. With very adept and familiar motions, he pulled out a cigarette, lit it, and took a light inhale. Such a familiar smell… She was not certain why, but Jǐ Yi had always felt that that faint scent on him, intermingled with the aroma of cigarettes, was not reproducible by anyone else. As she breathed in lightly, she felt as if, in an instant, she had been transported back to that summer break after graduating from primary school.

“All right.” His voice was like the waters of a deep pond, icy-cold, indifferent, and aloof.

But unfortunately, this had no effect on her.

Letting out a breath, she straightened back up. “You… When did you come back?”

Jì Chengyang gave a slight lift of his brow. “Why aren’t you calling me Little Uncle Jì?”

“I’m grown up already.” Her eyes drifted this way and that and then continued to observe something off in the distance. “And plus… you’re not that old, either.”

He should obviously be addressed as “big brother” instead.

A barely discernible smile touched his lips. Without saying anything, he offhandedly stubbed out the cigarette on one of the branches of the pine tree and then tossed it onto the ground.

Just a couple puffs and then he was throwing it away? That really wasn’t like him.

Right as they were speaking, another troop from the morning running group came heading in their direction, so Jǐ Yi pulled the same trick and tugged Jì Chengyang over to shield her from view again. But this time, she was not as lucky. As a result of that cigarette butt from a moment ago, the withered grass at their feet had started burning, and black smoke rose from it. Jǐ Yi let out a cry of alarm, watching as the dry grass began to burn with increasing ferocity in the morning wind, and not knowing what she should do.

Jì Chengyang swiftly whipped off his black, down bomber jacket and tossed it over to Jǐ Yi. Then, with rapid speed, he ripped up the grass adjacent to the flames and kicked over some dirt to isolate the fire from the rest of the dried growth of grass.

The fire gradually lessened until eventually there remained only hissing and crackling sounds and also a strip of ashes several metres long.

Standing there in that place, he rolled his sleeves up and let out a slight exhale of relief.

Girls from Jǐ Yi’s class who had already run over, as well girls from other classes, now all came to a standstill as they watched him. They did not know at all how this fire had started; all they could see was a young man, wearing only a thin button-up shirt in the middle of winter, extinguishing the fire. In particular, this man was simply too handsome. He was completely unlike those uncle-like men who hurried past them on this main street in a rush to get to work, or those adolescent boys in their school who were either silly and clownish or overly ardent. Anyway, he was practically like a man who had stepped right out of one of those idol dramas, aaaah!

Eh?

That girl he was turning around to talk to, wasn’t that Jǐ Yi from the advanced science stream class?

The eyes of all the girls were gleaming.

In an instant, Jǐ Yi became extremely discomfited from all the stares on her. Handing the jacket back to Jì Chengyang, she lowered her head and told him, “I’m going now. If I don’t leave now, the gym teacher for sure is going to give me demerits for skipping out on the run.” And so, in front of all those girls, she ran off.

When the physical education teacher was stamping the records, he was doubtful. Why had Jǐ Yi, the one who normally walked her way back, suddenly increased her speed today? Fortunately for her, her class prefect and her friend-and-sister-through-thick-and-thin from the bunk above her had done and said all sorts of things to help cover up for her, and it was only because of them that she was able to get the stamp for this morning’s run.

Jǐ Yi had originally wanted to ask Nuannuan when her little uncle had gotten back, but it turned out that Nuannuan had unexpectedly taken a sick day from school today.

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At noon when she was having lunch in the classroom, her class prefect, Xu Qing, surprisingly had gotten food for her from the cafeteria and even specially brought it over to her. Moreover, they were all dishes served from the small window in the cafeteria that only ethnic Hui[4] students were allowed to enjoy.

“I can’t eat that much.” Jǐ Yi was a little stunned.

“Well, um…” The normally all serious and proper class prefect was actually stammering over his words. “I just did it in passing, since I’m Hui anyway. Don’t you and Nuannuan always say that the food we get from the Hui Muslim window is tasty?”

In passing?

Jǐ Yi put a bite of food into her mouth and looked at Class Prefect.

“Why isn’t Nuannuan here today?” Class Prefect at last, also “in passing,” asked.

“Nuannuan?” Jǐ Yi unhurriedly chewed her food, and only after she had completely swallowed all of it did she answer, “I don’t know. I live in res and she’s a non-res student. Except for the weekends, we’re not actually together all that often.”

……

Class Prefect left.

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

She could roughly sense that this class prefect, who came from a poor family but was very hardworking and self-motivated, had some little special thoughts and feelings for Nuannuan. Jǐ Yi continued flipping through her Fushigi Yugi manga while carrying on eating her lunch. Stuff like this was all lent to her by people in her dormitory room. It seemed her childhood had been a little more monotonous than other people’s. For instance, this sort of Japanese manga that had a little bit of romance and a little bit of excitement and that everyone else had already read in middle school, she was only now truly getting to read in her first year of high school.

However, for some reason, today, as she read this manga that normally she would be completely absorbed in, her mind was constantly wandering.

When it was nearly time for class, she finally put the book away and walked out of the teaching building with her lunchbox in hand.

At this hour of the day, the sinks in the teaching building would all be completely occupied by students who had come to wash their lunchboxes. She, though, knew of a great place. During lunchtime, people were not often in the school’s Fine Arts Centre. Only in the afternoon, when school was dismissed for the day, did people from various groups, such as Chinese orchestra[5], symphony orchestra, and dance group, go there to practice and train.

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Who would have thought? She had only just turned on the faucet when the orchestra teacher caught her there on the spot. “Jǐ Yi, how many days has it been since you last came here to practice?”

“… Teacher Lu, my finals are coming up soon.”

Oh, darn, she was done for. She had no choice but to turn off the faucet again for now.

This was the teacher for symphony orchestra; why was she bothering to care about her, someone in the Chinese orchestra? …

Shaking her head, Teacher Lu beckoned at Jǐ Yi to come over. When Jǐ Yi walked up to her, Teacher Lu slipped an arm around her shoulder. “That’s an excuse, eh? I heard you’ve been completely absorbed in reading manga lately, to the point that you’re practically skipping meals and sleep.”

“No, I’m not.” Jǐ Yi shook her head, explaining in a quiet, gentle voice, “Not at all, Teacher Lu. I’ve been wronged. Our history teacher told me to list out a chronology of historical significant events and then copy it to give to the whole class to use to study…”

The teacher began to chuckle.

They were standing at the doorway of the practice room. Before they had spoken more than a few words, the sound of piano playing was heard. Jǐ Yi was curious. Who would be here practicing in the practice room at this time of day? At this hour, shouldn’t everyone be in a classroom? Poking her head inside, she discovered that the person sitting in front of the piano on the east side of the practice room was actually Jì Chengyang.

She was somewhat dazed with surprise.

And then, she heard Teacher Lu say, “One of my students I used to teach, my best student.”

“He… used to be part of the school’s orchestra? I thought we don’t have piano in our symphony orchestra?”

That was why very few people would play that piano. Only orchestra members who had this particular hobby would occasionally play around on it.

“We used to. Now we don’t.”

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

They were far from him. The teacher very much seemed to want to continue listening and so did not call out to him straightaway.

Hence, Jǐ Yi stood beside the teacher, watching him and listening to him play. Those traces of agitation and restlessness that had been stirred in the bottom of her heart after their brief encounter this morning all slowly dissipated… The reason a man who plays piano is so alluring is, perhaps, because that posture in which he sits, as well as the feeling from his fingers as they dance on those black and white keys, is utterly different from the way other musical instruments are played.

How good it would have been if she had not given up playing the piano when she was young. Perhaps she, too, could have been just like him, sitting here in a pale shaft of winter sunshine, so perfectly performing a piece.

Reserved and understated. His emotions not showing in any way.

And a slight feeling of being remote and unapproachable, of keeping people at a distance.

Whether it was from the way he played the piano or from him as a person, these were all emanated.

The piece came to an end. Seemingly caught up in fond reminiscence, he stroked the piano. Then, standing, he turned around. When he caught sight of the teacher and Jǐ Yi, he paused briefly in surprise, before suddenly remembering that Jǐ Yi was studying in this school he had once attended. He walked over to them, but right as he was about to speak, the preparation bell rang. Jǐ Yi’s eyes widened. There was only another minute and then it would be the class bell!

“I’m going to class now—” Whipping around, she raced toward the teaching building.

With speed like she was running the 100-metre dash, she sprinted up to the fourth floor and was so exhausted she nearly collapsed onto her face. But alas, she did not make it on time.

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Up on the lecture podium, her English teacher had already started to write on the blackboard.

And so, holding her lunchbox that was still unwashed and bending low at the waist, she slipped into the classroom in front of this entire advanced science stream class of top students, slunk by in front of the podium, and took a seat. From behind her, Yin Qingqing swiftly stuffed her a tiny note: Where did you go?

Speedily, she scrawled down a line: To wash my lunchbox.

The note was tossed back.

She could not refrain from looking through the window at the Fine Arts Centre to the east of the teaching building.

At last, there was a feeling that everything was real.

You’ve come back. Will you… leave again?

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

[1] 附中 “fu zhong”. This is short for 附属中学, which is a middle and/or high school affiliated with a university. Universities may specifically reserve a few entrance slots for students graduating from their affiliated high schools. One of the top high schools (and often actually referred to as being the top high school) in Beijing is Renda Fuzhong, which is more accurately called the High School Affiliated to Renmin University. Tsinghua University, Peking University, etc. are also other prestigious universities of Beijing that have an affiliated high school. The story is not explicit which fuzhong school Jǐ Yi is attending, but from the descriptions given, it is certainly prestigious. The fuzhong school does not have a specific name in the story. I will refer to it using the proper noun, Fuzhong High School or simply Fuzhong, as that is how it is referred to in the novel.

[2]理科实验班. In Chinese high schools, students are divided into “liberal arts/humanities stream” and “science stream,” and this affects the classes they take and the focus of their studies, with it generally being accepted that science stream is “harder” in that its focus is on maths and sciences. Beginning in the late 80s, some of the top high schools created special “advanced science stream classes” in which top students were placed. The original intention was an intense science stream class created purposely for developing the students to participate in the International Mathematical and Science Olympiads. Students in these classes were cream of the crop, especially in the maths and sciences. These classes had always been controversial, and in 2004, China discontinued the placement of students into them. (Note: The literal name is “science stream experimental class” but in this case,“experimental” really means focused cultivation and development of high-performing students within the science stream. I have seen this sometimes referred to as the “gifted science class,” but there was really no standard to define “giftedness.” Hence, I have chosen to call it “advanced.”)

[3] Beijing city of ancient times was surrounded by a moat at the foot of the city wall. This is in addition to the moat that surrounded the imperial palace. Portions of this old moat still survive in modern Beijing as a canal system.

[4] The Hui people are an ethnic minority in China, and most are Muslim. Hence, there is much Islamic influence in their culture and their diet has certain restrictions. The school has purposely accommodated those dietary restrictions and serves food permissible to their culture from a special little window in the cafeteria. However, only Hui students are allowed to order that food.

[5] 民乐团 “min yue tuan.” Chinese orchestra, or modern Chinese orchestra, is based on the structure of the Western symphony orchestra but uses traditional Chinese instruments.

 

This story was translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. All forms of reproduction, redistribution, or reposting are not authorized. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the copy is unauthorized and has been taken without consent of the translator.

 

 

Completed:
7 of 69 Chapter segments
0 of 1 Epilogue

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14 thoughts on “The Healing Sunshine (一厘米的阳光) — Chapter 4.1

  1. I want more “meat”!!! *whines* Ji Yi, grow up more quickly girl!!!

  2. You’ve come back. Will you… leave again?
    I feel you Jiyi…

  3. JCY needs to stay a bit longer or come back, needs to at least bond a bit with JY if you would be leaving soon again!!!~
    thank you

  4. JCY had a small smile when Ji Yi did not address him as Little Uncle or Big brother now. Grow up fast Ji Yi 😀.

    Thank you for the chapter, Hoju 🙂.

    • It’s amusement that the little lady has grown up enough to start thinking that. Definitely nothing romantic yet. She’s only 13. LOL
      You’re welcome!

  5. Thank you Hoju 😊

  6. This chapter is pure LOVE.

  7. The scene where she slid the ice and surprised by JCY’s appearance stayed in my mind. Snow, icy water, handsome understanding man and a smitten teenager, what’s more needed to build up the romance?

  8. Thank you so much for the lovely chapter

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