“After the rain has passed, the sun will always shine again.” It seems those billows of life in the previous chapters have blown away, and the sun is shining again. 🙂
Chapter 12.1 — The Person in the Past Dream (1)
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The principal personally told Jǐ Yi the final disciplinary measure that Fuzhong had decided upon.
“Originally, you should certainly have been put under disciplinary probation, but in the past, you had always demonstrated both excellent morals and academic performance. We had a meeting, and we decided that demerits would still be taken and a school-wide notice would be made about this. However, you may rest assured. The demerits won’t be recorded into your individual student record.”
There was obvious partiality in this end result. Leaving nothing on her student record was akin to having no impact whatsoever on her future.
After the rain has passed, the sun will always shine again. Jì Chengyang’s surgery went very smoothly.
Three days later, the pathology report came out—the tumour was benign.
At the time, Jǐ Yi was in the rehearsal hall doing her final handover with her teacher. When she heard the word “benign,” her heart leapt like it wanted to burst out from her chest. She suddenly threw her hands forward, propping them on that guzheng that had kept her company for more than two years. Feeling aching in her heart one moment and joy the next, she did not know whether she should cry rejoicingly or laugh with happiness.
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Jì Chengyang was transferred to the cadre ward two days after the surgery.
Prior to visiting him at the hospital on Saturday, she had talked to him on the phone but had not dared to ask him about the situation with his eyes. That afternoon, when she pushed open the door of his inpatient room and saw that white gauze still covered his eyes, her heart sunk several notches.
“I’m here,” she told him, her voice quiet.
A young nurse also came in after her and checked how Jì Chengyang was doing. Jì Chengyang told the nurse, “If I could trouble you, in a moment, if anyone else comes to visit, please tell them that I am already resting.” The nurse answered affirmatively to his request. Before she closed the door, there was a smile on her face.
Jǐ Yi was only thinking about his eyes and was quiet. She did not dare ask, not even a single word, for fear that she would hear some sort of bad result.
“Is it sunny outside?” Jì Chengyang asked her.
“It’s pretty sunny. Today’s a nice, clear day.” She was right against the bed, half leaning against it and half sitting on it. Because of the question he had raised, she turned to look out the window. Though all she could see were the bare branches of willow trees, she nevertheless felt that spring was not far away.
It was the end of February already. On the way here, she had even seen some winter jasmine flowers.
Jì Chengyang asked her to help him turn on his computer and, from a link in an email, download a video file. The name of the file was “February 22, 2002; Video of George W. Bush’s Speech at Tsinghua.” Wasn’t that just the previous day? Yesterday, Jǐ Yi had heard her political science teacher mention that President George W. Bush had visited Tsinghua University in the morning.
Jì Chengyang’s intention was that she should play the video and have a listen.
Unfolding the small table tray that was on the bed, Jǐ Yi set the laptop on it and sat side by side with him at the head of the bed. Her gaze was quickly drawn to Bush’s speech.
“If it weren’t for the surgery, this time around, I would have really wanted to bring you to the actual site of this yesterday morning,” Jì Chengyang told her. “All the wars in these next few years will have something to do with him.”
“The next few years?”
“The follow-up to 9/11. The United States will definitely take advantage of this to launch military retaliation against some countries.”
She felt that war and fighting were very distant from this place, so distant that they were like a legend.
On this soil of her motherland, war seemed to be something only their grandfathers’ generation and their forefathers had experienced. It was as if, in the future, or the future’s future, words like “war” would never take place in China. But Jì Chengyang was different; he was always able to allow her to feel and experience things that were outside of a traditional upbringing and education.
For example, the antiwar stance that he held.
Or for example, listening more to him speak about such things allowed you to sense that there was a place in the world that was suffering through the torments of war. In contrast, then, peace was so precious, and those ups and downs of life in a peaceful society seemed to become much more insignificant.
“… Which countries?” she asked.
“Iraq?” Jì Chengyang speculated. His voice was somewhat low, like it was water flowing underneath a layer of ice, and slowly, he recounted, “Twenty days ago, Bush already labeled Iraq as one of the ‘axis of evil’ countries and accused it of possessing weapons of mass destruction…”
Inside the video, George W. Bush, passionate and gentlemanly, was making a diplomatic speech under peacetime skies.
Jì Chengyang, though, was telling Jǐ Yi about the imminent war.
He spoke only these few sentences before falling back into silence.
Jǐ Yi had thought that he was listening intently to what Bush was saying, but to her surprise, he all of a sudden remarked, “Today is indeed a nice, sunny day.”
“Yup. It’s been cloudy for several days…”
Jǐ Yi turned her head. And then, she froze in place.
An indescribable joy swelled up from the bottom of her heart, engulfing her.
At some point in time, Jì Chengyang had already removed the obstruction that had been over his eyes. His eyes were well and undamaged, and right now, they contained only her reflection. After more than one month, she was finally able to see a whole, unspoiled Jì Chengyang again. Jǐ Yi turned her whole body around, her mood similar to that year when she was eleven years old and had pressed herself against the peephole to observe him—intent, hesitant, and also filled with numerous and complicated feelings from being stirred and touched in her heart.
Jì Chengyang was simply gazing at her and, in the same way, also quietly being gazed at by her.
In this moment, those eyes were penetrating, deep, dark, and cool. But even more so, they bewitched one’s heart. The undercurrent that roiled in the depths of his eyes caused his features to appear especially vivid, elegant, and handsome…
They seemed like two old friends who had not seen one another for a long time and now, by chance encounter, had met again.
After the moment of joyful surprise had passed, many emotions surged up in her, ones so intricate and complicated that she did not even know how to begin describing them.
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They had gazed upon each other for too long. Jǐ Yi’s nose was tingling, but a faint rosy tint had risen into her cheeks, and she was first to pull her eyes away.
She lowered her head, smiling.
Jì Chengyang asked, “What are you thinking about?”
“Mm…” Jǐ Yi tilted her face up. “The day of your surgery, I went to Yonghe Temple and offered up some incense for you.”
Her voice was soft and gentle, and there was still an embarrassed smile on her lips. “I was thinking, when your bandages come off, will you look like those monks inside Yonghe Temple?”
Jì Chengyang also smiled. “By the time I’m discharged, some of my hair should probably have grown out already. I imagine I’ll look more like a former monk who has just returned to the secular life.”
Then he would still be the most handsome… former monk.
Jì Chengyang appeared to be in a very good mood today. He said he wanted to have noodles, the traditional zhajiang [fried sauce] noodles of old Beijing from Dongzhimen. Flabbergasted, Jǐ Yi stared wide-eyed at him. Was he wanting to cross half the city of Beijing just to eat a bowl of zhajiang noodles? She would not even mention the distance; just the current situation itself dictated that he was not allowed to even leave his hospital room. Their little debate about zhajiang noodles commingled with the questions coming out from the video that were being asked by Tsinghua students.
By the time the video came to an end, they had also reached an agreement: after he was discharged from the hospital, they would make up this meal that he wanted.
During that day’s evening self-study, Jǐ Yi was sprawled on her desk with pencil in hand, writing and writing, when all of a sudden, she giggled.
The tip of her pencil lightly sketched across the scratch paper.
Her deskmate received quite a fright from this. While looking down to check her math problem, she whispered, “Are you all right? You gave me a big scare.”
Gnawing on the end of her pencil, Jǐ Yi murmured back, “I want to have zhajiang noodles, some from the place in Dongzhimen.”
Her deskmate was left speechless at that.
From diagonally behind her, Zhao Xiaoying tentatively handed a note over.
Since the official start of remedial classes, Zhao Xiaoying had not dared to speak to Jǐ Yi. This evening, she at last mustered up her courage, hoping to break the ice. Jǐ Yi paused for a moment, then took the note and unfolded it. Written on it were the words, I’m sorry, Xixi.
They both understood that Zhao Xiaoying’s “sorry” was referring to that night when she had left Jǐ Yi alone and without any support. Jǐ Yi had once told herself, as long as Zhao Xiaoying said sorry first, she would forgive her. She wanted to be like Jì Chengyang, that she could face any person or situation that fate brought her with calm and no misgivings.
Even Jì Chengyang had been able to pull through his hardship. These things, therefore, were not even worthy of her taking them to heart.
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The day that Jì Chengyang was discharged from the hospital was a Saturday, which was also her one and only rest day of each week.
She had planned out her timing, and at only some time past nine in the morning, she left her dorm. However, she was only just outside the main door when Nuannuan grabbed ahold of her. At the front entrance of the dormitory building, Nuannuan stood with her arms crossed in front of her. “Where are you going? You’ve disappeared for several Saturdays, and there’s been no one to keep me company.”
Jǐ Yi answered elusively, “I’m… going for extra tutoring. Our history teacher told me to secretly go to her house every Saturday for tutoring.”
At some unknown time, Jì Chengyang had become Jǐ Yi’s secret.
His surgery, his recovery, and also his discharge from the hospital today were all things that Nuannuan was oblivious to. In Nuannuan’s mind, her little uncle must be in some place in the world doing something that caused envy and admiration in people.
“So cool? Good students just get all the extra-good treatment.” Nuannuan was not at all suspicious. “I forgot to tell you, Fu Xiaoning told me to say to you, he really thanks you.”
When Jǐ Yi heard this name, she was somewhat unable to be too hard-hearted. With her hands gripping the straps of her backpack, she said, “Then, tell him for me, I should be the one thanking him. And then… from now on, let’s not be friends anymore. I wish him happiness.”
Jǐ Yi did not want to cause any more trouble and did not want to bring any more disappointment to Jì Chengyang. She did not have any family to give her guidance on her forward path, so even more so did she need to walk out her own path prudently.
Fortunately, Nuannuan did not say much more. She did not tell Jǐ Yi, Fu Xiaoning believed that it was his hotheaded rashness that had brought troubles onto Jǐ Yi and was very guiltridden about it. So, he was long prepared that they would not be friends anymore.
Jǐ Yi took the metro to Jishuitan Station. It was only a few stations, but the rain had already evolved from being a fine drizzle to a deluge. Holding her open umbrella above her, she strolled alone along the bank of the canal until gradually, her shoes and the bottom of her pants became sodden.
She walked for only twenty-odd minutes, but by the latter half of those, the downpour had already ceased and the sky had cleared.
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When she arrived at the door of his home, she took out some tissues from her schoolbag. Bending down, she first wiped away the sand and dirt on her canvas shoes before knocking on the door.
He had just recovered from that serious illness, and it was also his first day back from the hospital. There likely were a lot of guests in his home?
The door was silently pulled open, and then this Jǐ Yi appeared before Jì Chengyang’s eyes:
Because she had an umbrella, her upper body fortunately had been able to avoid getting rained on. She wore a pale blue backpack on her back, while on the lower half of her body, her blue, school-uniform pants, from her knees all the way to her ankles, were drenched until they were a dark blue colour. Her white canvas shoes were soaked as well. The blue umbrella with the long handle was closed up, and its end poked down on the ground.
Beneath the umbrella’s tip, there was a small, clear puddle of water.
Jǐ Yi had originally been looking down, spinning that umbrella that she held in her palm, but when she heard the noise, she lifted her head.
She smiled at him, her eyes curving and all her happiness enveloped in them, and the tip of her little canine tooth on the left side could be seen. When she was a child, her canine tooth had not been as obvious, but as her age increased, this little canine tooth had also become increasingly prominent. She only needed to smile and then the tip of the tooth would show, but she was not even aware of this.
“You have no guests in your home?” Peering her head in slightly, Jǐ Yi discovered that the living room was empty.
Jì Chengyang reached a hand forward, wanting to take her umbrella for her.
Jǐ Yi shook her head. “Just set it by the door. If you bring it in, it’ll get your floor wet.”
This community compound that he lived in was completely equipped with elevators to get up and down, and there was only one unit per floor. This was the fourteenth floor, too, so there definitely would not be any random people coming here and taking away the umbrella. Jǐ Yi set that blue umbrella near the door, in the corner between the doorway and the wall.
The umbrella stood propped up there, droplets of water still dripping ceaselessly from it.
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What did the age of sixteen represent?
A person who possessed an identity card but still had not reached the age of majoriy.
Some words, he still could not tell her.
Jì Chengyang watched Jǐ Yi change into a pair of white slippers and walk into the empty living room. Both in front of and behind her was the sunshine that was casting into the home from outside. Through the beams of sunlight, he saw fine dust particles drifting in the air, and there was a feeling of warm restlessness in him.
 干部病房 “gan bu bing fang.” This is “an inpatient room for ganbu,” where ganbu is usually translated as “cadre.” In China, the term is used to refer to public officials (civil servants, bureaucrats, and military officials) who hold a certain level of managerial responsibilities. Special “cadre wards” exist in hospitals to provide inpatient treatment to such people as well as retired cadres. Jì Chengyang is likely able to receive such treatment because of his father and that he comes from a military family of high rank.
 迎春花. Despite the chilly-sounding English name of the winter jasmine flower, its Chinese name literally translates as “spring welcoming flower.”
 雍和宫 “Yonghe Gong.” Yonghe Temple (also called Yonghe Lamasery, Yonghe Palace, or simply Lama Temple) is a large Tibetan Buddhist temple and the largest lamasery in Beijing. Formerly the palace of Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing dynasty, it was later converted to a lamasery in 1744 and remains as such today.
 炸酱面 “zha jiang mian.” Zhajiang noodles, or literally “fried sauce” noodles are a dish of wheat-based noodles and minced pork mixed with a brown sauce. The sauce is bean-based, and for the traditional Beijing version, it is made from a fermented yellow soybean.
东直门. In old Beijing, Dongzhimen was the name of one of the city gates in the northeastern part of the old city wall. It is now a precinct and commercial center in Beijing.
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