How To Thank You For Saving Me - novelonlinefull.com
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How To Thank You For Saving Me
Yan Zhuo put the cushion behind his back after finding a comfortable corner to curl up. Shen Ji started the car and headed out of the city. 'Let's take shifts.' Suggested Yan Zhuo.
Shen Ji glanced at him in the rearview mirror but did not take him seriously at all.
They went up the highway. Shen Ji concentrated on driving, while Yan Zhuo snuggled slightly to the right, from where he could see Shen Ji's profile. He stared in silence for a while but soon succ.u.mbed to the incessant a.s.sault of drowsiness. It was not long until he fell asleep, leaning against the windowpane. Shen Ji turned down the air conditioning as his gaze fell on the distant green hills far beyond the highway.
Shen Ji rarely went back to his hometown at this time of the year. When he travelled back right before Spring Festival every year, there were silvery, snow-capped mountaintops visible from afar. The road conditions were not as safe back then, and it normally took seven or eight hours till sunset to get off the highway.
Shen Ji pulled over to the rest stop at noon. After hitting his head on the windowpane in the back row, Yan Zhuo rubbed his forehead and asked, 'Is it here?' He looked out of the window as he spoke and realized that they were still on the highway, for he only saw the convenient store on the opposite side.
Shen Ji unbuckled his seatbelt. Yan Zhuo lowered the window just to see Shen Ji entering the store. The window had a tawny shade, so he only just realized that it was getting dark. The storm clouds gathered into gloomy cl.u.s.ters, and Yan Zhuo's drowsiness was mostly dispersed by the squalls foretelling a rainfall. Shen Ji got into the car and dropped a yogurt and a bag of chips into his lap.
Yan Zhuo brushed the yogurt cup with his fingertip and mumbled 'thanks'. Shen Ji took a sip of water, and they were again on the way. He did not eat or drink, nor did he take any rest. Yan Zhuo couldn't help but offered as he leaned on the seat, 'Come over here and get some sleep at the next stop.'
'It's just a while away from here.' said Shen Ji.
A while was all the way till 3 in the afternoon, when Shen Ji got off the highway. There was a distance from the village where there was only an old path, neither broad nor narrow. He had to slow down because of the turbulent ruggedness. When they arrived at the village, it was past 4pm.
The darkness condensed. Shen Ji's uncle called, telling him that granny had had the meal ready. Yan Zhuo pressed upon the window and saw a puppy running alongside the car. He was somewhat excited, for he knew it was Shen Ji's home, where he was born and rasied till the age of fourteen.
Shen Ji thanked his uncle and added after a brief pause, 'Add an extra pair of chopsticks. I brought a friend.' Yan Zhuo sat straight and winded up the window. Shen Ji got off the car with Yan Zhuo lagging behind. His uncle, who just called, received them at the doorway. 'Your granny had been in a low fever all this while.' He told Shen Ji, 'Not very sensible these few days.'
Shen Ji's uncle was no longer young. He seemed to have some injuries on his legs, seeing how he struggled and limped while walking. He escorted them inside. 'Been to the hospital?' asked Shen Ji, frowning.
'Just been back from the city hospital.' Said his uncle, 'Wouldn't go back in no matter what. She's been thinking of you all these days. Now that you're back, everything should be fine.'
Yan Zhuo pressed his lips, feeling slightly uncomfortable. He stalled for a bit, about half a step behind them, but Shen Ji tugged at his arm and said, 'Don't get lost.'
The news of Shen Ji's arrival brought all family members back together, apart from those working or studying away from home. They had had dinner before Shen Ji got there. His aunt recooked the meals for them. After a brief exchange of salutations with all present, Yan Zhuo glanced at Shen Ji. Although there were only two of them eating, the rest were sitting around the table. The air was somehow murky, and the rain that had been brooding the entire afternoon was finally unleashed, raindrops wildly splashing.
Someone standing close by shut the door and m.u.f.fled the rain outside. 'The rooms are ready.' Said Shen Ji's uncle, 'Your granny heard that you're coming back and dried all the blankets while it was sunny these past few days.'
Yan Zhuo took another look at Shen Ji, who was having his dinner with a kind of unrushed air. Even after this short a time, Yan Zhuo, as an outsider, could smell some bizarreness. Those who were present seemed somewhat cold towards Shen Ji, and only his uncle's family had been busying around for his arrival. Shen Ji talked to them a bit more, too.
Grandma was already in bed. Shen Ji only peeked through the bedroom door without disturbing her, and took Yan Zhuo to his room. Yan Zhuo stepped over a threshold, dragging his suitcase. The old house in Shen Ji's home village was of two mere huts; the white wall paint was crumbling, and dark-green moss climbed up the bricks. The tiles had the same colour as the sky.
Yan Zhuo looked around, saw a hut in the backyard, and asked, 'What's that…'
Shen Ji opened the door to let him in, 'Uncle's family live there.' Yan Zhuo mumbled in reply. Back at the dinner table, everyone else left as soon as Shen Ji finished, while his uncle and aunt did all the cleaning up. Some facts seemed up for grabs but not quite there. Soon, however, Yan Zhuo's attention was diverted to somewhere else.
Leaving his suitcase behind the door, he started looking around. It was not a big room, crowded with only a bed and a bookshelf. The bookshelf was only half the height of the wall, probably designated for teenagers. Yan Zhuo walked over and saw a framed photo on top of the shelf. The face of Shen Ji in it was still saturated with the lushness of adolescence, although not without that usual nonchalant coldness. 'Is this your room when you were a kid?' Asked Yan Zhuo with excitement.
The photo was taken when he was in middle school, and it had been on that shelf for a decade. Every year, when he returned for the New Year, the frame was always polished without a tiny bit of dust. Shen Ji grew up in the village, held closest to the heart by the elders out of all the young people. Not responding to Yan Zhuo, Shen Ji walked over to the bed and lifted the blanket. As uncle said, it smelled of fresh sunlight, both the blanket and the sheet were new.
Shen Ji glanced back and saw Yan Zhuo bending down, browsing the books on the shelf. There was a knock on the door. 'It's raining hard.' Said his uncle, standing outside as Shen Ji opened the door, 'Your aunt's boiling some water. You may want to clean yourselves before going to bed.'
So Shen Ji followed him to get some hot water, while Yan Zhuo, stepping up to help, was firmly rejected by Shen Ji. He strode again to the bookshelf. On the left of the second row was a copy of Six Chapters of A Floating Life by Shen Fu. He only recalled that 'The Joy of Childhood', which he learned at school, was from this book. There was a piece of paper inserted as bookmark as he flipped through it. Yan Zhuo put the book down and looked at the back of the paper, where he saw a small, handwritten quote—
'At that moment, the lamp was the only light. There was nothing dear to behold as I lift my eyes, nothing to grasp in my empty hands.’
Small noises were heard before the door was opened. His heart leaped up as he slipped that piece of bookmark into the pocket. When Shen Ji walked in, the book was back to where it was. Yan Zhuo sat on the bed looking up at him, tamed and meek out of guilt. It felt like there was a cut bleeding on the inside, slit by those words he just read.
Shen Ji prepared the bath with hot water and dried a towel. 'Come over here,' he looked back as Yan Zhuo's eyes met his, 'and clean yourself.'
-'At that moment, the lamp was the only light. There was nothing dear to behold as I lift my eyes, nothing to grasp in my empty hands, nothing that could hold together my small and crumbling heart, nothing that could go beyond my endless sorrow.' -Shen Fu, Six Chapters of A Floating Life
↑That’s the translation I attempted. It took me a while to look up an official, published version of it, and I did find it, but I’m not sure if it consists any kind of cpyrt infringement, so it’s probably better not to take the risk but try it myself. Very sorry about the delay as there really should be no excuse for it.