Chapter 17: In this life, you don’t come, i won’t grow old
Sometimes, when you miss something, it’s for life. Will you encounter it in your next lifetime?
In the evening, the neon lights shine across the city and it feels a little chilly. Xia Mu is standing on a sky bridge, looking down at the cars passing below the bridge as he drinks his beer. He likes this; standing under the neon lights alone and watching the busy streets, he thinks it’s peaceful, the peacefulness is like time stopping in place. He raises his hand and takes a sip of his beer, tasting a slight bitterness. He had left her for an hour, he thought to himself, if she woke up then, he wouldn’t have left. As he turned his body around, he hoped that she will open her eyes and call for him, telling him to stay. It turns out that he’s not a clear-cut person. He laughs bitterly and takes another sip of his beer, knitting his eyebrows. He’s too greedy; he remembered when he was young, he was content that she was by his side, being able to see her every day. But now? He keeps thinking of wanting more; the warm smile, the sweet kiss, those cannot satisfy him. He wants her heart, her soul, he wants her to be completely his. He knows that it’s impossible, but he insists. He slants down his gaze and gulps down the last bit of the beer, clenching the can, making popping sounds from it. He straightens his body and walks down the sky bridge, throwing the empty can into the trash can and stuffing his hands into his pockets, lowering his head as he walks forward.
The night wind blows away his drunken state, he is conscious, but he wish he isn’t. Not far from him is a high-class bar with colorful lights that attracted him. He didn’t give a second thought as he turns a corner and walks inside. The lights in the bar brings a lovey-dovey atmosphere; men and women are paired off in twos or threes by the tables. Xia Mu picks a seat in a corner to sit down and orders a few cans of beer. Not far from him seats a table of two men and three women, and as Xia Mu enters the bar, he captures all of the women’s attention. The man besides one of the women looks displeased as he nudges her.
“What are you looking at?”
“That man is handsome.”
“Which one?” He glance at the direction she’s gazing at and quickly turns back.
“Huh, he’s just a pretty boy.” The woman continues to gaze at him as she speaks,
“If he’s a pretty boy, I’ll be willing to spend my entire fortune on him!” The other man beside her turns his head as he laugh, curious to see what kind of man he is, to be able to have women spending their entire fortune after taking one glance of him. But as he is able to see clearly, his smile suddenly turns stiff and he dips his head down, the lenses of his rimless eyeglasses reflecting white light, making it unable to see his expression. He clenches both of his fists and stand up, his body exuding a cold and terrifying aura. He stuffs one hand into his pant pocket and takes out his phone, turning his head again to look at Xia Mu before disappearing into the dark. After Xia Mu finishes his few cans of beer, he stays seated in for awhile. When the bar starts to play rock music, he knits his eyebrows and walks out.
It’s already midnight by the time he walks out of the bar, the bustling city turning silent with no pedestrians on the streets. After walking a few steps, Xia Mu feels a burst of cold wind attacking him from behind. He extends his arm to block the attack, hearing a cracking sound. It’s the sound of a metal rod hitting against his bones, and Xia Mu can feel an immense pain from it. He don’t have a chance to react when a flash of silver light passes by. He holds onto his arm and narrowly escapes the blow, stumbling two steps back. He looks at the scene before him, a group of four men holding onto metal rods surrounding him in the center, inching closer to him. In a corner not far away, a man wearing a suit is holding onto a lighted cigarette, walking towards them gracefully with his lips curving into an evil smile.
“Xia Mu, let’s settle our past issues today.” Xia Mu stands in the center and looks back at him coldly.
“Qu Wei Ran, you’re not dead.” Qu Wei Ran shakes his finger.
“How can I be dead when you’re not dead yet?” He will forever remember the pain Xia Mu have brought to him! He wants to have his revenge so bad, how he had made him paralyzed before, he’ll do the same back to him. Qu Wei Ran laughs coldly as he drops the cigarette to the floor and stepping onto it.
“Make him crippled.” The four men raise their metal rods as they heard the order and lunge towards Xia Mu. Within a flash, Xia Mu gets hit several times with the rods, fresh blood spilling out from his mouth and the immense pain causing him to stifle out a sound. A metal rod strikes across his chest, and he spits out another mouthful of blood. Another metal rod hits his head, and his vision turns blurry as he bends halfway down from the blow. Blood is flowing down his eyes, making the world look bloody red. He opens his eyes and looks at Qu Wei Ran whose far away. Qu Wei Ran is looking at him with a cold smile, his eye expression showing that he’s enjoying this.
“Enjoy, Xia Mu. From tomorrow on, you will also be a crippled person.”
Another rod hits Xia Mu, and he coughs out a mouthful of blood. Suddenly, he extends his arm and snatches a metal rod! He breaks out from the four men and lunges towards Qu Wei Ran! The other three men who still have their metal rods chase after him and strikes the rod against his thin back. One of the men see that he won’t be able to catch up to him, so he throws the metal rods towards Xia Mu’s direction. The rod hits his head, causing Xia Mu to stumble forward, blood streaming down on one side of his head. But he didn’t stop, he looks like a beast who’s been cornered as he slashes out his claws and lunges angrily towards Qu Wei Ran. Qu Wei Ran starts to panic, leaving behind the gentleman mask he’s been wearing as he backs away. Xia Mu slashes his metal rod at him, and Qu Wei Ran turns his body to run away. But after running a couple of steps, a flash of light shoots by, followed by a screeching brake sound and a crashing sound. Qu Wei Ran felt that his body was flying, and Xia Mu stops chasing as he looks at Qu Wei Ran coldly. When the four men sees the scene before them, they quickly drop their metal rods and run away in panic.
Xia Mu’s forehead continues to bleed profusely as he is holding onto the metal rod and looking down at the man lying on the ground whose gasping for air. This is the second time, the second time Xia Mu watches him die. But like the first time, he doesn’t regret it, not even one bit. Qu Wei Ran looks back at Xia Mu, having difficulty to breathe. This is the second time he’s dying from his hands.
He remembered the first time, it was when he was holding a meeting, but he don’t remember what’s the content they were discussing. He smiled at the people who were trying to please him in despise, yes, in despise. If his father’s first son hadn’t passed away, when will these people ever pay attention to him? When they sided with the first wife’s son son to bully him, would they ever had thought that one day, he will be the successor to the company? He raises the corners of his lips into a smile, smiling joyfully. All the people in the conference room had their heads down, not daring to make a sound. As Qu Wei Ran was arguing with a company veteran, a boy with a murderous look opened the conference room door. He can recognize him within a glance, because he has such an unforgettable face.
The boy’s eye expression is ferocious, like he’s ready to pounce and tear him in pieces! But he’s not afraid, he actually thinks it’s interesting. He likes this, likes it when people have a lot of hatred towards him. As the boy storm towards him, he prepares to ridicule him, asking him if he really wants to kill him that bad. He even thought about if he needs to fight back, he just need to throw in two punches, it shouldn’t hurt, won’t even itch. But he didn’t thought that boy wouldn’t give him a chance to speak when he raises his arm with a gun in his hand, the black hole staring right at him. His eye expression then was the same as it is now, an eye expression of a beast; cold, cruel, wanting him to die.
As the bullet passed through his body, he didn’t think it was painful, it’s just that he never thought, never had thought that he would fire a gun without thinking twice. That time, he didn’t die from his hands, but he didn’t think, that today…and suddenly, he laughs, laughing bitterly.
“It seems…that I’m…destined….to die…in your hands….hehehehe…” Qu Wei Ran laughs as he slowly closes his eyes. In fact, he’s not afraid of dying, he’s just afraid that after he dies, no one will cry for him. He heard, that as people die, their happiest moment of their lives will play right in front of their eyes. But why, when he closes his eyes, he can’t see anything? Why? Why can’t he see anything?
Xia Mu, who is still standing, looks at Qu Wei Ran coldly, looking at him until he closes his eyes, until he stops breathing, before he turns his heels and walk away. He loosens his hold to the metal rod and lets it slips out, having it fall to the ground. Blood keeps on flowing down his forehead as he staggers forward. He suddenly wants to see her, wants to go back to her side, he needs to go back to her side, go back, he’s inseparable from her.
He falters forward and suddenly falls down to the ground, his mouth continuing to vomit out blood, his handsome face covered with blood. His arms and legs start to twitch and he struggles to stand back up, but he falls right back down. His cold, empty eyes are becoming wider, and it’s more difficult for him to breathe. Gradually, he stops moving, his gaze turning blank and his pupils enlarging. He’s like a dying fish struggling to survive, his mouth opening and closing with blood mixed with his saliva as he mouths,
“Yawang, Yawang, Yawang…” His voice slowly weakens and he closes his eyes gently. Right before him plays a black and white movie, with scenes playing in front of him one by one. That familiar military compound, the twenty-minute ride to school, that radiant, sunny day, that three-story villa, that first encounter, that person who he loved deeply. He feels that he’s going back to that summer, to that first encounter. He holds onto the ancient railings as he walks down the stairs. She hears him and lifts her head up, looking at him with the corners of her lips lift up. She smiles softly at him, so elegant and graceful. He smiles back, slowly lifting the corners of his lips, looking back at her with a smile.
She said: “Hello, my name is Shu Yawang. You can call me Yawang jiejie.” That was the first sentence she said to him, but he never called her jiejie, he never did…
It’s late in the evening, in a quiet city where one can see blood everywhere under the dim lights, creating a shocking scene. Not far away from the incident, in a five-star hotel, a woman with a determined look on her face stands firmly in the lobby, waiting for him to come back, waiting for him to stand in front of her. She will hug him tightly and tell him,
“Xia Mu, I love you, I really love you. I’m not pretending, I’m not forcing this, I just love you.” She thinks that when she tells him that, he will definitely smile. That precious and warm smile, she will definitely see it again. The lobby door opens and close, opens and close, the unfamiliar faces walking past her. She starts to turn anxious and walks out of the hotel to look around. Two ambulances drives by, their wailing sirens making her heart feel uneasy. She narrows her eyebrows and suddenly turns worried. The memory when she was twenty-two years old that she keeps on suppressing in her mind comes out. Her body starts to tremble uncontrollably, so she takes a couple of deep breaths, telling herself to not have any crazy thoughts, it’s alright, it’s alright. She paced back and forth restlessly in the hotel, looking at the distant road closely. She keeps on waiting and waiting, waiting until the horizon starts to show a hint of grey when she finally receives an answer. It is a phone call, from an unknown number. She looks at the vibrating phone, she don’t know why, but she’s afraid to answer the call. However at the end, she picks up the call. The voice from the other end sounds cold, and the words they tell her are horrifying.
“Hello, this is the W City People’s Hospital calling. Your friend Xia Mu was sent to our hospital at 1AM for medical treatment, but because his head has been hit with hard objects repeatedly, we were unsuccessful in saving him. We declared his time of death to be 4:16AM.” Shu Yawang holds onto her phone as she listens with a blank expression. She didn’t give any reaction, just holding onto the same pose of holding onto her phone. She didn’t cry, didn’t fuss about. She didn’t hear it, didn’t hear anything. She must be too tired from waiting and this is all a dream, a dream where a crazy person called her and said Xia Mu died. How can Xia Mu die? She have so many things to tell him, so much to say. She wants to give the first biggest happiness to him, give him the second biggest happiness, she wants to give him everything. She will love him like how he loves her.
“Miss Shu, please come over to the hospital, there’s still some paperwork…” She frantically hangs up the call and takes out the battery of her phone. She don’t want to hear it, she don’t believe it! She runs back home and closes the door of her room, refusing to accept any phone calls. She ignores the knocking on the door, she don’t want to hear anyone talking about Xia Mu! Yuan Zhu shakes her shoulder, telling her calm down, telling her to face reality, telling her if she wants to cry, just cry. Shu Yawang screams at her, telling her to get out. She don’t want to hear it, she don’t want to calm down, don’t want to be strong, don’t want to cry! Xia Mu is not dead! Not dead, not dead, not dead! But even if she don’t want to hear it, don’t want to believe in it, facts will be facts. Xia Mu is dead, really dead. He’s lying in the cold morgue, his body covered with scars.
Two days later, Shu Yawang’s father pulls her out of her apartment in W City to see Xia Mu for the last time. She screams and resists; she don’t want to go, she will not go, she won’t go anywhere. She will stay at her home, the place where they had their happiest moments together. If she stays here, he will come back. She don’t believe that Xia Mu is dead, will not believe it! He’s just angry at her, he left and went to America. He will come back, it’s because she’s here, so he’ll come back. He loves her, he’s inseparable from her, like how she’s inseparable from him. Her father slaps her across her face, tears streaming down his face as he yells at her.
“How can you not go and see the child? How will he be able to rest in peace?!” Shu Yawang cups her cheek with her hand, kneeling down to the floor and sitting there silently. Her face is expressionless; she bites onto her lips as her body trembles slightly. Her tears are like the waterfall, pouring down her face. She can’t take it anymore and cries out loud on the floor.
Shu Yawang leans onto her father as he brings her to the hospital morgue, where she can see Xia Mu again. She continues to cry as she staggers forward, bending her waist slightly so she can see him closely. The child who rarely smiled in his life, was carrying a beautiful smile onto his lips as he died. He looks like he’s sleeping, having a beautiful dream, a dream where he experienced his happiest moments. The dream consists of the one he loved, he stayed there, not willing to wake up. She raises her hand and strokes at the scars on his face gently, then rubs her finger onto his smile. She looks at him without saying a word, but the tears keep rolling down. She sees the kissing fish necklace around his neck, and can’t hold back when she whimpers softly. She extends her hands and removes the necklace, removing the fish and holding onto it firmly inside her palm. Then she helps him wear the necklace back, her tears falling down rapidly. She looks at the fish in her palm and said,
“Xia Mu, I will wear it well. I will keep on wearing it, wearing it until I grow old, wearing it into my coffin, wearing it in my next life.”
“You have to wear it too, keep on wearing it, wearing it in your next life. We will definitely meet in our next lives. By then, I will wait for you. By then, if you don’t come, I won’t grow old. By then, you cannot lose me.” She holds onto his hand, wrapping her pinky finger around his. She looks at him and cries,
“It’s a promise, it’s a promise okay?” In the cold morgue, a woman is wrapping her pinky around a finger that has lost its warmth. She cries softly, as if she’s wrapped with never-ending grief.
Two days later, Xia Mu’s funeral is being held in S City. That day, the sky is very blue with a few clouds, it’s nice weather. That day, not many people attend since Xia Mu don’t have much close friends. That day, everyone have their heads down, sobbing in silence. That day, Shu Yawang stands in front of the tombstone for a very long time, even after everyone left, after God opened his eyes and let down a light rain shower. She stands in the rain, looking at the boy on the tombstone with a blank stare. After a while, she realizes someone is holding onto an umbrella behind her. She turns her head and sees Tang Xiao Tian by her side, standing quietly with her. She turns her head back and asks him,
“You also came?” Tang Xiao Tian looks at the tombstone, the corners of his eyes turning slightly red.
“I came to send him off.” She nods her head slightly.
“Xia Mu will be happy. He didn’t like you before because I liked you, now he’s the one I love, so he wouldn’t hate you.” He gives a wry smile, bending down his waist and placing a bouquet of fresh flowers in front of Xia Mu’s picture. The raindrops hit against the transparent wrapping paper, creating a dull sound.
“You finally succeeded in stealing Yawang away from me, are you happy?” He looks at the handsome boy in the photo, seeing his eyes still showing indifference. Tang Xiao Tian looks at him and suddenly dips his head down.
“I’m sorry, Xia Mu.”
“I always wanted to say I’m sorry.” It’s all his fault, if he haven’t had met Qu Wei Ran, Xia Mu wouldn’t have died and Yawang wouldn’t have to deal with so much pain. Even Qu Wei Ran, he wouldn’t have died either. Shu Yawang looks at his back, placing her hand on top of his shoulder, patting it gently. She wants to say something, but at the end, she didn’t say it. After a while, as the sky starts to darken, he stands up and asks her,
“What are your future plans?”
“I’m going to America to take care of Grandpa.” She answers with her head down.
“For how long?”
“I don’t know.” She shakes her head, then lifts her head up to smile at him. “You’re not going to wait for me, right?”
“I’m not going to wait for you, because I know, you won’t be coming back.” He understands her too well, her heart is already far away from him, she will never go back to his side.
“Okay.” Tang Xiao Tian rubs the crown of her head.
“Yawang, be strong.”
“Don’t worry, I will.” She replies back with a nod.
“Then…” He pauses momentarily. “I’ll leave now.”
“Okay.” Tang Xiao Tian hands his umbrella to her. She receives it and he turns his body away, quickly leaving the cemetery. This time, he didn’t turn his head back, and neither did she.
Time flashes by, and it’s already been five years. Shu Yawang walks out of the international airport and Uncle Cheng kindly helps her open the car door, letting her sit inside the car.
“Yawang, is the Commander’s body well?”
“Uh huh, Grandpa’s body is very strong.”
“Oh, that’s good then.” Uncle Cheng smiles with assurance. He continues to ask her questions and she answers all of them one by one. He tells her the events that happened in the military compound, telling her one at a time. The sunlight shines right at the kissing fish necklace around her neck, dazzling very brightly. Yawang ,who have been silent afterwards, suddenly speaks up.
“Uncle Cheng, can you drive me to the almond blossom park in W City?” She suddenly wants to see the park that she designed. That time, he promised her that they will see it together, but unfortunately, he won’t have the chance to. As for her, she didn’t went to see it either.
It’s now May, right at peach blossom season. Shu Yawang gets out of the car and walks into the park, looking at the blooming peach blossoms. She suddenly smiles, remembering the dialogue they exchanged years ago.
She asked: “What kind of flower do you like?”
He answered: “Peach blossoms.”
“Huh, but it’s an almond blossom park…” She remembered that time, she was distressed over it, how can she make an almond blossom park have peach blossoms in it? Afterwards, in order to give him a surprise, in order to make him happy, she figured out a way to design it to be a peach blossom park. She strolls down the park; the park is very beautiful, just like heaven. The peach blossoms and almond blossoms cross over each other, and if a gust of wind passes by, the flower petals will fall to the ground.
She strolls by the water fountain, watching the children chase after the white doves with a radiant smile on their faces. A teenage girl is holding onto a seven to eight year old boy’s hand as they run past her. She can’t help it but to turn her head back to look at them. The beautiful doves fly up to the sky, their angel-like white feathers falling down from above. The corner of the girl’s skirt lifts up and she have a radiant smile on her face. She stops running and lifts up her palm to catch a falling feather, tickling the boy’s neck with it. He covers his neck with his hand and glares at the girl. The girl laughs and continues to tickle him, and the boy raises his hand to fight back. The girl turns her body around and runs away, the two chasing each other in the central square, their simple and bright laughter spreading far away.
Shu Yawang continues to stare at them, suddenly remembering when she first met Xia Mu, they were also like that. She would bully him, and he would fight back by pouncing on her and biting her. Back then, he was really cute. She turns her head back and laughs bitterly. If only one can protect the happiness of their childhood and grow up day by day from it, how wonderful would it be?
The park is filled with peach blossoms, displaying their beautiful shades of color. She walks slowly along the lake, seeing an octagonal pavilion at a distance. She walks over there and lifts up her head. Sure enough, the pavilion’s plague writes out: 夏有乔木，雅望天堂 (Summer have trees, an elegant look to heaven) Yawang looks at the plague for a long time without saying a word, feeling her heart tightening up. Why? Why couldn’t he have come and take a look at the heaven she designed for him? Why couldn’t he have accompanied her and take a look…just one look, and he would have understand that she really loves him, really, really loves him. Like what she had said, she really wants to be with him. Why couldn’t he take a look? This beautiful heaven, without him, how can it be considered as heaven?
“Yawang.” Among the beautiful peach blossoms, it seems like Xia Mu’s clear and cold voice is calling out to her. She turns her head around and look, thinking she sees him standing among the beautiful flowers, looking back at her with a smile, like how he did before. Her nose prickles and tears start to slide down her face.
“Yawang, what’s wrong?” Uncle Cheng steps forward and asks nervously. She bites onto her lips and replies back.
“I don’t know why, but I suddenly missed him.” If only that year, she can see things clearly, if he was willing to believe her then, if he didn’t have left…but, at the end, there are no “if only”…Sometimes, when you miss something, it’s for life. Will you encounter it in your next lifetime?
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