Happy Heroes 40 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 17 July 2008 18:45

Chapter 39 – Ill-Starred People on the Face of the Earth

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Thunderstorm.

Drops of rain struck Guo DaLu like falling pebbles. He finally roused.

A dirty alleyway. A low wall.

Only when he awakened did he realize that he had actually been lying in mud by the corner of the wall. As for why he was sleeping there and how long had he been asleep, he did not even know himself. All he remembered was the previous night, he and the buddies from the east side of the city had all gone to the gambling hall belonging to the laoda [biggest brother; this context, gang leader] of the west side. The brawl had resulted in utter chaos and a complete mess. Afterward, the east end’s laoda had laid out a large merit-celebration feast specially for him in Little Winter Melon’s brothel. Twenty, thirty brothers had taken turns filling him up with wine. The east side’s laoda had even pounded his chest and, in the presence of everyone, declared that so long as Guo DaLu was able to bring down the west end gang, the territory on the west side of the city would go to him. And then, Guo DaLu seemed to recall, they had bowed down together and become sworn brothers.

 


Everything after that, though, he was even more fuzzy about. It seemed like Little Winter Melon’s little sister, Little Honey Peach, had supported him into the back and had been helping him remove his boots and clothing. But all of a sudden, he insisted on leaving to go out and find Yan Qi. Little Honey Peach tried to hold him back but in the end, received a slap across the face instead. And then, he had discovered himself lying here. That big chunk that happened in between was a complete blank.

Actually, strictly speaking, he was not too certain even how he had passed the time in the last half a month. He had originally intended on looking for Yan Qi, but amidst the vast sea of people, where would he go to find him? And so, when he arrived here, he simply decided to stay. Every day, he would go out like crazy to find prostitutes and get intoxicated. One day, after drinking until he was completely hammered, he somehow got in a conflict with the east end’s laoda, and their exchange of blows led them to become friends. At the time, the laoda of the east end was being dominated by the west side’s gang such that he felt as if he could not even breathe. Guo DaLu had slapped his own chest and guaranteed that he would help him to vent his angers. Hence, he had gotten mixed in with these brothers of the east side. Each day, they would drink, gamble, get in fights, and go find women, and everyday would be filled with shouts and laughter. The days had actually passed quite merrily.

Why was it, then, that after every drinking fest, he would slip out by himself and end up either collapsed in the middle of the road or lying in a gutter?

If a person wants to torture someone else, it may be a very difficult thing to do, but if he wants to torture himself, that is extremely easy. Was he deliberately tormenting himself?



Such a very hard rain.

The raindrops that battered down on him were like stones. Guo DaLu struggled and, with difficulty, stood up. His head was pounding so hard it seemed as if it would split open at any second, and his tongue felt as if a thick layer of moss had grown on it.

Was this sort of life really all that enjoyable? He did not want to think about it.



He was not willing to think about anything. In fact, it would be best if there was no time in the day where he was sober and awake.

He stretched his neck, trying to catch a few mouthfuls of rain to drink, but even though the raindrops were numerous and very densely spaced, the number that actually fell into his mouth was not many.

Are there not many things in the world that are just like this? You are looking right at it and you should be able to get hold of it, but yet, you actually are not able to. You are angry, agonized; you bang your head against the wall and torment yourself until you don’t even seem human, yet none of this serves any use at all.

Guo DaLu forced himself to stand up straight with his shoulders back. But his chest, his heart felt like there were needles piercing them. Something that he clearly should not be thinking about, why did he still think about it then?

With a loud clap of thunder, lightning came streaking down. Gritting his teeth together, he started walking forward with large strides. He had just taken two steps, though, when suddenly a small door up ahead opened with a “creak.” A girl-child dressed in scarlet clothes, her hand holding a flowered oil-paper umbrella, was standing in that doorway looking at him with a charming smile. As she smiled, two deep dimples could be seen on her cheeks.

With such a sweet, young girl smiling at you, no man would be able to avoid going up and saying a few words just to make conversation. However, Guo DaLu was not in the mood for that. His mood at the present was even worse than his appearance.

The little girl, though, actually came out to meet him. Smiling sweetly, she said, “I am XinXin.”

Guo DaLu gave her a couple of glances. Nodding his head slowly, he acknowledged, “XinXin. Good. A good name.” Before waiting for the conversation to finish, he started to leave again.

But XinXin was still unwilling to let him off as she spoke up again smilingly, “I recognize you.”

Only then did Guo DaLu find this a little strange. He stopped and turned around. “You recognize me?”

XinXin batted her lashes at him. “Are you young master Guo?”

Guo DaLu was even more perplexed. “Have you seen me somewhere before?” he could not help asking.

XinXin: “No.”

Guo DaLu: “Then how would you know me?”

Enchantingly, she replied, “You will know when you go ask my household’s xiaojie [young miss].”

Guo DaLu: “Who is your household’s xiaojie?”

XinXin: “You will know when you see her.”

Guo DaLu: “Where is she?”

XinXin’s lips curled up in a little smile. “If you come with me, then you will understand everything.” She turned around and walked back through that small doorway before turning her head back and beckoning to Guo DaLu. “Come.” Guo DaLu did not say anything as he strode inside. His curiosity had been aroused now, and if you wanted to convince him not to go in, it would not be easy to do.



Beyond the door was a little courtyard, and amid this torrential downpour, the wisteria blossoms covering the lattice inside appeared particularly vulnerable. From the eaves hung a few birdcages, and the orioles in them were chirping noisily, as if they were blaming their master for being inconsiderate and not bringing them into her private chambers.

XinXin stepped into the corridor, and with her fair, petite fingers, flicked the birdcage lightly. “Little rascals,” she scolded, “Xiaojie is having a visitor in her room today. If you keep making all this ruckus, she won’t pay any attention to you.” She turned her head back to smile at Guo DaLu as she said enchantingly, “Look at that. You haven’t even gone in yet and they are already jealous.”

Guo DaLu could only smile in response. Now, in his heart, aside from curiosity, there was also a sort of feeling that he could not even describe, a sweet sensation, like there were butterflies in his stomach. But what was this all about? He still felt as if he was in fog ten miles thick, not able to even feel out a shadow. “Have I suddenly run into a bout of luck in romance?” Except that, even if the maid was pretty, it did not mean that the xiaojie would be also be very beautiful. What would he do if the xiaojie looked like a hag?



A curtain made out of mottled bamboo hung from the doorframe and it had surely just recently been put in as the weather started growing hotter.

Inside the doorway, there were no sounds of people. Lifting up the curtain, XinXin invited him in a sweet tone, “Please go in and have a seat. I will ask Xiaojie to come out.”

It was a small, elegant living room inside. On the ground, there was even a thick Persian rug. Even Guo DaLu could not help wiping the mud off the bottom of his feet first before stepping inside. “Why would the master of a place like this invite a guest like me inside?”

Of course, there must be a motive. What sort of motive?

Guo DaLu looked over himself. From top to bottom, what was on his body was not even worth five qian silver in total.

He grinned to himself. Finding the most comfortable and clean chair, he sat himself down. There was a pot of tea on the table, and it was actually just freshly steeped. A few small dishes held some very exquisite teatime snacks. Guo DaLu poured some tea for himself and sipped at it while nibbling some dried apricots. It was like he was a frequent guest there, not the least bit shy or worried about courtesies.

Then, he heard the tinkling sound of bracelets. XinXin finally came back in, holding lightly onto her xiaojie’s arm. As Guo DaLu raised his head to look, his eyes bulged out in astonishment.

It was not that Mr. Guo was a young chap who had never seen women before, but it truly was extremely rare to see such an exceptionally beautiful woman. How could anyone but such a great beauty be worthy to live in such a place?

A piece of dried apricot was still in Guo DaLu’s mouth. He had completely forgotten about swallowing it or removing it from his mouth.

He did not know when, but this young miss had sat down directly across from him now. On her face, which was suitable for both expressions of happiness or anger, there seemed to be a tinge of pink, but it was uncertain whether that was from rouge or embarrassment. A pair of eyes, bright like the waters of autumn, were filled with tenderness as they gazed at him.

Guo DaLu was starting to feel a little uneasy. He wanted to open his lips to say something but instead, ended up accidentally swallowing that half-eaten dried apricot in his mouth so that it became stuck in his throat. XinXin could not suppress her giggle. A “pfft” escaped, and then, once the mirth started, it would not cease. Clutching her stomach, she fell into hysterical laughter that did not end. The xiaojie frowned at her, as if she was reprimanding her for laughing inappropriately, but she, too, could not stop a smile from spreading onto her own face. Guo DaLu was watching them, and then he also broke out into loud guffaws. The sound of his laughter was louder than anyone else’s. Regardless of how serious or awkward the situation may be, once Guo DaLu started laughing, everything would loosen up.

The shy, demure xiaojie finally spoke, and her voice was as gentle as her appearance. “This place is not very adequate,” she said softly, “but since Guo Daye [respectful, ‘mister’, ‘sir’, ‘master’] you have come, please do not feel the need to be overly polite and hold yourself back…”

Guo DaLu interrupted with a chuckle, “Do I look to you like someone who would hold himself back?”

Her voice was sweet as she replied, “No.”

Giggling also, XinXin spoke up, “The tea just arrived from Pu’er. Xiaojie had asked someone to bring it back for her. Guo Daye should drink a couple more cups to help you sober up from the wine.”

“The tea is indeed quite good, but you are mistaken,” Guo DaLu said.

Surprised, XinXin asked, “How am I mistaken?”

Guo DaLu: “No matter how good a tea may be, it still cannot sober anyone up.”

XinXin: “Then what do you need in order to get sober?”

Guo DaLu: “Wine.”

XinXin laughed, “Won’t drinking more wine make you even more drunk?”

Guo DaLu: “You are mistaken again. Only wine can sober you up from the effects of wine. It is called, ‘soul returning wine.’

XinXin blinked at him. “Really?”

Guo DaLu: “This method was developed from my many years of personal experience. It definitely cannot be wrong.”

The xiaojie also broke into a smile. “If that is the case, hurry and pour Guo Daye some wine.”



The wine came. It was a good wine. Of course, the dishes of food were not bad either.

Guo DaLu drank merrily to his heart’s content. He really appeared as if he already considered this xiaojie to be an old friend of his and was not the least bit worried about courtesies.

The young lady seemed to be able to take in a couple of drinks too. The wine tinted her cheeks pink so that her beauty shone even more brilliantly. Guo DaLu’s eyes were fixed unwaveringly on her, and he even appeared to have forgotten to drink his wine. Lowering her head, she said softly, “If Guo Daye you will drink another three cups, I will drink one to accompany you.”

Three cups of wine disappeared down into Guo DaLu’s stomach in the blink of an eye. “I have a few things I need to tell you,” he spoke unexpectedly.

The xiaojie replied, “Please feel free to say them.”

Guo DaLu: “One: My name is not Guo Daye; it’s Guo DaLu. My friends call me Xiao Guo [Little Guo] but it seems that now, I have gradually turned into Lao Guo [Old Guo].”

“Some people will never grow old,” the xiaojie remarked in her captivating voice.

“And some people can never be a daye,” Guo DaLu returned. He downed a few more cups before continuing, “I am just a poor wretch, and I’m dirty and smelly. You, though, are a welloff young miss. You do not even know me. Why would you invite me here for drinks?”

“We are both ill-starred people who are drifting along on the face of this earth,” she answered. “Were it not for the hand of fate, how else could we have come to know one another?”

XinXin jumped in, “My household’s xiaojie is surnamed Shui and her personal name is RouQing. Now, you can say you know one another.”

Clapping his hands, Guo DaLu said with a smile, “Shui RouQing. A good name. It is worth downing three cups for it.”

Shui RouQing’s eyes were lowered shyly. “Thank you.”

Guo DaLu tossed back another cup. He stared at her until, after a long while, he suddenly said, “I am a very frank person. No matter what they may be, I cannot keep any words inside me.”

“I can see that you are a true man with a heroic spirit,” Shui RouQing responded sweetly.

Guo DaLu: “Then let me ask you: is someone bullying you and you need me to help you out?”

XinXin broke in again, “My household’s xiaojie does not ever step out of her dwellings. How could there be someone bullying her?”

Guo DaLu: “Have you run into a very difficult problem that you would like me to help you to solve?”

XinXin: “Neither.”

Guo DaLu stated, “Since I have come here and have drank your wine, so long as you say it, no matter what the request may be, I will still make every effort to do it.”

In a gentle tone, Shui RouQing told him, “As long as you have such an intention, my heart is already content.”

Looking intently at her, Guo DaLu asked again, “You really do not have anything that you would like to ask of me?”

Shui RouQing: “I really do not.”

Guo DaLu: “Then why are you being so kind to this smelly, dirty poor wretch?”

Shui RouQing lifted her head now to look at him, her eyes tender. Under such a gaze, how many people could actually not feel intoxicated? XinXin looked at Guo DaLu, then over at her xiaojie before suddenly giggling, “There is a saying. Have you ever heard it before, Guo Daye?”

Guo DaLu: “Go ahead.”

XinXin: “The Son of Heaven values a hero. A beauty also likes a true hero.”

Shui RouQing’s face grew a deeper shade of pink as she scolded in her charming voice, “Little rascal. If you keep wagging your tongue, just watch to see if I don’t tear up your lips.”

XinXin laughed, “I am also a very frank person, and I am not able to hold in any words that are in my heart either.”

Blushing, Shui RouQing rose to her feet as if she really was going to go strangle her. XinXin, though, merely giggled adorably and dashed away like a wisp of smoke. As she ran outside, she did not forget to close the door for them.

Shui RouQing stood there unmoving, her head lowered, but she could not help casting a glance over at Guo DaLu, who was still staring at her. Her cheeks were now flushed so that they were as red as the sunset glow of a fall evening.

Intoxicated. Right then, right there, even someone who was not drunk would become intoxicated.

Guo DaLu suddenly grasped her hand tightly. Her hands were cold like ice; her face burned like fire. Guo DaLu wanted to pull her into his embrace but before he had a chance, with a light cry, she had already fallen into his embrace.

 

*****

Outside the shutters, it was already midsummer, but inside the window, spring was in its height.

The feeling of spring was so rich it could not be melted away. Some people may not have known each other previously, but the instant they meet, they are like iron that has encountered a magnet and immediately bond together closely.

Shui RouQing was pressed against Guo DaLu. Her skin was soft and smooth like satin, her waist gracefully slender. Guo DaLu’s arms were wrapped around her waist when he suddenly let out a sigh. “I do not understand. I really do not understand.”

Shui RouQing told him softly, “There are some matters that, right from the beginning, there is no way to explain them and no one who can understand them.”

Guo DaLu: “You had never before met me and did not know what sort of person I am. Why are you like this to me, then?”

Shui RuQing: “Even though I had never seen you, I had known for a long time what sort of person you are.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh?”

She nestled her body even closer against him as she explained gently, “In these last several days, who in the city does not know that, from a faraway place, there has arrived a strong and courageous man who neither fears the Heaven nor the Earth?”

Guo DaLu: “Strong and courageous man? Do you know what the meaning behind ‘strong and courageous man’ is?

Shui RouQing: “I will listen to your explanation.”

Guo DaLu: “ ‘Strong and courageous man’ can sometimes also be called 'thug' or 'scoundrel.' ”

In her melodious voice, she replied, “I don’t know, then. All I know is that a strong and courageous man is a strong and courageous man.”

Guo DaLu gave a laugh. Stroking her waist gently, he smiled, “You are truly such a strange woman.”

Shui RouQing: “That is why I have fallen for such a strange man like you.” As she finished saying this, she began blushing again.

Guo DaLu gazed at her. “Before, I would never have even dreamed that I could meet a woman like you, much less even thought that I could be with you like this.”

Shui RouQing’s face burned even more furiously. “So long as you are willing, then I will forever be with you like this,” she told him quietly. Guo DaLu looked intently at her for another long while. At last, he gave a sudden sigh and, turning over onto his back, stared wide-eye up at the ceiling. “You’re sighing?” she asked.

Guo DaLu: “No.”

Shui RouQing: “You are thinking about things that are troubling your heart?”

Guo DaLu: “No.”

She turned over also and lay against his chest. Gently caressing his face, she said tenderly, “I only want to ask you, are you willing to be with me forever like this?”

Guo DaLu was silent for a very long time before, uttering each word clearly, he answered, “I am not willing.”

Her soft, supple body suddenly seemed to freeze. “You are not willing,” she repeated, her voice hoarse.

Guo DaLu: “It is not ‘not willing’, it is ‘not able’.”

Shui RouQing: “Not able? Why are you not able?”

Guo DaLu gave a slow shake of his head.

Shui RouQing: “What does it mean that you are shaking your head? You do not like me?”

Exhaling a long breath, Guo DaLu replied, “A woman like you, if there is a man that does not like you, then he must be sick. But…”

Shui RouQing: “But what?”

With an agonized smile, Guo DaLu stated, “But I am sick.” Shui RouQing stared at him, an expression of alarm in her lovely eyes. Guo DaLu continued, “I am a man, and it had been a long time since I had been with a woman. You are an extremely beautiful woman and you are so good to me. In addition, this place is so soothing, and we had also consumed some wine. Under such circumstances, how could my heart not have been moved? And so…”

Shui RouQing was biting down on her own lip. “And so, you were just fooling around with me.”

Guo DaLu sighed regretfully, “But there is no true love between the two of us. I…… I…”

Shui RouQing: “You what? Could it be that there is someone else in your heart?”

Guo DaLu nodded.

Shui RouQing: “And there is love between you and her?”

Guo DaLu nodded, but then suddenly switched and shook his head instead.

Shui RouQing: “So is there true love between you or not?”

With another sigh, Guo DaLu answered, “I do not know either what sort of feelings those are. I really do not know. When I cannot see him, every second, every moment, I will be thinking of him. You are beautiful, kind and gentle and I like you very much, but in my heart, nobody is able to take his place.”

Shui Rou Qing: “And so you are still going to continue to look for him?”

Guo DaLu: “I must find him.”

“And so, you must leave?” she pressed. He closed his eyes and nodded in response. Shui RouQing gazed at him. There was no condemnation in her eyes and, in fact, she appeared to be moved. After a long moment, she breathed out a sigh of lament and said softly, “If there was one man in this world who would love me like that, I… even if I were to die, I would do so willingly.”

“Sooner or later, you will find someone like that,” Guo DaLu comforted.

Shui RouQing shook her head. “It will never happen.”

Guo DaLu: “Why?”

She was quiet for a very long while before saying unexpectedly, “You are a good person. I have never seen as good a person as you before, so I will tell you the truth.”

Guo DaLu was listening.

Shui RouQing: “Do you know what type of person I am?”

Guo DaLu: “You are surnamed Shui. You are Shui RouQing, a noble young lady and, furthermore, you are gentle and beautiful

“You are wrong. I am not any rich or noble lady. I am just a… a…” Her lip was clenched between her teeth. All of a sudden, she heaved another lengthy sigh. “I am just a prostitute.”

“Prostitute!”

Guo DaLu nearly jumped straight up off the bed and exclaimed loudly, “You are not.”

She smiled, a very miserable smile. “I am. Not only that, I am the courtesan with the highest status and worth in this place. Unless a man is one of the rich and influential who extravagantly spends thousands in gold at one time, he has no hope of being my guest and entering beyond my curtain.”

Guo DaLu paused in surprise for quite a while before finally mumbling, “I am not anyone rich or influential, and I do not even have one piece of gold on me.”

Shui RouQing suddenly stood and went to open a drawer on her dressing table. Holding a handful of pearls in her palm, she informed him, “Even though you, yourself did not spend thousands in gold for me, someone else already paid me in your behalf.”

Guo DaLu was even more flabbergasted. “Who was it?”

Shui RouQing: “Perhaps it was your friend.”

Guo DaLu: “Could it have been the laoda of the east city?”

In an indifferent tone, Shui RouQing responded, “He is not worthy enough to come here to my place.”

Guo DaLu: “Then who could it be?”

Shui RouQing: “It was someone I had never seen before.”

Guo DaLu: “What did this person look like?”

Shui RouQing: “It was a person with a pockmarked face.”

Bewildered, Guo DaLu echoed, “Pockmarked face? Amongst my friends, there is not a single one who has a pockmarked face.”

“But he indeed gave these pearls to me specifically as your payment,” she pointed out. Guo DaLu was so stunned that he could not even speak. Shui RouQing added, “He told me to wait well upon you. No matter what you wanted, I was to provide it to you.”

Guo DaLu: “And that is the reason you...”

She did not allow him to continue and interrupted, “But he had also calculated that there was a strong possibility you would not be willing to remain here.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh?”

Shui RouQing: “He had something to tell you, but only after you expressed that you were unwilling to stay.”

Guo DaLu: “What is it?”

“Something very bizarre.” She continued very slowly, “A few months ago, a very odd client suddenly showed up here. He was just like you: his clothes were dirty and tattered. I had wanted to chase him out of here.”

Guo DaLu: “What happened after?”

Shui RouQing: “Once he entered, however, he laid out 100 liang of gold on the table.”

Guo DaLu: “So you let him stay?”

A trace of hidden bitterness seemed to float up in her eyes as she said in a dull tone, “I have always been a woman that does this type of business. I only recognize gold, not people.”

Guo DaLu sighed, “I understand, but… but you do not seem to be that sort of woman.”

Shui RouQing suddenly turned her head away from him. It seemed as if she did not want Guo DaLu to see the expression that was on her face. A long while went by until she finally carried on in measured words, “The world has always been filled with spoiled rich boys who like to deliberately dress up like that as their way of seeking out pleasure and messing about with other people. That part was not what was odd.”

Guo DaLu: “Then what was odd?”

Shui RouQing: “What was odd was that he had spent 100 liang in gold but did not so much as touch me. All he did was take a bath here, and then he got dressed in a set of my clothes and left.”

“Got dressed in a set of your clothes?” Guo DaLu repeated.

She nodded.

“So is he actually a man or a woman?” Guo DaLu asked in bewilderment.

“When he came, he had originally been a man, but after he put on my clothes, this person was even more attractive than me.” A bitter smile touched her lips as Shui RouQing said, “To be honest, I have seen many many weird people – some like me to use a whip to thrash them or stomp on them with my feet – but I have never before seen someone like him. In the end, even I could not discern whether he is actually a male or female.” Guo DaLu was still in silence again but his eyes now had lit up. It seemed that he had a faint inkling about who this person she was talking about was. “Only now have I said all this because the man with the pockmarked face had instructed me again and again that, if you were willing to stay here with me, I should never tell any of this to you.”

“Do you… do you know what that strange visitor’s name is?” He appeared so tense now that even his hands were beginning to tremble.

Shui RouQing: “She did not give her name. She only told me that her surname is Yan. ‘Yan’ as in sparrow.”

Leaping up, Guo DaLu gripped onto her shoulders tightly. “Do you know where he is right now?” he rasped.

Shui RouQing: “No.”

Guo DaLu fell back two steps, and he seemed as if he was no longer able to support himself on his feet. With a “plop”, he fell back down and sat on the bed.

Shui RouQing: “But she recently came back another time.”

Guo DaLu immediately shot up like an arrow. “When is ‘recently’?” he demanded loudly.

“Just ten or so days ago,” she replied. “This time when she came, she appeared to have many matters troubling her heart. She drank a lot of wine in my place and then, the next day, she put on some of my clothing and left.”

Growing even more anxious, Guo DaLu asked, “Do you know where he has gone?”

Shui RouQing answered, “I do not know.” Guo DaLu looked as if his legs were going to give, but fortunately for him, she added hastily, “But when she was drunk, she spoke many drunken words. She said that once she went back this time, she would never be able to return here and I would never see her again.”

Guo DaLu: “Did you… did you ask her where her home is?”

Shui RouQing giggled, “I had originally asked that only offhandedly and had not thought that she would actually tell me.”

His eyes brimming with an earnest sort of hope, he pressed, “But yet she did tell you?”

Nodding, Shui RouQing told him, “She said her home is in Jinanfu and also said that even the West Lake cannot compare with the spring scenery of the Daming Lake there. She told me if I had the opportunity in the future, I should definitely go there for a stroll.”

Guo DaLu suddenly fell back down again, like someone who had been running for several days and nights and had endured thousands and ten thousands of hardships before finally arriving at his destination. But although he had collapsed, his heart was filled with joy. Shui RouQing was looking at him with tenderness in her eyes. “The one you are looking for is her?”

Guo DaLu nodded.

Shui RouQing: “Does she know that you are so head over heels in love with her?”

Guo DaLu nodded his head again, then stopped and shook it instead – who could know the heart of a woman?

Breathing out a light sigh, Shui RouQing said quietly, “Why would she leave? If it were me, even if you used a whip to try and chase me off, I still would not go.”

“She is not you… She is also a strange person,” Guo DaLu murmured. “All along, I have never really understood her.”

Shui RouQing’s voice was sad as she agreed, “She is not me. That is why she left. Only a woman like me is able to truly understand that there is nothing in the world more precious than love.” Sighing, she lamented, “A woman who does not treasure a true love will regret it for the rest of her life.”

Guo DaLu was quiet again for a long time. “Do you think she really is a woman?” he asked out of the blue.

Shui RouQing: “Even now, you still do not know the answer to that?”

Falling backwards so that he was lying faceup on the bed, Guo DaLu exhaled a lengthy breath and muttered to himself, “It is a good thing I at least finally know one thing.”

Shui RouQing: “What is that?”

There was a slight chuckle in his voice as he answered, “I do not have a sickness… not one little bit. I am just blind, that’s all.”



Nightfall.

The setting sun shone upon the window, upon the new set of clothing that Guo DaLu had just changed into. He looked like he had transformed into a completely different person. There was a glow to his countenance and he was also very sober.

Shui RouQing was looking at him and nibbling on her lip as she asked, “You… you are leaving now?”

Guo DaLu replied with a smile, “To be very honest, I wish I could grow a pair of wings and fly out of here.” Her head was lowered, and her eyes were showing once again an indescribable sort of hidden bitterness and misery. As Guo DaLu looked over at her, his smile gradually faded and his eyes filled with pity. He could not help reaching over to pat her shoulder as he comforted, “You are a very nice girl. There will be a day when…”

With a sorrowful laugh, Shui RouQing continued for him, “There will be a day when I will also find a man like you, is that right?”

Forcing a smile, Guo DaLu answered, “Correct answer.”

Shui RouQing made herself put on a slight smile also. “When you see Yan guniang [Miss Yan], do not forget to send my regards.”

Guo DaLu: “I will.”

Shui RouQing: “Tell her that, in the future, if I get the chance, I will definitely go to Daming Lake to visit the two of you.”

“Maybe we will end up visiting you first,” Guo DaLu said with a laugh. Although he was laughing, for some reason, there still seemed to be a twinge in his heart. He really could not bear to stay any longer, to see those eyes of hers. Whipping his head around abruptly, he stared out at the setting sun beyond the window and mumbled, “The sky is not dark yet. I still have enough time to travel a stretch road.”

Her head hanging low, Shui RouQing responded softly, “Yes, it really would be best if you hurried and left. She may actually be waiting for you to find her.”

Guo DaLu gazed at her and looked as if he wanted to say something, but in the end, he did not utter a word.

And so he left and walked outside. If he did not leave, then what else could he do? It was better just to go – to go very quickly.

Shui RouQing suddenly called after him, “Wait.”

Guo DaLu turned around slowly. “You…”

Shui RouQing did not allow him to get his sentence out. Retrieving a pale purple embroidered purse from within her garments, she handed it to him and said gently, “This is for you. Please pass it on to Yan guniang. Tell her… tell her that it is my gift to you two as a token of my congratulations.”

“What is it?” As he accepted it, though, he did not need to ask any further. He could feel the smooth roundness of the pearls inside.

Shui RouQing had turned back around, not even glancing at the sunset outside the window. “You can go now,” she stated coolly. Guo DaLu gripped tightly onto that purse. Was her heart not just like those pearls inside the purse, also held so tightly in his hand?

She did not turn her head back again. Neither did he say anything again. Some words just need not be said.



Both were ill-starred persons drifting along in the world. It mattered not that they were strangers before.[16]

Perhaps only ill-starred persons in the world could truly understand the emotion, and the mood of that moment. It was so desolate and lonely, yet at the same time, was it not so beautiful as well?



End of Chapter 39

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[16] Two lines within the poem "Pipa Xing" written in the Tang dynasty. Credits to this site http://www.chinese-tools.com/forum/r...ml?q=17%2C8745, which has a translation of the entire poem, as I merely reworded slightly their translation of those two lines.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 24 July 2008 00:25 )