Published at 16th of April 2016 10:45:02 PM

Chapter 10

As Chen Nian had curled up for far too long, her entire body was rather numb . Consequently, when Chen Nian attempted to straighten her body, she very nearly fell off the narrow cement ledge . Thankfully, Bei Ye stepped up in the nick of time and managed to catch the skinny and disheveled body in his arms, the nasty smell of dried sweat and decomposed rubbish nearly overpowering his sense of smell .

The raging wind continued its rampage .

Bei Ye dragged Chen Nian in from outside the window, as though he was dragging a heavy gunny sack . Having ensured that Chen Nian was now safe and sound in his house, Bei Ye began to remove the tree leaves and unidentifiable pieces of rubbish from her hair and her clothes . As time passed, Bei Ye’s actions gradually became rougher . When he was finally done, he closed the windows, before asking in an icy tone, “Who did it?”

Streaks of lightning flashed across the sky, illuminating their pale, white faces .

“I’m asking you a question!” If Chen Nian was a chair, Bei Ye would have smashed her onto the floor out of anger, “Who f***ing did this?!”

Chen Nian lowered her head . After a long period of time, her low voice rang out, “Your arm, is it better?”

A tiny trace of surprise flickered over Bei Ye’s face . The charged fury which Bei Ye had been radiating earlier on simmered down instantaneously . Bei Ye subconsciously shifted his newly recovered arm, and turned his head away from Chen Nian, “It’s fine now . ”

The two youths stood beneath the dim yellow glow of the ceiling lamp and stared at each other silently . Bei Ye felt that Chen Nian was like a patch of cotton wool – no matter how hard he tried, he was simply unable to vent his frustrations on her . Repressing his infuriation, he huffed, “You should bathe . ”

Chen Nian lowered her head and stared at the ground, clearly at a loss as to what to do .

Bei Ye assumed that she simply had an extremely slow reaction, and began to close the distance between the two of them in an attempt to help her . It was only when he placed his palms on her back that he discovered that her previously sweat drenched uniform was now rather stiff after having been dried by the lengthy exposure to the wind .

His palms remained in contact with her back . Chen Nian didn’t shy away from his touch .

“I’ll pass you some new clothes . ” Pulling open the cupboard door, Bei Ye randomly fished out a white t-shirt for Chen Nian and passed it to her . As Chen Nian reached out for the clothes, she discovered that her hands were extremely filthy and grimy, with clumps of black dirt clumped underneath her fingernails . Awkward, she retracted her outstretched hands .

Bei Ye walked into the bathroom and simply hung the clothes on the rack . On turning back, he discovered that Chen Nian had silently followed him into the bathroom . Walking to the shower, he retrieved the showerhead and began scrubbing the greyish white limescale off the showerhead . Lowering his head, he pointed at the tap and explained, “Turn this way for hot water, and the other way for cold water . ” As he adjusted the water temperature for her, he continued, “The water pressure isn’t fully stabilised, so take note that……”

Raising his head, he swallowed the remnant words back into his throat .

Within his line of sight, Chen Nian’s bare, dirty feet began to approach him . Her skirt fell onto the floor in one fell swoop, and lay haphazardly around her ankles . Initially, the skirt remained rather stiff . However, as the water gradually washed away the grime and the sweat, the skirt began to soften, and slowly regained its original clean and white appearance .

The heart of the youth felt like the filthy clothes that were gradually being cleansed of their dirt .

Chen Nian began to strip herself of the remaining clothes .

The water dripped onto the ceramic tiles, and meandered around Bei Ye’s feet .

Bei Ye breathed in sharply, and raised his eyes to look at her . His gaze was immediately drawn to her soft and tender skin . As his gaze slowly moved up her body, a beautiful painting unfurled in front of him – her dark, black, inky hair fell around the ivory white curves of her body .

At last, he stared into her eyes . She too, returned his gaze, her outwardly calm appearance unable to mask her inner anxiety and wariness .

A sudden jolt of pain caused him to take a sharp step back . The excessively hot water flowing from the showerhead had scalded his hand . He hurriedly adjusted the temperature of the water flowing from the showerhead, his bent posture effectively masking the unnatural stiffness in his pants . Having successfully moderated the temperature of the water, he swiftly shoved the showerhead back onto the ledge and quickly walked away .

Bei Ye walked to his table, subconsciously removing a cigarette from the pack and lighting it up in his daze .

The door to the bathroom wasn’t locked . Bei Ye could hear the sound of the water splashing onto the ceramic floor .

Inhaling his cigarette deeply, Bei Ye gradually exhaled a long stream of smoke and turned to look at the bathroom . After some time, Bei Ye walked towards the bathroom, and stood at the boundary separating the bathroom from the rest of his house . The boundary was akin to a vast wall, which Bei Ye ultimately chose not to cross .

Leaning against the wall, Bei Ye continued his smoke whilst listening to the quiet sound of water dripping onto the floor . As time passed, Bei Ye slid onto the floor and sat himself down . Lowering his head, he propped up his left leg and casually placed his left arm on his leg . His other hand slowly reached into his pants, and began its rhythmic movement .

Beads of sweat began to form on his forehead, and Bei Ye’s eyebrows were furrowed into a deep knot . At long last, Bei Ye’s legs began to tremble involuntarily, and a repressed moan escaped from his throat .

Chen Nian’s sensitive ears caught Bei Ye’s repressed moan . Standing beneath the shower head, a belated and uncontrollable shiver crawled up her spine .

Having cleansed herself thoroughly, Chen Nian placed the dirty clothes into the washing machine, and began looking for some washing powder . Carefully opening the drawer beneath the basin, she unintentionally discovered a foreign object that wasn’t meant for her eyes . Stunned, she hurriedly closed the drawer shut . In the end, Chen Nian managed to succeed in locating the washing powder .

As Chen Nian exited the bathroom, she found herself face-to-face with Bei Ye who had just clambered into the room from the window, his hands clutching a bag of freshly baked bread . Without looking at Chen Nian, Bei Ye tossed the bag of bread onto the table in a seemingly nonchalant fashion .

Chen Nian retrieved the bread and munched on it slowly . Spotting a small packet of milk in the bag, she carefully inserted the straw and took one huge gulp . When Chen Nian was halfway through her meal, she belatedly discovered the small bottle of anti-itch floral water which had been lying in a conspicuous position on the table all this while .

Chen Nian had received numerous mosquito bites, with her legs suffering the most bites .

She opened the bottle of mosquito repellant floral water, and began applying the floral water onto her wounds .

As the fan turned from side to side, the scent of floral water began to fill the entire house .

Throughout this period of time, Bei Ye had simply been seated on the window ledge with his back facing the house . As the wind continued to billow around him, he slowly inhaled his cigarette .

The sharp bolts of lighting were flashing across the sky more frequently than before . Bei Ye could hear the warning bells ringing from a distance away as the railway pedestrian gates began to descend . After a few minutes, the train chugged past, its engines clanking nosily in the night . It was 10:00PM .

Bei Ye turned back to look at Chen Nian . Chen Nian had already crawled onto the bed, her tiny and frail body curled up into a small ball . Her petite body was facing the wall, and she only took up a small corner of the bed .

The breeze rippled across the huge white shirt she was donning – the white t-shirt that was a perfect fit for him was overly huge on her, and could very well serve as a dress for her . The wind lifted the ends of his white shirt, revealing the pale and slim legs beneath the shirt .

Her soft and pale body was like a slab of butter ensconced in his white shirt; a single touch would seemingly cause her to melt .

In the past, every single time the train chugged past in the evening:-

The stranger his mum brought home would always pass him a few dollar bills, and instruct him to head out to play . Mum would also chase him out of the house, closing the shutter doors in one swift motion and casting him out effectively . The shutter doors would still be in the midst of closing when the impatient stranger would already begin to reach his hand into his mum’s shirt .

After some time, he returned home, only to find that the shutter doors would still be locked . As such, he would crawl up the walls that surrounded the steel rolling mill and ascended the emergency stairwell . As he stood outside the window, he would always see the stranger violently moving on top of his mum’s clean and pale body . The bed would tremble from the force exerted by the two entangled adults; shrieks, pants, vulgarities – innumerable sounds of pain and satisfaction would worm into his ear along with the clanging of the train .

Bei Ye had finished his cigarette . Lowering his head, Bei Ye let the cigarette fall onto the cement ledge, extinguishing itself along the way .

With the roar of the thunder, huge droplets of rain began pouring from the sky . Bei Ye closed the windows and turned off the lights before crawling onto the bed and laying down alongisde Chen Nian .

The bed sank under his weight .

The entire bed was filled with the smell of floral water . The stars twinkled shyly beyond the curtains, casting the room in a misty glow . Silence descended upon the room .

In the darkness, Bei Ye’s gentle voice rang out, “How long did you practice that sentence?”

Chen Nian opened her eyes, “The…entire……night . ”

“Who was that guy you were with the previous time?”

“Po……police officer . ”

“Ok . ”

After some time, Bei Ye continued, “I’ll send you to school tomorrow morning . ”

Chen Nian’s shook her head, “Tomorrow……and the day after…… . tomorrow are……school breaks . ”

“Oh . ”

There was nothing left to say . The two youths lay quietly in the darkness, their eyes bright and sparkling in the deep of the night .

Outside, the wind and rain continued howling with rage, as though the storm was determined to wash all the dirt and grime off the face of the earth .

Exhausted, Chen Nian’s eyelids gradually began to droop out of fatigue . Just as she was about to fall asleep, Chen Nian felt the bed sink – Bei Ye had turned around, wrapping his arms around her in one swift movement .

At that very instant, all traces of fatigue disappeared, and Chen Nian’s hair stood on end . Despite the cooling effect provided by the revolving fan, Chen Nian could still feel the heat radiating from Bei Ye’s body .

Chen Nian shut her eyes as tightly as she could, and remained immobile . However, Bei Ye didn’t take any further action, seemingly content with hugging her from the back .

It was as though the two youths were quietly probing each other’s boundaries; or rather, they were simply locked in a deadlock, each refusing to budge .

After a long period of time, Bei Ye finally loosened his hold on Chen Nian and turned away from her .

Entirely drained of energy, Chen Nian felt her body gradually go limp .

After a few seconds, Chen Nian suddenly felt Bei Ye distribute a portion of the blanket to her .

Sharing a single blanket, the two youths managed to fall into slumber with their backs facing each other . It was a good night’s rest .

Despite the relentless storm the night before, the bright and blazing sun quickly made its appearance the very next day .

Such was the temperamental nature of the rainy season .

By the time Chen Nian woke up, it was already 10:00AM in the morning . Bei Ye was nowhere to be seen . A plate of eggs and a cup of milk lay quietly on the table .

Chen Nian crawled up from bed, quietly eating her breakfast whilst flipping through her books . When the clock struck noon, Chen Nian heard footsteps making their way up the staircase outside – Bei Ye was about to return . A mild feeling of anxiety overcame Chen Nian, and she buried her head in her pile of books .

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The shutters rose and fell . The youth made his way into the house and headed straight into the kitchen without acknowledging Chen Nian’s presence .

Chen Nian stole a couple of glances at him from the corner of her eyes . The faint outline of a shoeprint on the hem of his jeans caught her eye – in that very instant, she understood why Bei Ye had disappeared for the entire morning . A tingling sensation crept up her nose and a lump formed in her throat . She wanted to thank him for all his help, but she simply didn’t know where to start .

On the other hand, Bei Ye appeared as though he had nothing to say to her .

The small, narrow house was occupied by two living persons, but the atmosphere in the house was strangely rather dead .

Bei Ye collapsed onto the bed and began flipping through his comics whilst Chen Nian sat at the table, quietly reading her textbooks . Neither of them spoke to each other, the stale silence broken only by the whirring of the rotating fan .

As such, the two youths managed to spend their day together in this peaceful and quiet manner . As the sun began to set in the west, the temperature in the damp and stuffy house gradually began to build .

Bei Ye rose from the bed . Leaving his comics lying no the bed, the entered the washroom, peed, flushed the toilet bowl, and washed his hands .

When the door opened, he suggested, “Let’s head out . ” Chen Nian raised her head to look at him . He continued, “It’s too warm in here . I’ll bring you out for a walk . ”

Chen Nian placed her books neatly on the table before following him out .

As the sun gradually began to set in the evening, it was cooler outside compared to the interior of the house . As it was the rainy season, the trees and abandoned factory dormitories seemed to be cleaner than before .

The abandoned factory lay at the outskirts of the town . Thus, aside from the noisy and crowded alley directly outside Bei Ye’s window, the surrounding area was entirely filled with wild grass and trees . The untamed wilderness silently lay at the borders of the town, abandoned and forgotten; yet, the wilderness teemed with the vibrancy of life – the tall grass grew to extraordinary heights and flowers bloomed in abundance .

The setting sun hung in the sky, radiant and warm .

Chen Nian silently traced Bei Ye’s footsteps . Neither of them spoke to each other . Subsequently, he brought her to a small restaurant for dinner . After dinner, the two youths retraced their footsteps and headed home . As the sun gradually began to set, its dying rays painting the sky a vibrant, blazing red .

Darkness began to creep into the sky, gradually but steadily devouring the remnant reddish hues left by the dying sun .

Chen Nian continued trailing behind Bei Ye, the empty houses and forlorn trees that were lining the roads seeming ever so desolate and frightening .

Still, neither of them spoke .

Chen Nian followed Bei Ye closely, feelings of fear creeping over her . Gradually, she came to a realisation that both of them were the only persons in this godforsaken place .

Suddenly, Bei Ye stopped in front of Chen Nian . Turning back to look at her, he instructed, “Close your eyes . ”

Chen Nian stared at him timidly, gripping her fists tightly out of anxiety and uncertainty .

He snorted derisively, “I told you to close your eyes . ”

Left with no choice, Chen Nian shut her eyes as instructed . Due to her fear, her breathing was mildly erratic .

Chen Nian couldn’t detect any sign of movement from the surroundings, neither could she hear the sound of his footsteps . After waiting for what seemed to be a century, she finally heard his voice ring out .

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“5, 4,” The youth began his countdown, “3, 2, 1 . ”

The summer breeze gently caressed the chinese parasol trees .

Chen Nian slowly opened her eyes, only to be greeted with a magical sight . The very moment Chen Nian opened her eyes, the streetlamps lining the street lit up instantaneously, their warm, yellow light steadily and slowly illuminating the entire world . Every tree seemed to be smiling, and every empty house appeared gentle and homely .

Just as Chen Nian was staring at the overwhelming sight in front of her, Bei Ye rushed to her side . Grabbing her hand, Bei Ye began to run along the empty, illuminated street without a moment’s hesitation .

“We still have one minute . ”

Chen Nian didn’t know what the one minute related to, but she instinctively placed her trust in Bei Ye and ran with all her might .

“45, 44,”

As Bei Ye counted down in his low and steady voice, Chen Nian pumped all her energy into her skinny, frail legs .

“20, 19,”

They rushed into a small building and sped onto the rooftop . The wild darkness silently stretched out behind them, as though it was a mysterious and unknown abyss . Before them, the entire city was shrouded in darkness, the mist seemingly close to swallowing up the whole city .

Hauling her onto the cement ledge on the edge of the rooftop, the two youths came to a halt . With their hearts hammering in their chests, the two youths shouted aloud in unison, “3, 2, 1!”

The magic began .

The road lamps lining the entire city began to light up one after the other, the soft, yellow glow akin to the gentle moonlight that slowly rippled throughout the entire city .

Ah, the unexpected gentleness and carefulness had slowly crept its way into someone’s heart, lighting up the heart with hope .

The beads of sweat that had formed on their foreheads and their chests had been easily dried by the breeze, and their uneven breathing gradually resumed normalcy .

“Let’s go . ”

The youth jumped down from the cement ledge, and used his arms to support Chen Nian down the cement ledge as well . The moment she landed on the ground, he loosened his hold on her, his fingers smoothly sliding from her arm onto her palms before carefully grabbing hold of her skinny, tiny fingers .

The gentle breeze quietly swirled around the two youths, softly caressing their hearts .

My dear youth,

Life is akin to a citrus tree in summer with its green, unripe fruits hanging from its branches,

Whilst some fruits would be undeniably bitter,

Others would be irrefutably sweet .