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

Chapter 6

The motorcycle turned into an abandoned steel rolling mill . The road was filled with numerous potholes, and the tree leaves were covered with a thick layer of dust and soot .

During the 70s and the 80s, the steel industry was booming . As a result, the employees who worked in the steel rolling mill were held in high esteem by the people surrounding them, and often had an easy time landing themselves a marriage partner . Indeed, regardless of which era one lived in, one would always be subject to societal hierarchies…

But Fortune is fickle, and along with the various transformations in the New Century, people gradually began to perceive the processes of the steel rolling mill as being extremely inefficient, wasteful, and harmful to the environment . The decreased reliance on steel mills ultimately resulted in the steel rolling mill laying off its employees and declaring itself insolvent .

This plot of land was thus left abandoned for more than a decade . Presently, the steel rolling mill remained in a dilapidated state, and constantly seemed to be on the brink of collapse . Only the innermost staff dormitory remained upright, its walls greatly darkened by its prior constant exposure to the black fumes spewed by the steel mill .

The motorcycle came to a sudden halt, causing Chen Nian to bump into Bei Ye’s back . Chen Nian hurriedly grab hold of her helmet and readjusted her position . Holding Bei Ye’s shoulders for support, Chen Nian carefully climbed down from the motorcycle . An old-fashioned staff dormitory loomed ahead of her . In the late afternoon, wisps of cooking smoke drifted out from various doorways, causing the entire building to look like a huge honeycomb that was on fire .

Bei Ye said, “This way . ”

Chen Nian turned back to look at him .

Behind the thick, lush trees, there was an old building that consisted of two storeys in total . The shutter doors of the building were shut, and didn’t seem to be capable of inhabitation, but resembled a goods transfer station instead . There was a rusty iron staircase on the right side of the building, connecting the second storey to the first .

The tree leaves gave off an extremely pleasant and fresh smell; beneath the foliage, thin and delicate strings of white silk hung from the tree branches, akin to an astounding pearl curtain . Upon Chen Nian walking nearer, Chen Nian discovered that there were white, fat bugs hanging at the bottom of the white strings .

A cold shiver shot up Chen Nian’s spine . She carefully avoided the white strings and began climbing the stairs .

On the second floor, the corridor was covered with a thin layer of coal ash . Various plastic bags, old bicycles and other waste objects lay strewn around the corridor .

Bei Ye squat down, unlocked the shutters, and lifted the shutters in one fluid motion . The metallic shutters clanged noisily whilst dust motes swirled around in the evening light . Momentarily stunned, Chen Nian blinked a few times before a small smile formed on her lips . Turning back to look at Chen Nian, Bei Ye asked, “Why so happy?”

Chen Nian lowered her head, “This door……is very……cool . ”

Bei Ye looked at Chen Nian expressionlessly and didn’t make a single sound .

Chen Nian continued, “Motorcycle……also . ”

“Also what?”

“Also, very cool . ”

Bei Ye remained expressionless . Lifting the shutters fully, he marched into his home quickly . Once his back was turned towards her, his lips curved into a quick smile before returning to a neutral expression . Turning towards her, he said, “Come in . ”

Chen Nian hesitated for a moment before following him into the house .

The interior of the house was extremely dim, and the hot and humid smell of his bed sheets filled the entire house . It smelled like scent of the mulberry trees outside, or the scent of the rain soaked ground – slightly bad and moist, but filled with vitality .

Chen Nian looked at Bei Ye – as his arms were raised to pull the shutters down, the lower hem of his T-shirt rose along with his shoulders, and revealed a thin and lean belly with numerous unfamiliar and sexy lines carved on it . Chen Nian quietly averted her gaze .

Grabbing hold of the edge of the shutters, Bei Ye pulled the shutters down in one swift motion . The shutters clanged down immediately, only stopping at Bei Ye’s lower waist . Lifting his feet, Bei Ye stepped on the edge of the shutters, causing the shutters to be completely shut .

Bei Ye didn’t lock the shutters . Instead, he walked to the lamp and tugged at the light switch which was hanging in midair . With a loud crackle, the white ceiling lamp flickered on, the dim yellow light resembling a light bulb filled with fireflies .

The reddish glow of the setting sun shone through the gap between the curtains, dividing the room into two halves; one half consisted of a simple bed and wardrobe whilst the other half contained various tools and machinery lying around in a messy fashion, along with a slightly heady scent of oil .

As the window faced west, the room was extremely warm and stuffy . The moment one entered into the room, sweat would immediately seep out from one’s skin, as though it were mushrooms sprouting from the mud after the rain .

Bei Ye dragged the fan over and switched it to its maximum speed, causing Chen Nian to stagger from the force of the wind . Her hair whipped onto her neck, and the wisps of hair covered her sweaty skin like cobwebs . Upon seeing Chen Nian’s flustered state, Bei Ye snorted, “Are you made of paper?” Grabbing the kettle, he brought it to the tap and began filling it with water .

Chen Nian removed his guitar case and placed it on the table . She removed the wild strands of hair which were plastered on her face, and looked around curiously . There were numerous posters stuck on the walls, featuring Sakuragi Hanamichi, Monkey D . Luffy, and Jay Chou . The paint on the walls had yellowed and cracked, clearly unable to withstand the test of time . Some parts had even swelled up, as though it was the skin of the elderly .

Bei Ye took out a few packets of instant noodles, and asked Chen Nian, “Which do you prefer?”

Chen Nian quickly glanced at the available options before answering, “Sour and……sour and spicy…beef . ”

Bei Ye towered over the table, tearing the plastic wrapper seasoning packets open with ease . Chen Nian went to his side and tried to help . However, just as she tore the sauce packet open and squeezed the sauce out, she accidentally stained her fingers with the sauce . Bei Ye took one glance at her before grabbing a tissue and wrapping her finger in it . Pinching her finger, he rubbed it carefully before removing the tissue from her finger .

It was as though he was handling a child’s hand – all nooks and crannies must be carefully wiped clean before the tissue could be thrown away .

Chen Nian raised her eyes to look at him .

Bei Ye had already turned around to fill the instant noodles with hot water . After pouring the hot water into the cups, he quickly found two books and used them to press the lids of the instant noodle packets down . One of the books was a English textbook meant for students in Year 1 of High School . The cover had been torn off, and the characters in the book were conversing .
– How old are you?
– It’s a secret .

Chen Nian looked at him, “You……” She had just begun enunciating when his dark, black gaze swiveled over and settled on her face . Chen Nian stiffened for a moment and stared at him for two seconds before continuing, “How old……are you?”

Bei Ye’s gaze remained fixed on Chen Nian’s face . Coolly tossing the question back to her, he countered, “How old are you?”

“Six……teen . ”

His lips curved into a slight smile, “You began studying at such a young age?”

Chen Nian nodded her head . She wanted to tell him that she had even managed to skip a few grades, but decided to swallow her words as she was afraid that she would stutter in the process . Bathed in the glow of the setting sun, she asked, “You?”

“Seventeen . ” He leaned against the table, and began to fan his collar . Suddenly, he asked, “Are your studies any good?”

Chen Nian replied, “Good . ”

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Bei Ye paused, and looked at her for some time before continuing, “You’re not lying?”

Chen Nian replied, “Nope . ”

Falling into silence, Bei Ye reached for a new pack cigarette on the table and tore the packet open . Taking a cigarette out, he placed it in his mouth, his thoughts unreadable from his expressionless face . Finally, he removed the cigarette and said, “You look rather stupid . ”

“…” Chen Nian reminded him, “You, said that……before . ”

Bei Ye looked at her, “You looked rather stupid then, and you still look rather stupid now, so it doesn’t matter how many times I say it . ”

Chen Nian: “……”

The heart of the youth is an extremely sensitive one; Chen Nian gradually came to a realization that perhaps, she had given a wrong answer to his question; or rather, she had simply answered too quickly .

The reddish glow of the setting sun gradually dimmed with the passage of time . Bei Ye went over to the windows and pulled the curtains open . Pushing the windows open, the buzzing noise of the crowd streamed in . The cool evening breeze entered the house, and brought the aroma of freshly baked bread with it; the remnants of the setting sun shone golden against the darkening sky, as though it was the shiny glaze on confectionary bread .

“Something…… . smells nice . ” Chen Nian commented .

Bei Ye cast a quick glance at his watch, “Two more minutes . ”


“After two minutes, the man responsible for collecting discarded household appliances would pass by in a motorcycle, the train bound for the provincial capital would pass by, and the freshly baked coconut bread would come out from the oven . ” With a agile jump, he leaped out of the window and disappeared into the night .

Shocked, Chen Nian rushed to the window and peered out .

There was an extremely narrow cement ledge beneath the window which was connected to the emergency stairwell . The emergency stairwell was, in turn, right next to the walls that surrounded the steel rolling mill, and an old and dilapidated alley lay beyond the walls .

Without expending much effort, Bei Ye clambered onto the walls and leapt down into the alley before swiftly disappearing into the bread shop located opposite the alley .

The alley was bustling with activity in the evening; tailors, canteens, bread shops, cobblers and various other shops populated the area . A bicycle bell rang out amidst the hustle and bustle of the evening, and Chen Nian could hear a man hollering at the top of his lungs, “Buying and collecting—– Scrap Metal!” Further away, Chen Nian managed to spot various railway tracks that led into the distance .

Chen Nian returned to the table and removed the English textbooks from the lids of the packets of instant noodles; upon lifting the lids of the instant noodles, a wave of hot air rushed at her face . Luckily, the noodles weren’t overcooked .

Beep——, the train whistle shrieked shrilly in the evening . Chen Nian raised her head, a gentle smile forming on her lips .

Bei Ye clambered onto the window in one swift motion, pausing momentarily when he saw Chen Nian . Chen Nian was partially illuminated by the glow of the setting sun as she stood by the table, tearing the lids of the instant noodle packets . As the fan rotated from left to right, the wind caused her skirt to alternately fly and deflate on various occasions, her slim figure evident beneath the thin, white material .

Bei Ye felt small flames of desire shooting up his chest from the area beneath his belly . His throat itching with thick desire, he helped himself through the window and swiftly pulled the curtains shut . Within seconds, the room grew dimmer .

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Chen Nian raised her head, slowly speaking up, “The noodles are, still……hot . ”

Bei Ye passed the freshly toasted bread to her, “Eat this first . Especially when it’s hot . ”

Chen Nian bit into the bread . It was soft and fluffy, and the scent of fresh milk engulfed her . Chen Nian’s body stiffened suddenly – Bei Ye’s hand had slipped under her skirt, and was gradually sliding up her inner thigh .

Chen Nian turned her head to look at Bei Ye, her gaze colliding with Bei Ye’s stare . As his hands continued their offending movements beneath her skirt, he asked in a low voice, “Are you afraid?”

Chen Nian stood on tip-toe in an attempt to avoid his touch, but his unrelenting fingers followed her ever movement . Trembling, she stared at him unblinkingly, confusion and fear pertinent in her wide eyes .

The train continued rumbling past outside the window, its speed causing the air to shudder and the earth to tremble .

“Why did you come back with me if you were afraid?” With a slight amount of force, he nearly carried her with his single, offending hand . With a muted whimper, Chen Nian continued investing all her energies into supporting her tip-toed position .

Bei Ye insisted, “Did you think it through before coming back with me?”

Chen Nian shook her head vigorously . Beads of sweat began to form on her forehead, dampening her forelocks and causing them to transform into small and tiny curls .

She desired protection, but she hadn’t expected Bei Ye’s price for offering such protection .

Chen Nian’s legs began to tremble from over-exertion, and her body started to sway from side to side . The minute her legs gave way and she rocked back onto her heels, Bei Ye withdrew his offending hand .

Chen Nian remained rooted at her spot, waves of helplessness washing over her . She was angered and annoyed with her own cowardice and rash nature . Burning with feelings of shame, she finally gathered her thoughts and replied in a low voice, “I’ll be……making a mo… . . move then . ”

Narrowing his eyes, Bei Ye used his fork and tapped on the instant noodle packets forcefully, “Eat before you leave . ”

“There’s……no need……” Chen Nian started . However, upon seeing Bei Ye’s facial expression gradually darken with every word that she spoke, Chen Nian finally relented and sat beside the table .

As Chen Nian ate rather slowly, Bei Ye completed his meal much faster than she did . Taking out his pack of cigarettes, Bei Ye withdrew to the window and sat on the window sill for his smoke .

When Chen Nian finished her meal, she tidied the place before facing Bei Ye, “I’m……done . ”

Bei Ye swiftly extinguished his cigarette butt . Hopping off the window sill, Bei Ye started to show Chen Nian the way out .

As they exited the shutters, Chen Nian mustered her final ounce of dignity and asserted, “I’ll go……home my…… . myself . ”

Bei Ye let out a short laugh . However, the absence of any laughing intent was extremely evident from his laughter, “Really?”

As his laugh was slightly cruel, Chen Nian decided to keep mum . Both of them knew that Chen Nian did not have the courage to independently walk out of the steel rolling mill in the darkness of the night .

The weather seemed as though it was about to change, with the night wind being unexpectedly chilly .

Chen Nian sat on the motorcycle, her body shivering in the cold . The journey seemed to be extraordinarily long . Both Chen Nian and Bei Ye did not say a single word during the entire journey, and Bei Ye did not turn to look at her when the motorcycle stopped at the red traffic light .

When Chen Nian arrived at the entrance of her home, the slight breeze had evolved into a huge gust of wind, causing the leaves to rustle in protest . Chen Nian removed her helmet and returned it to Bei Ye .

Bei Ye responded with a single sentence . “We’re quits . ”

Although he phrased it as a sentence, there was a slight trace of uncertainty in his voice .

Pressing her lips together as tightly as she could, Chen Nian nodded her head .

Bei Ye: “Speak up . ”

Chen Nian: “We were……quits…… . long ago . ”

Bei Ye turned his head to glance at her, his eyes filled with an air of desolation; however, he quickly returned to looking ahead, and within seconds, he had already ignited the engine of his motorcycle, his solitary figure disappearing in the darkness of the night .

At that precise moment, huge droplets of rain started pouring from the sky, forcefully falling onto Chen Nian’s head . It had begun to rain . Chen Nian could no longer make out Bei Ye’s shadowy figure amidst the rain, and his red taillights rapidly disappeared as he turned a corner .

The rain grew heavier .

Ah, the rainy season is about to arrive .

Chen Nian’s phone rang just as she ran into the stairwell . It was Zeng Hao – she must have managed to escape from the toilet . Clicking on the “Answer” button, she placed the phone beside her ear . Chen Nian froze on the spot . The raindrops were pelting from the rooftop, causing small clumps of mud to splatter onto her leg . A chill shot up Chen Nian’s spine .

“You……You told them……that I spilled the…… . beans to you?” Chen Nian grit her teeth angrily in the raging wind . Angered, betrayed and confused, her stutter worsened involuntarily, “But you pro……promised me! You promised……not to…… . drag me into……this!!”

Chen Nian hung up .

Guilty, Chen Nian turned back, only to see the vast rain the dark and eerie alley .

All of a sudden, Chen Nian rushed up the stairs in a frenzy and speedily grabbed her keys from within her bag . Chen Nian was unable to see clearly as the stairwell was rather dark, and was unable to insert the key into the keyhole despite numerous attempts . Her feelings of fear grew tenfold .

Hands trembling, Chen Nian’s keys fell onto the floor .

As Chen Nian squat down to retrieve her keys, she caught a glimpse of a muted glow from the dark corner of the stairwell . It was a cigarette butt .

Frozen, Chen Nian turned back stiffly, only to find herself face to face with a pair of cold and cruel eyes .

Wei Cai flicked the ash from her cigarette before rising from the floor and facing Chen Nian .