“Qi Susu, you really have the guts.”
When Qi Xiu Yuan returned home, his younger sister was leaning forward, resting her body on the dining table. Upon hearing his voice, she lifted her head, revealing her red and puffy eyes; they resembled two ripen peaches.
Qi Xiu Yuan let out a sigh. When he was fifteen, his parents passed away from a tragic car accident. At that time, his ten years old sister stayed with their grandparents who spoiled her to no end, but even then, she was quite delicate and timid. Afterwards, having lived and studied at a boarding school, she became rather independence and her personality in turn toughened up. However, later on, their grandparents peacefully passed away as well, which lead to his sister residing with him. In the end, he himself couldn’t help but to start and spoil her as well. With just one looked at her cute and loveable appearance, or childish demeanor, he was at his wit’s end.
“Brother,” Qi Susu gently said in sweet yet low tone, “I only want to be with A Yang*1. But, you’re so vicious and stubborn. The only thing I could do was to ask Xiao dage*2*3 to think of a way…”
“You’re not afraid that the gangster’s way of helping you is to beat your brother to death, then throw his corpse into the Yangtze River huh?” Qi Xiu Yuan walked toward her and placed the case of food that Xiao Li had given him, on the table, “Did you eat yet? Here’s something good for you.”
“Xiao dage would never do something like that!” retorted Qi Susu, feeling angry at the injustice said toward Xiao Li, “He promised me that he will have a good talk with you. He also said he will be very polite and especially good to you, so that your impression of him will change!”
Qi Xiu Yuan nodded, “Indeed, he was very polite.”
“Then brother —“Qi Susu’s big eyes brightened up with sparkling lights as she looked at him with high expectations.
“No,” said Qi Xiu Yuan heartlessly, “He was polite to me because of your relationship with his younger brother, so my impression of him have not changed. Not even a bit. With your personality, even if you were to marry into an ordinary family, I would still not be at ease. Let alone, the Xiao family being in that circumstance, don’t even think about it.”
“But……” Qi Susu’s tears started to roll down her tinted cheeks again, “But, I really like A Yang. A Yang is very nice and considerate towards me. Without A Yang, I don’t even want to eat.”
Listening to the sound of her sobs and sniffles, Qi Xiu Yuan became extremely moody. Unable to contain his anger any longer, he slammed his hands on the table and impatiently said: “Between me and Xiao Yang, you can only choose one.”
Qi Susu was dumbfounded for a moment as she stared squarely at Qi Xiu Yuan; tears raced down her face even more ferocious. A moment later, she suddenly lean forward and with her stomach against the edge of the table, she started to bawl.
Qi Xiu Yuan knew that she had always been weak and timid, she would never dare to think of letting her brother go for the sake of being with Xiao Yang.
Now, looking at her like this, he was relieved but also thought that she was quite pitiful. So he got up and caressed her hair, while gently saying, “It’s okay now, stop crying. There’s plenty of good guys out there, but there’s only one brother. Come, go and wash your face and eat.”
Still extremely angry, Qi Susu shoved his hand away and cried out, “Brother, you’re a jerk! I hate you! I hate you!” Then she got up and ran off in the opposite direction.
Qi Xiu Yuan could clearly hear her storming off to her own room before slamming the down shut, then the sound of her bitterly crying pervaded the apartment once again.
He helplessly sighed again and looked at the case of food on the table. Although his appetite had already diminished, he still forced some food between his chopsticks.
The sound of Qi Susu weeping continued for more than thirty minutes, then slowly lessen before silent gradually took over. Qi Xiu Yuan pushed open her bedroom door to look inside for a second. She had already cried herself tired and into slumber. A section of her beautifully designed bed sheet was now moistened by her crocodile tears.
Qi Xiu Yuan let out another long sigh. He went inside her room, picked her up and carried her to a section of the bed that was dry and clean. After he placed her on her side, she carefully covered her up with a quilt.
Really! If mom and dad, or either grandpa and grandma were here, he wouldn’t have to be so worried.
Rather than returning to his own room, he went to the living room balcony instead. Having had given up smoking several years ago, now that he wanted one, it was impossible to find any. This alone, made his enthusiasm toward it even more bleak.
Looking at the gloomy inky night sky, he became rather annoyed. In one moment, he thought if his parent were still around, what would they do. Just thinking about them, brought up memories of his mother’s gentle manner and the love and affection that came along with it. Then the thoughts of his happy and lively childhood emerged from the depth of his well constructed mind.
A moment later, he thought of how long Susu would be brokenhearted, how long would she bear those grudges against him. In the end, with her nature, what kind of guy could he find that would put him at ease; so that he could reassure his parent who are lying beneath the ground.
Then he thought about how much Xiao Yang truly like to pampered Susu. He seemed rather reliable, but unfortunately, his family’s situation is too risky, too dangerous.
Today, that older brother of his, made a lot of effort to express his respect and politeness toward him. But on the contrary, his whole body, exuded a villainous, blood thirsty aura that was so clear as day. So, hard to overlook; so hard to avoid. His hands must have crossed many human’s lives in order for his nature to be shaped into such shape.
The more he thought of it in this way, the more Xiao Li did not resemble Xiao Yang at all. Are they really related? But, there had been people who have said that he and Susu don’t resemble each other either.
Could it be that the saying, ‘what you believe in comes from within’ is true after all……
All kinds of thoughts continued to spiral around in his head. By the time, Qi Xiu Yuan’s head became somewhat clear of those all consuming thoughts, the sky had already brightened up again. He went into the kitchen to make some congee. With nothing else to fulfill his hunger, he absent-mindedly ate a steamed bun along with the now cold dishes that Xiao Li had given him yesterday.
Afterwards, he went by Susu’s for a second, she was still sleeping soundly, however, there was now an increase of newly shed tears staining her face; probably she had awoken yesterday and cried again.
Qi Xiu Yuan silently left. All the thoughts that he had tried to wash away rushed back causing him to on them once again as he started to boil two white-shelled eggs. Then he continued to think about things some more, before peeling off the shells and placing the eggs to the side of the congee bowl.
He felt lost in those unforgiving thoughts as he arrived at school.
All morning, he was listless and in low spirits while teaching his class. His students, on the other hand, were unusually very well-behaved.
Even on his way home, he continued to worry about whether or not Susu was still depressed. Later, thinking that she absolutely does not have the courage to defy him, or even dared to not listen to his words, he gradually felt somewhat relief. He went to the marketplace to buy fish, with the intention of cooking her favorite dish, sweet and sour mandarin fish*4.
When he arrived at home, he was dumbfounded. The boiled egg had not been touched at all and moreover Susu was no where to be found.
Qi Xiu Yuan immediately gave Susu a call but her phone was turned off. So he called Xiao Yang, but his phone too was off.
He wanted to give Xiao Li a call but he discovered that he didn’t have his number. Susu should have his number, but he, himself, did not want anything to do with them so he never had the intention of asking for it.
Burning with anxiety, he left the apartment. Just as he walked out, he bumped into the aunty that lived downstairs and asked her if she had seen anything. The aunty told him that, earlier in the day, she saw Susu and her boyfriend going out. However, Susu was weeping endlessly as though she had done something wrong.
Qi Xiu Yuan’s face was ridden with an even uglier stain of anxiety. He quickly flagged down a taxi and relying on his memory, he told the driver the address of the place that Xiao Li had received him yesterday. To make matter worse, he urged the driver to go faster.
“Dude, this is the city center,” said the driver bitterly, “I can’t fly.”
Qi Xiu Yuan forced himself to calm down and looked out the window at the fleeting sceneries outside as he prayed.
Susu, nothing must happen to you by all means. Otherwise……otherwise how am I going to face our parents?
*1 A Yang > Xiao Yang [‘A’ is added for closeness]
*2Da – means big > Susu calls Xiao Li > Xiao dage = Big brother Xiao [too long to write]
*3Ge – suffix referring to an older male or older brother
*4 松鼠鱼 – sweet and sour mandarin fish or the Squirrel-shaped Mandarin Fish:
a typical traditional dish in Suzhou, not only does it feature in the color and flavor, but also in the taste and shape. What is more, when the fried Squirrel-shaped Mandarin Fish is ready and poured steaming hot bittern, there will be a noise as the squirrel is cheeping.
As a well-known traditional dish in Suzhou, it is regarded as the required dish in banquets and feasts in the south area of the Yangtze River. It is recorded that when the Emperor Qianlong of Qing Dynasty visited the area south of the Yangtze River, the chef in the Songhelou Restaurant, satisfied him with the Squirrel-shaped Mandarin Fish. He carved on the boneless carp, covered yolk paste on it and fried it, then scattered some sweet and sour sauce on it. The dish shaped as a squirrel, tasted crisp and soft, sour and sweet. The emperor felt very content to the dish, thus from then on it was widely spread and named as the Squirrel-shaped Mandarin Fish.