Chapter 240 – A Perfect New World (IV)
Chi Xiaochi is standing in front of Lou Ying’s house.
Lou Ying, my sister-in-law and my aunt are not at home.
Through the window, he looks away from the rolled-up bunk on Lou Ying’s bed, his palm leaving a sweaty mark on the glass covered with the corpses of tiny flying insects.
To be fair, Lou Ying’s sister-in-law’s family has been very good to Lou Ying.
When Lou Ying first moved in, Lou Ying’s sister-in-law had a thin wall built to separate the couple’s bed from Lou Ying’s, giving him a separate room and making room for a bookshelf and desk in the already tight room. Lou Ying was fed and clothed with the best she could afford, for fear that the neighbours would say that she was a sister-in-law who treated her motherless child badly.
…… but that’s all in the past.
Chi Xiaochi slides along the door and sits on the floor, the back of her head pressed against the door, feeling a sense of peace that she has not felt for a long time.
These days, he sleeps an average of two hours a day, and when he closes his eyes, he is overwhelmed by the smell of blood, men’s head oil, baked soft tarmac and the cold, icy grits of the morgue.
Only by returning here can he remember what it is like to be sleepy.
He slept peacefully against the door until dark, when he was woken up by someone shaking him vigorously.
Chi Xiaochi opened her eyes and saw Lou Ying’s sister-in-law and aunt.
He tried to get up, but his feet were numb and he felt like a million ants were gnawing at them.
”Why did you come here to sleep again? Don’t you have a home?” He heard Lou Ying’s aunt say coldly, “You’re not welcome here.”
Chi Xiaochi stood up slowly.
After the incident, he tried to come to Lou Ying’s house more than once to explain.
But every time, the house was either empty or pretending to be empty.
In the opinion of Chi Xiaochi, the culprit in this case is Zhu Shoucheng.
In the opinion of Chi Xiaochi’s parents, the culprit was Lou Ying.
In the opinion of Lou Ying’s relatives, the culprit is Chi Xiaochi.
Chi Xiaochi slowly rose up holding the door and lowered her head, her voice soft: “Uncle, auntie, why did you …… say forget it to the police?”
Lou Ying’s aunt frowned and looked like he was about to say something nasty, but was stopped by Lou Ying’s sister-in-law.
My aunt bristled and pushed Chi Xiaochi to the side, ready to take the key and open the door.
Chi Xiaochi Reaching up to cover the eye of the lock.
He no longer had the strength to speak aloud, “…… If you guys don’t leave him alone, there really won’t be anyone left to take care of him.”
Lou Ying’s aunt looks around and sees that there are neighbours poking their noses in, looking like they are happy to see the gossip.
He made sure the door was closed before he yelled in a low voice, “We’re not going after you and you’re coming over here? What the hell do you want?”
Chi Xiaochi’s feet are still numb and he can’t stand very still.
He said softly, “I’ve asked around, I’m not old enough to sue him without a guardian instead. Uncle, Auntie, you are Lou’s last family, please, please, don’t leave him alone.”
The aunt asked, “Sue who?”
” Zhu Shoucheng.” Chi Xiaochi looked up, “He was the one who pushed Brother Lou down, I saw it with my own eyes.”
When they heard the news, Lou Ying’s sister-in-law and uncle just looked at each other.
Lou Ying’s aunt breathed a sigh of relief, determined to get rid of this stalker: “We already knew about this. Mr Zhu came to the door and said that he had accidentally pushed Lou Ying down. He apologised and paid us back. The police came and didn’t find anything. Lou Ying’s aunt and I discussed the matter and decided that there was no need to make a big deal out of it. …… Let’s leave it at that.”
Chi Xiaochi opened his mouth.
…… “That’s it”.
A human life, that’s all.
He hissed, playing the emotional card that no longer made much sense: “Uncle, Auntie, Lou Brother was brought up by you …… you can’t ……”
At these words, Lou Ying’s sister-in-law turned her face away and let out a long sob.
The aunt’s husband wrapped his arms around his sister-in-law, patted his wife on the shoulder for a while and then ran out of patience when confronted by Chi Xiaochi.
”What are you talking about? Are we not to blame for this? We’ve worked our asses off to feed him and keep him well. What more do you want us to do? What else can we do? This was an accident, and Mr Zhu has promised to tell the public that Lou Ying fell down when he went to his house for tutoring. What else do you want to do? To bring him into disrepute in the building and our family into disrepute? How will we have the money to move when we do? Besides, Lou Ying was such a good kid, but since he’s been hanging out with you every day, he’s lost his mind and is always running around after you. We didn’t bother with you because of his good grades, and now you’re questioning us?”
Chi Xiaochi is very cold.
In vain he argued, “I ……”
Auntie’s husband took out all his frustration on Chi Xiaochi: “How old are you? You say that we don’t care about him! Do you know how much it costs to file a lawsuit? Do you know how much a lawsuit will cost? If you make a big deal out of it, in the end, our family’s reputation will be ruined, and we may not even get that much compensation, what will you make us do?”
Lou Ying’s sister-in-law knew that her husband had gone too far and waved her hand, gesturing to her aunt not to be so impulsive.
She was a very mild-tempered to the point of weakness, and said in a thin voice, “It’s my fault for not educating Little Shadow properly and causing trouble for others. Teacher Zhu even paid us back, which was kind enough.”
”…… is eight thousand.” Lou Ying’s aunt interjected, “If we keep pestering Mr. Zhu, we’ll make the rest of the building look ridiculous. We’ll be saying that our family is greedy and insatiable?”
”It’s not like that. Brother Lou wasn’t wrong ……” Chi Xiaochi mustered up the courage, intending to tell the story he’d told countless times again, “If it wasn’t for saving me, he wouldn’t have ……”
The scars get numb when you get used to them being torn.
Lou Ying’s aunt had no more patience to listen to him and simply said, “Lou Ying has been cremated today, it’s useless to say anything.”
Chi Xiaochi froze.
His voice was as soft as his heart was beating at the moment, “What ……”
He didn’t even know about it.
No one told him.
He hadn’t had the chance to see Lou one last time.
”Where can a body be stored in this summer, it will stink if it is not burnt.” My aunt’s husband said, “It was buried today. Beimang cemetery.”
Chi Xiaochi’s throat created a whirlpool that swept down all the words he wanted to say.
”Xiaochi, it’s not that we don’t care. I suspected as much, Xiao Ying is not like that.” Aunt Xiao said in a soft voice, “But we are all very tired and we really don’t have the heart and mind to care about this now.”
With that, she raised her hand and touched her belly: “…… You’re a big kid too, Auntie isn’t afraid to laugh at you. I am pregnant. It was found out when the factory organized a physical examination, the report sheet came out yesterday, the child is almost two months old and very healthy.”
Chi Xiaochi pronounced a short syllable, “…… ah.”
…… He knows and understands.
Chi Xiaochi and Lou Ying have known each other for many years and know each other’s families inside and out.
Lou Ying’s sister-in-law and her husband have been married for many years and have never had any children.
So they take care of Lou Ying because they want to have something to fall back on in their old age.
Now it’s good that they finally have children.
To be brutally honest, Lou Ying is, after all, an outsider to this small family.
With this in mind, Chi Xiaochi went back to Lou Ying’s room and thought about how it would look like as a nursery.
My aunt’s husband was eager to rest after a busy day, and his words had the meaning of an expulsion: “Do you have anything else?”
Chi Xiaochi heard himself say, “Yes.”
He staggered to his feet, held the back of his chair with one hand, turned to the two men, and slowly knelt down.
This kneeling confused both adults.
My sister-in-law reached out to help him, “Oh, Xiaochi, what are you talking about? Say something, don’t kneel, get up.”
Chi Xiaochi rippled and his voice lowered and steadied, “Uncle, aunt, I beg you one thing. …… don’t take away Brother Lou’s room.”
My aunt’s husband immediately quit: “This is a family matter in our house, don’t you ……”
”You listen to me.” Chi Xiaochi looked up slightly and looked straight into her aunt’s eyes, her body swaying a little but her eyes settling in black and white, “Don’t take Lou’s room, don’t touch his things. You will rent this room to me, will you.”
My aunt snorted, “You have to pay to rent a room.”
Chi Xiaochi’s hand slipped off the edge of the chair and dropped to his side, “I’ll pay.”
Lou Ying’s sister-in-law and aunt are silent.
Chi Xiaochi, with a wooden face, said, “I’ve asked around. The price of renting a room in this area is 500 yuan a month for one room, one kitchen and one bathroom. We have a common kitchen and toilet in this building, and Lou only has a small room, so I can rent it for 200 yuan a month, and you won’t lose out. ……”
With that, he looked to Lou Ying’s sister-in-law: “The child will need the money, won’t he?”
Not knowing what to do, my sister-in-law turned her head to look at her husband.
It was not a small sum of money, and my aunt was already subconsciously looking around with his eyes to estimate where the cot should be placed outside the room, when he was tugged twice by his wife.
He asked, “Would your parents be okay with that.”
”I don’t need their permission, and I ask you not to talk to them.” Chi Xiaochi says, “The money, I can earn it myself.”
Chi Xiaochi left Lou Ying’s sister-in-law’s house after an initial agreement was reached for no deposit, monthly payments and a price that would follow the market.
He held onto the wall and took one step down the corridor.
At this time of day, the silo dwellers, who have gathered in stalls to chat, have long since dispersed, and the sound of snoring and insects mingle in the hallway, while Chi Xiaochi’s footsteps are too soft to be heard.
Alone, he walked from the first to the first floor.
The dark corridors are usually the ones he dreads the most.
He walks up the stairs where the sound light is broken, presses himself against the wall, and calls softly, ” Brother Lou. Brother Lou.”
Soon, he burst out laughing silently at his own antics.
He laughed as he walked, his shoulders shaking uncontrollably, so much so that he crouched down at the corner of the stairs, burying his face in his knees, his shoulders shrugging one at a time, laughing until he almost choked.
The next day, Zhu Shoucheng’s son and daughter-in-law received the news and came to visit their “frightened” father.
They were carrying large bags and were well dressed, and I heard that they had made a lot of money doing business somewhere in town.
Chi Xiaochi stays at home, his back against the wall, listening to the faint sound of conversation coming from over the wall.
”Dad, is everything okay.”
”It’s fine, it’s fine, you see I’m fine.”
”I heard it was a burglar who burgled a house? Thieves have unclean hands and moral corruption, they are dead, so you must not take it personally.”
”I know, I know.”
”Dad, after what happened, is it appropriate for you to live here again? Why don’t you come and live with us in the city? Mei and I have discussed it, and we’ll change the house after the New Year, replacing the two rooms with three rooms for you to live in.”
”No. Your father is still early to retire, he can still work for a few more years. Those kids love me and can’t live without me.”
”Then Dad, let me change your set of doors and windows.”
”Hey, OK. What do you want to eat for lunch? I’ll get you some yellowtail for soup?”
”Dad, don’t move, we know where the market is, I’ll go with May later. May, you go and bring that apple to Dad-”
”I’ll leave the rubbish by the door then, remember to take it out when you go down later.”
Chi Xiaochi stands up.
He didn’t want to hear any more about it.
He went out and reached the door of Zhu Shoucheng’s house just as it emanated from inside with a rather sharp creak.
Inside, Zhu Shoucheng’s face is revealed.
With a half-peeled apple in his left hand and a bag of rubbish in his right, he looks through a screen door at Chi Xiaochi.
Half an hour later, he suddenly gave a wry smile.
Zhu Shoucheng asked him, “…… still want to eat green bean ice lollies?”
Chi Xiaochi ignores him, carries his bag and escapes in a big way.
He escaped from Zhu Shoucheng and from the people who gathered downstairs to gossip.
It is true that Zhu Shoucheng did not go out and say anything about Lou Ying’s “theft”.
But hell, he didn’t deny it either.
The police came and asked about Lou Ying’s reputation, about the semiconductors that had happened to her, and for the imaginative people in the building, they were able to piece together a set of “truths” that they wanted.
Chi Xiaochi does not want to stay in this place, not even for a moment.
It’s a good thing he has an appointment today.
Yesterday, Zi Yu asked Chi Xiaochi out for a casual dinner.
She loved this stubborn and headstrong teenager, but the bad news was that there was nothing she could do to help him.
There is nothing Zi Yu can do except to put food in his bowl when he eats.
She hid her frustration and put a chopstick of shabu-shabu into his bowl, “Eat more. Look at you, just in the past few days, you’ve lost a lot of weight.”
Chi Xiaochi stuffed his mouth with food: “Sister Zi, you want to see me for something, right?”
Before Zi Yu could say anything, Chi Xiaochi had already guessed, “…… closed the case?”
Zi Yu took another slice of lotus root from the hot pot, not wanting to talk about it, “Hmm.”
In small places, there are many cases without a head, which occur and are settled in a muddle.
Chi Xiaochi blew on the bowl and rolled the sliced lotus root in the sesame sauce, “Mmm.”
Zi Yu : “I’m sorry.”
”There’s nothing to be sorry about.” Chi Xiaochi said, “It’s not you who’s sorry.”
Zi Yu really doesn’t want Chi Xiaochi to indulge in his emotions too much.
So she pulled away, “What are you doing these days?”
Chi Xiaochi replied, “Brush the plates.”
”I’m doing it for a while, but I don’t make much money.” Chi Xiaochi dug into his mouth. Chi Xiaochi dug into his mouth, “Live models are all the rage on Fashion Street these days, I hear they pay well, but there are more women than men in this business. I’m going to try it out.”
”But you’re only fourteen ……”
”I don’t look like that.” Chi Xiaochi looked up from the bowl and winked, “Sister Zi, don’t tear me down if you meet me on your street patrol or something then.”
The teenage playfulness in his demeanour always makes Zi Yu’s heart sink.
Zi Yu advised him, “You are still so young, don’t rush to earn money. It’s only proper to study well.”
Chi Xiaochi said briefly, “I will.”
Zi Yu thought he didn’t take it to heart and spoke slightly more sharply, “Listen to Sister Zi, get your grades right and walk out of here in a dignified manner in the future, don’t stay in this place. You can fly farther, this is really not the place for-”
”…… Sister Zi.”
Chi Xiaochi put down his chopsticks, “Thank you.”
Zi Yu was a bit embarrassed and grabbed her hat: “Don’t say thank you, I didn’t help you much. Sister has already bought the bill, there are a lot of things to do in the institute, you take your time and eat here, don’t rush.”
At the end, she added a little heartily, “…… Don’t feel too bad either.”
Chi Xiaochi smiled, “I’m fine. I can take it.”
After Zi Yu left, Chi Xiaochi took out a mobile phone, buried his face under the table and typed the word Wen on it.
While collecting Lou Ying’s belongings, he found two second-hand mobile phones.
A mobile phone, in this day and age, is definitely considered a rarity.
One belongs to Lou Ying and the other is a gift that has yet to be given.
The phone was tied with a small ribbon and placed in a gift box. When Chi Xiaochi charged it up and switched it on, she realised that Lou Ying had used some tool to modify the root Wen file of the phone.
The opening screen is a firework, and the scattered smoke eventually gathers into a single line.
…… wishes Xiaochi a happy 15th birthday.
Chi Xiaochi’s 14th birthday is just a few months away and his 15th is still a long way off, but Lou Ying already has a present for him.
And now Chi Xiaochi is holding his head against the table, texting Lou Ying with the birthday present Lou Ying had intended to give him.
He said, ” Brother Lou, Sister Zi invited me to dinner. The hotpot, it’s delicious.”
After sending it successfully, he stuffed his phone into his coat pocket and stuffed the bowl full of food that Zi had pinned for him into his mouth without stopping until it filled a mouth to the brim.
He chewed his food like a little squirrel, taking a sour taste out of the bite.
He clutched the bowl, tears falling from his eyes, but did not cry out even a little.
After dinner, he had work to do.
He wants to preserve the last traces of Lou’s brother in the world, so he cannot spend the money he has saved to pay the rent, as that is one of the proofs of Lou’s existence.
During the summer, Chi Xiaochi worked a number of jobs.
However, there are so many jobs that require ID cards and so few jobs such as running errands and washing dishes that he can barely do now, but once he starts school, he won’t be able to earn that much.
Finally, he went to the clothing street and applied successfully for a job in a men’s clothing shop owned by a woman.
In a short period of time, Chi Xiaochi, who was always sensitive and thin-skinned, quickly learns to pose and pose in the muddled clothing street, running around the streets handing out flyers, helping the boss’s wife with her stock, dealing with the flirtations of male and female customers, both good and bad, and helping the boss’s wife deal with the small-time thugs who come to collect money.
Chi Xiaochi has a very striking figure, long legs and long hands, and is a natural dresser, so when he dresses up a little, he looks like a teenager.
Because of him, the owner’s wife has many repeat customers.
Chi Xiaochi lied that he was in high school and had family problems and needed money urgently. The boss’s wife didn’t suspect anything and agreed to pay him 600 yuan a month if he could commute to work, and to pay him 250 yuan a month when he went to school and had to report here every Saturday and Sunday.
Towards the end of the summer holidays, Chi Xiaochi drew a basin of water, dipped his tattooed feet in it and used a wire ball to scrub the tattoos off with a dishwasher.
Everyone says that Chi Xiaochi has changed.
Since the end of the summer, his grades have skyrocketed.
Usually, teachers like to use the phrase “so-and-so is smart, but he just doesn’t like to read” to teach, but they know in their hearts that most students with poor grades are not linked to their intelligence at all, and they cannot say so directly, so they can only use “he just doesn’t like to read” to encourage and redeem themselves in general terms.
Chi Xiaochi is not the same.
He was really not a big reader, but was really smart enough.
In a year’s time, Chi Xiaochi’s grades rocketed to Lou Ying’s former high school as everyone watched in amazement.
The funny thing is that when Chi Xiaochi was no longer looking for anything from anyone, luck came to him.
A model manager by profession was accompanying his wife and sister-in-law to the clothing street when he saw Chi Xiaochi modelling in front of the floor-to-ceiling window.
Chi Xiaochi then ended her career as a clothes street model for a whole year, said goodbye to her boss’s wife and went away with the manager.
Prices are going up, the price of renting an apartment is going up, and it’s time for him to find a new job.
When filling out his modelling card, the manager asked him if he was in such a good position to consider going full time.
Chi Xiaochi has taken on an adult tone: “It’s not necessary.”
The manager knew that his grades weren’t bad and that dropping out of school to do this was a bit of a waste, so he just mentioned it.
Chi Xiaochi’s pen stops at the “Ying Wen Name” column.
The manager said, “This is more fashionable these days, with the English Wen name, it’s fashionable to say out. But if you have it, fill it in, if you don’t, forget it.”
Chi Xiaochi said, “I have.”
With that, he filled in the field with his English name.
The manager was curious: “July? You were born in July?”
Chi Xiaochi tilted her head slightly and replied, “No, I died in July.”
The manager was so confused that he simply pretended he had misheard.
For good-looking people, eccentricities in personality and behaviour don’t matter much at all.
The manager knew that Chi Xiaochi was a man of many eccentricities, a young man who could smoke and drink, a perpetual motion machine that never needed to rest or sleep, a man who knew how to listen to people, who knew how to behave, but who was not very talkative, and who often went to a public secondary school and waited for people.
The manager thought that maybe it was his little girlfriend who was studying here.
The manager lived near the public high school and on several occasions, driving from work, he would see Chi Xiaochi hanging around after her evening study.
The teenager in the white shirt leans against the mottled white railing, carrying a heavy school bag and with a cigarette in his hand, looking across the road at the public high school, looking faint and unsure of what he is thinking.
After a couple of puffs, he ducks his head and presses his exercise book against the railing with one hand, making it difficult to tell whether he is a punk or a good student.