An Uncertain Future (2)
Translator: Mr Voltaire
Ling Chen did not say anything else. He gently ran his fingers over each cut, and then used the water from the creek to help Tian Tian wash her face. After the dirt and blood was washed off, her milky-white skin once again could be seen. Ling Chen helped her do her hair and cupped her face in his hands as he smiled, “Now this is my incredibly pretty Tian Tian. When you grow up, you’ll definitely be as beautiful as your big sister.”
Tian Tian looked into his eyes, and nodded as she smiled. This was the first time her big brother had washed her face and done her hair for her. It felt just as heart-warming as when her big sister did it for her, and she felt incredibly blissful.
Ling Chen looked down and saw her bloodied socks and shoes. He held Tian Tian in his arms as he carefully took off the originally snow-white shoes, causing Tian Tian to yelp in pain. The dried blood had stuck her feet to her socks and shoes- he could only imagine how much pain she had endured while walking. Ling Chen’s heart ached, seeing this scene… on that night, she had carried him on her body for an entire night, and her feet had been damaged to such an extent… what right did he have to selfishly seek death?
The sight of the dried blood on her socks caused Ling Chen to breathe in a breath of cold air. After so many days, her feet had long been stuck to the socks. Ling Chen held her small feet, but didn’t dare to take off the socks. His chest rose and fell as his breathing became ragged. After a while, he put Tian Tian down, saying, “Tian Tian, wait for me here. I’ll be right back.”
Ling Chen didn’t dare go too far, in case Tian Tian got worried. There were many different plants growing around the area, and he quickly found what he was looking for. He grabbed a handful of green leaves and grass, and came back to Tian Tian. He put down the leaves and grass in a pile, and squatted down, before carefully rolling down Tian Tian’s socks.
“Big brother… I…” Tian Tian knew what he was going to do, and her whole body became tense.
When the socks were rolled close to where the blood had dried, Ling Chen stopped. He held Tian Tian’s small feet, gently massaging them as he smiled and said, “Tian Tian, I’m going to ask you a question. You need to carefully think about it, alright?”
Tian Tian instantly became curious, “Eh? What question is it?”
Ling Chen thought for a while, before saying, “A woman was giving a speech in front of a crowd, when suddenly a man burst into the room, shot her seven times, before calmly walking away. No one panicked or chased after the man- why was this?”
“Shot her seven times… no one panicked or chased after him…” Tian Tian became extremely serious as she thought about the question, before weakly answering, “Because… the man was invisible?”
“Nope,” Ling Chen shook his head, “The man was a photographer and he shot her with his camera!” Tian Tian stared at him for a few seconds, before starting to laugh. At this moment, Ling Chen’s hands used precisely the exact amount of force necessary to pull off the two blood-stained socks.
Because Tian Tian’s skin and socks had been tightly stuck together, this action caused her wounds to be ripped open again. The massive wave of pain caused Tian Tian to yell out, and her tears started to flow out. Ling Chen quickly hugged Tian Tian and stroked her back as he said in pain, “Don’t cry Tian Tian, the pain will be gone soon. You’ll be fine soon…”
After the wounds were opened, blood once again began to flow out of Tian Tian’s feet. However, this was necessary- if they allowed her flesh to grow over the socks, the injury would be much worse in future. Tian Tian’s feet were in massive pain, and so was Ling Chen’s heart. Hugging Tian Tian, his heart clenched… he would never forget that the pain Tian Tian had gone through and was currently going through was all for him.
Tian Tian’s body stopped trembling, and although her eyes were still damp, she didn’t yell out. Her feet were incredibly tense as she nodded, “Big brother… I’m… not afraid of the pain… it’s just a little bit painful… I’m not afraid…”
Ling Chen looked up, and tried to blink the tears away. However, he simply couldn’t stop them, and they silently fell onto Tian Tian’s back.
After a while, Ling Chen put Tian Tian’s feet into the creek, allowing the wounds to be washed by the clean water. After Ling Chen carefully washed her feet, they once again became white, but the cuts were quite horrifying. Ling Chen put some of the leaves and grass into his mouth, and chewed on them carefully, before applying them to the wounds. Tian Tian did not yell out in pain. Instead, she silently watched her big brother, her eyes filled with adoration and admiration.
After her feet were covered with the chewed-up grass and leaves, Ling Chen ripped off relatively-clean strips from his clothes, and wrapped them up. He couldn’t stand the thought of Tian Tian being in more pain, so he carried her on his back as he walked back. She had carried him for a whole night; he would carry her for his whole life.
The stench of blood rose from his body, but he felt that it was not appropriate for him to wash in that pure and clean creek. He carried Tian Tian as he searched for a place to bathe and for things to eat.
“Big brother, where are we going?” Tian Tian softly asked as she lay on Ling Chen’s back. Although the smell from Ling Chen’s body was quite horrible, but she still looked quite content to be on his back.
Ling Chen didn’t know where they were going either. Before he completely recovered, they definitely wouldn’t be able to return to Beijing. Now that Ruo Ruo, as well as their home, were gone, where could they go?
Ling Chen stopped, and a slight smile came to his face. Memories from a long time ago surfaced in his mind.
How wonderful would it be if time could stop during that period of time… those days were carefree and filled with joy. Life was simply perfect back then…
“Let’s go back to Zhong Zhou.” Ling Chen stopped walking as he muttered.
“Zhong Zhou? Where’s that?” Tian Tian asked.
“It’s where Ruo Ruo and I met… where I watched her grow up…”
Two days later.
Zhong Zhou Province was named such because it was right in the middle of China [TLN: “Zhong” means ‘middle’ or ‘centre’]. It was about 1,200 kilometres from Beijing. Right in the middle of Zhong Zhou Province was the capital, Zhong Zhou City.
Zhong Zhou City was much warmer than Beijing. This was especially so during noon, when the hot sun would bake the ground, causing pedestrians to mumble angrily.
This was the boundary of the Zhong Zhou City near the north. The buildings were all quite plain and small, and there were not many people walking on the streets. There was quite a bit of distance between this place and the central district of the city. Most of the people living here were lower-class citizens, who lived from hand to mouth.
On an ordinary street corner, a person stood there, his body covered with clothes made from coarse cloth. Part of his face was covered, and his hair was extremely messy, but he evidently looked quite young. He stood there as he stared in front of him, although there were not many eye-catching things to look at. There was a 10-year-old girl on his back, who was also wearing similar-looking clothing. It was quite strange to be wearing such clothes in such weather, and people would often give them strange looks as they hurried by.
They had travelled from Beijing to Zhong Zhou.
Ling Chen had taken the same route, with the same methods, and it was yet again all because of the Long family… and it was still this place…
Everything was so familiar that it made him want to shed tears. ………………………………
“Big brother! Big Brother, hurry and wake up, you’ll get a horrible burn lying on the ground like that. Big brother…””
“Big brother, are you sick?” Can you stand up? It’s very hot lying on the ground like that…ah, no problem, my dad and mom are about to be here. They’ll help big brother, oh right, my dad is a doctor here, he’ll definitely make big brother better again.”
“I don’t have water… will this do? It’s very cooling, and very sweet.”
“Is it tasty? If it tastes good then drink the rest of it hehe, if you want to drink more, I can have papa and mama buy it again later.” ………………………………
Ling Chen’s heart trembled as that beautiful voice resounded in his mind, creating waves in his heart… that year, it was this exact spot where he had met the girl who had changed his life. All of a sudden, six years had passed. He had once again returned to this place… but he could no longer see her smile or hear her angelic voice.
From the same spot as that year, he had jumped onto the train heading to Zhong Zhou with Tian Tian on his back. He had jumped off at the same place, and had come to this spot again… however, this was where the present diverged from the past. What he so strongly desired, he could never have. That beautiful scene could only happen once in his life. Before he and Shui Ruo had left for Beijing that year, they agreed that once she was cured of the Isrock Disease, they would return here. After all, this was their home, and they had many wonderful memories here. In Beijing, what they brought up the most was always Zhong Zhou. They had always been planning when to go back to their ‘home’, as well as what they would do. However…
Feeling Ling Chen’s chaotic heartbeat, Tian Tian lifted her head as she worriedly looked at him.
Ling Chen shook his head and smiled, “Don’t worry, I’m fine. I was just thinking of the first time I met Ruo Ruo.”
Zhong Zhou… I’m back…