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The Water Goes Drip-Drop finale!
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I have heard from Yuan Fei through our chat that Chief is in the psychiatric department on the twelfth floor of this hospital. I must thank the accessibility of this hospital: I chance upon a collapsible wheelchair by the closet while I’m battling with all the bones in my body. The wheelchair does a wonderful job, except for the pain it causes when I push the wheel.
Hospitals always give off a creepy vibe at night so it’s only expected that my hairs stand up as I go down the dark, silent walkway by myself. The stench of disinfectants hit my nostrils and I quickly plug them up.
A fleeting thought flashes through my mind only to escape my grasp before I get the chance to examine it. I shake my head and focus instead on where I’m heading.
Sun Le didn’t give me any more responses when I proposed I’d get his eye back in return for Chief to be spared his life. I only heard a few quiet ‘drip-drops’ before it became quiet again. What is that supposed to mean? An implicit agreement or a refusal?
Anyway, I know I must go to Wu Fan and tell him everything.
I’m staying on the fifth floor while Chief is on the twelfth. There are ramps made especially for the ease of transporting gurneys but I don’t think I can wheel myself up to the twelfth floor in my breathless state right now.
I freeze when I hear the dinging elevator. I’d thought that the elevator wasn’t in service anymore but it turns out it still is! I’m about to wheel myself over there when it hits me that the night shift nurses probably wouldn’t just let me slip past their watch so easily.
So what should I do?
I shudder as a chill crawls up my back. I stay frigid in my wheelchair, too scared to even breathe normally.
The wheels start turning. I know it’s Sun Le from the strong stench that wafts through again.
That fleeting thought comes whizzing back once again and I catch it this time! I know why the smell is familiar now. It’s formaldehyde—I’ve smelled it in the biospecimen lab before.
Why would Sun Le smell like that? Why would a spirit have a smell?
Accurately speaking, all I’ve seen of Sun Le is a fuzzy, ink-black shape that doesn’t seem to have any physical form. So why is it that I could feel a hand there when he was pushing me? And why do I always smell formaldehyde whenever he does?
The more I ponder the more petrified I feel so I just stop thinking about it altogether. I don’t want my abnormal mind to come up with a bunch of disturbing explanations and get scared to death before I even get to the truth.
The wheelchair slowly rolls past the brightly-lit nurses station. I duck down and cautiously take a peek.
The station is busy. Several nurses are looking around for something. Still, they should be able to hear the sound of the wheelchair trundling on the marble floor, but I just slide past their line of sight without anyone noticing as if I’m transparent.
I should have known there wouldn’t be a problem with him behind me.
The elevator is still dinging. Every time the doors try to close they open again as though something is there, as though someone is waiting for me.
The wheelchair stops in front of the elevator. The ‘drip-drop’ has stopped once again. I clench my jaw and push the wheelchair into the elevator. Before I even get a chance to adjust myself, the doors have already closed and the button for the twelfth floor has lit up.
I gape at the lit button until I hear a ‘drip-drop’ coming from my side. I shut my eyes almost out of reflex.
He’s here, too. He’s right here beside me. I might not see him…but he’s actually….
The distance of seven floors seems to be longer than the River Styx itself.
Despite constantly reminding myself that Sun Le is after the people who took a part of him and that I’m not one of those people, I still don’t have what it takes to go looking for him in this well-lit elevator.
“Thank you,” I say in barely a whisper.
His actions so far show that he has accepted my proposal. He won’t kill Wu Fan as long as he gets his eye back.
Have I become less afraid of him than I had previously thought? I’m still frightened but it’s not in fear of death—I have the reassurance that I won’t die. It might be tiny beyond detection, to the point that I’m still not 100% sure that he won’t kill me, but I feel assured nonetheless.
Finally, the elevator has reached the twelfth floor. I wheel myself down the silent, black hallway and realise a problem upon my hands. I only know that Chief is on the twelfth floor but which room is he in? Yuan Fei didn’t tell me the details.
I smell formaldehyde once again and my body stiffens. I’ve already developed a natural reflex to this sound. I would immediately go into an alert state or— better yet—a pessimistic mindset of an animal under the butcher’s knife.
The wheelchair starts moving again. I think Sun Le is even more anxious than me to get his eye back.
However, I still haven’t thought of how I’m supposed to ask for Sun Le’s cornea when I see Chief. Am I supposed to carve it out?
I can’t even fathom it.
The wheelchair stops in front of room 309. Lightly, I push on the door.
The lock opens and I roll in to the room after a deep breath.
There are patients in all six beds but, with the help of the hazy moonlight, I only have eyes for the one person who’s still up.
A light shiver runs through me and I slowly wheel myself over.
“Chief,” I call out quietly.
Wu Fan is sitting motionlessly by his bed staring fixedly at the moon, oblivious to my voice. Seeing Chief like this, I taste something bitter in my mouth and I almost can’t stifle my sobs.
I take Chief’s hand into mine. It’s cold—as cold as ice. If it weren’t for his even breathing I would have thought I was holding a dead man’s hand.
“Chief…it’s me, Xiao Yu. Do you recognize me?” I gasp.
He’s still gazing into the distance, not sparing me even a glance.
“Chief,” I say under my breath while holding his hands. “Sun Le is the one who did everything. Do you remember him? The Sun Le who committed suicide last summer?”
His finger jerks violently. Shocked, I look at him. “Do you understand what I’m saying, Chief?”
He hasn’t made a sound but his expression has changed. I hurriedly continue, “He didn’t die from the fall! He could’ve been saved but Cubs’ father killed him to save Cubs! Those bastards cut him up and took away parts of his body and then transplanted it to other people’s bodies.”
I can feel his hands shaking and I continue as tears run down my face. “Chief…. Cubs got his kidney pierced ‘cause he took Sun Le’s kidney. Kong Linglin got all his blood drained ‘cause he received blood transfusion. Mu Mu got his bones melted down ‘cause he received bone marrow transplant. Xu Ping got his skin sliced up ‘cause he received skin transplant. Do you get it? Chief?”
The other patients in the room should have been woken up by my sobs but they remain still as though they’re in deep slumber. My suppressed voice wavers as my tears mixed with sorrow drip onto Chief’s hand.
“Chief, I don’t remember which eye you got work done on but that cornea belongs to Sun Le…and he wants it back and he’s gonna kill you doing so. Do you understand? You’ll die, so…so….”
I’m choking on my sobs. “Give it back to him…’cause at least you could live even if you won’t be able see. There’s hope…as long as you’re alive. I don’t want to see anyone else dying. No more….”
Chief’s hand has already stopped shaking. I lift up my head and wipe my eyes furiously. Chief is watching the moon again with that dumb look, his face returning to its previous emotionless state.
My hope withers as I watch him. My eyes trail over to the plate of fruit beside his bed. If there’s a knife-.
I jump in my seat. What was I going to do with a knife? Stab Chief’s eye out?!
I scare myself so much with this absurd notion of mine that my hairs are standing up. Where did I get that horrifying thought from? Just how obdurate of a grudge is he holding?
Luckily, there aren’t any fruit knives over there.
“I’m gonna go, Chief. I’ll come visit another time.”
I whisper my goodbyes. I’m afraid that I might do something horrendous if I stayed any longer. But even if I do come again how would I get Sun Le’s eye back from Chief?
My mind races as I wheel myself towards the door. When I approach the door, Wu Fan’s feeble voice breaks the silence.
“I’ve seen…my cornea donor’s consent form.”
I snap my head back. It takes me a while to comprehend his deeper meaning. I feel a pang of pain.
What is there to stop a bunch of lunatics blinded by money from covering up their sudden wealth with a seemingly legal guise?
Chief falls silent again. His silhouette from behind seems all the more worn and battered. I feel a throbbing pain in my chest.
I whisper, “Get some rest. I’m gonna go, Chief.”
I don’t quite remember how I got back to my room but I do remember being so tired that I didn’t have any energy left to move after climbing on my bed. I wake up from my dreamless sleep the next morning and when I open my eyes I have a police officer rudely interrogating me with those seven files.
“These files disappeared from the principal’s safe the day Xu Ping went missing. Why are they here?”
I show an oblivious face. “Beats me.”
“The nurse who checked your blood pressure was certain the files weren’t here at two-thirty a.m. Why have they appeared during room checks at seven o’clock? Where were you and what were you doing between two-thirty and seven a.m.?”
“I was sleeping, of course. What else would I be doing in the middle of the night?”
“Why was your wheelchair unfolded? It was still folded up by the closet at two-thirty a.m.”
“Really? It probably opened by itself.”
He’s giving me hard looks—I don’t think he likes my flippant attitude. He looks like he might just torture me for information.
“Did you go to Room 309 on the twelfth floor at around three to four o’clock?”
I do a double take. Why is he asking me that? Could it be that someone saw me?
“The twelfth floor? You think I could make it up to the twelfth floor in this state right now, Officer?”
His impatience finally shows through. “Mr. Xiao! We ask that you cooperate with us! Wu Fan, the patient in room 309 was found fallen over in the room at five o’clock with his right eye damaged. The door was supposed to be locked but it was opened. We have sufficient evidence to believe someone entered the room.”
A violent shiver runs through me. I clutch onto his arm. “What happened to him? Who did it?! Is Chief alright?”
Could it be that Sun Le did it himself because I wasn’t able to get his eye back for him? Is Chief in any danger?!
My extreme reaction makes the officer waver and his attitude actually becomes better.
“He’s not in life-threatening danger but his right eye has been completely damaged. I’m afraid he’ll lose vision in that eye,” he in turn consoles.
I let out a sigh of relief and ask after some thought, “Who did it?”
The officer looks at me and steadily explains, “It appears that he had broken the plate on his bedside table and stabbed a glass shard through his own pupil, but the psychiatrist who diagnosed him stated that he has an irrational fear of broken glass so it’s hard to believe he’d do it himself. Moreover, the door was unlocked so there’s always a possibility that someone set the crime scene up to trick us.”
I clench my jaw hard and let my head drop forward.
Chief did it himself. He stabbed his own eye.
“The nurses on night shift yesterday said there were signs that someone had used the elevator but the recordings from the surveillance camera inside the elevator between three and four o’clock have been wiped for some reason. This series of coincidences leads us to strongly believe that someone caused all this to happen within that period of time.”
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t let out a breath of relief. At least, so far, there hasn’t been any evidence that suggests I had been to Wu Fan’s room. At least I wouldn’t go from a suspect to the offender.
“Are you seriously considering that a patient like me sneaked past all the night shift staff, tampered with the surveillance camera in the elevator, picked open the door and assaulted a young man who’s bigger and taller than me?”
His expression twitches a little. I can tell he also agrees that this notion isn’t too convincing. The only reason that I’m even a suspect is because of the files in my room and the unfolded wheelchair, but that kind of speculation practically equals nothing.
The officer keeps questioning and I keep telling him lies just as before, only in a more sincere tone. His attitude softens as well, and he leaves after finishing with the records and fingerprints. I lie back down on the cot and rub roughly on the clay on my thumb. My eyes become clouded with moisture. Is it going to end now? Finally….
I stay in the hospital for recovery while Yuan Fei gets out after about a week in the hospital because of lighter injuries. He comes back frequently to visit and becomes my only connection to the outside world.
My parents also come back to the country to visit me and only go back to work after I insisted that I was fine and giving me a long-winded lecture. Fortunately, they haven’t heard of anything about our dorm since they have been abroad and only think that I accidentally fell down the stairs under Yuan Fei’s purposeful misleading. If not for that, they might just sell their companies and come back home, or worse, make me go abroad with them.
Chief has lost all vision in his right eye but he’s mentally more stable now. His family checked him out of the hospital after about half a month. I hear from Yuan Fei that the vision in Chief’s left eye has started to rapidly decrease due to the blindness in his right. The hospital had recommended surgery but Chief turned it down, the reason being that, unless he hears the donor say the words themselves, he won’t consent to it even if there’s a consent form.
And that essentially meant refusal of surgery.
Later on, Chief didn’t go back to school, instead he resigned from school and immigrated to Germany with his family.
The serial murders of Room 308 seem to have died down just like that. The ghastly corpse of the last victim, Xu Ping, is found outside the principal’s office ten days after he goes “missing,” causing the school to go in to panic once more. The perpetrator and motive—still unknown.
Investigations continue for another month or so without getting anywhere. They stop questioning Yuan Fei and me, too, and the investigation team is finally broken up after leaving one unsolved mystery after another, the whole case sinking into the bottom of the ocean.
I’m sure if there was an X-Files China then what happened to Room 308 and its tenants would be in it.
Finally, I can walk properly after two months or so in the hospital. Yuan Fei gets so excited that he spins me around and around the hospital room in his arms, the result being a brutal scolding from the nurse.
What a nice and relaxing time it has been. I don’t have to worry about that fuzzy shadow in the night or that “drip-drop” sound that seemed to have leeched itself on me. Every day, I welcome the new day with a smile and wave goodbye at the sunset with a smile. The nurses wonder why I’m always happy and smiling all the time.
Why wouldn’t I be? What would you do if you were marching in an endless, barren desert and you can’t even spare a tear because of the relentless hunger and thirst, your remaining strength no longer sufficient to support your next step forward, when suddenly, you see a vast oasis, not the mirages you see before death but a real, actual heaven?
Smiling would be the least flashy display of the ecstasy you would be feeling inside.
Right now, I’m humming while packing my belongings because I’m going to check out tomorrow. I’m already really behind on my homework, but I’m excited and dreading it a bit, too, to end my pig sty lifestyle and get back into the real world.
“Oh yeah, I want a few more bags of those green beans they sell in the store downstairs. I haven’t seen them anywhere else and they’re so tasty!”
“Hey, hey, hey. You’re too old for junk food. Plus, you’ll fart a lot if you eat beans!”
“Shuddap!” I scold jokingly. “Just go get it!”
“Why should I?” He looks unhappy.
“’Cause you’re paying, duh!” I pep.
“But why?” He keeps whining.
“Now, now, be a good boy.” I pat his head and kiss him lightly on the cheeks on my tip-toes. I hurriedly hop away and stutter nervously. “Alright! I gave you your reward! Now, go, go, go.”
He touches his cheek, giggles and marches out with his nose in the air. After he leaves, my cheeks start burning and my heart pounds, making me pant and fan myself like crazy.
“Xiao Yu, oh, Xiao Yu, since when have you become so open?” I slap my mouth lightly as a punishment. “Don’t do such embarrassing things again!”
Punishment complete. I start humming again as I pack my things.
Out of nowhere, a minuscule yet extremely evident sound enters my senses.
The CD drops from my hands and I feel as if I’ve been soaked in ice water and my heart has frozen.
Isn’t it over? How is it….
It must be my imagination…. Just my imagination.
The familiar feeling of my hairs standing up comes back and I hear my own teeth chattering.
“Why…?” I manage to ask in a breathy voice filled with a despair I’d never known.
Is it not over yet? Has the bliss the past few months been an illusion before death?
Is this his ultimate way of torturing me? If so, he’s succeeded because all my happiness and joy crumbled into pieces when he showed up beside me once again.
I’ve lost hope—all hope.
“We’ve given it back to you already. Why’re you still here?” Tears slide past my cheeks to my quivering lips. “Is there no escape?”
An odour wafts faintly in the air, becoming thicker by the second. It is the smell of…formaldehyde.
A hand-like thing sticks into my hair. I feel every one of my pores shivering and chills running through my scalp. My inner voice tells me the strange touch is not from an earthly being. It’s now running through my hair….
“Are you the devil?” I choke.
Why did he let me think it was over when he was going to do this today? It has destroyed my hopes once again right when I started to enjoy a normal life.
Only the devil would play with the human heart like this.
He keeps running his hand through my hair as if he enjoys toying with me. I feel each of my hairs scratching against his finger. I’m so frightened that I wish I could just run away but my feet are nailed down to the ground. The next moment, I feel that chilly sensation reaching towards my earlobe.
I can’t stand it anymore. My legs give in and I collapsed to the ground. I hold my head and sob quietly. “Stop this torture. Let me be or just kill me. I can’t stand it anymore. I’ll go insane.”
Perhaps I’m too scared. My heart starts to pound erratically and soon my vision goes black from the suffocating feeling. Dizzily, I seem to have stood up. The hand behind me starts to push me forward and I robotically obey.
Where am I going this time? The roof again?
But I can only obey no matter where it is I’m going.
I walk on dumbly. Quite a few people say hello to me in the hallways. They ask me if I’m feeling all right because I look very pale. I force a smile that probably looks worse than a frown before continuing to my unknown destination under the guidance of an invisible force.
I am blindly heading to a place that I don’t know of—some unknown place in the hospital. Then he makes me stop in front of an office. The door opens slowly.
I gape at a room full of specimens. Two-headed infants, deformed infants, underdeveloped infants, skulls, arms, legs…. If this wasn’t a hospital, if I’ve never seen something like this before at school, I would probably scream my head off like anyone else would.
The hand behind me pushes me forward and I pass through rows and rows of shelves full of appalling specimens, finally stopping at one particular shelf. Slowly, I look up and my eyes stop on an arm soaked in orangey yellow formaldehyde on the second to the last shelf.
My tears fall down along with this sound.
“Those…sons of bitches.” I clench my teeth and ball my fists.
No wonder. Sun Le should have no form but I can always feel a “hand.” No wonder there’s always a smell of formaldehyde whenever the “hand” appears. It’s because he hasn’t gotten every part of his body back yet. Some body part is still suffering in the mortal world.
Don’t cry. Sun Le, don’t cry.
Please don’t cry anymore.
I go on my tip-toes and manage to get the sizable jar with lots of effort. I hold it close to my chest, afraid that my shaking hands would drop it, in turn shattering the last unresolved grudge of Sun Le.
I quickly turn around to see a familiar-looking man dressed in white standing at the door. He looks just as surprised as I do and asks tentatively, “Is that…Xiao Yu?”
It hits me. It’s him—Cubs’ dad.
I can’t greet my good friend’s father normally anymore. His selfishness was the cause of this tragedy.
“What are you doing here?” He has dropped the wary look when he recognized me. He asks kindly, “What’re you holding that thing for? Now, put it down. This place is off-limits.”
Seeing him beckoning to me so good-naturedly makes my heart sting with pain.
“Mr. Jin, do you know whose arm this was?”
He pauses for a moment before chuckling. “All of the specimens here were taken from corpses. As for whose it was, I really don’t know. All I know is that it wasn’t taken from a living person.”
“No, this was taken from a living person.” I try to smile but fail miserably.
“It was taken from a university student called Sun Le.”
Mr. Jin doesn’t recognize the name and looks utterly confused. I scoff. So, you obliterated someone’s fate whose name you didn’t even remember, and took away his right to life.
“Let me remind you. His name was Sun Le, a student at NY College. He committed suicide last summer, jumping off the seventh floor, and was sent to this hospital for emergency care.”
He stays quiet for a while and suddenly he pales.
“You remember now? You haven’t forget about that summer when Can desperately needed a kidney, have you? There was a university student who committed suicide who was a match for Can’s kidney transplant so you said to your father, the director of the hospital: ‘Dad, Can can’t wait any longer.’”
“Shut up!” Mr. Jin looks at me with frightened eyes and backs up in disbelief. “How did you know? How?”
“Hmm, that’s a good question.” My vision goes blurry and my throat constricts. “You remember how Can died, right? Mr. Jin, what goes around comes back around.”
His eyes go wide in shock and he shakes his head weakly. “No. Can’s kidney was a donation. His death was…was….”
He can’t continue because he knows the kidney that was pierced by that gravity-defying piece of glass was the kidney that was transplanted.
“Do you want to know what happened to Room 308, Mr. Jin?”
I feel like a devil now, slowly eating away at a father’s conscience. “All five victims underwent different surgeries last summer. Each one took a part of Sun Le so he took them back, one by one.”
“Shut up!” He roars like a madman. “Xiao Yu, you need to go get checked at the psych department! You’re talking about a dead person here! A dead man can’t do anything!”
“A person may die, but their grudges stay.”
I hiss. “Don’t you have any morals? Hasn’t your conscience ever eaten away at you for taking a person’s life in return for your son’s? How could you? How could you decide his fate for him, just because Sun Le was a powerless orphan and nobody would question his death? Have you ever thought about the suffering he had to go through before dying, how much hatred he must’ve felt watching himself get murdered, how he watched you cut him up with scalpels and trade his life for money? What would you feel towards the world if you were him? You’d want to take revenge. Your aggrieved spirit would transform into a grudge so strong and take everything back from those who took it from you.”
“Stop, just stop.” Mr. Jin slumps down by the door, cheeks wet with tears. “You wouldn’t understand, Xiao Yu. To helplessly watch your son’s life slip away through your fingers, it drives a father crazy! Ethics? Morals? None of that mattered anymore. I just wanted Can to live, even if I had to kill for it. Can was the continuation of our bloodline. If he died our whole family would collapse. Do you understand? Can was so, so, so important—even more than me. I’d give my life for his but…but….”
Mr. Jin looks like he’s in immense pain. “Can had a brother…the same problem…only I had a matching blood type so I gave him one of my kidneys without thinking! But his body rejected it after the transplant…then Can got the same thing! You know how that feels? You put in everything only to go right back to square one! Only this time I didn’t have another kidney to spare. I wanted to save him…my only son.”
“But the person who suffered in the end was none other than the son you didn’t want to hurt.”
My dear Cubs, if you were still here and knew about your kidney being one taken from a murdered senpai, would you weep tears of heartbreak?
You would. I know you would. Because you’re so kind. But your kindness was devoured by the sins of those grownups.
Perhaps, the grudge-holding Sun Le is well aware that the best way of revenge is not killing a person but to destroy everything that is dear to him. Therefore, Cubs’ death would become the most hurtful, most devastating punishment for this sinner.
“But why did it become like this? Why did it become like this?”
He’s sobbing now. His wails seem to grind my heart. I look down at the jar in my arms and walk over to him, putting it down gently. “This is Sun Le’s last grudge in our world. It was you who caused this series of tragedies to occur so you should be the one to put an end to it.”
I place his hand on the jar and grip it tightly. “Let him rest in peace and resolve this hatred and sin.”
I walk out of the room and take one look at Mr. Jin crying on the floor.
Sun Le, are you watching? Those are his tears of repentance. It might be too late but please try to forgive the irrational decision of a father who loves his son, for he has already paid with his suffering, his organ and the rest of his life.
I turn around and walk towards the exit.
The distinct sounds drift further and further, lingering in the distance, no longer trailing me.
The piercing sunlight is so hot when I leave the building that my eyes tear up. I can’t get it to stop.
“Xiao Yu! Where did you go? I was lookin’ all over for you!”
I hear Yuan Fei’s furious voice. I open my eyes to look at him. He grabs me in concern after seeing my face. “Are you okay? Not feeling well? You’re crying.”
“The sun’s too bright.”
I cling to him. The feelings I’ve been bottling up have finally been released and the tears keep coming. “Just let me cry. Let me cry a life’s worth of tears…so I won’t ever cry again…mmkay? I just wanna cry. Let me cry it all out, okay?”
Scared by my bawling, he embraces me and keeps patting me. “Mmkay, mmkay. You can cry all you want. I’ll be here.”
I let everything out with no restraint, speaking a bunch of nonsense, and get my face wet with tears and snot. Yuan Fei jokes and tries to comfort me but when I don’t stop crying he gets concerned and red in the eyes as well. At last, I break into guffaws seeing his expression while there are still tears on my face, making Yuan Fei exclaim in bewilderment: “This kid’s gone mad!”
The next day, I check out of the hospital.
Two days later, the General Hospital makes the headlines, shocking everyone. The son of the hospital’s director went to the police and gave everything up, how the hospital abandoned the resuscitation of a certain student who was brought in from a certain school due to him being an orphan and instead transplanted his organ to the director’s grandson who had been in critical condition.
Instantly, the news spread like wildfire. The police follow the clues and uncover many more cases of black market trades that occurred in the hospital, the amount unimaginably high. The local media start reporting relentlessly on the illegal dealings of hospitals all over the country. Many well-known figures in the medical field are exposed and investigations are extended to the family members of the patients involved in the illegal trade. The society’s trust in hospitals plummets and leaves the people in a panic.
Later on, every one of the medical staff involved in the murder of Sun Le, the student of Northern Yu College, gets sentenced. Mr. Jin was supposed to receive the death sentence but on the account that he gave himself up and repented for his actions, the court gives him a death sentence with reprieve and strips him of legal rights instead. Director Jin is sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole and is stripped of legal rights. The other offenders are sentenced to ten to thirty years with parole, depending on the level of involvement.
This appalling case has become the embarrassment of the nation’s medical field and finally, after nine months of hearings, the whole ordeal comes to an end.
I put down the newspaper and lay it flat on the ground. Just as I sit up, I hear Yuan Fei yelling at me. “Xiao Yu! I found it! Over there!”
So I get up and crumple the paper into a ball, tossing it in the trashcan.
Right now, Yuan Fei and I are at a cemetery in the suburbs. We have finally found the tiny home of Sun Le on the solemn, grand Columbarium wall.
Yuan Fei puts down the flowers in his hands and lights some incense. He says quietly to the grey photograph, “Sun Le, I know I can’t repay what I owe you so please come find me in the next life. I will definitely repay you for your love.”
I observe his face from the side silently. Seeing his handsome complexion all earnest and somber makes my heart pound.
He sticks the incense into the small censer and grins at me. “Don’t get mad. You can come find me too.”
“Pshh.” I roll my eyes at him and scoff. “What do you mean next life? Who says I’ll have anything to do with you this life? Who do you think you are?”
“You little…!” He squeezes through his teeth while he glares at me. He then says to the photo, “Sun Le, you need to scare him in his dreams for me tonight. He’s always picking on me!”
I kick him while laughing, only then does he start looking serious. “You burn some incense for him too.”
I light three sticks of incense after replying and face Sun Le. My mind races momentarily. “Sun Le…I didn’t know you that well and I never talked to you before but I really regret it…if only I knew you then. We would’ve been good friends.”
Actually, I have a lot to say but it all melts into one: “I wish you happiness in your next life.”
Never to meet such a terrible end. Never to hold such grudges against this world. Never to use blood to cleanse the sins…because you’ll have our blessings in your next life.
I plant the incense into the censer as a man and a woman approaches with curious eyes. “Are you friends of Sun Le’s?”
My eyes go to the strangers. He smiles. “Hello, I was Sun Le’s classmate. I used to be the class rep. My name is Wang Meng.”
“Oh, hello.” We quickly shake hands.
“What a surprise. I thought there wouldn’t be anyone else but us coming to visit. Didn’t think anyone’d still remember him. It’s very nice of you.” He points to the woman beside him with a smile. “This is my wife, Ma Xiaoying. Her first crush was Sun Le so she’s been dragging me along to visit.”
Embarrassed, Ma Xiaoying pinches Wang Meng and he cries out exaggeratedly, making everyone laugh.
“Oh, and you are…?”
“Oh, I’m Yuan Fei and he’s Xiao Yu.” Then he flashes a smile and continues.
“I’ve heard about you before. He said he wasn’t that popular in the class but you’d always look out for him. He was really grateful.”
Wang Meng scratches his head shyly but he grins. “He really said that? Hehe. Then it wasn’t all for nothing. That guy could go for a day without saying a thing and when you talk to him he’d just kinda smile at you. Made me wonder for the longest time whether he saw me as a friend or didn’t like me.”
Then, he studies me and blurts. “Weren’t you in the senior high department? Xiao Yu of class 3?”
I’m a little surprised. “Yes. How did you know?”
“It really is you!” He chuckles good-heartedly. “So you two were really friends after all! He didn’t talk much but he had a ton to say when it came to you. And he said you were the person he wanted to paint the most and he wanted to talk to you but was too scared. I thought he left with regret but it turns out you knew each other! This is great!”
I raise my brows. What is he talking about?
Wang Meng keeps going. “He was really good at landscape but he rarely did portraits. But actually, the portraits he painted were brilliant. It’s just that there weren’t many people that he wanted to draw. That’s why you looked familiar: you’re Xiao Yu. See, he had a portrait sketch book and it only had drawings of you in it. Laughing ones, mad ones, smiling ones, sad ones…. I’d always said he must’ve been really close with you or else how could he have drawn all those, right? But he insisted that he never even talked to you and just drew from imagination.”
I’m not sure what to say right now.
Then he scratches his head again. “You know Sun Le’s a pretty good-looking guy, right? So people always thought he was gay. So these people asked me if he had someone….” He sighs. “Well, I really regret it now but I suspected he was, too, and I thought of you. So I told them he had feelings for someone in senior high. Then the rumours got way outta hand and they started saying he had a lover in senior high. Thank goodness I never said your name, or else things would’ve gone haywire.”
“Wait…so that guy in senior high was you?”
Yuan Fei looks at me, shocked. So I’m actually the reason why they met?
Actually, I’ve realised a while ago that Sun Le never wanted to hurt Yuan Fei and me and that’s why he kept following Yuan Fei around and couldn’t help touching him at night. It wasn’t revenge but a show of love by a spirit in love with him. As for me, I should’ve been a third party in it all but I’ve never been in real danger.
The only one time I was in danger was when Sun Le threw me down the stairs and that was probably because he was angry about my betrayal. Yuan Fei was really nice to me, after all, and Sun Le saw that so he got so mad at my betraying Yuan Fei at such a time that he almost killed me.
We were never Sun Le’s targets to begin with and we were never in danger. It was our fear of the other realm that demonized him and filled us with alarm with regards to his existence. That is why we kept hiding and running for our lives.
While we screamed ourselves hoarse from the overwhelming panic, he never once actually harmed us. He just trailed behind us quietly, watching. Perhaps, he was trying to find closure from us while we thought of the pitiful spirit as a nightmare.
Now I know more. He didn’t choose me randomly. He had been observing me before I even knew of him. Perhaps I was wrong about him touching my earlobes because I had been wearing Yuan Fei’s jacket. How could he not know who his beloved person was? He probably only did it because he had wanted to touch me.
The last time at the hospital when he gently brushed my hair, I was so terrified I was sprawled out on the floor, and I asked him “Are you the devil?” I wonder what he had felt when he heard that. He had never hurt me, yet I kept hurting him with my words and actions and misunderstanding him.
I was wrong. I was wrong right from the get go. I haven’t once been right when it comes to Sun Le.
“Xiao Yu? You okay? You don’t look too good.” Wang Meng asks, concerned.
I tug my lips up into a wide smile. “We were good friends. Really, really good friends.”
Wang Meng probably doesn’t know why I said such an irrelevant comment but I don’t care. I just want to say it in the most sincere way possible so Sun Le can hear what I feel from the bottom of my heart.
If we had met before your incident, maybe everything would be completely different now. Don’t you think, Sun Le?
“Oh right, oh right!” Wang Meng giggles as he rubs Ma Xiaoying’s stomach. “I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m gonna be a dad!”
He sounds like a kid boasting about his new toy.
Ma Xiaoying shoots him a dirty look. “What do you mean ‘secret’? You’ve literally announced it to the whole world.”
Yuan Fei cheerfully congratulates them while I stare fixedly at her slightly bulging stomach. A peculiar feeling comes upon me like the many hints Sun Le had given me. I slowly crack a smile.
“Have you picked a name yet?” asks Yuan Fei.
“Not yet. We’re racking our brains out.” Wang Meng frowns. “We dunno if it’s a boy or girl so we gotta prepare two lists!”
“How ‘bout,” I mumble, “? I hope your child can always be happy.”
“Lele?” The couple shares a look and bursts into laughter. “Wang Lele. It’s a good name. Good for both genders.”
“That settles it then! Wang Lele it is!” Wang Meng laughs as he holds my hand. “Thank you so much, Xiao Yu! You better come to the baby shower!”
“Well, aren’t we getting a little ahead of ourselves here?” Ma Xiaoying chides.
The four of us chat a bit more before we say our goodbyes. When we turn to leave, Wang Meng calls out again. “Oh yeah, I forgot to ask. Is that guy in student council called Wu Fan still there? How is he?”
I waver before answering. “Wu Fan? He went to Germany.”
“Aw. That’s too bad,” he says. “The school wanted to get Sun Le’s cremation done and over with as fast as they could. It was he who started a petition in the class to get him a place in the cemetery. It took a lotta effort but we secured a small spot in this good fengshui place.”
It takes me a moment before finding my words. “Is that so? He really did a good thing.”
“Yeah, he sure did! Alright, we’re gonna head over there. Have a good day, you guys.”
My lips curve up again after our second goodbye.
So that’s why. No wonder Sun Le gave Wu Fan an extra chance. No wonder Wu Fan was the only lucky survivor.
“Whatchu smiling for?” Yuan Fei asks curiously.
“I was just thinking,” I flash a sweet smile at him. “How there isn’t such a thing as ‘coincidental’, only ‘predestined.’”
I pay no attention to the puzzled Yuan Fei and start running. He hurries after me, calling my name, and I go even faster while laughing out loud until I hear:
I stop dead in my tracks and Yuan Fei grabs my hand, quickly comforting me. “Xiao Yu, it’s all over now!”
I look up and it’s Yuan Fei’s worried face. I chuckle out loud and pull my hand away. I walk over to the sink that the cemetery prepared for visitors. The sink is stuck, a pool of water lying in the bottom. Water oozes from the loose faucet and slowly drips down. Drip-drop.
I place my hand on the knob of the tap and take a deep breath to control the tremors brought by my reflexes. Everything starting from that game begins to flash across my mind. All the sadness, pain, suffering and fright are a nightmare of the past. Steadily, I let the air out as if to release every last bit of the negativity from my mind, only leaving the things that moved me and will remember for the rest of my life.
Gently, I twist it shut and watch as the last drop of water drip into the pool. Drip-drop.
I know it’s really going to be the end this time.
I turn around and see Yuan Fei standing there with a concerned look. For some reason I think of that one thing he asked me but I didn’t answer.
Therefore, I ask him with a smile. “Let’s never be apart, okay?”
He freezes and his expression changes drastically, both shocked and delighted. I feel all warm in my heart seeing this but his face darkens all of a sudden. “I’m not gonna reply to you just yet.”
“Why?” I blurt.
“Hmmph. ‘Cause you didn’t reply right away when I asked you, and you only replied after nine months and twenty-eight days!”
I roll my eyes. “Who the hell remembers that stuff?”
“I do!” He retorts.
I burst out laughing and skip up to him, taking his hand into mine.
“Then I’ll wait nine months for you,” I whisper.
He nods, beaming, and holds my hand tightly.
My smile is innocent but I’m plotting in my head: ‘The most I’ll give you is nine hours and twenty-eight minutes. I’ll make you surrender one way or another!’
With that settled, I pull an even sweeter smile.
As we stroll towards the exit of the cemetery, a single drop of water slowly seeps from the faucet behind us. It falls into the sink and causes a ring of ripples and a clear sound.
*palms together* It’s finally finished. Many thanks to the readers who have been with me through it all. Thank you all!
Now, I’ll be answering some questions some of the readers may have.
First of all, a lot of people think that Sun Le is ‘taking his revenge,’ so they don’t understand why he didn’t ‘take his revenge’ on the doctors. Actually, though, this is not the case. The Chinese have always thought the worst way to die is to die without a whole corpse—even dead eunuchs held on to their p***ses for burial, so that they are ‘intact’ and are able to reincarnate. Therefore, it would be more fitting to say Sun Le was taking back his body parts rather than revenge.
♪ Bring back what you took from me~Puke out what you ate from me~
To be honest, taking out all the organs other than the eyeball without using surgical procedures looked really bloody in my mind, and that is why all those people died in a bloody manner. Firstly, the parents would experience the pain of losing a son. Secondly, I’ve always thought that you reap what you sow, and even if you’re not the one reaping, your relatives would be. So you can’t do anything immoral or there will be consequences. Therefore, their deaths were inevitable. Ahem.
As for the guiltiest of them all, the doctors, I didn’t give them a bad ending in the story, only legal consequences. That’s because I know the world’s an unjust place. One murder sometimes only brings a few years in jail (I can give you lots of examples in real life). This is reality. No matter what you want, some bad people just get off easy. If Cubs’ father didn’t turn himself in, all those doctors would still be out and about so I chose to stick closer to reality with them. I consulted a lawyer friend and was told that Cubs’ father and grandfather would be the ones with the harshest sentences. The other doctors would never get a death penalty and considering the grandfather’s age and how the father turned himself in, they wouldn’t either. As for the sentences for the other doctors, I did my research online. It was usually 30 years or less so I went with an average-length sentence. I personally think it’s too short but it’s hard to be objective. T_T
We can only imagine them: 1) discredited as professionals, 2) beat up in prison, 3) abandoned by their wives and kids when they get out, 4) not able to find jobs, and finally 5) dying after a long sorry life. Better than a bullet to the head. Uh-huh.
But what’s written above isn’t what Sun Le was concerned with. His actions were more straightforward: he wants his body back. As for justice, I will leave that to you real human beings (the justice I’ve written is already an ideal outcome; bad guys turning themselves in and the secret being uncovered are actually all very unlikely to happen in reality, whereas it’s more likely that they would get away with it). I’m sure you can picture what the ending would be like if this kind of incident actually occurred.
On another note, it’s not a coincidence that the five dead guys were living in the same dorm but this novel’s word count was way too high and I couldn’t foreshadow anymore. So I have to sneak a little in here. Sun Le died an unjust death so someone wanted to use this to gather them together and then use the game to summon Sun Le back to the mortal realm. But Sun Le’s grudge was resolved so the plan failed (actually I wanted to make the five ooxxooxx). But the story doesn’t end there. Sun Le killed too many people, no matter for what reason, so Wang Lele won’t be having such a great life either (like I said, don’t do bad things *sigh*). But that would be the content of another book predicted to come out in n months. But you can pretend it doesn’t exist seeing that n>12. Hehe, I’m done with my little blurb. See you in the next book!
Dairytea's comment: Thank you, dear readers, for following us to the end and to all those who helped us with this project. ; u ; xoxo
ayszhang's announcement: I have a confession (yes another one). I didn't do a good enough job with translating the title of the novel (the one with Han Xin as the main character) >_<; and now I regret it and want to change it. I just wanted to give you all a head's up. Perhaps I'll set up a poll with the options. I want to change it to "Beyond the Frore Dunes" but I'm also okay with "Cold Sands: Beyond the Frore Dunes" because we're all kind of used to calling it "Cold Sands". What do you guys think?
The Water Goes Drip-Drop - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.