Proofreaders: krabbykabbi, Luzo, Red
The Rental Shop Owner ch 5, 6 & 7
As a matter of fact, he was lying in my third shop right now.
But it was now the third night of the first lunar month, 2001.
All bloody, too.
Why did I have to end up with this devil?
He had only been locked up for two years and two months when he was released a bit more than half a year ago.
They said there was a fire in the prison and not only did he rescue the government property, he also saved all the correctional officers and even a higher-up sent to survey City N. He was behaving well to begin with and completed a computer diploma in two years, not to mention he was young and had a pitiful background.
Thus, he was released early.
See what kind of luck this bastard had?
That day, he came into my third shop that had recently opened and gave me a scare.
The fellow had a nearly clean, shaved head and was wearing a loose, white tank top and Hawaiian shorts, looking quite sharp. However, he still had an earring, more specifically a stud, the kind that you would not notice unless you looked closely.
Ah-Fen, the young lady who was kind of related and helped me at the shop, had her eyes wide open. Why, was he hot or something?
Thinking back to how disgusting he used to be, I shook my head in disappointment. This was the same girl who made a move on me, heading over to my house every now and then to help with the housework. My mom was beyond delighted and practically thought of this girl as the mother of my unborn babies.
Shen Bin asked me out to dinner to thank me for helping with his mom’s funeral.
“Gimme a chance. C’mon!” He didn’t even call me ‘ge’. I would have you know that those buddies of his had been very passionate about calling me ‘Qian-ge’ whenever they came to hang out at my two shops.
Yet, there he was, all disrespectful–
“Hey, keep your hands to yourself!” I flicked his meathook off of my shoulder and did not sense there being anything wrong with what he said.
He paid no heed and reached around my shoulders with an arm, successfully dragging me out the door.
“You’re still so awkward!” He was mumbling.
I hated him with all my guts. How could he be so much taller than me? I would not be able to lay a finger on him in a few years. Also, awkward? How was I awkward? Fucking bullshit.
I thought I was supposed to be his enemy and even if there were no hard feelings, it was all over—O-V-E-R—over. I just did not want to get involved with someone like him.
Ahh, Ms. Ah-Fen was definitely going to tattle to my old lady. It was going to be a handful again.
Maybe I felt that I owed him or maybe I did not find him so disgusting anymore, I ended up going out to dinner with him. I even fought for the bill afterwards. He did not look too happy about it.
Tsk, what’s there to be unhappy about? You don’t have the money to pay for me when you just got out of prison.
I might be skinny but I have got a big appetite. I made it my goal to eat my fair share since I was paying anyways. Therefore, I did not bother to talk to him and dug in.
“Yo, I’m the one fresh outta the slammer! Why you the one stuffin’ yourself?”
I looked up at him with a mouthful of cha siu. He was sitting there looking all angry with puffed-up cheeks.
I think that was the moment when everything started to change.
I don’t know why but I had never liked anyone in all those years. Even though I liked men, I had never taken a liking to any.
I thought it was out of sympathy and pity at that time.
But someone once said that love stemming from sympathy and pity is actually more down-to-earth. I think it was Zheng Zhihua talking about his wife.
Seeing his fuming face, I quickly gulped down the meat and asked, “Any plans for the future?”
“Me? How ‘bout watching the shop for you?”
“Huh?” My old lady would freak the shit out. Although we knew what had really happened, everyone else around here knew him as a killer. No one would borrow stuff from my shop anymore. I mean, even as I was eating with him, we were getting attention from several pairs of eyes.
“What? Afraid I’d tear your lil’ shop down?” He turned away.
Did I hurt his ego?
“Well, no, see, the pay is kind of, you know, low.” I was treading carefully.
“Hah! You really thought I would wanna work in that shithole of yours? As if!” He was snickering when he turned back around—not unhappy at all. “I got a place to go. Don’t gotta worry ‘bout me!” Then he reached over, his hand pausing for a second in midair before landing on my shoulder. I was about to scold him again when he retracted it. “Heh, I’ll keep my hands to myself.”
I wondered where he originally wanted to put his hand.
I finally replied after a while, “I wasn’t worried.”
He dropped his head and then raised it again. “Thank you, ge.”
He sounded very serious.
Actually, I doubt I had ever told him that it wasn’t my idea to put him in the same room with that scumbag. It was not my idea, but it still had something to do with me.
I wondered why he never seemed to hate me, to take revenge on me or on the Qians.
I never did him much kindness either.
He would still be munching on prison food if he had not put out the fire and rescued a bunch of people.
“Wh-what are you thanking me for?” I bit my lips.
My old lady says I only bite my lips when I am sad.
Cha siu is barbeque pork, Cantonese style ;)
My mind was wandering all over the place so when I got home that night, I did not even hear my old lady calling me. Of course, more trouble ensued.
“Son, why do you always forget things? You’re just like your old man—a woman inside a man’s body. Ah-Fen told me everything: the murderer came to your shop today. He’s up to no good, I tell you. You gotta draw the line with him, okay? And if he comes again, ignore him. Don’t feel like you owe him anything. You and your dad are like, uh, whatshisname, the one who saved the wolf and almost fed himself to it?”
I filled in the blank for her—Master Dongguo.
“Right, Master Dongguo. Now where was I? Oh yeah. He wouldn’t dare cause any trouble when we got people in the police station. You should’ve just given him some money, not eat dinner together.” She heaved a sigh. “You’re a grown man already so stop making us old bags of bones worry for you. Didn’t you say Ah-Fen’s nice? She cares about you a lot too. She’s a sweet, little thing. You should consider…”
My mom was a nagging harpy.
“You done, woman? Your son needs to sleep!” My dad yelled down from upstairs.
I yawned and started climbing up.
After two steps, I turned back around and said to my mom, “No wonder you like Ah-Fen. You’re just as naggy as her.”
“Hey! You hold it right there! What did you say to me?”
I giggled the entire time as I went upstairs. There was no point in arguing about a lot of things with older people. They had an impermeable mindset about certain issues. At any rate, they were the parents who had raised me, my closest two people in the world. I learned after all my years struggling in society to not get in a conflict with your parents or anyone for that matter. Just do what you should do. Fighting won’t make you right.
I really did not want them to worry about me.
However, this time, I was not so certain.
Dad came in right after I lied down on the bed. My old man and I had not had a heart-to-heart for ages, the last time being university applications in senior year. He had not let me apply to faraway but easier schools and instead made me apply to schools along the Shanghai-Nanjing railway. In the end, I did not make it into the school of medicine of City N and did agricultural parasites instead.
My old man sat tall and proper while saying some important stuff.
“They say honour is the first and foremost when navigating the jianghu. We must not go against our morals. That fellow was released for doing good which means he is inherently a good person. We were at fault to start with so we must help out if he is in trouble.”
See, my old man worked in a museum for his whole life. Jianghu, I chortled in my mind.
“Your ma is just being a typical woman but she’s right about one thing. You should settle down soon. The Qian family only has you as the only male heir so you have to leave our name behind!”
Sigh. Marriage. Heirs.
Sigh. I don’t like women. No, I do not.
I’ll just tell them straight to the face tomorrow morning, that I’m impotent. No, they’ll just bury me in medicine. Ahhhhhhhh, enough! Sleep now, think later!
I thought I saw Shen Bin’s eyes with my head under the sheets.
Those black, impenetrable eyes.
Compared with him, I was much better off. At least I had a big family and my parents were still alive and in good health. I was the only son and everyone adored me.
And what about him?
Honestly, I did not have much of a relationship with him. Before the incident, he only came to my shop to get disks and after it, I only saw him three times. Why was I constantly thinking about him then?
He said he has a place to go but he doesn’t even have a place to stay in. Where could he possibly go?
He better not go down the wrong path!
Startled, I sat up and my back was wet with cold sweat.
I had not liked anyone aside from my parents and relatives. I did not even have any close friends. My world was made up of movies plus novels, entirely fictional.
I really didn’t know how to take care of another person.
Seeing Shen Bin lying on the cot in high fever, I had no idea what to do.
I could not go to the hospital. There weren’t any drugs in the shop and the drugstores were all closed by now because it was the holiday season. Going back home would raise suspicion.
I thought silently to myself. Hmm, serves you right. Told you to behave. Serves you right to get hurt. You’re far from dead anyways.
He was so tall that he could not even lie flat on the cot. He kept groaning under his breath and frowning. I could not tell if it was a knife or gunshot wound.
This guy would always come running to me when he got into trouble.
This guy, he had gone down the wrong path.
And there was no turning back for him.
I had separated my fictional and real world very well.
I had only wanted to run a rental shop, watch my movies and live a simple life.
He would change my life.
And I couldn’t let anyone do that.
The following night after the dinner, I went over to the house of his buddy, Mini-Chicken—Lin Dongfu (and I had thought it was the actor, Lin Dongfu)—and told my family I was going to sleep in the shop.
There was only the two of us and he could not withstand my interrogation so he spilled.
He told me he met a boss in jail who took good care of him. Now this boss person had been released, too, and started a security company in Shanghai. He asked Shen Bin to work for him.
Security company? Bodyguards? Why did it sound like something from a movie?
Security service was a borderline legal career to begin with and the company was run by ex-convicts…
But it was none of my business.
Really, he should just come and work in my shop. Things might have been a bit hard at first but at least it was a proper job.
I did not say anything.
“You not happy?” He blinked at me.
His eyes were really pretty.
My face was a bit warm. “Who? Me? It’s nothing to do with me!”
“Why’s your face red?”
“What?” I lied saying it was hot and got up to leave.
“’Kay, I’ll go with you. Let’s go watch some stuff at your shop. I really like Happy Together,” he said as he got up too.
“That’s a ‘fag film.’ Why do you like watching them so much?” The rascal had some taste after all.
“I can like them too.” He didn’t look at me but stared at the ground and crushed a beetle crawling on Lin Dongfu’s floor. He spoke very softly. But I was entranced by it.
“I run a rental shop. It’s a job requirement for me, not a matter of preference.”
“Job requirement, huh?” He was still very quiet. He stopped and swung an arm over.
“What are you doing?” He rested his arm on my shoulder. He would always do this just because he had the height advantage.
“Let’s go already. Lin Dongfu’s rents gonna be back soon from mah-jong.”
See, this guy kicked Mini-Chicken out of his own house. I felt kind of bad for the little guy.
We headed for my shop.
No conversation the whole way.
He just kept trailing behind me. I did not want him to have his arm around me but I never said he couldn’t walk beside me.
“Hey!” I stopped. Having someone dogging you at night time felt really weird. “Get up here.”
“I said no!”
He just stood there without retorting.
Was he mad?
I sometimes wondered whether he saw me as his mom or older brother.
He was only twenty years old.
Anyhow, it felt quite nice having someone who needed my comforting and reassurance.
I really like Happy Together, especially the small things.
“I feel horrible.”
Tony Leung was sick in bed with a fever from going on a morning jog with the self-willed Leslie Cheung, but the culprit in question begged and pleaded, forcing the sick man to cook for him.
“I’m starving though!”
“What’s wrong with you? How could you make a sick person cook for you?!”
Yet, despite the chef’s complaining, he still added an egg in after a few second’s hesitation.
It’s because of these little things.
It was really late when we finished watching the film. He did a stretch as if he was in his own home.
“Know what I like about this movie?”
I looked at him.
“Lai Yiu-fai is so fortunate to be able to write to his dad and even have the chance to ask for forgiveness and start again,” he said this with a squinty smile.
You don’t have family, so you can’t start again—is that it?
I could not help but feel bad.
“Tsk. Look at your frown. Did you believe me? It was a lie, you dummy. I ain’t got no dad or mom.” He was giggling, looking all delighted.
Then he pursed his lips and continued seriously, “I just like Tony Leung. He’s such a caring person. If I were Ho Po-wing, I’d follow him ‘til the end of the world.”
If you were Ho Po-wing?
“Ge, I like men,” he said under his breath.
I looked at him while he looked at the floor. He had really long lashes.
My mouth was dry.
Really? Me, too.
“Ge, I like you.” He looked up and gazed at me. His words were still very faint but each syllable knocked into my heart.
My face was burning and I cast my eyes elsewhere to evade those pretty, opaque, black eyes of his.
I gulped nervously.
Me… Me, too.
He reached over and latched onto my collar.
“What about you?”
I didn’t reply to him.
“I thought you were a good person. And I was right.”
Still no reply.
“Come spoil me with your love, won’t you?”
I was still silent.
I wanted to cry. I really wanted to cry.
He started wiping at the tears that had already rolled down my face and was a bit caught off guard.
“I–. Hey, don’t cry! I…”
I held him tight, a child who was younger but stronger than me. His shoulders were even wider than mine.
He was shaking all over as he held me back even tighter. We parted only when I could not breathe properly.
We looked into each other’s eyes, two black and the other two pink from crying, and I felt a little awkward.
“You have bunny eyes.” It sounded like he was teasing me.
I bit my lips, not because I was sad this time but because I was angry. I hadn’t cried for, what, twenty years?
We were fighting in this room just before. He used to be… Who would have known this day would come?
He stared at me like a vulture staring at a dead body.
I got even angrier. I was older than him, all right?
He lunged towards me and hugged me again.
I really had zero experience. Experience with intimacy, I mean. But I found out then that it was very cozy.
His scent was one of a boy’s, the scent of youth.
With his head on my shoulder, he murmured, “I really like you. I have for a long time.”
“You knew?” He pushed us apart and pouted.
“Huh?” I didn’t. I had no idea how things came to be the way they were. Had he liked me before? That little thug with the sticky, yellow hair who caused a ruckus in my shop every other day or so? Somehow I was not too surprised.
Without much thought, I patted his head. It was just a head of short, fuzzy hair but it looked cleaner this way.
He blushed a little and hid back into my arms.
“I just knew you were the same as me. But I wouldn’t have had to go through all that if only I knew you’d be this easy. I should’ve just went for it back then.”
Went for it? Back then? Hah, I’d like to see you try to go for it when I karate chop you to death.
“Yo, I know even if you don’t say it. You looked down on me back then. Would act like you saw a ghost or somethin’.”
He tightened his grip and my waist started hurting from his constraint. I wiggled around but he wouldn’t let go.
“Ouch!” I felt a sharp pain on my shoulder: the bastard bit me. “Are you a dog or something?!”
“Oh, now you talk?”
His scorching gaze, his black eyes seemed to glow faintly but I could not see the bottom of them.
“Qian Jiying, let’s do it.”
ayszhang: COCKBLOCKED >:D mwahahahahahahahahaha
Ahem! I have finished ch 37 of CS btw ;)
Ahem! I have finished ch 37 of CS btw ;)
The Rental Shop Owner - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.