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The Rental Shop Owner ch 14
I lived with my heart in my mouth without news of him.
But I had to live on.
Lin Dongfu came looking for me just before January 1st. He knew that I was going crazy because of him. He pulled me out of the shop. It got quite cold at that time. He said, “Qian-ge, someone saw Shen Bin.”
“What?” I grabbed him.
“A cousin of mine said he saw him in Kunshan when he went to stock up on goods.”
“Kunshan?” I had never told Lin Dongfu in great detail what he was doing because I thought it was better safe than sorry. “Is your cousin certain? Where in Kunshan? What was he doing?”
“Hold your horses, Qian-ge.” He patted me a couple of times. “My cousin used to be in the business and knows some people. He said… He said the people Shen Bin was with were the ones you can’t afford to offend. He saw them people and he knew Shen Bin and I were buddies so he told me to be on the look-out. He also said Shen Bin was wearing sunglasses and a hat on purpose like he didn’t want nobody recognizin’ him.”
I gritted my teeth. Business? The fucking business again!
“Tell me the truth here. What do you mean ‘can’t afford to offend?’ What was he doing with them?”
He glanced at me with his brows furrowed up. “I’m worried too, Qian-ge,” he started tentatively. “Those people ain’t from ‘round here. My cousin heard stories about one o’ them before. Shot and killed people in the North. Killed a whole family, they say. I-I dunno what Bin-ge is doing with them either. We never really saw through him before. When he gets crazy…” He didn’t finish.
It was cold outside to begin with and now I felt as though someone poured a bucket of water on me.
I bit my lips and cracked a smile. “Don’t worry too much. Maybe your cousin mistook him. Shen Bin’s a bodyguard! Plus, if that guy really did kill a whole family, he wouldn’t be strutting around. He’d be on the wanted list. Maybe the word in the business was wrong!” It was to comfort him as much as it was to comfort myself.
“You don’t understand. My cousin told me to not tell a soul. He even came back from Kunshan ahead of schedule. Said shit is gonna go down. I don’t think it’s made-up.”
“Hah, what could go wrong? This isn’t a movie. Don’t fret. Go home.” Even I found my smile to be forced.
“’Kay, I’ll go home then. Qian-ge, you can’t tell this to anyone.”
“Alright. I got it.”
After I went back inside the shop, I was shivering like a leaf.
It wasn’t just worry but also disappointment.
If it’s real, then you, you little brat, have really let me down. What do you think you’re doing? You think sending me off with brimming tears is enough? What do you take me for?
Why did you pick the dark side?
Didn’t you say you wouldn’t do anything bad?
I was ready to give everything up and move to Shanghai.
How could you do this to me?
I was perfectly fine, just a decent rental shop owner. I ended up getting together with you—I can’t do anything about that—but you…if you keep this up…I cannot go on changing myself for you.
I could not do anything. I would be scared witless if I saw a movie about gangs. I was only a normal civilian. Damn this little brat. Maybe he had a story, a reason? Maybe he got into an accident? I couldn’t stop myself from thinking and my head felt like it was about to explode. Damn him.
By the time Lunar New Year’s rolled around, there was still no news of him.
Maybe that was it? Everything was just a dream?
I had no idea.
The brat was lying on the metal cot, moaning quietly.
Luckily, I had a kettle in the shop. I boiled some water and poured it down his throat when it cooled a bit. Then, I placed a cold towel on his forehead. At least I could get the fever to go down if anything.
I looked over his wounds. There were only two, really, one on the left shoulder and one on the chest. The bandaging looked professional which meant he probably came after getting treated. The blood that seeped out was most likely because the wound reopened. It had stopped now, too. All that blood really did give me a fright when he took off his clothes earlier.
He came to hide out.
He had lost even more weight and was in a bad mood, too, shouting at me when he came in earlier, “Aren’t we the daredevil, opening doors in the middle of the night? You ain’t got nine lives!”
His entire air had changed and he even raised his voice at me! I didn’t deserve this shit!
I could not sleep though and kept changing the towel and feeding him water.
“Ge…” The brat called from the bed and tried to sit up.
Glancing at my watch, I saw that it was a quarter to five. I walked up to him. “Don’t move. Just lie down!” I could not find it in myself to speak nicely.
“Ge, I…” Then he saw my stony expression and stopped.
Seeing him lick his dry lips, I poured another glass of water and held it up to his lips.
“No more, ge, just how much water did you give me? I-I wanna pee.”
“You’re just a fucking pain in the ass, aren’t you! ” I must have owed you something in a past life! You troublemaker.
I usually went to the nearby public toilet at night but that didn’t seem to be an option in this situation. “Hang in there. I’ll take you to my place. It’s close.”
He puckered his lips. “Is it really? I can’t hold it much longer.” He began acting like a poor puppy again.
We only left after I put the army jacket that I used as a blanket over his down jacket and then wrapped a thick scarf around him. I wrote ‘CLOSED FOR THE DAY’ with some chalk on the shop door and retrieved my good old vintage ride. “Hop on!” I pointed at the back seat of the bicycle.
The rascal squeezed his legs together. “Geeeee!”
He couldn’t hold it.
“There’s no one around. Just get it over with.”
He took a glimpse at the leftover bits of firecrackers on the ground. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Peeing in front of someone’s shop at New Year’s…”
“You’re just the worst!” I parked the bike and hauled him to the public toilet. He really needed to go but the more he rushed the harder it was. He could not move his fatter, wrapped-up arm and he couldn’t get the zipper down for his life. I could almost see sweat forming on his head so I had to go over and help him with it.
And boy, did he feel good after taking a piss.
He even said as I aimed his pee for him, “Ge, you’re so nice.”
“Didn’t anyone teach you not to talk while peeing?” There wasn’t anyone to do that. I bit my lips.
“Bite down on your teeth when you pee. If you make this a habit your teeth won’t fall out when you get old.”
Seeing him clench his jaw hard, I thought to myself, I wonder if I will see him turn into an old grandpa with a full set of teeth.
After drinking so much water, then peeing and sweating it out, the fever went down quite a bit and his forehead wasn’t as hot. He got on my bike and wrapped his arms around my waist. The night was dark and the wind howled, hurting a bit when it hit my cheeks. I freed a hand to cover his. Had to keep my little troublemaker warm.
I suddenly thought of The Chronicles of the Shadow Swordsman and how Zhang Danfeng and Yun Lei wished for the road they were walking on to never come to an end.
We arrived at my den. Too bad there were only a bed and a few things here and there.
The brat was peeping up and down when I was opening the door but he froze when he went in. I gave him a shove. “Take your clothes off. I’m going to get the blankets ‘cause you need to lie down. The bed might be moist ‘cause it hasn’t been used for a long time. I’ll look for a heating pad. I think I brought one over…” I suppose the nagging gene was passed onto me.
I found the heating pad and held it and the blankets in my arms. He was still frozen in place.
I saw him rubbing at his eyes.
Why didn’t you come back earlier when you knew about this all along?
“This is our home?” He plopped onto the bed and bounced up and down excitedly. “Is this one o’ those king size beds? Wicked!” That sick puppy was nowhere to be found.
I was angry. “It’s my home. Not our home.”
I thought he would pout and throw a tantrum but he stiffened and tucked his head in. His longish hair blocked his eyes.
I did not know what to do. “Um… Go ahead and take the cover off. It’s your first time sleeping at our home.”
But he slid off the side of the bed and crouched there, head buried in between his knees. The army jacket fell to the floor and he was shivering. Before long, I could hear sobs.
“Don’t do that, Binbin, don’t. I was just kidding with you. Your ge was just kidding. This is your home. Whose home could it be if not yours?” I crouched down too, and held his head in my arms. It was the first time that I heard him cry. My heart ached.
He looked up. His face was completely soaked. “I’m sorry. Ge, I’m–” He clenched his teeth. More tears came out.
“I’m just glad you’re back. Don’t leave again. Just stay here. It doesn’t matter even if you don’t do a thing. Yeah? I’ll care for you.”
“Really?” His eyes were watery and they reminded me of that look at the train station, that look like he was never going to see me again.
“Ge, I like you from the bottom of my heart. Can I be your little brother again in the next life?”
Next life? I stood up.
“Can I?” I saw despair in his young eyes.
“You listen to me here, Shen Bin. Don’t think you can go out hustling again now that you’re back!” I shouted. “Don’t go hustling when you call me ge. What did you promise me? That you wouldn’t go down the wrong path. But look at yourself. It’s only been half a year and look what you’ve gotten yourself into!” I really regretted it. I should have kept him with me.
“I didn’t do nothin’ bad,” he said quietly but surely.
“Then tell me, what were you doing with the murderer who killed an entire family?”
I was only testing him but he got nervous. “What do you know, ge, and how do you know?”
My heart lost its temperature when I saw his expression. It was real.
“What is done by night appears by day.”
“This isn’t a joke, ge. I won’t ask how you found out. You just need to pretend you never knew, and pretend you don’t know me.” His expression changed, his eyes changed, becoming as sharp as a knife. “I needa go.”
Before he could get up…
I smacked him across the face and blood seeped out from the corner of his lips right away.
“You bastard. Who are you selling your life for? Is it murder or arson or drugs or bank robbery? You just got out. If you get caught again, you’ll get the death sentence. Don’t you understand? Who’s going to save you then? Huh?”
I grabbed his jaw roughly. I just wanted to strangle him.
He stared at me dumbly. I must have always been too gentle with him.
“Even if you owe someone a favour, you can repay them with money or your life, but you can’t repay them with someone else’s money or someone else’s life. That’s a crime. Do you understand?” I thought he just needed some education. “Shen Bin, if you still see me as your ge, swear that you won’t go.”
He didn’t say anything and just closed his eyes.
Perhaps it was just as Lin Dongfu had said. None of us really saw through him. Even I had no idea what he was thinking.
Was this the real him whom I knew?
Was he really going to commit murder and arson and–
He opened his eyes. “No one can save you in this society. Only you can save yourself.”
He was so calm it scared me. It was then that I remembered, this was a person who had beaten another person to death.
“Yannoe, Qian Jiying, you people who go to senior high and university talk about dying when you get hit a few times, or you can’t find a job, or you get called a few names. You think I’d ask you for help?” I watched as he stood up and began stripping. He did it quickly and roughly, and the wounds began bleeding again. He pointed at the scar on his back the size of a bowl. “Ding Hongmei’s man did this with an iron when I was thirteen. Believe me, the sizzling sound and smell of burning human flesh is not somethin’ you can ever forget. Ding Hongmei got tied to the bedpost by him and he pierced her all over with rusted metal rings from the curtains. I’d come back from school and he’d fuck me. I wasn’t even 160 cm tall. I wasn’t his match. He fucked me right in front of Ding Hongmei.”
“Tell me, who was there to save me?”
“He brought home the bread. We were living in his house, eating his food. My mom was his whore and I was the buy-one-get-one-free.”
“He whipped me with coat hangers. Stuck whatever he could find into me. No one ever bothered to ask when I went to school with a limp. Even my own grandpa and grandma treated me like a dirty piece of shit. Who was there for me to depend on?”
“I was only in eighth grade. Ding Hongmei was more pathetic than me, so I had to take her place ‘cause if she died from his fucking then it’d be game over for me.”
“If that son of a bitch hadn’t been drunk that night and I hadn’t stabbed his fucking cock with his taser, I’d be long dead.”
“Ding Hongmei insisted that I didn’t testify. I was young. I still had to go to university. Hahahaha… Yannoe, that son of a bitch only got five years. Ding Hongmei got a fucking hole in her womb…”
“I was only eighteen, nineteen when he came out. We still had to live in his house. I was so scared, so scared I couldn’t live at home. Who was there to save me? Only myself. The me now, I can kill him with my own two hands, so I don’t gotta be scared. Committing a crime? Still better than getting burned by an iron.”
He told his story while sitting against the bed, topless and emotionless, as though the story was not about himself.
It was probably his first time telling it.
I had thought before that his abusive stepfather had… But the reality and my own speculations were completely different.
I felt like I could not breathe.
He was in grade eight when I had just entered university. I was in a strop with my dad because I didn’t get into a good school. I was gloomy because of the major I got. I was depressed because I was gay. Even now, after all these years, I was still pretty useless. I couldn’t do anything.
He had let me fuck him. He had been shaking like a leaf on the cot. I had been feeling good.
He had beaten the rapist to death in the detention center. My family had arranged that rapist.
He said that he didn’t want people looking down on him and that he wouldn’t do anything bad.
He always said that I spoiled him, that I was good to him. What had I done though?
I did not have the right to pity him. I wasn’t as strong as he. I could not have helped him even if I knew him before. That was why I needed to make him stay and treat him well with everything I had.
I wrapped him in the blanket. Didn’t want it to turn into pneumonia in this cold weather. He was quite compliant, probably was too tired from the wounds, the fever and then the speech. Next, I sat down beside him, too.
“Thirsty? I’ll go boil some more water. You’re still running a fever.”
He turned to look at me with his bright, black eyes, but quickly faced another way. “Don’t pity me. I’ll just pretend I got bit by a stray dog.”
“Yeah, you got bit by me, alright.”
He turned back around and this time his eyes were reddish. “You know that ain’t what I meant. I did it on my own free will.”
I took him into my arms. He was pretty fat wrapped in blankets.
“Didn’t you want me to keep spoiling you? Stay and I’ll spoil you with love.”
He spoke with his voice muffled in my chest. “You’re a good person and I really like you, so all the reason for me not to hurt you. I actually thought about it. Me and you can’t happen. I’m bad and you’re good. You got parents and a proper business. And what am I? I’d never been loved and I’m happy now that I got some from you. I snuck out this time ‘cause I just wanted to see you. Don’t worry about me anymore. I wish you a good life after I leave. That girl, Ah-Fen, is pretty nice to you–”
I blocked his mouth with mine.
He still had a fever and his mouth was unusually warm.
As we kissed, he began crying again.
Actually, he didn’t look half-bad when he cried—like a bunny.
“You want me to slap you again?” One of his cheeks was already swollen from my slap. I licked at his tears gently. “What the hell are you saying? I’m gay and there’s nothing more to it. If you don’t come back, I’m going to be widowed.”
“But I…” he paused. “My current boss is really nice to me. The old son of a bitch wasn’t released yet when I went in. It was this boss who got his peeps to finish him.”
“That’s just to use you. And now you’re risking your life for him?” I see.
He shook his head. “He’s a real brother, I’m telling you. He didn’t force me.”
What an idiot. Of course he didn’t force you. He had you willingly jumping into his trap.
“What have you done for him? Tell me the truth.”
“Nothin’, really. He doesn’t let me do anythin’ illegal. I just guard a few of the important figures and I don’t really get injured. You just always see it every time I do. This time I was protecting the boss from…” He took a glimpse at me and stuck out his tongue without finishing.
Protecting? From what, bullets? Or knives? Who did he think he was? Jet Li or Jackie Chan?
He never thought about spending the rest of his life with me. He just wanted a ‘had-been’ and not a ‘will-be.’
I held my breath. I was not very happy. Judging from what he told me, this boss of his avenged him and gave him a job, and he was super grateful. Why was that man so nice to him? Could it be that he had some feelings…?
Fuck! How could I be jealous at a time like this?
His fever came back again stronger than before, which was good. Better that he lied in bed sick so I can keep him under my watch for a week or two.
I didn’t want to leave so I called Ah-Fen after tucking him in and asked her to buy some fever medication, antibiotics, gauze and disinfectant. The girl tried to nag, to which I gave a piece of my mind. I also threatened to kick her back to the countryside if she were to blab to my ma.
He took the meds and the fever went down after a day’s sleep. He was young after all.
Then I made Ah-Fen bring over some rice, side dishes and hot congee. Her eyes kept dancing past me into the house.
Annoyed, I said, “It’s your sister-in-law inside. You’re welcome to say hi!”
“Wait, what?” Her jaw dropped open. She wanted to say something else but was too scared to, so she left.
I fed him some congee and then changed his dressing. A gunshot wound on the left shoulder, a knife wound on the chest. I felt so bad and so angry. That motherfucking ungrateful son of a bitch only knew to use kids. That piece of shit!
“What d’you say?”
“Nothing. You just sleep.”
“’Kay.” He was such a good kid when sick. “Ge?” he called whiningly.
“Ge, will you not like me if I take the bad path?”
I really wanted to say: Of course not. However, he had already gone down the wrong path, hadn’t he? Could I not like him, not spoil him, if he really went into the bad business and killed people?
I didn’t answer and he didn’t ask again.
The bed was big so I went on and cuddled with him. He hugged me back and even snuck his hand down my pants like a naughty child.
He just laughed.
Nonetheless, he had no energy in him and quickly dozed off again. His hand was still clasped on mine when I got up to pee in the middle of the night. I moved it off lightly but he grabbed it again. “Ge, don’t go. Don’t go.”
I stayed awake with all I had but still fell asleep later in the night. I thought to myself, I’ll have a good talk with him tomorrow or the day after and make sure he stays.
When I woke up the next morning, however, there was nobody beside me.
ayszhang: QAQ Binbin escaped!!! Jiying, go go go! Go get your Romeo back!
So, thanks to our awesome proofreaders, this story will go back to updating every Sunday ^^
The Rental Shop Owner - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.