Friday, January 15, 2016

Brother - ch2

Translator: ayszhang
Proofreaders: happyBuddha, m@o
Chapter 2 of Brother!


Xu Ping ended late today because the class meeting of year six division three at Railroads No.1 Elementary went overtime.
He packed up and when he rushed out of the classroom, he ran straight into Lu Jia. Usually, the boys would get into a fight but today the homeroom teacher, Mrs. Li, was in the hallway. Lu Jia only made a disdainful snort and pushed past him.
Lu Jia had just been scolded by the teacher at the meeting. He was often late to class and the first to leave. He chitchatted during self-study time and even copied homework. The teacher made him reflect on his wrongs in front of the class.
Lu Jia glared daggers at Xu Ping when he stepped down from the podium as if to say, “Just you wait, you little shit!”
Xu Ping didn’t even bother to care.
He was busy wondering how long the meeting was going to continue and worrying that Xu Zheng would get impatient.
As he ran home, he passed by the book stand where his schoolmates had gathered. He remembered that today was the release of book five of Heroes of Sui and Tang, but he didn’t have the time to buy it now.
He opened the door with the key around his neck to find the eight-year-old Xu Zheng on a chair by the window with his legs tucked into his chest.
“Okay, let’s go,” the sweaty Xu Ping said to his brother without even stopping for a drink.
Xu Zheng glanced at the wall clock and then at his brother. He pouted. “Five-thirty.”
Xu Ping wiped the sweat on his forehead. “I got held up in class. I didn’t mean to.
“Five-thirty!” Xu Zheng repeated loudly.
Xu Ping took a glimpse at the clock and shrugged. “Yeah, we’re thirty minutes late.”
“Sandbox time is five o’clock!”
If this were any other person, even Xu Ping’s dad, Xu Ping would have lost his temper by now.
But Xu Zheng was a different story.
He was a special child.
Xu Ping tried to suppress his anger. “We can go at five-thirty, too. Come on.”
Xu Zheng sat there hugging his knees and shouted to the ceiling, “Five o’clock! Not five-thirty!”
Xu Ping was about to lose it. Who even bothered with these minute details? It was just sand. “What’s the difference between five and five-thirty?”
Xu Zheng looked at his brother. “You said. Five o’clock. Sandbox time!” He tapped his own head. “You said. I remember!”
Xu Ping was angry now. He knew his brother had a mild deficiency but had never found him this immature and annoying. “Well, now I say five-thirty is sandbox time, alright? Are you going or not? I still have homework to do!”
They engaged in tug-of-war with their eyes.
Xu Ping didn’t back down. He was twelve already, well past the age to play with sand. If not for this retard brother of his, he would be participating in extracurricular activities, not going to the sandbox at five every single day!
Xu Zheng jumped down from the chair with his head hanging low, and he pulled out a red metal bucket from under the table. Inside were a shovel and a ball.
Going to the sandbox at five everyday was Xu Zheng’s daily chore. His brother had promised him. They had even pinky swore and everything. He remembered it perfectly.
His brother was the bad one!
The more he thought about it, the more aggrieved he felt. He dragged the bucket noisily along the ground.
Xu Ping was so baffled by this he could laugh.
This brat! If he wasn’t my brother, and if my brother wasn’t a retard, I’d…I’d…
Xu Ping didn’t know how to finish that thought, but he did know that his life would be a hundred times better without his brother holding him back. He could join extracurricular activities like other kids, read comics afterschool, attend the spring and autumn fieldtrips, and most importantly, he wouldn’t have to suffer the talk behind his back from his classmates.
“Xu Ping is the retard’s brother.”
Xu Ping felt a slap on his face from the burning shame whenever he heard that.

Xu Zheng was still dragging the bucket out the door while Xu Ping had already turned and headed down the stairs.
The bucket wasn’t light by any means, and Xu Zheng could not carry it for long. Usually, Xu Ping would help him carry it with a frown, but today he merely watched from the corner of his eye his dumb brother shuffling along with great effort. He felt a sudden burst of fury and yelled, “What are you doing? Get a move on! Do you still want to go or not!”
Xu Zheng kept his head down in silence.
Xu Ping likely would have given in if he could have whined a little like a normal eight year old, or maybe complain about the bucket being too heavy for him.
But Xu Zheng didn’t. He didn’t know how to. Even if he did, he wouldn’t. He was angry at his brother too, as much as Xu Ping was angry at him. He dragged the bucket along, hitting it on each step as he came down, filling the stairwell with clanging.
Seeing his brother acting up, Xu Ping only became more enraged. He scoffed and walked ahead.
The two brothers arrived at the sandbox in the courtyard. It used to be filled with kids play fighting and throwing bean bags, and such. Recently, the Informatics Centre next door relocated and the building had yet to be demolished. The neighbourhood children began to play there instead.
Xu Ping swung his army green bag off his shoulder and plopped down under the shade of a tree.
It was September but the Indian summer was vicious. The ground was baked by the sun and it took some wiggling around for Xu Ping to find a comfortable spot.
He took out his workbook from the bag. The assignment today was a six hundred word essay. The topic was “My cute ___” and the student could insert a person or animal in the blank, such as “brother,” “sister,” “kitten,” or “puppy.”
Speak of the devil! Xu Ping just about poked a hole in the page with his pencil.
Only then did Xu Zheng shuffle past him with the bucket. There was a huge, purple bloody bruise on his knee that made his skin look pale and sickly. He was wearing a red tank top with a pair of blue shorts that was faded from the numerous washes and a pair of grey sandals, and he sported a buzz cut on his head.
Xu Ping looked down and pretended to work on his assignment.
Mom died early. Dad was often away because of the performances of the Cultural Troupe. As for his only brother…
Xu Ping crossed out the possibility of "My cute brother" with a giant red marker in his mind.
What about cats or dogs? Xu Ping resorted to animals.
But they never had a pet.
Xu Ping had once found a litter of kittens abandoned by their mother in a rumpled cardboard box on the brink of starving. He brought them home and tried to feed them congee, but the kittens wouldn’t eat it and only kept mewling. He held each of them dear in his arms and petted them affectionately. However, his dad threw the three pitiful creatures out when he came home from work that night, regardless how much Xu Ping pleaded.
“What kind of brother are you? Don’t you know your brother is allergic to cat fur?!”
Xu Ping even had a crying session because of this without anyone knowing.
His retard brother had always been the most important. He had to remember that he was, before anything else, “Xu Zheng’s brother”.

Xu Ping wondered what had happened to those cats afterwards as he stuck the pencil behind his ear like smokers do with their cigarette. They probably died of hunger the next day after getting thrown out.
But he couldn’t write about that in his essay. Though no one in particular taught him, he knew that the ugly and the painful could not be written even if it was the truth.
Mom died.
Dad threw away the kittens.
I hate my brother.
Who would want to see that? And if his dad found out, he would get some quality time with the belt too.
The teacher said, they must aim for the sky and be positive.
For instance, the essays written by fellow elementary school kids in the book, “Essay King” that he bought, nine out of ten began with “It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky” as though it never rained and snowed in the year.
Xu Ping brought the pencil from his left ear to his right, then from his right to his left. Even then, his page remained blank.
He glanced over at his brother.
Xu Zheng was engrossed with the sand. He shovelled sand into the bucket, packed it in tightly, and then turned the bucket upside down to leave a pillar of sand.
Frankly, Xu Ping didn’t see the fun in doing this, but Xu Zheng could do the same movements over and over for minutes, even hours, until all the sand was gone.
Xu Ping puckered his lips and returned to staring aimlessly at the sky.
He got glared at by Lu Jia at the class meeting. Lu Jia was always a spiteful child and they still had bad blood between them from the incident with his little brother, Lu Xi. Now, there was another score to settle. Xu Ping thought as he rubbed his nose.
Lu Jia lived in the same complex and attended the same elementary. His brother, Lu Xi, was a year younger than Xu Zheng and was in year two at the school. He had tiny eyes and a flat nose, but was a clever kid who always had a smile on his face. He greeted everyone dearly and had a mouth as sweet as honey. When New Year's came along, he received more red pockets than any other kid.
Now, Xu Zheng, on the other hand, had adorable looks but had mush for brains. He either hid from people or stood there like a dummy, unwilling to speak even when pushed. Other than arguing with Xu Ping, Xu Zheng was a closed clam even with their father.
Xu Ping shot a disappointed look at his brother. 
The oblivious target of which was still in the sandbox scooping sand into the bucket. His lateral profile resembled that of Xu Chuan, clearly defined with a tall nose. Only his eyes, however, were not as strong and slanted, but rather round and large. They made him look like a dumb and loyal puppy when they gazed at you.
Xu Ping fought back the shudders and turned away to relieve them.
How could a retard that always brought trouble be as cute as a puppy?!
He must have been mad!
As Xu Ping raged at himself, he stomped on the topic “My cute brother” until it fractured to bits and pieces.

Unable to come up with an essay topic, Xu Ping took out his knife and began sharpening his pencils.
He had five Chung Hwa pencils in his metal pencil case. The body was red and black, and it was topped with a pink eraser. “China Shanghai Chung Hwa Brand” was printed on the black side with a small golden mark.
Xu Ping organized them according to length on the ground from longest to shortest and shaved off the wooden chips like a gardener would his garden.
He had long and strong fingers that curved upward at the tip. He was skilled with his hands and made even pencil sharpening look swift and graceful.
His homeroom teacher, Mrs. Li, had once said, “You must be good at taking care of others.”
Xu Ping thought long and hard with a frown about how his teacher came to such a conclusion. The ultimate explanation was that his teacher had probably been fooled by his average face.
He actually was extremely impatient, had a bad temper and hated taking care of others.
Xu Ping flicked the shavings away and stood up for a stretch.
He wondered if the new volume of Heroes of Sui and Tang had been sold out yet.
The story had left off at the part where Cheng Yaojin was taught how to use the war axe through a dream. He was taught three manoeuvres: the skull cracker, the jaw breaker and the neck chopper. These were extremely deadly and, with the first alone, he was able to take General Luo Fang’s life and take back the tribute that Yang Lin made to the government, which led to his cousin, Qin Qiong, being asked to deal with him by the police.
He wondered as to what happened afterwards while he twisted his neck.
There were many others in his class who were addicted to these comics. The storylines were fresh and the illustrations were beautiful too, making the fight scenes extra exciting. It was one of the most unique of its kind and had the boys under its spell. They would go to the bookstand every other day to see if the new volume had arrived.
Just thinking about it made Xu Ping fidget with anxiety.
He wasn’t going to make any progress with the essay so why not go to the bookstand while it was still light.
He glanced at Xu Zheng in the sandbox.
Xu Zheng was only a third of the way through the sand, and since this was Xu Zheng, who was as flexible as metal, he wouldn’t stop until the very last grain.
The mounds of sand that looked like ugly blemishes only annoyed Xu Ping.
He didn’t understand Xu Zheng’s life.
Xu Zheng would wake up at six-thirty every morning and be sent to school for the special by Xu Ping at seven-thirty. The teacher would bring him home at four-thirty and he would go to the sandbox with Xu Ping at five. After making thirty identical piles of sand, he would return home for supper. Shower would come after supper and bedtime was nine o’clock sharp. He would close his eyes and when they opened again, it would be the next day which would be the exact same as the day before.
What kind of life was that?
Xu Ping would find it hard to breathe and wanted to run from it, but everyday he would still go home afterschool and take his brother out to play.
He hated it!
He hated his idiotic brother but at the same time, he hated himself for being a wuss.
But Xu Zheng was like caramel that refused to come loose.
Xu Zheng wasn’t close with anyone. Not even their dad could get a few words out of him. He only knew to hold on to Xu Ping, and only Xu Ping.

No one answered.
Only after a long time did Xu Zheng turn his head around slowly to take one glance at him before returning to his sand.
“Stop playing. I’ll take you to the bookstand.”
Xu Zheng didn’t stop what he was doing.
“Are you listening?!”
Xu Zheng didn’t respond.
Xu Ping squashed a sand pile under his foot. “What’s wrong with you? Did you not hear me?!”
Xu Zheng slowly turned his head around, looking at the scattered sand for a while and then looking up at Xu Ping.
“I’m going to the bookstand. Are you coming?”
Xu Zheng turned back around and started shovelling faster. The shovel scraped the bucket, making clanging noises.
“He’s probably still mad at me,” Xu Ping thought.
He couldn’t be bothered. He packed up his bag and swung it over his shoulder.
“If you’re not coming then stay here and play with your sand, and I’ll come back for you later.” He added after a pause, “Don’t run off with strangers. I’ll bring you a popsicle when I come back.”
Xu Zheng didn’t speak.
“Did you hear me?” Xu Ping slapped his brother’s shoulder.
Xu Zheng turned his shoulder away.
“Yes!” he shouted angrily.
Xu Ping was far too excited for Heroes of Sui and Tang to care.
He reached into his pocket for the two yuan his dad left him before leaving. A popsicle cost five fen and the comic book was thirty-five fen. That left him with…
Xu Ping calculated with his fingers as he skipped away merrily.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The comic book series

An illustration of Cheng Yaojin and his weapon.
The Chung Hwa pencil that Xu Ping uses.
(I used these in elementary school too!!!)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
ayszhang: Here's the second chapter~ As you can see, they are not terribly long so the progress with TDDUP won't really be held back. After I finish TDDUP, I might be able to release 7-8 chapters a month (if I don't start another story that is). This week is finals week for me. Have tons of stuff due and tests T_T so only one chapter of Brother from me next Friday. After the 22nd, I will have so much free time so expect more starting in mid-Feb :)


Creative Commons Licence
Brother - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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