Friday, January 1, 2016

Till Death Do Us Part - ch8

Translators: ayszhang, Ying
Proofreaders: coolostyne, happyBuddha, m@o, Marcia, Ying


If the late Mrs. Ch’in had been asked to give her two pennies worth on her son, it would have to be: simple-hearted and stubborn like a mule.
After the family cat had eloped with some stray cat during the mating season, the first thing Ch’in Ching would do after coming home from school was ask his mom, “Did A’Mao come back yet?” After hearing disappointing news, he would drop his backpack and go out searching for her until it got too dark to see. Only then would he drag his feet back home for supper. This continued for two weeks. Ch’in Ching looked high and low through the streets and alleys of Nanshih but found no cat. All he got in the end was a scolding from his mother.
“You ought’a know bett’r at fifteen than to be a naive lil sucker,” she said as she prodded her son’s forehead.
Papa Ch’in was an interesting character. He jumped in to defend his son when he saw his son’s forehead turning red.
“He has some brains to be doin’ well in school, but yer gonna knock out what little smarts he has in that head of his the way yer jabbin’ at ‘im.”
Then, he turned around and wrote a story about his son’s quest to find his cat to tell at the teahouse. Since the cat’s name was A’Mao, the piece began like this:
“When I say ‘China,’ you’d think of a place of talent. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and start with somethin’ closer to home. We got ourselves a famous author from ‘round here…”
Ch’in Ching was sitting on a folding stool he had brought from home, listening. When he hear this introduction, he rolled his eyes. As he expected, his father brought in the story of Hsiang-lin-sao searching for A’Mao from The New Year’s Sacrifice. Before long, the focus turned to him.
“That A’Mao was at least taken by wolves. My boy may have grown big and strong, but it’s safe to say it’s more brawn than brains that he’s grown…”
Although he was embarrassed by the fellow on stage, it was his father nonetheless, and he could do little about that. Even he couldn’t help but laugh along with the crowd when his dad imitated the voice of a boy going through puberty.
“Where are you? Where are you, A’Mao?”
“Hogwash, I never said that,” he mumbled under his breath.
Thus, for some time during Ch’in Ching’s teenage years, the neighbours would poke fun at him whenever they saw him. “Still lookin’ for yer A’Mao, Ch’in-sao­?”
The Lius’ second son took it to another level, grabbing Ch’in Ching’s hand for attention and taunting him whenever they came across a cat on the street. “Look! A’Mao would be ‘bout this big if she were still here!”

Ch’in Ching’s father passed away from an acute disease a few years later. Ch’in Ching was studying in Peking at the time. After the wake and funeral, he was determined to quit and return to Tientsin out of concern for his mom. This brought around another scolding.
“We ain’t broke, son. You think we don’t got enough for yer school? Or is yer mom really that useless in yer eyes?”
Then, she sighed and rubbed the red marks that she had left on his forehead.
“Yer dad always said you got brains. Go back to school. Yer dad, may he rest in peace, would be happy for you. Listen to me, son. Stop being so simple-hearted. Could you do that for me?”
Mrs. Ch’in pushed on for another two years before following in her love’s footsteps. Ch’in Ching had a premonition that it would happen. His dad and mom were in love from beginning to end. Since she was of weak health, she had had to fight for Ch’in Ching to be born because if it were up to his father, he wouldn’t have let her go through any pain even if it meant ending his own bloodline.
Ch’in Ching didn’t know about other families, but his parents truly never had a fight or an argument. They were in love, honestly and simply, until the very end.

Now, back to the present, there no longer was someone to poke his forehead, telling him he was simple-hearted and stubborn, but that did not change his nature. He simply didn’t find any fault with Shen Liangsheng despite the man treating him so roughly.
Firstly, Ch’in Ching thought that, between two men, the one at the bottom was bound to suffer – sticking something three sizes too big into the tiny hole back there was going to hurt no matter what.
Secondly, he wasn’t actually a simpleton. Although he didn’t know what Shen Liangsheng saw in him, he did understand that the man didn’t actually like him as much as he had pretended to in the weeks prior. However, understanding that did little to stop him from falling.
So just bear with the suffering, he said to himself. You wanted this yourself after all – you’re the one who fell for him.

He did get what he deserved, but he still felt upset. It wasn’t anything ridiculous. It was a dull feeling similar to that when the cat he had raised single-handedly ran away with another cat. ‘Ch’in-sao’ had wondered glumly why she ran away when he was so good to her.
As such, it was obvious that Ch’in Ching had not bettered himself after nearly ten years.
Simple-hearted as always, he more or less expected his feelings to be appreciated by the other person.

Ch’in Ching had lost track of time when the movement inside him ceased and the intruder left. He felt the heavy weight disappearing from him almost instantaneously.
The den was attached to the master bedroom. Shen Liangsheng walked through the door past the bedroom and into the bathroom. He flicked on the lights and turned on the hot water.
As the water ran, he stood at the sink and stared at himself in the mirror. After a moment, he grabbed a towel and stuck it under the tap. The blistering water soaked through the cloth and along his hand down the drain.

Ch’in Ching lay in the dark, still in the same facedown position. He wiggled his hand to find it still confined in the dead knot. The tugging brought about a sharp pain in his behind as if a small knife were placed against it. Every movement made the blade sink deeper.
Therefore, he gave up. He lay there, soundless, like part of the decor of the room. No breathing. No speaking.

Shen Liangsheng returned with the towel and knelt on the rug. He began to wipe the bloody stains by the luminance of the fireplace. This time around, he was the exact opposite. Carefully and gently, it was as though he were cleaning a priceless, delicate antique upon which would be a sin to lay even a finger.
“Shen Liangsheng, could you untie the shirt first? My shoulders hurt.”
Although he was a bit upset deep inside, he did not sound so. Rather, hearing his good-natured negotiation, Shen Liangsheng faltered with the towel before tossing it aside. Wordlessly, he untied the knot and then removed the pants that lay in wrinkles around his ankles for him.
“Just hold on.”

Shen Liangsheng left the den in the bathrobe he had put on earlier, and ordered a servant to buy ointment from the pharmacy.
He especially chose someone who was tight-lipped. She was a Russian woman who had followed her master to China after the Bolshevik Revolution. Despite having lived there for more than ten years, her knowledge of the language was still quite limited, and she normally only spoke English with Shen Liangsheng. Upon hearing why the ointment was needed, she only could keep a straight face and awkwardly answer, “Yes, sir.”
“Wait,” Shen Liangsheng called after her and then added, “Get me the cashmere blanket first.”

Ch’in Ching was not very cold, and the blanket that Shen Liangsheng had carefully wrapped around him merely made him feel too warm. He wiggled around for a moment and managed to ease it down a little.
Shen Liangsheng, however, mistook his motion for displeasure at his previous actions, assuming that he was acting up after the deed was done. He paused for a moment before getting up and going to the coffee table to light a cigarette. When he returned, he settled beside Ch’in Ching and puffed on the smoke without speaking. The glowing end slowly grew until the ashes flaked off onto his bathrobe.
Ch’in Ching had his head turned to the side towards Shen Liangsheng. Seeing his eyebrows furrowed in what seemed to be discontent, he hesitated but still inquired, “What’s wrong?”
Shen Liangsheng did not expect Ch’in Ching to speak first and turned to look at him. It came as a surprise that there was no sign of annoyance on the schoolmaster’s face, though his eyes were slightly red. He was unsure whether Ch’in Ching had cried just now or the gentle flames from the fireplace were playing a trick on his eyes.
“Nothing. Did it hurt that much?”
“No.” Ch’in Ching blinked a few times in confusion, and the next thing he knew, Shen Liangsheng was closing in to kiss him.
 His glasses had long since been removed and forgotten while they were fooling around, and Shen Liangsheng was able to kiss him gently right on the eyelids. In a low voice, he promised, “Don’t cry. It won’t be like this next time.”
“But I didn’t cry.” Ch’in Ching almost reflexively closed his eyes as he relaxed and let Shen Liangsheng kiss him as he pleased. The melancholy he had been feeling dissipated as he melted into the kiss, and he could not help but whisper his thoughts. “I just miss my mom.”
The moment the words were out of his mouth, both of them froze. Ch’in Ching was too abashed at how inappropriate it was to start thinking of his mother in this situation. As for Shen Liangsheng, he was too aware of the workings of humans, and unlike Ch’in Ching who could not comprehend the logic of his own mind, he could easily understand the schoolmaster’s train of thought. Ch’in Ching was like a child who thought of his mother the moment things started to get difficult.
And so what if he was? Shen Liangsheng remembered then that this man had no parents or siblings and lived a life in solitude.
The cigarette burned to the end and scorched Shen Liangsheng’s hand, and he turned to cast the butt into the fireplace. He stayed silent for the next few seconds before reaching over to hug Ch’in Ching around the shoulders. “My mom left a long time ago too,” he said in a mutter.
“Oh.” Ch’in Ching forced himself to turn to the side and stretched out to pull him close. There was a sudden, muddled sense of codependency between them, and the pain was quickly forgotten.

“Shen Liangsheng.” After embracing for a while, Ch’in Ching came back to himself and found a small problem. He addressed it in tiny voice, “You’re….”
“You’re quite sprightly down there.”
It took Shen Liangsheng a moment to realize that Ch’in Ching was referring to how he was still hard. He had stopped before reaching his climax and now held the other man his bathrobe open and his member resting against the soft cashmere. The heat from the fireplace was also keeping him comfortably warm. None of the above was helping him hold back his arousal, but he had no intentions of actually doing anything about it.
Shen Liangsheng chose not to answer and kept quiet, but Ch’in Ching understood. While his hole stung with pain, there was no sticky feeling inside, which must mean that the other man had not come. He paused before asking uncertainly, “You didn’t, you know, just now?”
“Didn’t what?” Seeing him so vague, Shen Liangsheng decided to tease him.
“Never mind. Forget I said anything.
“I didn’t do it because I was afraid your body couldn’t take it.” Shen Liangsheng went with the flow and continued on, “Not that I was worried about you or anything like that.”
“I really couldn’t tell.”
“Just wait till next time. I’m going to make you feel so good…” Shen Liangsheng closed the distance between them and sealed Ch’in Ching’s lips. In between kisses, he pestered on, “that you feel it both in the front and at the back.”
“Yeah, sure.” Shen Liangsheng’s words became more forthright, and he had even sneaked his hand under the blanket, lightly caressing Ch’in Ching’s hip. Ch’in Ching quickly interrupted Shen Liangsheng and pulled his hand out the blanket, “Don’t you dare.”
“Stay the night. You can’t really walk anyway.” Shen Liangsheng was serious all of a sudden and gripped his hand. “I’ll help you apply some ointment later. Call the school tomorrow morning and take a few days off. You can rest here in the meantime.”
“A few days? I don’t think so.”
“So you think you can stay standing for an entire class?”
Ch’in Ching eventually grasped the seriousness of the consequences of their actions. Taking that into consideration, he got annoyed and pushed Shen Liangsheng away, sternly saying, “The students’ lessons cannot be put off, and it’s not like I can keep asking others to substitute. I’ll go in the day after tomorrow. Next time…” He paused for a moment and added, “Next time you want to do it, pick Saturdays. That way, it wouldn’t cause any problems.”
Even though Ch’in Ching looked unhappy, Shen Liangsheng could tell that this man truly liked him from what he had said in the end. If that were not that case, he definitely would not have bothered mentioning that last part. He couldn’t help but feel pleased, to the point that it was odd.
It won’t be like this next time. Promise.”

Shen Liangsheng repeated his words, and the matter was quickly dealt with and forgotten. Shen Liangsheng helped Ch’in Ching apply the ointment and waited for him to fall asleep face-down on his bed. Only then did he go to the bathroom for a wash. There were still traces of dried blood on his member, and the scarlet stained the warm water, distinct against the white porcelain. It disappeared down the drain quietly.
Shen Liangsheng stepped out of the bathtub naked, and just like before, he stood in front of the sink and stared at his face in the mirror.
He asked himself the same question once again: “What do you want with this man?”

Ch’in Ching seemed to have overslept the following day. Shen Liangsheng had already called the school and asked for two days of leave.
The ointment was quite effective, and the pain in his butt had reduced after a good rest. Ch’in Ching went to the bathroom and washed up while Shen Liangsheng stood in front of his wardrobe to choose a set of clothes for Ch’in Ching. He picked out a light blue shirt and grey trousers coupled with a cream cardigan, a fresh combination.
“Shen Liangsheng, have you seen my glasses?”
Ch’in Ching squinted as he asked Shen Liangsheng after he dressed. He was looking everywhere for his glasses, but they were nowhere in sight.
“Stay right there. I’ll get them for you.”
Shen Liangsheng went to the den and picked up the pair of silver-rimmed glasses from the rug on the ground. He glanced at the rug that still held evidence of their games the night before, a hint of blood stained the pelt. Hesitating for a moment, he bent forward, rolled up the blanket and threw it into a corner of the room. He had no intention of sending it to be cleaned and would later ask a servant to keep it in the storage room.

Ch’in Ching stayed in the Shen manor for the next two days, and with constant application of the ointment, the pain in his butt quickly diminished. He looked to be in good health, too, despite being unable to take in solids. The large amounts of congee that went into his stomach must have been extremely nourishing. On the third day, he felt well enough to return to school and was mercilessly teased by his colleague, “Aren’t you looking good? You seem to be thriving off your illness, or perhaps something happened while you were sick?”
“What could have possibly happened? How about you try falling sick too?” Ch’in Ching tried to hide his embarrassment by joking along with him.
“Now, just a second, mister! You’re just a brat teaching mathematics, and you’re trying to beat me at my own game?” Ch’in Ching could tell what he was implying at and immediately interrupted him. It wasn’t because he felt guilty for whatever reason; it was to help his colleagues save face.

It was class time, and there were only a handful of teachers who were on break. Amongst them was a woman called Fang Hua who seemed to have feelings for him, although she had yet to act on them.
Moreover, the teacher who had teased Ch’in Ching earlier was sweet on Miss Fang. If one were to sum it up, it was an awkward three-way relationship between them. While the colleague seemed to be joking around with Ch’in Ching on the surface, he was actually trying to take this opportunity to show the lady that she had no chance with Ch’in Ching. It was obvious that he was tactless, and it was no wonder he had been unable to gain her affection.
Miss Fang was seated at her own desk grading assignments with a red pen, not bothering to look up even though she could hear their conversation. When she heard Ch’in Ching speaking up for her, she faltered for a split second before continuing to the next question.

Fang Hua taught mathematics, and her next class was beside Ch’in Ching’s. When it was almost time, she left the room with a stack of workbooks in her arms and a set square tucked to her side. Ch’in Ching walked a distance behind her, and just as he was about to reach his classroom, the person in front of him suddenly halted and turned around, looking as if she had something to say.
She stood there without a word, and it was instead Ch’in Ching who started the conversation.
“Miss Fang, your book’s going to fall.” He pointed to the top-most book in the stack and smiled as he warned.
Fang Hua lowered her head and adjusted the book, and instead, the set square slipped from under her arm and fell with a clunk. Ch’in Ching went forward to pick it up and placed it flat on top of the stack.
Fang Hua did not speak for a while again, and when she finally did, it was merely small talk. “You got new glasses, Mister Ch’in?”
“Yes. A gift from a friend.”
“They look good on you.”
After complimenting Ch’in Ching, she shyly turned and continued down the hall. However, she did not get far before stopping in her tracks. She looked over her shoulders and gave him her thanks.

Ch’in Ching knew she was not thanking him for picking up the set square, but knowing wasn’t going to make his attitude any different.
The field was noisy with girls trying to make the most of their last few minutes of break. Ch’in Ching paused to watch them for a while. He sighed, shook his head with a smile, and then ambled to his classroom.

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Mazha, the aforementioned "folding stool".

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Links for more information:
Lu Hsun (Lu Xun)
The New Year's Sacrifice (wiki and translation)

More on the words of Ch'in Ching's colleague:
The subject of the sentence is literally “a beautiful person” but is most often used to refer to a woman and was likely what the colleague meant. Also, the math teacher used a series of four-character expressions that are characteristic of a person well-educated in language arts, which leads to Ch’in Ching’s following remark. The literal translation is as follows, each period marks the end of a four-character combination: “A beautiful person beside you. Not even taking the time to change (out of their clothes). Bringing you tea and water. A beautiful girl helping you with your office work.” This last four-character expression may be what made Ch'in Ching cringe since it brings in a new subject.
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ayszhang says: Happy New Year! :D Wish everyone an even better year than the last!
As you can see, Ying translated a large part of this chapter. We agreed to switch projects for one chapter, so I also translated a large part of chapter 7 of Endless Rain :)

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Till Death Do Us Part - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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