Sunday, August 7, 2016

Brother - ch22

Translator: ayszhang
Proofreaders: happyBuddha, Kai, Lee, m@o, Marcia
Surprise :)
Chapter 22 of Brother!


Then they began to climb and they were going to the East it seemed, and then it darkened and they were in a storm, the rain so thick it seemed like flying through a waterfall, and then they were out and Compie turned his head and grinned and pointed and there, ahead, all he could see, as wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro. And then he knew that there was where he was going.

–Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro

“Please come again soon!”
The glass door closed behind them. With his stomach full of hot food, Xu Ping felt warm and lazy as though he were in a steamy sauna.
“Let’s go home.” Xu Ping turned around to tell his brother.
The moon was especially bright tonight, and with the fragrance of jasmines hovering in the evening air, the ground seemed to be covered with a thin layer of snow. Although the past week had been tough and the following week was not going to be any easier, Xu Ping felt content for the brief period of rest.
As he unlocked the bicycle lock, he asked, “Do you want to ride the bicycle home or walk home?”
Xu Zheng kept his head low in contemplation.
Xu Ping looked up at the moon and said, “We haven’t taken walks in the evening for a long time. Let’s take a walk and digest some of this food.”
Without a peep, Xu Zheng reached forward to grab his brother’s hand.
The younger boy’s hand was different from Xu Ping’s in that it was constantly warm. Once upon a time, Xu Ping could easily wrap the boy’s fist in one hand, but now he had the impression that he wouldn’t be able to break free from the hand around his fingers.
When did his baby brother get this big?
“We haven’t measured your height and weight in a long time. Remember to drop by the health clinic next time we pass it.”
He had taken his brother around on the back of the bicycle ever since he could remember, but recently he was beginning to find it taxing. He could no longer go over a hill by stepping harder on the pedal but instead had to let Xu Zheng off and walk the hill together.
Xu Ping put a palm flat on Xu Zheng’s shoulder and eyeballed his height. “I think you grew again this month. My head reached your eyes before, but now it’s only at your nose. If this goes on, you’ll hit six feet before the end of summer.”
Xu Zheng took his brother’s hand from his head and placed in against his own chest.
After a moment of faltering, a bashful Xu Ping gently pulled his hand back.
“Okay, it’s getting late now. We have to go home. Come on now.”
He hurriedly pushed the bicycle along, but after a few steps he realized his brother wasn’t following him. He looked back with the same haste.
Xu Zheng was standing in the same spot staring at his brother with a gaze so intent and still that Xu Ping felt his heart skip a beat.
“What’s wrong, Xiao-Zheng?”
Xu Zheng stepped towards his brother and hugged the older boy before beginning to rub his head on his brother’s shoulder like a dog trying to get its owner’s attention.
Both a little annoyed and entertained, Xu Ping lifted his brother’s face up. “What’s wrong?”
Instead of answering, Xu Zheng took a few sniffs of his brother’s shoulder and neck like a hound before burying his face again.
Xu Ping gave a few pushes, but the other boy would not budge.
“What is it? Something you want me to buy for you?”
Xu Zheng shook his head.
Xu Ping let the bicycle lean against him while he wrapped his arm around his brother.
“You know, Xiao-Zheng, you can tell me if you have any troubles.” He rubbed his brother’s back lovingly. “There’s a lot I can’t do, but if it’s something I can do, I will make your wishes come true.”
Xu Zheng muttered a quiet “okay.”
“Did you get bullied at school?”
Xu Zheng shook his head.
“Did the teacher scold you?”
Xu Zheng shook his head again.
“Don’t like him.”
“Huh?” Xu Ping was confused. “Who?”
“He kept touching your shoulder! I don’t like him! Don’t like him!” As Xu Zheng said this, he kept nuzzling his brother’s shoulder as if he were trying to cover the scent of another dog who had invaded his territory.
It took Xu Ping a while before he recognized the situation. He pulled Xu Zheng up by the collar and chided, “You’re acting up ‘cause of that? You had me worried!”
He explained while pinching his brother’s cheeks, “That guy is my friend, and your brother isn’t a piece of antique art that can’t be touched.”
Xu Zheng continued his strong hug of his brother. He did not understand this bitter discontent inside him, and while Xu Ping did understand, the older boy could not say a thing.
Feeling a bit of bitterness but also sweetness, he patted his brother’s back lightly as he comforted, “All right now. You’re not a doggy, are you? Well, even if you are, I’m not your play bone.”
As expected, Xu Zheng could not grasp the metaphor. The boy only looked up briefly before embracing his brother tightly again.
He breathed in the fresh scent from his brother again and again, never tiring of it. The hand brushing along his spine brought this tingly feeling that slowly heated his body. Something vaguely familiar seemed to be racing and crashing around in his veins as though his flesh and bones themselves were declaring their desire for the person in his arms.
The bicycle toppled to the ground with a bang.
After a moment of silence, Xu Ping pushed Xu Zheng.
“Let go.”
Xu Zheng only tightened his arms.
“Are you disobeying me? I’m going to count to three. You’d better have let go before I do. One…two…”
Xu Zheng let go obediently and hung his head low like a child who had misbehaved.
Eyeing the tent in his brother’s pants, Xu Ping heaved a long, silent sigh.
He took off his own jacket and tied it around his brother’s waist.
“Don’t get horny in public,” he reprimanded as he straightened the bicycle.
Xu Zheng was still standing dumbly in the same spot.
Xu Ping reached for his brother’s hand but almost tripped and fell on his face.
Gege, I feel bad.”
Sighing, Xu Ping ruffled the younger boy’s hair. “You’ve really grown up, all right.”

His dad had bought the Phoenix bicycle that Xu Ping used from a second-hand dealer. The black paint had mostly fallen off after all these years, the artificial leather on the saddle was so smooth from wear that it shone, and the bell on the handlebars had been replaced three times. Even the gold and red Phoenix logo had rusted and was not discernible under a coat of maroon grime.
He pushed the vehicle along the dimly lit road. Every few steps or so, the back wheel would make a kuh-lunk sound.
The chain seemed to have been knocked off, Xu Ping thought. It was too dark to examine closely.
What was supposed to be a walk had become an army march. When they passed by the Central Park, Xu Ping suggested to take a short break there.
The so-called Central Park was nothing more than a larger band of greenery and some trees and flowers sandwiched between two roads. A statue of a mother and son stood in the middle. Beside it was a set of children’s slide, seesaw and swing. The park was not far from Xu Ping’s house. Many parents took their children here in the summer evenings to stay cool, but now the moon had climbed quite high in the sky. Most people had long gone home. The dazzling nightlife in the following decades represented decadence and corruption in these years. The old ways of thinking – the pure, the conservative, the insane, the radical, the good and the bad – were still deeply-rooted and refusing to leave anytime soon, preparing for a final battle with the new wave.
Xu Ping parked the bicycle, sat down on one end of the seesaw and beckoned to his brother, asking him to play with him.
His brother weighed quite a bit more than him and had to sit closer to the centre to reach balance. Although he was long past the age to play on the seesaw, he still felt an indescribable joy when he was catapulted into the air. Xu Ping burst out in laughter.
The brothers continued fooling around in the park. Xu Ping was thoroughly entertained by the sight of his brother working the seesaw earnestly. From his end of the seesaw, the action of kicking off with two legs looked a lot like a leaping frog, albeit an extremely handsome frog. But Xu Ping decided to keep that thought to himself.
He hopped off the seesaw and found that the slide was too narrow for him. Thankfully, the seats of the swing were wide enough. There were four lined up in a row, so he pulled Xu Zheng over.
Holding onto the rope with both hands, he lightly pushed off on his toes to start swinging. He looked up at the tiny dots in the sky and thought of the summer nights when the family gathered together in the courtyard. He would lie hand in hand with his brother tracing the Milky Way across the navy blue sky. He was silent, in awe at the brilliant beauty of the universe.
He turned to Xu Zheng who was only sitting on the swing, not swinging.
He slowed his own swing.
There were no more automobiles on the roads now, only the occasional bicycle rolling past under the streetlight making the shadows sway apart before coming together again. The fence along the sidewalk was crawling with ivy, and various spots of light were coming from the old residential building beyond it.
“I’m going to university.”
Xu Zheng replied with a quiet hum, not having understood the meaning behind this.
“It’s not right away, but if everything goes well, I’ll leave home this September and move to the dorm at school.”
Xu Zheng’s head snapped to attention, and his eyes locked onto his brother.
“It will take four years. I might decide to further my studies after graduation. Master’s, doctor’s, it’ll take another six or seven years. I think I’m a book-person, so my future career will probably be in this field.”
Holding the ropes, Xu Zheng stayed quiet.
“I haven’t discussed this with Dad yet, but I think he will support me, because everybody thinks going to school, being an academic is a noble thing.”
Xu Zheng contemplated for a moment with his head down and replied, “Then I’ll go with you, Gege.”
After a long silence, Xu Ping began to explain, “You might not understand, Xiao-Zheng, but this world has its own rules. Some things everybody can do, some things nobody can do, and some things only some people can do. Going to university is one of those things.”
Xu Zheng thought about it for a long time but in the end shook his head. “I don’t get it.”
Xu Ping chuckled. “It’s fine if you don’t. This world’s a strange place, after all. There’s a set of invisible rules fixed around every person. You can’t see these rules, but they are very powerful. If they are broken, other people will start attacking you. Sometimes I don’t get it either.”
Xu Zheng lowered his head and started stabbing the sand with the toe of his shoe.
“Is there something you’d like to do? Painting? Or singing? Anything?”
Xu Zheng picked at the ropes. “I want to be with you, Gege.”
Feeling heavy-hearted, Xu Ping did not know how to answer. He asked after long minutes, “What would you want to do if you were by yourself?”
After some deep thought, Xu Zheng replied weakly, “I don’t know. Where did you go, Gege?”
Xu Ping stared at the night sky for some time. “If I’m not with you one day, what would you do?”
“Go looking.”
“What if I went somewhere far, far away, and you can’t find me?”
Xu Zheng faltered before replying. “I go look for Gege.”
“What if you couldn’t find me no matter what?”
He stopped there.
Slowly, Xu Zheng bent over and clutched his head with both hands.
A car drove past, its glaring headlights scaring a bird perched on a tree. It let out a loud gawk as it flew away.
Xu Ping dusted his pants off as he stood up. “Never mind. Don’t think about it. All meaningless questions anyway.”
He grabbed his brother’s hand. “Let’s go home. It’s late already. I still have some mock exams to do tonight.”
But Xu Zheng did not stand up when his brother pulled him. He lifted his head up from between his hands and called, “Gege.”
“Hm?” Xu Ping hummed with a smile.
Xu Zheng shot forth from the swing like a bomb crashing straight into Xu Ping. Caught completely off guard, Xu Ping was knocked back a few steps and fell backward. The two brothers tumbled to the ground.
Hurt from the fall, Xu Ping couldn’t help punching his brother. “What the hell?!”
Xu Zheng only hugged his brother tightly without saying a word.

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An old model of the Phoenix 
The Phoenix logo

Tung Sheung Cycle Company website
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ayszhang: You might be wondering why Brother is taking me so long. That's because I've been working on the prequel of TDDUP too! I will most likely release it when it has largely been translated because of some technical (translation) issues.


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

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