Love suffers long and is kind;
Love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
Does not behave rudely, does not seek its own,
Is not provoked, thinks no evil;
Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
–1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Xu Ping awoke from his slumber.
The sky outside the window was azure with bits of lazy clouds floating about, and he heard the distant din of primary schoolers during physical education class. The sharp cries and giggles sounded gentle and far away but also strangely energetic after being filtered by the many layers of glass.
Xu Ping felt as though he had a wild, illusory dream, and he woke up disoriented, not sure of where he was or even what day it was.
A young nurse looked up from her magazine.
“Oh, you’re awake.”
She laid the magazine down and checked the drips.
Hugging the quilts, he slowly sat up.
“Where am I?”
“K City Hospital.”
K City? Xu Ping wondered. Why was he there?
After staying quiet for a long time, he asked sharply, “Where’s my brother?”
The nurse faltered and looked at him with a confused expression.
Xu Ping’s heart skipped a beat.
“My brother, he’s really tall and bulky…” He began gesturing in a panic. “He’s not that sharp, and he doesn’t like to talk…h-he…”
He was in such a panic that he began stuttering.
Pfft. The nurse couldn’t stifle her giggle.
“The big dummy, right? He was brought in here along with you. Kept holding onto you calling “gege.” Don’t worry. The doctor gave him a shot to calm him down. He’s sleeping next door.”
Just as the knot in his stomach settled, he became a bit angry.
“H-how could you joke about that?!”
“Look at you,” the nurse said carelessly. “I was just playing with you.”
She looked over and eyed Xu Ping’s expression, and then she pursed her lips and rolled up her white sleeves. “Your brother was like a raging bull that wouldn’t listen to anyone or let anyone near you without engaging in battle. Look, he gave me these bruises.”
After Xu Ping saw the blue marks on her arm, the anger at being teased quickly turned to massive amounts of guilt.
“I’m sorry, my brother is–”
“It’s fine,” she interrupted him good-naturedly. “Do you want see him? I’ll go get him for you.”
Xu Ping considered it and shook his head. “No, thanks. Let him sleep.”
He carefully lifted the bedding to get off the bed.
“What do you want to do?”
Xu Ping was a little slow. “Use the toilet?”
The nurse pulled out a urinal from under the bed.
“Here, let me help you.” And she went for Xu Ping’s pants.
Surprised and embarrassed, Xu Ping immediately retreated while blocking with his hands, his ears flushing bright red.
He was about to shout, “Don’t come closer!” when someone coughed from behind the nurse.
Putting on her work face, the nurse placed the urinal down and left.
Blushing, Xu Ping redid his hospital pants and sat back in the bed.
Two men had come in, the first one wearing frameless glasses and a white coat.
Holding a patient file in his hand, he eyed Xu Ping, smiled and turned around to talk to the man behind him who was in black.
The two spoke quickly, exchanging medical terms and English words. Listening to them was like viewing flowers through fog.
He leaned back on the head board, took his time to button his hospital gown and then flattened out the folds in his quilt.
There was a vase on the bedside table with blooming pink carnations.
The sun was shining brightly, peeking in between the slits in the blinds while millions of dust motes danced in the rays.
Xu Ping listened carefully. Brrrrrriiing – the chime was ringing in a school some distance away, and all the kids rushed to the corridor and field from their classroom, cheering and laughing, without a care in the world and full of spirit and hope.
Xu Ping felt strangely tranquil, maybe even relaxed and cheerful, as though a heavy burden had been lifted from his shoulders relieving him of any more confusion and trouble.
He even felt like humming a light tune.
He reached and drew the blinds. Cars and pedestrians were going to and fro along the street partly hidden by trees. He spotted a young couple kissing at the intersection, a housewife haggling with a street vendor over peaches, and a yellow dog curled up under the shade in front of a shop, snoozing.
He heard the door closing with a quiet click and turned around. The doctor had left.
The remaining man was wearing a black knit turtleneck and black suit jacket and pants. He pulled out a chair and sat down beside the bed.
On his face were bruises that still had not faded. His hair was short and clean, and the faint minty scent of shaving cream hung about.
He didn’t speak first but instead tucked the quilts in for Xu Ping.
He appeared wealthy but quiet about it, and his temples were peppered with grey.
“Hello,” he said. “Xu Ping.”
Xu Ping’s operation was scheduled for a Wednesday.
Huang Fan had long since flown back to New York.
The surgeon in charge, Dai, was specially hired by Huang Fan. Not yet forty years old, the man was exceptionally skilled. Dr. Dai had a strange personality and didn’t like to talk, and his hobby was fruit sculpture. Xu Ping had seen him carve a man’s face into an apple with incredible speed and then snap off its nose with one bite and munch away – quite creepy.
He Zhi came with his fiancée, Wei Ying, to visit him on the day of the surgery.
Xu Ping was trying to figure out the consent form with his brother.
“Does it have to be my brother?”
“Do you have any other family members?”
“Then your brother must sign,” Dr. Dai answered tonelessly while filing his nails.
“In what world?” He Zhi demanded. “His brother’s sick. If it’s for the fees, I can sign for him.”
“Will you be responsible if he dies?” Dr. Dai asked.
After so many years in the criminal department, He Zhi’s temper had grown fiery, and his knuckles itched when someone dared to speak to him like that. He wanted to gift the man with a faceful of blood, but Wei Ying stopped him.
“Don’t worry, it’s not certain that he will die. As long as he isn’t pushed out of the operation room within half an hour, the chances of survival will double.”
“And what if he comes out within half an hour?” He Zhi’s face darkened as he asked.
“Then it means the cancer has spread to the rest of my body, and there’s no way to excise it,” Xu Ping answered calmly.
Dr. Dai let out a few grunts as agreement.
He Zhi thought of Xu Ping’s old man, and his face turned more sour.
“Well, there’s actually another possibility that’s more dangerous and that is, if the operation lasts longer than six hours, the blood loss will be too much for the body.” As he explained he massaged his fingers one by one. “But with my skill, this will not happen under normal circumstances.”
He glanced at the wall clock. “Hurry. The operation begins in half an hour. I don’t want to be too worn out. I still have plans this evening.”
He Zhi wanted nothing more than to strangle him then and there.
He Zhi turned to Xu Ping. “How do you feel?”
Xu Ping smiled. “Pretty good.”
Seeing his childhood friend’s smile, He Zhi felt a sharp pang, and tears threatened to overflow despite his steel-cold heart from many years of police work.
He tried his hardest to keep his lips shut.
It was Wei Ying who spoke next. “Xu Ping, focus on recovery. Afterwards come attend our wedding.”
Xu Ping was surprised. “Isn’t it coming up soon?”
“We delayed it,” Wei Ying replied. “He Zhi has a big case on hand. My dad said work’s important, so we’ll get married after he cracks the case.”
He Zhi shot a glance her way and reached for her hand behind their backs.
And they shared a smile.
Xu Ping caught it but smiled back. “Okay.”
He beckoned to his brother. “Xiao-Zheng, come.”
He flipped to the last page of the booklet, pointed to the signature line and stuck the pen in his brother’s hand.
“Write your name here.”
Xu Zheng had been in a fight with his brother over the past couple of days. The reason was that Xu Ping didn’t wake him up as soon as he came to, instead locking himself up in the room and yapping away with that bad man.
Annoyed, he flung the pieces of paper around.
“What is this?”
The room became quiet. Even Dr. Dai stopped filing his nails.
All eyes were on Xu Ping.
“A life contract,” Xu Ping said with a squinty smile. “After you sign this, my life will be yours.”
Overjoyed, Xu Zheng lunged forward and painstakingly wrote down his name.
Without looking at it, Xu Ping passed it to Dr. Dai.
The doctor took one look at it and found that the two characters were extremely proper.
“Your brother doesn’t seem like an idiot if you just look at his writing, eh?”
Xu Ping didn’t even look up. “My brother is a genius. It’s just that idiots can’t see it.”
A vexed Dr. Dai grudgingly explained the surgical procedure and slammed the door as he left.
The nurse began shooing people out.
He Zhi clasped Xu Ping’s shoulder. “We’ll all be waiting outside.” Instantly, his eyes reddened.
“Keep an eye on my brother,” Xu Ping mouthed.
He Zhi nodded and mouthed back, “Don’t you worry.”
He Zhi tugged on Xu Zheng’s arm, but the younger man wouldn’t let go of his brother.
Xu Ping rubbed the head that was glued to his shoulder and urged gently, “Xiao-Zheng, go out with Da-Zhi.”
Xu Zheng shook his head.
“Where are you going, Gege? I go with you.”
Rubbing his short hair, Xu Ping only chuckled.
The sharp Wei Ying dragged He Zhi out so the brothers could share a private moment together.
Even the nurse was forced to put down her tray and leave under He Zhi’s glare.
Xu Ping cupped his brother’s face and planted kisses on his lips again and again.
Eyes shut, he held Xu Zheng tightly, and Xu Zheng hugged him just as tightly.
He put his lips right by his brother’s ear.
“Xiao-Zheng, I’m going to tell you a secret,” he whispered. “I’m going to meet with someone very important very soon. He is all-knowing and all-seeing. He manages the time of everyone in the world. He can see every single thing every single person does, but nobody can see him.”
Xu Zheng’s shoulders stiffened.
“Now, very soon someone will push me into a room with a red light outside. Xiao-Zheng, you must not be afraid. I’m going to meet that person. He is very strict but also very kind. I’m going to have a talk with him, like two good friends.” He paused. “Xiao-Zheng, I need you to do a favour for me. I need to you sit outside like a good boy. Don’t make noises, and don’t cause trouble. That person has a very unpredictable temper. He hates noise and only likes quiet. I want to ask him for something very important. It’s something so precious that all the money in the world cannot buy it.”
Xu Zheng nodded solemnly, but his eyes showed his reluctance.
Smiling, Xu Ping kissed his brother on the forehead.
“Don’t worry. That person is the fairest and kindest person in the world,” he said. “Wait for me. I will be back very quickly.”
Dr. Dai personally walked Xu Ping into the operation room.
Lying on the gurney, Xu Ping said to He Zhi, “Don’t be stingy. If my brother gets tired of waiting, buy him a popsicle to ease the boredom.”
He Zhi was already very upset, and now he just wanted to beat someone up.
Xu Ping waved to everyone with a smile.
A bunch of doctors and nurses accompanied him into the room.
The operating table was very cold. The surgical light switched on with a click and made Xu Ping shut his eyes.
He quietly waited for the anaesthetic to take effect.
Dr. Dai pulled down his blue medical mask and grinned, “Are you scared?”
Xu Ping thought about it but eventually shook his head.
“Oh?” Dr. Dai cocked a brow.
“I died once. It didn’t feel scary, rather it was peaceful. I saw my deceased family members–”
“Scientifically speaking,” the doctor interrupted. “those are illusions caused by chemical components in your brain.”
Smiling, Xu Ping shook his head.
“I know you don’t believe it.”
“Believe what? Your nonsense?”
Xu Ping turned to the man and stuck out a finger at his heart. “I can see, Dr. Dai, you have a hole here. You’re missing someone.”
The doctor’s fingers trembled, his knife nearly slipping out.
He frowned and growled through gritted teeth, “Who told you?! Was it Huang Fan?!”
Xu Ping only chuckled.
“That asshole!” spat Dr. Dai. “I’m doing such a big favour for him, and he fucking betrays my secret!”
“He didn’t say anything,” Xu Ping remarked lazily.
The doctor was in disbelief. “Then how did you find out?!”
“I can see,” Xu Ping answered.
Dr. Dai was left hanging.
“There is one thing I find strange. Judging by Huang Fan’s attitude in the past, he would have taken you to the States no matter what, so why did book a ticket for himself after two hours with you in a room?” Then he asked Xu Ping, “So, what did you talk about?”
Xu Ping blinked at him. “What’s the name of the person you miss?”
The doctor choked out of frustration. “Why the hell do you care who I miss?! No, wait! I don’t miss anyone!” He grabbed Xu Ping. “Tell me now, what did you discuss?”
“A secret for a secret,” Xu Ping shut his eyes and breathed.
Then the drugs kicked in, and he was out.
August the following year, He Zhi and Wei Ying married.
The wedding was held at a church with some history in the old part of town.
After surgery, chemotherapy and over half a year of rehabilitation, Xu Ping was finally able to walk outside, but he was so weak that he would pant after standing for a few minutes.
Wei Ying was dressed in a white wedding gown and was delivered to He Zhi by her dad.
The two stood before the altar, face to face, and He Zhi lifted up her veil.
The two smiled at each other.
“Mister He Zhi, in the name of the Holy Mother Mary, do you take Miss Wei Ying as your lawfully wedded wife?”
“Miss Wei Ying, in the name of the Holy Mother Mary, do you take Mister He Zhi as your lawfully wedded husband?”
The priest asked the two to hold each other’s right hand.
“I, He Zhi, take you, Wei Ying, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, and will love you and honour you until death us do part.”
“I, Wei Ying, take you, He Zhi, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, and will love you and honour you until death us do part.”
“May the Lord in his goodness fill you both with his blessings. In the name of the Holy Mother Mary, I now declare you–”
The priest was interrupted by a cry, and everybody looked towards the source.
Police Chief Wei was bawling, and his wife was scolding him. “It’s a day of happiness. What is wrong with you?!”
Chief Wei retorted through his tears, “What the hell is wrong with me?! My damn daughter is getting married, and I feel horrible!” He pointed at He Zhi. “I’m warning you, He Zhi! Don’t think you can do whatever you like after taking Xiao-Ying! If you dare mistreat her, then I-then I…” Then he started panting, hands clasped to his chest.
His secretary quickly helped him back into his seat and rubbed at his chest while getting out medicine from his pocket.
“Please don’t get worked up, Chief Wei. Exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale…”
The crowd went crazy, and the newlyweds jumped down from the altar, the ceremony far from their minds, to look after her old man (his father-in-law).
Xu Ping nudged his brother.
His brother helped him to his feet.
The guests all rushed forward leaving the last few rows nearly empty.
Xu Ping heard Wei Ying’s mother berating in a cracked voice, “You damn geezer don’t even know to talk properly! Look at you! You triggered your asthma! What kind of a father are you?!”
The chief then grumbled a retort, and the crowd burst out in guffaws.
Holding on to his brother, Xu Ping shuffled out of the main hall.
The corridors were dim, and the air smelled like old furniture.
Xu Ping suddenly stopped.
His brother turned to him.
“Laces came loose,” Xu Ping explained.
He was about to bend down, but his brother was ahead of him.
Around the corner of the corridor, the entrance to the church was wide open.
The sun burned bright in the August sky.
His brother straightened himself and grabbed his hand.
They shared a smile and stepped into the light.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
ayszhang: And that brings us to the end of this story. Thanks so much for being with us this whole time. We are going to compile a PDF file as soon as possible. Look out for a post in the near future!
Announcement: I will be taking a break from posting (but I will be around to answer any questions and read your lovely comments ^^) and will be back with (hopefully two) new stories for you to enjoy in May! The reason for this is because I am graduating with my bachelor's degree, and the last term is going to be a little bit hectic. I am also working hard to publish one of my translations of Korean literature in the Azalea journal, so that's also keeping me busy XD
Hope you will be back in May for the new stories! <3
In the meanwhile, I have an instagram account and am posting pretty travel pics! :) Follow me!
Brother - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.