“Qi Susu, you have some nerves.”
By the time Qi Xiuyuan returned home, he saw his sister resting her body on the dining table. When she heard his rough voice, she quickly picked her head up, revealing puffy red eyes that resembled two ripe peaches.
Qi Xiuyuan sighed. When he was fifteen, their parents had passed away from a tragic car accident. Back then, his then ten years old sister stayed with their grandparents who had spoiled her.
Luckily, she was delicate and timid rather than unmanageable, but after living in a boarding school, she became independent and toughened up a bit. When their grandparents peacefully passed away, she ended up living with him, and in the end, he couldn’t help but spoil her as well. With just one glance at her lovable yet childish demeanor, he was at his wit’s end.
“Ge,” Qi Susu gently said in a sweet yet low tone. “I only want to be with Ah-Yang.6 But since you’re so vicious and stubborn, the only thing I could do was ask Xiao da-ge 7 for help…”
“You’re not afraid asking a gangster for help would mean your brother might be beaten to death and have his corpse thrown into the Yangtze River?” Qi Xiuyuan walked over and placed the food Xiao Li gave him on the table. “Did you eat yet? Here’s something good for you.”
“Xiao da-ge would never do something like that!” Qi Susu retorted, angry at the injustice spoken about Xiao Li. “He promised that he would talk with you politely and hope to change your impression of him!”
Qi Xiuyuan nodded. “Indeed, he was very polite.”
“Then, Ge—” Qi Susu’s big eyes brightened up as she looked at him with high expectations.
“No,” Qi Xiuyuan said heartlessly. “He was polite because of your relationship with his brother. That doesn’t mean that my impression of him has changed. On the contrary, it’s still the same! With your personality, even if you were to marry into an ordinary family, I still wouldn’t be at ease. Let alone, the Xiao family being in that kind of environment. Don’t even think about it!”
“But…” Qi Susu’s tears rolled down her flushed cheeks. “But I really like Ah-Yang. Ah-Yang has always been kind and considerate to me. Without Ah-Yang, I don’t even want to eat.”
Listening to the sound of her sobs, Qi Xiuyuan became moody. He slammed his hands on the table, unable to contain his anger. “Between Xiao Yang and me, you can only choose one.”
Qi Susu was dumbfounded as she stared at Qi Xiuyuan with tears racing vigorously down her face. A moment later, she suddenly leaned over the table and bawled her eyes out.
Qi Xiuyuan knew full well that his sister had always been a weak and timid person who would never dare to think of letting her brother go for the sake of being with Xiao Yang.
Although he felt relief seeing her like that, he couldn’t help but also think that she was quite pitiful. He got up and touched her hair, making sure to maintain a gentle tone. “It’s okay now, stop crying. There are plenty of good guys out there, but you only have one brother. Come on, go and wash your face. Then come back to eat.”
Still ravaged with anger, Qi Susu shoved his hand away and cried. “Ge, you’re a jerk! I hate you! I hate you!” With that, she got up and ran off in the opposite direction.
Qi Xiuyuan could hear her storming into her room before the sound of the door slamming echoed. Soon, her cries could be heard again. He sighed and looked at the box of food on the table. Although his appetite had already diminished, he still forced some food between his chopsticks.
The sound of Qi Susu weeping continued for more than thirty minutes before it eventually died out. Qi Xiuyuan pushed open her bedroom door to look inside only to see that she had cried herself to sleep. He noticed that a section of her intricately designed bed sheet had been moistened by her crocodile tears. He went inside and carefully moved her to the other side of the bed that was dry and covered a blanket over her.
If their parents and grandparents were alive, he wouldn’t have had to worry.
As the night went on, he went to the balcony near the living room instead of returning to his own room. He had given up smoking several years ago, but now that he felt stress and wanted one to relieve himself, there was none. That made him felt just a bit more miserable.
As he looked at the inky night sky, he couldn’t help but feel annoyed. He thought that if his parents were still around, what would they do? But thinking of them brought memories of his mother’s gentle manner and the love and affection she had always showed them. Soon, every one of his childhood memories raced out from the depth of his well-constructed mind. A moment later, he thought of how long Susu would be brokenhearted, how long would she bear those grudges against him? Then he asked himself, with her personality, what kind of guy can put me at ease and reassure our parents who are lying beneath the ground?
Soon, his thoughts journeyed to how much Xiao Yang truly like to pamper Susu and how reliable he seemed. But unfortunately, his family’s situation was too risky.
For Qi Xiuyuan, even though Xiao Li made efforts to express his respect and politeness, his whole body still exuded a villainous aura that made it extremely hard for him to overlook.
His hands must have crossed many lives in order for his aura to be like that…
The more he used that way to think, the more Xiao Li did not resemble Xiao Yang.
Are they really related? He commented to himself, many people have said Susu and I don’t resemble each other. Could the saying that ‘what you believe in comes from within be true’? Am I overthinking things?
All those thoughts spiraled in Qi Xiuyuan’s head. By the time it became clear, the sky was already painted with a shade of light-orange and yellow. With nothing to fill his hunger, he made congee then absentmindedly ate a steamed bun along with the food that Xiao Li had given him.
Once he was done, he went by Susu’s room only to see that she was still fast asleep with an increase of tear stains on her face.
Qi Xiuyuan silently left. All the thoughts that he had tried to wash away last night came rushing back when he was boiling some eggs. He placed the egg beside the bowl of congee for Susu and walked out the door.
When he arrived at school, he was still lost in those annoying thoughts.
During the entire morning, he was so listless and in low spirits that he didn’t even notice that his normally loud students were all surprisingly well-behaved.
On his way home, he continued to worry about whether or not Susu was still depressed. Later, thinking that she did not have the courage to defy him, he felt somewhat relieved. He went to the marketplace to buy a fish with the intention of cooking her favorite dish, sweet and sour mandarin fish.8
When Qi Xiuyuan arrived at home, he was dumbfounded. The boiled egg had not been touched, and Susu was nowhere to be found. He immediately gave Susu a call, but her phone was turned off. When he called Xiao Yang, his phone was off as well.
He wanted to give Xiao Li a call but realized that he didn’t have his number. Susu should have it but since he did not want anything to do with the two brothers, he never asked for it.
Burning with anxiety, he left the apartment. Just as he walked out, he bumped into an older aunt that lived downstairs and asked if she had seen anything. He was informed that earlier in the day, the aunt had seen Susu and her boyfriend going out. However, Susu was weeping endlessly as though she had done something wrong.
Qi Xiuyuan’s face was ridden with an even uglier stain as he quickly flagged down a taxi. Relying on his memory, he told the driver the address of the place Xiao Li had received him yesterday. To make matters worse, he urged the driver to go faster.
“Mister, this is the city center.” The driver said bitterly, “I can’t fly.”
Qi Xiuyuan tried to calm down and looked out the window at the fleeting sceneries outside.
Susu, nothing must happen to you, otherwise… how am I going to face our parents?
6 Ah-Yang > Xiao Yang (‘Ah’ is added for closeness)
7 Da 大– means big > Xiao dage = Big brother Xiao [too long to write]/ Ge – suffix referring to an older male or older brother
8 Sweet and sour mandarin fish (松鼠鱼) or the Squirrel-shaped Mandarin Fish: a typical traditional dish in Suzhou, not only does it feature in the color and flavor, but also in the taste and shape. What is more, after it is ready to be poured with steaming hot bittern, there will be noise as the squirrel is cheeping.