Trouble Never comes Singly
Translator: Sae | Proofreader: anasofi
Han Jia did not sleep well that night.
Jiang Xiao Ning was in the main room alone thinking about something. It was only until midnight approached that he returned to the inner room and lied down, unable to breathe steady, until he was able to sleep.
Having already closed his eyes before Jiang Xiao Ning walked in, Han Jia was even more annoyed when he came in. Having had immersed in the arena of romance for many years, his self-control was first class. But this time he could barely fall asleep, and when he did, he would always wake up only a few minutes after. That happened repeatedly throughout the night until the morning sun came in to view. Just as he was feeling drowsy, his biological clock forced him to become clear-headed completely.
He got up and put on his clothes without making much noise. Just as he went back to fold the quilt, he saw Jiang Xiao Ning lying on the bed, looking at him— who knew when he had woken up, but his eyes were half-closed, making it obvious that he was not fully sober.
“Since I live here alone, I don’t normally eat at the canteen.” Han Jia folded the quilt and said, “If you already made plans to have breakfast with Reporter Yu—”
“I didn’t,” Jiang Xiao Ning quickly replied, “I’ll go wherever you go.”
Those words were said as if they had some other profound meaning to them. Han Jia looked up at him, but Jiang Xiao Ning did not notice it since he had actually closed his eyes, looking as if he was going to doze off again.
Han Jia couldn’t help but to remember the past, he loved to lie around in the bed like that before… he frowned at his own thought before he averted his eyes and walked out to wash his face in the courtyard.
In the end, Jiang Xiao Jing dozed off for two minutes, then walked out with his toiletries. After tidying himself up a bit, he finally set off with Han Jia.
The two had only walked silently for a short distance when Jiang Xiao Ning’s cellphone sounded.
“What is it?” He answered the call with a somewhat impatient tone, “No, we’re eating somewhere else… there’s no tv or internet. Han Jia’s place is really boring… is there anything else? The signal isn’t good here, I’ll hang up first.”
Han Jia glanced at him only to see his expressionless face as he hung up. He didn’t return his gaze, and just like that, they arrived at Liu De Zhu’s house.
Liu De Zhu was a college student who had been tested out of the province. Since he grew up with his grandmother and the assistant of the neighbors after both of his parent passed away, he had a sentimental attachment to them. As a result, he decided to return and teach in a school after he graduated.
Without knocking, Han Jia took Jiang Xiao Ning through the gate, where they saw Grandma Liu sitting on a short table eating breakfast.
“There’s an extra mouth today.” Han Jia pointed to the person standing behind him. “This is Reporter Yu’s boyfriend, Jiang Xiao Ning.”
“That’s fine since there happens to be more congee this morning. I was going to mix it in the dough drop soup for noontime.” Grandma Liu was over sixty years old but was neither hard of hearing or dim-sighted as she looked at Jiang Xiao Ning with all smiles. “What a handsome young man. That’s right, Reporter Yu is also a nice young lady.”
Declining to comment, Jiang Xiao Ning spoke courteously. “Hi, grandma.”
Grandma Liu nodded, then gave a loud shout. “Zhu Zi, bring an extra pair of chopsticks and bowl.”
“Okay,” Liu De Zhu’s voice sounded from the kitchen to the west before he walked out shirtless, holding a bowl and chopsticks in one hand and a plate of steaming hot bingzi in another. He nodded casually at Jiang Xiao Ning, then went to talk to Han Jia.
“Han Jia, I have something to tell you. I had a dream yesterday, and it was really strange. I dreamed that a snake was wrapped around my arm. Look, right here.” He placed the bowl, chopsticks, and bingzi on the table and then stretched his arm out. “Dreaming of catching a snake means there will be a string of cash coming my way. It seems like a lot of good things were waiting for me when I came back to the mountains.”
Grandma Liu snorted, “Be care of those good things or they’ll bite back.”
As he talked, Liu De Zhu grabbed a couple of small stools for them to sit on and took a seat as well. “If I can get half a catty of scorpions or even a little snake this time around, we can get the students more books. And Grandma, you’ll have your new headscarf then.”
Holding a plate at the side of the table, Han Jia looked over at Liu De Zhu. “Let’s go together this time. That way, you’ll be saved from falling and getting badly injured like the last time.”
Liu De Zhu grabbed a bingzi, then ate and spoke at the same time. “There’s no need for that, I always go at night anyways. Since it’s freezing out, it can hurt the lungs. Your lungs aren’t well, so behave and stay home.” He paused to think and then added, “I can get Gen Bao Shu to come with me, that way, you can be at ease.”
Before Han Jia could say anything, Grandma Liu had already laughed out loud. “Zhu Zi, you’re so kind. Your grandma is still here, yet you tell Han Jia to feel at ease first. Is Han Jia your young wife, uh?”
While Liu De Zhu did not reply and only laughed mischievously, Jiang Xiao Ning’s complexion became a bit unsightly—all he could do was lower his head to eat the congee and remain silent.
Contrariwise, Liu De Zhu continued to talk to Han Jia. “That’s right, the dust from the chalk at school is a serious problem since it can harm the lungs. This time, I’ll buy you more dust-free chalk—”
“I brought a few boxes of dust-free chalks.” Jiang Xiao Ning interrupted without lifting his head up.
“Oh,” Liu De Zhu did not care about that at all, as he proceeded to allocate his funding plan. “Then, let’s buy a big tape recorder. The kind with two sides…”
Once they finished eating, Han Jia and Liu De Zhu went to wash the dishes. Han Jia looked back and saw Jiang Xiao Ning looking as though he wanted to follow after, but Grandma Liu pulled his hand to ask him some questions. Jiang Xiao Ning glanced towards the kitchen a few times, only to end up obediently answering Grandma Liu.
Liu De Zhu followed his line of sight and stole a glance. “You don’t say, Reporter Yu has a good taste.” He laughed, “I thought she said she wanted to interview a western teacher in the beginning, but instead, she’s been circling you nonstop. It made me think she was in love with you.”
Han Jia only smiled faintly.
When the two walked back after they finished tidying up the tableware, they happened to hear Grandma Liu kindly asking, “How is your father doing?”
Jiang Xiao Ning lowered his head and rubbed his own hands then whispered, “He passed away two years ago.”
It was impossible for anyone at the scene to not be in shock. Han Jia was completely taken aback as he froze on the spot.
He could feel both of his hands turn cold as the heat seemed to slowly flow out of his body. His eyes must have widened because of the acute pain at the corner of them as everything before him became obscure. He could vaguely make out Jiang Xiao Ning looking up at him, but he could not see Jiang Xiao Ning’s expression clearly.
“Han Jia?” Liu De Zhu’s voice came from behind him.
“It’s nothing.” He could hear his own weak and dry voice.
Jiang Xiao Ning had already stood up and was staring at him— looking as though he wanted to say something else but then hesitated.
“We should leave now.” He tried his hardest to control himself, hoping that the sound of his voice did not sound that hopeless.
Unexpectedly, Jiang Xiao Ning was very calm as he politely said goodbye to Grandma Liu and walked out with them.
When Liu De Zhu noticed that Han Jia did not look well, he constantly questioned him. Han Jia spiritedly answered each question, even though his heart was already like a pot of boiling water that had long surged endlessly.
Just as he was feeling sad, someone lightly touched his hand. Jiang Xiao Ning had placed his hand on his.
Han Jia glanced at him. Jiang Xiao Ning was walking on his left side with his head slightly lowered. He had a complicated expression on and did not look at him. But his right hand had already reached over to hook Han Jia’s pinky with his. Their hands seemed to link, but not at the same time.
Han Jia avoided his hand.
When Jiang Xiao Ning’s hand entangled his again, Han Jia furrowed his brows and quickened his pace until he ended up walking in front instead. Soon, they arrived at the school.
The opening ceremony did not start yet, and more than half the students had already sat down in the small playground. While some of the teachers who arrived earlier were sitting at the main table that was set up yesterday, others were sitting in the middle of different groups of students to count them.
“I have to get something from the office,” Han Jia suddenly said and turned around to leave.
He kept his head down until he reached the office, feeling a burst of coldness overtake him. After he poured a cup of hot water from the thermos flask and wrapped his hands around it, he finally felt a bit better.
The sound of the loudspeaker people being tested transmitted into the room from the outside. He took a deep breath, armed himself with a good expression, and made his way to the door with the cup in his hand.
Just as he was about to open the door, someone pushed in first before he could.
As Jiang Xiao Ning entered with a worried expression, he bumped into Han Jia.
The two steadied their footing and looked at each other for a while before Jiang Xiao Ning turned around to lock the door.
“Jiang Xiao Ning, I have to participate in the school opening ceremony.”
Jiang Xiao Ning leaned back against the door and watched him with a slight frown. His expression seemingly of someone stuck in a difficult situation as if contemplating an important matter.
Han Jia sighed, “I want to leave.”
“My father’s not dead,” Jiang Xiao Ning said abruptly.
Those sudden words made Han Jian freeze. He glared at him in disbelief, not knowing how to react.
“Since I got into a fight with him two years ago, we haven’t been in contact, but I know for sure that he’s not dead.” Jiang Xiao Ning’s eyes were a bit unsettled. “I said that he was dead because I have a grudge against him.”
His gaze lingered on Han Jia’s expression as he continued to speak. “You don’t need to be so sad. He will be alive for many years to come.”
With that said, he turned around to unlock the door.
The cup smashed into pieces on the ground, and the water splashed on their pants. Han Jia immediately grabbed Jiang Xiao Ning’s arm, turned him around and gripped his collar, staring at him in anger.
Jiang Xiao Ning did not resist or speak and kept his lips sealed as he looked at him.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Han Jia could feel the words squeeze out from between his own teeth.
“I’m only holding a grudge—”
“Did you think that I would believe that?” Han Jia’s hand tightened, “You can’t do that kind of thing! Even when you were a little bastard back then, you couldn’t do that kind of thing!”
As Jiang Xiao Ning looked at him, a complicated smile surfaced— joy, yet that joy mingled with a hint of mockery.
“What the hell are you doing?” Why did you lie that Laoshi is dead? Why are you also lying to me? What exactly happened… Why are you with that woman? Are you seeking money or seek… What the hell are you doing?”
Jiang Xiao Ning maintained that smile and reached out to hold Han Jia’s hand that was on his collar.
“Han Jia, if I told you that I am following your old path and selling myself in exchange for money, would you be upset? If I said, my father has disowned me, and I can only walk this path, what would you think? Again, if I said that I actually…” His smile slowly disappeared and was replaced with a sad expression. “Han Jia, I have been waiting for you to ask me, I want you to ask me so that I can purposely give you an answer that will make you mad. But when I saw you, I thought, as long as you ask me, I will tell you everything…” When Han Jia slowly let go, he caught his hand and placed it on his chest. “Just laugh at me. My heart is racing like a fucking idiot right now.”
Han Jia could feel the rapid and powerful heartbeats beneath his palm. The rhythm felt as though it was passing through his skin, begetting his own heartbeat to speed up along with it.
He lifted his head to look up at Jiang Xiao Ning, almost succumbing by the heat in his eyes.
“Xiao Ning!” Yu Xiu Jun’s voice and a knock transmitted from the other side of the door. “Are you inside? Headmaster Zhang want us to go to the main table!”
Suddenly, Han Jia pushed Jiang Xiao Ning away and took several steps back.
Jiang Xiao Ning gave him a glance, one that was filled with emotion, before he turned to unlock the door. After speaking briefly with Yu Xiu Yun, the two soon walked off together.
Standing at the same spot for a long time while his heart jumped in fear, Han Jia finally pressed his hand —that still possessed Jiang Xiao Ning’s warmth— painfully against his own chest.
 Zhu ‘Zi’ – Liu De ‘Zhu’.
- 子(zi) and 儿(er) are often added to things that are relatively small, insignificant or familiar. This is akin to the German suffixes “chen” and “lein”.
- 子is also added to indicate a person. Again, it generally connotes familiarity or commonplaceness. However, this word also happens to be a title for a learned or respected person in ancient China, as shown by the first three examples below.
老子Laotze 孔子Confucius 妻子wife 孩子child 小子lad, young fellow
Also,there’s a built-in tendency in Chinese to combine syllables at least in pairs – not all the time, but if it can be done it somehow sounds more natural (and perhaps clearer?) to native Chinese-speakers.
 bingzi – it’s translated as ‘pancake’ but that’s a really broad term as there are various kinds.