Title: A good person, hard to be; a white cloth, hard to wear
This street that was originally quite wide was even wider; the trees that lined either side had also disappeared with many new buildings having been added all around it, and High School No. 17’s once large and imposing old gate was now replaced with a new electric one.
Even Jiang Laoshi, who Han Jia had always thought would not change – the always kind and cordial Jiang Laoshi, that was – also seemed to be substantially different from before.
He also carried the same old briefcase, still tall and thin though he walked slower; his expression was cold and stiff from time to time and he appeared impatient about something. He lowered his head slightly, seemingly explaining something to a schoolboy holding some books next to him and as he walked over, the wind whistled by and blew his hair – Han Jia saw a field of white.
Han Jia took a step back involuntarily. The psychological preparation that he had established started to disintegrate, making him begin to doubt his own behaviors to the point that he almost turned around and ran at any given second.
But he finally stood still, and when Jiang Laoshi looked up to see him, he did not evade his eyes.
Jiang Yiheng’s expression froze instantly as he stood there and watched him motionlessly for a few seconds, and when the schoolboy next to him began to look at Han Jia curiously, he looked as if he realized something; his brows then tightened together before he turned around and said something to the schoolboy.
The schoolboy answered, said his goodbye and then quickly ran off.
Jiang Yiheng looked at Han Jia again for a while, and then walked over slowly. When he stood before him, he said, “Didn’t you promise me that you would never come again?”
Though his tone was smooth and face expressionless, Han Jia instead felt that an invisible pressure had attacked him, and he almost bowed his head.
“Jiang Laoshi, I——”
Jiang Yiheng sighed and interrupted his answer, “When did you arrive?”
Han Jia whispered: “Yesterday afternoon.”
Jiang Yiheng looked him up and down for a few moments before his eyes stayed on the paper bag he was holding for a moment, and said lightly: “You haven’t changed much.”
Han Jia was very tired on his return back here. He had slept in a small hotel near the train station for more than ten hours before recovering his spirit. And because he had to see Jiang Laoshi, he got a haircut, took a shower, changed his clothes and then came over. But when Jiang Yiheng looked at him, he was stabbed by a kind of invisible condemnation that made him break into a cold sweat, and he thought that perhaps it would have been more acceptable if he had come in a travel-worn state.
He seemed to be on pins and needles, not daring to answer. Jiang Yiheng also went silent for a moment before he finally asked: “Have you eaten?”
Han Jia shook his head.
Jiang Yiheng sighed again and turned away, “Come home with me for dinner. Whatever you have to say… we’ll talk at home.”
Han Jia stepped forward and took the bag in his hand. He dared not walk side by side with him and silently followed behind him instead.
Jiang Yiheng no longer spoke and raised his hand to flag down a taxi and told the driver his home address. When they got out of the car and Han Jia paid the fare, he glanced at Han Jia though he did not stop him.
Jiang Yiheng took Han Jia upstairs and didn’t speak until he opened the door, “The noodles may not be enough for two people but I can add some instant noodles. Do you want to eat them?”
Han Jia said, “Let me treat Laoshi to eat out.”
Jiang Yiheng shook his head, “I’m not used to that,” he said then pushed the door open and went inside.
Han Jia followed him in. Jiang Yiheng led him to the living room and simply said “sit” before heading into the kitchen.
Han Jia put his briefcase and his own paper bag on the chair and wanted to go and help him in the kitchen, but when Jiang Yiheng gave him a sharp look, he could only walk away silently.
He felt a little uneasy in the living room. He had come here before and the accordion door on the west side of the living room led to Jiang Xiaoning’s room – he knew that well.
He stood for a while.
Finally, he couldn’t help but slowly walked over, raised his hand and tried to push the accordion door.
The door opened silently, revealing the room that seemed to have not changed from five years ago. Even the NBA poster on the wall was the same, and only a thick layer of dust on the furniture signified the passing of time.
A noise sounded from behind him; Han Jia quickly turned to see Jiang Yiheng holding two bowls while looking at him expressionlessly.
Han Jia didn’t know how to explain it. Jiang Yiheng glanced behind him, leaned over to put the bowl on the table and said lowly: “You came back so suddenly… is it because of Xiaoning? Do you still want to find him?”
Han Jia didn’t have a chance to answer when Jiang Yiheng, seemingly unable to stand, sat heavily on the chair.
Han Jia was taken aback, and wanted to step forward to help him but Jiang Yiheng refused to look at him. He simply waved him away and spoke with quite a beaten tone, “Do you know why I insisted you going to the west to teach back then?”
Han Jia whispered: “Laoshi wanted me to be far away from here.”
Jiang Yiheng shook his head: “That was only one of the reasons. I’ve been to the west; the environment is quite horrendous and the children suffer greatly. Han Jia, I want you to understand that there are many hardships and distresses in the world, but not everyone who suffers will fall. You… how many years have you been there?”
Han Jia, “I’ve been there until now.”
Jiang Yiheng finally turned to look at him, then turned his face away again and sighed. “Five years… have you never considered reflecting on yourself?”
Han Jia lowered his head – not knowing how to answer.
Jiang Yiheng continued: “There is another reason why you had to go to the west. Only there are you still a bit useful… and the people there also need you… when you studied with me, you were a kindhearted child and I thought that if you go to the west, you would not have the heart to come back…”
Han Jia went quiet for a moment, and finally answered: “I understand.”
He had long understood that it was a moral dilemma that Jiang Laoshi had constructed for him.
He knew it five years ago. Jiang Laoshi felt that he could contribute to the schools in the west, and the schools there also helped him clean up his sins. When he made the vow at that time, he was already mentally prepared to give up his inexplicable delusions and bury all his depraved and terrible past——including the few traces of happiness. He willingly gave up on himself; handed over the rest of his life, along with all the enthusiasm and wisdom, all the energy, and dared not hold any regrets.
“Since you understand, then why did you return?” Jiang Yiheng’s voice became severe.
“He was just momentarily confused, and even if he likes men, it doesn’t necessarily have to be you.” Jiang Yiheng interrupted him again and turned to look directly at him. “Did you know? He was living with another man two years ago, a man older than him.” He slowly said, “I thought about it later on. I was not good to him when he was a child, he lacked fatherly love, so he only likes older men and that’s the very reason why he likes men. He wants you to take care of him… Han Jia, there is nothing special about you. If you don’t come back, he will forget you.”
Han Jia waited for him to calm down before whispering, “Xiaoning came to find me.”
Jiang Yiheng stared at him for a long time before squeezing a question from between his teeth: “Why did you want to get found by him?”
Han Jia was stunned and thought of an explanation: “I don’t know… Laoshi, I donated money and changed to a school that I found by myself in a very remote place, I don’t know……”
Jiang Yiheng could no longer listen and interrupted him with a wave of his hand: “He goes to find you so you have to come find him? You didn’t hide? You didn’t scold him, beat him or drive him back? There’s plenty of ways for you to make him give up, why didn’t you do it?”
The more he spoke, the more stirred up he became until he eventually stood up. Han Jia did not avoid his eyes as he looked at him and said profoundly: “I tried, but Xiaoning began to hurt himself.”
Jiang Yiheng was shocked as his brows slowly wrinkled, “Hurt himself? He was hurt before?” He paused and then his voice sank, “Was he actually hurt or did he use himself as a threat?”
Han Jia was simply speechless, and only looked at him incredulously.
“Looking at me like that, do you think I don’t care about him?” Jiang Yiheng laughed bitterly, “Do you also think that you care more about him than I do?”
Han Jia didn’t speak.
Jiang Yiheng slowly sat down again as if to appease his own emotions. After a while, he spoke in a low voice: “Xiaoning’s mother was in a car accident because she went to buy him some stationeries.”
Han Jia’s eyes widened slightly.
Jiang Yiheng made a sound that he couldn’t distinguish was whether crying or laughing. He covered his face with his hands, “It was almost time to eat when he remembered that his mother had to buy it for him before coming back to eat… I love my wife very much. For her, I abandoned my family, my studies, my future, but in the end, I lost everything … I can no longer be Xiaoning’s good father, no longer take care of him or be concerned about him… but you, you are talented, perhaps even more remarkable than me. You were intelligent and hardworking at that time. I had thought that you could fulfill the wish that I couldn’t achieve. You were even more like a son in my heart. But why did you let me down? Han Jia, you’ve really let me down!!”
Han Jia looked at his pained appearance and turned his eyes away.
“You clearly knew that he was my son! You are older and smarter than him, you should guide him to the right path, but you actually let him fall with you…” Jiang Yiheng breathed deeply several times before regaining a steady tone: “When Xiaoning came to me and said that when he was with you, said you did… those kinds of things, can you imagine what frame of mind I was in? It was only then that I finally understood that he was my son after all. I was not good to him, which made him walk this path, I can’t let him go like this.”
He seemed to age within just a few minutes: “Han Jia, I was very harsh to you back then but don’t hate me for it. Although it’s too late, I still want to be a good father. In these five years, I’ve often thought of you and Xiaoning. I don’t understand why God wants to punish me like this, to let my son and the student I took as a son do this kind of thing… Han Jia, just take it as you pity me. If you still have any compassion left for me, let Xiaoning go and give him a chance to be a normal person…”
Han Jia also frowned slightly, and his voice was still very low: “I just want to know… what kind of job is Xiaoning doing?”
Jiang Yiheng was startled.
Han Jia continued: “The gatekeeper said that you have a son who was studying abroad, and when Xiaoning came to me, he told others that you had passed away. He was mysterious and had many wounds on his body… Laoshi, I didn’t ask him. I thought you knew what he was doing.”
Jiang Yiheng looked at him in amazement and turned his eyes elsewhere. After a while, he spoke as if he had made up his mind: “Several years ago… probably two years ago, he returned once and asked me to move to another place but I didn’t agree, so he asked me to tell others that he had gone abroad, he had even forged the documents, and I—”
“You accepted it just like this?” Han Jia looked at him, “‘Returned once’? Has he been out for the past five years? Laoshi, you promised me. Back then you said that as long as I leave, you will make sure that Xiaoning will forget me, that you will treat him well, be his good father, so that he will no longer… no longer…” His complexion was wan, leaving him unable to speak.
“I am being his good father,” Jiang Yiheng retorted. “He entered the police school after he graduated, and didn’t come back a few times a year. I, I also went to find him only to have others say that he was recognized by a superior, and was rarely in school. I was also worried and looked for him everywhere, but I couldn’t find him… afterward, he suddenly asked me to move, saying that that superior had been sacked and he couldn’t contact me anymore. I wanted to ask him, but he left right after he said that. I followed, and saw him living with a man…”
He stopped. Han Jia was listening carefully and when he stopped midway, he asked, “And then?”
Jiang Yiheng closed his eyes, “At that time, the school was going to have a final exam…”
Han Jia was left speechless and Jiang Yiheng had stopped talking altogether; the two looked at each other in silence for a long time. Han Jia quietly said, “Laoshi, the kindness that you had for me back then, I will never forget it in this lifetime. When you took me as your son, I had also… taken you as a father. And when you scolded me and wanted me to leave, I was sad, but I still left. At that time, I promised you never to come back but now that I am back, I want to say: I came back for Xiaoning. He is doing dangerous things right now, and I want to find him. If after that you insist on wanting me to leave… I… no matter what, I don’t want to make you unhappy…”
Jiang Yiheng didn’t know whether he, himself, was angry or what but his hands began to shake.
Han Jia walked over to pick up the paper bag that he had brought, and placed it in front of Jiang Yiheng. “Laoshi, when you asked me to go to the west, you said this sentence. You said: ‘I don’t know whether your major can still be arranged since the equipment in the mountain are a little crude and the environment isn’t made for research purposes.’ I often thought of your teachings… here are two theses. I know that they are not very well written, but… Laoshi, I don’t want to let you down… Laoshi, I…”
Jiang Yiheng’s hands shook even harder, and his eyes were no longer on Han Jia. When he spoke again, even his voice trembled, “The noodles are not enough for two people to eat, so hurry up and leave.” Han Jia didn’t move and his sigh stretched out, “Just leave…”
Han Jia stood still before whispering, “I’m leaving. Laoshi, take care of yourself.”
He looked back at Jiang Xiaoning’s room, then looked at it once more before he slowly left and closed the door gently.
Translate: Sae | Proofread: Anasofia
Sae: I’m going to translate this an hour… | Also Sae: *4 hours later*
….father of the year goes to =.=;; Poor Han Jia and Xiaoning.
** title: a good person, hard to be; a white cloth, hard to wear – refers to how it is hard to be a good person, as it is easier to be a bad person clothed in black rather than in white, which has always been seen as the good side.