Volume 9 – Chapter 31: Ember
In the bathroom, there was a red plastic basin that was large and shallow. It was full of hot water in the basin that was ubiquitous.
Dazhe could see the curling hot steam when he walked in.
He looked at the big basin on the ground. There was no doubt how tempting it was to take a hot bath in this cold weather.
Dazhe stared at the pot of hot water in a daze.
The water in the basin where hot steam was lingering suddenly rippled… A small ripple spread out from the middle as if raindrops dripping on the surface of quiet water.
Circle by circle, the water in the basin began to agitate. They were already hot, but now they seemed to be boiling again!
The agitated water splashed out of the water basin suddenly. It splashed a little on Dazhe’s body instantly.
A hot burning pain caused Dazhe to suddenly shrink his arm as if being shot by sparks in the burning wood. He flattened himself against the wall of the bathroom. It was cold, but moist sweat beaded up on his forehead.
There was a sudden knock on the door. Dazhe’s body trembled in an instant…The boiling water had already returned to calm at this time, as if the turbulent and ejected water had never existed, except for the curling hot steam.
It was like an illusion.
Luo Qiu’s voice sounded from outside the bathroom at this time, “Maybe it’s a dirty little inside. I barely had time to clean it up. I’m sorry. Then I found a new towel. Of course, it is left a few years ago. It’s not new, but it should be unused. Just make do with it.”
“It’s…it’s okay…” Dazhe replied with a faint voice in the bathroom.
He took a deep breath until his voice was calmed, and responded quickly, “I’m cool with anything.”
Dazhe pressed against the wall while saying, and walked around the big basin.
He took the towel after he quickly took off his clothes. He did not touch the hot water, but turned on the faucet and quickly wiped his body with the cold water.
The cold weather and cold water made Dazhe’s breathing go as fast as a drowning person. It was hard for him to breathe.
When Dazhe came out of the bathroom, the towel was casually draped over his shoulders. He held clothes that were twisted into a ball in his hands, and just wore a vest and a coat.
He found that Luo Qiu was cleaning in the living room, and some things had been raked out from the old cabinet, which was now on the coffee table.
Luo Qiu looked at Dazhe at this time, smiled, and said, “The four seasons flowers in the yard should have bloomed recently. I picked some to make hot tea. Would you like some?”
“You’re welcome.” Dazhe nodded subconsciously.
It felt strange that although this guy had something to do with him, it was only before he divorced his ex-wife. But now they were not related at all. In fact, Dazhe had heard of such a relative in his ex-wife’s family, but they barely contacted each other.
Dazhe couldn’t even figure out whether he had met the young man in front of him back then… Perhaps there was a time when they had a meal while visiting relatives during the Chinese New Year once, or maybe not.
Time flew. He couldn’t remember many things. Not to mention this kind of relationship that was barely recognized as relatives.
“Are you all right?” Luo Qiu asked while looking at Dazhe, who was in a daze.
“Oh… nothing.” Dazhe shook his head. He had the impulse to take a sip of the hot tea.
But sprinkling some freshly harvested osmanthus into the hot water was an intangible thing for Dazhe. He always felt that this was the taste that only women should have.
However, the taste turned out to be amazing… really good. This was the most intuitive feeling that Dazhe had after taking a sip.
He was holding an ordinary glass cup in both hands. The temperature was even just right. A warm current seemed to spread from his palms to his body, dispelling the chill of the cold water he bathed with, “This tea…”
“I put some sugar that I found in the kitchen.” Luo Qiu casually said, “You don’t like sweetness?”
“No, no… No.” Dazhe shook his head, “It’s not bad… Really. Thank you.”
“Will it be uncomfortable?” Luo Qiu asked suddenly at this time.
Dazhe was taken aback, but he saw Luo Qiu point his neck with his fingers at this moment.
Dazhe also subconsciously reached out and touched his neck. There was some bulging flesh on the rough skin. It was a scar exposed from his chest.
Dazhe shook his head, “It’s okay. It happened a long time ago.”
“Thank God.” Luo Qiu nodded, then picked up the feather duster and began to sweep one corner of the TV cabinet.
His focused expression even made Dazhe feel as if he didn’t exist anymore. He couldn’t help asking, “Hey…”
“Just call me Luo Qiu.”
Dazhe hesitated, “You… don’t you want to know, how did I get injured?”
Luo Qiu asked back, “Do you want to talk?”
Dazhe opened his mouth and drank the sweet-scented osmanthus hot tea in the cup in his hand. The light sweetness did not seem to come from honey. He didn’t know there was good quality sugar in this room. He was a little fascinated by the taste.
Dazhe spoke after all, “I was ignorant when I was young, so I was chopped from the neck all the way down to the stomach…”
Dazhe shook his head and sighed for a long time. He leaned on the long, painted stool made of lychee wood. He looked at Luo Qiu and smiled bitterly, “I was so shocked at that time. I thought I would die. Back then… I was only seventeen years old. Now that I recall it sometimes. It turns out that it was a long time ago. But I…I am getting more and more scared.”
“That’s dangerous.” Luo Qiu nodded, stopped his hand, and added some hot water for Dazhe.
Dazhe always felt that such hospitality was too extravagant for him.
The extravagance made him… he didn’t know how to face it. He could only hold the cup firmly with both hands, worrying that it would suddenly slip off from his hands.
Dazhe suddenly remembered something, “I remember, your father seems to be a policeman in the big city?”
“He’s gone.” Luo Qiu looked at a black-and-white photo hanging on the corner of the living room… It was the only photo his father had with his grandparents when he was young before Luo Qiu was born.
“I seem to have heard of it…” Dazhe nodded, “It’s not easy for you.”
Luo Qiu said calmly, “It’s okay; life is going on.”
Dazhe stopped talking and suddenly asked, “Just like you, a policeman’s son. Wouldn’t you have any opinion on prisoners like me?”
Luo Qiu casually said, “But aren’t you released now?”
You are released. You are not a prisoner.
You are released…
These words, which echoed in Dazhe’s mind repeatedly, made him panic.
“I… I’m tired.”
Dazhe quickly stood up, averted Luo Qiu’s gaze, and hurriedly walked upstairs, “Don’t worry. I will leave tomorrow morning. I will not disturb anyone… And thanks for the drinks.”
Dazhe placed the teacup that he subconsciously took with him when he left, on the stairs’ steps.
Luo Qiu glanced at the ceiling where the utility room was, and said softly, “Good night.”
Luo Qiu picked up a pile of dust after that and walked towards the kitchen. There was a door in the kitchen to the back yard, that was for people to put rubbish or something outside. This was the general structure.
Luo Qiu took a look as he passed the bathroom… The full pot of hot water hadn’t touched.
Dazhe quietly walked out of the kitchen when the sky was still dark, climbed over the yard’s short wall, and left silently.
He took away all his things, including the paper used as a mat.
But he left a note: He hoped Luo Qiu would not tell others what he had been here, and promised that he would never get into his house again.
Luo Qiu opened the door of his old house in his hometown when it was dawn.
He remembered that he came back from summer vacation once when he was a child. He could directly see a paddy field ahead if he looked from here early in the morning.
There were a lot of people who woke up earlier than him at that time. There were no rows of newly built houses on the side of the road opposite the village.
It was as early as this time. The doors of every house were opened back then. It was lively, filled with people.
He walked towards Grandma Xiaochun’s house and knocked on the door a few times. It was his cousin’s wife who opened the door for him.
His aunt’s face was a little panicked right now as if she was frightened.
“Luo Qiu…” His aunt stopped talking, and became nervous again, and finally opened the door directly, “I don’t know how to say it. You can see for yourself.”
His aunt led Luo Qiu into the room. His cousin was pacing back and forth in the hall right now, with a look of anxiety… The whole room smelled of cigarette smoke.
A short figure walked out of the kitchen at this time. It was Wet Nurse Xiaochun.
Grandma Xiaochun’s face was not very pale. There was a vague rosy instead. She looked quite good in spirit.
Grandma Xiaochun held a bowl in her hands. It was a bowl printed with a big chicken pattern, with a smile on her face, “Come on, I‘ve made noodles. Let’s have breakfast.”
She didn’t look like a critically ill person.