Chapter 11: Air Conditioning
Translated by Fefe of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Li Yuechi led Tang Heng to the door of the village council. It was past 2 AM and the mountain village was silent. Then he swiftly crossed onto his motorcycle, left foot stepped onto the pedal, and started the engine with a roar. Only then did Tang Heng realize what this meant.
Without turning around, Li Yuechi said impatiently, “You can’t understand what I said?”
He did understand. It was because he understood—this was their second farewell, Tang Heng thought. The first time was six years ago. The second time was now. Then, what about the third time? There were probably no more coincidences this life to give them the chance at a third farewell. But Li Yuechi—Li Yuechi told him to fuck off.
“Oh, right,” Li Yuechi said. “They just took my brother to a motel for the night, giving him nice food and drinks. Sir, please stop making it hard for us commonfolk.”
“I won’t,” Tang Heng said.
Li Yuechi didn’t answer. Two seconds later, he twisted the motorcycle handle and was off with another roar.
Tang Heng stared at the white headlights. It was first a beam of light; then it grew further, becoming a bean-sized spot of light. Finally, it disappeared from the rising and falling mountainous path. A gust of wind blew over and Tang Heng shuddered. He realized his entire body was covered in cold sweat. His hands trembled.
On the way back, Tang Heng didn’t realize he should say, “Sorry for the trouble” until the SUV had driven 40 minutes out of Banxi Village.
“Oh, no trouble, no trouble!” The village mayor nodded and then shook his head. He’d clearly gotten a shock. “Teacher Tang, you… When did you come over? Why didn’t even tell us? Haha.”
“I came to visit my schoolmate.”
“But why this time…” As if realizing he’d asked a question he shouldn’t ask, the mayor stopped and let out a dry chuckle.
“I just came to visit.” Tang Heng looked down at his hands. “But he didn’t want me to come.”
“Ah… ah, this.” Tentatively, the mayor asked, “You know about his past, right?”
“He’s like that. Oh, his personality is quite stubborn. I heard he got imprisoned because he stabbed his teacher. Honestly, what kind of horrible conflicts could a teacher and a student have? Why was he… Right?”
“Yeah,” the driver piped up from the front. “Li Yuechi is famous in our village. We hadn’t had a uni student in more than ten years before him. But he got into a top school! But the result, ah, honestly, why did he have to stab someone?”
Tang Heng didn’t speak, but the driver continued, “Please don’t mind him. His entire family is so stubborn! His dad, before his death, went around saying his son had been wronged—tell me, how could he have been wronged?”
Tang Heng closed his eyes. “When did his dad pass away?” he asked softly.
“I remember clearly, 2014,” the driver said. “He was still in jail, you know. His mom ran to the mayor at the time, wanting the village council to contact the jail and let him come back to mourn.”
“Oh,” the mayor uttered. “I heard them mention this before.”
“It was a mess. Rural villagers aren’t refined, you know. She stayed outside the village council and knelt down before the mayor… We kept explaining that the mayor doesn’t have the authority. Just wouldn’t believe it.”
Tang Heng’s hand trembled again. He clenched them into fists. “Does he know?”
“Does he know about this?”
“Uh… Probably?” The driver sighed. “His mom and dad were pretty good people. How did they give birth this bad karma?”
It was already four in the morning by the time they got to the hotel. The sky was still a thick black without a shred of dawn in sight. The mayor grasped Tang Heng’s hand and reminded him to stay safe for a long time before finally leaving. The surroundings quieted down after he left. Tang Heng stood outside the hotel and stared blankly at the scattered lights inside. More than five years ago, he’d run out of here crazily to find a taxi. Now, he was standing here again, the cold sweat already dried on him. Like going mad after getting drunk, nothing remained other than a debilitating exhaustion.
Tang Heng walked very, very slowly to the door. He felt the urge for a cigarette and patted around his pocket before remembering that he’d given the pack of Zhonghua to Li Yuechi. At that time, he’d even cheered inside that Li Yuechi accepted his cigarettes—this meant that he, at least, didn’t hate him, right? But thinking back now, Li Yuechi probably just saw him as a dog. Like throwing a frisbee. The first time, he threw it three meters away and the dog brought it back with a wagging tail. The second time, he threw it five meters away and the dog still happily ran over and back. The third time… The third time, the dog actually ran to his house in the middle of the night. He was annoyed and told the dog to fuck off.
If only he had a cigarette. If he didn’t, then vortioxetine worked too. The psychiatrist in the UK had told him, Don’t think that taking vortioxetine is embarrassing. It’s comforting you. It’s not fighting against your memory. But Tang Heng had always hated the dizzy sleepiness after taking the medicine. His consciousness would grow muddled, as if his memories were only whispers from a past life.
But right now, he actually wanted two vortioxetine pills. Since he didn’t have any, then—Tang Heng raised his fist at the wall. The snow-white wall looked like a patch of clean, soft snow. He knew how it felt to have his fists slam against it. For a few seconds, his entire arm would be numb from pain, but those precious few seconds could make him forget most of the thoughts tormenting him. Of course, if one punch wasn’t enough, he could have a second punch, a third punch, until—
The door opened. Manager Qi came out.
It was Sun Jihao’s room.
“Oh, Teacher Tang?” Manager Qi’s eyes widened as if he’d seen a ghost. “You…”
Tang Heng lowered his arms. “I couldn’t sleep, so I’m taking a walk.”
“You have insomnia?”
“Is your air conditioning broken too?” Manager Qi chuckled. “Sun-laoshi’s air conditioning broke three or four times tonight. It’s really… is yours working like normal?”
“It works.” Tang Heng squinted. “Thanks for your hard work.”
“It’s nothing. Call me if you need anything.”
“Did you fix the air conditioning?”
“Nah.” Manager Qi laughed helplessly and said, “I’ll have someone come over to fix it tomorrow. I can’t do it.”
“We don’t actually need air conditioning with this temperature.”
“Haha, it’s humid around here…”
The next morning, Tang Heng and Lu Yue stood in the corridor, sunbathing after breakfast. Tang Heng always called Lu Yue “shijie” because she was his uncle’s PhD student, and Sun Jihao was his shixiong.
“You didn’t sleep well last night?” Lu Yue looked at him. “You have heavy dark circles.”
“I’m fine. Shijie, how about you?” Tang Heng asked. “Do you like the food?”
“I feel like you lost weight. How about we switch?” Tang Heng lowered his voice. “Partnered with Director Xu, it’s probably you doing all the work, right?”
Lu Yue touched her face and laughed. “Losing weight is good. Plus, according to the rule, Jihao and I can’t be partners.”
“Couples need to stay away.”
“Oh, because no one would report him if he accepts bribes.”
“Mn, yes—” Lu Yue chuckled again. “So, you have to watch over him.”
“I’ll go to the car now.” Lu Yue started off but then turned around and said, “Jihao loves drinking. Shidi, you have to keep an eye on him for me.”
Tang Heng shook his head. “Shijie, he doesn’t listen to me,” he said slowly.
Lu Yue shrugged. “Then, let him drink.”
Author’s note: please follow the doctor’s prescription for taking medicine.