Not Alone As A Solitary Person
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Speaking of sleep, Zhang Xiaobao really did go to sleep. To the side though, Wang Juan was not in the mood as she thought of her home, thought of her parents and her family. She suddenly felt a little lonely as if the entire world had left her, leaving only her by herself. Only when she vividly felt that there was a person beside her did she feel as if there was still just a little bit of warmth left.
‘If I was given another chance to choose, would I choose to go with him to trade for that hostage? No, I must take responsibility for my personal honor. Even if I had to choose again, I’d still have no regret, no complaints. It’s just as well that it’s not just me here. There’s still a swindler with me. Damned swindler, didn’t dig even one single cent out.’
Wang Juan slowly thought as she gazed at the little gray canopy hanging as it swayed in the gentle breeze.
“Are you still thinking about the matter of the money?” At this time, Zhang Xiaobao who was supposed to be asleep suddenly turned his head to quietly ask.
“How did you know?” Wang Juan was surprised.
“Your type of people I’ve seen a lot of—if the mission isn’t completed, you’d feel there was something missing. Relax. When I returned back to China, I already thought it through. On my person, I carried an item. Inside, there’s an account number. In it is 10 million U.S. dollars that I left for you guys as a fee. Your commissioner is not bad as a person. His only shortcoming is that he has little money and his equipment is a lot worse than others. He’s like this and he still wants to break cases?
Don’t worry that the explosion will blast the thing apart. I think that even if it was blasted into smithereens, there still would be a related department that can extract what was inside. As for the rest of the money, it’ll be invested into the homeland later, too. Don’t think about all of that. It’s no use. Since we’re living another life, then let us live a little better.”
Zhang Xiaobao continued in his persuasion as well as explained the matter of the money. Wang Juan naturally wouldn’t be so silly as to not understand these words. Displaying her little arms on the outside of the blanket, she slowly nodded her head as she asked: “Could it be that you have nothing that you regret?”
“I do. That in the end, I wasn’t able to eat that bowl of liangfen.” Zhang Xiaobao’s mouth split into a grin.
“Don’t say that to me. You know what I’m asking.” Wang Juan put on a frosty look. Only, no matter what facial expression she made, her childish face made it cute.
Zhang Xiaobao smiled again: “Don’t use that look for criminal interrogations with me. Here, I’m a good citizen. In the past, if someone asked me in this manner, I definitely would not show them a good attitude. Today, I’ll make an exception and I will never mention it ever again.
Actually, my biggest regret is that I’ve never seen my parents. After that flood, I left that place of sad trauma, stealing on the road while I rummaged through the trash for food that others didn’t want to eat. I generally came out at night and found a corner to nestle in during the day. It wasn’t that the night was good, it was that I was scared of the daylight.
Before, I still had Grandpa Director. But after Grandpa Director died, I was alone. I only then realized that I was an orphan. During the day, I would always see a few adults holding the hands of children as they went to play and to eat. My only feeling would be envy. When those children that were just as old as me made a fuss with their parents, I would want to hit them. If it were me, I would definitely obediently listen to them.
But I knew if I did actually run over to hit them, their parents would beat me to death and yet I had no parents to come and protect me. Later, I saw them go to school and I wanted to go, too. You should know, that basically was impossible. Not unless I returned once again to that icy cold orphanage.”
“Then?” Wang Juan asked immediately after. She really didn’t know that the most vulnerable spot in Zhang Xiaobao’s heart was this. As she listened, she couldn’t help feeling a bit sad.
“Then? Then, you all know about it. To learn stuff, I entered prison, stole, trained, and went back in again. Here, I’d like to thank our police system. As long as you’re willing to spend money, you can create identity cards and records just like the real deal. So I don’t have a criminal record and could even buy a gun. Too bad I only ever used it once. It was a robbery where I robbed an official of his money.
It’s funny speaking of it. That official just got 300,000 from another person and hadn’t even gotten it warmed up before I robbed it. It shouldn’t be on your records. I already knew that he wouldn’t dare call the police. Later on, I went back to his house and stole quite a bit of money. He still didn’t report it to the police. Because I saw in his notebook that he killed someone before. By the time we came here, he should have arrived at the main headquarters.
If the one we encountered being held hostage before we arrived was him, I think you wouldn’t have needed to get dragged into this. I would have provoked that bandit into releasing his grip.”
“You, that is breaking the law. Your thinking itself is wrong.” Hearing that Zhang Xiaobao actually had this type of criminal tendency, Wang Juan immediately corrected him.
“Give me a break. Breaking the law? You don’t think these words are hypocritical? We’re all not little children anymore. Are you not clear on what the world is like? Could it be that you studied command until you went silly?” Zhang Xiaobao stared at Wang Juan with a look in his eyes that made her very uncomfortable.
“All right, let’s not talk about this. I want to know why you know so many details about me.” Wang Juan didn’t refute him and only asked the question she had in her mind.
“You came over to capture me. Of course, I’d want to know you a bit better. This has nothing to do with me. If you need to ask, ask your own people. A fly can’t attack an uncracked egg.”1
“All right, let’s not talk about this, either. I find that you have a kind of radical rebellious feeling against our nation’s society.” Wang Juan felt that she had no way of gaining the upper hand in this debate so she wanted to change the topic.
Zhang Xiaobao didn’t agree though and continued speaking: “I have never rebelled. I’m just complaining. I’ve never hated. Even when I found out in my later investigations that my biological parents were crushed under a coal mine and because I was only an infant, the compensation money was embezzled, I didn’t hate then, either. Because I had Grandpa Director. He also held my hand to go eat liangfen. He even left behind for me the hope to keep on living. From then on, I knew that this world didn’t just have darkness and hatred but also warmth and love.”
“You, what kind of person are you?” Wang Juan had no way of reasonably pinpointing Zhang Xiaobao at this time.
“The same as you, someone who has resolve in their heart that is also full of contradiction. This is ideals versus life. No more talking. I hear the sound of footsteps outside. I hope that arriving will be my family.” Zhang Xiaobao suddenly turned his head as he spoke to look toward the doorway and at that young maiden who was still nodding off.
“How come I don’t hear it?” Wang Juan asked with even greater doubt.
“That’s why you guys couldn’t even catch me.” After answering with a sentence, Zhang Xiaobao stared without blinking at the door site.
“No, no, Mistress. I didn’t slack off. Little Mister and Little Miss are sleeping.” The maiden fearfully stood up with a lowered head as she explained.
At this time, Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan both saw a woman under the age of 20 wearing a pink-dyed sash and green clothing standing in the doorway. Perhaps this woman really didn’t want to punish the maiden or maybe she saw that the two children were looking over with wide eyes but she changed in expression from before. Smiling, she briskly walked over in front of the couch as she fondly gazed at Wang Juan and Zhang Xiaobao. That smile had no hint of pretense.
“Mom?” Zhang Xiaobao reacted first as he tentatively asked.
There was mayhem now. The woman grabbed Zhang Xiaobao into a hug at once, excitedly asking the maiden behind her: “My Baolang can say Mom. Yingtao, did you hear?”
“I heard, I heard. Congratulations, Mistress. Little Mister can say Mom.” Yingtao busied herself in agreement. She could finally not need to worry about being punished. This one word of Mom from Little Mister could pardon even a capital crime, not to mention the one of dozing off.
“Mom!” Seeing that it really was his biological mother he had encountered, Zhang Xiaobao excitedly used his fat little hands to touch the woman’s face before kissing her as he yelled out Mom again.
“Ai~! Xiaobao, it’s Mom. My Xiaobao is so thoughtful. Yingtao, go to the accounting room to get your reward.” Seeing her son like this, any anger the woman had completely disappeared. To let others be happy along with her, Yingtao who had just been reprimanded could now be rewarded.
As she spoke, she took out a string of items from inside her sleeve and detached a small wooden piece from it to throw towards Yingtao. Yingtao hastily caught it and upon looking at the wooden piece, was even happier. This wooden piece could be used to exchange for a knife4 of pork meat that was enough for her family to eat well for several days. Carefully hiding it away in her chest, she did not leave but stood to the side, waiting for any other orders.
“Mom~!” Zhang Xiaobao energetically kissed the woman again. He originally wanted to say even more words to make his mother happy but he remembered his own age so he could only keep repeating the word Mom.
Seeing such a scene, Wang Juan didn’t know why but the big eyes under those long eyelashes were suddenly brimming full with tears. And not knowing if it was out of pity for the experience of Zhang Xiaobao’s previous life or if she had been touched, she couldn’t help calling out: “Mom [in-law].”5
After speaking the two words with a bit of distortion because of the air whistling through her teeth, Wang Juan finally came to her senses. How could she let herself be affected? At this moment, her mental defenses were actually not up.
Seeing how cooperative Wang Juan was being, Zhang Xiaobao wanted to follow up with a ‘Wife~’ to amuse his mother. But upon seeing the obvious look of regret on Wang Juan’s face, he could only keep his own mouth shut. He was afraid that once he finished speaking, Wang Juan would reply to him with a ‘Scram.’ There would be trouble then.
The woman had no presence of mind to see the exchange of looks between the two children at this time. Her son could say Mom and her future daughter-in-law could call Mom [in-law] now, too. Two children who originally couldn’t talk and in the blink of an eye were actually so smart—it excited her to the point where she didn’t know what was better to do. So taking out another wooden piece on which ‘sheep’ was written, she readily threw it to Yingtao.
“Take this to trade for a sheep leg. Go to the accounting room yourself to get it. What did you hear just then?”
“In reply to Mistress, I heard it. Congratulations, Mistress. Felicitations, Mistress. Little Mister can say Mom. The Wang Family’s Little Miss can even say Mom [in-law]. With Mistress’ arrival, the two children have grown smarter.” Yingtao knew that she was a special attendant to the two children. The more the children pleased the adults, the greater her reward would be. She didn’t think that the two babies who had never spoken before would suddenly become so intelligent. Trembling as she took the wooden piece, she thought of using the sheep leg to trade for some cloth that could be used to make new clothing for her parents and younger brother.
“Come. Mom will take you out to play. Let them see our family’s Baolang and Juan-Juan.6 No family’s children are as good as my family’s. Today, that group of mischievous children even sent over some toads. Mom already had them use what was inside to be simmered in a porridge to let you two little guys have a taste. Mom awarded everyone 20 chicken eggs.”
The woman used one hand to hold Zhang Xiaobao and the other to scoop up Wang Juan, smiling while she spoke as she walked outside.
Seeing how this lifetime’s mother had consecutively awarded the maid servant twice and even used a large amount of chicken eggs as a reward, Zhang Xiaobao could finally experience the status that a child had in a mother’s heart at this moment. He nestled closely into his mother’s embrace, forgetting about his own mental age as he reached out with his little hand to dab Wang Juan’s delicate nose. He didn’t even feel any pain when he got bitten. There was basically no strength with such few amount of teeth.
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The idiom “cangying bu ding wu feng de dan” (蒼蠅不叮無逢的蛋) illustrates how if an egg didn’t have a crack or vulnerability in its otherwise impervious shell, the fly wouldn’t be able to get at the insides. The metaphor is similar to the one used for the English adage, “where there’s smoke, there’s a fire.” They both suggest that a symptom such as a fly or smoke wouldn’t be present if there wasn’t a cause such as a crack in the eggshell or a fire. ↩
“Yingtao” (櫻桃) means cherry. ↩
The original text literally said her skin is tight, which is just a colloquialism to say that her skin is itchy and asking for a beating. ↩
The measurement used here is literally “one knife” (一刀) for one slice. Its exact amount can vary as it was never a standardized unit of measurement. Since it’s mentioned in a traditional saying that states that upon reaching the age of 66, one should eat a gift of “a knife of meat” (一刀肉) from one’s daughters as a sign of good health and a long life, one knife is mostly likely 6.6 catty in order to match the auspiciousness of the number 6. ↩
“Po Po” (婆婆) is the informal title of address for a mother-in-law. The formal one is “yue mu” (岳母). As there isn’t an English equivalent for a casual form of mother-in-law other than just Mom, which would only make it confusing as to why Wang Juan saying this is significant, I added in-law in an aside to differentiate from when Zhang Xiaobao is calling his mother Mom. ↩
Because Chinese is a language that tends to repeat syllables in order to make them sound cute or casual, Wang Juan’s pet name is naturally Juan-Juan in a process similar to how adding a -y or -ie at the end of names in English can create nicknames such as Johnny, Timmy, Tommy, Kimmy, Kitty, etc. It can also be likened to the process in which a syllable in some names can be taken out and repeated such as with names like Lulu, Cee-cee, Kiki, Vivi, Gigi, etc.