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Wei Zishan was doing his makeup backstage at the theatre. The troupe was putting on a new play 'Wind and Sand’ and he was the leading actor. The play had received a good response and there was a chance additional performances would be required.
Cai Xinpei walked in with the schedule, and Xiao He, the makeup artist, greeted her, “Cai’jie". She was Wei Zishan's assistant, and had followed Wei Zishan when he entered the theatre. The two had been co-workers for more than ten years.
"Today is already annoying." She just came from the theatre and although the performance hadn’t started the theatre was already full.
Xiao He adjusted Wei Zishan's eyebrows and said to Cai Xinpei, "The popularity of 'Wind and Sand' is just too high, it’s like we’re on tour."
"It doesn’t just feel like it." Cai Xinpei put the plan in her hand on the table and said to Wei Zishan, "April 15th, we’ll go to Qiucheng, Lin Province to perform."
The troupe had a performance tour every year, but after two local tours, they could see how popular ‘Wind and Sand’ was. At this rate, they would have to travel abroad for a year.
"Which city is after Qiucheng?" Wei Zishan asked.
Cai Xinpei laughed and said, "It depends on how well we do in Qiucheng. If the turnout is good, we may go abroad. If it isn’t good, then...wait a minute, I have a phone call.”
Wei Zishan looked at the schedule and listened in to her call.
“Okay, you take the subway back tonight by yourself, grandma is there. How was school today? Good, you’re in your third year of high school, you need to keep at it. Yes, I’m still at work, I'm hanging up. "
Cai Xinpei was forty this year, two years older than Wei Zishan. She had a happy family with two children. Her eldest son was in his third year of high school, and she talked to him every day.
Usually Wei Zishan didn't pay much attention to these things, but after hearing Cai Xinpei's call today, he asked, "Isn't it winter vacation?"
Putting the phone away, Cai Xinpei said, “They still need to go to tutoring classes during winter vacation, unless they have very good grades and don’t need tutoring. Actually, he would go to the tutoring class even if he had good grades, so he’ll never fall behind.”
After saying this, Cai Xinpei realised something and after a bit of surprise, she was curious. She pursed her lips, looked at Wei Zishan, and asked, "How are your daughter's grades?"
Wei Zishan's understanding of Wei Ruxia was about as good as a blank sheet of paper.
Cai Xinpei looked at his reaction, sighed, and said, "You should care about her studies."
When the performance was over and Wei Zishan could return home, it was already nine o'clock in the evening. He opened the door and went inside just as Wei Ruxia walked out of the kitchen. The father and daughter stood opposite each other and there was silence in the air.
Her father's eyes looked tired. Wei Ruxia pursed her lips, her voice wasn’t loud as she asked, "Auntie Li didn't come today. I just made dinner. Do you want to eat?"
"Yeah." Wei Zishan replied, took off his coat and followed Wei Ruxia into the dining room.
Four dishes were placed on the dining room table, two Ancheng-style dishes and two northern-style dishes. When Wei Zishan sat down, Wei Ruxia served the rice, handed it to him, and sat opposite him.
Although the two talked under the climbing rose last time, they only spoke their minds and their hearts were srill full of contradictions. They didn't know how best to proceed and they had a long way to go in order to be truly harmonious.
Asides the sound of chopsticks accidentally touching the porcelain plates, it was silent and empty. The soft light of the overhead chandeliers fell on the father and daughter, pulling their shadows back, as if they were getting farther and farther apart.
Wei Ruxia picked up some green vegetables with her chopsticks and seeing that Wei Zishan didn't eat much, she looked up and asked, "Is it hard to eat?"
She made the same dish at her grandma's house and it had already been accepted once by Wei Zishan. She hadn’t tried any other dishes yet, for fear that he wouldn’t enjoy it.
Lifting his eyes to look at Wei Ruxia opposite him, Wei Zishan explained, "I’ll be performing everyday for a while, so I have to control my weight."
It wasn’t easy to be an actor. He often didn’t eat dinner, and even so, he still had times he had to go hungry.
"I'll make lighter food next time." Wei Ruxia said, taking a bite of rice.
Wei Zishan could tell, Wei Ruxia was tentatively approaching him as the relationship between the two of them eased. She had the kind of character that dealt with problems on at a time after discovering them. She wasn’t conservative like him, who would choose to forget his problems.
Seeing that she had finished half a bowl of rice so quickly, he guessed she had been waiting for him to have dinner. Wei Zishan put down his chopsticks, he didn’t leave, but looked at Wei Ruxia and said, "How did you do in your last exams?"
He watched as the child paused with her chopsticks still holding rice. After raising her head, her light brown eyes were bright and clear.
This wasn’t the best topic. Whenever a father and daughter in any relationship talked about academic performance, it was never a friendly conversation.
After eating the rice at the corners of her lips, Wei Ruxia moved her mouth to swallow the rice, and replied weakly, "A bit below average in the class, I’ll do better next time."
After grandma was hospitalized, her studies were affected somewhat, and her last exams weren’t at her usual standard.
Since it was below average, there was room for improvement. After she answered, Wei Zishan asked, "Do you want to enroll in a winter vacation tutoring class?"
The girl's hand holding the rice froze again.
Wei Zishan had never raised a child, and he didn't know how to raise such an old one. Watching Wei Ruxia look up at him, Wei Zishan explained, "My assistant, your Aunt Cai, her son is in the third year of high school and has been attending the winter vacation classes. She said that all high school students these days do it, do you want to go? "
Wei Zishan spoke very slowly, like he was retelling what others had taught him. He spoke strangely and Wei Ruxia heard it strangely. Because of the strangeness, the corners of Wei Ruxia's lips were pulled up. She had never thought she would hear such words from Wei Zishan's mouth.
Wei Ruxia's eyes curved and she said to her father, "But school is about to start again."
Today is the tenth day of the new year, and there were only five days before the start of school. Presumably, most of the remedial classes were ending.
"Oh." He had been too busy at work these days, and forgot what day it was. Winter vacation was short and school usually started after the Lantern Festival.
Wei Zishan was silent again, but Wei Ruxia felt that the atmosphere in the dining room was like a melted creek, gurgling to life. She smiled at her father and asked, "Are you trying to care about me?"
After taking a sip, Wei Zishan looked at her face, his expression relaxed, and he didn’t deny it.
"I'm glad." After Wei Ruxia stated her feelings, she lowered her head and continued to eat, with the corners of her lips at the edge of the bowl curled up in an arc.
She was easily satisfied. She could feel the awkwardness in her father's concern for her, but it was okay, it would get better over time.
Wei Zishan looked at the smile on the corner of her lips, and the fatigue in his light brown eyes was slightly washed away. He raised the corners of his lips, the father and daughter had the same smile.
"We’ll go to Yizhen for the Lantern Festival to give dumplings to your grandma." Wei Zishan said.
When it came to her grandma, both of them felt a weight on their hearts. The Lantern Festival was the first holiday after grandma's death, and the mochi balls were also the last memory they had with her grandma.
"En." Wei Ruxia replied with a hum.
The Lantern Festival arrived soon. They didn’t leave immediately after delivering the mochi. Spring had arrived, the weather was getting warmer, and the flowers and plants in her grandma's yard needed to be trimmed.
Compared to Wei Ruxia, Wei Zishan did less work. She taught him to loosen the soil and fertilize to begin with. After trimming the potted plants, Wei Zishan walked to the climbing rose and looked at the new buds that had sprouted. He said to Wei Ruxia, "A few branches have fallen off."
The vine must have been disturbed on the day of her grandma's burial. Wei Ruxia looked at the branches and said to Wei Zishan, "I’ll get the tools and tie them up, otherwise it’ll be damaged."
After hearing Wei Zishan reply, Wei Ruxia walked into the sunny living room. She found the cabinet with the toolbox, took out the tools and prepared to go out. When she turned around, she saw the calendar standing on the table.
The calendar was still in November of last year, the month when grandma went to the hospital.
The memories of November replayed in her mind. Wei Ruxia opened the drawer and found a calendar for the new year in it.
Her grandma's lifestyle was very meticulous. She remembered where everything in the house was kept and when she began to run low on something, she would replenish it as soon as possible and place it where it could be easily found.
The calendar was bought in advance. Back when she bought it, she didn't know that she would soon be hospitalized and die.
Wei Ruxia put down the toolbox, took out the new calendar, tore off the first page and second page, and stopped at March.
On March 29, there was a small circle marked with a red pen. Next to the small circle, there were a few beautiful little characters — Zishan's birthday.
Wei Ruxia turned forward three more months, and sure enough, there was a small circle on June 15th, and a few characters written — baby's birthday.
Her throat felt a little tight. Wei Ruxia turned the calendar back as Wei Zishan called her outside. Wei Ruxia responded, "Here."
After the Lantern Festival, the new semester began.
On the first day of school, Wei Ruxia woke up early. Wei Zishan had performed late last night and was still getting up. She had breakfast, opened the door and walked out.
The weather in March had warmed up and the morning sun was bright and fresh. Wei Ruxia narrowed her eyes slightly. She saw Luo Tang standing at the door waiting for her, she got up and ran over.
"When did you come back?" Seeing Luo Tang, Wei Ruxia was very happy.
After they set off fireworks last time, Luo Tang went back to his grandmother's house and spent the Lantern Festival there. Wei Ruxia thought he would go directly to school today, and didn't think he would go home first.
Luo Tang was wearing a dark brown windbreaker, and his white school uniform shirt inside was neat and clean. He suited such a neat style, he looked gentle and clean but with a youthful vigour.
"Last night, I came back late." Luo Tang reached out to help Wei Ruxia hold the door open, and Wei Ruxia walked out under his arm.
The two walked side by side on the sidewalk of the community, feeling the fresh air early in the morning. Wei Ruxia spoke as she walked, "No wonder I didn't hear the sound of a car."
After hearing Wei Ruxia, Luo Tang raised his eyes and looked at her. The girl wore a simple ponytail, and there were still tufts of hair around her ears, like a small animal.
"Were you waiting for me?"
"Yeah." Wei Ruxia replied, "I only waited for a little while, I have something to ask you."
On the escalator at the entrance of the subway station, people were all coming and going. Luo Tang stretched out his hand to pull Wei Ruxia to his side and asked, "What's the matter?"
Luo Tang stood behind her and Wei Ruxia was a step ahead of him. She looked back at Luo Tang and even at this angle, he was still good-looking.
"Do you know somewhere with delicious local food? Something near the Ancheng Theatre. It’s almost my dad’s birthday. I want to book a table and give him a surprise."
She also wanted to cook a meal for Wei Zishan herself, but her cooking skills still didn’t match Wei Zishan's tastes. Also, her father had been very busy lately, and there was a show on his birthday, so he probably wouldn't have time to go home to eat.
Just as she finished speaking, the back of her collar was pulled by Luo Tang, her feet were almost taken off the ground as Luo Tang led her off the escalator. She had just turned around to talk, but she didn't notice that they had reached the bottom of the escalator.
With Wei Ruxia in tow, Luo Tang found the line 9 train they were going to take, and said, "Ancheng Hotel is nearby, and the food is good."
Luo Tang's taste was similar to her father's, and his taste aligned with the authentic flavours of Ancheng dishes.
While they were talking, the two were already on the train carriage and Wei Ruxia was squeezed into the corner as soon as she entered. She leaned back onto the carriage wall, and the turbulent crowd around her quickly calmed down. Luo Tang put his hands on either side and circled her in his arms.
There were many people on the subway today and Wei Ruxia felt that Luo Tang's body was about to stick to her. The mint scent that she was familiar with had lost its coldness, and now carried with it the splendor of the fireworks that night.
Wei Ruxia was flushed with an inexplicable warmth, when Luo Tang's voice suddenly came from over her head.
"I didn't jump out of a crack in a rock."
Wei Ruxia smiled when she heard the sentence. She looked up at Luo Tang in front of her and asked, "What?"
In the crowded subway, there was no room for Luo Tang to spread his arms. He rested elbow beside her cheek, lowered his head slightly, and said in a calm tone.
"I also have a birth date. Although I was born more than 20 years later than Uncle Wei, and the date is half a month earlier than his."
The face of the young man was right in front of her, and Wei Ruxia could see herself reflected in his clear eyes. She was held in his eyes, protected by Luo Tang's long eyelashes, just like she was now protected by his body.
Luo Tang's birthday was half a month earlier than her father’s, and he wanted her to know.
As a friend, Wei Ruxia felt a trace of guilt. She had known him for half a year, but she didn’t know him as much as he knew her.
Following the guilt, Wei Ruxia's heart felt like it was tickled by a dandelion.
Luo Tang, who had told her his birthday in this funny round-a-bout way, was kind of cute.
The distance between the two of them was very close, and their breath mingled together. In the crowded subway, Wei Ruxia didn’t notice anyone else, only Luo Tang.
"I think I’ll call you Tangtang from now on." Wei Ruxia said with a smile.
The topic was diverted by Wei Ruxia, but Luo Tang wasn’t dissatisfied. He tilted his neck slightly, his eyes looking down, making his eyelashes look particularly long.
Wei Ruxia counted his eyelashes, feeling the sway of the subway, and replied, "Because you’re sweet."
The young woman in his arms smiled such that her eyes bent. Luo Tang raised his eyes and turned away, a sweet feeling blooming in his chest.
The roots of his ears gradually turned red, and he softly responded,
"Okay, call me that."
The author has something to say:
Tangtang: You are only allowed to scream it, and you aren’t allowed to tell the others.
Tsundere Tang even told Xia Xia to accompany him on his birthday.
I think my favourite part of translating this novel is that the two translation things I use both mis-gender Luo Tang and Wei Ruxia in the absense of any pronouns in the original text. I wonder if it's because Luo Tang in constantly being called beautiful...