A Train Named Evil - Extra
Spring, Tongzhou North Station
“We welcome your guidance, Fengrong.”
“You’re too polite. I’m a newcomer, so please teach me. I’m very happy to join your family.”
This was Wu Fengrong’s first day as the deputy director of planning and dispatch at Tongzhou North’s Highspeed Rail Bureau. The official transfer notice had been sent last week, and was the result of repeated conversations he’d had with the Bureau.
This winter, three northern cities had experienced a broad and far-reaching event. In the Baihe train explosion, a total of 37 people were killed and 14 had sustained injuries. The property damage was in the tens of millions. One suspect had been arrested and was currently being prosecuted. The case caused large ripples, not only causing great shock in the province, but also receiving national attention. Two months ago, news that Wu Fengrong, the “Heroic train conductor”, had taken responsibility and resigned filled the pages of the newspapers. It was only now that his presence was finally starting to fade from public view.
There were still occasional phone calls to Wu Fengrong’s cell phone, either asking him for interviews or asking him about the train bombing since there hadn’t been a train bombing in many years. Wu Fengrong knew that they wanted a scoop. If it’d been a few years ago, Wu Fengrong would have entertained the thought of toying with the journalists, but now he unexpectedly wasn’t interested and also had no obligation of satisfying their curiosity.
On the afternoon of his first day he immediately left work and went straight to the airport.
He arrived at Nancheng at 6:30PM and had just landed when he turned his phone back on and saw that he’d missed a call and a text from Zhao Xintao.
–RongRong, Shi Xiaoran’s court date has been decided. It’ll be on the third of next month. The prosecutor’s office would like you to be there to testify.
Wu Fengrong waved down a taxi and, in dialect, told the driver: “Go to Nancheng Newspaper’s Editorial Office on Central Industrial Avenue.”
The driver teased him about his impure accent, and Wu Fengrong laughed it off. Everything in the South had already become quite unfamiliar. Even his native accent had started to slowly peel away from him. He opened a window, letting the humid wind blow against his face. The sun appeared more diluted than it did in the North. The sky was so blue that it left the heart untroubled1, but as as a result the colors of everything else appeared faded.
He texted back while listening to the new on the radio–
“Recently, Tongzhou’s public security bureau obtained permission to arrest the chairman of Tongda Construction and Engineering Corporation. Since 2007, Tongda Construction and Engineering Corporation had been in charge of several construction projects which had repeated accidents resulting in worker injuries and deaths. Of those, it’s suspected that the deaths of six of those workers was caused by human tampering. Tongda Construction and Engineering Corporation received several million in fraudulent insurance payouts from those accidents, making it the largest insurance fraud payout this year. At the present time, the case is still being investigated…..”
The courtyard of the Nancheng Newspaper Office was unchanged. However, the stainless steel doors no longer automatically opened with trill. Entrance was through a small side door, and they always wanted to look at ID. Wu Fengrong didn’t take the right path. Instead, he found the dining hall in the back lane then immediately detoured to the dorms.
In front of building2 3 stood a smug-looking man carrying an old-fashioned briefcase and bottle of red wine. He was smoking a cigarette while waiting for someone.
Wu Fengrong didn’t pay him any attention and tried to bypass him to go inside, but the man stopped him at the entrance. Wu Fengrong couldn’t break free, but the corner of his lips also couldn’t help but curl up. Finally, he threw himself in the man’s embrace: “Waiting for someone, huh?”
Zhou Yanling leaned in and pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth before they exchanged a kiss. Wu Fengrong had spent three hours on the airplane without a cigarette and now he plundered Zhou Yanling’s mouth clean. When he finished kissing, it still wasn’t enough, so he seized his lover’s cigarette, placed it in his own mouth, took a sharp drag and happily exhaled a mouthful of smoke.
“Didn’t you say that you were on a business trip?” Zhou Yanling grabbed him. With great difficulty, he managed to get a hold of Wu Fengrong (added for clarity) and, full of spirit3, said: “Was your official business coming home?”
Wu Fengrong’s eyes were fierce. He swatted him in the face and turned his back to walk up the stairs: “That’s enough from you. I’m giving you face. We all know that my family and I have long been separated. What kind of relatives did you expect to find? If I didn’t call it a business trip then I could only be called visiting an old lover, and I’m not that shameless. Wouldn’t announcing that make others mock you?”
Zhou Yanling didn’t take him seriously: “Yes, yes yes. It’s I, Zhou such-and-such, who is narrow-minded. Dà ren 4 is too magnanimous.”
Wu Fengrong hummed softly from his nose. Actually, he was happy that Zhou Yanling wanted to meet his parents. Still, he insisted on going around the curve and skirting the corners5 like this. Still, he didn’t plan on calling Wu Fengrong out.
The building was cold and gloomy, drafts of wind blew chills along the back of the neck. The walls were mottled with mold. After the wet season was over it would be bathed in an ominous, cold, green light. The sun that shone through was rendered gloomy. This kind of ‘dark and gloomy’ interplay of light and shadows was stifling and made Zhou Yanling tense. He followed behind Wu Fengrong, whose white sweater outlined his slim waist and whose jeans hung from his hips and highlighted his straight and slender legs. After all, this conductor was young. In the middle of this old-fashioned 30 year old building, he looked like a handsome scholar who had accidentally rushed into a goblin’s nest.
–An elderly lady answered the door.
Wu Fengrong politely smiled: “Mom.”
Under the arch of the doorway stood the elderly lady, wearing a dress yellow as chicken fat and a greyish-white vest. Around her neck was a scarf to keep out the wind. One of her hands clutched her vest. On her face were a pair of glasses for presbyopia6, framing small eyes. Her pupils resembled two deep, dark caverns from which came a cautious and solemn look, a look of timidity and fear. Finally, she saw Wu Fengrong and stumbled back a step from the doorway as though the door frame over her head had pushed her down under its weight.
“Mom, it’s me, RongRong.” Wu Fengrong spoke again, softly.
Mrs. Wu7 nodded and exposed an embarrassed smile: “Oh, you’ve returned. Come in, come in.”
Zhou Yanling fondly called her auntie, then entered behind Wu Fengrong. Inside it was bright. Even though it was an old house, it was decorated in a modern style with a real wooden floor and jade green curtains hanging on either side of each window. The furniture was ivory white. Beside the sofa stood a wide glass flower vase containing multi-colored pussy willows and peacock tail feathers. This confused Zhou Yanling. He thought, were pussy willows used in flower arranging? The willow branches were dried and thin, and the dyed colors seemed gaudy and vulgar. It didn’t look good.
Mrs. Wu poured them two cups of tea, told them that they could sit on the sofa and went to knock on the bedroom door. Mr. Wu came out wearing a bathrobe and carrying with him the smell of tobacco. The belt of the bathrobe fluttered after him on either side. He just as Wu Fengrong remembered. Even the many years spent in prison hadn’t been able to wear down his cruel and conceited manner. As soon as he saw him, Wu Fengrong immediately had the premonition that there was going to be an argument between father and son.
Wu Fengrong stood and let him have a seat: “Dad.”
The elderly man glanced at him and gestured with his chin that he should take a seat, then shot a look at Zhou Yanling, inquiring.
“This is my lover, Zhou Yanling. Yanling, this is my father.” Wu Fengrong said.
The elderly man’s eyes widened, then he lifted a hand and hit Wu Fengrong over the head: “You dare–”
Wu Fengrong avoided the hit and spoke with unconscious irritation: “Save it. It was difficult to get the time off to return. Isn’t he just a man? Is this really necessary10?” The elderly man still wanted to fight, but he immediately continued to speak in a deliberately insincere manner11: “What haven’t you seen? What haven’t you experienced? At your age, you’ve experienced everything twice but your worldview is still so narrow. What a joke.”
Mrs. Wu immediately hurried to her husband, and Zhou Yanling pushed Wu Fengrong behind him. In this atmosphere, no one dared breath. He knew that Wu Fengrong’s temper and his father’s were the same. After not having returned home in so many years, it was exactly these contrary behaviors that made it unsuitable for them to live together.
“RongRong, your father is happy. He hasn’t seen you in so long. You mustn’t take it to heart….” said the elderly lady.
The elderly man waved her away and said, hatefully : “What do you think you’re doing? With the bombing and all the dead, don’t you know what the headlines are saying? You’ve taken responsibility and resigned! You’re only thinking about yourself!”
“What do I care what they write? They can write whatever crap12 they want. Fragrant or smelly, it doesn’t concern me.”
“All you talk about is either crap13 or men. Are these the only things you like? Getting up to this nonsense in public.”
“It’s not about the public. I want to spend the rest of my life with him! That’s what I would like to do!”
For a while, the old man did not breath. His eyes glared out. Scared, Mrs. Wu straightforwardly patted him on the chest, indicating to Wu Fengrong that he shouldn’t speak again. Even Zhou Yanling couldn’t stand by and idly watch. He pulled his dangling hand, telling him to let it be. Wu Fengrong forced himself to close his mouth. He produced the bottle of red wine, put it down on the coffee table and stiffly said: “Okay, I’ll speak less. But you elders also need to retain propriety in your speech. This is a gift14 from Yanling. It’s not cheap. Keep it to drink later. Just pretend as though I’ve introduced someone to you.. I still have to catch a flight back this evening and I have to start work early tomorrow morning, so I won’t be accompanying you for meal.”
As he finished speaking, he pulled Zhou Yanling out the door.
Zhou Yanling forced a smile as he was pulled outside. He hadn’t expected that their visit to his family wouldn’t even last 20 minutes.
Just as the two were going downstairs, Mrs. Wu caught up with them.
“RongRong!” The old woman’s voice echoed back and forth in the narrow stairway. Wu Fengrong’s eyes were a little red, it was unknown whether it was from anger or grief. As his mother held his hand, the expression on his face was very stiff. The elderly lady said: “Your father is just in a bad mood. It’s not like you don’t know…..he is happy. Just yesterday he sent me a text saying that he wanted you to come back. He was especially happy as he leafed through your childhood photo album. It’s a thick book but he stayed up late going through it. He’s really not going to fight with you…..”
For a long time, Wu Fengrong did not speak. After a while, he reluctantly nodded: “I know.”
The elderly lady let out a sigh of relief: “That’s good, then. I was afraid that you were unhappy, and he really was worried about you. It’s not your fault, but the newspapers at home are full of explosions and resignations. He gave me a fright that day when he returned home after he bought a large stack of them. He carefully read each page and he still called former friends to ask about the situation. He was worried about what would happen to you and afraid that you would be punished. Mostly, he didn’t want what happened to him to happen to you. He doesn’t want you to land in prison….”
At this point, the elderly lady stopped talking and sighed.
Wu Fengrong hesitated, then held her hand: “It’s me that’s not good. I’m too impatient.” He paused then continued: “I understand. You mustn’t consider me heartless. I’m willing to return and I won’t be angry with dad over something like that. It’s been so many years since I’ve seen him that it’s normal that we’d quarrel. He needed some way to vent his feelings. So even more I also…..need to be mentally prepared.”
The time of day was already evening and there wasn’t enough time to eat a meal. In the end there were still regrets. Zhou Yanling held Wu Fengrong’s hand, continuously without letting go. In the taxi, Wu Fengrong rested his head near his shoulder, a calm expression on his face. After a while, Zhou Yanling raised his hand to his mouth for a kiss, suddenly remembering Mrs. Wu’s pussy willows.
“Why are there pussy willows in your house? Aren’t lilies, roses and carnations also good?” he asked.
Zhou Yanling gasped, ‘oh!’ and didn’t speak. Wu Fengrong suddenly tilted his head, moved closer, and kissed him on the mouth. In the enclosed taxi, the two kissed. Zhou Yanling wrapped his arms around his waist, clearly sensing that Wu Fengrong’s mood had greatly improved.
“Are you scared? Worried that he’ll drive you away in the future?” Wu Fengrong asked.
Zhou Yanling laughed and said: “If he drives me away, naturally that’s his loss. Of course, I still want to have shown him more filial respect.”
“Nex time you don’t have to bring such expensive wine. Good or bad, it’s not like they can drink it.”
“The first time was only to give you face.”
Wu Fengrong was in a very cheerful mood and his vanity had been satisfied. Zhou Yanling had recently behaved a little too well. After he had been released from the hospital, he hadn’t needed to flee from the public security bureau and had rested at home for two months. Originally, the insurance company had unilaterally fired him. But after verifying his innocence, human resources had sent him a letter inviting him back. Zhou Yanling didn’t reply, and Wu Fengrong saw that he didn’t really want to return. Perhaps he just wanted to give himself a long vacation. In any case, he wasn’t short of money. As a result, while Wu Fengrong was busy being transferred, during which his feet never touched the ground17 and he was constantly rushing about the high speed rail station and railway office, Mr. Zhou comfortably cooked and cleaned everyday.
As for calling him idle, he wasn’t idle. He got up in the early morning before Wu Fengrong, made breakfast and drove Wu Fengrong to work. He prepared lunch the day before. In the evening, if Wu Fengrong worked overtime, there would be a late-night snack prepared and waiting for him. Even all the housework, even Wu Fengrong’s end of year powerpoint debriefing, he did them all. He was practically living the life of a secretary. Wu Fengrong was very happy, but sometimes he inevitably doubted whether Zhou Yanling was scheming something behind his back. His heart was filled with uncertainty whether Zhou Yanling was willing to continue living like this for the long-term.
“You should try to find something to do.” Wu Fengrong lazily yawned into his chest. “I’m telling you, a man can’t stay at home like this. It’s no problem if you want to rest for a couple of months, but it’s no good to do this forever. Staying at home, it’ll be easy to become annoyed and nagging, and you’ll grow older faster.”
Zhou Yanling joked: “Are you worried that I won’t be able to support you if I’m not working?”
Wu Fengrong became annoyed at him: “I want you to support me? I’ve never before seen someone with such a long face18.”
By the time they’d returned to Tongzhou it was approaching daybreak.
The plane landed on the runway. Underneath the canopy of the sky was the large glass building of the airport. The tarmac, spacious and empty, lay bare on the outskirts of the suburban wilderness, like a sliver of shaved, white scalp peeking out from between patches of hair. Along the runway were beeswax-colored spheres of light, clean, graceful, and simple. The airplane was like one large perched bird. Just when one bird had landed after flying in off the horizon, another immediately flew off.
The air was still a little cool. Wu Fengrong pulled his jacket closer to his body, Zhou Yanling carried his bag for him, and the two left the airport, side by side.
Wu Fengrong was really sleepy. Before, he used to be able to manage the train for two or three days straight without sleep and he still wouldn’t feel tired. But unexpectedly, now even though he didn’t work much overtime, still his body couldn’t keep up. Moreover, living together with Zhou Yanling, there was often a large hot19 man in his bed. Compared to being alone with his cold quilt in his cold kàng20, he was too comfortable. The more often the body slept, the more delicate the body inevitably became. The more delicate, the more lazy. And after frugality it was easy to become extravagant.
Zhou Yanling went to drive the car: “We’re going straight home. Hold on a little longer.”
Wu Fengrong waited for him. In the cold dry wind, Wu Fengrong felt as though he had never left. The tenderness of the south was only a pretty girl, halted at a window, who laughed at him and then passed by. Originally, he thought about returning to his roots. He thought he’d say that he wanted to start anew. But, ultimately, he didn’t say that. Where could he start anew? He could only brace himself to continue moving forwards, that’s all.
Continuing on, next to come would be his and Zhou Yanling’s beginning, a story that belonged only to the two of them.
T/N: After the second to last chapter, I’ve been pumped to get this extra out. ZYL and WFG deserve some peace and quiet after everything! It’s been a wild ride, but here we are at the end! Thank you to everyone who’s read this! And thank you to everyone on the discord who has helped me with the translation!
- 心旷神怡: idiom meaning refreshing and cheerful
- 楼: a house with more than one story
- 神气: meaning proud; graceful and imposing; or conceited
- 大人: title of respect towards superiors
- 拐弯抹角: speaking in a roundabout way
- age-related far-sightedness
- 老太太: esteemed mother; a respectful name for an old woman; translated as ‘Mrs’ because English doesn’t have an equivalent
- 延; pinyin: yán
- 耳令 together forms 聆, the second hanzi in Yanling
- 犯得上: worthwhile, with the implication that what it’s referring to is actually not worthwhile
- 阴阳怪气: a deliberately ambiguous and/or insincere manner of speaking
- raw had 放屁: with meaning farting; and also nonsense
- 放屁: farting; nonsense
- 孝敬: a gift towards a superior or to elderly parents
- 柳: liǔ
- 留: liú
- 脚不沾地: idiom used to describe power walking
- 长脸: to earn face for the sake of others
- 火热: but aside from meaning hot, as in temperature, it also has the meaning of passionate, fervent, etc.
- 炕: a heatable brick bed
Comments for chapter "Extra"
Your donations will go towards site costs and management.
Individual translators usually have their own ko-fi buttons.