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Parental Guidance

Parental Guidance: Chapter 18

Chapter 18

Ji Bie left casually.

He took a taxi back to the house he shared with Duan Zhu, packed up in less than half an hour, and left with only the most basic things.

Without hiding his whereabouts or doing anything extra, he directly bought a ticket for the nearest flight back to his home country and boarded the plane at three in the morning.

He didn’t check any luggage, so when he got off the plane, he walked straight out. Despite the late hour, he was surprisingly alert and wasted no time in boarding a train back to Province A.

His father’s grave was in City A, and he knew that Mr. Duan had bought a plot in a public cemetery and built a rather large and impressive tomb for his father, but he had never visited.

No one remembered this, and he himself never had the opportunity to bring it up. When he was young, he had no status in the Duan family, and even if he wanted to bring it up, he couldn’t find anyone.

Ji Bie’s journey went smoothly because he had gone through it countless times in his mind.

Years ago, the train schedule from City S to City A was engraved in his mind. This trip to City A was originally meant to be his 18th birthday gift to himself. But later, when he got together with Duan Zhu, he had to report everything to Duan Zhu. If he mentioned visiting his father’s grave, it would seem like he was seeking sympathy from him, which would be affected. In the end, Ji Bie hadn’t visited in fourteen years.

On the train from City S to City A, he watched the fields and rivers passing by outside the window, thinking that it was better late than never, hoping his father wouldn’t blame him. If there was blame to be placed, it was already too late, so he could just make do.

The public cemetery was in the suburbs south of City A. Ji Bie had plenty of time, so he first found a nearby hotel to check in, then went to a convenience store to buy white wine and small cups, a flower shop to buy a bouquet of fresh white flowers, and finally to the cemetery gate to buy incense and offerings. He carried them all into the cemetery, slowly looking for his father’s grave.

It took him twenty minutes to find it. His father’s tombstone was made of white marble, quite large, the most impressive among a dozen or so graves. There was a suit photo on the tombstone, and the face resembled his a bit. Below the photo was written “Grave of Ji Dongzhi”.

In front of the tombstone, there was nothing but some untrimmed weeds.

Ji Bie placed the flowers by the grave and looked at his father’s photo for a while, trying to memorize his father’s face. But no matter how long he looked, every time he closed his eyes, he forgot. He tried several times, then gave up and took out the incense, placing it on the table in front of the tombstone and lighting it. After staring blankly for a while, he saw the wine in the bag, opened a bottle, poured it into a small cup, and sprinkled it in front of his father’s grave.

Ji Dongzhi had single eyelids and a determined look in his eyes. Ji Bie stared at the photo, feeling like the person in the photo was also looking at him.

“Dad.”

He called out in his heart, his nose feeling a bit sour, but even if he wanted to cry, he couldn’t. He just stared blankly at his father’s photo, and very gently spoke again, “Dad.”

Ji Bie, so young, didn’t know the pain of separation by death. In the past, he had only kept silent about what he should say and avoided doing what he should do, afraid of trouble, afraid of explanations, afraid of variables, afraid of angering Duan Zhu. He thought, let’s wait a little longer and see, maybe things will get better in the future, so he closed his heart and eyes, letting Duan Zhu hold him and walk on.

The journey was bumpy, with thunder and wind. Ji Bie thought they had been out for a long time, but when he opened his eyes, the house was still the same, the door was still the same. They stood under a dangerous wall, and no matter how capable Duan Zhu was, if the house collapsed, it would still collapse.

“Dad,” Ji Bie thought for a long time before saying, “I’ll give it a try.”

He poured another glass of wine for his father and said, “Please bless me, I’ll give it a try.”

A gust of wind swept by, blowing the wine he had poured onto the marble surface, causing it to spill over the edge and drip onto the muddy ground, leaving dark streaks like rain.

Sweeping the grave for his deceased father was like a belated coming-of-age ceremony for him at the age of nineteen. He paid his respects, tied his crown, and was reborn, no longer avoiding life as an adult.

Ji Bie stayed in City A. He rented a small apartment in a downtown area, on the second floor of a small complex, with a little over forty square meters. The decoration was half-new and not old. The landlord had just moved out, and he was the first tenant.

On his first day in the apartment, he went to the supermarket to buy pillows and blankets. The supermarket happened to be on sale, crowded with people. He pushed a shopping cart and walked, picking up a pillow and putting it in the cart. Suddenly, his heart felt sour and chaotic, as if he had betrayed someone, and he couldn’t even lift his feet.

Ji Bie stood by the pillow shelf for at least ten minutes, then reached out and took another one. Silently chanting “one pillow, one hug, two pillows just right,” he placed the second pillow next to the first one he had put in the cart. The sourness in his heart subsided a bit, and he was able to move forward.

He had been to the supermarket alone before, and he had bought things for himself alone before, but this time was very different. It made him feel those unvoiced, obscure heart palpitations.

On the fifteenth day in City A, Ji Bie received a call from Duan Zhu’s assistant.

The assistant told him that Mr. Duan hoped he would take some responsibility, return to Boston, and explain things to Duan Zhu before leaving.

“Did you return the necklace to Duan Zhu for me?” Ji Bie asked the assistant.

There was a pause on the other end, and then silence for half a minute before the assistant resumed speaking to Ji Bie, saying, “Not yet.”

Ji Bie thought for a moment, then asked the assistant, “What’s wrong with Duan Zhu?”

After Ji Bie asked, there was another pause for a few seconds, and Mr. Duan’s voice appeared on the line, saying briefly, “Come back first.”

“What’s wrong with Duan Zhu?” Ji Bie didn’t answer directly, but asked.

Mr. Duan simply said, “He’s sick, with a fever.”

Ji Bie was stunned for a moment, then immediately asked, “When did it start? How many days has it been? How did he get a fever? Was it from kneeling for too long that day or catching a cold? Is it an infection?”

Duan Zhu was very healthy, and he hadn’t been sick for years. When Ji Bie had a cold, Duan Zhu never got infected. Once, he had a long-lasting cold, and despite Duan Zhu kissing him, thinking that it would help him get better, Ji Bie ended up getting sicker the next day, but Duan Zhu was completely fine.

“I’m booking a flight now,” Ji Bie turned on the speakerphone on his phone and opened his computer, saying, “Is he hospitalized? Where is he? I’ll come over as soon as I land.”

Mr. Duan didn’t answer immediately. After a while, he suddenly changed his mind and said to Ji Bie, “Forget it.”

Then he hung up the phone.

Ji Bie was stunned for a moment, then called back, but no one answered the phone. He looked at the plane ticket in a panic, wondering why things were going so wrong, and why he couldn’t take care of even someone as easy to care for as Duan Zhu.

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