Always By Your Side - Chapter 10.1
Chapter 10: Funeral
For several days, the weather was gloomy, but it never rained. After work that day, Fu Beichen drove to Houdetang.
Houdetang was a traditional Chinese medicine hall opened in Jinghai Yanling Alley. The shopfront was very small, with ancient-style wooden double-doors painted with black lacquer. There were obscure Jiaotu dragon door knockers, the copper turning green with a sense of age. But when you entered through the door, it was a place of charm and beauty.
At the very front was the main medicine hall. Rows of Chinese medicine cabinets were neatly lined up, and the shop’s fragrance assailed the nostrils. Behind the hall was the place where patients visited their doctors. Doctors were in attendance on a regular basis. Behind this was the place where the medicine was boiled, and right next to the pharmacy was a small independent courtyard where the owner He Pu lived.
He Pu was Fu Beichen’s childhood friend. Back in those days, the two both lived in a compound by Xizhao Lake.
“How come you’ve come to find me today, Busy Fu?” He Pu said after making tea for Fu Beichen.
Fu Beichen took his teacup and had a sip.
“I came on behalf of Madame Fu to see you.”
“I’ve always thought you are not very normal.”
Fu Beichen turned his face to look at him, “You always say that, doesn’t it get annoying?”
“How can it be annoying to say malicious things about others?” He Pu said as if he despised worldly conventions. “Ever since you were a child, you’ve been such a serious person. At the start I thought you were just pretending to be profound. I deliberately followed you to see when you would reveal your true nature.”
Fu Beichen did not reply, and He Pu continued slyly: “Who knows that I followed you and followed you, and even followed what you liked. Thinking I originally had the powers of the Great Sage, the Equal of Heaven, I wanted to follow you around even though you were naturally so difficult to understand. I even voluntarily followed your interest in being a Chinese medicine doctor. You tell me, did you take advantage of me and lower your head when I wasn’t paying attention?”
Fu Beichen naturally ignored He Pu’s hippie words, took a sip of tea, and slowly said: “That year, you really looked more attentively than I did at the stack of medical records in the old lady’s hands. Now, your Houdetang can also be considered an accomplishment, which is very good.”
“It’s rare for those old gentlemen to think highly of me and be willing to teach me. I intend to use this lifetime to undertake the cause of Chinese medicine.” He Pu was half-serious and half-joking as he said, “How about it, I think our old lady must be very moved in heaven.”
“Indeed, the old lady didn’t love you for nothing. For the Dongzhi Festival this year, remember to go chat with the old woman and accompany her.”
“Chat about what? Oh, chat about when you will marry a wife, the old lady is definitely interested!” He Pu cheerfully clapped his hands.
“I’m also very interested.” Fu Beichen looked down at the tea in his cup. No one could read the mood in his eyes. “I’ll have to trouble you to nicely ask her old man.”
That evening Yuanyuan was rushing to catch up with her manuscripts again, when suddenly her mobile phone rang on the table. She went over to look. It was her mother who was calling. She immediately answered: “Mom.” The phone then transmitted Dai Shufen’s weak voice: “Yuanyuan, your grandmother has passed away.”
“Ah?” For an instant, Yuanyuan’s heart seemed to have thousands of feelings surging over. From the beginning, her grandmother had never given her even a little bit of the warmth of familial love. On the contrary, she was the original reason why she had been separated from her mother prematurely. To not have the slightest amount of resentment was impossible. But now that the old woman was really gone, she was also indescribably disappointed.
Dai Shufen asked her to return home tomorrow, but after she ended the call, the more she thought about it, the more she worried. In the end she picked up her bag and cellphone and dashed out.
Yuanyuan ran all the way outside of the neighbourhood, a layer of sweat already seeping from her back. Because it was an old residential area and the street lights were old and dim, she stood on the side of the road anxiously waiting for a taxi. From a distance, a car light was emerging, and without a second thought she ran out two steps to stop the car. It was a privately owned car. Naturally it didn’t stop. It drove past her quickly, even almost running into her.
In the next second, she was forcibly pulled back by someone behind her!
In a panicked state, Yuanyuan turned her head in shock, but saw a face she knew well, “Fu Beichen?”
After Fu Beichen had left Houdetang, he’d driven over there. He sat in the car for a long time, and eventually closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, he saw her blocking a car on the side of the road ahead. He was a little surprised. He immediately got out of the car and walked towards her. Because he’d seen that she was almost involved in an accident just a moment ago, his complexion wasn’t very good. Therefore, his manner of speaking towards her was a little severe the first time: “No matter how urgent it is, you can’t stop a car like that.”
Yuanyuan suddenly grabbed his hand forcefully, “Fu Beichen, Fu Beichen!”
In an instant, Fu Beichen was in a daze.
“Fu Beichen, take me home, can you? Now, to my hometown!” It was like Yuanyuan was grasping at straws to save her life as she tightly clutched his hand.
Her face, beaded with sweat, was brimming with eagerness. Fu Beichen’s heart tightened involuntarily. He took a deep breath and brought her to the car.
He didn’t ask for a reason. With her facial expression, he was certain something must have happened at home.
She said her home was in Yuxi.
Yuxi…this place, he had been there once.
He sped the entire way. When Yuanyuan got out of the car, she saw the gate to her backyard was open. As soon as she entered the yard, she saw many neighbours crowded in her house.
An aunt saw Yuanyuan and hastily said, “Yuanyuan, you’re back. Your mother fainted.”
Dai Shufen was leaning across a rattan chair, her complexion ashen. Yuanyuan ran over and continuously called her mother, but Dai Shufen had no response at all.
“Let me look.” Fu Beichen pulled her up. His strength was neither light nor heavy, but full of comfort. He crouched down, probed Dai Shufen’s breath, then checked her lower eyelids. Afterwards, he examined her pulse. Fu Beichen’s grandmother, Madame Fu, had been a doctor trained in Chinese medicine. He had always been influenced by this since childhood, and therefore understood some medical knowledge.
“You can’t recline her on the chair, she has to lie down.” After Fu Beichen said so, someone immediately came to help him bring Dai Shufen onto a wide bench. Fu Beichen then pinched Dai Shufen’s human centre acupuncture point before speaking again, “Yuanyuan, go make a cup of hot tea or sugar water. Just something hot will do.”
When Yuanyuan heard this, she hurried to the kitchen to make sugar water.
Sure enough, it didn’t take long for Dai Shufen to wake up leisurely. Yuanyuan glanced at Fu Beichen, who nodded his head slightly. She immediately fed the brown sugar water to her mother to drink.
Dai Shufen’s mind became clearer. When she saw that it was her daughter, she asked with surprise: “What are you doing back?”
Yuanyuan’s eyes were red.
Someone opened their mouth to explain: “Ah Fen, just now you fainted. The young man who came with Yuanyuan woke you up in two or three tries.”
The aunt looked at Fu Beichen and asked, “Are you Yuanyuan’s boyfriend?”
“He’s, he’s not,” Yuanyuan said with a little bit of embarrassment.
Fu Beichen glanced at her and then said to Dai Shufen: “Auntie, I’m a friend of Yuanyuan’s. My surname is Fu, Fu Beichen.”
“Mom, today he sent me back,” Yuanyuan added.
Dai Shufen gave Fu Beichen her gratitude: “Thank you for your trouble.”
Fu Beichen just nodded his head slightly.
After that, no one said much. After all, today was not a day for relaxed chatter.
That evening, the elders who were somewhat related to Yuanyuan’s family, together with Dai Shufen, changed the burial clothes of Yuanyuan’s grandmother. They then kept watch beside the old woman’s shroud. The others comforted Dai Shufen before going home.
Yuanyuan sat beside her mother. Her ears were full of the older generation chanting Buddhist mantras, occasionally talking about the things happening in the family, and saying that life was painfully brief. Her head was swelling from dizziness as she listened to them.
The night gradually got deeper, and Dai Shufen told her child to go and get some rest. Yuanyuan shook her head—she didn’t want her mother to face these hardships alone.
After a while, Yuanyuan was so sleepy that she got up and walked to the yard to wash her face with water. But unexpectedly, when she looked outside the rusty iron gate, a certain car was still parked there.
She was utterly surprised, then immediately ran over. The car window rolled down, and in the darkness there was a somewhat indistinct gleam of light on Fu Beichen’s face.
“Fu Beichen…” She realized that her throat was a little coarse, and she cleared her throat twice. “How come you still haven’t left?” Several hours had passed since she’d sent him out earlier.
“Don’t be too sad,” he comforted softly.
Yuanyuan stared blankly for a moment: “En…”
Fu Beichen looked at her for a while, and this time he finally drove away.
Yuanyuan watched the car disappear into the gathering darkness of the night. A trace of warmth surged in her heart.
Ultimately, Cheng Yuanyuan took the night watch and developed a low-grade fever. She forgot who she was when she fell asleep, and even had many dreams.
She dreamt of her childhood. Her father was riding a bicycle, and she was sitting on the handlebars at the front as they shuttled between the small alleys; she dreamt of how her grandmother used to thrash her palms with chopsticks, saying she was useless; she also dreamt that she was yelling at a young figure who was walking further and further away…
In the end, she fell into a vast sea of water. Someone was above the surface, obviously very close, but from the start she could not see who it was.
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