The Moon Will Always Come to You - Chapter 4
Chapter 4: Tattoo
That evening, the bus drove all the way to Lijiang overnight. On the road, many people put their eye masks on to fall asleep. Only Ruan Zhizhi and the other young people were in high spirits, still energetically chatting in groups of three or four.
The tour guide was also very spirited. Currently, he stood beside the driver and supplied everyone with his psychological assumptions: “I know that in the hearts of young people who have never been to Lijiang, there are all kinds of beautiful delusions and expectations. But as they say, the greater the expectation, the greater the disappointment. I suggest that everyone calm down their excitement first. Don’t expect too much, so as to avoid everyone running to me to complain when we arrive in Lijiang.”
He paused here, as if thinking of something, and quickly added, “However, regarding these affairs of having a romantic encounter, all you single men and women can still go to the ancient city’s bar street to experience it for yourselves. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet a beautiful woman or handsome man.”
All the young men and women on the bus laughed at the words of the tour guide. Only Ruan Zhizhi rested her chin in her hand, lost in thought as she gazed out the window at the night scenery.
At this time, it should be six or seven in the morning on Li Sichen’s side. She didn’t know if he had gotten out of bed yet.
But what did it have to do with her whether he got up or not? Even if he was about to return to China, back to City A, it had nothing to do with her in the slightest.
Three years ago, they faced each other almost every day. She accompanied Li Sichen to the library, to do club work, she even selected the suit and necktie he’d wear when giving speeches. When he was hungry, she would personally make a lunchbox for him and bring it over. If he was ever in a poor mood, she would stay up all night drinking and chatting with him.
In those four years of university, Ruan Zhizhi had never placed any other man in her heart. Gu Nian always said that she had been enchanted, that Li Sichen had bewitched her. In Ruan Zhizhi’s eyes, why did it seem that there was only one such man in this world?
She gave away all her youthful years, all the love from the bottom of her heart. And what did she get in the end? The sentence “Zhizhi, let’s just be friends like we are now, isn’t that great”? Or was it seeing Li Sichen’s fresh and changeable female companions every day?
Perhaps it was because she was now in Yunnan, a thousand kilometres away from her home. Or maybe it was because all of the people sitting around her were complete strangers that she’d never met before. Ruan Zhizhi leaned into the hard bus seat, feeling extremely unwell. In the end, she was too affected.
She shut her eyes and tried to hold back the tears threatening to spill. She felt that she was really worthless.
Three-legged frogs were hard to find, but two-legged men were everywhere. Why should she make herself into a ghost that was unable to let go for a full three years?
About an hour later, the bus stopped in the parking lot of the tourist area next to the Old Town of Lijiang. Ruan Zhizhi calmed her frame of mind, stood up from her seat, stretched, and got off the bus with the group.
The hotel arranged by the tour guide was a quaint inn with a small bridge over a flowing stream in the Old Town. The innkeeper’s wife wore a long knitted dress with a wide silk shawl encircling her shoulders, the length of it hanging down to her waist. When she walked, her earrings flowed and dangled, indeed capturing the local feeling.
The tour guide stopped at the front desk to handle the check-in procedures. Ruan Zhizhi had nothing to do. Overcome with boredom, she stood to the side in a daze. Just when her train of thought journeyed to outer space, she suddenly heard the long mewl of a cat. The sound was not very loud. It was soft, as if acting coquettish.
Her line of sight followed the sound, only to find Shi Yan crouching next to the rock garden outside the inn. He was teasing a snow-white cat.
His fingers were very nimble, and the cat appeared very comfortable. Acting like a spoiled child, it stretched out its paws and dove into his embrace.
Perhaps the scene of a person with a cat was too harmonious. Ruan Zhizhi watched, fascinated. She couldn’t control her excessive, focused gaze.
Shi Yan teased the cat for a while. At last, he extended his hands to envelop it in his arms. He picked it up with one hand through the cat’s front paws, the other hand tickling its fluffy chin back and forth. The cat narrowed its eyes comfortably and was very obedient in his arms.
Because it was very late today, there were no other plans arranged. Ruan Zhizhi took her room key from the tour guide. She originally planned to go back, wash up, and sleep, but was stopped by Chen Jiayan halfway. He wanted to invite her to go to the bar street together, saying that Shi Yan and the girls from lunch that day would be going too.
She hesitated for a while. Clearly she wanted to go back and sleep, but for some reason, out of the corner of her eyes, she caught a glimpse of Shi Yan playing with the cat in his arms.
Dusk surrounded them. The lighting was indistinct. The bar street in the Old Town of Lijiang was connected to Sifang Street at one end, and led to the waterwheel at the entrance of the city on the other end. It was the most prosperous place in the entire Old Town. Ruan Zhizhi followed Chen Jiayan and the others as they walked along the road. The limestone pavements were full of drifting singers and vendors calling loudly. When she passed by, there was a young man with long hair holding a guitar and singing with deep affection. His hoarse throat seemed to rub his voice like sand.
He sang: “If one day, I’m an old man, please leave me there at that time. If one day, I leave quietly, please bury me in the spring…”1
His voice was not pleasant to hear, and he had no skill in singing, but she didn’t know why it sounded so incomparably heartwrenching. Ruan Zhizhi stood on the side of the road and watched him for a long time. She suddenly recalled that a friend of hers had once visited Lijiang and said: The moment she arrived in the city of Lijiang and got off the plane, she felt that this was the place where she wanted to be buried in the future.
Lijiang’s bar street had innumerable noisy and quiet bars. Among them, the most well-known bar was also the one with the highest rate of romantic encounters. Still, romance could be regarded as one metre of sunshine; fleeting.
When Ruan Zhizhi followed Chen Jiayan and the others inside, she was severely intimidated by the dense crowd within. The space of the bar itself was not especially large, but its decorations surpassed the layout, and it had stereo equipment. Ruan Zhizhi covered her ears when she walked through the door. The music was ear-splitting and could be heard from very far away.
They went in as a group. Chen Jiayan and Shi Yan probably felt apprehensive because there were more girls; they entered first and turned a corner, walking all the way to another relatively quiet area where they each sat down on a couch.
Chen Jiayan was obviously very excited and barely sat down before going to the bar to order drinks. Ruan Zhizhi looked around. This area was slightly narrow and was more like a quiet bar. There was no deafening DJ music, no pleasure-seeking debauchery on the dancefloor, no people swaying their bodies in the crowd. There was only faint yellow lighting and a young man on the stage holding a guitar and lightly singing in low tones.
Sitting at her side, the girls were chattering about whether or not they would be able to have a chance encounter with a handsome man tonight. Ruan Zhizhi lifted her head, overcome with boredom. She happened to see Shi Yan sitting diagonally across from her.
His expression was very relaxed, and at this moment his originally strict, ice cold appearance thawed in the dusky light. The corners of his eyes softened inward. This pair of eyes were like jade, becoming increasingly dark and lucent.
Just like Aphrodite from the Greek myths, he also possessed the ability to deceive people with demagogy in the Trojan War.
The girls beside them were already unable to hold back. Their failed attempt to hit on him at noon did not provide them with the slightest degree of discouragement. On the contrary, it made them braver.
“Shi Yan, today my dad told me that you once took half a year of leave from being a professor at school. I’m very curious…what did you do during that period?”
The first one to speak, as before, was the most pretty among the girls. Ruan Zhizhi had now learned some of her personal information from Chen Jiayan. Her name was Yan Rui, and her father and Shi Yan were both top professors in the Department of Psychology. Apparently, her father had always wanted to introduce his only daughter to Shi Yan.
As soon as Yan Rui’s voice fell, another girl understood tacitly and took over: “Yes, yes, you must have been keeping your girlfriend company, right?”
Shi Yan reclined on the sofa. He reached out and skillfully lit a cigarette for himself. His facial features were quickly concealed in the haze of the vapour, leaving only those detached, gloomy eyes completely devoid of a smile.
He raised his eyebrows and spoke lightly, “Went to see a doctor.”
“See a doctor?” Yan Rui was obviously a little startled. Even her tone of voice raised several decibels unconsciously, “Are you joking with me? You look fine, what kind of illness?”
The girls beside Yan Rui now had different expressions on their faces. Ruan Zhizhi couldn’t help but follow through with her own imagination. Could it be true, what they were gossiping about that day? That the reason why Shi Yan had never had a girlfriend was because of an unmentionable disease?
Seeing the slightly distorted expressions on the girls’ faces, Shi Yan seemed to find it very amusing. The corners of his lips hooked into a smile. He grinned, and his features instantly leapt into the light and shadow like a flame, sweeping away the gloom and indifference from a moment ago. It was simply radiant.
This smile clearly stunned all the girls present, and they didn’t return to their senses for a long time. Only the person concerned was calm and unruffled in the midst of their shock. He blew out a smoke ring at his leisure: “Mood disorder, commonly known as clinical depression.”
Ruan Zhizhi tilted her head and remained perplexed despite pondering over it a hundred times while regarding him. A person like Shi Yan had superior economic circumstances, a pretty face that could make both people and gods resentful, and was a university professor for the most popular field in the most outstanding educational institution of China—this kind of person who helped the country raise its per capita GDP by several points every year could actually suffer from depression?
If she believed it, she was a fool.
It was clear that the other girls had the same way of thinking. But before Yan Rui could ask more questions, Chen Jiayan suddenly returned, followed by a waiter carrying a case of beer.
Looking at his attitude, it was evident that he didn’t want to go back until he was drunk.
He came over and sat down beside Shi Yan, then asked the waiter to put the case of beer on the table. The girls instantly felt bitter.
Seeing everyone’s reaction, Chen Jiayan promptly explained: “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid. These drinks weren’t prepared for you little girls, Ah Yan can drink all of it by himself.” As he spoke, he reached out and patted Shi Yan’s arm. His tone was extremely earnest. “I’m not joking around, this guy’s drinking capacity is astonishing. Anyway, I’ve played with him for so long, and I’ve never seen him get drunk.”
Because the temperature in the bar was high, when Ruan Zhizhi raised her eyes, she saw Shi Yan pulling back the sleeves of his black wool sweater. It was this small movement that inadvertently revealed a tattoo on his left arm.
It wasn’t a design, but a string of characters.
Ruan Zhizhi had minored in French in university. She could tell at a glance that it was a line of French words.
L’amour est patience.
If translated to Chinese, it was a famous remark from the bible—love is patience.
The original words came from the New Testament. Ruan Zhizhi had once copied the last sentence: Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
Shi Yan had actually read the bible?
According to her intuition, this kind of man wouldn’t believe in anything, only himself.
But a long time from now, she would come to know that this man didn’t even believe in himself. He only believed in her.
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