Shen freezes for a few moments. Then he extends his hand slowly, under the blazing sunlight of the brightly-lit noon, waving it in front of Zhao’s eyes.
Zhao’s gaze has a subtle hint of misery and confusion, and does not react to Shen’s movements at all. Shen’s heart plunges downwards.
From his silence, Zhao senses that something is wrong, and reflexly turns to the side, “Shen Wei?”
Zhao frowns, and suddenly he extends his hand, precisely grabbing on to Shen’s hand, like he expected Shen to make such a move. Shen’s hand is cold as porcelain, and Zhao only says after a moment of silence, “Oh… so something’s wrong with my eyes?”
His eyes can’t see, and so Zhao’s gaze appears exceptionally miserable, floating around without a place to rest on. Shen suddenly clenches his fists, and forces his voice to stay low, “I’ll get you to the hospital right away.”
On their way, Zhao is exceptionally quiet, almost not saying anything at all. And who knows what he is thinking. As he gets off the car, he occasionally wears a look of perplexity while walking.
It is really distressing for an ordinary man to suddenly lose his eyesight. He doesn’t know which leg to raise when he walks, and he can’t help but to grab at everything he can reach… even though Shen is holding his hand.
Sometimes he cannot tell towards which direction Shen is pulling him, especially when they’re making a turn.
Those who do not see well usually have their other senses sharpened, but that is the result of long-term habit and subconscious training. If a person suddenly loses the ability to see, his reflexes are slowed, and he can’t help but concentrate too much on what he’s hearing. Without his vision, it is difficult to discern what all the sounds represent; on top of that his sense of balance is affected as well, and it takes him long to react to Shen pulling him.
Perhaps the ghost face hit him quite hard, or it’s the many injuries he had accrued, but Shen finds his face exceptionally pale. Zhao seems to be quite calm towards going blind: he is not panicking, nor is he whining. He only wears an emotionless look, as his eyebrows subtly frown.
Shen is well aware that Zhao makes the same face normally as well, it’s only that he changes his expression instantly when he finds someone looking at him… but now he can’t tell if people are looking or not.
Shen’s expression is abruptly clouded, and a hint of ferocity emerges between his eyebrows. Yet, his hands help Zhao move forward with increasing tenderness.
The nurses are almost trembling in fear as they take Zhao from him. They can’t help but find this bespectacled gentleman very much like the low-profile mafiosos in crime movies who slaughter people like pigs but pray to Buddha and are vegetarians.
As expected, Zhao’s eyes don’t have any discernable problems: no injuries, no diseases, and yet he can’t see… the doctors find it very strange, and after almost an entire day, they subtly imply that temporary blindness could be of a mental cause, and advise him to see a psychiatrist.
When they’re out of the hospital, the sky is already dark. And finally, like a sturdy cockroach, Zhao adjusts to life as a blind man with shocking speed.
As they leave the hospital, Zhao grabs Shen, and says, “The sky is dark probably.”
Shen is the most afraid of him not talking, so he hastily asks to get him to say more, “How did you know?”
Zhao says, “I feel the air is a little wetter, and cooler, so the sun is probably set.”
Shen opens the car door, one hand leading his way, the other blocking the ceiling of the car so he wouldn’t bump his head. Then he bends down and helps him fasten his seatbelt, and as he gets up, he sees Zhao smiling. Shen asks, “Why are you smiling?”
Zhao says, “I was thinking, if one day I’m old and dumb, and you’re still willing to take care of me like this. What if I don’t recognise people anymore, and I call you daddy?”
Shen doesn’t reply.
Although he is happy to see Zhao smile, sometimes Shen really cannot understand his eccentric sense of humour.
Zhao fantasises for a while, and even laughs. His hands start wandering everywhere; Shen sits in the driver’s seat, and holds his hand. Zhao shakes him a little, “Oi, if I call you daddy you can’t answer, don’t take advantage of me when I’m dumb.”
Shen is rather helpless, “It would be nice if you were dumb.”
“What?” Zhao feigns astonishment, and holds on to his collar, “What do you want to do to me? Do you want to lock me up for a game of coerced forbidden love?”
Shen blinks. He knows this is just Zhao’s usual bullshit, and yet he can’t help but imagine…
Zhao sniggers pervertedly, and continues, “Actually I think that’s a possibility.”
Shen is silent again.
As the car starts moving, Zhao can’t stand having been introverted for almost a day, and begins performing his fun show with retarded kid.
He finds the buttons for adjusting the seat, and he adjusts it back and forth, and to and fro, like a newborn stupid monkey messing around in the car. He also occasionally presents his ideas to Shen, “Hey I tell you what, being blind is actually quite fun. There is a darkness experience showroom in the town centre, and it costs 40 for a ticket, so now I’m saving myself 40 dollars.”
Shen answers, and reluctantly smiles; he really cannot understand how this can be amusing.
Shen stops the car at Zhao’s place, and reminds him not to move. And yet, once the car is stopped, Shen finds Zhao walking on to the street on his own, practising walking in a straight line like walking on stilts.
The straight line is not bad, it’s just that he is heading straight into a street lamp.
This kid just likes getting himself in trouble…
Shen rushes forward and picks Zhao up by the waist, and Zhao’s ribs rest on Shen’s shoulder.
Perhaps it’s a thrilling experience to be lifted into the air while blind, when Shen puts him down, Zhao merrily whistles.
“I find that my balance is still okay, I can walk a straight line.” Zhao says, and then he lowers his voice, “Perhaps I can even…”
Even what, Shen can’t hear, but he sees him softly smiling.
Shen pats his arm, and bends down, “There are stairs ahead, I’ll carry you.”
Zhao stands aside, smiling, and not saying a word.
Shen turns around, and asks gently, “What? Come on.”
Zhao finds Shen’s hand, caresses it softly, and then lifts it up, and lowers his head for a kiss on the back of his hand, “I can’t let you carry me, I’m too heavy, what if you get hurt?”
Shen doesn’t say anything.
This one probably doesn’t understand who carried him home last night.
After saying that, Zhao slowly walks forward. If he hadn’t kicked at the stairs lightly to check where it is, Shen might have thought he got his sight back.
He goes upstairs, head up and chest out; smoothly mounting the stairs one step at a time, each step is basically the same distance, and reaches the elevator eventually. He finds the button, presses it, and then stands aside waiting for Shen.
Shen walks with heavy footsteps intentionally, “How did you know the elevator was here?”
Zhao says arrogantly and shamelessly, “Someone as observant as myself would know the place I live in inside out, wouldn’t I? How many steps in the staircase, how many steps from the stairs to the elevator, I don’t need to see, I know all that.”
Shen knows he is bullshitting, as if he is really that smart… he can’t even find his tea cup and slippers without running his hands over everything.
He must have counted the steps and remembered them when he left the apartment in the afternoon.
It’s probably in his nature: no matter what happens, Zhao always gives other people the feeling that “this is no big deal”. Sometimes even when other people know it really is a big deal, they can’t help but be influenced by his attitude.
He is just so keen on face-saving.
Zhao opens the door and goes inside, and he hears a voice from below, “If you dare step your stinky foot on to my tail you’re dead.”
Zhao bends down and pats it. Da Qing instantly feels something is wrong; it climbs up his arm and stands on his shoulder, watching closely, and asks, “What’s with your eyes?”
Zhao walks into the apartment with his hands finding the way, and says carelessly, “My ability is disabled.”
Shen pulls him back, “Careful.”
Zhao almost bumps into the doorframe.
Da Qing is astonished, and pounces off of him and then on to the sofa quickly, “What happened!?”
Then it carelessly glances at Shen, with an apparent look of interrogation… since Shen already went to No. 4 Bright Avenue, Da Qing really doesn’t need to hide the fact that it’s a talking cat.
Shen immediately says, “It’s my fault.”
Zhao doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry, “How the hell is this your fault now?”
His hand grabs at air, and Da Qing looks at his hand hanging mid-air, wearing an annoyed cat face with squinting eyes that says “I’m only doing this ’cause I pity you”, and nudges its head into Zhao’s palm.
Zhao smiles, and says with an unclear connotation, “Don’t be worried, there is no weal without woe.”
He finds the sofa and sits down, takes out a cigarette, and hands it to Da Qing bossily, “I can’t see, light it for me!”
After a moment of silence, it quietly rolls up into a ball of fur, facing away, ignoring him.
Shen takes his hand, lights the cigarette with a fizzling flick, and hands him the ashtray.
“Last night I ran into a small raven fairy,” Zhao ponders, and succinctly summarises what happened the other night, with a bit of cherry-picking. He continues, “and he said to me about… uh, some place of the West Sea, and some place of the North Sea, how many miles from the shore, and then I didn’t quite understand; probably talking about a mountain.”
Da Qing is stunned, but Shen instantly understands, and his face darkens, “Don’t talk about that, how did you hurt your eyes?”
“Don’t even mention it.” Zhao waves, and briefly describes his most unfortunate experience, clearly expressing his hatred towards bells.
Da Qing suddenly stands up, “What kind of bell?”
“I have it.” Shen puts his hand in his pocket, and takes out a dusty little golden bell, “Are you talking about this?”
Da Qing’s irises contract, and not waiting for Zhao to reply, it interrupts, “Why is this with you?”
Shen looks at Zhao, pauses, and says subtly, “Well… the person who sent you back last night gave it to me.”
Da Qing goes in circle around Shen’s hand, staring at the small bell for a while, and suddenly says with a lowered voice, “That’s mine.”
“That’s from my… first owner,” Da Qing glances at Zhao, “he wore it round my neck, about a hundred years ago, but I lost it because of some accident.”
Zhao extends his hand, “Let me see.”
Shen retracts, “You probably can’t lift it up yet.”
Now that he thinks of the dark history of the other night, Zhao blows out a ring of smoke with melancholy; can’t even lift up the bell his own cat wears round its neck… just how pathetic that sounds!
This moment, Da Qing lowers its head, snatches the bell with its mouth, and without a word, jumps out the window.
As plump and carefree as it usually is, it is quite rare for it to seem so occupied emotionally.
Zhao listens, “Da Qing?”
“Gone.” Shen closes the window, bends down, and caresses the corner of his eye, “I will find a way to cure you.”
Zhao thinks of something, and suddenly chuckles, “Actually there is no hurry.”
Shen has an intuitive feeling that he will not say something decent to follow. As expected, Zhao is still perverted and persistent as ever even when blind, and he continues, “Now that I can’t see, it really is quite inconvenient, could you take a shower with me tonight?”
Shen swats away his filthy and lascivious swine hands that somehow started molesting his butt.
Without a word, he turns around and heads for the kitchen.
Zhao retrieves his smile, closes his eyes, and leans on to the sofa. He listens to the clinging and clanging from the kitchen, and in sheer darkness, he feels a rare sense of tranquility. He is almost enjoying this moment, and as he is more and more relaxed, he suddenly sees some strange shadows, vaguely in the distance.
He abruptly opens his eyes, and yet he still can’t see a thing. The shadows are gone.
Zhao calms his mind and concentrates. He closes his eyes again, counting his breathes and ridding his mind of excessive thoughts, and he begins to see a few shadows after a moment. On his left, he sees a lump of green, glowing and flickering, very softly, and with an exceptional beauty in its flowing movements… the shape is rather familiar.
After a while Zhao thinks of it: that’s the direction of the window sill, and there is a pot of plant a friend sent as a gift.
This is… the third eye.
And so it seems the third eye between the eyebrows does not depend on normal eyesight.
Zhao concentrates between his eyebrows, and begins to see his surroundings clearly. He is “seeing” more and more things around him: the flowers on the window sill, the cat fur on the couch, some antique books on the bookshelf… and the reportedly precious antique painting on the wall.
But things like the sofa, the coffee table, the bed… things without spiritual energy are still invisible to him.
Zhao “looks” down at his own body, and sees a swirl of while light flowing through; a blazing ball of light is hanging on his right shoulder, but on his left, there is nothing.
This kind of light is very familiar… he feels he must have seen it somewhere before.
Suddenly, Zhao stands up, his knees heavily crashing onto the coffee table, but he doesn’t care, as he stumbles into the kitchen.
He hears the sound of chopping, but does not see Shen, who is merged with darkness, or even darker than darkness… the only thing visible is the small pendant, which holds a sphere of dazzling flame, identical to the ball of light on his right shoulder.