Chapter 36: New Life
“Yuan Jiang… Where are you going?” I asked, lying on a chair, when I saw Chu Yuan Jiang put on his coat and shoes by the door.
He was sitting on a bench by the entrance with a walking stick in his right hand. “A soiree. Don’t wait for me for dinner.”
The sun shone in through the window, its rays obstructed by the interlaced branches of the tree outside, played out a random game of light and shadow on the oak floor.
I walked over, leaned on the door frame and asked with a hint of mirth, “What’s there for a cripple to run around for?”
“I just can’t stay being idle.”
I was speechless. I fumbled a cigarette to my lips and, just as I was about to light it up, he raised a hand to shield the lighter from the wind.
“Don’t get the smell on me,” he said, “I just changed.”
I looked at his neat outfit. “Quite nice, you look like a boss.”
He bent down to wipe his shoes again, and smiled, “Whatever helps to earn the dollars.”
I eased the wiping cloth out of his hand, “It’s not like we need money, you know.”
He gave me a look, “You lost a lot on the futures market last time, didn’t you?”
I scratched my head, “It happened once. Once. You can stop beating me over the head with it already.”
He stood up, leaning on his walking stick, and step by step walked towards the window to gaze at the garden.
I followed behind. “All your flowers are blooming,” I said softly.
“Junzi…” Chu Yuan Jiang turned around, “Nowadays, we have no connections, nor power… Getting money is no longer easy.”
I paused for a bit, and half-jokingly replied, “At the very least, this Chu before me was called Master once, how can such a job be worthy of him?”
“At this point, the past counts for nothing. Plus, I am only facilitating connections. Some people look for investors, others for somewhere to make their money work. All I do is build bridges between them, and earn a broker’s fee.”
“What broker’s fee, ain’t that just pimping? All the top girls from the last pageant were sent to escort your clients. Either as hostesses, or prostitutes.”
He looked at me amused, “So? Do you find this abhorrent or something?”
“No matter how successful we become, that’s not a decent business.”
“We are starting from scratch. Do you really still think that you’re a Master?” he patted my shoulder gently.
“I just feel insecure. Ever since you started doing this, you try to live like one of those wealth club people that can casually throw away a month’s salary of an ordinary man. You buy fancy cars, rent mansions, hire servants… And all this feels… is superficial.”
“How do you host a party without a nice house? And that lamborghini……”
I waved my hand, “Yes, yes…”
He changed the topic, “By the way, after Young Master He came to visit you last time, everyone now thinks you’re acting as his proxy in the US.”
“Don’t refer to me with such misleading words. What is this proxy bullshit?” I frowned.
“Not my doing. People asked me how were you able to make such accurate predictions in the futures market, so I told them you had your sources. Their imagination did the rest.”
“The only reasons for my success were my keen eyes, guts, and caution.”
Chu Yuan Jiang just looked at me with a delicate smile, “Okay, enough bullshitting. I really need to go.”
He stood up with the help of the walking stick.
“Come back early! And remember to bring me lots of food.”
Chu Yuan Jiang waved at me. The sunlight leaked through the gate, and painted his bare head dazzling white.
He had claimed to “start from the head”, and promptly shaved all of his hair two years ago. And by the time I had saved enough money for a starting fund, he had recovered enough strength too.
He had entered the world of the “upper class” with the help of Master Xiong, and once there, he had been a fixture in all kinds of overseas Chinese “circles”. He had closed his first deal six months ago, to my great surprise.
Nowadays, when he talked to people, he was all like, “I have a friend in……, who is doing……. His total wealth is……”
I watched his lamborghini make a turn and swiftly drive out of the garden onto the main road.
Then, I closed the door and went back.
To be honest… It was okay as long as he had something to do.
I did not talk about all that had happened in the past, and neither did he. That ordeal was behind us.
He came back at nighttime, with some takeout food for me. As I began to enjoy the gourmet, he took off his coat and said, “I will shower first, and wait for you in the bed.”
“Okay,” I said as I gobbled up the food.
When I was done with dinner, I washed my hands, and took a bottle of rubbing alcohol to his room.
He had already rid himself of all the clothes and laid face-down on the bed, with only a towel covering his buttocks.
I sat at the edge of the bed, and begun to slowly stroke his back. “Which part of your body is hurting today?”
He sighed, “The bit below my waist. And my left leg feels a bit numb.”
I decanted a portion of the medicinal alcohol into a small jar waiting for me on the bed stand, and warmed it up over an alcohol burner. Soon the room was filled with the aroma of herbs and spirits. Once it got heated enough, I poured the ointment onto my palm carefully, and rubbed it against Chu Yuan Jiang’s naked backbone – from the neck, to the back, to the tailbone. I worked section by section, until they all became red and hot under my hands.
“Si… He humphed.
He had plenty of activities recently, which provided some very needed exercise for his atrophied muscles, but all the same, he was not as physically able as before.
I sympathized, but I didn’t reduce the force behind my hands, “Bear with it for a little bit…”
I moved on to massaged the muscles around his hips and thighs, my well-practiced, heated hands rubbing in the alcohol and helping it do its job.
“Be gentle… Junzi…” he said, his voice hoarse.
I stretched the joints on his spine with my elbows, causing his whole body to tighten up from discomfort.
“There will be no recovery unless it hurts.”
I felt around for the meridians along the thighs. Dripping drops of the rubbing alcohol on his body, I slowly kneaded and stroked his legs, applying less and less force with every motion.
He let out a long, husky sigh.
“Does it feel good?” I wiped off the sweat from my forehead.
“Pretty good… Your massage skills have grown…” He laughed.
“It’s all thanks to the blood, sweat, and tears I shed for your recovery.”
He didn’t answer, just laid there with his head tilted to the side. I carefully worked my hands down his legs to the toes, before flipping him around.
My back was covered in sweat. I climbed onto the bed and kneeled in front of him, putting one of his leg on my shoulder, and then slowly pushed it to his chest.
“I can’t take it any more…” he said with eyes closed, and face slightly distorted by pain.
I kept applying pressure, though. “Endure… Look, it’s much lower than last week.”
I maintained this position for a while before finally getting up when he no longer could keep himself from gasping for air in pain.
I held his ankle, shook the leg up and down, and then carefully laid it back onto the bed. One down. I reached for the rubbing alcohol bottle again in preparation for the other leg.
This was when he opened his eyes and spoke softly, “You must be tired Junzi. Take a rest.”
A Chinese phrase that equals “start from the scratch”.
Chinese idiom: Making use of other people’s power.
Chinese idiom: Depend on other people for a living.
Atype of medicinal liquor made by soaking herbal medicines in liquor and commonly used to treat muscle, bone, joint problems.
The meridian system is a concept in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) about a path through which the life-energy known as “qi” flows.