The Remaining Life Has Its Limits

Chapter 22

When Ye Sibei asked questions, she cautiously observed the surrounding terrain. Zhao Shuhui noticed her nervousness and smiled, “Don’t be nervous. I just want to talk to you.”

“I made myself clear yesterday.”

Ye Sibei stepped aside, “Once the police file a case, it’s not up to me to withdraw it. You don’t need to waste your efforts here.”

“Yesterday,” Zhao Shuhui’s eyes reddened, “Tao Jie and I were impulsive. Please give me a chance. Let’s talk it over. I want to apologize to you. Is that okay?”

Ye Sibei didn’t speak. Zhao Shuhui immediately knelt down, “I’ll kowtow to you…”

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“Don’t do this!”

Ye Sibei stopped her. Zhao Shuhui looked up with reddened eyes full of pleading. Ye Sibei knew she wouldn’t give up without a chance to speak, so she glanced around and then went downstairs, “Let’s find a place to talk.”

When Zhao Shuhui found Ye Sibei, Qin Nan had just finished a task. He tightened the last screw, pushed himself out from under a car with a wrench, and Da Chun helped him up.

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“Ebu yal usw blal?” Ckd Lyd pxkzle yde rskdvle vs vbl pkel, “Tyhl y plyv. Tyhl usw lyvld?”

“Lsv ulv. R nyzzle y qlo qakldep vs byhl y xlyz okvb usw.”

“Eykv y xsxldv.” Ckd Lyd rwv esod vbl oaldnb yde oyzjle kdpkel, “R’zz nbydtl xu nzsvblp.”

Ckd Lyd iwknjzu oypble wr yde nbydtle kdvs nzlyd nzsvblp. Tl vsze Ubld Kwd vbyv bl oyp tskdt swv okvb Py Ubwd yde vbld zlqv.

Py Ubwd cssjle y dlyacu alpvywaydv yde alplahle y rakhyvl assx. Ckd Lyd oyp pwarakple, “R vbswtbv usw oswze fwpv qkde y pvallv pvyzz vs eakdj.”

Py Ubwd zywtble, “El wpwyzzu eakdj yv pwnb rzynlp, cwv vseyu R’x valyvkdt, ps kv pbswze cl y ckv xsal alprlnvyczl.”

“Ebu,” Ckd Lyd tzydnle yv bkx obkzl eakhkdt, “eke usw pvakjl kv aknb?”

“Ls oyu,” Py Ubwd zssjle lxcyaaypple, “Zsw’zz pll obld ol tlv vblal.”

Within a few minutes, Qin Nan arrived at the restaurant. They went upstairs together and entered the private room. Qin Nan saw several familiar faces, brothers he had grown up with in the village.

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They all looked at him but without smiles. Qin Nan sat down as Da Chun closed the door and sat beside him.

Qin Nan scanned everyone, took out a cigarette, and smiled lightly, “Judging by your faces, it looks like you have something to say. What’s up?”

He lit the cigarette, took a puff, and calmly said, “Speak.”

“Right here,” Ye Sibei found a café, entered a private room, and they sat down facing each other. After ordering their drinks, silence fell between them.

Zhao Shuhui thought for a moment before speaking first, “I’ve inquired about you. You’re 27, a college graduate. Your husband runs a car repair shop, your younger brother just graduated, and your parents sell breakfast at a small stall without even a shop.”

Ye Sibei looked down at the warm cup in her hands, “What are you trying to say?”

“I’m thirty-six. I got married at twenty-five. Due to health reasons, I couldn’t conceive. It wasn’t until I was twenty-eight that I had Wenwen through IVF.”

Ye Sibei looked up at her. Despite Zhao Shuhui holding a designer bag and wearing high-end clothes, she looked far older than thirty-six. She appeared more aged than most people. As Ye Sibei looked at her, Zhao Shuhui smiled, “When I was pregnant with her, I had to take many injections and medications. I’ll never have another child; Wenwen is my entire life.”

“I’ve taken care of her since birth. She was in poor health when she was little, so I quit my job to stay home with her. We were in and out of hospitals, and I stayed with her day and night. Then she gradually grew up and became very cute. Look,” Zhao Shuhui took out a stack of photos from her bag, smiling as she looked at them. She showed them to Ye Sibei, “This is when she first learned to walk, Jiancheng was helping her. And this one, when she was three, Jiancheng and I attended a parent-teacher meeting at her kindergarten, and the teacher gave our family little red flowers. This is when she was four, five, six, seven, and now.”

Ye Sibei didn’t dare look at the photos. She kept her gaze on the cup, but Zhao Shuhui’s voice kept intruding into her ears. Zhao Shuhui seemed to notice that she wasn’t looking, and with some disappointment, she put the photos away.

“Isn’t she adorable?”

She looked earnestly at Ye Sibei, who responded softly, “Yes.”

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“Do you know what our family will be like if Jiancheng goes to prison?”

Zhao Shuhui asked hoarsely. Ye Sibei couldn’t answer, and tears began to fall from Zhao Shuhui’s eyes, “I have no income. Wenwen’s tuition is fifty thousand a year. She won’t be able to continue at her school, or attend her interest classes. I don’t know if I can even support her. And wherever she goes, she’ll be the daughter of a rapist. People will mock and insult her. When she grows up, her political examination records will mark her as having a rapist father. She might not be able to become a civil servant or get into a state-run institution.”

“Ye Sibei,” Zhao Shuhui looked up at her, “There are many solutions. You can name your conditions. Why must you take this extreme path?”

Listening to her, Ye Sibei didn’t dare respond directly. Instead, she asked, “So, you believe what I said, don’t you?”

Zhao Shuhui didn’t expect this question and looked down in embarrassment, “No, Jiancheng wouldn’t do such a thing. I’m just afraid something might happen to him.”

As she spoke, her words already assumed the possibility of Fan Jiancheng going to prison. Ye Sibei felt a twinge of sadness seeing her self-deception.

“Your husband harmed another woman and betrayed your marriage, and you still want to protect him?”

As she spoke, she suddenly realized, “Is this your first time doing something like this?”

Ye Sibei’s words pierced Zhao Shuhui’s heart like a knife, causing her pain and embarrassment. She took a deep breath, “I’m just trying to find a solution that benefits everyone. I’m not a bad person. But if you don’t agree,” Zhao Shuhui looked up and stared at Ye Sibei, “Don’t push me.”

“I don’t understand,” Ye Sibei felt the absurdity of the world, yet it seemed to be true, “Clearly, it’s a man’s fault, so why is it a war between the two of us women?”

“Because I am a mother.”

“But you’re also a person.”

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Ye Sibei looked at her reflection in the water cup, “I am also a person.”

“Your daughter’s tuition is fifty thousand a year, your daughter attends interest classes, your daughter is cherished,” she smiled bitterly, “What about me? I went to the worst schools, the worst classes. I’ve always lived in the mud, so a little more dirt doesn’t matter. But why? Why should I suffer for your family’s happiness?”

“We haven’t avoided paying the price,” Zhao Shuhui said anxiously, “We can negotiate any terms!”

“But the terms I want to negotiate are the ones you can’t accept!” Ye Sibei raised her voice. She stared at Zhao Shuhui, unsure if she was telling Zhao Shuhui or herself, “All the negotiable terms are within your acceptable range. Within this range, the person who committed the crime will never repent.”

“But the child is innocent,” Zhao Shuhui cried anxiously, “Why must you choose a method that implicates the innocent?! Why did you have to call the police?”

Ye Sibei paused. She opened her mouth but found she couldn’t speak. After a long time, she lowered her head, afraid to meet Zhao Shuhui’s eyes, and responded softly, “This is something you should say to Fan Jiancheng.”

With that, she stood up and walked out, “It’s late. I should go back.”

“Ye Sibei!”

Zhao Shuhui called out her name loudly. When Ye Sibei turned around, she saw Zhao Shuhui kneel straight to the ground, her face full of tears, “Please let our family go. I’m begging you, please spare Wenwen. We’ve already paid the price. I’m begging you,” she kowtowed, “Please let us go.”

Ye Sibei didn’t say anything. Her eyes reddened, and she turned her back on Zhao Shuhui to regain some composure before asking, “If I were your daughter, would you let me forgive him?”

Zhao Shuhui was stunned. Ye Sibei told herself, “You wouldn’t.”

“I don’t have a mother as good as you to protect me, so I have to protect myself. And my answer is the same.”

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“I won’t.”

“I cannot let him go.”

With that, Ye Sibei walked out of the private room.

While Ye Sibei and Zhao Shuhui were talking, Qin Nan sat at a table with a few brothers. After Qin Nan asked his question, the table fell silent. After a while, Da Chun poured Qin Nan a cup of water, “Nan-ge, we brothers grew up together. You’re the only one in your family, and before Uncle passed away, he specifically told us that even though we aren’t blood brothers, we should take care of each other like real brothers.”

Qin Nan nodded, “I remember Grandpa’s words.”

“That makes us all one family,” said Wang Gui, a slightly older man sitting nearby. He was the oldest among them, “So I guess I should count as your big brother.”

“Gui-ge is right.”

Qin Nan vaguely sensed what they were about to say and looked at Wang Gui, “Just say whatever you want to say. No need to beat around the bush.”

Everyone looked at Wang Gui, who realized that being the oldest, he had to speak up. He organized his thoughts and began, “Anan, I didn’t get much education, so don’t mind if I say something wrong. We’ve all heard about your wife. We don’t know how much you know, but we feel we shouldn’t hide it from you, so we need to tell you.”

“Go ahead.”

Qin Nan nodded, changing his tone to a more respectful one. Wang Gui hesitated, “We’ve heard that your wife’s company isn’t very reputable. That night she went out drinking with clients, and something happened after she stayed out late. Anan, a wife should be virtuous. A woman who stays out drinking with men late at night is going to be a laughingstock.”

Qin Nan looked down, his tone devoid of emotion, “So, what do you think I should do?”

The men exchanged glances. Da Chun hesitated, “Brother, you don’t have any children yet. Maybe you should reconsider.”

Qin Nan looked up at Da Chun, who awkwardly lowered his head and poured more wine. Qin Nan stared at him, “That day when Sibei came to your company, what did you say to her?”

“I didn’t say anything.” Da Chun quickly defended himself, but when he looked up and saw Qin Nan’s eyes, he fell silent.

Qin Nan kept looking at him as if he knew everything. Da Chun thought for a moment and then admitted frankly, “I told her not to hold you back.”

Qin Nan continued to stare at him. Da Chun spoke up directly, “Nan-ge, we’ve been brothers for so many years. In my heart, you’re like my real brother. Your wife went out drinking, then came back claiming she was raped. Whether it’s true or not, people will see you as a fool and laugh at you. If you have a child and bring them back to the village, what will people say? And if it happened once, what’s to stop it from happening again? I’m looking out for you. I’ve said my piece. You can hit me or scold me; I’ll take it.” With that, Da Chun patted his head, “Nan-ge, hit me if you want. If I say one more word, I’m your grandson.”

Qin Nan said nothing and took a puff of his cigarette.

He vaguely felt what Ye Sibei felt—that sense of powerlessness and being besieged by the whole world.

He was just an outsider and felt this way. What about Ye Sibei?

When she returned from the water plant that day, she didn’t say a bad word about Da Chun. How much gossip and slander had she silently endured on her own?

He felt a weight on his chest, as if a stone were pressing down. He looked around at the people surrounding him.

Raised by his grandfather while his parents were away, now that his grandfather was gone, these people at the table were his family. He looked at them for a long time and then stood up.

“I still have to drive,” he said, picking up a water cup, “I’ll use tea instead of wine to toast you all. Thank you, brothers, for taking care of me all these years.”

As he spoke, he took a sip of tea. After putting down the cup, he thought for a moment and then said, “Ye Sibei is my wife. I know her character well. She rarely attends such drinking parties and I always pick her up every night. She is not the kind of person you’re talking about.”

The people at the table looked uncomfortable, clearly feeling that he was deluding himself but unable to voice it. Qin Nan couldn’t help but laugh, “Yes, she did go to a drinking party and she did drink. So what? Is that wrong? Today we are here drinking together. If one of us gets hit and killed on the way home, whose fault is that? Should we blame him for drinking carelessly?”

“Anan,” Wang Gui’s face turned stern, “That was a harsh thing to say.”

“And your words aren’t harsh?” Qin Nan looked at Da Chun, “Sibei and I are both victims. Instead of helping us, you’re constantly questioning us. Have you thought about how we feel hearing these things?”

“Today, I’ll make my stance clear,” Qin Nan looked around at everyone, his eyes slightly red, “My family is gone, and you are my brothers. But Ye Sibei is my wife. Today, she is the victim. She was hurt, and as her husband, I cannot just stand by. If you consider me a brother, then give me some respect. I don’t ask for your help, but I hope you can all pretend this never happened and let us live a normal life. If you think I’m crazy, then so be it. Our brotherhood ends here.”

With that, Qin Nan grabbed his coat and walked out.

He drove home, gripping the steering wheel tightly.

He didn’t know why, but he suddenly remembered what he had said to Ye Sibei before—I’ll take you to the police.

Back then, Ye Sibei resisted, screamed, as if he was destroying her life.

He could understand, but it was only at this moment that he truly realized how difficult that path was.

Back then, he could easily say “go to the police,” but now he understood how significant and difficult it was for Ye Sibei, who had already foreseen the future and was enduring it all, to say “go to the police.”

There is no true empathy. Only when things happen can you understand how much courage you truly have.

He suddenly wanted to see Ye Sibei very much, to hug her and tell her—he was beginning to understand her suffering and he would share it with her.

He couldn’t help but speed up. When he got home, he saw Ye Sibei walking towards the stairs.

He hurriedly parked the car, and Ye Sibei stopped when she saw his car.

He got out of the car and Ye Sibei stood in front of him.

She wasn’t much different from usual, her slender figure, calm and gentle demeanor. She stood in the sunset, looking at him with a smile, and softly asked, “Why are you home so early?”

Qin Nan looked straight at her, not saying a word.

Ye Sibei looked at the young man standing by the car. She intuitively felt that he seemed to have been through some shock. Suppressing all the confusion and turmoil brought by meeting Zhao Shuhui, she smiled lightly, “Why are you daydreaming? What’s wrong?”

Qin Nan didn’t speak. He slowly walked up to her and reached out to hug her.

His embrace was strong and warm. Ye Sibei was taken aback. She felt his embrace, and in an instant, all the confusion and guilt about right and wrong dissipated.

She hesitated but then hugged him back. Qin Nan, feeling her touch, felt a bit of a sting in his eyes.

“Sibei,” his voice was slightly nasal, “Have you had a hard life before?”

“Maybe,” Ye Sibei smiled, “But from the moment you asked this question, it hasn’t been so hard.”


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