Jiang Ruyi’s home was the same as always. Xia Lei was familiar with everything about it, including the bathroom.
He’d just stepped past the threshold when Yang Lan handed him a glass of water, and Xia Lei thanked her profusely.
“It’s the holidays and schools are closed. Where is Xue?” asked Yang Lan.
“She’s in Jingdu and won’t be back for now. She’ll definitely come visit you if she came back, Auntie,” said Xia Lei.
“Did you move?”
“No,” said Xia Lei, “I’m just too busy with work and rarely come home.”
Yang Lan looked straight at Xia Lei. “I heard Ruyi say a lot of things about you. Your business is doing well, and it is important but remember that your body is important too. Don’t overwork yourself. It’s not good to exhaust your body.”
Xia Lei nodded. “Yes, I’ll take care to rest.”
“You’re also getting older so you should think about starting a family. Do you have a girlfriend? Bring her over, let Auntie meet her.” She gave Jiang Ruyi a look as she spoke, and Jiang Ruyi rolled her eyes at her.
Xia Lei was embarrassed. “I had one… but we broke up.”
“Broke up? Great!”
“Huh?” Xia Lei was confused.
“Oh, Auntie said the wrong thing. What a shame.” Yang Lan covered her mouth but the smile could be seen on her face. “I think someone who has grown up with you is the best…”
“Ma!” Jiang Ruyi cut her off. “Didn’t you want to go to the hospital to see Da? You should get going now or you’ll be late.”
Yang Lan gave Jiang Ruyi a glare of discontent and was about to say something when her mobile phone rang all of a sudden.
It was the hospital.
“No money again? Didn’t we make a payment of 5,000 the day before? This is too… Okay, okay, I’ll put more in the account tomorrow. You cannot stop treatment; be flexible.” Yang Lan had been joking and smiling earlier but this one phone call made her smile vanish and her face dark with worry.
Jiang Ruyi looked heavy of heart too.
“What illness is Uncle Jiang suffering from, Auntie?” asked Xia Lei.
Yang Lan was quiet for a bit before she said, “It’s renal failure. We moved to the countryside, back to our old home because the expenses are lower there. But now Ruyi’s father’s health is getting worse. The doctors say he needs a new kidney. We can’t find a donor, and even if there was someone it wouldn’t go to us small fry first. Ruyi’s father’s illness has strained our family’s finances the past two years too so even if there was a kind donor it would cost over a million in surgical fees. Where are we going to get the money for surgery? Sigh…”
Xia Lei looked at Jiang Ruyi. “Why didn’t you tell me something like this?”
“I…” Jiang Ruyi started, then stopped.
Xia Lei was disquieted. “Why did you keep something like this from me? Am I a stranger to you?”
Tears welled in Jiang Ruyi’s eyes. “It wasn’t so bad before. Every time I called Ma she would say Da’s condition was improving. Why would I bring this up for nothing? But I found out that Da’s health problem was very serious when he came back, and I called you but I couldn’t get through.”
Xia Lei might have been in Afghanistan at that time.
“Lei, you cannot blame Ruyi for this. Blame me if you must. I didn’t want my ugly family circumstances to be known and become gossip fodder for the neighbours,” said Yang Lan.
Xia Lei thought for a bit, and said, “Bring me to the hospital to see Uncle. I’ll talk to the doctors. Let me handle this matter.”
“This…” The tears in Jiang Ruyi’s eyes threatened to fall.
Yang Lan took Xia Lei’s hands, and her tears flowed freely down her cheeks. “Lei, it’s no use. There are no healthy matching donors. Ruyi’s father won’t get better even if you lend us money. We are grateful for your kindness...“
Xia Lei cut her off. “Auntie, are you treating me like a stranger too?”
“No, no, no, I’ve never treated you like a stranger. I’ve always seen you as my son,” she said.
Xia Lei did not bother reading into her words to see if there was some other meaning behind them. “Good, then let’s go to the hospital. I’ll talk with the doctors. They will have some way for something like this. If there are no volunteer donors there’s also the black market. It can be solved so long as money crosses hands.”
“The black market?” Yang Lan seemed to see a ray of hope. She was excited, yet worried. “H, How much would that cost?”
“Money is not a problem. I’ll pay, whatever the cost.” Xia Lei added, “You don’t have to pay me back.”
“How can that do?” Yang Lan didn’t know what else to say.
Jiang Ruyi wanted to say something but she swallowed her words before they passed her lips. Buying a kidney on the black market was a stupendous cost. Legal means and procedures required over a million - how many millions would it cost if it was done via the black market option? She couldn’t even begin to think of repaying that amount of money.
“Let’s go. You’re still so retarded,” said Xia Lei to Jiang Ruyi.
The old Jiang Ruyi would have squabbled with Xia Lei but she did not do so today. She nodded, and seemed obedient. “All right. Let’s go to the hospital.”
Yang Lan wiped her tears away and smiled, thinking, ‘If we can’t pay him back then I’ll give my daughter to him…’
They got to the hospital and Xia Lei visited Jiang Ruyi’s father, Jiang Shuqing.
Jiang Shuqing was in a large ward in terrible condition. His condition matched that of the room; his face was colourless and his spirits low. He looked like he was on his last legs.
Jiang Shuqing was like half a father to Xia Lei. When his father, Xia Changhe had gone missing five years ago, he had just graduated from high school and nobody wanted him, not even at construction sites. His and Xia Xue’s lives had been very tough, and in that tough time, Jiang Shuqing had helped him, asking through connections to get jobs for Xia Lei, sneakily giving him money, consoling him and encouraging him. All that he had done for him was remembered, and Xia Lei would never forget it.
The Uncle who was like family to him had deteriorated to this state. Even a man of steel like Xia Lei couldn’t help the stinging in his nose at the sight of him, and tears almost fell from his eyes. His voice grew hoarse. “I’ve come to visit you, Uncle Jiang.”
Jiang Shuqing opened his eyes when he heard him. When he saw that it was Xia Lei, he stared blankly for a bit, then smiled. “It’s Lei! When did you come? I was thinking about you and here you are.”
Xia Lei went to his bedside and took his hand. “Relax and recuperate, Uncle Jiang. You will get better.”
“I won’t. I know what state I’m in.” Jiang Shuqing sighed. “What I worry about most is our Ruyi. She’s a little silly, and naive. If I’m gone there won’t be a man at home. How will mother and daughter fare…”
“Da.” Jiang Ruyi wanted to tell Jiang Shuqing the truth.
Yang Lan pulled Jiang Ruyi by the hand, out of the ward, leaving the two men to chat and reminisce.
“What are you doing, Ma?” said Jiang Ruyi discontentedly, “I want to tell Da that Xia Lei’s going to help us. He’s got some hope in curing his illness - why did you pull me out of there?”
Yang Lan smiled. “It’s fine if you tell him a little later. Ma wants to talk with you.”
“About what?” Jiang Ruyi gave her old lady an odd look.
“What’s with you and Lei?”
“What do you mean ‘what’s with us’?”
“Ma watched you two grow up together. You like him. Ma knows this more clearly than anyone else - but why aren’t you two together?”
“Maybe because we’re too familiar with each other and there’re no such feelings.”
“Is it him who doesn’t have feelings for you?”
“Ma, I don’t want to talk about this.” This was something which had scarred her and it hurt still.
“Don’t want to talk about it? He’s helping us so much - what do you plan to do?”
“These two things aren’t related, are they?”
“What do you mean ‘not related’? Ma is anxious even if you aren’t. Our family is definitely not going to be able to pay back so much money. When the time comes I’ll pawn you off to him. You bear him a child, wash his clothes and cook for him.”
Jiang Ruyi was speechless.
Xia Lei came out of the ward a short while later, then went with Jiang Ruyi to see the doctor in charge of Jiang Shuqing’s treatment.
Xia Lei cut straight to the chase as soon as they met. “Doctor, give my Uncle Jiang a VIP ward. And schedule surgery for him, ASAP.”
The doctor in charge gave Xia Lei an odd look. “Who are you?”
“Xia Lei. Mayor Hu Hou is my friend,” said Xia Lei.
The doctor’s attitude changed immediately upon hearing that he was Mayor Hu Hou’s friend. “Ah, so you’re Mr Xia. Hello, hello, nice to meet you. The situation is like this - there’s currently no suitable donors. And the surgery fees would cost over a million yuan."
“Money is not a problem. I can transfer two million to the hospital accounts right now. If you can find a suitable kidney donor I’ll give you 500,000 personally.”
The doctor was stunned. He then asked tentatively, “Is Mr Xia joking with me?”
Xia Lei lowered his voice. “I’m not joking. Go search on the black market - I guarantee that you won’t lose out.”
The doctor then said immediately, “Mr Xia, please come with me to my office and we’ll talk.”
Jiang Ruyi followed them.
Half an hour later, Xia Lei and Jiang Ruyi left the doctor’s office. There was now a smile on Jiang Ruyi’s face and she seemed more relaxed. Xia Lei had talked things through with the doctor and her father was about to be saved.
The doctor personally arranged for Jiang Shuqing to be moved to a VIP ward and changed his nurses to better ones. His attitude had taken a 180-degree turn.
Xia Lei stayed in the VIP ward for about an hour, then said his goodbyes and left.
Jiang Ruyi sent him out and walked with him in silence.
Xia Lei asked for Jiang Ruyi’s bank account number in the stairwell, then called Guan Lingshan and had her transfer 5,000,000 to Jiang Ruyi’s account.
“5,000,000! So much…” Jiang Ruyi panicked when she saw the amount in the message notification on her phone. “I won’t be using that much money.”
Xia Lei gave a laugh. “Why are you still treating me like an outsider? I have no need for money now either, so you can take it and use it. Whatever’s left can be treated as money for tonics for Uncle’s recuperation.”
“You…” Tears welled again in Jiang Ruyi’s large eyes. “How can I repay you?
“Talk about that again and I’ll get angry.” Xia Lei took out a paper bag and put it in Jiang Ruyi’s hands.
Jiang Ruyi looked at him. “What’s this?”
“A little something from when I went to Afghanistan. It wasn’t appropriate to give it to you in front of your mother earlier. Take a look and see if you like it.”
Jiang Ruyi opened the bag. It was a dazzling gemstone necklace. She was stunned.
“My schedule this time round is tight. I have to go back to Jingdu tomorrow, then to Russia to participate in a light weapons exhibition.”
Jiang Ruyi didn’t seem to have heard him. She was still staring blankly at the gemstone necklace.
“I’m going off now. You should go back and spend more time with Uncle Jiang. Tell him that I’ll come visit again next time. He should have had the surgery by then. I really hope that he will get better,” said Xia Lei with a smile.
Jiang Ruyi suddenly hugged Xia Lei and said in his ear, “I’ll wait for you to come back, no matter how long it takes. If you get tired outside, then come back and unwind.”
She turned and ran off after she said that.
Xia Lei watched her retreating back, and stared blankly into space for quite some time.Previous Chapter Next Chapter