Song Yan clamped the opponent’s wrist with one hand, but he didn’t use much force, and the opponent couldn’t move. 

Song Yan sneered: “Beating a woman? Where did you learn this disgusting behavior?” 

“You let me go! Otherwise—I—” the man stammered. 

Song Yan asked back: “Otherwise?” 

The man released Xu Qin and attacked Song Yan with the other hand. Song Yan grabbed his wrist, pushed with both hands, the man was pushed away and he slammed into the wall. 

The woman pointed at Song Yan and screamed, “Do you beat people in your hospital?” 

Song Yan dismissed it, and when he looked back to see Xu Qin still standing behind him, he quickly pointed to the door with his chin, and said impatiently, “If you’re not going out to save people, are you here just to watch the drama?” 

Xu Qin ran out immediately, only to hear Song Yan’s hoarse voice behind her vulgarly saying: “I’m not from this hospital, my brother is injured. Who the hell dares to make trouble here and delay his treatment, I’ll break their legs.” 

This is the way of the world, bully the weak and fear the strong, and the arrogant must be dealt with even more arrogantly, Xu Qin thought. 


The injured firefighter was named Tong Ming, and the one who accompanied him was named Xiao Ge. 

Xu Qin cut Tong Ming’s sleeves to do basic cleaning for him. Tong Ming was in a cold sweat from so much pain, the black ashes on his face rushed down like water out of the gullies. 

Xu Qin said: “Endure it a bit, I’ll give you anesthesia soon.” She raised her head and signaled to the nurse, Xiao Nan, who came over to wipe the dirt off Tong Ming’s face. 

Instead, the big man got embarrassed and twitched. 

Xiao Nan was anxious: “Why do you keep dodging?” 

Tong Ming raised his other hand: “I’ll do it, I’ll do it myself.” 

Xiao Nan: “Your hands are all swollen and dirty.” As she spoke, she held his hand and wiped his face.  After wiping off that layer of black ash, the young man’s face was flushed red with a few dry cracks. 

Xiao Nan saw that it was roasted by the fire, and felt sympathy in her heart. She stopped talking, and only lowered her head and wiped his palms.

Xu Qin simply cleaned the burn wound on his arm, gave him a shot of anesthesia, and asked coldly, “Was there no ambulance at the scene?” 

Tong Ming replied stupidly: “I don’t know, I was brought here by Xiao Ge.” 

Xiao Ge helped to explain: “There were. But it’s not enough. They took a few injured people and left.” 

Xu Qin said, “Were there no ambulance left at the scene?” 

Xiao Ge didn’t answer for a while. 

Xu Qin said, “Go and complain.” 

Xiao Ge was stunned for a moment, Tong Ming was stunned for a while, Xiao Nan and Xiao Bei were stunned too, and internally shouted: Dr. Xu, that is our hospital! 

Tong Ming smiled awkwardly and waved his hand: “An issue between like-minded humans, all part of one big family, there is nothing to complain about. Hehe.” 

Xu Qin looked up at him. 

Tong Ming thought she didn’t understand, so he pointed at Xu Qin and then at himself: “Doctors, firefighters, don’t we all serve the people. We are family, a family. We don’t have it easy.” 

Xu Qin lowered her head to continue to work and stopped talking. 

After the surgery, Xu Qin prescribed medicine and injections, and Xiao Nan led Tong Ming to the injection room for anti-inflammatory injections. 

Only then did Xu Qin think of Song Yan, she quickly returned to the consultation room, but he was gone.  Dr. Li, from the next shift, was treating a patient. 

Xu Qin returned to the hall, looked around inadvertently, not knowing what she was looking for. She suddenly caught a glimpse of a tall man walking out of the injection room and heading straight for the door. 

Xu Qin chased after him, bypassing the silhouette of the hall. 

The man walked extremely fast, and the tall and straight figure went farther and farther. 

Xu Qin walked through the crowd, walked out of the door, and ran down the steps quickly: “Song Yan!” 

The man stopped. 

At that time, it was the most tender and beautiful time of the day, the morning sun shone on his broad shoulders, and a thin layer of light shone in his black hair. 

It was early morning. 

Xu Qin calmed down her turbulent breathing from running, and dropped her hands into the pockets of her white coat. She stepped forward: “Song Yan.” 

Song Yan turned around and looked at her with a blank expression on his face. 

The two stood in the morning sunlight, looking at each other, with people coming and going. 

Song Yan: “Is something wrong?” 

Xu Qin: “Long time no see.” 

Song Yan squinted and seemed to recall seriously, and said, “It’s been a long time.” 

Xu Qin asked, “How are you doing?” 

Song Yan: “Very good. How about you?” 

Xu Qin looked into his eyes and replied softly, “Not good.” 

Song Yan’s smile froze, he observed her face critically, and after half a second, he curled his lips very lightly, as if he had seen through her trick of begging for sympathy. 

He said, “Oh. Anything else?” 

He obviously didn’t care, and was not in the mood to have a roundabout with her. 

Xu Qin was not embarrassed, as calm as usual, and said, “Thank you for what happened just now.” 

Song Yan said politely, “I’m here for my brother.” 

Xu Qin nodded and said politely, “And the last time…” 

“Xu Qin.” Song Yan interrupted, staring at her with black eyes, seeing through her twists and turns and dawdling, “What are you trying to say?” 

Xu Qin: “If you have time for a cup of coffee.” 

Song Yan stared at her for a long time, then smiled strangely again, the ridicule in it was undisguised. 

Xu Qin felt that her face should be on fire at this moment, but she didn’t feel a trace of shame, so she still said: “Is it okay?” 

“I’m quite busy.” Song Yan leaned slightly, narrowed the distance with her, raised her chin slightly, and said, “Queue up.” 

Xu Qin’s face remained unmoved. 

Song Yan stood up straight: “I’ll call you when the number arrives.” 

He walked away. 

He left delightedly, and didn’t look back. 

Xu Qin stood where she was, squinting to see his back disappear at the gate, turned around and entered the hospital. 

Entering the door she bumped into a colleague from the 1201 Center, Xu Qin asked, “Did you prepare the buses for the fire department just now?” 

“Yes, I prepared four buses.” The colleague replied. 

“Were there a lot of injured people? Why did the injured firefighters have no medical staff to treat them, and there was no bus left on the scene?” 

“Ay, don’t mention it. Originally, there were buses left at the scene, and a few civilians who were slightly injured would have been treated fine, but then they said they couldn’t breathe, and demanded they undergo a full-body examination, and clamored to come to the hospital. We couldn’t do anything about it.” 

Xu Qin didn’t ask any more questions, went to change her clothes and get off work. 


When Xu Qin woke up, she still had more than three hours to go to work.  She ordered a takeaway and sat on the balcony when she saw Wu Fang Street, a short and flat block in the center of the high-rise building. 

A red wall and white tile room, the one that burned not long ago was still black. 

Xu Qin didn’t know what she was thinking. When she came back to her senses, she came to the intersection. 

Walking into Wu Fang Street, you will instantly fall from a bustling city to a lively town, with bluestone alleys, brick and tile dwellings, and the chimes in the attic tingling. 

She passed the tailor’s shop, heard the sewing machine squeak and sprint, heard the cloth torn and the needles and threads torn; she passed the spice shop, where the proprietress and the men stood in a row at the door, shaking the star anise with a sieve, sifting the spices, she heard the spices rushing through the bamboo sieve like a neat army of thousands of horses, swoosh—swoosh—she passed the barber shop, and the razor in the hand of the barber squeaked and scalded the boiling water. She heard the screeching sound of metal crashing; she passed a small restaurant, a chef with a shiny face was swinging a wok, she heard the spatula flip, the ladle clacked; she passed the pork shop, she heard the boss sharpen his knives; she passed the vegetable store, she heard vegetables selling, the girl sprinkled water; she passed the rice shop, the snack shop… She heard adults bargaining, gossiping among the neighbors, and children chattering. 

The air was filled with the scent of fabrics, spices, shampoo, food, and a tree of orange leaves, swaying from the tall treetops into the alley. 

Xu Qin walked through the busy street, and unexpectedly discovered that after so many years, the world outside Wu Fang Street has changed with each passing day, but everything in here was exactly the same as before – the proprietress of the spice shop still has the tear shaped mole by her mouth; the one in the tailor shop, the tailor still liked to wear a tunic; the barber’s master still had a crewcut… 

She also successfully found the way to Song Yan’s house, which was as familiar as returning home, as if the instinct was engraved in her bones. 

Song Yan was brought up by his maternal uncle and aunt since he was a child, and his home was a courtyard in a deep alley on Wu Fang Street. 

A plaque with “Di Ji” hung on the door of the house. 

The wooden door was wide open, bypassing the shadow wall, and all kinds of woodworks were neatly stacked in the veranda and courtyard. 

Song Yan’s uncle, the third child of the Di family, was a carpenter. He was famous for his fine craftsmanship. From dressing boxes to wardrobes, he could produce flowers with his hands. 

Xu Qin had stood in the wide courtyard when she was young, and suddenly realized that the courtyard in her memory was not as narrow as it was at the moment. 

Red walls and ochre tiles, the vicissitudes of time.  A blue sky above their head.

In the courtyard, there was a small TV program playing. 

The loquat trees on both sides of the main house were now covered with pavilions. And the wisteria she planted back then covered the west wing, hanging like a curtain. 

There was Song Yan’s room. 

Nothing seemed to have changed. 

Xu Qin gently stroked the wood at hand. She remembered that here, Uncle Di taught her carpentry. Pushing the planer tool on the long wood, pieces of wood flowers rolled and flew out. She giggled happily. 

She said, “Song Yan, I like your family so much.” 

The young Song Yan squatted on the stake with a cigarette between his fingers, habitually tilted his head and looked at her, smiling: “It’s useless to talk about it, do you dare to enter my residence certificate2?” 

Xu Qin stopped everything, stopped laughing, and looked at him without blinking for a moment. 

He approached her: “I promise, I will give you a headache for the rest of this life.” 

Uncle came over and slapped Song Yan on the back of the head: “You’re smoking at home again, and if you set the house on fire, your aunt won’t let you live!” 

Footsteps came from the real world, pulling Xu Qin back to reality. 

Di Laosan saw a figure in the courtyard and walked out of the main room: “Do you want to do some carpentry?” 

Xu Qin turned her head. 

Uncle was old. 

That is, at that moment, the yard that was stagnant in time suddenly changed, and something clearly faded in time.  She finally saw clearly that the ochre on the walls was lightly tanned by the years of sunlight, and the gilded tiles on the roof were mottled by the rain. 

The smile on Di Laosan’s face solidified for a moment, distorted, suppressed, and calmed down. 

Xu Qin took a breath: “Uncle.” 

“Oh, Miss Meng.” Di Laosan regained his politeness, “Is there something wrong with this sudden visit?” 

Xu Qin: “I’m looking for Song Yan…” 

Before she finished speaking, cousin Di Miao jumped out of the room: “You cruel woman, you have the face to come see my brother? It wasn’t enough that you almost killed him back then, you…” 

Aunt came out and pushed Di Miao into the house. 

Xu Qin didn’t hear Di Miao’s words very much, and took a step forward: “She said just now…” 

Aunt interrupted: “He doesn’t live here.” 

Xu Qin subconsciously glanced at the room on the west side, the door was locked and the wooden window was closed. The red paint on the walls had faded, and the pieces were gray, except for the wisteria on the eaves. 

“Where does he live now?” Xu Qin asked, “Is it convenient to tell me?” 

“Convenient.” Aunt smiled and said, “He is now a firefighter, army management, and lives in the camp. – That means, he can’t get out.” 

I can’t see him anymore. 

It’s not as easy as it used to be, to find him, he’d be here. 

1 110 – emergency number for police
119 – emergency number for firefighters
120 – emergency number for ambulance service
These are the emergency numbers in China.

2 居住证 jū zhù zhèng – residence permit. When one gets married, the wife will normally be entered into the husband’s hu kou.

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