Chapter 1 — Zhao Mu: From Dawn Till Dusk (1)
In a cross-legged position, Lin Mu sat in front of the dressing table, dressed in Lin Zhao’s sundress. The person behind him was bending over him, adjusting a wig and the hair net attached to it before carefully pulling it over his hair.
Lin Mu signed at the mirror, “It’s too warm.”
Lin Zhao pursed her lips; her fingers moving swiftly. “You have to wear it even if it’s warm, or you’ll be easily exposed without it.”
Lin Mu rolled his eyes. As he grumbled about how troublesome girls were, he received a knock on the head from Lin Zhao.
Lin Zhao narrowed her eyes. Her fair fingers were like sharp, thin blades fanning out as she signed leisurely, “I can understand what you’re saying, Little Liar.”
In the city’s East Zone, community sessions were held monthly for people with special needs. Lin Zhao attended them a few times, and refused to participate further. Lin Mu was initially worried that she was being bullied, but he later found out that the girl had privately accepted an invitation to become a Go mentor, and these two demands on her time clashed.
Because of this, Lin Yanlai and Jiang Wan had a family meeting. With a dark face and folded arms, Lin Zhao was standing there, having just received a scolding from Lin Mu.
They were a fraternal, pigeon pair, but they were miraculously alike as two peas. Lin Zhao first greeted the world one second earlier, yet Lin Mu was the first to cry aloud. A month later, Lin Zhao was diagnosed with congenital deafness.
After going through an immense pain when the diagnosis was first confirmed, Lin Yanlai and Jiang Wan began to search everywhere, hoping for a cure to their daughter’s diagnosis. However, the results only made the two even more depressed. Lin Yanlai quit his job abroad to become a full-time househusband. He taught himself sign language while taking care of his daughter Lin Zhao, and brought up his son at the same time.
At two years old, the first thing Lin Mu learned to say was to call Lin Zhao, “Jiejie.”
A year later, Lin Zhao’s first words to Lin Mu was “Little Liar” through sign language. Lin Mu had sneakily eaten all the nougat Lin Yanlai made, then lied to her that their father had not make any.
Under normal circumstances, Lin Zhao should have attended a special needs school since primary school. However, due to Lin Yanlai’s unremitting efforts, other than not being able to hear or speak, she did not fall behind other children in any other matters of her education.
As such, the elder sister shuffled off to the same school as her younger brother, and both were in the same class. After four semesters at school, Lin Zhao started to pick up Go officially.
At first, Lin Mu too followed along and learned the game. However, half a year later, he found that he did not have much patience for it, and eventually gave up on the lessons. Lin Zhao was infuriated over this. In the middle of the night, she kept kicking his bed, refusing to let him sleep.
Lin Mu was extremely sleepy. From under his pillow, he took out a little torchlight, shining it at his sister.
This was a habit grown for many years. Lin Zhao could not speak, so when she wanted to speak to Lin Mu at night, her younger brother would have to use the light of the torch to sign in the dark.
“Why did you quit learning Go?” The bright light from the torch shone gently upon Lin Zhao’s delicate, small face. Her expression was stern, and she looked just like a little grown-up.
With half-closed eyes, Lin Mu signed quickly, “I can’t keep hanging out with you. The other boys are no longer playing with me anymore, and it’s really embarrassing.”
Lin Zhao’s lips tightened. It seemed like she was furious. After kicking Lin Mu’s bed some more, she finally flipped over and ignored him.
Ever since that day, Lin Zhao no longer went with Lin Mu to school and back home. She only attended the morning classes, and Lin Yanlai would then take her to the Go Institute after lunch.
However, Lin Mu also did not end up making more friends. He still went and left the school alone, occasionally dropping by the Go Institute to deliver Lin Zhao her meals.
“Little Liar,” Lin Zhao signed at her little brother while eating, “You said you wanted to make friends, so where are your friends?”
With his head resting on his hand, Lin Mu lazily signed back with his other, “You’re so annoying, go practice your Go.”
Lin Zhao managed to achieve the amateur 5th dan rank when she was in junior high. During Lin Mu’s first year of high school, Lin Zhao defeated all the opponents in a professional ranking tournament, becoming a young professional Go player.
However, Lin Yanlai and Jiang Wan still felt that one should not completely give up on academics. As such, they sent their daughter to Kunqian High – the high school where Lin Mu was currently studying at, as well as the only high school in the East Zone that accepted special needs students.
A year later, Lin Zhao was promoted to a higher rank. She moved onto a more prominent Go institute to hone her skills, and no one in the family ever imagined that she would accept a job as a mentor.
“You’re not yet eighteen.” Despite having a busy work schedule, Lin Zhao was Jiang Wan’s greatest concern, and she could not bear to see Lin Zhao go through even the slightest bit of hardship. “Being a Go mentor is a job, and we are not short of money. Why did you accept it? Is there something you’d like to buy? Just tell mama.”
Lin Mu could not help laughing in irritation. He signed the words he spoke simultaneously, “As if she has anything she wants to buy! She just has too much time on her hands!”
Under the table, Lin Zhao kicked him, her fingers moving swiftly. “You’re so annoying!”
Lin Yanlai too was rather disapproving. He removed his glasses, signing gently, “What about the zone’s monthly community sessions? You have to attend them.”
Lin Zhao was unhappy; her fingers moved forcefully. “I’m nothing like those people, why do I have to attend? Just because I’m disabled?!”
Lin Mu frowned, signing at her, “Who are you looking down on?”
Lin Zhao sneered, rebutting quickly, “You’re the ones looking down on me, every single one of you!” She then stood up and headed upstairs, ignoring the looks of consternation on the faces of Lin Yanlai and Jiang Wan.
Lin Mu nearly exploded in anger. He stood up, wanting to chase after her, but Lin Yanlai called him to a halt.
“Don’t argue with your sister,” Jiang Wan blamed him. “Your words shouldn’t have been so harsh.”
Lin Mu’s head spun with rage. “Who exactly was being harsh? What did she mean by us looking down on her? Which ‘we’ was she alluding to? Huh?!”
Lin Yanlai gave him a look, and Lin Mu abruptly fell silent. It was as though his raging fire of anger had been extinguished, and he stood there, alone.
Putting his glasses back on, Lin Yanlai thought it over and spoke, “If she really wants to be a Go mentor, then let her be. We’ll think of something else with regards to the community sessions.”
Only after the twins graduated from primary school did they then have their own room. Lin Mu stood outside Lin Zhao’s door for some time, and the moment he opened it, his face was met with a flying pillow.
“Little Liar.” Lin Zhao raised a middle finger at him. “I can’t believe you tattled on me.”
Lin Mu threw the pillow back, his expression serious as he signed, “Tell me the truth, are you being bullied at the new Go Institute?”
Lin Zhao rolled her eyes, responding, “I just don’t feel like attending the community sessions.”
Lin Mu asked, “Why?”
Lin Zhao’s hand lifted up, her finger twirling in the air as though she was drawing a blossom. With pursed lips, she looked somewhat wilful. “There’s no reason for it. I just don’t want to.”
In all honesty, Lin Zhao was really good at makeup. Although Lin Mu was a little taller than his sister, he had no time for exercising to train his muscles as a high school student, and hence he was very thin. The twins both had extremely fair skin, their limbs slender and long. Apart from Lin Mu’s flat chest, Lin Zhao’s dress was nearly a perfect fit for him.
“Do I have to wear a bra?” Lin Mu asked.
Lin Zhao took out a nubra, waving it wickedly. “Put this on.”
Lin Mu was speechless.
The thin muscles on his chest were forcibly squeezed together by Lin Zhao as she tried to shape a pair of “breasts” with much difficulty. Lin Zhao found her brother a cardigan and finally tied a ribbon around his neck.
“We’re done.” Lin Zhao gave him an OK sign. Her fingers dancing through the air, she praised her brother, “You’re actually really pretty.”
Looking in the mirror, Lin Mu raised his chin slightly. His lips were pursed, feeling a little disdainful of the compliment and a little embarrassed at the same time.
Lin Yanlai and Jiang Wan did not know why their daughter had suddenly changed her mind and was willing to attend the community session. When they received a call informing them of her attendance, they were obviously caught off guard.
“She’s there…” Jiang Wan was still a little in disbelief. She confirmed it again, “Is she really there?”
The voice of the community teacher was so loud that even Lin Yanlai, standing next to Jiang Wan, could hear her clearly. “She’s here, she’s here. Lin-tongxue is very obedient, just that she doesn’t like to interact with anyone. I’ll keep an eye on her.”
It was true that she did not like to interact with others. Although Jiang Wan still could not understand what was going on, she could only accept it and left the teacher a few reminders. After she hung up, out of the blue, Lin Yanlai casually asked, “Where is Lin Mu?”
Jiang Wan was still thinking about their daughter, and so she waved him off without much thought. “He’s probably hanging out somewhere. Who knows? Just let him be.”
Lin Mu was sitting at the last row of the classroom. Turning drowsy from the heat, he had to control himself from crossing his ankle over his knee. There were not many people in the room, and everyone seemed to know each other except him. Occasionally, a few deaf-mute members would try to interact with him, but after signing at each other for some time, the conversation soon fell silent after they ran out of things to say. In the end, Lin Mu still remained seated there alone.
By break time, the heat got too much for Lin Mu. He went out by himself, sitting down under the shade of a tree. Finally, he could cross his legs, and he relaxed for a short moment.
However, that moment was over in a flash. Another tactless person had come over.
Unwillingly, Lin Mu straightened his legs and put them together demurely. Tilting his head, the dappled sunlight fell upon his face as he looked at the newcomer with a squint.
“Hello.” The boy was very tall, looking much more muscular than Lin Mu. His skin was very tanned, and he had a very good-looking face. His signing was rather jerky, exposing him as a beginner that had only just learnt it. “Are you feeling warm?”
Lin Mu signed shortly, “I’m fine,” not caring if the other person could understand. He studied the boy, concluding that he was neither intellectually disabled nor had any obvious physical handicaps. As such, he was uncertain as to why the boy would strike up a conversation.
“I’m Lu Rong.” The boy clearly did not know how to sign his own name. Clumsily, he straightened his thumb, as well as his index and little fingers, curling down the other two fingers. Raising his hand to his temple, he shook it slightly.
Lin Mu was tickled. He did the same gesture, and then signed, “This gesture is referring to an animal, a ‘deer’.”
Lu Rong understood. He seemed somewhat embarrassed, standing there at a loss. A while later, he again repeated the question. “Are you feeling warm?”
Lin Mu looked at him, unable to suppress his smile. He held his hand out, waving his five fingers, and tapped them twice lightly on his forehead.
“Not anymore,” he said.