Couple of Mirrors – Chapter 41: An Interrogation of the Soul

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It’s sunset by the time Xu Youyi leads Yan Wei back into the studio. ‘Weiwei, why don’t you have a shower and change your clothes,’ she says. ‘Get rid of all that bad luck.’

‘I’m going to make dinner,’ Xu Youyi adds, starting for the kitchen…

…then Yan Wei grabs hold of her by the wrist. ‘Wait’.

‘What is it?’ asks Xu Youyi.

Yan Wei is finding it incredibly difficult to get her words out. ‘Xu… Xu Youyi…’

She clenches her fist.

It really is difficult trying to hug someone, she muses. How did she manage to do it so easily before?

Xu Youyi stares at Yan Wei, puzzled.

Then a light bulb goes off in her head. ‘Oh, look at you,’ she says affectionately, then leans forward and puts her arms around Yan Wei.

‘You want to hug me and say thank you, don’t you?’ Xu Youyi asks.

Yan Wei is stunned into silence.

‘There’s no need for thanks,’ says Xu Youyi. ‘Welcome home.’

Yan Wei’s heart is pounding madly.

She unclenches her fist, her heart still pounding…

Then she places a hesitant hand on Xu Youyi’s back…

…and envelopes her in a tight hug. ‘Yes,’ says Yan Wei.

Xu Youyi seems taken aback by this show of emotion.

Yan Wei continues hugging her tightly. She yelps, ‘Please let go! I can’t breathe! I’m pregnant, remember!’

Yan Wei lets go quickly, and pats Xu Youyi’s belly anxiously.

Xu Youyi gives Yan Wei a little shove in the direction of the bathroom. ‘Go and shower!’

Yan Wei showers pensively.

She flashes back to the day Xu Youyi nearly drowned: the moment when she resuscitated Xu Youyi, and the moment when Xu Youyi told her they could both be the baby’s mothers. The way I feel about Xu Youyi… is it really just friendship? she wonders. Or is it like what those comrades of mine had…

She flashes back to herself bending over a fatally wounded comrade on a battlefield. ‘Chen, hang in there!’ she tells him.

Chen hands her a letter. ‘Please give this to my lover James.’

Yan Wei stares at him disbelievingly. ‘Your lover? James?’

Chen has a beatific smile on his face. ‘Yes,’ he says, closing his eyes. ‘My love… James…’

We cut to a forest. Yan Wei sits with James — whom we’ve seen before — as he reads the letter.

He wipes a tear away from his eye. ‘Thank you, Yan. This letter has given me the courage to carry on.’

‘He called you his lover…’ Yan Wei murmurs.

Back in the present, Yan Wei wonders, can someone fall in love with another person of the same sex? Is that how I feel about her?

There’s a knock on the bathroom door. ‘Weiwei, dinner’s ready,’ Xu Youyi calls from the other side. ‘Are you done showering?’

Yan Wei is still lost in thought. She’s had boyfriends before — she was married, even. Could she possibly…

Xu Youyi steps into the bathroom. ‘Weiwei?’

Yan Wei stares at her in shock.

Yan Wei whirls around quickly. ‘What are you doing here? Go!’

Xu Youyi laughs. ‘Come on, there’s nothing to be shy about! We’re both women, after all!’

‘Get out!’ Yan Wei insists.

Xu Youyi catches sight of the scars on Yan Wei’s back. ‘Don’t move!’

‘Let me look at those scars,’ she adds, moving closer.

She runs a hand over Yan Wei’s back…

…and blows gently on them.

Yan Wei bears this in stoic silence.

What she must have been through, Xu Youyi thinks sadly, looking at Yan Wei’s scars.

Yan Wei places a hand over Xu Youyi’s eyes. ‘Stop looking. They’re all healed now.’

‘Weiwei…’ Xu Youyi begins.

Yan Wei shoves Xu Youyi out of the bathroom. ‘Go. I’ll be done soon.’

She slams the door shut behind Xu Youyi. Her heart is still pounding.

Dinner is a silent affair.

At one point, Xu Youyi ventures, ‘Weiwei…’

‘Don’t ask,’ says Yan Wei brusquely, and Xu Youyi lapses back into silence.

That night, they lie side-by-side in their bed.

Xu Youyi looks over at Yan Wei…

…and rolls over to put an arm around her.

She reaches up and cups Yan Wei’s cheek…

…then Yan Wei twitches.

She sits up, pushing Xu Youyi’s hand out of the way…

…and sweeps out of the bedroom.


Please view the original manhua here.

Translator’s note:

  • I have chosen to use ‘sex’ instead of ‘gender’ in Yan Wei’s musings about attraction. This is because ‘gender’ was primarily used to refer to grammatical categories until the 1950s.

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