After Qin Shiya’s second session, her mother ran to find Cheng Xi again. This time, her attitude was much better. She had no intentions of interfering with or warning Cheng Xi about her treatment methodology, but her attitude was still tainted with arrogance.
She asked Cheng Xi, “I saw that she fell asleep right when she got home. Does this mean that her condition is starting to improve?”
“Not that quickly,” Cheng Xi responded with a shake of her head. “She’ll almost certainly relapse without further treatment. At this time, remember to not over-stimulate her. The best thing you can do for her is to not treat her as a hero, but rather as a regular person.”
“What do you mean?”
Later, Cheng Xi found out that, after the earthquake, Qin Shiya had been paraded around and been made to give speeches everywhere as a model example of someone who had performed a heroic feat during an earthquake. Because no one had thought that she would need psychological counselling, the halo placed on her head had grown immeasurably heavy, causing her mental condition to deteriorate to her current state.
In light of this, Cheng Xi’s tone was quite severe. “I’m trying to say that she’s just a regular human. She’s not some sort kind of shield against destruction or an angel descended from the heavens. Please, stop forcing her to act like a hero. If you treated her just as your daughter and nothing more, that’d be sufficient.”
Qin Shiya’s mother’s expression grew ugly upon hearing Cheng Xi’s words. “Do you think that she’s unfit to be called a hero?”
Some people just never seemed to be able to grasp the salient points of a conversation, no matter how heavily it was emphasized. But Cheng Xi had met her fair amount of these people, and she simply smiled in response as her expression remained calm. “No, it’s not that. She just simply doesn’t want to be called a hero.”
Her mother left in a huff of anger once again, and Cheng Xi felt her outlook on Qin Shiya’s recovery turning pessimistic. During lunch, she talked to the director, bringing Qin Shiya up again. “I’m afraid that this might take quite a long time.”
The director glanced at her. “But you’re confident that she can be treated, yes?”
“Yes. If her family was willing to cooperate, the likelihood of success would be much greater.”
After the director heard about Qin Shiya’s mother’s behavior, she fell silent for a moment before volunteering some information. “Before the earthquake, Qin Shiya’s father was just a minor branch secretary, and her mother was just an ordinary peasant woman. But now, her father’s already become a vice-secretary, her mother found a new job working at the county’s women’s association, and even her brother’s education prospects improved. To ask them to discard her title of “hero” and all the benefits that come with it will indeed pose some difficulty.”
Cheng Xi frowned; she could understand what the head was insinuating: Rather than Qin Shiya’s recovery, perhaps her family valued her status as a “hero” more. As long as she stayed alive and didn’t try to kill herself, did it matter if she was mentally unsound?
Cheng Xi held her forehead weakly. “They won’t stop her from coming here, will they?”
“Ha, ha, they might.” When the director saw Cheng Xi’s expression crumble, she smiled wryly. “But as long as Qin Shiya is determined to get better, they won’t be able to stop her. I’m sure of that.”
Almost as if to confirm the director’s words, Qin Shiya didn’t show up for the next scheduled appointment. When Cheng Xi called her, it was her mother who picked up, and she said, “She’s already improved greatly, so we feel like there’s no need for her to return to the hospital.” And with that, she hung up.
Cheng Xi considered paying them a house call, but she was too preoccupied to do so. Due to her excellent performance in treating Qin Shiya, the director had given her a few more patients, all of them suffering from PTSD to various degrees. One of them was a fifty-something old man who would be triggered by any loud noise. Even if the sound of cars honking was unbearable for him, and it would send him into a frantic scramble for somewhere to hide. It often caused a local panicked rush, as the people around him would follow along unknowingly.
He’d suffered from this for quite a long time, and he was also a somewhat bull-headed person who refused to accept any opinion that differed from his. After a deeply unsatisfactory therapy session, Cheng Xi forcefully made him undergo exposure therapy; she played both faint and loud noises near his ear and then repeatedly and incessantly told him, “Look, there’s no earthquake!”
It was actually mainly this patient that monopolized most of Cheng Xi’s time, leaving her unable to worry about Qin Shiya. By the time his condition had improved, Qin Shiya had come to her herself.
She had tried to commit suicide by cutting up her bedsheets and hanging herself on the windowsill. Logically, it should have been impossible for her to kill herself from that height, but her willful insistence on dying might actually have given her a chance of succeeding.
If not for her brother returning home, she really might have died.
When Cheng Xi saw Qin Shiya this time, she was resting in bed. By then, she’d already improved, and she even smiled upon seeing Cheng Xi. “I didn’t expect to see you again.”
“Did you want to see me?”
“I wanted to beforehand.”
“Well, why not now?” Cheng Xi’s tone was gentle and warm, but also filled with an unquestionable confidence. “I can always help you.”
After a quick discussion with Qin Shiya, Cheng Xi then used her connections and found a somewhat influential media company to comprehensively interview Qin Shiya. Her family initially didn’t object, but when the footage of the interview came out, they were all surprised and shocked. The interview was titled, “The hero of the Gansu earthquake who now suffers from severe PTSD: who crowned her a hero, and who ruined her?” The interview began with Qin Shiya calmly describing the actual events of the earthquake. “It was I who ignored the teaching association’s ban against teachers holding remedial classes by forcing my husband to take on that class. It was also I who, in order to increase our profits, rented out that classroom that wasn’t up to code at all. The only reason why I saved those children was because I was afraid that they’d die inside, and that I’d then have to carry an unbearable burden…… In the end, I’m no hero at all. I’m just a greedy woman who ruined myself and lost my husband’s life.”
In the video, Qin Shiya had a pure white outfit on, a clean and unadorned face, but an unusually calm and peaceful expression.
After all of these years, she had finally revealed her true self to the world.
Qin Shiya’s interview stirred up a significant amount of commotion over the Internet, and her family almost went crazy from anger. But since she’d already given the interview, they couldn’t do anything about it.
After Qin Shiya recovered some more, she moved out of her family’s house and into her old place, where she started up a small kindergarten. Cheng Xi pushed some of her friends and classmates to sponsor her books and toys, and that gave Qin Shiya enough of a start to sustain herself.
One month later, Cheng Xi went to visit Qin Shiya. It was currently the tail end of August, and school was about to start. Qin Shiya had just finished setting up her classroom’s decorations. The classroom had originally been the gathering place for the village committee, which meant that the room was large and spacious. After Qin Shiya started renting it, she had repainted the entire place, making it indistinguishable from a regular classroom.
When Cheng Xi entered the room, Qin Shiya was drawing a mural on the back wall of the classroom. She had outlined the figure of a young man sitting behind his desk and concentrating on drawing something.
When she saw Cheng Xi, she smiled in a self-deprecating manner. “My drawing skills are pretty bad, aren’t they?”
“No. Your style is very evocative, and it gives off a warm feeling to anyone who looks at it.”
Cheng Xi wasn’t mindlessly praising her. Although Qin Shiya’s drawing technique was untrained and almost childish, the lines and colors that she chose were mellow and soft, and the man that she had drawn gave off an impression of gentleness.
Qin Shiya smiled genuinely, her eyes curving up. Her thin face was far more lively compared to when Cheng Xi had first met her. “Perhaps it’s because I’m drawing him?”
Cheng Xi stayed with Qin Shiya and spent half the day chatting with her. After affirming that her condition had truly improved for the better, Cheng Xi decided to head back, saying, “I’ll be back when school starts.”
Qin Shiya nodded and walked her all the way to the main road. Cheng Xi was preoccupied with her conversation, so she didn’t notice anything off about her car. As she opened the car door and was about to step inside, however, she suddenly noticed something amiss. When she stooped down to inspect the car floor, she saw a pair of feet underneath the car, near the wheels.
Cheng Xi was flabbergasted.