Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The snap of a light cord being pulled came from the inner hut, and Grandpa Cai shuffled out with his slippers.
“Xiao Ze, what’s wrong? Want to get up or drink water?” He asked, standing in the doorway of the two connected rooms.
Shen Jize sat frozen on the bed, not making a sound, still in the anxiety from the nightmare.
Sensing that something was wrong, Grandpa Cai flicked on the light and went to the bedside, reaching out to touch his forehead to see if he had a fever, only to find a handful of cold, wet sweat.
“Xiao Ze, what’s wrong with you?”
Shen Jize’s voice was a little off-key, “Grandpa, there was a demon chasing me.”
His sentence hadn’t finished, when Lu Rong, who was sleeping soundly on his side, opened his eyes as his eyelashes fluttered. He had just chased Shen Jize, he was too far away to see him go into the light, so he also went back, just in time to hear this sentence calling him a demon.
He quickly glanced at the person beside him, lying unmoving, only quietly pulling the quilt high, covering him entirely.
Grandpa Cai soothed, “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid ah, it was a nightmare. It’s grandpa’s fault for scaring you before sleeping. There are no wild boars or flower brothers near our village, nothing. It’s grandpa’s fault, grandpa was wrong…”
“Grandpa, is Brother Flower (Hua) a demon deer?” Shen Jize asked, terrified.
Grandpa Cai was stunned, “What demon deer?”
Lu Rong pulled the quilt down again, peeking out with his two round eyes.
“Brother Hua is a leopard, but it’s okay, our village hasn’t had those wild things for many years.” Grandpa Cai heard Shen Jize mention Brother Hua, felt more self-condemnation, so he pulled Shen Jize into his arms, like he was coaxing Lu Rong and gently pat him on the back.
Shen Jize was only an eleven-year-old child, and after being scared so much, he leaned stickily into Grandpa Cai’s arms for a while before his face recovered.
“Grandpa, are there any deer around the village? White deer?” Shen Jize straightened up from Grandpa Cai’s arms and gestured, “A deer a little bigger than a puppy. Not the big yellow dog that your family calls Puppy, but a real puppy.”
“No, we are developing near our village, so the sound has caused no wildlife to be around for ten miles.” Grandpa Cai said comfortingly, “It was just a dream. Look, you’re still in bed.”
Grandpa Cai reached out to rub the top of Shen Jize’s head and used a motion of throwing something onto the ground. “Begging the fairy aunt to protect the child to sleep well, no dreams, and sleep until dawn.”
And stood up on the ground and stepped on a few feet, smiling, “Good boy, now sleep, the fairy aunt will protect you.”
Shen Jize finaly lay back down, but thought how could he go back to sleep.
He felt that just now it should’ve been a dream, after all, it was too mysterious, and could only be explained as a dream. But it was all so vivid, more real and detailed than all the dreams he had ever had. He remembered the demon deer, and the pair of silver horns, like two potatoes, as well as its bizarre dance, and the grin.
He tossed and turned restlessly in bed until a soft hand came up against his arm.
Shen Jize thought Lu Rong was turning over in his sleep and was about to pluck the hand away when he whispered to his ear, “Don’t be afraid. It’s okay, be good.”
He also gave him a few pats on his body soothingly.
Shen Jize froze, his body stiffened, and realized that the child also knew that he was scared of the nightmare. His heart was both annoyed and a little broken, so he simply closed his eyes and pretended to sleep.
If Lu Rong wanted to make fun of him, he should just make fun of him, it didn’t matter. Fortunately, he didn’t know that he was scared and cried in the dream.
Lu Rong was too sleepy, and didn’t make fun of him, also quietly going back to sleep.
Shen Jize woke up around noon, and he was the only one in bed. The room was full of bright sunlight, stunning his eyes. From the kitchen, there were sounds of dishes, and oil was crackling.
He lay in the sunlight, recalling the scene from last night, and couldn’t tell whether it was real or a dream.
I guess it was a dream.
Shen Jize easily figured it out, got up and found clean shorts and t-shirt and put them on before he walked out of the bedroom.
Lu Rong was sitting on the steps with his big yellow dog in his arms, whispering to stop him from making a sound, “That person is sleeping, don’t make any noise, don’t wake him up.”
After hearing footsteps from inside the house, he immediately let go of the dog and trotted to Shen Jize to stand in front of him. Shen Jize stopped yawning, closed his mouth, and stared at him bewildered.
Lu Rong held his breath for a few seconds before asking, “Do you want to brush your teeth and wash your face?”
Shen Jize didn’t know what he was asking for, and nodded slowly, somewhat warily.
Lu Rong ran quickly to the edge of the yard, where there was a concrete slab used as the laundry table with a wooden basin and an enamel jar. He squeezed toothpaste onto his toothbrush and unscrewed the tap next to it to catch an enamel jar of water. Then he carefully placed the toothbrush across the table and stood next to it, looking at Shen Jize.
Shen Jize recognized the toothbrush as his own, because there was a large gourd next to the brush handle, which he had left in the bathroom last night without taking it out.
Lu Rong was squeezing toothpaste for him and waiting for him to go over and brush his teeth?
Why was he so nice?
Shen Jize didn’t know what the kid was selling, so he stood still, his guard raised two more notches.
“Come and brush your teeth.” Lu Rong looked aside with his hands down, and his tone was a little uneasy.
Shen Jize thought for two seconds and then walked towards the laundry table. Along the way, he stared at Lu Rong with a half-smile and a critical eye, hands in his shorts pockets, looking cool.
He picked up the enamel jar, picked up the toothbrush and smelled it, and it was indeed toothpaste. He sniffed the water again, turned his back to block Lu Rong’s view, and stuck out his tongue for a quick lick.
The water was spring drawn down from a mountain stream, with a light sweetness, no sediment at the bottom of the tank, very clean.
——There was no ambush.
Shen Jize finally began to brush his teeth with confidence. When he brushed his teeth, he found that the child wasn’t idle. He used the wooden basin to catch water, and thumped into the kitchen, straining to carry a large kettle out.
The mouth of the jug was still steaming.
Shen Jize saw him struggling to carry it, and with the responsibility of an older child caring for the young, he went over with his toothbrush and took the big kettle and carried it over to add hot water to the wooden basin.
When he wrung the towel in the basin, he found Lu Rong still standing next to him, quietly watching him, two large moist eyes unblinking.
Shen Jize’s heart thumped but he moved to smell the towel.
Strange, no odor.
He put the towel over his face and scrubbed it, and then he saw Lu Rong looking at him.
It was… a little creepy.
Shen Jize wasn’t sure if Lu Rong was trying to do anything to him.
His cousin Zhou Chang, who was about the same age as Lu Rong, came to his house last summer to play. He had found a caterpillar on his bed after a couple of disagreements because he wasn’t allowed to enter his room at will.
Shen Jize knew that these seven and eight year olds were not easy to mess with. They didn’t play by the rules, and they played dirty tricks behind the scenes. But nothing unusual happened until his face was washed, and the two of them packed up the pots in silence, still not saying a word.
Grandpa Cai came out of the kitchen with the meal and headed for the square table under the banyan tree, greeting the two telling them it was time to eat. After sitting down, Lu Rong bit the tips of his chopsticks and looked at the dishes, his eyes rolling.
Shen Jize had just picked up a piece of beef when he heard Lu Rong trailing off again in a whine, “Grandpa…”
“No drinking.” Grandpa Cai interrupted lightly and used a spoon to serve two bowls of egg soup, placing them in front of the two children.
Lu Rong pouted and didn’t insist on drinking further, Shen Jize expressionlessly marveled in his heart: Really an alcoholic. Not only did he drink yesterday, he also wants to drink today.
This matter will have to be told to Xiao Yong after the start of school.
The three of them were eating when the courtyard door was pushed open and Shen Yan walked in.
“Little Uncle.” Shen Jize stood up happily.
Shen Yan walked to the table, touched Shen Jize’s head, and pinched Lu Rong’s face.
He came to pick up Shen Jize and hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Grandpa Cai asked him to eat together, so he didn’t hesitate to sit down and start eating.
The phone in his jacket pocket rang just as he picked up the bowl and took a few bites. He wiped his mouth with his hand and answered the phone.
“…When did this happen? How did the foundation become unstable? That has to be re-surveyed… If we don’t get it right now, it will be too late if something happens later…”
Those at the table put down their bowls and listened to Shen Yan’s phone call with bated breath.
After hanging up the phone, Shen Yan said to Grandpa Cai, “Uncle, I have to trouble you again, I have to rush to another construction site, in the town under the mountain. If Xiao Ze—”
“Don’t worry, Xiao Ze can stay with me, I will take care of him.” Grandpa Cai interrupted him.
Seeing Shen Jize looking at him blearily, Shen Yan said helplessly and apologetically, “Xiao Ze, something happened at the construction site of Uncle Xiao, so I can’t take you with me. You can stay at Grandpa Cai’s house for a few days. I will come to pick you up when things are solved.”
Lu Rong heard this sentence that once things were solved, he would come to pick him up, and his head buried in the bowl abruptly raised. He looked at Shen Yan and looked at Shen Jize, big eyes full of shock, but also filled with sympathy.
Shen Jize didn’t notice it, he now only wanted to make a fuss and go with his little uncle, but he knew that this was impossible.
He heard the conversation on the phone and knew that his uncle was going to work. Not to mention that he was an eleven-year-old, what use was crying and screaming?
Besides, Lu Rong was still watching.
So he held back his heart full of grief and nodded calmly, “Little Uncle, just go. I’ll stay at Grandpa’s house.”
Shen Yan stroked his head with relief again, and after a few words of advice, stood up and went outside the courtyard.
“Eat your meal before you go!” Grandpa Cai called out.
Shen Yan hurriedly waved his hand and said without stopping his feet, “I’m not going to eat, I’ll just buy a bun after I go down the mountain. Xiao Ze, you have to do your homework, you can’t just play for two days.”
“I’ll do it, I’ll go sightseeing later and prepare some essay material.” Shen Jize was as steady as a grown-up who knew what to do.
When Grandpa Cai finished cleaning up the dishes, he was approached outside by a village official who asked him for a letter of introduction to work outside the village, and he gave Lu Rong and Shen Jize a few words of advice before hurrying out the door.
Lu Rong moved the desk to the door again and set up a bench opposite. He kept his eyes on Shen Jize, and although he didn’t speak, the meaning of the words was clear.
Shen Jize wanted to watch TV for a while, but he had to sit down and take out his composition book from his school bag. He only wrote the beginning yesterday, so he racked his brain to continue to make up the next part.
“…When I woke up from my hospital bed and saw my dad’s back, he was so tall, a beacon in my heart…”
Across the room, Lu Rong also began to write, his pencil rustling on the book.
Shen Jize lyrically wrote a few sentences, his brain dried up and could no longer think of any sentences. He began to lose concentration, as he frequently looked at Lu Rong.
Shen Jize was tempted to use his pencil to poke at him, but he resisted the temptation. He remembered Lu Rong’s reassuring words last night when he patted him – ‘Don’t be afraid, it’s okay, good boy.’ – and thought the kid would be cute if he didn’t get into trouble.
At least he was cuter than his cousin who grabbed a bug and scared him.
Lu Rong wrote very hard and very slowly, his strokes cutting deeply through the exercise book. His face was serious, his brow furrowed and his mouth pursed into a thin line.
The pencil core was broken.
He raised his hand to look for a pencil sharpener in the stationery box, and Shen Jize hurriedly buried his head and made the appearance of writing a serious essay.
“…The nurse auntie stuck the needle very hard and slowly, and the needle dove deep into my arm. Dad said: “Don’t be afraid ah, it’s okay, good boy.”
Inspiration is coming!!!
The two children finished their homework and started watching TV. The central station was playing Journey to the West, and the Monkey King was fighting some small demons to save the captured Monk Tang. Shen Jize had seen it several times, already memorizing all the lines, but still slumped on the wooden sofa without much expression as he continued to watch.
“You little demon, let my master out!”
Lu Rong was watching with great interest when he heard Shen Jize suddenly ask, “Hey, are there any demons on your mountain?”
Lu Rong sat on a small stool in front of the TV, looking at the TV and shook his head, “No.”
Shen Jize thought again for a while, sat up straight, and asked Lu Rong, “Really?”
“Yes.” Lu Rong replied decisively.
Although he could change into a deer, he didn’t feel that he was a demon.
“What about deer demons? Have you heard of any white fawns around? Ones that dance like people or something?” Shen Jize pursued the question undeterred.
Lu Rong’s body stiffened as he sat upright, then shook his head quickly.
Shen Jize was sure that this was really a dream, so he stopped asking questions and continued watching the Journey to the West.
Lu Rong let out a slow breath. He stared at the TV and thought, ‘Sun Wukong is just a monkey. 1 Even if I can turn into a deer, I am definitely not a demon deer.’