Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Grandpa Cai reprimanded Shen Jize again. Although he could not beat him, he still had to reprimand him. Shen Jize knew that he had made a mistake, and hung his head in a disciplined manner without saying a word.
“You two give me a detailed account of what happened.” Grandpa Cai brought a stool and sat in front of the two.
Shen Jize honestly told the story of his ankle being tangled in water plants, but didn’t mention seeing a deer, and his consciousness was also vague.
Lu Rong was even more incoherent, grunting and panting for half a day, only barely understanding that he and the dog dragged Shen Jize out of the water together and pushed him to the shore.
Grandpa Cai heard that their hands and feet were cold, but seeing the two children were trembling, he knew they had recognized the mistake, so he didn’t say more. He got up and went to the kitchen to make dinner.
A beating was spared, but the punishment couldn’t be avoided, and the two stood side by side in the courtyard.
Shen Jize looked sideways at Lu Rong beside him and saw that he still had teardrops on his pale face, and asked in a low voice, “Hey, who did you learn that trick from? That was good.”
Lu Rong pouted and didn’t make a sound.
Shen Jize laughed, “You’re quick to change your face.”
“You’re the one who changed your face quickly. You said I wasn’t your brother at first, but now I’m your brother.”
Shen Jize said, “Then I’ll change it and call you brother, alright?”
“It doesn’t sound good, call me by my name.”
Shen Jize looked at Lu Rong from the side, at his polished face and upturned nose, his long eyelashes stained with tears that hadn’t yet dried and condensed into clusters. His heart suddenly stirred and he said, “I’ll call you Rong Rong.”
Lu Rong looked down and tugged at the corner of his shirt, whispering back, “Okay.”
“Then you can call me ‘Brother’ from now on.” Shen Jize coaxed.
“Brother.” Lu Rong didn’t squirm at all and called out dryly.
Shen Jize was a little happy, but also a little unsatisfied, “You don’t want to call me ‘Brother’. Call me like you called out ‘Grandpa’, dragging the long inflection kind of sound, call it again. I’d like to hear it.”
Lu Rong turned his head and ignored him.
The two stood without speaking, listening to Grandpa Cai busy in the kitchen. Shen Jize recalled the beginning of the drowning and pondered about the little white deer. He wanted to ask Lu Rong if he had seen the deer, but turned his head to find him staring at the roots of the large banyan tree in front of him on his left, looking very intent, his round eyes unblinking.
“What are you looking at?” He asked curiously.
Lu Rong whispered, “I’m waiting for the ants to fight.”
Shen Jize also looked there, but only saw a group of ants hurrying to and fro, not fighting.
Lu Rong said seriously, “Look at those two in front, they stop every time they meet, face to face, they are probably arguing and will fight later.”
Shen Jize laughed darkly and said, “You are wrong, they are greeting each other. Every time they meet, the smaller one will call out: Brother～”
He imitated Lu Rong’s accent, trailing off and taking a turn at the end.
Lu Rong didn’t make a sound, but only turned his head and glared at him. The child’s eyes were big and round, black and white, and this glare was soft with a smile.
Shen Jize looked at the nest of ants with a smile, and suddenly forgot to ask about the deer.
The two of them stood there until Grandpa Cai made dinner and put it on the table.
Grandpa Cai gave them both a piece of lean dried meat and said, “If you two sneak down to the river again, you will be beaten and not given any food.”
Shen Jize bit into the meat and promised vaguely, “Grandpa, I will never swim alone in the river again.”
After today’s incident, he was really scared in his heart, and was afraid he wouldn’t dare to swim again for a long time.
But he wouldn’t say this.
After dinner, the two went to watch cartoons.
Shen Jize didn’t like to watch the cartoon broadcast on the central station. He thought the cat and dog were too childish, but he couldn’t say this out loud to Lu Rong.
Lu Rong, however, watched very attentively. His mind was focused on the TV, and he would only occasionally agree with an, ‘Ah’.
Shen Jize was bored and remembered the deer in the water, not sure if it was a hallucination or real, and wanted to ask Lu Rong again.
Before he could say anything, the cartoon played the end credits. The sitting Lu Rong jumped up and made the same action as the dog and cat on TV.
——His one hand was clenched in front of his chest, the other hand held high, his face serious, fiercely singing along.
Shen Jize immediately lost interest in talking to him. After all, he was still young, too childish, and there was a communication gap.
I miss Xiao Yong so much.
Before 9:00 p.m., Grandpa Cai let the two of them take a bath and go to bed. Shen Jize went into the bathroom, and Lu Rong washed in a large wooden tub by the laundry table at the side of the courtyard. Shen Jize came out after washing and found Lu Rong still washing, sitting naked in the wooden basin, and greeting the village people who passed by.
“Lu Rong, washing off the grime?”
Shen Jize knew that grime meant mud and dirt.
“I’m clean, I don’t have any nails, I’m washing my tummy.” Lu Rong took a small towel to wipe his belly and shouted back.
Grandpa Cai came out with a dry towel and urged him, “Okay, okay, the water is getting cold.”
Lu Rong stood up with a splash from the water and just stretched his arms out flat for Grandpa Cai to wipe away the water.
Lu Rong’s body was swaying, with his wet hair sticking out and a strand hanging down on his forehead.
“Grandpa, be gentle, you’re rubbing my stomach red.” Lu Rong complained.
Grandpa Cai lightened his movements, “Yes, yes, you are the most delicate, you are more delicate than a little green onion.”
“I’m just as tender as a little green onion.”
Shen Jize watched Lu Rong put on his plastic slippers again and run to the house, and suddenly felt that he should even be a little more petulant.
The little green onion, himself and Xiao Yong, were simply a different species. Shen Jize entered the house, Lu Rong put on his small pants, wrapped himself in the quilt, and rolled around on the bed.
“Sleep well, what are you doing wrapped in the blanket? Little Brother Ze is going to sleep too.” Grandpa Cai scolded.
Lu Rong parted half of the quilt and watched Shen Jize get into bed as Grandpa Cai was about to go back to his own little room.
“Xiao Ze, should I turn off the light?” Before closing the bedroom door, he held the light cord for a second and hesitated. Shen Jize was frightened last night and might want to sleep with the light on tonight.
“Turn it off, otherwise it’s too bright.”
Lu Rong was beside him, and it was someone to keep him company, so Shen Jize wasn’t afraid at all.
The light was turned off and Lu Rong was embarrassed to let Shen Jize see his bedtime rituals, touching his ears and scratching his back, and then tossing and turning.
Shen Jize lay on his side, staring at the moonlight coming through the window, and remembered the image in the water again.
——The deer was white, but its hooves were like flames in full bloom, and it came treading water towards him.
“Rong Rong, when you dragged me from the water to the shore today, did you see a deer?” He asked.
Lu Rong suddenly stopped tumbling, as if the pause button had been pressed.
Shen Jize rolled over and whispered, “I’ll tell you a secret.”
Lu Rong stared at him, breathing a little sharply, and after a moment also said softly, “I don’t like to hear secrets.”
Shen Jize, however, ignored him and said, “Last night I dreamed of a white fawn that would dance at me, and I ended up seeing it again today when I sank in the water.”
Lu Rong instantly held his breath again, both hands clutching the quilt tightly.
Shen Jize didn’t notice his weirdness, as he was deep in thought, “It’s a little strange. I can’t tell whether it’s a dream or real, because you know dreams, right? The next day you can recall them very vaguely, but this is different. The deer had two small potatoes, I remember them very clearly.”
After saying that he asked Lu Rong, “What do you think? What’s going on here?”
“The ones on the head are not potatoes, they are horns.” After a long time Lu Rong made a sound, his voice was a little tight.
Shen Jize said, “I know, it’s just that the horns look like potatoes.” He bumped his shoulder against Lu Rong again, “Rong Rong, have you heard of anyone around here who has seen a deer demon? Or any other demons?”
Lu Rong abruptly pulled up the quilt, his whole body into it, before saying in a jarring voice, “No. No deer demon, no other demons.”
“Hey, think about it, really—”
“Sleep, grandfather doesn’t let us talk. Go to sleep quickly.” Lu Rong interrupted him, sounding less than pleased.
“Tsk, what a child.” Shen Jize grumbled discontentedly, but had to stop continuing the conversation, so he also pulled the covers up and closed his eyes.
Hey, I miss Xiao Yong who has a common language with me.
Lu Rong curled up under the quilt, but didn’t sleep. He used to dream when Uncle Bai would appear in the dream, and then take him out. The latter let him look for the light mass to go out alone, and if he couldn’t find it for a long time, he would give him hints and guidance.
It was just that Uncle Bai hadn’t appeared in the dream for a long time and could only recognize the presence of his scent. Other than that, he had encountered no one else.
Neither Wang Tu nor Grandpa Cai.
He had long felt that it wasn’t a dream, and this encounter with Shen Jize had reinforced this idea. After all, who can enter someone’s dream?
The child didn’t think for long, and he soon fell asleep. When he noticed another change around him, he was instantly awake and opened his eyes.
It was afternoon, the sun hadn’t yet set, and the cascading clouds looked like the scales of a golden carp. He was wearing his daytime clothes, standing in a valley surrounded by mountains, with only a path out of the valley in front of him.
The valley was quiet, with birds chirping from time to time. Lu Rong, long accustomed to suddenly entering the dream world, quietly followed the trail. Although he no longer thought this was a dream, his heart didn’t panic. As long as there was a path, he could always find the light out. What’s more, he felt Uncle Bai’s breath again in this strange scene.
Except for turning into a deer, eating while running was the most enjoyable thing.
His shorts and yellow sweatshirt fell to the ground, a pair of plastic sandals stood beneath a white deer. The deer sat down on its butt, spread out its hind hooves and used its front hooves to put the shorts and sandals in the sweatshirt, then pulled the knot and put it around its neck.
The movement was so agile that if one looked at it from behind, they would never think it was a deer. Lu Rong took his bag of clothes and began to trot along, his hooves clattering against the solid dirt road, occasionally turning his head to chew on a few of the tenderest leaves in his mouth. After running for a short while, the sun set, the surrounding area was covered with a dusky twilight, in the distance there were scattered houses; it seemed to be a village.
Lu Rong ran faster, the whole way he didn’t see the light where he could get out. So it was most likely inside the village. But he didn’t change back, because his experience told him that the village was also empty, there wouldn’t be a person.
——There were no rats, at most a few birds in the sky.
Just then, he suddenly sensed a hint of something unusual, feeling as if somewhere became different from before. He slowly stopped running and stood still on the road, his two ears standing, vigilantly noting the movement around him, and his small, moist, dark nose sniffing in the air.
From the instinct of a small animal, he suddenly felt uneasy, as if there was a hidden danger ahead. His heart was inexplicably thumping, and he didn’t want to continue to go forward.
Looking at the village ahead, Lu Rong hesitated. But how can he find the light that went out if he didn’t continue? He turned in place a few times, anxiously pawed the ground with his hooves a few times, and stared at the village in the distance for a long time before finally taking small steps on the road.
He ran very slowly, hooves lightly lifting and releasing, only leaving a rustling sound.
Lu Rong’s mind was a mess. Could there be a demon in the village? But then he thought, wasn’t he a demon in the eyes of others?
Thinking of Shen Jize’s phrase ‘demon deer’, he was a little upset.
But he was a member of the Monkey King’s gang, so he wasn’t considered a demon.