Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
When he finally reached the entrance of the village, Lu Rong stopped and hid behind a large tree to look inside. He felt that something was wrong, but couldn’t tell exactly what, until a gust of wind blew by. He lifted his nose and sniffed, and finally understood.
Yes, Uncle Bai’s scent was gone, and there was more of a cold, dark, strange smell, full of unknowable danger that made him resist.
The village resembled the neighboring village Grandpa Cai had passed with him on his back, scattered with small yards and houses, and the middle piece seemed to be lit up. It was almost dark when Lu Rong made sure there was nothing out of the ordinary and quietly walked out from behind the big trees.
Shen Jize was sleeping soundly, not even dreaming, but suddenly he was heavily pushed, and a flat voice without rise and fall was urging, “Hurry up and move, don’t stand still.”
He instantly jolted awake, opened his eyes, and found himself not lying in bed, but on a mountain in the wilderness. There were people in front and behind and to the left and right, and he was caught in the middle of them, seemingly originally moving in a certain direction.
“Hurry up and move, don’t stand still.” The voice was urging again.
Shen Jize turned his head to look, and a large, snow-white face almost came into contact with him, and he almost screamed in fear.
The owner of the face took a step back and stared at him, his narrow eyes were emotionless, dead silent.
Shen Jize then saw that it was a middle-aged woman in red and green. Her wrinkled face was painted snow white, thick powder stuck in the furrows of loose skin, lips blood red, cheeks also had two rounded red marks.
This look, if seen normally, would be very funny, but he only felt it was weird.
Shen Jize took a step back, but unexpectedly bumped into the person behind him. A subconscious ‘Sorry.’ just came out of his mouth, and he heard the person behind him let out a cheeky laugh.
Shen Jize quickly turned his head and saw a little girl.
The little girl was about his age, wearing a satin red tunic and black lab coat, with two round buns tied on her head, one on the left and one on the right. Like the middle-aged woman, her face was painted snow white, but her lips and cheeks were crimson.
Shen Jize had only seen this kind of attire in old-fashioned TV dramas.
“Hee hee.” The little girl smiled at him again. But her eyes were hollow, without any delight, only a grin that made noises. No matter how he looked at it, it was very abnormal.
Due to his movement, the marching group stopped, and all heads turned quietly toward Shen Jize.
Shen Jize then realized that all the people in this procession were wearing long shirts, their faces were painted snow white, and their cheeks were rounded with two red circles. The eyes turned, empty and blank, in his direction.
There was also a black wooden palanquin in front of the procession, with big red flowers tied on it, carried by several people, and he didn’t know who was sitting inside.
“Hurry up and move, don’t stand still.” The middle-aged woman repeated again and handed him a wooden box that she was carrying.
Shen Jize looked down at the box and saw in his vision that his clothes weren’t right, and he was actually wearing the same red tunic and black coat as the little girl. He didn’t know what was going on now, he just felt scared, it was all so weird and horrible, it made him want to get out of here quickly.
Seeing the middle-aged woman carrying the wooden box closer and closer, he suddenly got up his courage, reached out and slapped the box away, turned around and rushed to the left into the wilderness.
Behind him came the bang of the wooden box hitting the ground, and the crowd seemed to stir. He didn’t care to look back, only used the greatest strength in his life to rush forward, as fast as before to escape the deer demon.
He had already experienced the terror of the deer demon, so he wasn’t scared enough to cry out.
With only the wind blowing in his ears and no footsteps coming after him, Shen Jize pushed forward until he could no longer run before stopping and holding onto a nearby rock to catch his breath.
When he got his breath, he started to take off his clothes, and after a rough tug, he stripped off his black coat and red shirt and threw them on the ground.
Luckily, he was still wearing his daytime T-shirt and shorts underneath, so he wasn’t running around naked.
I’m having this horrible dream again, Shen Jize told himself as he looked around to see what was going on around him.
In the light of the darkness, he could see that this was a wasteland, the size of a soccer field, which was full of large and small dirt piles.
In the distance, shrouded by a thick, chaotic fog, in each interval of the dirt piles, it felt as if there were several pairs of eyes peering at him.
Shen Jize opened his eyes wide and tried to identify them, and found that a stone tablet was erected in front of each pile.
He thought of something and looked down at the stone he was holding.
Sure enough, it was also a stone tablet with some small letters carved on it, and he was leaning on the dirt pile behind the stone tablet.
This… was a graveyard.
Shen Jize jumped to the side like he got an electric shock, all sweaty hair stood up, and he began to busily pat his back that was just leaning on the dirt pile.
After patting his back and hands, he looked around in fear.
Now the original way back was impossible, that group of people was too scary. But it was going to be dark soon, so he couldn’t just stay in the graveyard.
Not even in a dream.
The moon rose, shining the whole graveyard in an eerie white. Shen Jize walked between those graves, trying to go out in the other direction. A wind blew, and some unburned yellow paper flew up and rolled in the air, carrying the heavy smell of smoke and fire and the earthy stench of dirt.
He tried not to pay attention to the scene on both sides, but the graves still fell clearly in his eyes.
Some of the mounds were old, washed away by the rain; some stone monuments were also crooked, the words on them blurred. There were even times when he felt something wrong under his feet and realized that he was stepping on a small mound that was only half left.
However, some of the graves were very new, with white streamers on both sides, flowery paper figures, and the offerings in front of the monuments not broken.
Shen Jize lost his soul and walked forward, repeatedly telling himself in his heart: ‘This is a dream, don’t be afraid. This is a dream, and then I’ll wake up from this dream’.
The wind was blowing against his sweat-soaked back, sending chills down his spine.
Dad… Mom… Uncle… One of you wake me up… Shen Jize wanted to cry a little, but held it back. If you are a man, don’t cry.
He was almost at the end of the cemetery, and he was walking faster, but just as he passed a new grave and pushed aside the white streamers in front of him with his hand, he suddenly stopped. He noticed that the paper person standing next to him looked very familiar. It was the size of a human, wearing a red tunic and black coat, big white face, red cheeks, mouth grinned into a bizarre arc.
——It was just like the people in the group that he met earlier.
Shen Jize stared dead at the paper figures and began to breathe heavily. When he calmed down a bit, he rushed out with a whoosh.
He no longer paid attention to the path beneath his feet, except for the large mounds where he would detour a little, he would step straight through the small graves. Along the way, he would kick over those dishes containing sacrificial offerings, causing tinkling and clanking endlessly.
Some ghastly white objects similar to bones scattered around, but he didn’t bother to look closely, only jumped over them as he rushed forward. Sometimes he couldn’t jump directly over them with one step and the click-clank-crack sounds of breaking resounded.
When he was about to rush out of the graveyard, he took a sharp brake and stopped his feet. Under the moonlight, next to the graveyard, the bizarre procession that he encountered earlier stopped right in front of him, and everyone looked at him without moving, standing silently.
He didn’t know how long they had been standing there.
The middle-aged woman stood by the black wooden palanquin with red flowers, holding a set of folded red tunic and black jacket, and seemed to be waiting for him.
Shen Jize finally cried, and couldn’t care less about men not crying, and couldn’t care less about wiping away the tears, gritting his teeth and crying all over.
He wanted to open his mouth to shout, he wanted to shout something, whether it was ‘Mom’, ‘Dad’, ‘Uncle’, or ‘Grandpa Cai’ and ‘Lu Rong’, it was a nightmare, and his voice was blocked in his throat, not able to let out a single word.
In the dead silence, the middle-aged woman came forward, silently shaking out the clothes in her hands, showing them to Shen Jize, first the red shirt and then black robe. Her movements were stiff and rigid, but very strong. Shen Jize tried to run, but she pulled his arm and stared at him with deadly eyes.
Shen Jize found that his body no longer belonged to him, and uncontrollably raised his arms and turned around to match the woman’s dressing action.
He opened his mouth and shed silent tears.
The cry that couldn’t be howled out was so painful that it split his liver and guts.
After putting on the clothes, the middle-aged woman expressionlessly turned back, took the wooden box from a man standing frozen behind her, and handed it to Shen Jize, gesturing for him to return to the group.
The procession continued on in the moonlight, silent, except for a few sharp, raspy crow calls in the distance.
Shen Jize walked among them with a dead heart, holding a wooden box in his hand.
The little girl beside him gave him another laugh.
His hand shivered and he thought he never wanted to hear another ‘hee hee’ in his life.
Shen Jize didn’t know where to go, what to do, this dream was out of his real life knowledge since it wasn’t like a dream.
No, no, this is a dream.
He refused to admit it.
After walking a little further, lights appeared ahead, reflecting the outlines of shadowed houses.
Was this a village? Is there someone there?
Shen Jize shuddered, and hope rose in his heart.
Whether there was anyone there or not, the village and the lights represented a population and banished much of his fear.
A long-shirted man in the lead stopped and shouted in a hoarse, stereotypical voice, “Play the music—”
A suona sounded, mournfully cutting through the stillness of the night, followed by the gong, a sound close but distant. Without anyone’s order, the marching group stopped, and Shen Jize also stood still.
Shortly after, a group of people appeared in front of the mountain road, heading in their direction, and stopped in front of their group. The leader of the group was riding a tall horse, wearing a red shirt and a big red flower on his chest.
Shen Jize’s thumping heart didn’t ease because of the arrival of this group, but became more frightened.
Not to mention that the groom’s attire and dress wasn’t modern, his face was the same as everyone else’s here, with a big white face painted with red cheeks and an exaggerated grin at the corners of his mouth.
The sound of suona and gong was even louder, shaking Shen Jize’s forehead.
After the groom’s team joined them, the black wooden palanquin that had just been put down was lifted up again and marched towards the village in unison.
Shen Jize, holding the wooden box, moved stiffly to follow the team.