Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Since they got married, Lu Rong had become even more attached to Shen Jize, sticking to him like a piece of sugar cake at all times.
The bag of White Rabbit was almost finished, so Shen Jize bought him another bag. One day, in the middle of the night, Lu Rong’s teeth hurt and he was grunting in bed with his cheeks, so his White Rabbits were finally exposed and seized by Grandpa Cai.
Shen Jize was also criticized along with him. The next day, he opened Lu Rong’s mouth and looked at the innermost cavity in the sunlight, and said with a serious face, “I can’t let you eat that much sugar.”
Shen Jize school started earlier than the village elementary school Lu Rong attended, and soon it was time to return to the capital. A few days earlier, Lu Rong had begun to sulk, and when Grandpa Cai asked Shen Jize about school at the dinner table, he dropped his chopsticks and began to sob.
“You kid, it’s not like you can’t see each other anymore, Brother Xiao Ze can also come here to play later.” Grandpa Cai said, then turned to Shen Jize, “As long as you want to come and play, even if your little uncle goes back to the city, it’s okay. You can take a train to the county, and Grandpa will pick you up at the county train station.”
Shen Jize fiddled with a vegetable leaf with his chopsticks and answered, “Yes, Grandpa.”
That night, Grandpa Cai was busy in the kitchen, taking two pieces of yellow bacon off the roof beam and wrapping them in plastic bags for Shen Jize to take back to the capital.
“Your parents may not have eaten bacon from Longquan Mountain, so take it back and let them taste it too.” Grandpa Cai stuffed a piece of pork tongue and a few pieces of Chinese sausage into the slit of the plastic bag.
“Grandpa, no need for that, save it for yourself and Rong Rong.” Shen Jize said.
“We have more, and when the weather cools down, we’ll make new bacon for this year.” Grandpa Cai kept stuffing the bag until it was too full to fit.
When Shen Jize returned to the bedroom after showering in the modest bathroom, he saw Lu Rong lying on his side in the bed, gingerly picking at the mat with his fingers. When he got on the bed, Lu Rong turned around and grabbed his waist, pressing his face against his neck.
Rong Rong’s hair rubbed softly on Shen Jize’s neck when it came in contact with it. He wrapped his arm around Lu Rong’s shoulder and patted it, and then stretched his hand to pull over the shorts at the end of the bed, taking out all the money inside. He stuffed the dozens of change back into his pants pocket and handed several large bills to Lu Rong, “Here.”
Lu Rong didn’t understand his intentions and looked up in surprise.
“Take this money, I know you usually buy candy – but you’re not allowed to buy candy, buy books and pencils.” Shen Jize said.
Lu Rong was so shocked that he stammered, “This… s-so much money, I can’t buy so many books and pencils. H-how much writing do I have to do?”
“Take that too. Didn’t you say you wanted to buy Grandpa new shoes? Now you can go buy shoes for him, and keep the rest as pocket money.” Shen Jize took his hand, moved his thin fingers, and put the money into his palm.
Lu Rong panicked and shoved the money into his hand like it was hot, “I don’t want it, and Grandpa will beat me if he finds out! I wouldn’t dare take your money.”
Shen Jize’s face sank, “You don’t want the money I gave you to support our family?”
“What?” Lu Rong didn’t understand what ‘family support money’ was.
Shen Jize explained patiently, “After you get married, I have to pay for your support, understand? That’s all I have now, but don’t worry, I’ll save my monthly allowance and mail it to you. If you’re afraid that Grandpa will tell you off, hide it or put it away and save it. Don’t worry, it’s not money from outsiders, it’s money I give you to support my family, so you have to take it.”
Lu Rong thought for a moment and understood.
Many men in the village went out to work, their wives would receive remittances every now and then, that was their support money.
Those wives received money, never feeling that they shouldn’t take it and felt very justified. They would announce it in a loud voice from their house to the end of the village, not afraid that others knew and were trying to show off.
Since he was his brother’s wife, receiving this support money was also a must.
Lu Rong’s heart was stirring, his beautiful eyes clouded with fog, his eyes becoming deeper and darker. It’s good to be married and good to have a husband.
Shen Jize was also thinking. He wouldn’t eat snacks daily and have breakfast at home, and wouldn’t buy the popular gadgets, but save all his money to send it to Lu Rong. It’s so tiring to be married, so tiring to be a husband.
But the knot has been tied, what else could be done? I just want to grow up quickly, so I can earn more money.
The two of them were lying on the bed snugly, whispering to each other.
“I’m leaving tomorrow, and I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to say goodbye to the deer warrior.” Shen Jize sighed in melancholy before going to sleep.
Lu Rong moved in his arms, but Shen Jize didn’t know if he heard. As the night wore on and the village fell into a deep sleep, Shen Jize felt a tickle in his ear. He thought it was Lu Rong and said in a daze, “Go to sleep, don’t make any noise.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, another warm, moist tongue licked his face. First he thought it was Puppy, but then he realized it wasn’t.
Although Puppy is called a puppy, it was actually a big yellow dog with a coarse tongue, licking up people passionately and enthusiastically, wanting to rub all its saliva on his face. But this touch was obviously different, smooth and gentle, careful and tentative. Shen Jize snapped open his eyes, and a pair of large eyes in front of him were less than two inches away.
The big eyes saw him wake up, but they weren’t not alarmed, only moved a little back, revealing a clear deer face.
Shen Jize held his breath and quietly looked at the little white deer.
The little white deer cocked its head and smiled at him with pursed lips.
Under the moonlight, his upturned black nose was like a grape, his eyes gentle and moist, and Shen Jize could even see his rows of eyelashes fanning out as he blinked.
Shen Jize slowly straightened up, the deer also took half a step forward, lowering his head, and rubbing his face on the side of his neck. His fur was snow white and soft, rubbing against his skin like fine silk satin, his eyes gentle, and his action was really intimate and naive.
For a moment, Shen Jize was in a trance, as if he had seen Lu Rong.
This thought only flashed in his mind, and he was a little nervous to let the little white deer rub his body, afraid to move too much to disturb him, he carefully said, “Hello, Deer Warrior.”
The deer suddenly emitted a puffed snort, as if he was laughing.
When Shen Jize turned his head to look, he just pursed his lips again, and his eyes were all innocent. The sound of running water came to his ears, and when Shen Jize looked around, he found himself sitting on a lawn, not far from a small stream with silvery-white sparkling light. The vault of the sky was low with a full moon hanging, and the lawn was dotted with fireflies flying around.
Wow, it’s so beautiful here! He exclaimed inwardly, And there are no scary ghosts and monsters here.
At this point, if he could have walked into a wooded area behind him, he would have seen a few puddles of black water still on the ground. That was when Lu Rong came in earlier, fearing that he would follow as he had done twice before, and cleaned up the ghosts and monsters inside quickly.
Shen Jize glanced at him with his eyes and could only see the silver horns swaying around from time to time as his head moved.
“I’m leaving tomorrow, so I’m glad I got to meet you again tonight.” Shen Jize reached out to pet the fawn’s head and, finding that it didn’t refuse, stroked it one at a time. “But my wife is here, so I’ll come back after winter break, and hopefully I’ll still see you then.”
The deer listened quietly and slowly rested his head on his knee with an infinitely attached look. After a while even turned over, lying on his back to look at the sky, four hooves spread out into a deer cake, unconcerned with the exposure of the white fluffy belly, relaxed and comfortable.
Shen Jize looked down at the deer on his lap, “Thank you for helping me twice. Hey, it should be ‘Thank you for saving me twice’.” Then added, “Can you please do me another favor?”
The little white deer’s eyes turned to him, his dark eyes holding two moons.
“I don’t know what this is now, but it’s not a dream. If Lu Rong encounters that horrible thing again after I leave, please help me take care of him.” Shen Jize said worriedly, “Without me, he will be scared, he will cry, and I don’t know if he will be in danger.”
The deer stared at him and suddenly stuck out its tongue and licked his hand as if to comfort him.
“So, do you promise?” Shen Jize asked.
The fawn nodded.
“Thank you, Deer Warrior.”
The ball of light hovered not far from the lawn, and Shen Jize said goodbye to the fawn and burrowed out.
Lu Rong was still sleeping on his side of the bed, and Shen Jize pulled the quilt up for him and began to sleep as well. A few moments later, Lu Rong, who appeared to be asleep, opened his eyes and stared at Shen Jize’s side for a while before squirming forward and lying gently in his arms.
Lu Rong woke up at dawn, lying alone on all fours in the middle of the bed with no one else around him. He got up with a start and went to see where Shen Jize usually put his school bag, which was empty; the black bag was gone.
“Brother! Brother!” A wave of panic struck Lu Rong as he shouted twice without response, barefoot and ran outside. He pushed open the kitchen door and Grandpa Cai was picking a basket of vegetables.
“Grandpa, where’s Brother?” Lu Rong asked loudly.
“You’re barefoot again? Where are your shoes? Go and put your shoes on first.”
Lu Rong turned around and pushed the door of the shower room again, the wooden door thumped against the gray wall and bounced back, shaking and rattling.
“Just now you were still sleeping, and Uncle Shen came to pick up Xiao Ze. I saw that you were sleeping soundly, so I didn’t wake you up.” Grandpa Cai said with a green vegetable in his hand, chasing him out of the kitchen door.
Lu Rong stood at the door of the shower room, lost in thought, sad and chagrined. He was going to see his brother off, but he had slept for so long that he didn’t wake up when he left.
“Grandpa, how did they leave?” Lu Rong turned back around with watery eyes already shining in his big eyes.
Grandpa Cai was stunned and said helplessly, “It was Uncle Shen who drove the car.”
A black cross-country was driving on the Longquan Mountain road, down the pan road in a circle. Shen Jize sat in the back seat of the cross-country, leaning sickly against the back of the seat. He was holding his school bag in his arms with his suitcase and the bag of bacon from Grandpa Cai beside him.
“Still not awake? We will get on the highway when we leave town, you can sleep then and I’ll wake you up when we get to the airport.” Shen Yan looked at his nephew from the rearview mirror, thinking he was in bad spirits because he was dozing off.
Shen Jize looked out the window sideways and didn’t make a sound.
When he was nudged awake by Shen Yan, his first reaction was to look at Lu Rong beside him. The boy’s entire body was sunken in the quilt, sleeping soundly and snoring a little, just like a cat.
“Xiao Ze, don’t wake him up, so he won’t cry and make a mess later.” Grandpa Cai whispered from the doorway.
Shen Yan also said in the same small voice, “Okay, I won’t wake him up. Let’s just go.”
Shen Jize had already done enough thinking for Lu Rong in the past few days, saying goodbye and repeatedly urging him every day. When he heard Grandpa Cai and Little Uncle say this, he didn’t make a sound and got up very gently.
Shen Jize returned to the bedroom and watched Lu Rong’s sleeping face from the bedside.
Lu Rong’s fine, soft hair was puffed out on the pillow, and Shen Jize knew that he would wake up looking like a little lion again. But his hair was so soft that it would ride down meekly after a while. He reached out and pressed his fingers lightly on one of the tufts and said in an inaudible voice, “Rong Rong, I’m leaving. I’ll see you over winter break.”
Lu Rong rolled over and mumbled something dreamy.
Shen Jize’s head, resting on the back of the rear seat, swayed gently with the car. His eyes gazed unfocused outside the car window, and his face wasn’t joyful about going home, he looked listless.
Shen Yan finally sensed that his nephew was reluctant to leave this place, and gave an incredulous laugh, “Do you want to come back to Longquan Mountain? When the winter break begins, Uncle will come back to bring you to play. Then the project will be completed and we will come here to recuperate.”
Shen Jize hmmed noncommittally. Whether or not it was perfunctory, he would definitely come during the winter holidays.
It would be best if he could come alone.
A white deer was running through the woods and shrubs, the warm and soft morning sun dappling on the deer through the gaps in the leaf canopy. His hooves were flying, and his slender legs looked like they were covered with clusters of fiery red flowers, flashing through the green shade in a surprisingly harmonious and declining color.
The woods were high on top of the mountain, there was no road, and no one could get in, those intertwined branches and vines and brambles, but those couldn’t stop him from flying forward. The deer rushed out of the woods, and jumped down from those strange-shaped rocks, silver horns reflecting the golden sunlight, a bright shining mass.
If someone saw this, their eyes would widen in awe.
Lu Rong ran fast, constantly looking at the road beneath his feet, sweat oozing out of his fur, dripping down as he ran. Although Wang Tu and Uncle Bai left him in his childhood, he had never been outside the ‘dream world’ in deer form, and he did obey all these years, never changing into a deer at will.
But now he didn’t care, he just wanted to catch up with his brother… Just wanted to catch up with him…
Shen Jize kept looking out the car window, which he rolled down a crack. The wind in the mountains was crisp and strong, carrying the fragrance of grass and earth, dispelling the dullness of the car. As another breeze blew in, a vague shout was sent into his ears.
The familiar voice sent a shock through Shen Jize’s body, and he suspected that he was hallucinating.
The voice became clearer and clearer, and even Shen Yan glanced out of the car window in confusion. Shen Jize no longer suspected that it was a problem with his ears, he quickly lowered the car window and stretched out his head to look outside.
Only to see a small figure standing on the top of a hill not far away, in front of a forest, jumping and waving at him incessantly.
“Rong Rong!” Shen Jize excitedly poked out his shoulder and shouted at the top of his lungs.
A hot current rose in his heart, making his eyes flushed and sore, and his heart seemed to be gripped by a hand.
“Rong Rong!” He shouted again in a hoarse voice and stood up from his seat, his whole upper body sticking out of the car window.
Shen Yan panicked and slammed on the brakes, also lowered the driver’s window to look at the top of that hill.
“Boy, how did this kid get up there? We set out before he was still sleeping, right? He’s not even wearing clothes and climbed up the hill to catch up! He actually caught up! Is there some kind of shortcut?” He let out a series of out-of-sound exclamations.
Lu Rong had changed back before he shouted at Shen Jize, he looked at the person peeking out of the car, his vision was good enough to see Shen Jize in tears, so he too whimpered and cried. The two children were just across the cliff, teary-eyed and far away from each other, waving their hands at each other.
“Rong Rong,” Shen Jize choked out.
Lu Rong howled with his mouth open, “Brother!”
Shen Yan looked at the two children as if they were parting from each other, and felt a little bit sore and funny. He simply leaned back in his chair, lit a cigarette, and said, “If you can’t let go, we can meet again during winter break. What is this? Like a wife sending off her new husband…”
Shen Jize stared closely at Lu Rong’s figure, but when this sentence drifted into his ears, he thought uncomfortably: It is a young wife sending her new husband…
Shen Yan waited until the cigarette was finished, threw the butt and said, “Mn, we need to go otherwise it will be too late to catch the plane to the city.”
After saying that, he started the car.
Lu Rong saw the cross-country slowly start and followed it for two steps, howling even louder.
Shen Jize hurriedly stopped, “Don’t follow! And don’t stay up there. It’s dangerous, go back.”
Lu Rong’s cries were like sharp claws, scratching Shen Jize’s heart and lungs, he wiped the tears from his face and shouted in a hoarse voice, “I’ll come during the winter holidays, and call regularly! I remember the phone number of the village committee. You have to study hard and get better every day!”
Lu Rong hiccuped and promised, “I… I will s-study hard, every day… I’ll study hard and get better every day, you… Y-you have to do the same.”
Seeing that the cross-country was about to turn the corner into the back of the mountain, Shen Jize folded his hands around his mouth, not caring whether his little uncle was in the car or not, and yelled so loudly that he almost broke her voice, “Remember too, you have a husband called Shen Jize, and when you grow up we will be together.”
“I remember! My husband is called Shen Jize! When I grow up, I will go to the city to find you!”
Shen Yan’s foot slipped and he almost hit the brake instead of the gas pedal.