Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Uncle Gao carried Lu Rong into the village and asked some children about Wang Cuihua’s home. They spoke in dialect, and although Lu Rong didn’t understand much, the voices of his peers intrigued him, so he stopped lying still and lifted his face slightly to look over.
There was a wonderful attraction between children that made them forget everything else and concentrate on looking at each other. No avoidance, no shame, staring straight at each other.
Lu Rong temporarily forgot the sadness of being abandoned by Wang Tu, and the children also forgot that they were still holding a cow.
It was only when the cow raised its head and rolled away a pile of peanuts spread on the platform next to it with its tongue, chewing them with a cracking sound, that one of the children shrieked and anxiously urged the others to hurry.
The group of children drove the cattle down the dirt road and ran forward. A fat woman rushed out of a house next to the platform, jumping at their backs and cursing. Her voice was loud and fierce, and Lu Rong felt more frightened of her than any aunt he had ever seen, so he felt a little worried for the children.
Uncle Gao carried him forward, as he kept turning his head to look back.
The children ran far away from the woman, not afraid, while running and talking back, but also turning back to make a face. Especially when they found Lu Rong turning his head to look at them, they used a more exaggerated expression and tone of voice than usual to provoke the woman who jumped to her feet.
But their eyes secretly glanced at Lu Rong.
——After all, none of them had ever seen a better-looking child than him, like a doll plucked from a picture paper.
Lu Rong saw them wiggling their asses and making faces, and couldn’t help but purse his lips and laugh. He had just finished crying and his face was still stiff from the drying of his tears. The smile pulled at his skin, and he immediately remembered what he had just cried about, and Wang Tu.
The mood that had just been raised went down again, and he turned around and continued to lie on Uncle Gao’s shoulder. Uncle Gao, after the conversation with the group of children, was obviously also in a bad mood, and no longer coaxed Lu Rong to listen, and sullenly didn’t say a word, as his feet moved faster.
Lu Rong looked sideways and saw a large yellow dog squatting under the eaves of a yard, with several small puppies rolling around like meatballs. A small yellow puppy ran out of the eaves of the house, the snow in the yard was cold on its paws, causing it to shiver and move back again.
Lu Rong kept watching the puppies, seemingly in a better mood, until they disappeared from view. Uncle Gao stopped in front of a courtyard with a closed gate.
Bang, bang, bang, bang!
Uncle Gao knocked on the door for a long time, starting with knocking, then shouting while knocking, and finally smashing with his fists so hard that Lu Rong felt that the old wooden door was about to collapse. He was so loud that the door of a nearby family’s house opened and a man in a cotton jacket with a rice bowl came out.
“Are you looking for Li Zhu?” The man asked Uncle Gao in the dialect.
“Li Zhu?” Uncle Gao turned his head and looked at the courtyard door, “I’m looking for Wang Cuihua.”
“Wang Cuihua is Li Zhu’s cousin, they are family.” The man shoveled a mouthful of rice as he laughed.
Uncle Gao asked, “Are they not at home? Just now I met a group of children who said they had left.”
The man replied, “Yes, they just left.”
“Where did they go?”
“They went to work in Guangdong.”
Uncle Gao asked, “Do you know when they’ll be back?”
The man shook his head and said, “I don’t know, they just left, at least until next New Year.”
Uncle Gao turned to stare at the courtyard door, Lu Rong wasn’t far away from the vegetable field when something attracted his attention.
The vegetable patch had been cut off, leaving only some stumps, still frosty, with three or four pigs wagging their tails and chewing on them.
The man’s eyes fell on Lu Rong, as if he thought of something, and asked, “Is this the boy Wang Cuihua ordered? They don’t want the boy, Wang Cuihua is pregnant, and Li Zhu specifically took her along to Guangdong, said that the hospital there is good, and their baby will be born there.”
Uncle Gao’s face became sunken. Lu Rong heard him whispering a very difficult swear word.
Two more children emerged from the door behind the man, both with bowls, standing in the courtyard and staring at Lu Rong as they plowed through their food.
Uncle Gao carried Lu Rong on his back and walked to the road, as the man warmly invited, “Come and eat a mouthful of rice. On such a cold day, a bowl of hot soup would be good.”
Uncle Gao also didn’t have the heart to answer, just waved his hand, and his feet kept moving forward.
Lu Rong had been lying on his back, very quiet, and didn’t ask where they were going. Soon they reached the entrance of the village, the surrounding area was very quiet, except for the whistling of the wind, only the sound of a few barking dogs drifted in the distance.
Just past a pile of wood, a monotonous electronic music suddenly began to play, cutting through the silence of the village field. From the first note he heard, Lu Rong’s brain felt a buzz. Uncle Gao’s back abruptly straightened, full of incredulity and shock, and his muscles tightened up.
This was Wang Tu’s cell phone ringtone, called a Nokia. Many times after this ringtone played, Wang Tu would call out from the kitchen or the yard, “Rong Rong! Bring Brother Tu’s cell phone from the coffee table!”
Lu Rong looked around quickly, trying to find Wang Tu. His heart was pounding and he was about to cry out uncontrollably.
All this way he had been convinced that Wang Tu had thrown him away, but he hadn’t. He had found him. He was about to come out of some corner, hold out his hand to him and say, ‘Rong Rong, come on. Brother Tu came to pick you up, let’s go home.’
The ringing continued, Wang Tu didn’t come out, but Uncle Gao stopped, felt Lu Rong’s pockets with one hand, and took out a cell phone from the black bag hanging on his chest with the other.
The phone was a black, flip cover Nokia, Lu Rong recognized, and Wang Tu’s exactly the same, but the color was different. Uncle Gao looked at the phone number, his face became very nervous, as he quickly pressed the answer button.
“Hello! Hello! Hello…”
The signal was bad on the mountain, so he tried for a long time until the other party hung up.
He put Lu Rong on his back down to the ground and began to dial back. Full of anxiety, he kept looking at the signal at the top of the screen, first trotted to the yard of a house on the left, found that it didn’t work, and then went to climb the woodpile next to it.
“Hey… Repeat what you said, there was no signal just now, ah.” Uncle Gao climbed the high woodpile and called in a voice like shouting.
Lu Rong stood frozen in place, from the moment he pulled out the phone, his small face paled, and his eyes stared unmovingly.
“…Did you get to my house? Did my mom say anything? My brother went in?… I understand, I understand…” Uncle Gao’s call was long, but he didn’t say much, he was basically listening, just echoing the words ‘yes’, or ‘understand, understand’.
When he finished the call and got down from the woodpile with a frightened look on his face, he missed his grip and fell, and a bundle of firewood hit him solidly. He pushed away the firewood and got up quickly, ignoring Lu Rong, who was still standing on the road, and hurriedly walked in the direction of the village.
After a few steps, he remembered Lu Rong and turned back and said in a perfunctory tone, “Lu Rong, Uncle Gao has to go to the front to do something, so wait for me here. I will come back to pick you up after I finish my work.”
Lu Rong had been standing still when he heard these words, and only then did he look up at Uncle Gao. He didn’t cry and say he wanted to go with him, like he didn’t understand anything. But those big, dark eyes, there was clearly panic and realization, and it was like he understood everything.
Uncle Gao met his eyes, swallowed the other words as he said, “Uncle Gao encountered trouble, so I can’t take you with me. But don’t worry, many people in this village want children. Look at that family that invited you to his home to eat, they aren’t hungry. Find a family household to stay at first, and Uncle Gao will solve the problem and then come to pick you up.”
After saying all that, he no longer cared about Lu Rong, while continuing to dial the phone, and running along the road out of the village forward. His figure was getting smaller and smaller, and soon disappeared at the end of the road.
Lu Rong stood on the dirt road, to his right was the courtyard of a family with the door closed, with a faded white New Year’s picture above it, a fat baby holding a golden carp. To his left was a wooden shed made of cattle pens, which was empty and covered with a lot of hay.
The snow drifted up again at some point, and he felt a little cold and didn’t know what to do, so he walked forward in the direction Uncle Gao had left. He wasn’t going after Uncle Gao, but there was only one road here, and he decided to keep walking until the end, then he should be able to go home.
Wang Tu had instructed him not to go home, but even if he lived in the woods across the street from his home, it would be good. Besides, when he got to a place where there were no houses and no people, he could turn into a deer and run fast.
The dirt road was icy in places, slippery and hard, and where there was no ice in the woods, but it was full of mud.
Lu Rong’s fat snow boots were full of mud and looked even fatter. His down jacket was also dirty, and the fleece underwear he was wearing wasn’t tucked into the waist of the pants, as it fell on the ground, revealing his tender and white waist.
The wind then whooshed into it.
The child kept walking forward and came to an abrupt halt at the corner. He looked straight ahead in horror, his pupils dilated, and he breathed heavily. Just a dozen meters away, a large black dog with shiny fur was blocking the middle of the road, showing his teeth and growling at him.
Lu Rong liked small dogs, but was also afraid of big, fierce dogs. Every time he and Wang Tu went out, and they encountered small dogs, he would hug them. But if they were to encounter big dogs, he would run to hug Wang Tu, petulant.
He looked around and saw no one he could lean on, so he said in a crying voice, “Sorry, big dog, I want to go through here, is it okay?”
The big black dog looked very badly negotiated with and took two steps forward.
“Then forget it.” Lu Rong turned around with a white face and walked back quickly. He walked back to the mouth of the village before he dared to look back and found that the big black dog didn’t follow him, and only then was he relieved, his legs trembling. He stood at the entrance of the village and stumbled for a while, feeling colder, clear snot mixing with his tears.
The child, who was usually very clean, had to take turns wiping with two sleeves, which were non-absorbent fabrics, and the snot was smeared all over his face, forming a hard crust when the wind blew.
The snow was getting heavier and heavier, no one was coming out of the village, and seeing as it was getting dark, Lu Rong didn’t know if the black dog was still blocking the road, and didn’t dare to go over. He went into the empty cowshed by the roadside.
The cowshed was made of wood, its three sides were able to block the wind, but there were only two thick wood beams across the front.
Lu Rong moved through the gap between the wood to get in, and huddled in the corner in a pile of hay. He thought, When the sky becomes completely dark, the big black dog will also go home, right? Then I can turn into a deer and not be found, so I can quickly go down the mountain.
Being hungry didn’t matter, since when he became a deer, he liked to eat grass. He saw when he came, although there was no grass, some trees still had leaves.
But the leaves were old and bitter, very unpalatable.