Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
After all the village people had left, Grandpa Cai said goodbye to the workers and then took Lu Rong to the back of an SUV. Puppy scurried up and crouched quietly at his feet.
Bang, bang, bang, someone knocked on the window. Lu Rong looked out and saw that it was Master Hong.
The driver lowered the window, and Master Hong waved at Lu Rong, “Little boy, come to my temple to offer incense again, and bring your brother with you.”
Lu Rong looked at Grandpa Cai in a panic and turned his head away, pretending not to recognize the person outside.
But Grandpa Cai said goodbye to Master Hong, “Master, aren’t you moving down the mountain? Everyone in the village has left.”
“No, my temple is fine, and it’s still a relic, so I have to keep it.” Master Hong laughed.
Lu Rong stuck his head out to see him still standing there, waving and smiling at him.
Scared, he hurriedly retreated back into the car.
A few moments later, he turned his head to see Master Hong holding the chicken tied to the ground, the hem of his monk’s robe touching the muddy water. When he passed the place where he could see the village, he abruptly leaned on the car window and stared unblinkingly at the ruined wall.
He saw the old banyan tree in his yard, although the leaves had all fallen off and there were broken branches and scars all around, it was still standing upright in the rubble. It was lonely, silent and stubborn.
He saw many soldiers there, covered with mud, carrying the same mud-covered speakers to the edge. He also saw a pile of items piled up on the side of the road, including two white pieces that looked like TV antennas from the roofs of some houses. Other than that, there was no way to see what the village once looked like.
The earthen walls covered with green vines, the tall straw stacks, the clothes on the drying poles, the plum wine on the beams, all seemed to have been turned into mud and sunk under the rubble together with the years spent.
Lu Rong suddenly became sad and pursed his lips without saying a word.
Grandpa Cai also looked there, and after a moment, he called out, “Rong Rong.”
Grandpa Cai stroked his head, “We have a house in town with a small yard. If we plant a sapling now, it will grow in a few years, and we will eat under the tree.”
Lu Rong rubbed his tears on his sleeve, “Is there any plum wine in town?”
“Yes, Grandpa will make it for you, and it will taste exactly like the one from our roof.”
“But can we still ride pigs in town?”
Grandpa Cai said, “Don’t think about riding pigs. Those pigs are not fattened up by you, they are only growing in size.”
Lu Rong turned around, buried his face in Grandpa Cai’s arms, and asked in a jarring voice, “Can I take the village phone with me? I’m afraid my brother won’t be able to find me when he calls.”
Grandpa Cai was silent for a while and said, “The phone may have been crushed, so even if it’s okay, you won’t be able to find it.”
Lu Rong didn’t say anything with tears in his eyes.
Grandpa Cai patted him on the back and said, “There are all kinds of fun things to do in town, everything is better than riding a pig, so Grandpa will take you to have fun. And there will be new schoolmates and new brothers.”
“I don’t want a new brother, I want that one brother.” Lu Rong looked up and said.
Grandpa Cai wiped the teardrops from his eyelashes, “Okay, just that one brother. My Rong Rong is long-suffering and old-fashioned.”
Grandpa Cai told the driver not to drive to Yulu village, but to drive down the hill to Longquan town, saying he had a house in the town.
“You aren’t going to Yulu Village? There are houses prepared for resettlement, bedding and clothing, and those relief goods are also available, not to mention that Yulu Village is next to Yulu Town, which is a bit bigger than Longquan Town.” The driver kindly reminded.
Grandpa Cai smiled kindly, “No, no, my house is fine, let’s leave the resettlement house to others.”
Lu Rong leaned on Grandpa Cai and listened to their conversation, thinking that Grandpa actually didn’t want to leave Longquan Mountain, the town was at the foot of the mountain, and it wasn’t difficult to return to the village.
The driver didn’t say any more, following the route given by Grandpa Cai to drive forward, slowly out of the main street of Longquan town, turning onto a grassy turnoff road, and two or three minutes later, stopped in front of a small courtyard.
The wall of the courtyard was different from the earthen wall in the village. It was built with cement, and it looked strong. In the middle there was a large iron door, painted brownish red, and the few stone steps were also very flat. Not far away was a small river, the water murmuring, surrounded by cool fresh air.
“Uncle, no wonder you don’t want to go to Yulu Village, this house is much better than the resettlement house.” The driver looked out of the car window and sighed genuinely.
Grandpa Cai explained, “My child is old, eventually he will have to come to the town to go to high school. The family who used to live here moved to the county last year, so when I heard about this news, I bought the house for the convenience of my grandson to attend secondary school in the future.”
“Far-sighted, Uncle, you are really far-sighted.” The driver said from the bottom of his heart.
When the SUV left, Grandpa Cai took off the key hanging on the waist of his pants and opened the gate, and Lu Rong followed him in with his school bag, looking around, and the dog, with his tail between his legs, was a little nervous, sticking to him.
The small house was empty, but clean, the building was two stories high and the walls were painted very white.
Grandpa Cai looked around and sighed, “Rong Rong, this is our home now.”
Grandpa Cai took the folders and cash from Lu Rong and went out to the street to buy some necessary items, while Lu Rong sat on the steps with his dog.
Lu Rong stroked his head and said, “Do you like our new home?” The dog didn’t answer, but he looked at the river and the smoke of the cooking fires further away, and then at the brick flower beds in the yard, and said to himself, “I kind of like it.”
Over the next two days, Grandpa Cai and Lu Rong began to clean up the house. After a while, they suddenly remembered that they didn’t have anything, so they rushed to the street to buy it with cash.
“It’s really much more convenient than the village, you can buy everything.” Grandpa Cai sighed as he returned home with an alive, fresh fish in his hand.
Lu Rong liked to eat fish, but where could he find fish for sale in the village? Occasionally, he ate the small fish and shrimp that someone found in the river, and Grandpa Cai paid for them and made him a bowl of fish soup to satisfy his craving.
Now that the two of them have moved to the town, there are fish stores that specialize in selling fish, and Grandpa Cai could cook fish every day until Lu Rong got tired of eating it.
When everything was almost ready, Grandpa Cai took the certificate and went to the town elementary school to transfer Lu Rong to another school.
Late at night, Lu Rong lay in his own bedroom, looking at the moon from the window beside his bed. The same silence, the same softness, everything seemed to be no different from before. The moonlight gave the whole town a light veil, the only street was empty, only some windows on both sides still let out light.
The white deer crossed the street silently, hooves lifted and released lightly, landing on the ground without making a single sound. A yellow dog twice its size followed, so the deer stopped, snorting twice, as if to say “don’t follow, go back’.
The big yellow dog could only go back.
Three steps back.
The deer was hard-hearted, unshaken, and watched it enter the courtyard door before continuing to walk. Lu Rong ran on the road to Longquan Village, his nose was full of the fresh air, his ears filled with the whistling of the mountain wind. He didn’t always follow the main road upwards, but sometimes took a shortcut through the woods.
The night birds in the forest were awakened and chirped in the sky, and there were panicked hares that hopped deep into the grass. He had been running for a long time, so steamy, white sweat permeated his body, white fur shining in the moonlight, like fine silk. His black nose constantly emitted white breath, huffing and puffing.
He also enjoyed running like this very much, from time to time he would stretch his mouth to pull off a cluster of the most tender green leaves, chewing until his mouth was full of their fragrance.
At night, there was no one on the mountain road, only a white deer in the moonlight, agile and fast darting. He finally ran over the pass and through a few paddy fields. He turned when he saw the place near the village, where Puppy usually crouched after school and rushed far away when it saw him.
But when he turned, what appeared in front of him was no longer the village he was familiar with.
Lu Rong stood in place for a moment before following his memory to the row of houses in the village council. The house was gone, and the soldiers had cleared away the large items during the day, leaving only a trail of broken bricks and tiles.
He lightly leaped onto the rubble and began to grind his four hooves, rummaging around underneath…
Lu Rong moved quickly, and before long, he had picked up many small objects and set them up on the side.
There was a deflated kettle, a stamp, a small shovel for shoveling cinder blocks and a fire poker.
The white fawn became a muddy fawn, all smudged and black. But he couldn’t care less, just buried his head in the rubble and rummaged around.
Suddenly, with half a broken brick, a long object turned up, the exposed part having a semi-circular head, covered with sludge.
His heart jumped, stopping the grubbing action, and then stretching out his front hooves, he carefully dug the object out.
Sure enough, it was a landline phone.
Lu Rong was surprised and delighted, a smile appearing on his dirty, hairy Rong Rong face, puffing out white snorts. He followed the phone line and patiently continued to dig, and finally the entire landline was dug out of the ground.
The deer sat on its butt on the rubble, wiping the dirt off the phone with its front hooves to reveal the creamy white shell, then wrapped it in a piece of apron it had found and held it in its arms like a treasure.
The sky was like a fish belly, the sun about to come out.
The big yellow dog that had been lying at the entrance of the courtyard suddenly pricked up his ears and listened intently, and poked his head out of the half-opened door.
From the distance came a small deer that had lost its original color, with a small package tied around its neck. His four hooves were a little lopsided, not very stable, as he was very tired, but a pair of round eyes shone with pleasure.
“Woof, woof!” The big yellow dog barked twice joyfully.
The deer hurriedly put up its front hooves in front of its mouth, “Shhh.”
Lu Rong opened the half-opened door with his head, closed it again, and gingerly returned to his room. He took off his bag and hid it under his bed, then turned into a muddy little boy and tiptoed to the bathroom to take a bath.
After washing, he took the bag out again, opened it, took out the phone inside, and used a wet rag to wipe the mud spots on it.
He wiped very attentively, the phone on those small holes also hollowed out one by one with a needle, until the body was as clean as new, and then satisfied, he put it under his pillow.
After thinking about it, he put another pillowcase on it.
He lay back on the bed, from time to time uncovering the pillowcase to see, and then felt with his hands.
Now he wasn’t afraid that his brother would call and no one would answer, he was right next to the phone and could answer anytime. He could also talk to his brother for a long time, without fear of being rushed.
Lu Rong yawned as he thought, turned over and closed his eyes contentedly.
In a neighborhood in the Capital.
“Shen Jize, this is the third time I’m asking you, you can’t eat if you don’t come out.” Mother Shen said in a calm tone as she reached out and knocked on the door.
Shen Jize lay on the bed, pulling the covers over his face.
Mother Shen turned to Father Shen, who was standing at the kitchen door, and said, “Put the food in the fridge. It’s up to him whether he eats or not.”
Father Shen, who had an apron around his waist, had some difficulty, “People are iron and rice is steel, and he’s so small, if he doesn’t eat—”
“So small… Small enough to know how to go against his parents?” Mother Shen interrupted him, “Which child will be like him, stubbornly unwilling to go abroad?”
“It’s common for children to miss their classmates and teachers, so you have to talk to him slowly.”
Mother Shen turned her head towards her bedroom, “I have to hurry to pack my things, what to throw away, what to send. I don’t have time to talk to him, so you can talk to him about what you want.”
Shen Jize listened to the sound of talking outside and rolled over impatiently.
After a while, the door slammed and he knew his parents were out the door, so he got up and went out of the bedroom and went to the living room coffee table to make a phone call. Dialing the number he knew by heart, he held the receiver and waited quietly, but unfortunately, after seven or eight seconds of connection, his ears were still unable to hear the ring.
Shen Jize hung up the phone and sank onto the couch with his limbs open.
The sun shone through the window, giving a layer of light to his side face and outlining the perfect contours of the preteenager’s features. But at this time he was frowning, his face was full of written annoyance.
A few moments later, he suddenly turned over and sat up again, picking up the phone and dialing a number.
“Xiao Yong, it’s me… There’s no way, I must follow them abroad… I definitely don’t want to go ah, I’m on a hunger strike… I want to go with you to the city’s first middle school, but Prince Qiu and Shen Ce have agreed to an invitation to a foreign university, so they’ve quit their jobs here… They certainly wouldn’t let me stay alone ah, I’m still a child… Stop laughing your ass off, I’m suffering…”
Xiao Yong finished laughing on the other end and said, “Forget it Ze, you can’t fight them, the mountains don’t turn, the water doesn’t turn you, brothers can always turn to the day of reunion.”
“But I won’t necessarily come back for the winter holidays and I have to come back for the winter holidays, someone is waiting for me. I must go to see him. It’s also a man’s responsibility.” Shen Jize scratched his hair in annoyance.
“You don’t have to come back, it’s enough that I understand your affection in my heart.” Xiao Yong sniffed, a little touched.
“It’s not for you, it’s for my brother.”
Xiao Yong was immediately upset and said, “You hang your wild brother on your lips every day, what happened to this brother of mine? Last week I helped you fight with Chen Chong, and yesterday I treated you to ice cream, 5.5 yuan a piece, not the 3 yuan one, the kind with the egg roll skin.”
Shen Jize said listlessly, “Didn’t I always treat you before? Last semester you lost your new stationery box, and you were afraid of being beaten by your mother, so I bought you an identical stationery box, which cost thirty-five yuan.”
Xiao Yong said, “Isn’t that a man? How can you be so calculating?”
“Are you a man when you’re counting 5.5 yuan for an ice cream? Also, that’s my closest brother, not my wild brother.”
“Tsk tsk, fuck you, did your mother give birth to you?”
“I don’t care even if Prince Autumn gave birth to me.”
The two people didn’t talk much and hung up the phone at the same time.
Shen Jize had a bad face as he was sitting on the sofa, and suddenly remembered that he and Xiao Yong argued half a day, and he forgot to say the main thing.
He had been calling Lu Rong for the past two days to say something about his departure from the country, but the phone couldn’t be reached.
He asked Uncle Xiao, and Uncle Xiao said that the project of Longquan Mountain had ended, and he went to other cities long ago. Longquan Village’s phone wasn’t answered so he wasn’t sure. Maybe there was a problem, but after a few days it would be fine.
But in a few days he would be leaving the country.
He felt that foreign countries and Longquan Village were like the distance between the moon and the Earth, and he didn’t know if it was convenient to contact.
If there was a delay in contacting Lu Rong, he would be anxious and cry and make a fuss to find his brother.
After all, if his husband suddenly and inexplicably disappeared, it would be like a big blow to the sky for him, and he would be devastated. He could even imagine Lu Rong suddenly turning up in the night, mournfully singing that song under the apricot blossom tree waiting for his husband to come.
His big eyes were wrapped in tears, and the black eyes were soaked in them.
It was heartbreaking to think about.
Shen Jize quickly adjusted his mood and picked up the phone again.
“Good Brother, it’s me… A man is a man with a big heart… I have a set of cards for you, yes, the whole class was collected by the teacher, my set of hidden goods weren’t collected, and are out of print… But you also have to help me with one thing.”
“Good Brother, what do you want me to help? Just tell me, as long as I can do it, I will not hesitate to go through fire.” Xiao Yong said, patting his chest.
Shen Jize deliberately said, “I’ll give you a phone number, so remember it. When I leave, you are responsible for calling this number, and then find Lu Rong, yes, Lu Rong, Rong from ‘fluffy’. Tell him about my going abroad, tell him not to worry, I’ll go back home to him after winter break.”
“For the sake of your wild brother, you’re actually willing to give me your out-of-print card?” Xiao Yong said sourly.
“You don’t understand…” Shen Jize closed his eyes and said quietly, “I have hidden feelings, you don’t understand as a pre-teen man, the pain that can only be hidden in the heart.”
Shen Jize finally failed to resist, and a week later, was escorted by his parents on a plane to X.
Looking at the fading city beneath his feet, he thought in his heart: Even if he had to steal his documents, he would go to see Lu Rong during winter break.