Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
After Grandpa Cai completed the transfer process, Lu Rong started to study in the town elementary school, surrounded by new classmates he didn’t know, and occasionally he could meet a child from Longquan Village on the playground. When the village was moved, most of the villagers went to Yulu Village, while some who had relatives in Longquan Town, or who had purchased property like Grandpa Cai, didn’t go, and chose to settle in Longquan Town, and the children were enrolled in the town elementary school.
As children from the same village, they would always get close to Lu Rong and ask him if he thought the new school was bad. If anyone laughed at him for not having seen a new stationery box, or if people around him were laughing when he read aloud in Mandarin.
Lu Rong always shook his head and said no.
He hadn’t interacted with his new classmates and wasn’t interested in the new stationery box, not to mention that his Mandarin was so good that when he read aloud, he pronounced the text better than any kid in town.
The children in the same village sighed with sadness and wished they could go back to the village school.
On the third day of school, during recess, a few of the kids from the other grade found him on the playground.
“Lu Rong, you have to be careful.”
Lu Rong blinked, “What’s wrong?”
“We had a fight with Fatty Chen and the others from town, and they said they were going to bleed our students from Longquan Village dry.” One of the kids said.
Lu Rong had heard about this. Only a few days after they joined the school, they had fought several times with Fatty Chen’s group of students. In the past, the children from Longquan Village seemed to be fighting all the time: in the fields, on the sunbeds, on the road after school… They could be seen fighting everywhere, and within minutes of the fight they were playing together, so he didn’t really care.
Egg said, “This is different from the old fights, so you have to be careful. They have worshipped a master and are practicing martial arts.”
“There’s no master, they are following a TV show and learnt from that.” One child interjected.
Another one agreed, “Yes, they are practicing martial arts according to the biography of the Double Dragon.”
Dan Wa was shocked, “That’s not okay! We have to practice martial arts with the TV show too!”
“Let’s watch the Divine Couple and practice the Eclipsing Palm.” Someone gestured with his hand.
The children began to discuss, and urged Lu Rong not to leak anything out. Lu Rong solemnly agreed. After school, he had just left the school gate when he saw a group of senior boys in front of him, led by a fat and sturdy man, none other than Fatty Chen, who had fought with Dan Wa and the others.
Thinking of the instructions from Dan Wa, Lu Rong bypassed the group and walked forward against the wall.
“That kid… the kid from Longquan Village, stop!” A shout came from behind.
Lu Rong’s heart jumped, pretending not to hear, he buried his head as he sped up his pace.
After a thudding sound of running, several boys who were a head taller than him blocked the way.
“Are you deaf? Don’t you stop even when I tell you to?” A boy with a long face stretched out his finger and nudged Lu Rong’s shoulder.
Lu Rong was pushed back half a step, clutching his bag strap without saying anything.
Another boy said, “He’s so white and looks like a girl, he’s not a wild man from Longquan Village, right? Could you be mistaken?”
“No, I’ve written down all the wildlings from Longquan Village, and he’s one of them.” The long-faced boy said.
Fatty Chen, the leader of the group, pushed the others away and walked up to Lu Rong, “I heard that you wildlings are learning martial arts from a master, is that true?”
Lu Rong hesitated for a moment and then shook his head.
“Don’t believe him, I heard them discussing today! They really worshiped the master to deal with us, and the master still only has one hand.” The long-faced boy said indignantly.
Fatty Chen’s small eyes squeezed into his facial fat and looked icily at Lu Rong, “Where do they practice martial arts? Where did you find the master?”
Lu Rong picked at the strap of his schoolbag on his shoulder, and lowered his head, staring at his toes without making a sound.
“Give me the bag.” Fatty Chen suddenly reached out to pick his bag.
Lu Rong took a step to the side and let him grab empty air.
“How dare you hide?” The boys next to him came up aggressively, “Hand over your school bag, we want to check it.”
The word ‘check’ was actually to rummage through it, and maybe find a piece or two of pocket money. Lu Rong stopped paying attention to them and tried to squeeze out through the gap between the two boys, who reached out to block them and grabbed Lu Rong’s book bag.
“I’m going to tell the teacher on you!” Lu Rong got a little angry, wrinkling up two beautiful eyebrows, his round eyes annoyed.
“Oh, I’m going to tell on you all!” The boys began to speak in a strange tone, imitating him.
“Go ahead and sue, go ahead and sue! As long as you dare to sue, you’ll be our number one target and a town chase will be issued against you.”
“Little savages are quite interesting.”
“Didn’t you wildlings go to Yulu Village? Why do you still have the nerve to stay in our town?”
Lu Rong, not knowing what the hunting order was, pushed forward. The boy behind didn’t loosen his hand when he pulled the bag. With a rip, the zipper cracked and two books and stationery boxes fell out. The stationery box was spread out after the fall, pencils were scattered all over the place, and a squarely folded piece of cardboard fell out.
Lu Rong just turned around, the long-faced boy was quick to grab the cardboard and quickly unfolded it.
“Remittance slip! Boss, this is a remittance slip!” He shouted excitedly, his voice became a bit shrill, “Boss, it’s more than a hundred yuan! There’s more than a hundred yuan!”
The eyes of everyone lit up, they originally wanted to get a couple of coins off of Lu Rong, but didn’t expect that this little wild man’s stationery box could hide a more than a hundred yuan remittance slip.
Fatty Chen snatched the remittance slip into his hand and carefully read the words on it, his small eyes narrowed with a smile, “Hey, accompany us to the post office—”
A shout interrupted his words, “Give it back to me!”
Lu Rong’s face turned red and he wrestled his school bag out of the others’ hands and walked straight up to Fatty Chen, spreading his palms, “Give me back the slip!”
Fatty Chen said, “We don’t want all of it either, let’s split it in half—”
“Give it back to me!” Lu Rong interrupted again, his voice no longer soft, and his hand stubbornly outstretched.
Fatty Chen had always been in the town, but no student had ever dared to do this to him, so he felt a little embarrassed, and the smile slowly fell off his face.
The long-faced boy reached for Lu Rong’s shoulder, “Kid, we only want half, why are you so excited? It’s not like I’m taking all your money.”
Lu Rong pushed him to the side, the long-faced boy didn’t expect him to be small and strong, and was pushed back a few steps and sat on his butt on the ground.
“Boss!” He shouted at Fatty Chen with some aggression.
Fatty Chen stretched out his right hand and offered the money order to Lu Rong, meaning to return it to him.
Lu Rong reached out to pick it up, but just as the paper was about to fall into his palm, Fatty Chen suddenly stretched out his left hand and with a swish, tore the slip into two halves in the air. Rip, rip, he ripped it a few more times, then threw it into the sky.
In Lu Rong’s stagnant line of sight, the slip turned into several scraps and floated down to the ground.
“Boss!” The surrounding boys all cried out in shock.
Fatty Chen clapped his hands together and said, “Let’s go and find a place to practice martial arts.”
He was just happy at first to see the remittance slip, and immediately calmed down. If so much money was taken, this little savage would definitely tell the school. The money would have to be returned in full, not to mention their parents would definitely have to be called in, and his dad, who drives a big truck, would give him a good beating.
Since this little wild man upset him, he can’t just return the money order for nothing.
The long-faced boy turned his head to look and said, “That little wild boy is crying, picking up pieces of paper as he cries.”
The words were full of strong regret for the money order.
“Yes, Boss, why did you tear it up? What if he goes and tells on us?” Another boy asked carefully.
Fatty Chen said, “There was no one else here to see, so if he goes to tell, should we admit it? Who can prove that I tore it? But if we want to take the money, there are surveillance cameras at the bank, and it’s possible to be found out.”
“That’s right! The Boss is right,” the group of people echoed.
“Let’s go, let’s go! Let’s go practice martial arts!”
Quietly in the corner, Lu Rong was squatting on the ground picking up those fragments, one by one carefully putting them into the stationery box. From time to time, he would lift his sleeve, and wipe off the tears hanging on his pointed chin.
When all the pieces were found, he began to pick up his books. They were all newly issued books, and Grandpa Cai had made the covers from old calendars and written his name on them in pen. He patted the dust off the covers and put each one back into his bag.
Lu Rong stroked the bag and whispered, “Come on, let’s go home.”
In the evening, after dinner, Grandpa Cai started to watch TV while he went back to his room, took out the stack of pieces from his stationery box, and spread them out on the desktop to carefully put them together. He waited until the last gap was filled and then dabbed it with glue.
He didn’t dare to put the pasted money order back into the stationery box, so he looked around the house and finally put it into an empty tin cookie box and stuffed it into the deepest part of the closet.
The next day during recess, Fatty Chen and the others saw Lu Rong.
Lu Rong didn’t have any unusual reaction, only glanced at them coldly with those big eyes, then brushed past them and went to the playground.
“This little savage doesn’t seem to have complained.” The long-faced boy was still a little worried, but now he wasn’t nervous anymore.
“He would dare to tell on us? We’d have to issue the town’s little jungle chase order,” another boy said.
When school was over, the boys went back to the head of town, where there was a small uninhabited courtyard where they had been locked up for the past few days to secretly practice martial arts. The sun was setting, the sky was darkening, and a few kids who had been drinking from their mouths and going to their houses were a little tired after sparring for a while, so they were ready to go home for dinner.
The long-faced boy walked in front, reached out to pull the door, but it didn’t open, and tried to pull a few times, but the door still didn’t open.
“Boss, the door seems to be locked.” He turned his head in surprise and said.
Fatty Chen pushed him away and walked forward, shoving the door with a bang, frowning and asking, “Which one of you came in last? Who closed the door?”
A short boy raised his hand, “I came in last, but the door can be opened even if it’s unlocked inside.”
“Someone followed us and locked it from the outside.” The long-faced boy panicked.
The short boy thought for a while and suddenly raised his voice, “Could it be the wild child from Longquan Village? The one called Dan Wa.”
“Yes, it must be him! He looked at us several times after school!” The other people echoed.
There was no movement outside the door, and no one spoke up even after several people had made stern comments.
“Boss, what should we do? They seem to have locked the door and ran away.” The long-faced boy asked.
The short guy’s voice was a bit timid, “If I don’t go home, I’m going to get beaten up.”
“My dad’s home today, so I don’t dare to go back too late.”
Fatty Chen was also a little scared, so he began to rummage around the room to find tools to see if he could pry the door open.
The courtyard originally had an old man, his son was working in Shenzhen, but the old man died, and the house was left empty. The back had become a secret base for the children. Except for a few old furniture pieces in the house, all the valuables were taken by others. Fatty Chen turned around, not to mention tools, not even a nail could be found.
The house only had a skylight, so the children moved the furniture over, stepped up to push the glass open, but it was nailed down. No matter what, they couldn’t push it open.
The sun was setting and night was approaching. The few boys sat on the ground and looked up at the skylight high above.
“How can we get out?” One boy asked in a hoarse voice.
Their voices were hoarse because they had been shouting from the doorway for a long time.
“It’s okay, if we go back a little later, the adults will be looking everywhere and will find us.” Fatty Chen said.
The long-faced boy said with some fear, “My mom must be looking for us already. The teachers and the school must have informed her, so I will definitely be beaten when I go home.”
“What if they can’t find us? Are we going to die here? The old man died in this house…” One boy looked around the house and said with trepidation.
The short boy who had been looking up at the skylight was about to say something when he suddenly saw something taped to the glass of the skylight.
——A small black mass with a furry thing attached to it, and a red pattern on the stick.
The short boy rubbed his eyes.
No, it wasn’t a stick, it looked like the hoof of some animal.
“Aaaaahhhh!” He let out a shriek and was busy pushing those around him, “Hey, look! What’s that?! What’s that on the skylight?!”
Everyone looked up at the skylight and shouted.
“Is that a wolf?! Is that a wolf?!”
“Wolves aren’t like that, and they don’t climb that high!”
“Then what could it be?! Will it jump in and bite people?!”
“No, it’s separated by the glass!”
Seemingly sensing that it had been discovered, the creepy hoof slowly retracted, and just as the group breathed a sigh of relief, the face of an animal was instantly affixed again.
“Ahhhhhh!” The house burst out in a unison of screams of terror.
They watched as the creepy animal, suddenly using its hooves to prop open both corners of its mouth, spat its tongue out at the bottom.
“Ahhhhhhh!” Under the glass skylight, the mournful screams nearly toppled the roof.
Lu Rong, who had turned into a deer, was lying on the roof, listening to the heartbreaking screams below, feeling that this wasn’t enough, and rolled his eyes and kept grinding his upper and lower teeth.
The short boy cried out on the spot.
Just as Lu Rong pulled down his lower eyelids with his hooves and rolled his white eyes even wider, all the boys, including Fatty Chen, began to cry, howling throughout the small courtyard.
After a while, one of the boys looked at the skylight with teary eyes and slowly stopped crying, pulling the person next to him, “It-it’s gone.”
Everyone looked up and found that the scary, creepy monster was gone from the glass.
Just then, a cardboard shell was placed on the glass, with words written on it in black pen, interspersed with two pinyin.
“You are not allowed to bully the students of Longquan Village again, or I will find you.”
The long-faced boy shivered and read out the words.
“Don’t dare! We don’t dare!”
“We won’t dare to bully the students of Longquan Village anymore!”
A moment later, the door of the house clicked, as if the lock had been turned, and everyone shrieked and hugged each other again. After waiting for a long time there was no more movement at the door, so Fatty Chen went over with trepidation and reached out and pushed the door open.
Since then, every day to and from school, Lu Rong’s walks were calm. Fatty Chen’s group never provoked him.
The few who met him also said with bewilderment that they were ready for a big fight, but the group of children in town saw them and hid, so they couldn’t fight.
Every day, Puppy would crouch at the fork in the road waiting for him to leave school, and when he saw him, they ran home together.
Lu Rong rushed home for a reason, to wait for a phone call.
But the landline was placed on the pillow for half a month, and not to mention Shen Jize’s call, other calls haven’t came through either.
The new home was a ten-minute walk from the school, and the golden leaves covered the entire turnpike, with the rustling sound of broken leaf veins as he stepped on them. The sound reminded him that autumn was here, so winter wasn’t too far away.
And his promise to meet with Shen Jize for winter break was getting closer and closer…