Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The balcony was simply furnished, the tatami mats hadn’t been set up yet, and apart from this lamp, there was only an empty set of tables and chairs, and the passage was obviously not here.
“Come on, let’s go to the bedroom.”
The two of them naturally took hands again and walked to the bedroom.
Shen Jize looked around and said uncertainly, “Nothing seems to have changed in this room, so I don’t think there’s anything extra.” Meeting Lu Rong’s gaze, he explained, “I just moved in, so it’s normal that I can’t remember.”
Lu Rong thought he was right, how could he notice the furnishings of the house when his brother had only just moved in? He echoed, “Yes, it’s normal to have trouble remembering.”
He ignored the fact that he himself had just moved into the guest bedroom, but he remembered the simple furniture and furnishings inside perfectly. The bedroom was even simpler than the guest bedroom, with only a luxurious bed and a sofa, as well as a large suitcase in the corner.
The suitcase was spread out, and a stack of folded clothes emerged.
“I just moved in from there, and I haven’t had a chance to unpack yet,” Shen Jize said.
Lu Rong repeated after him, “Yes, you haven’t had time to unpack yet.”
Shen Jize breathed a little, looked at him and stopped talking, and then after a few moments, out of the blue, he asked, “Why are you so well-behaved?”
“What?” Lu Rong was a bit confused.
“Nothing.” Shen Jize smiled, “That’s right, you’ve been a good boy since you were a kid.” He squeezed Lu Rong’s hand again and said, “Behind this wall is the wardrobe, I’ll go in and take a look. You can just look around the room, see if there’s anything suspicious.”
He said that there was nothing unusual in the bedroom, so Lu Rong could take a break. After all, the wardrobe was quite a distance away, and he wouldn’t have to run around with him.
Lu Rong nodded obediently and watched Shen Jize run to the wardrobe as he began to look around. Shen Jize climbed down from the bed, so there was nothing wrong with it. The only thing left to check was the sofa and the suitcase. After comparing the distance between the two and himself, Lu Rong chose the suitcase that was a little closer.
It was a large black suitcase, actually spread out at the end of the bed not far away, but his forehead oozed sweat as he trotted to the front. He jumped up and grabbed the handle of the suitcase and climbed up, then grabbed the dangling zipper buckle and swung it from side to side. Swinging himself up high like a pendulum, he hooked his foot on the zipper strap and flipped over to ride on the edge of the suitcase.
The suitcase was now as big as a swimming pool for him, and he moved carefully along the edge, trying to find a suitable place to get down.
A bottle of mouthwash leaned against the wall of the box, and he jumped on the cap and slid down the bottle to the bottom. There weren’t many things packed, and the arrangement was a bit cluttered, leaving gaps between items, just convenient for him to walk through the bottom of the box.
Lu Rong inhaled and sniffed, a faint scent lingered in his nose, the same as Shen Jize’s usual scent. Like the woods in the early morning, the first rays of sunlight shining on the branches and leaves, the new green buds with dew drops, the whole woods filled with the fragrance of grass and trees.
He passed between two bottles of some common medicine, jumping over the bumps of the capsule tablets, leaping from one to the other, like jumping over a rock in the middle of a river. In front of him was a tall mountain of clothing, and he grabbed the layers and climbed to the top. The material was so soft that he just stood up and sank slightly, and his center of gravity was a little unstable, so he stumbled two steps and sat down on his butt.
Under the body was a dark black fabric, dense grain felt soft, like a T-shirt type of cotton texture. He came close to smell, the softener had a good scent, but he didn’t feel the breath of Uncle Bai.
This was pure clothing, and the light mass was not hidden among it.
He saw nothing unusual in this half of the suitcase and was ready to check the other half, so he stood up and walked forward with one foot deep in that stack of clothes. Fell twice in the middle, rolled a few times in the fabric on the surface, and had a hard time getting to the edge of the mountain of clothing.
The black fabric ended in a section of white with a very firm texture, making it less flimsy under his feet. He followed it out a few steps and then looked down while guessing what part of the fabric it was.
This was quite stiff, it felt like the elastic part of the clothing?
His brain suddenly floated a guess, and then lay down to look closely, but then his body slowly froze in place. This was clearly a pair of underwear! Lu Rong recalled his previous actions, his brain exploded with fireworks, and his heart was screaming in meltdown.
What did he just do?! He rolled around on his brother’s underwear… And then he got on top of it and sniffed it hard…
Lu Rong was so ashamed that he stomped his feet in place, his face and neck turning red. He was afraid that Shen Jize would see this scene, and looked vainly in the direction of the checkroom, and when he saw that Shen Jize hadn’t come out after entering through that doorway, he quickly slid to the bottom of the suitcase.
Stepping on a few pairs of new socks, he turned to the other side of the compartment. This side should be the lid of the case, and didn’t contain any items, so he casually turned around, ready to leave.
Just as his hand hit the divider on the edge of the case, his eyes swept under his feet and he suddenly realized that what he was stepping on wasn’t the fabric of the suitcase’s edge, but a thick piece of paper.
The paper was packed in a compartment, probably because of the turning, most of it was exposed. It looked like some kind of thick cover, almost a meter wide, and the words on it looked big.
Lu Rong guessed it might be something like a script and didn’t pay much attention to it, but when he lifted his foot, the words ‘Lu Rong’ appeared underneath him.
The word was handwritten, the font was childish, but it was clear that the strokes were written with great care, the dried ink slightly protruding from the surface. His heart jumped abruptly and he stood to the side, revealing the thick paper.
This was an envelope, the upper left corner of the sender there was an English address from a distant country. He just stepped on the bottom right corner where the recipient was written, and it was exactly his address when he was studying in Longquan Mountain Village.
Lu Rong crouched down, holding both ends of the envelope with both hands, and stepping back with both feet. After a rustling sound, the envelope was ripped out of the lining.
The envelope looked old and yellowed all over. Probably because of the long journey, the edges of the seemed in some places had been worn hairy. The envelope was flat, but the four corners were creased then smoothed out by the owner.
The envelope was stamped with large and small postmarks, showing that it had passed through many places, but eventually failed to find the recipient and was returned to the sender.
Lu Rong stared at the envelope in awe for a long time before squatting down and rubbing his fingers over it very gently. He saw a bulge, so he dragged the envelope aside and lifted the layer of fabric to look inside.
There was a thick pile of old envelopes inside, and the handwriting on the surface showed that they were all sent to him by Shen Jize but then were promptly returned.
Lu Rong stared at the pile of old envelopes and suddenly his nose got a little sore and his vision got a little blurry.
In the middle of the envelope was a thinner piece of paper, the color was pink, different from the other envelopes. He sniffed his nose and carefully dragged the piece of paper out. It was no longer handwritten, but printed in black font, clearly a train ticket. The starting station was the capital city, and the ending station was a small, distant county.
Lu Rong knew that after getting off the train from this small county, he could take another one-hour shuttle bus to Longquan Town. The train number showed that it was a green train, and it was seatless, and the date below was many years ago. Doing the math, it must have been a summer when he was in sixth grade.
Shen Jize, at that time, was only fourteen years old.
Lu Rong seemed to see the handsome teenager, wearing a clean T-shirt and shorts, huddled in the airy carriage joint, just like that for three long, hard days and two nights.
He sat on his backpack, dozing wearily against the dirty wall of the car, buying a bowl of noodles when he was hungry, struggling to squeeze to the water room to get boiling water, and struggling to squeeze back…
Lu Rong stared blankly at the ticket, and after a moment, a drop of water slid down his cheek and hung on his small, round chin, pausing for a few seconds before dripping down and splashing a small water stain on the ticket he was holding.
He lifted up the hem of his pajamas to wipe it off, but the pajamas were silk and didn’t absorb water, so he held back the remaining traces of water under his eyes and blew gently at the spot with his mouth, careful as if he was treating some rare treasure.
There was a loud noise from behind, the bottom of the box sank, and someone jumped in.
Then, the train ticket in his hand was taken away.
Lu Rong lowered his head and stood still, listening to the person behind him put the train ticket back in the inline, and then his shoulders were held as he was guided in a different direction.
In a haze of tears, he was embraced in a broad, warm embrace, with a hand patting his back soothingly.
Lu Rong’s hand slowly crawled up Shen Jize’s shoulder, calling out in an uncomfortable voice, “Brother, Brother…”
Shen Jize rested his chin on the top of his soft hair and let out a seemingly helpless sigh, responding in a low voice, “Brother is here.”
“Brother, did you go to Longquan Village to look for me?”
Shen Jize also no longer hid anything, and frankly replied, “Yes, I went to look for you.”
“We… Our village is gone, so… That’s why you couldn’t find me.” Lu Rong, aggrieved and sad, couldn’t help but choke up a little.
Shen Jize patted him on the back and gently coaxed, “I know, I know. I know everything.”
“Then why didn’t you look for me when you arrived? Although the village is gone, you could’ve just asked around. My grandfather and I live in the town of Longtan at the foot of the mountain.” Lu Rong lifted his head and looked at him in disbelief, holding back his tears.
Shen Jize’s face had a layer of different emotions, with a little embarrassment, and he was blushing. He seldom had such an emotion on his face, so he didn’t want to answer the question, but when he saw Lu Rong couldn’t stop crying, he finally said in a twisted voice, “No, I knew your village had been hit by a mudslide, and I asked about you.”
“So then… why?”
Shen Jize looked down at him for a few seconds, reached out and covered his eyes, kissed him on the tip of his nose, and said, “It’s my fault, but I’m going to tell you the whole story.”
When Lu Rong heard him say that, he stopped asking questions, and buried his face in his arms, and while listening to Shen Jize’s low voice, he felt the vibration of his chest.
After that summer vacation, Shen Jize had a sense of responsibility for Lu Rong and felt in his heart that he was the person he would be with for the rest of his life. As he grew older, he didn’t think it was just a childhood joke just because he knew better.
Lu Rong became more stubbornly occupied in his heart, making him convinced that his heart already belonged to him even at his early age of love. Gradually, all those yearnings and flirtations for a partner were given to someone in that distant place.
That summer when he was fourteen years old, Shen Jize finally fought for the opportunity from his parents to get on the plane back to China alone.
Shen Yan thought this nephew was returning to the capital to meet his classmates, so he didn’t care when he received the person. Only left a cooking aunt at home, instructed people to work by themselves for a few days, he finished his business and came back, then rushed to another city site.
Shen Jize couldn’t wait for him to leave faster, so he also followed, and didn’t hesitate to agree, and told his little uncle not to rush, business was important, so Shen Yan thought this nephew was really more and more understanding.
Shen Yan just went out, when Shen Jize already began to book tickets. He could take a plane from the capital to the city, and then transfer to Longquan Mountain.
The result was that there was a storm, the plane was temporarily suspended, and didn’t take the main route, and they needed to wait for several days to resume.
Shen Jize’s heart had long flown to Longquan Mountain, so he couldn’t wait, and simply booked a train ticket to that county. It didn’t matter if there were no seats, it was fine, as long as he could get on the train.
After telling his aunt at home that he was going to stay at his classmate’s house for a few days, he put on his backpack and went to the train station and boarded the train. The next three days and two nights were difficult, and something Shen Jize had never experienced before.
During the day he sat quietly at the joint between the two cars, looking out the window at the passing scenery and imagining himself in front of Lu Rong.
Lu Rong might be doing his homework, or he might be playing with Puppy, and when he looked up and saw him in the courtyard, he would be stunned, then incredulous and ecstatic, then squealing and pouncing on him, hanging on like a wombat.
But he was now in sixth grade and may be shy, standing still, only pursing his lips and smiling, those big eyes shining brightly, which would be more beautiful than the brightest stars. He didn’t know what he looked like now, but there was no doubt that he would definitely be the best looking boy.
Shen Jize was so lost in his own thoughts, with a tired excitement, that even the foul and unpleasant air seemed to become bearable. At night he leaned against the wall of the carriage, listening to the clunk of the train machinery and the occasional cry of a baby, hazily seeming to fall asleep.
The cold air at the junction was extra strong, and his arms and legs exposed outside his clothes were always cold, so he had to sleep for a while and rub his hands together, or go around the carriage to warm up.
When the train finally arrived in the county, the sky outside the window was overcast and stormy. He breathed in his first breath of fresh air in days and was still in a trance until he followed the flow of people out of the platform.
There were many minibuses parked outside the station, with their drivers holding umbrellas and shouting out the names of places, and Shen Jize, hearing the words Longquan Town, rushed into one of them with his backpack on his head.
With a smile on his face, Shen Jize sat between two old women who crossed his path and listened to their loud chatter without feeling a hint of impatience.
I’m about to meet Lu Rong.
I still have the chocolate I bought for him in my backpack, and I wonder if he still loves it.
The child will probably be a little embarrassed at first, but he will get familiar with me after a while. When I’m carrying him, will he still call me husband in a sweet way?
Shen Jize was suddenly bashful and his heart was beating fast. Although he knew that the person next to him wasn’t at all aware of his thoughts, he raised his hand and faked fixing his hair to block his face.
But at the same time, he had a vague concern.
The phone number of Longquan Village seemed to have changed, and it had never been picked up in the past few years. And the letters he sent to Lu Rong’s school were returned unchanged, saying there was no such person.
Did he change his name? Or change schools? But no matter what, he could always find him in the village.
An hour later, the van stopped in Longquan Town and Shen Jize got out and stood on the steps outside an Internet cafe to escape the rain. He ruffled a few strands of wet hair on his forehead and surveyed the town through the thick curtain of rain.
The town didn’t seem to show many signs of passing years, much like he remembered. It was now noon, he had to find a restaurant to fill his stomach before finding a car to go to Longquan Village.