Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
In the evening, Grandpa Cai had to carry Lu Rong to see the collapsed section of road again.
Lu Rong was feeding the puppy grass in the courtyard, he gulped and handed a few sticks of cow rake to the puppy’s mouth, “Eat it, it’s delicious.” The puppy dodged backwards, so he chased after it patiently, “You’ll know when you taste it.”
The puppy sniffed on the grass for a while, but still turned its head aside.
Grandpa Cai came out of the house and said, “Rong Rong, let’s walk to the pass for a stroll.”
He took out a candy from his pocket, peeled off the outside candy paper and fed it to Lu Rong’s mouth.
Lu Rong squatted as he looked at the puppy, “Grandpa, I don’t want to go.”
“These days the people of Dao Ban are repairing the road, so it’s almost finished. Don’t you want to go and see?” Grandpa Cai asked.
Lu Rong put his tongue against the candy and tasted the fruity sweetness. He picked up the puppy and turned around and went back to the house, saying in a voice only one person and one dog could hear, “I don’t want to go see it.”
The next morning, Grandpa Cai didn’t let Lu Rong sleep in, taking him out from under the covers early, dressing him, and handing him a peeled hard-boiled egg.
“Rong Rong, Grandpa has to go to the next village to do some business, so you’ll play at Li Zheng’s. I’ll come to pick you up at noon after I finish my business.” Grandpa Cai squatted down to put on his cotton shoes, and said out loud.
Lu Rong was eating eggs with half-squinted eyes, and when he heard the words ‘I’ll pick you up after I finish my work’, he didn’t move.
Grandpa Cai was tying his shoes when two drops of warm water suddenly splashed down on the back of his hand, and after a slight daze, he looked up in surprise.
Lu Rong, still holding half an egg in his hand, hung his head low, tears pouring down his face.
“Kid, what’s wrong with you?”
Lu Rong hung his head and didn’t say anything, his tears flowing more freely.
A few moments later, Grandpa Cai carried a black faux leather bag with Lu Rong’s backpack on his back, walking on the village road to the next village.
“Are you cold?” Grandpa Cai asked.
Lu Rong’s face was blown red by the cold wind, his eyes half squinted, but he said, “No, I’m not cold.” He reached out and touched Grandpa Cai’s face, “Is Grandpa cold?”
“Grandpa isn’t cold either.”
Grandpa Cai went to Zengjia Village to ask about planting herbs. Longquan Mountain was high in altitude and had a dry climate, which was suitable for planting herbs, and many villagers in Zengjia Village were planting pseudo ginseng and he wanted to go and check it.
Longquan Village had been on the mountain for generations and had always been poor. If they could grow medicine, even if the young people could go out to work, a group of old and sick people could earn a few dollars.
“Are your feet cold?” Grandpa Cai asked Lu Rong.
Lu Rong’s feet in round cotton shoes moved in the back of the bamboo and said, “No, they’re not cold.”
He looked sideways at Grandpa Cai’s feet.
Grandpa Cai was wearing the same cotton shoes as he was, fat black fabric upper, thick rubber sole, only a patch on the big toe.
When he washed his feet last night, he poked his finger at the patch, ‘Grandpa’s shoes have grown eyes.’
Zengjia Village was a bit larger and more populous than Longquan Village. Grandpa Cai greeted those village people familiarly and carried Lu Rong to the entrance of the village council.
“Uncle Cai is here? Come in and sit by the fire, quick, quick.” The village members of Zengjia Village warmly welcomed Grandpa Cai into the door and took down the rattan holding Lu Rong.
The village members touched Lu Rong’s face and handed him two hard fruit candies.
Lu Rong tilted his head to look at Grandpa Cai and saw that he agreed before accepting the candy and politely saying thank you.
The village members found it very refreshing that no village child had the habit of saying thank you, so they asked fondly, “Grandpa Cai, is this your grandson? He is so good-looking and sweet-mouthed.”
Lu Rong darted to Grandpa Cai’s face again, looking with some nervousness.
Uncle Cai carried him to the small fireplace and sat down, stirring the stove himself to make the fire bigger, saying, “Yes, my new grandson. I can’t leave him alone, so I can only carry him on my back in the village.”
Lu Rong relaxed and listened to their conversation while peeling the candy, peeling one out and sliding off the high stool to Grandpa Cai, reaching out to his mouth.
Grandpa Cai pretended to make an eating motion, barred his mouth exaggeratedly, and said, “Yummy-yummy. Rong Rong eat it yourself.”
Lu Rong, however, didn’t comply with the words, not eating the candy himself, still stubbornly reaching out his hand.
“You eat it, it’s a token of appreciation.” The village members laughed.
Grandpa Cai had to take the candy, smiling with wrinkles all over his face, and kissed Lu Rong on the back of his fleshy hand. Lu Rong then returned to his stool, climbed up and began to concentrate on peeling another candy.
Grandpa Cai and the village members chatted for a while before going to the villagers’ homes to ask for details. The moment he pulled open the door, a blanket of snow flakes rolled in with a cold wind.
He hesitated and said to another village member inside the house, “Can you keep the child here? It’s too cold outside, help me look after him for a little while.”
The village member wearing blue cuffs smiled and said, “Grandpa Cai, don’t worry, this boy is so well behaved, I can watch him.”
Grandpa Cai whispered a few words to Lu Rong, saying that he would come back after finishing his business, and asked him to stay here and stay warm by the fire.
Lu Rong wasn’t very happy about it, but he heard the conversation between Grandpa Cai and the village cadres, so he agreed after a small struggle.
After they left, Lu Rong sat quietly by the stove without making a sound.
The blue-sleeved village member finished the task at hand before remembering that there was still a child sitting there. After praising him for his obedience, he went to the corner to take out a few potatoes from the sack and buried them in the ash box.
“Later, I’ll give you baked potatoes,” he said with a smile.
Lu Rong thanked him again in a small voice.
There was a small clock on the square table next to him, ticking in the silence of the room. Lu Rong stared at the clock’s long hand, watching it go round and round, as the blue-sleeved village member finished burying the potatoes and went back to transcribing documents.
Whenever footsteps sounded outside, he would abruptly look at the door until the footsteps faded away, and then sit back down in a disciplined manner.
His small feet in the cotton shoes were on the high stool crossbar, while his two hands were behind his back.
The village member took a look at him and laughed, “Child, don’t carry your hands behind your back, don’t you get tired?”
Lu Rong quietly put his hands on his knees again.
The potatoes buried in the ash gradually emitted fragrance, and the blue-sleeved village member put down the pen in his hand, used a fire poker to pick out the potatoes, blew and peeled the skin, and handed one to Lu Rong.
Lu Rong took the fragrant potato, but only took a bite and didn’t eat the rest. All his attention was now on the door, carefully distinguishing every movement outside. There were footsteps at the door, and he turned his head again, his eyes glowing as he stared at the closed door.
The door was pushed open and a stranger came in, “Zeng’er, accompany me to Old Zeng’s house and ask him if he wants next year’s grain seeds.”
The light in Lu Rong’s eyes instantly dimmed, and he looked disappointedly at the kettle sitting on the fireplace.
The blue-sleeved village cadre walked outside, instructing Lu Rong as he reached the door, “Boy, just wait here by the fire for your grandfather. Don’t run around, it’s cold outside.”
“Okay.” Lu Rong replied good-naturedly.
After the village cadres left, he continued to wait, and the potato, which he had only nibbled on, gradually became cold and hard in his hands.
The kettle gurgled and hot air spurted from the spout. The clock’s long hand advanced another half turn, and Grandpa Cai still hadn’t returned.
Lu Rong slid off the high stool, walked to the door, stared at the doorknob for a while, and then finally pulled it open. In the wind and snow, he carefully descended the steps of the village council courtyard and stood on the path.
There was no one else passing by, and Lu Rong was standing in the middle of the road, looking deep into the direction of the village.
Grandpa Cai said goodbye to the villagers who had sent him to the entrance of the courtyard and walked back with the accompanying village members. The two men turned a corner after a small discussion, and he froze in place.
A small person stood on the road below the village hall, like a small statue. He didn’t know how long he had been standing there, but his hat and shoulders were padded with a layer of white.
When he saw him, the little man moved, as if to move forward, but then stopped in place.
Grandpa Cai strode forward, faster and faster, and finally ran over. He took Lu Rong into his arms, and asked in a heartfelt and angry voice, “Why did you come here? Didn’t I tell you to wait for me by the fire?”
Grandpa Cai pulled off his gloves and touched Lu Rong’s face, “Look at your face, it’s frozen, like a lump of ice. Your nose is frozen off, let me feel the back, see if it’s cold.”
Lu Rong didn’t reply, but his pair of large eyes staring at Grandpa Cai quickly filled with tears, his frozen white small mouth also deflated.
Immediately afterward, a shrill cry erupted. He reached out and wrapped his arms around Grandpa Cai’s neck and pressed his face hard into Grandpa Cai’s face, saying while bawling, “Grandpa, you’re back! You’re back!”
He cried so sadly, with his mouth open and eyes closed, as if he had suffered endless horrors. He cried louder and louder, clearly knowing that someone was hurting and coaxing him, so he cried as hard as he could, crying out all the fears he felt just now that he had been abandoned again.
Grandpa Cai’s eyes were also wet, he pursed his lips, patting Lu Rong’s back, “I will always come back. Rong Rong is still here, so I’ll make sure to come back. No need to cry. You’re crying so much that Grandpa’s heart is breaking.”
The village members froze for a moment behind them, clapping their hands and laughing, “Look at you two, just a moment apart and you’re both crying.”
After such a small incident, Lu Rong suddenly turned from the recent days of few words, and like a small chatterbox, gabbed incessantly. He was also in a very good mood, always hugging Grandpa Cai’s neck and rubbing his face against him.
But in the evening, Grandpa Cai mentioned the matter of sending him down the mountain, he met with fierce opposition.
“I don’t want to go! I won’t go! I won’t go!” After washing his feet, Lu Rong rolled on the bed in his autumn clothes and pants.
“Don’t want to go? Not going home? Just feed the cows and grow medicine here in the mountains?” Grandpa Cai asked with a smile.
Lu Rong continued to roll around, “I have no home, no mom and dad, no Wang Tu. I won’t leave.”
Grandpa Cai was stunned for a moment and then said, “What nonsense are you talking about? There is nothing on this mountain, you have to go back.”
“I’m not going back, no one wants me back. I don’t have a home, so I’m still going into the garbage.” Lu Rong stopped rolling around and looked at Grandpa Cai and said with a straight face, “I want to feed the cows, I want to grow medicine, so Grandpa can’t throw me away, I’m your new grandson.”
Although he was playing hard to get, the child couldn’t hide his heart, his eyes were full of fear and begging, and his small chest was heaving with tension.
Grandpa Cai was silent for a moment and leaned down to touch Lu Rong’s head. “Grandpa will go to the police station tomorrow and ask if he can keep you.”
“Grandpa’s word is a promise.” Lu Rong shrunk his head into the blanket, but his voice took on a crying tone.
“I’ll keep my word.”
When the collapsed road was repaired, Grandpa Cai went down the mountain alone, gave Lu Rong the word that he had gone to dig for medicine, and let Eggman and the others take him for a day of fun.
After two more days, the village committee’s landline rang, and it was the police station down the mountain looking for Grandpa Cai.
“Yes, yes, has Gao Chenggang been arrested? Mn, mn, mn… The child is talking about Little Flower Kindergarten… What? The guardian is missing? No one can be found? Oh… Not the orphanage, no, this child is not going…”
Grandpa Cai shouted into the phone as Lu Rong stood next to him, lips tightly pursed.
Winter in Longquan Mountain slowly passed, the snow disappeared, and the mountain was full of light green.
Lu Rong took off his thick cotton jacket and wore a fleece undershirt over his sweater, playing with his puppy in the courtyard of the village council every day, sometimes running upside down behind the egg children.
During this period Grandpa Cai often came down from the mountain and occasionally took him with him to the town police station to answer various questions from the uncles and aunts, and asked him if he would like to go to the orphanage where there were teachers and many children.
He was very nervous and kept asking if he was going to be taken away, but he didn’t want to go, he just wanted to follow his grandfather.
The last time he answered the question, it was almost summer.
After Grandpa Cai signed a thick pile of papers, the uncle, whom he already knew, squatted in front of him and said with a smile, “Lu Rong, you will not be taken away anymore, you will live with your grandfather from now on. But if you feel unhappy, you have to come to uncle, okay?”
Lu Rong’s eyes shone brightly, and he deflated his mouth, wanting to cry, and then smiled with tears in his eyes.
That day, Grandpa Cai carried him all over town and went into a restaurant for a couple of drinks. He ordered root vegetables fried with dried meats 1 , peanut crusted pork ribs 2 , and when he was asked, he shouted back, “This is my own grandson, my boy!”
Lu Rong, who was gnawing on the ribs, lifted his oily face and repeated seriously, “Your boy!”