Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Four years later.
A black SUV stopped at the entrance of Longquan Village, the door opened and a handsome teenager in a white T-shirt and shorts jumped down. He rushed to the side of the road with a pale face and squatted down, starting to dry heave.
The driver got out of the car, unscrewed a bottle of mineral water and handed it to him, and said to the man in the back seat, “Shen, your nephew has suffered a lot on this journey, he’s extremely car sick.”
Shen Yan stroked his chin and sighed, “My brother and sister-in-law are university professors, top notch, Xiao Ze has been nurtured by culture since he was a child. I heard that Longquan Mountain is a great site and decided to come just after the summer holidays. I hoped to find inspiration to write essays.”
“Gee, that’s really something.” The driver sighed, “My child and Shen are about the same age. He was writing his essay and got a fever in the middle of the night, so I sent him to the hospital. See? My head is full of white hair. Shen, look at my hair, white hair!”
Shen Jize had rinsed his mouth with mineral water, stood up and said, “Little Uncle, Uncle Yu, I’m fine.”
The three walked together towards Longquan Village, and Shen Jize asked his youngest uncle for his cell phone, saying that he would call his classmates to talk about math problems, and that he had agreed to keep his word before leaving home.
These words drew another sigh from the driver, and Shen Yan immediately handed him his Motorola V3. 1
Shen Jize deliberately lagged behind a dozen meters away and started calling his best friend’s house, “Hello Auntie, this is Shen Jize, please call Xiao Yong to pick up the phone.”
“Yong’er, if my parents ask you how many points I got on the test, just say you don’t know… I’m coming to the country with my uncle… If I don’t leave, my parents will send me to cram school once the holidays are over… If you are looking for me, this is the number, it’s my uncle’s cell phone…”
After Shen Jize handed the phone back to Shen Yan, he listened to his conversation with the driver and surveyed the surroundings carelessly.
“Longquan Mountain is to be made into an attraction area. I had a hard time grabbing the project of repairing the healing center, although this place is a bit closed, the air is really good. It’s purely a gift from nature.” Shen Yan took several deep breaths.
Driver Uncle Yu echoed, “Longquan Mountain has a lot of legends, God ah, immortals. But also the trend to create a humanistic landscape. We should repair the immortal chess pavilion, and the God dozing house, then it will become very good.”
Shen Jize didn’t care about gods and immortals, nor the gift of nature’s air, he only looked at a pile of cow dung by the roadside, not far from two dirty dogs, and impatiently frowned.
Several children ran out from the village entrance and stood staring at them not far away, looking just as dirty as the two dogs at the beginning.
“Egg, Dang Dang, come.”
Shen Yan apparently already knew them and took out a handful of candy from his bag and handed it to them. The children smiled and reached for the candy, but their eyes were fixed on Shen Jize, and after the three of them walked towards the village, they secretly talked about him.
“Is he from TV?”
“No, no one on TV is as good looking as him.”
Looking at Shen Jize, they could see the beginning of the teenage silhouette and high nose, eyes half-lidded looking at the road beneath his feet, eyebrows dark. His shorts, T-shirt and sneakers were as clean as new, with a belt around his waist. His hair was neat and tidy without a scrap of grass, and a bright green jade pendant was dangling from his fair and slender neck.
He unscrewed the cap of the mineral water bottle, slightly opened his lips to drink, and drank without making any sound. He took out tissues from his trouser pocket, pulled out one to wipe off the sweat seeping down his forehead, and folded the used up tissue in his hand.
This scene caused the group of country kids’ jaws to drop. Their inner shock was great. They felt a little awkward and ashamed of themselves, and one child ran away, followed quickly by the others.
Shen Jize saw it out of the corner of his eye, and his face showed color, as he was hooking his lips. When all the people ran out, he then unscrewed the cap of the water bottle to finish it off with a big gulp, then let out a loud burp.
The sun was very strong, both sides of the fields of vegetable leaves were sunburned and a little wilted. The three walked a few more steps, a hale and hearty old man trotted over from the village entrance.
“Shen is here! I hope the trip went well.” The old man smiled as he walked.
Shen Yan greeted him with a smile and handed him the gift in his hand, “Uncle Cai, it was fine. Sorry for coming to bother you again.”
“You are the noble people of Longquan Mountain. You’re not bothering us. You still brought these things, so let’s first go to my house to drink water.”
Shen Yan turned his head to Shen Jize and said, “Call him Grandpa Cai.”
Shen Jize smiled courteously, “Hello Grandpa Cai.”
“Ai, oh, is this child yours? He’s so good-looking, so nice.” Grandpa Cai asked Shen Yan in surprise.
Shen Yan patted Shen Jize’s shoulder, “My nephew, named Shen Jize, eleven years old.”
“Oh, he is quite tall, and three years older than my grandson, but a big cut above.”
“Children grow wildly.”
The group exchanged pleasantries and went to the village council, drinking tea and blowing fans.
Shen Jize listened to several people talk about the construction of the convalescent center, and although he didn’t understand, on the surface, he didn’t show it. He also nodded frequently, or thoughtfully replied, as if he had his own opinion on this matter, so Shen Yan looked at him several times.
But ultimately, he got too bored, saw no one noticed, and yawned. He was teary-eyed with his mouth wide open when he suddenly stopped moving.
In the doorway, directly under the eaves, stood a small boy, wearing a black and white striped sweatshirt and blue shorts. He had delicate features, and a pair of large, round eyes, unblinkingly looking at him were embedded on his white face.
Shen Jize just met the village children, and they were subtle, unobtrusive. It was okay to be stared at, but only if he was ready for it. When he was caught unaware, he was still a bit annoyed.
Shen Jize closed his mouth and stared at him expressionlessly for a moment before standing up and walking to the door.
The boy took a step towards the steps in a panic, as if he wanted to leave, but then stood still and looked back at Shen Jize, with some nervousness and some shyness in his gaze.
Shen Jize heavily closed the door.
“The cicadas outside are too loud and interfere with your conversation.” He turned to several adults who were looking over.
“This kid really knows what he’s doing.” The driver exclaimed.
Shen Jize sat for a while longer, bored out of his mind, and pretended to go to the bathroom to get out of the door. There was no one left under the big tree, the little boy was gone, and he slowly circled around the village to the backyard.
The backyard was planted with a scattering of small cabbages, and there was a small stream farther outside the fence, where several tan children were playing in the water, and the sound of giggling came all the way here.
Shen Jize felt an itch to look around to see where he could go and, after looking around, only saw a square hole in the lower left of the fence.
The hole was not big, people obviously couldn’t go through it and it was probably used to pass water. But anyway, there was nothing to do, and with no one around, he squatted in the hole to look out.
Outside the hole was a rocky beach, and not far from the hole lay a brownish-red pebble, smooth and beautiful. He reached out to pick it up, but couldn’t reach it, so he simply lay on the ground, using his hand to explore the front.
He felt around for a few moments and didn’t feel anything so he stuck his head to the hole to see the location.
After confirming it, he heard a small voice beside him, “That’s a dog hole, you can’t get through. It lets my dog go out.”
Shen Jize jerked backwards and his head hit the hole with a thud. He couldn’t care less about the pain and scrambled to his feet, seeing the boy he’d just seen under the tree standing to his left.
“Do you want to go out? If you want to go out, go through the front door, it’s not easy from here.” The boy looked at him with round eyes and explained seriously, his voice a little soft.
Shen Jize’s heart rose up, filled with fire, but also concerned about being heard by others, lowered his voice and yelled, “Who said I want to go out?! I just want to grab a stone! Which of your eyes saw me going through the dog hole?!”
The boy’s lips opened and closed, but when he saw Shen Jize’s ugly face, he pursed his lips and didn’t say anything.
Shen Jize looked at him from above and reiterated, “I just want to touch the stone outside, not to go through any dog hole, so don’t open your mouth and talk nonsense, that is called spreading a rumor.”
The boy stared at him, his eyes black and white, his very long eyelashes slightly curled, looking very pretty.
“Did you hear me clearly?” Shen Jize asked impatiently again.
The boy was obviously upset too. He pulled down his face, those beautiful eyes rolled up as he pouted, then he turned around and walked out the door, walking next to the house before turning back and saying, “Didn’t hear you clearly.”
When Shen Jize returned to the village council room, all the adults stood up when they saw him.
“We’ve been waiting for you for half a day. Uncle Cai is going to take us to dinner.” Shen Yan said.
Grandpa Cai led the way and laughed, “There are no restaurants in the village, so we can only make do with a meal at my house.”
“Thank you, Uncle Cai, I have to trouble you again.”
Shen Jize followed behind Shen Yan, turned around in the village and entered a small courtyard.
In the courtyard, a square table was set up under a large banyan tree, and it was filled with a hot meal. The three women who helped cook saw the group enter the courtyard, greeted them, and then went home.
When everyone was seated, Grandpa Cai called out to a house behind him, “Rong Rong! Rong Rong, come out to eat!” He turned his head to the crowd and explained, “My grandson.”
“Oh, look, the delay has made your grandson late for dinner.”
“It’s okay, he’s smart, he’ll find something to eat, he won’t go hungry.”
Shen Jize was looking at the dishes on the table, various kinds of meats in large porcelain bowls, stewed and fried and cold dishes, smelling very fragrant. When he heard the door slam, he looked over absentmindedly and his pupils suddenly shrank.
The child who had just said he was in a dog hole, came out from behind the door.
Lu Rong also saw Shen Jize, and their eyes met in the air, and then darted apart as soon as they touched.
Shen Jize stared at the bowl of stewed dried bamboo shoots with fried pig’s trotters in front of him, while Lu Rong walked to Grandpa Cai and sat down without looking at him with a small face.
“Uncle Cai, your grandson is really good-looking and looks well-behaved.” Shen Yan praised sincerely.
Grandpa Cai looked at Lu Rong, saw him dropping his eyelids without saying a word, so he reached out and touched his head, “That’s because you haven’t seen it. His temper is big and he is spoiled. Rong Rong, quickly call out uncle.”
“Uncle.” Lu Rong said softly.
“Rong Rong, what’s your full name?” The driver asked with a smile.
Lu Rong was so white and pretty that everyone wanted to tease him more.
“My name is Lu Rong, the Rong Rong from the word fluffy.” Lu Rong replied.
Shen Jize subconsciously looked at him when he heard him say his name and saw his lips puckered up when he pronounced the word Rong Rong, with a small pink flush.
Shen Yan said, “Rong Rong, this little brother next to me is called Shen Jize. He’s a few years older than you, and will stay here for a while, so you have to take him to play more, okay?”
Lu Rong and Shen Jize’s eyes collided again, and they turned their heads away.
The adults thought the children were embarrassed and said no more, then began to drink and eat.
After eating, it was still early, and Shen Yan wanted to go to the back of the mountain with Grandpa Cai. It was very hot outside, so he asked Shen Jize not to follow, but to wait at Grandpa Cai’s house, preferably to do some summer homework.
Shen Jize really didn’t want to move, so he decided to agree.
Lu Rong went back to the house and Shen Jize sat under the big banyan tree.
A few moments later, Lu Rong appeared in the doorway, not looking at Shen Jize, his eyes fixed on the distance and asked, “It’s so hot outside, won’t you come in?”
Shen Jize knew he was asking him, but looked at the big banyan tree overhead and replied, “I like to sit outside.”
After leaning back and swaying idly on the back of the chair, he glanced towards the door and found that Lu Rong had already gone back inside.
As the sun slowly dipped and the shade moved, Shen Jize grabbed his stool every so often and followed the shade. The shade slid onto the laundry table built with concrete slabs, and he couldn’t move any further, but after a short time of being exposed to the sun, sweat ran down his temples.
He regretted that he fought with Lu Rong, and he should’ve gone in when he called him to enter the house, and then casually found a stool and chair to sit down on.
Now it was too late to enter the house again.
He could enter, then go in, but all his face would be lost.
Compared to face, a sunburn was more tolerable.
Lu Rong brought a small table to the door, set out the stationery box and books and began to do homework.
Shen Jize saw a fan turning its head not far behind him.
“Ah… It’s so warm, I love sunbathing.” He muttered aloud to himself.
At this point he was so hot from the sun on the top of his head and back that sweat was dripping through like ants were crawling. But as soon as Lu Rong looked over, he immediately looked interested in the big banyan tree, reaching out to touch it and looking around, as if he really didn’t care about the hot sun.
The cicadas were chirping noisily, making him more and more irritable, and after a while, he began to wonder if he should go inside and forget about it.
Lu Rong brought a popsicle from somewhere and ate it while doing his homework, sucking it very loudly.
Shen Jize quickly glanced at the obviously homemade popsicle. It was made in the refrigerator and came with a plastic handle. The popsicle was light orange, and was probably made from orange juice. It looked very tasty.
He swallowed his saliva and felt his throat dry and thirsty. Swallowing made his throat stick together and almost become inseparable.
Lu Rong held a popsicle in one hand and a pen in the other, his white feet were out of his plastic sandals, resting on a large yellow dog lying on the table, pink toes moving.
Shen Jize’s mind was spinning, and he finally had a plan.
He pretended to tease the dog, gave a whistle, and slowly walked closer. He was actually quite afraid of dogs, but the big yellow dog simply ignored him, only glancing at him indifferently before turning away.