Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Shen Jize entered the house as he wished, sat down on the wooden sofa and leaned back against the cool back of the chair, stretching every pore.
Lu Rong looked at his sunburned face, got up and took a popsicle out of the freezer in the corner, handed it to him and said, “Eat.”
His eyes were half-lidded, his long eyelashes covering his eyes, and his voice was soft, but his tone was flat.
Shen Jize’s parents had him in their early forties, and except for his strict academic requirements, he was considered very spoiled in other aspects. The students in the class also took him as their leader and listened to him in everything. So although he wanted to eat a popsicle, Lu Rong’s attitude made him unhappy, and he refused stiffly, “No.”
After saying that, he took off the school bag on his shoulder and pretended to look for books inside.
Lu Rong bristled and turned around to put the popsicle back in the freezer.
Shen Jize’s heart became even more irritated. Couldn’t you have been more persuasive? Can’t you be a little softer in your tone? Even if you passed it a little further forward, I would have taken it.
Lu Rong sat back at his small table, picked up half a popsicle in the enamel jar, and continued to eat and do his homework.
Shen Jize spread his composition book on his lap and wrote in an awkward position, throwing out, “Educated people don’t make noise when they eat.”
Lu Rong stopped sucking on his popsicle and peeked at Shen Jize, who was expressionless, and took small bites instead.
Shen Jize stared at the composition book and said coldly, “Just like a rat eating soybeans.”
Lu Rong took a bite and gently sucked on it in his mouth, then stuck out his pink tongue to lick the droplets on the popsicle, quietly, without making a sound.
Shen Jize, however, was inclined to turn his head to look, and couldn’t help but peek. Seeing Lu Rong eating so intently, he said with a sense of anger, “Who still eats popsicles nowadays?! No one eats them! They are thrown on the street, and some people still have the nerve to eat them.”
Lu Rong was licking the popsicle vigorously, but he stopped moving and slowly withdrew his tongue. He put the rest of the popsicle into the enamel jar and sat there without moving, his white ears crawling with a layer of red.
When Shen Jize was satisfied, Lu Rong got up, and the chair behind him was pushed out with a long creak.
He went to the refrigerator like a little whirlwind, angrily took out a popsicle and handed it to the big yellow dog lying on the table, saying loudly, “Eat the popsicle, little dog!”
Then he took out half of the remaining popsicle from the enamel jar and stuffed them into his mouth and took a bite.
Shen Jize didn’t say anything.
It was quiet for the rest of the day, both of them working on their homework in silence, with only the fan buzzing and the cicadas chirping around.
Shen Jize spread his composition book on the arm of the wooden couch and twisted his upper body to write. He had never been this motivated to do his homework, and had brought his book bag to the mountains to cope with his parents. But at the moment he couldn’t think of anything else to make himself look busy other than doing his homework, rather than sitting dully on the couch.
That would make him look not at all subdued.
“…In the middle of the night in the pouring rain, my dad was stopping a cab on the street, and I was having a hard time lying on his back and seeing so many gray hairs on top of his head…”
He was facing Lu Rong and could see that Lu Rong had left the small desk half open. He wouldn’t go there, his pride still hadn’t recovered from being poked by dog holes and popsicles. Not to mention that it was also just crooked writing, which was nothing to him.
The two kids ignored each other until sunset when the adults returned.
Shen Yan was the only one who followed Grandpa Cai this time. The driver and other staff members went back to the construction site, and Shen Yan came to pick up Shen Jize, so naturally, he stayed here to eat dinner.
“How did you two get along this afternoon?” Shen Yan smilingly asked Lu Rong and Shen Jize at the dinner table.
The two kids didn’t reply, just buried their heads in their rice. Lu Rong chucked a piece of pork ribs and quietly handed it to the big yellow dog under the table. The big yellow dog took the ribs in his mouth and scurried to the doghouse in the corner of the courtyard to chew them.
Grandpa Cai set two white porcelain cups on the table, held a glass jar full of light brown liquid, and filled them both.
“This is my own plum wine, very low in alcohol, like sugar water.” He told Shen Yan.
He also slapped Lu Rong’s hand away that was secretly reaching over, “Children don’t drink.”
Lu Rong touched the back of his hand, but he didn’t care, and his slithering eyes went to look at the glass of wine.
“What’s the percentage of this wine?” Shen Yan smacked a mouthful, “It’s good to drink this in summer. It’s sweet and sour, and the percentage is not too high.”
Grandpa Cai said, “I don’t know exactly, but it’s about the same as beer.”
Lu Rong took a pair of chopsticks and stuck them under Grandpa Cai’s armpit, dipped them in his glass and sucked them into his mouth.
Shen Yan looked amused and said to Grandpa Cai, “Beer is not considered wine, so let’s give Rong Rong a sip.”
“I have this plum wine hidden everywhere. I can only put it on the roof beam, otherwise he will find it and steal it.” Grandpa Cai shook his head helplessly.
Shen Jize ate without expression, but in fact he was in awe. It was the first time he met a kid who loved to drink, and he was a bit in awe and a bit unconvinced.
So he looked deeply at Lu Rong several times.
Grandpa Cai took out two more white porcelain cups and placed them in front of Lu Rong and Shen Jize, and poured one cup each.
“Can Xiao Ze also drink a cup?” Grandpa Cai asked Shen Yan.
Shen Yan patted Shen Jize’s shoulder and said boldly, “He can. My nephew can drink. It’s okay, it’s just like beer.”
Shen Jize didn’t want to say in front of Lu Rong that he hadn’t even drunk beer, so he looked at the wine in front of him and froze. He saw that Lu Rong had already picked up the glass of wine, pouted and took a sip carefully, and then squinted his eyes contentedly, his dark eyelashes trembling like rows of small fans, looking very happy.
So he also picked up the wine and sipped a little.
The wine in his mouth was indeed sour and sweet with a plum fragrance, like sour plum soup. But there was a bitter taste of wine in the middle, somewhat strange, and not good.
Shen Jize just wanted to stop drinking, but saw Lu Rong still holding the wine glass. His two round eyes were staring at him over the top rim of the wine glass, secretly observing. Shen Jize’s heart thumped and he changed his mind instantly, tilted his neck and poured the entire glass of plum wine down his throat, then put the glass down with an air of calmness.
Grandpa Cai lifted the wine jar again and filled his empty glass, saying, “You two are only allowed to drink two glasses, not more.”
“Three glasses, grandpa, three glasses.” Lu Rong began to beg before he finished one glass. He went to put his arm around Grandpa Cai and shook him, “Three cups, okay? Okay?”
Shen Jize’s heart sank. This wine wasn’t good at all, and insisting on filling three cups was a bitter death.
Not drinking and not able to afford to lose face, after all, Shen Yan had said that, ‘If brother can drink, you can also drink’.
He stared at Lu Rong and saw that he was pouting and cheeky, his red mouth tsking, his voice softly grinding Grandpa Cai to give him three cups, cursing in his heart: ‘Alcoholic, coy spirit, broken child’.
Grandpa Cai couldn’t resist Lu Rong, so he gave him three glasses, and Shen Jize also had three glasses with a wooden face.
The rest of the time, Grandpa Cai and Shen Yan kept talking about the matter of Longquan Mountain. It wasn’t until the meal was finished that Shen Yan called out to Shen Jize a few times without response, and only then did he notice his strange state.
Shen Jize leaned back in his chair and didn’t speak, his face was red and his eyes were straight, his nostrils breathing heavily.
Shen Yan reached out and waved his hand in front of his eyes several times but he didn’t respond, so he lifted his head and he and Grandpa Cai looked at each other, “The little brat is drunk.”
Since he was drunk, he simply stayed at Grandpa Cai’s house, and Shen Yan went back to the construction site alone.
When Shen Jize woke up, he found himself lying in bed, surrounded by darkness, with only the light from the outside room coming through the doorway. He thought he was still in his own home and wanted to open his mouth to call out to his parents, but suddenly remembered that he had followed his uncle to the countryside and this should be where he lived.
His eyes soon got used to the darkness, and with the moonlight coming in through the window, he lifted the towel quilt that was on him and sat up to put on his shoes. There were no sneakers beside the bed, only a pair of plastic slippers, so he just put on his shoes, when he heard the sound of laughter from outside the window.
Shen Jize heard what sounded like Lu Rong’s voice and looked out of the window curiously.
The child was covered in foam and standing naked at the edge of the courtyard, while Grandpa Cai scooped up a ladle of water from a nearby bucket and drizzled it over his head.
The child laughed and twirled around, and used his hands to splash the water on the big yellow dog not far away.
——He was oblivious to the fact that he had his little birdy on display.
Shen Jize had never shown his birdy in front of anyone since he could remember, since he took his own bath and wore his swimming trunks. The shock of seeing this scene was no less than hearing that Lu Rong can drink.
Lu Rong had already finished bathing, Grandpa Cai put a towel on him and said, “Come inside.”
The naked child then snapped and ran in his direction.
Shen Jize realized that he was still at Grandpa Cai’s house and that Lu Rong might be coming to this room. He rushed back to the bed and crawled into it, pretending that he hadn’t woken up yet, but before he could put one leg on the bed, there was a click and the house was lit up.
Lu Rong saw the person in the room and paused, then darted to the big stand by the wall and pulled out a pair of cotton pants from it.
Shen Jize couldn’t pretend to be asleep, so he climbed into bed and sat against the end of the bed.
Lu Rong also sat on the edge of the bed to put on his pants, his body freshly bathed with shower water, and a faint smell of milk wafted into Shen Jize’s nose.
“Did you take a bath with milk?” Shen Jize thought the smell was quite pleasant, but deliberately frowned.
Lu Rong stopped putting on his pants, pouted and said, “It’s the smell of soap.”
“It smells awful.” Shen Jize said in a disgusted tone.
Lu Rong turned his head to look at him, his two eyes were round, but they were half blocked by his soft wet hair, and he didn’t look mean at all, reminding Shen Jize of a puppy he saw at the entrance of the village.
“You can actually get drunk on plum wine and keep sleeping all the time, opening your eyes once in between, how useless.” Lu Rong began to return the favor, showing a disdainful look.
Shen Jize didn’t want to mention this at all, so he sank his face and changed the subject, “When I started sleeping, you kept watching me?”
“Yes, I wanted to see if you would fall asleep and die.”
Shen Jize saw his pants still resting in the crook of his leg, his birdy wide open in the air, and asked, “Don’t you know how to put on pants?”
Lu Rong again lowered his head to put on pants, bending between his small belly bulge, squeezing out a few folds. His whole body was fleshy and very white.
“White fatty.” Shen Jize half-squinted his eyes, and said in a very soft voice.
Lu Rong gave a jolt and stiffened, and just as he slowly turned his head, Grandpa Cai walked in and smiled, “Little Ze is awake?”
“Grandpa, I’m awake.” Shen Jize sat up straight and politely returned.
“Grandpa, this person just called me a fat white boy.” Lu Rong complained sadly, his voice sounding pitiful.
Shen Jize showed a stunned face and looked at Lu Rong innocently, interpreting with his expression that he didn’t say such a thing at all, but cursing in his heart with hatred: ‘Tattletale’.
Grandpa Cai, however, clearly didn’t take it seriously, reaching out to pinch Lu Rong’s soft cheeks, “But it’s just a little fat. And don’t call him ‘this person’, call him ‘Brother’.”
Grandpa Cai lowered himself to pull his pants, and Shen Jize saw Lu Rong turn his head towards him and roll his eyes, so he made a silent gesture, “Call me Brother.”