Happy 5th Year Anniversary! It is by far one of my favorite Matthia novels to date, so PLEASE check it out! This was a joint effort by everyone in ExR for our 5th Year Anniversary. Thank you, Addis, Rikko, Aphelios, Ceti, KarateChopMonkey, gaeatiamat, and Rara.
Chapter 12: Shadows Following Each Other
Translated by KarateChopMonkey of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
On one of his birthdays, I told him everything.
For someone who only lived in this universe, that truth was truly inconceivable, and I had no good way to convince him.
I didn’t know what to do either.
From the moment I appeared in this world, I already knew what my calling was.
I was destined to reach out to his family. Even if his mother didn’t take care of me, as long as I could interact with his surroundings, I would be able to blend into his life and become the “zipper that bridges the gap.”
That was why, so far, I had a close relationship with his family. Us studying and going to school together, as well as sitting and talking with him…none of it was really necessary.
I’m not really human in the true sense of the word. I’m just a derivative of the dislocation of time and space, and its self-healing properties.
I know all the basic necessary knowledge of this world, and can even transcend the multitudes of creatures and observe their entire evolutionary pattern.
Yet, I’m not without emotional awareness.
Reason tells me that I am now attached to this “life.”
With less than seven years to go before I complete my mission, I chose to tell him everything. That way, he will be ready by then.
Besides, if he knew I wasn’t human, he wouldn’t be upset that I was gone, right?
They were a pair of best friends. In the eyes of strangers, they were brothers, Fang Yuan and Fang Dong.
They weren’t related by blood, neither did the Fang couple adopt Fang Yuan. Their meeting and developing relationship could be described as a series of strange coincidences.
On Fang Dong’s nineteenth birthday, Fang Yuan told him, “In less than seven years, I will disappear.”
After he became an adult, Fang Yuan never used his foster parents’ money again. As a child, he was always at the top of his class, but he suddenly gave up everything, didn’t apply to college, and moved out of Fang Dong’s house. For about a year, they didn’t have much contact with each other.
After a year passed, Fang Yuan went to Fang Dong’s university to look for him.
The scene resembled a cheap idol drama. A well-dressed young man drove a nice car into the campus, and said in a very high profile way that he was looking for a certain someone…Except that this certain someone wasn’t an innocent heroine, but a guy, Fang Dong.
At first Fang Dong was surprised. After Fang Yuan left home, not only did he not fall into decadence and poverty, he had made a name for himself in such a short period of time! This was incredible for a person who only had a high school diploma.
Then he remembered the conversation they had after his 19th birthday, when Fang Yuan told him that he already knew most of the necessary knowledge about the world because he wasn’t human.
If this was true, it would explain why he succeeded so easily.
Fang Dong was a little frustrated. He had taken the basic position of “not believing what Fang Yuan said, and taking him to a psychiatrist if necessary,” but now, he believed Fang Yuan more and more.
The students who passed by the campus cast curious glances at the two “brothers,” and wondered what their relationship was.
At Fang Dong’s request, the two changed their location for the conversation.
In the cafe, Fang Yuan explained his actions. “My mission requires me to have a satisfying life, so I have to earn a good living, which isn’t hard for me.”
Fang Dong chewed on his straw as he thought, If you’re really “not human,” it’s fine. Otherwise, your statement will simply anger people like me who are serious about studying.
Fang Yuan continued, “I didn’t have a choice for primary and secondary school, I had to go through this period normally as an ordinary human, otherwise some problems might arise. But as an adult, it’s different. I shouldn’t continue to benefit from your parents’ resources. So I left. Now I’m back because I want to return something to you.”
“Return what?” Fang Dong asked.
“The care and help your parents gave me, and the… love you gave me,” Fang Yuan stumbled a little. “You are all very kind and lovely people, and I want to give you some gifts. “
“My parents didn’t sponsor your adoption to get something in return.”
“I know. My decision to give you gifts is purely personal, and has nothing to do with your purpose or thoughts.”
When they got home, Fang Yuan did bring a lot of gifts to the Fang couple. In front of the elders, Fang Yuan didn’t mention the words “to mend the rift.” He only said that he was grateful, and filial to his parents.
The gifts were nothing but material things, and he became one of the closest friends of the family, which made other distant relatives and neighbors shocked and envious.
To the general public, Fang Yuan’s struggle was like a fairytale; unrepeatable. It took him only twenty years of his life to complete the path that others had to take for at least forty years.
Only Fang Dong knew why. Because relative to ordinary people, Fang Yuan was simply omniscient…he was the product of multiple four-dimensional universes.
Fang Dong realized that he was starting to use Fang Yuan’s expressions to explain these things…Which was simply wrong, obviously, since he firmly believed that Fang Yuan was mentally ill.
By the time Fang Dong was in his third year of college, on his twenty-first birthday, he walked out of the building and saw a luxury car turn in from afar, which was really out of place in the campus atmosphere. It was like he knew exactly when he would walk out of the building after class.
“Can you not be so high-profile?” After he sat in the car, Fang Dong muttered, “You do this every time…Do you know what people in school are saying? They think we have a special relationship.”
With Fang Yuan’s young face, the way he dressed made him seem old-fashioned. He drove the car himself. “Special? Our relationship was already abnormal.”
“Isn’t it true? You’re the first vanishing individual of the phenomenon of temporal dislocation, and I’m a derivative of temporal self-healing. I had to enter your life to close the cracks, so can our relationship be considered normal?”
“Don’t pretend you don’t understand the joke. I know you know everything.” Fang Dong gritted his teeth.
Fang Yuan smiled lightly. He had never smiled much, and it looked the same as when he was a child.
In the private room of the hotel Fang Yuan had booked, the family gathered. The “brothers,” who were already big boys, were dressed in coned birthday hats, a string band played music, and they made a wish by candlelight amidst the scent of cream and strawberries.
Fang Yuan drove him back to school around midnight. Fang Dong couldn’t help but sigh. “It’s over. You sent me back in the middle of the night, so they probably think that our relationship is even more special.”
“Didn’t you tell them that we’re brothers?”
“Don’t you know? You’ve been on the news, and on the Chicken Soup for the Soul reading. You’re so young, and not highly educated, but surprisingly successful in your career, so it’s you who’s famous. People in our school know about you and have asked my family. They all know we aren’t related by blood.”
“I know, I count myself as a ‘successful person’ as you call it,” Fang Yuan said. “Actually, I can stop being such a person, and just maintain a peaceful life to be able to fulfill my mission. What I’m doing right now is extra. Because I want to give back to you. I will struggle as much as I can and gain as much as I can. In the future, when I disappear, I hope to be able to dedicate more of my wealth to you. This is sincere and honest.”
Fang Dong disliked hearing such reasoning. He didn’t reply.
The silence in the car was maintained for nearly a minute.
Fang Yuan spoke up, “There are less than five years left.”
It seemed that not everything was abnormal.
The pace of life continued, while the feeling of panic in Fang Dong’s heart was growing.
He could hardly convince himself with “Don’t trust Fang Yuan” anymore. Finally, one day, at his insistence, Fang Yuan and he went to the hospital together to register in the respective department for examination.
The result of the exam was that Fang Yuan was fine. Maybe a little stressed out due to his busy career, but nothing else.
After they returned home, Fang Dong kept his expression tight, and seemed to be holding back his anger.
Fang Yuan didn’t even mention what had just happened, and let it go. He calmly began to ask about his mother’s desire to take over the store.
Fang Dong stood in front of the window and looked downstairs, as he listened absentmindedly but attentively. Finally he couldn’t help himself, pulled Fang Yuan back into the room and said, “You lied to the doctor.”
“It’s not a lie, it’s a normal expression that fits my status,” Fang Yuan said. “People’s doctors are professionals, so can I lie to them? I just didn’t talk about the time rift. How can that be considered a lie?”
“But…you know exactly what I’m talking about! Those statements of yours, like ‘less than five years’ and the rift…Fang Yuan, you sound like you’re crazy! You need help, you know?”
“I don’t need it.” Fang Yuan stood up, walked to the window and gazed at him up close. “Nothing I said was a fantasy. In fact, you understand very well that it’s all true, so you’re scared and you want to find proof that I’m crazy and that what I’m saying is false.”
“I’m glad,” Fang Yuan added. “It shows you care about me, and don’t want me to die.”
The words on his lips were soft, but Fang Yuan’s expression was as serious as if he was reviewing a document.
As he gazed into his face, Fang Dong couldn’t help but want to laugh a little, but the smile that had just spread to the corner of his mouth immediately dissipated.
The cruel countdown continued.
Day by day, for the rest of his life, whenever he thought of this, Fang Dong had to tell himself over and over again, Fang Yuan isn’t normal. The things he said are all whimsical. They’re all false.
When Fang Dong was twenty-two, he and his parents moved into a new house. Fang Yuan sent his personal affairs assistant to help them with the decoration and furniture selection. His mother was smiling all day long, but Fang Dong wasn’t happy at all.
After graduation, Fang Yuan asked Fang Dong to work for his company or offered him money to start his own business, but Fang Dong refused. For this reason, he had an in-depth talk with his parents, saying that he wasn’t jealous of Fang Yuan, but he didn’t want to take too much advantage of him. After all, Fang Yuan had already given his family a lot in return. It wasn’t that he was rejecting Fang Yuan’s assistance, he wanted to make his own efforts first.
His parents understood his feelings and agreed that he should find a job on his own. In fact, Fang Dong wasn’t telling the truth. The biggest reason he didn’t want to go to Fang Yuan’s company was that he was afraid of seeing Fang Yuan every day.
He couldn’t keep having close contact with him, otherwise, the clock would tick in his heart every day.
There were less than four years left.
At the age of twenty-three, the busyness and interpersonal changes that came with being a newcomer to society allowed Fang Dong to forget about the countdown for a while.
Fang Yuan didn’t mention it again on his birthday.
Fang Yuan still lived alone outside, and came home on weekends and New Year’s holidays. He and Fang Dong played casual games together, and went shopping with their parents, just like a real family.
The Fang couple would occasionally talk about the old days, about that rainy day when they suddenly found Fang Yuan standing in front of their house.
His mother once secretly told Fang Dong, “I’m so happy to see you’re on good terms. I was always worried that you would be hostile to each other, and you wouldn’t be in the right frame of mind, but everything worked out just fine. I have another son, and you have a good brother. When we’re 100 years old, you can still rely on each other.”
But Fang Dong secretly felt that he would like it better if the other was an ordinary person, and he’d become the “wrong frame of mind” in the hostile relationship. At least then there would be no countdown, and they wouldn’t have this warm and yet cold attitude towards each other. Even if their relationship wasn’t good…at least he would always be alive. There were less than three years left.
After his twenty-fourth birthday, Fang Dong went to Fang Yuan’s place at the other end of town.
In the summer night, they chatted on the terrace, unaware that the eastern sky was turning bright. Neither of them had any intention of going to bed.
It wasn’t until five o’clock in the morning, as they were looking far away at the neighborhood green park, where the elderly had been out for their morning exercises, when Fang Dong rubbed his swollen calves, and yawned. “After graduating from college, I’ve never stayed up all night like this.”
“I often stay up late.” Fang Yuan replied.
“Yeah, right. You usually work too hard.”
“It’s not work.” Fang Yuan walked to the terrace parapet, leaving Fang Dong behind. “I’m not afraid of staying up late to hurt my body, because I’ll die when I’m twenty-six. That’s why I especially don’t want to sleep, to feel loss, to feel waste, so I will be awake as much as possible.”
Fang Dong was silent. The dense heat of the summer morning seemed to dissipate instantly, and everything around him turned into a cold abyss.
Fang Yuan continued, “There are less than two years left.”
“Enough is enough!” Fang Dong stood up. “You mention it all the time. Do you think I’m comfortable listening to it?”
Whether he was talking about absurd topics, or speaking words filled with sadness, Fang Yuan always maintained a serious attitude. “I know you’ll be sad,” Fang Yuan said. “And so am I. Although I’m not human, I’m not emotionless and hard-hearted. I love life, I love my job, I love your parents, and I love you. But I will inevitably complete my mission and leave this world.”
When Fang Dong tried to refute that, Fang Yuan raised his hand to stop him and continued, “We should acknowledge the truth. I will die, but I can’t be considered ‘dead’ because I have never really lived. I’m not a child born from the union of a man and a woman in love. I’m a product of time and space when it heals itself. I existed before you, only in a different form of life. To be able to talk and get along with you like this now, I’m already satisfied that I didn’t come to this world in vain.”
In a single moment, Fang Dong was devastated by the emotions that had been brewing in his heart for a long time. He could barely control himself, and had to hold on to the balcony railing to stand still.
“Fang Yuan, you’re very important to me…”
He wanted to express something, something deeper and more profound than what he could put into words, but he couldn’t say it out loud.
“To me, you’re not just a childhood friend, or a non-related brother…you’re…to m……”
Fang Yuan frowned slightly, took a step forward, took Fang Dong’s shoulder, and rested his forehead against the nook of his shoulder.