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Chapter 9: The Lung is a Very Important Organ

Translated by Fefe of Exiled Rebels Scanlations

Editor: Addis

Tang Heng exited the elevator and ran into someone—the hotel’s Manager Qi.

He was probably off work now. Instead of his usual suit, he was wearing a plain jacket and jeans. He was still as friendly as ever when he saw Tang Heng though. “Teacher Tang, you’re done working! You work so hard!”

“You’re here for Sun-laoshi?”

“Yeah, he said his room’s air conditioning has problems. I’m here to check for him.”

“I’m looking for him too,” Tang Heng said.

Manager Qi knocked on the door and it quickly opened. Sun Jihao was wrapped in the hotel’s bathrobe and stuttered as he spoke, “Xiao Qi, hurry and see what the problem is! I set it to 26 degrees but it’s freezing—Shidi! Your air conditioning is broken too?!”

“No.” Tang Heng looked at Sun Jihao’s face. “Shixiong, I have something I need to talk about. Are you free?”

“No problem. Xiao Qi, you take a look here.” Sun Jihao went to get his room card and put on another jacket over his bathrobe. “Let’s go, Shidi. We’ll talk outside.”

It was the fourth-floor terrace again. “Shixiong, did you finish uploading today’s data?” Tang Heng asked. They used surveys for the visit and had to upload the data into their system every night.

“Yeah. You fell asleep ASAP—meanwhile, I worked for two full hours. The hotel’s wifi is horrible.”

“Was anything wrong?”

“Nothing wrong with the village. It’s the mayor.” Sun Jihao glanced at the door and lowered his voice. “Before you got back for lunch, he wanted to give me a gift.”

“What gift?”

” Hepatobacter. Said it’s their local specialty—”

“Did you notice?” Tang Heng interrupted. “There aren’t any disabled or sick people in the village.”

Sun Jihao was taken aback. Then he chuckled. “Did Lu Meining tell you this? Those two kids are quite responsible.”

“A villager said that the council sent some people away before we arrived.”

“Ah, I couldn’t explain too much to the kids.” Sun Jihao patted Tang Heng’s shoulder. “That old granny… Well, her son was the former mayor, you get it? She obviously wouldn’t like the new officials and would cause trouble at times. I visited her. She’s just a bit muddled.”

“…She said that Li Yuechi’s brother has mental problems.”

“Why don’t you just ask Xiao Li?” Sun Jihao looked confused. “Aren’t you two old classmates?”

Old classmates my ass.


Ten-thirty at night, Tang Heng gripped a lit cigarette, doing all he could to suppress the urge to defenestrate his phone. He’d already send five voice call requests to Li Yuechi, but nobody ever picked up. Was this how old classmates were like? He didn’t even have Li Yuechi’s number. He couldn’t find him. He knew that Li Yuechi was in Shijiang, but he could never find him.

Every message, every voice call seemed to get thrown into the boundless darkness. The last time this happened was five years ago. Tang Heng had been doing his masters in the UK. One clear summer evening, he started calling Li Yuechi’s number like crazy. Li Yuechi had already been arrested at that time, but he couldn’t remember that all. He sent Wechat messages, texts, QQ comments, he asked Are you here? Li Yuechi, you here? Don’t ignore me, I’ll come back right now, I bought the plane ticket, I’ll fly to Shanghai tomorrow noon, I hope it won’t be delayed—Li Yuechi, are you here?

He couldn’t remember what happened after that. It was like his memory had been wiped away. When he’d returned to sanity, he was lying in a quiet patient’s ward. Outside the window was London’s night sky.

Tang Heng kept repeating Sun Jihao’s words in his mind. Sun Jihao had said, Not replying to your Wechat? That’s normal. There’s no wifi in the village… They all sleep early in the village. He’s probably sleeping and not checking his phone… Shidi, ask him in person tomorrow.

Plus, he’d never heard Li Yuechi mention his brother six years ago. When Li Yuechi had called home back then, he’d occasionally ask, “How’s my brother at school?”—it didn’t sound like asking about a brother with mental problems, right?

His phone vibrated.

Zita: Teacher Tang, sorry for disturbing you… Do you have updates?

Tang Heng: We still have to verify the old woman’s words. You don’t have to worry about it.

Zita: Ah, okay… Sorry for bothering you.

Tang Heng: No problem. Get some rest.

Wasn’t this how things were? The former mayor’s mother was upset with the village council and she wasn’t as clearheaded due to her age, so she purposely or accidentally made some things up when the students visited her. It was indeed like this.

He couldn’t be unable to make rational analyses just because it involved Li Yuechi. He was already 27 years old. He couldn’t be like that.


Eleven-thirty at night, Tang Heng was sitting on a zooming motorcycle.

The mountains were pitch black, save for the small square of road illuminated by the motorcycle’s orange headlight. It was fast and the icy night wind stabbed into his face. Tang Heng had no choice but to squint.

“Sir, how much longer?”

“Around half an hour!” the driver said. “We’re already fast enough! The road’s easy ’cause there’s no rain today.”

He’d first hailed a taxi, but the driver rejected him when he heard he’s going to Banxi Village. “It’s too far and the road’s hard—I can drive you if you’re going to Tongren though.”

“I can pay you more,” Tang Heng had said. “Give me a price, alright?”

“The problem’s not the money, sir. I gotta hand the car over tomorrow morning. If I drive you there and come back, it’ll be five or six! No time!”

“Do you have any other coworkers?” Tang Heng had said. “Anyone willing to go to Banxi Village, any cost is okay.”

“No one’ll go, it’s too late!”


At that moment, Tang Heng practically wondered that instead of Banxi Village, he should be going to the hospital. Did his condition relapse?

“Oh wait.” The driver had stopped Tang Heng and hesitated for a few seconds. “There’s someone… Lemme help you ask.”

That was how Tang Heng ended up on a motorcycle to Banxi Village right now.

Lao Ren lived in Banxi and planted tea. It was time for the spring tea leaves to enter the market now, so he’d be going between Banxi and Shijiang three or four times per week.

“The tea’s not bad this year,” Lao Ren said, chuckling. “The price is higher than last year.”

“Does everyone in the village plant tea leaves?”

“No, some go out for work and some have problems and can’t do any work.”

“Do the Li’s plant it?”

“Which Li? We have so many Li families!”

“Li Yuechi. The oldest son is called Li Yuechi.”

“Oh, you’re looking for him? Nobody in his family plants tea.”

“I’m his classmate… I heard he got released.”

“Oh!” Lao Ren sighed. “His family’s so pitiful.”

“How’s his family been these years?”

“How’ve they been? Just think, his dad was sick for so many years, his brother has mental issues and him? He was in jail! Thank god he’s out now. His family was worse a few years back!”

“…What’s wrong with his brother?”

“Dumb. Born that way.”

“I never heard him mention it.”

“When were you classmates with him?”


“I knew it. Your accent doesn’t sound like Shijiang’s.”

“Right.” Tang Heng looked up at the night sky. He could barely hear his own voice. “I’m looking for him.”

It was past midnight by the time the motorcycle drove into Banxi Village. A dozen hours ago when Tang Heng had left here, the wildlife had been noisy, the sky clear blue, and vibrant life everywhere. But now, the village and mountains sank into the darkness. It was eerily still.

The motorcycle slowed down. Lao Ren said, “My house is up above. Did you call Li Yuechi to pick you up?”

“…” Tang Heng didn’t know how to explain that Li Yuechi didn’t know he’d come.

“Isn’t he doing business in Shijiang?” Lao Ren commented. “Why don’t you visit him in his store?”

“Because we—” His phone rang in his pocket. The surroundings were too quiet that the ringtone was like thunder. Tang Heng grasped his phone and pulled it out. The screen had Li Yuechi’s incoming call.

“Li Yuechi,” Tang Heng called out to him in a daze.

“What’s wrong?” His voice was very calm. “Signal’s bad at my house. I can’t connect to 4G.”

“Are you at home?”


“Can you…” Tang Heng’s throat was raspy and he coughed. “Can you come pick me up?”

Li Yuechi was silent for a few seconds. “Where are you?” he asked.

“Ren Dongqiang’s house.”

Li Yuechi was silent for a few seconds again.

Then he said, “Wait.”

Tang Heng offered him 200-kuai, but Lao Ren hurriedly waved his hand. “I don’t need all that! I just gave you a ride!”

“Please take it,” Tang Heng said. “It’s all thanks to you.” Otherwise, what would he do tonight? He didn’t even know.

“But it doesn’t cost that much! Fifty, just 50 is enough!”

“I don’t have 50-kuai in change.”

“Aiya—” Lao Ren took a 100-kuai bill from Tang Heng’s hand. “I can see that you’re well off! The Li’s really have it hard… Let me just say something extra. Since you two are close, please help him.”

“Yes, I will,” Tang Heng said seriously.

“He’s a good kid and his parents are good people. Back then, I wanted to work in the mine, but his dad told me not to go. It’s bad for your body.” Lao Ren leaned against his motorcycle and sighed. “Then his dad got sick. Just… Such bad luck.”

“What did he get sick with?”

“Black lung, you know. A bunch of those who work in the mines get this.”

“Li Yuechi’s father got black lung disease?”

“Yeah, so many years. It was bad.”


A small spot of light appeared in the distance and quickly got closer. The sound of the motorcycle’s engine grew clearer too. Li Yuechi stopped outside Lao Ren’s house and called out, “Uncle Ren, sorry for the troubles.”

Lao Ren walked up to him. “No problem! Your classmate is the one who worked hard, coming so late.”

The two made some more small talk, while Tang Heng stood in place without going up. He looked at Li Yuechi, looking at his t-shirt with an unclear color. It looked like he’d thrown it on hurriedly. It was such a cold night, but he only wore one layer. Without a jacket covering him, Tang Heng finally realized that he was so much thinner than from six years ago. The t-shirt’s sleeves and lower part fluttered in the night wind.

Lao Ren turned and entered his house. Tang Heng didn’t move, still staring at Li Yuechi.

Li Yuechi gazed at him in silence too. After a while, he said, “Tang Heng, come over here.”

Tang Heng walked over, standing before him.

“Why did you come?”

“To find you.”

“Didn’t we say to meet tomorrow?”

“Why did you lie to me?”

Li Yuechi stopped talking. Tang Heng grabbed his wrist. It felt so cold.

“Get on,” Li Yuechi said.   

Tang Heng got onto the motorcycle’s backseat, forehead resting against his back. Li Yuechi was too thin—so thin that his spine rose up in slight bumps, branding Tang Heng’s forehead like a shackle. Tang Heng closed his eyes, listening to the wind in his ears. The image of Li Yuechi walking backwards toward the cliff appeared in his mind. He suddenly realized that maybe Li Yuechi had had those thoughts before. Had even tried it before.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Tang Heng asked, voice raspy.

“Tell you what?” Li Yuechi scoffed. “Tell you that my life sucks after I got released, tell you I’m broke as fuck, tell you that this is my fucking life now and I accept it—and then ask you to lend me money? What’s the point?”

“No… I’m not talking about this.”

“Then what are you talking about?”

Tang Heng didn’t answer. He just wrapped his arms around Li Yuechi’s waist and buried his face into his t-shirt. His lips trembled and his chest rose up and down. Why hadn’t he contacted Li Yuechi? Why hadn’t he looked for him? Why had he come to Guizhou six years ago but never to Shijiang? And why—when Li Yuechi wrote down the line, you are the lake surging into my lungs, he’d asked so carelessly, “Why not surge into your heart?” Li Yuechi had just laughed and said the lung was a very important organ. Okay, now, now he knew. The lung was a very important organ; he’d once surged into his lungs like the water of a lake.

The motorcycle stopped and Li Yuechi extinguished the lights. They sank into the pure darkness.

“Why are you crying?” Li Yuechi murmured.

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September 19, 2023 3:47 pm

This is sad. What a crap time LY has had; and why didn’t TH seek him out before? Guilt? Fear?
It doesn’t look like the old lady who told Zita about ‘bad’ people being sent away, was making everything up at all.
Thanks Fefe and Addis for the chapter.

Official LMW release!

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