translator: baumkuchen editor: ellabells
When Lu Qingjiu left Shuifu village, he had made a promise to Yin Xun, saying that he would definitely come back, he would come back here and meet him again. They were going to look for that prickly wild fruit in spring, have water fights by the stream in summer, build big piles of grain in autumn, and go to their most beloved arcade in town to have their fill of playing that game machine they both dearly missed.
But after Lu Qingjiu went to the city, he never came back to Shuifu village. Even though he still remembered his childhood playmate, the long distance made it difficult for their childhood promises to be fulfilled. After many years, and having gradually grown up, Lu Qingjiu would occasionally go back to Shuifu village to visit his grandmother. But because it had been a long time since they last met, some distance had inevitably formed between Yin Xun and him. Naturally, the two of them wouldn’t be like in the past when they clutched their most treasured game coins and took a two-hour car trip just to play a game for about ten minutes.
Lu Qingjiu had forgotten about it and Yin Xun also never brought it up. Their childhood memories became covered in a layer of dust that had formed over time and became more and more fuzzy.
Even later, Shuifu village became a sad place for Lu Qingjiu. His parents went home to visit relatives but were killed in a freak mudslide. Even their remains couldn’t be found. Lu Qingjiu rushed back in a hurry, looking shockingly haggard.
“Qingjiu, you’re back,” Yin Xun had said to him.
“I’m back,” Lu Qingjiu had replied.
Yin Xun then asked, “Are you going to leave again?”
“Leaving, I want to place their graves near the place they lived,” Lu Qingjiu voiced his thoughts, “I still need to finish university…”
The meaning of this statement, was that he wouldn’t be staying in Shuifu village. After hearing this, Yin Xun didn’t express any opinions, only reaching out a hand and giving this old friend a strong hug. He said, “It’s alright. Don’t worry, as long as it’s in Shuifu village, I’ll help you.”
Yin Xun did as he said.
Lu Qingjiu, who had suddenly lost both parents at once, was in an incredibly bad mental state. Yin Xun helped him take over the search and rescue work. At that time, it had still been raining heavily. Clad in a raincoat, Yin Xun had passed on information to the search and rescue team, describing each part of the mountain as well as if there was any possibility of survival.
Even though in the end, he still never found Lu Qingjiu’s parents’ corpses, he found the travel bag that Lu Qingjiu’s parents had been carrying on them.
Lu Qingjiu used this travel bag to erect an empty grave for his parents.
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
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Having thought everything through, Lu Qingjiu drove the pickup truck to town.
But it was only when he went to the place where that arcade had used to be did he realised that place had already become something else. The arcade had been torn down and turned into a clothing store. This was also a matter of course. With how abundant electronic products were nowadays, the arcade being unable to stay open was normal. Besides, back then, the arcade hadn’t had a formal license.
When they were young, the arcade was a place only bad kids went to. Usually there would be a curtain hanging above the door. Standing outside the curtain, they would be able to hear the crackling and rattling of people beating on buttons and shaking the joysticks accompanied by childish roars and sighs. A coin, a life; if they died then they could come back. Lu Qingjiu’s skill at gaming wasn’t as good as Yin Xun’s so he would always be beaten miserably by others, dying incredibly fast.
So Yin Xun would always split a few more coins with him so he could play a little longer.
Lu Qingjiu reached his hand into his jacket pocket and rubbed the rough surface of the coin. He let out a deep breath. He dug out his phone and called Yin Xun’s phone again but the line was unavailable. Thinking about it, Yin Xun probably already turned his phone off.
Lu Qingjiu, who was unable to find Yin Xun, returned home in low spirits.
He was still thinking about this as he cooked, thinking that if he had talked to Yin Xun in the very beginning and told him that he didn’t care whether he was human or not, Yin Xun wouldn’t have ran away. Even though he had long sensed something strange about Yin Xun, he thought that since Yin Xun didn’t want to talk about it, then he wouldn’t ask. Looking at it now, that seemed rather wrong… If he had been more insistent in the beginning, persisting in wanting to get answers… But would this have been fair to Yin Xun, who didn’t want to tell him?
As he thought about this, Lu Qingjiu became a little distracted. The knife he was using to chop vegetables cut into his finger. Red blood instantly began to flow out of his finger, soaking into the cutting board.
“Hss.” Lu Qingjiu stopped, pained. He had used a little too much strength, almost cutting off half his nail. He turned and walked out of the room, wanting to find a bandage for first aid.
Bai Yuehu who sat in the courtyard smelled the blood from far away. When he got up and came over, he saw Lu Qingjiu frowning as he tried to wrap up his injured finger.
Bai Yuehu didn’t say anything, simply heading over and stopping Lu Qingjiu’s hand, saying, “Don’t be in a hurry to bandage it. Clean the wound first.”
Lu Qingjiu was indifferent. “It’s nothing, it’s just a little cut.”
Bai Yuehu said, “Wait a bit, I’ll get you some ointment.”
Lu Qingjiu nodded.
When Bai Yuehu came back with the ointment, he saw Lu Qingjiu with his hand on the side, staring at the entrance in a daze. The wound was still bleeding. Only when Bai Yuehu picked his hand up and looked closer did he then notice that this cut was particularly deep, he could already see the bone. A person’s hands contained a lot of blood vessels and nerves. This cut was so deep that if it wasn’t handled properly, it could even result in him losing that finger. Thankfully, this ointment had special medicinal properties so if they used it, it would probably be fine after two days.
“What were you thinking about while you were handling the knife,” Bai Yuehu asked as he helped Lu Qingjiu clean his wound, “Does it hurt?”
“Not really,” Lu Qingjiu said, “I was thinking about where Yin Xun’s been since he hasn’t gone home for the past few days. Is he still human? Does he need to eat? Is he hungry?”
Bai Yuehu looked up at Lu Qingjiu.
Lu Qingjiu sighed, “Ai… I shouldn’t have let him leave back then.”
Bai Yuehu said, “Don’t make dinner.”
Lu Qingjiu looked at his hand. After being wrapped up by Bai Yuehu, the wound already couldn’t be seen, the bleeding had stopped and he didn’t feel much pain. After trying to move it a little, he decided to continue cooking.
Bai Yuehu wanted to say something but Lu Qingjiu had already stubbornly re-entered the kitchen. He stood by the door with a dark look on his face for a while before turning and leaving. This time, he didn’t lie back down on his rocking chair but directly pushed open the door and left the courtyard.
For better or for worse, Lu Qingjiu finished making dinner. But after he finished it, he noticed that Bai Yuehu had also disappeared. After waiting for a while, he decided to eat his own portion first.
Even though he said that, Lu Qingjiu actually didn’t have much of an appetite. Not only because of the hot weather, but also because of the matters weighing on his mind. Lu Qingjiu off-handedly took a few bites before putting down his chopsticks and slowly walking to the courtyard and sitting down on Bai Yuehu’s exclusive rocking chair.
Rock and rock, rock and rock, rock until grandma’s bridge, grandma says you’re a good child… As Lu Qingjiu rocked back and forth, he recalled some memories from his childhood. Before he turned nine, he spent his entire life in Shuifu village, knowing every flower, every bush, every blade of grass, every tree in the village. But afterwards, he was gone for a long time so these memories began to become fuzzy.
It was incredibly hot, Lu Qingjiu couldn’t eat anything and he also had something on his mind, so he left the courtyard and walked along the little village path.
Even after a few decades, Shuifu village hadn’t changed much. There were still those short, old houses; any area that could be used for planting things by the roadside were filled with crops; once in while he could even see some playful farm dogs.
Without noticing, Lu Qingjiu walked to the end of the village. At the end of the village was a heavy mill. There were still a few grains scattered atop the mill.
Lu Qingjiu stopped beside the mill.
He remembered this mill very clearly. When he first returned to the village, Yin Xun had brought him here. When they were younger, Lu Qingjiu and Yin Xun had particularly liked climbing onto the mill to play. But if they were found by his grandmother, they would be pulled down and spanked.
Grandma said that this mill was used to make food, they weren’t allowed to climb up on it.
But little kids were rebellious, the more grandma didn’t allow it, more more Lu Qingjiu wanted to climb on top of it. Both Lu Qingjiu and Yin Xun were short like little bean sprouts so trying to climb up really took a lot of effort.
The corners of Lu Qingjiu’s eyes curved as if he could see those two children coming up with all kinds of plans to try and climb on top of the mill. First, Yin Xun would squat down, letting Lu Qingjiu step onto his shoulders. Then Lu Qingjiu would pull Yin Xun up with all his might. Like that, the two mischievous monkeys would successfully climb up onto the mill. Sometimes, they would be caught by passing adults, pulled down and sent back to their guardians for a scolding.
As Lu Qingjiu remembered, he began to smile. He reached into the hole in the mill and began to feel around and felt like the size of this hole was a little familiar.
Lu Qingjiu suddenly thought of something. He pulled out that game coin from his jacket pocket, then gently placed it atop the hole in the mill.
With a clatter, the game coin fit perfectly into the hole and fell into the mill. In the next instant, Lu Qingjiu heard the rumbling of thunder. He looked up at the sky and found that the originally sunny sky had been covered by a thick layer of dark clouds.
There was no rain, but the wind was frighteningly strong. Lu Qingjiu was blinded by the strong wind. He had to cover his eyes and blink hard, trying to use his tears to wash the dust out of his eyes.
When Lu Qingjiu opened his eyes once more, a smiling face appeared in front of him. That face had eyes crinkled in a smile and a cute tiger tooth peeked out from between open lips.