Chapter 2: Ji Huan’s Dream
Bade1 Town, it was a town so small that it wasn’t even marked on a map.
There were mountains all around in each and every direction. These mountains together had no unified name to speak of. The western side was only called Xi2 Mountain, and the eastern side was only called Dong3 Mountain. The mountains weren’t high, but because of this, the houses in town weren’t very tall either. Therefore, almost every household could open their windows and all could see the mountains.
The mountains had water, and every family had two water pipes there: one to draw up groundwater, and one to simply draw water from the stream on the mountain. As for the families on the mountains, it was their norm to solely drink from the stream, and these mountain households entirely depended on the water from the stream as well. Every family had a small stream in front of their doors. They fetched water from there to prepare meals, to wash their faces, and even to rinse their floors.
Ji Huan’s family was also like this.
Waking up at first light, Ji Huan put on clothes and rushed over to the stream. He washed his face and rinsed his mouth. When he was using a towel to wipe his face, he caught a glimpse of a petite frog out of the corner of his eye. Under Ji Huan’s fixed gaze, the green-skinned little fellow felt as if a great danger had arrived, and hastily hopped away. Its green body dodged into the dry grass and disappeared at once.
He was, after all, a young adult and only due to self-disciple was he able to wake up so early, but he still couldn’t be compared to Grandfather. The old man slept lightly, and by the time Ji Huan came back to the center room of the house, the old man was already done setting out meals.
From the smell of it, he knew right away that the bowl of congee wasn’t good, but Ji Huan held the dish up and drank a big mouthful. Then, he suddenly seemed to remember something. He ran to the back room and came back carrying a jug.
“What is that? Ah… isn’t that my wine jar from before? I said I couldn’t find it. As it turns out, Xiao Huan4, you took it…” Looking at Ji Huan put the jar on the table, the old man blinked.
“En, you needed to stop drinking anyways. This is my recipe from school for salted pickled vegetables5. I figured that it could be opened today.” While speaking, Ji Huan opened the jug at the same time. The sweet smell of wine accompanied by the savory scent of sauce floated in the air. Using clean chopsticks, he picked out a dark green cucumber and took a bite. Ji Huan nodded affirmatively: “Can eat.”
Far from just being able to eat it, it was exceedingly delicious!
The old man had just taken a bite when both of his eyes widened in surprise: “This… this… is really exactly the same as your mom’s pickles!”
“That is probably because my mom also brought home that recipe from school?” Ji Huan, however, didn’t even raise his eyebrows. After pinching out a small dish of pickles vegetables, he sealed up the jug completely and stored it back in the backroom again before coming back to eat.
“It’ll still be delicious later and I can pickle a little more6, but you can only eat so much in a meal. Too much is bad for your blood vessels.” Before picking up his chopsticks, Ji Huan looked at Grandfather across from him. His facial features looked solemn as he spoke warningly.
“Tsk! Just how old do you think you are to manage me. Your detail-obsessed character, just who is it like after all, oh? Your mom, dad and I are all friendly people, ah! It’s just you. Since your childhood, you’ve had the manner of a small adult! None of the children from the village wanted to play with you. Even more, you’ve grown up a little and you’re treated like a delinquent every day. Your hair… you will go cut that hair for me tomorrow!” The old man mumbled to himself and looked for a long time at Ji Huan’s bangs that had already grown past his eyes. He pointed his chopsticks unforgivingly at Ji Huan and shouted right away.
“Don’t talk while eating. Furthermore, don’t point your chopsticks at other people.” Ji Huan raised an eyebrow and spoke coldly.
The old man was unwilling to admit defeat all at once.
“You, your character… who is it like after all!” The corner of his mouth trembled for a while, and the old man laid down his chopsticks with a sigh.
“How would I know. Apart from you and my older sister, I haven’t met the people in our family either.”
In truth, he really had never met his mother and father. They only had one piture of them in their home, and that picture was kept quite strictly by the old man. Itw as only taken out once a year for Ji Huan to look at. Ji Huan’s impression of them mostly remained to be the spirit tablets7 in the central room of the house.
Those two pieces of wood, those were his parents. Those were the old man’s son and daughter-in-law.
It was said that they passed away in a car accident when Ji Huan was about two years old. He had no memory of either of his parents. In regards to not having a father or a mother, he had no complaints about this situation, because Grandfather and Older Sister already gave him enough care and concern. Now, the thing that he wanted to do the most was probably to simply grow up as soon as possible. Then, he could fulfill his parent’s unfinished responsibilities.8
Grandfather was already getting older and older…
He was firmly determined not to go to the hospital, but Ji Huan was secretly saving up money in private. When he was finished with exams, he would figure out a way to make Grandfather go down the mountain. After that, he could conveniently trick him into going to the hospital for a physical examination.
All the elderly people in town do this.
Speaking of strange, the other young people that were around Ji Huan’s age, they probably only thought of themselves every day. What new things were in the city again, which brand of shoe design was cooler… After deciding this, then they could pester their parents for pocket money to buy new outfits. But Ji Huan was different. He liked to observe equipment for the elderly. While walking along the road, it was also his habit to watch the other old people. What was the current fashion trend in old fellows, which brand of walking sticks were light and good to use… He even sneakily compared wheelchairs and diapers for the elderly, too.
The overly mature Ji Huan, it was no wonder that he didn’t have many friends of the same age in school.
Ji Huan was not interested in having them, either.
He already decided. After he graduated from high school, he wouldn’t continue his education. He would stay at home to raise pigs, farm, and wait upon Grandfather to nurture his years. Da Bai was getting heavier very quickly. He didn’t intend to sell it, and would keep it to breed more pigs. His future days would only get better and better…
Ji Huan always thought this.
The day before the second senior class was released for winter vacation, while their teacher was assigning homework over winter vacation, Ji Huan’s cellphone suddenly ran. He shut it off with furrowed eyebrows. However, the cellphone persisted without stopping and rang out again.
After three times, Ji Huan escaped through the classroom door and answered the phone.
“Hello, is this Mr. Ji Huan? Your older sister has been hospitalized and is now on the verge of death. Please come as soon as possible. Prepare funeral arrangements in advance…”
Clutching the worn-out phone, Ji Huan was stunned.
i had to get a little creative with some lines in this chapter because they were awkward in their literal translation/didn’t convey well. some of it still doesn’t sound very smooth, but i didn’t want to change it too much. i may come back later and mess with those two paragraphs describing the mountain families and bade town families (and their goddamn water) to make it read a little better. _(´ཀ`」 ∠) _
if you’re confused: bade town is not on the mountain (that’s why families in the houses could see the mountains out of their window) and the families in bade live off water from pipes that get water from the ground and the streams in the mountains. in comparison, the people living on the mountains only live off the stream water (no pipes.)
i’m going to try to get a chapter out on thursday, and another out on the weekend. my goal for the next chapter is to have way less translation notes. ｡ﾟ(ﾟ´(00)`ﾟ)ﾟ｡
1 八德 bādé: means “eight virtues”. The town’s name was likely named after the eight virtues of Confucianism, which can be described as: filial piety, sibling harmony, dedication, trustworthiness, propriety, sacrifice, honor, and sense of shame. source
2 西山 xīshān: Lit. “west mountain”
3 东山 dōngshān: Lit. “east mountain”
4 小欢 xiǎohuān: Lit. “Little Huan.” It’s an affectionate nickname. I originally this was a typo, but realized my mistake while I was editing the next chapter (see those notes.)
5 酱菜 jiàngcài: Chinese pickled vegetables. This kind is marinated with soy sauce or red bean paste.
6 好吃以后我就固定腌点: this is another “what the fuck” line that i honestly had no idea what he was trying to say exactly, but i think i conveyed the general gist. if you have a better understanding, let me know!
7 灵位 língwèi: I think I forgot to mention this before, but spirit tablets are placards used to honor dieties and deceased ancestors. I couldn’t find a lot of information, but this kind seems to be used mostly for immediate family members, and is engraved with the deceased’s name and birth day. They can be fairly ornate and made out of different materials, but picture Ji Huan’s mom and dad’s like this:
8 然后可以替父母尽到他们未尽的责任: This makes it sound like he has some task in particular that he needs to do for his parents, but he really means that he’s just going to live his best since his parent’s couldn’t and take care of Grandpa.