Chapter 3: Waving Goodbye
Ji Huan calmly asked the other person on the line what the name of the hospital was that his older sister was currently staying in, and the address. He also wanted to ask for more details about his older sister’s condition, but the other person was unwilling to say much more, and hung up the call not long after.
Until this moment, Ji Huan had been strongly pushing down the terrified feelings to the bottom of his heart when all of a sudden, they surged forward like the overturning of seas and rivers1.
Without taking a glance at the classroom, Ji Huan distractedly walked out of the school building.
His expression was grave and the corners of his mouth were tightly pursed. Cold winds knocked directly in his face, and his body got gradually colder. His eyes, however, slowly returned to normal.
His sluggish walk turned into a jog.
He first ran to his part-time job that he worked at every day after school —— a family-owned mechanic shop.
“Give me my last month’s pay.” Coming through the door, he looked directly at the mechanic shop’s boss and got straight to the point.
“Hey! It’s only the start of the month, we agreed that payday is in the middle of the month, ah!” A man covered in grease came out from under a car, and spoke to Ji Huan unhappily.
Ji Huan didn’t say anything and just looked at him coldly.
He was considered to be tall. Standing next to the more than 1.7 meter mechanic shop’s boss, he was taller than him by half a head. Because he was still in his growing stage, he was very thin, but the mechanic shop boss knew what kind of strength was hidden in that guy’s seemingly weak body! The first time he saw him, it was at the scene of a group of local delinquents attacking him. If small towns could also have a few bad eggs2, then Bade Town was no exception. The mechanic shop’s boss was already prepared to witness the youths beat someone up, but the situation quickly changed. The youths came to blows like thunder, but unexpectedly, it proved to be the strength of one person that beat in the other four young hoodlums in the end!
Later, when the youth was looking everywhere in town for a part-time job, the other families all refused him because he was too young. Only he himself remembered the youth’s fighting and his fierce strength at the time, and thought to himself that a shop such as his would usually very easily attract the attention of young hooligans. In that moment, he hired him.
The facts proved that he was correct. Although the youth named Ji Huan wasn’t very old, when it came to work, he could to the job of two. That guy could especially fight. Before, they could do nothing about the young local ruffians who came by several times to collect protection money, but they were all beaten up by him and run off. Afterwards, they never came by again. The protection fees that had been originally extorted were higher than what he paid the youth. In private, the mechanic shop’s boss bragged more than once to his old lady about his “brilliant strategic decision”.
But although the youth could fight, when he was working in the mechanic shop, he was very low-profile and honest. He always asked what he could do, would work over and over again without complaining about being tired, and never demanded a higher wage either. From time to time, the mechanic shop boss would scold him in a sentence or two and he wouldn’t even open his mouth. Over time, the mechanic shop’s boss had long forgotten that guy’s fierce appearance when he fought.
But now, the youth was looking at him, but it was just like he was looking at that group of delinquents…
He swallowed a mouthful of saliva. The mechanic shop’s boss wanted to say something, but under the youth’s icy cold gaze, he discovered that he couldn’t make a sound either. He even realized that both of his legs were slightly shaking.
“When I started working here, I wasn’t even 15 years old. You illegally hired a child laborer.” The cold youth suddenly said.
“Fuck! What kind of child are you ——” He cursed him in a low voice. The mechanic shop’s boss didn’t dare to look him straight in the eye in the end. Waving him away, he seemed to evasively say: “Go to the back, look for your Aunt Wang to pay the bill.”
Aunt Wang was the mechanic shop’s accountant, and also handled the mechanic shop’s finances. Their kind of small shop was basically run completely by a husband and wife.
Bowing his head and with his hair covering his eyes, Ji Huan changed back into the silent teenager that he had been before. Crossing over to the mechanic shop’s boss, he walked straight to the back room.
A plump woman was watching TV inside. She was watching while cracking watermelon seeds between her teeth at the same time, and every now and then, she would let out a burst of excessively hearty laughter.
Seeing Ji Huan come in, she quickly lowered the television volume and turned to look at him. The woman laughed happily at Ji Huan: “Ji Huan, you’re here?”
Nodding his head, Ji Huan said bluntly in a dull voice: “Aunt Wang, I need last month’s pay.”
“Ah? It’s not payday yet… But it makes no difference, I’ll give it to you.” Aunt Wang was an open minded woman. She took a look at the calendar on the wall, and glanced as Ji Huan’s lowered head. Making up her mind without realizing, she immediately took out a worn-out, tattered book from the inside of a drawer. She checked Ji Huan’s working time for last month, then quickly calculated the amount due and handed the money to him.
Ji Huan carefully counted the money, and after a while, he lifted his head: “There’s more than three hundred.”
“It’s overtime pay, of course. Didn’t you also get called in to work on holiday last month?” Aunt Wang smiled: “I’m giving you exactly that.”
“Oh.” Carefully putting the money in his pocket, Ji Huan looked at the woman for a long time. Then, he suddenly bowed to her.
“What is this child doing, hm? Alright, I know you, child. You wouldn’t ask for your salary in advance for no reason. There’s something you have to use the money for, right? Go do it quickly.” Aunt Wang waved her hands at him.
Nodding, Ji Huan ran off shortly after.
He ran straight away to the train station and checked how much a ticket to go down to his older sister’s city would be. Then, he calculated his savings up to now. Planning to keep his expenses minimal, he went to the town’s grains store and bought a large bag of rice. In addition, he went to the butcher’s shop and bought a cut of pork belly. After thinking about it, he also bought a few eggs. Only these big and small bags were sitting on the bus leading up to the mountain with him. So much stuff, but luckily, he was strong enough to carry them.
“Xiao Hua3, you want to prepare New Year goods in advance? The house still has rice, why did you buy more?” The old man was shocked by his battle array as soon as he met him.
“I’ve changed my mind, I want to apply for college.” He decided not to argue with Grandfather over his slip of the tongue and blurting out his childhood nickname. Ji Huan first put the easily breakable eggs on the table, and only then did he unload the bag of rice which was the heaviest. Finally, he put the pork in the refrigerator’s freezer compartment.
Hearing him say this, Grandfather forgot about that matter in an instant: “This child finally understood. What was all this about not going to college? I heard that now, all the children in the city are all studying to be that… A graduate!”
“En, Big Sis gave me a call. She wanted me to go to her and attend a cram school over winter vacation. I agreed.” Ji Huan said the excuse that he had thought of on his way here.
“Xiao Hei4 called you? I’ve said before, why hasn’t this child called back in a month!”
“Big Sis said she called you, no one answered.” Ji Huan said this without much thought as well. In the past, Big Sis really had given Grandpa a call everyday, but Grandpa was always working outside and didn’t answer.
Ji Huan didn’t care that it was possible for this excuse to be seen through. Grandfather wouldn’t check the call history.
“I’m leaving tomorrow. Just now, I went to the train station and bought a ticket, and there were only still tickets available for tomorrow.” Ji Huan continued to say.
“… Well, when you go, look after your older sister and study properly.” Grandpa looked as if there was nothing amiss, and Ji Huan was finally reassured.
Before he confirmed his older sister’s condition over there, he wouldn’t tell Grandpa anything. Grandpa’s health wasn’t good, and he wouldn’t be able to bear the shock of any extreme emotions5.
Dinner was the usual congee that Grandpa cooked, the pickled vegetables that Ji Huan made, and the steamed buns that he bought from the foot of the mountain. Ji Huan had bought more than thirty steamed buns, and he had put them all in the freezer to chill. It would be enough for Grandpa to eat for twenty days.
That evening, Ji Huan also ran back down to the foot of the mountain and carried back a new can of gas.
Thinking in a circle about what he still hadn’t completely prepared for the house, he fell asleep to one anxious thought after another.
After he fell asleep, he didn’t know that his Grandfather had entered his room.
Sitting at Ji Huan’s bedside, the elderly man sat in the dark for a very long time. Only after a while had passed did he gently stroke Ji Huan’s forehead.
Although he had gone to sleep very late, Ji Huan still got out of bed on time the next day. Grandfather still rose earlier than him, and the small bag that Ji Huan had prepared earlier was bulging a lot more than it was last night. It seemed that Grandfather had stuffed more things inside again.
Ji Huan checked the bag out of habit, and when he noticed a thick envelope of money inside, he took the envelope out.
“I’m taking enough money.” Squatting on the floor, Ji Huan was about to hand the envelope over to the old man.
“That isn’t for you, it’s for Xiao Hei. When you go there, buy a flower dress for Xiao Hei. An expensive and pretty one.” The old man just waved him away.
Ji Huan subsequently took the money back, but he didn’t put it back inside the bag. Rather, he kept it close to his body.
Although he was a countryside outh who had never left his small town in his whole life, he had seen a lot of news on this aspect. When leaving home, especially when traveling by train, money had to be kept close to the body.
Lifting the small bag, Ji Huan waved goodbye to Grandfather.
And after he left, the old man stood under the large tree in the yard for a very long time and lightly touched the tree trunk. After a while, he took an axe out from inside the house.
“… Need… new wood…” With a sigh, the old man raised the axe to the last tree in the yard.
sorry this is a little late! this chapter was both longer and trickier than the other chapters, and it didn’t help that i translated it roughly a couple months ago and it was riddled with mistakes. it took me a while to pound it into something that was somewhat legible. _(:3-」∠)_ some parts aren’t exact translations because it sounded too awkward/out of place, but the meaning is the same.
also, i made a mistake last chapter about ji huan’s nickname. for some reason, i got it in my head that the previous chapter was the one where it mentioned ji huan not fussing about his grandpa using his childhood nickname, so i thought that grandpa calling him xiao huan was a typo, but it was actually this one (even though i was actively reading and editing it………) i’ve fixed it now, sorry about that!
as a side note, xiao hua and xiao hei are mostly names for pets rather than people, which is probably why ji huan is “embarrassed” by it. thanks grandpa!
i’ll be getting out the next chapter very soon; plot stuff should start actually happening! also, i’m going to be trying to keep up with author notes at the end up the chapters (albeit rough translations), since yue xiasang includes illustrations from weibo artists a lot of times in the later chapters. see below ↓
Author Notes from Yuè Xià Sāng:
“Ji Huan is a good boy, but he is actually a good boy that is not very good at expressing himself. In front of outsiders, he seems like quite a bad boy.
This time, the shou (bottom) is relatively young.
Because of this time’s gong (top), I suppose there are some differences from my past tastes……..
This story has just started. According to (my) usual practice, it’ll slowly progress. In the middle of this process, the protagonist’s personality will be sure to slowly shape itself. Then, they will develop by themselves.
Up until now, the general idea was to first clarify the shou’s background. The story hasn’t started on principle. The story will be born in the city.
PS. This tree, Grandfather is not cutting you down….. ← Sincere face”
1 翻江倒海 fānjiāngdǎohǎi: Lit. “overturning seas and rivers”, an idiom for “overwhelming”, etc.
2 坏鸟 huàiniǎo: Lit. “bad bird”, means sinister/unsavory characters.
3 小花 Xiǎohuā: Lit. “Little Flower”
4 小黑 Xiǎohēi: Lit. “Little Black”
5 大喜大悲 dàxǐdàbēi: Lit. “great sadness and great joy”