Chapter 9: Little Monster’s Smile
That night, Grandfather told Ji Huan again about the person who had brought back his older sister’s ashes and what he had said. Grandfather’s words weren’t very different from what was reported in the news. After hearing this out, Ji Huan didn’t say anything for a while.
“Xiao Huar1, what are you thinking?” Realizing that his grandson hadn’t uttered a word in a long time, the old man hurriedly said something.
Ji Huan had been an especially gloomy child since he was young, and he wasn’t very expressive either. However, when he had a particular idea in mind, he had a very rigid heart. If by any chance that child decided to do something that he shouldn’t have, it would’ve been very bad. The old man quickly opened his mouth: “You must not take revenge for your older sister or anything. Xiao Hei doesn’t need you to avenge her, those bad men are already dead.”
Ji Huan was still silent.
Yes, those bad guys were all dead. All the people who directly participated in the incident had died at the crime scene in the morgue, and the people who indirectly participated had all been arrested by the police, waiting to live out long-term prison sentences that were worse than death.
His older sister’s hatred had already been avenged.
It had been like this since their childhood.
Xiao Hei had always been very orderly. She repaid favors and took revenge for animosity. “Sisters are bullied, and brothers wield sticks to take revenge,” was a thing that had always been the way of other families. Xiao Hei never needed to worry him.
Even after death, she didn’t worry him at all.
Ji Huan’s mouth pursed tightly.
“Who said that Xiao Hei wouldn’t need help from you? Next, you have to look after Xiao Hei’s baby and raise him for your sister. I don’t know how many more years I’ll be able to live, this child will depend on you the most in the future…” Even though his eyesight was gone, the old man always knew Ji Huan’s character the best, so he continued to speak.
“Mmn.” Ji Huan agreed sullenly.
“Grandpa, you’ll live for a hundred years. We’ll watch this child grow up together.” He said shortly after, his voice still dour.
“Grandpa, I’m still not going to college.” Saying this last, he brought up an old topic again.
“That won’t do, you must go. Clearly, your mind is as bright as mine. Why do you keep saying that you aren’t going to go to school? Are you worthy of the good brains that your Grandpa passed on to you? For the sake of making you and Xiao Hei a little smarter2, your Grandpa went down to the stream in the depths of winter to fish for you. Did you deserve eating those fish?” He not only brought this up, the old man also began to bring up old quarrels.
Both he and Grandfather argued for a long time. The two white-ring eyes of the small baby in Ji Huan’s arms watched with a fixed gaze as the two men went back and forth, until the grandfather and grandson both stopped fighting.
Standing up from the dining table, the old man turned around and walked backwards. Although his eyes couldn’t see clearly, this was still, after all, the old house that he had lived in for several decades, and where everything was was still very clearly in his mind. The place Grandfather wanted to find was behind him near the shrine. Above Ji Huan’s family shrine was a place to arrange offerings, and below it was a chest of drawers. The old man felt the cabinet by touch, then slowly crouched down and pulled open the bottom drawer. He groped around for quite a long time and finally fished out a small cloth bag wrapped in a handkerchief. He stood up very slowly, and the old man handed it to Ji Huan.
“I know it’s not that you don’t like studying, but that you’re worried about there not being any money at home, right?” Grandpa looked at him. His line of sight was somewhat out of focus, but his gaze was just as affectionate as always. “As a child, Xiao Huar often told Grandpa that when he grew up, he wanted to go to Jinghua University!”
“Xiao Huar, who was taught by Grandpa, isn’t a child who would give up his dreams so easily.” The old man’s gaze was full of nostalgia and encouragement.
Ji Huan was stunned.
Then, under the old man’s guidance, he unfolded the thick handkerchief around the bag. There weren’t many things inside the bag, and Ji Huan had seen most of it before: Inside was a pen that was left behind by his father; a ring that was his mother’s; and two baby teeth that were Ji Huan and his older sister’s.
These were all of Grandfather’s “treasures.”
Underneath these treasures was a bankbook that was a little old. This was Grandfather’s retirement money. ← Of course, these were Ji Huan’s words. In the old man’s own eyes, this money was for Ji Huan’s college tuition fees. Not just college, if Ji Huan could pass the exam, he wanted to give it to Ji Huan to study for a master’s degree, then a doctorate…
“Take a look under the bankbook.” The old man suggested again.
So, Ji Huan shook his head and moved the bankbook away. In the past, there had been nothing under it, yet now there were three more items…
“Bank cards?” Ji Huan said, surprised.
“Mhm.” The old man nodded across from him: “The one on the very bottom was sent with the photo your older sister mailed, I want to give it to you. It’s for your tuition and living expenses for the next four years. Your older sister, she said… that she prepared the money for you according to the standards of Jinghua University…”
After saying this, the grandfather and grandson were both at loss for words. In the end, it was the old man who came back from his thoughts first, and he continued to say:
“The other two were… given by those people that brought your older sister back. They said… that it’s compensation given by the hospital… The last one was brought back by them, too. It’s the last bit of belongings that Xiao Hei left behind. It’s not much money, but they still gave it to me.”
Thinking back on this, his older sister had always sent money back home and prepared his tuition fees as well. Where did that leave money for herself?
He looked at the three cards. Where Grandfather couldn’t see, Ji Huan could no longer stop his tears.
A drop of burning hot tears fell out of his eyes and hit the left white-ring eye of the baby in his arms. The little baby didn’t even blink his eyes, and just watched him with a fixed gaze.
So Ji Huan looked back at him with fixed eyes as well.
“I… will take the exam for Jinghua University and help my older sister by raising this child.” No matter how strange this child was, no matter what could happen in the future, he had to raise this child properly. Ji Huan made his promise.
Listening to him say this, Grandfather smiled happily. The very strange baby in Ji Huan’s arms looked at the old man’s smile, and after a long moment, a third structure suddenly burst on the black fog-like face. Under the two huge, white circled eyes, the child opened a small mouth. Looking at it from above, Ji Huan could clearly see that the inside of it was a bloody scarlet.
Seriously looking at the little baby’s opened small mouth for a long time, Ji Huan suddenly said: “Grandpa, this child can smile.”
So, when he lifted his head to look up at Grandfather, Ji Huan was smiling too.
A little sadly, a little comfortingly, a little resolutely… Ji Huan smiled.
whew, sorry this is belated. i got sick and had to work an event at my job so i didn’t have much time to do anything. next chapter is twice as long as this one, but i already have it fully translated, so i should be able to post it up soon! i do, however, have midterms next week so any other releases will have to be on the weekend. _(:3 」∠)_ good news is that the week after is spring break so i’ll have a bunch of free time. also, the author has attached some illustrations from weibo below! i’m going to figure out a better way to post them later once i upgrade this site since the author posts them in almost every chapter, but for now i’ll just leave them as-is in author comments.
also, if you’re interested, reomegu is going to be translating this in indonesian! check it out here.
1 小花儿: Another nickname to Grandpa’s arsenal. You’ve probably seen 儿 (er) before used after people’s names as an affectionate nickname (i.e. Cheng-er). In this case, 花儿 is an actual word that means “flower” (more specific than just 花), and when pronouncing it out loud, it’s “huar” rather than “hua-er”, so I’ve decided to go with that spelling.
2 Not really a TL note but more of a contextual one. There was a study in China in the last few years that showed that children who drink fish oil perform better on tests and such, so this is where Grandpa is coming from.
“Slept for a long time. Sleeping… I don’t need it. orz
So I finished writing.
Included are pictures of my little monster that everyone sent on Weibo.”
“From a distant perspective”
“Finally, there are green swaddling clothes that are clearly distinctive from the colors that are popular in aunties!”