PotD 15

Chapter 15: There is Something
by 月下桑

Hei Dan kept crying, even drinking milk wouldn’t stop up his mouth. He was obviously holding the bottle, but bewilderingly, he sucked a couple of mouthfuls then spit the nipple out again to bawl a couple more times.

“Why is Hei Dan crying again?” Grandfather also finally started to suffer. Following the voice over, he firmly hugged Hei Dan.

“Hei Dan, tell Grandfather, why are you crying?” Grandfather used a method specific to coaxing children and rocked Hei Dan in his arms. “Did Uncle bully Hei Dan? Grandfather will help you beat him up.”

So, Ji Huan really was beaten up by Grandfather. Not painfully, just with a soft slap.

However, Hei Dan really didn’t stop crying. Two huge, white-ring eyes watched intensely as Grandpa slapped Ji Huan. Hei Dan watched very seriously, but after a while, he started to cry again. The old man “beat” Ji Huan a few more times, but this time, it didn’t have the same effect as before.

Grandpa couldn’t see, but Ji Huan could see clearly: the now-crying Hei Dan’s eyes weren’t looking at him at all, but rather at the can of powdered milk that he had been holding just now.

He looked at Grandpa, who was at his wit’s end rocking Hei Dan, and Ji Huan did something that he ordinarily very seldomly did:

Striding over, he hit the can of milk powder.

There was a dull sound made by the slap between his hand and the can. Right after Ji Huan hit it, the sound of Hei Dan’s crying stopped abruptly. However, in that moment, Ji Huan’s thoughts weren’t on Hei Dan’s reaction at all.

With a strange expression, he looked at the hand he had just stretched out to hit the can with. There, in the hollow of Ji Huan’s palm, was now suddenly a small pinch of black powder.

When he had hit it just now, he felt as if he had hit something. Then, he hurriedly moved his palm away to look at it, and something was in the hollow of his palm. So, what did he really just hit? Realizing that Grandpa had hit him first just now, Ji Huan wordlessly took off his jacket and looked at the back of it where Grandpa had just hit: There, as expected, was also a little bit of inconspicuous black powder.

Hei Dan looked away as he held his jacket. Hei Dan’s white-ring eyes weren’t looking at the milk can and he wasn’t looking at him. Little black claws were holding a milk bottle that Grandpa helped him hold up. The pair of white-ring eyes didn’t blink as they stared at the milk bottle, and Hei Dan drank very seriously.

After finishing drinking the milk, Grandpa then started to coax Hei Dan to sleep.

He started to hum a folk song1.

The tune was very strange, but Ji Huan felt that it was very familiar. Yes, he probably also heard it when he was a child.

The lyrics were also about children. The general meaning was just a group of children playing hide-and-seek. It was dark out, and they had to close their eyes. When the song finished, a hunter would set off to catch ghosts. Everyone had to hide quickly. If someone was a little slow, then when the hunter captured their hand, they would reveal their true nature…

Thinking about it now, it was actually quite a strange song.

However, Ji Huan had an impression that he and his older sister seemed to have actually played such a game. As soon as the person responsible for catching ghosts finished singing the song, they would go to catch the people hiding. His older sister was especially good at “catching ghosts”. No matter what corner they were hiding in, she always had a way to find that person. In contrast, Ji Huan was especially bad at catching ghosts. He often caught the last person, but failed to capture them. In the end, he had to let his sister find him to lead him back home…

Listening to Grandfather’s song, Ji Huan’s eyelids became heavier and heavier. He was overly tired the past few days, and although his mouth didn’t say anything, his body was protesting. So, leaning on the back of the bed, Ji Huan unwittingly fell asleep.

In a daze, he felt that his shoes were taken off by someone and his legs moved on the bed. Then, a loose, soft blanket covered his body. An ice-cold, satiny thing was finally squeezed into his arms.

That was Hei Dan.

He stretched his arms around that ice-cold lump. Directly sharing his body temperature with him, Ji Huan sunk into a deep sleep.

When Ji Huan woke up again the next day, he just felt unusually refreshed.

Actually, he felt a little bit like he was catching a cold the night before. In order to prevent infecting the elderly and children in his house, he bought and took cold medicine for himself when he was at the hospital, but when he returned home, his head still hurt a little. However, after sleeping, he immediately felt better.

When he was putting on his jacket, his eyes couldn’t help falling to the pinprick-sized black stain on the back. It was exactly where Grandfather had slapped yesterday. Yesterday, he could still see the black ash. After one night, the only trace of it was the pinprick-sized small dot. If one wasn’t looking for it to a painstaking extent, it wouldn’t have been discovered at all.

Giving it a hard slap, the original pinprick-sized stain disappeared as well, and Ji Huan continued to put on the jacket.

Before going out the front door, he urged Grandfather repeatedly to call him if there was anything wrong. After that, Ji Huan went to work with a restless mind.

While working in the sanatorium, he swept out black powder again. When he saw that black powder for a second time, Ji Huan then couldn’t ignore the situation like before.

After that, when he was quickly finishing his work, Ji Huan suddenly received a phone call. The phone call to him was from Wang Xiaochuan’s mother. With a crying voice:

“Ji Huan, you have to hurry and come see Xiaochuan for the last time! He, he… he’s close to dying, ah!

Ji Huan was shocked.

He couldn’t finish the work at hand and explained the situation to a nearby colleague. He immediately ran to the hospital where Wang Xiaochuan was. It wasn’t far from the sanatorium where Ji Huan worked. When he reached the familiar hospital room, there was already a scene of tears inside.

Often appearing the last few days, Wang Xiaochuan’s parents and aunt were all there. In addition to them, there were also a lot of other people that Ji Huan didn’t know. Wang Xiaochuan’s mother’s crying was the saddest, and beside her was Wang Xiaochuan’s aunt comforting her.

They all looked at Ji Huan.

“Xiao Huan, go look at Xiaochuan, okay? That child has been saying your name…” Wang Xiaochuan’s mother lifted her head, exposing two red and swollen eyes. Under the silent consent of the many surrounding doctors, he walked directly to Wang Xiaochuan’s hospital bed.

He had only not seen him for one whole night, and Wang Xiaochuan looked like he had turned into a completely different person. Breathing feebly, he appeared as if he was on the edge of death ——

Just as Ji Huan reached his hospital bed, Wang Xiaochuan, who had originally appeared to be dying, suddenly opened his eyes in the way of the final radiance of the setting sun2. Just as his relatives fell over one another to go call for the doctor due to this discovery, Wang Xiaochuan suddenly lifted his gaze to look up at Ji Huan. Ji Huan, with a perceptiveness brought by pure luck, bent over and moved his ear closer to Wang Xiaochuan’s.

“… Ji Huan, there, there’s something on me…”

He heard Wang Xiaochuan say that word3 to him in an extremely weak voice. Clearly hearing the connotation in the words, Ji Huan shuddered all over and it wasn’t due to the cold.

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we’re about a third of the way there to being caught up to the previous translation! the next chapter is going to be exciting. :3c

see you guys next week!

Translation Notes

1 小调 xiǎodiào: “small melody/tune/music key” while this can mean the minor key in music, it’s also a genre of chinese folk music. samples: instrumental, instrumental, instrumental + vocals

2 回光返照: an idiom that describes the final moments of lucidity before someone dies. 

3 一字一字 yí zì: means one character (x2), or perhaps line of text. i’m guessing that the two characters in question are 东西 (“thing”), which i’ve translated to “something” in the context of what xiaochuan was saying. 

Author Comments

Ever since he wet the kang (heatable brick bed, usually found in rural homes in Northern China, multi-functional due to its stove) for the first time, Hei Dan has been forced to wear a diaper.”

4 thoughts on “PotD 15”

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