Chapter 43: Dusty Memories
by Yue Xiasang
“Grandpa?” The man named Yang raised his eyebrows. Turning his head, he looked at the woman next to him: “Just to confirm, the meaning of grandpa locally is…?”
Before the woman in the black uniform next to him could respond, Ji Huan took the lead and answered the question.
“Grandpa… where we are… means Grandfather.”
“Right now… the one locked in a cage by you people… being baselessly accused… and trying to drag away… is my grandpa.”
Ji Huan’s shattered voice was just like a broken windpipe, his words intermittent.
His voice wasn’t loud, but the surroundings were quiet at that moment and his voice came to everyone’s ears clearly.
In hindsight, many people realized it: at some point, the horned devil that had been thrashing around wasn’t making trouble anymore. Its claws were hooked on the metal bars of the cage and it was standing calmly behind the teenager.
Shielding the boy.
“He raised me and my older sis by himself… My grandpa hasn’t eaten meat in fifteen years, what are you people saying… The devil that’s eaten twenty people can’t possibly be my grandpa.” With no fear in his gaze, Ji Huan’s deep, dark eyes stared straight at the others.
“Fifteen years without eating meat. He ate only vegetables and rice every day. After I left, he’d throw up the rice and vegetables he’d eaten. For fifteen years, my grandpa lived like that every day. Look at him, take a good look at him, Grandpa is skin and bones, he’s blind… He’s already an old man with one foot in the grave!”
“You people ——” Ji Huan wanted to say more, but the man named Yang suddenly spoke.
“Fifteen years of not eating meat and just eating vegetables and rice, haha, what’s that supposed to mean? It just means that your young flesh wasn’t tasty. Our old devil didn’t like it and didn’t bother to eat it, that’s all.” His voice was ice-cold and his words mocking.
“You ——” Both eyes wide, the anger in Ji Huan’s dark gaze was almost boiling out. But without giving him a chance to speak, the man named Yang continued to talk:
“But, for this old devil, even if your flesh isn’t delicious…” The corner of his mouth lifting, the man named Yang watched Ji Huan:
“Your parents ——”
“Roar————————” A huge roar burst out from behind Ji Huan. Accompanied by the muffled sound of its body hitting metal, the horned devil that was standing quietly behind Ji Huan suddenly cried out crazedly.
It hit it so had that the pale gray scales on it broke off and peeled off its body.
“Grandpa! Don’t hit it! Don’t!” No longer caring about his confrontation with the others, Ji Huan turned around. The soldiers nearby didn’t have time to stop him and he stretched his arms into the cage, trying to use his own strength to stop the horned devil’s extreme behavior.
Watching the scene, the curve on the man named Yang’s mouth grew bigger and bigger. Disregarding the frantic activity of the caged devil, he slowly took a step forward and finished what he had just been saying:
“For this devil, your meat may not have been tasty, but your parents’ flesh was very delicious.”
“Fifteen years ago, the third and fourth victims just happened to be your parents.”
The corners of his mouth rising to their peak, the mocking smile on the man could only be described as malicious!
Ji Huan froze.
The horned devil in the cage also froze.
The frantic activity just now seemed to be just like an illusion, the courtyard becoming quiet again in an instant.
“You… What did you say?” His hands dropping onto the pale gray scales, Ji Huan turned around.
“Haha,” the man named Yang laughed and lifted his left hand to reveal the piece of white paper in it: “See for yourself. My subordinates went to verify your information, and look what I found ——”
“Two victims from the investigation fifteen years ago just happened to be your parents.”
“Impossible. My parents died in a car accident.” Holding tightly on to Grandpa’s cold, stiff arm and looking straight at the man named Yang, Ji Huan’s face paled a little.
“They did die in the car accident, but the culprit was the old devil that you’re clinging to. While evading capture, it ran into a car and caused an accident. It was really unfortunate, the car that your parents were driving was the one it hit. By the time we arrived, it had already eaten half of your parents’ bodies.”
The car had flipped over with its head up and the tail-end down. Two small children were buckled into the car seats in the back. Blood… was dripping down from above.
The drip was warm in the beginning.
As time passed, the liquid became thicker and dripped cold. Drip… drip…
Eventually, no more liquid dripped down.
The blood was dry.
It could have been drained as well.
When the police found the car on a desolate back road, half of both bodies of the couple sitting in the front seat were gone. That devil was very picky and only ate the parts it liked, not touching the ones it didn’t like.
They arrived in time. The children in the back seat hadn’t been eaten yet. One of the children was two years old, the other four. Their bodies were covered in blood, and they weren’t certain whether it was their mother or father’s. There was large sticky spots on the new clothes they were wearing.
The police who saw the scene had nightmares for at least a week.
“You call the devil that ate your parents Grandpa. You’re a prime example of someone acknowledging a thief as their father.1 But I don’t blame you. You were too young to remember anything.”
At the time, he should’ve met those children, but he was rushed to work on the case. After so many years, he could remember all the faces of the victims, but he had forgotten the faces of those children.
But remembering it was useless. Fifteen years had passed, long enough for a baby to have grown into a half-grown young adult.
Ji Huan was dumbfounded.
Big, fat drops of water suddenly started to fall from the sky. Ji Huan looked up sluggishly, only to see – not knowing when – two long water marks on the cheeks of the horned devil behind him.
Those muddled things were the tears of the old devil.
“Grandpa, why are you… crying?” Reflexively, Ji Huan touched the horned devil’s arm: “Grandpa, your eyes aren’t good, you shouldn’t cry…”
Reminding Grandpa to pay attention to himself had become instinctual and was always imprinted in Ji Huan’s heart.
“Don’t believe it? Do you want to look at the records of that year? I have photos here. Aren’t you almost eighteen years old? Eighteen is an adult. Looking at this kind of thing shouldn’t scare you, right?” The man named Yang said as he took a few steps forward, like he was going to hand the photos in his palm to Ji Huan.
Just at that moment, Ji Huan felt the ice-cold body under his hand suddenly tremble.
“It couldn’t, it couldn’t have possibly been my grandpa…” Holding onto the arm of the old devil tightly, Ji Huan couldn’t find anything to say, but…
More tears rolled down from the top of his head. Then, no more could come out.
Having not eaten or drunk for so long, the old devil didn’t have many tears to shed.
Its tall body fell to the ground with a loud bang, and in the next second, the horned devil was kneeling in front of Ji Huan.
Kneeling humbly in front of the slim teenager, a shattered roar came from the horned devil’s throat.
The devil’s ear-piercing roar was undoubtedly meaningless to human ears, but Ji Huan inexplicably found the sound to be very familiar.
Why did it sound familiar?
Obviously, today… was the first time he had seen Grandpa as a devil.
That’s right, why was he just realizing that today was the first time he had seen Grandpa as a devil? Likewise, today was also the first day he had touched Grandpa’s scales.
It was obviously the first time, but why…
This familiar feeling… Ji Huan felt like he was very familiar with this Grandpa.
Be it the ear-piercing guttural cry, the big horns or the ice-cold touch of his scales…
Ji Huan felt as though he had seen such a Grandpa a long time ago.
“Roar—— roar—— roar——” This kind of roar meant anger.
“Roar, roar, roar~~~” The urgent roar meant to hurry up.
“Roar, roar~ Roar, roar~” That was Xiao Hua~
In the beginning, Grandpa, who couldn’t turn into a human, would speak to him in such a voice every day.
Ji Huan himself could even roar a little.
Without having learned human language first, the first words Ji Huan learned was a strange roar.
“Ah~ Roar~” That was Xiao Hua who wanted to call for Grandpa.
Fifteen years ago, Ji Huan, who was just two years old, captured his first devil in his entire life.
While the devil was greedily devouring the remains of his parents in the front seat, little Ji Huan was leaning forward and grabbing with his little hands, just the simple movement. Stealthily in thee air, a devil dripping in blood appeared in front of Ji Huan and his older sister.
That year, Xiao Hua was two years old and Xiao Hei was four years old.
Of course, at that time, Xiao Hua wasn’t called Xiao Hua and Xiao Hei wasn’t called Xiao Hei.
In that moment, Xiao Hei was scared senseless.
Instinctively, she tried to grab her little brother, but the seatbelt was tied too tightly and she couldn’t touch her brother at all.
So, she could only watch as the giant beast that suddenly appeared in the air looked at her little brother. Its slender face covered in scales moved closer and its ferocious maw soaked in blood opened wide, unfinished minced flesh still stuck between its teeth.
It was the face of a monster that adults described to frighten children.
Xiao Hei was scared to move. Frightened, she watched as the monster grew closer and closer to her brother.
She was terrified.
However, her brother wasn’t scared in the least.
The two year-old child didn’t understand anything and wasn’t afraid of seeing monsters. Opening and closing his little mouth, he was simply hungry.
Then, the monster didn’t know what to think of and held a mutilated palm to the little boy’s mouth. There was a thin golden ring on the ring finger that had almost broken off.
That was their mother’s wedding ring.
The little girl had memories of that ring, but the little boy didn’t understand anything.
Utterly dissatisfied with the food that the devil brought to his mouth, the child stretched out his little paw and pointed at the baby bottle that had rolled down.
For a two year-old child, that was what he considered to be “food.”
After a moment of hesitation, the monster actually handed over the baby bottle.
The little boy skillfully held up the baby bottle and gulped down the milk.
Gnawing on the palm, the young horned devil ate while watching the little boy drink milk.
When the little boy had drunk enough milk, the plump little hand holding the bottle suddenly put it in front of the devil’s bloody lips.
“Ah!” The young voice was childish.
After licking the liquid left on the pacifier, the horned devil spat it out a couple times. Then, it suddenly left.
After that, the little boy gave the baby bottle that the devil had shunned to his older sister.
The frightened little girl didn’t think to shun the baby bottle and she also gulped down the milk.
And then, rescuers arrived.
The pitiful couple in the front seat was taken away, and after the young lady in the back seat was taken to the hospital, they were returned to an empty home. The officers who had delivered the children were busy with the investigation and they quickly left. Before leaving, they asked the surrounding neighbors to look after the children. It was fine in the beginning, but everything changed within a short time.
The police thought the neighborhood would help care for the children, and the neighbors thought that the police would watch over the two poor little guys. And in the end ——
The two children were left in an empty room by themselves.
Empty of “humans”, but there was a devil.
For some reason, the devil came back twice afterwards.
When it came for the third time, it happened to come across a couple of robbers in the room.
They were the final two victims in that case.
After that day, the two children disappeared from the room.
And then, there was a young devil on the mountain with two young children.
Xiao Hei was wearing a little black skirt, so she was called Xiao Hei.
Xiao Hua was wearing flower underclothes, so he was called Xiao Huar.
Grandpa… no one gave Grandpa a name! So he was just called Grandpa!
Their days passed like that.
It seemed as if an awareness had opened up in his mind and the fragments of memories scattered deep in the depths of his cerebral cortex slowly pieced together an incomplete story.
“Roar——————” With a long, drawn out roar, Grandpa apologized.
Ji Huan was stuck in place.
The deep voice of the man named Yang came from behind him:
“I don’t know why it hasn’t eaten you in fifteen years, but ——”
“A devil is a devil after all, and not the same as a human.”
“Especially devils that have eaten people.”
“Once they’ve smelled human blood, even a good devil in disguise can’t bear it. The longing desire for the blood flowing through the veins will inevitably overpower everything, and they’ll turn back to their original forms.”
The man extended his left hand, waved it lightly, and Ji Huan fell between the two soldiers to the side.
The other soldiers immediately fastened the cage holding the horned devil. This time, the devil didn’t respond in the least.
Leaning its head into the gap between the cage bars, it just stared at Ji Huan with a pair of big eyes.
The look in its eyes was extremely complicated.
Regret, guilt, love… and maybe, a little bit of relief?
Not daring to keep watching, several soldiers pulled the cage. However, they hadn’t pulled but a little bit when a vigorous force pulled in the other direction. A few of them looked up and it was actually the youth that was doing it!
“Let. Go. Of. My. Grandpa!” Wrenching the metal bars of the cage with both hands and using the weight of his whole body to stop the others from taking the cage away, Ji Huan repeated the same sentence again word by word.
“You child, don’t you understand what people say or did you forget your roots? This devil clearly admitted to it and you’re still protecting it?”
This time, even though the man named Yang was nearly angered by his response, he wasn’t inclined to speak more nonsense with him. Colonel Yang immediately ordered two subordinates to capture Ji Huan and the rest of them moved the horned devil into a special carriage as quickly as possible.
Just then, there was suddenly ——
A burst of blood.
A burst of blood suddenly sprayed across the cage and onto the caged horned devil.
The scales were white, the blood red.
Outside of the cage, the youth named Ji Huan’s right wrist was dripping with blood.
Just at that moment, he had actually cut his right wrist and spilled blood on the old devil in the cage!
Not knowing how much strength he used to cut himself, the blood not only sprayed the old horned devil, but it also sprayed plenty on the cages nearby, and even the man named Wang over there!
“What are you doing? Xiao Xie, hurry and stop his bleeding.” Never having seen such behavior beforee, the man named Yang’s flattened lip trembled.
After the shock, he didn’t ignore Ji Huan in the end, but rather he planned to send someone to bandage Ji Huan’s cut.
The female subordinate who was sent to bandage Ji Huan’s wound was aggressively avoided by Ji Huan. As everyone watched the scene in astonishment, Ji Huan suddenly spoke again:
“You told me: a devil is a devil after all, and not the same as a human. Especially devils that have eaten people——”
“You said that once they’ve smelled human blood, even a good devil in disguise can’t bear it. The longing desire for the blood flowing through the veins will inevitably overpower everything, and they’ll turn back to their original forms.”
Placing his still-bleeding right arm in the cage with the horned devil, the teenager’s expression was fiercely calm.
hello folks!! first off, i wanted to thank Julie again for their very, very generous ko-fi donation! it really means a lot to me and helps a ton! thank you again! 😭
in other news, this was a long one, but it’s also one of my favorite chapters because it just goes to show how much grandpa and ji huan love each other, even when ji huan found out the truth. (cry)
see you guys next time!
1 认贼作父: lit. to recognize a thief as one’s father. it means a betrayal, or to put your trust into an enemy. in this case, the idiom was very close to the actual situation, so i kept the text as close as i could.
“When ‘Ji Huan’ was carried into the house to play with frogs by the horned monster, he was suddenly not afraid in the least.
Looking at the horned monster, Ji Huan saw that he had handed it a baby bottle.
The invisible horned monster didn’t know the reason why. And then, Ji Huan himself poke the monster’s white beard with the bottle nipple again.
When the horned devil finally realized what was happening, a smile suddenly appeared on its terribly ugly face.
Even though it was ugly, Ji Huan was certain that it was a smile.
Then, he heard together with Hei Dan the monster say happily:
“Hei Dan, you are such a filial child. As filial as your uncle Xiao Hua! Grandpa is so happy——”
So, Ji Huan and Hei Dan smiled together in the dream.
——Excerpt，《Prince of the Devils》Chapter 32″ (TL note: god i wished i read that first instead of re-translating the whole thing, LOL)