Chapter 5 : Arc 1 : Rural Love 5 – Pei
The sound of splashing echoed after a thump, followed by He Wei’s panicky cries. He was like a pig getting slaughtered, giving futile kicks in the river.
Huang Dan watched the man who was standing on the bank. His back was facing him so he could not see what kind of expression he was wearing on his face.
It could not be anything good.
Anyone who heard their deceased relative being slandered would get angry.
The atmosphere by the pond was oppressive.
Huang Dan hesitated. Should he take the initiative to walk a few steps forward to say something to Li Gen?
After all, when the other was interrogating, he just stood there passively.
While Huang Dan was lost in his thoughts, He Wei had swam ashore. He was good at swimming and after he became sober, he began to kick and paddle. He was greatly frightened.
“Cough and cough…”
He Wei fell to the ground and coughed incessantly. He was scared to death. He felt that he was grabbed on the leg by the King of Hell and almost enter Hell Prefecture.
A sudden voice rang out. He Wei then noticed that there was more than one person standing behind him.
Fuck, what’s the matter? Did these two people come to see him drown at this time of the night?
Li Gen squatted down, he placed one hand on his legs while the other held a cigarette and grinned, showing his teeth . It was extremely white.
“Where did you go for your drink? You’re sprawled out drunk on the ground.”
He Wei was stunned. “Ah?”
Li Gen puffed a cloud of smoke onto He Wei’s face. “You drank too much.”
“I was passing by with Dong Tian and saw you lying on the ground. I wanted to send you back but you were shouting about wanting a bath, pushed us away and jumped into the pond.”
He Wei was choked by the smoke and his coughing even worsened. He twisted his neck to look back.
Seeing He Wei looking back, Huang Dan nodded, “That’s it.”
After that, he noticed Li Gen’s gaze directed towards him which he returned with a “I know what to do” look.
He Wei wiped his face. Tonight, he had gone to drink at his nephew’s full moon dinner and saw a newly married couple seated together on the same table.
The man had graduated from an elementary school and he had a hunched back, but his wife was pretty good. Her nose was a nose, her eyes were eyes, and her figure was as full as Wu Cui Ling’s.
He Wei was indignant. He thought that his appearance was proper and he was healthy. He had graduated from junior high school and his family was considered alright, but he just couldn’t get a decent wife he liked.
Looking at the man’s laughter, He Wei felt that the man was mocking himself. He lost his temper right on the spot and was pulled by others to change his table. Yet his anger did not fade.
He Wei poured liquor into his stomach one after another. He drank too much. He remembered that he had gone to Wu Cui Ling’s door, grabbed the iron ring of the door and knocked on it a few times. He scolded for a while and then went to the hill forest.
From the hill forest to falling into the pond, this section was a blank to him.
His head drank memory fragments.
He Wei’s stomach tumbled and he vomited out.
The muddy and unpleasant smell dispersed into the air. It embraced the cool air like it was frenzied and they soon merged into one.
Huang Dan had a slight nausea. He swallowed his saliva and moved to one side.
Li Gen patted He Wei on the shoulder. “Can you go alone?”
The strength on his shoulder was so great that half of He Wei’s body was tilted away. His face almost touched the vomit on the ground, which made him nauseous again, but he did not break away from the touch.
When he was eighteen or nineteen years old, Li Da Gui had gone to Village Yin to look for a partner. He Wei had followed him. Unexpectedly, the woman he had his eyes on was on intimate terms with another man. When a group of people clashed, they picked up the slabs and smashed at each other.
There was only He Wei and Li Da Gui, and they suffered defeat. His nose was blue and his face was swollen. Li Da Gui’s head was broken and bleeding.
As if they were like bereaved dogs, they were just about to be pressed beneath the crotch to crawl through the trousers when Li Gen appeared on his bicycle, holding a steel pipe in his hand, and he alone settled the group.
He Wei had always been afraid of Li Gen. He was even more afraid after that incident. He would follow Li Da Gui and call him brother. He would never face him openly. Even if he was treated like this, he dared not speak out in anger.
If someone else did this to him, they would have long been scolded.
He Wei leaned over his head and gasped. “Ge, Go back with Dong Tian.”
Li Gen pinched his cigarette and laughed. He reminding him kindly, “Don’t drink too much in the future, it’s easy to speak of the wrong things.”
He Wei’s face turned white.
Even when it was just him left at the pond side, he still felt the chill that emerged and did not disperse away. It was seeping into his heart.
When a gust of wind came, He Wei remembered Li Da Gui’s appearance when he was pulled out of the pond. His body was swollen, there was a lot of mud in his fingernails and hands, and his eyes were staring widely. Protruding outwards; not dying in peace.
Not far away, the shadow of a tree shook like there was a person standing there. He Wei shivered and ran away, hugging his arms in panic.
The hills and forests were connected by the upper river farm and Sha Tang Village. There were graves in the hills. There was one here and there was another there. They were stationed a little far apart from each other, which was different from the density of mass graves.
There was also an exposed coffin in the mountain forest. It was not a surprise for everyone to see the presence of this coffin. They did not take a peek and see whether there were any treasures, nor did they want to bury the coffin again.
What the people in the village cared about was the harvest of crops, how many eggs could the chicken lay, and how many eggs their daughter-in-law could lay.
Huang Dan walked along the path, part of his soles fell off and he was in a panic.
A voice rang in his ear. “Why did you come to the mountains instead of sleeping at home?”
“I couldn’t sleep so I went out for a walk.”
Huang Dan said, “I saw He Wei and thought that he was uncomfortable and he fainted, so I went to call him.”
“Later, I heard He Wei mentioning about Brother Da Gui…”
Li Gen interrupted the young man, “Why didn’t you expose the truth?”
Huang Dan said angrily, “He Wei spoke badly about Brother Da Gui, he deserved it!”
Li Gen squinted and said, “I remember Da Gui had injured you by mistake.” He couldn’t remember what had happened. He only remembered that his mother had beaten Da Gui and took him to apologize to Chen Jin Hua.
How was it an accident? It was deliberate. Huang Dan found this memory in the original owner’s memory and it was very clear.
At that time, the original owner was still young. He had been picking peaches under the tree. Li Da Gui was playing together with several people, throwing sandbags. He called him twice, saying that he wanted to eat peaches.
When the original owner refused to give the peaches, Li Da Gui felt that he lost his face, so he picked up a stone and threw it at him.
The stone hit the original owner’s eye and he bled a lot.
Huang Dan said, “It was a long time ago when everyone was young, it’s nothing.”
He muttered, “Anyway, Brother Da Gui is no longer here.”
Li Gen muffled out his cigarette. He flicked the cigarette butt to the ground and ran it over with his shoes. “Let’s go.”
“What happened tonight, pretend it never happened.”
The man in front stopped suddenly. Huang Dan bumped into him, his nose knocking on his back. It hurt a lot.
Huang Dan scrunched his eyebrows and tears came out in an instant.
Li Gen turned back and said, “Are you all right?”
Huang Dan covered his nose, the pain was so great that he could not straighten his waist. I’m not alright, I am dying of pain.
Li Gen’s expression was odd; just like what happened in the field, a little bump and he was like half dead.
He looked at the top of the young man’s hair. “Are you afraid of pain?”
Huang Dan’s lips were white, “En.”
Li Gen laughed with no sympathy. “It’s the disease of the rich. How did you get this?”
Huang Dan inwardly said, I am the son of a rich family.
It was just that his fate was a little twisted.
His pain nerves were too sensitive and it brought inconvenience in his life. This easily caused other people to roll their eyes and they showed him contempt.
On the way back from work, he still transmigrated here for no reason. The guardian was completely ignorant. It was hard to say it in words.
After that night, for several days, He Wei did not appear in the village.
When Huang Dan was watering vegetables in the vegetable field, he heard the discussion of several women, only then did he knew what had happened to He Wei. He had a high fever that refused to drop and was even talking nonsense.
His family suspected that he had been haunted by a ghost and was ready to invite Taoist Priests to set up an array.
Putting the dung ladle beside the cucumber shelf, Huang Dan took away the paper balls stuffed in his nose. If you did nothing wrong then you would not be afraid of ghosts knocking at your door at midnight, and if you did something wrong, then it was necessary to worry and fear.
When Huang Dan returned, he passed the old locust tree and saw Li Gen playing cards with people under the tree. He was surrounded by a circle of people, all of whom were smoking and swallowing the cloud’s smoke.
“Dong Tian, you finished watering the vegetables?”
It was Zhang Ying Xiong who spoke. Nobody, except for him, paid any attention to the original owner.
With a turn of his footsteps, Huang Dan walked over.
A woman waved her hand in front of her nose. “It smells so bad. Did you pour dung on yourself, Dong Tian?”
The others laughed loudly.
Huang Dan hung his head and said nothing.
Zhang Ying Xiong did not read too much into it, his thinking was relatively simple. He felt that the introvert spoke less, but there was actually a lot going through his mind. He did not like the kind of people that twisted around their words, he was afraid of being sabotaged.
However, Zhang Dong Tian was his cousin, when he heard these people laughing at him, and also right in front of his face, he was not very pleased.
So Zhang Ying Xiong argued with the woman who took the lead in the conversation and was about to quarrel.
Li Gen, who had been playing cards, shouted at Huang Dan. He threw out an ace of heart and said, “Go and buy a pack of cigarettes for Ge.”
Huang Dan said, “No money.”
Li Gen’s eyes slanted. “When playing cards, you can’t ask for money, it will affect the luck.”
Huang Dan still did not leave, no matter how Zhang Ying Xiong shot gazes at him, it was futile.
There were a few women who were watching, whispering that Huang Dan did not know how to act like a human and had no eyesight, he was less than half of his mom.
Someone wanted to please Li Gen and said that he would go to buy it for Li Gen.
“Play the cards first.”
With a smile, Li Gen continued playing the cards.
When the card game was played to the end, a brother got the chance to play the smallest straight flush, 3 to 7. He thought that no one would follow up and he would be able to continue his turn. He was just about to throw away the extra 3 he had. Unexpectedly, Li Gen followed up and took away his turn.
Li Gen waited for him by leaving a hand, from 4 to 8, not more, not less, it was just five cards that directly had higher value than his. His brothers all looked at him stupefied.
The other two were busy lamenting, they both felt that their cards were good.
Li Gen turned the matchbox around and glanced at the young man. “You go there and say I am the one that is getting it. The store will keep the tab.”
Only then did Huang Dan leave.
Li Gen shuffled the cards and shouted, “Do you know which brand to buy?”
Huang Dan said, “I know.”
Li Gen only smoked the golden package of Qixi, one packet costed 1.5 dollars. It had a slender smoke body with no filter tip. He always had that smell on his body and it could be smelled from a long distance away.
Huang Dan bought the cigarettes and went back. The game had long ended. Li Gen was counting the tickets. There was a pile of ten cent and twenty cent.
Li Gen took the cigarette and tore open the transparent layer. “It’s not like you bind your feet. Why are you so slow in buying a cigarette?”
Huang Dan said that he met a madman on the road and the madman ran after him. In order to get rid of the madman, he took a different route.
The young man replied seriously. Li Gen was stunned. The jokes were difficult to continue, “What about the madman?”
Huang Dan said he didn’t know.
Taking a cigarette out and lighting it on the table, Li Gen suddenly approached and frowned. “You really smell, you didn’t get any dung on yourself?”
Huang Dan said, “I got it on my shoes.”
Li Gen looked down and saw a stain on the torn open hole of the young man’s left shoe. “…Fuck. “
“Why did you wear these shoes when it is so torn out?”
Huang Dan said, “I don’t have shoes to wear. My mother is making them for me.”
Li Gen clasped his cigarette behind his ear and collected the tickets and cards on the table. “Come with me.”
Huang Dan followed silently, guessing that the man wanted to give himself shoes. There must be some old shoes that he could not wear.
In the courtyard, Wu Cui Ling was picking some beans and Wang Yue Mei was feeding the chickens in the wheelchair. “Dong Tian is here.”
Huang Dan shouted, “Aunt, Sister Cui Ling.”
This was the first time that he had seen Li Gen’s mother, Wang Yue Mei, who was several years older than Chen Jin Hua. But she did not have the rough vicissitudes of life. There was a taste of time deposited in between her eyebrows.
Wang Yue Mei was clean and tidy, and she was dressed appropriately. She paid attention to her appearance. Her fingernails had been trimmed and the hair on her temple was slightly silverish and all of it was fastened behind her ears. Several honeysuckle hairclips were fixed in her hair.
Even in her early fifties, she had a temperament that other women in the village did not have, including Chen Jin Hua.
According to Huang Dan’s memory, Wang Yue Mei pampered her eldest son, disliked her second son that was a good for nothing. He only knew to disgrace himself outside and had his family wipe his buttocks at home.
Wang Yue Mei turned the pot upside down and patted at it. “What are you looking at, Dong Tian?”
Huang Dan came back to his senses. “That black-tailed chicken looks like the one in my family.”
Wang Yue Mei said with a laugh, “The chicken has red mark on its neck. The position is different from your family’s. The chickens in your family all have them on the buttocks.”
Huang Dan said, “Oh right.”
“Aunt, I made a mistake.”
Li Gen took out two pairs of shoes and said, “See if you can wear them.”
Huang Dan took off his dirty shoes with a hole and stuffed his feet into the blue-grey sneakers. “I can wear them.”
He went to try the other pair and it fitted.
Li Gen said, “These are my old shoes. Now that you can wear them, take them back and use them.”
Huang Dan said, “Thank you, Ge.”
Li Gen waved his hand and went to the henhouse to see if there were any eggs.
Huang Dan held the pair of shoes with one hand, “Aunt, Sister Cui Ling, l am going back.”
Wu Cui Ling suddenly said, “Dong Tian, wait.”
She went back to her room and returned with some books. “This is the language book for junior high year one, a mathematics book, and there is also the 300 poems of Tang.”
“Two days ago, I heard Ying Xiong mentioning that you want to study, go and take these back to read, you can ask me if you do not understand.”
Besides saying thank you, what else could Huang Dan say? He carried the book in his arm and turned away.
Two roosters were fighting in the courtyard with their wings fluttering. The porcelain pot in the middle was slapped to the East and West.
Wang Yue Mei asked Wu Cui Ling to take away the pot. She frowned. “When did you wash your hair? Why is it so greasy?:
Wu Cui Ling said, “It has been two days.”
“This summer is hot and you haven’t washed your hair for two days, it must be getting sour.”
Wang Yue Mei’s speech was fierce. “Go wash your hair before you cook lunch.”
Wu Cui Ling responded, “Okay.”
Wang Yue Mei seemed to have remembered something. “He Wei is ill. Bring an old hen with you to go there sometime.”
Wu Cui Ling looked up. “But Mom, He Wei, he…”
Wang Yue Mei said impatiently, “Cui Ling, Mom knows you are a cultural person, and you studied a lot, so you don’t need to be taught by mom when you are so sophisticated, right?”
Wu Cui Ling gripped the porcelain basin. “Mother is correct.”
The conversation between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law did not end until Li Gen came over with eggs.
Huang Dan went home and told his mother about his shoes.
Chen Jin Hua dragged the hemp rope to chase the chickens on the rice bed. “Since it’s given to you, just take it. After this busy period, Mom will finish your shoes, and we will have new shoes to wear.”
Huang Dan wasn’t bothered. Regardless of whether it was old or new shoes, it was a good pair of shoes as long as it fitted his feet.
He went to wash and cook the rice. He never did anything like this since he was young. If the housekeeper saw this scene, he would faint from shock.
Chen Jin Hua limped into the kitchen, washed the ladles and placed them on the cutting board.
Huang Dan sat beside the pothole. He grabbed a handful of pine wool, rubbed the matches and ignited them. When the fire started, he quickly plugged the hole and threw some firewood into it.
He wasn’t able to do anything at first, but now he was doing it in a decent way.
It was all forced.
Huang Dan took the tongs and used them to stir the pothole. He asked casually, “Mom, can you tell me something about Aunt Wang’s past?”
Chen Jin Hua’s voice was sandwiched in the neat sound of “Dang dang dang”, “Why did you suddenly ask about this?”
Huang Dan said, “I saw Aunt Wang sitting in a wheelchair today, and she still can’t stand up.”
“She received stimulation and got a stroke. It will be difficult.”
Chen Jin Hua said, “It used to be bitterer than it is now.”
Huang Dan’s face was flushed from the fire. “Is that right?”
Chen Jin Hua said, “Oh, it’s very bitter. There was nothing to eat at that time, we were suffering from famine. Anyone would be beaten to death if they committed a crime. Later, the situation got better slowly.”
Huang Dan listened carefully.
“When she was young, Aunt Wang could dance and sing. She was very respectable.”
Chen Jin Hua placed a gourd fruit that was cut into large pieces into the bowl. “I married to the village around the same time as her. She married the village head at that time. I married a pockmark, and that was your father.”
Huang Dan said, “Mom, you are better than Aunt Wang.”
Chen Jin Hua heard her son’s words and a smile appeared on her face. “You made your mom really happy.”
Huang Dan put down his tongs and looked at the crackling firewood under his chin. Wang Yue Mei in her fifties looked younger than Chen Jinhua in her fifties.
To be exact, when the married women of the village were placed together, none were as good as Wang Yue Mei.
If she were twenty or thirty years younger, the gap would be even greater.
“Is Aunt Wang the village flower?”
“She isn’t just a village flower.”
Chen Jinhua wiped the pot with a rag and poured in a little rapeseed oil. “Your Aunt Wang is famous all over the county, and she has many suitors.”
Unexpectedly, Huang Dan was curious about Wang Yue Mei’s appearance when she was young. There must be some pictures at home. He would like to see them if he had a chance.
“I think Aunt is a bit biased.”
Huang Dan was still in that casual tone. “She don’t like Brother Da Gui very much.”
“The eldest is sensible from childhood, studied well and went to college. He worked in big cities. The second son was mischievous, running away as soon as he reached the school gate. He did not want to study and was living as the day went. He achieved nothing in the end.”
Chen Jin Hua said, “Whoever is it, will they not be biased?”
Huang Dan threw in a log, so, who was the murderer?
He Wei, Wu Cui Ling and Li Gen, and now one more Wang Yue Mei.
However, no matter how partial, it would not be to the point of poisoning her own son.
Huang Dan asked the system if it could give him a little hint, exclusion was also good.
System, “Sorry, there’s nothing this humbled one can do.”
Huang Dan asked, “Why didn’t the point drop again?”
System, “This humbled one thinks that it is not the right time.”
Huang Dan, “Oh, I see.”
It was to tell him in a euphemistic way that the task was too slow and he needed to work harder.
In the evening, Chen Jin Hua asked Huang Dan to cut pigweed.
“Hurry up, don’t dawdle, the pigs are waiting to eat, otherwise the sky will be black.”
Huang Dan took a sickle and went to cut the pigweed with a big bamboo basket on his back. He met Li Gen who was beside the ox that was grazing.
The two met each other.
Li Gen’s eyes swept to the young man’s feet before moving away. He pointed to one place. “There are many over there.”
Huang Dan went over and stood in the middle of a piece of green lard, bending over and starting his work.
Li Gen squatted on the wooden pier. “I heard from Cui Ling, she gave you textbooks and Tang poems?”
Huang Dan said, “I haven’t seen it yet.”
Without further questions, Li Gen took up the radio on the ground and turned it on. Then he rode on the back of the ox, put his hand behind his head and listened to the song comfortably.
The ox grazed slowly, looking just like its owner.
The atmosphere was good.
On the other side came a buffalo, it was a female, who was calling out to the ox all the time. It was a bland seduction and it was absolutely lawless.
The ox was hooked and rushed towards the buffalo.
Li Gen on the back of the ox jumped down at a critical moment. He could not stand firm and knelt down directly, just in front of Huang Dan.
Huang Dan, “…”
Seeing the young man with his mouths pursed and the corners of his lips bent, Li Gen asked with a black face, “Is it very funny?”
Huang Dan said, “It’s not funny.”
He never laughed since he could remembered. He didn’t know what emotion it was. He could only imitate it. When someone grinned, he followed suit. When someone covered their stomach from laughter, he also acted accordingly.
Currently, he was best at laughing, because it was easy to learn, there was no difficulty.
He learned other emotions but he forget them very fast, he must aim at the reference goal, learn and use now.
The mouth of this body was slightly perked, slightly curled, it was like a laugh.
Huang Dan threw the pigweed into the bamboo basket and said earnestly, “Ge, don’t kneel down anymore. The ground is all mud. Get up quickly.”
Only then did Li Gen respond and realized that he was still kneeling. He was swung from the ox and his soul had not yet returned back to his body.
He stood up with an ugly expression, “Damn it!”
There were still songs playing on the radio. They sang about the blue sky, the white clouds, the green mountains and the blue waters. The tone was very good.
The buffalo and ox quickly got acquainted with each other. They whispered secretly and it was greasy.
Huang Dan continued to mow the pigweed. After a while, he changed his spot. When he left, he was not careful and his foot was tripped by the grass and vines, and his body could not control the forward tilt.
Li Gen subconsciously caught Huang Dan. Their mouths touched each other, the two lips met, their teeth knocked, and there was a bloody mouth.
With a rusty smell breathing into the lungs, Li Gen’s face was green. He pushed the youth away vigorously and wiped his mouth with disgust. He even spit a mouthfuls on the ground.
Huang Dan also let out a ‘Pei’.