Quality Checker: Isalee
First Published on Chaleuria.
I hurriedly shook my head. “No need, no need. This is my problem after all…”
“That was your fault anyway. If I’m not complaining, I don’t know why a grown man like you would be so upset about it.” Su Xiaoyun immediately retorted to Shi Yitong. “Someone’s life hangs in the balance, how can we not help?”
I don’t know if it was just my imagination, but Su Xiaoyun and Shi Yitong seemed a lot more lively interacting with each other than with me. Watching the way they argued, I couldn’t help but start laughing softly.
After being thoroughly scolded by Su Xiaoyun, Shi Yitong seemed to lose his anger, shutting up entirely.
“Right now, our only clue is this Yuhua pebble, correct?” Su Xiaoyun asked rather enthusiastically.
I nodded, slightly hesitant.
“That’s a pain…” Su Xiaoyun said, thoughtfully. “However, you did mention that the old lady said she met the great god on a mountain right? What happened to that mountain?”
I pulled out my phone and used Baidu to check for Yan City’s local area map. “Right — so it looks like the mountain is still here, but it seems to have been developed into a tourist area. It’s not too far off, about 20 minutes by car.”
Su Xiaoyun clapped her hands together. “That’s it then! If the person in question is really a mountain god, then the most likely place for him to appear is on that mountain.”
“But, it was so long ago…”
“If you don’t try, you’ll never succeed.” Su Xiaoyun grabbed ahold of my sleeve and started dragging me towards the school’s front gate. “We’ll just take this Yuhua pebble and ask around. You never know, you might find someone who’s seen it before.”
So, just like that, the three of us hailed a taxi and headed towards that mountain. Apparently, the mountain was previously just a nameless wilderness. Afterwards, it caught a scenic developer’s eye and they named it ‘Mt. Xiao Yao’, turning it into a tourist destination.
It was currently autumn and there were many hand-planted maple trees on Mt. Xiao Yao, so many that you could see flaming red as far as the eye could see. It was probably the reason why there were also crowds stretched as far as the eye could see. Both Shi Yitong and I were a little intimidated.
“Um, this…” Su Xiaoyun forced a dry smile, doing her best to reassure us. “The more people, the more chances to ask, right?”
We ended up standing around like a bunch of idiots on the side of the mountain, asking every passing young man about the pebble. In the end, after all that effort, we didn’t gain a thing except for being mistaken for fraudsters and almost getting kicked out by security.
Shi Yitong leaned against a tree, unable to suppress his yawns, and even Su Xiaoyun’s face was full of fatigue.
I couldn’t stand it anymore — it was almost lunch time and these two were still with me, trying to help with something dumb.
It’s getting fairly late. It’s almost midday. You two should head back first.”
“What about you?” Su Xiaoyun asked.
“I… remembered that I still might have a friend who lives nearby.” I lied bluntly with a stiff expression on my face, “I am going to meet up with him. You guys should go back first, I’ll be alright.”
“You sure?” Shi Yitong didn’t quite believe me.
I nodded. “It’s pointless searching like this anyway. Go on, go back already.”
After I waved them off in a cab, it left me alone near the scenic area. I lowered my head to look at the pathetic looking stone in my hand and sighed.
….If I really gave up like this, it would mean I yielded way too quickly right? I should at least talk to some more people.
Just as I prepared to turn around and go back to the mountain, I heard a voice calling me from behind.
“You, are you by any chance the boy from Mr. Wen’s shop the other day?”
I turned around and discovered a white-haired old lady looking at me. I couldn’t help but be surprised, wasn’t this was the same old lady who entrusted us to find the mountain god?
“It is you, ah—”
The old lady smiled, eyes crinkling. “My surname is Li, you can just call me Grandma Li.”
“Of course, Grandma Li!” I grinned at her.
Grandma Li looked around and immediately understood what I was trying to do. “You’re…. Trying to help me find that person, right?”
I nodded. “Mt. Xiao Yao was where you said you once met that god, so I thought if I had to look, I might as well start somewhere with a higher likelihood of success…”
I didn’t even get a chance to finish my sentence before Grandma Li’s worn and wrinkled hands grabbed both of mine.
“Thank you, boy.” Grandma Li said kindly, however, her expression grew a touch more distressed. “I’m really grateful that you’re willing to come so far to help me find that person. But, I’ve already searched here many times, waiting here day and night to ask passersby. Unfortunately… no one had any idea.”
I couldn’t help the crestfallen expression that crept across my face. “How can that be…”
Grandma Li nodded lightly, “Ah, you’re still so young. You probably still have many things to do, you should probably stop wasting your time on an old woman like me. The other day, when I left Mr. Wen with my request, it was only out of an unrealistic fantasy I had been harboring. I knew deep in my heart that the chances of finding that person were almost nil.”
I lowered my head, unable to deny the truth in her words.
“Then, Grandma Li, what are you doing here?” I asked curiously.
“My daughter’s hospital is quite close by,” Grandma Li said, “So I pass through here almost every day.”
“Is that so…” I suddenly felt slightly disappointed, as if I had wasted an entire morning. Not to mention how I ended up dragging along those two panda-eyed, sleep-deprived friends of mine.
“Boy, are you busy right now?” Grandma Li suddenly asked.
I paused. “No, I have nothing pressing.”
“Then, how about you accompany me to visit my daughter? How about it, did you want to join me?” Grandma Li asked me sincerely. “It’s always me going to and fro by myself. Honestly, it gets a bit lonely.”
“Of course.” I agreed happily.
Thus, I ended up accompanying Grandma Li to the hospital to see her cancer-stricken daughter. On the way, she talked quite a lot on a range of topics — from life to marriage, her deceased husband, and how proud she was of her daughter. I listened quietly, nodding at times. This old lady must’ve been alone for too long, judging by the way she told me all of her woes.
She told me about how handsome and charming her husband was when he was younger, about how so many girls at school wanted to date him, but somehow she was the one who got extremely lucky. She told me that her daughter was only four when he died from a car accident and how she brought her daughter up as a single parent, never marrying again. She told me about how her daughter had always made her proud. They had never thought that working so hard would cause the chalk dust to clog in her lungs and bring about such an irreversible situation.
I followed Grandma Li into the hospital and saw her daughter, who was around thirty. She lay curled lethargically on the hospital bed with a breathing apparatus across her nose and mouth. Even beneath the hospital gown, you could tell that she was nothing more than skin and bones. Her hair had all fallen out and combined with her muscle dystrophy, she resembled nothing more than an emaciated little monkey.