Quality Checker: Isalee
First Published on Chaleuria.
When the woman opened her eyes and saw Grandma Li, she called out weakly, “Mom.” It was as if all her energy was barely enough for that one word.
Grandma Li leaned over immediately, telling her not to speak. She pulled out a clean handkerchief and wiped her daughter’s face and hands, all the while telling her, “It’s okay, don’t be afraid.”
I kept Grandma Li company in the hospital until the afternoon. It was only when my failure of a stomach started growling that Grandma Li told me that I should go back. When I was leaving, she even tried to buy me some food downstairs, but I refused, telling her to return back to her daughter’s side.
I returned to my dorm with a heavy heart, however, when I got back and opened the door, there wasn’t a single person there. It was only after I asked around that I learned that all the boys from our group had gone together to karaoke and because I wasn’t around, I missed out. I turned on my computer and played a few games, but it got boring fast. And so I found my thoughts turned back towards Grandma Li’s situation.
When I was leaving, I had originally wanted to return the Yuhua stone to Grandma Li. Surprisingly, she refused to take it back, saying instead that she was gifting it to me.
“It’s nothing important, but I want you to have it. It looks quite pretty.”
I flopped back onto my bed, staring at the little stone in my hand. I thought that Grandma Li probably also felt that it was unlikely for us to find the mountain god she had met all those years ago after all. That day when she begged Mr. Wen to help her, it was nothing more than a desperate, final attempt to stop her terminally-ill daughter from dying.
I then remembered the words that Mr. Wen said to me the other day.
“If a person lives, they must also die. To try and defy the natural law and order of things, humans are indeed arrogant.”
After visiting Grandma Li’s daughter today with her, I felt like I understood those words a bit more.
If I couldn’t find that person then… it was something that could not be helped and I could only apologize to Grandma Li. With that thought, I slowly slipped into dreamland.
The surroundings were filled with green grass. A stream gurgled past and there was the sound of a girl crying somewhere close by.
“It hurts. It really hurts!”
A young girl wearing a small floral dress was crouched on the floor. It looked like her knee was injured and she was crying softly. At her side stood a youth in all white, staring at her helplessly.
“H-hey, please stop crying…”
The girl’s cries only got louder.
“D-does it really hurt that much?”
The little girl glared back at him. “It hurts a lot!”
“T-then what should we do…” The youth also looked like he was about to burst into tears. He thought for a long while and then pulled out a pretty Yuhua stone, handing it to the little girl.
“Here, take this. Please stop crying.”
As soon as the little girl saw the stone, she indeed stopped crying. She wiped her tears while taking the stone.
“It’s so beautiful.”
“Where did you get it from?”
The youth pointed towards the stream. “That way. There are lots of pretty stones like that there.”
“I also really want to find pretty stones, but my leg hurts too much.” The little girl suddenly got angry. “It’s all your fault!”
The youth looked aggrieved. “Why are you blaming me… You clearly fell over on your own.”
“Because you didn’t help me!”
He didn’t bother responding and just scratched his head helplessly.
“Wait for a moment.” After saying this, the young man vanished into the undergrowth.
“Ah, where are you going! Don’t leave me alone!”
A short while later, the youth returned with a handful of thin stalks of grass and walked over to the little girl. He placed the grass in his mouth to chew a few times before he spat it out and placed it over the injury on the girl’s knee.
“What are you doing?” The little girl asked curiously.
“This is medicine for your injured knee. If you wait a while, it won’t hurt anymore.”
The youth helped the little girl up, and she found that the injury on her knee had indeed stopped hurting as much.
The little girl’s expression filled with awe. “How do you know things like this?”
The youth looked pleased with himself. “Didn’t I tell you before? I’m the god of this mountain. As long as it has to do with my mountain, then there’s nothing that I don’t know.”
“You’re so impressive!”
“I-it’s not that impressive…”
“Let’s go! We can go look for pretty stones now!”
Time passed quickly. Soon, the sun had already set without them knowing and the sky was getting dark.
“Oh no! It’s too late, I have to get home before my mom finds out.” The little girl stood up hurriedly.
“I’ll walk you home!” The youth also stood up.
“There’s no time!” the girl said before she started running towards the base of the mountain. However, she stopped suddenly after a couple of steps, turning back to the youth.
“Um… If I come tomorrow, will I be able to see you again?”
“Of course! I’ll be waiting for you under this big jujube tree!” he said with certainty, patting the tree behind him.
“Okay!” The girl smiled brightly.
However, what neither of them knew was that the promise of tomorrow would never be kept.
In the morning, I woke from my dream and stared at the bleak white ceiling for a long time. It was only after I blinked when I realized that, as if in a dream, the corners of my eyes were wet.
“I figured it out!”
I startled Shi Yitong and Su Xiaoyun quite a bit when I ran up to them, panting for air. Shi Yitong looked especially reproachful.
“Bro! Not that I’m complaining, but why is it that everytime I’m alone with Su goddess, you always appear to interrupt us? What is your endgame?”
Su Xiaoyun didn’t seem bothered though, instead, she asked me kindly, “What’s up?”
“I figured it out, we went to the wrong place yesterday!” I put both hands on my knees, struggling to get my breath back.
“Yesterday?” Su Xiaoyun was very quick on the uptake. “Are you talking about when we were on Mt. Xiao Yao?”
I nodded, my words emphatic. “Yesterday we only searched the front of the mountain. Since it’s a tourist area, only the front of the mountain would be open to the public. However, Grandma Li met the mountain god at the back of the mountain, not the front, at a place with a little stream and a giant jujube tree.”
“Then… how did you know? Su Xiaoyun asked me a little strangely.
“Don’t worry about that, I just do! I’m certain of it!”
Su Xiaoyun hesitated for a moment, but still gave me a determined look. “Okay, since you’re sure, let’s go check it out!”
“Wait! Why are we going again?” Shi Yitong cried out as if in pain.
“Shut your trap, hurry up and come!”
This time, we avoided the scenic tourist area, specifically picking the thicket of trees that were void of people. We pushed aside branches to make a path for ourselves and made it around to the back of the mountain with great effort. I heard the gurgling of the stream and my eyes lit up.