Quality Checker: Tezuka
First Published on Chaleuria.
When the hunchback old man saw Grandma Li, his reaction seemed like a child, his tears started falling and he couldn’t stop nodding his head.
“It’s me, it’s me… I’m sorry, I’m really so sorry.”
“I see, as long as it’s really you. It really hasn’t been easy.” Grandma Li’s eyes were also a little wet.
At this tableau, even I, as a bystander, couldn’t help but feel a bit moved. However, Wen Jiubo seemed utterly disinterested in this heartwarming scene, turning his head away.
Listening to the conversation between the two, I slowly started to understand everything.
It turns out that the mountain god that Grandma Li met all those years ago was this old man who stood before us now. There was never any mountain god, nor was there ever a god.
“Back then, I was just really too fond of you, so I tricked you into believing that I was an all-powerful mountain god. In reality, I only wanted to see you more often. I come from a family of hunters, so I was always on the mountain. There was never really anyone to play with, that’s why I made up such a story.” The old man recounted regretfully, “I’ve been searching for you all these years too, I wanted to know how you were doing. But I… I don’t have the power to cure illnesses, and I don’t have any way to save your daughter.”
“I know.” Grandma Li gently covered his hand with hers, reassuringly. “I expected this kind of result from the start, it doesn’t matter if this is the reality. After all these years, being able to see your face once more, I’m already very satisfied. Do you remember at that time, I was wearing a floral dress? And when I was playing on the mountain I ripped it?”
“I remember, I remember. Then when you went home you lied to your mom and told her that you had been bullied by a boy. I said that I never bullied you, you were always the one bullying me.”
“That’s right!” Grandma Li laughed heartily. “Back then, I was picking on you all the time. And you were always following me around like a puppy.”
The two of them started talking about much more innocent times and I couldn’t help but feel happy for Grandma Li. When I turned to look at Wen Jiubo though, that guy still wore a look of disinterest.
I nudged Wen Jiubo with my shoulder. “Hey, how did you find this grandpa? Didn’t you say before that it was like looking for a needle in a haystack? Or do you have some sort of unique ability to locate people?” I asked quietly.
Wen Jiubo glanced at me. “It’s not so much that I found him, it was more like he found me,” he said.
“Found you? Was he actually looking for you?” I asked in surprise.
Wen Jiubo nodded. “He probably had some sort of enlightenment, I guess,” he said lightly.
I didn’t really understand what Wen Jiubo meant, but I also didn’t bother asking about it.
In the afternoon, both of the old timers decided to go to the temple nearby to pray for Grandma Li’s sick daughter. I boldly suggested that we accompany them as well, and surprisingly, Wen Jiubo remained silent and didn’t refuse.
The two old people walked in front, Wen Jiubo and I followed behind. Watching the two of them meet again after all this time, smiling at each other, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of calmness and serenity.
After going up half the steps, Wen Jiubo suddenly spoke, “I think I’ll stop here.”
“Ah? After we’ve already gotten this far?” I was baffled.
“It’s enough that you go, I’ll wait here.” Wen Jiubo stood still, apparently deciding that he wasn’t going any further. There was a rare hint of disgust showing in his expression. “I’ve never really been able to like this sort of place.”
Seeing him like that, I couldn’t really say much. I just nodded and hurried to catch up to the two old-timers ahead of me.
They bowed together before a golden Buddha statue, burning incense and praying. I heard Grandma Li in the front, murmuring.
“I pray that Buddha will cure my daughter, Jin Ling, and bless her with long life. She’s such an outstanding girl and she doesn’t deserve to die. She doesn’t deserve it at all. If it’s my fate to see my daughter go, then I pray to you for mercy, to please let her pass peacefully…”
After that, I saw the old man standing by the side display a disturbed expression, which was quickly replaced by a smile.
“Don’t worry, your daughter will definitely recover. I heard that the golden Buddha here is really effective. It will definitely grant your daughter a long life.”
Even though we all knew the words were just meant to be comforting, Grandma Li still managed to smile.
In the end, Grandma Li left us at the door to the old residence. Before she left, she still stared longingly at the old man.
“Are you really sure you don’t want to stay at my house for the night? There’s no one else there now. The house feels cold and empty.”
However, the old man still shook his head and refused in the end. “No need, I won’t trouble you. Anyway, if you want to meet me tomorrow, you can.”
Grandma Li’s eyes brightened. “Can we meet again tomorrow?”
The old man smiled. “Of course, we can definitely meet again.”
After hearing this, Grandma Li seemed to relax slightly. She then turned to look at Wen Jiubo.
“I am really grateful.” Grandma Li bowed to Wen Jiubo in thanks. “Even though we didn’t find a way to save Jin Ling, but you still helped me find my childhood playmate. I’m very happy for that. Now, in regards to payment…”
Wen Jiubo interrupted before Grandma Li could finish, “No need. Payment has been already made.”
“Already made?” Grandma Li looked at Wen Jiubo questioningly, but the latter just nodded, not offering any explanation.
In the end, Grandma Li waved goodbye to us and departed, following the trail. The twilight sunlight fell across her and gradually both faded from sight.
“It’s really great that she could meet her playmate from decades ago. It’s not an easy feat to manage.” I couldn’t help but exclaim.
At that point, Wen Jiubo cut in coldly, “They won’t meet again.”
I froze. “What?”
“It looks like you really haven’t suspected anything.” Wen Jiubo shook his head. “I don’t know if I should call you naive or just dumb.”
Just when I wanted to question Wen Jiubo on what he meant, there was a sudden flash of blinding white light from behind. I turned around instinctively. The old man who stood there was enveloped in a white light, bright enough to hurt my eyes.
“Is it already time…?”
After a little while, the light slowly dimmed and the old man was nowhere to be seen. Instead, in his place, stood a youth dressed in white identical to the one I saw in my dreams. I froze in place, too startled to speak.
“W-what is this? Wasn’t he just -”
Wen Jiubo glanced at the youth and said indifferently, “He’s certainly no god, but he’s also not human. This guy is actually a demon, but because his cultivation level wasn’t high enough, he could only appear as a young man.”
I was a little surprised. “Then why do you have to appear as an old man to meet with her? Isn’t this form fine?”
The young man was silent for a moment before he spoke, “She can’t see me in this form.”