Chapter 1: Going home to sell sweet potatoes
By the time Lu Qingjiu got off the train, the sky had already completely turned dark. He lugged along his heavy suitcase, originally thinking of renting a car, but who knew the moment the rental car drivers1 heard where he wanted to go, they all refused one after another.
"Shuifu is too remote, not going." The rental car driver looked Lu Qingjiu up and down, his eyes gaining an added hint of alertness.
Lu Qingjiu was being inexplicably sized up. He replied: "Sir, would you reconsider if I pay a little extra?"
The driver hesitated for a moment. "You're returning from the city?"
Lu Qingjiu nodded. "Yup, from A city," he said, pointing at the suitcase next to him.
The driver looked at Lu Qingjiu's luggage, before gritting his teeth and asking: "How much are you offering?"
Lu Qingjiu calculated the distance, then said: "Does an extra two hundred work?"
Only then did the driver relax. "Fine, get on."
Lu Qingjiu was inwardly relieved. He hurriedly loaded his luggage into the trunk, before sitting down in the front seat.
It was already the early hours of the morning, so the streets were completely empty, with only the occasional few rental cars speeding past. Spring had only just begun, so the weather was still a little cold, causing the short sleeved Lu Qingjiu to clutch at his arms, shivering slightly.
This place was far from A city, belonging to the outer suburbs of the province. Similarly, its level of economic development was far from that of A city, most of the surrounding buildings were low-rise buildings, giving off an old-fashioned air.
As the driver drove onwards, he struck up a conversation with Lu Qingjiu, finally revealing the reason behind his unwillingness to go to Shuifu.
Shuifu was a relatively remote village, and was still quite a distance from the county town. Previously, two rental car drivers had died in that area, and the murderer still hadn't been caught to this day. Afterwards, there was a rumour that those two drivers hadn't been killed by a human, but by something else they had encountered, so at this time all the rental car drivers were unwilling to go to this area now, especially in the dark of the night…
If not for Lu Qingjiu's extra two hundred dollars, he would really have had to stay a night in the county town.
"What are you coming back from A city for?" The driver faced forwards, chatting with Lu Qingjiu. "Is your old home here?"
Lu Qingjiu replied: "Yup, it wasn't too smooth sailing outside, so I resigned, since there's still a few fields at home."
The driver said: "This place is poor and out of the way, young man, I don't think you'll be able to stick it out here."
Lu Qingjiu just smiled, not replying. This decision to return was made only after a lot of deep consideration, and wasn't the result of a moment of impulsiveness.
As the car continued forwards, driving along the small narrow village roads, the surrounding environment became more and more remote, until finally not a single speck of light could be seen in the surroundings, with only the endless dark of the night remaining.
Lu Qingjiu had already rode the train for a full day, so after chatting for a while with the driver, he started feeling a little sleepy. When he couldn't keep his eyes open anymore and was about to fall asleep, the car suddenly came to an abrupt stop.
Lu Qingjiu was startled awake, and asked uncertainly: "What happened?"
"You… can you see that thing in front…" The driver's expression was extremely ugly, eyes bulging out of their sockets, and even his entire body was ever-so-slightly trembling, looking as if he could faint at any time.
"What?" Lu Qingjiu stiffened in shock, turning to look in the same direction. When he got a clear look at the thing in front of the car, his expression turned to match the driver's.
On the narrow mountain road, too far away to be made out clearly, there was a floating white apparition that looked vaguely human.
"The hell is this?" The driver sounded like he was about to cry. If not for the fact that the road was too narrow for the car to U-turn, he would probably have immediately turned around and ran.
Lu Qingjiu: "……"
"Ah ah ah ah, that thing's floating over!" The driver clutched Lu Qingjiu's arm in fear.
Lu Qingjiu: "Calm down, there's no such thing as ghosts in this world!"
Just as he finished speaking, the driver next to him started screaming again, saying: "That thing's coming closer to us!!"
Lu Qingjiu looked ahead and noticed that the white silhouette actually really was approaching them. The driver by his side started squealing like a pig being slaughtered, giving the entire situation the air of a horror film.
"It seems like it's a person!" Nonetheless, the white silhouette had come closer, so Lu Qingjiu could clearly see that that the white figure was indeed a person, even though their appearance wasn't too clear, but it shouldn't be something supernatural.
"It's a person." Lu Qingjiu felt like his arm was soon going to be broken off by the driver's death grip, and forced out: "Sir, please let go of me, it's really a person."
"A person?" The driver seemed to have calmed down a little.
The figure slowly walked over to them. With the help of the car lights, Lu Qingjiu was finally able to see the features of the white figure clearly. It was actually a man dressed in white, his features stupidly beautiful, and no expression on his face. He came to a stop next to the front seat of the rental car.
"Mister?" After confirming that it was a person and not some strange supernatural thing, Lu Qingjiu relaxed slightly. He pushed the car window down, showing half of his face, and opened his mouth to ask: " It's so late, and this place is so remote, do you have something going on?"
The man glanced at Lu Qingjiu, as well as the trembling rental car driver next to him, and smiled slightly, saying: "It's nothing, I wasn't able to sleep, so I went out to to find something to eat."
Lu Qingjiu thought to himself: 'It's so late, what edible thing can you find out here in this wilderness?' Nevertheless, you could find strange people everywhere, and he wasn't one to judge others' hobbies, so he simply smiled back politely: "Is that so? Then, please be careful."
The man heard his words, but then suddenly reached out a hand and and patted the rental car door once, before just turning around and leaving, his silhouette gradually disappearing into the darkness of the night.
Only when he disappeared did the driver on Lu Qingjiu's left once again start the car, continuing onwards towards their destinations. Only, he likely had been given too big of a shock, so for the remaining half of the journey, he didn't talk much.
Lu Qingjiu didn't place this incident in his heart. He thanked the driver after getting off the car and took two hundred dollars from his wallet and handed it to the driver.
When taking the money, the driver didn't say a single word. He just started the car and left, looking as if he was being chased by ghosts. It seemed like he probably wouldn't take any requests to drive to Shuifu for a good long while after this.
Looking at his flustered and fleeing appearance, Lu Qingjiu couldn't help but laugh, dumbfounded.
This time was when the sky was at its darkest, the surrounding buildings were all shrouded in darkness, and only the quiet sounds of insects chirping could be heard. Lu Qingjiu dragged his suitcase behind him in the direction of his old home, relying entirely on memory. He already hadn't returned in three years, with the most recent return having been to attend his grandmother's funeral. Afterwards, the old house had just been left to rot, and he didn't know what state it was in now.
The surrounding buildings had changed slightly over the years, but the general path was still the same. After walking for about 20 minutes, Lu Qingjiu finally reached his destination.
Sure enough, the old house looked as barren as he expected. A rusted lock hung on the red entrance. Lu Qingjiu took out the key, inserted it into the lock and twisted quite a few times before it eventually opened. As he reached out and pushed the door open, big chunks of dust drifted down, making him cough uncontrollably.
"It's been quite a while," he quietly sighed to himself, before opening the door of a small building, and taking a look at the furnishings inside.
As he had gotten his neighbours to help him pay the electricity bill in advance, the electricity in this place was still running. Lu Qingjiu turned on the lights and took a closer look at the interior of the house.
There hadn't been any major changes, with it having remained almost exactly the same as in his memories. Only, all of the furniture was coated with a thick layer of dust. Lu Qingjiu simply dusted off the mattress, thinking of first spending the night here. He lay on the hard wooden bed, looking up at the cobweb-filled ceiling above him, thinking about how he'd need to spend a bit more time cleaning the house tomorrow…
With his nose filled with the musty scent of the room around him, Lu Qingjiu fell asleep.
The next day, Lu Qingjiu slept until 9am before naturally awakening. Bright sunbeams shone through the window onto his body. He blearily opened his eyes, looking at the many specks of dust illuminated by the sunbeams. He then sat up, rubbing his eyes, shaking off the last remnants of sleepiness.
After quickly grabbing a bite to eat, Lu Qingjiu started to clean up the house.
It had remained uninhabited for quite a few years, so the house needed a thorough cleaning. In the early years, Shuifu village didn't even have any tap water, requiring the villagers to have to go up the mountain to fetch water. Luckily, in the last two years, the government had helped to provide this area with running water, saving him a lot of trouble.
Lu Qingjiu found a broom covered in spiderwebs in a corner of the house. Just as he was about to push up his sleeves and start cleaning, he felt a stinging pain on his arm. Puzzled, he pushed up his left sleeve, getting a clear look at the painful area on his left hand. Unconsciously, he took a sharp breath.
On his left arm, there were five purplish-red round bruises, particularly eye catching on his wheat-coloured skin. When he gently pressed it with his other hand, he felt a rush of burning pain.
"What did I bump into?" Lu Qingjiu muttered, "Or is it some bug bite?" He was a little confused, but after some careful thought, he came to an unbelievable conclusion.
It seemed that the only thing that had touched his arm last night… was that rental car driver, could it be that that driver had been so terribly scared, to the point that he could leave these kinds of marks on his arm?
Lu Qingjiu gave a dry laugh, feeling that his thoughts were a little too unrealistic.
However, it seemed that these few bruises didn't have any other impact outside of the pain. After looking for a while longer, Lu Qingjiu then let his sleeve drop and started to continue cleaning the room, he still had a lot of things to do today.
"Dong dong dong." At about 10am, Lu Qingjiu, who was currently engrossed in cleaning, heard knocking on the door. He got up towards the door. When he opened it and took a look, he was met with a familiar face beyond the door.
"Xiao Jiu-er2, you've come back, did you reach last night?" The youth greeting Lu Qingjiu was a little shorter than him. He smiled, revealing a playful tiger tooth3, "How come you didn't call me."
Lu Qingjiu saw the youth, and returned his smile, "Xiao Xun, long time no see."
The person in front of him was called Yin Xun, he was Lu Qingjiu's childhood friend, but after Lu Qingjiu left Shuifu village, the two hadn't seen each other for a long time.
"It was too late last night when I arrived, so I didn't let you know." Lu Qingjiu raised the broom in his hand.
"Oh," Yin Xun nodded, "Are you cleaning? I'll help!"
Lu Qingjiu replied, "Is your farm work done?"
Yin Xun said, "Just about, I just planted the seedlings yesterday, I'll only need to add fertiliser next month."
Lu Qingjiu smiled, "Okay, then I'll just have to trouble you."
Yin Xun rolled up his sleeves, grabbed an old cleaning cloth and started to help Lu Qingjiu clean up his furniture. As he worked, he chatted with Lu Qingjiu.
Even though the two were childhood friends, they hadn't met in a long time, so they had lots to talk about. Yin Xun was still a little curious as to why Lu Qingjiu resigned from his job in the big city to return here.
Lu Qingjiu sincerely said, "My boss told me, if you can't take hard work, why not go home to sell sweet potatoes, I thought about it, and figured that going home to sell sweet potatoes actually sounded pretty good, so I came back."
Yin Xun: "…True or false."
Lu Qingjiu widened his eyes innocently and stared at him: "It's true."
Yin Xun: "…" He'll pretend to believe it.
After an entire morning of cleaning, the house was pretty much clean. Yin Xun saw that it was about time for lunch, and invited Lu Qingjiu to eat lunch together at a small restaurant in the village. Lu Qingjiu readily accepted.
Shuifu village was a very small village, such that when there was an argument in one end of the village the other end would be able to hear it. This village also didn't have many businesses, with only two small restaurants, one selling regular home cooking, and the other selling all flavours of noodles.
"You just got back, what do you want to eat? It's my treat!" Yin Xun said loudly.
"Let's eat noodles then." Lu Qingjiu often ate at that restaurant when he was younger, their noodles tasted very good, thinking about it now made him feel quite nostalgic.
"Okay, let's go." Yin Xun brought Lu Qingjiu along and set off in the direction of the noodle restaurant.
The noodle shop owner greeted Yin Xun on sight, before seeing Lu Qingjiu next to him. After looking him up and down, he then asked, a little uncertain: "Isn't this the Lu family's small grandson? You've grown so big!"
Lu Qingjiu nodded and smiled.
"Uncle She4, two beef noodles, with extra chili peppers," Yin Xun said, "Also add chives for me, Qingjiu do you want any?"
"Okay." Lu Qingjiu also wanted to eat chives.
The owner replied with an affirmative "ai", before going in to start cooking.
Lu Qingjiu looked over the small shop, this shop wasn't big, so the tables were all placed on the ground outside. Despite the furnishings being old, it was all arranged very neatly, so others wouldn't find it dirty or untidy. When Lu Qingjiu looked back, he saw something flash past under the table. That thing was very quick, Lu Qingjiu could barely recognise that that it had red skin and seemed to be some kind of insect.
"What are you looking at?" Yin Xun asked.
"I think there's a bug." Lu Qingjiu replied.
"A bug?" Yin Xun said, "Right, it's spring now, there are more and more bugs. After this I'll go home and get some herbal medicine for you, when you get home you should put some on… You actually didn't get bit when you slept there yesterday?"
Lu Qingjiu shook his head: "Nope."
After hearing that, Yin Xun blinked, and then casually pulled up a pant leg, showing off the three to five red lumps on his leg. Yin Xun said: "Hey, yesterday night I only walked outside for a bit, and already got a legful of bites."
Lu Qingjiu thought for a moment: "Maybe I'm just lucky?"
Yin Xun opened his mouth and smiled, the childish tiger tooth by his lip was particularly cute: "Maybe."
As the two chatted, the owner served up the freshly cooked noodles, still steaming and giving off a rich aroma.
Lu Qingjiu picked up a pair of chopsticks, tasting a mouthful before sighing: "It's still the same as back then." These noodles didn't have any added gelatin, and were soft and supple. They had absorbed the flavour of the bone broth, and thus had an extremely rich and delicious taste. The seasoning was very simple, and stir-fried, lightly charred chili peppers and fresh green chives were sprinkled on top. After being cooked by the still-steaming broth, the chives were incredibly fragrant, nicely offsetting the oiliness of the bone broth.
The two originally had been a little hungry, once the food arrived they no longer spoke, with the only noises remaining being the slurping of noodles. Only until Lu Qingjiu completely finished the bowl of noodles and drank a few mouthfuls of soup, did he let out a satisfied sigh.
"So full." Yin Xun sat back, happily patting his stomach.
"Delicious." Lu Qingjiu was also extremely satisfied, he wiped his mouth, and casually asked: "Oh right, yesterday when I got here I rented a car, and the rental car driver told me that two rental car drivers had died in this area?"
"Oh, you're talking about that huh," Yin Xun said, "Yup, two people died, but it wasn't the drivers, it was the passengers."
Lu Qingjiu: "…"
Yin Xun didn't notice that Lu Qingjiu's expression had become a little weird, and continued to gossip: "However, they didn't necessarily die, the corpses were never found, only their luggage."
"The people weren't from Shuifu?" Lu Qingjiu asked.
"Nope," said Yin Xun, "They were from other villages, it's just that they passed by Shuifu village… Why do you ask?"
Lu Qingjiu said: "Oh, I just heard about it from someone."
Yin Xun dismissed it: "Our Shuifu village is very safe, we don't even have any thieves or molesters, a lot better than other places."
As the two talked, they returned to the house, the cleaning had only been half-finished, they still needed to continue.
After today, the old house could be considered livable, but the courtyard still needed a bit of cleaning up.
The old house was actually pretty big, and with the addition of the courtyard it was almost like a small villa. It was just that because it hadn't been lived in for a long time, the number of habitable rooms was rather small, as quite a few roofs and walls needed to be reinforced.
The courtyard of the old house even had a well, and in the evening when Lu Qingjiu went to check it out, he found that the well still had water, and it seemed like it could still be used, just that the rope used to pull up the water bucket had become too old, and needed to be replaced.
"I still remember when we were young we used this place to make iced watermelon." Yin Xun sat by the mouth of the well, bending over to look inside, "So what are you planning on doing now? Farming?"
"I'll raise a few animals and plant a few crops I guess," said Lu Qingjiu, "I still have some savings, I'll get the animal shed fixed…"
In this village, almost every household was raising a few animals, chickens and such were quite standard, and the better-off even raised a few pigs or cows.
"Okay," Yin Xun said, "Tomorrow I'll go talk a bit with the carpenter, and get him to come by your house to fix the shed, what do you want to buy? In a few days there'll be a market in town, we could go check it out together."
"Alright, thank you," said Lu Qingjiu, grateful.
"No problem." Yin Xun waved a hand, and said, rather casually, "With our relationship like this, what are you saying these things for, it's late, I'll be heading home now."
"Alright," Lu Qingjiu said, "Be careful."
Yin Xun turned and left through the courtyard door. Only when he'd left Lu Qingjiu's line of sight, did he turn around and re-enter his family's old house.
Even though the old house had a television, it didn't have a signal, so Lu Qingjiu could only take out his phone and climb onto the bed, opening an app to read the news.
After he read for a while, he suddenly thought of something, and opened up his web browser, and entered a few words into the search bar: Disappearance of rental car passengers in Shuifu. After a while, the search results loaded. Ling Qingjiu roughly read over the news article, and found that its contents were like what Yin Xun had said, only slightly more detailed. In summary, a few people had suddenly disappeared, their families reported it to the police, and in the end they found their abandoned luggage nearby Shuifu village. Afterwards, after some police investigation, it was found that those people had all rented a car…
After reading till this point, Lu Qingjiu put down his cellphone, and rolled up his left sleeve. On the skin covered by his sleeve, five purplish-red dots were clearly visible.
When Lu Qingjiu lightly pressed down, his mouth let out a soft cry of pain, these red dots still hurt quite a bit. At this time, he finally realised something not quite right about the rental car driver last night, but luckily he'd safely left the rental car, and no accidents had occurred.
As Lu Qingjiu thought it over, sleepiness started to descend upon him. He'd been busy the entire day, and he was also a little tired. After closing his eyes, he fell asleep almost instantaneously.
This kind of quality sleep was something he wouldn't have dared dream of when still working in the city, after all their company had required workers to be available 24/7, especially in his line of work, planning. When any problems occurred with a project, he would be called to the company, no matter the time. Even though the salary was good, the people were pretty much worked to death.
Originally, Lu Qingjiu thought he would sleep until sunrise, however, before dawn, he heard a slight noise.
The noise was as if there was something lightly pulling at the roof tiles above his head, making a 'kacha kacha' sound.
Lu Qingjiu was rudely awakened by the noise, and when he blearily opened his sleep-fogged eyes, he saw a faint light emanating from above his head. This light caused Lu Qingjiu to stiffen in shock, his brain still not quite awake, after a while, he suddenly realised something, and his eyes widened — Unexpectedly, the roof tiles on top of the house had been pried off by something, and the bright moonlight fell onto the blankets like a burning brand.
"Kacha, kacha." The sounds once again started above his head, Lu Qingjiu's first thought was that a stray cat or the like had climbed up onto his roof. Just as his brain started processing that thought, a round object appeared in the hole in the roof. Lu Qingjiu realised what the round thing was. It was a red eye, with a large pupil. A white nictitating membrane slid over the eye, leaving behind a wet residue. A giant reptilian eye was staring back at him.
The author has something to say:
Starting a new story lalala!
1 In China, when you rent a car, you can rent a driver along with it. Not entirely sure what the difference between this and a taxi is, but since the author decided to specify rental car driver, I decided to use that instead.
2 Xiao Jiu is a diminutive nickname, and adding an -er does the same thing. Adding both a 'Xiao' and an '-er' onto someone's name make the resulting nickname more cutesy. It's like calling someone named John Johnny-boy instead of just Johnny.
3 Basically this.
4 They aren't actually related, uncle is just a friendly way to refer an older man.
Hi, new translator here ^^
I hope you guys will enjoy this story, and please let me know if there’s anything I can improve on! I’ll be updating once a week, so be sure to check back next week for the next chapter 🙂
Anyways, now for the food porn:
Here’s an image of the beef noodles that they had in this chapter~
Here’s the stir-fry mentioned in the summary *drools*