Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
As the room settled down, Zhang Xing was the first to speak. “People from the tour group came to visit me. They asked about Yao Bin’s whereabouts, and I didn’t know what to say.”
It was impossible to tell the truth, as no one would believe it. Lao Zheng and the others have special responsibilities, and most likely they would not come forward to support Zhang Xing’s testimony.
Dong Zhi couldn’t think of a good solution. “Then what did you tell them?”
Zhang Xing said, “I just said that I was separated from Yao Bin at the time, and I don’t know what happened to him later. I heard that his parents have received the news and have set off looking for him. I don’t know how to face them when the time comes.”
As she spoke, her eyes turned red. “I still dare not tell my parents or let them come visit me. At that time… If the two of us hadn’t fallen behind… Maybe… Maybe we wouldn’t have encountered those things!”
Zhang Xing couldn’t help but sob quietly. Yao Bin’s death most likely left a permanent shadow in her heart.
Dong Zhi couldn’t bear it. “Why don’t I ask Lao Zheng for you and see what to do? No one expected this kind of thing to happen. It has nothing to do with you, so don’t feel pressured.”
After he consoled her, he persuaded her to stop her tears.
However, Yao Bin’s parents moved faster than expected, and they arrived the next morning, heading straight to the hospital accompanied by the medical team. Dong Zhi and Zhang Xing were not in the same ward, so he didn’t know the specifics of what they were discussing. He could only hear muffled voices from the door as the volume steadily increased, turning into shouts and clamors. It lasted for what seemed like hours. Eventually, Dong Zhi painfully got out of bed and ran over to see, just in time to witness police and hospital security guards accompanying a middle-aged man and woman who were surrounded by a large group of people who looked like they were relatives and friends of the Yao family.
When Lao Zheng saw the Dong Zhi, he asked, “Why did you come out?”
“It was such a ruckus, I wanted to check it out. How is it now?” Dong Zhi asked.
Lao Zheng sighed. “There’s no person in life and no corpse in death*. It’s normal for people’s parents to be anxious and angry. We have already contacted the police and will ask them to help search for the body, so it’ll bring some comfort to the family members. After all, it’s impossible to tell them the truth or give them a random body. The little girl was wrongly aggrieved by the victim’s parents. You should go and comfort her!”
*(生不见人，死不见尸) A saying referring to someone is missing or has disappeared.
After that, he lowered his voice again. “The little girl is good-looking, and she’s interested in you. Hurry up and snatch this opportunity!”
Dong Zhi felt helpless. “Isn’t this taking advantage of someone, especially given the state she’s in?”
Lao Zheng glanced at him. “No wonder you haven’t found a girlfriend yet!”
Dong Zhi thought, ‘That’s rich coming from you’, but before he could say it, Lao Zheng had already opened the door.
Zhang Xing’s eyes were really red, as if she had been crying. Dong Zhi put a small potted plant he had bought online next to her and said, “It’s very easy to raise. Just water it once a day and by the time you’re discharged from the hospital, it might grow pretty tall.”
Zhang Xing chuckled. “Then how can I take it back?”
Dong Zhi also laughed. “You can give it to other patients when you leave so that they can continue to raise it. I bought some snacks online, and I’ll give you some when they’re delivered tomorrow.”
Zhang Xing was surprised. “The doctors allowed it?”
Dong Zhi smiled and said, ” Lao Zheng secretly asked me to buy it. He was more restricted by the doctor and could only eat porridge and side dishes, but he couldn’t stand it anymore.”
Zhang Xing suddenly said, “Thank you, Brother Dong. I was able to survive because of you, and now you’re even comforting me.”
Dong Zhi patted her head. “You are already very strong. I’m just a little more experienced than you because of my parents’ death a few years ago. There are no hardships in life that you can’t get through.”
Zhang Xing looked at Dong Zhi. He had a warm smile that was just like the potted plant, full of vigor and vitality. No matter how violent the storm, there would be no haze and he would remain vibrant, even infecting the people around him with his optimism, brightening their hearts.
She plucked up the courage and suddenly said, “Brother Dong, I like you very much. Will you be my boyfriend?”
Dong Zhi was caught off guard. Seeing his reaction, Zhang Xing wanted to laugh, thinking to herself. ‘How could someone find a boy this good?’
“I know you don’t have a girlfriend, so don’t rush to reject me. It doesn’t matter if you don’t chase girls, I’ll chase you.”
“Actually, I have someone I like!” Dong Zhi finally thought of an excuse and blurted it out.
Zhang Xing was taken aback. “You are not lying to me, are you?”
“Of course not,” Dong Zhi opened his eyes and lied. “The other party doesn’t know it, and I haven’t figured out how to confess.”
Zhang Xing didn’t let him off so easily. “Then what does the other party look like?”
He continued lying. “Uh, tall, thin, pretty, not talkative…”
At that moment, a knock on the door sounded, and Dong Zhi, as if he had been granted amnesty, hurriedly opened the door under the discerning gaze of the beauty. A nurse entered, and while she came to check on Zhang Xing, he took that chance to slip away.
Outside, by the wall near the door, Lao Zheng was seen leaning against the wall, laughing wretchedly.
Dong Zhi: …
Lao Zheng sighed. “The beautiful little girl delivered herself to your doorsteps. How could you bear to refuse?”
Dong Zhi said, “When I was in school, there was a girl in my department who was liked by the school grass* of another department. At that time, the boy was surrounded by girls, but he didn’t like her to the point where he would reject the other girls for her, so he kept being ambiguous with her. Since he led her on, the girl thought that he really liked her and she fell for him even harder. Unexpectedly, she caught him kissing someone else, and it broke her heart. She confronted him, and the boy said that the person he was kissing was being amorous, and she herself was also quite dumb. She couldn’t handle his response and eventually jumped to her death. I later heard that the boy was also affected by this incident and developed some mental issues.”
*(校草) Refers to the most handsome boy in the school that is recognized by everyone.
After telling that story, he spread his hands and said, “So it’s best not to carry things like emotional debt.”
Lao Zheng hated that iron is not made of steel*. “Who told you to step on several boats? You can just choose one, and there’s one right in front of you now!”
*(铁不成钢) Idiom that describes being dissatisfied with a person who didn’t live up to your expectations and eagerly hoping that he will get better. || Basically he’s disappointed Dong Zhi didn’t make a move on her.
Dong Zhi blinked. “But I don’t like her. If I lead her on, won’t it hurt her instead?”
Lao Zheng patted him on the head. “How can a man not like a beautiful girl? Even if you say you don’t like her, if you get along with each other, you’ll eventually come to like her. Don’t be like me and regret it when you’re old!”
Dong Zhi: “Do you like Zhang Xing?”
Lao Zheng said, “I don’t like naive and crying little girls. I prefer mature women!”
“Like Wang Jie?” Dong Zhi replied happily. He still remembered the fierce and unsmiling face when he first met him. After becoming more acquainted, he found it was actually quite funny.
Lao Zheng curled his lips. “How is she considered beautiful?”
Dong Zhi didn’t respond as he silently moved a step to the side, then another step, then slowly moved back to his room as he thought, ‘You’re dead.’
Wang Jingguan’s gloomy voice came from behind Lao Zheng. “It must be hard to work with such an ugly bastard for so long, ah? I’ve really wronged you.”
“No, no, wait and listen to me! Eh? Don’t go! Wait, let me explain!” Lao Zheng cried anxiously.
A nurse reprimanded him, “Don’t be loud in the hallway! You’re disturbing other patients!”
Dong Zhi couldn’t help feeling happy.
After that, Dong Zhi didn’t visit Zhang Xing’s ward again. She often came to visit him as if that conversation they had that day had never happened. A month later, she was discharged and contacted her parents before leaving, but concealed the reason behind her broken leg. She lied and said it broke while she was climbing the mountain and she was rescued by Dong Zhi and Lao Zheng. Zhang’s father and mother came and took their daughter away in great distress. They profusely thanked Dong Zhi, and Mother Zheng even offered him money, to which he resolutely declined.
When the Zhang family left, Lao Zheng wandered over restlessly as usual and saw Dong Zhi packing up his bags.
“Yo. You suddenly found true love and planned to chase after it?”
Dong Zhi laughed. “Yeah. Going to Beijing to find my true love!”
Lao Zheng scratched his head. “How’s your reference book?”
“I read it every day.” Dong Zhi patted his backpack, indicating that he wasn’t a slacker.
Lao Zheng said again, “The difficulty of the written exam is similar to the national examination*. This year, there are more candidates than in previous years. You are considered to be part of our branch, so don’t embarrass the Northeast Branch. Last year, the recommendations we sent from our branch failed to pass the exam.”
*(国考) Method used for the national ministries, commissions, agencies, and general bureau to recruit staff to the central government. The recruitment is relatively strict. Examinations happen every fourth Sunday in November of each year. The written exam that Dong Zhi is taking is similar to this.
Hearing what he said, Dong Zhi felt disheartened. “I have found questions for the national exam in previous years and scored about 60 to 70 percent. The exam should be similar to these tests. Can anyone really get a high score?”
Lao Zheng looked embarrassed. “That’s not… The candidate we recommended last year was a green-skinned fox who had just cultivated into his human form. During the exam, he wanted to cheat with the Five-Ghost Handling Method* and asked his younger brother to steal the answers. As a result, he was caught and disqualified from the exam for thirty years. Even our Northeast Branch was hit with demerits and was shamed in front of all the other branches!”
*(五鬼搬运大法) Refers to the five ghosts in Chinese novels that take people’s property without opening people’s doors or breaking people’s boxes. The handling/transport method refers to the ghost transporting the wealth (or in this case, items) of others to your own home. See lore in Kinky Thoughts.
Dong Zhi: …
Wang Jingguan learned that he was going to Beijing, bought him some Changchun specialties, and asked Lao Zheng to drive them to the airport.
“Xiao Dong, although we haven’t known each other for a long time, this sister knows that you’re a good kid. I don’t have a younger brother, so I see you as my younger brother. Come back and play when you’re free, and this sister will take you home to eat delicious food.”
Wang Jingguan stuffed food into his hand, and then told him to be careful on the road and have a safe journey. Seeing that Dong Zhi was calm, she suddenly felt sad.
Lao Zheng waved his hand. “All right, all right, let’s go! As long as he fails the exam, he will definitely have a lot of time to come back to see you!”
“Fuck off!” Wang Jingguan kicked him with anger.
Dong Zhi laughed.
The plane he boarded took off, flying higher and higher towards the sky. Everything in Changchun gradually grew smaller, and everything in Beijing slowly approached. Leaning on a soft pillow, Dong Zhi looked at the heavy clouds outside his window as he was filled with anticipation.
He was finally here in Beijing.
Dong Zhi stood in a daze in front of a dusty revolving door. Looking from the outside, the dusty interior shows a building that seems to have been abandoned for a long time. The hotel’s signboard hung at the door, but the three-point water* in the word “wine” had long since disappeared. It was hard to imagine that such a place existed in a bustling commercial street that had a ton of traffic.
*The radical represented by the three marks in front of the character wine (酒) is gone. So translated, it would be like the w in wine was missing.
Perhaps his expression looked too innocent as an auntie who was passing by enthusiastically said, “Kid, are you here to apply for a job? Don’t be sucked into a pyramid scheme. This building has been abandoned for several years!”
Dong Zhi didn’t know whether he should laugh or cry. He thanked the other party and, after repeatedly confirming that the address was the correct one, he dialed the number left by He Yu.
No one answered the other line. He was getting worried.
What should I do?
Suddenly, someone tapped on his shoulder from behind. He turned around and was pleasantly surprised. “He Yu!”
He Yu smiled and said, “Follow me.”
He took the Dong Zhi around to the back of the building and entered through a half-concealed small door. A uniformed security guard was at the door, looking as if he was in his fifties. He sat with his head down, as if he was dozing off, but when Dong Zhi followed He Yu in, he saw the other party looking up at him. His eyes were cold, and he didn’t look like an ordinary security guard, giving Dong Zhi the chills. When Dong Zhi looked back at him, the other party had already closed his eyes and fell asleep again, as if what he had just seen was a figment of his imagination.
The two walked through the back hallway into a lobby. The smell of dust was everywhere, causing Dong Zhi to cough.
“Why are we taking the fire exit?”
“Because we didn’t pay the maintenance fee, so the elevator stopped working a long time ago.”
Dong Zhi: …
If it weren’t for what he experienced on Changbai Mountain, he would really have thought that he had fallen into the den of a pyramid scheme.
He Yu continued while climbing the stairs. “In reality, stopping the elevator is also for concealment. The front door is locked, and Uncle Yun is guarding the back. Idlers and passersby generally can’t get in, and thieves won’t be curious about such a place.”
Dong Zhi thought it was strange. “Why don’t you just change location? Lao Zheng and his department are attached to the Social Security Bureau, and no one noticed them at all.”
He Yu responded back, annoyed, “We are the General Administration Bureau! How can we squeeze in with other agencies and not have our own independent office building!”
Dong Zhi saw a cockroach scurrying quickly by his feet and silently swallowed his words.
The author has something to say:
Answering two audience questions:
1. Dong Zhi has bad fortune. Why hasn’t he encountered strange things before?
His physique is only yin, not the beloved Tang monk meat*. Monsters are not targeting him. These attacks were all incidental. I mentioned this before, but some careless readers didn’t pay attention to it, so I’m answering it again.
*(的唐僧肉) Refers to Tang Sanzang from <Journey to the West>. As an extremely pious monk and with the blessing of Buddha and other gods, monsters and demons prize his flesh and want to eat him to gain more power.
2. Does the strange title have anything to do with the content?
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t chase girls” | In his case, it actually kind of does, my dear…
“Yeah. Going to Beijing to find my true love!” | You’re closer to the truth than you know…
The five ghosts are also known as the five plagues, five plague messengers, or the gods of plague in Chinese folklore. Every year, some temples will worship these five to ensure the safety of their livestock.
- Zhang Yuanbo (fortune-ghost of the east)
- Liu Yuanda (fortune-ghost of the west)
- Zhao Gongming (fortune-ghost of the south)
- Zhong Shigui (fortune-ghost of the north)
- Shi Wenye (fortune-ghost of the Chinese side/general manager of the 5 ghosts).
A second version in Chinese folklore refers to the five ghosts as bringers of fortune who will transport the wealth of others to the giver’s horoscope. They can do this without opening the door or breaking any boxes. Often, monks will charge high fees for their talismans that can ward off these ghosts.