Fanatical

Fangirling Chinese Novels

The Road Home (归路) — Chapter 16

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An old friend is back. A man with cooking skills definitely gets bonus points!

Chapter 16 — The Road Ahead is Still Unknown (2)

This story was translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only. All forms of reproduction, redistribution, or re-posting are not authorized. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the copy is unauthorized and has been taken without consent of the translator.

 

Before Lu Yanchen got back, she stayed in the security gatehouse and chatted with that old man.

The old uncle did not like the cold but also felt that heaters were not good, so he had lit an old-style coal stove for himself to keep warm.

When Gui Xiao was in middle school, a coal stove would be set beside the podium in every class to provide warmth. At the time, she had sat in the first row, so she had benefited most from it, but she had also needed to provide physical labour, such as every once in a while replenishing some lumps of coal or using the fire tongs to open up the fire and get some air to the embers. More than ten years had passed, but now as she did these again the actions were still easy and familiar. While tending to the coal stove, she listened to the old uncle talk about the affairs of a few of the rich families in town.

Naturally, the Meng family was the first mentioned.

Within a few years after she married, Meng Xiaoshan had made several successive donations to the middle school to renovate the washrooms and change out the entire school’s water supply to potable water, and had also donated a brand new sports field… Each one was a wonderful charitable deed that would save up merit in heaven for her for the future. Once he finished describing those good deeds, the old uncle then talked about that wedding banquet of Meng Xiaoshan and Qin Feng, which had stirred the entire town and been so incredibly grand. After their marriage, the young husband-and-wife couple lived a successful, prosperous life that evoked envy in others.

Finally, the old uncle heaved a long sigh. “The Qin family must have done lots of good deeds in several previous lifetimes in order to earn the blessing of having Meng Xiaoshan as their daughter-in-law. Truly, the Hai family does not have such good fortune.”

The way he was speaking so feelingly over this made it sound as if he had witnessed with his own eyes those matters of love and hate between the younger generations of those three families.

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

Giving a smile, Gui Xiao stretched her fingers, which were stiff from the cold, over the flames and continued warming herself.

It was not that the Hai family did not have such good fortune; it was that Hai Dong was too capable of making trouble.

And hence, he himself had helped to bring together those two people into a wonderful marriage.

Back then, Meng Xiaoshan had set her heart on marrying Hai Dong. Hai Dong, though, had been too fond of playing around and unable to keep his playboy ways in check. He had enjoyed talking flirtatiously to young girls, going out to eat with them, and just playing around in ambiguous relationships. He had felt that he was simply getting himself a few “younger godsisters” and had not believed he was doing anything that crossed the line. Hence, he had been certain that Meng Xiaoshan would not break up with him. In fact, at the time, other than needing to have a wedding banquet and register their marriage, the two very early on had already been no different from any other ordinary young, married couple.

Alas, he still had not understood Meng Xiaoshan’s temperament. She was a woman who could harden her heart. With that breakup, she had declared that they were cutting things off, and she had carried through on those words. The ruckus raised had been so great it had practically shaken the heavens and earth, and the entire town had known. Hai Dong had knelt outside of the Meng home for an entire night and had asked all sorts of people to put in good words for him, but even so he had been unable to persuade Meng Xiaoshan to change her mind.

However, this had been her first love, after all. Her first night, and all those other things, had been given to him—everything that carried the word “first” was somehow related to Hai Dong. To say this had not pained her would be a lie, and for a long time Meng Xiaoshan had wallowed in despondency because of this matter. Even after two months, she had not recovered and would stay in the arcade from morning to night and not go home, suffering away to the point that she had lost all semblances of a normal human being.

And it was during that time that Qin Feng, who had still been the arcade owner then, could not take watching this any longer. He had asked Meng Xiaoshan, how about she just be with him and let things be at that? He dared not guarantee anything else, but it was absolutely certain he would never hurt his family because of another woman.

Qin Feng was twelve years older than Meng Xiaoshan, one full cycle[1]. He had dropped out of school before and also once been in the armed forces. When he came back, he had gone into business and taken over all those places that little hooligans like to hang out and play in, personally managing them—this had been Meng Xiaoshan’s understanding of Qin Feng. But Meng Xiaoshan came from a family with good financial circumstances, and furthermore, her father at the time had been town mayor and absolutely would not agree to the marriage. Meng Xiaoshan had lost heart, though, and simply wanting to wed someone to try to find a bit of warmth for her life, she had lied, saying that she was pregnant, and insisted that not getting married was out of the question.

<>The translator would sincerely appreciate it if you would read this translation only at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the actual site of posting. Thank you.

Thus, at just over the legal age of marriage[2], Meng Xiaoshan, in a muddleheaded state, had married Qin Feng, someone whom she had previously not even really spent much time getting to know. On the day of the wedding, Hai Dong had seemed as if he had gone mad and had caused a huge disturbance at the wedding site. Qin Feng’s good buddies of the past, those “big brothers” to Hai Dong from the nearby villages, took him away, and he was locked up in a room for two entire days. Only after he had given a written guarantee stating that he would not cause trouble was he released.

After the wedding night, Gui Xiao had asked Meng Xiaoshan on the phone, “Is he reliable?”

The words Meng Xiaoshan had given in answer were these: Before Qin Feng joined the military, he had gotten along well in life, and after coming back from being a soldier, he still was getting along well in life. This was proof that this man had the ability to support himself. And plus, he was over thirty already and had made his way in society for many years amongst certain likes of people, but you didn’t see him having any of those garbage-type, male-female relationships. From that, you could tell that this person’s attitude towards the relationships between men and women was upright and proper.

At the end of her words, Meng Xiaoshan had summed up, “If I really were able to figure out whether someone is reliable or not, I wouldn’t have been with Hai Dong for so many years.” And then Meng Xiaoshan, in a nasal tone that came from having just wept, had given a muffled laugh and said, “But I have personally inspected my hubby. Men who have carried a gun all have good bodies and stamina. What a pity you and Lu Chen broke up…”

In the end, Meng Xiaoshan, who had initially said she was “pregnant,” expressed that she did not want to have children. Qin Feng had an older sister and two older brothers, so in this respect, there was no pressure on him. If she did not want to have children, they would not have any. There was no getting worked up and torn over it. And thus the two of them remained as such until, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, it was the present.

As time passed, the relations between Meng Xiaoshan and Hai Dong became less tense. Although they did not have frequent dealings, when there were problems, they were still able to help each other out.

Regarding this, Meng Xiaoshan’s self-evaluation was, it was not that she was all that magnanimous, but rather, it was because when someone’s life is going well, that person naturally will not remember many past resentments. Although those certain feelings from the past were long gone between the two, just purely because of the friendship of their youth, in the most critical moments, the one they thought of was still the other person.

The coal was not burning through, and the fire was being choked somewhat.

Sitting on a stool, Gui Xiao used the tongs to take away the coal that was basically spent, trying to quicken the fire and make it a little bigger.

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

There was a tapping sound on the window to her right.

When she lifted her head and saw him, she immediately tossed the metal tongs back into the basket and stepped out of the security gatehouse.

Lu Yanchen was holding three large, plastic bags of vegetables and meat. One of the bags was even dripping water, creating a little puddle on the concrete steps. He asked her, “Why did you come out?”

“Your mom came.” As Gui Xiao spoke, there was still lingering trepidation in her heart. “At first I wanted to chat with her to keep her company, but she seemed like she wasn’t very happy… I was scared I’d say the wrong thing, so I didn’t really dare sit in there for long and just ran out.”

His smile faded. “Did you get some anger vented out on you?”

“No…” Observing him like this, Gui Xiao guessed that her description had been a little over the top, and she hastily backpedalled a bit on what she had said, putting in a few good words for his mother. “Your mom is quite nice.”

Lu Yanchen did not speak.

Gui Xiao added, “Before she left, she even invited me and Qin Xiaonan to your home for lunch. Should we go?”

“Do you want to go?”

Lu Yanchen saw the strands of hair by the side of her face fluttering along with the chilly wind, and he wanted to smooth them for her. His hands, however, had been selecting raw meats and shrimp just earlier in the market  and were not clean. After contemplating briefly, he decided to drop the idea.

In that brief moment when Gui Xiao was still vacillating, he wagged the several bags of things that he was holding and stated, “We bought so much stuff. It’ll be wasteful if we don’t eat it. Let’s go in.”

They weren’t going to go? Gui Xiao felt that that was not very appropriate either.

Despite his mother’s unfriendly demeanour, she had, after all, invited Gui Xiao to the home for a meal, and if Gui Xiao did not go, in the future it would certainly become a thorn in his mother’s heart. Or at the very least, she should provide a suitable reason to decline the invitation. Being so vague like this, with no real reason whatsoever and simply not going, was very disrespectful in the eyes of any elder, let alone this was his mother.

<>Please support the translation by reading it at its actual site of posting, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com.  Thank you.

Gui Xiao’s thoughts were in tumult, and she wanted to discuss this further with him.

At this moment, however, a grown boy garbed in mechanics’ workwear and holding a client registration form came running over. He gave a greeting of “Chen Ge,” then explained that there were some customers inside making some trouble and they were unable to resolve it. Setting down beside the metal door the three plastic bags of things, Lu Yanchen told her, “Wait here for a bit.”

Gui Xiao nodded. He took two steps, but then turned back and instructed, “Don’t take the bags. They’re all covered in dirty water and aren’t clean.”

After saying this, he went inside with that grown boy.

The entire time, Qin Xiaonan had treated himself as thin air and simply waited off to the side. It was not until Lu Yanchen had left that he shuffled over to Gui Xiao’s side and stayed there.

And so, outside of the security gatehouse, the two huddled together and waited.

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

About ten minutes later, a black sedan drove out from the service bay. The person driving was a young mechanic. Because he wore a pair of blue-framed glasses, Gui Xiao had a faint recollection of his face in her mind. When the car drove by her, that person specially rolled down the window and said, “Sister-In-Law[3], Chen Ge told you to wait and not go inside. There are some people in there throwing fists. I’m going to go get a couple of guys who can get them in check.” With that, the person stomped on the accelerator and sped away.

There was fighting now?

In Erenhot, she had personally witnessed how he had, by himself, taken on and been a match for more than ten ruffians. At the time, she had been scared that he would be injured. But here, she was even more scared that if for whatever reason he did not control his strength when he fought and ended up hurting someone…

Gui Xiao wanted to go see. She had only taken half a step, though, when she accidentally kicked the plastic bag by her feet.

Something in the bag was flopping around. And then, two large live fish unexpectedly spilled out. The fishes’ bodies were wet, and after thrashing around on the dirt ground a couple of times, they became sheathed in a layer of mud. Gui Xiao went to pick up the fish, and Qin Xiaonan also helped try to catch them. The two toiled exhaustingly for a long time before they were able to get those two absurdly filthy creatures repacked again, but they themselves also ended up with hands covered in water and mud.

Gui Xiao glanced down at her own sorry state, then turned her eyes onto the boy. “Why did you guys buy more fish?” Wasn’t there already a little grass carp?

“Uncle Lu said to buy one just in case. He was worried that if you wanted to eat a big fish, we wouldn’t have one.”

Her heart warming, Gui Xiao did not say anything in reply.

After going into the security gatehouse and asking for a basin of warm water from the old uncle, the two cleaned up their hands and clothes of all the mud on them. By the time they stepped back outside, another half an hour had passed. Lu Yanchen still had not come out yet, but another two cars had arrived.

“Little Sis-In-Law!” Someone in one of the cars hopped out and called to her.

Gui Xiao paused momentarily with this cry, nearly not recognizing that it was Hai Dong.

His general facial appearance and features had not changed much, but the aura he emanated had obviously changed. Gone was that ruffian air of the past; rather, he seemed more similar to those types of rough, uncultured bosses whom Gui Xiao would encounter when she was out on business trips. It appeared he had not known that Gui Xiao was here, and rather happily, he exchanged a few words of greeting with her. “I’m going in first. A few of the nuisances in our village are making trouble here. I’m going to go help Lu Chen teach them a lesson. We’ll talk more in a bit!”

<>This translation’s actual site of release is hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Please support the translation by reading it there. Thank you.

With the arrival of Hai Dong and the few buddies he had brought along, the whole matter was handled neatly and felt oh-so-satisfying.

Lu Yanchen stepped out like nothing at all had been the matter. Picking up those plastic bags, he led Gui Xiao and Qin Xiaonan inside. Hai Dong was by the main door of the service bay, biting down on a cigarette and sitting straddled on a stool that had been brought out for the occasion, glaring at three youths who were squatted in front of him and hugging their own heads. “So you’re all so good now, eh? You didn’t even bother asking who this garage belongs to?”

“Hai Dong Ge, we just wanted to pick up our car a little earlier…”

“Cut the bullcrap.” Hai Dong could not even be bothered to waste any words on them. Seeing Lu Yanchen walking by, he pointed at him with his hand that was pinching a cigarette between its fingers. “Go, call him Chen Ge.”

Addresses of “Chen Ge” immediately rose up one after the other. Lu Yanchen’s eyes did not so much as make a sideways glance as he strode into the service bay.

For whatever reason, Gui Xiao could not help giggling. It seemed like it had been several hundred years since she last saw this sort of picture, where Hai Dong was acting like a dog bullying someone because he had his powerful master’s backing, while Lu Yanchen looked on indifferently. When Hai Dong caught sight of Gui Xiao laughing, many past memories seemed to be tugged up in him as well. In an incredibly good mood, he whipped a fierce slap onto the head of the punk who was squatted at the very front. “What, you’re still not getting out of here?”

As if they had just been given a great pardon, those three people bowed and fawned as they got back to their feet, saying incessantly things like, “When you’ve got the time, we’ll have dinner, Hai Dong Ge,” “Hai Dong Ge, your businesses have been getting big recently. Don’t forget about your little bros from the same village as you,” “Hai Dong Ge, send word to Chen Ge that we’ll throw a banquet to apologize for offending him,”… Gui Xiao did not listen any further, striding away to catch up to Lu Yanchen.

<>Your support by reading this story only at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the actual site of posting, would be greatly and sincerely appreciated. Thank you.

Lu Yanchen had sent Qin Xiaonan into the room to do his workbook. Gui Xiao searched her way to the kitchen, where she found Lu Yanchen, his sleeves rolled up, calmly and unhurriedly dumping the dirtied fish into the sink to rinse clean.

For some time, all that remained inside the kitchen were a variety of monotonous noises—the sounds of scales being scraped off the fish, scissors getting tossed into the sink, vegetables being washed, the pot getting scrubbed… Gui Xiao did as she had done in the past, watching off to the side as he did all these, unable to help in any way.

She leaned her head against the doorframe. “If I’m not going, I should at least tell your mom, right?”

Lu Yanchen turned on the faucet and, after wetting his hands with some of that running water that sent a chill straight into the bones, he squirted some soap and washed the palms and backs of his hands clean. Then pulling down a towel that hung from a string, he wiped his hands dry. “No need. I’ll talk to her.”

It was necessary for him to restrain himself and yield to others, but there was no need for Gui Xiao to have to suffer even the slightest bit of grievance or ill treatment.

“How do you want the fish done?” he suddenly asked.

“What kind of fish is this?”

“Mandarin fish.”

The first thought that popped into Gui Xiao’s mind was, Mandarin fish is really expensive.

Ever since he paid for the meal last night, Gui Xiao’s heart had been feeling uncomfortable. For last night’s meal, she had specifically told her younger guy cousin to find an expensive restaurant, willingly offering herself up to her cousin and his wife for them to brutally extort of one meal. She had not expected that Lu Yanchen would end up footing the bill for it. When Gui Xiao heard the server tell her this, she had hurriedly asked for a copy of the bill, saying that she needed it to expense the meal. In reality, it was so she could see the total cost. After the bill was brought over, even her cousin and his wife were both dumbstruck when they saw it, instantly praising Commander Lu for being so generous. But this compliment from her guy cousin only left her feeling more discomfited.

However, she could not outright say to him, “Lu Chen, in the future, when it comes to all those money matters, just leave them be and not worry about them. Let me take care of them. We can talk about it again when you’ve recouped a bit…”

That fish that had had its scales and gills removed and been washed and dripped dry was still waiting for the pronouncement of its fate. She temporarily pulled her mind back to the present and, after pondering for a bit, suggested, “How about sweet and sour squirrel-shaped Mandarin fish?”

Still as finicky an eater as when she was young. She sure wasn’t opposed to things being troublesome to make. Lu Yanchen seemed to secretly heave a sigh. Spotting Hai Dong, who had just dealt with those nuisances outside and now, with a grin covering his face, had found his way to the kitchen to seek praise for his good work, Lu Yanchen pulled out a few bills from his pocket and tossed them over. “Go. Buy a pack of cornstarch.”

松鼠鳜鱼. Squirrel-shaped mandarin fish is a famous dish of Jiangsu cuisine. The fish is completely deboned and then scored in a cross-hatch pattern that, after deep-frying, will cause the fish to fan open and look like a squirrel with a bushy tail. It is served with a red, sweet and sour sauce and usually pine nuts. (Image credits: Baidu Baike)

 

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

[1] “Cycle” generally refers to the twelve-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. When people are twelve years apart, exactly one cycle, they share the same zodiac sign.

[2] In China, the legal age of marriage for women is 20 and for men is 22.

[3] 嫂子 “sao zi.” Between guy friends, they will address the girlfriend of their bro as “sister-in-law,”even if the couple are not married.

This story was translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only. All forms of reproduction, redistribution, or re-posting are not authorized. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the copy is unauthorized and has been taken without consent of the translator.

 

Completed:
1 of 1 Prologue
16 of 43 Chapters
0 of 1 Epilogues

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16 thoughts on “The Road Home (归路) — Chapter 16

  1. Thanks Hoju..
    Imagine Lu Chen and this phrase, men the sexiest when in the kitchen..😆

  2. Thank you for the update Hoju 😊

  3. haha, omg, i would die if I had to make a dish like that. Looks so complicated! But, anything for love right? Lu Chen is really really sweet.

    • It’s absolutely delicious. I had it a few times last year when I was in the Jiangsu region. The fact that Lu Chen can make any dish that Gui Xiao rattles off from the top of her head attests to his incredible cooking skills.
      Such a sweet guy…

  4. Thanks hoju
    Well is nice to know what happened with he’s friend and he’s girlfriend to bad he didn’t appreciate what he had but lucky for her she got merry to a better man that respect her

    • I really like Qin Feng. I find wisdom, calmness, and maturity very attractive. You can also tell that he does dote on Meng Xiaoshan (the way he lovingly calls her “child”).
      Thanks for reading!

  5. Lu Chen is such husband goals! Gosh darn it novels!

    • I don’t think it’s such a bad thing that Lu Chen is modelling how a man should treat the woman he loves. Now go a-seachin’!

  6. a doting LYC
    thank you

  7. Thank you for the update.

  8. Good to read about Meng XiaoShan’s marriage story. Fish dish picture looks so wonderful. Looks like Lu Chen is bend upon feeding Gui Xiao well.

    Thank you for the update, Hoju 😀.

    • I think Meng Xiaoshan’s story is a contrast to Lu Chen/Gui Xiao’s. She and Hai Dong loved at a young age, but not all young love can come to fruition. In fact, Lu Chen and Gui Xiao’s nearly didn’t. It’s only because Gui Xiao put it the effort to go find him and Lu Chen was brave enough to take the step to reconcile. 🙂 Love takes effort.

      Thanks for reading!

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