Fanatical

Fangirling Chinese Novels

The Road Home (归路) — Chapter 34

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To all our readers: Praying that all of you stay healthy and strong throughout these times.

This is a heavier chapter. Thankfully there “a slit that forcibly tears into the hazy curtain of gloom.”

Chapter 34 — Loyalty and Faith (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.

 

Lu Yanchen was part of the last group to arrive at the factory.

As per usual practice, prior to entering the site, every person needed to be checked, turn over his personal effects, and change into the same set of black combat clothing.

The conditions here could not compare to that of the military base. Lu Yanchen figured that he would not be able to contact Gui Xiao every day, and hence on the way here he had already arranged things with Gui Xiao. She would send emails to him on a regular basis, and he would read them whenever he was able to. She also needed to keep her mobile phone free at all times because once he had a free moment he would find an opportunity to call her.

Everyone was staying in the factory’s dormitory, a three-level building.

Two people shared each room, with each person having his own upper and lower bunk, the upper bunk for storing luggage and the lower for sleeping. So simple and austere was everything it was as if he had returned to the past. About two months later, when he came back to the dorm one night, Elder Shen, who shared the room with him, was not asleep yet. He had asked the cafeteria for some peanuts and was pairing them with baijiu. Seeing Lu Yanchen walking in, he called him over to sit with him. At the desk beside the bed, these two men, one old, one young, began sipping alcohol together.

While drinking, Lu Yanchen looked at the open laptop on the desk. On it was a pre-downloaded American television series.

When he saw this, he chuckled. Before he left home Gui Xiao had often been watching this series.

Catching sight of his expression, the old man also laughed. “You young’uns don’t understand. In our time, the country had a tight relationship with the big brother, Soviet Union, and the language everyone learned was Russian. Who would have known? Now everything is English. I’m old now, so old, but I still had to start from square one and learn it. And it’s not enough to just learn it; we need to be proficient in it. And we need to keep up with the times, too, and know all their new words and expressions. Watching this is useful.”

Lu Yanchen could relate with all these things that Elder Shen was talking about.

When you go abroad for exchange, if you are not able to speak well, it is a disgrace to the country. When providing international support, if you cannot speak deftly, it is a problem also.

The two looked at one another and smiled. At the end Elder Shen even pointed at the picture on the computer screen. “What I can’t understand is, the girls and lads in here are constantly breaking up and then matching themselves up again at will. Every few episodes they’ll switch boyfriend and girlfriend amongst themselves… The culture is different, and it’s hard to understand.” Elder Shen explained that it was his youngest niece who had helped him download the series, and he had not gotten to catch more than a few glimpses of it before he came here to the factory. Now he could see from watching it that it was not all that suited to him, but there was no way for him to exchange for a different one anymore. He would just have to wait until he had his time-off in lieu in a month and was back in Beijing, and then he could do something about it.

<>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.

The next day, the sun was not even up when someone knocked on their door.

Elder Shen simply draped a jacket over his shoulders and then stepped outside, but very shortly he returned. “Xiao Lu, you sleep a little longer. They’ve dug up an impressive one in the minefield up ahead. I’ll go take a look.”

When Lu Yanchen got out of bed, the sky was just beginning to brighten.

There was an issue with the drainage pipe in the dormitory building, so Lu Yanchen had a shower in the factory’s shower room and then came back out. While he was towel-drying his hair, the person who had hurriedly brought Elder Shen out early this morning now returned, his forehead slick with perspiration. Seeing Lu Yanchen, he sprinted over with large strides, drew a panting breath, and stated quietly, “He’s gone.”

Beads of water trickled down Lu Yanchen’s face. The icy-cold water scalded over his chest.

Lu Yanchen took a moment to collect himself. Wordlessly he swiped a hand over his face, shaking off the remaining droplets of water.

He wanted to ask, but no words would leave him. He simply followed that person out.

At this hour, work had not yet begun, and even footfalls echoed in this empty space. When he stepped out that metal door, he met face-on with the newly risen sun, its light instantly stabbing his eyes such that he could only turn away from it.

With each inhale that he drew, he felt a heavy tremor in his chest.

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

Later, when he arrived on site, Elder Shen’s body had already been taken away.

There was no time for delay. Lu Yanchen put on his protective gear and, after making a signal with his hand, went with two new assistants into the minefield. As he strode past that patch of blood, it was as if the sounds of the elderly one’s laughing grouses were still by his ear. “There really are some problems with American people’s views on love. Being too liberal is not good either.”

A man whose heart was for his nation and its people and who hence had planned never to marry and have children, still had his own set of standards for that beautiful thing called love.

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

By the time he completed all the follow-up work and returned to the factory, it was already midday.

He had very early on submitted his request to go into the city. Although he was in no mood to go at this time, not going was not an option. He had not spoken on the phone with Gui Xiao for two weeks already. Therefore, he hopped into the car and was on the road for more than two hours until the car drove into that small city. The driver dropped Lu Yanchen off at the end of a commercial street, a place busy with people. There was an especially large number of young people. Feeling that it was rather abnormal to be seeing so many students at this hour of the day, Lu Yanchen glanced at his watch—Saturday. No wonder.

He found a noodle shop and then, in a corner of it, dumped out his mobile phone and SIM card from a small black bag and inserted the card into the phone.

Holding the phone, he typed in Gui Xiao’s number and sent a simple, brief message to her: Call me back when you’re free. Lu Chen.

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

When Gui Xiao saw this text message, it was already half an hour later, and moreover it was Qin Xiaonan who brought her mobile phone over to her.

Since becoming pregnant, Gui Xiao had been very careful about making sure she did not get sick, but she had still ended up catching a cold. Today, in that moment when her nose started running, her heart had felt like it was free-falling, and she had been scared silly. The main reason for this was that the widely-viewed opinion that you absolutely should not take any sort of medication during pregnancy was too deeply imprinted on her, and she was utterly unable to stay calm and collected. As a result, she flusteredly called the wife of her younger cousin and, in a roundabout way, inquired with her on what to do if someone was pregnant and caught a cold.

Her pregnancy was still a secret; she did not dare tell too many people about it. After all, she had the label of “pregnant before marriage” and not everyone would be understanding about it.

On the phone, Gui Xiao said she was asking on behalf of a close girlfriend.

Her cousin’s wife did not suspect anything and simply told her to steam garlic with rock sugar and drink the resulting liquid. She even laughingly made the comment that it was a good thing it was not Gui Xiao. If it were Gui Xiao, who never so much as touched garlic, it would be troublesome. Keeping her silence on this, Gui Xiao went alone into the kitchen, made some of that garlic-steamed-with-rock-sugar water, and then, holding her breath, took a couple of drinks of it. The garlic odour gagged her until she nearly passed out. It took one minute for her to finish drinking that bowl of stuff, but she spent ten minutes in the bathroom rinsing out her mouth…

She was still holding a mouthful of mouthwash, her cheeks puffed out as she looked into the mirror, but when she saw that text message, all the liquid went spraying into the sink.

After grabbing her phone from the kid, she shooed him out of the bathroom and then dialed that number back.

<>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.

It was no exaggeration to say, before the call was answered, Gui Xiao’s heart was thumping wildly. It was not any different from her teenage-girl days.

Simply thinking about the fact that she would be talking on the phone with Lu Chen made her giddy with excitement that she could not contain and caused her cheeks to flush and ears to grow hot.

This space that she was in was quiet, but on the other end of the line it was obviously a lively place and noisy environment. When the call connected, she heard someone saying something in a local dialect. Based on the word pronunciations, that sentence should be “Here are your noodles.”

“Lu Chen.” She uttered his name softly.

“You have a cold?” He very astutely detected this.

“A little bit.” Crooking her finger, she used its joint to nudge her nose. Then resting her hand against the edge of the bathroom counter, she asked, “Why are you having lunch so late?”

The response from the other end of the line was very placid. “There was some business to take care of. Got delayed.”

“Then eat first. We’ll talk after you’re done eating… What kind of noodles are you having?”

“Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles[1].”

Gui Xiao pricked her ears up to listen. There was no real activity on that end that could be heard.

“Would you be able to eat a little louder?” Since she couldn’t see him, listening to him would be fine, too, she thought.

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

She heard his mobile phone being set onto the table.

Lu Yanchen was actually being quite obedient, trying as much as possible to make some sounds as he ate his noodles. It was just that the background noise was too dominant and buried whatever sounds he made. There were people conversing, a girl laughing, and also someone lecturing her child. All manifestations of the mundane world seemed to be before her eyes.

The air circulation in the bathroom was poor, so she walked back out. As she passed through the living room, she saw Qin Xiaonan watching a movie set during the War of Resistance against Japanese invasion, and hence she made a frown at him and flicked a glance in the direction of the upstairs level. The meaning of that: Hey, brat, go up and study. Only after she watched the kid walk back upstairs did she go into the study and push open the window to allow some air in.

About three or four minutes later, Lu Yanchen picked his phone back up and said to her, “Go see a doctor if you have a cold.”

“It’s not like I can take any medication. Also, I don’t want to make so many trips to the hospital. What if I somehow get infected by some other illness? I’ll just drink a bit more warm water, and that’ll be fine.” Gui Xiao leaned her elbow onto the windowsill. “Lu Chen?”

“Hmm?”

“What are you wearing right now?”

“A white, short-sleeved shirt and camo shorts.”

“Any designs on the shirt?”

“No.”

“How long is your hair now?”

“The same as when I was in Beijing.”

“Did you shave?”

“Mm.”

“Are you handsome?”

Lu Yanchen seemed reluctant about answering this question of hers, but he still cooperatively obliged her, replying, “Passable.”

“What do you mean ‘passable’?” Gui Xiao’s voice carried a hint of smugness in it. “I’ve never seen anyone more handsome than you.”

This time the man on the other end of the call truly did break out into chuckles of amusement. A slit had been forcibly torn into the hazy curtain of gloom that had hung over him the entire day, and the shaft of light that penetrated through landed on his heart.

<>Please support this translation by only reading it at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, its actual site of posting. This would be greatly appreciated by the translator.

This subject was one that Gui Xiao had liked discussing with him since they were young. It seemed she was particularly keen on emphasizing that she had fallen in love with his face. This was their little inside thing in which they took pleasure together. Of course, Lu Yanchen had asked her before, did that mean that besides a face that pleased the eyes, he had no other strengths to speak of? Her answer was, “Good-looking people, in and of themselves, already have an advantage.” The first time she saw him, she had already given him a score of one hundred percent. Then, to her surprise, the more she came into contact with him, the higher the score became, for she felt that everything about him was good. In the end it was natural, then, that she decided to love him with two hundred percent.

After the baby was born, if the little one was as good-looking as him, then his contribution would be even greater and this love she had for him would very likely increase to three hundred percent.

The two talked about senseless things for a long while before Gui Xiao finally came to the main point. “Lu Chen, you are so unreliable. I told you to come back before the three-month mark to register our marriage… It’s already passed. If you still won’t come back, I really will get mad.”

“In a couple of days. It’ll be this week.” He stated with firmness, “I will be back for sure. Get everything ready.”

This week?

These two words alone seemed to ignite a bundle of small fireworks in her, spraying sparks to the very bottom of her heart and the deepest recesses of her eyes.

Gui Xiao bit down on her lip, unable to curb her smile. Once that smile rose, it would not cease, and even her voice had a lilt of joy and exhilaration. “Okay, okay. I’ll get everything ready and carry all the documents on me. As soon as your plane lands and you’re back, we’ll charge straight to the Civil Affairs Bureau. The people there get off work at five o’clock. Make sure when you come back that you don’t miss their hours.”

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

While he gave his promise that he would, he checked the time and saw that he should go meet up with the driver now.

He had left himself five minutes for strolling around here to buy her a small gift.

In all honesty, apart from the mobile phone he had given her back then and also, later, that wedding ring, he had never bought her anything. The two were apart more than they were together, and he did not know what she actually liked, but he had noticed that an entire wall in her study was taken up by cabinetry. Displayed in the more than one hundred little cube units were all sorts of items, and each of them, she said, had been brought back with her from one of her business trips. He had paid attention and remembered the size of each cube unit, estimating its approximate length, width, and height, and he bought a set of clay dolls garbed in ethnic dress. Each doll was smiling, its smile like Gui Xiao’s.

<>This translation’s only approved site of posting is hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Please support it and the translator by only reading it there. Thank you.

When he was back at the factory, it was approaching dusk.

After grabbing a portion of potatoes stewed with long beans and two mantou from the cafeteria, Lu Yanchen headed back to his room. Along the way, someone called to him, and he followed that person to the office.

Inside were two leading officers, both of them having come out from a military unit, and side by side they sat on the couch, each holding a boxed meal and eating. Seeing Lu Yanchen walk in, one of them motioned with his chin at a chair. “We’ll eat and talk at the same time.”

Pulling the chair out, Lu Yanchen took a seat, and the three of them began their discussions. They first spoke about the memorial service for Elder Shen, saying that the high-level superiors’ opinion was that the man had belonged to the Beijing military base, so the memorial service must be held in Beijing and the body would be transported there within the next couple of days. Then that person who had been speaking added, “Within three months, there have been two injured and one dead. What our higher-ups have expressed is that we need to have teams consisting of two specialists and cannot continue going forward with just one specialist with two assistants.” This was a very reasonable and fair recommendation, but everyone was also well aware that this would slow down progress.

Each day of delay meant one more day in which the danger existed.

The original plan had been to wrap up all work by autumn, but with this change, they likely would be working into next year. After succinctly laying out the situation, that leader, who had an impatient temperament, tossed his still unfinished boxed meal aside onto the glass table and paced several circles in the same spot, remarking, “If that’s the case, we should just reassign some people to this place. We’ll put in the request to get a few more specialists.”

The other leader, who wore eyeglasses, laughed. “It’s not as if we here are the only ones in the entire country who have an assignment. From where are you going to get so many experts?”

“Xiao Lu, do you have any good suggestions?” The leader with the impatient temperament turned his gaze onto Lu Yanchen, his eyes seeming as if they could spit fire.

Lu Yanchen ripped off half of his mantou and consumed it in two bites.

In that short silence, he was contemplating. The other two people were watching him.

“Let’s borrow some manpower. I used to lead an EOD squad. Even though they don’t have vast experience, they can still be treated like they’re half specialists.”

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

The one with the impatient temperament slapped the table and let out a laugh. “We were waiting for these words from you! You go and give your old superior a call tonight first. Explain the situation to him and give him a heads-up.”

“Mm.” Lu Yanchen naturally knew that these two people had been waiting for these words of his.

If they were to submit the request to Beijing from here at the factory and then go through layer by layer in the organization to try to borrow manpower, they would need to wait several days, and in the end the request might not even be approved. Even if it were approved, they might not necessarily get the right people. After all, they were borrowing people from the front lines, so it would not be that easy. As well, they needed to consider the question of how personnel would be allocated over in Erenhot. However, if the request went through him, things would happen much quicker. Who would be appropriate for the task? He knew most clearly. How could they fulfill the needs here but still guarantee that personnel arrangements and distribution over in Erenhot would not be disrupted? He was still the one who knew most clearly.

<>Please show your support for this translation by only reading it at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, its actual site of posting. The translator would sincerely appreciate this gesture.

“No problem. I’ll ask tonight to borrow some people.” Lu Yanchen gave a nod. “However, I do need to make a trip back to Beijing this week. I’ll need two days.”

Those two leaders exchanged a glance, not really understanding him, for he normally did not  have any requests other than needing to be able to make external phone calls and did not even take any time off in lieu for his hours worked. Could it be that something urgent had occurred in his family and he needed to hurry back home?

Lu Yanchen put the last piece of white mantou into his mouth, slowly chewing it, and only after he had completely swallowed it did he explain, “My wife is almost four months pregnant. I need to go back so we can register our marriage.” There was a pause in his words, and then he stated, “Elder Shen doesn’t have a son. He and I had a pretty good relationship. I’ll escort him back and be considered his honour guard and the pallbearer who sends the fallen hero on his way.”

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

[1] Hand-pulled noodles are formed by taking a large lump of dough, stretching it, folding it over on itself, and then repeating this process over and over, thus creating long, thin strands of noodles. Hand-pulled noodles can be found in many different regions, each with its own variation, but the province of Gansu and its city, Lanzhou, is especially famous for them.

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
34 of 43 Chapters
0 of 1 Epilogues

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14 thoughts on “The Road Home (归路) — Chapter 34

  1. Thank you for the update Hoju 😊

  2. This chapter was a wakeup call to realize the dangers of Luchen’s job
    I hope you’re staying safe, Hoju

    • Indeed. We saw the more relaxed parts in the base and the camaraderie, but this is also his work.

      We are all doing our part here, staying at home, away from people, and being responsible. Please stay safe and healthy, too! (And keep in touch. I think about all my readers and would love to know they are doing well and are safe.)

  3. Tq hoju, pls stay safe and healthy too ( also to peanuts and other readers) , hope this convid 19 will go away soon. More and more in love with this novel.

  4. thank you and stay safe and healthy

  5. Really it’s not easy, became wife of someone in the military! Salute for them!

    • For sure. Military spouses (regardless of which country) also sacrifice a lot. I honestly don’t know how they do it and totally respect them for it.

  6. Elder Shen!! 😭
    His was just a brief exposure but i like him a lot already. Already had a foreboding when he was introduced 😭😭
    I agree with his opinion too, too liberal ain’t good…

  7. Fate is quite kind to LC and GX… though they each have their own troubles but LC is still alive at least, considering that he’s had close shaves with death (like with his old superior and Elder Shen, that fate could have been his but not in the end)

    • I think fate is actually playing favourites. The decade of separation was good for the two of them, for they matured and became better people. And after that happened, fate brought them back together and now they are better able to nurture their relationship together.

      Lu Chen will probably spend much of his life working this type of job. It’s not the front lines, like he once was, but he is still a specialist who, as he said, will be called out to dangerous jobs.

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