Fanatical

Fangirling Chinese Novels

The Road Home (归路) — Chapter 38

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Thinking about you guys, all my readers. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” —Mr. Rogers

A simple phone call can bring calming peace.

Chapter 38 — Which Way does the Road Home Lead? (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.

 

The extremely fortunate part was that the geography of this particular location was very kind to them.

The flat ground did not go on for very long before it transformed to steep, mountainous terrain that very easily brought on fatigue once you started climbing it. Ordinary people would not be able to travel too far into it.

These last several months, in the periods that the combat engineers were demining the area, Lu Yanchen would come to this site now and again, and so he had a greater degree of familiarity with this place than Qin Mingyu. The direction he gave Qin Mingyu to search was one that was more or less swept clean already and could be considered relatively safer. The trek down his own route, though, also went smoothly and no danger signals arose.

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

Twenty-odd minutes later, they spotted those six young people behind a stone stele at the foot of the mountainous terrain.

The beams from the several flashlights in Lu Yanchen’s group all shone over there. One girl’s tears began falling first. “We wanted to climb up and walk along on the mountain to search for mobile reception and call the police, but we fell back down.” Right after she said this, four young girls began talking all at once, describing how when they came in there was still light in the sky, but later, when it became dark, everyone grew scared. On top of that, they had no mobile reception, so they could do nothing but have the three boys climb upwards to try to find a signal.

But one fell and ended up dragging another down as well. When the remaining one climbed back down, he, too, seemed as if his soul had flown away and scattered from fright. With the men injured, these girls dared even less to go searching in these murky mountain woods for a way out. They therefore simply sat in one place, reasoning that someone would eventually come to rescue them.

Lu Yanchen felt the bones of that injured young man’s leg. It was broken. The other man’s condition was not bad; he could walk.

“You’re already considered pretty lucky.” Pulling back his hand and shutting off his flashlight, Lu Yanchen remarked, “If you really had run into a landmine, it wouldn’t be as simple as just a broken bone.”

The man gave a sharp inhale of pain, not uttering anything.

Lu Yanchen removed all the equipment he had been wearing and tossed it onto the stone stele. Turning so that his back faced the injured young man and crouching, he ordered, “Get on.”

The young man was more burly and muscular than even Lu Yanchen and so was quite doubtful. However, with no other options, he could only lean his weight forward onto Lu Yanchen’s back.

Straightening back up, Lu Yanchen ensured that this person with the most serious injuries was secure on his back, and then he gave instructions to the police officers: Each one of them would take one civilian, and they would exactly re-trace their steps back along the same route they came. Not even one unnecessary extra step was to be taken. When they came in, they had relied on the assistance of equipment; leaving now, they were relying purely on the markers he had left behind and his memory.

Moonlight broke through the gaps in the branches and leaves and spilled onto the path.

Lu Yanchen turned off his flashlight. Those several police officers did so as well so as to not affect Lu Yanchen’s vision. With natural light, it was not a difficult task for him to pick out markers and find the way back. Ten minutes passed, but his breathing had not even grown heavier. On his back, that grown man, who this entire time had stayed mute, now shamefacedly asked in a small voice, “Comrade, are you doing okay?” Before he spoke, he had deliberated for a long time. He did not know how he should address Lu Yanchen, so in the end he had done what they do on television and cheesily addressed him as “comrade.”

Lu Yanchen answered him affirmatively. “Hang in there. We’ll be there soon.”

“I’m sorry. We’ve inconvenienced all of you.”

There was a long silence, and that man thought Lu Yanchen would not say anything.

As it turned out, however, Lu Yanchen replied in low tones, “It’s not easy for these police officers working at the grassroots level. When we’re out of here, go explain things to your friend. This is a minefield. Even the police cannot take care of this. They must wait for us, people who are actually knowledgeable about this, to come. It isn’t that they didn’t want to save all of you.”

That young man had not expected such a reply. He held his silence for a long time and then still did not end up saying anything.

At most, it would only be another ten minutes and then they would be out of this place.

Stillness blanketed their surroundings. The mountain woods were slumbering.

<>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.

Suddenly a great booming roar thundered out. It was the sound of an explosion. Screams immediately burst out behind him.

Lu Yanchen’s chest clenched.

This was the live scene of an explosion.

Leaves streamed onto their faces like pieces of bomb shrapnel. Those girls who had been rescued once more began to sob. The several police officers also exchanged glances amongst themselves and in low tones began comforting those young people.

Lu Yanchen lengthened his strides, hurrying to get out from this place. “All of you, follow me. Stay close to me.” Something must have happened over where Qin Mingyu was. He absolutely had to get over there as quickly as possible. But on his back and behind him there followed a group of people. He first needed to lead them out of here.

His palms were clammy, slick with sweat. The frosty wind whipped against him. His neck was completely covered with cold sweat as well.

His steps were swift, but time moved torturously slowly.

With a person on his back, he walked for what felt like centuries. When they came out of the forest and he saw from afar that wire fence, he erupted into a sprint, his strides long. Once he reached that safe zone of ten metres from the fence, he set that grown boy down onto the ground from his back, grabbed the backup tools and equipment that he had laid out on the ground before entering the forest, and, without delaying even a second, rushed into the shroud of night.

He could understand the deliberate markings that Qin Mingyu had left behind. When he saw the figures in the distance, he reflexively shouted, “All of you, don’t move!”

The reality was, he had not needed to say anything; not a single one of those people dared to move.

“Ol’ Qin?” Lu Yanchen pulled out his flashlight from the pocket of his pants, turned it on, and began shining it everywhere, searching.

“Here…” Qin Mingyu was lying on his stomach on the ground. It was evident he was the one who had tripped the mine. He alerted Lu Yanchen, “This one was delay-action. Shrapnel. That one over there still has its lid. He’s stepped on a mine.” Qin Mingyu’s brow creased. The shrapnel that struck him were embedded in not just one place on his body. There were some in his abdomen, and there were some that he did not even know where they had hit. It just seemed unbearably painful…

Earlier he thought he had disarmed a mine, but it turned out it was delay-action. The explosion had happened abruptly. These police officers had wanted to try to save him but had ended up stepping on one as well.

Lu Yanchen set his flashlight down on the side. After picking up the mine detector that Qin Mingyu had dropped and sweeping it one round over the area, he crept over to that police officer’s foot and took a close look at the triggering mechanism. He instructed, “Hold yourself there. This thing is too sensitive. It’s an anti-personnel mine.”

One triggered by tripwire.

Bringing his small wire cutter near, he snipped the wire.

There was a light snap. The wire was severed.

Switching over to his combat knife, he little by little removed the camouflage material and brushed aside the dirt. His motions were very light, so light that only the rustling sound of digging could be heard.

Next was to disable the detonator.

Fortunately, the one who stepped on this thing was a well-trained police officer.

And fortunately, this was not a landmine triggered by pressure. If it had been, then basically there would have been no chance for rescue. It would have detonated on contact.

Lu Yanchen gave that person’s leg a push. Out of reflex, that person stiffened for a moment, thinking the mine had detonated.

When that person’s mind caught up and registered the situation, he instantly yanked his leg back.

Lu Yanchen continued digging out that mine from the soil. Swiftly he dismantled it, then, with the back of his knife, tapped the charge out. Only then did he at last toss it aside to wait for tomorrow, when he would have someone come to pack it up.

After quickly inspecting the surroundings, he grabbed Qin Mingyu and assisted him up. He discovered that the clothing beneath his palm was wet, but the blood that soaked those garments had long grown cold. It was the middle of winter. This sure could freeze the hands.

Lu Yanchen inquired, “Can you hold up?”

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

Qin Mingyu’s injuries were first treated simply at the local hospital. Then after getting bandaged up, he was transported to Kunming.

Worried about him, Lu Yanchen went with him in the vehicle.

The time was past five in the morning. Surgery was finished. Lu Yanchen was in the hallway outside the inpatient room, his back leaning against the wall, eyes closed to give himself some rest. He had not even slept for half an hour when the mobile phone in his pocket vibrated. In that quiet corridor there was only the sound of the phone shaking his pants pocket. Taking it out, he glanced at it.

Gui Xiao: I’m awake now. Need to go for a check-up. Praying that my TSH levels will definitely come down this time.

Lu Yanchen comprehended. Gui Xiao was going to do a test that would provide indicators of thyroid function. Her levels had been very high for this particular test.

The two of them had agreed that, regardless of whether he turned his phone on or not, from her third trimester onward she was to report every day to him about her current state. She could send the update anytime, anywhere, and any number of text messages was okay, the more the better. He would make time to read them all.

His lips feeling a little dry, he passed the tip of his tongue over his lower lip. For quite a while he deliberated, trying to decide whether he should reply. This time of the day, after all, was a little abnormal, and he was afraid it might arouse her suspicions. But life is too short. In this limited lifetime, truly, if a message can be returned, then it should be returned[1]

Lu Chen: Calling you.

He sent out that message. Before he had a chance to dial her number, though, his caller ID screen had already flashed alight.

Answering the call, Lu Yanchen stood and strode out the hallway. On the other end of the line, Gui Xiao still sounded sleepy as she gave a couple soft sounds of “mm.” Her breaths could be heard, light and languorous. “Lu Chen…”

“Mm.” He slipped his hand into his pocket, exhausted as well. Wearily he walked past the nurse’s station and turned into the elevator lobby.

The elevator doors all of a sudden slid open, and someone wheeled a gurney out from it. The patient on the bed was covering his face with one arm, appearing to be asleep. Except for the sound of the wheels beneath the gurney rolling over the floor and also the nurse’s footfall, there was nothing.

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

Both ends of the line—this side here with its noiseless surroundings and the other side from which slight movements could be heard—remained quiet for a relatively long while.

“Why are you calling in the morning today?” There was some rustling. It was the noise of the comforter brushing over the receiver. She asked him, “Have you rested?”

He stepped into the elevator. “Just happened to step out.”

The two of them chatted for more than a minute before Lu Yanchen finally found a secluded place by the back door where he could have a smoke. The rasp of a lighter’s wheel against flint sounded out. Gui Xiao’s ears were sharp and caught it. “You’re smoking?”

Lu Yanchen chuckled. “Someone’s got dog’s ears.”

“You’re the one who’s a dog.”

He wordlessly took a drag. The smoke that made a circuit of his lungs and then came back out dissipated in the morning breeze.

For no reason at all, he said, “Last time, at home, I saw you wearing that wine-coloured lingerie of yours. Looks pretty nice.”

“… It doesn’t fit anymore.”

He gave a little laugh. “Breasts have gotten bigger again?”

“… Why are you such a ruffian?”

As a result of her tone, Lu Yanchen lifted his hand that was pinching the cigarette and pressed it against his forehead. “How is that being a ruffian?”

“I’m currently your baby’s carrying container. Don’t you think it’s weird to think of me in those ways?”

“What’s weird about it?”

“……” Gui Xiao was silent on her end for a bit. Then in a small voice, she relented, “All right, all right. After the baby’s born, I’ll go buy a dozen of them.”

The morning breeze skimmed over his face; he just had to have chosen to stand facing into the wind.

He nearly choked himself on the cloud of smoke that he blew out.

<>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 Lu Yanchen finished his phone call with Gui Xiao and returned to the hospital room, Qin Mingyu was awake.

Qin Mingyu’s situation could be classified as one that had been frightening but ultimately did not become life-threatening. The doctor had removed a dozen or so pieces of shrapnel from his body. Reportedly there were still some remaining but in locations where it would be difficult to remove them. The doctor had wanted to comfort Qin Mingyu about that, but before he had said more than a couple of sentences, he ended up being the one comforted by Qin Mingyu instead.

All soldiers, even those who are not in explosive ordnance disposal, will more or less have some sort of scars left on them as “mementos” from the various big and small drills and exercises that they go through. He, Qin Mingyu, was not the only one carrying a few scraps of metal on him. In the past there were old veterans who carried bullets in them, and they still were able to live out their whole lives.

Qin Mingyu even joked about himself, saying, he wondered how inconvenient it would be in the future, after he changed careers, when he had to go through security check in places. He also said, in the future when he was dead and cremated, he would have Qin Xiaonan pick through and get those pieces of shrapnel back out to keep as a family heirloom.

<>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.

Although Qin Mingyu was not in any life-threatening condition, he still needed to stay in the hospital for a few days to recuperate.

In the afternoon, Lu Yanchen drove himself back, planning on showering and cleaning himself up, catching up on some shut-eye, and then writing up the report for yesterday’s mission. His vehicle had only just passed through the gates of the factory grounds when he saw someone there who had long been keeping an eye out for his return. This person informed him that the superiors had been waiting for him for half the day already. They were assigning Lu Yanchen to a support mission.

In the past when he was in counter-terrorism, it had been like this as well. Either everything was completely at peace or else things would all stack up together and come at them nonstop.

Lu Yanchen did not say much. Tossing the car keys to the person who delivered the message and instructing him to drive the vehicle into the parking garage, he headed to the office.

<>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 higher-ups had specifically named him to the team that would be entering Myanmar to bring back a group of Chinese people.

“The risk level is not high. We just need someone like you, someone who has both actual combat experience and is knowledgeable in EOD, to go along on this trip.”

The instant Lu Yanchen heard that it was Myanmar, he understood. That place was in an almost constant state of civil war. The most popular saying was that if you stand on the Chinese side and look across the national border, you can see on the opposite side ethnic armed groups using real guns and bullets and waging war. Within the borders of Myanmar, there are more than thirty armed groups, each planting landmines to use against the others, until in the end they had planted so many that they could not even demine their own. This had become a classic joke for everyone.

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

Once Lu Yanchen received his assignment, he was given only half an hour to prepare before he was to set out.

Prior to powering off his mobile phone, he sent a message to Gui Xiao: Won’t be able to talk on the phone for the next couple of days. Remember to text me like you usually do. Will read them when I have time.

After sending it out, he thought for a moment. And then, inexplicably, he added another text: Besides the wine-coloured set, the blue one is pretty good, too.

<>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] The literal translation is “each message returned is one less that can be returned.” This is a philosophical statement. Life is like a subtraction problem. You come into this world with limited days, and each day that passes is one less day that you have in your life; each meal you eat means one less meal you have in your life that you can eat. Similarly, each text message returned is one less message that you can return. It is saying, treasure what you have, for all of it is limited, and one day, it all will pass. If you can return the message, return it now.

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
38 of 43 Chapters
0 of 1 Epilogues

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10 thoughts on “The Road Home (归路) — Chapter 38

  1. lesson: always heed warning signs as to not bring harm to others
    thank you

  2. Thanks Hoju..
    So tiring be a Lu Yanchen…😅

    • As Lu Yanchen thought to himself, there are times when life is monotonous as a soldier; drills, training, eating, sleeping. And then there are times when it’s like this, when they just can’t rest.
      Thanks for reading!

  3. Thank you Hoju… indeed we have to treasure what we have …

    • Yes! These atypical times that are occurring in our world at this moment even more so emphasize this point.
      Thanks for reading!

  4. So basically retiring meant absolutely nothing.
    He is still sent on missions and risking his life all the time.
    😔

    • He retired from the front lines. Now he is basically in a leadership/training position and is not expected to be the first in line to respond. But, as he explained, if there are complicated situations and a need to consult a specialist, he will be called (such as the large batch of explosives that were found, such as this civilian evacuation).

  5. Never ignore the warning signs posted.. sigh. When i was young I was not too smart. Thank you for your hard work.

    • There is a reason why people often say teens/young adults think they are fearless. *face palm* Everyone, respect people and their properties. There are reasons the signs are there. 😉
      You must be older and wiser now, right? 😉
      Thanks for reading!

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