In the morning, Lin Mu woke up and found himself curled up like a spring roll.
No wonder he dreamt that he was stuck in a little black room last night, and no matter how or who he called, nobody answered.
Lin Mu laid down on the bed for quite a while, and only when the alarm clock rang did he slowly roll himself out of the spring roll and then rolled out of bed.
It was only after he got dressed and folded his blanket did Lin Mu remember that the dog who came to sleep with him last night wasn’t in bed with him.
He turned to look at the dog bed and found that it was empty too.
Lin Mu paused, made his bed and went down the stairs. He saw his dog laying in the front door which had been opened, and there was a sweet scent coming from the kitchen.
It was only after Lin Mu took in a deep breath did he feel that his sleepy brain woke up. He looked into the kitchen, and found that the rice cooker was in its warming mode. Opening it to take a look, he saw that there was a pot of millet congee, with two thin strands in ginseng in it. 1
Lin Mu was the one who had bought this millet rice from the mall. He had made congee with it several times, but they weren’t as fragrant as today’s.
It seemed that this fragrance came from the ginseng strands.
Lin Mu placed the lid back on, then turned and walked out of the kitchen to the opened front door, where he saw the Ginseng Baby digging the ground with a shovel.
“Good morning,” Lin Mu greeted Milky and the little Ginseng.
The little Ginseng realised that Lin Mu had arrived and raised his head to show a sweet smile as he greeted with a childish tone, “good morning Lin Mu!”
The dog just shook his ears and didn’t even look at him.
Lin Mu looked at the dog, then squatted down to pet his head.
The dog continued to ignore him, and even shook his head to shake Lin Mu’s hand off.
This was the moment when Lin Mu noticed that something was wrong.
His family’s dog seemed to be angry with him.
— But they were still sleeping together so sweetly last night!
Lin Mu took back his hand, looked at the dog which was lying on his side with a serious expression, and started to think about what he had done wrong.
It probably wasn’t about him bringing Da Hei back, Lin Mu thought. Since after Da Hei left, Milky had suddenly started to get close to him, and Da Hei had also said that Milky was willing to be his dog — although his original words weren’t this, the general meaning was there.
Milky had also eaten the pigeons and the old hen happily yesterday.
So what was it that went wrong?
Lin Mu frowned slightly and thought for a long time but didn’t come up with any reason.
It couldn’t be that he had kicked Milky out of bed in the middle of the night, right?
Lin Mu: “……”
Lin Mu thought about the pigeon and the old hen that Milky had been very happy to eat yesterday, and decided to buy one back today as an extra meal.
After making this decision, Lin Mu turned to look at the diligent little Ginseng and asked, “were you the one who cooked the congee?”
“Yeah, I saw you use it before.” The little Ginseng nodded his head, and his voice sounded soft and carried a hint of sweetness, “so that you can sleep in longer.”
Lin Mu was stunned, and his heart felt as if it had been gently poked by something small, causing all the warm emotions to flow out, sweet and tingly, crawling over his whole body.
He slowly came back to his senses, rubbed the smile on his face that had appeared without him knowing, and nodded, “well, I’m going to go and have breakfast.”
The millet congee with the ginseng in it had somewhat of a sweet taste. After eating the whole bowl, he felt that there wasn’t a single shred of discomfort in his whole body. It was as if he had just taken a full body scrub bath, gotten a massage with a whole relaxation package, and then slept very soundly. He felt full of energy, and even his vision became clearer.
Lin Mu hadn’t eaten ordinary ginseng before, but he could be sure that ordinary ginseng definitely wouldn’t have these sort of effects.
The only thing was, just a few strands of root had such an amazing effect, if the whole root was made into a stew, it could probably cure all illnesses, return one to youth, and prolong their life. It’s not a wonder why the Ginseng Baby had to look for places to hide.
Lin Mu gave the remaining congee to the dog, and seeing that it was still early, he took a hoe and went to the yard to help the Ginseng Baby turn up the earth.
Yesterday, he had told the little Ginseng that he was planning to grow some vegetables in the yard and got a very positive response. The Ginseng Baby was very happy with the fact that he was going to have something to do.
Lin Mu swung his hoe, and with a single swing, the thin layer of soil was easily turned up, just like sand.
He raised his eyebrows and turned to look at the little Ginseng, “you loosened the soil?”
“Yeah, I’m good at loosening the soil. Before, in the mountains, I was the one who helped those plant uncles2not blood related loosen the soil.” The little Ginseng then started to wiggle and twist his small dudou, and then asked in a soft voice, “Lin Mu, can I plant some spiritual medication here?”
“Spiritual medication?” Lin Mu asked doubtfully, “what kind of spiritual medication?”
“Recently, there’s been a lot of monsters coming to the mountains, and so there’s a lot of conflicts. Several old trees that I know are injured, so I want to get some medicine for them……” The Ginseng Baby said, then took out a bulging bag from goodness knows where, “I’ve collected a lot of seeds over these past few hundred years.”
Lin Mu looked at the seeds, and simply chose not to grow vegetables anymore, and started to plant the seeds with the little Ginseng, burying them into the soil.
After the dog had finished with today’s breakfast, he looked at the busy big one and a small one in the yard, thought for a bit, then took his bowl back to the kitchen and threw it into the sink.
Lin Mu was almost late when he arrived to his morning shirt. Just as he entered the office, he saw Da Hei slumped in a chair, in a daze.
After hearing the sound of Lin Mu entering, Da Hei turned to look at him, hummed a greeting, then took back his gaze and continued to stare into mid-air.
Lin Mu sat down in his own seat, and looked at Da Hei who was obviously not in an alright state, hesitated, then asked, “what happened? You don’t seem very happy.”
“En.” Da Hei nodded, “the old lady left last night.”
When Lin Mu heard those words, his mind went blank for a moment as he mumbled, “sorry.”
“What are you apologising for?” Da Hei said doubtfully.
“Last night, weren’t you at my house……”
“No, I went to see her after I left your place, and saw her one last time before she was taken away by the ghost messengers.” Da Hei said, and unconsciously rubbed his arms, “she passed very peacefully.”
Da Hei used his human form to go.
When he had reached, the old lady’s soul was sitting peacefully on the sofa. Her remains were on her bed with her eyes closed, and there was neither sadness nor joy present, which meant that she had stopped breathing peacefully in her sleep.
Nobody else was in the room, and everybody was asleep since it was quite late at night. There was only the old lady on the sofa in the room, waiting quietly.
It was during this wait that Da Hei had entered through the window. The two of them looked at each other for a while, then Da Hei shook his head and turned back into his original form.
The old lady had lived her last days, and she felt at peace and tranquil. Seeing the person in front of her turn in a dog, she was only slightly surprised for a moment, and with a loving smile, she waved to Da Hei.
“She said…… when she first saw my human form, she felt a sense of kinship, so she told the people in the nursing home that if I came, they should let me in.” Da Hei said and let out a couple of foolish smiles, “otherwise, I couldn’t have gone in all this time.”
Da Hei rambled on for quite a while, and he didn’t know when all the sadness in his heart disappeared, and his heart was filled of gentle and beautiful memories when he thought of the deceased old lady.
“Ay, it’s so nice talking to you.” The dull gloomliness on Da Hei’s face had vanished, and he’d returned to his energetic self. He complained, “if I told this to that Old Turtle, he would have just recited some great philosophy.”
The truth was that Lin Mu simply didn’t disturb Da Hei’s rambling. Once he saw that Da Hei had returned to his original state, he said, “one should also listen to the elder generation’s philosophies.”
“Yes, yes, yes, I understand the reasoning.” Da Hei muttered, “from this day on, I’ll be a serious monster that get involved with humans anymore, and the Old Turtle won’t be able to chant at me anymore.”
As soon as he had finished speaking, he heard a knock on the door.
Lin Mu went to open the door and found out that it was a charming and beautiful woman. When she saw him, she seemed a little stunned before she smiled and said with a sweet sounding voice, “young man, you’re new?”
“Yes, hello.” Lin Mu hesitated for a moment, and felt that the other party’s aura made him feel a little uncomfortable.
He paused and nodded. He didn’t know how to tell apart monsters and humans, besides, he couldn’t tell the difference between the different kinds of aura, and only felt that since the woman knew he was a newcomer, she was probably a monster.
He opened the door, “please come in.”
“I won’t be coming in. The head of your office doesn’t like humans very much.” After speaking, the woman turned to look at Da Hei in the office and said, “I came to get the letter.”
Lin Mu didn’t really understand, and could only turn to look at Da Hei.
At this time, Da Hei had already looked over, and when he saw the woman at the door, the smile on his face froze and his expression worsened as he took a box out from the drawer and handed it over to the woman.
The woman didn’t mind, and with a charming smile took the box and left.
Lin Mu watched her go away and turned to ask Da Hei, “that was a human?”
“En.” Da Hei nodded, “she has to come over once a month. In the future, if you’re here, just give her the box in the drawer.”
Lin Mu looked at the lacquered box, “what’s this?”
“The fruit of the Yao plant3䔄草的果实. Fruit from a famous plant in chinese myth. More information about it below.. After eating, a person would be able to become charming and beautiful for quite a while, the type that can hook a person with a glance.” Da Hei said while rolling his eyes, “that woman got together with a monster, and after finding out that there was such a thing, she made a lot of noise saying that she wanted it. But there’s only one such plant in the world, and the fruit is more expensive, so no ordinary monster can get it.”
“Then these fruits……” Lin Mu looked at the boxes.
“Oh, that monster is dead. These fruits were exchanged for with his life, and he pleaded with us to give it to that woman.” Da Hei said and snorted, and his attitude showed that he had obviously been unhappy about this matter for quite some time. “Monsters who fall in love with humans are all like that. Monsters live long lives, and their perception of time is totally different from human beings, the whole of a human lifespan is considered a honeymoon period for them, and if the one they love dies during the honeymoon period, most monsters would remember them for over hundreds of years, or even throughout their life. But humans? Living so happily.”
“I say, for those monsters who had the courage to come in contact with human beings, or even had in depth contact and fell in love are all very courageous.”
Da Hei concluded, and felt happy about the fact that he didn’t get into a romantic relationship with a human.
Lin Mu just listened in a daze, and couldn’t help but think about his own parents.
He rarely thought deeply about the matters of his birth, and actually didn’t even want to think about it.
Because to him, having or not having a father was the same, and since the mother who raised him was gone, he’s been living alone and had a good life.
But just by mentioning the relationship between humans and monsters, he would inevitably think of this matter.
Lin Mu spent the whole day in a trance. When he went back, he directly bought a roast chicken from the market, went home, and directly fed it to Milky and the little Ginseng. Under the gaze of a ginseng and a dog, he went up to his mother’s studio.
The notebooks and folders that Lin Mu had found in the attic but hadn’t had the time to read were still lying on the desk.
Lin Mu opened the folder.
The insides were full of information about his mother’s adventure in the wild, with photographs and information of rare plants and some hand-drawn references, along with photos of his mother out in the field covered with dirt.
Lin Mu skimmed through them, then stopped at one of the photos.
The photo was probably taken deep in the mountains. His mother was hugging a huge tree with huge roots, with her face stained with dirt, and all the equipment on her back covered in a layer of soil. She was hugging the tree with a very happy smile on her face, showing her neat rows of teeth, her eyes were bright, and she was very visibly happy.
Lin Mu glanced at the tree, but because there wasn’t a full picture of it, he couldn’t tell what kind of tree it was.
But it wasn’t the tree that attracted Lin Mu’s attention, but in this photo, there was a phantom of a person sitting at the side.
The phantom was sitting on an exposed branch with his other leg hanging casually. He wore a dark green robe embroidered with golden leaves, and his black hair was tied high with a black hair band. He held a black and round object in his hand and seemed to be looking at the woman next to him who was covered in mud.
Lin Mu looked at the thing he held in his hand and felt that it looked very familiar.
The phantom was too weak, and there were some parts couldn’t be seen clearly. Lin Mu frowned and tried to look carefully, and as he continued to look, the phantom gradually solidified.
Lin Mu realised that the person recorded by the camera wasn’t human.
He glanced at the black and round object about half the size of a person’s palm in the hands of the man he suspected was a monster, suddenly raised his head and looked up at the fruit that was carefully preserved in a box on the book shelf.
Lin Mu didn’t recognise the origins of this fruit, but it had always been kept very well preserved by his mother, so Lin Mu thought that it was an ornament in the shape of a fruit.
Lin Mu paused for a long while, and turned his head to look at the face in the photograph, and somehow felt it was a little familiar.
He took the mirror out of the drawer and looked at the face in the mirror.
…… Looks alike.
Lin Mu covered the mirror and turned to look at the photo album left by his mother.
In the album that had been read by Lin Mu countless of times before, in the many single photos of his mother, there was another male figure.
The translator has this to add:
In ancient times, there was a mountain known as Gu Yao Mountain. Legend has it that there was once a woman named Yao Ji, who had just reached marriageable age but died before she could get married. In some variations, she was the daughter of the emperor. She was full of life and vigour, and after death, her soul (or corpse, depending on the story) went to Gu Yao mountain and became a plant, the Yao plant. Whoever eats this fruit will be able to become loved and charming. Of course, humans aren’t able to grow this fruit.
Here‘s the recipe for millet congee. Millet grains can cooked as regular rice too.