Lin Mu was stunned for a moment and then turned back to look at the nursing home, with his voice lowered, he asked, “how old is the old lady?”
“Ninety-three.” Da Hei took a large bite out of the apple and followed Lin Mu. Together, they slowly made their way back.
Lin Mu turned his head to look at Da Hei. The other party was crunching his apple, looking down at the road with a dull expression on his face.
He had probably long expected this reality.
Lin Mu thought carefully and said, “she is that age.”
“Yeah.” Da Hei nodded, “her children have a successful career, her students are all over the world, her life can be considered to be full of happiness and prosperity.”
Da Hei fell silent after finishing his statement and Lin Mu turned to see that his face was full of loneliness and dejectedness.
“This isn’t bad.” Lin Mu said. He didn’t really know how to comfort him, and could only repeat it again, “this isn’t bad, for a human.”
“Yeah, of course I know.” Da Hei muttered, and thought of Lin Mu who half-monster and the blanks on his information sheet. He realised that he might have reopened Lin Mu’s scars, and felt a little helpless, “I……”
Lin Mu bit his apple and looked at him, “en?”
Da Hei just wanted to say something, then suddenly smelt a silky aroma.
— a clean and pure aroma of vegetation, slightly sweet, with light traces of monstrous energy.
It came from Lin Mu.
The canine monster with a strong sense of smell fell into a bit of a trance, and without a steady step, he stumbled.
Lin Mu jolted and hastened to reach out to his colleague whose mind suddenly decided to wander, “what happened?”
Da Hei shook his head, gave a couple of foolish smiles, and said doubtfully, “what what happened?”
Lin Mu seeing that he seemed to be okay, slowly released his hand, did not mention the sad topic from before, and made some idle conversation with Da Hei on the way back to the office.
Lin Mu placed the things on the table closest to the doorway, took the tools and began to pry at the hinges on the door frame.
The first thing Da Hei did when he returned to the office was to strip off his clothes and replace it with a long and baggy coat. Sitting cross-legged in a chair, he watched as Lin Mu banged away at the door that had been broken for goodness know long.
Lin Mu fixed the door frame, and when he turned back, he saw that Da Hei was sitting there in an inelegant manner, frowning slightly, shaking his head from time to time.
“Not feeling good?”
“…… No.” Da Hei’s eyebrows wrinkled, “I felt as if I just forgot something.”
“Just?” Lin Mu recalled, “when you almost fell?”
“En.” Da Hei contemplated for a long time and did not remember what he had forgotten, so he simply waved his hands and rolled up his sleeves, “forget it. Something that I forgot probably wouldn’t be that important, better to do some serious business.”
Lin Mu nodded, lifted the door from the ground. Just as he knocked out the old lock cylinder, he raised his head and saw that Da Hei seemed to be holding something between his thumb and middle finger, with the rest of slightly flexed1
Original: Orchid Fingers (蘭花指); A traditionally feminine hand gesture usually used in opera.
, carefully and piously placed it into a small flowerpot the size of a palm.
Then he suddenly got up, stood in front of the desk and started to jump around in a ritualistic manner and wave his hands.
Lin Mu: “……”
Lin Mu’s whole face was blank, “…… what are you doing?”
Da Hei made a silencing gesture at him, and said with a serious face, “I’m trying to urge that seed to grow.”
Lin Mu: “……”
What’s going on!!
Do you monsters have to jump ritualistically when growing a potted plant!
Lin Mu was extremely shocked.
Da Hei waved and jumped for a while, looked at the unmoving potted plant, then slowly stopped his actions and sighed, “still can’t grow it.”
“What can’t grow?” Lin Mu took the newly bought lock cylinder and fastened it into place and with a ‘click’, and locked and fixed it, “what plant is it?”
“This flower is called Morning Dusk2朝暮 (zhāo mù). Google can’t seem to find a flower by that name, but a morning glories are described as 朝朝暮暮.
. It originally grew on the edge of the Nai River.” Da Hei looked at the small flower pot on the table and collapsed into the chair, “you know of the Nai River, right? The one called the River of Forgetfulness.”
Lin Mu knew this, it was a river in the netherworld that had always been mentioned in myths and legends.
Within the river there were all sorts of wandering ghosts, on the river there was the Bridge of helplessness3奈河桥 lit. Nai River Bridge, and in order to cross the river, one needed to drink Meng Po’s soup4https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meng_Po
She brews a soup that induces instant and permanent amnesia, to ensure that souls who are ready to be reincarnated do not remember their previous life or their time in hell. If the person doesn’t drink the soup, they can’t reincarnate..
Either way, it was at a level that ordinary people couldn’t reach.
“Why don’t you try? This Morning Dusk doesn’t care about the area it grows, only who planted it.” Da Hei turned his head to look at Lin Mu, “I asked the Old Turtle to help me find someone that could plant it for very long, and he hasn’t found anyone yet.”
Lin Mu remembered the words that Da Hei had said when he first entered the door, while nodding, he asked, “who is Old Turtle?”
“Our colleague, he’s absent from work today.” Da Hei finished his statement, pulled open a drawer, pulled out a small bag of seeds from the inside and carefully took out one.
The seed was pitch black, small and shriveled. It looked as if it was a little black mosquito that had been flattened. Even when it was placed into the palm of one’s hand, it was light and had no texture, like the remains of black ashes after being burnt.
“Just put it in the pot.” When he finished his words, Da Hei stopped Lin Mu from putting it in the flowerpot, “wait till I go far away then you can plant it. If you can grow it out, I’ll recognise you as my father!”
Lin Mu looked as Da Hei who turned back into a large wolfdog upon concluding his sentence and rushed out, was frozen to the spot as he opened his mouth.
He silently gazed at the black point in his hand, hesitated two seconds between ‘I might have a dog for a son’ and ‘helping a colleague, saving a dog’, and still placed the black dot from his palm into the pot.
The seed fluttered down into the pot, slipping into the crevices of the fluffy soil.
After a few seconds, Lin Mu saw a small group of dark green leaves breaking through the soil, at a speed visible to the naked eye, extended a stem, bloomed out a tender and white flower shoot, slowly bulged into a small flower bud, before stopping its growth.
It seemed weak and delicate, but with an extremely light and lithe appearance, and even Lin Mu’s slight breathing made it shake and tremble when he came close to it.
Lin Mu looked that the flower that didn’t belong to this world, and tried to reach out to touch it, but a large black dog broke in with a bang and with a single glance at the flower on the table, shouted with all his might, “Father!!! Have mercy on the flower!!!”
Lin Mu was so frightened his shivered and pulled his hands back, then turned to look at the big wolfdog that rushed over with four legs, reacted to what he shouted before and choked out, “I don’t have a son like you.”
“I recognize you as a father, so it’s okay!”
Da Hei stood up, placed two paws on the edge of the desk, and carefully leaned in to see the flowers for a while, wagging his tail like a small fan.
“It grew.” He muttered in disbelief, “it really grew.”
“Yes, it really grew.” Lin Mu looked at Da Hei’s giddy demeanour, and couldn’t help but smile.
“Ah…… it really grew.” Da Hei walked several circles around the chair Lin Mu was sitting, and during this time, he opened his mouth to speak, then hesitated, then tried to speak again.
Lin Mu looked at his tail that was anxiously swishing around, “is there something else?”
Da Hei acted in a shy manner and wiggled his tail, “yes…… there’s something.”
“What is it?”
Lin Mu wasn’t averse to helping others.
Between people, there’s nothing wrong with showing goodwill at first. If one met an ingrate or those greedy types, it wouldn’t be too late to take revenge.
Da Hei pulled out a leash from the cupboard at the side, “can you take me to the nursing home? And bring along that flower.”
Lin Mu was startled, reached for the leash and said, “you can’t go by yourself?”
“Dogs that don’t have leashes in the city would be killed, especially in places like nursing homes and kindergartens.” Da Hei cooperatively put on the leash, “that Old Turtle was never willing to accompany me.”
Lin Mu’s hand stopped moving, “why?”
“Because most monsters aren’t willing to interact with humans.” Da Hei said, “the number of half-monsters is actually quite small, because the lifespan of humans is too short, and it’s unfair for the monsters. Don’t humans have that saying? It’s always the ones that are left behind that suffers……”
“……” Lin Mu stayed silent for a couple of seconds, then nodded, “this is the truth.”
Da Hei suddenly realized that he had said the wrong thing again.
He turned his head and glanced at the silent Lin Mu, who had just fastened the last buckle, and said nothing out of embarrassment.
Lin Mu followed Da Hei back to outside that nursing home.
The old lady was still sitting there, avoiding the sun, with a calm and peaceful look on her face. She was looking at a computer on the table next to her, on the screen was her daughter’s whole family, who were currently video calling her.
Lin Mu held the flowerpot, leashed Da Hei, and looked at the old lady through the iron fence of the courtyard.
Da Hei sat at the Lin Mu’s feet, and watched as the old lady touched the old pet outfit and talked to her daughter with a big smile. But there wasn’t anybody next to her.
He looked for a long time, then raised his head and whimpered softly.
The old lady seemed to notice the movement and followed the sound to look at the young man outside the courtyard wall, the flower pot he was holding in his arms, and the large black wolfdog he had leashed.
The sun was extremely strong, until one could barely keep their eyes open.
The old lady was in a trance for a moment, and when she looked over again, there was no young man and the large black wolfdog left, only a lonely flower in a palm-sized flower pot, gently swaying under the scorching sun.
The old lady stared at the flowerpot for a good while, and her tears started to fall whilst the voices of her family sounded in the call.
“Child, come back to see Mum one last time.”
The old lady tightened the fabric in her hand and sighed, “Da Hei came to pick me up.”