That evening, I took off from Bailian Airport and landed at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport. I then took the airport bus from Shanghai to Hangzhou.
I examined my face in the bathroom mirror at Hongqiao Airport. The mask cleverly avoided all the places where my beard grew; otherwise, it would’ve grown into my flesh by now. Before, I always thought that I would look manly if I had a beard, but it seemed that not everyone was suitable for growing one. Especially now. I looked like the type of man on the street that picked up trash since my face was full of stubble and I wore clothes that didn’t fit me.
According to Xiao Hua, in ancient China, people who wore this kind of mask had to use a type of potion to destroy all the pores on their face, which was a painful process. Not growing a beard wasn’t a particularly tragic thing for people like me, but I was glad we didn’t have to resort to that.
Since it was the last bus, there was only me and a girl who looked like a student riding it. The girl had been wearing headphones and looking out the window with blurred eyes. Her hair was braided and very clean, and she looked like she had a very special temperament.
I couldn’t help thinking of Yun Cai again, the feeling in my heart indescribable. From the moment I had set off from Guangxi, I had kept a tight rein on my emotions. But now, as I looked at the street lamps flashing by, the various pains that haunted my heart were released bit by bit.
I closed my eyes and tried not to cry. Fatty’s wailing still reverberated in my ears. I thought of the picture we took with Yun Cai the first time we went to Banai. Although our hearts had been full of mysteries, we looked very happy. Maybe it was because our fate was still in our own hands at that time.
Ironically enough, everything we did next was to bring that fate to the present situation.
What was the fear I still had in my heart? Even in such a mood, I still felt that any entanglements in my heart hadn’t been resolved.
When I came back this time, my demons hadn’t subsided, nor did I think that it was the end. I knew deep down that I just came back to be a passer-by. Things weren’t over but continued without pause.
The last bus stop was Kaixuan Road, so I got off and took a taxi home. It was already midnight by this point. I looked at the familiar streets, comparing my mental state of returning to Hangzhou now with how I was the previous times. On those occasions, my first feeling when I returned was exhaustion and thoughts like, I’m never going to that place again. This time was the last time.
But not this time. I wasn’t tired and even had a feeling like: if I continue on like this, I’ll become very sick.
It is what it is. I lit a cigarette, got out of the car, looked at everything in front of me, and was suddenly shocked.
I was in front of Uncle Three’s shop.
Shouldn’t I be at home? I was a little dazed and suddenly remembered that I had given the driver Uncle Three’s address when I got into the car.
But I couldn’t go back to my place. Even if I came back to Hangzhou, I had to live here for now.
I turned around and saw that the taxi had already left. As I stood in the dark alley, I couldn’t help but laugh. I took the key that Pan Zi had given me out of my pocket, went to the iron gate, took a deep breath, and opened it.
There were no lights on in the small house. I went into the courtyard and saw Uncle Three’s potted plants. They were scattered all over the place and had grown very well because of the gardener’s care. The tea table that Uncle Three usually used for drinking tea was placed in the middle of the courtyard.
This was where Uncle Three usually lived. I had stayed here for a few days before, but I didn’t think that I would come back to this place at this time.
I didn’t enter the house immediately because I didn’t know what to do, but I also didn’t want to wander around the place at midnight. I didn’t know why, but I was very resistant to starting the next stage of my life. If I could start later, I’d definitely put it off.
I sat in the tea chair, wrapped my clothes tightly around me, and looked at the night sky, staying motionless until dawn.
It was the gardener who came here every day that eventually woke me up. When I opened my eyes, a baffled face was looking at me.
“Boss, you came back? Why are you sleeping here?”
“Uncle He?” I replied in a daze. I immediately realized my mistake and quickly said, “Old He, why are you here so early?”
“Go back to your room, Boss, it’s cold out here,” Old He said.
I nodded and looked at the house, noticing that the hourly workers hadn’t come yet. They usually cleaned here every day, but only on the third floor. The first and second floors were the places where the goods were stored.
Most antique dealers didn’t particularly like clean and modern decorations and designs. Instead, they generally liked to leave everything in a mess. This was to satisfy the customers’ mentality, because choosing goods from a pile of messy antiques gave people a more comfortable feeling. It was for the same reason that many regional antique shops liked to leave antiques on the ground when selling them. If you tried to imitate a jewelry store and found some salespeople to wear suits, you would only end up looking unprofessional.
In fact, even if everyone knew a little about antiques, the truth was that there were too few collectors who really knew. In this line of work, ninety-nine percent of the people we met every year were fake connoisseurs. They were the kind of shoppers who were especially concerned about their feelings.
I bypassed the antiques and went through several doors to the third floor. Everything on the first floor was worthless, but there was a safe on the second floor where things were slightly better. The really good things were kept in a secret room on the third floor when the shop wasn’t opened. The guarded entrance on the third floor looked worn-out and tattered, but it was actually made of tungsten steel. It used a lock designed by an old locksmith whom Uncle Three had found. The mechanism was inside the wall and the average person couldn’t open it unless he blew it up with explosives.
The third floor was a large suite. Although he didn’t look it, Uncle Three was a man who had many pleasures, but he wasn’t interested in playing around with any modern things. All the mahogany items in this big suite were very expensive, but I actually preferred a soft sofa instead. Since I wanted to stay here for a long time, I knew that I’d have to add something.
In fact, I had already realized the last time I’d stayed here that Uncle Three actually lived a very miserable life. For people like him who had experienced too much and enjoyed too much when they were young, any women, wealth, and status had completely lost their attraction to him. His whole room was full of furniture, calligraphy and paintings, The Four Treasures of the Study (writing brushes, ink sticks, paper, and ink-stones), and various other toys. In fact, if you opened his drawers, you’d find that almost all of them were empty and coated in a thin layer of dust.
This showed that these drawers had never held anything since they were bought.
There was no life here.
It was just a single old man with his own inventory of some things: books, cups, tea, and many ancient books used for decoration. The books were all genuine, but I could see that they had hardly been flipped through. The most common things you would find in his room were all expired newspapers.
This place was too big for him and he clearly didn’t have enough content to fill all of these drawers.
After I came back from Xisha, I conducted a thorough search here, so I knew where the items I was interested in were. The archaeological team’s documents were basically useless, but I still intended to read them again, just not now.
I sat in front of his desk, on top of which was a desk lamp, an incense burner, a telephone, and some pens and paper. It looked just like it had before I left.
There was also a computer that Uncle Three usually used to play card games and read some e-books, but it was very old-fashioned with only a fifteen-inch monitor. He didn’t know how to use a computer and could only use a mouse to do some simple operations. The system inside was also the original Windows 2000. He didn’t even have a network card and couldn’t surf the internet at all.
I closed my eyes to see if I could sleep. Although I felt a little tired, I didn’t feel sleepy at all. Maybe it was the intense activities in the tombs during this period of time that made me accustomed to such high-intensity fatigue.
I took out my cell phone and sent everyone a text saying that I had already arrived. After taking a deep breath, I suddenly didn’t know what to do.
Was it true that Uncle Three did the same thing every day, sitting behind this table and imagining things?
It was no wonder he was so entangled in everything. If he were so poor that he couldn’t even pay the water fee, he might not have come to such an end.
Humans were really strange creatures. Their most important aim was to survive, but survival was often not their greatest worry. When people met all of their needs, they’d often find insurmountable trouble for themselves.
People were born to worry, but it was useless to think the problem through. There were always some troubles that people had to provoke even if they understood the truth, just like me now.
I touched my face and knew that I had to find something to do for myself during this period of time; otherwise, I’d be driven mad by various memories. Pan Zi was no longer around, and although I wasn’t going to announce his death, many things wouldn’t go smoothly without him.
There was also Mute Sister and Uncle Two to think about. I’d have to convince the former and avoid the latter. Uncle Two was too smart, so I knew I absolutely wouldn’t be able to deceive him if we met. There were still seven days before I could take off my mask, so I had to do something in case I needed to cope with any emergencies that popped up.
I went to Uncle Three’s bathroom, shaved my beard, took a bath, and then called one of my shop assistants and told him that I didn’t want to see any customers and that I wanted to sleep for a day. Then I climbed into bed, turned on the TV, and watched cartoons until I fell asleep.
I slept very poorly and woke up more than once because of various dreams. On several occasions, I even felt that Pan Zi was standing beside me, covered in blood.
I didn’t feel any fear, only despair. It was the kind of despair that constantly ate at me.
<Chapter 63> <Table of Contents><Chapter 65>
4 thoughts on “Chapter 64 Return”
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So… emo badass wuxie is here
Cause of all previous sad events I couldn’t sort out my feeling and it was hard to don’t scroll down so fast (but end up reading it thoroughly.) I appreciate your hard work for translating this vol too. ❤️❤️
Очень жаль У Се… он остался один… Теперь у него нет вечно опекающего Пан Цзы, предостерегающего У Саньсина… (Се Ляньхуаня) Так печально все это читать.