Poker-Face pulled Lei Benchang’s sleeve up and I saw a Miao-patterned scar on his hand that had been burned into the flesh. “This was the mark Chen Pi Ah Si used when he was in Miaojiang.”
I looked at it carefully. The scar had faded after so much time had passed that I could only make out a general shape and couldn’t tell what pattern it was.
“Do you remember him? Was he Grandpa Si’s man?”
“Only people in Miaojiang use such marks,” He said. “I was there at that time, but I can’t remember who he is. Maybe he held the lamp for me.”
I knew that Poker-Face had a very high position under Grandpa Si when he was fooling around a long time ago. I sighed and asked him what serious illness Lei Benchang had, and whether drinking Fatty’s wine had killed him.
Fatty was furious, “Mr. Naïve, that wine belongs to the aunt next door! Don’t blame me! I consider drinking yourself to death a good way to go. I won’t feel guilty about it.”
Poker-Face didn’t answer me, but said, “It’s good that he could come here.”
I had basically confirmed that Poker-Face knew the old man was dying when he saw him. An old man had died during our stay in the village, and Poker-Face had also shown him a kind of attentiveness before he had died. When the old man fell asleep in the sun, Poker-Face would often stop and take a look at him.
Fatty said that no one besides the nursing home staff would have much experience when it came to dying of old age. But Little Brother may have experienced many natural deaths throughout his life—whether it was from illness or old age—so he could understand what those people looked like in their last days.
He saw that Lei Benchang had run out of oil and his lamp was dry, so he agreed with Fatty at that time. Instead of having the old man die with endless regrets, we would bring him here and let him get at least one step away from his goal.
Since we had stayed in Tibet for a long time and were familiar with their rituals, we gave Lei Benchang a Tibetan funeral and then buried him in the salt field. Maybe it was a good thing that people like him didn’t have a tombstone. Fatty made a cross with the old man’s fishing rod and placed it as his grave marker.
“He’s not Catholic. Are you trying to convert him?” I asked Fatty over a drink.
“There must be a place for him to go to,” Fatty said. “Otherwise, it would be embarrassing if he turned into a zombie and climbed out. By the way, if Little Brother starts being really nice to me one day, you have to remind me that I might be dying soon. I’ll have to find a beautiful girl at last. I absolutely can’t die alone in bed.”
I gave him a blank look and then continued the ritual. After I had handled everything properly, I felt even more depressed. I looked out at the lake and thought of myself.
I had spent so much time looking for people and trying to find my Uncle Three, but I ended up finding these two people beside me instead. And then I spent these past ten years running myself into the ground because of them. I would have been no different from this old man if I had died in front of the bronze door. The only reason the ending was different was because the people around me had sacrificed too much for me.
There were too many such things in this life.
I’d rather the old man had a heart attack at the moment he hooked the fish than dying like this.
As soon as I thought this, I saw Poker-Face pick up the old man’s fishing rod and finish connecting it. He then put it over his shoulder, lifted up the fish basket, and slowly walked to the dam wall.
I glanced at Fatty, but he merely shrugged his shoulders. “I’ll translate for you. Little Brother is saying that we’ve already received the deposit, so we have to finish things.”
The two of us followed after him and quickly arrived at the shrine. I connected the fishing rod and line, picked up the pieces of carp meat, and then stirred them in the dragon coffin fungus. After tossing the line into the water, I turned on the flashlight and pointed it in that direction.
It was dark in the distance, and I knew that was where the Stagnant Water Dragon King’s palace was. Fatty would look at it from time to time, still unable to let it go. As the fishing rod shook in the strong wind, the three of us stood there with our hands in our pockets.
Before I could gather my thoughts, I suddenly saw a big splash of water in the area where we had dropped the line.
I immediately squatted down, ready to lift the pole up, and saw a ripple spread across the water’s surface.
Was this fish really so reckless? I felt a little sad in my heart as I thought that maybe the old man would have been able to catch this dragon king by himself if he had lived one more day. As I listened to the high-pitched sound of the fishing line being pulled, the rod immediately bent into an arc.
I went up and grabbed it and began pulling it back. I could feel an overpowering force on the other end start fighting me. In less than two seconds, my fishing line broke.
2 thoughts on “Chapter 5.26 (Extra)”
It seems Poker Face still has his memories of Wu Xie and Fatty and the adventures they had. But it seems he never regained his other memories? Maybe partially?
I think he gets a reset every time he comes out the bronze door (a few days after coming out, like told in Tibetan Flower) but that his memories can be somehow reclaimed if someone works hard at it… since Pangzi and Wu Xie were right there when he came out last time and are jogging his memory to life, like, every five minutes, I guess that explains why he can still place them and their adventures fairly precisely, while evrything and everybody else has to be awaken by something special and will still be quite foggy.
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