Chapter 1 Opening

Before the start of autumn, several things happened. First, the house of a farmer who raised cobras collapsed and all the snakes escaped. The village committee issued a warning reminding everyone to pay attention to safety.

In addition, someone rented the lot next to Xilaimian in order to run a farmhouse as well. I didn’t know who this newcomer was, nor whether they meant any harm or not, but soon after hearing the news, I saw a sign standing in the lot. That was when I realized that it wasn’t going to be a farmhouse but a bed and breakfast. 

Third, the village decided to host a lantern festival on one of the mountain trails. It was said that people from the TV station would come to cover the village’s cultural and artistic developments. The village secretary had never done such a thing before, so he came to me and asked for advice. 

During this period of time, I had created a website for our guests to leave comments and recall their days of living here. So, I asked them for ideas on how to organize a lantern festival. 

Like usual, after I made the inquiry on the website, someone doodled on one of the photos that I uploaded. The person had chosen a long path with stone steps that led into the forest. This path was very old and probably dated back to before the Ming and Qing dynasties. We had discovered it in the mountain and cleared it out ourselves. It was about 1.4 kilometers long and was wide enough for four people to walk abreast. It was also very flat and smooth on the sides. 

This person had drawn a variety of lanterns on both sides of the path, as well as many booths along the way that were selling tanghulu, flower garlands, fish balls, rouyan wontons, and so on and so forth. (1) 

In the distance, the person had also added colorful shooting stars in the sky. 

What a beautiful vision, I said to myself. But it looked like I could fool the village secretary with this picture.

Beneath the drawing, there was a short note that said: “Ancient souls may be encountered on ancient roads.”

I didn’t know what that meant.

That night, I sat outside the shop to wash dishes. Recently, the typhoon season had made the clouds in the sky into all kinds of exaggerated shapes, so the sunset was particularly beautiful. Although I was sweating a lot, I didn’t feel as hot anymore as I said to Fatty, “I’m planning on fixing up the courtyard a bit.”

Fatty was counting the money and didn’t look at me at all. He simply made an “uh-huh” sound and said, “Just dig a pond and raise some koi.”

“If I say I’m going to do it, then I’m definitely going to do it to the extent that all of my friends will want to visit once they see my WeChat post,” I said to him.

“If you say you dug an underground palace in your courtyard, I guarantee your enemies will also come.”

I snatched the money from his hands and stuffed it into my pocket. Fatty immediately became furious, “What the fuck? I haven’t seen cash for so long. Give it back, I want to touch it some more.”

As a rule, Xilaimian had a wine that could only be bought with cash. We made this wine ourselves and the first batch was very small, but it didn’t taste all that good. But because I had taken a picture of Fatty and Poker-Face making it, it became strangely popular. 

It was the illusion that wine made by this person should taste good.

We even gave the wine a rather pretentious name: Yuanshanjinger.(2) We originally intended to drink it ourselves, but it somehow turned out to be a meme. To make it more difficult to purchase, we came up with the cash-only rule. 

The next batch was going to be brewed soon, and since I couldn’t guarantee that it would taste the same, I simply decided to change its name.

In fact, I realized now that running a small business gave me a strange sense of happiness. It was that rare feeling that every contribution I made was worth something. 

After Poker-Face carried all the gas tanks over, he took off his work gloves and walked over. His hair was getting very long and needed to be cut, so Fatty gave him a haircut while I fed the chickens in the courtyard

Ah, I really do like feeding chickens. How can it be so healing?

It soon turned dark, so the three of us squeezed onto a motorcycle (dangerous; do not imitate) and headed back to the village. Instead of sleeping in the house we had built, we planned on sleeping in the house we had in the village. Xilaimian’s business had been running very smoothly, so if a bed and breakfast was built next to it, business would be even better. As a result, I felt very energetic and needed some exercise to wear off that excess energy. 

This was probably the most satisfied I had felt in a while.

The three of us put on our gloves, grabbed our flashlights, and headed up the mountain to catch cobras. If the village wanted to host a lantern festival, we couldn’t allow cobras to be all over the trails. 

As we set out, I said to Poker-Face, “I want to do something with the courtyard…?”

He looked at me—Fatty had made his bangs very crooked—and then nodded, “Sure.”

<Table of Contents><Chapter 2>


TN Notes:

(1) Tanghulu= sugar-coated Chinese hawthorn or other fruit on a bamboo skewer. Rouyan wontons= it’s a meat wonton but there’s a debate that they aren’t actually wontons and are more like dumplings (here’s a mini blog about them).

(2) Yuanshanjinger “远山净儿” (lit: purity in the distant mountain) sounds very pretentious and ostentatious in Chinese. 


Translated by: Yvette
Edited by: merebear226


6 thoughts on “Chapter 1 Opening

  1. Beautiful story! Thank you Yvette! We really needed this after all the dark cave and hei feizi shenanigans. Hope there will be more peaceful times like this to come!

    Liked by 1 person

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