Chapter 14 Courtyard 9

That night, my dreams were filled with aquatic plants. I dreamed that the village secretary took Lin Liuren to open another farmhouse right next to ours, which was called Lezhexing.(1) Then, in order to annoy me, he proceeded to dance with aquatic grass around his waist and encouraged others to follow him.

When I woke up in the morning, I was really pissed off. In fact, it had been a long time since I was so angry. It was only five o’clock at this time, so I went and sat in the ruins of our yard to sulk for a bit. It seemed that in people’s dreams, all the armor and disguises we had built up after adulthood, along with the abilities and shrewdness we had learned, were ineffective. In dreams, our emotions were reduced to a childish state.

But the most irritating thing was that I had to help the village organize the lantern festival. When was it supposed to take place? I couldn’t remember.

When Poker-Face and Fatty got up, they saw that I had spread out a map of the whole city on the wall and prepared all of our equipment. Fatty asked me what I was doing, so I said to him, “When it comes to gardening, you have to be diligent. Today, we’re hunting for aquatic plants within a hundred kilometers of the city. We can’t miss a single pool of water.”

Fatty looked at me like I was crazy, “Doesn’t our country have a thing called online shopping?”

“It’s mostly because I can’t recognize the species I want just by looking at the small pictures. I have to see what they look like in the water.”

“Mr. Naïve, our life of seclusion is more tiring than robbing a tomb,” Fatty said to me.

I looked at him and said slowly, “It’s almost crab season.”

Fatty immediately became energetic, his stomach growling almost at the exact same time, “While looking for the aquatic plants, we can also—”

“Set out crab cages!” I said to him.

“We’ll enjoy them with some hot rice wine.”

“And osmanthus flowers.”

“Put vinegar, minced ginger, sugar, and lard in a pan and sear over a low flame.”

“The big crabs can be steamed and the small ones can be cut up. The crab legs can be dipped in vinegar to go with the wine. We can mix the crab roe and lard with rice.”

We both looked at Poker-Face after we finished speaking. It seemed only logical for him to have the last word so that our impromptu skit would be perfect, but he just looked at us silently. We waited for three minutes, but he still continued to look at us.

“Let’s go,” Fatty eventually said.

The three of us got on a small motorcycle (dangerous; do not imitate) and started our journey of looking for pools of water in the surrounding area.

We arrived at the nearest pool. We couldn’t necessarily go to other people’s fish ponds, so these wild pools were formed either by converging mountain springs or the rising water levels of wetlands that were formed by small rivers. Fatty went to the village to buy pork. We planned on bringing thirty catties of fatty meat home to extract oil, and the lean meat would be used as crab bait. The crab cages were made from wild bamboo that we directly cut ourselves. We were able to use the local materials to make cages at every spot, and with Fatty’s deft fingers, the work was finished quickly.

We swept through seven spots that first day, so we were exhausted by the time evening came. I was the only one looking for aquatic plants since the other two were busy catching crabs. When we returned to the village house, we quickly fell asleep, which was a rare occurrence.

Only Poker-Face didn’t sleep. In fact, I had noticed during the day that something was wrong with him. On several occasions, he would suddenly stop what he was doing and look at the nearby bamboo forest.

If this were the past, Fatty and I would have thought that something terrible was going to happen.

I didn’t know what he saw— before that whole cat incident occurred, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was someone around us—but if Poker-Face noticed something, I figured it was best to just let him deal with it. It probably had something to do with his family anyway.

When we went to check on the crab cages the next day, I found that something was wrong. The ones Fatty pulled up in the first few pools were still normal and had six or seven crabs in each cage.

We had a pit in our yard, so if we added some water and fed the crabs some kitchen scraps every day, even the thins ones would be fat by the time the northwest winds started to blow. This was the real way to eat crabs; it was meaningless to eat too many of them at once.

But when it came to the fourth pool, the crab cages that were pulled out weren’t normal. There were several crabs in these cages with red strings tied to their bodies that had copper coins on them.

Fatty untied the copper coins while muttering to himself, “Why do these copper coins look so familiar?”

When I grabbed them and took a look, I was certain that they were the same coins we had dug up before.

Someone had apparently gotten up in the middle of the night and tied up the crabs in our cages. We both looked at Poker-Face. He was the one who had taken care of the matter involving the copper coins. Was the story more complicated than we had originally thought?

At this time, Poker-Face looked at the wild brush nearby. We followed his gaze and watched as a cat came out of the forest.

It had cattail grass looped around its neck, on which hung an old lunch box. It was curiously looking at the loaches in our hands—the thing about using crab cages was that you’d also end up with a large number of loaches and crayfish.

We were familiar with that old lunch box. It was very heavy, and the cat actually looked like it was struggling a little bit.

Fatty took out a loach and threw it over, “Even if two countries are at war, no one shoots the messenger. Come here, kitty.”

We used loaches to lure the cat over bit by bit until it was finally in front of us. Fatty untied the lunch box from around its neck and opened it, revealing a photo inside.

The photo was very familiar.

<Chapter 13><Table of Contents><Chapter 15>


TN Notes:

(1) Can mean something like “to wake up happy”


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