“It’s Christmas Eve today.” General continued.
Yu Hao was sprawled on General’s back as he said, “It’s already cold enough in the day, I didn’t expect it to still be this cold at night in my dream.”
General casually asked, “What did you do during the day?”
Yu Hao answered, “Working part-time.”
He didn’t know why — maybe it was intuition — but Yu Hao always feels like he knows General in reality, and General was deliberately trying to hide his identity.
“What kind of work was it?”
“O, then that is quite cold.” General said, “Fortunately I have a lot of fur, so I’m not afraid of the cold.”
Yu Hao began to laugh. He hugged General’s neck and his whole body leaned forward onto his back.
“Be a bit more serious, keep your furry hands to yourself1.” General scratched his neck and said, “Reproductive isolation exists between monkeys and humans.”
Yu Hao couldn’t help himself from breaking out into laughter after he heard a monkey use the phrase “keep your furry hands to yourself”. General asked again, “Did you find a boyfriend in the real world?”
“It’s only been a few days!” Yu Hao said, “My problems haven’t been resolved yet, how could I spare time for a relationship?”
As they were approaching the village, General suddenly stopped. Yu Hao said, “What’s wrong?”
The huge monkey looked to his left and right as if he had sensed some kind of danger. He whispered, “Shh.”
The seaside village was clearly more visible now: most of the wooden houses were covered with a thick layer of frost; the surface of the sea was frozen solid, and frozen Viking boats were spread out in a disorderly mess along the harbour. It was as if a chilly, piercingly cold wind had swept across the harbour and froze all the living things it touched within an instant.
At the end of the harbour stood a towering lighthouse; a black mass of air levitated above it.
“Is that a ‘totem’?” Yu Hao whispered as he asked.
General motioned for Yu Hao to come down, then whispered, “Maybe, but we haven’t found the owner of the dreamscape, what should we do?”
It was impossible for anyone to survive on this snowfield sealed in ice for thousands of miles — this was a true Land of the Dead. General had already scanned their surroundings when they were on the mountain; after he turned into Sun Wukong, it seemed like he had inherited the skills of the monkey’s fiery golden eyes2, so he could be absolutely certain that the banished owner was not on the snowfield or within the mountain ranges.
Yu Hao said, “Could the owner have been banished to the subconscious?”
He knew little about dreamscapes, and most of his deductions were based on what General had told him and the knowledge he had gleaned from books.
“Shouldn’t be?” General rubbed his head as he muttered to himself.
“Then what about the safe haven?” Yu Hao said uneasily, “Let’s look for that?”
General said, “There isn’t a place that looks like a safe haven here.”
Yu Hao thought for awhile before he said, “There isn’t any aboveground, but what about underground? You said that this is a little girl’s dream. Kids all love to build their own secret base, it could be analogous to a sort of ‘underground work’2.”
“You’re pretty good at Psychology.” General suddenly said, “You might have guessed right, let’s go in and take a look ba.”
In front of the frozen dwellings, General used his sword to forcefully prise a door open. Yu Hao’s staff emitted a bright light that illuminated its interior.
“It’s a shop that sells sweets.” General and Yu Hao looked at each other; the inside of the shop was covered with a layer of frost and its NPCs had been frozen into ice sculptures. Yu Hao suddenly noticed something in the corner, and it was retreating rapidly.
It was a tentacle-like shadow.
“General?” Yu Hao lit up the corner with his staff’s light.
“Un?” General was biting on a piece of frozen chocolate, but he couldn’t bite off a piece no matter how hard he tried.
“Don’t stray too far away from me.” The huge monkey said vaguely.
Yu Hao wasn’t too sure if he was hallucinating or not; General hid a whole plate of liqueur chocolate in his clothes to try and melt it, then continued, “Let’s go somewhere else to take a look.”
The other dwelling across the street was a fondant cake shop. Yu Hao could almost imagine the original appearance of this place — it should have been a beautiful and prosperous commercial street in the past. Along the street, there were even shops that sold children’s clothes and toys. But just as General held up a huge cake that was seven-layers tall, Yu Hao sensed something strange again.
This time, he discovered another tentacle!
“General!” Yu Hao warned, “There are enemies!”
General suddenly turned around and pulled Yu Hao behind him; the two of them quickly retreated from the dwelling. On the village’s commercial street, both the winds and snow flurries had suddenly stopped.
Their surroundings fell silent.
“I think something’s wrong with this place……” Yu Hao whispered, “Should we leave first?”
General looked around vigilantly. When he was about to shield Yu Hao to leave the village with him, the ground below their feet suddenly quaked! The snow that had accumulated on the street shook and its layers began to crush one another, bricks and stones broke apart, and shortly afterwards tentacles began to rise from all sides!
Immediately afterwards, they were surrounded by a burst of bright light — the glaring indigo light had illuminated the entire village. Yu Hao quickly raised his arm to shield his eyes, and the only thing he could see was a giant demonic eye that floated above the lighthouse at the end of the harbour! That demonic eye let out an ear-piercing guffaw, and he felt like he had heard that voice somewhere before:
“Just watch as I kill you guys this time—”
Mr. Shi’s voice!
Yu Hao didn’t even have time to be shocked before General roared, “Run!”
However, the dwellings on both sides had collapsed in an instant, and the giant lamprey-like sea monster from before had risen from the ground! All of its tentacles wrapped around Yu Hao and General at the same time. General was about to rush towards Yu Hao when the tentacles entwined themselves around him; he ruthlessly flung them away and crashed into one of the houses with a loud bang, which caused the walls of the fondant cake store to collapse!
Yu Hao was being strangled around his neck and could barely gasp for breath at the moment. Both his eyes were fixated on General; General jumped up from the debris and unsheathed his sword, then roared as he pounced towards the huge sea monster!
The sea monster swung its tentacles out. Yu Hao spinned the staff in his left hand and pressed it against a tentacle — a thunderbolt penetrated that tentacle and it instantly turned rigid before it loosened its grip, then Yu Hao began to fall. He almost fell into the lamprey’s mouth filled with spiralling sharp teeth! But right at the most critical juncture, he managed to hug onto another tentacle tightly. General rushed over from a side and brutally slashed the tentacles with his sword, but his attempts to chop them up were to no avail.
“Don’t be eaten by it!”
“What will happen if I fall down you can tell me now right!?”
“You’ll die! You’ll die!! You’ll sleep forever and never wake up again——!”
Yu Hao’s back was immediately drenched with sweat; he vigorously drove his leg into the edge of the sea monster’s huge mouth. General was currently wrestling with multiple tentacles, Yu Hao turned around with his staff in his hand, but a tentacle whipped him horizontally across until his viscera were throbbing with pain. His staff slipped out of his hand and dropped onto the snowfield!
General roared angrily, “To deal with this fellow! Our combined strength isn’t enough! Return to reality to find a way——”
Yu Hao, “How do I find a way?!”
“Wake Shi Ni up!”
Immediately afterwards, the tentacles blotted out the sky and covered the earth as they swept toward General and Yu Hao; General somersaulted into the air and stepped on the tentacles as he flew towards Yu Hao.
Yu Hao turned around. General’s slender body rushed straight towards him, then he whipped one hand out as quick as lightning and placed it on Yu Hao’s forehead.
“Good night——!” General roared angrily.
Yu Hao’s eyes turned blank. The next moment, General’s hand released a golden light that he firmly pressed onto Yu Hao’s forehead.
It struck into his consciousness with a bang like a streak of lightning. Yu Hao let out a cry, then he sat up in his bed.
The last scene in his memory was the instance when innumerable tentacles had wrapped themselves around General before dragging him into the giant mouth full of sharp teeth!
Yu Hao immediately searched for his phone, he couldn’t stop gasping for breath. He dialed the number left to him by Xiaoxiao yesterday afternoon.
At the other end of the line, a ringback tone rang out. Yu Hao kept praying, pick up, pick up! Pick up the call!!! Countless scenes flashed through his mind: the demonic eye above the lighthouse, the snakes in the snowfield, the sea monster with its tentacles and sharp teeth, Mr. Shi’s crazy laughter……Yu Hao vaguely understood who the owner of the dreamscape was, and what all the symbols in the dreamscape represented.
A sudden sense of fear and fury surged through his heart; if his guess was true, then how despondent must Shi Ni be right now?!
The call went through.
“Hello?” Xiaoxiao’s sleepy voice answered.
“Wake Shi Ni up! Hurry and wake her up!” Yu Hao was practically shouting in desperation.
The Xiaoxiao at the other end of the call was frightened, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong??”
“Hurry! Do you have her number?” Yu Hao knew that as long as Shi Ni woke up, the dream would end immediately. Just like before when he and General were facing the cavalry in his own dream, all outsiders would be forcefully kicked out of the dreamscape, then the dream would continue the next time they entered.
“I’m here.” Shi Ni’s voice rang out at the other end of the line, “What do you want?”
Yu Hao finally heaved a sigh of relief, “Are you staying overnight at Xiaoxiao’s place?”
Shi Ni said, “What does that have to do with you?”
“Don’t hang up.” Yu Hao said, “There are some things that I want to talk to you about.”
Shi Ni said with a weary voice, “I have nothing to talk about with you.”
“Listen to him ba.” Xiaoxiao’s whispered as she urged, “He’s an adult.”
The other side was put on speaker mode. While Yu Hao tried to gather his thoughts and search for the words to say, he was thinking about how to get rid of the darkness in her dream. He put on his down jacket, wore his earphones, got off his bed and walked to a place with a better signal. Then he opened his window a little until a small slit could be seen before he looked at the alarm clock.
11:07, it was still early……if he had a good grasp on time, he could enter the dream again.
“Nini.” Yu Hao took a deep breath, then tried his best to make his voice sound steady as he whispered, “What did your father do to you?”
On the night of Christmas Eve, light snow began to fall outside. Across the road from the dormitory, the colourful lights that were twined around their college’s fence twinkled. A warm and quiet atmosphere could be felt in this winter night.
There was a prolonged period of silence on the other end of the line. Yu Hao waited patiently. And after what seemed like a century, he heard soft sobs travel over from the other end.
“How old were you when it started?” Yu Hao asked again.
“Eleven.” Shi Ni choked on her sobs, “I’m sorry, Yu Laoshi……”
“It doesn’t matter.” Yu Hao answered.
At this moment, the rage that had welled up in his heart was threatening to explode through his chest — this feeling was smothering him and it made him extremely upset. Right now, all he wanted to do was to forcefully scratch himself or beat something up brutally so that he could vent his frustrations.
After Shi Ni cried for awhile, Yu Hao sighed and searched for change. He needed some alcohol to calm himself down.
He didn’t comfort Shi Ni. He just quietly listened to the sound of her cries that were coming out of his earphones.
“I have to leave tomorrow.” Xiaoxiao said, “I don’t know what to do…Nini’s too miserable. She also knows that she was wrong in the past……”
“It doesn’t matter.” Yu Hao quickly ran downstairs and asked, “Where are you going?”
Xiaoxiao said, “I have to transfer to another school…in Hong Kong.”
Yu Hao understood it now. Tonight was the night for Shi Ni and Xiaoxiao to say their goodbyes; the two of them should have been asleep, but they were awoken by his call.
Xiaoxiao said, “Yu Laoshi, can you take care of Nini for me please?”
Shi Ni stopped crying and said, “Yu Laoshi, I’m sorry……”
Yu Hao repeatedly expressed his forgiveness, then Shi Ni said, “I’m afraid of the study. I’m afraid of the swivel chair you sit on, I don’t want to think……don’t want to think……”
“You didn’t want to spend even a second longer in that study, right?” Yu Hao reached the convenience store. The boss hadn’t closed his shop and was still watching TV. Yu Hao took a bottle of Erguotou4, then settled the bill with the boss.
“Go on.” Yu Hao said.
“I don’t know if you still remember this, but there was one day when you grabbed my arm……” Shi Ni choked again, “Which was when I felt like I couldn’t stand it anymore……and wanted to chase you away.”
“Un.” Yu Hao answered. He stood outside the shop and twisted the cap off the Erguotou in the snow. He downed a few mouthfuls. The burning wine passed through his esophagus and into his stomach, which made him exhale a mouthful of hot air.
There had been one day when Shi Ni was very restless and wanted to leave class early, so Yu Hao took her by the arm and tried to get her to sit back down. He had done something so forceful because he was a little stern that day — presumably, his action had ignited a sense of fear in Shi Ni’s heart.
“I had no other ideas.” Yu Hao said, “I had only hoped that you would study hard. Now that I know all this, I won’t sit idly by. Don’t worry about the watch, let’s resolve your problem first.”
Shi Ni finally regained her composure, “Is it ok?”
Yu Hao took another sip of his Erguotuo, then looked up at the snow. He said, “You have to trust me.”
Xiaoxiao said, “Nini said that you know that officer. Will it be of any use if we tell the police?”
Yu Hao said, “Yes, I’ll call the police for you.”
Shi Ni, “Will the police care?”
Yu Hao said, “They will definitely care, this is a crime!”
Shi Ni’s voice began to tremble, “But, will people believe me?”
Yu Hao said, “They will! I guarantee it.”
Shi Ni whispered, “But I’m scared……”
Yu Hao said, “Nini, I promise you that first of all, I will not breathe a word of this to anyone. Only the police and I will know about it. Second of all, you must be brave. Also, you have to trust me wholeheartedly before I can help you.”
Shi Ni didn’t speak. Yu Hao said, “It’s true that I’m just an ordinary college student. I’m very poor, and sometimes, I can’t even protect myself.”
“But from you, I can draw strength.” Yu Hao whispered, “You must be hoping for someone who can help you, right? In fact, you do trust me in your heart. You need to think this through carefully.”
Xiaoxiao immediately said, “Yes, she trusts you, Yu Laoshi.”
“Then think about it, where did your trust for me come from?” Yu Hao calmly drank his Erguotou as he asked.
Shi Ni said, “I caused you to be so miserable, yet you still don’t hate me.”
Yu Hao said, “Because I know…that you’re a good kid.”
Shi Ni cried again, and this time she no longer suppressed her cries. Instead, she wailed until she was gasping for breath.
She said, “Thank……thank you……Yu Laoshi……”
Yu Hao said, “You may never be able to forget about this for the rest of your life, but I’m sure that you’ll come through it. I’ve experienced many unpleasant things in the past too, but they were all wounds that others had inflicted on us. These wounds shouldn’t have appeared in the first place……”
Tears welled up in his eyes, then he took another sip of wine. He thought of that suit of armour, the General who held his hand on the Great Wall.
“……yet they did. We did not cause all these things to happen, it’s not our fault.” Yu Hao said, “The one who should go to hell is them. Be brave, and send them to hell so that they can get the punishment they deserve. It’s Christmas Eve today, right?”
Shi Ni uttered an “un”, then Yu Hao ended off with, “People say that all human suffering is inherent. ‘In this world you will have trouble, but in me you may have peace’5. You will slowly get better; trust me, and trust yourself.”
After he listened to the silence in his phone for awhile, Shi Ni said, “Yu Laoshi, I trust you.”
“As long as you support me, I will fight for you till the end.” Yu Hao wearily said, “And I will never give up.”
“Okay.” Shi Ni said.
Yu Hao said, “Let’s meet tomorrow at the flower cafe ba. We need to think of a plan first to ensure that you don’t need to stay at home anymore.”
“My Dad’s on a business trip.” Shi Ni whispered, “He won’t be back until the day after tomorrow.”
“Where’s your mother?” Yu Hao asked.
Shi Ni answered, “She’s usually not at home. But she knows everything; she’s scared of my Dad, so she has never said anything about it.”
Yu Hao continued, “Do you have any other relatives whom you can stay with temporarily?”
Shi Ni answered, “Yes, my uncle and aunt both like me very much.”
Yu Hao pondered for a bit before he said, “We’ll talk about that next time.”
Shi Yan softly said, “That redhead big brother……”
Yu Hao was stunned, then asked, “What about him?”
Shi Ni seemed to be thinking very hard about it before she said, “Did you tell him?”
“No.” Yu Hao said, “Of course not.”
Shi Ni said, “Will he be coming too?”
Yu Hao hurriedly said, “No, it’ll just be me and you.”
“Is he very good at fighting?” Xiaoxiao chipped in.
“Yes, why?” Yu Hao was somewhat puzzled, then he suddenly understood and said, “Okay, I’ll bring him along. Nini, do you mind me telling him the truth?”
“I don’t mind.” Shi Ni answered, “Was he ok after he hit my Dad?”
Yu Hao comforted her, “You’ll know when you see him tomorrow. Are you sleepy?”
“Un……” Shi Ni was already very sleepy, then Yu Hao continued, “Okay, then go and sleep ba. Goodnight. I promise you, when the sun rises, everything will be alright.”
1. 毛手毛脚: the phrase actually means you’re being very touchy, literal translation is furry hands and legs. But I included the furry part cause Yu Hao thinks it’s quite a joke for a monkey to have said it lmao↩
2. Sun Wukong’s fiery golden eyes allows him to identify evil no matter what form it takes; however, it also causes smoke to sting his eyes. ↩
3. The ‘underground work’ term in the raws could refer to either people who work underground/undercover spies, so I’m guessing that Yu Hao is inferring that kids would relate secret bases = the dwelling of spies who work undercover = an underground area↩
5. Bible verse from John 16:33, the order is changed a little.↩
T/N: I got really emotional when I was translating this chapter because I noticed a few more hints that I overlooked when I was reading the raws…. Flips all the tables
Do you guys remember the time when Shi Ni started crying like crazy during their meeting in the college conference room? She started wailing after Yu Hao said, “Why do you hate me so much? Is it because your Dad felt humiliated, so he forced you to……”
I never noticed when I read the raws, so when I reread it while translating I was really just
There’s a lot of foreshadowing in this novel that I’m only beginning to pick up on while I’m translating/editing, and there may be even more that I’m missing out on (like ZS making Yu Hao wash his clothes so that he would have warm clothing to wear in winter) so if you notice anything do let me know!!