Book 1, Chapter 1 - Leaving This World

“Beat him, beat him up mercilessly for me.” Early in the morning at the entrance of a village next to a mountain range, six or seven youths around 11 or 12 years old were beating up a youth in black. Beside them stood a little fatty who was yelling, and after hearing the yell of the village chief’s son, Little Fatty Wang, the six or seven youths put more power behind their fists and kicks.

The sounds of beating continued to echo and dust was kicked up from the ground. The young man in black was lying on the ground, protecting something in his arms as he was beaten, but his eyes were calm. After a while, maybe because they got bored since the young man in black never fought back, the six or seven youths gradually stopped.

“Hehe, Jiuge, I haven’t seen you for two days. So it turns out you ran into the mountains. Did you forget the rules? Didn't I tell you to walk around me when you saw me, or I’d beat you up every time I saw you?” Little Fatty Wang’s face shook as he spoke, and even spit flew out.

The youth on the ground raised his head. His black clothes were covered in footprints, but the clothes could not hide his strong body and the dust could not hide his handsome face. However, after being in the mountains for two days, his childish face was fatigued. The calmness in his eyes faded as time passed and a hint of anxiousness and impatience appeared.

Thinking about the old man at home, Jiuge calmed down slightly. “Little Fatty, you have already beaten me enough today. My grandfather is rather ill, so I went into the mountains to hunt some wild game to help nourish his body. I’m in a rush to get home. If there’s anything you want, we can talk about it tomorrow.” Thinking about the sick old man at home, Jiuge’s tone became even more anxious.

“Oh, you’ve brought wild game. Put down the bag you’re holding, or else you know the consequences.” Little Fatty Wang’s fat face trembled as the other youths surrounded the youth in black again.

Jiuge looked at that face and became angry. When this son of the village chief gathered the other children of his age to bully him, he always endured it without a sound in order not to worry or disappoint the old man at home. However, now he was recalling everything that had happened in the past.

Jiuge lost his patience. “I have already said that these two wild hares are for my grandfather to help him recover. If you want to eat some, I’ll hunt some for you later. I have to hurry back now.” He stared at Little Fatty Wang and his expression tightened.

“Damn your grandpa, you’re a wild child without a father and mother. That damn old thing will die no matter what he eats. I’m going to eat those hares today, and if you don’t give them to me, I’ll beat you until you can’t stand. If I don’t, I’ll change my last name to yours,” Little Fatty Wang yelled at Jiuge with one hand on his waist.

After Jiuge heard this, he suddenly stood up. His pupils shrank and his eyes became a bit bloodshot. He didn’t care how much people cursed at him, but he would not allow any disrespect to the old man. When he heard those words cursing the old man, he could no longer contain his anger.

Bang, bang, bang! Jiuge pushed aside the two youths close to him and rushed toward Little Fatty Wang. His fists flew into Little Fatty Wang’s face, causing Little Fatty Wang to scream until his voice was hoarse. “Ahhhhhhhhh… Beat him up!” Little Fatty Wang screamed like a pig being slaughtered as the pain spread throughout his face. When the other youths heard this cry, they desperately rushed toward Jiuge.

Dust flew into the air. Jiuge was caught in a brawl with the other six or seven youths. He swung his fists and feet with power, and the sounds of fists colliding with flesh and screams could be heard.

Little Fatty Wang’s father was the leader of Wang Village and his big family. These six or seven youths were from similar family situations and had always been messing around with Little Fatty Wang. How could they compare to Jiuge, who has been working and hunting in the mountains since childhood? Soon, the six or seven youths were covered in bruises and ran back home.

Jiuge turned around angrily and walked toward Little Fatty Wang. “Don’t come here! What are you doing? I don’t want the hares anymore, I won't bring people to bully you anymore!” Little Fatty Wang screamed, his eyes filled with fear. Because of the fear he felt, not even his fat face was shaking anymore.

Jiuge ignored Little Fatty Wang’s scream. He coldly stared at Little Fatty Wang and kicked him to the ground. He sat on top of Little Fatty Wang and looked at the disgusting face he had endured for so long. Jiuge started to hit Little Fatty Wang’s face until his anger subsided a bit. He then picked up his bag and pointed at Little Fatty Wang as he roared, “Just because I never fought back before, that doesn’t mean I’m afraid of you. Keep your mouth shut, or I’ll beat you up again.” Little Fatty Wang had a swollen face filled with tears and was covered in dust. When he saw Jiuge’s cold gaze, his lips trembled. He didn’t say anything as he slowly got up and ran home with his panda-looking face. 

His fat body twisted as he ran and looked back toward Jiuge in fear. After running for a bit and making sure Jiuge wasn’t following him, he cried in a shaky voice, “Jiuge, just you wait until I tell my father. This matter is not over.” He quickly ran away, not waiting to see Jiuge’s reaction. Jiuge revealed a smile of disdain as he patted the dust off his clothes and walked home. The old man was still waiting for him.

Although his anger had dissipated, thinking about how he had beaten Little Fatty Wang, he knew that Little Fatty Wang’s father would not let this go. Little Fatty Wang’s father was like a king in the village, and he was extremely arrogant. He had a bit of money and had hired some servants. Jiuge’s heart was a bit heavy and his originally good mood from hunting the two hares had disappeared by the time he arrived home.

It was a small courtyard and a small, brick house. Beside the brick house was an area surrounded by wooden fences where a few pigs were being raised. Although the house was relatively simple and cold compared to the rest of the houses in the village, it was his home. He had lived here for 12 years, and it gave him a familiar feeling. The smell of grass, dirt, and pig manure hit him, and Zhao Jiuge’s[1] mood suddenly became better. He threw aside the unpleasant feeling and a faint smile appeared on his face.

Before entering through the door, Jiuge shouted happily, “Grandpa, I’m back. Look what I brought back.” The door squeaked as he pushed it open. The door was made of wood and was homemade. Because the door was so old, there was friction in the bottom, creating the squeak. It was as if the door was a witness to the old man’s lifetime of hardships. Now that the old man was like a dried-up oil lamp, the door seemed to be telling the old man’s sorrowful story.

As he pushed open the door, the scene of the inside of the house gradually appeared before his eyes. Because the house was made of bricks and was very old, there was a faint smell of damp mold. There was a hint of complication on Zhao Jiuge’s face. As a youth who was very sensible and mature, he knew how the mold was harming his grandpa’s health.

The room was very empty, without any valuable items. There were random things scattered across the floor and there was a wooden horse in the corner. That wooden horse had been his playmate throughout his childhood. In the middle of the room was a large, wooden bed, and upon seeing the old man on the bed, Zhao Jiuge’s heart began to relax. After all these years, he had grown attached to the old man. Home was wherever the old man was, and the only warm place in the world was wherever the old man was.

However, thinking about the illness, his heart was filled with worry once more. The old man on the bed was covered in white hair and had a kind smile on his face. The wrinkles on his face bore witness to the old man’s growth and age. Nothing could hide the fact that the old man was in his twilight years. Zhao Jiuge’s fingers clenched into a fist and his face tightened, a sense of powerlessness surfacing in his heart.

“Jiuge, you’re back. Grandpa has been worried about you since you haven’t been home all night. Come here and sit next to Grandpa, there are some things I must tell you. I’m afraid that one day I’ll go to sleep and never be able to see you again.” After listening to his grandpa’s words, Jiuge panicked. No matter how calm and strong he was, he was still a child. Thinking about how the old man would one day leave him, his nose suddenly started dripping and his eyes teared up.

“Grandpa, you will be fine. Tomorrow, I’ll go to the city, and I’ll gather medicine in the mountains to get the doctor to come here. I don’t want Grandpa to leave me.” Jiuge’s voice choked and he was filled with helplessness. 

“Silly child. Being sick and dying of old age is normal for people. Grandpa can’t stop worrying about it. I remember when I saw you wrapped up next to the official road. I didn’t expect over 10 years to pass by in a flash.” The old man’s eyes shined, and as he recalled the past, his breathing became rough.

“Grandpa doesn’t have anything to give to you besides this ancestral jade pendant and this broken house. Grandpa knows a bit about how you’re treated in the village. Should I leave the world one day, you should go to the outside world. There is so much to explore—a normal person could not see it all in a lifetime.” As Jiuge listened to his grandpa’s words, his heart could not calm down. The fear of his grandpa leaving and the desire to leave for the outside world all impacted his heart. His mouth opened slightly and his lips trembled as he attempted to speak a few times. However, in the end, he closed his mouth and his eyes were lost.

After the old man finished speaking, he took out the jade pendant from under his pillow. The jade was rectangular and had an unknown animal carved onto it. It had the head of a dragon, the body of a bull, and the tail of a deer. After putting on the jade pendant, Jiuge gently touched it. It was cold. Zhao Jiuge was surprised by the temperature of this jade pendant.

The grandfather and grandchild had endless things to talk about. Both of them knew that such warm days would not last, so they especially cherished every moment of every day.

However, the two people talking didn’t notice that the originally dark jade pendant had lit up. But the light soon disappeared and the pendant returned to its original appearance.

The soft whispers in the room continued and floated out of the wooden window. The sun outside caused the entire house to be bathed in a layer of gold. These warm times continued, and perhaps Zhao Jiuge’s heart was as warm as the sun outside the window.

At noon, smoke rose up from the mountain village. In the courtyard, Jiuge used a knife to cut open one of the wild hares, remove its skin, and let the blood drip out. His actions were smooth as he cut the hare, and all of it was done subconsciously. His eyes were still a bit sluggish. He knew that his grandpa’s illness was serious and that the situation was not good. His heart felt pain, but he didn’t want the old man to worry about him. He wanted the old man to see his strong and independent side.

The smell of blood from the hare stimulated Zhao Jiuge like the taste of death. Thinking of how the old man was like a dried-up oil lamp and looking at the hare painfully struggling, Zhao Jiuge felt like he couldn’t kill the other one.

A loud noise suddenly came from outside the courtyard and gradually closed in. This broke the peace in the quiet mountain village. When Jiuge heard the noise, his expression suddenly changed. Due to his grandpa’s serious illness, he had forgotten about what had happened this morning. Little Fatty Wang’s father had come with a group of people.

Wang Dazhuang[2] led Little Fatty Wang into the courtyard with the servants. Little Fatty Wang’s face was covered in medicine and looked a little funny. Wang Dazhuang’s eyes seemed to be caved in and his belly stuck out. Due to his anger, he gave off a gloomy aura.

“Zhao Jiuge, you wild child, you damn thing that was born from a mother but had no mother to teach you. If you don’t give me an explanation for why you beat my baby like this, I’m going to tear your house apart, or I won’t be the village chief anymore!” Wang Dazhuang was nearly 50 years old and doted on his son, who had been born late in his life. He was even reluctant to scold or beat his son himself. When he first saw his son’s bruised face, he was anxious and angry, so he had immediately called the doctor to apply some medicine. This was why he had only come now to seek justice for his son. As soon as he arrived, he ignored everything and began cursing.

Zhao Jiuge sighed and his mouth twitched. “It was your Little Fatty Wang who acted first and cursed my grandfather, so I fought back. When he beat me before, I never fought back. If not for the fact that my grandfather is seriously ill, I wouldn't have dealt with him.” He looked at the people in the courtyard. He just wanted them to leave without startling his grandpa, so he patiently explained the situation to them.

Wang Dazhuang viciously said, “Hmph, all I see is that my son was beaten up. I’m going to teach you a lesson today.”

“Cough, cough. What is it, Jiuge?” The old man had heard the noise outside and walked out of the room with his cane. Jiuge immediately walked up to help the old man and explained what had happened in the morning. He became anxious in his heart. The more he didn’t want to worry the old man, the more trouble he caused. He regretted his reckless actions this morning.

After the old man heard everything that happened, his face was filled with apology. He struggled with his weak body to kneel down. “Village Chief Wang, this matter is my family’s Jiuge’s fault. I’ll make him apologize to your Little Fatty Wang. Kids fight because they don’t know anything. As an adult, please be generous and forgive him.” 

Wang Dazhuang sneered. “Damn old man, you think he can be forgiven just because you say so? Either pay the money, or we’ll break your legs and drive you out of the village.” He held no sympathy for the old man who was seriously ill and instead became even more angry.

“Hmph, like father like son—both have such foul mouths.” Jiuge’s eyes became cold. The old man was already weak, but Wang Dazhuang still acted like this after the old man had knelt down. Zhao Jiuge felt a burst of pain in his heart when he heard Wang Dazhuang’s disrespectful words, and his temper showed once more.

He raised his head and his brows furrowed. “I beat your son, so you can beat me. I’ll own up to my mistake, but it has nothing to do with my grandfather.” Looking at how Zhao Jiuge was like a proud, little lion, Wang Dazhuang could not control his anger anymore. “You damn thing that was born from a mother but had no mother to teach you.” Wang Dazhuang’s face was vicious as he rushed toward Zhao Jiuge and swung the stick in his hand.

Jiuge saw the stick fly through the air and heard the sound it created, which caused his expression to change. His eyes widened, and he was going to rely on his youthful body to dodge the strike. However, the old man next to him saw Wang Dazhuang’s stick fly toward his grandson and could not bear it. He moved in front of Jiuge without hesitation to block the blow.

With a bang, the hit landed on the old man’s body. His already fragile body suddenly fell to the ground and blood flowed out of his mouth. His eyes closed slightly and he looked like he was not breathing.

Wang Dazhuang was startled and began to panic. After all, killing was not a small matter, even though the old man was a dried-up oil lamp. “This… This… This matter is over. You beat up my Little Fatty Wang and I struck your grandpa once with a stick. There is nothing between us now. Zhao Jiuge, go check on your grandpa. We are leaving.” Wang Dazhuang’s face was pale as he stiffly left with Little Fatty Wang in a panic.

“Grandpa…” Zhao Jiuge looked at his grandpa, who had stopped breathing, and shouted in anger. He helplessly looked at the old man lying there and continued to cry, but the old man remained motionless. As the sun set, Zhao Jiuge continued to weep beside the body of the old man. His voice became hoarse and then it finally disappeared.

It was unknown how long he had been kneeling next to the old man, but his tears gradually stopped. His eyes were filled with hatred, and because his voice had become hoarse, he dried his eyes as a gentle breeze blew across this face. He suddenly became calm. This calm and coldness were not befitting of someone his age—it was a terrifying expression. He went back into the house and packed up his things into a bag that he carried on his back. Then he picked up the hunting knife and carried his grandpa’s body toward the mountains.

1. Zhao is just his family name, but “Jiu Ge” means Nine Song

2. His name is Wang Big Strong, while his son is Wang Little Fatty lol


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