When Dahei came back, it was already midnight.
While Lu Lingxi waited for Dahei anxiously, he was hugged by Yan Yue and fell asleep in a daze. Because of something on his mind, Lu LIngxi hadn’t been able to sleep soundly. When there was a movement outside, he woke up with a start. Yan Yue woke up a little earlier than him and was already getting dressed.
“Xiao Xi, go to sleep, I’ll go check.” Yan Yue pressed to keep Lu Lingxi from getting up. It was a bit cold outside; it seemed to be windy and Yan Yue was worried that Lu Lingxi might catch a cold.
Lu Lingxi couldn’t sleep but thinking that Yan Yue would bring Dahei in after a while, he agreed and lay on the bed waiting for Dahei. The strange thing was that there was no sound after Yan Yue went out, and Dahei couldn’t be heard, so Lu LIngxi couldn’t lie down any longer, hurriedly dressed and went out. For a moment he was a bit stunned.
Dahei was back, but it wasn’t just Dahei who had returned.
There were more than twenty dogs squatting in the courtyard, large and small, with Dahei squatting at the front, holding a little puppy that seemed to have been born a few months ago curled up and sleeping soundly. Yan Yue stood opposite them and looked at Dahei, and Lu Lingxi could almost see the blue veins on Yan Yue’s forehead pulsing.
Hearing the movement behind him, Yan Yue tried his best to ease his expression, turned to look at Lu Lingxi and said, “It’s cold outside, why is Xiao Xi up?”
His expression was helpless. Although Lu LIngxi tried his best to suppress it, the twitching of the corners of his mouth still could be seen. Lu Lingxi knew that he shouldn’t laugh at this time, but he really couldn’t help it. It was the first time he had seen Yan Yue with such a headache, and his eyes curved as he smiled. “Big Brother Yan.”
The young man’s tone was cheerful, and this call of “Big Brother Yan” carried a hint of being coquettish. Yan Yue had no choice but to indulge him, “Does Xiao Xi want them all to stay?”
Lu Lingxi nodded and couldn’t help but smile again.
Seeing Lu Lingxi nod, Dahei put down the little puppy in his mouth and turned around and barked a few times in a rather serious manner. The group of dogs in the courtyard seemed to understand what Dahei meant and responded. However, it seemed that they deliberately lowered their voices for fear of waking up the surrounding neighbours, so it sounded like a group of dogs was collectively acting coquettish.
Lu Lingxi looked at this scene with some curiosity. Dahei had always been a loner. Even when he was at Brother Dong’s pet shop, he didn’t communicate with other puppies at all. This was the first time Dahei was with other dogs. And could they really understand what each other was saying?… Lu Lingxi’s mind started wandering. Yan Yue looked at the dogs in the courtyard with a strange expression in his eyes, and unexpectedly thought of the question Lu Lingxi asked him last time. Plants could evolve, could animals evolve too? Yan Yue felt that this question was a bit of a fantasy at the time, but looking at the scene in front of him, he began to feel uncertain.
Dahei deterred the dogs in the yard, turned to Lu Lingxi and barked in a low voice a few times, as if explaining something.
Lu Lingxi felt that he understood somewhat what Dahei was saying. He was explaining where these dogs came from. Some of these dogs were stray dogs nearby, some were dogs that couldn’t go home temporarily because there was no dog hole, and there was also the little puppy that couldn’t be driven away from Dahei’s side. When Dahei was talking about the little puppy, Lu Lingxi even felt that he could hear a trace of helplessness in Dahei’s vice.
While Dahei was explaining, the little puppy on the ground seemed to have woken up. Its eyes were not fully open and its pink nose sniffed before it squinted and whimpered, moving over to Dahei’s side and going back to sleep under Dahei’s belly.
Lu Lingxi was about to laugh to death. Dahei was a male dog, and the illusion of being treated like a mother dog made Lu Lingxi hold his stomach and almost burst into tears.
At dawn, the dogs were finally settled in. Lu Lingxi “ferociously” grabbed each of the stray dogs and gave them a bath, then discussed with Yan Yue where they should go. Not all of the stray dogs came back with Dahei, but the ones that did were older dogs, very skinny and probably belonged to the “old, weak, sick and disabled” category in the stray dog pack.
Lu Lingxi thought that since they had followed Dahei, they didn’t want to remain stray anymore. It was a good idea to keep them in the plant nursery to watch it; they couldn’t eat much anyway. As the plant nursery got bigger and bigger, Uncle Li also suggested that they hire someone to guard it at night. With this pack of dogs, hiring another person would not be a problem. When Lu Lingxi finished speaking, his eyes shone brightly at Yan Yue, who had always been indulgent towards him and naturally nodded in agreement. Although Yan Yue thought it would be more appropriate to have a few wolf dogs in the plant nursery, it didn’t matter if it was these local dogs. He liked this softness of the young man’s heart, and precisely because Yan Yue himself didn’t have it, he was more than willing to protect it.
“Big Brother Yan, thank you.” Lu Lingxi said seriously. It was as if no matter what he did, Yan Yue would indulge him, making his unconscious reliance on Yan Yue grow deeper and deeper. This dependence seemed to have become a habit and integrated into his life.
Yan Yue looked at the boy’s serious look and smiled faintly. The smile poured out of his eyes, and his already handsome face looked even more unusually striking, carrying an indescribable charm. Lu Lingxi looked a little dumbfounded, and the tips of his ears suddenly turned red. He could feel his heart thumping, as if it was about to jump out of his throat the next moment.
“What is Xiao Xi going to do to thank Big Brother Yan?” Yan Yue asked with a slightly teasing smile.
Lu Lingxi blinked; as slow as he was, he knew that Yan Yue didn’t really want his thanks. The smile in Yan Yue’s eyes deepened as he leaned down and kissed Lu Lingxi.
When Lu Lingxi woke up again, it was already past nine o’clock. After taking care of the dogs for half the night last night, Lu Lingxi had overslept for the first time. Yan Yue had already called Dong Zhi and asked him to help put up a sign at the entrance of Tiny Garden that it was closed for the day. Since he didn’t have to go to the shop today, Lu Lingxi simply didn’t rush back to Fengcheng, and after washing and cleaning up, he strolled around the village.
The story of the village’s dogs running away and returning in the middle of the night became a hot topic in the whole village. Under the big willow tree, the villagers gathered in groups, and the subject of conversation was always: “Did your dog run away yesterday? When did it come back?” Because of Dahei, Lu Lingxi was also pulled into answering these questions several times.
While the villagers’ attention was focused on this matter, a well-informed villager brought another bombastic news. Last night that plastic factory in Songjia Village was surrounded by a pack of dogs, and he heard that hundreds of dogs had besieged the plastic factory. All the dogs from several nearby villages went there, and even the dogs kept by Songjia’s families joined the siege. The dogs had a clear division of labour, with the big dogs picking at the door outside and the small dogs squeezing in through the gaps to cause trouble. Several machines in the plastic factory were broken and the people inside were scared enough.
“Deserve that! Who let them work in the middle of the night to discharge waste water, isn’t it fooling us?”
“That’s right, they deserve to be scared.”
Although the people in the village had some odd expressions when they heard the news, they still felt that the people of Sognjia Village had made their own bed; even the dogs couldn’t stand to see what they were doing. There were a lot of stray dogs in the area, and the dogs in the village were not tethered and were allowed to run. The dogs needed water when they were tired of running, and they also needed water when it was hot. The only source of water nearby, the Lingshui River, had been polluted by Songjia, so these dogs had no place to drink. Didn’t they have the right to make trouble?
In the rural areas of China, dogs had always been considered spiritual animals and there were many stories of dogs returning kindness and avenging evil. The older the people were, the more they believed in these stories. They said that the dog king was angry and called on the pack to take revenge. In less than half a day, the story had spread everywhere nearby.
The people of Songjia also heard the story. Song Wancai muttered a little in his heart that what happened last night was quite extraordinary. First, a sound like a wolf’s howl came from the entrance of the village, then the village dogs all rioted and ran out of the houses, over the walls and through the holes. When the village people followed them, they saw a pack of dogs surrounding the plastic factory, and the leading dogs were barking at the factory, their voices sounding downright scary.
Song Wancai wanted to ask the villagers to drive the dogs away, but the ones in the outermost circle were all dogs raised by the people of the village themselves. They didn’t fight but they didn’t obey their owners either. The village people were all tormented by the noise until midnight.
“There can’t really be some kind of dog king, can there?”
Song Wancai was hesitating and wanted to talk to the people at the plastic factory about stopping work for a few days. The director of the plastic factory, the man called Jin Laoliu, wasn’t a local, and wasn’t happy to hear Song Wancai’s words. He was now distressed enough to stop work during the day; if he stopped work at night, he would go broke.
When Jin Laoliu insisted, Song Wancai wavered, gritted his teeth and decided to continue to work.
The people of Songjia didn’t believe in extraordinary things, and Yan Yue didn’t think that they could be stopped from working at once. When he and Lu Lingxi returned to the city in the morning, Dahei was left in the plant nursery. Since it had already been started, they should simply do it to the end, once and for all.
Lu Lingxi was a bit sad to leave Dahei. This was the first time he and Dahei were separated. He squatted in front of Dahei and stroked Dahei’s head, promising to come and pick him up in a couple of days. Yan Yue looked a bit bitter. The last time he went back to Zhongjing, Lu Lingxi didn’t act so reluctantly. While Lu Lingxi wasn’t paying attention, Yan Yue gave Dahei a fierce glare.
Dahei ignored Yan Yue’s glare and rubbed against Lu Lingxi’s palm affectionately. He knew what he was staying for, and he led the dogs that followed behind him, looking very majestic and dignified. Of course the premise was to pretend not to see the little puppy hugging Dahei’s leg.
The owners of the little puppy were the same man and woman Lu Lingxi had heard yesterday. He wondered how the puppy, who was only four months old, had managed to run out of the yard. In the morning Dahei followed the scent and sent the puppy back, but the puppy refused to leave Dahei. The auntie in the house looked amused and left the puppy with Dahei confidently.
Lu Lingxi finished petting Dahei and then petted the little puppy before finally following Yan Yue back to the city.
That night, the plastic factory in Songjia really didn’t stop working, and Dahei once again summoned the dogs to surround it. The plastic factory was prepared this time and found a lot of poles to snare the dogs. Seeing that, Dahei was so angry that he leapt forward and bit off the nearest pole. The dogs behind him followed suit and soon rushed into the factory, causing havoc.
For three nights in a row, Dahei led the dogs to the plastic factory. The plastic factory also developed; from a set of dog snare poles they turned to buying packs of rat poison and wrapping it in buns, scattering them around the plastic factory. But to the surprise of those inside, none of the dogs went to eat the buns. A few who couldn’t resist their cravings were rebuked by the leading large dogs.
Under the cover of the night, the dogs squatted outside the plastic factory, looking as if they were a well-trained army. Now, not to mention the workers inside the plastic factory who were lured by the high overtime pay, even Song Wancai, who came with the villagers to disperse the dogs, couldn’t hold on any longer, feeling that the scene in front of him was quite creepy. Some of the timid villagers simply got weak in the knees and said in trembling voices, “These dogs have not become spirits, have they?”
As soon as Jin Laoliu saw that the situation wasn’t good, he rushed out aggressively, holding up a shotgun that he got from somewhere. Before he could take aim, Dahei’s figure flew out and pinned him to the ground, teeth bared.
“Kille… I’m killed!” Jin Laoliu yelled like a pig slaughtered.
The men inside the plastic factory cowered and took a step back, no one daring to come forward to save him.
Dahei raised his paw and flicked away the shotgun, and a stray dog darted out, took the gun in its mouth and ran away. Dahei narrowed his eyes and looked around for a moment, and the few people who were facing him shivered, “Dog… dog king?”
Dahei didn’t pay any attention to them, tilted his head and barked, and the dogs behind him followed along and howled. Song Wancai felt he would never forget this night for the rest of his life, the way hundreds of dogs howled together, and the big black dog at the front of the pack.
It was only when it was almost dawn that the big black dog led the pack to disperse. As soon as they left, the workers inside the plastic factory made a fuss about quitting. No one dared to stay any longer. Song Wancai felt his thumping heart and went to find Jin Laoliu, ruthlessly prepared to close the factory. He was really scared. The result was that after searching for a long time and not finding the man, he finally heard that Jin Laoliu had long since fainted from fear and had been sent to the village clinic.
Several surrounding villages knew about what had happened in Songjia. The first thing Jin Laoliu did when he woke up was to shut down the plastic factory and leave. He wasn’t prepared to stay in this hellhole. The dogs were not simply dogs, all of them had become spirits!
Uncle Li quickly told Lu Lingxi about this over the phone. The old man didn’t know that the legendary dog king was Dahei, so he praised and praised the dog king on the phone. Although Lu Lingxi couldn’t reveal Dahei’s identity, he listened to the praise and made up his mind to go to pick up Dahei in the evening and by the way to bring him a box of chicken legs.
After hanging up the phone, Lu Lingxi spoke to Yan Yue. Yan Yue wasn’t in Tiny Garden and went to Xue Yongtong’s place. Gao Yongliang used the essential oils extracted from begonias to make the first perfume, and specially asked Yan Yue to take a look at the samples. Hearing Lu Lingxi say that he wanted to pick up Dahei from the plant nursery in the evening, Yan Yue readily agreed, telling Lu Lingxi to wait for him at the shop and he would be right back. But soon after Yan Yue hung up the phone, the sky suddenly darkened and a heavy downpour fell without warning. There was lightning and thunder for a while, pedestrians took refuge wherever they could and the falling rain soon accumulated in the street.
Lu Lingxi braved the rain to move the flowers placed at the entrance back to the shop and looked at the sky outside with some concern. It was dark before five o’clock and visibility was very low. He was sure he couldn’t go to the plant nursery in this weather but Uncle Li was taking care of Dahei, so he didn’t need to worry. What he was worried about was how Yan Yue would come back in this heavy rain.
The text message from Yan Yue came quickly, saying he was stuck on the road and asking Lu Lingxi not to rush. Yan Yue said he was okay but once he said he was stuck on the road, Lu Lingxi became even more worried. After another glance out of the window, Lu Lingxi couldn’t calm down, so he simply moved a wicker chair and sat at the door while waiting for Yan Yue, holding his mobile phone and reading the news.
The weather station in Fengcheng was also very surprised by this rain, as there was no warning at all beforehand. No one knew what was going on, but the weather in China this year was very abnormal. The southwest was originally a humid region, but it didn’t rain for the whole summer, and there was a big drought that hadn’t been seen for decades. Fengcheng fared a bit better. Although the temperature was also ridiculously high, there was always a heavy rain every now and then, so it was not quite a severe drought. What was most puzzling was that in the northwest, a region that traditionally suffered from severe drought, this year it actually rained so much that several small-scale floods broke out. With all these news superimposed together, it simply felt like the climate of China was all messed up.
Lu Lingxi put away his phone and looked out the window again. The rain outside was getting heavier and heavier, as if a hole had been torn in the sky and someone was pouring water down. The road was completely empty of pedestrians; occasionally a car drove by, but it drove very slowly, passing by Tiny Garden. It had been so long since Yan Yue had texted, and Lu Lingxi didn’t know where he was trapped, so he became a bit anxious.
He was anxious, but Yan Yue was even more anxious.
A car accident had just happened at the intersection not far from the street where Tiny Garden was located. All the cars on the road were blocked there, forming a long line. Yan Yue had both hands on the steering wheel, his fingers gently tapping on the wheel. This was his habitual action when he was thinking, and it was also his subconscious movement when he was annoyed.
It was already past six o’clock and Lu Lingxi was still stuck in Tiny Garden. Yan Yue was in a hurry to get to him, just in case something happened to the young man alone. The window of a car side by side with him was slightly opened, and a faint sound of cursing came out. “This damn weather.”
Yan Yue simply wanted to echo the man’s words when he heard, “This damned, damned weather.”
When he went to Xue Yongtong’s place in the afternoon, it was fine and the weather forecast didn’t say that there would be rain this afternoon, so who could have thought that there would be such a sudden downpour. Luckily, the traffic police seemed to have taken into account the weather conditions today, and the car accident in front of Yan Yue was handled fairly quickly. Soon the cars stuck slowly moved on.
Yan Yue breathed a sigh of relief and looked out the window somewhat carelessly, when suddenly his eyes changed and his gaze focused on a car on the opposite side of the road. That car was the one that had been involved in the accident at the corner earlier. The person in the driver’s seat was Yin Ya, whom Yan Yue hadn’t seen in a while, while in the passenger side was unexpectedly Lu Wei’an.
Yan Yue could see Yin Ya smiling and talking to Lu Wei’an, and the two seemed to be on somewhat intimate terms. Yan Yue’s gaze was penetrating; he remembered what the housekeeper had mentioned about his mother’s intentions. He just wondered what the two of them were doing in Fengcheng.
In the other car, Lu Wei’an glanced somewhat keenly towards the outside. Yin Ya said with concern, “Wei’an-gege, what’s wrong?” (‘gege’ is an elder brother in general, but from a girl to a boy it’s a rather intimate way to address)
Lu Wei’an frowned slightly, “It seems like someone was watching us just now.” Because of his illness, he was very sensitive to other people’s gazes, and he was sure that it wasn’t an illusion that someone was looking at them just now.
Yin Ya didn’t care much, “Maybe they were looking at our car.”
Lu Wei’an smiled and didn’t say another word, as if he accepted this explanation.
The encounter with Yin Ya was just a minor incident, and Yan Yue quickly withdrew his attention. The two cars passed by each other across the barrier, and Yan Yue didn’t give the others a second glance, but turned in the direction of Tiny Garden. A quarter of an hour later, Yan Yue finally picked up Lu Lingxi. “Hurry up and get in.”
Lu Lingxi put away his umbrella and jogged to the car; just like that his right shoulder was wet.
Yan Yue touched Lu Lingxi’s face uneasily, always feeling that it was a little too cold. He found a jacket in the back seat and put it over Lu Lingxi, asking, “Is it cold?”
Lu Lingxi shook his head, “It’s fine.”
Yan Yue reluctantly relaxed. Now that he had picked up Lu Lingxi, he wasn’t in much of a hurry. The two of them drove slowly all the way, and halfway through they planned to turn to the small restaurant to pick up Wang Shuxiu, only to have Wang Shuxiu say that the rain was too heavy, so they should leave her alone and she would just stay upstairs in the small restaurant.
Lu Lingxi faintly heard Brother Feng’s voice in the background and hung up the phone with a somewhat odd expression.
“What?” Yan Yue asked as he noticed his expression.
Lu Lingxi frowned, “Brother Feng is blocked by the rain in the small restaurant.”
Yan Yue was taken aback for a moment, then reacted to what Lu Lingxi said and couldn’t help but laugh inwardly. No matter what, Lu Lingxi was still a child and seemed to have a natural possessiveness towards his mother. Xiao Feng was merely blocked by the rain in the small restaurant, and Lu Lingxi was already on alert, as if Xiao Feng was going to do something.
“Don’t like Xiao Feng?”
Lu Lingxi shook his head, “Not really, it just feels weird.”
Yan Yue smiled and rubbed his hair, not commenting on the matter.
The two went to bed early when they arrived home, unaware that on that very night, the continuous heavy rain caused the water level of the Lingshui River to soar, and the black river water carrying silt began to spread towards the ground on the river side of the village. The black water slowly seeped into the ground from Songjia all the way to the Shigouhe, polluting large areas of the fields.
Of the villages along the Lingshui River, Lingshui Village was the only one that wasn’t polluted by the river. The roots of the large willow tree were firmly planted at the river’s edge, blocking the infiltration of the river water and slowly absorbing the water little by little without letting it come through.