As the car rolled, light and shadow, everything was upside down and chaotic, but Lu Chong felt that all his senses were focused, and he remembered some things from the past.
Or rather, some things that had been blurred before became clear and vivid again in his mind at that moment.
When the agreement had been made to meet again more than ten years later, the young man was almost happier than he was, so excited that he could not sit still, repeatedly reconfirming, “Since you said yes, don’t forget me”, “You must wait for me”, “Since you said yes, you can’t like others. The promise must be fulfilled, ah.”
Infected with the teenager’s excitement, he tried again, “Can’t you tell me your address so I can come and find you?”
“I really can’t.”
“Then you should tell me your real name, right?”
“Ahem, this… you’re called Jiuding, I’m called Bage, isn’t it a good match?” (Jiuding (九鼎) – Nine Tripod Cauldrons, Bage (八哥) – Chinese starling, but the logic is probably in “jiu” meaning “9” and “ba” meaning “8”)
He looked at the teenager blankly.
“Oops, well, then I’ll tell you.” The young man muttered to himself for a while and then said something vaguely.
He didn’t hear clearly and hesitantly repeated, “Bug, Bug?” (虫 – chong – bug, insect)
“Yes, yes, Bug, you heard me right!”
He asked uncertainly, “Which character?”
“Bug for ‘bug’!”
Would anyone have such a name? He felt cheated.
“Come on, don’t get hung up on it, it’s just a name.”
“Then I’ll be called Lu Bug from now on,” he said, acting in a fit of pique.
“What?” The teenager was stunned.
He continued, “I’m changing my name.”
“Why, why? Doesn’t Lu Jiuding sound nice? And it’s the name your parents gave you, so it’s not a good idea to change it, right?”
“It was my dad who asked me to change it. He says that my current name is too heavy for the world to carry, and he wants to wash his hands of it.”
“I see.” The teenager was a little distressed, “So what is the new name your dad is going to give you?”
He gave the teenager a look, “He told me to think of my own.”
“What kind of dad is that?” The teenager muttered and thought for a while, “Then you can’t take it casually, think about it again?”
“I’ll take the ‘bug’ character.”
“Hey, you idiot, you will be laughed at like this! At least change the character, come on, let’s go look it up in the dictionary and pick a good one!”
He was a little disappointed; even after saying this the teenager wouldn’t say his real name?
But this loss was soon replaced by the novelty and joy of them two discussing a new name for him. They found a Xinhua bookstore and sat on the floor with a Xinhua dictionary to study it.
“Lu Chong? (重 – pronounced as chong when it means ‘to repeat’, or zhong, when it means ‘heavy’) No, it feels heavy to look at, people who don’t know will think you weigh a lot!”
“What about this one? Chong? Lu Chong? (崇 – chong, sublime) Ah, why does it look like a sneaky ghost, ah?” (祟 – a similar-looking character, sui, means ‘evil spirit’, also a part of 鬼鬼祟祟 – guiguisuisui, means ‘sneaky’)
“There are so few words for this syllable, how about this ‘chong’ (憧 – unsettled)? It’s a bit girly, isn’t it?”
“How about ‘chong’ for powerful? (冲) Lu Chong? Heh, no, it’s not good to have muscles without brains.” The young man shook his head in disgust.
The young man kept flipping through the names and felt unsatisfied, while he just watched him from aside and smiled. He didn’t care what his new name would be. Watching the young man frowning and racking his brain over finding a name for him made him feel content.
“What are you laughing at? Say something, it’s a name for you!” The teenager glanced at him and kicked him.
“I don’t care, you owe me a name anyway,” he said peevishly.
The teenager puffed out his cheeks and glared at him before lowering his head and nudging the nose of the kitten he had smuggled in under his coat, “Look, Ribs, your brother Lu is a rascal, don’t follow his example. Come on, let’s choose together.”
“Meow.” The black and yellow kitten, only about the size of an adult’s palm, meowed lovingly and kneaded the teenager’s lap, really looking at the dictionary with its head tilted as if it could read the words.
The young man smiled and asked for a pen and paper to write on.
“Which one looks better?
“This one? Or this one?
“Which one do you like, Ribs? Point it out to me.
“Forget it, let’s look at the meaning, the name must have some connotation, right?
“Ah, let’s go with this one. Look at this character Chong (崇 – sublime), it’s often used to indicate nobility and prosperity, and it’s used with noble words, sublime mountains and so on, very imposing! It seems to be used less often for names, so we don’t have to worry about namesakes. What do you think, Jiu?”
He looked at the paper full of “Lu Chong” and felt so happy that he didn’t care what the character was. He still nodded demurely, “That’s good.”
“Okay, then you will be called Lu Chong from now on! In the future I’ll look for you according to this, no more name changes, ah, or I won’t be able to find you.” As if he had finished a big job, the teenager joyfully put the kitten on his head and grabbed the kitten’s front paws with both hands, “Let’s go, Ribs, drive!”
The bookstore shop assistant’s eyes widened, “Student, pets are not allowed…”
They giggled and ran far away, like the most innocent children, and then the young man said, “Let’s go play, I’m leaving tomorrow, I haven’t played enough yet!”
The things the teenager liked to play with were also very childish, something like a yo-yo, something like bamboo dragonflies, something like marbles, all things that only children played with. He also liked to eat strange things, such as Ultraman noodles and Pop Rocks, and he liked to go to all the street stalls that were only frequented by primary school students.
Whenever asked why he liked those things, he would shake his finger and show a weird “you don’t know anything about that, kid” look. Once his taste was questioned, he said, “I’m reliving my childhood, you know. You don’t understand!”
It was just in time for a nearby town fair, so they ran there. Lu Chong followed behind and paid, and the teenager held the cat on top of his head with one hand and ate with the other.
In the end, he ate himself sick, got into the car and sighed dully in the elongated compartment, then pulled Lu Chong closer by his hand and said a moment later, “Jiujiu, no, Chongchong, I’m going to miss you”. Then he said, “Exercise well and grow taller, look, you’re a year older than me now and you’re not even much taller than me. If I go looking for you later and find out you haven’t grown taller, I’ll cry.”
Lu Chong listened to him with a black face, but when he quietly looked at himself, he saw that he was really not tall enough, nor strong enough.
A little discouraged and a little flustered, he whispered, “I’ll work out.”
He was not sure if the teenager was listening or not as he continued, “Take care of Ribs for me so that she lives a long life. When I come to you guys, I want to see her again.”
The teenager held the kitten in his arms and stroked it reluctantly, “Right, and you, you have to take care of yourself too, you know? Don’t look that you’re only a year older than me now, by then you will be wow…” The teenager gestured in a very exaggerated way, as if he didn’t know how to express himself, and finally promised, “Anyway, you’ll grow old very quickly!”
Lu Chong was really gloomy now, “It can’t be, can it?”
“Hmph, don’t believe me, when the time comes, if you look too much older than me, you’ll have something to cry about.” The young man himself seemed worried and thought for a while, “No, I’d better come to you early. I’ve saved up a lot of New Year’s money. Although Dad and Big Brother won’t let me leave home, I can sneak away on my own. Anyway, you stay in Beijing, don’t run around, otherwise I won’t know where to find you.”
The teenager muttered and muttered, and finally looked at Lu Chong and at the kitten, sighed, reached over and acted like a little big brother, stroking Lu Chong’s head: “It’s so unsettling, I wish I could take you all with me, I’ll just raise you in the future.”
Lu Chong was just about to agree, when the teenager added: “Unfortunately that’s not possible. You have to be good and work hard. I’ve thought about it carefully. There are not many good people around you except for your father, you stay by your father’s side, don’t be like last time when you almost got killed, then there will be no me to save you… Also, don’t miss me too much or you’ll have a hard time and I’ll be upset too.”
Lu Chong hugged the cat with a sense of resignation and dismay at being about to be abandoned, and for a moment he had the urge to tie this young man to his side so he couldn’t go anywhere. But he sensibly restrained himself, took the teenager’s hand and whispered, “You be good too.”
“Haha, I’m fine!” The teenager muttered something like, “It’s just like closing your eyes and opening them again,” and then said, “I’m just worried about you!”
As he said that, he looked ahead and saw something. His eyes widened, and then he lunged.
There was a little chirping sound.
The young man on top of him grunted in pain and went limp, and at the same time Lu Chong saw blood gushing out of the wound on his back frenziedly.
He looked up abruptly. The driver in front of him had a cold face and was about to shoot the gun with a silencer again.
Lu Chong lunged forward and fought with the driver for the gun in the small car. In the confusion the cat screamed and joined in the chaos, pouncing on the driver’s face and scratching and biting him. Lu Chong took the opportunity to shoot and kicked the driver out of the car.
He drove the car farther away, stopped and climbed back into the back seat. The teenager was all bloody. The wound in his back wouldn’t stop bleeding no matter how much Lu Chong pressed on it, and the cat kept meowing pitifully and urgently.
“Hang on, let’s go to the hospital, let’s go to the hospital right now!” Lu Chong was so cold that his whole body was shaking.
“Don’t, don’t rush.” The teenager grabbed his shirt, “I, I’m not going to die, I’m actually…” He seemed to be trying to say something but his mouth opened and closed and not a word came out. He cried in anxiety, “Bugger it! “
Blood gushed out of the young man’s mouth. Lu Chong cried too, rushing back to drive, with no thoughts on his mind but one word: hospital! Hospital!!!
Yet with a cat cry so sharp it pierced his eardrums, he looked back again only to shudder, his foot slamming on the brakes and the car almost going off the road.
Lu Chong grasped the steering wheel, looked stiffly ahead and listened to the sharp ”meow”. After two seconds, he turned his head a little bit and looked back. He saw it right. The back seat was empty, except for large blood-soaked areas. The black and yellow kitten smeared in blood ran around anxiously looking for something. But there was nothing.
Translator’s note: So, you know now why Ribs reacted like that when she saw Luo Wencheng for the first time, right? She wanted to sit on his head again but probably miscalculated her weight 🙂