July was usually the time when the heat began in summer. But with the improvement of the Earth’s environment over the years, the climate had been regulated by the extensive coverage of vegetation, so even at noon there was shade from trees and a cool breeze wherever you went.
In a small city near the Taklamakan Desert, Lu Lingxi stood on the side of the road in a simple white cotton t-shirt and khaki shorts, his body straight and slender. His black travel bag lay at his feet, and Dahei was lying quietly on top of it. Lu Lingxi was reading a text message, occasionally shifting his gaze to look at Dahei. The passage of time had removed the childishness from his face, and his youthful profile was gentle and calm. He stood there, like a finely carved jade, with an inner light that made it impossible to look away from him once you took a glance.
“Brother! Brother Dahei!”
The sound of a child’s voice reached him from behind. Yan Yue, dressed in the same way as Lu Lingxi, came out from a fast food restaurant on the roadside. He was holding a little kid of about three or four years old on one arm and carrying a pile of cold drinks in the other hand.
The little kid was a bit excited when he saw Dahei and stretched out his arms to greet Dahei from far away. When Yan Yue bent down and let go of him, the kid immediately ran happily to Dahei’s side, hugging Dahei’s neck and refusing to let go. Lu Lingxi finished texting and smiled as he bent down and stroked the little kid’s head. “Does Xiaorui’s tummy still hurt?”
Xiaorui beamed and said in a milky voice, “If Brother and Brother Dahei kiss me, it won’t hurt anymore.”
Lu Lingxi smiled and leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek. Xiaorui happily turned his face to look at Dahei, “Brother Dahei, here!”
Yan Yue walked over and shook his head in amusement, not knowing who Xiao Xiaorui had taken after. Wang Shuxiu was spirited, Lu Lingxi was gentle, Xiao Feng was restrained, but Xiao Xiaorui had been sweet-talking since he was a baby, coaxing everyone around him into a daze.
He looked at Lu Lingxi with the cold drinks in his hand, “What does Xiao Xi want to drink? Orange juice or mango juice?”
Lu Lingxi picked the orange juice and passed the straw to Yan Yue’s mouth without drinking it first. Yan Yue lowered his head and took a sip. Meeting Lu Lingxi’s smiling eyes he couldn’t help but reach out and touch his hair. “Who were you chatting with now?”
When he asked, Lu Lingxi remembered something, “It’s Xiaohui, he quarrelled with Brother Fang and is coming to us.”
Yan Yue had an odd expression, “Fang Lei would quarrell with Xiaohui?”
Lu Lingxi also found this somewhat unlikely, but that’s what Xiaohui said in his text message. “I told him the address of our hotel. He said he would go immediately and would probably arrive in the evening.”
Yan Yue said, “Then I’ll book another room. I guess Fang Lei will be coming after him.”
Speaking of which, both of them were a bit curious to know why Fang Lei had quarrelled with Xiaohui. Ever since Xiaohui had magically turned into a human four years ago, Fang Lei had lived a life of being bullied by Xiaohui in various ways. Of course it was the same before Xiaohui had turned into a human. According to Lu Lingxi’s understanding, Fang Lei was very indulgent towards Xiaohui, and Auntie Fang and Uncle Fang were also very fond of Xiaohui, so he couldn’t think of any reason for Fang Lei and Xiaohui to quarrel at all.
When the two of them couldn’t think of a reason, Yan Yue picked up his travel bag and said, “Let’s go first, we’ll know when Xiaohui comes over tonight. Didn’t Xiao Xi want to see an oasis? There’s one not far from the town.”
When they were in Kunnan a few years ago, Yan Yue promised Lu Lingxi that he would take some time off every year to accompany Lu Lingxi to travel. The two of them had visited quite a few places in the past years, and this year they had set their sights on a desert oasis. Usually, wherever they went, Yan Yue and Lu Lingxi always travelled by car, taking Dahei and Xiaohei with them. This time there was also Xiao Xiaorui. They were afraid Xiao Xiaorui wouldn’t be able to stand riding in the car for a long time, so the three of them, plus one dog and one snake, had to give up their self-driving trip and choose public transportation. The good thing was that in the past few years, the pet craze had been on the rise all over the world, and everywhere you went, you could see people with all kinds of pets. For example, Dahei had a unique boarding pass once he passed through security. As for Xiaohei, he hid in Yan Yue’s pocket every time he went through customs.
Yan Yue rented an open-top jeep, and Lu Lingxi sat in the back with Xiao Xiaorui in his arms, while Dahei jumped on the passenger side. Yan Yue smoothly put sunglasses on Dahei’s face. The car started and Dahei posed against the wind, very stylish. There was a car passing by and a shiny golden retriever was looking through the back window. The golden retriever saw Dahei and gave a soft bark; the driver in front laughed and nodded to Yan Yue, saying, “Buddy, my girl fell in love with your young man at first sight. How about becoming in-laws?”
Yan Yue: “……”
Lu Lingxi, who hugged Xiao Xiaorui, was about to laugh to death as Dahei barked at Lu Lingxi, aggrieved. Lu Lingxi hurriedly stroked Dahei’s fluffy head, but still couldn’t stop laughing. This was not the first time he had encountered this situation; compared to him and Yan Yue, Dahei was too popular. Every time he went out, he encountered a few flirtatious attempts, clearly illustrating what it meant to be a heartthrob.
Yan Yue habitually declined politely, “Sorry, our family’s dog is also a girl.”
Lu Lingxi lowered his head and stifled his laughter until his stomach hurt. Yan Yue obviously could have found other reasons to refuse, but he loved to tease Dahei like this. The other driver regretfully left. Dahei whimpered and Lu Lingxi hurriedly adjusted his expression to comfort Dahei.
Half an hour later, they saw the desert poplar forest far ahead of them, and the largest desert in China, the Taklamakan Desert, slowly unfolded in front of the two of them.
Speaking of which, the Taklamakan Desert was not only the largest desert in China, but also the number one mobile desert (desert that tends to move in the direction of the winds) in the world. The entire Taklamakan Desert covered a vast area of 330,000 square kilometres, accounting for 4% of China’s total area. In the past, the Taklamakan Desert was known as a no-go area for people, with 13 sandstorm days throughout the year, little rainfall and high evaporation. Few plants could survive here, except for the desert plants such as desert poplar. Because of the desert’s barrenness and lack of water, the animals that lived here were also extremely rare and occupied zones abandoned by humans. Occasional travellers appeared here, but only for a short time. But everything changed four years ago; or rather the whole world had been undergoing various changes since four years ago.
The source of the earliest changes appeared in Fengcheng, the heavy industrial city in the north of China. As if overnight, the city that was full of smog and pollution and was always at the bottom of the various environmental awards in China had disappeared. The Fengcheng that appeared in the media and news was a city of beautiful hills and clear blue skies, with lush greenery filling the streets and alleys. The whole city seemed to be blessed by the god of nature, and people, nature, and animals lived in harmony, just like the city of elves in myths and legends.
First, crowds from all over the country flocked to Fengcheng, and then crowds from all over the world flocked to Fengcheng. All at once, the eyes of the entire world fell on Fengcheng. Whether it was governments, scientists or ordinary humans, everyone wanted to know: was the change in Fengcheng City unique? Could other places be like Fengcheng City? This frenzied anticipation reached its peak with the first appearance of the Great Willow Tree in Lingshui Village to the public.
The government, the media, scientists, ordinary people, everyone identified the Great Willow Tree as the cause of Fengcheng’s changes, and cities all over the country asked to transplant and plant seedlings of the tree. With no one daring to destroy the tree and the people of Fengcheng not agreeing to move the Great Willow Tree, Lu Lingxi’s Tiny Garden Technology Company rose to prominence. All the seedlings planted in his plant nursery were the Great Willow’s seedlings that had been evolved and upgraded.
The government chose to cooperate with Tiny Garden at the first opportunity, and the seedlings were transported to each city like a treasure, with the best gardeners selected to take care of them, in the hope that the miracle in Fengcheng would be replicated elsewhere. The results didn’t disappoint. With the successful transplantation of the big willow seedlings, the environment in various places gradually began to improve. Although both Lu Lingxi and Yan Yue knew that the heart of the planet played a role, in the eyes of everyone, all this was the grace of the Great Willow Tree.
Now, other countries couldn’t sit still, and China welcomed the most frequent diplomatic missions in history. Every country in the world sent envoys to China, and all kinds of economic and military cooperation were coming to China. The various technologies that had been kept secret in the past were launched in China, and the resources and energy were left to China to choose. All countries had only one condition; they hoped that China would agree to transplant the seedlings of the Great Willow Tree. For all the countries of the world, the existence of the Great Willow Tree did not only mean a change in the environment, but also the evolution of mankind. In this race for survival where China was leading the way, no one wanted to be the one to be eliminated.
If the Chinese government was the biggest winner of the Fengcheng transformation, then Tiny Garden was the second winner after the Chinese government. With the export of the seedlings of the big willow tree, Yan Yue had successfully promoted Zhugang and copaiba balsam trees. In fact, apart from making money, the existence of the bamboo and copaiba balsam trees was more like a kind of guidance. They were a reminder to mankind that plants were rich in energy and that the tens of thousands of plants on earth were the greatest treasure trove for mankind. Protecting the living environment of plants was also protecting humans themselves.
In less than four years, seedlings of the Great Willow Tree had been planted all over the world, including, of course, the Taklamakan Desert. Since the first seedling of the Great Willow tree survived here, the originally desolate desert had gradually taken on a new lease of life. Although it was mainly thanks to the transformation of the planet’s heart, it was undeniable that the willow trees’ root system’s ability to store water had played a great role in the desert. Oases began to appear at the edge of the desert and were gradually advancing towards its centre. Some experts predicted that within twenty years the entire Taklamakan Desert would become an oasis of life.
The changes of the past few years flashed through Lu Lingxi’s mind as he looked out of the car window in fascination.
“Brother, Brother.” Xiao Xiaorui noticed that Lu Lingxi’s attention was not on him and shook his arm to remind Lu Lingxi of his presence.
Lu Lingxi looked at Xiao Xiaorui and smiled gently, stroking Xiao Xiaorui’s soft hair and saying, “What’s the matter?”
Xiao Xiaorui blinked and said loudly in a milky voice, “I like Brother the most.”
Lu Lingxi agreed, “I also like Xiaorui the most.”
Yan Yue and Dahei protested at the same time. Lu Lingxi giggled and went over to give the man and the dog a kiss on the cheek.
Xiao Xiaorui got anxious, “I want it too, I want it too.”
Lu Lingxi smiled and hugged Xiao Xiaorui, giving him a big smooch on the cheek.
Xiaohei peeked up from Yan Yue’s wrist, aggrieved, and hissed in Lu Lingxi’s direction. Without waiting for Lu Lingxi’s reaction, Yan Yue had unceremoniously suppressed Xiaohei’s request.
The three of them, the dog and the snake, spent the afternoon strolling around the oasis, and Lu Lingxi also bought quite a few desert poplar crafts. Originally Yan Yue wanted to accompany Lu Lingxi to stroll around the neighbourhood at night and rent a tent to watch the sunrise in the morning, but Fang Lei called to say that he and Xiaohui would be arriving soon. Yan Yue had to pull the reluctant Xiao Xiaorui into the car, ready to rush back to the hotel where they were staying.
“Brother, I want to stay in a tent tonight.” Xiao Xiaorui complained with his mouth deflated.
Lu Lingxi hugged him and fed him some water before explaining, “Brother Xiaohui is coming to see you, don’t you want to see Brother Xiaohui?”
Xiao Xiaorui shook his head honestly and added, “Brother Xiaohui likes to pinch my face every time and even steals the little dried fish I leave for Meow Xiaohui to eat.”
Lu Lingxi: “……”
After four years of getting along, Lu Lingxi actually felt that even though Xiaohui had turned into a human that looked like an adult, his personality was still completely childish. Every time they got together, Xiaohui liked to tease Xiao Xiaorui, often switching between cat and human forms to confuse Xiao Xiaorui, simply full of bad taste. However, because of Fang Lei’s indulgence, Xiaohui was able to retain his nature to the fullest extent, happily following Fang Lei and having Fang Lei clean up the mess no matter what he did.
Lu Lingxi coaxed Xiao Xiaorui for a long time and as soon as they returned to the hotel, they saw Fang Lei in front of them holding Xiaohui, who had turned into a cat.
Yan Yue raised his eyebrows, “What’s wrong with Xiaohui?”
Fang Lei was serious: “This will save one person’s airfare.”
Yan Yue & Lu Lingxi: “……”
The truth was that Xiaohui was quarrelling with Fang Lei and refused to change back into his human form. He squatted in Fang Lei’s arms, puffy with anger. His eyes rolled around; he chose a target and aimed to pounce towards Xiao Xiaorui. Xiao Xiaorui didn’t like Brother Xiaohui, but he was extremely fond of Meow Xiaohui. Xiao Xiaorui remembered that Meow Xiaohui liked to eat dried small fish, and every time he saw Meow Xiaohui he would take out the dried small fish he had specially saved and give it to Meow Xiaohui to eat.
This time Xiao Xiaorui didn’t have any dried small fish with him. He struggled to find it for a long time, piling up all the souvenirs Lu Lingxi had bought for him this afternoon in front of Xiaohui. “Meow Meow, these are all for you, I’ll ask Daddy to fry you little fish to eat when we get home.”
Xiao Xiaorui hugged Xiaohui and gave him a big kiss before turning to discuss with Lu Lingxi, “Brother, can I sleep with Meow Xiaohui and Brother Dahei at night?”
Lu Lingxi held back a smile and looked at Fang Lei, who laughed helplessly.
Looking at Xiao Xiaorui and the cat-shaped Xiaohui playing together, Yan Yue took the opportunity to satisfy his and Lu Lingxi’s curiosity, “Did you quarrell? What happened?”
Fang Lei sighed, “As you know, I was injured in a case some time ago. It was not a big deal, but Xiaohui took it to heart and went to take revenge for me without saying a word, solving the case in the process. Fortunately, he was fine, but what if something had happened?”
Xiaohui had run to Fang Lei with great enthusiasm to claim credit, but to his surprise, Fang Lei was not only unhappy, but grabbed him and gave him a lecture. In his anger, Xiaohui wanted to leave home but was caught by Fang Lei just as he arrived at the airport. Still angry, he turned back into a cat and refused to pay any attention to Fang Lei the whole way.
This was exactly what Xiaohui would do. Yan Yue patted Fang Lei sympathetically and suddenly frowned, “Fang Lei, why is there a lipstick mark on your collar?”
Fang Lei was stunned and was just about to ask what lipstick mark, when Xiaohui on the bed twitched its ears and pounced angrily towards Fang Lei.
Yan Yue winked at Fang Lei, hugged Xiao Xiaorui with one hand, pulled Lu Lingxi with the other, and left the room with Dahei behind him. The moment the door closed, Xiaohui had already changed back into his human form, angrily pulling Fang Lei to sniff around.
Fang Lei chuckled, smoothly wrapped his arms around Xiaohui and lowered his head to kiss him. “Yan Yue lied to you, there is no lipstick mark.”
Fang Lei gently slapped Xiaohui’s butt, “No swearing.”
As soon as Xiaohui got excited, the cat ears and cat tail that had been put away appeared again.
Fang Lei familiarly touched Xiaohui’s tail, which was the most sensitive part of Xiaohui’s body. Xiaohui blushed, waved his tail and bit Fang Lei’s neck hard, saying viciously, “Bite you to death.”
Fang Lei kissed him indulgently and said softly, “Don’t be angry, I know you are worried about me, but you should know that I will be worried about you too.”
Xiaohui didn’t say anything and wrapped his arms around Fang Lei’s neck with force. Fang Lei smiled, hugged Xiaohui tenderly and asked, “Are you hungry?”
Xiaohui nodded obediently, “I want to eat grilled fish.”
“Good, put on your clothes and let’s go eat grilled fish with Yan Yue and the others.”
In the next room, Xiao Xiaorui was playing with Dahei. Lu Lingxi glared at Yan Yue, “Big Brother Yan is lying again.”
Yan Yue smiled faintly and kissed Lu Lingxi on the forehead, saying gently, “I would never lie to Xiao Xi.”
The corners of Lu Lingxi’s lips curved up and he interlocked his fingers with Yan Yue’s, saying seriously, “I know.”
Their eyes met, and the two simple words “I know” were better than all the sweet words in the world.
Translator’s note: So, the story is over! It is the longest one I have translated. I originally thought I would leisurely translate it till the New Year but apparently I cannot do anything leisurely 🙂
I hope you enjoyed it (those who didn’t enjoy it but read 175 chapters of it anyway… I don’t know, go reflect on your life or something) 🙂 I will certainly miss Xiao Xi, Yan Yue, Dahei and others.
Thank you, Blood, my favourite reader, for your constant support! And thank you everyone who commented and said all those nice things. I hope you’ll enjoy some other stories on this site 🙂
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