IHAS – 23

Chapter 23: Arc 1: Rural Love: Chapter 23 – Acting

When Wu Cui Ling was being taken away by Liu Dong Lai, she was seen by someone.

The village was akin to being thrown a grenade; everything exploded. The neighbors ran out of their door in shock to take a look. They couldn’t believe it. A woman who usually looked honest and stayed within her bounds; her wrists were so thin that she needed assistance to kill the chickens during Chinese New Year; when she managed to catch up with the scene of slaughtering the pigs, she didn’t even dare to look at it from the side. How could such a woman do such a terrible thing?

The gossipers in the village began to discuss about it, they were even more enthusiastic about it than farming.

“I really couldn’t tell. Xiao Wu has studied for many years, she went to university and knows how to write poems. She is a very educated woman that is diligent and capable. I didn’t expect her to even lay her hands on her own mother-in-law. Is she not afraid of being struck by lightning?”

“Exactly. To think that we would often say that she is filial, virtuous, sensible, and knows how to serve her mother-in-law, take care of her family and clean up everything from inside to outside. We can’t find a second daughter-in-law as good as her within the vicinity while carrying lanterns.”

“People’s minds are unpredictable. Nowadays, there are all sorts of people. How do you know whether their hearts are black or red?”

“Aiyo. Just thinking of how she would normally accompany us, talking and doing work together, my hair stands on end.”

“Me, too. This is too scary. She hides too well.”

“Wang Yue Mei died miserably. I heard from my boss that she was stabbed to death. There is a big hole in her neck and all her blood has been drained away, it’s just like killing chickens.”

“So to say, we as a human, it’s better to be generous and tolerant. Don’t haggle over every ounce. It’s very easy to evoke resentment when you always find fault and don’t treat a human being as a human being.”

“What are all of you talking about? Xiao Wu was just taken to the police station for questioning, who said that she was the one who did it?”

“It must be her. Otherwise, why did the young man only take her instead of anyone else when there are so many other people in the village?”

“Ah, do you guys think that, Li Da Gui’s death has something more than what meets the eye?”

“Don’t talk about it! I’m getting frightened in this broad daylight. That kind of ill-intentioned woman should get a mob thrashing!”

Huang Dan and Chen Jin Hua were standing in the crowd. The gossip went in their left ear and left through their right ear only to go back into their right ear again. It was endless. Everyone of them was focused on gossiping about these three words: Wu Cui Ling. Just like the eagerness one showed to take off their pants and urinate, they casually dragged the already dead Wang Yue Mei into their conversations. They said that she was too mean and looked down on people; that was why she had lost her life.

Chen Jin Hua spat, “We have been neighbors for decades. Now that Yue Mei is dead, saying all these words is just going overboard.”

“We are just casually conversing a few sentences. What’s the big deal? When she was still alive, who didn’t know what deeds she has done? She had done them, but is afraid of being said?” A woman spoke in a strange manner, “Jin Hua, you have thrown a lot of things in Yue Mei’s place over the years. Now that she’s dead, you have no one else to curry favor with. You mustn’t be feeling good inside.”

Chen Jin Hua wasn’t angry. All of them were from the same village. Who didn’t hold one or two matters in each of their hands?

“Da Hu’s Mother, speaking of flattery, I can’t even compare with you. In order to get the tiles for the semi-tractor, you even gifted yourself out.”

The married woman’s face turned green instantly.

Although this matter wasn’t any secret since a long time ago, it had still been some years since this matter had passed. Now that this was brought out again, her face turned painfully hot just like she had been slapped in public.

“It is still you who is amazing. Yue Mei used to say directly in your son’s face that you don’t deserve Old Li, only people like Ma Zi. You can still walk behind her ass as if nothing has happened.”

Everyone else was watching and whispering at this scene. They seemed to have nothing to do at home and were just idling around.

Huang Dan tugged Chen Jin Hua, “Mom, let’s go back.”

He didn’t understand. This was a kind of war in which the parties involved were women. There was no gunpowder’s smoke but only sputters of saliva, yet it still could cause someone to die from anger.

Chen Jin Hua smiled, “Da Hu’s Mother, now that you have mentioned about the past, I remember something. When you had done ligation, I had even gone with you. However, you ran away halfway through the journey and I had to look for you as a result. Finally, I found you in the gully. At that time, you were holding on to a man’s waistband, and you didn’t want to let go. Now, I can’t remember who it was, but I do remember that his face was black like coal ball.”

There was laughter all around, it was full of mockery.

Who in the village didn’t know that Widow Zhang was flirty as hell. When she was young, she was flirty, and now that she was getting old, she didn’t seem to have changed much. She clung onto men all day long but didn’t allow anyone to talk about it.

Widow Zhang was like a cornered dog that would jump over the wall, she rained curses the moment she opened her mouth, “Fuck you, Chen Jin Hua, try saying that again!”

Huang Dan’s eyebrows immediately wrinkled. How could this aunt’s mouth be so dirty? Even he had the urge to take the toilet brush to help this aunt scrub her mouth.

Chen Jin Hua wasn’t someone who could be taken advantage of, she did not only returned a tooth for a tooth, but she gave it back twofold.

Widow Zhang was so unbearably angry that her hand stretched out to claw at Chen Jin Hua.

At that moment, Huang Dan blocked it for Chen Jin Hua and five scratches appeared on his face. He yelled in pain and bent over to cover his face as he gasped incessantly.

Chen Jin Hua’s face sank. “You dare to hit my son, I’ll fight to death with you!”

She rushed up and swung her hands at Widow Zhang.

The scene was chaotic. There were some who were trying to stop the fight, there were some who were moving their hands, and there were some who were moving their mouth. It was a bundle of mess.

Li Gen was squatting on the ground, smoking under the old locust tree in front of his house. When he heard the noise, he didn’t want to bother at first, but when he saw a figure, he immediately spat out his cigarette and ran towards them.

The cigarette smell of Qixi brand wafted up his nose. One hand grabbed Huang Dan and pulled him up. He lifted his arm and wiped his tears. His lips were white from the pain.

Li Gen looked at the young man’s swollen face that was bleeding. He turned his head and snarled, “Who did it?”

Silence came around.

Li Gen hadn’t closed his eyes for the past two days, there were wisps of blood in his eyes. When he stared at them, he was particularly terrifying. “Damn it, you did the deed but dare not admit it? Which coward was it? Stand up for Lao Zi right now!”

Everyone cast a glance in the direction of Widow Zhang.

Widow Zhang’s hair was disheveled, her collar had been torn apart by Chen Jin Hua, and her neck was even scratched several times. She braced herself and said, “Zhang Dong Tian is not your wife. When did it become your turn to take it out for him?”

Li Gen sneered, “It’s none of your business!”

His face was horrible, “Apologize.”

When Widow Zhang saw that no one was going to speak for her, she turned her head and shouted, “Where the hell are you, Zhang Da Hu? If you don’t hurry up, someone is going to hit your mother— “

Taking advantage of the fact that no one was at home, Zhang Da Hu had seized the moment to do the deed with a woman in the house. When he was halfway through the deed, he heard a cry from the outside. He pulled on his pants and went out, “What’s going on, what’s going on?”

Sensing something dangerous coming from Li Gen, Zhang Da Hu’s heart went still for a moment, “Ge, there must be some sort of misunderstanding.”

Widow Zhang swatted her son’s arm vigorously and scolded him in a soft voice, “This useless thing, what are you scared of? You’re totally the same as your dead father.”

Zhang Da Hu tugged at his mother who couldn’t discern judgements, and smiled apologetically at Li Gen. “Ge, all of us are neighbors and see each other everyday. It’s not necessary for us to fight.”

Seeing that Li Gen had no sign of easing down, he then added, “Aunt left us yesterday, and Sister Cui Ling… I know Ge is not feeling good inside and is in a bad mood. If you are angry, please come at me instead.”

Li Gen still didn’t let this matter go.

Zhang Da Hu took a look at the young man beside Li Gen and thought that it wasn’t a big deal. Wasn’t it just a few scratches? Why was he even crying? His mother’s expertise was to take the bamboo stick and thrash him, use the towel to slap him, and the rod to beat him up; those were really painful to the point of death.

Those were his thoughts but Zhang Da Hu didn’t say it out loud. He had to turn big problems into small ones, and small ones into nothing. “I will apologize for my mother. Dong Tian, I’m sorry.”

Huang Dan’s face was painful and his tears couldn’t stop. All the eyes around him were full of contempt. He was too familiar with this kind of expression, which meant “why is he so delicate? He is even worse than a woman”.

His pain nervous system was abnormal, Huang Dan couldn’t reincarnate, so he could only be like this.

As soon as he left, Li Gen also didn’t stay. Chen Jin Hua followed behind the two. This matter was then over.

The people in the village couldn’t help sighing and be envious. Chen Jin Hua’s calculation was very good. She knew how to flatter Wang Yue Mei. Even if she had died, she would still defend her. In the future, her son, who couldn’t even release a single fart1 would have Li Gen’s support and could walk across the village as he wished.

Li Gen was going to the town to ask about Wu Cui Ling’s situation. Huang Dan was going with him.

The local police station was billowing with smoke. There were two people smoking and playing cards in the police station. Liu Dong Lai was sitting on the left desk, carefully writing down something and taking notes. He had taken over a homicide case the moment he was sent to this unfamiliar territory. If he didn’t do any work, it would be very laborious.

It was only when Li Gen asked that he got to know that Wu Cui Ling went out of control in the process of being interrogated. Later, she fainted and was even getting an intravenous drip in the hospital.

Liu Dong Lai pinched the bridge of his nose. “Her reaction was fierce. She said that she didn’t kill anyone.”

Li Gen asked, “Which hospital is she at?”

Liu Dong Lai said, “It’s not far from here.”

He brought Li Gen and Huang Dan to the hospital, “Don’t worry. When she wakes up and her mood becomes stable, I will ask her the details again.”

Li Gen said, “Please.”

“It’s my duty, I should be doing it.” Liu Dong Lai patted him on the shoulder. “Can you cooperate with me and answer some of my questions?”

Li Gen agreed.

Huang Dan initiatively went to one side and kicked at the stones.

Liu Dong Lai took out a small notebook from his pocket and an automatic pen. “You’ve been married twice. How did the women die?”

Li Gen raised his eyebrows. “This has something to do with the case?”

Liu Dong Lai spoke seriously, “My teacher has said before that any details may be a key clue before the case is solved.”

Li Gen said, “Police Officer Liu is a good student.”

If this man hadn’t come to the village, just by relying on that few people sent by the police station, they wouldn’t even find out any damn thing, and certainly wouldn’t bother to do so.

He took out a box of cigarettes from his trouser’s pocket. It wasn’t the usual Qixi brand, but the more expensive Yunshan brand. He took one out and handed it to him.

Liu Dong Lai waved and said that he didn’t smoke.

Li Gen didn’t smoke it either. He was a person that wouldn’t make any changes as long as he had set his eyes on a thing. He was used to Qixi. He couldn’t accept other cigarettes, even if the brand was better.

“One died in a sedan chair, the other drank pesticide on the third day of our marriage.”

Liu Dong Lai muttered to himself irresolutely. He didn’t find these cases in the file, the two families actually did not even report to the police.

There was a common phenomenon in most of the people here. Their belief towards the law was just too shallow.

They valued their faces more, and they lived just for that. As if their faces were more important than anything else.

Liu Dong Lai said, “There is a case in medical science, where people who were in good health just suddenly stop breathing.”

Li Gen raised his eyebrows.

Liu Dong Lai said, “Why did your second wife drink pesticide?”

Li Gen said that he wasn’t clear.

Liu Dong Lai asked, “Did both of you date before?”

Li Gen said, “No.”

Liu Dong Lai then asked, “Before she drank the pesticide, did you two commit any sexual intercourse?”

The meaning behind this question was that, did the woman drink pesticide to commit suicide because she was forced?

“I’m a person who values feelings. I need to have feelings before I can have sex.”

Li Gen spoke frankly, “Police Officer Liu, do you have any more questions about my past two marriages?”

“Not for the moment.” Liu Dong Lai said, “Your sister-in-law is interested in you.”

Li Gen’s eyelids suddenly lifted. “Evidence?”

Liu Dong Lai flipped opened the notebook and said, “This is a copy from your sister-in-law’s poetry collection. It’s a poem that she wrote to you.”

Li Gen took a look.

Wu Cui Ling’s infatuation was hidden in those poems. She had already mentioned the name and the surname. She didn’t have the courage to say it out loud, so she expressed her feelings by writing poems.

Liu Dong Lai observed the changes in the man’s expression. It seemed that he didn’t know about Wu Cui Ling and also had no interest in her.

“Did you tell her about your lack of money?”

Liu Dong Li continued, “As far as I know, when someone dies, they will receive the funeral money from their relatives. Adding them all together, it’s quite a sum of money.”

Li Gen’s pupils constricted. “Police Officer Liu, your assumption can only be made by a madman.”

Liu Dong said, “The way your mother was killed was extremely cruel. Is it not done by a madman?”

Li Gen closed his eyes and said, “Yes, I told her.”

Liu Dong Lai wrote it down and asked, “How’s the relationship between Zhang Ying Xiong and your sister-in-law?”

Li Gen said, “Quite good.”

Liu Dong Lai asked a few more questions before he suddenly turned his attention to the young man not far away.

“A friend of mine is similar to you, so I know a little more about same-sex relationship than the rest, likewise, it’s easier for me to realise. It’s hard to walk this road, so it’s better if you don’t even step on it. Turn around as soon as possible if you can.”

Li Gen’s breath halted.

“The acceptance rate of the villagers is practically none.”

Liu Dong Lai said, “I’d like to advise you with a sentence, paper can’t wrap fire. To be safe, it’s better for you two to leave the village.”

He put the automatic pen in his notebook. “Let’s go.”

When they arrived at the hospital, the three went to the ward.

Wu Cui Ling was lying on the small bed with her eyes closed and there was no color on her face. She looked very bad.

Li Gen didn’t go in. He just stood in the corridor for a moment and left.

Huang Dan looked a little longer. Wu Cui Ling was awake and knew that Li Gen was here, but she didn’t open her eyes.

Who knew if it was because she was blaming him for not believing in her, or she was guilty. Like she was hiding something and was afraid of being discovered.

When they went back, they didn’t take the usual route. They were almost shuttling through the fields.

Huang Dan was tired from walking, so he took off his shoes and left them on the grass to air them. The original owner had sweaty feet. His sweat soaked his shoes, making it sticky and wet.

Li Gen held Huang Dan’s chin and looked at the scratches on the left side of his face. It wasn’t so swollen anymore. “Is it still painful?”

Huang Dan said that it didn’t hurt. “Ge, don’t touch me.”

Li Gen didn’t touch it. He leaned over and put his lips on the scratches on the young man’s face. It was a gentle touch. “Don’t worry about what other people say. Ge is good to you but not because your mother always gives something to us.”

Huang Dan said, “I know.”

Li Gen sat down with his elbows on his knees. His big, bony hands scratched his short, hard hair. “Dong Tian, Ge’s heart is in a mess.”

The people around him all changed their faces. They were extremely unfamiliar and that made him afraid and disgusted.

Since when had the Shatang Village where he was born in and grew up become so complex? It had become a place where people devoured even the bones.

Huang Dan could understand somehow. Li Gen’s time was spent studying, going to school and taking exams. In summer and winter, he worked to earn money. He didn’t pay attention to his family’s advantages and disadvantages. He didn’t care about it. If Wang Yue Mei didn’t collapse two years ago, and was determined not to leave the village, he would have started a family in another place and never come back.

Now Wang Yue Mei’s tragic death completely broke Li Gen’s cognition of the village which had been solidified for many years.

“That Police Officer Liu is different from others. He is very responsible and will find out the truth.” Huang Dan said, “Ge, whether it’s Sister Cui Ling or not, Aunt is gone.”

Li Gen held his hand and placed it on his forehead. “Dong Tian, Ge only has you. You have to accompany me. I beg you.”

Huang Dan pursed his lips and patted the man’s back.

When he came home from work, he met a very arrogant little boy driving a Mercedes Benz Toy Car in a residential area and crossed over here inexplicably. He wasn’t sure whether that world would be in a frozen state or not. He hoped it was.

Otherwise, he would be in a state of sudden death. The housekeeper would cremate him while being sad. If he went back, he would have no body.

Huang Dan’s butt was a little bit rough. He reached towards it and touched dog poop.

“…”

Huang Dan threw the poop away and wiped his hands on the grass. “Ge, am I going to get some unexpected luck?” 

Li Gen’s face twitched. “Probably.”

Huang Dan grabbed the man’s hand. “Then you should touch it too.”

Li Gen dodged. “I’m fine without it.”

Huang Dan threw a piece of dog poop onto the man’s gown.

Li Gen immediately took off his clothes and removed the shit. He yelled with a black face, “Zhang Dong Tian!”

The corner of Huang Dan’s mouth curved.

Li Gen was stunned. “You smiled.”

Huang Dan said, “Did I?”

Li Gen looked straight at him. “Yes.”

This time, Huang Dan was stunned. He touched his face and the corner of his mouth. Did I smile? He was able to smile without any reference?

But he still wasn’t certain as to what kind of feeling it was to smile.

Just like how he didn’t understand why he had to be in so much pain.

Li Gen held Huang Dan in silence.

Huang Dan felt a little painful from being hugged. Every time when this man hugged him, it was always like this, and so he remembered that hugging would hurt.

After returning to the village, Huang Dan told him, “Ge, I want to go to Sister Cui Ling’s house to have a look.”

Li Gen brought him there.

The things in the room had been rummaged by Liu Dong Lai when he had come and they hadn’t been tidied up, so it was a mess.

Huang Dan turned this and turned that, including the drawers and wardrobes. He squatted in front of the red leather suitcase and looked around the suitcase with his head askew. He unintentionally caught sight of a piece of black article as his eyes moved around. There was something under the bed.

Li Gen went to get a stick and swept it under the bed. He drew something out. It was a pair of black pants.

It was his.

Huang Dan said, “There are more.”

After collecting his thoughts, Li Gen pulled a long face as he continued to sweep under the bed. There were a lot of things. There were several pairs of socks, sweaters, autumn pants, short sleeved jacket for summer wear, and a pair of boxers. They had been washed, and there were signs of them being folded.

Huang Dan thought that these were the original items that were put under the suitcase. Wu Cui Ling was afraid that Li Gen would find out about her dirty intention, so she panicked.

Looking at Wu Cui Ling’s reaction, it seemed that she did not know that the clothes had become a bankbook.

The person who had replaced it didn’t have enough time to take it away and had stuffed them underneath the bed in a rush.

That person knew that Li Gen was short of money, and even Wu Cui Ling’s intention to take Wang Yue Mei’s bankbook. She wanted to help Li Gen in her own name, so the other party designed this trap and led her to it? Would that be the case?

A figure emerged in Huang Dan’s mind. He swallowed his saliva, and his palms were sweating, “Ge, Sister Cui Ling likes you.”

Li Gen dropped the stick. “Can I apply for a smoke?”

Huang Dan said, “Okay.”

Li Gen sat on the ground beside the bed and smoked. Without saying anything, he finished his cigarette and got up to go out.

Huang Dan stayed in the room for a while and found a small book.

It was Wu Cui Ling’s account book, which recorded in detail the money she took from Wang Yue Mei every single time after she had married Li Da Gui.

Huang Dan flipped backward and thought that there wasn’t anything for him to see, but he ended up discovering the secret wedged between the papers.

It turned out that after Li Da Gui had died two years ago, Wang Yue Mei became paralyzed. Li Gen came back from outside to take care of her. As the time Wu Cui Ling spend with him got longer, she slowly developed that sort of feeling towards him. 

So, if Wu Cui Ling was involved in Li Da Gui’s death, her motive was not to be with Li Gen, but something else.

Like that child.

Human’s imagination was infinite and, likewise, terrible. Huang Dan was scared by his imagination. He took the small book and went to find Li Gen.

After Li Gen finished reading it, he applied for another cigarette to smoke.

To think that there were so many secrets within one family.

The weather was blistering hot, and the temperature was exceedingly high. The yellow ground was scalding; Wang Yue Mei’s body could no longer be stationed there.

Li Gen went to the village chief.

In the morning, an elderly in the village helped to dress Wang Yue Mei. According to Li Gen’s request, the elderly made sure that none of her hair was loose, and then changed her clothes into good quality burial clothes.

Wang Yue Mei was very particular. Whenever she would enter the coffin, she must go in with dignity.

Several strong men carried the coffin, blowing the instruments and beating the drums all the way around the village. They then entered the mountain and buried her beside Li Da Gui and his father.

Li Gen, who was dressed in mourning clothes, stood at the edge of the pit and scattered paper money on the coffin.

This was a custom. There was no need for a lot of money. Just sprinkling a little was fine. If there was too much, gossip would spread and that would make people think about it. The grave would end up being dug open and the money would be taken away.

The strong men took the shovel and filled up the pit, and the coffin was soon covered by the mud.

The last shovel of the grave pit was dug by Li Gen. He knelt on the ground and knocked his head several times. Even after everyone had left, he was still kneeling stupidly.

Huang Dan pulled the man up and patted the dirt off his pants. “Ge, let’s go back.”

Li Gen wiped his face and his voice was hoarse, “Okay.”

There were five or six tables in the courtyard. The relatives of the two families came. Chen Jin Hua and Zhang Ying Xiong’s mother cooked rice, steamed pork, fish, red dates and tremella soup. They had to serve every single dish without fail.

Huang Dan drank the tremella soup in the kitchen. It was sweet and greasy. 

“Mom, Ge is waiting in the room. He’s crying.”

“It’s better to cry out. If you hold it in your heart, you’ll hold until you have problems.” Chen Jin Hua sighed, “Humans, no matter how one looks like when one is still alive, will be just a handful of mud when one is dead. So smelly and ordinary.”

Ying Xiong’s mother also sighed, “That’s right.”

Huang Dan put the bowl on the table. “Where’s Ying Xiong, Second Aunt? Why didn’t I see him?”

Ying Xiong’s Mother was cooking, “He has had a bad stomach these two days.”

Huang Dan said, “Let me go see him.”

When he went there, he found that the gate of Zhang Ying Xiong’s house was closed and bolted.

He yelled several times outside the door, but there was no response; it was expected by Huang Dan. Zhang Ying Xiong was hiding in his room.

Three days later, Wu Cui Ling still hadn’t come back.

The people in the village were gossiping again. They said that it was really Wu Cui Ling who had done it. How did the Wu Family teach such a daughter? She was really vicious.

Wu Cui Ling used to be the pride of her family, but she refused to remarry after Li Da Gui’s death. She insisted on staying with the Li Family. She quarrelled with her family once, twice, and ultimately fell out with her family.

The door of the Wu Family was tightly closed. As soon as they heard that their daughter was taken to the police station, they had all left, just so they could avoid being ridiculed and getting eyes rolls from their relatives and friends.

Huang Dan has been wandering around Zhang Ying Xiong’s house, and finally, he found a chance to sneak in.

Zhang Ying Xiong was more haggard than Li Gen whose mother had just passed away. He was worried and was harping about something in the courtyard. When he saw Huang Dan, he was shocked. “Dong-dong Tian, why are you here?”

Huang Dan said, “I heard from Second Aunt that you have a bad stomach.”

Zhang Ying Xiong looked unwell. “Yes, I that, have eaten more flat cakes than usual. I don’t know what my mother has added to it. It caused me to go to the toilet so many times a day that I almost shitted my intestines out.”

Huang Dan frowned. “Why don’t you go to the clinic?”

Zhang Ying Xiong said, “I’m too lazy to go to the clinic.”

He yawned. “I’m sleepy. I’ll go and take a nap.”

Huang Dan said, “Sister Cui Ling is still in the police station. The whole village is saying that she killed aunt.”

Zhang Ying Xiong didn’t look back. “It’s impossible. Sister Cui Ling is very good to aunt. She will never kill her. They don’t know anything. They just spread things around and stuff shit in their heads.”

Huang Dan looked at Zhang Ying Xiong’s back. He suddenly remembered that he hadn’t even reached twenty years old.

He really didn’t look like it at all.

Maybe it was because he had been working as a farmer since he was young. He had a very good physique. If there was someone who didn’t know his age, they might think that he was a man in his thirties.

After Huang Dan left, he went to Li Gen. “Ge, I saw Ying Xiong and thought that he was a little strange.”

Li Gen stop wiping the table, “How is he strange?”

Huang Dan put his conjecture and what he saw together. “He was very flustered that Sister Cui Ling hasn’t come back.”

Li Gen threw the rag aside and frowned as he asked, “Dong Tian, what are you trying to say?”

Huang Dan didn’t answer his question, “Ge, do you remember He Wei’s death?”

Li Gen nodded. “En.”

Huang Dan said, “How could Brother Da Gui’s clothes be in the bamboo garden behind his house?”

“I am puzzled about that too.” Li Gen said, “I went back to work as soon as the first seven days of Da Gui’s death had passed. It was my mother and Cui Ling who sorted out all his things. I don’t know exactly which date they were burned.”

According to Huang Dan’s analysis, that was to say, only Wu Cui Ling and Wang Yue Mei had contact with Li Da Gui’s clothes. Wang Yue Mei became parazlyed about half a year after Li Da Gui’s death. Only Wu Cui Ling had the chance to go to He Wei’s house in the middle of the night with his clothes.

Even if she didn’t do the deed herself, it surely had something to do with her.

Li Gen solemnly said, “Dong Tian, tell Ge what’s in your mind.”

Huang Dan said, “I don’t think there are any ghosts in the world, only people who pretend to be ghosts.”

With the melon sized brain of the original owner, he couldn’t say too much, but in this sentence, that man could already understand the meaning behind it and think of many things.

Li Gen’s fingertips tapped on the table.

When Da Gui died, the first person that Li Gen suspected was He Wei. He secretly did some investigation, but he didn’t find out anything else.

But his suspicion and dislike of He Wei had not been reduced.

In Li Gen’s eyes, an undeniable part of the reasons why his younger brother was arrogant was because of He Wei’s malicious flattery. As long as something had happened, he would coax his younger brother until he couldn’t even differentiate his directions. He would shoulder the matters like he was a fool. The other party would then hide behind him like it was none of his business.

So when he got to know that He Wei had died, Li Gen felt carefree.

Li Gen didn’t think too deeply about it. Now that he thought back to it, the gown didn’t have feet, it must be someone who had put it there.

Could that person be Cui Ling?

At that time, his mother had tried to test her out, but her reaction was nothing unusual. She even allowed him to search her room. However, he didn’t search attentively and had just roughly glanced at her room.

Li Gen had a splitting headache. He had been working outside for all these years. When he came back and inquired about the house, his mother would say that everything was okay at home. She also said that Da Gui and Cui Ling had a good relationship and never quarrelled.

Da Gui and Cui Ling were the same, they told him that everything was good.

How many lies existed in this family…

At night, Li Gen went to the bamboo garden of He Wei’s home alone, and he looked for something with a flashlight.

Huang Dan was at home, he knew that Li Gen would take action and didn’t sleep.

There was a sound from the hall. Huang Dan went out and saw Chen Jin Hua moving the bench. “Mom, you haven’t slept yet?”

Chen Jin Hua said no.

Huang Dan saw the basket full of threads on the table, “Mom, why are you still sewing soles for me? With the amount of new shoes I have, I won’t be able to finish wearing them all within these years.”

Chen Jin Hua said, “Then just put them aside and slowly wear them.”

Chen Jin Hua said, “Mom is old. My eyes won’t be good enough to make them anymore, so will my memory. I won’t remember how a shoe looks like. I will make as many of them while I still can.” 

Huang Dan looked at Chen Jin Hua’s face under a kerosene lamp. He didn’t know when she had started to look so morbid.

She wouldn’t be able to live long.

Huang Dan wanted to talk but he hesitated. In the end, he couldn’t say anything.

Before dawn arrived, Li Gen came in by climbing over the wall.

Huang Dan had been dozing off the entire night. He didn’t dare to sleep like a log. Now he was constantly yawning. He stared at the thing in the man’s hand. “Ge, what is that? Lantern frame? Or a kite frame?”

Li Gen said no, “It’s a paper man.”

Huang Dan expressed his surprise.

“He Wei is afraid of ghosts and many people know about that.”

“Someone intentionally put Da Gui’s red gown on the paper man, raised it and shook it in front of He Wei’s window. He died from fright.” Li Gen explained.

Huang Dan swallowed his saliva, it was exactly what he had thought.

Li Gen pointed to the dirty pieces of broken paper. “These two pieces of paper were found in the bamboo garden. It was windy that night, and it had rained. It might have been blown away.”

Huang Dan asked, “What about this frame?”

“I found it in a pile of rubbish in the west. There’s only this small piece.” Li Gen said, “Within the vicinity, only Zhang Ying Xiong’s father is a lantern making master.”

Huang Dan’s main concern was that; no wonder this man stank so badly.

Li Gen said, “I remember that Zhang Ying Xiong has learned from his father and it is easy for him to make such a paper man’s frame.” 

Huang Dan’s face revealed astonishment. “Ge, you mean that Zhang Ying Xiong scared He Wei to death? Why did he do that? “

Li Gen pinched Huang Dan’s face. “It’s all because of your reminder.”

Huang Dan restrained his excitement.

Li Gen said, “I’ve recalled something. The day before Cui Ling married Da Gui, everyone was gathered in the yard making troubles with the matchmaker. I unintentionally saw Zhang Ying Xiong come out of her house. He looked a little strange. They must’ve known each other before then.”

Huang Dan was speechless. This was such a big issue but he only remembered it now.

Li Gen rubbed his temples. At that time, he only knew to study. It didn’t matter because the books didn’t have any beauty to entice his heart, instead it could calm his mind, so he didn’t care so much about the people and things around him.

“I’ll go to Yin Village tomorrow.”

Huang Dan said, “I heard that none of Cui Ling’s family is there.”

Li Gen said, “It’s fine. I’m not looking for her family. I’m looking for her neighbors.”

The next day, Li Gen went to Yin Village and found out one thing. Wu Cui Ling went to Luting to buy chemical fertilizer in the summer vacation of her sophomore year. When she came back, she was ill. He didn’t know what kind of illness she had gotten, but she stayed at home for a long time.

At that time, Zhang Ying Xiong was twelve or thirteen years old. He was not in the village, instead he went to visit his relatives with his parents.

His relative’s house was in Luting.

Li Gen went to Luting by a tractor and spent some effort asking about something that happened that year. Zhang Ying Xiong was naughty and mischievous. He secretly ran out to play at night, but when he came back, he was hurt all over and almost lost his life.

You could find out a lot of things that you hadn’t paid attention to by holding tightly onto a specific person.

Li Gen told Huang Dan what he knew. He only had one person he could trust. If he wanted to hear something from the other party, he’d better overturn his conclusion and say that he was wrong.

However, Huang Dan didn’t say that. He still couldn’t understand the relationship between Zhang Ying Xiong and Wu Cui Ling. It didn’t seem to be the case if he were to say that Zhang Ying Xiong secretly loved Wu Cui Ling. It shouldn’t be a secret crush, and definitely not a mutual relationship between the two.

There must be a relationship. Zhang Ying Xiong wouldn’t disturb this muddy water for no reason.

However, he knew what it was now.

It was adoration, admiration, and gratitude.

Every time someone spoke badly about Wu Cui Ling, Zhang Ying Xiong would fight back.

Huang Dan tried to put the information that Li Gen had told him in order. Zhang Ying Xiong was young and ignorant. He ended up having conflicts with others in Luting and was beaten. Wu Cui Ling, who was still in college, passed by. She tried to help him out of her kindness and might have been…

Because He Wei had said that Wu Cui Ling was a loose woman, it was likely that Li Da Gui had mentioned something to him before.

In the village, if a woman didn’t bleed during her wedding night, that meant that she wasn’t a virgin. This showed that she was unclean, a dirty good. This method to distinguish was just so ridiculous.

Some of them were because of accidental injury, some weren’t, and there were those who had really been touched by someone before.

Huang Dan pushed the door in and a sickle abruptly fell off the door. The sickle had been polished and was extremely sharp. If he hadn’t been pushed away by Li Gen in time, the sickle would have left a hole in some part of his body.

Li Gen dragged Huang Dan. “Are you okay?”

Huang Dan said, “I’m fine.”

Li Gen was afraid for a while, and he cursed, “Who the hell did this?”

Huang Dan knew who did it.

Li Gen wanted Huang Dan to live with him but Huang Dan refused. He still had one last point left. Besides Chen Jin Hua, no one else would be able to help him.

At lunch, Huang Dan told Chen Jin Hua about the sickle.

Chen Jin Hua sat at the door and slapped her thigh. She scolded for more than half an hour. The whole village knew about it, and everyone was in a panic.

Huang Dan once again saw the power of scolding.

Chen Jin Hua’s scolding voice was hoarse. She took up the jar and drank the water. She said something to Huang Dan, and then she mentioned Wu Cui Ling. “Ah, your Sister Cui Ling is really living a hard life. Her parents arranged this marriage even before she was born, and she has to marry Li Da Gui who idled all day long after her college.”

“In the second year of her marriage, she gave birth to a baby. When your Sister Cui Ling came back from the vegetable field, the baby was bitten by a wild dog and died. You didn’t see it. It was a mess of blood and flesh. It resembled nothing.”

Huang Dan raised his eyes. “Mom, why didn’t you tell me this before?”

Chen Jin Hua said, “This kind of thing is not a good thing. Mom feels sorry when she thinks of it.”

Huang Dan said, “How can Sister Cui Ling be rest assured to leave the child in the house?”

Chen Jinhua said, “Your Brother Da Gui was looking after the child. Really, how could he leave his child to go out and play.”

Huang Dan said, “Why was Brother Da Gui so silly?”

Chen Jin Hua said, “All because of that He Wei. Your Brother Da Gui was someone who couldn’t handle getting questioned. He wanted to save his face so badly.”

She wiped her eyes. “The baby was less than one year old when he became that sort of appearance. Can a mother not die of heartache?”

Huang Dan lowered his eyelids. He thought that only Wang Yue Mei, Wu Cui Ling and Li Da Gui knew about the real cause of the child’s death. He didn’t expect Chen Jin Hua to know about it too.

Although Li Da Gui was completely opposite of Li Gen who was Wang Yue Mei’s ideal son, he had one point that was just like Wang Yue Mei, that was, they both wanted to save their face.

Huang Dan was afraid of dogs and didn’t dare to imagine the child’s appearance when he died. He went to the small bamboo chair in the yard and sat down, “Mr. system, I may have found that thread.”

System, “Congratulations.”

Huang Dan said, “Tomorrow, I will enact a play in front of Zhang Ying Xiong and it will decide whether my task will succeed or not. Do you have any suggestions?”

System, “This humbled one thinks that the acting can be a little bad, but the lines cannot be bad.”

Huang Dan said, “This makes sense.”

In his mind, he recited the whole sequence of events several times clearly, and remembered it inside out, “Thank you, Mr. System.”

System, “You’re welcome.”

Huang Dan went to Li Gen’s place. They chatted for a long time before they split up in the afternoon.

When it was dark, Li Gen left the village quietly and went to find Liu Dong Lai.

The next day, Huang Dan diverted Zhang Ying Xiong’s parents away, stepped on Li Gen’s shoulder and flipped over the wall to enter his house. As a result, the glass slag on the wall pierced his hand and he fell down in pain right on the spot.

Li Gen hugged the man and sucked the blood on his hand. “Be careful.”

Huang Dan grimaced in pain. He sat on the ground like he was half dead and gasped on Li Gen’s thigh. After a while, he slowly climbed up again.

Zhang Ying Xiong was lying on the bed and letting his imagination run wildly. Suddenly, he heard something, and his eyes were wide open with fear that he even forgot to move.

Huang Dan said the first line, “Ying Xiong, I already know what you have done.”

As soon as he opened his mouth, his mood began to show. It was brewing just right.

Zhang Ying Xiong sat up and said, “What did I do?”

There was disappointment in Huang Dan’s eyes. “Sister Cui Ling has confessed. The police is at your door.”

Zhang Ying Xiong pushed Huang Dan aside and ran out to see through the crack of the door. Liu Dong Lai was really here.

His face turned white in a flash.

“Four years ago, on the fifth day of the first lunar month, Sister Cui Ling went to the vegetable field. Brother Da Gui was at home watching the child. He Wei came to look for him to hang out. When he left, he didn’t close the door properly. A wild dog came in and bit the child to death.”

Huang Dan spoke neither slow nor fast, “Aunt was concerned of her face and didn’t want to hear gossip, so she hid it by telling the outside world that it was an accident.”

“Brother Da Gui told Sister Cui Ling that he knew he was in the wrong, and he would properly spend time with her in the future.”

When he said it, he noticed that Zhang Ying Xiong showed a hint of irony on his face and it was fleeting. “But Brother Da Gui didn’t know what a child meant to a mother. Sister Cui Ling hated him in her heart. The people in the village thought that their relationship was good. The child was gone but they were still living together. In fact, the moment they closed their door, it was either screaming at each other or fighting.”

“Aunt had always disliked Brother Da Gui. She didn’t care about his affairs. It didn’t matter whether they were dead or alive, let alone their quarrels. Just as long as they didn’t tear the roof apart.”

Zhang Ying Xiong chuckled and erected his thumbs, “Dong Tian, you are really good at making up lies.”

Huang Dan continued to say, “But there is a limit to people’s endurance. Once it exceeds that limit, it can no longer be tolerated.”

“Brother Da Gui was the best swimmer in the village. Two years ago, he had a fever and didn’t have a good rest. Sister Cui Ling asked him to fetch water from the pond. When he wasn’t paying attention, she hit him with a stick on the back of his head and pushed him into the pond. He then drowned.”

Zhang Ying Xiong said, “This is really funny that Sister Cui Ling, a female, can do such a thing, and then run back without anyone knowing?”

“It was a little hard for her to do it alone, but she had an accomplice.” Huang Dan looked at Zhang Ying Xiong and said, “It’s you.”

Zhang Ying Xiong looked like he had just heard a big joke. “Why should I do that?”

He laughed heartily, “Don’t tell me that you think I liked Sister Cui Ling? Dong Tian, I’m not stupid, why should I do this for a widow?”

Huang Dan said, “I will have to start from even earlier.”

When Huang Dan told the story in Luting, the fake smile on Zhang Ying Xiong’s face became stiff.

“You are very grateful to Sister Cui Ling. If it was not for her, you would have been killed. So you treat her as a benefactor and think that she is the best person in the world.”

Huang Dan said, “After you see that the wife whom Brother Da Gui is going to marry is Sister Cui Ling, you think that he is not worthy of her. On the day of their wedding, you secretly went to find her and told her about Brother Da Gui’s fooling around outside, hoping that she would leave him.”

Zhang Ying Xiong bowed his head.

“Sister Cui Ling didn’t leave for the sake of her family’s face. On the day of her marriage, all her classmates came, and she couldn’t stand the gossip. The most important thing was that Brother Da Gui was attractive and tall, so there were many girls who wanted to marry him. At that time, her vanity was satisfied.”

“After marriage, Brother Da Gui still went out to fool around, Sister Cui Ling was helpless and slowly understood that this marriage was wrong. After the child died, she completely broke down.”

Huang Dan said, “Two years ago, Sister Cui Ling finally made the decision to get rid of Brother Da Gui. You helped her kill him.”

“Because Aunt didn’t like Brother Da Gui, she also hated Sister Cui Ling. Even if she was very good, she still looked down on her. She also blamed her grandson’s death on her. She made things difficult for her and tormented her.”

Zhang Ying Xiong was still in the same posture.

Huang Dan said, “Sister Cui Ling had no one to talk to, so she told you about it. The more you listen to her, the more you held a kind of disgust, and even a distorted psychology towards her. You thought that she deserved to die. Only when she was dead, could Sister Cui Ling live a good life.”

Zhang Ying Xiong scoffed, but the meaning behind it wasn’t clear.

“You knew that aunt liked flowers, so you followed her secretly. When she was picking flowers, you pushed her down the mountain, causing her lower body to be paralysed.”

Huang Dan said as he watched Zhang Ying Xiong’s subtle changes and changed his words, “You didn’t expect that Ge would come back, Sister Cui Ling then changed her mind and wanted to stay with the Li Family.”

“Because Sister Cui Ling likes Ge.”

Zhang Ying Xiong’s fingers moved, but it was only one or two times.

“You found this secret in her poetry.” Huang Dan said, “You were afraid that Brother Da Gui’s death would be found out one day, so you persuaded Sister Cui Ling to leave. She didn’t listen, and was determined to pursue her own happiness, so you could only stay here to protect her.”

“Once, when you heard He Wei cursing at the door of Sister Cui Ling’s house and saying that she was a loose woman, you pretended to be a ghost to frighten him and make him sick.”

He said, “Aunt found out that Sister Cui Ling liked Ge, and thought she wasn’t worthy of Ge as someone who had been married before. So when she knew that He Wei held a bad intention towards Sister Cui Ling, she asked her to send chicken to He Wei’s house, and let her be self-aware so that she would have no face left to remain in the house.”

Zhang Ying Xiong’s hands were clenched into fists.

Huang Dan said, “Sister Cui Ling often goes to the ridge of the field at night to read poems and cry there. You always go to talk with her. That day, you found the trace on her neck. You were so angry that you made a paper man and put on Brother Da Gui’s gown on it to frighten He Wei. You didn’t expect to frighten him to death directly.”

Zhang Ying Xiong grabbed Huang Dan’s neck. “Have I let you talk nonsense!”

His emotions were out of control, “What paper man, what gown? Do you think I am an immortal, is it!”

Huang Dan had difficulty breathing and his face turned purple.

At this time, Li Gen, who had been guarding the back door to prevent anyone from escaping, kicked Zhang Ying Xiong far away.

That kick contained his anger.

Huang Dan touched his neck and coughed constantly. “These are all said by Sister Cui Ling. Ying Xiong, what else do you want to say?”

Zhang Ying Xiong had a ferocious face. He roared loudly, “Zhang Dong Tian, who told you to be nosy? I’m your cousin. Why are you doing this to me?”

Huang Dan said, “You put the sickle on my door, didn’t you?”

Hero Zhang’s resentment filled face froze.

Once again, he jumped up and was easily suppressed by Li Gen.

Huang Dan breathed a sigh of relief. His back was wet. God knew, he was bombing Zhang Ying Xiong all the way.

Liu Dong Lai took Zhang Ying Xiong away, and soon came back to the village, saying that he had confessed. What he said almost matched what Huang Dan had said at that time. Otherwise, Zhang Ying Xiong might not have believed them saying that Wu Cui Ling had confessed.

Huang Dan called the system. He looked at the task screen in front of him and filled in the names of Wu Cui Ling and Zhang Ying Xiong in the last column, “Will I be leaving now?”

The system was silent.

Huang Dan said, “Could it be that I can’t go back even when I have finished the task? Do I have to stay in this world?”

System, “Sorry, this humbled one doesn’t have the authority…”

Huang Dan interrupted, “Mr. system, you can’t answer, can you? I understand.”

He had crossed over all of a sudden, and maybe he would abruptly return back.

He could only walk one step at a time.

Anyway, the task was done.

Liu Dong Lai revealed that Zhang Ying Xiong said over and over that he didn’t lie; On the day of Wang Yue Mei’s death, Wu Cui Ling was really at his home, teaching him math problems, they never left before the news was broadcasted.

They didn’t kill Wang Yue Mei.

Li Gen stared at the young man. “Dong Tian, you say, if it’s not Zhang Ying Xiong and Cui Ling, then who killed my mother?”

Huang Dan was drinking water, and he choked.

Chapter 22 | Chapter 24

TN: !!! Next chapter is the last chapter for Rural Love. And currently, I’m updating from my phone because I have no access to my laptop right now. I hope the format’s not lost. And I haven’t add the footnotes T_T, pardon mee.

Also, translating makes me realised I’ve missed alot of subtle details!

Let me know if you any doubts about the arc, I will answer them if possible

Ciao! See you next Thursday for the last chapter of the first arc!

7 thoughts on “IHAS – 23

  1. This novel is amazing, thanks for translating it. The author writing style is very concise. You need to piece together the facts scattered around to understand not only the mystery solving part but even what MC should/would feel and what kind of person he is. In many other novels this is presented as sappy inner thoughts or tear-jerking flashbacks.
    Anyway, what subtle details have you missed? I wonder if I missed them too.

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