The Stranger's Homeward Journey Chapter 1

The Stranger's Homeward Journey Chapter 1

"Shaoheng, wake up. Chen Mucheng is already dead! How long are you going to deceive yourself?"

"He's dead. He already died!"

"Dead!"

……

"!!!" Luo Shaoheng suddenly jerked upwards from the bed and hastily grasped the bedding. He sat panting, desperately trying to take in enough air. Yet, even though the air conditioning kept the temperature low, his back and forehead were painted in a thin layer of sweat.

When he finally felt that he had regained the ability to breathe normally, he leaned back against the headboard and stretched to one side, turning on the wall lamp. It painted the area around his bed in a gentle orange glow, bringing a slight sense of warmth to the icy night and stealing him away from the encirclement of that frigid dream.

Even though there was no wind nor the sound of birds chirping, the scene in his dream felt far too real and clear. It was so clear that even if he knew it was just a dream, he was still unable to endure.

From the moment he had rescued Chen Mucheng from that alleyway near the school, his dream had unwound like a movie. While the past played back, he watched on as a mere spectator, watching as he exchanged his heart full of youth and foolishness for one filled with a thick sense of desolation.

He remembered everything clearly, as if he had experienced it once more. He could clearly see the anger his mother wore plain on her face, and could clearly hear the sound of the porcelain teacup breaking at her feet. He could even clearly feel the sensation of that palm meeting his face, bringing with it the pain her nails inflicted as she turned against him.

In the end, he could not be considered a filial son. For the sake of one man he chose to disobey his parents who had raised him for many years. He had failed his father and mother's expectations.

However, the one he loved above all else was unable to accompany him for a lifetime.

He had been brought up in the Luo household from birth. His every word and every deed were taught by a professional teacher. He was taught what he should do and what he shouldn't, turning him into a talent suitable of the Luo family's identity. He had once thought that he would follow these rules all his life, passing his days in this haze of neither good nor bad. After all, he had already passed ten years like that.

However, he did not plan on meeting the man called Chen Mucheng.

The years he spent with Chen Mucheng were the happiest and most treasured days of his life. When he was by his side, he was able to forget his worries. He didn't need to stick to convention, and was instead able to act unbridled – laughing and roaring heartily. He could even drink himself into intoxication on the streets, safe in the assurance that there was always someone at his back, ready to take him home.

At that time, he had gradually forgotten how it felt to be alone and without Chen Mucheng by his side.

"Chen Mucheng."

Luo Shaoheng sighed and raised his hand to his heart. He closed his eyes, his lips curling in self-mockery.

It had obviously been ten years. Chen Mucheng had been dead for ten years, so why was he still unable to forget?

Perhaps it was because, deep in his heart, he didn't resist such a possibility. From their meeting to the end, he was unwilling to forget even the tiniest detail about Chen Mucheng. It didn't matter if it was coated in joy or sorrow, as long as it had something to do with that person, he was unwilling to lose it.

He turned his head to look at the delicate cabinet. As his gaze passed over the little calendar and caught sight of the date circled in red, a hard to disguise glimpse of grief flickered through his eyes.

Time goes by so fast. I guess it's already time to see you again.

Luo Shaoheng pulled off his blankets and got out of bed. He didn't do much in the way of preparation, simply washing up, before grabbing his sparse chain of keys and left.

When he left, the sun hadn't yet brushed past the clouds – it was still six o'clock in the morning. As Luo Shaoheng drove to the cemetery that lay in the outskirts of the town, he gave off a somewhat quiet and desolate feeling.

When he finally arrived, the person who was supposed to be guarding the gates was asleep in his box, enabling him to pass by unnoticed.

The beauty of the sunrise was obscured by the layers of ash-coloured clouds that rose up to hinder it, making the sky appear rather dim. Despite this, the inside of the suburban cemetery was unusually peaceful. Every inch of the area gave off a serene feeling, only interrupted occasionally by the rustling sound of a gentle breeze.

Luo Shaoheng came to a stop at Chen Mucheng's grave. The dream that had woken him up in the morning had served as a drum that kickstarted the pounding of his heart. Now, finally standing in front of Chen Mucheng, he was finally able to set himself at ease. This person had always possessed the indescribable ability to calm him down.

He picked a leaf off the tombstone, sending it flying to the floor. Staring at the man in the photo, he smiled. "I've come to see you. Is it too early?"

Yet the person in the photo was unable to answer him. He stood there, staring, for a long time before straightforwardly finding a place to sit down. At the same time, he began to clear up some of the debris. "I haven't come to see you in six months. It's been so long that your grave has begun to sprout grass. I used to come here so often that somebody once told me I was disturbing your rest. This scared me so much that I believed them and stopped coming. However, seeing the state of your grave, I fear your days haven't been good. I still don't know whether it was the right thing to do."

"Your shadow's flickered through my dreams for so long, I really want to know what you dream of." Having successfully cleared some of the grass away, Luo Shaoheng kneeled on the ground. He ignored the small bits of sand and dirt on the ground and began to talk to the photo the way he had talked to the man all those years ago. "They say that you've been gone a very long time. Even I've begun to forget how long. Ever since you left me, I've been unable to distinguish between reality and my dreams."

"Maybe it's because you're always in my dreams. It's a good thing. If someday I forget your appearance, what would I do then?" Luo Shaoheng reached out and caressed the black and white photograph. "If I did forget you, would you blame me? What about you? Have you already forgotten me?"

The expression of the man in the picture didn't fluctuate in the slightest. He couldn't hear anything Luo Shaoheng was saying and he definitely couldn't respond.

Luo Shaoheng also took no notice of this and still continued to speak. "Every time I come and say these things, I wonder whether you're annoyed by it. However, even if I find it annoying, you can't hear anything to be annoyed at anyway. Every time I come here I ponder opening the gates of heaven to welcome you back. But it's impossible. So many years have passed, how could you possibly remember the way back?"

Luo Shaoheng came to a stop here, as if waiting a reply. He looked at the unyielding gaze of the man in the picture. It was just the same as it had been years ago.

The sunlight was still tightly pressed behind a wall of black clouds, causing a gradual depressing feeling to sprout up within the cemetery. This heavy feeling pressed down on him. Yin and yang (life and death) were probably the furthest away from earth. He suspected that the person would be unable to respond to any of his words.

He stood in silence for a long time. However, upon thinking of something, his calm expression finally showed a crack and his smile slowly faded. Still possessing that same calmness, he looked at Chen Mucheng. His tone sour, he said, "You've really forgotten? That's why you haven't returned in these many years."

His surroundings naturally remained quiet. His only reply was the low and hoarse sound of the wind, whimpering and groaning, as if crying.

Luo Shaoheng carefully and lightly traced the depiction of the man on the tombstone, his fingertips shaking imperceptibly. The grief in his eyes was practically spilling out. "Chen Mucheng, if, at that time, I went with you, do you think I would be happier?" He propped himself up off the ground and leaned forward. He dropped a light kiss on the man depicted in black and white before getting up to leave. He leaned against the tombstone and slowly shut his eyes. "But you do not know, how hard it is for me to bare living alone," he softly said.

I spent ten years waiting for you, but it felt like I was doing it my entire life.


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