Lao Gu SURVEYS the SITUATION
Editor: Sae & Alec
※ ※ ※ ※ ※
Since Bai Luo Yin left, Bai Han Qi would anxiously wait for him with a mind full of hope and expectations… Hoping, hoping. Finally, it was Gu Wei Ting that fulfilled this hopeful mind of his.
Today was the festive day of Xiao Nian , a day before the Lunar New Year’s Eve celebration. A day where malted sugar candies were eaten and offers were made to the kitchen god Zaoshen.
When Gu Wei Ting entered the Bai’s small courtyard, Aunt Zou and Bai Han Qi were in full swing of activities in the kitchen. Plumes of white smoke emerged from the chimney, floated out into the courtyard and pervaded the atmosphere with the alluring fragrance of meat. Not far in the right corner, Grandpa Bai was in the process of tidying up bottles and jars, while Grandma Bai, who was afraid of the cold weather, remained inside the warm house watching some television shows.
In just several months, Meng Tong Tian, once but the size of a newly grown bean sprout, had grown taller yet again. Still at the age where his imagination run wild with the cold breeze of the wind, he refused with all his might to stay idle inside. In turn, he stubbornly stayed outside instead. After running around the big trees a few more laps, he saw someone entering the courtyard. Out of habit, he put his hand inside his pocket and pulled out a small box. Lifting the lid, he took out a single string of small firecrackers . Then using all the strength in his little body, he viciously twirled around and dashed forward. As soon as he stopped close enough to his target, he smashed the firecracker on the ground besides Gu Wei Ting’s feet.
The clear and melodious sound of the firecracker popped off beside Gu Wei Ting’s ear.
Gu Wei Ting casually shifted his gaze towards Meng Tong Tian, while the latter took to stealthily covering his mouth with his little hands to conceal the snickers that beckoned to crawl out.
“Tong Tian, you’re being naughty again!” Aunt Zou’s voice echoed from the kitchen as she stretched her head out of the house.
Meng Tong Tian faced Gu Wei Ting and made a silly face before his little feet bounced up and he vivaciously dashed off into the distance.
Bai Han Qi finally emerged from the kitchen, donning a big white apron, looking as if he was a professional when in fact, all he did was stir up more trouble in the kitchen.
“Gu laoge, you’re here.” Bai Han Qi forced a strained smile as he took off his apron and entered the house with Gu Wei Ting.
Once they were seated, Bai Han Qi poured Gu Wei Ting a cup of tea. When he held the cup in front of Gu Wei Ting, he politely said a few words, “It’s not the best tea or anything but please make do with it.”
Gu Wei Ting’s sharp gaze swept across the room, taking in a panoramic view of everything inside. Although the house had been repainted, and adorned with a new sofa and television, the old-fashion style of it all were nonetheless impossible to conceal.
Bai Han Qi spoke first, “Gu laoge, you must have been quite busy recently, huh?”
Gu Wei Ting indifferently replied with a few words, “It’s been okay.”
After that, Bai Han Qi could not find anything else to discuss with the stern looking man sitting before him. Silence instead overtook the room as he waited for a quite a long time for Gu Wei Ting to ask about their sons’ whereabouts. However, during that seemingly endless wait, Gu Wei Ting did not open his mouth to speak another word. He only sat on the sofa wearing a wooden face. Don’t even mention Bai Han Qi, who was currently suffering from a guilty conscience, even an innocent person with a clear conscience would feel extremely pressured and suffocated by Gu Wei Ting’s imposing manner.
Without warning, Gu Wei Ting stood up and took a few large strides toward a door close by. He drew open the curtain and entered Meng Tong Tian’s bedroom. Unperturbed by this action, Bai Han Qi simply followed in from behind.
“Every weekend, Yin Zi and Da Hai would come and stay at home. When they’re here, our little son would always sleep with my wife and I, so the two of them can sleep in this room.” Bai Han Qi unknowingly added the last few words.
Gu Wei Ting turned around to look at the extremely strange-looking double bed as hints of suspicions revealed through his eyes.
Seeing Gu Wei Ting’s expression, Bai Han Qi laughed awkwardly, “Originally, there was only one bed in this room. Since Da Hai often stayed at our house he and Yin Zi would squeeze themselves into this bed. After my wages increased, I bought a bed for Da Hai as to avoid the two boys having to cram in together. Who would’ve thought within less than two days of buying the bed, Da Hai had somehow turned it into one bed.”
Hearing the strange event, Gu Wei Ting lifted the bedding and glanced at the bed below for a moment. His sight was met with rows of nails lining the edge of the bed where the two beds connected. It was evident that those nails were strongly and sturdily embedded there to keep the beds together.
“At that time, if I were a bit more aware, perhaps what’s happening now wouldn’t have occurred.” Bai Han Qi could merely heave a heavy sigh.
Hearing Bai Han Qi’s words, Gu Wei Ting’s expression changed to several indiscernible ones. Under Bai Han Qi’s nervous gaze, he abruptly walked out of the room.
The two elder men sat outside and chatted for a while longer. In truth, rather than describing the scenario as a chat, it was better off describing it as an employee reporting their work to a superior. This depiction fit better because during the entire time, Gu Wei Ting never spoke a word while Bai Han Qi jabbered on endlessly beside him.
“Honestly speaking, Da Hai is actually a really good kid. If he were a girl, I would have gladly accepted him, send out a palanquin with eight carriers to get him and have him marry our Bai Luo Yin a long time ago. At that time, I didn’t know that he was your son. I even thought that he was the same as our Yin Zi, a poor kid. During the time he lived here, he had always helped with anything possible. A while ago, water was leaking into the house from the damage in the roof and he was the one who repaired it. He’s also found someone to repair the outside bathroom and install a cover on it. Not only that, the work that my wife and I have now, he was also the one that sneakily took care of it for us……to tell you the truth, it was like I was making use of your son back then. Recalling it now, I feel very apologetic about it all.”
Those strange words made Gu Wei Ting felt as though the person that Bai Han Qi had just meticulously described was not his son or a person closed to the son that he knew. However, hearing it from Bai Han Qi’s mouth, it felt genuine. He gazed at Bai Han Qi for a long while before he willingly opened his mouth to speak for the first time.
“Do you really hate me?”
Bai Han Qi was struck speechless, “I hate you? Why should I hate you?”
“Could it be that you don’t hate me at all?” Gu Wei Ting’s eyes flickered, “I snatched your wife away.”
“Oh……” Bai Han Qi was completely indifferent to that statement, “If you didn’t mention it, I would’ve forgotten about it. Jiang Yuan is your wife right now, HA?!”
Gu Wei Ting looked on in silence, “……”
After another moment passed, Gu Wei Ting went to the courtyard and strolled around it once again. There he witnessed Meng Tong Tian wildly running around the area with a toy rifle on his shoulder. Hearing the usual commotion echoing around them, Bai Han Qi pointed at Meng Tong Tian’s rifle, then faced Gu Wei Ting and said, “Da Hai was also the one that bought all of his toys.”
The moment Meng Tong Tian heard the words “Da Hai”, he immediately launched like a rocket discharging at a high velocity towards Bai Han Qi’s side. He hugged his waist and asked, “When is Gu Hai gege coming back? I haven’t seen him for a while now.”
When Gu Wei Ting noticed the raging expectation burning ablaze inside Meng Tong Tian’s eyes, he suddenly felt that this unnamed child is closer to his own son than he ever was.
“I’m leaving.” Gu Wei Ting lifted his feet and started to walk towards the entrance.
Bai Han Qi was rendered with astonishment.
He’s leaving? Just like that? Without asking anything at all?
As they approached the doorway, Bai Han Qi caught sight of a military vehicle parked outside and beside it stood the driver, wearing a thick overcoat. When the driver saw Gu Wei Ting walking out, he hastily walked over and opened the car door for him.
“Gu laoge.” Bai Han Qi called out.
Hearing his name, Gu Wei Ting halted his footsteps, then turned around and gave Bai Han Qi a glance, “Is there anything else?”
“You really don’t have anything else to ask?” Finally, Bai Han Qi was no longer able to restrain his own curiosity.
Without blinking, Gu Wei Ting merely smiled coldly, “If I asked, would you have told me?”
Bai Han Qi swallowed hard, his face crowded with a bit of amazement. At that moment, Aunt Zou unexpectedly came out and squeezed a few things into Gu Wei Ting’s hands.
“Gu laoge, it’s Xiao Nian today. Please take these malted sugar candies with you and eat it at home. We made it ourselves.”
Receiving it, Gu Wei Ting’s tone softened a bit, “Thank you, I also wish you a good year.
Having said that, Gu Wei Ting entered the car under the driver’s careful protection.
Inside the car, Gu Wei Ting took out a malted sugar candy and tasted it. It was crisp and had a sweet smell to it. The flavor was pretty good as well.
Noticing this, the driver happily said a few words, “It’s been many years since I’ve eaten one of those.”
Deeply moved, Gu Wei Ting sighed with sorrow. It’s not that, is it? In all these years, he has yet to properly celebrate the New Years.
“General, there is a call for you.”
Gu Wei Ting picked up his cellphone. The call was from the leader that he had dispatched to Shan Dong province.
During the last few days, these 20 or so men suffered to the point of not resembling a person anymore. They remained sitting uncomfortably inside this small room all day long. There was no room for them to lie down and even worse, eating, drinking, taking a leak, and going for the number two were all done in the room amongst each other. But, what caused them extreme torture and fear the most was the fact that they could not get in contact with anyone one in the outside world. All they could hear from the outside were the sounds of firecracker popping as they longed for their close relatives on these festive days.
When Gu Hai dragged the leader out, the formidable aggression that enveloped his form from a few days ago had long dissipated. What was left instead was the frame of a mighty foe that was now dejectedly and depressingly following behind Gu Hai without so much a harsh word or unreasonable demand.
Looking sternly at him, Gu Hai pressed the gun on his forehead and forced him to lie about this so call “military situation”.
“General, we’ve kept watch for more than half a month already and there’s yet to be an ounce of information on their whereabouts. When you ordered us to keep our eyes on Gu Yang, I have dispatched several men to take turns in watching him for 24 hours a day, but there’s still no signs of suspicious activities. Is it possible that those two are no longer in Qingdao? New Year is approaching soon, although I have no problem with it, there are several soldiers here who’s been working nonstop for the last three years. It has been difficult for them to get a vacation this year……therefore, I would like to request the General to withdraw some of the men from here.”
“All of you may withdraw.” Gu Wei Ting ordered indifferently.
Hearing this order, the leader’s expression brighten up. It was the look of someone overwhelmed with an unexpected favor from a superior.
“General, are you speaking the truth? We can all go back now?”
For a long while, silence took root on the other side of the call while on this side, the leader’s heart strained with so much anticipation that he did not dare to breathe heavily.
“Yes, tidy everything there and return at once.”
Those few words unexpectedly brought back the leader’s vitality and pushed away his previously dejected mood. Immediately injected with this wild exuberance, he took to replying in a loud and crisp tone, ”Thank you General for your kind understanding!”
After hanging up the call, the leader flew to the washroom at the speed of light and shouted loudly, “Brothers, we’re finally free!!!”
In front of Gu Hai’s attentive eyes, the herd of men suddenly burst with joy and ran out of the hotel. It was as if the outside world were their own family waiting for them to be release, and in any second now, they would all be able to reunite with their close relatives.
After eliminating this huge obstacle, Gu Hai and Bai Luo Yin were finally able to take in a breath of fresh air. Feeling rather relieve at the outcome of things, the two decided to take a stroll and roam the streets. Since they were out already it was only natural to buy some food and take it back with them to eat later. Tonight, they must properly celebrate this resplendent victory against the mighty General’s plan to encircle and annihilate them. 
When these two valiant and handsome young men walked the streets with such soldierly magnanimity, it was naturally unavoidable that they would attract many side glances from passersby, especially the females. As Gu Hai and Bai Luo Yin continued on with their stroll, two girls were walking behind them the entire time. From time to time, they would discuss which of the two were more handsome. When they arrived in a relatively secluded corner, one of the girl couldn’t hold herself back anymore and audaciously shouted at the top of her lungs:
“HEY HANDSOME!!” 
Not the least surprise, Gu Hai remained indifferent to the lingering presence since he had realized long ago that they were being followed. The moment he heard those words echoed from behind them, he suddenly quickened his steps just a bit and casually placed his arm on Bai Luo Yin’s shoulder. Under those girls’ watchful eyes, he brazenly kissed Bai Luo Yin’s cheek; a sweet and loving kiss. While the girls were still imbibed with shock, Gu Hai slowly turned his head around and threw them a charming and cheerful smile. Then he tightened his hold on Bai Luo Yin’s shoulder and swaggered off.
A loud shriek rang out from behind them. Who knows whether it was out of fright or excitement.
Before long, the two arrived at a convenience store. Gu Hai patted Bai Luo Yin’s shoulder, “Wait out here for me, I’ll go inside and buy a pack of cigarette.”
At this time, there were many people in the convenience store and the line to pay was extremely longer than usual. While Bai Luo Yin obediently waited outside for Gu Hai, a sense of boredom rained down on him. His eyes wandered the area when suddenly he caught sight of a small tanghulu  shop.
It’s really difficult finding a shop that sells tanghulu in this area!
Pleasantly surprise at this great discovery, a hint of happiness sprung into Bai Luo Yin’s eyes. He called out to Gu Hai from in front of the convenience store’s entrance, however, without knowing whether Gu Hai heard him or not, Bai Luo Yin immediately turned around the corner and entered that small shop.
The biggest sign of the holiday season is the huge crowds of people swarming every possible corner. Besides the locals coming out for a stroll and shopping, there were also tourists who were eager to explore and purchase. Even the simple task of buying a stick of tanghulu required everyone to line up and patiently wait. The thing was, Bai Luo Yin despised waiting in line. As a result, Gu Hai was normally the one who would cram against the crowd whenever they went shopping. However, today was different, he could no longer resist the urge. It had been such a long time since he ate one of those tasty treats that the craving for it was unbearable to hold back.
Once Gu Hai walked out of the convenience store, he discovered that Bai Luo Yin was nowhere in sight.
Even as he picked his eyes up and gazed into the distance ahead, all he saw were hordes of people and no signs of Bai Luo Yin.
When they left the apartment earlier, neither of them brought their cell phone with them. Now that they have lost each other, there were no means for them to get in contact with each other.
Normally, if they lost each other, it was not such a huge matter since there was nothing for the two of them to be anxious about. If worse comes to worse, they can immediately hail a taxi and return home on their own. But the problem was, it is a particularly sensitive phase for them right now. If even so much a small breeze rustled the grass beneath his feet, Gu Hai’s entire body would break out in cold sweats.
After standing in front of the convenience store for only a minute, Gu Hai’s heart sank into absolute panic. He wandered around the streets and small lanes in search of any signs of Bai Luo Yin’s shadow. Never once did he expected Bai Luo Yin to go shopping, especially in knowing the kind of person his lover was. In the depth of his mind, Bai Luo Yin has been captured. Captured right in front of his eyes. The entire time, his eyes were only concerned with seeking out its target that he never walked inside the small shop and looked around.
Consequently, by the time Bai Luo Yin emerged from the shop, Gu Hai had already run off somewhere else.
By the time, he returned to that convenience store, there was still a sea of people bustling inside. Noting this, Bai Luo Yin did not pay any attention the situation since he thought Gu Hai was still inside waiting for his turn to pay. With that, he opted to waiting outside instead. While waiting, he ate the stick of tanghulu in his hand, savoring the sweet flavor. As he continued to wait for Gu Hai to come out, that stick of delicious tanghulu soon became completely devoured.
 Xiao Nian: [or Preliminary Eve] – a festival on the 23rd or 24th of the 12 month of lunar year when sacrifices are made to the kitchen god. Xiao Nian means the preliminary eve, a prelude to the Lunar New Year’s Eve celebration. It is said to be the day, the Jade Emperor, the supreme ruler of the Heaven, inspects mortals, and rewards or punishes them. On this day, a paper effigy of Zao Wang, the Kitchen God, who is the recorder of family functions will be burned. This is done to send the Kitchen God to the Jade Emperor and report him on the household’s transgressions and good deeds. Families often offer sweet foods like candy in order to “bribe” the deities into saying good things about the family. Back on earth, it means, it’s time to start festival shopping. Flowers, sugar, new year pictures are all in demand.
 Firecracker: This type of firecracker doesn’t need fire to light it up. It can produce noises only by hurling it to the ground.
 ‘Tonight they must properly celebrate this resplendent victory against the mighty General’s plan to encircle and annihilate them.’: the words in bold are supposed to be ‘the victory of communist against the Guomindang’s encircle-and-annihilate campaign’. Since it’s kind of wordy and I’m afraid most people wouldn’t understand it, I decided to simplify it and change it to the bolded words above. [Nath]
Kuomintang – Founded in 1912, the Guomindang (中國國民黨, literally China National People’s Party) is the oldest still active political party in the Chinese-speaking world. It constituted the first elected majority in the Chinese National Assembly of 1913. After Yuan Shikai‘s coup d’état, the Guomindang devoted itself to the mission of reunifying China, defeating the warlords, and defending the country’s territorial integrity from foreign powers. From 1927 on, the Guomindang ruled over China with an iron fist. But in 1937 the “golden era” of Nationalist China came to an end, as Japan invaded the country.
 Hey Handsome! – The Chinese counterpart is “Shuai ge!” Do you guys prefer the english or Chinese?
 Tanghulu – sugarcoated hawthorne or other sugarcoated fruits on a stick
Are you Addicted?