The Warmth at the Swamp
Translate: Sae | Proofread: Nancy
After Bai Luo Yin had finished eating, something crawled to his mind. He faced the other side and shouted at the top of his lungs: “Your wife actually let you come to such a dangerous place?”
“My wife?” Gu Hai stared blankly at him, truly baffled since he could not recall who Bai Luo Yin was referring to as his wife.
“What wife?” He shouted back.
Bai Luo Yin shouted again, “Aren’t you engaged now?”
“How the fuck am I engaged, huh?” Gu Hai finally realized that this bastard actually thought he was engaged, so he bellowed: “If I was really engaged, then why would I be suffering here? I would’ve been living my simple life already, and I wouldn’t even care if you rot in this mud!!”
With just those words, Bai Luo Yin’s heart quickly leaped with joy.
“You’re not engaged? Then, why the hell did you give me that invitation card? Were you trying to fucking scare me?”
“That’s right! I intentionally wanted to scare a fool like you!!”
Bai Luo Yin stood up, faced him and angrily shouted, “You’re so fucking cruel!!”
“I’m cruel?” Gu Hai shouted back. “Is that lover of yours not cruel? If she’s not cruel, then why didn’t she come to look for you?”
Although the surface of Bai Luo Yin’s face was masked with an intense fierceness, in reality, his heart was secretly devoured by happiness.
“She’s just an ordinary woman, how can she come to this kind of place?”
A fiery fire of anger burnt strongly in Gu Hai again. “Are you saying a man like me can be used as a donkey? If I fall into the mud pit and get swallowed up from head to toe, I deserved it? Even if my skin is thick, how many men would dare come here to look for you? What about those battle comrades of yours? And that terrified bastard who gave you dumplings and lie on your bed?”
As Bai Luo Yin listened to the barrage of outburst coil out one by one from the other side, his voice goes mute. Then unable to bear it anymore, he yelled: “You should take a rest!”
Gu Hai kept his mouth shut for the time being.
A vast expanding swamp plotted formidably in between them with a layer of blistering bubbles having taken control of the surface, creating a dangerous obstacle. Sitting cross-legged amidst the thick fog that surrounded them, the two resembled Taoist monks practicing asceticism.53
After calming down, the two stared at each other for the longest time while a complex yet mutual feeling slowly emerged.
Another moment passed before Bai Luo Yin spoke again, “How exactly did you get here?”
In such a vast swamp, accompanied by this bitter cold season, even the slightest carelessness can make it impossible to get out alive.
Hearing those words, Gu Hai became exhilarated—he faced the other side and bitterly shouted two words: “Qing Gong!”54
Bai Luo Yin laughed until the corners of his eyes welled with tears.
Was there really a need to ask that question when his heart already knew what happened?
Although many years had passed, his appearance had changed, his occupation had changed, his status had changed and even the way he behaved had all changed…the one thing that had not changed was the heart that he had for him. It was just like walking on a layer of scorching hot coal that incessantly burned, all the while supporting and warming him through these eight years of bitter coldness.
Sprawling on the ground, Bai Luo Yin looked up at the dusky sky that does not reflect the immense clarity taking hold in his heart.
Seeing that the other person was lying down rather comfortably, Gu Hai lowered his head and glanced at the piece of land beneath him. It was no bigger than two feet long and if he were to lie down, he would definitely sink into the mud pit. Noting this, he shouted, “I’m going over!”
With a quick swoosh, Bai Luo Yin immediately sat up before his cold and stern voice flew to the other side, “Don’t move!!”
Gu Hai grumbled, “This piece of land is too narrow. I can’t even stretch my legs out. It’s too unbearable if I stay here any longer.”
Bai Luo Yin waved his hand, “Then move back and see if there’s a bigger piece of land that’s hard…”
Move back? Traces of dark lines surfaced on Gu Hai’s face, it was already really difficult for me to get here and you still want me to move back?
“It’s fine. I’ve been through many mud pits like this. If I lie down flat, I can get over there.”
With that said, he bent down and crawled to the other side, completely ignoring Bai Luo Yin’s urgent disapproval. Sadly, the mud here was too soft so just as Gu Hai started to move, half of his body immediately sank. Bai Luo Yin’s face went completely purple as he screamed repeatedly.
After a moment, Gu Hai was able to steady himself and move just the slightest. With that method, he moved inch by inch. Not to mention he could lose his life, even smoothly getting to Bai Luo Yin would take several hours. With no other option, Gu Hai pulled on the grass and dragged his body back to the same location.
Bai Luo Yin let out a big sigh of relief. By now, his back was entirely soaked in sweat.
“Don’t move. Just behave yourself and stay there!!”
As Gu Hai gasped for air a couple of times, he suddenly remembered that there were still some things left in his bags, so he hurriedly fished it out.
Feeling stupefied, Bai Luo Yin watched as Gu Hai pulled out an inflatable mat, and once it was inflated, it was about the same size as a single bed. With this, the chances of the body not touching the swamp had increased tremendously and adding a rope, one person can lie on it while the other person pulled from the opposite side.
Looking at Gu Hai, Bai Luo Yin does not want to take any chances. He simply shouted, “Give me the inflatable mat. I’ll go over!”
Gu Hai’s face darkened as he firmly replied, “The space here is only this big. Even with just me alone, it’s barely enough to sit down, don’t you hate being crowded?”
With that reason, Bai Luo Yin helplessly retorted, “Then throw the rope over here!!”
Consequently, one person lied on the inflatable mat while the person on the other side pulled. In less than ten minutes, Gu Hai reached the other shore without a hitch.
After eight years, a meaningful hug formed as the two embraced each other tightly.
Being so close, neither had the heart to say any of those sarcastic words. Gu Hai’s hand pressed firmly against the back of Bai Luo Yin’s head before he spoke with a tone seeping distress. “You must have been freezing for the last couple of days, huh?”
“I can endure that, it’s just I’m hungry.” Bai Luo Yin said honestly.
When Gu Hai saw that the tree bark in front of him was peeled, his stomach churned.
“There’s still food in the bag, you should eat a bit more.”
Bai Luo Yin’s hands hooped firmly on Gu Hai’s shoulder as he spoke in a somewhat depressed and hoarse voice. “Didn’t you look for me for three days? And, within those three days, you refused to eat any of the food in the bag, right? Otherwise, why would there be so much left?”
“No, I didn’t do any of that.” Gu Hai continued to console him, “I only searched for you for one day, and the last two days were spent on searching from the aircraft. I didn’t skip out on eating at all. I just brought a lot with me; afraid that when the time comes, and I couldn’t get out, I’ll starve to death in here.”
In truth, for the past three days, Gu Hai did not even drink a drop of water.
“I don’t believe you!” Bai Luo Yin roughly pushed Gu Hai away and closely examined him. “Once I touch your stomach, I’ll know right away how many days you haven’t eaten.”
“You still haven’t gotten rid of that skill?” Gu Hai said, teasing him.
Bai Luo Yin seriously stretched his hand into Gu Hai’s shirt. The moment the ice-cold palm came into contact with his skin, Gu Hai’s muscle immediately tightened. Being that it has been a long time since something cold crept on him, he was not quite used to it.
“You haven’t eaten anything for three days!” Bai Luo Yin said with certainty.
After saying that, he pulled his hand back out, but Gu Hai took hold of it instead.
“Your hand is too cold, leave it there to warm up.”
This time, Bai Luo Yin was not courteous anymore. It’s been a long time since he enjoyed this type of benefit, so he must properly warm up.
The two sat close to the tree with Bai Luo Yin sitting behind Gu Hai while his hand rested on Gu Hai’s back. Before long, his hands felt a horrible and gut-wrenching scar that followed all the way down his spine, compared to the previous scar on his waist that was insignificant.
“Very scary, right?” Gu Hai asked.
At those words, Bai Luo Yin’s head pressed heavily on Gu Hai’s back before he quietly whispered, “Do you still hate me?”
Gu Hai deliberately assumed an air of bitterness and hostility then let out a severe, ‘yeah’.
Hearing that one answer, Bai Luo Yin sighed with a heavy heart.
“Actually, at that time, I really didn’t want to leave but I had no choice. Someone couldn’t tolerate to have me there and you were lying unconscious on the patient’s bed. I was really afraid that he would use your life to threaten me. Back then, I felt that nothing was more important than your life. I didn’t have the nerve to go in and look at you because I was afraid the moment I saw you, I wouldn’t be able to leave. Honestly, in all these years, I’ve always felt sorry towards to you…”
Toward the end of his words, Bai Shouzhang choked with sobs a bit. There was nothing that could be done now, recalling the scene from that time was akin to digging a hole in his heart.
This was the first time Gu Hai heard Bai Luo Yin used this kind of tone and words to speak to him. His heart softened and even loosened up more than ever, “It’s okay…you don’t have to suffer with it anymore. Seeing you experience this incident, I’ve completely understood everything.”
“Then…you don’t hate me?” Bai Luo Yin asked again while sniffling.
Gu Hai optimistically waved his hand, “Let’s forget it. From the look of it, all these years haven’t been easy on you either.”
Bai Luo Yin suddenly pulled his hands out of Gu Hai’s shirt and reached towards his face. Then he forcefully swung Gu Hai’s head around so that he was directly facing him. The severity and enticement that lingered in those piercing eyes made a beeline straight into Gu Hai’s heart.
“Then you have to break up with her!!”
Gu Hai simply looked at the heroic and threatening face in front of him and, “Breakup?”
“Yeah, you don’t even like her so don’t waste her time.”
A violent tremble took hold of Gu Hai’s heart provoking it to skip a beat. This kind of excitement was akin to someone injecting a shot of drug into his arteries.55 But he can still suppress the formidable waves that ached to take control of his heart as his calm yet cold soak eyes captured Bai Luo Yin’s gaze.
“Who said I don’t like her?”
With Bai Luo Yin’s proud personality, being able to openly reveal his true feelings, he must have had complete faith in his words. Consequently, if someone does not acknowledge it now, then they are deliberately looking for trouble.
In just a second, Bai Luo Yin’s knee struck Gu Hai’s tailbone causing his body to go numb.
“This is an order! You have to obey!!”
At that command, Gu Hai laughed lightly, “Are you trying to use your authority as a Shouzhang to subdue me? Let me tell you, I’m the kind of person that’s amenable to coaxing but not coercion. If you give me a reasonable statement, perhaps I’ll take it into consideration.”
Naturally, Bai Luo Yin knew exactly what it was that Gu Hai wanted to hear, but he adamantly refused to say ‘that’.
“Nothing forcibly done will produce the desired result.56 Ge is doing this for your own good.”
Gu Hai deliberately sought a beating when he spoke again. “Feelings can be nurtured. In the past, people got married before they even met each other. Didn’t they too live a lifetime together?”
Bai Luo Yin’s big hand gripped Gu Hai’s neck, “You’re fucking exhilarated, aren’t you?!”
In turn, Gu Hai’s poked Bai Luo Yin’s forehead. “I’m warning you, don’t start a fight with me. I’m a decent man!”
“I’ll fucking let you be a decent man! I’ll fucking let you be a decent man!”
Bai Shouzhang utilized the power he had over the new military recruits to madly beat that Gu Zong…
53 Asceticism – a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from worldly pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals. Ascetics may withdraw from the world for their practices or continue to be part of their society, but typically adopt a frugal lifestyle, characterised by the renunciation of material possessions and physical pleasures, and time spent fasting while concentrating on the practice of religion or reflection upon spiritual matters.
54 Qing Gong – aka Qigong – (alternatively spelled chi gung or chi kung) is a form of gentle exercise composed of movements that are repeated a number of times, often stretching the body, increasing fluid movement (blood, synovial and lymph) and building awareness of how the body moves through space.
55 ‘Arteries’ – the correct term used here is ‘Meridian system (经脉 jīngmài): is a concept in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) about a path through which the life-energy known as “qi” flows. Meridians per se are not real anatomical structures…. the meridian network is typically divided into 2 categories, the jingmai (經脈) or meridian channels and the luomai (絡脈) or associated vessels (sometimes called “collaterals”). In this case, I opted to use the ‘arteries’ associated with luomai instead for that paragraph.
56 强扭的瓜不甜 – literal translation is, ‘A forcibly picked melon is not sweet’, similar to the saying, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’.