Proofreaders: Gwen, LSL and Red
The first of our holiday gifts to you! (ღ˘⌣˘ღ)
( ps: there's an extra surprise at the end of this post~ )
I forgot which fantasy story I had read this from, but it said that a person’s name is actually some kind of summoning spell. Call out that person’s name loudly when you’re in dire need of him and he will appear just in time in front of you. Even though this sort of miracle should only occur in a fantastical world, it actually happens to me.
The moment I yell out the name ‘Yuan Fei’, I run so hard into someone’s sturdy arm that my voice jumps an octave on ‘Fei’. The next moment, however, I turn and pull this person tightly into my embrace. A familiar feeling along with a familiar scent—it’s Yuan Fei.
He holds onto me tightly with what seems like all the power he can muster, so tightly that I’m having some trouble breathing, but I hug back, not wanting to be freed one bit. A comrade that I had thought was gone has appeared once more. I cling onto him, afraid that he’ll leave, as though he is that last piece of rope that is keeping me from falling.
“Where d’you go?! Everybody’s gone! I thought I was the only one left!” My voice cracks as I shout.
“I won’t leave you behind.... I won’t....” He breathes.
He’s so shaken up I can almost imagine the terror he must have been dealing with by himself wandering in the dark. He hasn’t exactly been having the time of his life recently and yet here he is, trying his hardest to comfort another scared person.
Really, I’m thoroughly moved. This shuddering chest of his is actually the safest refuge I’ve ever seen. All I can do is hold on tight to this person in hopes that I can give him even the tiniest amount of support.
If two people were stranded in a snowstorm, then the other person’s body heat would become the only chance at survival. Therefore, they could never turn the other person down—or better yet—the thought wouldn’t even occur.
I don’t feel one bit embarrassed or hesitant. I’m not quick to pull back like usual. I’m hugging with another man like a pair of desperate lovers, searching for some temporary comfort for my heart.
The two of us tense up. I grab onto his shirt while he braces himself as though to protect me.
He edges backwards with me in his arms as our gazes move to a certain place in the darkness—the origin of the sound.
Every drop that falls shakes me to the core. It’s as though they are dripping onto my heart, every drop weighing a ton.
“Run!” Yuan Fei takes my hand and starts running.
We shoot down the stairs. One floor, two floors, then another, and then one more. This is a five-storey building and we were on the third floor. The steps continue on endlessly as if we are climbing down a skyscraper. Suddenly, Yuan Fei breaks and pulls me into the hallway. He quickly rattles every door as we pass by and finally he gets one unlocked door to swing open.
It’s the room where the school staff holds their meetings. With the moon dimly lighting the room, I take a scan—neat stadium seating and thick curtains that drape to the ground. There’s not even a locker to hide in.
“This way!” He pulls me under the lecture stand in the middle of the podium.
The metal stand provides cover on three sides, creating a sort of feeling of safety. The stand is not huge and with two grown men the space seems cramped all of a sudden. He puts an arm around me, pulling me closer to him, and adjusts our position a little. The space loosens up. I let out a breath but then I notice how suggestive our position is. My cheeks start burning but that’s about all I can do so I turn my attention to the safety of this hiding place.
My impression of that thing has settled as “anywhere at any time”. All my efforts to escape and to run are instinctive. I’ve formed thousands of scenarios in which I make it out alive, but really, deep down, I know well that none of them will come true and I would tell myself when I’m settled down that I’m actually in danger. Like right now....
Would we really be fine if we stayed here quietly in hiding if it really is shapeless and present anywhere at any time?
I don’t think so—not one bit—but I still have to stay curled up here while praying for a chance at life and taking the time now to comfort myself—at least you’re safe now.
Seconds tick by. The only sound in this dark room is our low breathing. We haven’t spoken but our hands are tightly intertwined. We’re both waiting for the unknown, waiting for some kind of sign. Maybe it’ll go away once the night ends? Maybe it’ll give up if it doesn’t find us?
My mind keeps racing. Anxiously, we keep waiting.
As if in reply to our anxiety, a clear, crisp sound rings out nearby.
Both Yuan Fei and I grip harder onto each other’s hand. I try to pinpoint the direction the sound is coming from. Is it here? Where? Has it discovered us?
We quake and quiver. Something has struck the top of the metal stand! My heart almost jumps out of my throat at the blunt sound.
Then that something begins to move, slowly, making a sound not unlike fingertips dragging across metal. Bit by bit, the sound creeps past the midpoint and then moves over to the side. My eyes go wide as I retreat into Yuan Fei’s arms but my eyes have started to wander to the left.
If it really was dragging its hand as it’s moving then it should be moving to the left as the sound indicates, and if I’m correct, its hand would appear at the edge to the left…and I am located on the left side of this not-so-big space.
I can’t even begin to describe what I’m feeling as I look at the left side of the stand while listening to that irritating screech coming from above. I think I smell that pungent medicinal odour, too, amid it all.
A black object then enters my field of vision a little by little, noticeable even in the pitch black night, moving at a slow, torturous speed. It looks like a hand but it’s deformed. It might be my imagination but its fingers look bigger than the average person’s. Every finger is swollen like a bloated corpse that has been soaked in water.
My brain is clearly processing the signals my eyes are sending it but I can’t be sure whether it’s a mirage or not. Actually, I have no way of judging if that black blob even has fingers or not but instincts tell me that this thing is its hand—a hand that no longer belongs to a human.
It seems to be searching for something. The hand reaches into the stand, feeling around slowly. If it had a body, the angle this hand is in would be well beyond physical constraints. It doesn’t have an elbow—at least none that I can see—and it has extended in crookedly and keeps probing forward.
It’s about to reach me while I don’t even have the strength to run away.
“Scram!” Yuan Fei barks all of a sudden.
He rams the stand and the heavy thing starts tipping over. He pulls me out along with him the moment it does.
The stand hits the ground and I see it has been crushed under the stand because half of the hand is sticking out from beneath! Yuan Fei backs up slowly, bringing me along with him. We’re not sure what this means for us so we turn our gazes to the hand.
Suddenly the hand moves and the huge stand moves along with it. It starts ‘crawling’ over without giving us any time to react.
The sharp sound of metal scratching against the floor sounds so disturbing. One of us screams and we both whip around and dash out.
A long, dark hallway that seems to lead to the pits of hell. Two terrified guys fleeing for their lives. A sharp “screeeech” of metal dragging across the floor. A supernatural hunter beyond the human recognition. A game of chase with unfairly balanced odds.
Yuan Fei and I are just the tiny mice under the claws of a cat. We can’t escape no matter how hard we try but we must continue to struggle nonetheless.
We head up the stairs. It doesn’t matter anymore what floor it is. All we need to do is to keep running. However, that alternate reality that had trapped us has unexpectedly disappeared. By the time we make it up the flight of stairs, we know well it’s the third floor we’re on, because there is obviously something strange next to the wide-open door of the principal’s room that wasn’t there when I was here earlier.
Somehow we both start walking towards that something lying on the floor without having to say a word to each other. The air is heavy with the scent of blood. I’ve only smelled it once before—on the day Kong Linglin mysteriously bled to death.
Blood so red it’s black. Endless amounts of blood. It lingers in the air, forming an unspeakable scent—the scent of death.
“Is that you, Glooms?” Yuan Fei calls out, because that loose-fitting jacket belongs to Xu Ping; but Glooms lies there on the ground, not moving one bit. I want to stay where I am but I start walking over when Yuan Fei pulls me along.
At once, we can make out that something on the ground, but we can’t tell if it’s Glooms or not because ‘it’ is just a heap of stuff. I can’t identify anything from its mess of bits and pieces. Then, like an ill-intended joke, the moon that has been hiding all night decides to peek out from behind its covers, brightening the hazy world, and to shine its luminous light on the scene in front of us.
I automatically know that it’s Xu Ping, only that his face has been stabbed full of broken glass. Not an inch of it was spared. Blackish red blood crawls across the floor. His torso, his limbs have all been stabbed by countless pieces of glass. He couldn’t have been injured this way from broken glass hitting him straight on because there is not one section of unscathed skin. He’s bloody from head to toe. Even his clothes have been soaked red. You couldn’t even call it a person!
But I just had to recognize that it’s Xu Ping, that it’s my good buddy, Glooms!
“Ahhh!” I shriek with my arms around my head.
I can’t take it anymore! Why do I know it’s Glooms? Why does it come so easily to me? Why am I thinking of that horrifying phone call? Why do I have to think that the ‘tschhhhhh’ noises were from it slicing through Xu Ping’s skin? That it cut a living person up into a mess of flesh and bone, inch after inch, piece after piece, shred after shred?
“Why?! Why?!” I scream at nothing like a madman.
Why did it have to be Glooms? Why must it always do something I don’t expect every time I think I have understood the rules of its game? There were no warnings, no signs of Glooms being its next target. Just when will it stop playing with us?!
Yuan Fei tries to get a hold on me but I’m already out of control, already racing away. I have too much negativity I need to let out. I howl as I run. I’ve never cried like this before but I just can’t keep it in. I would definitely go crazy if I kept my screams in. I would definitely collapse if I didn’t let it out.
“Xiao Yu! Xiao Yu!” Not able to grab onto me, he tackles me to the ground, quickly grabbing my hands and restricting them. “I’m sorry! It’s all my fault! I’m sorry!”
I hear his apologies through my screams and I ease my wails into sobs before inquiring, “How...is it your fault?”
Wasn’t it the game that started it all?
“I’m the one he’s after! He wants revenge!” Yuan Fei’s voice shakes with frustration and terror as though he had just released a great amount of bottled up feelings.
My muddled mind miraculously begins to clear up. I ask warily, “You know who it is?”
We have put in every effort in finding its identity but to no prevail. How could Yuan Fei know?
He lets himself go limp after I stop bucking and lies on top of me. He puts his head on my chest and only speaks after a silence as long as a century.
“Sun Le.” I repeat the spookily familiar name and only remember after some thought.
“The Sun Le in the Fine Arts Painting program who jumped off a building and killed himself?”
Yuan Fei gives a weak nod.
“Why is it him? And how do you know? What went on between you two?” I yank him up by the hair and interrogate.
His eyes get jumpy as he tries to avoid my inquisitive gaze. He sits up weakly and slouches against the wall.
“This was last year when I was in grade 12; he was a junior. You’ve seen his picture, right? He was very pretty and he was in the painting program so the all the guys in senior high were spreading rumours that he’s gay. The more they spread it the more real it got. They even said at one point that the person he liked was in senior high and he’s in grade 12.”
He pulls a miserable smile. “There weren’t many senior high guys in the limelight at that time, but I happened to be one of them. So a couple of guys in my class joked about me being his lover. I jokingly said that if he really was gay I’d definitely be the one he had a crush on. So then....”
His voice cracks as he continues, “We made a bet...whether I could get this gay guy or not. So I purposefully approached him....”
I had a hunch before he started telling the story but I’d never had thought he would really go and cheat another person of their love. I couldn’t believe he’d do such a thing.
I stare at him in disbelief. He’s actually that kind of person.
He notices me and he glumly looks away to avoid me and the guilt. “And after I got close to him I found that he was actually not gay. What’s more, he was such a kind soul that he wouldn’t think badly of anyone. He just saw all my advances as a sign of friendship.... Hah. I’d lost that bet. And along with it my heart....”
Shocked, I perk my ears.
“I actually fell in love with him....” Yuan Fei covers his head with his arms, his shaky voice turning into choked sobs.
“I liked him so, so, so much. So much I couldn’t help myself, to the point that I scared myself. I’d never thought I’d have anything to do with being gay.... And even he realised before I did. And he’s pretty dense.... He told me that he’d be willing to come out and challenge the social norms if I was serious. Hah. Hah. That’s the confidence and pride of an artist alright. But he didn’t realize that I was just a normal guy. I’d do anything in the heat of the chase but once someone reminded me that this was homosexual I called it quits right away. But he didn’t know of my cowardice. He only saw that I started avoiding him after he confessed. He didn’t know why so he kept trying to talk to me to get an explanation.”
Yuan Fei inhales deeply and sucks his tears back. “It was last summer when I went back home to hide. I’d thought he’d get it sooner or later and give up, but then he found out about the bet.... He thought that I was avoiding him ’cause I’d won the bet, and that I’ve played with his feelings and now he’s of no use to me. He called me…before he jumped…and asked me ‘Did you only do it for a bet?’ and I said ‘Yes’....”
“But I wanted to explain!” He gets very emotional. “I wanted to tell him that that bet’s been long over! That I really like him! And that our relationship was real. That I wasn’t hiding ’cause of that stupid bet I’d already forgotten about! But he hung up right after I’d said ‘Yes’ and I only found out after school started again that he committed suicide after hanging up....”
Strangely, I’m calm as his story nears its end. There’s only his muffled sobs, nothing else, even it who has doggedly trailed us like a shadow isn’t making a sound. It’s as though the world has stopped to listen to his regretful recounts. Perhaps it’s quietly listening, too, in some corner.
What should’ve been a tragic story actually ignites anger in me. It’s all him! Everything is because of him!
I ball my fists up, the pain of my nails sticking into my palms managing to keep me thinking and not beating up that damn bastard.
“How did you know it’s him?” My voice is flat.
“He kept following me.... I’ve felt like someone’s been following since that night. Every second of every day, whether I’m in class, sleeping, or walking, he’d always be right behind me.”
I recall his first unusual behaviour when he had rushed out of the classroom in a panic. I had even gone out after him. He was so scared he was shaking under his covers. So, he had already known then?
Way before Kong Linglin got....
He croaks, “Sun Le used to like touching my earlobes a lot. It was absolutely unsettling being touched in the way someone used to but by someone you know who doesn’t belong to this world anymore. I immediately realised it was him, but after trying to run away from him numerous times I’ve learned that I cannot.”
My gaze falls on the jacket I’m wearing—Yuan Fei’s jacket. That touch that made me jump out of my skin.... That’s why.... I see.
“It was like the dripping sounds were in my head. I’d hear it anytime, anywhere without any sort of warning. I had felt like giving up, that is, until I found that you could hear it too. I found that in fact I wasn’t alone! Don’t you see, Xiao Yu? Nothing can compare to the amount of comfort you’ve given me. If it weren’t for you I’d never have made it this-.”
I suddenly feel the urge to laugh and I do.
“If it weren’t for you, we would’ve never been like this,” I scoff at his sincerity. “Nothing can compare to the suffering you’ve given us!”
I start screaming at him, “It was your fault. Why did the others from 308 have to die for your relationship mistakes? And you’d already known about Sun Le being the one behind it all and you didn’t say a word! You just watched as Kong Linglin and Cubs get killed one after the other! Now no one knows how Mu Mu’s doing, Xu Ping’s dead and Chief’s disappeared. And you’re telling me this NOW?”
I grab his collar. “It’s you! It’s all you! Why didn’t you mourn over your own sorry ass after I died as well? Why d’you hafta tell me it’s all ’cause of you? Do six people hafta die too just ’cause you cheated someone? Why do we hafta die too? Why?”
“Sorry. It’s my fault. I’m sorry.”
I’ve never seen a look like this. There are no tears but it’s so miserable it makes you want to cry just by looking at it. It’s he who is in the wrong and I have all the right to blame him, but those eyes of his that seems to have shed so many tears that it’s depleted breaks my heart.
Before my beliefs are shaken, I plant a punch on his face.
It’s fake! It’s all fake! He has only been so caring and unconditionally protective because he was feeling guilty. He has only supported me because he was trying to make up for what he had done. If it wasn’t for him none of this would have happened! I wouldn’t have had to roam around the borderline of insanity. I wouldn’t have kept making a fool out of myself and exposed my deepest, most inner evils. I would still be that average, normal university student named Xiao Yu: growing up without a care in the world and living life like a new-born cub, excited and wet behind the ears, instead of experiencing this—the most terrifying, most blood-curdling and most inexplicable thing in the world. If it wasn’t for him, none of this would have ever happened! It’s all his fault!
I beat him with everything I’ve got. He just cowers behind his arms and takes it without fighting back. Only after I lose feeling in my hands do I kick him one last time and stop.
I spit at him, “I never wanna see you again. I’ll never forgive you! Your debts belong to you only, not to 308! Now you have even more blood on your hands. You’ll never be free from it.”
I use all the curses and vile words that I can think of on him. I know my words are hurting him like sticks and stones but I’m unable to stop. All the pain, sorrow, horror and insanity that I’ve had to go through these days become a hatred so strong it scares me.
I had thought this all began because four young, stupid guys disrespected a spirit. As one of the four, I couldn’t say I was innocent so I just accepted whatever sufferings and hardships I was faced with. I’ve secretly held Kong Linglin and Mu Mu responsible and even assigned part of my grievances to Mu Mu when he had refused to take responsibility but I still had to face the helplessness by myself.
I felt it was unfair. I felt scared. But I also accepted my fate because I must pay my dues.
But it was never our fault! It was never because of us! We didn’t do anything. It was all Yuan Fei’s fault and yet we had to pay for his mistakes! I can’t believe I ever trusted the culprit and thanked him from the bottom of my heart for his support the past few days.
I leave after venting without turning back. He won’t be coming after me. For a moment there I feel like I have destroyed the last standing column of support of his, but there is nothing else I can do. I need some time for the fury in my heart to go out so I can figure out the deeper-rooted reason as to why I have reacted so strongly.
I climb down from the third floor and when I reach the landing between the second and first floor, I stop dead in my tracks. The seven files I had thrown at Sun have been laid out in a neat row....
Dairytea's comment: Tada! Get the promo for the audio drama adaptation here for your listening pleasure~
ayszhang's comment: Please stay in tune for tomorrow's chapter of Cold Sands :) Happy Holidays~
P.S. We are in need of lovely cleaners/typesetters to help us with short one-shot manhuas we've translated. If you are interested in helping or know of anyone who would be, please shoot Dairytea an email at silverstr114(at)yahoo.com
The Water Goes Drip-Drop - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.