Chapter 816 – A Life Without Regrets
A white, circular object was buried in the black soil; it was shaped like a human skull, yet much smaller than the skull of an adult.
He shoved his trembling hands into the soil and dug it up. He immediately stiffened. His boiling blood seemed to reach a freezing point all of a sudden. It was just a white rock.
“Xiao Er, what’s wrong with you? Don’t scare me like that!” big brother Li asked with a long face before pulling the witch over by the hand. “Is my brother possessed? Save him, please.”
“Boy, what is there in my vegetable patch?” the witch told big brother Li to calm down first before rubbing his head and asking kindly. He found her extremely familiar, yet also unfamiliar.
“I- I don’t know…”
He clutched the white rock firmly and stood up in dejection. His body swayed, and the feelings of exhaustion, hunger, and pain immediately overwhelmed him like a flood, but it was nowhere near as deep and heavy as the disappointment in his heart. But what was he disappointed about? Didn’t he spend his entire life so far like this? What was he desiring?
He walked out of the witch’s home and used his hands to shield his eyes. Sunlight flowed resplendently through the cracks of his fingers. The sun rose as normal, shining with warm rays, and the fog that enveloped the hamlet gradually dispersed. Smoke began to rise from the homes in the village. This was an extremely ordinary morning that had repeated hundreds, thousands of times in his life, and from today onwards, it would continue like this, yet he felt a nightmarish sense of terror.
He returned home in low spirits, sitting at the table. He had breakfast, he had lunch, and he had dinner, but he continued to clutch the rock shaped like a child’s skull. The sun set, but it rose up again tomorrow.
Crouching Ox village was far too small and life was far too plain, so anything that happened would spread like wildfire. Very soon, everyone found out that Li Erlang had lost his mind and all came to visit him, sighing when they saw him. They said he was far too attached to the old ox, so he was unable to bear with the psychological shock, which made him hysterical.
The moon rose up into the sky, and he finally stood up from the table, making his way out of the house. He arrived beside a well in the village, sitting on the mossy rock and gazing into the water.
The well water quietly reflected the brilliant moon, as well as a young thin face that was filled with confusion. What is wrong with me? Just because of that dream? But even though the dream has already vanished, the feeling from the dream lingers.
It was the feeling of bold spirit, the feeling of struggling arduously, the feeling of laughing wildly and running amok, the feeling of devotion and bitter grievances!
His face twisted. His wound-ridden hand gripped the white rock firmly.
“Erlang, you… better not act rashly. We can talk about anything you’d like. The ox can’t come back alive now that it’s dead…” Big brother Li’s voice trembled, afraid he would throw himself into the well, so he made a feeble attempt at changing his mind.
“Damned brat, you’ve lost your mind! Do you still want to live a proper life or not? Your parents died early. I was the one who cleaned you and raised you. How can you do this to me?” sister-in-law Li called out and broke into tears as she continued.
The barking of dogs filled the entire village, and the houses all lit their lamps. The villagers woke up from their sleep and gathered around the well before long. There were both adults and children, women and men, chiming in constantly to change his mind, to make him think things through.
His eyes swept over the crowd, over Crouching Ox hill, and over the endless myriad mountains. The words “green mountains” suddenly leapt into his head like inspiration. He lowered his head and murmured, “Qingshan!”
“Brother, where’s the money from selling the ox?”
After a good while, he suddenly raised his head and asked.
“Y- you wait right there! I’ll go fetch it right now!” Big brother Li rushed out of the crowd and returned with a bundle with the silver pieces very soon, handing it over to him.
He gazed at the pieces of silver that glistened under the moonlight. He placed the rock in his hand in there before suddenly standing up. The crowd fell silent, and all of them just looked at him.
He looked around and decided on a direction, making his way out of the village.
The crowd was stunned by his deranged demeanour, afraid to stop him. They parted to the two sides and watched as he vanished under the moonlight.
Big brother Li and the sister-in-law wanted to stop him, but they suddenly stopped, and a strange expression filled their faces.
In the beginning, his footsteps were very heavy. He was at a loss as for where he was trying to go, but gradually, his footsteps became lighter and faster. He used the brilliant moonlight to follow the small path that had almost been swallowed by the wild grass, striding away into the night.
He walked for an entire night and reached the town. The sky had already lit up. He stood in front of a butcher’s shop, and the huge head of an ox with a horn missing hung on the meat rack. The eyes of the ox bulged, having lost their usual lustre already, just shining with a murky light. Flies buzzed around it as if they were trying to add a few boring obituaries to the death of this ordinary beast.
However, he could clearly sense the murky eyes were looking at him with that familiar, moist gaze. Suddenly, he felt his face moisten. Before he had even realised it, his cheeks were already covered with tears.
“Little brother, would you like to buy some meat? We just butchered a great, strong ox yesterday. There’s still a lot of meat left!” the owner of the butcher shop asked in a rather uncertain manner.
He pointed at the ox’s head.
A while later, he left under the butcher shop owner’s confused gaze. He welcomed the glow of dawn. The sun scattered a layer of light on his tall figure. He carried the large head of an ox on his back.
The ox head was very heavy, weighing down on his body together with the rock in the bundle. The dream no longer seemed to drift anymore. It began to bear weight. It began to clear up!
Time slipped by. The stars shifted.
The young man became an adult, and the adult became an old man. He wandered through the world, but what he saw in his dream never happened. However, he refused to give up, continuing to search and search!
Finally, he arrived at the top of a mountain and stopped one day. His figure that had once stood tall was now hunched over, while his clothes had been reduced to tatters. The ox head on his back was just a skull, and the white stone had been polished smooth, except they weighed even heavier than in the past.
He looked back, gazing at the path he had taken to reach here. In the past, he had numerous opportunities to stop and enjoy a peaceful, happy life, but he did not. He braved the hardships of life with absolutely nothing in the end.
He could not help but think that perhaps he should not have come out. Perhaps he had already lost his mind several decades ago. As a result, he saw Crouching Ox village again. He saw himself who was also up in years, surrounded by his children and grandchildren, enjoying his final years in peace.
Did he regret it?
He removed the yellowing ox skull from his back with his old hands and slowly wore it over his head. He touched it with one hand as he fished out the white rock that had been warmed up by his body with the other. He stared at it for a very long while before suddenly laughing. He laughed more and more loudly, with violent coughing mixed in. He coughed up blood that dyed his snow-white beard red.
With a thump, the laughter halted. He fell backwards and gazed at the sky. He said, “Regret my ass!”
Death surged through him, making him sink into endless darkness. Suddenly, a butterfly flew through the endless darkness with an indescribable blend of colours, shedding pigments that were just as indescribable that dyed this black curtain.