Lujia Village at the foot of the mountain was now home to only a few left-behind families.
On New Year’s Eve they lit up the lights and gathered to play cards and chat, and the atmosphere of the New Year was not lacking.

There was no ban on fireworks in the countryside, so children were playing with firecrackers outside the house and soon came in shouting, “Grandpa, there is so much fog outside, you can’t even see Qixia Mountain anymore.”

The old man, who was busy playing cards, laughed and said, “Don’t be afraid, it’s always foggy on the mountain on New Year’s Day.”

“Why?”

“There are monsters living on the mountain, haha…”

“Ah! There are monsters on the mountain? Do they also celebrate New Year?”

“Of course, it’s New Year, monsters have to eat and drink too.
Maybe they’re eating and drinking at the moment.”

“Then, do monsters eat children?”

The old man laughed and shook his head, “Monsters don’t eat children or people.
Don’t mess with monsters and monsters won’t mess with you.”

“Then what if someone accidentally messes with a monster?”

At this time the old lady who came out with the dumplings smiled and interjected, “Don’t be afraid if you do mess with them.
See this stack of stickers? Those are the Chinese Zodiac pictures.
Keep them at home and put up the one whatever the year is.
They will bless you with good luck and all demons and monsters will be afraid of them.
This year is the Year of the Pig.
If I want to raise a few pigs, I’m sure they’ll fetch a good price.”

“Oh, who raises pigs nowadays, pigs eat too much…”

The house was in an uproar.

“Excuse me, I’m a passing traveller.”

The door was open and the house was brightly lit but outside was invisible.
When someone suddenly stood at the door and spoke, everyone was startled at first.  But when they saw that it was a living person, they were curious and came forward: “There are tourists on New Year’s Eve? You are…” The man didn’t look like a tourist, ah, dressed in a suit and a large fur collar trench coat, holding an umbrella and a briefcase, tall and upright; just his shoes were muddy and soggy and the hems of his trouser legs were dirty.

With a smile on his face, the man spoke again, “Happy New Year, old man.
I want to go up to Qixia Mountain, can your family sell me a flashlight, please?”

“To go up the mountain?” The old man was stunned, “You’re not going home for the New Year, why are you going up the mountain now? There’s nothing on Qixia Mountain but rocks and wild trees, and it’s so foggy that you can’t tell north from south and east from west.
What if something happens to you?”

The man was silent, looking up in the direction of Qixia Mountain.
On a quiet night, there was no wind and no rain.
Going through Qixia Town, you could still see the twinkling lights in all directions.
When he reached Lujia Village at the foot of Qixia Mountain, Qixia Mountain seemed like another world, a mystery shrouded in thick fog.

“I have a friend who went up the mountain and never came out, I need to go and look for him.
Would you do me a favour?” Qin Zhuopu handed over some cash, more than enough to buy a flashlight.

“Then why don’t you call the police, how can you find him alone?” The old man was full of suspicion, but a teenager hurriedly took out a flashlight and handed it to the man, taking the money quickly.

“Thank you.” The man turned to go into the mountains.

“Young man, if you don’t come back in an hour, can I call the police for you?”

“No, thanks.”

The flashlight shone on the path beneath his feet, and the man kept going.

“This man looks so decent, it’s too strange for him to go up the mountain now.
Could it be that he’s confused and goes to the mountain to commit suicide?” Seeing the man leave, the teenager couldn’t help but let his imagination run wild.

“Nonsense, I’m 90% sure he just goes up the mountain to look for someone.”

“But, but, Grandpa, you said the mountain is full of monsters,” the boy said.

The old man’s face suddenly blushed: “Besides monsters, there are people.”

“People?”

“Of course there are.
People who can only be met by fate.” The old man gazed longingly.

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The family continued to eat, drink and play, with only the old man keeping an eye on the passage of time, secretly thinking that if the man didn’t return in an hour, it would be better to call the police.
It was New Year’s Eve and peace and safety was the most important thing.

After fifty minutes, the familiar figure returned to the door.
The man was in a worse state than an hour ago.
Even his clothes were now dirty, as if he had rolled on the ground.
In the darkness, the man’s eyes were startled and uncertain as he stared blankly at the familiar house for a long time.
It seemed he was surprised that he was here again.

“Did you fall?” The old man asked, hastily stepping forward.

The man’s face was pale and he shook his head quietly, “It’s okay, thank you.
I’m going back…”

“It’s good to go back, it’s better than anything to go back!” The old man breathed a sigh of relief and enthusiastically pulled the man into the house: “Today is New Year’s Eve, it’s fate to run into each other.
Come, come, eat and drink something before you go.
I see you’re tired, you must’ve come a long way.” Inside the house, the old man finally got a good look at the man’s face and was suddenly in a daze.
The man was really handsome and his eyebrows and eyes were as beautiful as a painting.
He was by no means an ordinary person.
But why… did he look so familiar? Where could he be seen before?…

The old man frowned for a moment, thinking hard.

“Your house… I seem to have been here.” The man suddenly said, shocking the old man.

“Ah… yes, yes, I’ve seen you, that’s you!” The old man snapped his head.

The man looked around the house.
There was an age-old incense burner in the middle of the living room, with a huge portrait of a famous man hanging over it, and a black and white photo on the right wall.
This photo suddenly made him think of the same picture from years ago.
This was a home that he seemed to have visited before.

No, the whole road to Qixia Mountain seemed to have been travelled before.

“It’s rare to see people like you.
I remember it was spring and the weather was very good.
One day you came to our house to ask for directions.
Ah, you gave me two thousand yuan at that time! It’s you, it’s you!” The old man was so surprised that he pulled the old lady over and said, “Chunmei, do you remember? A few years ago someone came to ask for directions and gave me two thousand yuan to thank me.
At that time, Xiaoxia went to high school thanks to those two thousand yuan.
I’ve just remembered! I shouldn’t have…”

The old lady’s eyes were worse than the old man’s; she looked for a long time but couldn’t confirm.

The man’s heart turned upside down.
He had been here before, passing by the same family, and seeing the same old man.
At that time, the old man was sad and sickly looking.
He asked for directions, got the answer, and casually gave a wad of cash to the old man.
He actually didn’t know how much it was.
He still remembered that the old man was grateful at the time.
After that, he hurriedly went up the mountain and… he went up the mountain?

Pressing his temples, the man closed his eyes and slowly shook his head.
He had met Master Yuan, the national master of Chinese traditional medicine, in the capital, and later went to meet several elders on the recommendation of Master Yuan.
Today, on New Year’s Eve, he hurried back from abroad, having spent the week before that meeting experts in the United States.

Everyone said that he was not mentally ill.
It seemed that he was the only one who thought he might have a disease related to Lu Ying.

Seeing his pale face, the old man hurriedly asked, “Are you not feeling well? You must be freezing, hurry up and sit down to rest, have a sip of hot tea.
Xiaoxia, come, come, you could go to high school and get into the university thanks to this big brother…”

Lu Xiaoxia, a top student who was already working in a big city, was even more shocked than her grandfather.
Damn, why does this man look so much like the certain young businessman introduced in the magazine so-and-so?… Coincidence, it must be a coincidence!

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Nearing twelve o’clock, Qixia Mountain was quiet and peaceful.

Lu Zaizai had already fallen asleep and Qin Xiaotu was watching the Spring Festival Gala in the house with the adults, yawning from time to time in boredom.
They could watch TV on the mountain, but the mobile phone signal was very poor.
Sometimes there was no signal at all, never mind using the mobile phone to access the internet.

Watching the singing and dancing on TV, Qin Xiaotu turned his head and yawned again.
He glanced at Lu Ying next to him who was fiddling with his mobile phone and wondered, “Uncle Lu, can your mobile phone access the internet? How come mine has no signal at all.”

Lu Ying shook his head: “Mine can’t either…” But he received a text message, the time indicating that it was sent at five minutes past seven in the evening.

[Lu Ying, I’ve arrived in Qixia Town, are you at the shop or at home? I’m coming to find you.]

It was almost twelve o’clock and he just saw this text message…

Lu Ying held his phone tightly, staring absentmindedly at the TV.
He didn’t see what was playing on it.

“Woah woah – Happy Year of the Pig!” Qin Xiaotu suddenly let out a cheer, waking Lu Ying up as the clock officially struck twelve.

“Happy Year of the Pig!”

“Happy Year of the Pig!”

“Happy Year of the Pig, Lu Ying!”

“Happy Year of the Pig…”

Everyone cheered together, surrounding Lu Ying in a constant stream of congratulations.

“Happy Year of the Pig!”

Lu Ying was all smiles as he sincerely presented everyone with little hand-made blessing bags, each with a different pattern, corresponding to the twelve Chinese zodiac signs.

Without missing anyone, Lu Ying concluded with a sincere, “I wish everyone a very auspicious Year of the Pig!”

“Thank you, Lu Ying!”

Everyone put away the little blessing bags and smiled with satisfaction.

Elder Xu put away his blessing bag and pointed out the window to the night sky with a wide smile, “Look, guys, it’s snowing outside.”

“Woohoo, what a year!”

“It’s really snowing…”

“I really want to see the white Qixia Mountain when I get up tomorrow, it’ll be even more perfect with the sunrise!”

“I want to take pictures of the snowy scenery of Qixia Mountain…”

The crowd slowly dispersed, and Lu Ying returned to the room where Zaizai was sleeping.
He looked at his son’s chubby face, but his heart was beating wild as he held his phone.

He got up and walked to the window.
Outside, snowflakes were flying, accompanied by the whistling cold wind, and under the dim eaves lights, every snowflake looked like a dancing firefly.
It was beautiful, but also very cold.

Lu Ying looked down and quickly made a call.

Beep beep beep… no signal.

“Where are you going?”

Ji Xiaofeng, the night owl still guarding the TV in the living room, yelled hurriedly as a sprinting shadow scurried out of the bedroom.

“Watch Zaizai for me, I’ll be right back!”

Lu Ying waved his hand and disappeared into the night without looking back.
That man came to Qixia Town at seven o’clock, and the phone couldn’t be reached, so he still might be standing at his door…

Maybe it was a mistake to think so, after all the disappointment.
But… Lu Ying pondered that from their acquaintance to their separation almost a year later, the man had never broken his promise.
Even if it was just a casual promise of small things, he would do as he promised.

If that person had arrived in Qixia Town, Lu Ying felt, he must still be there.
Maybe still at his door…

On New Year’s Eve he didn’t stay at home with his elders but ran to a poor town in the middle of nowhere.
What the hell, no one welcomed him here! He hadn’t come when he should have come, and now when no one expected him, he had come uninvited.

It was already the first day of the year, the first day of the Year of the Pig, and for the sake of the New Year, Lu Ying won’t bother to be angry! You can’t quarrel on the first day of the New Year.
Just find the man, say Happy New Year and count him lucky!

Lu Ying quickly went down the mountain, purposely avoiding the villagers, and headed in the direction of the town.
He checked his mobile phone as he walked, and when he left the mountain, his mobile phone signal was instantly better.
Lu Ying immediately dialled the number, ‘The number you have dialled is switched off…’

“……”

Lu Ying’s galloping footsteps immediately braked.
He stared at the phone for a long time, bewildered.

Where the hell is he? Has he already gone… got onto the plane?

Standing in the dark night in the midst of snowflakes, Lu Ying raised his head and took a deep breath, letting the snowflakes fall on his face, icy cold.
His reason came back.
He should go back to the mountain and accompany his child.
This was much warmer than the illusory snowflakes.

Lu Ying exhaled a mouthful of white mist, tucked his phone into his coat pocket and turned around with a flourish.

……

From far away, obvious at a glance, there was a lonely man walking slowly along the empty muddy road, carrying an umbrella, like a star still twinkling in the darkness of a snowy night.

The snow was still falling as the two figures got closer.

“Happy New Year.”

***

Mini-theatre:

Mr.
Qin: Either I have a brain problem or there are ghosts around me.

Lu Ying: So what?

Mr.
Qin: Science proves that there is nothing wrong with my brain, then there are ghosts around me.

Lu Ying: You suspect me?

Mr.
Qin: You’re not a ghost, you must be a demon sent by God to deal with me!

Lu Ying: (* ̄ ̄) That’s more like it!

Mr.
Qin: …… (What’s wrong?)

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