It was nighttime.
A rustling sound came from under the old wooden bed, and from time to time an ear-piercing “squeaking” sound could be heard.
Wang lowered her body and rolled up the sleeves of her tattered clothes, which further revealed the derelict shape of her body.
“Go! Go!” With a sparse broom in her hand, she smacked the mice under the bed.
After she finally drove the mouse out of the house, Mrs.
Wang breathed a sigh of relief and put down the broom, but suddenly she smelled a burning smell from somewhere.
She frowned slightly.
A few more lines of wrinkles appearing on her as she said in her anxiety, “I was so focussed on it, that I forgot about the rice!”
She hurriedly stepped into the house, and ignored the shooting through her hand while lifting the hot lid of the iron pot.
In the small corner of the wooden house, bottles of salt and pickles were placed in order, next to a low stove, and the burning smell came out from the iron pot on it.
Wang took a rag and wrapped it around her hand, brought the iron pot down from the stove, and only then did she have time to blow on her red fingers in an attempt to soothe the pain.
She poured out a large bowl of rice gruel, and when she saw that only a small part of rice at the bottom of the pot was burnt, her brows slightly relaxed.
“Mother, I'm back!” A boy about eight or nine years old walked into the wooden house with a happy face, holding a small piece of raw meat tied with a rope in his hand.
“Today, Uncle Zhang and the others went hunting, and I helped them.
We caught one deer, and I got a small piece of its meat!”
Wang looked at the boy with pity, put the large bowl of rice in her hands on the wooden table and smiled.
“Are you tired after following them on the hunt? Did you get hurt? Although you have your Uncle Zhang to take care of you, you still have to be very careful.
Eat this bowl of rice, you are now at the growing age, so eat more.”
The boy's eyes were sharp.
He noticed Mrs.
Wang's red fingers at a glance, and immediately became a little anxious.
“Mother, what's wrong with your hand?”
Wang shook her head and said, “It's just a little scalded, it's okay.
Hurry up and eat, eat more rice to grow stronger.”
The large bowl was almost an all clear soup, only six or seven vegetable leaves hovered on it.
The vegetable leaves were luxuriously mixed with two pieces of fat and thin meat.
The boy smelled the meat and almost drooled.
Just as he picked up the large bowl and was about to eat it, the boy seemed to have thought of something.
He blinked and said, “Mother, eat these two pieces of meat, I won't eat it.”
While she was scraping the bottom of the paste in the pot and putting it into her own bowl, Mrs.
Wang shook her head and smiled.
“I just ate some.
I ate a few pieces of meat, the rest is a bit mushy, but I'll make do with it.
I want to eat more, but it would be a waste to lose it.”
The boy glanced at Mrs.
Wang, lowered his head, held the bowl up, and started to eat silently.
Wang was a hard-working and miserable orphan.
After she gave birth to a boy, Xiao Fu, her husband died in the mountains while hunting.
In a small village at the corner of the Qingluan Mountain, the absence of a man meant that there was no food source.
After all, that small area was barren and infertile, and nothing could be grown on the soil.
The source of foodof the whole village was only a small mountain at the edge of the village, which was full of ordinary beasts.
Strange to say, there were a lot of mountains around the Qingluan Mountain range.
That small peak on the edge was the hunting ground for the village for many years, and all kinds of beasts existed there.
However, their number never fell, and instead they appeared more and more frequently.
People thought that it was the blessing of the Mountain God.
That small mountain was also an unnamed mountain, so every household in the village had a Mountain God statue, which was called the “Nameless Mountain God” and it was extremely revered and piously prayed for.
Relying on laundry service for other people's homes and serving as a servant for slightly wealthier families, Mrs.
Wang managed to raise Xiao Fu to nine years old.
Although she was not yet forty years old, due to working laboriously her entire youth, she looked like an old woman.
Xiao Fu was also sensible.
Since he was a child, he knew how to help his hard-working mother to share the housework.
When he was a little older, he clamored to follow the village's hunter team into the mountains to hunt.
Wang could not go, so she could only ask Big Brother Zhang next door to take care of him.
Xiao Fu was also very good at it, and he was very discerning.
Every time he went out, he was the most diligent one, and everyone in the village was full of praise for him.
Therefore, although Xiao Fu was only nine years old, he could bring back a piece or two of animal meat from time to time to improve their meals.
After he finished his meal, there was a slightly larger piece of meat left at the bottom of the bowl, and he shouted, “Mother, I'm full.”
Wang looked at the piece of meat at the bottom of the bowl, shook her head slightly, and said with a smile, “Okay.”
She silently put the tableware and chopsticks away, and placed the remaining piece of meat in the old cupboard.
Then, she muttered, “It's time to worship the Mountain God statue.”
After she had finished cleaning, Mrs.
Wang took Xiao Fu and knelt down in front of the statue of Mountain God, and kowtowed a few times respectfully.
Xiao Fu, as usual, after kowtowing, raised his head, and subconsciously glanced at the pitch-black statue of the Mountain God.
The statue of the mountain god was made by everyone in the village a long time ago.
It was carved from ebony and simply painted.
Xiao Fu suddenly felt a fierce tremble in his heart, his scalp turned numb, and an extremely frightening feeling washed over him like a tide, but this feeling came and went away quickly.
He took a closer look at the Nameless Mountain God statue that he worshiped every day, and found nothing unusual.
Xiao Fu could not help but feel a little dazed.
“Xiao Fu? What's wrong?” Mrs.
Wang's wrinkled face was full of concern.
Xiao Fu felt a pain in his heart, his mother was not yet forty years old!
She only ate two meals a day, and she would only eat a few green vegetables, which are wild vegetables, and yet she had to do so much work.
She is getting old too fast.
With this thought, he could not help but blurt out what he was thinking, “Mother, I want to grow up quickly.
So that I can hunt by myself, and make clothes for you from animal skins, and you can eat meat every day! I have to leave the village and go to the rumored ancient city of Taichu to build a house, and take mother with me to enjoy life!”
The mountain roads here were extremely treacherous.
For this small and isolated village, the magnificent Taichu Ancient City, which was only a few hundred kilometers away, was as far away as legends.
Gently touching Xiao Fu's head, Mrs.
Wang just smiled, but she muttered in her mind, Xiao Fu, when you grow up, your mother will be too old.
Near midnight, the village got oddly quiet.
Occasionally, a few dog barks echoed, disturbing the calm.
When Xiao Fu was in a state of half-dreaming and half-awake, his eyes were wet, and his heart ached unknowingly.
Shaking his head, he sat up, wiped the corners of his eyes, looked around through the help of the light of moonlight, and asked himself in doubt, “Where's mother?”
The wooden house was not big, there was only a dilapidated wooden bed, which could hardly harbor two people.
The night in late autumn was freezing to the bone, and Mrs.
Wang always let Xiao Fu sleep in the inner part of the bed.
While she slept in the outer part, to make him a little warmer.
Xiao Fu looked at the almost tear-soaked pillow, and could not help but wonder, “Why did I shed so many tears in my dreams? Mother, where are you?”
Putting on a worn cotton-padded coat, he opened the wooden door, and a cold draft drifted along like a stream of icy water.
Xiao Fu shuddered fiercely, but instead of closing the door, he stuck his head out of the door and whispered, “Mother?”
Where can my mother go in the middle of the night? Even if she went to the toilet, it has been so long, shouldn’t she have come back?
Standing dumbfounded at the door, the bone-piercing cold wind whistled, making Xiao Fu shiver, but his worry did not lessen, instead he got even more worried.
Born in a poor household, the nine-year-old was quite precocious and perceptive of things.
Suddenly aware of a stare directed at him from behind, Xiao Fu turned his head sharply.
But what he saw was still the old wooden bed between the four walls of the house, the iron pot, and the cupboard in the corner.
On the edge of the broken wooden bed was a pair of cloth shoes that were more than half sewn.
The stitches were densely packed and extremely tight.
They were the two thick pieces of cloth and soles that Mrs.
Wang had saved for a long time to sew winter cloth shoes for Xiao Fu.
His intuition caught the stare getting intense by the minute.
Xiao Fu's scalp exploded with caution, and he felt numb, but he could not find the source of the stare.
Scanning through the wooden house again, the simple furnishings appeared still the same as usual, only the Mountain God statue …
Wait! The statue of the “Nameless Mountain God”!
On that pitch-black face, two red and green painted eyes seemed to come alive, and they were staring at him fiercely with resentful eyes!
Xiao Fu’s soul trembled, and the urge to relieve his bladder rushed over him.
Disregarding the cold in the middle of the night, he rushed out the door!
The scene felt vaguely familiar; even in that trance.
Didn't I run out of the door and onto the street in the village? Why am I back in the house?
After all, Xiao Fu was only nine years old.
No matter how sensible he was, after being frightened, his sanity showed signs of collapse.
In his daze, he stood rooted to the spot, but he continued to stare blankly at the hideous visage of the Nameless Mountain God.
Suddenly, the big mouth of the Mountain God statue opened up in a twisted way.
It spat out a pile of snow-white bones.
Xiao Fu looked at the pile of bones, his eyes still blank, until he noticed a gap in one of the skeleton’s hands: His mother's left little finger, which was missing a small piece of bone.
It was the little finger that was accidentally broken when she was washing clothes in the village chief's house the year before, leaving an old wound.
A hint of sanity returned to his eyes, and a heart-wrenching cry resounded through the silent night sky.
After a while, the sound in the wooden house stopped—abruptly.
A few moments later, the sound of chewing gradually echoed from the wooden house, which was extremely terrifying.
Strangely, the whole village had turned into a dead village, and heavy silence hung in the dark allies.
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