Of Mountains and Rivers

Preface- Chapter 1: Chu Huan

Although his apartment wasn’t small, it had a strange layout. It was just one big room with an open kitchen, without a living room or balcony.

The “kitchen” just consisted of a freezer and clothes drying rack. It couldn’t be used to cook.

A single person bed was nailed down in a corner with one side against the wall. The bedsheets were a deathly pale white and from the size, were just about enough for a person to sleep in.

In the other corner, a group of armchairs were fit snugly against the wall. Some were high and others were low against the ground, but they all appeared more hard than soft to sit on. The way they were arranged could only be described as eerie. When it was dark, upon first glance, they would appear just like a row of reanimated corpses squatting in the corner as an old daoist priest exorcised them.

The room’s furnishings made it obvious that its owner was a freak.

A cat tree laid diagonal from the bed in the corner, with a water bowl, litterbox, and the rest beside it. A fresh layer of fur could vaguely be seen on the tree, evidently belonging to the cat.

The two’s spaces were very distinct, almost appearing like there was an invisible line separating the two. Each lived their own life. If nothing happened, neither would bother the other.

Chu Huan’s cat was called Big Mi, named by his adoptive father, Chu Aiguo.

> “Mi” is what Chinese people generally use to call a cat. Think ‘Kitty’ in English (Come here, kitty, kitty). Also, Aiguo is a weird weird name. It literally means “love country”, patriotism.  

Before Chu Aiguo named him, Chu Huan would always just call him Cat.

His father, who had never lost his childhood innocence, had once questioned him about it. “If you name him that, what would you call him when you’re chatting with him? Wouldn’t it be really inconvenient?”

Such sharp questions would often leave him speechless.

Chu Huan could only tell him, “We normally don’t chat.”

Chu Aiguo was very worried when he heard this. “You’re raising a cat but you never talk with him? Are you some sort of freak?”

Chu Huan: “...”

He wasn’t a kid. If he just sat on the ground and chatted with a cat when he was free, would that make him not a freak?

Regardless of who was the freak, after that, “Big Mi” became the cat’s new name. His former name was a mystery.

Big Mi wasn’t originally Chu Huan’s. Three years ago, his owner died in the line of duty. Tragically, he was a single man with no wife or children so this strange, furry thing he left behind ended up being carried back by Chu Huan as an orphan.

It was clear from his build that by the time Chu Huan brought him back, Big Mi was already quite old. He had experienced many things and knew, from observing Chu Huan’s face, that his new owner did not like noise or activity. So, from day to night, he never meowed or left his side with the cat tree, rarely intruding on the human’s territory.  

It was currently in the wee hours of the day, just a bit after 2 AM. The room’s owner, Chu Huan, was sleeping on the bed- he was a bachelor, with no particular opinion on his single status. He just liked to put on airs when it came to appearances, which he was especially fussy about.

In the darkness, Big Mi suddenly burrowed out of a crack in the sofa and took small little kitty steps towards the bed.

His pads treading on the floor were very light, comparable to a feather landing in snow- dead silent. However, the moment he neared the bed, the sleeping man abruptly opened his eyes. It was almost like the things attached to his head weren’t ears, but radars.

Big Mi jumped up, landing on Chu Huan’s headboard and pushed aside his glasses with a paw, clearing a space out for himself. One human and one cat stared at each other for a long time in the darkness. Big Mi slowly lowered his head and sniffed Chu Huan’s finger before lightly licking it. Finally, he let out a delicate, soft call, almost sounding like a sigh after a tumultuous journey.

After meowing, Big Mi stood up and climbed from up the headboard to the top of the closet, disappearing from sight.

Chu Huan calmly laid back down motionlessly. He sensed that the cat would soon die.

Animals would always do something before they died. Chu Huan wasn’t very clear about it, but he had seen many people die. In fact, humans were also just another animal. When death was imminent, both humans and cats would get a complex, faraway look in their eyes.

He and Big Mi had lived together in harmony for three years. A few days ago, Big Mi had suddenly stopped eating. Even when he tried a couple of different cat food brands, his appetite would never improve. Finally, Chu Huan brought him to the vet.

The vet gave him a clean bill of health- there was no injury or illness. His time was just up.

He was too old.

Chu Huan slowly flipped over, facing the ceiling. The nightlight was dimly lit. Without his glasses, his face appeared exceptionally pale with an almost unhealthy looking pallor.

He laid there, dazed for a while. Suddenly, his lax gaze sharpened as it pierced through the darkness, staring at the doors.

The next second, the doorbell rung.

Only an uninvited guest would knock at the door in the middle of the night.

Chu Huan got up nimbly, not the slightest haze of sleep or surprise on his face. His nightclothes were just as smooth as when he was lying down earlier. Even though it was halfway through the night, not a single wrinkle was on his clothes. Who knew if he was actually sleeping or not this whole time.

He put on his glasses and opened the door without even bothering to ask who they were. It was almost like he had long known who had come- if it weren’t for the icy expression on his face, he would look just like he was welcoming his partner for a late night affair.

The brim of the guest’s hat was pulled very low, only revealing a sharb, stubbled chin and a single arm.

Of course, it didn’t matter how many arms he had. The important thing was that the one hand he had was holding a gun, with the pitch black muzzle pointed right at Chu Huan.

Chu Huan’s expression didn’t change. Was he stunned with fear?

The uninvited guest pulled the trigger and a sharp burst of air blew from the pistol...

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