Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
He could not live in the villa since it was a mess. Therefore, he decided to live in his old house, which was empty.
He ignored the housekeeping company’s persuasions to give them another chance and left with a stony face.
Du Yun shouted enthusiastically after him, “Mr. Li, please forgive us. Have a safe journey back. Mr. Li, we will make sure your villa is cleaner than ever before…”
As they drove, Du Hang asked helplessly, “Brother Li, what should we do now?”
Li Du said, “We will take our time, don’t worry. I’ll go back and see my parents first.”
As soon as he got home, his mother asked him anxiously, “What about our villa? Let them clean it up. How could they destroy such a nice house?”
Li Du said, “Dad, let’s live here for a while. I will take care of the things in the villa.”
Li Du’s father waved his hand and said, “OK, you can deal with it. It will be just as well if we live here. This old house is our ancestral home, our forefathers are here. Let them see our first foreign daughter-in-law in the family history. Celebrating the New Year here would be better too.”
Li Du rubbed his arms and said, “Dad, did you have to say something this scary? There is nobody but us here. There are no ghosts.”
Li Du’s father laughed. “Our ancestors might be gone, but their soul is still here. Sophie likes our Chinese culture, doesn’t she? Does she know anything about Chinese ghost folklore?”
Li Du quickly shook his head. “Don’t say such nonsense. I’m afraid of such ridiculous things.”
His mother said, “Well, you know your father, don’t you? He used to scare you with ghost stories when you were a child, and now he wants to scare Sophie.”
This was quite strange indeed. Other people’s parents would tell their children fairy tales when they were little, but Li Du’s father was different. The bedtime stories he told Li Du when he was little were all ghost tales.
Traveling around from the villa to the United States and back to the old house, Li Du’s father seemed quite excited.
After they entered the house, Li Du’s mother began to tidy up, pulling out pots and pans and shaking out bedding and sheets. Their home was a small building in the suburbs, and there were plenty of rooms for all of them.
Li Du saw that the utensils and electric appliances were all still there and asked, “Didn’t you move into the villa?”
Li Du’s mother said, “We moved in and then came back. It’s so big and empty. It felt lonely with just the two of us.”
Li Du felt it was reasonable. For people of their generation, a villa or a mansion would not be as comfortable as their old house.
Li Du’s father would not shock Sophie with ghost stories. Sophie and her parents’ love for Chinese culture extended to traditional tales and folk customs.
Mrs. Martin decided to use the occasion to write a special topic report. When she returned to school, she would show it to her students. She decided to research the history of the city from their architecture to their customs and culture.
Mr. Martin encouraged her. He promised to be her assistant and to take some pictures of her for reference. He said, “You could write a journal in addition to the report. I am sure the university would love it.”
They were a large party, so the transportation problem was not easy to solve. Li Du used the same method he favored in America, car rental.
He took Brother Wolf and the others to the city and rented some cars, which they later drove back.
Brother Wolf and Feminine drove in a low-key Volkswagen Passat. They carried a camera to investigate the housekeeping company. Li Du did not believe that the company acted in an honest way, and was determined to give them a lesson.
Mr. And Mrs. Martin drove off in a jeep, with Li Du and Sophie accompanying them. After all, they did not know Chinese, and the county probably had many people who spoke very little English.
Although the town was small, there were many valuable ancient buildings.
They first went to the ancient city wall in the south part of the town. This section of the wall was more than five hundred meters long. It was built with green bricks and had a thousand years of history.
“The wall used to be quite long. When I was in primary school, it stretched all the way to the south of the county,” Li Du touched the wall and gave a little sigh.
Sophie asked, “Why is there only this section left? Did it crumble with time or was eroded by the wind and rain?”
Li Du shook his head. “No, our county needed to expand. The city wall became an obstacle and the government decided to tear it down to make way for the new construction.”
Mrs. Martin said sadly, “It is a pity. This is an ancient wall, and it would be a great asset if it could be preserved for future generations.”
Li Du smiled and said many people now say the same thing.
In addition to the city wall, there were several ancient alleys in the county. One of them was paved with green slabs that had become uneven, and the alley was very narrow. When their jeep drove in, another car met them from the opposite side, and Li Du could only reverse and give way to the other car, or they would have been stuck.
On both sides of the lane were old houses, built from bricks similar to those used in the city wall.
Mrs. Martin took a few pictures and noticed that some of the bricks had images on them. She took a zoomed-in image of one of those and asked curiously, “What are the meanings of these images?”
Li Du said, “I’m not sure. The elders say that this city used to be a strategic location, so to make sure the walls were strong, they bought bricks from different makers.”
“In order to prevent the masonry from being shoddy, the rulers required the masons to put a distinctive mark on their products.”
Speaking of which, Li Du suddenly had an idea he thought he might use against the housekeeping company.
The Martins did not know what he was thinking, but they both laughed at his words and said, “That is a clever way.”
“You could write it in the journal.”
Li Du also smiled and kept thinking. He believed his idea was really quite reliable.
The presence of three foreigners in these quaint alleys had some appeal to the locals.
A number of people appeared at the door, basking in the sun and looking at the three strangers curiously. Someone who knew Li Du asked, “I heard that you have found a foreign wife. Is this she? Quite pretty.”
Sophie smiled back and said in fluent Mandarin, “You’re handsome too, sir, and you’re well informed.”
Hearing Sophie’s answer in perfect Chinese, several of the onlookers burst into laughter. Someone even joked, “Hey, Little Liao, silence is gold. Didn’t your father teach you to talk less outside?”
Li Du greeted everyone with a smile, briefly introduced Sophie’s family, and said they want to investigate the local architecture to do a project report for some students in the United States.
“How influential might this report be?” asked a hopeful middle-aged man.
“If you want to develop tourism, it most likely won’t help you,” said Li Du.
“No, no, I wasn’t thinking about tourism. Is it possible that it might draw the government’s attention to this place so that it’s demolished place quickly?” asked the middle-aged man.