Dong Linhai often had a dream.
In his dream, he walked in a maze made up of emerald green plants. No matter how long he walked, he could never find the exit. Overhead, the blue sky was filled with clouds, and everything was deathly quiet. A castle loomed beyond the maze. He seemed to be walking toward the castle, but the more he walked, the further it got away.
This was the most critical period of their pilgrimage in the Pure White Realm. Dong Linhai didn’t know why he kept repeatedly dreaming of this particular scene though. Compared to this, there were many more instances that had made a deeper impression on him, such as listening to the little girl Tong Tong with Miss Deer in the Labyrinth of Time; the battle with the God Pan in the hallway of Doll’s House; the scene of the wasteland in Snow Parasite Trail; the city and platform on Top-of-the-Giant-Tree; and the fantastical sceneries surrounding the information superhighway…When he thought about it carefully, he thought that it was strange. Weren’t these other things more fascinating than a mere maze?
He didn’t tell anyone about this dream. It had been a year and a half since he’d left the Pure White Realm. Everyone in the Wonton Insurgency was living happily. Lin Hangzhi and Xia Qiongyun were living together in Shenzhen and would probably get married soon. Cui Zuojing was living with his older brother Dong Zheng and working at his company.
Dong Linhai once asked Dong Zheng quietly if his father knew his sexual orientation. Dong Zheng quietly nodded. Dong Linhai breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed that the kind of broken legs incident he’d expected wouldn’t happen.
And he went to the police academy as he’d wished. Although his parents were angry for a while due to his personal rebellion, they ended up giving in him. They didn’t know why Dong Linhai suddenly wanted to do this, but if he really liked it and had considered it carefully, then they really wouldn’t stop him.
Dong Zheng would inherit the family business, and Dong Linhai could do whatever he likes.
Due to his experience in the Pure White Realm, Dong Linhai’s performance at the police academy was unsurprisingly one of the best. He studied criminal investigation and inevitably came into contact with a lot of bloodied videos during class. Some of his classmates vomited and had nightmares at night. Sometimes, he would even deliberately stir up his rice during lunch and ask his roommates, “Do these look like corpse maggots?”
Of course, he ended up being beaten up by his roommates.
Although his college entrance examination scores could be regarded as the lowest-ranking in the academy, he repeatedly made outstanding performances. In his sophomore year, they were finally allowed to touch guns. When many students were eager to try, Dong Linhai had already used his. His series of proficient movements made the teacher’s eyes go so wide, they almost fell out. He held the heavy gun in his hands and controlled even the tiniest metal parts, as if it were a part of his body.
This was a feeling that Dong Linhai had missed, one that made him almost addicted.
At the beginning of the summer vacation after his sophomore year, he was taken to a charity exhibition. Feeling bored in the middle of it, he decided to wander around. He didn’t know which corner of the art gallery he’d ended up at, but in the hallway, he saw a painting. The painting was a corner of the forest. The color tone was dreamy, and the composition of lights and shadow gave off a distinct impression. Dong Linhai couldn’t help but stopped. He looked at the painting, his heart heavy and uncomfortable, as if throbbing due to an unknown familiarity.
Next to the painting was a girl with short hair. She looked like an art student. Dong Linhai knew that the teachers and students from the Central Academy of Fine Arts were participating in this exhibition, so he asked, “Is this your painting?”
The girl gazed at him with a familiar look in her eyes. There have been countless girls who had looked at Dong Zheng and him with this kind of eyes, seeing their worth and their symbolic wealth at a glance. Those kinds of eyes dispeled much of Dong Linhai’s curiosity about the painter.
“Yes,” the girl replied, her voice trembling uncontrollably with excitement.
Dong Linhai nodded. He took a step back and looked at the painting. The inexplicable throb of familiarity in his heart grew stronger.
What was it?
“I want to buy it. Name a price.”
Dong Linhai bought the painting for 3000 yuan, and he also learned that the girl who’d painted it was named Tan Qiuyu. She said that she still had many of these types of paintings and that she could show them to him at her studio. As a result, they exchanged contact information.
After the exhibition ended, the whole family took the car home. Dong Zheng was driving the car with Dong Yi and Su Daijun sitting in the back. Dong Linhai sat in the passenger seat. Dong Zheng noticed the painting in his hand, and his expression changed slightly. He asked, “Where did you buy this?”
“From a student at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Doesn’t it look great?” Dong Linhai showed the painting to Dong Zheng.
Dong Zheng looked at it carefully, narrowed his eyes, and asked, “Is it a girl named tan Qiuyu?”
Dong Linhai was shocked. “Eh? How do you know?”
Dong Zheng didn’t answer. He looked straight ahead and started the car, but his jaws were tight.
Dong Linhai went home and hung the picture at the head of his bed. Before he went to sleep at night, he laid on the bed with his head pillowed underneath his head and stared at the painting. The more he looked at it, the more he felt that something was wrong.
It seemed to be missing something incredibly important.
What was it?
Dong Linhai couldn’t figure it out. He obviously didn’t know how to paint, so he didn’t know why he knew this.
That night, Dong Linhai had that dream again. In the maze, he couldn’t move any further no matter how much he walked.
Tan Qiuyu contacted him several times. Dong Linhai instinctively didn’t like the girl and so his attitude was cold, but the more aloof he was, the hotter the other party became.
One day, Dong Zheng said he wanted to borrow his mobile phone for the afternoon and so Dong Linhai gave him his mobile phone. He ended up having to go to a hotel to get his phone back from Dong Zheng and Cui Zuojing. They were obviously hiding something from him, but since they were unwilling to tell him, he didn’t ask.
From that moment on, he never heard from Tan Qiuyu again.
Dong Linhai still had that dream from time to time, and when he woke up, he missed Uncle, Fu Zhe, Allen, and Lillain in the Pure White Realm. He didn’t know if they would ever meet again, but no matter what, as long as everyone was happy, then their lives were all very good.
That painting continued to hang over the head of his bed. During the winter vacation, Dong Linhai came home from school, and when he saw it again in his bedroom, he felt a sudden annoyance.
He took the painting down and stuffed it under the bed, as if forgetting the artist who painted it, allowing it to slowly become forgotten.
There were very few girls in the police academy, and all of them were seniors like him. Dong Linhai had a pure heart, but he would inevitably participate in the social activities arranged by his parents when he returned home during the summer and winter vacations. He knew some girls, but he never liked them.
He also wanted to fall in love very much, especially when he hang out Dong Zheng and Cui Zuojing. With them, he was continuously critically attacked, but he could only envy them.
“What kind of girls do you like?” Seeing the loneliness on Dong Linhai’s face, Cui Zuojing asked him this question. Not far away, Dong Zheng was buying ice cream from the KFC dessert shop.
Dong Linha thought for a while and said, “Someone who can be quiet when she needed to be quiet and be lively when she needed to be active. Umm…Not spoiled, be self-reliant. It’s better if she’s artistic.”
Cui Zuojings eyes turned a little strange. He smiled and said, “Your requirements are a bit too demanding, don’t you think?”
Dong Linhai nodded in agreement. “I think so too. Anyway, it depends on fate. I’m still young so I’m not worried.”
Cui Zuojing was silent for a long moment. Finally, as if he’d finally made a decision, he sighed lightly, patted his shoulder, and said, “I think you’ll meet her soon.”
“What are you two talking about?” Dong Zheng came over with the ice cream.
Cui Zuojing took a bite of the ice cream in his hand and smiled. “It’s nothing. Someone is just thinking of spring.”
Dong Linhai had that dream again.
The maze seemed to go on forever, and he seemed to be moving around in a circle. It was all quiet around him, and thought the sky was bright, the sun was hidden. Dong Linhai walked and walked. He thought that the dream would continue as it always had and he would soon wake up after losing his bearings.
But a cat came out from nowhere. It had snow-white fur, it’s ears and nose were a fresh pink, and its eyes were like beautiful amber, each lines seeming to contain stars.
“Uncle?” Dong Linhai’s eyes widened. The cat glanced at him, turned, and ran away. Dong Linhai ran to keep up. He took several turns and finally followed the white cat out from the maze.
He exited through the side of the maze, and not far ahead was an empty platform. Dong Linhai waited there. He heard the whistle first before the train slowly entered the station.
The white cat was nowhere to be found. Dong Zheng couldn’t find it much as he tried, and so he got into the car and found a place by the window to sit down. The train began to move and drove along the railroad track toward an unknown destination.
Everything was so familiar. Dong Zheng looked at the sceneries passing by the window. It seemed that nothing much had changed. He could confirm that this was the God’s Back Garden, and that he was sitting on an endless train, moving from one area to the next.
But why was he dreaming of something he’d never experienced before? And why was it so familiar?
The passage of time in the dream was imperceptible. Dong Linhai only felt that the train had stopped, and when he got off the train and saw a lush forest. The castle that was impossible to reach stood on the other side of the forest.
It was unclear how the white cat got there, but it was waiting for him at the entrance of the forest trail. The moment Dong Linhai walked over, the white cat turned and ran away. He found two figures at the entrance. They looked like brothers, and their figures were as round as two balls.
The doubts in Dong Linhai’s heart became stronger and stronger, He felt as if he’d been here before. He walked into the forest through the path.
There were remnants of red, white and black paper in the forest. He walked for a long time, and gradually heard gurgling water. Pushing aside the hanging branches and leaves in front of him, he saw a small stream with silvery-white fragments in the steam. They were like falling stars.
The Pure White Realm seemed to be a little bit different from what he’d remembered.
With the water reaching his thigh, Dong Linhai waded across the rushing stream, and even when the fragments touched him, nothing happened.
After he reached the shore, Dong Linhai continued along the path. He walked and walked and gradually cross the entire forest.
He finally saw the unattainable castle in his dream up close. At the critical juncture of their pilgrimage that year, he’d gotten injured and was unconscious during the decisive battle with the Queen. When he woke up, he was already in the ICU.
There was no one in the garden. Dong Linhai walked along the outline of the castle. As each step fell, his heartbeat began to speed up uncontrollably, and his premonition was clear.
Something will happen.
He finally walked around the castle, arrived right in front of the maze, and saw a tree.
It was a very luxuriant tree, with thick green branches and leaves to cast a cool shade. There was a long table underneath the tree. A girl with long, curly linen-colored hair sat at the table. She was dressed in casual clothes and there was a ruby ring on the hand she was using to lift the teacup. The white cat jumped onto her lap.
Everything was so familiar. Dong Linhai’s heart pounded wildly, and a name rose eagerly to his lips.
It was a name he’d said and called countless times. But at this moment, he could not remember what it was.
He eagerly moved closer and closer, step after step.
The white cat meowed slightly, seeming to notice the arrival of an uninvited guest. The girl paused. She put the tea cup down and turned to look.