General continued, “Go back and live your life to the fullest. When you feel like giving up all hope……” “……don’t forget that you still have me……”
Notes on the Great Wall of China (it’ll be mentioned a lot in this chapter):
Beacon towers: Beacon towers, also called watch towers or guard towers, are built throughout or alongside the Great Wall of China to watch enemies and pass military messages. In ancient times, if intruders approached, soldiers on the tower would create smoke in the daytime and light a fire at night to warn their troops, making them the important component of the Great Wall defense system.
Passes: Being the stronghold where the troops station, passes are often located in the key position of the Great Wall, to get the effect of “if one man guards the pass, tens of thousand never want to get through”. Generally speaking, the pass is composed of a city wall, city gate, gate tower, luocheng, wengcheng and moat.
Example of a pass:
Walls: The walls are the main bodies of the China Great Wall, linking beacon towers and passes into a continuous defensive line. They mainly consist of battlement, parapet and barrier walls, horse ramps and other parts to block invaders and protect soldiers during the battles.
But of course, in the following dreamscape the Great Wall won’t be 100% similar to the actual one.
“Let go of me!” Yu Hao shouted. The man clad in armour had a firm grip on Yu Hao as he dragged him back to the city wall, then threw him to the ground.
Yu Hao fell onto the ground, then cut a sorry figure as he sat up. He leaned against the brick city wall and stared fixatedly at the person in front of him.
The man in armour walked towards him and soft, clinking sounds could be heard as the metal plates in his armour rubbed against one another. This person was very tall; his head was covered in a silver helmet, and he looked like a medieval knight who even wore a longsword at his waist.
The knight continued walking until he was about five steps away, then stopped.
“You……you……” Yu Hao said in disbelief, “Who are you? Where is this place?”
The knight turned his head and looked at the other end of the Great Wall. Yu Hao was leaning against the brick wall before he gradually got up, then looked in the same direction as the knight.
All he saw was darkness at the other end of the Great Wall. An autumn breeze suddenly blew; leaves withered and fell, and the wasteland in the distance stretched for a thousand miles.
On the other hand, outside the Great Wall laid a darkness so dark that you wouldn’t be able to see your fingers if you stretched your hand out in front of you.
“Yo, this is a bit serious.” Armoured Knight said, “No wonder, just a little bit more and…but it looks like I made it in time?”
Yu Hao’s brows furrowed deeply. He took advantage of the dim daylight to size up this Armoured Knight.
“I am the guardian of your dreamscape.” Armoured Knight stretched out his right hand that was covered in a metal glove and said, “Call me ‘General’. First time meeting you, do treat me kindly.”
Yu Hao, “……”
Yu Hao stretched his hand out and was about to shake hands with the knight, but right at the next moment, that knight suddenly withdrew his hand and shouted, “Watch out!”
Yu Hao hadn’t recovered from his daze. He turned around to take a look, but an ear-splitting roar suddenly sounded. A massive, pitch black monster roared as it dashed up the city wall. That monster ran on four legs, stood about three metres tall and it was covered in scales from head to toe. When it rushed up, “General” used his left hand to pull Yu Hao behind him, then his right hand immediately unsheathed the sword on his waist and swung it out as fast as lightning!
That monster let out a frenzied roar as black, fresh blood spurted out. Immediately afterward, General rapidly turned one round, clenched his left fist that was clad in a heavy metal glove and slammed it down on the monster’s head with a thud. The monster’s head was instantly deformed, then it fell straight down the Great Wall!
Yu Hao couldn’t stop panting, and right at this moment, the darkness outside the Great Wall began to spread upwards like flowing mercury as it climbed up the city wall. The howl of wolves sounded one after the other as the rotten, black pack of wolves climbed up the wall in succession.
Yu Hao panicked and said, “What’s that? What do we do?”
General said, “I’ll cover you! Get out of here first!’
Yu Hao turned back and looked at the interior of the Great Wall. If he jumped down from this height of about ten metres, he’d probably end up with broken legs. General shouted, “It’s no use escaping into the Great Wall! They’ll catch up sooner or later! Run along the city wall!”
General used his sword to sweep away the rotten wolves that pounced on them, then shouted, “You go first!”
Yu Hao took a few steps back, and when General caught up, he felt slightly more reassured. More and more wolves were appearing as they climbed up the city wall incessantly. Yu Hao ran along the Great Wall while General ran behind him; General was getting faster and faster as his armour made rapid clinking sounds. He actually caught up within a short moment, then dragged Yu Hao and flew towards the other side of the wall.
The endless Great Wall had many corner rooms in its midst. General shouted, “Run into the room!”
The rotten wolves were rushing forward one after the other. Yu Hao knocked against a door and entered one of the corner rooms, then General immediately turned around and bumped against the rotten wolf that was right in front of them to knock it out. Both of them dashed backwards, pushed the door from both sides and closed it with a loud thump. Then, the world around them turned pitch-black.
General pushed against the door that wouldn’t stop vibrating and shouted, “Look for the latch!”
Yu Hao fumbled about everywhere, tripped on the ground once, found the latch, hugged it, and latched the door with a loud bang. The door then stabilised without budging an inch, then it suddenly turned quiet outside.
Yu Hao panted in the dark and said, “What……what kind of place is this exactly?”
“Look for tinder.” General answered in the dark.
Yu Hao said, “Where?”
“Don’t know, but there’ll definitely be tinder.” General replied.
“What do you mean?” Yu Hao was so giddy his head was spinning. He had obviously been……burning charcoal, but for some reason he ended up here where he’s being chased by a group of strange wolves, while an armoured knight had appeared out of nowhere.
"If you believe that there's tinder, then it will appear." General explained, "The soldiers that guard the Great Wall will leave tinders behind won't they? Or else how would they light up the beacons."
Yu Hao thought 'that's true', so he turned around and felt along the wall until he found a shelf. He groped around the shelf for half a day before his hands finally touched something small.
“It’s a lighter.” Yu Hao said.
“It should still work.” General said.
Yu Hao pressed down on the lighter. It spit out a flame with a humming sound and illuminated a small part of the room. As expected, there was a lamp underneath the shelf. General picked it up, Yu Hao lit it with the lighter, then the entire corner room immediately turned bright.
Their surroundings were absolutely empty.
Yu Hao looked at the armour under the light of the lamp and was suddenly a little curious about the man inside it.
“What exactly is this place?!” Yu Hao asked for the third time, “Tell me!”
General didn’t move a muscle. He faced the lamp motionlessly as if he was in a daze.
“Life is short.” General lightly said, “Since you had already given up on the idea of living, why did you escape from the wolves?”
Yu Hao sighed, then answered, “As long as there’s a chance to live, why die?” As he spoke, he leaned against the corner room’s wall and sat on the floor, a little vexed.
“What made you want to live?” General sat down next to Yu Hao and placed one hand on his shoulder. That armour was extremely cold, yet Yu Hao felt a sudden urge to cry.
“I don’t know.” Yu Hao murmured.
“This is your dreamscape.” General said, “The abyss beyond the Great Wall is your subconsciousness. Once you jump down, your life will end, and your final will to live would be extinguished. Your desire to live and your last hopes of doing so would thus fall into your subconsciousness.
Yu Hao, “……”
“Do you want to keep on living?” General said, “Decide for yourself ba.”
“I remember……that I’ve never had this dream, no, I have!” Yu Hao murmured to himself, but he recalled in an instant. There was a long period of time after his grandmother passed away when he would have the same dream over and over again: a dream where he was standing on top of a high wall as he hesitated over whether or not he should jump down.
Within the walls was a stretch of wasteland, while beyond the walls was an abyss. He paced back and forth on the city wall incessantly, and did so for several years.
“Everything here is subjected to the suggestions you give yourself, so they may change as a result.” General casually said, “Latching the door implied that you thought this room was completely safe, so, can you hear anything? It’s dead quiet outside.”
After a long silence, General’s voice rang out again.
“Don’t blame me for meddling, but you don’t really want to die.”
“Because you’re still here,” General said, then patted Yu Hao’s shoulder like a reliable big brother and stood up, “You didn’t jump off the wall.”
“You’re right.” Yu Hao sighed, yet his eyes suddenly became bright, “I’m still hesitating, but I don’t know why I’m hesitating.”
“Then that’s enough. Since you haven’t made the decision, why not give it a try?” General used the lamplight to scrutinize the corner room’s ceiling.
“Give what a try?” Yu Hao furrowed his brows as he said.
General murmured, “To let the sun rise, or else, if you were to return to reality like this, then next time you’ll still……anyway……un……look at the top.”
Yu Hao held the lamp and looked up. There was a sealed hatchway on the ceiling of the corner room. General said, “Come, I’ll get you up first. There should be a ladder on top, go up and let it down.”
Yu Hao asked, puzzled, “Isn’t it my dream? Why do you know it better than I do?”
“This is common sense……” As General spoke, he bent his knees slightly to get into a horse stance and held his palms out with one over the other. He motioned for Yu Hao to come over, then Yu Hao stepped onto his palms.
“……and also to give your mind a……suggestion……” General lifted him upwards. Yu Hao opened up the hatchway and placed the lamp outside, then climbed out of the room.
Yu Hao was standing on an elevated platform above the Great Wall’s corner room. On top of his head was a massive crossbow used for besieging towns, and there really was a ladder laying next to it. He looked beyond the platform, and within a split second, he saw more and more rotten wolves climb over the Great Wall. They were heading for the walls of this huge pass like a school of silver carps moving down a stream.
The roaring black current looked like a fast-growing vegetation that was continuously spreading through the Great Wall.
“Their numbers are increasing!” Yu Hao shouted downwards.
General answered from the bottom, “Let me go up first! Is there a ladder!?”
Yu Hao let the ladder down. General quickly climbed up onto the platform, took a glance, and said, “Damn it, they’re faster than I thought.”
“What do we do?” Yu Hao asked.
General looked into the distance. A towering pedestal was erected nearly half a kilometre away.
“Our target are the beacon towers. If we light them up,” General said, “there’ll be people who will come to save you.”
“Who?” Yu Hao asked.
“You’ll have to ask yourself that.” General said, “We’ll rush there through the top of the Great Wall.”
The road that led to the beacon tower had already been flooded with rotten wolves, yet they didn’t seem to notice the man clad in armour next to Yu Hao. Instead, they continued climbing over the Great Wall and advanced dauntlessly in waves towards the pass, as if the distant horizon within the Great Wall contained a delicacy that was attracting them over in droves.
“Prepare yourself.” General said, “I’ll jump down first. Follow me, don’t be scared.”
“Wait.” Yu Hao gathered his thoughts, then suddenly asked, “This is my dream, right?”
General uttered an “un?”, then turned around and looked at Yu Hao from underneath his helmet. Yu Hao asked again, “If I want a lighter, there’ll be a lighter. If I want a ladder, there’ll be a ladder. So……can I turn you into a stronger knight?”
General answered without a second thought, “Impossible.”
“Why?” Yu Hao furrowed his brows and said.
General said, “We don’t have much time left, are you sure you want me to explain that now?”
Yu Hao hesitated for a moment. General said, “You only need to remember that right now, our strength is limited. The you who is standing here now isn’t the real you; you’re just a fragment of the self-consciousness that belongs to the whole ‘you’.”
Yu Hao, “Wh……what? Then what about you? Why are you a guardian?”
General unsheathed his sword, then murmured, “I’m not a part of this dream, you can treat me as an outsider……prepare yourself, I’m jumping!”
“Wait!” Yu Hao hadn’t heard him clearly before General waved his sword and jumped down onto the Great Wall’s corridor!
Yu Hao could only renew his determination, then chase after General by jumping onto the corridor that was about three metres tall. The wolves that were climbing up the wall discovered them within an instant and they immediately rushed towards General.
“Give me a weapon!” Yu Hao shouted.
General threw him his sword. Yu Hao caught it, and General actually began fighting with his bare fists as he opened up a path in front of them. Yu Hao shouted, “What about you?!”
General grabbed a rotten wolf and smashed its head. His iron fist had the strength of 10 000 juns, while the heavy armour he was clad in had the force of about 200 catties. Relying on the weight of his armours, General went on a rampage as he collided vigorously with the wolves ahead of them. Yu Hao held a lamp in one hand and a sword in the other. He used the sword to sweep away the wolves in front of him; this sword was incomparably sharp, so with just one swing it could cut the rotten wolves into half.
Howls and roars thundered and rang through their eardrums. Amidst the melee, Yu Hao unconsciously followed behind General as they ran forward like madmen; the two of them cleared a path as they rushed towards the Great Wall’s beacon tower. Yu Hao almost fell a couple of times, so General forcefully grabbed his wrist and shouted, “Hold onto the lamp!”
Soon after, Yu Hao felt a hand around his waist and his feet leave the ground as General carried him in his arms. General ran a few steps forward, then leaped up and bumped into the wolves in front of them which made them scatter in all directions. 50 steps, 30 steps……like an arrow that was released from its bow, they rushed towards the beacon tower.
Yu Hao saw the platform underneath the beacon tower and shouted, “We’ve reached!”
“Go up!” General took his sword, then turned around and blocked the way to the platform. Hundreds and thousands of rotten wolves were startled, then they rushed towards them as they tried to jump onto the platform and drag Yu Hao down the Great Wall. General kept killing the rotten wolves with his sword — wherever his blade went, the rotten wolves it slashed would tear apart like paper and disintegrate into a puff of black smoke.
Yu Hao stumbled up the beacon tower with a lamp in his hand, while General retreated step by step as he went up the tower. The number of wolves continued to increase and they began to surround them on all sides.
Yu Hao couldn’t stop gasping for breath, will there really be reinforcements?
Within and beyond the Great Wall was an expanse of darkness where fierce gales blustered. This was a dream filled with despair.
He threw the lamp onto the wood pile, and at the same time, General could no longer hold off the wolves and had been knocked onto the ground. Right when the beacon tower was lit, a raging fire burst ten metres up into the sky!
“General!” Yu Hao rushed towards the man in armour who was being held down by wolves, but right after he rushed out, a miracle occurred behind him. A raging pillar of fire suddenly rose into the midst of the fierce gales and burst right through the skies! The wolves appeared to be extremely terrified of this blaze; when the beacons were lit, they immediately fled and scattered in all directions.
In the next moment, along the meandering Great Wall, the rest of the beacon towers appeared to have sensed the blaze as they began to light up one by one. The light from the pillar of fire shot out in all directions, which made it look like a lighthouse that could light up the world; yet, it also looked like a divine punishment dished out from the heavens during an apocalypse!
“Your defence mechanisms have been activated.” General struggled to get up, then adjusted his shoulder plate and sheathed his long sword.
Yu Hao stared blankly at the scene in front of him. From where they stood, the beacon towers lit up one by one in two opposite directions from the east to the west. Under this light, the Great Wall looked majestic and vast. The entire world was illuminated, and this light was expelling the vast expanse of darkness beyond the walls!
“No reinforcements.” Yu Hao gasped, “What next? What do we do?”
General raised his hand to cup his ear and made a “listen” gesture — as a hint to Yu Hao to listen carefully. Yu Hao suddenly turned his head and looked at the endless stretch of wasteland within the Great Wall.
And on that desolate wasteland, thousands and ten thousands of troops began to roll in!
Yu Hao, “……”
“We succeeded! The defence line has been established! We’re safe!” General said in a deep voice.
Nearly 100 000 cavalry troops gushed towards the Great Wall like an unstoppable tide. Yu Hao quickly ran to the other side and said, “Where did they come from? I……”
General walked up behind Yu Hao and looked towards the wasteland. There was an endless stream of combat-ready troops flooding in; they looked like red clouds that swept across the wasteland as they collided with the wolves that had crossed the Great Wall. Upon collision, all the wolves collapsed in an instant! Yu Hao saw how his reinforcements looked like under the illumination of the glaring light: all of them were clad in leather armour, and the Chinese character “兵” was written in the clerical script font on their chest. Behind them flew countless flags that looked like fire clouds with the word “士” on them. Military tanks drove over, lined up in one row, adjusted the angle of its barrels, then launched a barrage of artillery shells out of the Great Wall!
General said, “These are the guardians in your memory. Go back to look for them?”
Thunder clapped, the artillery shells carried with them a surging and raging blaze as they flew over the city in an arc and bombarded the rotten wolves that were advancing towards the Great Wall. Yu Hao turned around again to face the other side.
The blinding light from the beacon towers pierced straight through the sky. Suddenly, Yu Hao found it difficult to breathe and his whole body went limp as he fell to his knees.
“Yu Hao!” General immediately came over and knelt down on one knee as he caught him.
“I……” Yu Hao calmed himself down, but he could only feel like the world around him was spinning and trembling non-stop.
“You’re about to awake.” General’s deep voice sounded next to Yu Hao’s ear.
Yu Hao raised his head up in a daze and looked at the helmet above him. General continued, “Go back and live your life to the fullest. When you feel like giving up all hope……”
“……don’t forget that you still have me……”
“Yu Hao!” An anxious voice rang out next to his ear.
Yu Hao felt like he was being jerked around violently, like someone was running madly with him on his back. He heard the sound of someone wheezing and smelled the odour of sweat as icy-cold air poured into his windpipe.
He was regaining consciousness bit by bit. Unfamiliar voices around him were engaged in an incessant discourse.
“Turn out his pockets, see if his campus card is in it.”
“I’ll go register for him……”
The back of his hand felt a stinging pain.
“Too skinny. Why is he this skinny?” A female voice said, “Set him up with an oxygen tank and put him on a drip. Observe him for the next 24 hours to see if any swelling occurs, ai? He’s awake.”
Yu Hao wearily opened his eyes; the whitewashed walls of a hospital and a blue privacy screen came into sight. A nurse adjusted his drip bottle and helped him wear an oxygen mask, then she went out to call for someone. Soon after, the counsellor came in.
“Yu Hao, you……what the hell were you thinking?” The counsellor had been scared half to death, “You didn’t need to do that right?”
Yu Hao was still a bit muddleheaded. He opened his mouth, yet he couldn’t speak, so he could only stare quietly at the counsellor.
The counsellor called Xue Long sighed.
“Aren’t you going to persevere for your grandmother who had passed away?” Xue Long said, “What kind of obstacles can’t be overcome in life?”
Yu Hao opened his mouth again, and this time he could make some sounds.
“Sigh.” Xue Long said helplessly.
Xue Long had been wondering if the matter of persuading Yu Hao to withdraw could be given some leeway. But looking at the situation now, if he lets Yu Hao stay, he might just be bringing more trouble upon himself. This student was basically a hot potato, yet he seems so pitiful when you look at him. But then again, persuading him to withdraw and giving him some guidance aren’t mutually exclusive.
When a students is enrolled in a school, both the college and counsellor won’t be absolved of responsibility if the student were to commit suicide or murder. But once they drop out, the school won’t be responsible for them anymore.
“I chose a place outside of the school compound.” Yu Hao calmly said, “So that I wouldn’t cause trouble for you.”
“This isn’t about whether or not you could cause trouble for us.” Xue Long thus said, “Today, we just had an internal meeting inside the college and I was still speaking up for you then, but once I turned back this was what you did, you……ai! Put your hand on your heart and ask yourself, did you let Laoshi down?”
“I’m sorry.” Yu Hao answered.
Xue Long looked at his watch and thought, there was going to be a Manchester United game this evening so he had to hurry home, thus he faced Yu Hao and said, “Have a good rest first. Tomorrow, your new form teacher will look for you to have a chat. Come and find me once you’ve rested up.”
Yu Hao answered with an “un”. He suddenly felt that after he had experienced that dream, something inside of him had changed.
Yu Hao added right when Xue Long was about to leave.
Xue Long didn’t say anything else as he was afraid of agitating him. Working with students was a high-risk occupation: if anything happened, the one who would end up shouldering the blame would definitely be the counsellor. He thought that homosexuals were all psychologically fragile. There was one case last year in a certain high school where two homosexuals fell in love and they ended up causing an earth-shattering commotion. One of them found out that he had AIDS and committed suicide, while the other didn’t know anything but ended his life as well so that they could die together in the name of love. Their parents wouldn’t stop hounding their schools and forced the schools to compensate them with 700 000 yuan as well as fire the counsellor before they rested their case.
Sometimes, Xue Long felt like he should erect an altar for the "Yang Yongxin God” at his home. There were some students who could only be treated with electric shocks. For a student like Yu Hao, even if he were electrocuted ten or eight times, he wouldn’t feel the least bit sympathy for him.
Omg. I’m dead. This took me so long to edit because 1. I know nothing about the Great Wall except that it’s hot and climbing up the Great Wall underneath the scorching afternoon sun is a horrible experience and 2. THE AUTHOR’S. SENTENCE. STRUCTURE.
The only upside is that I loved this chapter.
I need to go hibernate for awhile.
“When you feel like giving up all hope…don’t forget that you still have me.”
I love General. Have I said that yet? No? Ok.
I. LOVE. GENERAL
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Ellie.