Author: Dong Mi
Translator: chiangyushien, Renkun27
“How could you leave him by himself?” Shichen, who was Haiqing’s father, quickly returned home after receiving the phone call from Haiqing.
In the alleyway, Shichen had actually met Haiqing earlier. Haiqing was sweating and about to cry. When he got home, he listened to him nervously explaining how the whole incident happened, and after that, Shichen could not help but curse loud and long, “How many times have I told you that one day this will happen?!”
“I was at home!” Haiqing was not sad because he was being blamed. Strictly speaking, he did not have the extra energy to think so. Because Grandpa went missing, this made him worry endlessly. “I was doing my homework in the room. I didn’t leave him alone!”
Pinjun heard that his voice had mixed with sobs. He could not help but lightly pat Haiqing’s shoulder to try to calm him down. It was only during that moment that Shichen was able to notice Pinjun, “You, are you Haiqing’s classmate?” Shichen unconsciously looked at Pinjun up and down, while he tried to search for clues in his mind.
“Hello Uncle. My name is Chen Pinjun. I’m Haiqing’s math tutor.”
“When did you invite a math tutor?” Shichen said after he heard this sentence. His eyebrows knitted in an instant. The topic changed in the speed of light. “Where did you get the money from?” Haiqing immediately felt that his cheeks were very hot.
“There’s no… He’s doing it for free…” The feeling of mentioning the family’s financial situation in front of Pinjun was even worse than he could imagine. Even his ‘he’s doing it for free’ statement sounded weak and lack strength. Shichen stared at his son with doubt. Free tutor?
“Uncle, I teach Haiqing math and he teaches me how to sketch. We bartered.” Pinjun sensed that the atmosphere that flowed between this father and son was a bit unusual. This tense atmosphere was not because Haiqing’s Grandpa was missing — it had nothing to do with this… He immediately stood forward bravely and repeated Haiqing’s explanation.
“Okay… okay… let’s set this matter aside and find Grandpa first…” Shichen did not want to think about this. He picked up the phone and called some relatives who were usually in contact; but after the calls were connected for a while, they were all disconnected afterwards. None of the relatives had seen Grandpa.
At his side, Haiqing also contacted the places where Grandpa might go, one by one. Pinjun heard him contacting the rehabilitation center, the reflexology place, the barbershop and the bus terminal, and yet, they have gotten nothing.
Pinjun realized that this moment was not the time to bother these two, father and son. So, he continued to walk around the room in each and every spot where he had been together while chatting with Grandpa. He stopped in front of the things that he had seen and touched while thinking about what kind of conversations they had around these things. After thinking about the rocking chair, television and the photo on top of it, Pinjun’s attention shifted to the photos that were hung on the wall.
Unlike the one on top of the television, the ones that were hung on the wall were older photos. Most of them were in black and white. He stared at one of the photos and found that there were two people in the center of the photo, as if there were subtle voices that slowly got louder from the depths of his memory.
Pinjun closed his eyes and was absorbed in recalling the moment as he uttered low-pitched whispers, just like 3C  products.
( 3C – China Compulsory Certificate [CCC] usually for computers, communications, and consumer electronics)
“I know I can only report a missing person after twenty-four hours. I know…” After Shichen contacted several relatives and friends and did not get any results, he thought that he should report the case, so he called the police station. However, the policeman’s words made Shichen so flustered and angry because they had to act according to the official principles. They simply did not take the report seriously at all, “Yes, but this is our Grandpa. Of course, we’re worried!”
Haiqing silently looked at Shichen. His voice grew louder and louder and, in the end, he even shouted.
“That’s my father! Wouldn’t you worry if this happened to your father?” After Shichen finished scolding the policeman, he immediately hung up the phone. It was not difficult to determine how the policeman replied with a bureaucratic tone. Haiqing did not blame the policeman. They probably received at least ten calls a day about cases related to missing people.
Haiqing looked at Shichen, who was short of breath and had an angry look on his face. From time to time, he wanted to open his mouth and say ‘How about if we go out to search for him? Grandpa’s maybe wandering about, asking people to take him to a place he’s familiar with.’ to appease him.
Pinjun suddenly shouted and almost made the other two jump. Shichen immediately glared at Haiqing. There was an obvious blame in his eyesight.
“The other day, Grandpa said that he wanted to eat dumplings.” Pinjun said while pointing to an old yellowed photo on the wall.
In the photo, Grandpa was still very young. The child at his side was probably about ten years old. They dressed neatly with serious expressions while looking at the camera. Grandpa had a nice-looking smile when he was young. He looked a little bit like Haiqing.
“Which shop’s steamed dumpling?” Haiqing drew near to Pinjun’s side and anxiously asked.
“He didn’t say which one, but he said that your dad──” He pointed at the child in the photo then pointed to Shichen, “I’m sorry, Uncle.” He realized that it was not very polite to point finger to others. He immediately withdrew his finger and hinted with his eyes instead, “Yes, that’s right, Uncle. He said that in the past, you could eat a basket of steamed dumplings from that shop in one go.”
At first, Shichen was in daze. He let the keywords enter into his brain to extract the memory from ages ago. After a long time, Shichen remembered when he was young that he often followed his father to go to a small dumpling shop. The shop was very small. It was no different from the shops that would open in the alley, but the steamed dumplings were especially delicious.
“I know!” After he said this, he rushed out from the house without a single explanation. Soon afterwards, Haiqing locked the door and chased after his father, together with Pinjun.