​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Stories Magazine (Page 01)
Stories from Stories Magazine Compilation #145 《故事会合订本145》上海文化出版社
Text at page noted after story; translated from the webpages cited below.

                                                        1. Seeking Husbands                      3. Cover the Clothes
                                                        2. Gambling in Camp                      4. A Steadfast Heart

1. Seeking Husbands on Magic Mountain (魔山寻夫)
Lo Chuenchung (卢全聪)

      There once was a village at the foot of a large mountain. The village men would go up the mountain early every morning to chop firewood and hunt. The women stayed in the village to wash clothes and cook, and waited for their husbands’ return.
      One day, the men went up the mountain as usual, but by evening they still hadn't come home. The women waited at the entrance of the village all night, but still no one came, so they decided to go up the mountain to look for them.
      The women encountered a crow at the foot of the mountain. The crow first laughed three times, a strange laugh, and then surprisingly spoke human language. No one in the crowd had ever seen such a thing before, and the women were so scared that they wanted to run away. Fortunately a lame, one-eyed woman named Autumn in the crowd calmly told everyone, "Don't be in such a hurry to run away. Why not listen to what it’s saying."
      The crowd mustered the courage to stay and heard the crow say, "A goblin lives on this mountain. Your men have endlessly cut down trees and hunted here, which has angered the goblin, so it’s imprisoned them all on the top of the mountain. If you want to save your men, follow me to the mountaintop!"
      They had no choice but to follow the crow up the mountain. Halfway to the top, a small golden gazebo appeared in the middle of the road. Its pillars were studded with gold pieces which shone with a dazzling golden light. It was an amazing scene, but most of the women were in no mood to stop because they were eager to save their husbands, so they bypassed the pavilion and continued walking. But a few of the women entered the gazebo, greedily peeled off the gold pieces from its pillars and put them into bags. Autumn, as she was passing by, asked them, "Aren't you going to save your husbands?"
      One of the women replied: "Don't worry, we’ll just gather these gold pieces first."
      As soon as she finished speaking, the gazebo collapsed, crushing the women who were taking the gold pieces. The crow gloated and said: "This golden pavilion is the goblin’s mouth. It’s specially designed to lure greedy people in and chew them up. You people be careful. There are traps set by the goblin all over this mountain.”
      Despite their fears, the women continued to follow the crow to save their husbands. They walked for who knows how long, until everyone was exhausted and thirsty. When they came upon a stream, they all rushed over and drank from it. Then a magical thing happened: Apparitions popped up in every corner of the forest, and each woman saw her own husband.
      Everyone except Autumn cheered and ran towards their husbands. Autumn glanced at her "husband" and said, "That’s not him."
      Right away some of the women noticed that their husbands' eyebrows were not in the right shape. Others found that their husbands' noses were sunken a little. They all realized that these apparitions were illusions created by the goblin, but many of them were still confused. The illusions lured them into a swamp or to the edge of a precipice. Soon, screams echoed in the valley.
      The crow spoke again. "The stream you just encountered is the goblin's tears. After drinking from it, you could see an illusion of your husband. But there were differences between the illusions and the real people. For those who didn't notice this, it shows that they didn't even take note of their husband's faces on normal days. How could such a woman save her husband without even remembering his face?" With that, the crow continued to lead the remaining women toward the top of the mountain.
      That evening they came to a gravel field. Sharp bits of stone strewn everywhere hurt the women’s feet when they walked on them. They continued toward the mountaintop with difficulty and came to a huge cave after climbing for who knows how long. Bursts of noise from inside made their hair stand on end. The crow said: "This cave is called the Goblin's Nostrils. Go through it and you’ll reach the top of the mountain. Come with me now!" Thereupon it flew straight into the cave.
      The women had no choice but to follow it towards the cave. Unexpectedly, as soon as they’d climbed to the entrance, a strong flow air flow spurted out from the cave. It blew everyone some distance away, where they fell heavily on the gravel.
      This was obviously another one of the goblin’s tricks, but to save their husbands, the women gritted their teeth and crawled towards the cave entrance again. The cave seemed to be deliberately playing games with them, however. Every time they got closer, jets of air from the cave blew them back mercilessly. They tried again and again but were thrown back onto the gravel again and again, adding new wounds to their bodies.
      More and more of them couldn't take it and had to give up under the endless torture. They went back down the mountain, crying as they went.
      Eventually only three women remained, including Autumn. After repeated failures, she noticed that the cave was breathing regularly, like a human nostril. When it inhaled, the surrounding air would flow into the cave. When that happened, Autumn could crawl towards the cave entrance with all her strength. When she figured it was about to exhale, she’d spread out on the ground, grasp her crutch and stick it into cracks in the stones, preventing her from being blown away by the airflow.
      The other two women quickly followed suit when they saw what Autumn was doing. In this way they finally made it into the cave.
      The crow saw them coming and said, "Congratulations on entering the cave! But you can’t rely on your eyes to get through this dark cave. You have to listen with your ears. I’ll imitate your husbands’ voices to guide you through. All you have to do is follow my voice."
      After it said this, the crow fell to the ground and turned into three snakes. Each snake could imitate the voice of one of the husbands.
      The three snakes screamed aloud and crawled on into the cave with extreme speed. The three women hurried to follow, but Autumn gradually fell behind. It was difficult for her to move because she was lame. The other two didn't care to wait for her and ran on as fast as if they were flying, fearing that they’d lose the voices.
      Step by step Autumn was left on her own. She groped along, getting further into dark. When she’d followed the voice to the depths of the cave, some bats suddenly flew out over her head. They even spoke human language! Some quarreled among themselves like mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law; others yakety-yakked about the interesting doings of their neighbors; still others chattered endlessly about trivial matters in their lives. Their voices got louder and louder, gradually drowning out her husband’s voice.
      Autumn understood that this was another of the goblin’s tests. The bats were there to distract her, and as long as she was distracted, she wouldn’t hear her husband's voice. So she closed her eyes and listened to her husband's voice attentively. No matter how noisy the bats were, she’d put up with it and wouldn't let her thoughts go astray. After she’d followed her husband's voice like that for a long time, the noise suddenly disappeared. She opened her eyes and saw a light in front of her. It was the exit.
      It was already late and the moon was shining brightly high in the sky by the time Autumn came out of the cave. She saw the three snakes waiting for her on the mountaintop. One of them said to her, "You’re the only one to make it out of the cave. The other two lost track of their husbands' voices some time ago. They’ll wander in the cave forever."
      Autumn looked back and found that the cave had disappeared. It turned out that it was also an illusion created by the goblin! She turned her head and asked, "Where’s my husband?"
      The three snakes had not yet answered when they twisted themselves together. They grew larger and larger, finally turning into a five-meter-tall monster with a goat's head and a human body. This was the goblin’s true appearance.
      The goblin bared his teeth. "You are the only woman to reach the mountaintop,” it said. “You’ve endured all kinds of tests to save your husband. I am frankly quite moved by your love for him."
      "Where is he?" Autumn asked again.
      The goblin opened his mouth and spit out a small stone statue. "This is your husband. Take him home with you. And it wasn’t just your husband, I turned all the men in your village into stone statues."
      Autumn grasped the stone statue. Her voice trembled as she asked: "Will he change back?"
      The goblin let out a strange laugh." He’ll never change back!” it replied. “I’m a goblin. What I like doing the most is making people despair. You persisted all this way to save your husband, but didn't you expect things would turn out like this?”
      To the goblin’s surprise, Autumn laughed loudly and smashed the stone statue to pieces. "Do you think I persisted all this way out of love for my husband?” she asked. “Just the opposite. What supported me along was my hatred for him!"
      She took off her blouse, revealing scars of varying sizes. "You see these scars?” she continued. “He tortured me every day since I married him. He blinded one of my eyes because I glanced at other men. He crippled one of my legs because I tried to escape. He made me live in fear every day. His appearance, his voice, in fact everything about him unnerved me. All those things are firmly embedded in my heart. I was secretly delighted when I heard that you’d confined him on the mountaintop, but I still had to come here to confirm that he was really locked up. Otherwise I wouldn’t feel at peace, but I do now. You’ve turned him into stone and I’ve finally escaped his clutches. I want to thank you!" With that, Autumn laughed, turned around and left.
      The goblin sighed as he watched her go. "I thought nothing was stronger than the power of love, but I forgot that the power of hatred is even more incredible!"

Text on p. 1-8. Translated from 知乎 at
2. Gambling in Camp (军营打赌)

Piglet [Liu Feng] (小猪 [刘锋])

      How could Splendid Culture Xu lose face by not agreeing. Dawn Meal Bi rolled up her sleeves like a tough girl and said, "Squad Leader Xu, we agree that if you lose, you’ll use your remittance this month to buy sunscreen for the female soldiers in our squad."
      Splendid curled his lips. "Me? Lose? Is that possible? What if you lose?"
      Dawn teased her hair and smiled contemptuously. "Me lose?” she countered. “That’s even more impossible. But for the sake of fairness, if I do, I’ll buy a carton of cigarettes and let all the brothers have a taste on you!"
      "You’re on!" The training ground burst into applause.
      Any competition must have an agenda, right? What’s being matched, and how do you go about it? The comrades gathered around and waited quietly.
      Dawn wiped the smile from her face and told Splendid, "Since this is a competition, I’ll play it straight with you. You said that you were good at climbing trees to get birds’ nests when you were a kid, didn’t you? Let's compete by climbing telephone poles. You up for that?"
      Splendid's eyes lit up. "Yes, indeed, I sure am! I’m definitely going to beat you!"
      Dawn snorted and said, "Not necessarily!"
      Splendid ignored what she said. He was eager to get going. "Then let's do it!"
      Dawn waved her hand. "Slow down! Since the competition is about a skill used in our communications company, we’ve got to follow the communications company’s rules."
      Splendid was taken aback. "Okay. Tell me what you mean."
      Dawn raised her fingers and said: "The training program for field troops includes a five-kilometer cross-country march with a heavy pack. External communications soldiers like us also have to take on the weight of the wiring machine, the tool kit and a bag of wire crimps. The wiring machine weighs three and a half pounds, the tool kit with a multifunctional spade is five pounds and the wire crimps are twelve to fifteen pounds.”
      Splendid looked like he’d read Dawn’s mind and seen trepidation. "Alright, alright! That just means climbing the pole with a 30-pound load, right? What’s the big deal? Come on, load me up!"
      Dawn shot a look at two female soldiers. They brought over two bags of communications equipment and wire crimps. “Plop, plop”, they loaded them on Splendid's shoulders.
      The commander of the communications company was watching the excitement from a distance. “Young Xu’s lost,” he commented to a soldier beside him.
      The soldier smiled. "Yeah! Those backpacks swing left and right when untrained people climb poles with them on, and it affects their center of gravity. Squad Leader Xu’s fallen into a trap!"
      The company commander nodded." Just what he needs to snuff out his arrogance! It'll be good troop training."
      And that’s what happened. Splendid had never carried this kind of load before. He had the iron knot wiring machine and tool kit with a shovel under his right arm, and more than ten pounds of wire crimps on the right side of his back. As a result, his center of gravity couldn't help but shift to the right while he climbed. Most people's left hand is weaker than their right, so their center of gravity leans to the right, and the left hand soon loses its strength.
      Before long there was no doubt that Splendid was falling behind. Dawn succeeded in reaching the top with no problem.
      As soon as Splendid had climbed back down, gasping for breath, he said, "You played dirty, Dawn! Your backpacks were very evenly distributed, one on each side. Why’d you put two bags on one side for me? You did it on purpose."
      Dawn looked surprised. "Oh, Squad Leader Xu, we just loaded them on you. Didn’t you know how to adjust the load yourself? How could we female soldiers straighten up your backpack for you? We had to keep from doing anything that people might find suspicious!"
      Splendid felt like he’d been taken advantage of. He kept saying: "That didn’t count. Let’s go again! Let’s go again!"
      Dawn smiled. "Why, Squad Leader Xu, can't you stand losing? If you can't take it, that's OK, but after training for a whole morning my stomach has shriveled up. I’ve got to eat something. I won’t be able to control my emotions if I don’t have five or six steamed buns."
      Everyone nearby burst into laughter. Splendid looked at them and said awkwardly, "It's not that I don't admit it. Real men are willing to admit defeat when they gamble and lose. I’ll keep my word!" He rolled his eyes as he spoke. "But, look at your height, barely five foot three standing straight up, and you've lost a lot of weight. Can you eat five or six steamed buns in one sitting? I don't believe it. If you really can eat that much, I'll buy you sunscreen for your female soldiers’ squad next month, too!"
      "OK, let's make another bet!"
      "Slow down." Splendid stretched out his hand. "There are conditions for this bet. You’re not allowed to force yourself to eat. If you get sick from eating too much and have to go to the hospital, you’ll lose double!"
      Everyone looked at Dawn. She seemed relaxed and said, "I accept. Later, when it’s time for lunch, I’ll go to your reconnaissance company mess hall!"
      A table was set aside for Dawn in the reconnaissance company mess hall at lunchtime. The surrounding area was crowded with comrades watching the fun. Everyone was curious to see what trick Dawn would come up with this time. Many of their lunch boxes were filled with food, but they held them in their hands without eating. They just waited with their eyes wide open for Dawn to start eating.
      While they were looking her over, she puffed out her cheeks as though no one was around, not caring a whit about her image as a fair maiden. First, she ate five steamed buns with stir-fried pork prepared by the chief cook himself. Then she asked the male reconnaissance company soldiers who were watching the fun to get her a serving of noodles with soybean paste. After she finished the noodles, she had a bowl of egg fried rice. Finally she drank a bowl of wheat soup [the water in which noodles were boiled] before burping and saying, "I'm full!"
      Everyone was speechless. Splendid felt like his head was about to explode and said with all his might, “It’s not worth doing this just for a bet, is it, Dawn? Don’t make yourself sick or we’ll have to go to the hospital…."
      Dawn burped again, then stood up, satisfied with herself. "Drop it! I felt sick to my stomach yesterday and I’ve only had porridge for three meals since yesterday noon. This meal made up for it!"
      A resounding burst of laughter came from the crowd. From then on, Splendid never again dared shoot off his mouth.

Text on p. 1-17. Translated from 知乎 at
3. Cover the Clothes (盖衣服)

Si Jian'an (司健安)

        In early times, in a mountainous area of western Henan, a young man named Iron Pole Fu sold tofu as a street vendor in the village of Fu Family Temple. He was almost 30 years old, and his family was so poor that they only had a pole for carrying tofu and two tofu mills. They didn’t even have a donkey to pull the mills, so Iron Pole had to push them around by himself every day.
        Iron Pole never dreamed that a poor man like himself would unexpectedly get lucky in affairs of the heart – but someone came to him to discuss making a match. His proposed wife was a beautiful virgin, and what’s more, she didn't need even one cent in bride price.
        The person who came to arrange the marriage was Auntie Tu, a lady who ran an inn at the village entrance. She told Iron Pole about a girl named Artful staying at the inn. She came from an area outside the Great Wall to the west of Henan that had been occupied by an enemy, and her father had been hunted down and killed by them. She and her mother came to seek refuge with relatives. Unbeknownst to them, their relatives had already moved away because of the tempestuous situation, and the mother and daughter had nowhere else to go. They couldn’t keep living in the inn, even though they had some assets, so after thinking about it, Artful's mother had decided to find a reliable man for Artful to start a family with in this village.
        As luck would have it, while the mother and daughter were talking it over, a vendor's voice crying, "Tofu! Tofu for sale!" came through the door. It was Iron Pole passing by outside. Auntie Tu thought, “Is this a gift from God?” She asked Artful and her mother to look at him through the window.
        He’d been born with a broad back and shoulders and was very strong. While his face was a little dark, his white teeth were particularly bright when he spoke. This made a good impression on people, so they felt he ought to be an all-right guy. Artful's mother wondered, "What kind of person is this Iron Pole?"
        Auntie Tu spoke frankly: "This youngster is diligent and honest. He was filial to his mother while she lived. If there’s one thing that holds him back, it’s that he’s too honest and straightforward. When a customer wants to buy on credit, he’ll agree regardless of whether he knows the person, and he’s too embarrassed to go after the ones who don't pay. It’d be strange if a small tofu business could make money that way."
        Artful's mother frowned when she heard that. Artful, on the other hand, lowered her head and smiled. "I think that’s great, much better than people with evil an evil heart," she told Auntie Tu.
        That made Auntie Tu hopeful. "Young lady,” she said, “if you think he’s a good one, I'll go talk to him for you!" Artful blushed and nodded.
        A beautiful wife fell to him from the sky. Iron Pole wasn’t stupid, so why would he turn her down? The wedding was very simple -- there wasn't even a ceremony. Iron Pole brought Artful and her mother to his home in a borrowed wheelbarrow.
        Before Artful left the house, Auntie Tu said to her: "Fools always have a stubborn streak. This kid Iron Pole is an all-around good guy, but he is obstinate. You’ve got to find a way to get him to give in, or else you’ll always be at loggerheads when he wants something. He’ll screw you over every time and your life will be tough going. I’ll tell you what to do. On your wedding night, when you go to bed, put your clothes on top of his. After daybreak, he’ll do what you want for the rest of his life, and it’ll be easy going for the both of you." Artful knew that Auntie Tu had good intentions, so she nodded and smiled.
        Before going to bed that night, Artful remembered what Auntie Tu said and deliberately put her clothes on top of Iron Pole's. Who could have known that Iron Pole would get up covertly in the middle of the night and put his clothes securely over hers. Artful usually slept lightly, a bit like her father. She’d wake up whenever anything moved, so she saw everything Iron Pole did. She thought to herself, it seems that honest people can have their own agenda!
        Early next morning, after breakfast, Artful took out a wad of money and told Iron Pole, "Master, I do have some savings here. Take this and buy a donkey to help you grind the tofu." Iron Pole stubbornly refused at first, but Artful said: "Master, I married you, so we’re a family. Look on this money as my dowry! If you have a donkey, you can save your strength to help me take care of Mother." Iron Pole thought for a while and decided that that made sense, so he agreed.
        Artful put the money into Iron Pole's pocket with her own hands. Before he went out, she even helped him straighten the wrinkles on his clothes.
        Married to a beautiful wife who gave him money to buy a donkey -- Iron Pole was just too happy as he strolled along the road. When he saw people he knew, he greeted them by calling out that he was going to buy a donkey. The speaker had no secret designs, but one listener did.
        A nearby pickpocket heard about Iron Pole’s buying a donkey. He knew that Iron Pole sold tofu, so he got close to him under the pretense of buying some. He felt all over the vendor’s body several times but couldn't find any money. “Hey, didn't he say he was going to buy a donkey? Where's the cash?”
        The thief wouldn’t give in. He waited until noon, when Iron Pole took a lunch break, then went over and rubbed Iron Pole 's body up and down again. Nothing but a little change!
        When Iron Pole woke up from his afternoon nap, he found that his pocket had been picked. He knew his pocket was empty as soon as he touched it and immediately felt terrible. After he got home, he hung his head and told Artful exactly how he’d lost the money. She just smiled as she listened and didn't even say one word to reproach him.
        Artful brought out another wad of money after breakfast the next day. She wrapped it in a handkerchief, handed it to Iron Pole and said, "I still have some money here. Take it and buy a donkey. Make sure you’re careful this time." Iron Pole agreed and kept a hand on his pocket as he walked down the road. He’d learned a lesson from last time and didn’t tell anyone he was going to buy a donkey. He got to the livestock market and saw the donkey and wanted, but when he went to pay, he was dumbfounded again: the handkerchief was still there in his pocket and was still wrapped tightly around something, but the money that’d been inside had turned into a pile of wastepaper. When could anyone have switched things inside the wrapping!? Iron Pole was so shaken that tears started to fall.
        He returned home dejectedly. To his surprise, just like the day before, Artful still didn't complain about him.
        After breakfast on the third day, Artful told Iron Pole, "I still have some jewelry here, Master. I’ll go with you today to sell the jewelry. It’ll definitely be enough to buy a donkey." Iron Pole didn't want to try again, but he felt so guilty after losing money two days in a row that his tongue went soft when he tried to object. Seeing how determined Artful was, he had no choice but to agree.


        This time it went well. The couple walked around the entire livestock market and picked out the best donkey. It was well-fed and strong, and its fur glistened. It was really good-looking, too, with four little white hooves. When they got back to the village, everyone who saw it praised it. And believe it or not, when it heard the praise, the donkey opened his mouth and proudly brayed, "Hee-haw! Hee-haw!". Iron Pole felt quite satisfied when he heard that.
        The money for the two donkeys he’d lost was not a small sum. From then on, Iron Pole always felt indebted to Artful, so he worked extra hard and did everything she wanted. Artful was also a hard worker and cleaned house every day. No matter how late Iron Pole got home from selling tofu, he had a hot and delicious meal. There was plenty of nutritious food in the family's life.
        Artful didn't tell Iron Pole that, in fact, she and her mother had not come to this village to seek refuge with relatives at all. Artful's father was an infamous thief in other places. A few years previously, an order for his arrest had been publicized all over the city for the crime of stealing the treasure of an important member of the Kuomintang. Artful 's father knew that his daughter had been studying the art of thievery from him since she was a child and was afraid that this would keep her and her mother entangled in the underworld. Before he died, he sent word to Artful that she should wash her hands of all that, run away as far away as possible, find an honest man to marry and live an ordinary life. Iron Pole led a simple life with few social connections. Artful and her mother had already scouted him out, and even if he hadn't happened to pass by the inn that day, they would’ve asked Auntie Tu to go to him to propose marriage.
        The two times Iron Pole had seemed to lose money, in fact Artful had tricked him by slight of hand. She was a woman of the world and knew that once a man like Iron Pole felt indebted to a woman, he wouldn’t be able to be stand up to her no matter how stubborn he was.
        Artful was accustomed to being particular about daily life. Although Iron Pole was a farmer who sold tofu, she washed his clothes every day. There was one thing she couldn't understand, though. All the days they’d been married, every night when he went to bed, he’d cover her clothes with the clean clothes she’d washed for him. He covered them tightly, letting nothing show.
        One morning while they were getting dressed, Artful couldn't keep from asking Iron Pole about covering up her clothes. He laughed, “heh, heh", and explained, "Our house is dilapidated and drafts come in from all sides. You love to be clean so much, and I'm afraid that the dust will get your clothes dirty! Pretty soon I'll have made enough money and won’t hesitate to renovate the place. Then you and your mother won’t have to suffer that indignity ever again."
        From childhood, Artful had always lived in fear. She’d never been cared for so attentively by a man. She grabbed Iron Pole's clothes and covered her face with them, and let her tears flow. There was both happiness and regret in those tears. She was thinking that she might’ve been wrong to use trickery to deal with such a man....

Text on p. 1-20. Translated from 刊APP下载 at
4. A Steadfast Heart (一片冰心)

Wang Fujun (王福军)

      Wavy Chen was an ordinary guy, dull and with not much income. But ordinary people don’t lack magnificent dreams. For example, Wavy fell in love with Graceful Zhang, a beautiful girl with a long neck. He couldn't express his feelings -- he dared only to fantasize occasionally. To his surprise, though, Graceful stopped Wavy one day and asked, "You like me, don’t you?"
      Wavy panicked and couldn't speak clearly: "I, I, I... You’re mistaken."
      "Well, I thought you liked me and that I’d found Mr. Right,” Graceful said, “but I didn't expect you to be so mawkish!" With that she turned and left.
      But as soon as she’d taken two steps, a voice came from behind her. "Stop!" She turned around and saw Wavy, red faced and with a passionate light flashing in his eyes, "Are you telling the truth?" he asked.
      "Would I joke about love?"
      Wavy said, "But I’m so ordinary. What do you see in me?"
      "What I need is someone who can live a down-to-earth life with me. And you’re that person, Wavy!"
      That’s how Wavy and Graceful got together. Wavy felt like he was living his dream, dating his goddess. He was sky-high.
      Graceful's birthday was two days later. The couple made plans to go to the movies and were walking side by side down the street. Yes, side by side, not hand in hand, because Graceful said she didn't like being too intimate so soon after they’d started going together.
      As they were walking down the noisy street, Graceful suddenly trembled and started to run. She completely ignored the pedestrians and vehicles around her. Wavy yelled out to her right away, but how could that stop her? He wanted to catch up to her but had to stop because a green light turned red. Graceful had disappeared by the time the light turned back to green. Wavy phoned her but she didn't answer at first, then simply turned off her phone.
      Afterwards, Graceful explained that she’d seen a middle-aged woman who, at first glance, looked exactly like her dead mother. She immediately lost control of herself and had to chase after the woman to get to the bottom of things. She followed the woman around two corners before realizing that she’d been wrong. Later she wanted to be alone for a while and found Wavy's phone calls annoying, so she turned off her phone. This explanation distressed Wavy a lot but made him love Graceful even more.
      Wavy was bored one night until he got a videochat invitation from Graceful. The two started talking, and Wavy was very familiar with the scene in the video. Graceful was on her balcony, and Wavy could see the balcony decorations, the beige chair, and a single potted golden pothos beside her.... He’d given the plant to her. When he picked it out, he paid special attention to the words on the flowerpot: A Steadfast Heart.
      The two chatted for a long time until Graceful yawned and said, "I'm tired, Wavy. Let's talk tomorrow."
      When Graceful yawned, she stretched her arms upwards, her waist relaxed, and her demeanor was extremely lazy. All this was very beautiful in Wavy's eyes. He had a sudden inspiration and immediately took a few quick screenshots. He looked at the photos before going to sleep and dozed off with a smile on his face.
      But one must always wake up from sweet dreams. The next morning he didn’t rouse naturally, though; he was brutally awakened by the police knocking on his door.
      "We need you to verify something,” the officer told him. “A girl died last night." Wavy was alarmed and immediately thought of Graceful. The officer read his mind and said: "It wasn’t Graceful who died, but another girl, and Graceful is suspected of murder. She and the girl were love rivals, and the two had a big fight in the street not long ago."
      Wavy's brain immediately short-circuited and he couldn't say a word. Graceful and the dead girl were love rivals? Does that mean there was another girl who liked me? How could I not know?
      The policeman continued, "Graceful and the dead girl were both in love with a man named Yu. Let's call him Big Yu. After we found the dead girl, we immediately investigated her social relationships and learned that Big Yu was her boyfriend. We know for certain that Big Yu didn’t have the time or motive to commit the crime, but he did provide a clue. He said that Graceful might be the murderer because she and the dead girl had a deep grudge against each other."
      Wavy finally understood. He jumped up and shouted, "It’s not possible. Graceful’s my girlfriend. How could she be in love with Big Yu?"
      The officer replied calmly. "Our investigation shows that Graceful and Big Yu were indeed in a relationship. Big Yu, the dead girl and Graceful were in a love triangle. The guy’s quite handsome and can please the ladies."
      Wavy's head was buzzing. “Graceful wouldn’t lie to me,” he thought. “She’s so sweet. How could she do something like that?”
      The policeman eyed Wavy. "We’ve contacted Graceful,” he said. “Of course she doesn’t admit to killing anyone. She says she was home all last night. The forensic investigator found the time of death was around 9 o'clock last night. The girl died at the scene from blunt force trauma. Graceful says she started video chatting with you at home at 9:10 last night and continued until 10:30, so she didn’t have time to commit the crime. Indeed, the girl died at home and there’s no indication the body was moved. If Graceful went to the girl's home to kill her, it would’ve taken her 50 minutes to drive from her place to the deceased's home, so it’s impossible for her to have committed the crime if she was home videochatting with you at 9:10. Did Graceful videochat with you last night, Wavy?"
      Wavy didn't hear a single word. He had a splitting headache and his heart was broken. The policeman handed him a glass of water and, when he came to his senses, Wavy asked, "What did you just say, Officer?"
      The policeman repeated what he’d said. Wavy forced himself to calm down and answered, "Yes, Graceful didn’t lie. We started chatting at 9:10 last night and talked continuously. Look….” He opened WeChat and showed the chat record to the officer.
      The chat record showed the start and end times of the videochat clearly, but the officer had a sudden thought. "Was Graceful really at home while you were chatting?" he asked.
      Wavy nodded and said, "She lied to me, but I can’t commit perjury. Graceful surely was at home while she was chatting with me last night. I’ve been there several times and am quite familiar with the place." He thought of something. "Look, I even took screenshots while we chatted.”
      The officer looked at the screenshots and nodded, saying, "I've been to her home, too. This is indeed her balcony…. " He apologized to Wavy for bothering him and was about to go back and investigate from another angle. Before leaving, he shook Wavy's hand and said, "I can see you’re seriously hurt. Take care, brother!"
      The word "brother" almost made Wavy cry. He felt completely alone at that moment.
      Wavy asked for time off work and stayed home. He and Graceful hadn’t been going together for very long, and all the details from their past played back in his mind. Was she really deceiving him? Was there a misunderstanding? He picked up his phone and looked at the screenshots again and again, especially the last few. Graceful was so beautiful. Could such a person really commit murder?
      He finally walked out his door two days later. He was emaciated, but he had a firm and determined look in his eyes. He’d decided to find Graceful and clear things up by questioning her face to face.
      They were both at a loss for words when they met at Graceful's home. "You’ve lost weight." They each said at the same time before falling silent again. Wavy wandered around on Graceful's balcony. When he walked back into the living room, he said: "The police came to see me. Why did you lie to me?"
      Graceful shuddered and said, "What did I lie to you about? Don't listen to whatever nonsense the police told you."
      "The police didn’t lie." The corners of Wavy’s mouth twitched. "I’ve seen Big Yu," he said. Graceful's body trembled again. Wavy continued, "I asked the police for his photo on the way here just now. I have to admit he’s very handsome. And you are indeed his lover."
      Wavy went on to talk about Graceful's birthday, when they were walking down the street together and Graceful suddenly lost control of herself and ran off. She didn't really see someone who looked like her mother – she saw Big Yu strolling and holding hands with a girl. Wavy had seen him, too, but he didn't know Big Yu at the time. He was in a hurry to find Graceful and just noticed that the man was handsome. Later, Big Yu told the police that Graceful had had a fight with the dead girl in the street a few days previously, and the time was exactly on her birthday. Everything matched up perfectly.
      Graceful’s mouth dropped open in shock, but she recovered quickly. "So what? Did you come here today to reproach me?" she asked with cold indifference.
      "No, I just want to ask you one thing. Are you sincere when you say you like me?"
      Graceful’s look was cold as ice. She said nothing.
      "Well, look at me. I still refuse to face facts and give up my illusions,” Wavy said self-deprecatingly. “Truth is I’m not even a spare tire to you, otherwise, why wouldn’t you even hold my hand? But I still want to hear the truth from your own mouth."
      "OK, I admit I just wanted to lead you on. Are you going to give up your illusions now?"
      Wavy sneered. With a resolute look on his face, he said, "No, you don't think enough of me to lead me on. You’re using me." He asked Graceful to come out onto the balcony with him and pointed at the pot the golden pothos was in. "I gave this to you as a gift,” he told her. “But you don't know, this isn’t just an ordinary plant. It has a special significance. I carefully selected the pot with the words ‘A Steadfast Heart’ on it."
      Graceful didn't care. "So what?"
      "I really like you, so much that I went a little crazy. Infatuated people always love doing weird things like that, things they think are affectionate. I picked up a pair of scissors and trimmed the leaves above the word ‘heart’ into a standard heart shape, symbolizing my love for you. Look, the leaves haven’t had time to grow back, so you can still see the heart shape."
      Graceful's face paled. Wavy continued, "I really didn't want to face up to the fact that you’d lied. I kept looking at your pictures on my phone, including the ones I took during our videochat that night. Later I noticed a detail about the golden pothos next to you in the video -- the leaves directly above the word ‘heart’ hadn’t been pruned."
      Graceful's face turned ashen. Just as she was about to say something, Wavy continued speaking. "How is it that, on the same balcony, only the plant has been changed? It’s because you didn't videochat with me from home. You’d rented another place temporarily and decorated the balcony to look like yours. You also bought a potted pothos, and there’s even the same words on the pot. You’re very smart, but careless nonetheless. Maybe you thought all the golden pothos in the world are the same. You didn’t know that this one looks ordinary but is actually special.”
      Wavy continued to sort out his thoughts: "You hit that girl with a blunt instrument in her own home, all of a sudden, while she wasn’t paying attention. Then you beat her to death, wiped away all traces and scampered off. The place you rented is near the dead girl's home. As soon as you got back there, you hurried to start the videochat with me so that I could provide you with an alibi.”
      Graceful collapsed on the floor and cried loudly: "I love Big Yu, but he was infatuated with that vixen and said he was going to break up with me. I really couldn't stand for that and had to do something.... Wavy, I really just wanted to use you at first. That was wrong of me. Let me go, OK, and I’ll definitely love you sincerely from now on...."
      "If I let you go, that poor girl will never rest in peace!" As soon as he said that, a police siren started to wail outside the door....
Translator’s Note: The story’s title is literally “A Frozen Heart”; Frozen in the sense of “immobile”, as when we say “Freeze!” to tell someone not to move. Here, Wavy meant that his heart wouldn’t change, but it turned out Graceful’s heart was ice-cold.

Text on p. 1-24. Translated from 故事客栈 at