Depth Charge by 卡比丘

Been wanting to try translating one of 卡比丘’s stories for a while, so decided to try it with this oneshot. Warning: it’s sad.

Summary: The mystery of young android Ji Mao and young He Zhi’s time loop.

*Note, while the author refers to both Ji Mao and He Zhi as student in the summary, since neither of them are actually students, and the author was probably using it euphemistically, I just replaced it with “young”.

Original story is here over at gongzicp.


Depth Charge by 卡比丘

I.

I’ve lived this kind of hundred-day life twenty-seven times. I remember it very clearly.

Many people’s lives have a limit; they’re one long book of qin scores, with spring nights and autumn winds, with birth and age and illness and death.

I’m not like that.

My time shackles me, and it also overlooks me — from March 2016 to June 2016, I’ve been continually looping through time. I’m waiting for someone. His name is He Zhi.

 

II.

I’m called Ji Mao, English name Jimmy. It sounds like the name of a hair stylist[1], and I actually am a hair stylist.

March 1, 2016, at 7:37am, the one who sleeps on the top bunk, Danny, will be next to my bed, pushing on my shoulder and telling me, “Chicken feathers[2], time to get up for work.”

I really don’t like other people calling me chicken feathers.

 

Although there is no way of knowing, I can guarantee that Ji Mao exercised too much on February 28th, so that’s why my entire body aches when waking up on March 1st. Every time I’m woken up by Danny, I can’t help but say, “Fuck, it’s too early.”

Tonight at 8:19pm, He Zhi will come to the hair salon where I work.

 

On June 8th, 2016, I’ll block a gunshot for He Zhi, and I’ll say to him, “He Zhi, I love you.”

And the feeling of one’s thoughts gradually peeling away from one’s body isn’t good, but it becomes no big deal once you get used to it. I will want to ask him, “What about you?”

And he says no.

 

III.

Some people say that people’s hearts nowadays are too stiff, and it’s not easy for them to love another. He Zhi is just like this.

In these hundred-days, I’ve gone back repeatedly, and the times I’ve met He Zhi have accumulated. And there is also many times when I secretly and furtively looked at him and, intentionally and unintentionally, appeared in front of him. I understand him better than I understand myself. Every time, I’ve sincerely expressed my love, and he’s always remained unmoved.

 

During the times without He Zhi, I’ve also repeatedly asked myself: why do I rush forward? Why do I say I love him? Is it truly love? If it’s love, how can love just come like this, so without basis? If it’s not love, is it instinct then?

No matter what I think, I can’t think of an answer.

 

I don’t have memories from the past; the only thing I know is to chase after He Zhi.

The meaning of my existence here is to chase after him. If I’m able to catch him, maybe I’ll be able to escape my shackles, become a new person, and earn the right to live and to die, becoming a true human being.

Only by thinking like this can I feel content with chasing after him and acting like a hairstylist, waiting for good luck to arrive.

 

He Zhi is elusive; it’s only on the first and last days of these hundred-days that I can definitely meet him. Every time, he seems to be in a hurry, and pinning him down is difficult, but these past few times, he seems to stay by my side a bit longer.

It might be a misconception, it might not be. The only thing I need to know is that the new loop has started; that’s enough.

 

IV.

The beginning is usually the same. I wash my face and brush my teeth in the old dormitory bathroom, change into the staff uniform that the store manager purchased for all employees, go downstairs with Danny’s arms around my shoulders, get on the bus for the hour-long ride to the salon, and work hard for an entire day, bowing and scraping to the rich young ladies.

The reception desk’s Linda suddenly comes down with stomach flu, and as my work station luckily happens to be empty, I replace her at the front to welcome customers.

And then at 8:17pm, I meet He Zhi.

 

Today is also the same, but He Zhi has changed the clothes he wears when he comes to our salon.

Before, he has always worn a black suit, but today he’s wearing silver. He has come from a meeting, and I don’t know why he comes to our salon. I often ask him while I’m washing his hair, but he has never told me the reason.

 

“Welcome, may I ask what requests you[3] have?” I walk over to ask him. Truthfully, I’m somewhat tired. Every new start comes around so quickly, and I haven’t yet recovered from being shot before being woken by Danny. It feels like a neverending hundred-meter dash, even as one rushes to the end, one finds oneself back at the beginning.

Chasing after He Zhi seems to have been carved into my mind like a talisman. The moment he arrives, an urge will echo through my brain, “Hurry up, catch him.”

This sound is able to dispel my exhaustion for now and reset my mood, allowing me to welcome him.

 

“Are you here to wash your hair or to cut it?” I say, “We have stylists for courses A, B, and C. Course A is the most expensive. Which course are you interested in?”

“Haircut.” He looks me up and down and asks, “Which course are you?”

“I’m course C.” Because I haven’t been at the salon for very long, and my skill isn’t very accomplished, most of the guests who pick me do so because others are busy.

But He Zhi’s following words give me a scare. He says, “I want course C.”

My mind goes blank for a minute before I say yes. Because, in the past, he has always chosen course A, and then I have always brought him over to Danny.

 

Now that he wants me to cut, I have no idea what to do, so I first bring him over to wash his hair before bringing him over to my work station.

I haven’t changed, but he has changed. Isn’t it a good omen, so should I also change a little?

 

Cutting hair for He Zhi feels like taking an important exam as a student. I’m trembling with fear, cutting strand by strand, from 8:30 to 9:30, before I finally finish with cutting his hair short and use the brush to brush away the cut strands of hair on his face.

From this close, I look at He Zhi; he’s very handsome. Whenever I’m shot, I lie there beside him, and he’s never once held me. Last time, it seems like he was very close, but I had lost too much blood, so I couldn’t see him clearly, and I also don’t remember.

 

After his haircut is finished, he looks very unsatisfied, frowning while looking at the mirror. Tense, I stand behind and quietly ask him, “Mister, are you dissatisfied?”

“Too long.” He doesn’t look at me, still staring at the mirror while saying, “Cut it a bit shorter.”

I nod at once and once again begin painstakingly cutting He Zhi’s hair. Seeing me cut for so long, the nearby Danny sympathetically loosens his shoulders and walks over to ask me, “I’ll wait for you?”

Right now is already the time for the hair stylists to get off work, and I’m a bit hungry, so I nod at him and say, “I’ll treat you to a late dinner.”

Danny also nods and goes to the waiting area to play on his phone. In the entire hair salon, the only ones who remain are a guest receiving a perm and the He Zhi before me.

 

As I fix his sideburns, he suddenly asks me, “Where are you going for a late dinner?”

I have never thought that he’d take the initiative to chat with me, so I’m blank for a moment before I honestly reply with, “I haven’t thought it through yet. Maybe we’ll go eat beef noodle soup.”

“Which place’s beef noodle soup?” He Zhi once again asks me.

His side profile has a lot of depth, and it’s also very indifferent. I’m not used to this kind of attentiveness, so I become anxious, but I have to be courteous towards a guest, so the only thing I can do is lift up my spirits and continue the conversation. “Near the shallow bay.”

“You live there?” He Zhi asks again.

 

Today there’s definitely something wrong with He Zhi. The way he’s investigating me is like a policeman investigating a criminal. I’m also very flustered, so I reply honestly, guessing a thousand different possibilities in my head. By the time he asks me when I wake up in the morning, I’ve already thought of it. Maybe he’s part of the time police and knows that I’ve been crossing through time, so he wants to arrest me and bring me to justice.

Who could’ve known that he’d say, “Eating beef noodle soup at night isn’t very healthy, so let me take you to drink some porridge.”

 

Since a guest has invited me, the only thing I can do is ditch Danny.

If it had been anyone else, I might not have gone, but who told him to be He Zhi.

 

V.

He Zhi brings me out to get some fresh air.

We drive from downtown to the shallow bay, turning around to follow the coastline. The time is almost past midnight, and He Zhi also doesn’t speak, so I have to somehow pick an idle topic of conversation.

I’m not clear on what successful people like to talk about, so the only thing I can do is follow him and say which shops near the coastline have good meals late at night.

 

He stops in front of a porridge shop, and only then do I realize that he has really brought me here to drink porridge. But this seafood porridge full of shrimps and crabs also doesn’t look that much healthier to me.

I indulge him by eating a lot. The expression he uses to look at me also seems to contain some deep meaning.

 

VI.[4]

 

VII.

I wake up in the morning in He Zhi’s bed. I’m completely unaware of what day it is today.

The cellphone’s vibration and ringtone have all been turned off by He Zhi. I turn over to pick it up and find that there are over a hundred missed calls, from the salon manager, Danny, Linda, and a good stylist friend.

I’m just about to call them back when He Zhi confiscates the cellphone. He moves over and places his head on my shoulder, the heat from his nose and lips puffs along my neck. I feel very itchy, so I want to push him away, but he once again pushes me down onto the bed.

 

The next time I pick up the cellphone, the missed calls have increased to over two hundred, along with many missed texts mixed into the notifications. I hand it over to show He Zhi and ask him what I should do.

The moment I open my mouth, I feel as if I don’t sound like myself, and I no longer want to open my mouth after saying that one sentence.

“Next time I’ll definitely take a leave of absence for you,” He Zhi says to me. He looks very relaxed. Although I look at him in an ordinary way, he definitely wants to say that I’m full of tender feelings, that I really like him.

My words have all been said by him.

 

VIII.

He Zhi helps me get a leave of absence from the manager, and so I sleep like an emperor for two entire days at his house.

At noon on the third day, he says that he wants to take me out for a meal, and I cheerfully agree, even though my body feels somewhat uncomfortable.

 

This time, the gunshot passes through my main artery.

When I open my mouth, I find that I already can’t make a sound. I can’t say those words, so this script can’t progress. I’m extremely anxious and reach out my hands to grab He Zhi, only to hear He Zhi say to me, “I love you.”

“I love you” is a wonderful expression, and it feels like there’s a string pulling on my fingertips. Every reaction from my body, and the feeling of my blood flowing out from my veins, feels clear and distinct in my mind as I react.

Anyone who says “I love you” should be full of tender feelings, yet contrarily, He Zhi says it with refined courtesy, and also hysteria.

I wonder if he truly loves me, or if he’s randomly lying to me — he probably truly loves me, since he’s trembling while supporting my hand.

The sight before my eyes turns black. This time is different from all the others. I suddenly know that I won’t be reborn. And even though I’ve caught him, I won’t escape my shackles.

I’m going to die.

 

IX.

When He Zhi pushed open the door of the game pod[5], the time was twelve at night.

The temperature in the room was suitable. His head was dripping with sweat, and even his T-shirt had turned wet from this sweat, but he didn’t feel it at all. Before he had captured the male lead, he had professed his love to a supporting character, so the game had ended.

This was nothing. He could always restart with a new file, but the blood from Ji Mao that had been on his hands had felt too real, leaving him feeling extremely frightened.

He Zhi swallowed a few vitamins, standing up to go to the fridge and grab a can of soda, before pulling open the door. The bedroom was spacious, the decorations exquisite, the light from the answering machine continually flashing, all messages left behind by missed calls. He Zhi walked over to listen to the messages. His parents were very worried about his current situation, asking him why he dismissed all the housekeepers, and then telling him that they’ve already found new people to take care of him.

 

A few months ago, during his free time, He Zhi had installed a game newly developed by his company in the game pod.

The dating sim was designed with many pitfalls. The player needed to capture the male lead, but He Zhi had been stuck on the stylist Jimmy’s route. He couldn’t let Ji Mao die, but he didn’t know why Ji Mao came to block the gunshot for him every time.

Even without Ji Mao blocking the gunshot, he also wouldn’t die; the gunshot would have simply led to the male lead coming to visit him in the hospital.

Luckily he had saved his file right before meeting Ji Mao. Day after day, he repeated this portion of the game, and unexpectedly, he had also started to like hearing this person with a beautiful face confess his love.

Seeing Ji Mao unhappy, he also seemed to have learned how to feel pain, and he started wanting more.

 

In the midst of this addiction, He Zhi was continuously pulled away because of his busy work schedule, and his sole source of amusement was this unbeatable dating sim. He even placed a game pod in the lounge behind his office desk, just for the sake of meeting Ji Mao.

But it wasn’t until today that he realized that every “I love you” had come from the same Ji Mao.

He also couldn’t help but confess his love, and when the game ended, he immediately started a new file, wanting to meet him once more.

 

X.

I can no longer close my eyes, nor can I open them. I have been left behind in the salon.

Everyone is still and unmoving, and by every person’s side is a strange, semitransparent label; it seems to be their parameters.

“I” am also in the salon; I’m talking about Ji Mao. He’s also one of the employees in this unmoving crowd. The minute silence of the actors before the play starts has been stretched endlessly long, like that figure of me working a long time in the salon.

I’m a lingering spirit, smoke and mist; I can’t see myself, and no one else can see me. I’m a pair of eyes suspended in the air.

 

Suddenly, the lights come on, and the people begin moving. The manager stands at the counter with cash in hand, teaching a new employee how to use the cash register, and Danny has succeeded at making his guest laugh at his well-worn, three-step joke.

Ji Mao has nothing to do and is standing blankly at one side. He doesn’t look at the door and has lowered his head to touch his own fingernails. The time is 8:18, and in the next minute, He Zhi arrives.

 

I stare closely at him, and then I’m close to him. I see the name on him; it’s Admin. From my perspective, I can see many semitransparent choices floating in the air: cut hair, caress, converse, kiss, **.

“Cut hair” and “converse” are available to be chosen in blue, while the others are unable to be chosen in gray. He Zhi chooses to walk forward and then chooses to converse.

 

Only now do I understand that He Zhi is a player, and I’m only an unsaved file that hasn’t been cleaned properly.

He had always been using this data, and never ended the game, so he never erased me, letting me finally have an opportunity to stand on the shore and look at him.

I’m so weak that it seems as if I’ll be swallowed up by the sea of data at any moment, but I still have an interest in seeing if He Zhi truly has any feelings for me.

I’m very familiar with the person walking towards He Zhi. It turns out that under the lights of the salon, he can also look this handsome, red-lipped and white-skinned, his features even, no longer the Ji Mao curled up in a rented room, and no longer the pained Ji Mao begging for reprieve from He Zhi. He looks very energetic, as if he has just encountered new life.

He looks and doesn’t recognize He Zhi, but He Zhi recognizes him. The name tag on his left chest pocket says Jimmy.

 

He smiles at He Zhi, and it almost seems like he’s also smiling at me. He says, “Hello, do you have anything you want?”

He Zhi smiles and asks that Jimmy, “What about you? What do you want?”

I see Ji Mao’s expression turn blank, and he says in cautious answer, “Me? I don’t want anything.”

He Zhi looks at him for a long while, as if pressing down on his fear and shock, and asks in a low voice, “You really don’t want anything?”

Without waiting for him to speak, He Zhi says again, “Ji Mao… Are you Ji Mao?”

“I’m Ji Mao.” Although Jimmy’s face carries some doubt, he still responds in the affirmative.

“No, you’re not Ji Mao.” He Zhi stares at him and says this to him.

I have already started falling asleep, but at this, I suddenly wake again.

 

On my twenty-third hundred-days, He Zhi once asked me what I wanted while I was washing his hair. At that time, I originally said I didn’t know, but if I absolutely had to choose, I wished he would say that he loved me just once.

At that time, he had sighed and didn’t speak any further.

 

I now finally know what I want; I want He Zhi to never love Ji Mao.

To never love him again.

 

As I say this cherished desire in my heart, I feel as if I’m tired and sleepy once again, and I slowly sink into the darkness.


A depth charge is an anti-submarine weapon.

[1] Probably referring to the fact that the 卯 Mao in Ji Mao’s name sounds kind of like the 毛 for hair.

[2] 雞毛 sounds similar to Ji Mao’s name (different tones though).

[3] 您 polite ‘you’.

[4] Yes, this was also blank in the original. The comments section over there was also asking about this.

[5] 遊戲艙 One of those VRMMO immersive pod chair things that you see so often in anime, ala SAO.

Also, note, Chinese doesn’t have tenses, as such, for verbs, so while I was very deliberate with the tenses here, that’s my own additional flair and not the author’s. I did try to keep the general grammatical structure of the original, though, so that is a deliberate choice on the author’s part.


EDIT: So apparently this is an (unlabeled) extra to a longer (seventeen-chapter) story by 卡比丘. I’ll probably translate that after I finish my current project.

2 thoughts on “Depth Charge by 卡比丘

  1. thank you so much for the translation, i really wasnt in the right headspace to read this LMAOOO i bawled like a baby. it’s a good hurt though… ahhh to be an emotional masochist

    Like

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