Flying-Bird Hourglass chapter 2

Chapter 2


I woke up, and the hourglass was in my hand. The hourglass was normal again, the sand no longer falling up instead of down. It earnestly distributed sand at a uniform speed.

I stood up and sensed something clearly strange. My body should not be this lithe and strong, my hands ⸺ my hands should not be smooth and full.

From the kitchen, the voice of a woman called out: “Yingwen, come eat your breakfast, quickly. Isn’t today your graduation ceremony?”

Graduation ceremony?

I hastily put the hourglass in my pocket, wearing the seagull tie on my neck: “Coming.”

That scorching summer day, I magically recovered my youth, and after I finished eating and left the house, I still hadn’t changed back.

There are many things that I don’t remember, but I remember my highschool graduation ceremony from beginning to end, possibly because Rong Qianshan said that he had liked my seagull tie. And so, I always remembered that hot summer day.

I stepped up onto the bus, tossed two coins into the toll machine, and sat in the first seat near the door.

The bus shakily drove to the next stop. The door opened, and a man wearing a backpack got on. He was tall and thin, his skin fair, and he wore a pair of glasses with thin rims. He pulled out his transportation card and swiped it at the toll machine, “Insufficient balance, please deposit money.”

He pushed his glasses back embarrassedly, and tried to swipe his card again, “Insufficient balance, please deposit money.”

“Here.” I pulled out two coins and passed them over to him, “It’s my treat.” He looked a bit like Rong Qianshan, but I was face blind, and the first time I saw him, he was already thirty years old. I’ve imagined how Rong Qianshan looked before, when he was young, and he always said that I would be able to see it.

He opened his hand, saying softly: “Thanks.” Then, he tossed the coins into the machine and sat in the seat adjacent to me. He carefully sized up what I was wearing. He smiled, tiny dimples at the corners of his mouth, “Nice tie.”

“Thanks.” I said, “I’m graduating highschool today.”

“You’ve become an adult, congratulations.” He said.

I lifted my head to look at the screen announcing the next station, and said: “This is my stop, bye-bye.”

“Bye-bye.” He said.

I shuffled off the bus, then momentarily halted my steps on the platform. I put both hands in my pockets, touching the hourglass. Heart palpitating, I took out the hourglass. The sand had already run out about halfway. I had half of the sand left; I didn’t know why, but I felt that the sand was running a bit faster.

I flipped the hourglass, but no matter how I turned it, the sand kept streaming forth, obstinate and unyielding, much like Rong Qianshan.

How could the hourglass Rong Qianshan had sent him and the man himself have the same temperament?

I waited for the sand to finish gushing to the other end, felt a familiar dizzy sensation, and everything went dark. Once I opened my eyes again, the luscious beams of the setting sun were already cascading down. I was curled up in the chair, like I had just taken a comfortable afternoon nap.


I tried to use logic to process everything.

If the man on the bus had been Rong Qianshan, then, him knowing about my tie was perfectly rational.

He saw me when he was young, but I hadn’t seen him when I was young. The day of my graduation, I hadn’t taken the bus; I’d spent too long picking out my clothes and missed it. I had temporarily dusted off my bike to go to school.

Who was the ‘me’ in the dream?

I looked at the hourglass in my hand, the gray sand, the sunlight shining down.


I remember having a debate with Ring Qianshan, in a dream.

I said that he wasn’t a real person, and he fiercely refuted me.

“How can you say that I’m not real? You can’t find me in your world, so that means I don’t exist? I haven’t found you in my world either, does this mean you’re fake?”

Of course I wasn’t fake, but, Rong Qianshan, your type of sophistry really wasn’t ethical.

His fingertip almost poked me in the nose: “Yu Yingwen, you just want to find a woman!”

“That’s not it, don’t talk nonsense.” I waved my hands hurriedly, “There aren’t many women the same age as me in the hospital.”

His temper rose: “Not many means there are some! You unfaithful man.1

“I haven’t been improper. How am I an unfaithful man?” I corrected him, “Strictly speaking, I should only be on the unfaithful waiting list.”

“How about you just be a decent man.” He lunged toward me to grab my cheeks, “Just you wait, I’ll make you see me in the real world.”

Then he made me attend his funeral in the real world. You really proved yourself, Rong Qianshan.


What kind of cheap trick are you pulling?

I studied the hourglass repeatedly. Its wooden frame was engraved with tiny birds in flight. I loved the sea, Rong Qianshan loved seagulls. He told me that we were a match made in heaven, and I told him that we were birds of a feather.

I was an optimistic person, especially under pressure. Even the doctor in charge said I was the type of person who, in theory, would not be susceptible to this kind of mental illness. But soon, I would’ve had schizophrenia for twenty years.

Perhaps it was the inevitable outcome of deliberating philosophy. Two of my old classmates committed suicide, and another killed someone. All I am is mentally ill, thank the merciful heavens.


Before bed, I took a sleeping aid and a calcium supplement with a glass of milk. I stooped over to wash the bowl, then unhurriedly walked over to the side of the bed and sat down.

My gaze rested on the hourglass sitting top of the bed. I stared at it for quite a while, picked it up disbelievingly, pushed open the bottom, and pressed the red button.

This time, I had already adapted to the transference. When I opened my eyes, I was standing next to a road. The traffic was noisy, and people bustled to and fro.

I stood in front of the pedestrian crossing, at a loss, not knowing if I should step forward or not.

“Walk.” A man beside me patted me on the shoulder. I turned my head and looked at him. His facial features were fine, his eyes encircled by thin-framed glasses. It was Rong Qianshan. I asked: “Walk where?”

“How should I know where you’re going? Don’t block the crosswalk.” He brushed me off, walked forward two steps, then suddenly turned around, “Wait, you seem familiar to me.”

Rong Qianshan’s only strength over me was facial recognition. He practically had a photographic memory. He would laugh at me for being oblivious, and I would call him a jar of vinegar.2

“You’re that…hmmm,” He hauled me onto the sidewalk, “That kid who was graduating, we met on the bus.”

He might have been three years older than me, but what the hell did he mean by ‘kid’? I frowned: “My name is Yu Yingwen.”

“Rong Qianshan.” He laughed, his lips curling into the smile that I loved, “What a coincidence, you’re attending university in Hangzhou too?”

“Yes.” I nodded, “Zhejiang University, majoring in Philosophy.”

“I study physics.” He said, “I’m your upperclassman.” His eyes curled into two crescent moons as he smiled, “How about you call me xuezhang?”3

I shut my mouth. Was this person born to take me for a lark?

He saw that I wasn’t speaking, and he shrugged his shoulders indifferently: “I owe you two coins. How about I treat you to a meal?”

“Or, you can return the coins to me.” I said.

“No, that’s too boring. I want to invite you to a meal.” He said, “This way, you owe me a meal, minus two coins. Next time we meet, you can treat me.”

“Alright.” I nodded. Who knew if there would be a next time. I looked at his leisurely appearance. He was like an evil spirit.

Perhaps he’d bewitched me.


“Why do you study philosophy?” He asked.

I was holding a piece of freshly-made takoyaki: “I transferred, I applied for political science.”

“The law of all things is philosophy, the essence of all things is physics.” He said, “My research topic is the theory of parallel universes in the field of quantum mechanics.”

I looked at his profile, sounding him out: “If two people don’t exist in the same world, then, do you think they could fall in love?”

“Oh, ‘don’t exist in the same world’ isn’t some kind of metaphor?” He picked up a bamboo skewer of takoyaki, “You know Schrödinger’s cat? Actually, the same argument can explain parallel universes. In one world, the cat is dead, but in another, the same cat is living. The state of both life and death is superimposed on the same cat’s body. If the living cat and dead cat resonate at the same frequency, then this can open a passage to two parallel worlds.” He coughed lightly, “I got sidetracked. If the electrical impulses in one person’s brain and the electoral impulses of a person in another world are identical, then they could meet.”

I tried my best to understand what he was saying. Perhaps philosophy and physics had some points of commonality, because I managed to understand about half. If Rong Qianshan and I are people from two different worlds, the ‘me’ from his world and the young ‘me’ from my world subtly resonated at the same frequency, and he could send the young ‘me’ to his world.

So, this hourglass was his lifetime’s work, a machine designed to cut across space and time?

I surmised, Rong Qianshan took great pains to produce this hourglass. He arranged to give it to me at his funeral, all for the benefit of our younger selves.

I threw off Rong Qianshan’s arm: “I’m not someone from this world, Rong Qianshan. If you can find the ‘me’ from this world, find a way to make our frequencies resonate, then we…” I stopped. His world might not have a ‘me,’ and it seems that my world doesn’t have a ‘him.’ I searched for him for over twenty years, and there wasn’t a single person living in Hangzhou’s Xiaoshan district with the name Rong Qianshan.

“What’s wrong?” He pressed closer, concerned, “You don’t look too good.”

Rong Qianshan was an outstanding physics researcher. How could he not think of something I could think of? He sent me a way to come here, not for the benefit of our younger selves, but because of…

Because of…I don’t know.

“Nothing.” I ate the last piece of takoyaki, “Have you finished your thesis?”

“I defended it yesterday.” He said, “Are you full from the takoyaki? I’ll treat you to some stir-fried pork.”

I took out the hourglass from my pocket. The falling sand had almost run out. I shook my head: “No, I have somewhere I need to be in a bit.”

He cocked his head like a big white bird, full of doubt.

I waved at him and turned around a random street corner just as the last grain of sand ran down⸺

I returned to the real world.


Rong Qianshan knew many things about me, things I didn’t even tell him.

Not only did he know, he flaunted the knowledge. Now I could guess how he had gotten his hands on the information.

I was the one who told him.

It felt unfair. Why could he see me when he was younger, but I could only see his younger appearance after I retired.


I opened my eyes. It was approaching three o’clock, and the hourglass was in my left hand.

I sat up, turned on the desk lamp, and carefully considered the hourglass in the center of my palm. It seemed that the sand, which had piled up on one side, was reduced by about…two-fifths?

So, passing through once consumes some of the sand. I can’t pass through an unlimited number of times.

Right, the universe follows the law of the conservation of energy. The universe wouldn’t tolerate me passing through to another world for no apparent reason.

But, what about the conservation of matter? I consumed sand on this side; what was consumed on Rong Qianshan’s side?

I laid back down, turned off the desk lamp, and closed my eyes to consider the issue. When I crossed over for the first time this afternoon, it was my highschool graduation. When I crossed over the same night, he graduated college. Half a day on my side, one year on his side.

I stared at the hourglass in horror. Rong Qianshan was really too heartless, using sand to offset time, maintaining the conservation of matter.

Everytime I cross over, it will cause time on his side to speed up. The remaining sand has about three uses left.

I must utilize the third chance well.

1 负心汉, which means heart-breaker, unfaithful, or treacherous man. Pretty much men who treat their wives poorly by cheating, throwing them out, or even killing them. There’s a ton of historical examples (i.e. Wu Qi of the Warring States Era, Liu An of the Three Kingdoms period, and more…).

2 Drinking vinegar means being jealous.

3 学长, meaning classmate, usually older. Kind of like shixiong, but for school.

Flying-Bird Hourglass

Flying-Bird Hourglass

Score 8.2
Status: Completed Type: Author: Released: 2020 Native Language: Chinese
“He came across thousands of mountains and rivers to find me.”I went to my lover’s funeral. But the guests said, They had never seen me before.


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