Chapter 21: Rustling Leaves in the Cool Night (1)
“This is a story that happened by the Qiantang River at an undeterminable date, at a place called Niujia village, where two hunters lived as neighbors. One of them was surnamed Guo, while the other was Yang.”
When she saw that she had caught Yu Xingzhi’s attention, she combed through the plot of Condor Heroes in her mind and slowly began to read it out. “The two families got along so well that it was if they were one, and it happens that both their wives were also pregnant at the same time. And so, they made an agreement that if they were both boys, they would become brothers, and spouses, if they were of different sex…”
With the sound of rustling leaves in the cool night, Yu Xingzhi listened to the pleasant voice of the girl that came from his side. Gently, that voice led him into a new and strange world of chivalry and tenderness.
In that world, there was elation, debts of gratitude, of revenge, and also love that blossomed between two people. It was a thrilling and immersive story, trapping him deeply, and allowing him to forget the pains of his ailing body.
Who was she truly?
Yu Xingzhi thought in his heart.
He did not believe that Zhou Xiaoxiao was a mere ordinary girl.
Zhou Xiaoxiao had no character of a woman in her bones, nor the slightest hint of their humility.
She was different from the other women. She was confident, easy-going, and she was so giving that it was abstruse. She was like a girl born with great wisdom, unshackled from the restraints in this world.
Though she tried hard in imitation, she still revealed flaws in her behavior that was incompatible with this world.
At this moment, she had her back towards the fire. The soft glow of the flames outlined her silhouette in a thin halo. In her stirring voice, she spoke to him a mysterious story full of wonders.
Yu Xingzhi’s teeth parted lightly. He wanted to ask, who really are you?
Were you human? Were you a spirit?
Where did you come from?
But he quickly pursed his lips.
He could not ask, he told himself.
He was worried that if he ever did, this dream-like warmth could immediately burst like a bubble.
Only the rustling leaves and the silent cold night would be left for him.
Whether she was a fox spirit or a ghost in human skin, I’m willing to keep my mouth shut forever as long as she was willing to stay with me.
He felt his slow heartbeat begin to quicken, and his chest filled up with a mysterious sense of happiness. Nobody knew when, but slowly, he had sunk into the land of dreams.
When Yu Xingzhi woke up in the early morning, the campfire had already burned out, and there was nobody around him.
The fog in the wilderness was dense, and the air was cold and quiet.
He propper up his body and looked around, worried that his ridiculous ideas from last night would come true.
Suddenly, he heard a rustling noise.
The foliage parted, Zhu Xiaoxiao who was dressed as a man suddenly jumped out. While running, the fine frost she kicked up covered her face.
She was holding a live fish in her hand. After wiping her face, she laughed. “I found a small stream at the side. Look what I caught!”
Yu Xingzhi could not help but reveal a smile that came from the bottom of his heart.
The instant he smiled, the light of dawn had just broken through the dense fog. The light of day finally befell them.
This gentleman sat quietly with his appearance warm and delicate like jade, but there was a profound look in his eyes.
Zhou Xiaoxiao understood the implicit affections in that gaze and the inches of frost in her chest melt away.
Yuyang Town was an ancient place with thousands of years worth of history. It was named so because of an ancient bridge called Yuyang that was situated at the front of the town, well-known for linking up the town and the provincial road. Many people passed by that road, and so the townsfolk from several different towns began gathering and setting up stalls selling snacks and tea for the pedestrians to enjoy while they took a rest.
On this day at noon, an ox cart drove by after a long trip. The man driving at the front looked young, but his skill was great. He parked the cart beside the banyan tree before getting out. He pulled open the blue floral curtains and helped his young pregnant wife from the cart.