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The tenth day of the tenth month.
I had finally waited a full year.
I endured to the breaking point. Though my memory was good, there was no way to say what I wanted, even though I’d gotten to the point where I had learned it by heart. This was all Fang Hua’s fault because he easily forgot things he said before.
Fang Hua said, if someone stopped caring about something, they wouldn’t think about it all the time. If someone forgot about it completely, it wasn’t something to regret, but a type of joy.
Hard to understand, right?
For a person like him who either said nothing, or a bunch of words and phrases that were difficult to understand–I preferred to ignore him.
I sucked in a breath. Sticking my hand in my sleeve, I casually took another glance at the almanac. Today was the tenth day of the tenth month. It was a big day because the agreement between us on the night he got drunk was set for this day. Even if he tried to cheat me, I’d still follow the results to the end.
Early morning, he got out of bed while I quietly sat on a stool in my room with a small bag, observant and hopeful. Then I heard the sound of the house door closing. Forgetting myself in a moment of excitement, I hooked my bag with a long, thin branch before swinging it on my shoulder and dashing after him.
This was the manner in which I followed behind him at some distance away.
He walked along a very remote, out-of-the-way path where the bamboo grew tall and graceful. The emerald green stalks resembled a heavenly cage and gave a slight chill to the air. His pale violet silhouette was hidden from view within the forest, and he often raised a hand to his brow to wipe off the sweat. Occasionally, a breeze blew up his sleeves, giving him a distinctive demeanor.
I went step by step carefully amongst the dead branches. At times, the branch on my shoulder clacked against the bamboo stalkers, making a loud noise. But Fang Hua didn’t seem to notice a thing. From my observations, he seemed driven to distraction.
It was very easy to go past the bamboo. Their scent assaulted my senses along with a mix of medicinal herbs and flowers, stirring my spirits. I straightened my chest and sucked in a deep breath. Right then, his form seemed to shrink down before disappearing.
I was shocked. Tossing my bag aside, I hurried forward on hands and knees to find him, tripping and stumbling in my haste. Finally, I landed with my butt in the air…
There was an overhanging cliff, and the end of the bamboo forest fell short of its edge. Below was a valley whose plains and mountainsides were covered in flowers. He deftly flew down with graceful bearing, sleeves fluttering lightly behind him like a spray of purple mist, beautiful beyond compare.
Aiya, for Mother’s sake…no wonder he was traveling without a care in the world if anyone tried to tail him.
It was because he was certain other people couldn’t follow him down.
What now? Even if I made a rope with my bag to climb down, even if I used up all the fig leaves available, it still wouldn’t be long enough. I couldn’t bear it anymore and kicked with my foot, wiggling my butt as I scrambled backward.
The most I could do was lie there and look.
Actually, my field of vision really wasn’t bad from this far up. Nestled within the medicinal plants and mystical flowers was a section of yellow soil, from which rose a small hill like a burial mound.
Fang Hua stood in that spot, listless.
After a long time had passed, he slowly bowed and took a step atop the mound. He looked quite dashing and spirited with one hand resting on a knee, the other reaching forward to lightly stroke something.
Such an irreverent posture, but one that radiated an aura of deep grief.
His hand gave such gentle touches, as if writing something from memory upon a small piece of fiery-red dead wood stuck within the yellow earth. I narrowed my eyes before rubbing them, but had to give up trying to read something so difficult. I shifted to carefully study his face, and was astonished. After staying with him for all these years, I’d never seen him look so lonely. He seemed to have sunk into his own memories and trapped himself there, absorbing the reminiscences of past years. The sole exception was that his finger, still gently stroking that piece of red wood…
A smile appeared on his face, but the tear-shaped mole made it seem like he was crying.
It was only after many, many years that I knew that wood was Fang Hua Wood. Because afterwards, someone told me a chunk of Fang Hua Wood was a Fang Hua Beast. It was just that the Fang Hua Beast had transformed into wood and then withered up.
aiya (??) ?a common Chinese interjection along the lines of ‘aish!’ or ‘sheesh!’
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