Xue'er sat on the bed in a lotus position, with her eyes closed. Taking in very slow breaths, calming her heart so much that a person could barely feel her pulse or breath, as though she was a corpse forever in the same position.
Her pale skin contrasted her ink black hair that was messily arranged behind her ears framing her face perfectly. Like the bare branches against the snowing sky.
Empty and bare
Yet still there…
The rooms that were occupied by the newly arrived guests of the inn a few doors down was quiet and tranquil. Just like a steady flow of water going down a mountain.
It seemed the two people were really fast asleep.
[In that case, it will be a tranquil night.]
The moon loomed overhead with an eerie glow, as though a blood moon would be appearing soon.
Gan Tian Chi held a bare branch of a tree, twirling it around his fingers in a playful manner. His eyes twinkled brightly under the gleam of the moonlight.
[If not drought, then flood would parch then drench each vale
Without life, all creatures would pass away
Princes and kings, without that moral sway
However grand, high or mighty would all decay]
The branch he held in his hand was frozen thoroughly, every bud and leaf that had formed had become withered and desiccated, falling off in the end.
These years, the cold of the north had been increasingly harsher to live in. It was as though nature was tired of so many people living here without worshipping her, she would try to chase them all away.
Slowly, slowly, each year became colder than the previous. Soon, there would no longer be anyone left in the lands north of Eastern Jin.
In the hunter's shed, the place was dry, not a drop of rain had fallen upon the dry and frozen ground, it was a world away from the small village a few miles away that had already begun experiencing water leaking into their homes and into their firewood storage.
Soon, they would find it hard to survive.
Gan Tian Chi could not help but feel bad for those people.
Just a few years ago, they had experienced a different kind of hardship. For the past few years, the northern band that the border town rested on had been plagued by months of dry coldness, now there was nothing but an endless stream of water coming from the heavens.
Gan Tian Chi patted the dry sand off himself as he stood up, and threw the broken branch in his hand away.
He whistled a soothing tune that complemented this rainfall very much. The tune was like a feeling one would have on such a rainy night. There was a certain bliss to listening to his song. Even the birds and all other creatures gently swayed when the tune came to their ears.
His long ivory colored robes had been slightly dirtied at the hem that met the ground, now became wet, as he went into the pouring rain. Stepping in the muddied puddles that accumulated in the past few days, the hem of his robe became soaked with muddy water, yet there was nothing for him to care about.
He carefully secured his oil paper umbrella near his neck to prevent it from being blown away by the raging winds.
[However heavy the winds may be, will soon die away.]
Gan Tian Chi made his way to the village he had been to earlier. That place was always unchanging. He could hardly remember the many times he had passed by this place.
The rain outlined his solitary silhouette under the cold droplets, as he walked through the small village. The wide streets and the small cottages spread out over a lot of lands as befitting in such a rural and empty place.
Since the soil was practically useless, the villagers would grow vegetables that had no need for many nutrients, here, the diet was a variety of potatoes and other wild vegetables. There was no rice, and there was no need for it either.
"You again, you're still here."
That voice was oddly familiar, it was the man who sold him the bundles of straw.
"You still remember me?" Gan Tian Chi asked.
"Of course, not many people come through this small village. How could I not remember?" The old man laughed and sat down under a straw awning that was somewhat dry.
"I see." Gan Tian chi nodded, somewhat emotionlessly.
"Sit. It's wet and cold out there." The man gestured in a friendly manner, as though he was inviting a friend to sit here and not a stranger he happened to meet.
Gan Tian Chi looked at the small straw awning that had been built as an extension of a cottage, seemingly used to shelter weary villagers from the sunlight and a light drizzle, but never a rain so heavy. There were old wooden tables and some chairs around, looking at it again it could be a small tea shop.
Yet still, he walked towards the man who was already sitting there and joined him. He closed his oil paper umbrella and placed it at the foot of the table.
Gently laughing, he said: "Thank you for the invitation."
The man smiled and said nothing more. Looking towards the pouring rain that was outside, he said: "I wonder if it will stop?"
"It will stop one day, do you really think it's possible for the skies to continuously pour rain. Even if it could, the water would be all gone."
"The sky is always like this, either giving us too much or none at all." The man said in a desolate tone.
Thinking back to the times when there would be no rain at all for years, then, there would be times with prolonged rain that just kept falling with no way to control.
"Perhaps that is a way of telling you to leave." Gan Tian Chi suggested out of good will.
"What does an outsider like you know?" The man asked suspiciously.
Gan Tian Chi helplessly gave a smile.
[Sure enough, they never believe anything an outsider says.]
"You know, many many years ago, there was a charlatan who came here, telling us to leave. Said there was something bad that would happen in a few years, and to this day nothing had happened." The man recounted the story.
When Gan Tian Chi heard the man talk about a charlatan, he looked away in an innocent manner.
"Perhaps, he was just giving you a warning out of goodwill." Gan Tian Chi suggested helplessly.
"Goodwill my ass, do you think that no one knew he was working for corrupt officials who just wanted us to move away."
Gan Tian Chi could not help but roll his eyes at what this man was speaking of the past as though he truly remembered what had happened.
"Since you will not listen to my advice, then I shall leave." Gan Tian Chi said as he picked up his dripping umbrella and left as silently as he came. His shadow quickly disappeared from sight, leaving the man alone under the eves of the drenched straw.