You can sense that Xiao Liu’s time being Xiao Liu is slowly coming to an end. Lost You Forever tells its story in years, tens of years, hundreds of years, since the leads are all mystical gods and demons and beings of magical spiritual powers. Because they seem to have it all, it makes it even more painful to see how they suffer more than a human would. The torture inflicted on Shi Qi is beyond the pale, years of degradation at the hands of his own brother. Xiao Liu may get bitten and tossed around by Xiang Liu, and we can all argue that she kinda likes it and eggs him on at times, watching her get tortured by orders of Xuan in the last chapter was totally heartbreaking. Tong Hua delivers her giant hammers of pain and doom in ways that feel lyrical because so much is left unsaid. We know Xiao Liu is getting her hands gnawed on but we are with her as she relives the happiest times of her life in her memory. Her childhood happiness with her older brother cousin, a time that is probably so long ago for Xiao Liu, but that is the only true happiness she has ever known in a life that was born into greatness and then thrust into danger. When I read Tong Hua’s novels, I really allow myself the freedom of mind not to pass judgment on characters right off the bat. She always has a way of fleshing everything out throughout her story so that the my final opinion ends up being so very different than my initial impression. Her writing teaches me patience and an appreciation for story flow beyond what is shown. I love the way she allows her characters to expression emotions by the tiniest of details, or nothing at all but a meaning hidden between the lines. Shi Qi is as straightforward as it gets for a leading man, his goodness without reservation. Xiang Liu is the opposite, even if he is nice to Xiao Liu you can tell he won’t ever let her think it. This chapter is equal parts action-packed battle scene and quiet contemplation between two people who are both so close yet still so far away from each other.
Chapter 6 – Like a Familiar Person Has Come:
Xiao Liu’s body was very unique so wounds healed faster than most. Jing also left a lot of good medicine ranging from the bones and elixirs from Jade Mountain, harnessed crystal, whatever was in the vast wilderness that was precious it was here. Xiao Liu’s injuries healed quickly.
Xiao Liu never hesitated or was shy about using anything, dumping the entire jar of bone essence to soak his hand in. But the only thing he never used was painkillers. Everyday he loudly howled in pain and jumped up and down. Xiang Liu initially just coldly stared, but later he was so annoyed by the noise that he snarked “I am pitying the person who tortured you. They gave you the flesh eating bug torture, you gave them the blood curdling noise torture.”
Xiao Liu pouted towards him “I really regret giving the voodoo bug to Xuan now.”
Xiang Liu laughed “Even if you raised a bug, you ought to raise a more vicious one. This bug you raised requires you to first harm yourself. Thank god you planted the other in Xuan where it might have some use. If you planted it in me, remember that I’ve got nine-heads. Even if you died from the pain, it likely wouldn’t hurt me much.”
Xiao Liu felt talking to Xiang Liu was just making himself angrier so huffed off and went to hide in the clouds. The days passed and the pain decreased and Xiao Liu’s hand gradually recovered.
At dawn when Xiao Liu was still fast asleep, he suddenly felt a stirring in his body. Initially he didn’t understand but gradually he figured it out – the bug was sending him a message. Xiao Liu quickly got up and rushed out of the hut “Xiang Liu, Xuan…..”
There were more then ten masked men standing on the mountain top. Each man and their winged rides were all huffing with deadly intent and braced for battle. Clearly they knew Xuan was close, and seeing the way they fanned out, Xuan was bringing a lot of people.
Xiang Liu said to Xiao Liu “Xuan’s coming with murderous rage. I’m ready to kill him so tonight it’s a battle to the death. You find a place to hide safely.” Because he was wearing a mask, Xiang Liu’s face was covered and only his eyes was revealed, and it was so cold without a shred of warmth. Xiao Liu was too scared to bullshit, looked around a few times, then darted underneath a big rock crevice.
A little while later, Xiao Liu saw Xuan leading a group of men swooping down. Over three dozen men on various winged rides, with their wings spread blanketing the entire sky. Xiao Liu looked up in shock – who was Xuan really, to have such a powerful force behind him?
The battle commenced in the sky. Compared to Xiang Liu, Xuan was at an advantage with his number of men. But Xiang Liu’s men lived under the spectre of death and accumulated mutual understanding through blood shed. They were fierce enough that the two sides were evenly matched up.
A sudden boom and a golden fireball struck one man and he was obliterated along with his winged ride. Then another was sliced in half by a massive ice sword. Two combatants swooped past and Xiao Liu couldn’t see clearly who it was. Something fell from the sky and shattered on the rocks. Xiao Liu picked it up and it was a bloody mask.
Xiao Liu couldn’t hide anymore and rushed out, climbing to the top of the highest tree.
The sky was ablaze in battle, with fire and smoke, but Xiang Liu’s presence was impossible to miss. His white hair, white robe, and white mask, on a white condor, he was like a snow patch swirling in the sky. Every move was beautiful but each was a deadly attack.
Four people encircled him, one of whom was Xuan, and each was a powerful opponent. Xiang Liu battled by only attacking and never guarding, it was to win or die. His weapon was a curved sword like a crescent moon, crystal clear like it was made of ice, and he wielded it so that it appeared to be ice droplets dancing in the air.
Xiang Liu didn’t care about protecting his back, he rushed forward and sliced through the ice blade attacks. A head went flying but Xiang Liu’s back was pierced and there was blood. Ice blades rained down on him but Xiang Liu didn’t hide and deftly dodged it. His blade went down and another man and his winged ride was gone. But Xiang Liu was hurt again and there was blood on the corner of his lips.
There was deadly leaves swirling towards him into a wood spirit maze but Xiang Liu didn’t even bother to solve it and instead pierced through the center and took out the man. That left only him versus Xuan, one on one.
Xiang Liu rushed Xuan but he was already injured and his spiritual power greatly decreased, whereas Xuan wasn’t even hurt and was full of power. Xuan held a wooden spirit long whip in his left hand and a golden short sword in his right hand. He was actually able to deftly control two different powers at the same time and attacked, with the whip like a snake and the sword like a lion.
Xiao Liu called out “Xiang Liu, left hand.” Xiao Liu smashed his left hand on the tree and the pain was excruciating. Xuan’s attack slipped.
Xiao Liu smashed his right hand on the tree and Xuan almost dropped his weapon.
Xiang Liu was able to laugh even in the middle of battle while Xuan glared in rage and send his whip flying towards Xiao Liu. Xiao Liu lowered his head and slid down the tree into the thick forest where the winged rides wouldn’t enter so Xuan couldn’t reach him.
Xiang Liu ordered “Left leg, right hand.”
Xiao Liu cursed but took a spiked branch and viciously smashed down on his left leg at the same time as he smashed his right hand on a rock. Xiang Liu summoned his powers and tossed his sword away as he flew towards Xuan, clearly intending to deliver the killing blow. Xuan was able to roll off his winged ride so Xiang Liu’s attack struck the beast instead.
Xuan fell from a great height and loudly smashed through a giant tree. He was greatly injured and covered in blood but he jumped right back up and started running while calling for his men.
In the deep forest, the trees were so thick the winged rides couldn’t enter so Xiang Liu jumped off his condor and started chasing after Xuan on foot.
Xiao Liu was jumping from tree to tree like a monkey and following along. Suddenly his eyes spotted something long and white. It looked like the tail of an animal. Before Xiao Liu could process it, his body froze. He jumped over and picked up the white thing hanging on a tree – it was a fluffy white fox tail. Xiao Liu’s entire person was immobilized. Then his lips curled into a smile, and within that smile there was tears in his eyes that were about to fall sorrowfully.
Suddenly his face changed and he charged after Xiang Liu and Xuan like a crazed person.
Xuan was flying but Xiang Liu suddenly darted out like a ghost from within the thicket, his hands already transformed into razor sharp claws like five daggers, and it was swiftly aimed at Xuan. Xuan blocked with his whip but the whip was destroyed but the claw hand was intact. Xiang Liu’s eyes glowed demon red and Xuan’s body was pressed down like a mountain was on top of him. He couldn’t move or dodge but he refused to close his eyes. If he was going to die, then he wanted to see clearly how he died.
A figure flew forward like a shooting star into Xuan’s embrace and blocked Xiang Liu’s thunderous blow.
“Ah———” Xiao Liu painfully screamed.
Xuan felt the exact same pain, it pierced him straight through the heart. But he only felt the pain and wasn’t actually injured. Xuan stared in shock at Xiao Liu, not understanding why Xiao Liu saved his life at his own expense.
Xiao Liu pushed him hard “Run!”
Xiang Liu wouldn’t let Xuan escape and tried to attack again. Xiao Liu turned and risked his life again, tightly grabbing onto Xiang Liu’s clawed hand to prevent him from attacking Xuan again.
Xuan’s men arrived and helped him escape, but Xuan turned and gave Xiao Liu a mystified look.
Xiang Liu was so close to victory but Xiao Liu ruined it. He was enraged and kicked Xiao Liu hard. Xiao Liu crumpled to the ground but still used every ounce of his might to hold on to to Xiang Liu’s leg so he couldn’t chase after Xuan.
Xuan was helped on a winged ride which rose into the clouds and disappeared. He leaned on his servant and tightly clenched his lips as he felt the same pain. The pain was in his stomach, his arms, every part of his body hurt. It was like his entire body was being ripped to shreds. But he knew he wasn’t going to be ripped to shreds, because this pain didn’t belong to him, it belonged to Xiao Liu.
Xuan stared out into the cloud sea and couldn’t figure it out. Why? Why did Xiao Liu first help Xiang Liu kill him, but at the very last moment, risked his own life to save him? He used a vicious torture on Xiao Liu, so Xiao Liu ought to hate him and want him dead. Why save him then?
Xiang Liu’s rage was like the churning ocean, threatening to swallow everything in its path. Xiao Liu knew Xiang Liu would kill him but felt no fear.
The red blood around her made her see the fire red phoenix flowers. Under the phoenix tree, there was a Mom who made a swing for her. She stood on the swing and welcomed the falling phoenix leaves. She rose high and her laughter blanketed the earth. Gege stood under the phoenix tree, looking up at her with a smile. When she came down, he pushed her up again. Her swing rose up, came down, rose up, came down…..
Xiang Liu’s razor sharp claw came down towards Xiao Liu’s neck but Xiao Liu’s eyes were wide open and he smiled sweetly towards him, his smile like a flower blooming in the Spring. Xiao Liu’s thin neck was in Xiang Liu’s hand, he only need squeeze and all trouble would be gone. Xiao Liu smiled and sighed softly, as if he was content. His head lowered and his eyes closed.
Xiang Liu jerked back his hand, picking up Xiao Liu and taking him away.
When Xiao Liu opened his eyes, he was in the middle of a cave, his entire body soaked in small pool. There was all sorts of precious medicines tossed into the pool For anyone else, mixing all these various herbs and medicines would do more harm than good. But for Xiao Liu’s weird body, soaking in all sorts of random things actually helped.
There was likely a painkiller medicine in there as well because Xiao Liu felt his body was soft and painless. Not far from the pool, Xiang Liu sat on a jade pallet, his brows furrowed as if all the energy was focused there, as if he was about to collapse at any moment. Xiao Liu didn’t dare move or speak so quietly closed his eyes.
“Why did you save him?” Xiang Liu’s voice was icy cold, containing his tamped down rage.
Xiao Liu’s mind twirled for a minute but didn’t even hesitate and said clearly “Because I know who he is.”
Xiang Liu’s brow lifted slightly.
Xiao Liu continued “A few days ago I was mulling over why you were so free with your time lately and actually spending every day with me. Then I realized you weren’t taking care of me, you were waiting for Xuan. Jing wanted me to hide in the mountains because he knew that you guys had been battling with the Xuan Yuan army for hundreds of years and they still couldn’t track you down. If you wanted, there was no way Xuan could have found me. But you guessed his real identity, and you knew he wouldn’t let me live, so you used me to set a trap with the intention to kill him.
“So I used you as a lure. You have a problem with that?”
“Normally no, since he wants to kill me so best take him out. But I know now who he really is. He is Zhuan Xu, one of the Xuan Yuan Kingdom princes. Not just any prince, he is the eldest grandson prince of the Yellow Emperor! If I help you kill him, then the Yellow Emperor will surely wreak vengeance on the world and I won’t have any peace. There won’t be a place within the vast wilderness that I can hide!”
Xiang Liu opened his eyes and stared “I used to think you had some guts.”
Xiao Liu responded “Sorry for disappointing you. You dare to make an enemy of the Yellow Emperor, I don’t. The rage of an Emperor, the blood flows a thousand miles! I cannot endure it!”
“How did you learn Xuan’s identity?”
“When you were chasing him, one of his servants was so frantic he slipped and said something about hurry up and save Prince Zhuan Xu. It was mumbled but you were willing to endure massive injury to try and kill him and there isn’t a lot of people in the vast wilderness that would get you that worked up. I thought about it and connected the dots.”
Xiang Liu stood up and walked into the pool, his hand grabbed Xiao Liu’s neck and slammed it against the stone side “You knew that I would risk severe injury to kill him!” Xiao Liu had no strength to resist so backed down “I ruined your big plan, so if you want to kill me then kill me!” He docilely stuck out his neck and closed his eyes.
Xiang Liu coldly laughed “Kill you? That’s be too easy on you!” He lowered his head and bit down hard on Xiao Liu’s neck and drank his blood as if to release his rage. Xiao Liu leaned his neck back and rested on the side of the pool. Thank god he was of some use to Xiang Liu. Since Xiang Liu was a nine-headed demon with a very strange form, it was near impossible for him to find medicine to heal his injuries. Which is why the equally strange form Xiao Liu was his best medicine.
Xuan was laying on the pallet and suddenly bolted upright and touched his neck. He was still alive!
In the beginning there was a sharp pain like teeth biting through the flesh. But gradually, the pain transformed into something odd. In the pain there was a sensation of numbness, a shivering feeling of bliss, as if someone was sucking, and licking, and lightly kissing.
Xuan felt his mouth turn dry and was suddenly very angry. With such severe injuries, was that guy crazy or what the heck was he doing?
Xiang Liu raised his head and stared at Xiao Liu, blood staining his lips, his eyes darkened, his breath slightly labored. Xiao Liu was initially sitting sprawled like a man but suddenly he slid down and unconsciously wanted to cover his chest, but he immediately stopped himself and continued to sit sprawled open.
Xiang Liu’s hand moved down from his neck, tracing his jawline, down his clavicle. Xiao Liu grabbed his hand and smiled “I’m a man. Even if you like men, you should find someone better looking.”
“You’re a man?” Xiang Liu’s slightly blood stained lips curved upward “If you’re a man, how did you lure the Jiu Jiu out?”
Xiao Liu blinked quizzically “I don’t believe you can’t change your shape as well as voice.”
“I trust a beast’s natural instinct.”
“If a beast’s natural instinct was so accurate, your Furball wouldn’t have been poisoned by me. There would be no such thing as traps, and hunters wouldn’t need to hunt.”
“What kind of transformation spell are you using? You have very weak powers but it’s completely seamless just like it’s your true form!”
Xiao Liu angrily said “This is my true form!”
Xiang Liu stared at him, his eyes as dark as ink, and Xiao Liu’s heart started racing. He violently shook off Xiang Liu’s hand and then spread himself open like a dead pig headed to boiling water “Touch me then, touch me. After you’re done then stop accusing me of being a woman!”
Xiang Liu glared at him “I’m not interested in your false form.” He released Xiao Liu, turned and walked out of the pool to go lay on the pallet and continued healing himself.
Xiao Liu’s wildly nervous heart finally relaxed. He was already severely injured, plus Xiang Liu drank his blood, so his head was woozy and he laid down in the pool to also start healing himself.
A day later, Jing arrived nearby. Xiang Liu was still injured and a very wary person so he would never meet someone that could be a threat. When he felt Jing close to the cave, he quietly left and the injured Xiao Liu was alone in the cave when Jing came in. He saw Xiao Liu floating in the pool, face completely white, body covered in injuries, eyes closed and fast asleep.
Jing felt for his pulse and immediately picked him up, carrying him out of the cave in quick steps while calling for his winged ride.
Ten days later, Xiao Liu woke up in an elegantly decorated room. It was hot Summer out but cool inside, and through the window there was a courtyard filled with blooming flowers of every type. A wind chime hung on the window sill made from crystal from the North Pole and in various colors carved into different flower shapes. As the wind blew past, the cold from the crystal chimes released into the air and brought a breeze.
Xiao Liu put on a robe and walked out to the corridor. Jing stood up in the courtyard and looked directly at him. The bright warm sun, the vibrant flowers, and a gentleman. Like a painting, it was so utterly beautiful. Xiao Liu walked up to Jing and he reached out to touch his face as if to confirm he was real. Xiao Liu slightly leaned his head to feel the warmth of his palm.
Jing suddenly embraced Xiao Liu, gentle but tightly pulling him into his arms. Xiao Liu closed his eyes, allowing his head to lightly rest on Jing’s shoulder. In this moment, they were just Shi Qi and Xiao Liu.
Cling clank, plates crashed on the ground. Xiao Liu raised his head and saw Jing Ye standing dumbstruck in the corridor, her eyes filled with shock and dismay. Xiao Liu’s evil side rose up so he maintained his position and closed his eyes, pretending he saw and heard nothing, waiting to see how Jing would react.
Jing disappointed Xiao Liu, he was calm and continued to quietly embrace Xiao Liu. There was the feeling that even if the world was ending, he was still going keep on hugging.
Jing Ye finally moved and walked over “Is Master Liu’s injuries worsened? Let me help him stand.”
Xiao Liu guffawed out loud, she’s a funny one as well! He squirmed out of Jing’s arms and smiled at Jing Ye. She bowed to him “Thank you Young Master for saving my Lord’s life. Please accept my bow of gratitude.” Xiao Liu avoided it “Your lord saved my life so it’s even.” Xiao Liu thanked Jing “Lao Mu is waiting for me so I’ll be off.”
Xiao Liu turned and left. Jing reached out his hand but slowly pulled it back, only watching Xiao Liu’s form disappear down the corridor.
It appeared Xiao Liu was recovered but he still couldn’t use any energy and would get tired from just a little labor. But he hadn’t made any money in too long and there was a family to feed. So he couldn’t rest and rushed back to Hui Chun Clinic to see patients.
Xan Tian Er followed next to Xiao Liu and the two were surprisingly in sync. He ordered, she did, and from grabbing medicine to wrapping wounds, she did a great job. She wasn’t afraid of blood or disgusting wounds, and she was so thorough the patients all complimented her.
Xiao Liu praised “You can’t cook, you can’t mend, you can’t clean, but you are really good at seeing what people need.” Tian Er smiled wanly “Brother Liu, are you praising or insulting me?” Xiao Liu added “Seeing patients is a form of observation, I think you can learn medicine.” Tian Er raised her head and stared at Xiao Liu.
Xiao Liu added “Chuan Zi and Ma Zi followed me for 20 years but they don’t belong in this profession. I think you can do it, so if you’re willing then learn from me. I will teach you to treat infertility, and with that skill, no matter where you go you won’t starve to death.”
“Brother Liu is willing to teach me?”
“Why not? If you work, then I can retire.”
Xan Tian Er knelt down and bowed three times and choked up “Thank you, Brother Liu.”
The past always followed her and even if Chuan Zi treated her well with her life experiences she never could rely on a man completely. She was falling deeper into the life with Chuan Zi but she was at a disadvantage so she was always the one resolving any problem. Chun Tao could fight with Ma Zi and go home to her parents house. But she couldn’t, and also realized she couldn’t treat her husband like a customer for the rest of her life because that wasn’t real. She had no skills and no one to talk to, but she hid her hopelessness under her smile. Who knew someone would understand her and give her a reason to be proud in this house, to allow her to protect this family.
Xiao Liu gently said “Be good to Lao Mu. When you guys die and he’s still alive, make sure your children are good to him.” Xan Tian Er looked quizzically at Xiao Liu but he just smiled. Xan Tian Er appeared to understand a bit and she nodded solemnly. “You don’t need to worry. I will take good care of Lao Mu and Chuan Zi.”
Xuan walked into the clinic and sat down across from Xiao Liu “Giving final instructions?”
Xiao Liu went to get water and used that to control the emotions in his eyes. He said to Tian Er “Go to the field to help Chuan Zi.” Tian Er looked at Xuan and walked out.
Xiao Liu slowly drank some water before raising his head and looking at Xuan “Why are you gracing us with your presence?” Xuan paused “Why did you save me?”
Xiao Liu laughed “If you died, then the voodoo bug in you body dies. It took me a lot of work to raise that bug, I don’t want it to die.” Xuan looked at him and Xiao Liu poured him water “I kidnapped Ah Nian but didn’t hurt her and just teased her a bit. Your men tortured me and I also didn’t let you off easy. Xiang Liu used me as a trap but I saved you. Let’s consider it even, okay?”
Xuan asked “When are you removing the bug from me?” Xiao Liu thought and said “When you leave Qing Shui Town.” Xuan’s hands pressed down on the table “Why not now?”
“You have great ambitions and ought to be leaving town soon. When you leave, I’ll remove the bug. This bug has no ill effects other than when one of us hurts the other hurts. So if you don’t harm me, then you won’t hurt. This is to keep me safe.”
“Fine.” Xuan got up and left, and when he arrived at the door, he suddenly turned around “When you have time, you can come drink with me at the shop.” Xiao Liu smiled “Sure.”
Xuan raised his eyebrow and smirked “And when you’re hurt, you might want to restrain your urges.”
“………..” Xiao Liu was thoroughly confused. When did he ever have urges?
Xuan touched his neck and left with a laugh. Xiao Liu stared confused and then after some time he started to smile. Can I really go drink with you? There was a voice that told him not to, but another said that he was leaving town soon, so if not now then he’ll never get the chance again.
Winter arrived and by then Xiao Liu’s injuries were all healed. Because he was easily tired, these past few months Xiao Liu stayed inside and used the time to teach Xan Tian Er.
Tian Er earnestly learned medicine and in her busy daily life, the relationship between her and Chuan Zi slowly changed. When she first married him, she was very sensitive to things related to her past and purposely avoided it. Now she would grind medicine and sometimes hum songs she used to sing. In the past Tian Er would not nag Chuan Zi, but now if he slacked off she would yell at him. In time, Tian Er became more and more like the lady of the house.
Xiao Liu smiled to see Xan Tian Er working so hard to grab onto the littlest bit of happiness, like a bud trying to sprout in the barren earth. The desire to cling onto life is something even an observer could feel.
At dusk, snow flurries came down. It was the first snow of the year and Lao Mu warmed wine and asked Xiao Liu and Chuan Zi to drink with him. Xiao Liu remembered another invitation to drink and stared at the snow in a daze. Tian Er brought a lantern over and Chaun Zi was about to blow it out when Xiao Liu took it and left the house.
Lao Mu called out “You don’t want to drink” but Xiao Liu just waved his hand. Under the falling snow, Xiao Liu walked down the street until he was outside the wine shop. He suddenly wavered and stood outside holding the lantern. Xiao Liu turned to leave when he heard “Since you came, when not come inside?” Xuan stood in the doorway and stared at Xiao Liu.
Xiao Liu slowly turned around and smiled “I didn’t see any light so thought no one was at home.” Xuan smiled and didn’t pierce through Xiao Liu’s excuse. Xiao Liu followed behind Xuan and walked through the shop into the backyard. Who knows when Xuan planted a plum blossom tree but it blanketed the entire yard with its fragrance.
Xuan saw Xiao Liu looking at the plum blossom and said “Ah Nian wanted it so I planted it for her.”
Xiao Liu said “You sure are very good to your sister.” The same words that was once said in jest, today felt bittersweet. The two sat on a warm pallet and Xuan brought out a few dishes and warmed a brazier to heat up some wine. The door and window was open so the snow and plum blossoms fell outside creating a lovely view.
The two didn’t speak and just drank. One was still wary and didn’t feel like bullshitting, the other was restraining heartache and had no words to say.
This is a wine shop so the only thing it had in abundance was wine. The wine went down like water and Xiao Liu was starting to get drunk. He laughed “How can Ah Nian be fine with me drinking here?”
Xuan laughed “She’s a light weight. One cup and she’s gone. She’s likely dreaming a happy dream right now.”
Xiao Liu added “I can tell you are Gods, and also from a powerful family. Why come to Qing Shui Town and live the hard life?”
Xuan replied “I thought you knew the reason.”
“Kill Xiang Liu?” Xiao Liu shook his head “No, you guys don’t need to do any killing yourself if you want someone killed.”
Xuan smiled and said nothing. Xiao Liu toasted him “Tell me!”
“The real reason, even if I told anyone, no one would believe me.”
“I would believe you.”
“Then…..fine! I’ll tell you! I learned to make wine from my Master. One rare time Master got drunk, he told me a story about his youth. Back then he wasn’t the head of the household yet. He traveled the vast wilderness as an ordinary person. In a small town, he became a blacksmith living the mundane life. One day a young man came to ask him to forge a weapon. They drank as he forged and the most delicious wine promised was also the strongest. So they got drunk together, and he made the one and only true friend in his life. I remembered this story and since I was small, I wanted to try living the life of an ordinary person. Perhaps….I could meet someone who could become a true friend.”
Xuan finished and looked at Xiao Liu “Do you believe me?”
“Why? Don’t you think this reason is absurd?”
“I can tell that you’re telling the truth.”
Xuan sighed “But I am not my Master. I am selling wine, but I am not really living as an ordinary person.”
Xiao Liu laughed and consoled him “Everyone has their own life experiences. You experienced a lot already.”
Xuan derided “Yeah, at least my Master didn’t get a voodoo bug planted in him.”
Xiao Liu held his head and laughed “Then you need to thank me.”
Xuan asked “Why did you save me?”
Xiao Liu held the wine “I’m not drunk yet, no need to try and get information out of me.” Xuan laughed “Then I’ll wait until you’re drunk then ask.” Xiao Liu countered “Impossible.” Xuan asked “Why?”
Xiao Liu drank three cups in a row “Because I’m going to sleep” and then sprawled on the pallet and promptly fell asleep. Xuan shook him “You’ve got a high tolerance!” He closed the door and window, drank a few more cups, and laid down on the pallet and also fell asleep. In the middle of the night, he woke up and saw Xiao Liu had left already. Xuan smiled.
A few days later, the plum blossom wine Xuan made last year was ready to drink. He sold wine during the day, and that night he was so excited he took two jugs to find Xiao Liu.
Xiao Liu paused to see him but invited him in. There was no good cups in the house so Xiao Liu grabbed two bowls, some duck neck and chicken feet snacks he usually ate, and brought it over. The two drank in silence as usual. After they were done, both were slightly tipsy.
Xuan asked “Why are you here in Qing Shui Town.”
“Wandering the world, I wandered my way here. I liked it so decided to stay.”
“You and Nine-lives Xiang Liu are…..very close?” Xiao Liu thought “This question isn’t suitable to be answered when drinking.”
“Then drink a few more bowls then answer.”
Xuan poured Xiao Liu a big bowl and Xiao Liu drank it “I’m scared of him, but I don’t dislike him. I am not enemies with him, but also not friends.”
Xuan replied “He’s too smart, otherwise I really want to sit down and calmly drink with him once.”
Xiao Liu asked “You and Ah Nian…..is it really just sibling feelings between you guys?”
Xuan laughed “Now this question is suited to answer when drinking.”
Xiao Liu poured him a big bowl and Xuan gulped it down. He said nothing so Xiao Liu poured him another bowl. He gulped it down and took out a satchel from his robe. He opened it and pulled out a furry thing that looked like a snowball. He shook it and it expanded into a white fox tail “This is my little sister cousin’s precious treasure. When we were parting, she gave it to me but said it was just temporarily for me to play with. But that temporarily has become three hundred years.”
Xuan lightly stroked the white fox tail “My little sister is the daughter of my Aunt and my Master. I promised my Aunt I would take care of my little sister, but I broke my promise. When my little sister was small, she went missing. They all say she’s dead but I still have a shred of hope. I hope that she is alive and will come back to ask for this fox tail back. Ah Nian is also the daughter of my Master. I am good to her because it’s like being good to my missing sister.”
Xiao Liu appeared totally under the influence and needed to hold onto Xuan. He raised a bowl and used it to wipe away a tear. Xuan curled the fox tail back into a ball and put it into the satchel, and then tucked the satchel snugly next to his body. He poured more wine and drank with Xiao Liu.
After two jugs were finished, the two fell asleep drunk. In the middle of the night, Xiao Liu woke up to find Xuan had left. Xiao Liu couldn’t fall back asleep so laid awake until sunrise.
For the rest of the Winter, Xuan and Xiao Liu would often drink together. In the beginning, the two would shoot the breeze but after some time, Xuan really saw Xiao Liu as a friend and would even ask him how to use poisons. Xiao Liu was very honest and open with Xuan, telling him all about poisons and how to cure it and mix it. He even shared simple ways to avoid poisons. Sometimes Xiao Liu would earnestly warn him “Xiang Liu wants to kill you. Even if he can’t send soldiers to Qing Shui Town, the Sheng Nong resistance army is based near here for the past hundreds of years. You really should leave soon.”
Xuan thought they were real friends but when he wanted to get closer, Xiao Liu would pretend to be clueless.
The two appeared to be only superficial friends. When they were drunk, they could laugh. When they were sober, they were strangers.