Chapter 2: The White Haired Girl
The sound of hurried steps and a man’s labored breathing approached from the distance. Ye Wuchen glanced in the direction of the sound, and discovered a tall man drenched in sweat running toward him with a large bamboo basket on his back. The man seemed to be pretty young, though with a weathered face, and his physique was stout and muscular to a degree that was almost ridiculous.
Upon spotting the old man, the man in the distance abruptly quickened into a sprint and dropped the basket on the floor, exhausted. Only half conscious, he gasped. “Grandpa, I filled the basket with fruit I picked and ran thirty laps with it on my back… so today’s work….”
Suddenly, he paused for a moment, focusing his eyes on Ye Wuchen. Then, he jumped as if he saw a monster. ”You, you, you…… woke up?”
Ye Wuchen laughed at his surprise. ”Grandpa Chu, who is he?”
“This is my grandson. He just recently had his twentieth birthday, and he took care of you while you were unconscious. Considering you’ve been dead for the past ten years, it’s not unusual for someone to be startled to see you awake.”
Ye Wuchen stood up and nodded. “I’m Ye Wuchen, thank you for taking care of me over these past ten years.”
The tall man still seemed a bit bewildered. He looked Ye Wuchen up and down before realizing his reaction was somewhat impolite. Embarrassed, he rubbed his head and said with a simple, honest smile, “I’m Chu Jingtian. Eh, it isn’t the best sounding name so you can just call me Da Niu like the others.”
Chu Jingtian. Jingtian, a title of genius. He was definitely not an ordinary person.
Ye Wuchen smiled. “Alright then, I’ll call you brother Da Niu from now on.” Even though his demeanor seemed a bit indifferent to everything, he still made people feel at ease.
Chu Jingtian laughed nervously, a bit shy. He was not the most talkative person.
“Uhh…. Brother Wuchen, let me hand out this fruit first. Then we can sit down and chat or something.”
Chu Jingtian turned around, inhaled, and then yelled at the top of his lungs. “Everyone come here! Your brother Da Niu is back!”
Ye Wuchen jumped in surprise, startled by the sudden shout. Ears still ringing, Ye Wuchen looked towards Chu Jingtian, and noticed that his eyes had subtly changed — It was impressive that there was a person like Chu Jintian in such a small, sealed-off region of land.
There was no doubt Chu Jingtian’s voice went very far. Almost immediately, the chaotic sound of numerous footsteps approached from the distance. It belonged to the wave of children running towards them, carrying a wide variety of containers. There were baskets, boxes, stone bowls, anything that could carry something. The children lined up in front of Chu Jingtian with eager eyes and shouted together “Hello, brother Da Niu.”
Chu Jingtian just stood there, an embarrassed grin on his face. “Sorry for being late. I fell into a ditch and it took a really long time to get back out. Now come here. There’s some for everyone, and it’s no less than usual.
The old man watched the scene in front of him with. This was one of Da Niu’s daily requirements. It practiced his agility and endurance, and cultivated a sense of responsibility. The next generation did not have to be the kindest, but it could not be allowed to be evil.
Grabbing two with each hand, Chu Jingtian continued to fill each child’s basket with fruit. He was obviously satisfied to see the kids leave with excited faces. Ye Wuchen watched quietly from the side. He was pondering his own life when he suddenly became aware of an acute tingling sensation that felt like he was being watched. It came from a nearby tree, and when he turned his head to face it, his gaze met a pair of bright, glittering, and almost translucent eyes that belonged to the white shadow hiding there, which suddenly shifted a little, perhaps surprised at being discovered. The shadow seemed scared, and immediately ran. But instead of running away, it hid behind the tree as if waiting for something.
Eventually, the last kid cheerfully shouted “Bye brother Da Niu!” and disappeared. Chu Jingtian rubbed his hands together, almost as if he was sad not to have anyone left to give fruit to. He had taken this task as a sort of daily pleasure a long time ago. Brought here as a five year old by his grandfather, Chu Jingtian had not experienced the harshness of the outside world. As a result, he was very innocent and kind; almost annoyingly so.
Only then did the small white shadow emerge quietly from behind the tree and stand before Chu Jingtian with her head facing the ground. She called out shyly. “Brother Da Niu.”
The girl had attracted Ye Wuchen’s attention from the moment she emerged, his eyes sticking to her like glue. She seemed to be only ten or so, and Ye Wuchen could only describe her as small and exquisite. She wore a long, flowing white dress that was wrinkled but almost impeccably clean. What caught Ye Wuchen’s attention the most though was her long, snow-white hair and the two intersecting scars on her face.
Two scars ran from the corners of her forehead down to her earlobes across her face like a huge letter X, destroying her beauty.
Chu Jingtian hurriedly reached into his basket for more fruit, but his expression stiffened when he pulled out a large fruit that seemed to be an apple. Embarrassed, he rubbed his head and apologized. “Sorry white-haired sister, it seems that I miscounted today. This is the only one left. But, it’s the biggest.”
The girl accepted it carefully and smiled. “That’s ok. Thank you brother Da Niu.”
She nervously glanced over at Ye Wuchen because had been watching her before running out of sight.
After watching her exquisite shadow disappear into the darkness, Ye Wuchen was left thoughtless for a moment.
“Who was she?” He asked.
The old man looked at him and said, ”She showed up a week ago. I guess she just broke in by chance and couldn’t get back out. But…. ah. you saw for yourself, her face is too scary, and her hair is just like that of the cruelest race of back then, the Snow Wolves. So, everyone here rejects her, and drives her away whenever they see her. But, she doesn’t seem to be evil at all. She seems young, she can’t survive on her own. It could be that the fruit she gets here every night is her only form of nourishment.”
Ye Wuchen remained silent and walked in the direction the girl disappeared in. Chu Jingtian called out to him, confused. “Brother Wuchen, where are you going? I still want to hear your stories.”
Pretending not to have heard him, Ye Wuchen disappeared from sight. Chu Jingtian scratched his head and muttered “Did he go pee?”
The white haired girl was squatting next to a creek, quietly washing the fruit she got earlier with clean water. The sound of water babbling over the rocks in the creek filled the air. Amidst the cool breeze, the silhouette of her small frame looked lonely and pitiful.
When she finished, the girl stood up and dried the fruit with her clothes. Suddenly, she sensed something and turned around subconsciously. At a loss of what to do, she just watched as Ye Wuchen approached her. She knew he was the one watching her earlier.
Ye Wuchen slowly walked up to her and gazed gently into her eyes. It was her starry eyes that conquered him completely. Loneliness. Panic. Confusion. Helplessness. All were hidden in her starry eyes.