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65 Ending up on a Doorstep

    Xue'er awoke from a terrible bone piercing pain in her neck. She reached for her neck out of instinct, like a little wild animal trying to protect herself from predators.

    Her amber gray eyes were wide open with alertness as she scanned her surroundings as though fearing that a person would somehow catch her here.

    It took a while before she realized that she was far from any place where humans would inhabit, and was precisely in the middle of nowhere in a desolated forest.

    She drowsily looked up into the muddy gray clouds that hung gloomily in the vast skies, stretching on for miles upon miles. All as though they were mushes of soaked and dirtied cotton balls that had clung too close to each other and had somehow gotten stuck together all jumbled up.

    Xue'er drowsily made her way to a giant tree, that had cast shade overhead. It was like a naturally occurring shelter that shielded people from the terrible elements. The tree was old and seemed to have somehow grown to its current size, with its roots latching deeply into the very thin soil of the north. It seemed to be a miracle that a tree of this size could even grow.

    Her limbs felt heavy, as though every step was made with strenuous effort. She felt her heart beating and a very slow rate, as though struggling to keep pumping in her body.

    When Xue'er laid her back upon the tree's old trunk, she was shocked, there was a crunching noise as she leaned back, startling her so much that she sat right back up, and looked to the tree.

    On the surface, there seemed to be nothing wrong, yet with a simple touch, the tree seemed hollowed out and dead on the inside. It was just like that snake that had been hollowed out into nothing but an outer layer of scaly skin.

    She looked toward the place where her blood had been congealed into a puddle that had soaked its way into the ground. The dark red stain was still in the dirt, it looked as though a large bucket of ink had been randomly poured there.

    The deep roots of this tree had been spread around this wide space of a few hundred meters, trying to take in as much water as possible from this barren ground.

    Xue'er took a piece of the tree, and put it in with her little red worm, to see what could become of it later. Before sitting in a cross-legged position to meditate for a while to see if she could shake off nausea and dizziness that had been plaguing her ever since she woke up.

    She reached for her neck, to feel the severity of the wound, yet when she reached it, to her surprise, there was no wound.

    There was no blood after she touched her neck, and took a look at her pale fingers, not a single drop.

    Even the skin was smooth, as though the pair of strong fangs had not torn into her neck and ripped a major artery causing the massive bleed. She had been certain of that, because the blood stains were still on the ground, a few meters away. The dark crimson liquid had yet to soak completely into the frozen ground, it was still in a congealed state of jelly.

    She shook her head a little in an attempt to clear up her clouded mind, yet it did not help much, as she still felt a heavyweight weighing down her mind.

    [Never mind, I'll wait until I feel a little better.] Xue'er told herself, as she decided the best thing to do was to first regain some energy and make her way back to the border town.

    She laid on the ground, to prevent any further damage to the tree, staring lifelessly at the sullen sky, the clouds were building up bit by bit, till it was almost the size of giant mountains that seemed to be ready to let down torrents of rain that would be enough to drown all the fish in the world.

    Hunter's shed.

    Gan Tian Chi emerged from the hunter's shed, as though he permanently resided there. He did a few morning routines, drawing in the north's thin sand dirt with a long stick that he plucked from the tree.

    He also went all the way down to the river that was situated near the village to fetch a bucket of water and brought it back up to the hunter's shed, before he checked upon his creation.

    The straw man that he had made was still standing there perfectly still. The straw was still fresh, after a few nights under the moonlight, and the frigid temperatures were having at it, it felt as though the two stones that served as the eyes to the window of the world and to one's soul showed a more piercing and murderous gleam beneath the light.

    Gan Tian Chi had been caught in a daze, as he lifted his sleeve up to carefully clear those ice frosted pupils. Revealing its true beauty, which twinkled brighter than a star in the daylight.

    After witnessing such a breathtaking view, Gan Tian Chi remained his indifferent self as he looked towards the sky. With this, he began calculating meticulously on his fingers, his thumb landed where each bendable joint joined each other, he continued until his thumb landed at the joint of the middle of his index finger.

    He looked back to the sky again, this time with a strange sense of desolation.

    [Rain will shower for an entire month...]

    ~

    By the time Xue'er gained a bit of strength, it had already become midday, with the sun having been hung in the middle of the sky. Though one could not tell, the clouds had seemingly become a curtain that shielded the mortal realm from the rays of the sun.

    She took a few steps and slowly made her way to the border town one step at a time. The guards were so relaxed, they allowed her to pass right through without so much as asking her why a young child like her would be all alone.

    Making it into the border town, her heart strangely felt more at ease, as though merely observing the warm families holding hands with their children would warm her up.

    [They would never hurt their own children.] Xue'er told herself, as she was reminded of what Gan Tian Chi had told her if a natural disaster hit.

    [Never.]

    While silently thinking to herself, she was convincing herself that no matter what happened, they would never abandon their children to the wolves.

    It was as though the mere act of thinking had stripped her of all energy, and she silently sat down in front of a doorstep situated in front of the alleyway...
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