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78 Couplets in Red

    Xue'er left the cave, the palm that held her umbrella was wrapped in a white cloth, with its ends dangling out from her sleeve.

    This day, she decided not to walk to the cottage, the downpour had completely flooded the earth, completely destroying the beautiful scenery instead, by borrowing the use of the wind in nature, she was able to arrive in the blink of an eye.

    With a deep breath, she took a few steps, preparing herself in case she was forced back again. If t did happen again, she hoped that her fall would not be broken by a tree.

    Somehow she made it across. Taking a deep breath of the unique air, she opened her eyes to look around.

    Strange, how this cottage was the same as when she had left, everything was intact, and not even a drop of rain had reached the grass outside. It gave a feeling the same as being in the eye of a storm. From here, she could see that the sky was a peaceful blue, with perfectly fluffy clouds floating overhead.

    It was quite still and silent. How could she not have noticed?

    The still air that lingered around did not seem to be the same as the place that was outside, so violent and turbulent, that not even a leaf could find peace.

    It was as though she had entered a completely different world.

    The green trees and grass, every flower, every weed was in the condition it was when she had left, it was as though this place was an entity itself, completely cut off from the rest of the mortal world.

    Filled with excitement, she ran into the cottage, leaving the doors wide open in the process. The sun shone brightly in as its warm rays filled the interior of the cottage.

    This warmth was not something that could be experienced in this season of winter, and definitely not in the current weather that had been plaguing the area of the border town. The wind here was docile and calm, while the winds outside were wild and willful, hard to tame.

    Yet, Xue'er did not worry about it too much, as she picked up a book and began to read. Quickly getting trapped in this atmosphere, like a little creature thirsting for more knowledge to consume.

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    ~

    Meanwhile, in the hunter's shed, Gan Tian Chi was also getting ready for a lunar festival of his own. The cottage was decked out in silk balls of red near the entrance. Where there was also a strand of fireworks that hung at the entrance. There was even the character of Fortune that had been purposely hung upside down. A testimony to the traditions of the common people.

    Within the shed, Gan Tian Chi's fingers were holding a weasel's tail brush, dipped in ink. His figure was hunched over a table of paper that had been dyed red, giving it a festive air.

    While the ink on the brush in his hand had almost dried, he still couldn't decide what to write.

    "Well, 'Happy Spring Festival' is a must, but what about the others?" He spoke to himself, as he tried to experimentally write on air, to see what would be the best couplet.

    "Red plum's bud stands the snowy winter, Green willow's catkin indicates the new spring." Gan Tian Chi said experimentally as he carefully wrote his thoughts down on the red paper with strong brush strokes. The black ink contrasted against the red paper making it pop out. His handwriting was no different than the river, easily flowing on the paper as it would against the currents.

    "No, no, where would there be a red plum bud standing in the snowy winter, it's raining so much, and there's no snow beside the chilling cold." He shook his head and threw his newly written couplets to the back to start over again.

    "Spring rain nourishes the plants, Red plum decorates the mountains, Spring is in the Air" Gan Tian Chi dipped his brush into the ink and wrote those words on red paper again.

    "No, this rain is not nourishing, it is suffocating and drowning!" he said as he threw the paper to the back again.

    He tried again.

    "Hard work makes a harvest year, Thrift gains handsome savings, A Strong Heart of Prosperous People." After writing it down, he was satisfied and put his brush down.

    In the end, he was satisfied, and hung the couplets in front of him, only to be enjoyed by himself. He wrote of what the people believed in and yearned for, yet he knew that what he wrote upon the red paper was something that the people wished for, but could never go into fruition.

    Sitting before the couplets Gan Tian Chi admired his words, but there was a hint of melancholy in his gaze as he looked at the beautiful red paper, so thin, it could easily be blown away.

    He thought of the new year that would arrive soon. Each year held no meaning to him as he had lived through so many, there would always be those obnoxious sounds of firecrackers, so loud and thunderous. It was such a nuisance to hear.

    This year was different though. He pondered on whether or not he should return and enjoy the new year with that child. Perhaps this was her first time experiencing the new year, and it should be a memorable as well, yet all that little girl could think of were the books in his cottage.

    He had to give it to her, at the very least she was trying.

    The sound of a heavy thud came from outside.

    Stepping out into the yard, to see a small wooden box that had been carefully carved with delicate flowers emitting a sandalwood scent seemingly to cover up something else, placed directly on the front doorstep of the hunter's shed. Gan Tian Chi picked up the box and his fingers slowly moved around, touching the deep edges and crevices that gave the box its distinct pattern of an old and ancient tree.

    With a smile, he said, "It was hard on you my friend."

    There was no answer.
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