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84 Flames in the Nigh

    [Perhaps, but there would still need to be many things to happen before she could reach such a conclusion.]

    She pushed the thoughts to the back of her head, a joyous smile appearing on her face before she skipped down the streets happily. The chain of silver bells ringing quietly in her wake, though there was no one that could hear it as all sounds were being drowned out by the thunderous firecrackers, beating of drums and clashing of cymbals.

    All one could see was a young child dressed in red happily skipping down the streets.

    In this town that was painted in Vermillion, Xue'er who was dressed in red did not seem too much out of place.

    ~

    "Come, let's eat." The woman said as she brought out the lavish meal she had been preparing for the entire day.

    All the hard work she had been doing added up to this particular moment.

    The children ran up to the table where they usually dined, seemingly already knowing the protocol, from the past few years. Though it was a small table, they could all fit perfectly well.

    Once the woman laid out a dish, a small hand was prepared to reach out for the food, but his mother quickly gave it a slap, causing it to shrink away in pain.

    "Hehe..." A sound of a snicker quietly sounded.

    The boy quietly looked toward his sister who seemed to be stifling her laughter. He looked at her with curious eyes: "Hump, I would not believe that you do not want to do the same thing as I do!"

    "I also want to, but there is a time to do it. We will get to eat sooner or later, why not just wait." The girl retorted.

    Seemingly defeated by his sister's response, he seemed down, slowly putting his hands to his side, deciding not to touch anything.

    Seeing the children act so obedient, the man who was also sitting by them gave a smile.

    "Father, you're also bullying me." The boy said in surprise.

    What the boy said made the entire family laugh happily. This was a time to be joyful after all.

    "Okay, here." The woman said as she placed the last dish on the table.

    "Oh right, there's also the rice." She remembered as she went back into the kitchen to get it.

    The family waited patiently, seizing up the food. A deep breath and they could smell the delicious fragrance. There was a dish of red carp, steamed with soy sauce and spices, there was chicken, with its head tucked under its body, the color of gold and glazed in brown sugar, and there was a dish of seaweed, covered in a spicy sauce.

    There were empty mouths silently swallowing mouths of saliva, hoping that the woman would hurry back so they could begin eating.

    Like all occasions of waiting, it was a particularly long wait.

    But soon, their wishes were answered, as the smell of delicious rice permeated the air. The woman had brought a small wooden bucket of rice and placed it in the center of the table.

    "Ready to eat." She said as she brought out a large wooden spoon to spoon the rice into each bowl.

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    The boy clapped his hands and yelled "Yeah!" in his adorable voice.

    They all put their chopsticks forward, grabbing some food to stuff in their mouths. "Why do I feel that mother's cooking has gotten a lot better?" The boy suddenly asked as he chewed on the rice.

    "It's always good." The girl replied.

    "I know, but why do I feel that it tastes especially different?" The boy was quite stubborn when it came to proving a point, but still, he was unable to put down the chopsticks and continued to eat.

    The whole family cleared the many plates within no time.

    "Why do I feel so sleepy?" The child asked as he felt his eyelids slowly grow heavier over eyes.

    He felt as though he wanted to fall asleep. His entire body falling limp with exhaustion, he believed that he was falling asleep due to the food, it was simply too delicious. Afterward, the entire family started to feel the effects of drowsiness.

    It was only the father who tried to fight it his own body was as powerless as the rest, but as he looked at the sleeping children and his wife, a bitter smile arose on his face.

    [Sorry I dragged you into this.]

    Knowing that the job had been done, the dark shadow quickly retreated into the night, though it was imbued with stealth and secrecy, covered by the blanket of night, Xue'er was still able to sense something off and rushed to the home.

    By the time she got there, the small house was consumed with flames, its red couplets had flown away into the night, while the red vermillion paint that had been freshly put on the wood was being heated, allowing the smoke and embers to release into the air.

    The vermillion paint very much resembled blood that had been shed but very much lacking its presence in this scene.

    A crowd had begun to form around the house, and soon everything was a blazing inferno, the fire was not only being watched by her alone anymore.

    The smoke was getting so thick that Xue'er swore she tasted the mercury in her throat as the smoke began to thicken into a cloud of dark smog.

    "Come, save the people inside!" A loud voice rang out, pulling people out of their stupor, the sounds of coughing rang loudly, there were also footsteps that scrambled, attempting to find the nearest water source to put out the raging fire.

    Xue'er's watched the flames slowly consume the building. There was something strange to this particular fire. The constant rain had made it really hard to start one nowadays as the weather was still very moist, added on to the sound she heard that made her come, she was certain this was anything but an accident.

    She flagged down the closest person who was attempting to drag a large bucket of water to douse the flames "Uncle, do you know who lives here?" she asked the middle-aged man.

    "Mister Sun Cheng lives here." The man said in a hurry hauling the bucket water from the well, in a desperate attempt to quench the raging fire.

    "Oh." Xue'er muttered to herself as she watched the man's back walking bravely towards the blaring glaze.

    This was not surprising at all.
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