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103 After a New Year Comes Snow

    The days passed by aimlessly for Xue'er as she lived her life in the woods, no longer caring for the dealings and happenings within the border town.

    She spent the sunless days deep within the well planting a herb field without the need for sunlight. For that matter, the plants had been thriving well. The growth was much better than expected, especially in an environment of destitute coldness.

    There was no telling of whether the sun was up or down, nor any passage of time for that matter. At this point, the weather should have evened itself out much more, and with the winter solstice a month ago, the days of light should have been slowly inching longer and longer, yet for some reason, it felt like the days were getting colder and shorter.

    With her fingers covered in rich dark soil after spending time planting in the well, Xue'er made her way to the well water, scooping it up in small jars and using them to water the plants. Little shadow had been digging holes in random places, attempting to burry the poor bird who tried its hardest to resist but still get covered with dirt that completely obscured the colors of its feathers.

    Watching the mischievous creatures and the garden grow over time had made her feel a strange sense of joy somewhere deep inside.

    Perhaps there was no more a purpose to her existence, other than the observance of slow growth that took place around her through the passage of time.

    But if that was all there is to it, then she could probably accept it.

    Once little shadow had completely buried the bird in the dirt, it ran to bury itself in Xue'er's thin and faded skirt. It was not an evil creature as one may assume. Rather, it was very soft and furry, with the occasional liking of devouring fresh and bloodied meat. It could be considered an intelligent creature, daring to hunt other creatures that were much larger than itself, but only if it was certain it could escape afterward.

    Xue'er remained silent, but she gently patted little shadow like she would pet a cat. In many ways, it did have many characteristics of cats, especially the purring sound that would vibrate in one's ears when used as a pillow.

    "What, you don't like your new friend?" Xue'er asked as she smiled at the dirt mound where the bird had been buried.

    Little shadow did not make a single sound as though dismissing the fact that beneath the mound of dirt was another living and breathing creature that was similar to itself in many ways.

    "It is always good to have friends." She said again. Though, this time over, it was uncertain whether she was talking to herself or little shadow who had dismissed all existences of other creatures save for herself.

    The breathing of other creatures could be heard outside, judging by their heartbeats, they were not that far away, keeping an eye on the vicinity of the area. Of course, the only thing that was keeping them from venturing closer was the little shadow who was resting on her.

    Whether she was touch or horrified at its actions was another matter. Yet one thing was certain is that little shadow had already begun to care deeply about how it would be perceived within her eyes. It snuggled itself closer to her, with its gentle purring sounds, as though somehow hoping to squeeze itself close enough to her that they could never be separated.

    After petting little shadow for some time, Xue'er disappeared into the old well for some time. Her face was as calm as the old trees that stood for decades withstanding wind and rain, as she did her work of digging, planting, watering. Repeating the process many times, until time slipped from beneath itself.

    Outside, the trees shook in silence, wishing for an end to the cold misery. The sliver of the moon casting a glow among the dark clouds, light dust began to drift from the sky and settle upon the ground. The dust settled upon the frozen ground.

    Some of the white speckles made its way into the open mouth of the well, falling into the water and melting upon contact.

    Xue'er observed the light dust falling through. It was not the first she had seen such a scene as the capital had plenty of snow as well. But here in isolation, there was just something about the snow that made it much more beautiful.

    Xue'er looked up into the night sky from the bottom of the well, in which dark clouds obscured the once shining stars and luminous moon, "It will be snowing for some time." She came to the conclusion and her focus returned to her plants.

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    Whether the snowfall was in ample amounts or none at all, it would not matter to her. The dangers of starvation and freezing did not concern her as well.

    ~

    In the hunter's abode, all the decorations of crimson were still hung in their places, as its owner had been too lazy to take them down.

    The ground was covered in a thin layer of snow, the trees encased in a thin layer of ice that was slowly budding up in thickness. The red flowers that had somehow bloomed in the cold of winter were encased in frost as an eternal reminder of the fragility of flowers as the reach of a fully bloomed blossom would come, the inevitable withering that was soon to follow after.

    In the white snowy sky, a minuscule spot flew around, encircling the mountains before deciding to perch upon an ice-encased branch. The branch held upon the addition of extra weight, but before there was a long rest to be had, the blackbird flew away as quickly as it had perched.

    There was not much of a reason for its quick departure, aside from the straw bundled human figure that stood erect outside the abode like a nameless guardian, guarding the doors of all unwanted pests.

    The cloak that had been worn since the beginning of creation had not the slightest bit of snow resting on it. Fabric from the cloak blew in the harsh winds, creating sounds that imitated that fabric ripping.

    But proudly, there stood a figure that was completely in black standing outside the doors of a simple shed that would be deemed too crude to be lived in.

    The shed itself seemed to be devoid of all life, not the slightest sound could be discerned from within. As though there was nothing in the emptiness.
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