Chapter 39: Ah Fei
The moon is still in the sky.
The waterfall under the moonlight look like sparkling strips of silver.
Li XunHuan followed the water, walking slowly. He doesn’t want to reach Ah Fei’s home before morning, as to not disturb his sleep.
He never liked to disturb people.
But no matter who disturbed him, no matter the time, he wouldn’t care.
That old lady could not have been Lin XianEr in disguise.
So where is Lin XianEr?
Li XunHuan rubbed his eyes, “Was I delusional?”
The sun finally rose, the autumn almost gone, the plum flowers beginning to blossom.
Li XunHuan smelled a faint fragrance, looked up, and saw a plum forest.
Deep inside the forest is a wooden house.
Li XunHuan stared at the forest like an idiot.
By the plum forest is the source of the spring water for the river.
The water flowed down from the mountain, by the forest. The scenery looked like it should be a painting.
In the painting is a person.
Li XunHuan couldn’t see this person’s face, only that he dressed very neatly, wearing a new, green robe, and combed his hair nicely.
He carried a water bucket across the forest, into the wooden house.
This person’s build is similar to Ah Fei’s, but Li XunHuan was certain that he’s not Ah Fei.
So who is he?
Li XunHuan can’t think of anyone like this who would live with Ah Fei.
He rushed over to the house.
The door is open, and there’s nothing luxurious inside, but everything is sparkly clean.
There’s an old-fashioned square table made for eight people. That youngster with the new robe took out a towel from the bucket, and began to scrub the table.
He scrubbed even more slowly, more carefully, than Hunchback Sun, as if there can’t be a tiny speck of dirt left.
Li XunHuan walked up from behind, and found this person’s back look like Ah Fei’s.
But he can’t possibly be Ah Fei.
Li XunHuan can’t even picture Ah Fei cleaning tables, but he wanted to ask this person for Ah Fei’s location.
Li XunHuan coughed lightly, hoping this person would turn around and notice to him.
This person does not have fast reflexes, but he did eventually turn around.
Li XunHuan stood there in shock.
The person who cannot possibly be Ah Fei… is Ah Fei.
Ah Fei’s face did not change. His eyes are still big, his nose still straight. He still looks handsome, even more handsome than he used to be.
But his expression changed, changed a great deal.
He had lost his past magnetism, the pride, and the loneliness. He now looked very gentle, almost like a stiff.
He might look much better now, cleaner now, but he had lost his charisma.
Is this really Ah Fei?
Li XunHuan can’t accept it, can’t accept this neatly dressed youngster with a towel is the Ah Fei he used to know!
Ah Fei also saw Li XunHuan.
He didn’t seem to expect Li XunHuan, and his face straightened. Gradually, he began to smile… thankfully, his smile has not changed.
Li XunHuan also smiled.
Although he smiled on the surface, his heart sank.
They simply stared at each other, both smiling. Neither person moved, nor spoke, but their eyes became moist, became red… After a while, Ah Fei finally said, “It’s you.”
Li XunHuan said, “It’s me.”
Ah Fei said, “You finally came.”
Li XunHuan said, “I finally came.”
Ah Fei said, “I knew you’d come.”
They spoke slowly, in coarse voices. When they talked to here, both closed their mouths again.
But just at this moment, Ah Fei rushed out from the house, and Li XunHuan rushed in. The two people met at the door, almost colliding with each other, and shook hands.
They almost stopped breathing. After a while, Li XunHuan finally said, “How have you been these past two years?”
Ah Fei slowly nodded his head, and said, “I… I’ve been great. How about you?”
Li XunHuan said, “Me? Still the same.”
He picked up that bottle of wine, and said with a smile, “Look, I’m still drinking. Even my coughing problem seemed to have been washed away by my drinking. You…”
Before he could continue, Li XunHuan began to cough again.
Ah Fei looked at him quietly, a tiny bit of tears came out of his eyes.
Suddenly they heard someone say, “Hey, why haven’t you offered a seat to brother Li yet? It’s rude to keep the guest at the door, you know.”
Lin XianEr finally appeared.
She hasn’t changed at all.
She’s still that young, that beautiful. Her smile is still that alluring, that adorable. Her eyes still shine as brightly as the stars in the sky.
She just stood there, looking warmly at Li XunHuan, and spoke in a gentle manner, “It’s been two years. How come you haven’t come earlier? Have you forgotten about us already?”
Anyone who heard this sentence would’ve thought that Li XunHuan had long known about this place, that he simply haven’t had the time to visit them yet.
Li XunHuan smiled, and said, “How can I come when you haven’t a carriage to take me here?”
Lin XianEr blinked her eyes, and said, “Now that you’ve brought up carriages, I really would like to ride one someday, just to see how it feels.”
Li XunHuan’s eyes brightened, and asked, “You’ve never ridden in a carriage before?”
Lin XianEr lowered her head, and whispered, “How could a person like myself afford that type of luxury?”
Li XunHuan said, “But I saw someone riding in a carriage last night. She looked just like you.”
His eyes stared intently at Lin XianEr.
But Lin XianEr did not show any signs of panic. She simply smiled, “Then that means I must’ve been sleepwalking… right?”
That question was directed at Ah Fei.
Ah Fei immediately said, “She always goes to sleep very early at night. She never leaves the house after dark.”
Li XunHuan found his heart tying another knot.
He knows that Ah Fei would never lie to him, but if Lin XianEr was at home, then who was that woman in the carriage?
Lin XianEr went over to Ah Fei’s side, and straightened his robe. With infinite warmness she said softly, “Did you sleep well last night?”
Ah Fei nodded.
Lin XianEr said, “Why don’t you take brother Li for a walk, while I make some dishes.”
She looked at Li XunHuan and said, “The plum flowers are blooming. I know plum is brother Li’s favorite type of flower, right?”
Ah Fei’s walk has changed too.
Before, he always stood straight, and his muscles were relaxed.
Other people found walking to be a chore, but for him, it was rest.
Now his body is no longer that straight, his thoughts seemingly on something else, making him nervous.
So his muscles were obviously not relaxed.
After walking for a long time, Li XunHuan still remained silent.
He really doesn’t know what to say.
He wanted to ask Ah Fei, “Why did you come here? Has Lin XianEr changed her from ways? What happened to her treasures?”
But he did not ask any of those questions.
He wanted to avoid bringing up Ah Fei’s past.
After a long time, Ah Fei finally spoke, “I’m really sorry.”
Li XunHuan sighed and said, “You pretended to the Plum Flower Bandit just to save me. You were willing to sacrifice your life for me. Why is there a need to apologize?”
Ah Fei didn’t seem to hear these words. He continued, “I should’ve at least said goodbye when I left.”
Li XunHuan said, “I know you had your reasons. I don’t blame you.”
Ah Fei said, “I know I made a mistake, but I just couldn’t kill her. I… I can’t leave her.”
Li XunHuan said with a smile, “Love is human nature. There’s nothing wrong with it. Why do you blame yourself for falling in love?”
Ah Fei said, “But… but…”
He suddenly became very emotional, yelling, “But I felt that I’ve wronged you, as well as all other victims of the Plum Flower Bandit.”
Li XunHuan paused for a second, and then asked inquisitively, “But she has reformed, right?”
Ah Fei said, “Before we left, she gave back all the stolen goods to their rightful owners.”
Li XunHuan said, “Then what’s wrong? Everyone deserves a second chance.”
He doesn’t want to keep talking about this so he changed the subject, “Look, the plum flowers have blossomed.”
Ah Fei said, “Yes.”
Li XunHuan said, “Do you know how many are on that tree?”
Ah Fei said, “Seventeen.”
Li XunHuan’s heart sank, as did his face.
Because he had also counted plum flowers before.
Only a very lonely person would count plum flowers.
Ah Fei raised his head and said, “Look, another one’s blossoming, but why do they bloom so early? The earlier they bloom, the earlier they wither.”
The wooden house has five rooms, a living room, a storage room, a kitchen, and two rooms with beds.
The bigger bedroom is delicately furnished, including a large makeup counter.
Ah Fei said, “Lin XianEr sleeps here.”
The smaller one is also very clean, but very simple.
Ah Fei said, “This is my room.”
Li XunHuan disheartened.
Now he realized that Ah Fei and Lin XianEr had been sleeping in separate rooms for the pas two years. And Ah Fei’s still a young man.
He was quite shocked, but also found himself admiring Ah Fei.
Ah Fei smiled, and said, “You must find it strange that I’ve been sleeping a lot the past two years.”
Li XunHuan said, “Really?”
Ah Fei said, “I always go to sleep before dark, and then sleep soundly until the next morning. I never wake up at night.”
Li XunHuan said with a smile, “When your life becomes orderly, it’s quite natural to sleep well.”
End of Chapter 39