In an ordinary village, a young man squatted in the corner of a run-down thatched hut, head in his hands.
"That sorcerer dared show his face again? Hurry up and hit him!"
A group of teenagers stood a few meters away. They picked up stones from the ground and hurled them at the youth one after the other.
The youth huddled in the corner didn't resist in the slightest. He simply allowed the stones to land on his body.
"Stone him to death, stone him to death....."
They threw the stones harder and harder. Suddenly, an honest-looking middle-aged man appeared before them.
"Whose kids are you? Just you wait; I'm going to go tell your parents what you've been up to.”
"Run!" yelled one of the children. The group scattered in four directions, still tossing stones as they ran off.
"Lil' Hai, you're not hurt, are you?" After scaring off the other kids, the man crouched down to help the youth up.
"Leave me alone." To his surprise, the youth flat-out rejected his good intentions. He pushed the man back, knocking him over. The strange thing was, the voice coming out of the youth's mouth clearly belonged to a young woman.
After pushing the other man away, a hint of apology flashed across his face. Before long, though, it was replaced with a cold glare. He glowered at the man, then walked away, leaving the thatched hut behind.
The smoke of chimney fires dissipated as each household extinguished their lamps and prepared to rest.
On the edges of town, the handsome youth sat beside a pond. He gazed at the bright moon reflected on the water’s surface with a profound look in his eyes that seemed thoroughly out of place on someone so young.
He thoroughly enjoyed this sort of tranquility. Here.... it seemed only night time truly belonged to him.
His face was still somewhat swollen and there were even bits of grass and twigs mixed in with his hair. This was the result of his earlier beating. He was unwilling to fix it since, even if he cleaned himself up, before long they’d beat him up again.
In other people's eyes, he was a sorcerer, and existence all the other villagers disdained and avoided.
Suddenly, the youth spoke. "Who?"
As a result of his frequent beatings, he was on constant high alert. Whenever the wind blew or the grass shifted, he reacted like a startled deer. Despite his handsome good looks, his young woman's voice was startling and off-putting.
"It's me," said the same middle-aged man as before, the one who’d scared off the other children. He walked out of the nearby meadow and approached the youth.
This time, he carried a boxed meal. It seemed he'd come to give the youth his dinner.
Seeing that it was him, resentment flashed through the handsome youth’s eyes. He looked away and back at the moon’s reflection.
"Lil' Hai, you haven't eaten all day - you must be famished. Come on, eat up while it's still hot. I brought a chicken leg, your favorite!!"
Seeing the youth ignore him, the man felt someone disconsolate, but he smiled nonetheless. He approached the youth, then lifted the box’s lid.
The food inside was still steaming hot. It was simple - just some white rice and a chicken leg, but even this sort of simple fare was a rare treat
"I won't eat,” said the youth. He didn’t even turn around.
“You’re still growing! You have to eat,” said the man with that same faint smile. He held the box in front of the young man. “Eat up while it’s hot! Look at that chicken leg - I had Ol’ Zheng choose an extra big one just for you.”
"I said, I'm not eating!"
He reached out and knocked the box over, spilling all the chicken and rice into the pond.
Still holding the now empty box, the middle-aged man’s hands trembled.
However, the youth didn’t care in the slightest. He simply snorted, "I said I wouldn’t eat. You can’t blame me for this."
He stood and was just about to leave but before he’d taken more than a few steps, the man spoke.
"Stop." His tone was low and reserved.
The youth paused briefly, then kept walking away.
"I told you to stop!" said the man, finally losing his temper.
"Tch......" the youth snorted contemptuously, kicked a nearby stone, then kept walking away.
"Hua Hai, I told you to stop,” said the middle-aged man. He frowned deeply and shook with rage. “Does your old man mean nothing to you anymore?”
the man's brows were tightly knit. He was shaking with anger
This time, the youth stopped. Breathing ragged, the man rushed over
Just as he was about to scold the youth, he noticed that his son’s eyes glistened with tears.
They were like crystals reflecting the moonlight.
The man’s rage instantly softened. Lips quivering, he reached out and tried to pat the youth’s head, but the young man stubbornly dodged.
After a long pause, the man sighed. "Do you hate me?"
The youth was silent.
Seeing the youth’s stubborn expression and glistening, unshed tears, the man sighed once more. “That’s right, you ought to hate me. But I did it all for your big sister!”
The young man had been silent this whole time but now he spoke. "My big sister?"
Tears in his eyes, he looked at the middle-aged man, he looked at his father……
“You turned me into this inhuman thing, neither ghost nor human, for my sister’s sake? I can’t blame the villagers for cursing me. Sometimes, even I can’t help but wonder if I’m really a man or a woman.”
"Of course you're a boy!"
"Then why do I sound like my sister when I talk?"
The man paused, then left the rest of his sentence unsaid.
The youth watched for a while. Then, suddenly, he laughed. “Even if you don’t tell me, I already know. In truth, I’ve been nourishing my sister’s soul within my body all this time, haven’t I? It’s just, she’s been in there for so long, our souls have started to fuse. Isn’t that right?”
“You…. how did you know?” asked the man, astonishment clearly written on his face. Before long, he realized he’d slipped up. “No, it’s not like that.”
“Isn’t it?” A smile tugged at the youth’s lips. “There’s no need to hide it any longer. That isn’t all I know. I even know that you aren’t a blacksmith at all: you’re an immortal cultivator, the very thing the villagers have been yearning for all this time. You’re the one who pushed Big Sister’s soul into my body, aren’t you?”
“You thought I didn’t know anything, but I know full well. I just didn’t want to say it,” said the youth, his smile deeply pained. “I’m nothing but a vessel for nourishing my sister’s soul, aren’t I? It’s fine, I don’t mind.”
"It's not like you think....."
“You don’t need to explain,” said the youth, stubbornly refusing to shed tears.
Then he snorted, “you’ve actually got quite a nasty sense of humor. What’s a lofty immortal such as yourself doing, pretending to be a blacksmith? Could it be you thought life amongst the fields would be better somehow? I certainly don’t think so: the past few years have been pretty awful.”
“Now then,” he continued, “since we’ve already shown our hands, don’t you think you ought to make it up to me?”
“How can I make it up to you?”
"I want to cultivate!"