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Su Pu was stunned and fell backwards. The wolf’s movements were as quick as lightning. Putting some force on its forelegs, its sharp white teeth was already touching Su Pu’s cheeks. Li Wenxiu was terrified, but she mustered up her courage. With much strength, she tugged the grey wolf’s tail backwards. The grey wolf moved back a step, but it was extremely hungry and planted its feet firmly on the ground. Li Wenxiu thus was unable to pull it away. It attempted to bite Su Pu again.
Su Pu yelled loudly as the wolf bit his left shoulder. Li Wenxiu was on the verge of tears, but she managed to summon all her strength and pulled the wolf backwards. The wolf gave a howl of pain, and released its grip on Su Pu’s shoulder. Dazed, Su Pu thrust his knife forwards, and by chance stabbed the wolf’s soft belly. The entire knife sank into the wolf, and its hilt could not even be seen. He was about to pull out the knife and stab the wolf again when it bounded up violently, rolled in the snow several times, and died facing upwards.
As the grey wolf rolled about, Li Wenxiu also took a few tumbles. But she still clung onto the wolf’s tail, never letting go. Su Pu struggled to get up. Seeing the huge grey wolf lying dead in the snow, he was momentarily astounded. Then he cried jubilantly, “I’ve killed a big wolf, I’ve killed a big wolf!” Stretching his hand to help Li Wenxiu up, he said proudly, “A’xiu, look, I’ve killed a big wolf!” He was so proud of himself that although his shoulder was bleeding profusely, he did not feel any pain. Li Wenxiu realised that his woolen jacket and soaking with blood and quickly pulled it open. She took a handkerchief from inside her clothes, and pressed down on his bleeding wound, asking, “Is it painful?” If Su Pu had been alone, he would be wailing loudly in pain. But at this moment his heart was filled with lofty heroism, and shook his head, saying, “I’m not afraid of pain!” Suddenly, someone from behind said, “A’pu, what are you doing?” Both of them turned their heads, and saw a large bearded man riding on a horse. Su Pu cried, “Father, look, I’ve killed a wolf.” The large man was pleased, and got off his horse. He saw that his son’s face was spattered with blood, and then ran a glance over Li Wenxiu’s face. He asked Su Pu, “You were bitten by the wolf?” Su Pu replied, “I was listening to A’xiu tell stories, and suddenly this wolf wanted to bite her…” Instantly, the large man’s face darkened. Gazing at Li Wenxiu, he said icily, “Are you the daughter of those Hans punished by Allah?” Li Wenxiu recognized him as Su Lu’ke, the man who had kicked her. She recalled old man Ji’s words, “His wife and eldest son were both killed by Han bandits overnight, and thus he now hates Hans terribly.” She nodded, and was about to say, “My father and mother were also harmed by those bandits.” Before she could say a word, there was a loud ‘swish’. A long reddish gash appeared on Su Pu’s face. His father had used a horsewhip to lash his face.
Su Lu’ke yelled, “I told you to hate the Han people for all eternity! But you forgot what I said, and actually went off to play with a Han girl, and even risking your life for her!” With another ‘swish’, he lashed his son a second time.
Su Pu did not dodge, but gazed dumbfounded at Li Wenxiu, and asked, “Is she really one of the Hans punished by Allah?” Su Lu’ke roared, “Isn’t she?” With another ‘swish’, he whipped Li Wenxiu’s face. Li Wenxiu moved two steps backwards, pressing her face with her hands. Su Pu had already been seriously injured by the wolf, and after being whipped twice, he was unable to support himself, and crumpled onto the ground.
Su Lu’ke was shocked when he saw that his son had shut his eyes and fainted. He carried his son, and leapt onto the horse’s back. He threw out a circle of rope, and lassoed the dead wolf’s neck. With a kick, the horse galloped off. The dead wolf was pulled along, leaving a long trail of blood in between two rows of hoofprints in the now. After riding about ten zhang, Su Lu’ke turned his head, and gave Li Wenxiu a poisonous glare, as if saying, “If I see you again, I’ll give you a good hiding.” Li Wenxiu was unafraid of his glare. But she felt an emptiness in her heart, for she knew that from this day onwards, Su Pu would not longer befriend her, and he would no longer listen to her sing and tell stories. She felt that the wind was so cold that it was unbearable, and the gash on her face hurt intensely as her pulse raced.
Sadly, she drove her sheep home. The old man Ji noticed a lot of blood on her clothes, and that there was a reddish mark of a whip on her face. Shocked, he questioned her on what had happened. Li Wenxiu simply said, “I was careless, and fell down.” Of course the old man did not believe her. But even after repeated questionings, Li Wenxiu continued to say the same thing. When he questioned her anxiously, she burst into tears and refused to speak anymore.
That night, Li Wenxiu ran a high fever, and her little face was flushed bright red. She raved continuously, “Big grey wolf! Su Pu, Su Pu, save me quickly!…Hans punished by Allah…” The old man Ji was able to guess what had happened, and was extremely anxious. Fortunately, at dawn, Li Wenxiu’s fever subsided, and she fell into a deep slumber.
Her illness lasted for more than a month. When she finally got out of bed, the harsh winter had ended. The snow on the mountains had begun to melt. The melted snow formed little streams, flowing down into the pastures. Tender blades of grass had started to appear in the pastures.
One day, Li Wenxiu awoke. She opened the door, intending to bring the sheep to the pastures. Then she saw a wolfskin mat outside the door. Li Wenxiu was stunned. The colour of the fur was exactly the same as the colour of the fur of the wolf which had tried to bite her in the snow that day. She bent down and saw that there was a hole made by a knife stab in the wolfskin’s belly area. Her heart thumped quickly, for she knew that Su Pu had not forgotten her, and he had not forgotten what he had said, secretly placing the wolfskin in front of her door in the middle of the night. She hid the wolfskin in her room, and did not mention it to the old man Ji. She herded the sheep to the pastures, and then went to their usual meeting place to wait for Su Pu.
She waited until sunset, but Su Pu did not turn up. She saw the flock of sheep belonging to Su Pu’s family, but the shepherd was a youth aged about seventeen or eighteen. Li Wenxiu thought, “Could it be that Su Pu has not yet recovered from his injuries? But then, how did he place the wolfskin outside my door?” She badly wanted to go to his tent to take a peek at him, but then she recalled Su Lu’ke’s whip.
In the middle of the night, she mustered up her courage, and walked to the back of Su Pu’s tent. She did not know the purpose of her visit. Was it to say, “Thank you for your wolfskin?” Was it to see if his wounds had healed? She herself did not know the answer. She hid behind the tent. Su Pu’s sheepdog recognized her, sniffed her body several times before trotting off, and did not make a sound. The tent was lighted by a candle made from beef fat, and Su Lu’ke was roaring loudly.
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