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Su Pu looked out of the window to look at the colour of the sky. Actually, just by listening to the sounds of the earth-shaking winds, and without looking at the sky, one could know that it was unwise to leave. A’man said worriedly, “Do you think the house will be blown away by the wind?” Su Pu answered, “I’m more worried that the snowfall will be so heavy that the roof will be unable to stand it. I’ll climb up to the roof and sweep off the snow later.” A’man said, “Don’t let the wind blow you off.” Su Pu laughed, “The layer of snow covering the ground is so thick, even if I fall down, I won’t die.” Li Wenxiu’s hand trembled slightly as she held the bowl of tea. Her thoughts were muddles, and she did not know what to think. Her childhood friend sat next to her. Did he really not recognise her, or had he recognised her, but was pretending not to? Had he forgotten her completely, or did he still remember her but was not willing to let A’man know? Dusk gradually fell, and Li Wenxiu sat further away. Su Pu and A’man held hands, and whispered sweet nothings to each other. Others would find them meaningless, but lovers found them pleasing to the ears. The firelight flickered, lighting both their faces.
Li Wenxiu sat beyond the edge of the firelight.
Suddenly, she heard the sound of hooves treading on snow. A horse was coming towards this house. The layer of snow on the pastures was extremely thick, and the horse used a lot of strength to move its legs, and was unable to run swiftly.
As the horse approached, even old man Ji heard it, and muttered, “Another one who wants to shelter from the hailstorm.” Su Pu and A’man did not seem to have heard, or perhaps they heard but ignored it. Holding each other’s hands, they leant on each other and whispered things. After quite a while, the horse reached the front door. Then there was a rapping on the door. The rapping was extremely rude, and did not have the courtesy of someone seeking shelter. Old man Ji furrowed his brow, then went to open the door, only to see a tall, well-built man standing there. The man, who was bearded, wore a woollen coat, and a long sword hung at his waist. Loudly he said, “The hailstorm outside is really heavy, and my horse cannot move!” He spoke in broken Kazak. His bright eyes scrutinized everyone on the house. Old man Ji said, “Please come in. First, have a bowl of wine!” As he spoke, he handed a bowl of wine to him. That man finished the wine in one gulp. He sat next to the fire, and when he removed his outer coat, one could see a pair of shiny daggers stuck at his waist. One of the daggers had a golden hilt; the other, a silver one.
When Li Wenxiu saw this pair of daggers, her heart lurched, and she felt as if there was an obstruction in her throat. Giddy, she thought, “Those are Mama’s daggers.” Although Li Wenxiu was very young when ‘Gold and Silver Little Swords Sanniangzi’ had died, but there was no mistake; she recognised this pair of daggers very clearly. She shot a sideways glance at the man, and recognised him. He was one of the three leaders who had led the men on a pursuit of her parents. After twelve years, her facial features and posture had completely changed, but when a thirty-something man to age twelve years, there would be hardly any physical changes. She was very afraid that he would recognise her, so she did not dare to look too frequently at him, and thought, “If not for this heavy snowstorm, I would not be able to see Su Pu or this bandit.” Old man Ji asked, “Where does Sir come from? You are going to a faraway place, aren’t you?” The man answered, “Yes, yes.” Then he poured another bowl of wine and drank it.
At this time, there were five people sitting around the fire, so Su Pu could not continue whispering sweet nothings to A’man. He gazed at old man Ji for a moment, and suddenly said, “Old Uncle, I would to ask you about someone.” Old man Ji asked, “Who is it?” Su Pu answered, “It was a little Han girl with whom I used to play with frequently when I was young…” As he spoke, Li Wenxiu’s heart gave a sudden leap. She turned away, not daring to look at him. She heard Su Pu continue, “She was called A’xiu. Later, eight or nine years passed and I never saw her again. She lived with an old grandfather of Han descent. So that must’ve been you?” Old man Ji coughed several times, attempting to receive a signal from Li Wenxiu’s expressions. But Li Wenxiu had turned her head away. He did not know how to answer, and muttered “Um, um” non-committally.
Su Pu continued, “She could sing extremely well, and some said she sang better than the Tianling birds. But for the past few years, I have not heard her singing. Does she still live with you?” Old man Ji was very embarrassed, and said, “No, no! She isn’t… she isn’t here anymore…” Li Wenxiu interrupted, “I also knew the Han girl that you speak of. She has been dead for quite a few years now!” Su Pu was stunned, “Ah, she’s dead, how did she die?” Old man Ji glanced at Li Wenxiu, and said, “It was an illness… an illness…” Tears glistened in his eyes, and he said, “I used to herd sheep with her when I was young. She sang many songs for me, and told me many stories. I hadn’t seen her for quite a few years, and I did not expect that she… she had died.” Old man Ji sighed, “Ai, poor child.”
Su Pu gazed into the flames, lost in thought for a moment, then said, “She said that her parents had been killed by evil people, and she came to this place, orphaned and helpless…” A’man asked, “This girl must’ve been very beautiful?” Su Pu answered, “I was very young at that time, and cannot remember now. I only remember that she sang songs very well, and told stories very well too…” The man with the daggers stuck at his waist suddenly said, “Are you talking about a little Han girl? Her parents were harmed, and she came here alone?” Su Pu replied, “Yes, did you know her too?” The man did not answer, but asked, “She rode a white horse, didn’t she?” Su Pu said, “Yes, so you’ve met her before.” The man stood up suddenly. To old man Ji, he demanded fiercely, “She died in this house of yours?” Old man Ji made an ambiguous response. The man asked, “Where are the things she left behind? Have you kept them carefully?” Old man Ji gave him a sideways glance, and asked, amazed, “What has this got to do with you?” The man answered, “That little girl stole an important object from me. I searched for her everywhere but to no avail, but I never expected that she had died…” Su Pu leapt up, and said loudly, “Don’t talk nonsense, why would A’xiu steal your things?” The man said, “What do you know?” Su Pu replied, “A’xiu has been with me since young, and she is a very very good girl, who would never steal someone else’s things.” The man tilted his mouth, making a scornful expression, and said, “But it so happened that she stole something from me.” Su Pu grabbed hold of the hilt of the sabre hanging at his waist, and shouted, “What is your name? I believe you’re not a Kazak, perhaps you are one of those Han bandits!”
That man walked to the door, opened it and peered outside. Once the door was open, a blast of strong wind blew countless snowflakes inside. He saw that the snowstorm filled the entire area, and neither man nor horse would be able to move. He thought, “No one else will be coming here. I can easily defeat the woman, the old man, and the skinny youth in this house. But I will have to spend slightly more effort to defeat this strong youth.” But he was not too concerned about this, and said, “So what if I’m a Han? My surname is Chen, and my name is Dahai, and in the pugilistic world I am nicknamed Green Python Sword. Have you heard?”
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