Zixu rested his head on his hand. "I'm not so sure."
Yujia turned to look at him, noticing his eyes glancing back and forth. His fingers tapped on his cheek repeatedly.
She asked some more, "Do you think that there's even a point to finding our way out by ourselves? I think that we'll have a higher chance waiting for someone to find us than to continue our pointlessly walk around."
"You have a point," he agreed. "Should we wait here?"
"I feel like by this river will be a better place to wait than in the middle of a forest, where less people will come by, don't you think?" Find authorized novels in romanticlovebooks，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.romanticlovebooks.com for visiting.
She glanced at the water again, and her hands began to tremble, even if only at the slightest.
At this, Yuija stood up, closed her eyes shut, and clenched her fingers into her palm. Her nails dug into her skin, but at least this steadied her shaking by just a bit. She marched to the other side of the tree she leaned against to have a seat.
Zixu leaned over to her side. "Moving spots?"
"I—" she stuttered with hesitation, "I— I don't want to look at… the river."
That was all Zixu said, the word coming out more like a light breath of air escaping his mouth, but Yujia heard it nonetheless. He leaned back to his side of the tree, no words following his sigh.
Yujia closed her eyes, diverting her mind with all sorts of different things. Paint. Cute puppies. Sunshine and smiles. But in between those thoughts, the image of the water still surfaced, flashing in her thoughts in various memories.
She tried to drown those memories out with more positive, completely unrelated ideas. The plum blossoms studies she had to work on. The taste of good wine burning down her throat. The brush in her hand and ink on a scroll of paper.
But still— water. Water, water, water, and water.
She dug her nails more and more into her palm.
Now was not a time to think of this. She should continue to distract herself with other thoughts.
But the silence was killing her. The silence between her and Zixu was both an opportunity for Yujia to go through her own thoughts and also a constant reminder of the fear gnawing at her heart, tracing her every thought.
Except that was when Zixu began to speak.
"Did you know that when Mimi was still mostly untrained, he used to steal food from my younger brother?" he began.
Yujia's eyes opened up. She didn't move her head to look at him, but she listened to him speak and responded, "What?"
She didn't expect Zixu to say anything. And if he did say something, Zixu usually kept things practical. He rarely discussed things on another separate tangent like this one.
But Zixu continued to tell his story without clarifying himself.
"My younger brother— Ziyang— is very sickly. Sometimes, because of what the physician says, he can't eat some of his favorite foods in the world. Fatty pork, braised beef, roasted chicken… he can't have any of those. But it's only at times, so depending on the day, and what the physician says, he may or may not be able to eat these foods."
From the corner of her eye, Yujia could see Mimi's bushy tail beside her. It seemed like the dog laid down next to Zixu.
"This one day, the kitchen prepared a plate of chicken for Ziyang on accident. Yet it happened to be a day where the physician said he couldn't eat the meat. At the end of his meal, he had to leave the entire plate of roasted chicken untouched on the table."
Yujia thought about Yu Ziyang. That poor boy. She knew that she wouldn't be able to resist taking a single bite of the chicken, even with her poor health, and even if the physician said it would be bad of her to do so.
"The servants were supposed to come and take it away, as usual. Ziyang went to take a nap. Yet before the servants cleared the table, Mimi ran into the room, lured by the smell of chicken. A servant came in at just the right time to see Mimi using one of the chairs to jump and climb onto the table to snatch the entire chicken off the plate."
At this part of the story, Yujia couldn't resist letting out a laugh. She hadn't met Mimi for long, but what dog disliked food? She could completely see Mimi doing what Zixu was talking about.
"Of course, Mimi ran out of the room with the chicken in his mouth. All the servants in the courtyard tried to catch him, but he was too nimble, and by the time that they managed to grab him and the chicken, the meat was already a slobbering mess. So that was how Mimi got to have a full stomach that afternoon. And afterwards, he had indigestion because he ate too much."
Yujia finally spoke up, "Your younger brother must be devastated that he had his chicken stolen by his dog."
"Oh no." Zixu chuckled softly, "Ziyang's too kind hearted to bring himself to get mad at Mimi, even if he tried his best."
Yujia thought about the story Zixu just told her.
It was so off-topic, so random, so unpredictable. It was the last thing for Yujia to expect to hear a story about Mimi stealing roasted chicken from Yu Ziyang. It didn't feel like Zixu to tell these stories, especially with what happened this morning when he suddenly became quiet after Yujia asked about his talkative behavior.
Yet at the same time, Yujia admitted that the story made her smile. Mimi running with a whole roasted chicken in her mouth as frantic servants chased after him was a hilarious image.
"Do you usually tell this story to anyone who meets your dog?" Yujia asked in a whisper.
"No," Zixu immediately responds, "You're an exception."
Yujia looks down at her hands.
Things clicked then. Her trembling hands, the red crescent-shaped nail marks embedded in her palm, her move to the other side of the tree so that she didn't have to face the river, the stammer in her voice.
Zixu was always observant.
"Oh," she said, her voice still in a whisper, "Thank you."
She understood now.
The numerous things she tried to think of to take her mind away from those dark memories didn't work. Yet Zixu's brief story about Mimi did.
"Could you… tell me another story about Mimi? Or maybe about Ziyang?"
She couldn't see Zixu, but she imagined him with a half smile across his face.
"Ziyang? You want to know about Ziyang?" He didn't wait for an answer before continuing, "I suppose you do want to know more about him. You tried impersonating him after all."
The flashbacks of her trying to take the Lingxin examination with the identity of Yu Ziyang appeared in Yujia's mind.
"Right. You're never going to let me forget about that, right?" she groaned.
There was a laugh in his voice while he continued, "Well, like I said, Ziyang is really the kindest person to exist. Sometimes, I doubt it's kindness but rather pure stupidity and his overly gullible mindset…"
He went on to talk more about Ziyang. And after Ziyang, more about Mimi. Then on about all sorts of peculiar stories about Mimi and Ziyang together. Then more and more about some of his entertaining childhood occurrences.
These stories filled up the space that was once silence between the two of them, and through them, Yujia found her mind at ease. Her hands stopped trembling. Her nails stopped biting into her skin.
There was only Zixu's voice and his stories, which could not be more ordinary. Some of them were just small occurrences in his life that could only be considered slightly interesting, but nothing too spectacular.
But for Yujia, it was enough. So she listened.
"What are we going to do?" Yujia asked with a sigh. She stared out at the river in front of them, then ducked her eyes back down again. "Cross the river? Walk by it? Then, which direction?"