Day finally arrived, and the fire had already died out.
They continued their journey and exited the valley, only to come to an empty space. The frost and snow swirling and dancing in the air blocked their vision in front, leaving only a hazy blur.
They could only see that there were short, withered tree stumps peaking out unevenly from the ground blanketed in snow. The snow soon melted, instantly showing the bare earth. When they looked around, there were only tree stumps. Past the horizon, it was only a white hazy blur.
“We will have to hold hands to avoid getting lost,” Ah Can said as he extended his arm to her. Xinqing started, but she still took his proffered hand without hesitation. When his warm hand held hers, Xinqing felt very safe and secure.
Two figures, one short and the other tall, walked together shoulder-to-shoulder carefully. They couldn’t see clearly what was before them, and they didn’t know whether terrifying monsters would appear.
“What is this place?”
“This is the Broken Forest,” replied Ah Can. The Broken Forest, just as they could see, had no trees, only the stumps of chopped-off trees. Although she didn’t know why the trees were cut, but Ah Can told her that these trees weren’t chopped down, but were instead like there in the first place. There was not a blade of grass nor a single flower here, because this place could never grow wild grass, neither could it grow flowers.
There was no shortage of wonders to be had in this world, it was just like a fantastical world which amazes people. Although it was the world of death, it had scary places, beautiful places, and peaceful places. It was a place where monsters, ghosts, tree gods or cat gods could exist.
As they slowly walked out from the fog-filled Broken Forest, they seemed to see something before them. When they got closer, Xinqing herself was surprised.
An emaciated woman sat upon the back of a horse that had long since turned into bones. She wore an old red robe, with the robe already utterly tattered. In her embrace, she held a child wrapped in white. The exposed arms and feet of the child were an eerie white. She gently caressed the child in her arms, but her eyes were simply deep empty holes.
She did not pay any attention to them, and she didn’t attack them like monsters did. Xinqing was afraid, yet she was sympathetic towards the woman. What she saw was simply a mother holding a child. Although this scene was heartbreaking, it was also filled with maternal love.
“Do you want to hear her story?” Ah Can turned around to ask Xinqing.
“You know her story?” Xinqing was surprised, but she was interested at the same time. Ah Can nodded. He had some knowledge about this woman. Not only this woman, he also knew about the things and happenings here.
“She was originally the wife of a shepherd, but due to war, the enemy troops had invaded her country, and invaded her town. They killed everyone including her husband and family. At that time, she was already on her horse with her child about to run, but bombs repeatedly fell upon the entire town. The fire surrounded her so she couldn’t escape, and so she was burned alive in the fire along with her horse and child.”
Xinqing stared at the emaciated woman holding her child on the horse. Now that she knew the woman’s backstory, it was as if she was touched by something, but she couldn’t move. It was as if that scene appeared before her eyes, as if she lived during that warring era. Everyone was running as bombs rained down, houses were destroyed, the residents were slaughtered. The sounds of wailing and crying wouldn’t stop. Blood flowed like rivers, and corpses littered the ground. It was difficult to escape the cold blades and the bombs.
This was the first time Xinqing comprehended death. Everyone fears to face death, but there are also some people who had long since stopped being afraid of death, having grown indifferent to everything.
Ah Can suddenly grabbed her hand, his smile shallow. “Let’s go.”
Xinqing walked behind him, looking at the hand leading her and then looking back at that skinny and lonely figure. She suddenly felt that she wanted to understand him more deeply. She really wanted to know his past, and she also really wanted to know how he lived his days alone in this world.
“Ah Can,” Xinqing called softly.
“Yes?” He replied, but he did not turn his head.
“N-nothing.” The questions that Xinqing wanted to ask didn’t make it out of her mouth. She lowered her head, but her thought began to become complicated.