Short, Light, Free - novelonlinefree.info
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Xiaomei smiled. "You actually came! I thought I was going to have to wait a long time for you."
Not understanding, I shook my head and asked again, "Where is this place, exactly?"
She pointed at the bridge. "This might really be the netherworld."
"Right, I remember now. We're both dead," I mumbled, touching my head.
"Everyone here is going to cross the bridge to reincarnate," she explained.
"Why are you still here then? To wait for me?" I asked doubtfully.
"Why else? I want to be with you in the next life so I was planning to wait here. There have been people who crossed over by themselves because they couldn't wait any longer. Luckily, you came just after a day," she answered.
I recalled that I had jumped soon after waking up.
I turned around and observed those waiting. They were all expressionless.
I walked over to a young fellow. "How long have you been waiting, Brother?"
He glanced over and shook his head. "Can't remember. A few years now, perhaps? Someone's been keeping track of time and she's been waiting for an even longer time."
I looked at the direction he was pointing at where a grey-haired woman was squatting down.
I approached her slowly and patted her shoulder. "Excuse me, madam. How long have you been waiting?"
She looked up and replied, "46 years."
Stunned, I questioned, "How do you keep track of the time?"
She s.h.i.+fted aside, revealing the back of a tree where she had made scratches on with the help of her bracelet.
There were two sections, top, and bottom. The top consisted of circles whereas the bottom was filled with stripes.
The scratches covered the whole surface of the tree. The tree behind her was filled with scratches as well.
"A line a day, a circle a year. 46 circles, 46 whole years," she explained faintly.
Looking at the scratches, I added, "Do you remember when you died?"
She sighed, "When I was 63, from leukemia. He should've been 66 at that time."
"66 + 46 = 112. You must've missed him when he crossed over?" I suggested apprehensively.
She stared at me. "Perhaps."
I was shocked.
"How are you so calm if you think that, too?" I questioned in astonishment.
"A pa.s.serby said the same thing 20 years back. I know it very well but I chose to continue waiting. What else can I do?"
"Pardon me for saying, but if he's dead and might have already been here a few times, is there any point in waiting? He's supposed to turn 113 next year. Is it even possible for humans to live that long?"
"Even if that's the case, I can wait for his second reincarnation. I'll just keep waiting. It'll be okay as long as I can recognize him," she answered.
"You do know that it's possible that you won't recognize him anymore, right?"
She looked into my eyes. "Will you forget your lover?"
I shook my head helplessly. "What if, just what if, he's been here already and you wait another hundred years but he doesn't recognize you at all?"
"I've not been here the longest. The horse face over there mentioned that someone had waited through 46 rounds of reincarnations - that's 197 years - before she reunited with her lover," she shared, breaking into a small smile.
Xiaomei came over and grabbed my arm. "Continue waiting, Sister Xiaoyu. We wish for your success. We'll get going now."
I saw the lady diverting her soulless gaze back to the crowd.
Xiaomei pulled me along toward the bridge but stopped right before it. "It's only been the first step."
"There's more?" I asked.
"We'll have to drink the Meng Po soup upon crossing the bridge. In order to ensure that we remember each other, there's something we have to do. The seniors taught me this."
She bent down and I followed suit, noticing that the ground was filled by a bundle of rocks with names engraved on them.
Xiaomei bit her fingertip. Using her fresh blood, she drew a big circle on an unmarked rock.
"That's it? Do I write my name, too?" I asked.
Xiaomei nodded before writing on the right side of the rock: Chen s.h.i.+mei.
I did the same and wrote 'Qin Xianglian' on the left corner.
Almost instantly, I felt a burn on my right arm and a red symbol surfaced. The exact same symbol appeared on Xiaomei's left arm.
I was struck dumb. "What is this?"
"That is our symbol. We will be birthed close to each other. You must not forget about this, okay?" she told me, pointing at the mark on my arm.
I nodded and she led me across the bridge.
There was a platform in the center of the bridge. An old lady handed us a bowl of soup. Smiling, she said, "Drink up, drink up. Forget all your troubles, forget all the love and hate, and start anew."
Xiaomei took the bowl and drank half of it before pa.s.sing it over to me. "Half each. This way, we'll maintain a special connection."
The old lady smiled again. "Oh? A couple?"
Xiaomei nodded. "Can we really be together again this way, Old Lady?"
"Deep ties will always be indestructible."
"Indestructible?" Xiaomei repeated.
The old lady ruffled her hair. "Let fate be, silly girl. Quick, the longer you drag the more you forget."
Xiaomei nodded and rushed me off.
I was still rather shocked by it all but I quickly finished my bowl.
I caught sight of a creature with a cow's head standing at the other end of the bridge, directing people forward.
"Brother Cow, my partner is here. Let us reincarnate, quick."
The cow head laughed. "How fast. Only a day's wait. Follow me, hurry."
Brother Cow seemed to be in a rush as well as he guided Xiaomei forward.
She touched the symbol on my arm. "Don't ever forget this."
I saw many portals but Brother Cow led us to the furthest one. "This is for humans. Enter and you will reincarnate. Good luck to you both."
Before he could finish, Xiaomei spoke urgently, "The longer we drag on, the more we'll forget. No time!"
She held my hand and we both jumped down. The plunge made her tighten her grip.
Brother Cow stared after us, his mouth agape. Embarra.s.sed, he mumbled, "Why did you have to rush? I haven't mentioned that you have to jump in one after another in order to reincarnate in the same city. Jumping in together will make you twins..."
"They're here, a boy and a girl. They have matching birthmarks, how cute!" a man exclaimed excitedly over the phone.