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The Wind, The Mountain, and The Sea

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The town is abuzz with whispers in the cobbled streets that linger out into the fields. Jinxi’s hairs stand on end and he worries. He had hoped his past was behind him, but with sparse greetings and the villagers unfocused, Jinxi begins to assume the worst. Ducking his head down, he keeps to himself as he starts work, his thoughts turning dark and tumultuous.

“Jinxi, have you heard?” a villager pulls him back to the present. “A group of men showed up last night. They plan to stay in the village for a while.”

The pit in Jinxi’s stomach grows even more, but he manages out a smile of interest. “Why stay here?”

The woman waves, her head shaking as she does so. “They say for a vacation and yet three of the men are working out in the fields. They insisted so.”

Jinxi frowns at this, but he has no time to question as the woman heads off. He and another worker exchange a look of raised eyebrows before Jinxi lets his mind wander again.

While still unsure, he thinks his father wouldn’t put up such an act like this. Too much work and effort on his part, Jinxi is confident in that. It relaxes him a little and the day carries on without any more news of the visitors.

It’s well into the afternoon when Jinxi almost forgets, but the silence in the air is unsettling and Jinxi slows down his movements. The other workers stare at a finely dressed man walking down the path and it’s only when they start their work again that Jinxi loosens his held tension.

He studies the man for any familiarity, but the face is foreign. With well-trimmed hair and a soft face, Jinxi can already tell this is not one of his father’s men. When he smiles, it’s too bright, not worn down with innocent lives on his hands.

The man greets each villager with hellos and Jinxi isn’t surprised at everyone’s eagerness to respond back. A few conversations engage, leaving Jinxi to hold his breath as the man comes near to him.

The man’s smile falters for just a moment as Jinxi stares, unable to form a big grin of his own. Instead, Jinxi politely nods his head, his mouth turning up just a little, and this seems to satisfy the man, who laughs.

“There’s a story to you, I can tell,” the man says as he keeping walking.

Jinxi rolls his eyes at the man’s arrogance, muttering out a small, “If you say so,” which the man does not miss.

“I’ll share you mine in return. I think you will find it an even trade.”

The man waves to Jinxi and he doesn’t wave back. Jinxi purses his lips, ignoring how the workers stare at him, yet his eyes never leave the retreating figure of the man.

Sighing, Jinxi shakes his head, having had enough for one day.

By the time Jinxi gets home, the whispers turn into chatter and the town seems to welcome the newcomers. Many villagers have different stories to tell about the charitable men, their tireless work, the cheerful singing. It’s as if the town has been given a stroke of luck.

Jinxi doesn’t think that, but he’s glad to know that the visitors aren’t causing trouble. The man from earlier seems to be their leader, but Jinxi has heard nothing else since seeing him. That is to say, nothing beyond his sons’ elated comments over dinner.

“It was amazing, Baba. You should’ve seen them.”

According to his eldest, the group of men cleared out a section of the field in no time and even had energy to spare. Jinxi smiles at this, letting the boys continue with their storytelling, briefly meeting eyes with Ayu. She has a small look of amusement on her face and Jinxi figures if she is unbothered by the men, then he supposes he can be too.

Lying in bed that night, Jinxi listens to Ayu’s breathing, the way it calms him down in a manner like no else. The leader of the group remains in Jinxi’s thoughts and he sighs, only hoping he is right in letting his guard down.

On his way to work, Jinxi briefly catches a glimpse of the group of men. He can hear their cheers and talk echo through the village, but he doesn’t wish to stop like so many of the other villagers have. He peeks curiously through the crowd that’s surrounded them, wondering how they all keep track of the questions being thrown their way. The men seem to have no problem answer even the more personal ones and Jinxi just catches the leader’s voice.

Even if it is Jinxi’s second time hearing it, he still feels the shiver that goes down his spine. The command of the man’s voice is something to be reckoned with and Jinxi pauses his steps for just a moment.

Hiding in a convenient place, Jinxi listens as the man weaves a tale about bandits who give to the poor, adventures where evil leaders are removed from power, and it’s an enthralling story to say the least. By the time the man is finished, everyone nearby is silent for a moment before their questions start again.

Reeling back, Jinxi shakes his head and heads towards work, ashamed he let himself get caught up in something so fantastical. Whatever the reason the men are in the village, Jinxi finds no reason to get involved with them anymore and hopes his day will go by uneventful.

By midday, it seems that it is so, leaving Jinxi in a cheerful mood as he makes his way home. He is not surprised to see Ayu there before him, but he freezes when he hears several voices drifting from inside.

“Let me help with that.”

“Six, wait until everyone sits down to eat.”

“Watch it, Two!”

Jinxi’s stomach drops and he clenches his fists before he finally enters the house. Inside, he’s greeted by the sight of the mysterious group of men in the main room, a few drifting in and out to help Ayu with her cooking.

“Oh, Jinxi,” Ayu wipes her hands and approaches him. “We have a few guests for dinner. Our sons insisted on it.”

Glancing down at his sons, Jinxi can’t help but smile at their beaming faces and straightens himself up as he looks at the other men.

“Welcome,” he greets them, his gaze drifting over each one.

When he spots the leader, Jinxi falters under the man’s stare and he clears his throat to cover the heat creeping up to his face.

“What are your names?”

The call of numbers is amusing to Jinxi, but he doesn’t think to say anything until the leader says his.

“What, no number?” Jinxi blurts out, his face flushing at his sudden comment.

The man laughs, seemingly unbothered by Jinxi’s words, and shakes his head. “No. Zhang works just fine for me.”

Jinxi manages out a smile just as the other men come back in with the prepared food, everyone ushered to their seats as they do so. Situated between Ayu and the leader - Zhang - Jinxi does his best to remain calm and hospitable.

He admires how well the men handle children, keeping his sons plenty entertained during dinner, and his gaze is interrupted only by Zhang’s occasional attempts at conversation. Jinxi doesn’t divulge more than he needs to but it’s comfortable chatter between Ayu and Zhang. Initially, Jinxi raises his eyebrows at this until Ayu somehow directs the conversation back to him.

“10 years ago?” Zhang asks with interest and Jinxi shrugs.

“It’s a nice village, don’t you think?”


Zhang’s eyes shift between Jinxi and Ayu in a manner that makes Jinxi stuff food into his mouth in attempt to sway the mood.

Ayu’s smile is a little concerning, but Jinxi figures he will ask her about it later once they are alone. Instead, he turns back to Zhang, who holds much of the same face as Ayu.

“Something wrong?” Zhang asks, his smile spreading a little more.

Jinxi gives a grunt of a reply around his food, shaking his head and it’s not until Ayu starts bugging Zhang with questions that Jinxi feels he can relax again. He’s thankful that the other men still seem occupied with entertaining his sons as an audience would’ve been more that Jinxi would’ve asked for.

By the time dinner is over, Jinxi is surprised he is able to carry on a conversation with Zhang. They discuss a little about life outside the village and find he shares some in common with Zhang when it comes to traveling around.

“Thank you,” Zhang and his men show their thanks, heading back into the village with lanterns Ayu had supplied them with.

Jinxi and Ayu watch them go and it’s not until they pass over the hill that Jinxi is brave enough to ask his question.

“You like them?”

“They seem like good men,” Ayu keeps watching the hill. “I am fond of Zhang, I hope that does not offend you.”

Jinxi can’t fault her for that, nodding his head. “He has an interesting personality to say the least. I wouldn’t mind learning more about him.”

The two turn in for the night and Jinxi is exhausted from socializing to his worrying mind. Perhaps, if he wasn’t so tired, he would’ve seen the thoughtful look on Ayu’s face and the way she watched him as they climbed into bed.

With his men out in the village and fields, Zhang finds himself wishing for company as he walks down the streets. He doesn’t know who or where, but he lets his feet guide him, not at all surprised when he finds himself at the household of Jinxi and Ayu.

He supposed this was where he was going to end up anyways and he waves to Ayu as he comes down the hill.

“Not joining your men in the field?” Ayu looks up from her cleaning.

“No,” Zhang laughs. “They get much too competitive for my liking.”

Ayu smiles her understanding, putting a kettle over the heat source.

“Oh, no, please don’t go to the trouble-”

“-It’s no trouble at all.”

Zhang can feel the smile on his face grow and he stands close to where Ayu is working. From looks alone he can see why Jinxi was so captivated, but even more than that, Zhang can see her fiery spirit. He thinks that if she were a single woman with no children, he would ask her to join his group, knowing she’d be more than capable.

“Jinxi is at the paper mill, as usual,” Ayu starts up the conversation. “Children are at school. Do you have a wife or children?”

“No. Well, yes, if you count Six. My godson,” Zhang motions to no one, looking out at the yard. “Not much time for that when you’re traveling.”

Ayu sighs, a smile still on her face. “I suppose not. Will you ever settle down or is vagabond life it for you?”

Zhang is amused at the questions bubbling up from Ayu. It is as if she knows his true identity, asking just enough to make sure. Of course, he knows it is a ridiculous thought and thinks to give her something back.

“All these questions. What are you searching for?”

Ayu’s eyes light up and Zhang steels himself for whatever she throws at him. In attempt to calm herself, Ayu goes back to scrubbing away at something, her eyes now focused on that spot.

“I saw the way you looked at Jinxi last night. Not to mention how you looked at me. It do you say it...interest?”

Zhang wants to laugh at this, but he has a feeling Ayu knows what she’s playing at. He would be lying if he said he didn’t find the couple nice to look at, but his deeper feelings he knows he must bury within him.

“If you wish to share a bed with my husband and he wishes the same, I will not mind.”

Zhang’s eyebrows furrow and he looks at Ayu, his mind in disbelief. He wonders if Ayu can read minds, almost convinced of the fact when Ayu giggles.

“It would be imposing, I’m sure,” Zhang mumbles out, his face going red.

“And what if it’s with me? Or both my husband and myself?”

Breathing seems impossible in this moment as all of Zhang’s inner feelings are thrown right in front of him by none other than unassuming Ayu herself. He had hoped it wasn’t as easy as that to figure out, yet Ayu is dangling a proposition in front of him like he’s starved for affection.

Zhang swallows down his embarrassment, thankful when Ayu gets distracted by the boiling water.

“What does Jinxi have to say in all of this?”

“I don’t know yet,” Ayu tilts her head. “I needed to confirm your feelings first. I will discuss it with him later.”

The thought isn’t comforting, but Zhang does feel some relief in knowing Ayu has his back. He’s been careful enough in the past, despite the few times that almost left him scarred. In reality, Zhang doesn’t know how to explain this.

With Ayu, he feels a sense of security, a place to come home to. With Jinxi, there is mystery and adventure that isn’t found traveling on the road. Zhang craves both though he wonders how it has come to this.

“Come, tell me more about yourself. I feel Jinxi made you nervous last night,” Ayu ushers him over to the table, tea brewing and cups set out.

Zhang breathes a sigh of relief, eager to join her as he wonders what work of fate is twisting around them at this moment.

Jinxi isn’t sure how to feel when he sees Zhang sitting at the table when he comes home from work. Ayu is busy preparing dinner while the boys are crowded around Zhang, eagerly listening to another one of his stories.

“Are there any truths to these?” Ayu calls as she approaches Jinxi to give him an embrace.

“Maybe, maybe not,” Zhang chuckles and the corners of Jinxi’s mouth twitch. “It’s good to see you again, Jinxi. I offered to help Ayu with the cooking but she threw me out.”

“Because you were chopping the pieces too big,” Ayu grins, turning back to Jinxi.

Her eyes say everything and Jinxi nods, a silent promise to keep things comfortable. Setting his things to the side, Jinxi settles in at the table, the boys now asking to know about his day. He feels pride telling them about his work, no matter how mundane, and listens to their stories about school.

As much of a distraction as the boys are, Jinxi can feel Zhang’s eyes on him. He doesn’t have any intention to impress, but he does puff himself out a little bit to egg Zhang on.

At work, Jinxi hears more and more tales about Zhang and his men, finding himself intrigued in more ways than one. There is something to Zhang that Jinxi is drawn into, wondering if this is the same pull that has entranced all the villagers.

When his sons go back to focusing on Zhang, Jinxi watches, amused. Zhang seems like a natural with children and Jinxi’s heart flutters for just a moment. That moment is broken when Ayu starts setting the dinner on the table and both Jinxi and Zhang jump up to help her.

“I’m fine,” she smiles at the two of them as she sets the last of the meal on the tabl. “Now, let’s eat.”

This dinner is much more Jinxi’s taste and he wonders if the loudness of the other men was what made him less than friendly. Then again, steady conversation passes between the three adults and Jinxi doesn’t miss how the boys’ gazes jump from person to person. By the time dinner simmers down, Jinxi almost hopes Zhang will stay longer, but he knows the man has other business to attend to.

“It’s so late, Zhang,” Ayu pipes up as she collects some of the dishes. “Why don’t you stay here for the night?”

Jinxi knows he’s staring at Ayu, but to hear the words come out of her mouth is unbelievable at best. He thinks to answer for Zhang, but Zhang is faster, his reply coming out after a sharp cough.

“If I will not be in your way.”

“Of course not,” Ayu shakes her head. “We have enough space.”

It takes Jinxi a moment, but he finally registers Ayu’s eyes on him and he jumps up, handing her his dish before getting out a bedroll for Zhang. By the time he comes back to the table, everything is clear and the boys are nowhere to be seen.

“Just there is fine,” Ayu says but her gesture is vague and Jinxi wonders where ‘there’ is meant to be.

With Zhang staring him down, Jinxi goes to set up the bedroll wherever he deems it well enough, questioning his wife’s motives. She seems to be up to some ploy, almost like a matchmaker. While Jinxi wouldn’t necessarily mind the company of Zhang, he doesn’t want to compromise his wife in any way.

“I’m heading into the village. Sister Min wants the boys and myself to help her family with something. Women and children only,” she announces to the room.

Now, Jinxi can’t take her secrets and he nods to Zhang as he tugs his wife out of the room.

“What’s going on?” Jinxi questions, voice low. “What are you doing?”

Ayu smiles ever so innocently as if she was expecting this. “I just think you and Zhang should keep each other company tonight. I don’t find him imposing at all, so whatever happens, happens.”

Where this side of Ayu has been, Jinxi has no idea, but he has no time to question it now. Or rather, he could, but his mind is buzzing away with several other ones.

“Why - What about - He - I don’t -” Unable to focus on one thought, Jinxi breathes in deeply through his nose and takes a moment to think about what Ayu has just thrown at him.

“He has an interest in both of us, Jinxi. I noticed you might have some with him as well. If that is the case, I welcome him into our family. He is a good soul and I don’t think the boys would mind having another father.”

A part of Jinxi thinks this is all a dream. To have such an arrangement is not common and to know Ayu is planning things way ahead of him is jarring. If anything, he hates that her words are true. He does have an interest in Zhang, much in the way his wife suggests. He had hoped it was a different feeling. Distrust, hatred, anything, but instead Ayu found the source and dug it out from Jinxi.

With a smile on her face, Ayu calls for the boys and she gives Jinxi a hug before they head into the village.

“We will be spending the night at Sister Min’s.”

Jinxi does not miss Ayu’s emphasis on her words and he watches her and the boys leave while his resolve twists him in every direction. Staring back at the house, he knows Zhang is in there, waiting.

He has no doubts of what Zhang knows, let alone what he may have heard and Jinxi searches within himself on what to do. One night has been given to him, so selflessly, he thinks how lucky he is to be married to Ayu. He’s not surprised Zhang can see this as well and the thought of the three of them, sharing, loving, is an interesting prospect to say the least.

With a sigh, Jinxi heads back into the house, lingering in the doorway as if feeling for Zhang’s presence. When he finally finds Zhang lying down on his bedroll, he pauses just as Zhang turns his head towards him.

“Something you need to talk about?” Zhang asks, his eyes questioning, but his face firm.

Swallowing, Jinxi says nothing, his stomach flipping as he feels a quiet desire grow within him.

“Perhaps,” is the answer Jinxi manages out, his hands making slow work of removing his outer robes.

With Zhang’s eyes glued to him, Jinxi feels a small surge of pride, taking his time as he slides out of every layer of clothing. Once he is fully stripped down, Jinxi hesitates just for a moment before coming over to Zhang and climbing on top of him.

The two are locked in a heated stare, each waiting for the other to move from here. When it happens, they’re not sure who moves first, meeting halfway to capture their lips in a searing kiss.

Zhang’s hands holding onto his arms is burning and Jinxi squirms under the touch. He’s felt more than this with Ayu, but it’s a different sensation altogether. Rough hands explore his chest, running down along his sides and Jinxi reflexively moans into the kiss, Zhang taking no time in letting his tongue run into Jinxi’s mouth. As Zhang’s hands run up his back, Jinxi presses his body flush against Zhang’s, shivering a bit when one hand latches on to the base of his queue. Gently tugging Jinxi’s head back, Zhang breaks their kiss in favor of biting down on Jinxi’s neck, a low moan leaving him.

Jinxi relishes in the way Zhang’s tongue moves along his neck, arching a little when he starts lapping at his collar bone. Gripping onto Zhang’s shoulders, Jinxi figures the playing field should be evened out and he pulls at Zhang’s clothes. When Zhang finally works his way out of his clothing, Jinxi takes a moment to just soak in all that is Zhang. Running his hand along Zhang’s chest, he hardly notices what’s happening lower until he shifts down a bit and feels Zhang’s length rubbing against him.

With his own member erect, Jinxi isn’t sure what to do first, allowing Zhang to take the lead as Zhang’s hand wraps around his member. Stifling a groan, Jinxi tips his head back, moving his hips to rub more against Zhang’s length. The low rumble from Zhang’s chest makes Jinxi smile for just a moment before he’s lost again in the way Zhang’s fingers run along his member. Jinxi thinks he might lose himself right then and there, but with Zhang’s other hand moving back behind Jinxi, he automatically freezes, knowing what comes next.

“Do you,” Zhang starts, low and raspy. “Do you have oil?”

Nodding, Jinxi is quick to retrieve it, climbing back on top of Zhang when he returns. Pushing Zhang’s hands down to his side, Jinxi then pours the oil over his own fingers, taking a deep breath in before he reaches behind himself.

Biting his lip at the intrusion, Jinxi works one finger in at a time, the process slow and not too pleasurable until Zhang starts working his member again. When he stretches himself out, Jinxi searches, his hips thrusting his member into Zhang’s hand. It’s a brief touch when his fingers finally find the spot and Jinxi freezes at the sensation. With Zhang’s free hand running along his thigh, Jinxi begins to relax, letting his fingers brush against the spot one more time before he works on slicking up Zhang’s length.

Zhang doesn’t hold back as much noise as Jinxi does, letting his pleasure be known as Jinxi covers his length in oil. Once it’s well prepared, Jinxi splays one hand on Zhang’s stomach while the other helps guide Zhang’s length into Jinxi’s hole. The moment is slow, almost torturous, and when Jinxi is fully seated, Zhang pushes himself up, holding Jinxi in close.

Cursing, Jinxi grips onto Zhang as the man moves his hips slowly, allowing the man to wrap his queue up in one hand.

“Jinxi,” Zhang moans into his ear as the movements become a touch faster.

Breathing in Zhang’s scent, Jinxi moves in time with Zhang’s thrusting hips, his member caught between the two of them, the feeling not entirely uncomfortable. Bracing himself, Jinxi makes more leverage for the two of them, his and Zhang’s moans beginning to fill the room. He can tell Zhang is getting close, the way he grips onto Jinxi’s queue and Jinxi feels his own release building up.

With a particularly hard thrust, Zhang finishes inside Jinxi, the sensation almost driving Jinxi over the edge but yet not quite enough to do so. He breathes heavily with Zhang as the man collects himself, moaning when Zhang moves his hips again. Grabbing onto Jinxi’s member, Zhang brings him to completion, Jinxi’s release spilling onto the both of them.

Leading Jinxi down to the bedroll, Zhang gently pulls out, then using one of his own garments to clean the both of them off.

“I’ll clean it for you in the morning,” Jinxi comments, his heart beating in his ears.

With Zhang looking down at him as if he truly cares, Jinxi flushes a little at this, turning away. However, Zhang’s hand stops him, bringing his face back and capturing Jinxi’s lips with his own.

“Thank you,” Zhang says when their kiss finishes, throwing the garment to the side and tugging Jinxi in close.

Letting his body succumb to exhaustion, Jinxi curls into Zhang, the prospect of what comes next anxious and exciting all at once.

The sun is just rising when Jinxi awakens and he stares into Zhang’s sleeping face. Remembering what had happened hours earlier, Jinxi purses his lips, wanting to wake Zhang up just to talk to him. As if on cue, Zhang starts to shift around, his waking slow as he blinks his eyes open.

“It’s early,” is all Zhang manages out when he can finally stay awake, his gaze never leaving Jinxi’s face.

“It is,” Jinxi replies, a hint of a smile dancing on his face.

“Is it true what they say?” Zhang asks suddenly and Jinxi freezes at these words. “The villagers told me you showed up in this village with no past, or at least, not one without its rumors.”

Jinxi frowns, wishing his neighbors weren’t such loudmouths and blurts out his own retaliation. “What about you and your men? Your fairytales sound an awful like bandits hiding in plain sight.”

To his surprise, Zhang chuckles at this, no fear on his face. “Well, I like to think of us better than that. We take spoils and riches from those who squander and give to those that deserve it.”

Jinxi takes a moment to register Zhang’s honesty, not expecting anywhere near to what Zhang has just told him. His own past is levels below that and Jinxi is ashamed, curling into himself just a little.

“I don’t need to know your past, Jinxi,” Zhang’s voice cuts through his thoughts. “I know who you are now, who you are with Ayu and that is all that matters to me.”

Whipping his head up to Zhang, Jinxi doesn’t believe what he hears at first and all he sees is a gentle face staring back at him. His heart lifts, almost as much as when he first saw Ayu and Jinxi nods his head in thanks, unable to do much else.

As the room fills with light, Jinxi and Zhang are slow to get themselves ready for the day. Taking the dirty clothes, Jinxi manages to find robes of his own that are loose enough for Zhang and the two make their way to the village. Just before they reach seeing anyone they know, Zhang splits off first but not before giving Jinxi a gentle kiss and leaving a flustered man behind in his wake.

The children are crying and Jinxi almost feels like doing so as well. They all knew this day would come, that their new family would have to break apart eventually, but it doesn’t feel right. A part of Jinxi wonders if this will be the last time he sees Zhang and his men, his heart breaking at the thought.

For months now, Zhang and his men have stayed in the village, bringing with them a newfound peace. It’s as if they had been in the village their entire lives and to lose them now is akin to losing the brick and mortar of the townspeople.

Most have already said their goodbyes, allowing Ayu and Jinxi to have their time with Zhang.

No words are passed between them, as if they are afraid speaking will spoil everything.

“Just around the country. Then we shall return. I promise,” Zhang speaks first, his voice low and warm.

The boys cling to him, begging him to stay, but Jinxi and Ayu do not make such a fuss. They believe Zhang’s word.

“Stay safe,” Ayu nods, her voice trembling just a little. “When you return, we will talk more about our growing family.”

The adults can’t help smiling at this as Zhang hugs the boys to comfort them. Jinxi glances at his wife, admiring her calm demeanor. Her pregnancy was a shock to everyone, but knowing a part of Zhang would always stay with them meant more than they could say.

“Where are you headed to?” Jinxi finally opens his mouth, hoping this will distract his wandering thoughts.

“Here and there,” Zhang says, cryptic as usual. “We follow the tracks.”

The corners of Jinxi’s mouth turns up just a little, a small wish growing inside that he could come along too. He would not leave his family behind however and he dismisses the thought as quickly as it came.

With the boys finally off of him, Zhang pulls Jinxi and Ayu into tight hugs, Ayu first. Their embrace is tender, as first lovers might do so, and Jinxi watches on, his resolve crumbling just a little when Ayu starts to cry.

When it’s Jinxi turn, his hug in return is hesitant at first. His time with Zhang has been passionate rather than tender and he is unfamiliar with the way Zhang holds him. It’s not until he realizes Zhang is not pulling away any time soon that Jinxi tightens the hug, pressing his mouth into Zhang’s shoulder.

“Try not to get into any trouble while I’m away, hmm?” Zhang jokes in a whisper and Jinxi chuckles at this.

“Will try my best,” Jinxi responds when their embrace ends.

Zhang seems satisfied by this response, putting a hand on Ayu’s and Jinxi’s shoulder. The boys rush to hug him again and the silence creeps up.

“I suppose it is time,” Zhang sighs, giving the boys a final squeeze before stepping back from the family.

The walk up the hill is slow and Jinxi thinks Zhang might turn back, an acceptance to stay. However, Zhang continues on, everyone watching until his figure disappears from sight.

Jinxi exchanges a glance with his wife, tugging her in close as the tears spill down her face. They know it might be years until Zhang comes back and how much he’ll change, they cannot tell.

For now, Jinxi and Ayu find comfort in each other and their sons. With another child on the way, they find life is strange in its movements, who it chooses to introduce and take away from them. They will keep the memory of Zhang and his men strong in the minds of the villagers, awaiting his return with each passing day.

With one final glance to the hill, Jinxi breathes out, the weight on his shoulders a pressure but one that’s been lighter than it has been in years. He finds this as a good omen, of better things to come and helps Ayu with cleaning the house as the sun sets in the sky.