Cold from the icy rain and even colder wind that hit his skin covered only by thin and torn pieces of clothing. Fear because he was alone in that dark alley with a dog snarling at him and ready to attack him. The hunger was so great that he was willing to eat a piece of bread that looked old and gross, bread that the dog also seemed to want to eat.
Wei Ying was trembling for fear of being bitten again by that dog, he was shaking with cold from feeling that even his bones were soaked with rain. For a moment he thought of throwing the piece of bread to the dog and running away, but he had not eaten anything for days, so he held the old piece of bread tightly in his hands and decided to run. He ran and ran, didn't look back even though he was feeling that the dog was close, mainly because he was feeling the dog was close.
"Leave me alone! I'm hungry too!" Wei Ying screamed as he ran through the street and tried to ignore the pain in his wounds.
While running he ended up stumbling on something, his legs were very weak so he ended up falling to the ground. Wei Ying turned quickly and the dog was almost on top of him, so he just closed his eyes and waited to feel the pain of the bite that never came. Wei Ying opened his right eye and realized that the dog was not on top of him but rather running after something that has been thrown in the opposite direction, realizing that he was no longer in danger, Wei Ying opened both eyes and the first thing he saw was a figure who did not seem to be part of the same world as him.
Standing a few feet away was a child who should have been about the same age as Wei Ying, his hair was black, his robes were white, and his eyes the most beautiful gold Wei Ying had ever seen. In one hand the child was holding a package with meat dumplings and in the other a simple umbrella.
Wei Ying blinked a few times hoping that the figure that looked otherworldly and graceful would disappear, but the child did not move and also did not seem affected by the rain, his facial expression showed no emotion, but there was something in the eyes of that child that made Wei Ying feel he could not look away.
"So beautiful..." Wei Ying spoke before he knew exactly what he was saying and the other child inclined his head a little curiously. "Are you real person or a spirit?"
The child raised an eyebrow and said nothing, just stared directly into Wei Ying's eyes for a moment and Wei Ying had the feeling that other could almost see his soul. The child in white held the umbrella with the same hand that was holding the package with dumplings and held out the hand that was now free. Wei Ying looked at his hand for a moment before accepting it and felt his body being pulled gently from the floor, Wei Ying's legs were still shaking, so as soon as he stood, he lost his balance and fell against the child in front of him.
"I'm sorry, sister! My legs are weak!" Wei Ying spoke nervously, but did not move away at once.
"I am a boy." The child in white spoke not appearing bothered by being mistaken for a girl.
"A boy?" Wei Ying didn't hide the surprise he felt, "You're so beautiful! You don't look like the spirit of a God or something who came to take my soul, so I thought it was the young lady of a good family!" Wei Ying laughed and pulled away to see the other boy.
The boy took a step back, "You're hurt."
Clearly it was not a question and Wei Ying could not deny it, he looked down at his arm and realized he was bleeding where he'd been bitten before running away.
"That's nothing!" Wei Ying smiled and then raised his hand so he could bite the bread he was still holding, but his wrist was grabbed, "What's wrong?"
Wei Ying looked at the boy in white and could not help thinking that he looked like a doll, his face and eyes didn't seem to show emotions and he was as beautiful as a doll.
"You cannot eat."
"Cannot eat?" Wei Ying frowned, "Hey! I'm hungry!" He protested when the bread was ripped from his hand.
"You're going to get sick," the boy said as if it were something obvious.
"But ..." Wei Ying looked at the old bread and his stomach made a loud sound and ached with hunger.
The boy in white looked at Wei Ying and then at the package he was carrying, "Eat." He showed the meat dumplings to Wei Ying.
"Can I eat this?" Wei Ying asked as he accepted the package with the dumplings.
"Eat." The boy in white repeated and then started walking, Wei Ying blinked a few times feeling confused and then ran to stand next to the boy.
"Why are you here?" Wei Ying asked as he chewed a dumpling, almost crying with the relief he felt at the delicious taste of the food he received.
"Do not talk while you eat."
"Are you lost?" Wei Ying ignored what the other boy said and kept talking as he chewed, "Ouch, hot!"
"Eat slow, they're still warm," the boy said in a monotonous voice.
'He really looks like a doll...'
"I got lost from my brother and uncle," the boy replied after a moment in silence, "They are waiting for me in an inn."
"But you don't know exactly where you are now?"
"Such a young boy shouldn't be walking alone," Wei Ying said after finishing eating the second dumpling, "You must be scared."
"We're probably the same age."
"Where are your parents?" The boy in white asked as he took two steps to the side to cover Wei Ying with his umbrella.
Wei Ying looked up before looking at the boy's face that had not changed expression, but Wei Ying smiled feeling grateful for the other child's kindness.
"I don't know." Wei Ying sincerely replied, "They didn't come home and I don't know the way back home anymore. My parents were cultivators."
"I think they died, but I'm still waiting for them." Wei Ying spoke softly, feeling his eyes burn with tears he did not want to shed. "And your parents?"
"I do not know." The boy in white replied, "They don’t let me see my mother and I do not remember the last time I saw my father."
"Oh." Wei Ying looked at the floor and the two children were silent for a while.
Wei Ying didn't know why he was following and trying to talk to the boy he did not even know the name, but he knew that the boy could not be a bad person, after all he saved him from that dog, gave him food and is even protecting him from the rain!
"I don’t remember my name clearly, but my mother called me A-Ying! And you, what's your name?"
Wei Ying didn’t hear what the boy said since the sound of thunder was loud, but decided not to ask the boy to repeat, "A-Zhan?" He risked and the boy didn't correct him, "A-Zhan, I will help you find your brother and uncle! "
"How?" A-Zhan asked after a moment of silence.
"You seem to be from an important family, so they're probably in somewhere expensive. There's a street here that has great inns, I can take you up there before heading back to the alley."
"Why are you going back to the alley?"
"Hm? Because I live there! And that's where my parents will be able to find me if they come looking for me. "
"Aren't you hungry?" Wei Ying asked extending the remaining dumplings to A-Zhan.
"You can eat."
"But we don't know how long it will take to find your relatives! Eat it."
He shook his head, "You are hungry."
"I'm fine!" Wei Ying smiled, he was feeling a little moved by the other child's kindness.
"I'm going to eat what you cannot finish."
"I already ate." The boy said looking at Wei Ying's face.
"If you say so..."
They walked for a while, but A-Zhan suddenly stopped and gripped Wei Ying's wrist that was confused for a moment before being led to near a building where they could shelter themselves from the rain, it seemed to be a restaurant that was closed because of the bad weather.
The boy in white took something from the sleeve of his white robe, it was a white pouch with a pleasant smell. The boy took some of what appeared to be herbs from inside the pouch and began to apply to Wei Ying's wounds.
"These wounds will heal on their own."
"You will have scars if you do not treat them properly."
"But these herbs are yours!"
"I'm not hurt," the boy said looking a little more serious.
Wei Ying was quiet just watching the other boy's face, "Are you kind to any lost child you meet on the streets? Hahaha, but i think you're the lost child!"
"Helping people is the right thing to do."
Wei Ying laughed, "You're a good boy, your mother must be proud," he murmured, "But I could be a thief! Aren't you scared?"
"You're not a thief."
"I could be."
The child squeezed Wei Ying's arm a little, "But you're not!"
Wei Ying smiled softly, "But I'm not."
Wei Ying heard a low sound coming from the other boy's stomach and smiled softly, then picked up the leftover dumpling and placed it against A-Zhan's lips and he widened his eyes for a moment.
"I will not be able to eat this," Wei Ying said with a shrug, he was already glad he had eaten all the other dumplings, "I'll hold this for you while you treat my wounds."
A-Zhan looked hesitant, but opened his mouth and timidly bit down the piece of food that was being offered. Wei Ying smiled cheerfully as his bruises were being treated and A-Zhan was chewing small chunks of meat dumpling. Wei Ying stared at A-Zhan's face and by impulse placed a forefinger on the other child's lips and stretched his lips trying to form a smile.
A-Zhan blinked a few times, confused he asked, "What are you doing?"
"Can't you smile?" Wei Ying asked sincerely curious as the other child's face seemed to be paralyzed in a way that prevented him from showing emotion.
"And how can you smile?" A-Zhan asked as he released Wei Ying's arm after he had finished treating his wounds.
"You're alone and you're hurt, you're hungry too," the boy said as he picked up the umbrella he'd left on the floor, "How can you smile like you're really happy?"
"But I'm happy!" Wei Ying tilted his head to the side before continuing, "Today is my lucky day, you came and saved me from that evil dog! You gave me food and took care of my wounds. I'm happy!"
"..." the boy seemed not to believe the answer, but Wei Ying showed a sincere and cheerful smile, "Weird."
"Am I weird?"
"Weird," A-Zhan repeated and then walked again, but stopped and waited for Wei Ying to come under the same umbrella again.
"You're weird, too! How can a child have only a facial expression? How do your friends know if you are happy or sad? "
"You don’t have friends?"
A-Zhan started to walk faster and Wei Ying began to walk faster too to be able to accompany him.
"You saved my life, I'll be your friend!"
"Friend?" The boy stopped walking and turned around to see Wei Ying.
"Yes! You don’t have friends? So, the honor of being your first friend is mine! "
"Does that sound good to you?"
"..." the boy thought a little and then his lips curved into a very subtle smile, it almost seemed that his expression had not changed, "First friend."
"Yes!" Wei Ying beamed and then pulled out something that was around his wrist.
Wei Ying took A-Zhan's left wrist and put a bracelet on it, a bracelet made of three strips of fabric forming a braid, one strip of fabric was black, one was red and the other was white at some point in the past. Wei Ying recalled that his father had made a bracelet similar to this to his mother and his mother had made one for him.
"What is it?" He asked as he looked at the bracelet that was now around his wrist.
"A gift and a thank you! You helped me, unfortunately I have nothing of more value to give you as a gift."
"That's ... I ..." He looked at the bracelet and then Wei Ying, "... You do not even know me and that's probably important to you."
"You saved me from the evil dog, fed me, took care of my wounds and let me be your first friend! You can have that bracelet."
"I do not know what to say."
"Then smile at me!"
"But I'm smiling," A-Zhan said looking confused and Wei Ying laughed.
"Only if your soul is smiling, because your face has not changed at all!" Wei Ying leaned forward and looked closely at the other boy's face, but he could not really see a change in his expression.
"Too close." The boy pulled away.
"Hahaha, sorry! Come on, A-Zhan, let's find your uncle and your brother!"
Wei Ying grabbed the other child's hand and started pulling him toward the inns where he thought the boy's uncle and brother might be. When they were near the street with the inns and Wei Ying was beginning to no longer be able to see the alley from where he had escaped the dog before, he stopped and with a sad smile released A-Zhan's hand.
"That's as far as I can go or I will not know the way back."
"Come with me, maybe my uncle can help you!" A-Zhan spoke a little louder and Wei Ying touched his face.
"Thanks, but I don’t know if he'll be able to help me. I'll wait a little longer for my parents. "
"But ..." the boy looked nervous for a moment, "But what if you feel hungry again?"
"I'll be fine!" Wei Ying assured, "Just knowing that somewhere there is someone who cares about me already makes me happy! I need to get back now, you just have to follow that street up ahead and you'll find the inns."
A-Zhan grabbed Wei Ying's wrist and seemed to want to say something, but then gave up and handed the umbrella to Wei Ying and did not let the boy push the umbrella back to him.
"I'll find my brother and uncle soon enough, take it to protect yourself from the rain," He said as he released the umbrella and started removing his outer robe, "And this to protect you from the cold."
"But it's yours!" Wei Ying protested as he felt the robe being placed on his shoulders.
"The next time I see you, you can give it back to me."
"We're going ... are we going to see each other again?" Wei Ying felt an emotion he could not explain, but it was good.
"Mn." A-Zhan adjusted the robe so that Wei Ying could warm up a little, "You said you would be my friend."
"A-Zhan!" Wei Ying didn't think twice before hugging the other child who seemed to be completely paralyzed for a moment, "Next time let's play together!"
Wei Ying pulled away and smiled, "See you around, A-Zhan! I will always be in the same place if I do not have to run away from dogs. Take care, I hope you find your brother and uncle!"
Wei Ying started to walk fast and was waving to A-Zhan.
"A-Ying!" The boy in white called when the other was already a little far.
Wei Ying smiled, "You too! Let's see each other soon! "
Wei Ying hurried back to the alley that he was accustomed to spending his nights, he dropped the umbrella on the floor and lay wrapped in the white robe that had a pleasant scent, suddenly he felt safe, he felt safe in a way he had not felt for a long time.
"Mom, I made a friend today! He is beautiful and kind, he saved me from the evil dog, gave me meat dumplings, an umbrella and a robe to keep me warm. Mom, Dad, I'm his first friend, so I need to take care of him!" Wei Ying said with a smile as he tried to remember the smile and voice of his parents, "I hope I can see my new friend soon."
... But unfortunately, A-Zhan did not appear again and when he finally was able to search for Wei Ying, the boy was no longer in that alley or in that city. They never saw each other again.
Or that's what they thought.
“It's Emperor's Smile! I'll give you a jar, can you pretend that you never saw me?”