I found a small cottage at the West Lake. There were peach blossoms outside the window. There was a willow tree at the entrance. I planned to live fifty years peacefully like this. I didn’t expect that only a few months had passed when I discovered that I was pregnant.
When the fox sisters I knew heard the news, they rushed over and took care of me and my daily necessities. No one of us understood how I, a fox, could give birth to a human child. According to the god of dreams, Fan Zilan loved me too deeply and wished for this child. I immediately drove him away. This muddle-headed old man, when had he also began to read those complete nonsense about love between men and women. Giving birth to a child. Alright, I haven’t experienced giving birth before.
I was pregnant for ten months. Every day, I stayed in bed, enclosed my belly and vomited so much that I almost blackened out. The sisters said that I was no different from human females. When that child came to the world, he also wasn’t different from a human child. He was a boy and looked very much like Fan Zilan. Especially that pair of eyes. They were round, black and so clear that it would make people feel inferior.
The god of dreams advised me to give Fan Zilan the child and let him raise it because of his longing heart.
I asked, “Has he taken a wife?”
The god of dreams answered, “The emperor had the intention to marry princess Ningxian to him. Fan Zilan rejected.”
I shook my head. This stupid brat. What was he waiting for?
I sneaked once again into Fan residence. Fan Zilan wasn’t in the study. The bamboo trees outside grew and became more magnificent. I put the cradle with the child in it on the table. I thought for a while. Then, I took a brush and wrote two words on his forehead: Your son.
This brat still slept so soundly after being painted by me. That appearance looked very much like when Fan Zilan was in deep sleep.
Talking about the devil, the devil appeared. Footsteps were heard outside the study. I quickly retreated. Just when the door was opened, I went through the wall to outside and listened.
The study was so silent that it was frightening. Was he…looking at the child? It was silent again for a long while. Why didn’t he make a sound?
‘Huang.’ It was like thunder. The door of the study was suddenly pushed open. I quickly hid myself and retreated a few steps inside the bamboo forest. In the dark night, I couldn’t see Fan Zilan’s expression, but his voice was very frightening.
After having not seen him for a year, he seemed to have gotten thinner.
“I know you haven’t left,” Fan Zilan roared. “Come out. Come out!” His voice was hoarse. While stumbling he rushed to the bamboo forest. His hands touched everywhere. I dodged busily. I was almost touched by his hand.
I didn’t understand why he was so furious. Didn’t humans like children very much? I came from a thousand miles away to bring him a child as gift; what more could he be unhappy about?
Fan Zilan didn’t found me. Step by step, he went back to the study. Beside himself, he looked at the baby inside the cradle. The child had already woken up. With his clear eyes, he looked curiously at him (FZ). He was the same as when he (FZ) was a child.
Fan Zilan, while trembling, picked up the child and stared at him for a while. Then, he (FZ) cried loudly.
I returned to the home at West Lake. Lived and lived. Occasionally, I would miss the pine flower cake Fan Zilan made. However, slowly I forgot about it…
One day the god of dreams told me that Fan Zilan was about to die.
I asked, “How old is he that he is about to die?”
The god of dreams looked at me with pity and said, “This year he is sixty-nine and very ill.”
I was a bit shocked. Inadvertently so many years had passed. Looking at the young appearance that hadn’t changed in forever, suddenly I felt fed up with it. I decided to go visit him.
Fan residence was now livelier than before. He long had a pack of descendants who surrounded the bed and asked him about his well-being. For a time, I couldn’t get in. I could only change my clothes to that of a maid’s. I pulled another maid outside the study and asked, “Big sister, how is sir?”
She pointed at the bowl in her arms and whispered, “Be quieter. Sir just vomited blood and just slept.”
I looked and saw that there was indeed black blood inside the bowl.
It wasn’t easy for the study to become silent. I made myself invisible and sneaked in. There were two servants at the door. I looked. It wasn’t Fan Zilan.
On the bed lay an old man who was about to die. His hair was white, and he got many black spots on his face. He was yellow and thin like a skeleton.
I swept my gaze over him and continued to search for Fan Zilan. Where was he? Could it be that I came into the wrong residence?
A fierce cough came from behind me that contained spittle. The old man woke up.
“Who? Who is there,” he asked with a hoarse voice.
He was already so ill, but he was still so alert. I walked over and had planned to ask him where Fan Zilan was. But I was startled suddenly. That pouch, that pouch that was around his neck and that was a bit wore off, that pouch looked very familiar.
“Fan Zilan?” I said unconsciously. His whole body froze. He opened his eyes with much effort. I wouldn’t not recognize that pair of eyes.
“You are…,” he once again asked hoarsely.
I smiled slightly, “Fan Zilan, I’m Shuang Shuang.” Let me just comply with his wish.
“Shuang Shuang…Shuang Shuang…”
His thin hand tried to touch in the air with much effort. He wanted to find my hand. I gently held his hand.
“You’re already so old.”
He also smiled slightly, “You…still look the same as in the past.”
I gently touched his face, wanting to flatten those wrinkles and flatten the time that had passed.
“Shuang Shuang…,” he looked pressingly at me. “Shuang Shuang, tell me, would a human have an afterlife after he dies?”
I froze for a moment, stared at him and didn’t speak for a long time.
“Shuang Shuang…,” he got impatient from waiting and with difficulty, he pulled my hand. “Answer me quickly…”
Suddenly, I thought about the him of the past. He was about six to seven-year-old little boy. He was innocent like a clear jade. He continuously pulled my hand, “Answer me quickly. Big sister, answer me quickly. When will I grow a beard? When will I get taller? When I get taller, marry me alright? Answer me quickly, answer me quickly…”
I looked at him and laughed suddenly. “Fan Zilan, why are the questions you ask more foolish the older you get?”
He looked at me with an expression that showed that he failed to understand me.
“Don’t worry,” I touched his nose. “Of course, humans have an afterlife. Perhaps in the next life, you still can be a big official.”
Fan Zi Lan stared at me for a moment and finally laughed, “I won’t be a big official in the next life. I will also not be a human.”
He quietly said, “I will be a fox and stay with you forever.”