When Lu Jinnian woke up, the other side of the bed was already empty.
He frowned, bolting up. When he was about to find Qiao Anhao, he caught sight of a set of clothes at the corner of his pillow. It was a simple white s.h.i.+rt and a pair of long black pants. On the floor, there was a bucket of water, beside which was a Thermos flask and a small towel.
Lu Jinnian's frown disappeared instantly. He walked towards the bucket and poured some hot water in. He placed the towel into the bucket before wringing it dry to wipe himself. Turning back to the bed, he put on the clothes and walked out of the room with the bucket.
The living area outside was empty, the door slightly ajar. He walked over and was mesmerized by the comforting and peaceful sight.
There was a large tree in the courtyard. He didn't know what species it was, but it was filled with pink flowers, its trunk thick and coa.r.s.e, showing its age.
Qiao Anhao sat below the tree, a little girl about seven years old beside her, leaning against a short table. The little girl had a pen in her hands and appeared to be practicing writing.
Qiao Anhao was focused on the white paper, her tone soft and gentle when she spoke.
"No, it's wrong here... Nope, still wrong... Let me show you one more time…" As she spoke, she covered the little girl's tiny hands, patiently writing the words out slowly. "There, you can try again… Yes, that's great! It's really pretty, you did well..."
The little girl tilted her head up to smile sweetly at Qiao Anhao before lowering it back down to continue practicing.
It was nearing dusk, the sun casting a reddish glow on the tree, the rays spilling onto Qiao Anhao and the little girl.
Qiao Anhao had already removed her costume. She had on a simple white dress, her hair tied into two long plaids.
Her face was clean, without any makeup, her white skin gleaming under the sun's rays; it was flawless.
The wind blew softly, causing a few petals to fall onto her and the girl's dark hair. Qiao Anhao reached out to pinch the petals away carefully.
Lu Jinnian held onto the bucket, leaning against the door as he stared at the image ahead, mesmerized. His heart clenched, it felt full and at ease.
The little girl was the first to notice Lu Jinnian's presence. She held onto the pencil, her head tilted to the side as she stared at him, blinking slightly.
When Qiao Anhao realized that the girl was in a daze, she lightly called out to her "Nan Nan." She towards her line of sight, and when she saw Lu Jinnian at the door, she straightened and asked, "You're awake?"
Lu Jinnian snapped out of his daze. "Yea…" He took large strides forward and poured the water away before heading to the tree.
Qiao Anhao turned to smile at him. "She's Nan Nan, the daughter of the family. Brother Chen and his wife went to farm, and since she was reading, I decided to teach her a few words."
Lu Jinnian nodded his head lightly, looking down at the white paper.
When Qiao Anhao had covered the little girl's hand, the words were neat, but when the girl had written herself, they started to curve weirdly in every direction.