“Little Xing, take a break.” He Shuilian told Yuan Xingxing after seeing how exhausted she was.
Yuan Xingxing shook her head. “No. Mom, look. Those older boys are working so hard.”
He Shuilian looked down. There were constantly martial policemen and soldiers bringing relief supplies while wading through the water. Many people were familiar with them. They had familiar faces, names, and smiles. But most familiar to them was the smiling faces that forever smiled at them despite being utterly exhausted.
He Shuilian sighed. “They are all good people. Xingxing, when you grow up, why don’t you be a soldier?”
“Yes! I’ll be a soldier! Furthermore, I want to help even more people! Since they aren’t resting, I won’t rest! By the way, Granny Zhang’s family seems to be out of water. I’ll boil some and bring it to them.” With that said, Yuan Xingxing began busying herself.
Everyone, be it the soldiers or the flood victims, liked her when they saw how much of a sensible, intelligent, and pretty girl she was. The look in her eyes was that of an angel of happiness. She brought joy and laughter anywhere she went.
Yuan Hai was in a corner watching as he smiled foolishly to himself. He was feeling proud for having such a daughter!
When Fangzheng saw this, he felt a little choked up. Such a good child was gone Sigh.
Fangzheng could not help but let out a long sigh as he mumbled to himself, “Amitabha.”
The scene changed again.
The river had receded from the foot of the mountain, leaving behind a wake of destruction across the land. There was rubbish everywhere, but of course there were pleasant surprises too.
“Daddy, look! I caught a fish!” Yuan Xingxing was in a tiny pond as she grabbed a carp about a kilogram in weight. The carp struggled, splashing water all over her body, eliciting a series of exclamations.
Yuan Hai quickly rushed over and grabbed the fish. He smiled. “Little Xing, impressive. This fish is enough for an entire meal!”
“I’ll make soup with it later. Auntie Li needs the nourishment, she caught a cold last night,” said Yuan Xingxing.
Yuan Hai was taken aback. He had planned on eating it for himself, but since his beloved daughter had said so, what else could he say? Encourage her of course!
It did not take long before a piping hot pot of fragrant fish soup was ready. Yuan Xingxing immediately pulled out copious amounts of meat and stuffed it into a big bowl of fish soup before bringing the bowl to Auntie Li. She left alone, but she returned with a litter of starving cats. Yuan Hai bitterly discovered that the fish had little to do with him.
After the meal, everyone dispersed and began tidying up everything. Yuan Hai went to the village chief.
“The water has receded, but I heard that the rain might restart at any time. So the higher-ups have instructed us to stay up here a little longer. As for food and drink, there’s no need to worry.” The village chief was sucking on a huge smoke pipe, his treasure and the last thing in the world he wanted lost.
Yuan Hai said helplessly, “How long will we have to wait?”
Yuan Hai sighed and returned to his tent. When he entered, he saw He Shuilian and Yuan Xingxing staring each other like two chickens in combat.
“What are the two of you doing?” asked Yuan Hai perplexed.
“Your darling daughter is too disobedient. Seriously, the village secretary is one of a kind. He actually came up with some crazy idea!” He Shuilian said peeved.
Yuan Xingxing replied angrily, “Who’s the one coming up with crazy ideas? I’m doing it to help everyone!”
“What’s happening?” Yuan Hai turned flustered.
“The water has receded. Some villagers have secretly run back to the village to find their valuables. All of them are very impatient and don’t listen to our advice. The secretary’s idea is to send some people to search for them back in the village and persuade them to return. But who knows when the rain will come again. If something happens, no one can save them. But your darling daughter insists on going!” said He Shuilian furiously.
Yuan Xingxing exclaimed, “Didn’t you want to go as well? What gives you the right to go, but me not? Does doing good have anything to do with age? If we talk about running, I can run much faster than you.”
“You dare talk back? Do you want me to hit you?” He Shuilian raised her hand, about to hit her when Yuan Xingxing quickly ran behind Yuan Hai to seek his protection. Then she scrunched her nose in provocation.
He Shuilian pointed at the lass angrily and stared at Yuan Hai. “Yuan Hai, are you not going to discipline this girl? She’s so defiant!”
“Yes, of course!” Yuan Hai laughed out loud before patting Yuan Xingxing on the head. Just as he was about to say something, he saw the bright and determined eyes in Yuan Xingxing’s eyes. The words he was about to say changed. “Daddy supports you!”
“Yeah!” The little girl jumped up in excitement. He Shuilian was left exasperated as she stared coldly in anger.
Yuan Hai said, “Our whole family shall go. I’m going too!”
“Watch Xingxing well, or else Hmph!” He Shuilian glared at him angrily.
Yuan Hai grinned dryly, afraid to say a word.
That day, the family of three returned to the village. The water had receded, and there was residue mud everywhere. There were places with quite a number of fish, but now, with their lives on the line, no one caught the fish. The moment they entered the village, they began searching. They managed to persuade a few people back, but there were others who resisted too.
“Yuan Hai, stop making alarmist talk. The water has receded. It’s fine.”
“That’s right. The water won’t take that long to come. If it floods again, it won’t be too late for us to leave.”
“Yuan Hai, you are worrying for nothing.”
Yuan Hai, who was not very good at persuading people, was helpless against all these disapproving replies. He failed at convincing them; furthermore, as the days passed, there were only more and more people returning to the village.
A week later, the secretary found Yuan Hai suddenly. He said solemnly, “Leave quickly. It’s raining again upstream. Leave before the water comes!”
The moment Yuan Hai heard that, he quickly ran out and shouted out for his wife and daughter. He then went door to door to knock on people’s doors. Upon hearing the flood was coming again, they quickly packed their things. Their hearts ached for their homes which they had taken great pains to clean up. The items they were unwilling to give up were stuffed into bags. It left Yuan Hai and the secretary anxious as they urged them in all sorts of ways.
“Yuan Hai, why don’t we do this. Give me one walkie-talkie. I’ll go upstream to take a look. If the water comes, I’ll inform you. You leave with everyone,” suggested He Shuilian.
“No, that’s too dangerous.”
“What’s so dangerous about it! When I see the water come, I’ll run up the mountain. I’ll be fine. When the time comes, you can come get me on a speedboat,” said He Shuilian domineeringly. After saying that, she ran out.
Yuan Xingxing immediately followed her. Yuan Hai shouted for her to return, but Yuan Xingxing refused to listen. She yelled, “I’ll protect Mommy! Dad, take good care of yourself. I run much faster than Mommy.”
Yuan Hai immediately chased after her. It was not time to let Yuan Xingxing do as she wished. However Yuan Xingxing gave him a pleading look. “Daddy, do you have the heart to let Mommy go alone? It will be better for two people to look out for each other.”
“I’ll go. You stay here and watch.”