Thirteen years ago, a young couple lived by Autumn Frost Lake. The lake less than two hundred kilometres from Beiping only exists because of the unique geography. The lake in the centre of the forest is as cold as it gets. When golden rays illuminate the surface and winds blow, the surface of the lake resembles ripples of crushed ice even in summer. Like the moss on the stone monument that displayed the lake’s name, it had been named so long ago that no soul could recount its history accurately. When autumn walks in, a chilly breeze covers the mountain and foothills in a tinge reminiscent of sunset.
The maiden pulled her brows together whilst using the freezing water as a mirror when a draft tousled her hair. It would be impossible for anyone to imagine she could be unhappy with her experience when she had it all from front to back, top to bottom; they would call her a water deity if they saw her sitting next to the lake. She didn’t possess mesmerising beauty, but it would be difficult not to marvel or move one’s gaze off her, especially her luminous eyes that contrasted her reserved decorum more befitting of her age.
She started to get frustrated with her unsuccessful attempt to comb her long hair, resulting in her laughing at herself.
“Smiling suits you,” he always told her. Be it dimpling with her lips pursed, laughing, even laughing hysterically, she was always charming, albeit in different ways. When she asked him what was so nice about her smile, though, he couldn’t answer. That didn’t change the fact that he genuinely liked seeing her smile, nevertheless.
“How much longer are you going to keep staring at me, silly?” grumbled the woman, almost sounding similar to a bickering newlywed couple.
“For as long as I live,” the youth with white hair blurted, lazing around.
She didn’t hide her rosy cheeks. Instead, she brushed her hair back: “Shouldn’t you comb my hair? What’s the point of marrying you if being a husband is just an excuse for you to lounge around?”
He might’ve been younger than her, but he was taller than her, even when he sat behind her with the corners of his lips in an upward curve.
Even though he sometimes hurt her while combing her hair and wasn’t exceptional at combing her hair, she liked letting him comb her hair. She liked seeing the youth, who was staunch in the face of any adversity, lose his composure whenever he hurt her. She liked leaning back on him whenever she was tired during their conversations. She couldn’t ask for anything more if she could rest on him by the red lake. She certainly didn’t care what others thought of her behaviour.
Once he finished tying her hair up, he queried, “Why did you sigh?”
“… Although it’s not noticeable now, when I age, you’ll fall for another woman.” She let him continue combing her hair while she continued, “When you turn twenty, I’ll be twenty-six. When you turn thirty, I’ll be thirty-six.”
“True…” His pause could almost be interpreted as deliberate to leave her hanging. “You’ll be eighty-six when I turn eighty. You’ll be ninety-six when I turn ninety.” He pulled her into his arms. “We won’t even have our teeth anymore. We won’t be able to walk anymore. Even so, I’ll still comb your hair.”
She leaned her head onto the space between his shoulder and chin: “Uhm. We’ll just stay here. I’ll play music and read while you train. I have no complaints if we can stay together until we’re in our nineties.”
Despite their rocky journey to finally be together, they didn’t desire a tear-jerking or fairy tale love. All they wanted to do was lead a quiet, peaceful life together until the end of their lives.
It was only a day later, yet everything changed after that day. Having experienced it once back then, he never wanted to witness their heart-wrenching separation a second time.
His mature consciousness took over his young self, bringing an unprecedented calmness to his eyes: “I should get going now.”
She shifted her head slightly, which would’ve been a head tilt if her head was leaning against him.
“You won’t understand because you weren’t here for those times.” Ming Feizhen rose to his feet and peered across the red lake. “You may not believe me, but this world isn’t real. Someone used a skill to conjure it. He’s strong mentally, physically and is equipped with a weapon bordering on a weapon out of a fantasy story. That’s the only reason he could produce this world.” He looked back down at her and elaborated, “I’ve been searching for you ever since we parted. I’ve gone to Beijiang, Nanjiang, the Western Regions… I’ve searched every place you and others have mentioned. I even searched places where there were reports of someone resembling you. It’s a world I haven’t seen, but you’re not there. I should give him my thanks. Had it not been for him, I don’t know when I’d ever see you again… Let’s speak in person next time.”
“It’s you… right?” Shen Yiren choked out.
Ming Feizhen wrapped his arms around Shen Yiren and pulled himself in next to her ear: “Sorry for making you worry.”
Notwithstanding shutting her eyes as tight as she could, a silver trail still escaped at the same time she let her emotions out of her lips: “Jerk… Big jerk…”
Ming Feizhen moved his gaze up to lock with Luo Ming’s and gently whispered again, “Don’t worry. It’ll be over… in a jiffy.”
Autumn Frost – Can be used as a means of describing high-quality, prosperity and even heroic. However, here, it’s a reference to white hair – Li Bai’s Snow Shore Ballad. One of the phrases of the poem is, “Autumn frost is everywhere…” which is to say that all of one’s hair has turned white. This is further emphasised if you notice the emphasis on aging together in the chapter.