The green foliage in the fields had withered. The ground had split. The sunshine was in bones, its heat radiating onto the bitter countenances of the villages. The village had been deprived of rain for months; attempting to draw water from the well was akin to quenching thirst only in dreams. A number of villages already fell victim to the heat and dehydration.
The parents of a young girl curled up under a ceiling had cracked lips. It had been a day since their last drop of water.
“How are we supposed to survive without water?!” The girl’s father shook his head. He had considered moving houses, but they’d die on the side of the road before they arrived without water.
“Cough, cough, water… water…” The girl’s mother collapsed due to severe dehydration.
“Mother! Mother!” cried the girl, scuttling over to her mother.
The husband moved his wife into the shade and heaved a big breath.
The girl was the only individual to not suffer thirst or any effects of dehydration. Desperate to save her parents from the torment, she shut down her fear and jumped to her feet. While her father wasn’t paying attention, she sneaked out.
The girl ran past the sighing villagers, making sure to steer clear of thin and yellow-skinned villagers, and to a small wood out in the wild. She knew the location of a dry reservoir here. Though there was so minimal water that the bottom was in sight, the soil was still moist. Thanks to shade overing the reservoir, it had yet to dry out.
The girl surveyed the surroundings to ensure nobody was watching. She crouched down and drew water out from the soil with gentle hand movements, collecting them in the air. Smiling, she took out a small bowl and collected the water inside. Clasping the bowl as if it was a treasure, she hurried back to the village. Thanks to her ability, she could run as fast as she liked without spilling a drop.
The village chief was dead. Thus, people gathered at the entrance of the village discussed feasible solutions. She furtively sneaked past the crowd. Alas, a boy suddenly shouted, “Look, she found water!”
“Where did you find water?”
The avaricious voices and forceful villagers trying to snatch the bowl scared the girl. She muttered, “I got it from the reservoir in the woods.”
“Don’t lie. The reservoir dried out long ago. Are you hiding a water source?”
“You should share if you found water.”
Suddenly, somebody pushed the girl from behind, shattering the bowl. In a surprising turn of events, the water didn’t spill onto the ground; it hovered in the air. The girl let out a breath of relief. Only after she cupped the water in her hands and looked up did she realise the change in the atmosphere.
“She can control water! She’s a water demon!”
“She’s the reason we don’t have any water!”
The outraged villagers grabbed the four-year-old girl and tied her up. They spat on her and insulted her. The villagers restrained her limbs and suspended her in the air. Nobody managed to steal the water from her no matter how she tried. Hearing her father’s voice coming close, she beamed and cried, “Father, take the water to mother.”
Eyes wide, her father quivered. He staggered back and belted, “You sinful water demon! Give Xue’er back!”
Her father took the water successfully. However, instead of running off with it, he splashed it on his daughter. She was dumbstruck. Meanwhile, via observational learning, the boys started to stone her. In the end, she was left to hang in the sun, body covered in wounds.
The villagers surrounded her with dry firewood. She cried for her father, but he was long gone. To everyone’s surprise, the fire couldn’t burn her. She just wriggled around to put the fire out. Thus, they changed their plans and dug a deep hole on the mountain to bury her alive.
She couldn’t breathe under the dry dirt coiling around her limbs. Fortunately, she wasn’t dead. Dark clouds soon drove off the scorching sun. Ran began to fall and seep into the soil. The rain eventually enveloped her. Through some mechanism in her last ditch effort, she managed to teleport out.
Sitting on the ground, the girl hugged her knees and trembled. She saw the villagers celebrating in the distance. She heard, “This rain is our reward for killing an elemental demon!” Despite the jubilance on her father’s face, she was dead inside. The rain and thunder masked her wails.
Having watched the playback, Mu Yu crouched down next to the girl. “Qiao Xue, it’s me.”
The girl transformed into Qiao Xue upon looking up at Mu Yu. She hugged him with her all might and cried, “Why did they have to kill me? What did I do wrong? What did I do wrong?”
“You didn’t do anything wrong. Their fear of elemental demons blinded them.” Mu Yu gently patted Qiao Xue on her back.
“Wrong. Humans are selfish creatures. Can you still not see that?”
“Qiao Xue, don’t listen to her. She’s misleading you on purpose,” said Mu Yu, glaring at Xuan Ming. He wasn’t taught how to drive Xuan Ming off.
“Oh really? He led you on this entire time. He doesn’t like you. You’ve been abandoned. Nobody likes you.” Xuan Ming’s voice was devoid of ill-will.
Qiao Xue released Mu Yu. Her heart bled just seeing him again. Xuan Ming was right. Mu Yu was a human, and his joke led her on. She pushed him away and ran off, leaving him with, “You’re the same as them.” Sadly, she saw the celebrating villagers and realised she had nowhere to run to. She covered her ears and screamed, but it wasn’t enough to stop the cheering.
Mu Yu pulled Qiao Xue in, albeit not knowing why, and planted his lips on her. The rain stopped. The villagers and Xuan Ming’s voice vanished. The cracks on the ground and golden petals in the sky were suddenly of no importance. In that moment, their feelings transcended everything.