She looks up at the full moon overhead, not a cloud in the sky, and holds up her wine in a toast.
“While I watch the moon go down, a crow caws through the frost;
Under the shadows of maple-trees a fisherman moves with his torch;
And I hear, from beyond Su-chou, from the temple on Cold Mountain,
Ringing for me, here in my boat, the midnight bell.”
She pauses, because that’s good, but maybe…
“The reeds along the water are frosted in the night.
A cold moon and distant mountains have all gone grey.
Whose voice comes to me across the miles this night,
Dreamlike, distorted, as if from forts along the border?”
Better, perhaps, Baoshan Sanren thinks, tossing back the wine. Wondering how Lan Yi fares in whatever place she’s found herself. As she drinks the last of her wine, she closes her eyes, laying down on the cool tiles of the roof. The cries of night-bugs and distant birds. Outside her gates, she hears two boys talking, one breaks into a lighthearted laugh.
She doesn’t know how long it’s been since someone has come by. How long it’s been since she’s rested with Lan Yi tucked against her side, the two of them together forever as immortals ought.
The crunch of metal and a scream rings out, before the sound of a car, tires screeching against the pavement in their haste to leave.
Then soft pained noises.
She leaves the wine jar on the roof as she jumps to the ground, landing lightly and making her way to the entrance of the Wish Granting Shop.
There are two young men, both bloody and bruised, one of the two is awake, and gently shakes the others shoulder.
“Jiang Cheng?” His voice cracks, as he clings to the others side.
She can tell from here that this Jiang Cheng is not going to make it.
The other man looks up and around, his eyes meeting hers, “Please! Can you call an ambulance?”
They’re not to far from the front gates she thinks, perhaps…
“If you come here, I’ll see what I can do.” Baoshan Sanren says.
He nods frantically, pulling Jiang Cheng into his arms, repeating “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ve got you A-Cheng.” Quietly under his breath.
He collapses as soon as they’re inside the gateway, blood dripping on the stones and lawn. “Please, please, help him!” He begs, “I’ll do anything!”
“It’s serious,” She says crouching next to them, “Tell me your name first.”
“Wei Ying,” He replies, “But my brother, he – “
“Would you make a deal with me, Wei Ying?” She sees her reflection in his eyes, tall, white-haired and red-eyed as the power of the Shop takes hold.
Wei Ying freezes, before tightening his hold on Jiang Cheng, “If you help him, yes.”
“It would normally take many years for him to return to normal after this,” She’s not sure how much medicine has advanced these years, but with the state his spine is in… “For all the years it would have taken to heal him, you’ll work here.”
Nodding, Wei Ying agrees, “Okay! I’ll do it!”
“There’s more.” Baoshan Sanren says, “That’s only the price for his long-term healing, there will be another to keep him alive.”
Wei Yings eyes widen.
She takes a breath, “He’s important to you, so you must give up something just as important. You have a sister, too, yes?”
“I can’t – “ Wei Ying starts shaking, “Jiejie…?”
“She’ll forget you.” Baoshan Sanren says, “She won’t remember you unless she wishes it herself.”
He closes his eyes, letting out a weak breath, “But she’ll be okay?”
“She’ll be fine otherwise.”
“Then I’ll do it.” Wei Ying says, “If they’ll be okay then it’s fine.”
“Your sister will have to find this place of her own will, if she is told to come here – or led here – your brother will regain his injuries.” The boy has to understand.
His eyes are determined.
“Alright.” She says, and places her hand on the top of his head. Immediately Wei Ying collapses to the ground, and she watches as the deep laceration on Jiang Chengs shoulder closes to a thin red line, listens as bones click and grind into place. She pulls him from Wei Yings arms and carries him to the gates, setting him down just outside the threshold. As her arms cross over – she sees them grow thin and wrinkled, time catching up with her slowly, if they remain outside for too long, they’d turn to bone and then dust.
Baoshan Sanren pulls her arms back in, and as they regain their youth she looks over Wei Yings cuts and bruises.
She’ll give him a free one, heal his injuries herself – what are a few more scars?
After, she shakes him awake, and he blinks blearily at her. “Mhmm.”
“Wei Ying, I have another offer for you.”
“What is it…” He sounds half-asleep, and the guilt hits her, but she continues.
“There’s someone I… I miss greatly. I would like to let you take over the Shop – at least until I find her.”
“Okay,” He closes his eyes again, “Missing someone isn’t fun…” He falls back asleep.
Baoshan Sanren leans down, resting her forehead against his, she thinks, you will be the Shopkeeper until I return. I will not find her until your sister finds you. The price seems fair, a promise of reunion for them both – but only after the parting.
He probably won’t wake up until after she’s left, but for now Baoshan Sanren picks him up and carries him into the Shop – while the night is clear here, it may not be when the Shop next moves. She decides on setting him down on the chair in the main room, and lays an outer robe over him.
Then she walks back out and to the front doors, placing her hand on the wooden carvings and pausing before sliding the door open.
“We promised, Lan Yi,” She says, “You built me this home, and I said I would save you.”
When the door closes behind her, she hears it seal shut.
She begins her search.
Lan Yis head is heavy in her lap, it’s comforting, and Baoshan Sanren continues to stroke her hair – both of them ignore the menace lying on the porch next to them.
“ – So they teamed up against me! Can you believe that? Both of them!” Wei Ying flings his hands up, clearly doing his best to have the light catch of the ring on his finger, “Qing-Jie always bullies me, but for Jiejie to join her?”
She wonders if she can reach the plate behind her without moving Lan Yi – while his visit was unexpected, he was polite enough to bring a treat – she hasn’t had nian gao in a while…
“At least I have my Lan Zhan to defend me.” He continues, “Hmm – what else do you need to know… Oh! Qing-Jie cut her hair, it looks very good on her.”
“Hmm,” Lan Yi hums contentedly, “Perhaps she can visit us later.”
Wei Ying sits up fiddling with something around his neck, “I’ll let her know.”
With a sigh, Baoshan Sanren asks, “I’ve looked through the records, that necklace was a price, yes?”
“Yeah,” Wei Ying pulls out the small jade pendant, “It still works, actually! If Lan Zhan needs me, he has an idea of where to go.”
She’s not surprised – wishes wouldn’t just stop because of a new Shopkeeper – in fact as a one-time Shopkeeper, there’s probably even more effects it should be having on him.
He twirls the chain around his fingers, the silvers clicks gently against his ring.
“Anything else to say?” Baoshan Sanren asks, finally giving in.
The reaction is immediate, Wei Ying throws his hand towards them, “I’m getting married! To Lan Zhan! Can you believe it? Ah, he’s so good – I must have done some real good in my past lives to have earned this!”
“Congratulations,” Baoshan Sanren says, “It’s good to have someone to spend your days with.”
“And nights.” Wei Ying cackles, “But I did come here for a reason! Is there a way I can get you two out of here for the party?”
It’s sweet, he doesn’t really know them that well – but consistently makes it a point to visit, he’s a good kid, Baoshan Sanren thinks.
“You want to invite us?” Is what she says, looking down to see Lan Yi smirk.
“Of course!” Wei Ying chirps, “If I hadn’t met you, what would have happened to my brother? And I’d never have met the Wens or Xuanyu, and who knows how long it would have taken for me and Lan Zhan to finally get together?” He crosses his legs and bounces in place, “So what do I have to do to get you to come?”
“Perhaps it would be better for you to visit us after,” Lan Yi closes her eyes and reaches for the plate, “We’re not quite good with crowds anymore.”
He leans forward, “Are you sure?” When Baoshan Sanren nods, he shrugs, “We’ll make sure to bring some food for you, it’s not going to be for a while though.”
“I suppose that means you’ll be visiting again before then?” Baoshan Sanren says.
Wei Ying winks, “It’s a deal.”