Chapter 5: An Agreement (Pt.

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Jiang Ling’s line of sight combed through the river of people, but she did not see the westerners again.
Sure that it had only been her imagination, she felt unavoidably down, and she did not know what she had been expecting. 

She made her way slowly down from the ridge of the roof. 

“Ding, ding, ding…” The sounds of bells drifted over from somewhere close by.
Jiang Ling perked her ears up, sure that she had not heard wrong.
Following the sound, she discovered a small group of camels grazing in the back courtyard of an inn.
The saddles and unpacked baggage laid off to the side, and the bells on the camels’ neck rang as they ate. 

Jiang Ling landed in the middle of the courtyard, her heart pounding.
She drew close to the camels out of curiosity.
This was the second time she had seen the camels and her first time observing them up close.
The camels’ hair was short, so short that one could not see it at a distance.
Their black, bright eyes were both round and large. 

“Your eyelashes are so long, very pretty.” Jiang Ling found that the camels’ eyelashes were long and black, like a little fan.
She could not help but sigh with feeling. 

“With you complimenting its beauty like that, it won’t be able to sleep tonight from the excitement.”

Jiang Ling turned around and saw He Xi, who was leaning against the courtyard’s door with her arms crossed as she regarded her.
Under the lantern light, He Xi looked like she was hidden behind a layer of fine gauze, hazy and dreamy, “He Xi! You’re here, after all.”

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“I told you, we would meet again soon.” He Xi walked up to Jiang Ling’s side, stroking the camel’s hair.
Jiang Ling watched He Xi’s hand as she caressed the camel once and again out of the corner of her eye. 

Suddenly, He Xi tilted her head close to Jiang Ling’s, her amber irises looking at Jiang Ling steadily.
Jiang Ling felt drawn into her gaze, forgetting to breathe.
He Xi was already quite tall, a little taller than Jiang Ling, so she stooped slightly to look directly at Jiang Ling, the gem at the center of her forehead swaying softly with her movement as she leisurely touched Jiang Ling’s forehead, her hand icy cold. 

“Your eyelashes are pretty, too.”

Once she finished admiring Jiang Ling’s eyelashes, He Xi straightened her posture and put some distance between them.
She turned about and fiddled lightly with the bells, the clear, melodious rings stirring her heart. 

Jiang Ling’s heart beat like a drum.
After a moment in which she caught her breath, she asked: “Why are you here?”

“Replenishing stock.”

Jiangdu’s green-glazed porcelain ware was first-class among the multitudes of different ceramic crafts.
The western regions lack this kind of product, and because these kinds of porcelain, as well as silks, are popular trade commodities between the western regions and the central plains, it was natural to replenish stock here. 

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“I heard that the green ware here was very famous.
Right, today’s the lantern festival.
Why didn’t you go out?”

“I’m like you.”

Jiang Ling readily acknowledged that there were too many people out on the street, and joyful interest was defeated once she saw how many people there were. 

“He Xi, let’s go find a place that’s less crowded and light the lanterns.” Jiang Ling thought of the recently purchased lanterns, which had not yet been lit.
She lifted up the two lanterns in her hands and asked He Xi, revealing a faint expression of expectation. 

“Then, what about your shixiong?” He Xi had seen Jiang Ling out together with her shixiong earlier. 

“Him? He can go back on his own, no need to concern yourself with him.” Jiang Ling had evidently not heard the implication in He Xi’s words.
He Xi’s lips arched into a pretty crescent, her brow curved and her eyes like the stars in a constellation.
Jiang Ling looked at her foolishly for a bit before returning to her senses. 

“You love to gawk.” He Xi teased.
The first time she had seen Jiang Ling, she had been sitting in at the tea stall staring in a daze.
She had not even spoken a few sentences and she had looked at her dumbfoundedly again, quite adorable. 

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Jiang Ling’s face flushed red from He Xi’s words. 

Her flushed face was adorable, too.
He Xi felt that the journey this time was all the more fruitful.
Aside from experiencing the rich and diverse customs and livelihoods of the central plains, she could also make friends with an interesting person from the central plains. 

The two of them walked side by side along the street, evading the swarms of people.
Along the river floated many lanterns in embellishment. 

Jiang Ling spoke a little about what happened after they separated in Yuzhou, about the flourishing imperial city of Luoyang, as well as the incident with Chu Yue.
When the heartbreaking events were brought up, He Xi listened quietly. 

Jiang Ling sought out the nearby river wharf, took out a flame tube1 to light the lanterns, squatted down on the steps, and gently placed the lanterns in the water. 

“I hope Chu Yue and A Xin are happy on the other side and don’t encounter any more miscreants.” Jiang Ling clasped her hands together, her words and actions sincere. 

Although they had only been apart for a short two months, He Xi felt that Jiang Ling seemed to have shed a layer of childishness.
That girl who had stared blankly and dazedly that day was, at this moment, immersed in a dense fog of sorrow.

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“I hope you will be happy.” He Xi knelt down and placed her lantern on the water and pushed off lightly with her fingers.
The lantern floated far away, chasing after Jiang Ling’s lantern. 

Jiang Ling opened her eyes and gazed at He Xi, who was kneeling beside her, and her eyes glistened. 

He Xi stroked her head and said: “It looks like Miss Chu Yue’s affairs have made you sad, so I hope you will feel better.”

Jiang Ling smoothed a hand over the hair that was stroked by He Xi. 

“Thank you.
Then, we’re friends now?”

“Do friends need to thank each other?”

“Even still, thank you.”

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