Chapter 37: Staying the night in Bird Concealment Platform (Part One)
Wangyue gazed at the Bird Concealment Platform which was growing more distinct as they got closer. From this angle, the place looked unchanged except for the lack of cooking smoke from chimneys. He asked Ouyang Hongye and Fenghuo, “I haven’t come so far for a long time. Have you guys come back here after the Great Battle 16 years ago?”
Fenghuo answered, “I came here once at Elder Cheng’s order after the Great battle to escort the surviving feather spirits to the capital city. They were reluctant to leave since their mates and children were buried here. It took us great efforts to persuade them to go.”
He still remembered how lost the surviving feather spirits looked when they knew that Green Cloud and his minions had disappeared; their crying resonated in the empty city as if they were calling out to the souls of their children and mates. From then on, the rare scene of hundreds of birds coming back to nests at sunset was no more; in its place was desolation and painful memories.
When they arrived at the Bird Concealment Platform, they found the city gate was wide open and weeds were growing wildly in and out of the city walls. It was obvious that this place was uninhabited. Ouyang Hongye took the lead as they filed into the city. The entire city was dead silent with high weeds and dilapidated bird houses in the trees. It seemed the remnants of Green Cloud’s army were not stationed here.
Ouyang Hongye instructed, “It seems this place is empty. We’ll stay the night here and take turns to keep watch!”
Fenghuo was familiar with this city since he had come here before. He suggested, “There’s a clearing in the center of the city. We can build a fire and cook food in the clearing. We haven’t eaten hot food in a few days.”
“Okay. Let’s do it!” Ouyang Hongye nodded.
Unfortunately, when they came to the clearing that Fenghuo had mentioned, they found it was full of weeds. Resigned, he led the others to the late city master’s bird house which was higher and more spacious than the other houses. It had a platform before the entrance that could be used as a spot for night watch.
After they dismounted below the bird house, Fenghuo leapt onto the platform before the others. Compared with other bird houses, this one looked to be in a relatively better condition. He walked around and stomped on the floor to make sure the house was solid enough to take their weight. He called out to the others, “Guys! Come up. It’s quite sturdy!”
Xia Qiu flew up with the others. She liked the feeling of flying when she landed on the bird house even though it lasted only a few seconds. After all, what fascinated humans more than flying? It was a fascination that spirits could never understand since they were used to flying around.
Despite years of exposure to elements, the city master’s bird house still looked exquisite in structure and weaving. The window paper was gone, as was the door. The interior of the house was more spacious than expected. The room in the front was for meeting visitors; it was connected to the city master’s bedroom through a door. The big mat on the floor must have been her bed and it had decayed with age.
Looking out from the platform, she could see the entire city. Hundreds of small bird houses in the city still looked cute despite the dilapidation. Watching the empty houses, Xia Qiu couldn’t help imagining how they would have looked when they were inhabited. It must have looked like a fairy tale when the feather spirits flew in and out of their bird houses in the big green trees.
At this moment, the city in the valley was basked in the last lights of the setting sun. Fenghuo was so exhausted that he forgot about food and lay down in a spot he had just cleared in the outer room. In a minute, his snores resonated in the room. Wangyue sat down on the platform outside the house and took out a shakuhachi, an ancient musical instrument; the tunes of it wasn’t as crisp as a flute or a Xiao but sounded quite melancholy with its rusty sounds. Sitting next to him, Ouyang Xiaoleng gazed at the distance blankly. Qianqi was tirelessly leaping up and down the bird houses like a monkey, trying to find something interesting.
Ouyang Hongye cleared up a spot under the platform, gathered some rocks, and began to build a crude stove to make soup.
Xia Qiu walked up and asked, “Can I help you?”
Ouyang Hongye looked up from the stove he was building, and his eyes curved up beautifully as he smiled. “You can gather some firewood for me.”
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