A Stone Ladder
A Beautiful Bride
A Forbidden Love
A Life in the Wilderness
A House on the Hilltop
6, Six Thousand Steps To Paradise
As Xu slipped, she lost her foothold. In that instant of
confusion, she had no chance to think. But she was calm;
decades of mountain living gave her capacity to respond to
an emergency as such. Her hand managed to catch hold of a
rock edge, slowly and gingerly she had manoeuvred herself
into a safe ground.
Xu came out of the woods near her home
on the hilltop
(The shot was taken not too long ago)
But her ankle was badly sprained, and she had to twist off
a branch to support herself. By the time she toiled her way
up to the hilltop, what her anxious children saw was a woman
smeared with mud all over limping out of the woods on a cane.
When Guojiang returned and learned the accident, he felt
terribly bad about himself. "All my fault," he
rumbled, "making you suffer here with me…"
"Nonsense," Xu halted his words. "Here is
That night hearing Xu’s deep moans of pain during her sleep,
Guojiang kept his eyes open gazing into the darkness. Then
he stroke upon an idea: "Why not to build a stone ladder
from the hilltop all the way down to the foot?"
But when he told his plan to Xu the next morning, she was
only alarmed. "You’re not serious, aren’t you?"
"Yes, I’ll do it, I can do it."
"No you won’t!" Now she was really in a grave
pain. "What if you get hurt, what if you slip in your
steps …" The mere thought of that terrified her, the
rims of her eyes became rather red.
He lingered, and said, "… All right, I won’t do it."
So the life went on as it was before. Just Xu stayed on
the hilltop most of the time and tried not to venture beyond
the woods on her own, while Guojiang developed a passion
for exploring the mountain by himself. When he was not doing
something in the cornfield, vegetable garden, bee farm, fishpond,
piggery or chicken yard, he would carry a tool bag and took
couple of roasted potatoes, set off hunting. But He always
returned empty handed in complete exhaustion.
After a while, Xu started to marvel inwardly. But whenever
she asked, he would forever blame on the bad luck that he
wasn’t able to catch or collect anything worthy of bringing
One day, Guojiang left home for his alleged hunting trip
again. When the sun began to tilt to the west, Xu slowly
trudged her way down the mountain trial to wait for him.
Unable to set her mind in ease, she began to hum a ditty Eighteen
Visits To My Lover, which she and Guojiang often sang
together when they worked side by side.
"The second day of month,
I got up earlier.
Sneak out of home,
I wen to see my lover.
He lied in his bed,
Having terrible fever…"
It was a song about a pair of lovers who were forced to
live separate lives. In sorrow and despair, the young man
fell gravely ill. During the eighteen visits to her lover,
the girl felt heart broken when saw him lying on his deathbed.
Each time after visit, she would go alone to a cliff side
to cry her heart out by wailing, supposedly, this tune.
"I lifted open the certain,
I touched his head,
It scalded my hand,
It hurt my sorrowful heart……"
A sound suddenly arose amid the dense foliage in the up
slope side. As she watched, she witnessed a hare jumped out
of the lush grass and plunged into the thicket by the cliff
edge. Beyond the cliff on the other side was a rocky ridge
sizzling in the sun, and in between, the gorge was deep and
fed by pure mountain spring that prattled over the rocks
like tears streaming on cheeks.
After the world regained its tranquility, she could hear
nothing save the flowing of the water and the signing of
the wind lamented through the trees. Her heart turned desolated,
and the emptiness all around bore hard on her. She tried
to drive away the troubled thoughts, and descend the steep
route by following the ragged trial leading down to a single
plank bridge, where Guojiang would certainly have to pass
on his way up to the hilltop.
Then she stopped to listen as she detected a high pitched
voice wafted forth:
"The third day of month,
I got up earlier,
Pocketed some rice,
I ran to see my lover……"
It was Guojiang singing in a false tone. He returned earlier
today, and he had already crossed that single plank bridge.
She tried to quicken her pace, but the ragged terrain prevented
her from moving fast. "It’s all right," she told
herself, pausing to catch her breath, "Guojiang will
come over in no time." But the strange thing was, after
a while, the singing voice did not drew any nearer; and she
noticed that in the background there was a consistent sound
of sharp clink of something striking upon a stone.
Her curiosity got the better of her, and she ventured down
to the source of the noise. Once turned a corner, here she
had a clear view of Guojiang. She tried to call him, and
her lips moved, but not a sound her uttered - she was spellbound
by what she saw.
His shirt was off and thrown aside, sweat oozing from his
bare back. Bent his body with his knees on the ground, he
was chipping off the sharp edge of a slab. Around, stones
evidently moved here from elsewhere were scattered here and
there, some in a raw form, others having already been made
into slabs. Before him a long stone ladder winded its path
down the hill to meet the single plank bridge.
With the tears swelled in her eyes, she slowly walked down
and stood behind him, battering to cope. When Guojiang eventually
straightened his back, she threw her arms around him from
It took Guojiang by surprise, but by the familiar scent
he quickly realised it was Xu. Dusted his hands, he turned
to meet her eyes.
Xu wiped sweats from his face with her sleeve, and said "I
told you not to … Look now, how exhausted you are …" Her
words choked themselves.
Guojiang moistened his lips with his tongue, and cracked, "I’m
okay … hmm, guess you’re not upset with me, aren’t you?"
Xu didn’t say anything, just held him tighter.
A Love Story that Never Ends
Bless the Dragon
Home B4 Long