Chapter 33:

The Jade Rabbit and the Fox

Foxglove and Snakeroot

Even though her days passed wistfully and comfortably, it still felt like something vital was missing in Liwa’s heart.Bookmark here

These days her memories of the past were oddly hazy, and it made her wonder if she’d forgotten something important that she couldn’t quite place a finger on. There were people who said that the lack of a past life legend was more of a blessing than a curse, but having gaps in her childhood memories also wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience.Bookmark here

From no-name families like hers, legends were always reliant on word of mouth and thus oftentimes they just didn’t get passed down properly. With her reddish-orange hair and sharp canine teeth, they were the sole visual indicators of her past life as a mere red fox. And even that was irrelevant, because she had no powers inherited from her lineage.Bookmark here

Sometimes she caught herself gazing out the window west of campus where none of her classes were even located, only to be smacked awake by Yuna. Before Liwa knew it, she had fallen into a comfortable daily life with the other two after becoming acquainted just by chance. But something tugged on her heart in a way she couldn’t quite understand.Bookmark here

Just what was happening to her?Bookmark here

And so one day Liwa found herself hovering awkwardly beside a sign that read Department of Pharmaceutical Science as she peered around her unfamiliar surroundings. In hindsight, she didn’t know what had prompted her to come all the way out here, as if she’d wandered to this place in a trance. Since she had spent all of her time near the economics and math departments from first year, she’d never been to this side of campus before.Bookmark here

It had never even crossed her mind to come here before.Bookmark here

But here she was, and it was certainly more quiet in this area, since the campus building faced a residential townhouse complex. Straggling trees lined the edge of the road, and a small food stand was set up further down. Maybe Liwa’s grumbling stomach had led her here, because suddenly she realized she hadn’t eaten lunch yet.Bookmark here

She approached the stand, eyeing the noodle display hungrily. All of the combos looked tasty and affordable, with generous portions. She made a mental note to take Yuna and Jin here someday on a budget college student lunch outing. Cafe food was getting old.Bookmark here

“Excuse me, could I get the stir-fried noodle combo with a salad?” Liwa asked, pointing up to one of the combos on the menu.Bookmark here

The vendor was an elderly woman with greying hair and kindly eyes, and as she turned to look at Liwa, a strange flash of recognition seemed to pass over her face.Bookmark here

“Oh of course, dear,” she said warmly. “By the way, that xiezhi friend of yours is not with you today?”Bookmark here

“Uh, who?”Bookmark here

The woman blinked, then hurried to busy herself with making the noodles. “Oh, nothing at all. I just thought you looked familiar, but plenty of customers do. I’ll have your order ready in about fifteen minutes.”Bookmark here

After Liwa received her noodles, she headed back in the direction of campus and the pharmaceutical science department to find a place to eat. The lobby area was visible through the wide glass windows of the pharmacy building, and Liwa spotted some empty, comfortable-looking couches inside. The students passing through the front doors wore long white lab coats over their clothes—they were evidently pharmacy students. Liwa wondered if it’d be awkward to go inside to eat her lunch if she wasn’t part of the department.Bookmark here

The strange sense of nostalgia seemed to grow stronger as she tugged the front door open and slipped inside. Instead of making a beeline for the empty couch, she found herself heading down the hallway as if stuck in a daze, past closed classroom doors and toward grey double doors at the end of the hall—Bookmark here

—someone tapped on her shoulder and she whirled around defensively.Bookmark here

“Oh, hello,” came a soft, surprised voice. The white lab coat marked the new arrival as a pharmacy student. His wavy, silver-white hair made Liwa’s guarded stance falter slightly as she gazed into brilliant crimson eyes that shone like gemstones. Something strange and familiar tugged on her mind, but there was something off and she couldn’t quite tell why that was...Bookmark here

“Sorry, was I in your way?” Liwa asked, tearing her gaze away and moving aside automatically so he could go through the doors. “I was just looking.”Bookmark here

“I get that a lot,” he said with a low chuckle. “I was wondering actually, do you have a moment? You look awfully familiar. I’d even risk saying that you’ve…stolen my heart.”Bookmark here

Liwa made a face. Flirting? Seriously? “I don’t even know you.”Bookmark here

“But I know you,” he said, with a strange half-smile that didn’t quite suit him like he was borrowing someone else’s. His red eyes seemed to glitter, and Liwa started to feel like she recognized him from somewhere. “You see, we knew each other once in a past life.”Bookmark here

“Oh!” Liwa said with a sudden realization. “You know my past life legend.”Bookmark here

“That’s correct,” he replied smoothly. “The legend of the jade rabbit and the fox. Let me treat you to coffee, and I’ll tell you all about it in detail.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.