"What are you doing?"
Dan Lue was dumbfounded as he awoke to the sound of pounding and the faint rain of dust on his face.
"Oh, good morning," A-Kuai greeted as his face peeking through the hole in the roof. "Did I wake you up?"
"Huh, yeah," Dan Lue said, and he sat up and wiped the dust off his face. "What are you doing so early in the morning?"
"Eh, just repairing some stuff around the house, such as retiling the roof and fixing the broken gate in front. Just pulling my weight around here," A-Kuai replied before resuming his work, and the hammering noise continued.
"Oh, okay then," Dan Lue replied as he got up from his bed and did a few stretches. "Since you're working, I'll make breakfast then."
Stepping outside to fetch water, Dan Lue looked back to see the young bunny hard at work as he was hammering in the titles at record speed. Seemingly within a blink, A-Kuai had moved on to another section of the roof.
"I'll be back. Going to fetch some water!" Dan Lue called out as he flagged the rabbit. A-Kuai momentarily paused to give Dan Lue a thumbs up before continuing his work.
Walking out the gate, Dan Lue made his way over to the village well, with two buckets in hand. 'Hmm, what should I cook for breakfast?' He hadn't anticipated A-Kuai's arrival, so he wasn't sure if he had enough food for tonight's dinner. 'Maybe I should pick up a few things while I'm here.'
Hooking one of his buckets, he lowered it down into the pool of water below. Doing quick work, Dan Lue cranked handle as the rope slowly brought the bucket full of water up to the well's mouth. Repeating the same process, he soon had two buckets full of water.
Taking using his yoke, he carefully balanced both buckets and started to make his way home.
"A-Lue, is that you?"
"Mother," Dan Lue greeted as his mother, and her group of friends appeared. "How are you?"
"A-Lue, when are you coming home?" Madame Dan didn't bother answering her son's question as she pressed when her son would come back to his senses and return home.
"A-Lue, your mother is old, you shouldn't worry her by moving out of the house," one of his aunties lectured.
"Yeah, that's right…" the rest began to chime in.
"Mother, I'm not going to move back in, but if it worries you, I'll visit often," Dan Lue reassured.
"Ah, but you are still unmarried. Who is going to look after you?"
Strangely, Dan Lue thought of the young man back at home. He imagined A-Kuai hard at work and waiting for his return.
'What the hell!'
"It's alright, Mother," Dan Lue brushed off. "I'm eighteen already. I can take care of myself. Plus, there is no hurry to get married. I'm still young! Look at Miss Ren Dong, twenty-two, and she still found a man to marry."
Madame Dan pursed her in dissatisfaction with her son's decision, but she could only give in to his demands. "Fine, but make sure you eat well and don't do anything bad."
"Of course, Mother," Dan Lue smiled before waving his mother farewell and continuing his journey home. He loved his mother, but he couldn't understand why his mother wouldn't let him go off and making something of himself.
"A-Kuai, I'm home!" He hollered as he kicked the gate close.
"Okay," A-Kuai called back from inside the house. Setting the buckets down, Dan Lue scooped some of the water out with his hands to splash on his face. Feeling refreshed, he walked back inside to grab a rag to dry his face.
"How's the roof," he asked as he wiped the sweat and droplets of water from his face.
A-Kuai was sitting at the table with another book in hand. Although his face was a little pink from work, he still looked as refined as ever. "Eh, there should be no more leaks from now on."
"Thanks," Dan Lue smiled. Around this area, it was almost the rainy season, so repairing the roof was already a burden taken off Dan Lue's chest. "You hungry?"
"A bit. I can stand to wait," A-Kuai replied as he briefly looked up from his book.
"Alright, breakfast will be done soon," Dan Lue looked over at the leftover ingredients from last night. Seeing he had quite a bit of green onion left and a bit of flour, he decided on making green onion pancakes.
Going outside, he picked up the bucket of clean water and brought it back inside. It was time to get to work.
Portioning out the water into two bowls, he started to boil some hot water while keeping the other one cold. The warm boiled water dough is soft when well cooked, while cold water dough produces a chewier texture. Together, they make the perfect texture for the green onion pancakes.
Leaving the water alone, Dan Lue began to measure out the flour and dumped it into another bowl. Digging a small hole in the center of the flour mountain, he poured in hot water and mixed with a pair of chopsticks. After roughly ten minutes, Dan Lue began to mix in the cold water along with a few drops of oil.
Oil was expensive in these parts and who knew when the oil trader would be back. Until then, he would only be wise with what he had.
Washing his hands once more, he began to knead the dough until it was smooth. Covering the bowl, he let the dough rest for the length for roughly thirty minutes.
"What are you reading?" Sitting down at the table, Dan Lue looked over to see what A-Kuai was reading.
"A book of proverbs," A-Kuai answered as he flipped the page.
"Huh," Dan Lue nodded as he watched A-Kuai focus on his book. 'Seeing him up close, he's quite handsome.' With long white hair neatly tied atop his head and sharp amber eyes, the rabbit gave off a sophisticated aura despite his appearance. 'I'm sure if this fellow grows, he will have a long line of admirers, men, and women alike.'
But for some reason, this thought left a slight bitter taste on his tongue.
"You wish to learn?" A-Kuai's voice snapped Dan Lue out of thoughts. Looking up, he saw the sharp amber eyes looking in his direction with a confused look.
"Do you wish to learn to read books?" A-Kuai repeated.
"Oh, no," Dan Lue quickly shook his head. "I don't like to read, so no need."
"Hmm," A-Kuai hummed as he resumed his reading. "One who doesn't like to read is equal to one who cannot read."
"Hey," Dan Lue frowned. "I can read!"
"Really?" Quirking a sword-shaped eyebrow, A-Kuai handed Dan Lue his book. "Then read this passage," tapped the page.
Taking hold of the book, Dan Lue squinted his eyes at the squiggly words. He understood some of the letters, but with the fancy font, he found it difficult to make out the words. "D-despise… and make everyone… pay…" Dan Lue blushed in embarrassment as he slowly recites the sentence. Having to read again reminded him of the strict old teacher that used to teach the village children before he passed away.
Dan Lue expected A-Kuai to laugh or scold him for being unable to read such a short sentence. However, unexpectedly A-Kuai didn't do any of that but merely smiled. "Very good," A-Kuai cheered. He got up and walked over behind Dan Lue and leaned in to read the text. "However, you missed some words, but that's alright."
Pointing his finger at the beginning of the sentence, A-Kuai had him follow along as he recited the sentence correctly.
"Despise learning and make everyone pay for your ignorance."
After a few tries, Dan Lue was proud that he was able to read the sentence and was now able to recognize a few more characters in the book.
"You did very well," A-Kuai said near his ear. This action caused Dan Lue to suddenly stand up as a strange tingling sensation washed over him. "I-I better check on the dough. Uh thanks," and quickly turned around to resume cooking.
"You're welcome," A-Kuai replied with a bit of confusion. He tilted his head at Dan Lue's behavior but shrugged it off. "Well, assuming it might take a little bit for you to cook, I'm going to go back grab some easier books for you to read," walking to the door, he looked back to see if Dan Lue had heard him.
He continued to cook as if he didn't hear anything.
'That was weird,' A-Kuai thought but didn't pay it too much attention. 'Maybe he realized he forgot to finish cooking.'
"...haha, stop it, A-Dong…"
"...what? But weren't you the one who kept beg-"
Firmly knocking on the door, A-Kuai pushed the door open just to see more dog food on the other side. Closing the door, he opened it again to see his sister and sister-in-law sitting at the dining table.
"That's a new record," A-Kuai remarked as he was walking through the door. He wrinkled his nose as the scent of spring was prominent in the house.
"A-Kuai, what brings you here," Wen Tu questioned, slightly annoyed.
"Its good to see you too, Big Sis. Hey, sister-in-law," A-Kuai remarked as he crossed the room to make it to his door.
"Hello, A-Kuai. Did you manage to find a place to stay," Ren Dong asked as soothed Wen Tu. She shook her head at her jealous wife. Ren Dong was worried that Wen Tu would be like this for a while, but A-Kuai reassured that it was because Wen Tu was in her 'mating period.' Therefore, she would be more territorial and jealous for roughly two weeks.
A-Kuai could only hope that his sister would snap out of her senses and stop seeing him as a threat.
"Yeah," he called back as he rummaged through his room to look for the beginner books. Finally, he found it under his bed in an old box. "Your friend, Dan Lue, is letting me stay at his place for now."
"Hmm, that's good," Ren Dong smiled. "You want to stay for breakfast? We haven't been able to eat as a family for a while."
Looking at his sister-in-law and his pouting big sis, A-Kuai shook his head. "That's alright. Dan Lue is making food right now; I'm just here to grab a few things."
"Alright, you're always welcome to visit," Ren Dong smiled.
"Thanks, I'll be sure to visit often," he called back as he quickly closed the door.
The sounds from inside resumed in full force once more.
"Geez," A-Kuai shook his head as he walked off to return to his place. "Not even half a second."
Dan Lue is getting a little jumpy, isn't he?
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