This is kind of long, but it has the wish and the meeting! (: Happy new year everyone!
After the Ceremonial fox has concluded explaining the event at hand, Meilin glanced around her surroundings while everyone else was busy thinking up wishes and writing them down. Not long before the small fox began to speak, there was a familiar whirl of magic which travelled down the river, indicating that there was a spirit there with them. Meilin has never had an encounter with the bull elk spirit of Winter so naturally, her curiosity was peaked. The landscape at hand was all white, with brown and green trees seen occasionally in the midst of the heavy snow. Rocks surrounded the lone banks of the river, and a few snowmen could be seen not too far off from when some residents decided to go out and play. Before she could write down her wish, Meilin knew that she wanted to find Winter. She travelled down along the banks of the river, looking in front of her, as well as to across the river to try and catch a glimpse of the massive spirit. She was on the lookout for a huge brown bull elk with magnificent antlers, surrounded by a strange, yet calming blue aura. She did not know where the river ended, or if it ever did as it seemed to go on endlessly. Eventually, Meilin found herself in the middle of some thick winterberry trees, surrounded by a dense layer of conifer trees. Not knowing where she has wandered off to, her paw prints easily covered by the ongoing snowfall, Meilin’s alert sensors in her head were going off. Nevertheless, she persisted in finding the elusive spirit.
After a while, Meilin came upon a winter cardinal perched on a small branch. She stopped just below and called out to the winged friend, “Cardinal, cardinal, I’ve come in search of the great winter spirit, Winter. The spirit is a glorious bull elk with grand antlers, and a calming aura surrounding him. Have you seen such an animal?”
The cardinal fluttered down to a lower branch before proceeding to speak, “No, I have not seen a spirit this grand pass through here. Perhaps you ought to keep on looking. Have this as a token of good fortune,” the cardinal chirped gently, offering Meilin three acorn, “May this come to a good use, and good luck, my friend.” Meilin thanked the winged creature and put the acorns into her leather pouch, which she kept around her waist. She drew the threads shut to secure it, and trudged on through the thick snow. It was frigid out, and Meilin knew she had to find warmth eventually, so she quickened her pace through the snowy paths, in hopes of encountering Winter.
Feeling her paws begin to numb, Meilin decided to take a break after a while and hopped on a nearby tree branch to collect her warmth. She tucked her paws underneath her body for warmth and glanced around. She saw a small female grey squirrel hop onto the branch beside her and begin to speak, “Tell me, kind passerby, do you happen to have any food you can spare? The snow is thick, and it’s harder to find any kind of food as each day passes.” Meilin nodded and immediately reached for the three acorns in her leather pouch.
“A kind red cardinal gave these to me as a token of good luck in my search. However, I am willing to give these to you, if it will keep you and your family fed,” Meilin smiled and handed the acorns to the squirrel.
“You have a kind heart, traveler. Tell me, what is it that you’re looking for?”
“I’ve come in search of the great winter spirit, Winter. The spirit is a glorious bull elk with grand antlers, and a calming aura surrounding him. Have you seen such an animal, squirrel?” Meilin questioned.
“Unfortunately, I have not seen such an animal to pass by my surroundings. Perhaps he is further off?” The squirrel replied, giving Meilin a sad look.
“That’s okay, I will find the spirit if I keep on looking. Thank you, squirrel,” Meilin got up to leave and flicked her tail at the grey squirrel.
“Wait up!” the grey squirrel squeaked before running up to Meilin, “Have these tree buds, may these be your new good luck charms in your journey.” Meilin smiled and accepted the buds, putting them into her bag. After thanking the squirrel, she trotted off once more, determined in her search.
After what felt like an eternity, Meilin still could not find the spirit of winter, and she was beginning to lose hope. That’s when she noticed a small snowshoe hare hopping up to her, a bundle of twigs in its paws. Offering up the bundle to Meilin, the old hare adjusted his monocle spoke, “You’ve come far and all by yourself, young one. Tell me, what brings you this deep into the forest?”
“Wise hare, I’ve come in search of the great winter spirit, Winter. The spirit is a glorious bull elk with grand antlers, and a calming aura surrounding him. Have you seen such an animal?” Meilin asked.
The snowshoe hare smiled warmly before replying, “Perhaps I have, perhaps not. Come, you mustn’t stay out here for too much longer. Trudging through here may bring you harm. Let me guide you back to the others. Take the bundle of twigs with you, young one, I cannot carry it for much longer.” Nodding, Meilin put the bundle her leather bag hanging around her waist and drew the strings to seal it securely. She continued followed the hare, still unsure why she agreed to backtrack in her search. Usually, she would persist in completing what she started, but this time it was unusual. She felt more relaxed, and not as cold as she was before. Perhaps Winter was back with the others all along, keeping them safe, she thought.
The two passed a familiar grey squirrel which smiled and waved at the duo, as well as the cardinal which chirped happily in their direction. The cardinal seemed busy building his nest, so Meilin asked the hare if they could stop momentarily. She trotted up the cardinal and called to him once more, “Cardinal, I see you are busy building your nest. What happened to your other one?”
The cardinal looked down with a sad look, “It was destroyed with a heavy gust of wind. Nearly half the twigs were broken, and are no more of good use. I am trying to put together whatever is left.”
“Here, cardinal, you offered me advice and kindness before. I must do the same to you. I have a bundle of twigs which you can use to rebuild your home. Please take them, and cozy up soon,” Meilin explained, untying her bag to reveal a bunch of sturdy twigs. She put them down in the snow, and continued speaking, “I must now go, as I am to return to the others. I cannot allow myself to keep the old hare waiting. I wish you good luck in rebuilding your home.”
The feathered creature flew down to the snow, and before picking up the twigs chirped, “Thank you, Meilin. Have you found what it is you’re looking for – the great spirit of winter?”
Meilin shook her head sadly, and explained that it is best she returned back to the safety of a group, rather than wandering off alone in dangerous conditions. She then returned to the hare, which beamed at her from ear to ear, and they continued to make their way back to the others. Meilin began to see familiar scenery: the snow-covered rocks, the lone banks of the river filled with glittering ice, and an open area in which the meeting was held. She looked at the wise old hare and spoke, “Thank you, old hare. You have offered me great kindness in returning me back to the others. I would not have been able to return here without your help. Is there any way that I could repay you? I have nothing to offer, as I gave away my items to others in need.” She quickly glanced back, as to attempt and motion at the other creatures they passed, only to find the cardinal and the grey squirrel not too far behind her. They were waving at her and smiling.
“What’s this? I thought you guys were to feed your families and build your homes?” Meilin tilted her head in confusion.
“We did!” the squirrel and cardinal exclaimed in unison, giving off a few chuckles here and there.
“I heard you did not find the grand bull elk after all, Meilin?” the squirrel questioned.
Meilin shook her head, “No, I wasn’t successful in that. However, if I haven’t come across the kind and wise hare, I would not have been able to return home.” She then turned around to motion to the white rabbit, but she discovered that he was missing. Instead, a few feet away she saw a tall brown elk with antlers grand and big, and an aura which inflicted calmness and a feeling of relaxation. Her ears perked up and blinked a few times to confirm that she wasn’t seeing things. Indeed, it was the spirit of winter itself.
“Meilin, I am honored that you have come looking for me all by yourself. During your journey, you have offered great kindness and you acted with a warm heart towards yourself. I saw your actions first hand when we stopped so you could offer cardinal the twigs I have given you for a home, and I was touched that you were able to put others before yourself. Please accept this quill, which the cardinal has offered a feather for, and this ink, which the squirrel made from grinding up greens, as a gift from all of us,” Winter stated kindly, motioning to both the creatures near her and to the items.
“Thank you, Winter,” Meilin said, but with a tone of confusion, “I am honored and thankful for the items, but I am confused. What do you mean “we” in your statement? I have not seen you up until now.”
The cardinal and the grey squirrel laughed before saying, “The spirit of winter can shapeshift into any animal of the winter season. The wise old hare you met was the spirit, just in a form different from his original.”
Meilin beamed at this, and turned to the three, “Thank you all, for providing me with this chance. I am honored by the fact that I got to meet all of you on this journey.”
Winter smiled gently and nodded at the others, “Meilin, use the quill and ink provided by your friends to write your wish. I will make sure to hear it well at the end of the lunar cycle. You have shown great support and selflessness to others, and I will make sure the same comes to you.” Nodding, Meilin hesitantly approached the scroll which was hovering a few inches from the ground and took it in her paws. She dipped the stunning red feather into the thick ink and scribbled onto the scroll with great precision.
[center]I only have one wish in this world, and it is one I make sure to tell myself every year. It is to be kinder to others more and more each year and to make new friends. I wish that more good fortune comes upon everyone, and everyone is healthy and safe. Most importantly, that they are kind to each other. Kindness is the beginning of everything big and good, so it is important that it is preserved, nurtured, and passed on.
When she was finished signing her name, Meilin put down the quill on the snowy surface and looked back. She saw her two friends, and the spirit smiling at her at the entrance of the forest. She smiled and waved back before the three began to head back. Meilin tilted her head upwards to look at the sky, which has cleared of any clouds and snow. Here’s to the new year, she thought.