The Old Friends 

It was an important holiday in the old capital. Several captains were allowed to return from the distant provinces to take part in a military parade. Among them were two old friends posted at opposite ends of the realm who rarely saw each other. After the military parade on the first day, there were days of rituals, long-winded lectures from old priests, moon-viewing from boats on the river, drinking parties, constant changes of clothing, endless exchanges of gifts and poems, visits to shrines and temples, audiences at court, and then another military parade. The old friends caught glimpses of each other through the crowds, but because of their many respective duties, they never had a moment alone to talk. On their last day in the capital, they were finally relieved of all obligations and official functions. In the morning, they drank tea under the willows by the river. Throughout the day, they walked the stone streets, reminisced, and quoted their favourite books. In the afternoon, they drank tea near a silver temple by a renowned walkway through the wooded hills cherished by philosophers. In the evening, they returned to the lantern-lit banks of the river to watch the beautiful young girls stroll by in their brocade gowns and to drink firewater from earthenware cups. One of the friends complained about the distance that separated all of the good, unique things of each province. The other complained of the old capital and all of the time wasted on empty rituals, parades, appearances at court and meaningless lectures. Then, after listening to the willows and the river, they drank one last cup together in gratitude for the great distance and lost time. 

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