The rabbit poked his head out of the bushes. His ears twitched and his nose carefully sniffed. The overbearing smell that belonged to a predator emanating from the mouth of the cave almost made him topple backwards.
…… It seemed a bit fainter than yesterday?
It seemed that Mr. Leopard did not return home to sleep again last night.
The rabbit looked at the tightly stacked large stones around the mouth of the cave. He tentatively stuck his paw out. He carefully walked on the tips of his paws over. His long ears dropped down close to his head. He didn’t even dare to breathe deeply. He put the thing in his arms down by the cave entrance. He lightly turned, bounded into the grass, and ran away. His long ears happily pricked upwards.
Soon after he left, the door to the cave slowly opened.
It was another delicious hawthorn cake today.
Mr. Leopard lifted up and looked into the little straw basket. He nodded in satisfaction.
After eating the hawthorn cake, he pondered over how to make his smell less scary…… to rabbits.
The rabbit had a bakery in Cuiwei Mountain. The store was small, but it had lots of regular customers. Even the Mountain God frequented it. The rabbit put a lot of thought and effort into his pastries. Eight Treasure Cake had eight kinds of fruit. Ingot Crisp was made into bite-sized ingots. Big and small demons of Cuiwei Mountain liked doing business with the gentle, bashful, and delicious (?) rabbit boss.
A lot of fresh fruit was required to make cakes. The rabbit boss bounded and hopped away with a basket larger than him every day before dawn. When the last drop of morning dew slowly evaporated in the sun, he bounded and hopped back with a completely full basket. Selecting ingredients, kneading dough, making pastries, taking care of customers…… The rabbit was busy every day.
Among all the fruits, the hawthorn special to Cuiwei Mountain was the hardest to pick. This fruit grew year-round, but the trees grew along the cliffside. The trunks were tall and straight and hard to climb. There were often poisonous snakes under the trees. Although the rabbit could change into human form, courage did not grow with transformation.
The rabbit met Mr. Leopard when he was picking hawthorns. Mr. Leopard, who could climb trees and had claws, stepped elegantly and easily on the branches. He easily placed the hawthorns that the rabbit had been anxiously trying to get for half a day into his mouth. The rabbit hung his head in dejection. A pair of white ears drooped down. His ruby-like red eyes turned redder.
Leopard. Didn’t leopards eat meat? Why was the leopard eating fruit? The rabbit clearly saw it first. Wuu……
The leopard chewing on hawthorns suddenly lowered his head. He looked in a certain direction under the tree. A dumpling was nested in the deep grass. It was white, soft, and smelled faintly of fresh spiritual aura…… It was an animal that obtained spiritual awareness. He couldn’t eat it no matter how good it smelled. Mr. Leopard felt a sense of loss.
“Do you want to eat hawthorns?”
The rabbit’s ears quivered in shock. Then he shook his head like a rattle. “I want to make hawthorn cake.”
“Hawthorn cake? Does it taste good?”
The rabbit nodded hard. “It’s good. It’s good. It tastes better than hawthorns. It’s sour, sweet, and soft……”
Did it really taste that good? Mr. Leopard’s tail swished and pulled a scarlet and glistening fruit down. He lightly threw. The fruit landed on the rabbit’s head in the grass.
Huh — ? Hawthorns were dropping from the sky!
“Need more?” Mr. Leopard threw down more clusters of fruit. He looked at the silly rabbit looking around and felt that the little guy was very interesting.
The rabbit changed into human form and carried an armful of hawthorns. He jumped up and tried hard to gesture with his chin. “It’s enough. It’s enough. That’s really good, Mr. Leopard.”
The rabbit youth bounded away. A pair of long ears jumped up and down with him. Mr. Leopard felt his chin with some regret in the tree. Was it really that good?
However, the next morning, Mr. Leopard found a small cloth-covered basket outside his house. Inside was filled with neatly placed hawthorn cakes.
They didn’t know when it started, but Cuiwei Mountain’s rabbit boss and Mr. Leopard had a secret understanding. If the basket was not filled with hawthorn cakes one day in front of Mr. Leopard’s house, that meant that the rabbit boss’ hawthorn inventory had run out and needed to be restocked.
Spring passed, autumn left, summer went by, and it was winter harvest time. A year quickly went by. New residents moved into Cuiwei Mountain: seemingly gentle and good-natured Mr. Giraffe and lively and chattering Mr. Pigeon. The two residents brought a small change to Cuiwei Mountain. They operated an express delivery business. It was a one-stop service from pick-up to delivery.
The thoughtful and convenient courier service received Cuiwei Mountain’s residents’ warm support. The rabbit boss became busier and busier. He didn’t have fewer customers, but he had more take-out orders. The frantically busy rabbit didn’t have time to make special pastries for Mr. Leopard. He simply had Mr. Giraffe and Mr. Pigeon’s long-distance delivery service send baskets to Mr. Leopard’s every day.
As a special treatment for long-term cooperation, when Mr. Giraffe came every morning to pick up the items, he would bring a basket of fresh hawthorns for the rabbit boss. That was because Mr. Giraffe and Mr. Pigeon’s house had lots of lush hawthorn trees growing. The rabbit boss’ new partners also liked the hawthorn cakes.
Mr. Leopard soon discovered what was wrong. The pastry every day was hawthorn cake. The bounding and hopping rabbit hadn’t appeared in a very long time. The strange smell made Mr. Leopard pace in circles in the cave. Why didn’t he come to find me to pick hawthorns?
Mr. Leopard then ran to the grove of hawthorn trees. He also found the origin of the strange scent on the baskets. So he had some other guy help him pick hawthorns. Mr. Leopard thought tartly: No wonder the recent hawthorn cakes tasted worse and worse!
Mr. Leopard swished his tail and unhappily returned home. The next day, Mr. Giraffe came to deliver another basket. To his surprise, he discovered that the basket from yesterday was in its original place. It hadn’t been touched at all.
It seemed that Mr. Leopard suddenly disappeared.
Mr. Leopard also did not receive the hawthorn cakes anymore.
The busy rabbit boss was very worried. When he tried new pastries, he tasted some inexplicable bitterness. How could this be? The Mooncake Festival was almost here. Mooncakes that should symbolize reunion shouldn’t be bitter.
The worried rabbit boss accidentally fell sick. He coughed and his throat hurt at home. He could only close his bakery for a few days to rest.
Once the rabbit boss stopped doing business, the whole Cuiwei Mountain had no pastries to eat. News spread from the foot of the mountain to the temple on top of the mountain and into Mr. Leopard’s ears. Mr. Leopard frowned. Sick?
The next day, the rabbit boss, who was coughing non-stop, rubbed his red nose and found a very familiar small cloth-covered basket in front of his home. Half of the basket contained hawthorns and the other half was licorice root.
The rabbit boss picked up a hawthorn to eat. It was sour. Then he picked up a licorice root to chew. It was sweet.
The rabbit boss smiled happily.
The rabbit soon recovered. He bounded and hopped and opened his doors again. He introduced a new mooncake: the sweet and sour Hawthorn Mooncake.
The sourness was the taste of being homesick. The sweetness was the taste of returning home.
Hawthorn Mooncakes received praise as soon as they hit the shelves. They were sold out very quickly before the Mooncake Festival. Big and small demons happily brought the mooncakes home to celebrate the reunion festival.
As a local Cuiwei Mountain rabbit, the rabbit boss had nowhere to go. He was out of stock and looked up at the round moon above him. He was ready to take a good rest.
However, before that, there was still a mooncake that had not been sent out……
Mr. Giraffe and Mr. Pigeon were on holiday. The rabbit could only deliver it himself. The rabbit bounced and hopped and arrived at the familiar cave……. Huh? Why was the door opened today?
Mr. Leopard slowly came out from the cave. He pointed with his chin. “Is that for me?”
His expression looked a bit dangerous. All of the rabbit’s fur bristled up. He nodded timidly.
“What’s the stuffing?”
“Haw, hawthorn stuffing!”
Huh. Such a long time had passed. It definitely wouldn’t be made with his hawthorns. Mr. Leopard raised his head. His voice was hard. “Not eating. I’m tired of it!”
“Then…… Then what stuffing do you want to eat?” The rabbit asked in a small voice. He tried hard to curl himself into a ball.
Mr. Leopard started getting angry looking at his fearful appearance. He simply shook his tail and transformed into a human. The tall and strong young man bent down and smiled evilly at the small ball on the ground, revealing snow-white teeth. “…… Change into a human and I’ll tell you.”
It was the holiday. Of course, he was going to eat meat!
And the best, of course, was rabbit stuffing…… Hehehe.
A few days later, the demons who went to visit relatives returned to Cuiwei Mountain. They soon made a discovery. The rabbit boss’ bakery had a new employee and he was a majestic-looking leopard?
Why did he kind of look like the Mountain God’s famous and violent leopard commander……?
The rabbit, who was in a ball, yawned in front of the oven. He reached his paws out to rub his nose. The whole rabbit was a little sleepy. The tall and strong employee suddenly slipped into the kitchen. He picked up the soft rabbit ball and took a bite. It was fragrant and very sweet.