The monk told him to give his wife realgar wine to force the snake demoness to reveal her true form. When her last breath sputters in her lungs, she turns white but does not grow scales. He never finds the monk again.
Four years after their exile from each other, the Cowherd tells the Weaving Maid that they must let go. If a day in heaven is a year on earth he will be dead in two months. Their children have long outgrown the baskets he carried them with when he chased her across the sky. He has new aches and scars she does not know. When he turns to go, the bridge of magpies dip under his weight for the first time. For years after, the clouds she weaves hang low in the sky, the colour of a bruise.