"Fortunately, there is you. It's truly great not to be alone."
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
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One by one, the stones resealed themselves. The markings outside the tower began to move closer to each other, reassembling into its complete dragon pattern.
As the bright light around them dimmed, the world once again resumed its original appearance: a desolate prairie with ice and snow extending across thousands of li. In the final moments, the petals of the withered Lihun flower held by Zhang Liu's skeleton drifted away and finally scattered in the wind.
The period of hundreds of years, the previous life, the current life, the past, as well as the future —— everything in this place was like neglected remnants hurriedly carried away by time. Still, cold wind blew across the frozen prairie, carrying the air that remained unchanged throughout the ages.
"Xiang Shu?" Chen Xing gently tugged Xiang Shu's hand.
Xiang Shu looked Chen Xing in the eyes with a gaze showing both bewilderment and sorrow.
"She... according to the custom of the Tiele people, she got a sky burial."
A shichen later, Xiang Shu, his voice containing a hint of total confusion, asked on their way back, "Then, where is this Dinghai Pearl?"
"Xiang Shu," Chen Xing said, "are you ready to listen to my explanation?"
However, Xiang Shu didn't seem to have heard Chen Xing's words. Knowing that his mother was an ancient person from 300 years in the past was truly too much of a shock for him. Chen Xing still hadn't explained why he held the dragon power in his body, but Xiang Shu had already forgotten to ask about the matter.
"I am the Dinghai Pearl," Xiang Shu stated.
"Xiang Shu..." Chen Xing said. "Listen to my explanation."
"I AM the Dinghai Pearl!" Xiang Shu said. "Xiao Shan has already spoken the truth!"
Chen Xing was suddenly left speechless; Xiao Shan had indeed spoken out of turn and had once said, "You are the Dinghai Pearl." Xiang Shu actually remembered this all along.
So, Chen Xing had no alternative but to say, "Yes, you are the Dinghai Peal, or it can be said that you used to be. However, it has since been separated from your body and been destroyed."
"That's why I have the dragon power." Xiang Shu, at long last, understood.
"Er..." Chen Xing could only say, "Yes."
"I'm not a human." Xiang Shu was at a loss. "I'm... not a human? I'm not a Tiele, nor am I a Han..."
"No, no," Chen Xing refuted. "You are!"
Chen Xing had already prepared himself for Xiang Shu's further inquiries, but who would have thought that Xiang Shu didn't ask about this matter at all —— what hit him harder was actually his identity!
This was completely beyond Chen Xing's expectations. But if one were to think about it again, this was indeed within reason.
"I'm.... a what? A human transformation of a magical artifact?" Xiang Shu said in disbelief. "My mother was a person from 300 years ago?"
Chen Xing nodded. "What happened is..."
Yet Xiang Shu just raised his hand, motioning for him not to say more. He frowned at Chen Xing with a rare hint of panic in his eyes.
"Leave me alone for a moment," Xiang Shu then said.
Chen Xing still wanted to say more, but Xiang Shu just left them and went to one side.
"Xiang Shu..." Chen Xing opened his mouth, yet he didn't know how to ease his feelings. This matter hit him this hard? The first time... Wait, when did Xiang Shu learn of his own identity the first time around?
When I was asleep?
"He..." Chen Xing too was at a loss now.
"Leave him alone for a moment ba," Chong Ming said. "Guwang often thinks about what exactly I am as well."
Chen Xing looked at Xiang Shu's back, puzzled. He remembered that back when he was a child, when he became aware that there was the Heart Lamp inside his three hun and seven po, he wasn't this perplexed ah? He simply thought "oh" and left it at that.
Lu Ying smiled. "If one day you found out that you were not 'you' anymore, but simply the Heart Lamp that had absorbed the spiritual qi of heaven and earth, thus transforming into a 'human' that experienced the four types of human emotions, how would you feel?"
Chen Xing: "That... I might have a slightly complicated feeling ba."
He gradually understood Xiang Shu's reaction. After waiting for a long, long time, Chen Xing approached Xiang Shu once the Northern Dipper rose at the far end of the horizon. When Chen Xing gently touched the back of his hand, Xiang Shu immediately turned around and looked back at him in confusion.
"Let's go?" Xiang Shu said. "Let's go ba, this place's too cold. Let's talk more when we get back."
This place was nearing the northernmost part of the Divine Land. Seeing Chen Xing's lips had already frozen to the point that they were slightly blue, Xiang Shu realized that Chen Xing persisted, although with difficulty, purely to keep himself company.
"It's not bad," Chen Xing replied. "With the phoenix by my side, it's not that cold. Are you feeling better?"
Xiang Shu nodded, and thus, everyone left Carosha and went back to Chi Le Chuan. Xiang Shu said little to no words along the way, even less than usual. Chen Xing wanted to talk to him several times, but Xiang Shu was always immersed in his own thoughts, absent-minded. Chen Xing, knowing that at such times it was enough to stay by his side, had no better option but to continue practicing archery with Lu Ying.
They passed through Karakorum on their journey back. The Hu people inside the city had already been evacuated, leaving only some Tiele warriors assigned by Shi Mokun to guard the Xingluo tower. Chen Xing had originally wanted to take the White Tiger Pennant away, but he decided to leave it on this place after thinking about it some more.
"Karakorum," the moment Lu Ying arrived, he looked at the war-ridden city wall and murmured. "Back then, in order to look for Xiang Yuyan and the Dinghai Pearl's whereabouts, Shi Hai would come here every few years."
After leaving the imperial palace, as Chen Xing surveyed into the distance, he concluded that the Tiele people should have just recently been evacuated. He then said to Lu Ying, "Later on, was it also in this place where the Grey Wolf and Wang Ziye fought hand to hand?"
Lu Ying nodded and replied, "That year, when Shi Hai came and committed a large-scale massacre in this city to gather and refine his army of drought fiends, Xiao Kun also came to protect the common people here. He managed to repel Shi Hai, fought against the group of drought fiends, and finally saved Xiao Shan, but his body also got infected by the Devil God's blood in the process."
Xiang Shu was currently feeding the horse outside the city gate. After they finished, Chen Xing came out together with Lu Ying and asked, "Are you coming back to Chi Le Chuan with us?"
"In any case, there is nothing to do," Lu Ying said. "I'll go and take a look ba. Throughout my whole life, I haven't been away from Carosha much."
Xiang Shu was brushing the mane of that horse left behind by his mother when Chen Xing came to his side and put a hand on top of his.
Xiang Shu glanced at him and said nothing. While Xiang Shu was silent all the time these days, it didn't look as if he was angry; it was more of that kind of mild, calm silence that seemed to say that he merely didn't want to speak.
"Move from the back of its shoulder downward," Xiang Shu suddenly said. He then let Chen Xing hold the comb and taught him how to brush the horse's fur properly.
Chen Xing was well aware that Xiang Shu's mood at this time must've been very complicated. Lu Ying had also reminded him that he must not let Xiang Shu receive too much information in a short period of time, or else it would make him even more at a loss of what to do. Chen Xing was actually unaware when Xiang Shu had found out the truth the first time, as he had slept for no less than 3 months then.
But this time, Chen Xing finally had the opportunity to accompany him and face it together with him.
Chen Xing roughly understood Xiang Shu's mood after carefully pondering about it over the past few days. Back then, when Xiang Shu had first found out about the truth of his own life, he also must've been as bewildered as he was now. If he remembered correctly, Xiang Shu should've learned the full story during his fight with Wang Ziye after he had passed through the yique and entered the mirage realm.
But along with the battle inside the Yin Yang Mirrors soon afterward, Chen Xing fell unconscious. According to Xie An, after Xiang Shu had carried him back to Shouyang, he took care of him for several days before leaving.
It's just, in those few days, what was Xiang Shu thinking about when he looked at the sleeping me, totally unconscious, on the couch? Did he hold my hand as he told me a lot of things? It was a pity that the him at that time wasn't able to hear any of the words. Perhaps, this matter of him being a magical artifact also contributed to Xiang Shu's final decision to self-destruct in order to save Chen Xing and the common people of Divine Land.
He must've been very helpless and totally confused at that time ba?
Xiang Shu: "?"
With Chen Xing by his side, Xiang Shu, who seemed to have gradually accepted this fact, suddenly noticed that Chen Xing's eyes were a little red.
"Nothing," Chen Xing couldn't help but say. "The moment I found you, I really didn't know you were..."
"I know," Xiang Shu absent-mindedly replied. "You've said it quite a few times."
Chen Xing forced a laugh before saying, "You..."
Xiang Shu and Chen Xing just looked at one another for a very long time. Chen Xing really wanted to ask him, "What have you been thinking about these days?" but in the end, he decided against it. He felt that he was the one who should be able to understand Xiang Shu, yet in truth, he failed to promptly understand nor comfort him. This actually made Chen Xing feel a bit ashamed of himself.
"Are they also coming to Chi Le Chuan?" Xiang Shu asked as he looked at Chong Ming and Lu Ying.
Seeing Chen Xing nod, Xiang Shu turned over and got on his horse before saying, "Let's go."
As they went south after leaving Karakorum, a white dust gale blew over. When the ice and snow finally melted, the prairie once again wonderfully resumed its autumn scenery, a sign that the Autumn Close Festival was quickly approaching. On the other shore of the Xarusgol River, now the mirror image of a sapphire-blue ribbon, was a vast plain bathed in the brilliant golden rays of the sunshine. Tumbleweed, blown over by the autumn wind, flitted across mountain ranges and into the river. Xiang Shu and Chen Xing led the horse across the suspension bridge.
The past Chen Xing had seldom tried to guess Xiang Shu's heart, to the point that it could be said that such an idea had never occurred to him in the first place. However, he gradually began to think more and more about how Xiang Shu had managed during those days when he had been in a coma. What Xiang Shu cared about the most in his life, and how he had regarded himself for a long time until then...
Thinking about these, Chen Xing felt that he had a lot of things he wished to say to him. Is my heart too big? When I found out that the Heart Lamp is inside my hun and po, I surprisingly didn't feel even the slightest bit of bafflement and just accepted the reality. So why did the Heart Lamp choose me? What is the Heart Lamp anyway? The matter turned more complicated the more he thought about it, causing Chen Xing to become confused.
If one had knowledge of all kinds of matters from an early age, every one of those would turn into something that automatically became a "natural" part of life that they had no qualms about, which, in the end, made the said knowledge easy to accept —— that kind of "I am a Han" or "I am a Hu," because one must know oneself first before knowing the world. However, if everything was suddenly toppled over after said idea had long since been deeply rooted, it would certainly be unbearable.
What Xiang Shu was thinking about right now must be "In the end, am I a Han or a Tiele?" or even as far as "Am I a human or not?" —— arriving at this point, Chen Xing also began to ponder over the same question: Am I a human or not?
"If you keep on practicing," Xiang Shu said, "you can be up to par with a Tiele warrior soon."
Chen Xing, who had been drawing the bow until his shoulder ached, put it away before smiling as he said, "So apparently, I still have a little talent for martial arts ma. How about if compared to you ne?"
"Perhaps after practicing for another hundred years ba," replied Xiang Shu.
Chen Xing wilted. Xiang Shu's shooting skills with a longbow was at the level of a flying swallow; he surely still wouldn't be able to catch up with Xiang Shu even after another hundred years of practice.
Xiang Shu added, "But compared to the other clansmen, you can last through three arrows if you try hard when competing in horseback archery."
"Really?" Chen Xing laughed again, full of hope.
"Sometimes, I am just full of doubts." After pondering for a moment, Chen Xing couldn't help but say, "Could I actually be a magical artifact that has turned into a spirit too, what do you think?
Xiang Shu: "......"
Chen Xing right now had roughly understood Xiang Shu's confusion —— Xiang Shu didn't know what he was.
Xiang Shu frowned. Focusing on Chen Xing, he then said, "Yes, you are the Heart Lamp."
"En," Chen Xing said, "the Heart Lamp is also a magical artifact, just like how you are the Dinghai Pearl. It has always accompanied me from the moment I was born. However, I feel that even if I was only a magical artifact that had somehow had cultivated into a human being, it’s also very good ah. In any case, I became a human being the moment I came and walked around this world, which is not bad at all."
Xiang Shu halted his steps and just silently looked at Chen Xing with a gaze full of meaning.
Chen Xing looked back and smiled. "To tell you the truth, I originally also felt very puzzled as to why I would dream about Xiangyang, about being able to find you in that place. But over the past few days, I suddenly figured it out. Isn't it precisely because a magical artifact was trying to find another one of its kind? That being the case, we two are the only magical artifacts on earth that have turned into human beings. Fortunately, there is you. It's truly great not to be alone."
Xiang Shu suddenly felt that this interpretation was kind of funny. He could only climb onto the horse and said, "Let's go, don't think too much about it. No need to care about what one is."
When Chen Xing heard these words, he knew that sure enough, this was the part Xiang Shu cared about the most.
After pondering over what Chen Xing had said, it was as if everything suddenly became clear to Xiang Shu. He nodded and said, "You're correct. I was born as a human when I came to this world. Very good."
Chen Xing thus said, "And so, there's really no need for you to keep mulling over this question, because you're not the only one between heaven and earth, there's another magical artifact to keep you company ne. Of course..." Chen Xing winked at Xiang Shu once more. "I will keep this secret and won't say a word to your people. You can choose whether you want to tell them or not."
Xiang Shu was so stunned that he couldn't help but laugh.
Chi Le Chuan had already appeared in the distance. This time, there was no burning flame of war, no camps in a jumbled mess, just like the day when Chen Xing had first arrived here.
Chi Le Chuan, under the Yin Mountains.
The sky resembles an arched hut, covering the plain whole.
The vast and blue sky, the boundless wilderness.
When the winds blow, the grass bends low, as cattle and sheep will show.
The herdsmen were currently preparing for another Autumn Close Festival. Tents had already been set up, and Chi Le Chuan, surrounded by the Yin mountain ranges on three sides, was like a paradise on earth. That ancient tree, which was full of golden-colored leaves, kept rustling in the wind.
"The Great Chanyu is back!" someone shouted at once. "Great Chanyu!"
Inside Chi Le Chuan, the Hu people came over to meet them one by one. Xiang Shu, however, just shook the reins of the horse, shouting "Jia!" as he changed the horse's direction and galloped to the royal tent with Chen Xing in tow.
THEY’RE ACTUALLY T A L K I NG NOT ARGUING ANYMORE
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Elestrea.