"If it wasn't for me, perhaps you wouldn't have encountered all this."
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Cangqiong Yilie turned pitch black. It flickered with a cold glint, just like to the Senluo Wanxiang after it was refined by resentment. Similarly, Xiao Shan was like the Feng Qianjun then: both his eyes were bloodshot and his body was entwined with resentment as he stared at Sima Yue standing high above.
Crap was Chen Xing's last thought. How on earth did this kid learn to use this magic treasure? Lu Ying couldn't have taught him how to, right?
Sima Yue flicked his left hand and a pitch black shield appeared. "Really interesting, what you wield is also..."
Xiao Shan waved his first claw. The black phantom of the ancient dragon god appeared behind him, a vaguely audible cry of a dragon ringing out.
Xiang Shu turned around and pressed Chen Xing onto the ground. Chen Xing's chains shook, and when it brushed across the claws' Qi, it was silently sliced apart in mid air. Before Sima Yue could finish his sentence, he saw the mountains, earth, and even the entire piece of sky get sliced like pieces of paper. His shield was cut into three neat sections. His sturdy black breastplate misaligned, and he lost his balance, his entire body above his shoulders falling backward.
The ridges and peaks deep within the Yin mountains slumped, then fell with a thundering 'bang'.
Sima Yue, "...Divine weapon."
Xiao Shan took a step forward and swung out his second claw. Sima Yue's helmet and head were both torn into shreds, scattering in the wind with a whoosh. The place where he stood collapsed, and cleanly sliced slabs of mirror-like stone pieces crashed down!
The moment the mountain ridges behind turned into slippery slopes, they were sliced apart by the second claw once again. Like stormy waves, they crashed violently towards both the north and south, resulting in an earth shaking avalanche!
Xiao Shan slightly raised his left claw and drew a circle with his right, utilising the move "Gray Wolf Chases the Moon". Just when he was about to rush forward, Chen Xing had already sneaked over and successfully approached Xiao Shan from behind.
"Expel!" Chen Xing roared angrily next to his ears, then mustered all the strength he had left. He covered Xiao Shan's eyes with his left hand and pressed against Xiao Shan's lower back with his right. A bright white light burst out, piercing through Xiao Shan's consciousness.
Cangqiong Yilie fell to the ground with a clang, and the resentment dissipated.
Xiao Shan lost consciousness, and his head drooped. Chen Xing collapsed into the snow, all his energy sapped.
The avalanche had covered the entire battlefield, making it seem as if nothing had happened.
Snow started drifting down. Giant broken antlers jutted out from the ground, towering aloft like a lonely tombstone in this silent world.
"Xiang Shu..." Chen Xing turned his head sideways and looked at Xiang Shu, who was looking up at the sky as he laid on the snow. "Are you okay?"
Xiang Shu didn't speak. He turned his head to look at Chen Xing. Chen Xing's hand moved, then he struggled to move over. Xiang Shu's fingers twitched and grasped his hand.
"Xiao Shan?" Chen Xing turned over and got up, exhaling in exhaustion. With his hair a mess, he inspected Xiao Shan's wounds. The bone thorns had pierced through his legs and arms, but fortunately he was small enough it didn't injure his chest.
Chen Xing grabbed a handful of snow and applied it to Xiao Shan's face, waking him up. He opened his eyes, baffled, and grit his teeth in pain the moment he shifted. Chen Xing motioned for him to not move around recklessly and bandaged him up simply for now.
Xiao Shan pointed at the antlers in the distance, so Chen Xing went to retrieve them. Xiao Shan held them in his arms sadly and refused to let go. Chen Xing then rubbed Xiao Shan's head.
At that moment, a sound rang out again in the distance. Xiang Shu got up slowly. After all those fierce battles in succession, he was thoroughly spent and didn't have much strength left anymore. His body was covered in wounds as he limped slowly towards the end of the snowfield.
Che Luofeng's broken body had Xiang Shu's heavy sword piercing through it. He laid on the ground, his rotten blood already soaking a small area.
Xiang Shu knelt down in front of Che Luofeng. He held Che Luofeng's hand with his left hand and plucked away the fingers that were still gripping onto the bow tightly, while he covered the back of Che Luofeng's hand with his right.
Xiao Shan looked at Xiang Shu, then at Chen Xing. Chen Xing shook his head to signal that he couldn't go over right now, then made a "shh" gesture.
"Leave him alone for awhile," Chen Xing sighed again and whispered.
Xiang Shu couldn't stop trembling. He buried his face in Che Luofeng's hand and sobbed in a low voice. Wind started blowing, swirling up snowflakes that hid the sky and covered the earth.
Xiang Shu's trembling voice was carried over by the wind.
"Shulü Kong will abide by the oath we made as Andas, I will avenge you."
"It's over, it's really over now, you'll never wake up again, Che Luofeng, but you'll rest in peace, forever... forever..."
"Lu Ying." Xiao Shan seemed to sense something and said, "Lu Ying."
"Do you also want to take revenge for Lu Ying?" Chen Xing lowered his head a little and asked Xiao Shan.
Xiao Shan didn't reply and looked into the distance. The two of them stood in the snow for a very, very long time, until Xiang Shu dragged his tired body out with lethargic steps from the valley. His tall, robust body was covered with frost and snow, and he was carrying Che Luofeng's misshapen corpse wrapped up in cloth with both arms. On his back was the keepsake he shared with Che Luofeng when they became sworn brothers -- the longbow.
Sima Wei, dressed in a suit of black armour, stood high up on the mountain to the south of the Yin mountains as he watched the three people leave from afar.
Nightfall, in a cave on the Yin Mountains.
The three of them were constantly on the move for three days, and after experiencing so many rounds of violent battles in succession, they all looked like savages now. Xiang Shu started a bonfire in the cave. Xiao Shan was already sound asleep.
"Where are we going?" Chen Xing asked.
"Back to Karakorum." Xiang Shu looked up from the bonfire and glanced at Chen Xing. Chen Xing nodded in response. Too many things have happened here, they had to go back to consider at length their options.
Chen Xing said, "Che Luofeng shouldn't be able to be revived."
"I know," Xiang Shu said. "He has been dead ever since he drank the medicine Zhou Zhen gave him and massacred the entire Akeles tribe."
Chen Xing recalled the scene before Che Luofeng transformed into a living corpse and said a little sadly, "At the very beginning, he didn't want to drink that cup of wine."
Xiang Shu had already heard Chen Xing narrate it once, yet he asked again, "Did he mention me then?"
"He shouted for Zhou Zhen," Chen Xing said, "and also shouted for you. At that moment, I think he must have been terrified."
Xiang Shu didn't reply. He stared at Che Luofeng's corpse that was wrapped in cloth. Xiao Shan turned over in front of the fire, wanting to scratch his wounds from discomfort. Chen Xing quickly grabbed his hand, afraid that he would scratch off the places that Chen Xing had bandaged.
Xiang Shu said, in a daze, "After Zhou Zhen died, the entire Chi Le Chuan knew that only I could convince Che Luofeng not to avenge him anymore. From that day onwards, I accompanied Che Luofeng for a whole month... I know he wanted me to accompany him in Zhou Zhen's place, but he didn't dare ask. Once he did, I would leave."
Chen Xing said, "You wouldn't leave."
Xiang Shu answered, "I would have."
He added a little firewood to the bonfire and whispered, "I can't give him what Zhou Zhen did, because I don't like him that way. I can only be Andas with him."
Chen Xing didn't know how to respond for a moment either. After thinking about it, he said, "You have treated him very well."
Yet Xiang Shu answered, "No, I let him down."
Chen Xing didn't know how to console Xiang Shu, but he could sense that at this moment, he just needed to listen to Xiang Shu and accompany him by his side, and it would all would be all right. Just like how Xiang Shu had accompanied Che Luofeng when Zhou Zhen died.
"Perhaps you just don't know what it means to like someone that way..."
"I do," Xiang Shu said softly, "I understand it very well. Don't compare me to Tuoba Yan. I know what it feels like to like someone, and I also know that I really don't like my sworn brother that way. For me, there's nothing that can be done about that."
With that, Xiang Shu glanced at Chen Xing. The blazing fire within the cave flickered. Chen Xing leaned against the cave wall and looked down at the Zheng Drum that they had retrieved from Sima Yue. They had two magic treasures now.
"Xiang Shu," Chen Xing whispered. "Sorry."
Xiang Shu seemed a little confused. He stared at Chen Xing, baffled. "What are you apologising for?"
Chen Xing smiled bitterly. "If it wasn't for me, perhaps you wouldn't have encountered all this."
Xiang Shu's expression turned angry. Chen Xing was at a loss for a moment, staring blankly at him.
"So that's how you think?" Xiang Shu frowned, studying Chen Xing as if he didn't know who he was anymore. "What kind of person do you take me as? In your heart, am I that much of a stupid and ignorant fool?!"
Xiao Shan was all muddled from sleeping. Chen Xing was afraid of waking him up, so he quickly motioned to Xiang Shu to keep it down a little.
Xiang Shu sighed, evidently not in the mood to argue with Chen Xing. He glanced at Xiao Shan, yet he couldn't help but say, "If it weren't for you, the situation would only be worse ba."
Chen Xing, "En."
In the past few days, Chen Xing has always been thinking about what Xiang Shu had said. If it wasn't because of him, perhaps King Akele wouldn't have died. If Xiang Shu hadn't gone North, Chi Le Chuan wouldn't have encountered this sudden calamity… but what should come would eventually come. Without him, when the unforeseen event occurred, then even if the 16 Hu people hid in Karakorum, they wouldn't have been able to defend the city.
"I want to do something for you." Chen Xing still felt a little guilty and said, "Is there anything I can do?"
He looked at Xiang Shu seriously. Originally, he had wanted to talk to him about the future, about Shi Hai, so that he would shift his focus from his sorrows to revenge, yet Xiang Shu remained silent for awhile before saying, "Do you know how to perform Transcendence?"
"Transcendence," Chen Xing said. "Uh, I don't."
Xiang Shu said, "Confer Che Luofeng a sky burial. In this world, you're an Exorcist and also Chi Le Chuan's benefactor. If you think it's too much of an imposition, then..."
Chen Xing could roughly understand what Xiang Shu was trying to convey. Che Luofeng was already dead, so all of this had come to an end as well. After taking this corpse back to Karakorum, a sinner like him would only be given an earth burial, and the deceased Akeles people had also all been killed already.
Xiang Shu thought that he was the only one who can pardon Che Luofeng of his sins, or admit that Che Luofeng's actions weren't done of his own volition but because he had been possessed by the devil.
"Give him a sky burial ba," Chen Xing said at last. "Any method would be fine for one's return. Death is an immutable fact."
"Thank you," Xiang Shu replied in earnest. "This is the last thing I can do for him."
Xiang Shu bowed down and picked up Che Luofeng's body, then left the cave. Chen Xing thought, now? But bringing him back to Chi Le Chuan would only stir up some minor issues, so he went to the cave's entrance. The first glimmer of light could already be seen in the night sky. Coincidentally, there was a sky burial platform right on the mountain summit.
"Next..." Xiang Shu thought for a bit and said to Chen Xing.
Chen Xing, "Xiang Shu, I don't think I should go back to Karakorum with you after all."
Another year had passed. Chen Xing's time was whittling away, and he had to leave; he couldn't waste anymore time in Chi Le Chuan.
Xiang Shu remained silent for awhile before saying, "Let's talk about it again after I come down."
Xiang Shu trekked up to the summit. Chen Xing didn't follow along. He covered Xiao Shan with a robe and stood halfway up the mountain, staring at the vultures flying high above in the distance.
At the first ray of dawn, he heard Xiang Shu sing the Tiele mourning song at the mountain peak. The faint music travelled over. Groups of vultures flew to the sky burial platform one after another. The mourning song stopped, and more and more vultures came over.
Chen Xing stood in silence. Suddenly, footsteps could be heard behind, and at the next moment, a hand tucked in iron gloves covered his mouth. Chen Xing immediately struggled, his eyes widening, but his eyes were covered by another hand and his vision went black before he was dragged into the darkness.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro and opal.