This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.
Chapter 62: Tianliang
Near sunrise, Hu Jingjing woke up. She first sensed that Li Xixing was still travelling, she could taste the chewed bitter grass in her mouth. Then she habitually glanced in the direction of the Yin Mountains, and felt that she was further away.
The direction of Yin Mountain meant home. The further away from Yin Mountain, the lesser the hope of returning to Changling.
She grew silent.
Li Xixing did not turn to look at her and said slowly, “Do not spit out the herbs … They are terrible tasting, but they are very effective for your wounds and hard to find. If you have the energy, try to swallow them.”
Hu Jingjing nodded weakly and struggled to swallow the bitter herbs in her mouth. Then she slowly looked up towards Li Xixing and said, “Honestly, what you said before about wanting to wear down the other by your resolve and endurance was a lie?”
Li Xixing still did not look back and said, “Why think this?”
“Because you should have known long ago you cannot escape the other. You carry me to flee on the steppes because you want to find herbs so I will not die. You just did not want me to despair and wanted to see if there is a chance I could survive,” Hu Jingjing said.
Li Xixing said after a moment of silence, “You have no basis for this thinking.”
Hu Jingjing laughed weakly and said, “I have intuition.”
Li Xixing seemed to think her reply was ridiculous and did not respond.
“Do not attempt to leave me behind.” Hu Jingjing lifted her head higher and said, “As long as you will not find a way to leave me behind alone, then it means my words have no basis.”
“Do not do something like having me live and you go die.” Hu Jingjing looked at Li Xixing’s side profile after a pause and said softly, “Otherwise, even if you try to leave me behind at a place, I will go find you, and not try to return to Yin Mountain.”
Li Xixing sneered. “We are going to die together?”
Hu Jingjing did not answer. However, her hands gripped Li Xixing’s robe tighter and then she buried her face deeply into Li Xixing’s bloodied robe.
Li Xixing’s body froze slightly.
Hu Jingjing laughed again and whispered: “I heard you have no friends in Changling, I will be your first friend.”
“Who said I have no friends in Changling?” Li Xixing responded coldly. “I had many friends after the Min Mountain Sword Trials.”
“Oh.” Hu Jingjing knew that she was mistaken. She did not argue and just smiled, saying, “Then I will be your friend like they are.”
Li Xixing did not speak. He continued to pass through the yellowed plains, but his body was no longer close to the ground. His endurance had been overdrawn and he could not maintain his previous speed. Even more importantly, he felt the primal energies of the universe of the steppes had changed in a strange manner. He stood up and he could see much further.
“What are you thinking about?”
A young woman would have more words than someone like him who was used to being alone on the border, especially when this young woman had positive feelings. Soon, Hu Jingjing looked at Li Xixing and started talking.
“I’m wondering what they are using us for, or rather, how we can be used.” Belatedly, she realized the weight of her own words. She said after a pause, “We do need to understand this first.”
“My father does not care about me. To him, I am just a symbol of his loyalty to the empress.” Li Xixing glanced at the gradually rising dawn and said, “Even if blood is thicker than water, if he had even a bit of concern … If someone were to capture and place me at the front of the battlefield, he would not change his decision at all. He may try to kill me first. So using me to change the actions of some armies is impossible.”
Hu Jingjing struggled to swallow. She had already swallowed the herbs, but she felt bitterness in her mouth again. She looked at Li Xixing’s side profile and felt more sympathy for this miserable young man. She thought, being born in a noble family may not be good fortune.
“And now, we are getting further away from the main battlefield. We are not powerful in cultivation, what can we be used for? Even if we are to be fed to wolves, they have driven us too far.” Li Xixing slowly said and then could not help but shake his head. “I cannot understand what they want.”
Hu Jingjing thought for a moment and said, “Maybe they are just deliberately …”
Before she finished, Li Xixing interrupted her. “Those that can control the black king eagles have higher status in the Wuzhi than princes. If he were here, perhaps he would understand what the other wants,” he suddenly said as they passed through a meadow.”
Hu Jingjing instinctively said, “That wineshop youth?”
Li Xixing smiled. His smile was cold but also proud.
The wine shop youth seemed to be a derogatory term for Ding Ning in Changling. But now, in the dynasties of the world, it seemed to have become a prominent title.
“He should have also come to the battlefield,” Hu Jingjing unconsciously said when she saw the smile on his lips and confirmed that he was speaking of Ding Ning.
Yet at her words, Li Xixing suddenly froze and even stopped in his steps.
Hu Jingjing looked in amazement at him. A breath later, she reacted. “You feel … it is because of him?”
Li Xixing’s breathing became laboured. He continued to walk after a moment of silence and said in a cold voice, “I hope it was not him, but now, it seems to be the greatest possibility.”
Why would this almost irrelevant person and matter be the greatest possibility?
Hu Jingjing seemed to want to speak more, but she made no sound when she opened her mouth. Even she sensed an unusual presence in the surrounding primal energies of the universe.
There was a faint but especially clear and high presence, like the best weather of autumn, floating in the sky.
Li Xixing did not make a sound. He could sense more clearly that this presence came from one direction like a monsoon. He felt great curiosity and also a strong hunch. His steps started to speed up again.
The warm sunlight fell, and the frost on the grasses evaporated, causing moisture to rise up. Chasing that increasingly clear presence, Li Xixing moved further away from Yin Mountain. The grasses grew taller and thicker, and were like sturdy little trees that popped crisply when broken. The surroundings were more deserted. There were no marks of Wuzhi, and no sound of animals and insects. The world was especially quiet.
Suddenly, Li Xixing stopped. His pause was so abrupt and blunt that Hu Jingjing’s body collided with his.
“What is it?” Hu Jingjing looked ahead in confusion. She did not find anything different. Even the sky was the same.
Li Xixing did not answer. She discovered Li Xixing was looking right in front of his feet. She followed his line of sight, and in the next moment, she exclaimed in disbelief!
Then it startled a herd of tired migratory birds that seemed to have flown over from a distanc. These birds, which looked like white geese, tried to fly up, but were still flying below her line of sight. They did not reach her height.
Because where she and Li Xixing stood now was not the flat plains, but a sunken and deep mountain valley. The valley was very large and the slopes steep. But because they were grown over with tall grasses, and there was a strange mist mirage on top of the valley, the plants underneath the surface were reflected on the top, and made people feel that what was head was flat.
Hu Jingjing looked closely and was even more shocked. She saw the bottom of this valley was a new world. There were many different colors, rivers, and fields full of blooming flowers.
Li Xixing’s gaze was locked onto a short stone mountain at the center of the valley.
“Tianliang Mountain of Ancestors ―” he took a deep breath and said, “The stuff of legend actually exists.”