“Argh…” Shi Yan opened his eyes. The sunlight shone on his moist face, full of Shi Yin’s fragrant saliva. Finding that Shi Yin next to him, he immediately hugged her.
Shi Yin was shocked. Shi Yan had never done this before. However, her woman’s intuition told her to stay put for the moment. Not moving was currently the best option.
However, she soon felt Shi Yan shivering. It was a familiar feeling. Yes, it was when she was injured that she felt his shivering hold. It was a familiar feeling of him being worried about someone. It was also the weakest she had ever seen him. Although Shi Yin did not know what happened to Shi Yan, she could not help but comfort him. Using her small tongue, she gently licked his ear lobes. She was trying to tell him ‘ I’m here for you. Don’t worry’.
It took some time before Shi Yan released his grip. Shi Yan saw Shi Yin’s eyes were entirely focused on him. He knew that he had caused the little fox unnecessary worry. He took a deep breath and reminded himself ‘it was not time to mope’. He caressed the little fox gently as thanks. Shi Yin was obviously still worried as she licked his moving hands. Shi Yan gave her a final peck on her head, indicating ‘ I’m fine now. Thank you’.
Shi Yan stood up and started walking. However, he suddenly felt a strange force engulfing him. He looked around for any strange existence, to find that Lumi was on top of him. “Hello boy, we meet again” Lumi had a smile on his face “it seems you have something important to do. Don’t worry, I’ll help you. You’ve already passed the test but I promised that old tiger to do a favor for him”.
Before Shi Yan could speak, Lumi had already flown forward, dragging Shi Yan and Shi Yin with him. They were moving at high speed and reached Selene in less than 10 minutes. It’s was just mind blowing that 2 days’ worth of walking was covered in just less than 10 minutes. This was the second time Shi Yan experienced such speed and was still amazed but, as soon as he saw Selene, his heart sank.
Selene noticed the two in mid-air and waved to them using her branch. She joyfully called out “Big brother! Shi Yin!”.
Lumi gently put them both down and whispered to them. “We probably have a few hours before someone troublesome arrives. Shi Yan, I know you get what I’m saying”.
Shi Yan nodded his head as he slowly walked to Selene. “Selene, let’s go, I think I know where your parents are”. Shi Yan said in a dispirited voice.
Selene did not notice Shi Yan’s expression as she was overwhelmed with excitement. “Really?”. She used her branches to give Shi Yan a big hug “Big brother we go there now. ok?”.
Shi Yan felt pang guilt in his heart but he let out a weary smile. “Okay! But do you know where is the lake of Mist Mountain?”.
Selene nodded “Em! It’s over there!”. She joyfully pointed to one mountain about 8 days’ worth of travel away. She held onto Shi Yan and pulled him “Big brother let’s go! Let’s go!”
Shi Yin directed a cold glare toward Selene and ran towards Shi Yan for his embrace. Lumi, who was standing at the side gave a hearty laughter. It was fun to watch these kids interact. However, he soon remembered Byakko’s words and he had felt a little bad for Selene. “All of you don’t move. We will be there shortly”. Lumi lifted his hands and everyone began to float, seemingly wrapping in some kind of invisible bubble.
“Woah! Big brother we are flying!”.
Shi Yan gave a fragile laugh and hugged the approaching Shi Yin.
*Whoosh* they were travelling much faster than before. In less than 12 minutes, they were already at the peak of the Mist mountain. Lumi scanned the surroundings and spotted the lake. “There!”. Lumi quickly zoomed down the mountain towards the lake, dragging the group along.
From the sky, Shi Yan could see that the lake was rather large. It had a mysterious vibe to it, rather, the thin layer of mist that covered the lake is what caused the vibe with an added ephemeral quality. The mowed trees of the forest around the lake made it seem even more enigmatic.
Lumi gently placed everyone down and scanned the surroundings area for corpses. When he sensed some Qi fluctuations, he whispered to Shi Yan “Boy, are you prepared for this? If so, head to that cave over there”. Lumi pointed to a cave.
Shi Yan nodded his head. He took a deep breath and continued to walk. This time, without needing Shi Yin to ask for a hug, he picked her up. Shi Yin naturally did not resist. Instead, she was happy that Shi Yan was depending on her. “Selene, follow me. I’ll bring you to your parents”.
Selene cheerfully nodded “un!”
Shi Yan walked towards the cave entrance but stopped there. He could already smell rotten flesh, and couldn’t help but grimace “Selene please . . . stay here for a moment”.
Selene felt strange. Why did her big brother ask her to wait when her mommy and daddy were just inside? However, she did not think any further as she had held complete trust in her big brother and in a mild tone, she nods, “un…”.
Shi Yan was relieved that Selene accepted his proposal. He could tell that Selene was not used to killing. She kept the rabbits instead of just killing them to feed Reina. No one who has hunted before would be willing to do something so troublesome. He did not want to let this innocent little girl view any gruesome scene. Furthermore, judging from the smell, he knew that the corpses inside the caves were already at their rotting stage. It was the most disgusting stage of the corpse decay.
As for Shi Yin, he knew that she had killed before. Although the scenes maybe not what she was used to, Shi Yan knew that this strong little fox could handle it.
The pair ventured into the cave. The cave’s entrance was rather large, about 15 meters in height but the cave did not seem to be deep. On the cave walls, large handprints could be seen. This indicated that the Ape had dug into the mountain to make this cave. Without much light, Shi Yan felt the edge of the wall to slowly proceed forward.
It was not the case that he forgot to bring a light source. Rather, he did not want to risk the chance of illuminating a dead corpse for Selene to see. There was also Shi Yin, his most trusted fox who could sniff out and see very well in the dark.
Whenever Shi Yan was about to step on a corpse, Shi Yin place her tongue on his hand. This was an indication for Shi Yan to stop, which he easily understood. Next, the little fox would move her tongue to a direction, pointing him where to move. If Shi Yan meanders around, Shi Yin would stop him and make him go back on the right course. The pair were in perfect sync with one another, reaching the end of the cave easily. However, what came to Shi Yan’s surprise was that he could hear a female’s voice. Under the darkness and corpses littered around, Shi Yan could feel a cold shiver run don his spine once he heard that voice. “Boy… Little celestial, leave now. It’s dangerous here… *cough cough*”.
Shi Yan thought for a moment before responding. He hoped that this female was Selene’s mother. “Are you Selene’s mother?”
Hearing Selene’s name caused the female to suddenly shiver. Although Shi Yan could not see, he could hear a soft “*Pah*” sound from the floor. Finally, the female spoke with the same raspy voice but, you could hear the excitement held within “Yes! That’s me! Is my little girl ok?”
Shi Yan sighed in relief. “Yes, she’s fine. She’s waiting outside. Madam, come, let’s go and see her”. While Shi Yin guided him, Shi Yan slowly walked towards the source of the voice.
The woman said in a tearful voice “Boy, I’m sorry but I can’t see her. She would be heartbroken if she saw me in this state. Please, I beg you, tell her that I am not here. That I went to somewhere else to wait for her”.
Shi Yan’s heart sank again. The optimistic hope had clouded his mind for a second. How was it possible for Selene’s mother to be perfectly okay in this cave? Not to mention, what about her father? There is no male voice! That could only mean that her father was in a state where he could not speak.
Even if the mother wishes not to see Selene, he could not allow it. It was a cruel lie. Much too cruel for him to consider to allow. “No. You need to see her!”.
“Boy… Please *cough cough* do you want her last memories to be that of our mutilated bodies?”.
“What is the point if you actually wish for her to absorb your dead corpses? She would see it in the end. Wouldn’t it be better if you could at least say goodbye to her?”
The female voice suddenly shook “How did you know!?”
Shi Yan was already in front of the mother. He held Shi Yin in one arm and used the other arm to feel the ground. He finally felt fingers and a hand. He held the hand up “Byakko told me that was what you and your husband would wish for once you died”.
Once hearing Byakko’s name, the mother’s tears grew even more. “Please, tell him that we failed. We were unable to cure him…”.
Shi Yan thought for a moment but could not understand this situation at all. However, he felt that the Selene’s mother did not have much longer left and did not probe any further. He could always ask what she meant from Byakko later. The current priority is to let her meet up with her daughter. “Madam come, let’s go. Where is your husband?”
Selene’s mother placed another hand onto of Shi Yan’s hand. This hand was cold and was covered in a sticky liquid. Immediately, Shi Yan understood. Her husband has already passed on and she held onto his hand, waiting for death together. “It’s alright… let me carry you both…”.
Although Selene’s mother could not see Shi Yan, from the size of his hand, she could tell that Shi Yan was only a child. For a cultivated child, it was impossible for him to carry two adults. However, she stayed quiet. She did not want to dampen the child’s hopes. Likewise, she also deeply wished to see Selene.
Shi Yan obviously knew his limits. He obviously could not carry two adults. However, that did not mean that he was unable to move them. Shi Yan took off his cloak and placed it on the ground. He let Shi Yin down and used his hand to slowly trace to where the two adults lay, thereby noting their positions and body size. It was a little uncomfortable for Selene’s mother to be touched by Shi Yan but she knew that he was just a child and had no ill intentions. Suddenly, Shi Yan used force to turn her body on to the cloak. Selene’s mother obviously felt that the texture of the ground had changed to some kind of smooth fabric. She now understood Shi Yan’s plan but was still a little doubtful. Could this child be able to pull both adults to the exit?
When Shi Yan traced both of their bodies, his face darkened. He understood their physical situation even more now. He knew now that Selene’s mother truly did not have much time left. He picked up his pace and quickly pushed the husband onto the cloak. He used the hoodie of the cloak to cup their feet so as to prevent them from falling off. He then traced the cloak back to the ends of it and finally started to pull.
Shi Yin was in front of Shi Yan. Her tail wrapped around Shi Yan’s legs as she used it to direct the boy to the exit.
The group slowly moved to the exit, step by step. Selene’s mother used her arm to hold on her husband and grip onto the cloak. Although the trip was a little bumpy, both adults did not fall off the cloak thanks to the hoodie. Selene’s mother was obviously surprised as to how a little boy like Shi Yan was capable of pulling two adults. His foresight was also surprising, to be able to come up with a plan like using this cloth and the leg hold was amazing.
Actually, Shi Yan was only able to pull the two adults due to the insane amount of blood on the floor. The blood acted as a lubricant, allowing him to pull with relative ease. Likewise, with Shi Yin leading the way, they avoided most of the lumps of meat or bones left on the floor; making their journey even easier.
Little did Shi Yan know, Lumi was checking up on them from outside the cave. When Lumi saw that his brother’s precious cloak being used as a floor mat, he cringed. He cursed himself, he should have helped Shi Yan. Waiting outside has caused the priceless cloak to be tarnished by the ground and the rotting blood. Even if Lumi and his brother knew that the cloak would not be damaged by this simple act, watching their hard-made treasure handled like this, was a little heart wrenching.
Shi Yan was finally able to see a bright glow of light, illuminating his path, that alluded to the cave exit. Shi Yin let go of his leg and helped him to pull the cloak.
Selene managed to see her big brother and Shi Yin. However, she felt that something was amiss. Her parents were not walking by Shi Yan’s side. She shouted “Big brother! Where is mommy and daddy!”
Shi Yan could not bear to face her. Her looked down and just focused on pulling the cloak. Suddenly, from behind Shi Yan, a weak voice sounded out. “Darling, mama is here” the voice coarser than before, as the woman tried to hold back her tears. “Don’t worry… Darling… Mama is here… Papa is also…”. she could no longer manage to hold back the tears and stopped speaking. She did not want her daughter to feel her sadness. Instead, she took the time to regulate her breathing, trying to calm down before meeting her daughter. As a final goodbye, she wanted to at least still take on the role as Selene’s mother.
Lumi could not bear to see this scene any longer. He immediately circulated the Qi in his body to lift the everyone towards him.
When he gently placed them all down, Selene could finally see her mother and father. As expected, she did not dare approach them as tears burst out of her eyes. “Mommy!… Mommy!…”.