Chapter 60.2 – Reader: My buddies and I were stunned.
Sal’s eyes wandered towards Du Ze and the others.His gaze lingered on the black dragon. He looked back and forth at them several times before he eventually put down his weapon and welcomed Du Ze’s group: “Thank you for saving the priestess. Although humans are our mortal enemy, this doesn’t include good-hearted people.”
They dismounted, and Sal led everyone into the village. Du Ze saw many different beastkin in the tribe; most of them were foxes but there were also minks and dog people who were of the weaker branches of the beastkin family. The beastkin stopped their work and looked nervously or curiously at the group when they passed by. Du Ze saw many with colorful streamers in their hands that they were tying to the tops of their houses. The streamers seemed to represent something important.
Nina also noticed this and she asked Sal: “Prayer flags? Will there be a ritual tonight? What happened?”
Sal looked extremely excited when he heard Nina’s question. “Tomorrow the beastkin god will descend upon our tribe and sprinkle blessings. In order to meet the gods, we decided to hold a festival tonight.”
He looked apologetically at Nina: “The ceremony should be presided over by the prophet, but the prophet’s body might not be able to support the whole ritual. Priestess, you have not yet rested, but could you please take the place of the prophet and preside over the ceremony?”
Nina was pleasantly surprised when she learned that the beastkin god will be coming. “Of course, I’d love to.”
She turned to Du Ze and said hopefully: “Would you like to come and see the ritual sacrifice?”
Du Ze naturally looked at the beastkin homes and Xiu glanced at the streamers on the roofs as though they had given him a glimpse of a higher presence.
– To become a god, you must have a godhead.
Xiu smiled and said: “We would be honored.”
Nina left to prepare for the ritual. Du Ze and the others were invited to rest in a stone house. Du Ze bathed and slept on a bed. When he woke up, the light of the setting sun had turned the whole house orange. Du Ze examined his hearing aid. Unfortunately, the headphones had almost run out of charge so to him the evening ritual will be like watching a silent film.
It was very lively outside. Ariel, Old John, and Muir were not there. Xiu saw that Du Ze was awake and passed him some water. Du Ze was about to thank him when he heard someone knocking at the door.
The door was pushed open. Du Ze saw Nina and felt like he was really seeing a fantasy fox girl. She wore a classic red and white robe. Now that her formerly dusty skin had been washed, her fair skin was a dazzling white in the sunset. Nina’s fox ears twitched when she saw Du Ze looking at her; she seemed a little shy. She glanced at Du Ze who was at Xiu’s side and summoned up the courage to ask him: “Du Ze, can I speak to you alone?”
Nina seemed to be very nervous. Even her fox ear seemed tense. Before Du Ze could open his mouth to reply, he heard Xiu saying softly: “What words can I not listen to?”
The blond youth’s expression showed confusion and worry at being excluded. Some silly, cute person then thought that there really wasn’t anything that he needed to conceal from the Moe Lord. He said to Nina: “Let’s talk right here.”
“No … that is …” When Xiu opened his mouth, Nina was frightened though she couldn’t figure out why. Her face turned red and she stammered. Du Ze words made the girl seem like a deflated ball; her ears and her tail drooped dejectedly.
“I just, just want to thank Du Ze.” Nina hung her head: “Thank you for saving me.”
She did not wait for Du Ze’s response. The fox girl immediately turned and ran away.
“She seems very shy.” Xiu smiled, his eyes bottomless blue pools.
Du Ze looked at Nina’s back as she ran away and couldn’t agree more. He nodded.
As night fell, the ceremony began. A huge bonfire was lighted; the fire rose up in the night sky like gold dust. All of the tribe’s people were in the central area of the village where there was a crude stone altar. Though the altar was undecorated except for red sand that had been strewn about in simple symbols, it had a certain wild beauty.
Du Ze and Xiu stood under the altar with a group of beastkin all crowded together. Everyone was looking at the altar where Nina stood barefoot and wearing bells on her arms and legs. Her eyes were closed. Her charming face revealed a kind of holiness that was difficult to look away from.
Beside the altar, some beastkin banged drums and blew long horns taken from some kind of monster. Du Ze couldn’t hear the music clearly but he thought that the sound must be very ancient, like a long-drawn-out sigh.
The moonlight shone down and illuminated the altar so brightly that even the fox girl’s eyelashes were visible. Nina raised her arms. The sleeves of her robes slid down, revealing her white hands. She made a pose as though offering sacrifices to the sky, her hands raised to their highest points, then the girl slowly opened her eyes, mesmerizing eyes that could grab onto a person’s soul.
The drummers pounded the drum frenetically. The vibrations could be felt in one’s eardrums. Nina began to dance. Her graceful movements told a story of mortals and gods, mortals praying to god for salvation, and god’s faithful followers.
Du Ze’s ears could pick up the faint sound of a song. It seemed that the beastkin had begun to sing loudly. More and more beastkin joined the chorus until almost all the beastkin were singing. Even without his headphones, Du Ze could hear the melody of the song.
Xiu took a deep breath. The beastkin’s song was producing some sort of resonance with the blood in his body. It was a wild, reckless force that, under the song’s guidance, grew more and more intense as though it was ready to break through the last layer of shackles and show itself.
The two moons rose higher. When they had reached the zenith, Nina stopped dancing. Du Ze pressed on his headphones. He could only hear the last ringing of Nina’s bells as he watched her slowly kneeling on the ground, reverently prostrating her body.
Almighty beast god, your faithful people are here, please bless us –
The beastkin put their hands on the left side of their chests, where the heart is located. Without any prompting, they all paid their respects to their god. Du Ze felt Xiu holding his hand tightly. He turned to see that the blond youth’s face in the firelight was a little gloomy and mysterious.
“If you want to become a god, you have to have that kind of belief.” Xiu’s mouth was still smiling, but he seemed a little sad. “I can become a false god and I can even steal a god’s divinity, but faith …”
The blond youth was silent for a moment, then asked in a self-deprecating way: “Would anyone believe in me?”
Du Ze saw that Xiu’s smile was mocking both himself and the world. He wanted to grab Xiu by the collar and shake him, or growl at him. But even if he did that, Xiu’s shattered trust in himself and others wouldn’t be restored. Du Ze could only hold on to the blond youth who has no faith in himself or others and earnestly respond: “There are. Old John, Ariel, Muir… There are many people who believe in you.”
“Even if no else has faith in you, I will believe in you.” Du Ze finished speaking but wanted to lighten the atmosphere a little so he added: “Lord god, you have to treat your first believer well.”
In the firelight, Xiu’s blue eyes were full of a warm light.
In the next moment, Du Ze was kissed by Xiu. He bit Du Ze’s lips gently and held him in his arms.
“I will.” Xiu sighed: “If I have you, then it is enough.”
Xiu said that in Du Ze’s ear then raised his head to see Nina staring at them in disbelief. The girl was standing at the altar and saw everything that had happened. Her mind was in a muddle and she could only stare at the blond young man who was smiling at her.
That smile is so pure and brilliant yet deeper than the most intense darkness.
He is mine.
The man was showing off his power and proclaiming his ownership, warning off others who coveted what was his.
Nina found it difficult to breathe and she subconsciously took a step back. The beastkin roared with excitement as they looked above them. Nina looked up and the maiden’s eyes clearly reflected the beastkin god’s figure.
The beastkin god was coming.
I just want you to be a believer.
You should believe in me alone.
– [black box]
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