Frosted lines spread across the darkness, glinting like spun glass. Rolling cries broke across the expanse. Kunnan’s pulse quickened. Noble calls, hallowed and free. Wings thundered across the gloom, beating their way through the Verge. Ice crystals swirled in their wake, spuming away into the outer reaches. Silver particles caught up the light breaking across the void, shining like tiny stars in the frozen wilderness.
White cranes pumped their wings, lifting high above him as they soared into what lay beyond. Arctic currents surged through the frozen air, sending icy grains streaming towards the light. He was suspended in astral winds, rushing at incalculable speeds towards the flaring body of light almost upon him.
Lord Xiyin knew an attack was imminent. The night the Ways opened up at Little Lotus Pagoda, he sprang in from the marshes like a white tiger, wielding his dao with such strength and agility we thought he’d win his way through. But such forces could not be overpowered by mortal hands. The most he could do was to destroy the portal before he died. We hoped then that the impending cataclysm had been averted. We tripled the watches and took long patrols, telling each other that harmony had returned to the forests. But now, clearly, the Ways are open again.
“You shouldn’t be carrying dirt.” Zhe delivered a solid kick at the grounded barge. “The Son of Heaven was not meant to do this kind of work.”
“Many things have happened that were never intended.” Jixu stopped hauling mud to take a drink from Zhe’s water flask.
“It’s more than that,” Zhe pleaded. He drove the shovel through muddy water. “The Sky Lords don’t want you to work like this. What’s going to happen if they see you?”
“We’ll engage in a vigorous discussion,” Jixu panted, “about what kind of madness has taken Heping.”