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侯心 Hou Xin

Last Login:
September 12th, 2023



Gender: Male
Age: 40
Sign: Capricorn
Country: China

Signup Date:
March 19, 2020

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03/16/2023 10:54 PM 

Drabble: Morning Tea

// Headcanon drabble, inspired by the picture below //
// Modern Wuxai Verse //



 
  "You are up early, even for your standards! – it´s not even dawning!", the smiling voice of the old housekeeper rang with genuine surprise and a hint of rebuke.
"Oh, …Zumú (Grandma), - I... I just came back in... urgent business to attend to last night.", he smiled back, his focus not diverting from pot and cup he currently was pouring himself some tea with.
"That´s your forth night-shifter in a row.”, the rebuke thickened while Hou Xin´s smile evolved to a chuckle.

He and everyone else knew about the almost overprotective and caring nature of the ancient house-spirit. She had been with the Guard since generations, and considered each and any of the Qi-Masters, back then and till this day, her personal responsibility and family member. 

The scolded one just shrugged, “That´s the job… and I don´t mind… day or night, it´s all the same to me anyway…”.
Wrong answer as her chiding snort made clear, “Fèihuà!(Nonsense) – you boys need to take better care of yourself! Each generation is a bad as the one before…. – what are you doing there anyway?”, she questioned the obvious while moving over to the table next to him. 
For a moment suspicious silence settled - the kind of nerve-wrecking silence which hung over a classroom during exams while the teacher was patrolling - and the desire to duck suddenly was strong when Hou Xin felt her critical glance scrutinizing his very action. 
“Is that supposed to be your breakfast?...” words by the sound of them demanding an answer well thought through.
“Uhm… shì (yes)…” – Wrong answer (again!), obviously, as the light slap to the back of his head very drastically showed.
“No wonder you are all just scrawny bones, Xiǎohuǒzi (young man) – you sit tight right here, for god´s sake sip this thin brew if you must… but you will not leave before you got something more nutritious into this belly of yours, understood?!” There was only one way to respond to this,
“Dāngrán, shí! (Of courses, yes!)”

While he sat nice and quiet, sipping his tea listening to the bustling and clattering round him, slowly the room started to fill with the mouthwatering scent of her famous sweet steamed bean-paste buns.
 

 

02/22/2023 05:09 PM 

Drabble: Locked Door

// as currently - and to my great joy - the request for modern based storylines increased I tried to provide myself some challenge and my muse some pratice when it comes to set up Hou Xin in this verse - so, I took a random cue in form of two words I came by and tried to create a setting and story around them - the words were "Locked Door"... here we go: //

„Chéngshí dì,(Honestly), Jing Mao might have been right, this place gives me the creeps already, Ah Xin”, Ning Chen stated the moment they´d exited the car, now facing an old manor house located just beyond the boarders of the city.
“Most certainly there is an unusually strong, unsettling aura about the place, I agree on that…” Hou Xin nodded while reaching for a little bag and his bamboo staff on the back-seat.
“Ah, I am not even talking about that aura… you should see the place – it´s like the perfect serial killer or demon lair set of a movie.” Ning Chen gave back while walking round the car.
A pictorial description which earned him both, an amused chuckle bit also a slightly ironical shrug, “Haó bá, if you say so. You really watched the one or the other horror flick too much lately – shouldn´t one in your line of work not be affected by such superficial impressions?”
Ning Chen shot his friend a mocking scowl before pulling his own bag out from the backseat.
Making faces or gesturing towards his friend was in no way meant to mock or exploit the blindness of his fellow Qi-Master – in contrary, the two of them being friends close like brothers ever since their early childhood, working together in the field for such a long time, even after fate took away Hou Xin´s sight, just left them with such a deep familiarity that the younger of the two warriors simply forgot about his comrade´s handicap more often than not.
“Last time I checked it was OUR line of work. – And you are just jealous of my vivid imagination. – Haó bá, ready?”
“Shí, let´s see if our little purring Yaoguai was right.”
They recently received a clue from one of their informants – a young woman, or rather a cat Yaogui, disguising herself as a young woman. Hou Xin and Ning Chen where two of the few Qi-Masters who did not consider all Yaogui per se as a monsters and beings to be captured or even killed. In fact, some of their closest friends outside the Guard were of more or less non-human nature, and some of their best informants, too.
Not everyone inside the Guard liked this fact – however, as their results spoke volumes in terms of how fruitful such cooperation could be, the criticizing voices were kept at bay… for now at least.

The rusty iron garden gate pathetically hung from the last desperate scraps of decaying metal on one remaining hinge, leaving a gap wide enough to allow the two White Lotus Guards to slip through.
The overgrown path leading up the house, though appeared to be more trodden as it would be expected from a ground and homestead so explicitly trying to look abandoned.

“People have been here recently, haven´t they?”, Hou Xin, who utilized both, his Qi-powers to focus and but also the help of his bamboo staff to perceive his surroundings stated more than inquired, and was rewarded with an approving grunt from Ning Chen´s side. “Shí, the grass on the path looks like quite a number of people walked here, not too long ago.”
“Hm”, even after years of adjusting and proving his value out in the fields despite his blindness, little verifications like this still helped to bolster Hou Xin´s self-confidence and to battle the lingering self-doubt and silencing the nagging voice in the back of his head trying to convince him that he was just the tolerated side-kick tagging along.

The strange, unsettling aura surrounding the place grew stronger all the way while they approached the main building across the overgrown garden. When they reached the closed front door and tried to push open the crumbling halves of wood, they found themselves facing a greater obstacle than the decayed look gave away on first glance.
Indeed, the flaking structure did not budge one bit but felt like a piece of solid wall.
Hou Xin´s hands slid over the rough surface, examining every little crack and splinter, his mind focused deeply on the barrier blocking their way, entering its very essence in order to find the source of what kept it shut in such a persistent manner.
He searched… and found – something dark, something forbidden -
Almost as if touched by a hot torch the Qi-Master flinched back, briefly shook his head to regain his focus and drive away a flash of vertigo, then turned round towards Ning Chen who had been standing guard behind his friend.
“This door is looked good – and by forbidden means at that. It appears that there is indeed more to his house and someone is going to great length to keep its secrets hidden.”

 


To be continued… maybe…  😉

02/16/2023 11:35 PM 

Resources: Excerpt onChinese mythology and demonology

A brief excerpt on Chinese mythology and demonology
First of all – when talking about demons in the context of traditional and historically influenced Chinese culture when writing Wuxai one has to be aware that the beings going under the name “Demon - Gui” and the terminology´s subclasses we are NOT talking about demons in a Western, Christianized view of the topic.
And secondly, a brief explanation of the term “Cultivation” which will be used frequently in Chinse Wuxai verses –
What means cultivation in Chinse mythology (no, it is not growing plants!)
Cultivation (variously referred to in Chinese as xiūliàn [
修炼], xiūzhēn [修真], xiūxíng [修行], and xiūxiān [修仙]) is a Taoist concept by which humans can extend their lifespan and gain supernatural powers through practicing a set of martial and mystical arts involving meditation and the cultivation of Qi.
In Chinese folklore, besides humans all living creatures BUT ALSO inorganic substances are basically able to cultivate and even start to look completely similar to humans through years of cultivation.
In many of the old stories it is given as a rule that only humans are allowed to cultivate and as animals and objects do not have the “noble” characteristics of humans. Non-human beings and objects have to wait for their next reincarnation and to become humans before they are allowed to cultivate. Therefore, the spiritual energy of non-human objects and the cultivation of human form are “against the sky
(Mo)" (against the natural and divine order) and thus has the potential to harm mankind. Therefore, those beings are often oppressed after cultivation – however often in such stories it also is pointed out that a certain “power-grasp” of humans and the intention to keep it under all circumstances could be the more plausible root of these “rules”…

Alright, so much about this, trust me knowing all this will come in handy later when talking about Yaoguais, but let´s start with Gui´s:
Evil Spirits – Gui:
The closest to what Westerners would consider “traditional” Demon probably would be a so called “Gui”.
 Gui also refers to the secondary soul that is separated from the higher soul (hun) at death.
The superior soul becomes spirit (shen), and if not treated properly in a ritualistic sense, gui can become a ghost or bad demon, which basically is a a troublesome spirit that roams the world causing misfortune, illness, and death and are prevalent in the Chinese mythological world.

Besides these there are also the so called:
Yaoguai – monsters or strange creatures:
Yaoguai (
妖怪) is a compound word consisting of two Chinese characters. (yāo) is a noun meaning monster or demon. (guài) means strange or unusual.
In the realm of mythology, yāo refers to natural objects (animals, plants or rocks) which have acquired sentience (lit. spiritual awareness), the ability to assume human or near-human forms, supernatural or magical powers, as well as the ability to cultivate so as to achieve immortality or transcendence. (e.g. Fox demons, Clam-Monsters (Seadragons…))
Those beings are not per se evil – indeed most probably will try to live a peaceful existence at the rim or hidden among human society. However as among human society especial among those Taoist groups with a very rigid and puritan approach such beings are considered “abominations” and hunted.
Further amongst the Yaoguai also demoted gods can be found. Being cast out and turned into a Yaoguai usually is the punishment if a god violates the Laws of Yin and Yang which together form the Tao, a universal law for the heavens and the earth.
Those “fallen gods” usually are rather bitter, malicious beings, out for revenge, blaming others for their failure and trying everything to regain their former power.


Alright – so much about the short excursion into this so much vaster topic – if you are interested in some more details, or rather some individual mythological creatures which would count among those “demonic types”, here is a rather long list of things that might go “bump I the night” in China and Asia as such Demons, Monsters and Ghosts of the Chinese Folklore (china-underground.com)

01/25/2023 05:11 PM 

Drabble: Street Signs

I just recently picked a random setting promt for modern fantasy as my muse source for another drabble (to get back into writing shape and character and explore some modern setting ideas besides all the tradition Wuxai and LotR settings Hou Xin is part of)
So here is the prompt and the result:
Setting-Prompt, Modern Fantasy:
Street Signs
: After a young man is killed as an innocent bystander in the cross-fires of gang violence, a mysterious symbol appears on the side of a building.

 

The rhythmical, constant tapping of rain against the high windows accompanied by the frequent noises of clicking and typing of someone working at a PC filled the room. – This very someone came in shape of a rather juvenile looking Asian male, sitting behind an ancient looking wooden desk, shoulder-length, ebony, slightly ruffled hair tugged loosely behind his ears which were covered by headphones, his angular features faintly strained with focus.
On first glance his whole appearance tended to invoke the impression of him being one of the current disciples at the Agency, yet indeed the sign outside, next to the door announced him as one of the most renowned Agents. As a matter of fact, he was one of the leading authorities when it came to practical fieldwork and disciple training in martial arts and the mastery of Qi-Powers. Remarkable achievements considering his young age and yet another fact, noticeable by his unfocused glance that was not directed towards the screen in front of him, but him taking in the information displayed there by headphones and his fingers running quickly across a constantly changing Braille-display connected to the PC-set.
In his function as ambassador of their Chinese/Asian branch Hou Xin, as this was the name the young Qi-Warrior and Warden of the Jade Court, the Agency´s official title in his homeland, had been sent to temporarily aid the North American section. Besides assisting in the training of new disciples the main reason for his presence was to investigate the recently growing numbers of reports of strange occurrences in the proximity of China town NY and a few rich Chinese families. This demanded subtle and in terms of cultural habits appropriate handling and thus was calling for an insider in order to avoid a social and political faux pas among the “no-mag” but also the magical society.

Hesitant knocking eventually dragged him away from his studies, made him pause his lecture and remove the headset and directed his attention towards the open door.
“Shí? (Yes?)”, while he was well able to determine that someone, someone human at that, was lingering within the doorframe, there was not much more information for him to utilize in order to identify the person – there was nothing familiar to him about the person lingering there. So he only could assume that it was one of the newly admitted students.
“Sir, are you Master Hou Xin, Sir?”, an unknown, young, male voice hardened this assumption, and the insecurity and slight discomfort resounding in the words made him get up with a, as he hoped, reassuring smile. Also remembering that the other probably was not able to understand any Chinese he promptly switched back to English, noticeably lined with a foreign accent though.
“Yes, I am Hou Xin…. forget about the Master or the Sir…  –  Hǎo ba (Well), who are you and how can I help you?”, he confirmed his own identity and beckoned the disciple to enter and take a seat.

Settling back into his own chair Hou Xin silently waited a few moments with tilted head, taking in his very own impression of the student and also allowing the obviously rather nervous youngster a moment to collect himself, and maybe even state his matter.
“Thank you, Si… - uhm, I am David Caster – the Agency recruited me only last week… uhm…”.
So his assumption was confirmed. Hou Xin nodded slightly, “Huānyíng (Welcome), David. That explains why we have not met yet – Suǒyǐ (so), how can I help you?”
“Here, I was told you might be the one to be able to help me with this?” faint scraping across the desk announce that something was slid in Hou Xin´s direction – a something that felt like some sort of smartphone to him, upon briefly running his fingers across the flat surface.
Once he´d finished his examination Hou Xin´s unfocused glance went back towards his visitor, “I might need your help with this, David – Whatever is on this screen, I need you to describe it to me, hǎo ma (please).”

A slight gasp gave away David´s surprise upon finally recognizing what was the reason behind this unusual request.
“I… uhm.. of course, Mas… Sir, uhm Hou Xin, Sir…”, his uneasiness about the whole situation was almost tangible and made Hou Xin get up and come round his desk.
Placing himself next to the young man and one reassuring hand on his shoulder he pulled the device closer towards the two of them.
“It´s alright, David – nothing to feel anxious about – so, what is it you are trying to show me on there?”
“Ok… ok…. – I…well, I recorded something with my phone this morning… I will explain it while playing the video, would that be ok for you, Sir?”
“Of course it would, David – go ahead, and, again, hǎo ma (please), no Sir.” Hou Xin tried to sound as reassuring and calming as possible. Indeed, this was not the first time he´d experienced a reaction like this once people realized his… situation. Especially students and new fellow agents tended to feel somewhat uneasy regarding how to deal with him – probably as their idea of a field-agent and even training instructor did not include sightlessness.
After a few seconds of David fumbling with the mobile phone a video started to play – initially, without context nothing Hou Xin heard really made sense: the screaming of people, sirens, and suddenly some of the people part of whatever scene was going down seemed to be surprised by something….
“Ok, what you see here... uhm... I mean… I… anyway, what I recorded on my way to the Agency early this morning is the aftermath what seems to be the cruel, accidental death of a young man, apparently in way of a sudden gang shootout – it was more like a drive by, or so it looked like in the beginning – however as terrible as the whole incident was, what happened after the goons were gone and the guy was dead, is what I wanted to show you – you still can hear the people call out in shock and the first sirens approaching, yet the moment when among the shocked screams the expressions of astonishment and surprise erupted, that is when at the wall behind the shootout victim, rather high up a strange, glowing sign appeared – nothing I have ever seen, and when I showed it to Agent Booker he told me to show it to you… it looks kinda Asian?”
The implied question in the end made Hou Xin shrug slightly, “Well, on first glance there is not much I could tell you about it,” he deadpanned, once again in an attempt to break the ice – this time it seemed to work as a suppresses chuckle came as response… finally! 
“Dànshì (However), …”, he went on, again back to being serious, “… if you describe it to me the best you can, I am sure the two of us will be able to solve this puzzle. – Suǒyǐ (so), tell me every detail you are able to remember and you can make out on this video of yours.”




 

12/08/2022 08:33 PM 

Wǔxiāng fěn bing (Five Spices Cookies) - HC set in Middle Earth verse
Current mood:  accomplished

// this is a Headcanon story inspired by Christmas time in RL and the Story set in the Middle Earth Verse I share with Airi - trigger warning: trips down the memory lane, melancholy, fluffy Christmassy stuff, no action, no heorism, just some cheesy little happy place mostly // 

Wǔxiāng fěn bing (Five Spices Cookies)


For three days in a row snow had been falling, covering the valley under beautiful blanket of glittering white, reminding everyone that festival season, the time of celebrating the ancient holiday of Turuhalmë was closing in.
Especially the young elflings were looking forward to this day of laughter, and games and tales, and their excitement was contagious in a manner that not even the oldest elf, having seen this event thousand of times already, was able to remain immune to a certain feeling of joy and nostalgia.

Slender hands, sporting the typical callouses of a warrior, ran along the wooden banister, brushing off the icy cover while the former Dunedain made his way up the steps which led from the main building of the elven library to his personal quarters.
A few stray snowflakes carried by a gust of wind blowing down the mountains and across the roofs, silently, weightless landed on a mass of flowing long hair, stuck to it, much like silvery stars adorned the velvety-black of a clear night-sky.
Hou Xin would not notice, neither found the wintry glamour turning the valley the Avari Clan called their home into a sparkling, magical wonderland entry through unseeing eyes.
However, even though unable to take in the scenery, the wonders of this very special season was not lost on him – the excitement of the elves was almost palpable, and even though eternal darkness was his constant companion, snowy days held their very own beauty and magical moments. – Against all common ideas, snow did indeed not fall soundless but there was special, unique noise, a mix of jingling, murmuring, and rustling filled the air. Further the whole mood of the place changed once the white flocks covered the lands: it was almost as if every noise was tuned down, muffled, softened, and by this also the people living here were affected. The bustle of the day seemed to slow down, audibly, people spoke softer, walked slower, laughed more.
He also liked the smell, cold and snow covered most of the natural odors replacing them with a unique kind of crystal clear sensation – and especially now during the days advancing the Turuhalmë-festival other smells emerged: the pleasantly tangy aroma of resin of freshly cut greens, the comforting scent of all kind of foods and snacks being prepared, spices, herbs, of baking goods and liquid gustoes brewed.
Latter reminded Hou Xin of the task at hand and prodded him to stop his musing over the laughter of some young elflings, clearly enjoying themselves in a friendly snow-ball-fight on the courtyard in front of the library. – Some things obviously never changed, and even after having outlived the prolonged lifespan of a Dunedain several times by now, thanks to the gift the Valar granted him back then, he had yet to encounter a child, no matter which of the free people it belonged to, which did not enjoy frolicking and playing with friends in the snow… same went for a lot of adults, too.

Upon entering the home he shared with two young elves whom he´d taken in as his wards decades ago when their parents, his best friends, fell during their fight against the dark forces of Mordor, Hou Xin placed the double-layered woolen winter cape on a hanger next to the door, stretched slightly and instinctively when the weight was off his shoulders. Then a a black band of soft silk was added to the hanger - his blindfold he tended to use during these frosty winter days. – As much as he liked this time of the year, ever since he came back from near death due to the torture and the blinding by Sauron he endured back then in Numenor, icy weather came with some drawbacks like aching scars and his blinded eyes which started to hurt again when exposed to the cold.

Still he´d learned to deal and live with it, even saw it as some sort of just punishment for his failure as the King´s counselor back then.– For at times the former Numenorean still blamed himself of not having been able to break the influence of Sauron and Morgoth the last King of the Dunedain fell to and thus doomed his people as a whole.

And yet this was long in the past and especially now merrier thoughts were what fueled his current doings - The task he had assigned to himself for this evening also held a lot of memories of his former people, mostly pleasant ones, maybe some of them a bit nostalgic and melancholic. – It was a simple, unheroic, little tradition he held up ever since he figured a way around his handicap by utilizing the gift the Valar granted him back then: besides the longevity and constitution of his elven friends, his remaining four senses even more enhanced than theirs to make up for his loss.
After he´d taken out all necessary utensils, graceful, slender fingers ran now swiftly across a cupboard almost room high, with many small, square drawers; all marked with little wooden, carved signs Hou Xin was able to feel out to determine its content.
At the top right his movement stopped when his fingertips brushed across the icon he´d searched for : 五香粉 – 5 Spices – a very distinct mixture  passed down in his family and used in some of their traditional cooking and baking.
A small skillfully made clay pot hid inside the drawer, and the moment the lid went off a warm, spicy, sweet scent emerged – a scent which immediately took the former Dunedain back to a place in his past, a pleasant one this time though; a room filled with memories so very dear to him even though only still partially existent at this point.
Due to having been stripped not only of his sight but even of the ability to fathom the sensation as such, to grasp it as a concept, also all his memories connected with anything related to visual impressions were gone. All that was left were those moments when a scent or a sound or even touch brought back the remaining pieces.
This scent however was particularly connected to his wife, her clear laughter, her graceful way to move under his touch, her quick mind enthralling him in many invigorating discussions about the matters of the world, life as such and the state of the Kingdom - and which ever so often proved to be a great source of inspiration for his position as the Royal Counselor.
5 spices, warm, spicy, invigorating and yet calming, their smell filled their past home ever so often, smelling it now always brought him back, and it was almost as if he could hear her lovingly mocking laughter once again ringing from afar….
… until real laughter broke his trip down the memory lane.
He slightly flinched when the door flew open yet didn´t even have to turn to check on the intruders as two sets of well-known footsteps accompanied by two voiced laughter immediately announced the entry of his two wards.
“Are they ready yet?” – the male voice of a young adult, a voice Hou Xin knew ever since it made it´s first resounding appearance in the world – same was also valid for the female one which followed, backing the request of her brother.
Without turning he shook his head while a broad smile of amusement light up his face, “No, I barely even started – this year you are a little bit early – and here I thought that age brings calmness… - not for everybody it seems.”
The scraping of chairs implied that the two youngsters were inclined to linger, making themselves comfortable at the round table on the other side of the room. An action that cause Hou Xin to finally turn, a frown of mocking outrage lining his face.
“What is this? As you are already here you are not going to help your poor, old uncle, but intend on lazily watch his efforts? – I don´t think so! – You better earn your share, or all will be given to the children playing out there. – Here, Airi, beating the eggs is your task… and you Fíer, how about you entertain our efforts by telling or reading us some story, earning your share that way.”
Mocking protest came in return, but neither of the two elflings really tried to shake off the appointed tasks and so soon the place was filled with the clattering of plates and bowls and the beautiful ring of Quenya telling stories of the past.

 

11/24/2021 12:54 PM 

Drabble - Arrival at Ard-o Ñoldor

// this drabble is based on not only one but several 1x1 SLs I got going with Airi in the LoTR verse, exploring Airi´s , her parents´ and Hou Xin´s story and relationships  - this one is set around the time when Hou Xin is about to come across Airi´s parents, at that time still young elves and students at Ard-o Noldor //

Arrival at Ard-o Ñoldor

Fast, swift steps stirred up a few dry leaves strewn across the white, marble platform overlooking one of the impressive waterfalls of the valley, a vigorous swipe with the long, flexible bo-staff sent them tumbling down towards the glittering depth.
One last strike, a few more graceful strides then the fighter came to a stop, leaving the state of deeply focused concentration – only to be rewarded by the sound of clapping hands.
“A very impressive demonstration, Háno Xin (Quenya: Brother Xin) – your skill and grace are nothing short of that of the Eldar, indeed if I didn´t know better but was nothing but an unassuming spectator I would harbor no doubt that you were inherently one of us… - given you hide your ears”, the final, amicably teasing remark did nothing to dampen the genuine respect shown by the lord of these lands, Elrond himself.
A small yet warm smile playing round his lips the addressed, Hou Xin, turned to face the speaker, answering the praise with a respectful bow of his head.
Hîr-nya (my lord)” – he still used the title demanded by official etiquette, even after a decade of close friendship bonded the two men, elf and Dunedáin. For him it was an expression of gratitude and deep friendship all in one, and thus Elrond accepted it for what is was meant to be a respectful and still amicable moniker. “I´d never dare to compare myself with the grace of the Eldar, yet will do everything to honor the gift of the Valar by making the best of what I was granted so generously in order to utilize it in the service of the free people or Arda.”
“Oh, don´t you sell yourself short, Háno – you easily keep up with the best of my warriors, best them even – this is no easy task…”
“I am sure they went easy on a pitifully, blind human…”, the objection was washed away by a stream of highly amused laughter – “I don´t think so – they looked rather beaten… - anyway, speaking of service – there IS indeed a favor I would like to ask you for, Háno, and actually the reason I came to seek you out today.”

On their way back to the living quarters of the elves Elrond explained that he answered a request sent by their distant elven brethren, one of the Avari Clans, more precisely the Wisdom Clan for aid in their quest to collect as much information as possible about the culture of Numenor and its destruction in order to create a precise and at best complete chronicle of the lost people.
“… so I told them that we have an expert on this topic among us and that he most certainly would be happy to share his knowledge in order to preserve it for the world… - please apologize my anticipation in that matter.”
Hou Xin waved off the apology, reassuring the elven leader that it would be an honor to share all he could about this world and people gone, yet could not hold back a little concern, “… as much as it would be an honor and pleasure to aid in this task, tell me, Hîr-nya, am I wrong about what I know about the Avari as such and the Wisdom Clan in particular. As far as my knowledge goes your elven brethren are rather reclusive and the Wisdom Clan with their abode high up in the mountains even more. As far as word has reached me due to their past and history they are very reluctant to open up already when it comes to their elven brethren, even more to all other races and no other than elves are allowed in Ard-o Ñoldor (Mountain of Those with Knowledge)?”
The chuckle which came in return vividly transported the mischievous smile lighting up the elven Lord´s face even to Hou Xin.
“Well, they asked for help, and I got them the most competent probably available – you are part of our community, so consider yourself an honorary Eldar - also technically as you were granted the gift of the Eldar by the Valar you are more one of us than you are still human by now.”
This time it was Hou Xin´s part to come back with a series of heartfelt chuckles while shaking his head, “You know very well that this is mostly bending reality in your favor – but of course I will accompany you and offer my council. It is on them then to decide whether it is welcome or not.”

*
Already the next day the two men set off – Elrond considered it his task to accompany and introduce the former royal Dunedáin counselor himself, not only due to their strong bond of friendship and mutual respect but also as he considered it his part to counter any possible objections sparked by the human nature of Hou Xin as it had been his idea to present the human as his expert in that matter in the first place.
Also, only few knew the secret pathways leading up to the lofty abode of the reclusive Avari-Clan located in the icy heights of the Misty Mountains.
For Hou Xin it also was the first time since the Fall of Numenor, since he so miraculously escaped death, saved by the Valar themselves and placed into the care of the Elves of Imladris to venture further than where the elves´ Scouting units he occasionally joined patrolled.
Indeed, besides the fact that was someone with a wide knowledge and insight of the fallen Dunedain people he also suspected that Elrond´s motives to task him with this matter were guided by the attempt to lure the human out of the shell of his self-imposed exile which by now lasted already almost one entire decade.
As happy and content Hou Xin appeared to be and also how eager to overcome the tragedy of the past and its effects on him and his life these days it also was rather obvious to one getting to know him better that he still felt guilty about what happened, that he had not been able to prevent all this, that he considered himself unworthy of the gratitude he received and very much deserved the state of irreversible, eternal blindness. Latter however also still feeling to him not only as the rightful punishment for his past failure but also as a burden for everyone around him. A feeling which both made him train and work hard to utilize his new abilities coming with the granted gift of the Eldar in order to overcome any possible hindrance in his way of being the warrior but also scholar he once was but also on the other side left him rather self-conscious and withdrawn, still after 10 years fearing he was not good enough.
This journey now besides everything else also seemed to be supposed to drag him out of his hiding from the world, apparently was Elrond´s stubborn and resisting while friendly nudging to allow him to see and explore his own potential.
And indeed, challenged like this Hou Xin notice that due to his own work and constant training but also thanks to the benefits the granted abilities of the Valar provided he did well, more than that – often enough those they met needed a second or even a third glance to identify the human part of the illustrious duo as unseeing.
About a week later at the end of a climb arduously even for their formidable steeds they crossed the threshold to what was know only by few outside the Avari community as Ard-o Ñoldor, the place of those with knowledge.

They had just descended from their horses and the animals in tow passed the huge, vaulting gateway leading towards the center and main hall of the academy mostly built into the rocky surface of the summit range when they where abruptly stopped by some guards. It was obvious that they were conflicted between offering the demanded respect upon facing one of the most renowned elven leaders and feeling the urge to tell the human at his side that this was not a place he was welcome, or even allowed to be.
After a little to and fro mostly spoken in Quenya, presumably as the guards assumed that the human was not able to understand the not so flattering demands the little squabble was interrupted by yet another group of Avari elves, the headmaster of the academy himself and a few of the scholars – yet whispering in the background announced that the ongoing arguing attracted the attention of a lot more, scholars and students alike.

A polite yet reserved greeting immediately was followed by the still calm but rather blunt hint that this was an exclusive elven place, a remark being both, literally showing the door to the human and also the inquiry why Elrond in the first place had been bold enough to even considering bringing Hou Xin.
Latter felt how his elven companion took two steps towards their unwilling hosts, and when the elf spoke up it didn´t need eyes to notice how barely restrained impatience and growing annoyance resonated within the usually so calm and soothing voice of the Elf Lord.
“I... no, WE came her to aid your cause – to answer your call for scholars able and willing to create and complete a chronicle about the Dundeain, Numenor and its fall – Did I not promise you the most competent scholar. Therefor I ask you who could be more competent than one of the Dunedain themselves?!” – Later remark caused a murmur going through the crowd that by now was filling the aisles and hallway next to them – “The Dunedain are gone, all that is left are some strewn Rangers – and we already received much information from those willing to leave their secluded life and to answer our questions – so what would your friend here be able to add? – Especially given his… situation.”
Hou Xin did not care much for the final remark, he had come to terms with the fact that others either pitied him or faced him with disdain, sometimes both – he considered it part of his punishment for the failure to lead his people, his former king away from darkness and evil. Yet the way Elrond drew his breath clearly gave away that his indifferent façade was only this, a rather quickly crumbling mask.
“You judge before you even know who you are talking to – Your people has a reputation of being wary and extra cautious, and surely not for nothing. Still, do you really consider me a lighthearted fool enough to bring any random stranger to your doorstep. – This man here, one of the last remaining Dunedain is not just any random Ranger – this is Hou Xin, former advisor of the last King himself. The one who tried to stop the madness imposed by Sauron and his subtle, poisoning evil that eventually destroyed the mind of his King and that of most of his people. He tried to warn the Valar about the planned attack, and for that he was imprisoned, his family murdered in front of his eyes before they blinded him and set him for death through torture… - So, do you still think I just caught you any random person that crossed my path and appeared to be Numenorean? … He…”
At that point Hou Xin could not hold back himself any more – the whole “being made special”-thing went entirely against his nature, even though he could see Elrond´s point and what he tried to achieve with it. He stepped forward to bring himself at least back side to side with the Lord of Imladris, then, intentionally falling back into etiquette of his past, took up the stance used to officially greet higher ranking individuals.


“Thank you Hîr-nya (my lord) for the elaborate introduction – I am sure the noble lords of this place did have their reason and cause to set up the established rules – and I am surely not in the position to question them or even more, to demand special treatment, even less for what I once was. – However, I hereby humbly offer my services to help with this task you and your scholars have taken upon you. Indeed, I am beyond grateful and honored that my former people are interesting enough to have sparked such undertaking.”
He briefly touched his hands with his forehead before going on
“Yet if my presence here is unallowed and unwanted I will make sure to leave this place this very hour and I deeply apologize if I caused inconvenience or even insulted you and your people.”


// maybe continued with a part 2//

09/09/2021 03:22 PM 

Headcanon: Before the Fall (of Numenor) Part II

//alright, this has taken me ages - Part II of a headcanon I was writing as Hou Xin´s backgroundstory set in the Tolkien verse for a great SL with my dear Airi (an Avari Elf) - For this setting Hou Xin was made Dunedain.. with a past going back till before the Fall. - How he is still alive ages later (even for a Dunedain an unusual life-span) in the storyline and how he came to be who he is in the story - a blind, human living with a clan of Avair Elves being a Scholar and the caretaker of their Library for them...  Part one can be found here, if you want to catch up first: https://www.roleplayer.me/view_blog.php?id=0000507749 /


It was about to end… he felt it, he knew it. There was nothing more he was able to muster, no strength, no life left. Seemingly endless torture and eventually his refusal to accept any of the meager pieces of stale bread and sips of bilgy water brought his body to the point of breaking down.
He eagerly was waiting for this to happen – this was his way out of this hell, out of this cycle of humiliation, pain and suffering.
Maybe his former king – Hou Xin by now refused even to think about the corrupted leader as anything near what he understood a king to be – and Sauron, the corrupting, poisoning voice in the leader´s ear, the former prisoner made advisor, actually had lost interest in tormenting an almost dead man… or maybe there were other things on their minds, things like the conquest of Valinor.

The Edain warrior and former counselor shuddered, he really hoped that the Valar knew how to prepare against such veil deeds – especially as, as far as he knew, it was forbidden to them to actively take the lives of other beings of Arda.
Slowly he sat up, one more time he told himself, tried to motivate his sore, weak body to comply – at least he would not give them the pleasure to find him curled up on the ground like a newborn. Ultimately he managed to maneuver his fading body into a sitting position, crossed legs, shackled wrists resting in his lap, upright, calm; a last display of dignity even despite torn clothes, naked skin and open wounds.

A tiny sigh escaped his lips, a thin smile playing round them while he invited death to take him – the sigh caused by a brief wave of defeat and failure washing over him. He knew he had failed her. Had not been able to keep his promise.
“Remain strong – your place is here – promise me to not allow kindness leave these lands” – his wife´s last words, her final request spoken under dying breath while bleeding to death in his arms.
They took her from him, made him watch powerlessly how his former king´s sword struck her violently – only after they made him, forced him to witness this gruesome scene they bothered to take his sight.
And though the pain when the black blade was pulled across his face followed by the iron grip of Sauron the Necromancer casting his spell to erase even the idea what it meant to see was nothing less than searing agony, it was trivial in comparison to the pain of losing her.
The moment Morgoth´s right hand warrior let go of him, driven by mad determination, seemingly almost unfazed by the horrible deed done to him he´d crawled forward to where he remember her lying.
There was still life left, fleeting though, running out quickly – that was the moment he made the promise to be strong, to stay, to make sure that darkness would not take the upper hand… - he would have to apologize for his failure.
Maybe she would understand… he dearly hoped she would.
The cold blackness surrounding him seemed to go on forever while he waited for his inevitable fate – until the deafening crunching and a noise as if earth itself was moaning interrupted the silence. Tremors as deep as the rocky abyss underneath him followed, made stone crumble and splinter, opened up cracks inside the cave walls and allowed the whole force of the surrounding sea come barging in. - So not a peaceful death then, of course not.
His seemingly weightless body was carried away by tempestuous currents after another powerful quake caused his chains to break lose from where they had been fixed to the ground.
Like a puppet his lifeless form was tossed about by waves, carried upwards and away – nothing of this was noticed by Hou Xin any more.
Neither when strong yet gentle hands reached down to lift the dying man out of his wet grave.
 

His wounds treated and being bedded softly underneath silken sheets – that was what the afterlife felt like then?
The difference to what he went through during his final days could not have been more striking.

Slowly Hou Xin stirred, then paused in astonishment when he noticed that he was clad in what felt like silken robes – the pain was gone, his body though still weak felt whole again.
Yet when he opened his eyes darkness lingered, his sight still gone. Did that mean that Sauron´s evil spells even reached him in the realm beyond, couldn´t be broken even by death… that or…
“Gi suilon, Nin hir ! (Greetings my lord) – At last, you woke!” a voice, calm, ageless … and vaguely familiar. If it hadn´t been for the use of Sindarin Hou Xin would have needed longer to identify the speaker, apparently situated next to his bed.
“Lord Elrond?!”, it was question and statement both at the same time.
“Your gift of perception is not praised without reason, Master Hou”, came the response, the words lined with a genuine smile,
Lord Elrond – so, he was not dead but very much alive and as it seemed had been brought to Rivendell… but...
“How..?”, Hou Xin was unable to hide his confusion, sitting up more or less straight while trying to get a grasp of the whole situation.
Almost as if he needed to reassure himself that what he was experiencing right now indeed was real his hands brushed over the formerly torn and bruised skin of his wrists where the shackles had left deep, blood traces – nothing but soft skin, and only a faint hint of thin scars prove of freshly healed wounds - not that this came particularly as a surprise considered that his back mauled by endless whipping also felt whole and healed again.
“What happened? - Why I am still here?” Hou Xin´s growing uneasiness and confusion probably was visible by now
The bed softly moved when the Lord of these Lands made himself comfortable at the side, allowing one hand to soothingly rest on one of the beaten Edain forearms.
“A lot happened, and the fact that you are still here and not with the others buried under the sea in a cold, wet grave is to be owed to none less than the Valar and even Iluvatar himself….”
The story that eventually followed about the complete destruction of his homeland, how the All-father himself intervened to stop the madness of Ar-Pharazon controlled by Sauron by drowning the Island of Numenor together with the royal fleet, how whole Middle Earth was re-shaped in the process left the former inhabitant of the destroyed island not short of astonishment but also awe and terror.
When the Elf-Leader had finished it took Hou Xin some time to digest the information – not even noticing hat he had been listening with closed eyes he turned further towards his current host.
So his warning had been taken seriously, the Valar, not allowed to defend themselves saved after all – yet in what manner and to what cost.

“So… everyone of my people is dead?… But, why save me then?”
“No, not everyone is dead, some made it out alive – most of those faithful to Elendil and the Ban of the Valar survived, and so of course you. Ulmo, the Lord of the Sea carried your body to safety and some of my warriors were instructed to bring you here”
Hou Xin bowed his head in gratitude “I must thank you for your good care, my Lord, as I assume it was you and your people to tend to my wounds?”.
“Oh, no that praise is directed to the wrong person – what little of your life was left was re-kindled by the fairest of Ladies, Esté the greatest of healers. - she stayed with you until it was sure that life would not leave you after all and that your wounds would heal without complications… - except… you probably noticed it already…”
“Hm…” - instinctively Hou Xin´s free hand went up to brush across closed lids, nothing felt out of the ordinary though, except from the fact of course, that he still could not see.
“She was able to heal your eyes – yet unable to restore your sight – the dark magic which was used to take it from you is too strong and the spell irreversible – I am profoundly sorry, Master Hou.”
For a few more heartbeats silence settled, again Hou Xin need a moment to come to terms with the heard – yet less the fact that he still was and would remain forever blind, rather the very idea that one of the Anui herself had been the one to tend to him, and that it was no one less than the honorable Lord Elrond to take care of further nursing was something he would not have expected in a thousand years.
“There is nothing to be sorry about – I must be grateful and honor the blessing I received when I was sure that I had reached the end of my days…. I might only be a mere human, but still the time I have left I will make sure to honor a pledge I made and the gift I received”
“Oh, talking about gift and mere human – there is something else. Do not consider yourself a mere human, not any more. - Honoring your loyalty, your bravery and the sacrifices you made the Valar and the All-Creator himself decided to grant you the Gift of the Valar – meaning you are now endowed with the same characteristics as we, the Quendi – so, do not worry about given time, there is plenty of it for you now – and maybe some of your newly gained traits might help to compensate your loss. - I am indeed pretty sure that in the shortest of time you will rise to your former expertise as a warrior, if not even surpass it.” the amused but also encouraging chuckle which accompanied the final statement of the elven Lord proved that he very well remembered the former Dunedain Lord and his silent determination and discipline.
A thin smile played round Hou Xin´s lips when he slightly shrugged, “This is a lot of premature praise… and yet will I be nothing more than a homeless vagabond once I am released from this sick-bed”
Suddenly a noticeable hint of indignation rang with the instantly incoming retort
“What are you talking about, Master Hou – I must insist that you are nothing of this kind. Not aiming to trivialize the tragedy of the destruction of your homeland, but please, do not consider yourself homeless. Be assured that you have a home, a family and friends among our people whereever you go – and especially here in Imladris. There will always be a place ready and waiting for you, no matter what you decide to do, where you plan to go next.”
Moved by a wave of deep gratitude but also relieve, knowing that he was no stranded loner in a world without purpose for him Hou Xin put his hand over the elf´s one still resting on his own forearm.
“This means more to me than words can explain, my Lord. - So, when would you think might I able to get up and maybe start doing some exercise again, even some training, should one be found willing to train with a crippled man.”
Another squeeze to his arm was returned, again accompanied by a few, this time genuinely amused, chuckles.
“Master Hou, please, you just barely escaped death, taking a little more time to rest and recover surely will not cause ill thoughts or make others consider you slacking – and let me assure you, the moment you are up and out of this bed and back to train there will be a long row of volunteers eager to spar with you. - And should you be tired of wielding a sword, I´d be more than happy myself to step in for an invigorating exchange of knowledge; as as far as I remember there is no shortage of wits and wisdom to be found with you, my dear brother – that said, may I ask for the honor to address you on a more familial level?”
There was no way Hou Xin would reject such offer and request coming from Elrond the Lord of Imladris. When the renowned elven warrior and healer left him to get some more rest he suddenly noticed how tired he was indeed – and yet his fatigue was still bested by a feeling of utter relieve, gratefulness, joy even. Even despite a lingering sense of sadness, which would never leave him again.
Though despite all loss the fact that he now was able to keep his promise was more than he ever dared to hope during the past months filled with torture - to not allow kindness to leave these lands, he would to anything in his power to stick to these words.
A faint smile playing round his lips the recovering warrior, scholar with a newly gained identity and purpose leaned back and slipped into deep, healing slumber.
 

 

06/02/2021 01:52 PM 

Headcanon: Before the Fall (of Numenor) Part I

//alright, this is a headcanon of piece of Hou Xin set in the Tolkien verse for a great SL with my dear Airi (an Avari Elf) - For this setting Hou Xin was made Dunedain.. with a past going back till before the Fall. - How he is still alive ages later (even for a Dunedain an unusual life-span) in the storyline and how he came to be who he is in the story - a blind, human living with a clan of Avair Elves being a Scholar and the caretaker of their Library for them... well, those at least next two upcomming drabbles are a bit of his backstory in more detail - warning this one might hold a few graphic parts, so if do not like to read dark stuff, step back now ;D  - it was also inspired by the pic below//


Before the Fall - Part I

Cutting, damp coldness was again the first impression he noticed when regaining consciousness – bare, icy stone underneath and the breath of chill gusts brushing across his exposed skin only poorly covered by what was left of his silken robes.
The sensation of agony, a familiar companion by this time, set in only moments later when he tried to open his eyes – again against better judgment. It still was just a simple reflex, a useless one now, a painful one even. The tiniest flutter of his lids felt like someone put hot grinding shards of glass in his eyes.
And then there was the searing, dragging pain engulfing all of his body, mostly his back - the lashing, he remembered. They beat him till his consciousness left him, again…the stones underneath where he had been lying curled up like a fetus were sticky and the coppery smell of his own blood surrounded him in a sickly manner.
Lumps of the cold, crusty substance stuck to his hair cascading down his back and shoulders, a dull, sad, black mass, soiled and tousled.
Weakly he moved, trying to find something to focus on within the numbing, terrifying blackness which had become his new world.
Slowly, his limps feeling like being filled with lead, Hou Xin sat up, the iron shackles round his wrists resounding with a now familiar clang, echoing mockingly along the stone walls surrounding him.
This prison though was not the usual one for any kind of criminal – no, this cell, this place was far worse.
It was a dark place, even for those still able to see and in both the literally but also a metaphorical meaning.
It was located beneath what had become a place of torture and slaughter, a place that should not exist on this realm, the temple dedicated to Mulkher (Adûnaïn for Melkor).
The Dunedain worshiping the Dark Lord… had someone told him this absurdity a few years ago, Hou Xin proably would have laughed right into his face – and yet that was exactly what was happening.
The slowly seeping poison of dark power and well placed words manged to get the Dundeains´ former prisoner Sauron not only out of his confinement, but also caused their King Ar-Pharazôn to replace his former advisor, him Hou Xin, with the fallen Valar´s closest and strongest warrior – and even more, to urge the Dunedain to worship the Dark Master as their only god.
Those who resisted became human sacrifices at the feet of the statue of the dark god, the centerpiece of the Temple above.
He was one who resisted… and more.
He tried to warn the Valar about attack plans Sauron and Ar-Pharazôn hatched together, plans to attack the Undying Lands in order to conquer and destroy.
This was what brought him down here – was his punishment for treason - as if this pathetic puppet of Evil still was worthy to be called King.
Yet they did not kill him, not yet though. No, they, his former King and his new adivsor Sauron and their followers took a sadistic joy in torturing him, over and over again. Spilling his blood across the temple floor, feasting on his pain and suffering, delighting in his humiliation.
First thing that was done to him by the hand of Sauron himself was to blind him – the proper punishment for spies as everyone agreed.
Then he was locked up, shackled to cold walls vibrating with dark power down below the temple - and over and over again they dragged him back into the temple, cracking the thorn-covered whip across his back until he passed out.
How often already, how long he was already at their mercy he was unable to recall at that point. Yet long enough that he felt his body failing, slowly running out of strength and life – merciful, soothing thoughts. Not long any more now and he´d escape this prison, this shaking hull of torn flesh, this searing darkness, forever and there was nothing they could do to stop him - they could have his body, this anyway useless wreck.. they could not have his mind, could not break him though. An idea which made his lips twitch with a weak gleeful smile. 



 

04/20/2021 09:24 PM 

Resource: a brief explanation of "Qi"


First of all a quick description regarding the terms Wuxai and Xinxia:

Wuxia literally means “martial heroes” and is a genre of Chinese fiction revolving around a fantasy world of martial art heroes - whereas a similar genre Xianxia is a mix of historical, fantasy and also mythical/supernatural genres heavily influenced by Taoism, Buddhism but also Chinese martial arts, folklore etc… elements – this latter one includes spirits, demons, gods…

And now about Qi:

As the term Qi or Chi is a reoccurring topic and major theme regarding the character Hou Xin I thought it might be fortunate to explain this overarching concept in Chinese Wuxia and Xianxia:
Aside from just
normal martial art moves, there's such a thing called "inner flow" or "Qi" (sometimes also Chi).
Powerful moves
consume "Qi" - those moves including attacks distributed with seemingly superhuman strength, "flying moves" or actions like "impossible jumps" or blocking hits and projectiles mid air without touching them… - and all other seemingly “superhuman” abilities (e.g. enhanced sensory perception).
When “magic” is used, it is indeed not magic but the powerful control and utilizing of Qi-power with the help of spells or talismans.

The amount of "Qi" a warrior has at his disposal is cultivated and enhanced over years – and some are more “prone” to handle it and have a stronger “natural cores” than others – meaning not everyone has the same “power” and it is not an endless source.
Natural skill and level of training determine how “strong” a Qi-warrior is and how much Qi-source one has to tap into.
Usually the Qi is “stored” within the certain Meridians of a human body (yeah, think acupuncture points)

Once “Qi" is drained like during a fight or by casting spells it regenerates over hours to days up to the maximum level.
Maybe think of it as magic energy pool or Mana in fantasy games.

Though once a warrior “over-strains” his Qi-cores meaning drains them beyond a certain level, or even tries to pull off spells or actions requiring Qi while his “core” is empty it can lead to health or even life-threatening injuries, damaging organs or even breaking meridian points, latter causing the person to lose a substantial amount of their “martial art” or power to cast spells.
“Qi” can be transferred from one person to another, if the “transferring person” is skilled in this kind of action and has a strong enough “core source”.

It also can be used to heal internal wounds or at least speed up the healing process during meditation.
 


 

03/31/2021 05:08 PM 

Drabble: Cherry Blossoms and Wine

Softly, scarcely audible Hou Xin landed on the glazed tiles forming the roof of the barrack stables.
Following a habit which long turned
into a very personal tradition and ritual of his best friend and quasi-brother Ning Chen and himself where they used to meet high up above the bustle of the world to share a good sip, a good laugh or just bonding silence, during warm spring and summer nights, nights they were off duty of course
It was the beginning of spring, and they had just returned form another assignment, looking forward to a few days off, to rest, recharge… well, and tend to all the pesky courtly duties which awaited someone in his position …. - nothing he would allow to bother him tonight though.
Briefly he focused but sensed no other presence nearby, typically Ning Chen was late… some things probably never changed.
A warm smile softened the otherwise mostly so collected and unreadable features while he turned his face towards the
gentle, warm breeze coming from the south, carrying spring and the promises of a reawakening world.
The air was drenched with the smooth but distinct floral scent of the ancient cherry tree growing next to the stables, overshadowing the roof with branches older even than the very building. Soft rustling of countless petals announced that the grand
mother tree once again had made it through the harshness of winter unscathed to grace the world with unmatched splendour.
Hou Xin reached up until his hands reached one of the bushels
of delicate blossoms attached to rough bark – what contrast, and still one inseparable unity… - the epitome of Yin and Yang.
He used to love the sight,
a beauty now lost to him… lost for so long that he didn´t even remember what it looked like. Indeed when the pictures started to fade in his mind it was nothing less than desperation which overcame him. This was long in the past now, though – almost two decades without sight caused him to learn to perceive and value such beauty in a different way… like cherishing the feathery touch of a few loose petals brushing across his face on their way to the ground.
His musing was interrupted by the rustling of clothes and the very ungentle thud of someone landing behind him – Immediately his smile widened into an utterly amused grin while he turned round to greet his brother-like friend.
Dì di (Little brother)”, a hint of laughter accompanied the words, “you got the grace of a crashing heron – are you trying to alert the whole yard?!
“Xin dá (Brother Xin) - didn´t know we were on a secret mission – next time, let me know if you plan to turn leisure into another mission”, Ning Chen gave back, his own voice not less resounding with teasing amusement no matter how hard he tried to give it a sulking tone.
“Hǎodǎi (Anyhow), did you bring the cups… I got us this.. think that will suffice?”, with that Hou Xin pulled two wine flasks sporting the
imperial seal from his belt.
“Ó shì de, shì de (Oh yes, yes)… how did you get your hand on those… did you… you did not…”
“Rènhé (whatever)”, Hou Xin
stop Ning Chen´s probing with a wave of his hand while sitting down, making himself comfortable on the warm tiles. “Suǒyǐ (so,) do you want some or not?”

Hǎo de hǎo de (sure, sure)!”, noisily Ning Chen also plopped down and pulled two cups out of a small bag which had been tugged away in one of the pleats of his robe.

 “Here”, eagerly he clinked one of them against one of the bottle to provide a bit of audible guidance for his unseeing brother.

“Gods, this is good”, Ning Chen´s statement came with utter conviction only a short time later and caused another genuine chuckle from Hou Xin´s side.

For a while they just sat there savouring the noble liquid as well as the placidity of the moment – however, being the busy body he was it was of course Ning Chen who eventually broke the silence.
“Gē ge (older brother), I always meant to ask you… - how are you enjoying this?”
The question caught Hou Xin rather off guard, and with a confused frown knotting his brows together he lowered the cup instead of granting himself another sip.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, how can you enjoy it? - I know this place was one of you favourite.. before… well you know… I know how much you loved the sight of the cherry blossoms in full bloom… now though…”
“D
ì di, that happened such a long time ago.. we have spent so many nights up here since then… why ask me now?”
The rustling of clothes next to
Hou Xin implied a shrug by the man he held dear as his younger brother.
“I... don´t know… it just crossed my mind.”
“Hm… why would I not enjoy it up here? - I admit, there were times when I desperately wished that I could lay eyes on the grandeur of spring one more time… but no mo
re. There are other ways to perceive its beauty. - The breeze on my skin, the gentle rustling of the petals, the whole melody of the night, the song of the owl in the distance, the nickering and stomping of the horses below, the mix of their savoury, musky smell and the floral, graceful scent of the blossoms… all this provides so much to take in…to enjoy”, while he was talking he´d leaned back on his elbows, his unfocused glance directed upwards to the velvet sky, now however turning it towards Ning Chen, the almost cheeky grin returning. “...dàn shì (however)… the company has become rather bothersome these days, though… - too much stupid questions, too little drinking”, with that he sat back up and rose his half-empty cup in direction of the younger Jade Warrior.
“Hǎo ba hǎo ba (alright, alright) I got it” -
happy burbling announced a refill.
 

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