Su Ming followed behind and walked into the village as well. When the two of them went in, Su Ming turned his head back and found that the village gate had returned to its original state.
It was clear that this was not the first time Tian Xie Zi had come to this place. At this time, most of the people in the tribe had fallen into deep sleep. Since it was raining, there were no bonfires around them. Besides the pattering rain and occasional rumble of thunder in this silence, the only other sound was that cracking sound that rang repeatedly.
It was as if that sound was guiding Tian Xie Zi’s path as he walked through the village and stepped on the puddles of water. Once they gradually moved past the houses, Su Ming saw light shining through an ordinary beast skin tent before him.
This was a small tribe, a tribe that was almost similar in size to Su Ming’s Dark Mountain Tribe. Small tribes like these numbered to too many in the Land of South Morning.
He looked around him, and when Su Ming’s gaze fell upon the tent with light shining within, he could hear the cracking sounds that seemed like bones being rubbed against each other.
Tian Xie Zi walked up to the tent and lifted a flap before walking in. Su Ming followed behind him and also entered the tent. When he did so, the first thing that entered his gaze was the many bones that lay within the small tent.
Besides the bones, there were also some stones in the tent, and most of these items had been turned into xuns!
This was the first time Su Ming had seen so many xuns. It was also the first time he saw a xun in the Land of South Morning!
A shiver ran down his spine. Once he swept his gaze past those xuns, it fell on the old man in the tent.
The old man’s hair was flecked with white and he was dressed in beast skins, though he did not cover the upper half of his body. Right now, he was sitting inside the tent with a beast bone in his hand and was rubbing it against a stone slab.
It seemed like the shape of this beast bone did not match with the bone xun he wanted to make, that was why he had to rub away the unnecessary parts.
With a dark expression, Tian Xie Zi looked at the old man and walked until he was right in front of him and sat down. His gaze shifted to the beast bone in the old man’s hands, which he was still rubbing against the stone slab.
The old man looked calm. It was as if all his attention was trained on the bone in his hands and he did not notice Tian Xie Zi’s arrival, nor did he notice Su Ming’s presence.
He sat there calmly and continued rubbing the bone against the stone slab. Cracking sounds echoed within the tent. Some of the sounds even floated out and lingered in the air for a long time.
Time trickled by. Su Ming’s eyes never left the bone in the old man’s hands, and he saw that a corner of that bone gradually became round under that continuous rubbing.
Tian Xie Zi never spoke. He was also looking at the old man, and changes started to show on his face. Sometimes, he would appear sullen, at other times, he would look as if he understood something, and occasionally, there would be a complicated expression on his face.
Rain poured even harder outside the tent. Thunder would occasionally rumble in the sky, and sometimes, the sky would brighten up for a brief moment and leave the shadows of the three people on the skin of the tent, but they would flicker and quickly vanish.
The old man’s concentration made Su Ming arrive at some form of understanding. He did not know at what point of time he eventually chose not to stand but sit by the side and watch the bone being rubbed against the stone slab while listening to the cracking sounds. At that moment, the calmness that had never appeared ever since Bai Su had come to the ninth summit overtook him.
At that moment, Su Ming sank into a state that felt as if he had forgotten about his self due to his calm gaze towards the bone. In his eyes, he could only see the bone that was being rubbed against the stone slab. He did not see that the clothes on Tian Xie Zi’s body seemed to be changing as he sat right before the old man.
That change only happened for an instant before returning to its original state. If no one paid close attention to it, they would not be able to see it clearly.
Time trickled by. They had no idea how much time passed, but the old man eventually stopped in his act of rubbing the bone against the stone. When he stopped, Su Ming felt his mind jolting back and came back to his senses. He saw the old man looking at the beast stone and lifting it up as if he was inspecting it.
After a long while, he changed the beast bone’s position and continued rubbing it against the stone slab.
The complicated look on Tian Xie Zi’s face grew deeper. After a long while, he let out a long sigh and stood up.
The moment he stood, the old man stopped. When he lifted the bone in his hands once again, that bone had already turned into a xun. There were several small holes in it. Once he gave it a look, he lifted his head, but he did not look at Tian Xie Zi. Instead, he trained his gaze on Su Ming.
It was a gaze that was as tranquil as water. Those were a pair of eyes that seemed to contain endless knowledge, had seen through the truth behind life and death, understood all that lies within the world, and could contain everything within them.
Inside were kindness, peace, tranquility, and a light that made Su Ming fall into a state of serenity once he met his gaze.
The old man lifted his right hand and handed the bone xun to Su Ming.
Su Ming quietly stood up and took the ordinary looking bone xun in his hands respectfully. At the instant the old man handed the xun to Su Ming, he suddenly understood the meaning behind the old man’s gaze towards him. He wanted him to play it.
Su Ming held the bone xun and wordlessly took a few steps back before he sat on the ground and stared at the xun in his hands blankly. The sound of rain falling outside became stronger and thunder started rumbling nonstop in the sky.
Su Ming closed his eyes and positioned the bone xun by his mouth before blowing into it gently.
He originally did not know how to play any songs on the xun, but over the years, the broken bone xun that could no longer make any sound had kept him company during the nights when he was alone and missing his home…
There were many nights where he would blow into the voiceless xun quietly alone and the melody of the songs in his ears would play inside his mind
Moaning sounds that held a hint of desolation traveled out from the bone xun by Su Ming’s mouth and echoed around the tent before floating out and scattering into the air.
At that moment, it was as if the thunder outside also fell silent and the rain started falling more gently. They fused together with the moaning song of the xun and played out a song of yearning.
Su Ming was bringing out this particular xun’s voice, but was also playing out the song in his memories. The one that was making the sounds was the breath from his mouth, moving within the xun, but similarly, his heart also moved.
That feeling was a form of remembrance of the things that moved through the passages of time.
That moaning sound did not seem to ever change. There was only one simple note, yet its rise and fall had a hint of desolation and age in it. In that quite night, in the falling rain, and in this unfamiliar land, that sound was brought into existence.
It sounded like a lover crying softly, like tribe members calling out to someone as they wiped away the tears from their eyes, like a childhood friend roaring out in anger as he clenched his fists…
Tian Xie Zi closed his eyes and listened to the sound of the xun quietly. As he listened to the moaning sounds, the dark expression on his face faded away.
The old man also closed his eyes. His expression was calm.
This was a very long song. It might have had a name, but Su Ming did not know it. This song had been played multiple times in his memories, but this time, he truly played it out with a xun.
However… this was not his xun. The song played by this xun contained his soul and his memories, but it lacked a feeling – the feeling of home.
The song ended…
Su Ming opened his eyes and looked at the bone xun in his hands. Understanding appeared in his eyes and he stood up so that he could return the xun back to the old man respectfully.
A smile appeared on the old man’s face. He looked at Su Ming kindly and nodded his head.
Tian Xie Zi also opened his eyes. He did not look at the old man but chose to stand and walk out.
Right up till the end, no words were exchanged between him and the old man, but Su Ming knew that the two of them had in truth spoken a thousand words to each other through Su Ming’s song.
When Tian Xie Zi walked out, Su Ming hesitated for a moment before he followed after him. The two of them left the tent. Rain was pouring heavily from the sky, and it fell on their bodies and on the puddles of water that were formed from the holes on the ground.
When they were a dozen feet away from the tent, Su Ming’s footsteps faltered. His gaze was no longer hesitant but filled with determination.
When he stopped, Tian Xie Zi also stopped with him, but he did not turn back to look at Su Ming.
Su Ming bowed towards Tian Xie Zi and went back towards the tent he had just left. He lifted the flap and went in.
When Su Ming walked into the tent, the old man sitting inside looked over calmly.
"Sir… can you repair this..?"
Su Ming brought out his bone xun from his bosom. This was the xun that held the feeling of home. It had many cracks and could no longer make any sound. Su Ming placed it before the old man.
The old man’s gaze fell on the xun and he picked it up. Once he gave it closer inspection, he nodded.
Su Ming bowed towards him respectfully before turning around and leaving the tent. Then he left the village with Tian Xie Zi.
"Do you understand now..?" Tian Xie Zi asked calmly outside the village in the rain. At that moment, though he might still have been dressed in purple, his expression was no longer dark.
"The first battle was a confirmation with the Ways of your own cultivation, and the second…" Su Ming looked at Tian Xie Zi and fell silent for a moment before speaking up again, "It’s a battle of hearts!"
"The first person who battled against me is my seventh fellow brother. The person who we saw in the second scene… I don’t know his name, but I met him by pure coincidence many years ago and saw him creating a xun once…
"After that, every single time I experience a change in my heart, I will look for him and battle against him using my heart… and my Realm…
"You reached an epiphany regarding Picture Creation and used it to calm your mind. You do not train your physical body but only train your mind… Perhaps there are other people I do not know of who are walking down this road, but among the people I know, you and I, along with your fellow brothers, are the only ones doing so.
"I’ve come quite far, and your fellow brothers have also taken a few steps down the road. Right now, you are about to experience your first change of heart… The change in your heart is akin to another you appearing," Tian Xie Zi explained softly.
"There is no way for me to tell you how to do it. I can only tell you about my experiences regarding my changes of heart… Let’s go, I’ll bring you to kill Shamans in the Shaman Tribe… Once I’m dressed in purple, this state will not disappear until I’ve gathered 1,000 drops of blood from the heart."
Tian Xie Zi took a step into the air. Su Ming sucked in a deep breath and mumbled the words ‘change of heart’ softly under his breath before a glint appeared in his eyes and he followed behind Tian Xie Zi.
As the Master and disciple disappeared into the sky, Tian Xie Zi murmured to Su Ming faintly, "He is blind. Did you manage to see it..?"
"Blind..?" Su Ming was stunned.
…and they left.