Actions

Work Header

As The Heavens Fall

Chapter Text

Without having much to do after being dismissed by Beihe for the rest of the day, Shanxin and Xiaobai wandered the capital, taking in all the sights and sounds and smells that came with a port city. They watched as a large fishing ship docked and unloaded its catch for the day before running off and finding a merchant that sold beautiful seashells, which Xiaobai bought two of to give to Argen and her grandfather once they returned home, and finally finding a restaurant to sit down and eat at, which gave a beautiful view of the outstretched seaside.

Shanxin ate with reckless abandon, eating as though she had been starved for three days and two nights. Huangshou was no better. As they say, pets take after their owners.

“Xiaobai… hey!! Xiaobai!!”

Startled, Xiaobai blinked at Shanxin before giving a small embarrassed laugh. “Sorry, I didn’t catch what you said, can you repeat that?”

Shanxin frowned, “I asked if you were alright.”

“Hm? Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?”

“For one, you’ve hardly eaten.”

Xiaobai looked down at her plate. Ah, she was right. The food was hardly touched.

“Second, I know how you are. We’ve been friends far too long for me to not know that all of this,” Shanxin waved her arms in the air, “would affect you. So,” she went back to eating, continuing to speak with a mouth full of food, “tell me what’s on your mind.”

Shanxin was too observant, always picking up on Xiaobai’s slightest mood changes before she could even pick up on them herself. Xiaobai let out a small sigh as she leaned back, eyebrows scrunching in worry. “I’m just… scared about what’s going to happen, that’s all.”

“We have two powerful Archons keeping us safe, you know.”

“No, I know, I’m not really talking about… us. I’m worried about them, and all the people who are affected by the side effects of those delusions.” Xiaobai looked out at the ocean, trying to find some sort of distraction as she spoke. “As we learn more and more information, I can’t help but feel something really bad is going to happen, and I can’t stand the thought of all these wonderful people that we’ve only just met to go through suffering. And then there’s that weird stuff going on with Xiao Hei as well, and it just… it feels like too much at once.”

Shanxin didn’t respond for a few moments, and for some reason, Xiaobai was afraid to meet her gaze. Was this just all in her head? Was she just overthinking all of this? Shanxin would be the first person to tell her so, she wouldn’t sugar coat it at all, she certainly hasn’t in the past, and Xiaobai was thankful for that. It was so easy for her to get wrapped up in her own mind and worries that Shanxin was what grounded her, even ripped her out of her own mind sometimes.

 

“We can just leave, you know.”

 

Xiaobai’s eyes widened as she quickly looked at Shanxin. “What?”

“We can leave,” Shanxin repeated herself as she leaned back in her chair. The plate in front of her was cleaned of food. “There’s nothing making us stay here, you know, and no one said we have to help these Archons.”

“But, Xiao Hei--”

“Once Qing Ning is done doing whatever it is she’s doing with him, we can leave and go back home.”

Home…

It's only been a few short days, but already, Xiaobai missed it dearly. She missed it so much that she felt it down to her very core. She wanted nothing more than to go back home to her grandfather and their small village, maybe even forget this trip ever happened.

But Xiaobai shook her head. “We can’t, not yet at least. Lao Jun promised that he would take us to someone who might know Xiao Hei.”

“Is that what you really want to do though? I know you, you care way too much about people even after just knowing them for a day. You’ll wear yourself thin with ways to help others, but is this entire thing something you actually want to do? This situation involves Archons and creatures that aren’t even human. It’s turning into some big whodunit situation that we don’t need to be a part of. So I need to know for sure before I whisk you away and take you back home, do you really want to be doing this?”

 

Xiaobai hadn’t thought of that.

 

Was this really something she wanted to do, and not just something she felt like she had to do?

The more she thought about it, the more she realized that there really wasn’t anything keeping them here. Honestly, they could just leave Xiao Hei here, Lao Jun already said he would get Xiao Hei to meet the person who might know him, but did they have to be around for that?

Did they have to come here and learn about delusions, and of some big plot that seemed to be at play here?

Xiaobai closed her eyes as she thought.

Going home sounded wonderful. Forgetting any of this happened would be even better. They could just continue on with their lives in their small village, forgetting any of this happened because it didn’t involve them.

However, that didn’t sit right with her.

She wanted to help Xiao Hei. She wanted to be around for when he woke up so she could meet him properly and introduce herself. She wanted to find out why these delusions were being handed out to innocent people, and just who was behind all this.

None of this involved her, and maybe she was sticking her nose in places it didn’t belong, but now that they were on this journey, she wanted desperately to see it to the end, to know that all of this had a happy ending of some sort.

Besides, it had also been her dream to travel the world with her best friends by her side, eventually leaving that small village and learning new things and meeting new people. These dreams and ambitions are what gifted her her vision to begin with.

Xiaobai opened her eyes to see Shanxin was sitting there, patiently waiting for her answer. She gave a small smile to the other girl, her chest feeling just a bit lighter after untangling the mess in her heart just a little. “Yes,” she said. “I want to stay here and help. It’s scary so far, but I’m also having a fun time exploring these places with you.”

Shanxin smiled, crossing her arms over her chest as she nodded. “I’m having fun as well, but it would be even better if Argen were here with us. I still don’t get why he flaked out.”

“Gege has his reasons, and I decided to trust him.”

“Yeah, I trust him too. This just gives us a reason to come back here definitely though, once he’s able to join us.”

Xiaobai felt her heart lighten up at the idea of coming back, and she couldn’t stop the wide smile stretching across her face as she nodded in agreement. The thought alone was exciting, and she couldn’t wait for that day to come. She hoped that it would be soon.

The gentle wind suddenly picked up, blowing around harshly, causing various items to be swept away in the frenzy. Shanxin reached out and held Huangshou in her arms protectively. Just ask quickly as the whirlwind began, it calmed.

Before either one of them could speak, a green beast appeared before them.

“You two,” Diting said, as he stood on air, held there by a gentle breeze, “Qing Ning Dafu requests your assistance.”

Xiaobai could hear the murmurings of nearby people, as they whispered to themselves about the scene, but she couldn’t bring herself to listen in to any of their conversations. Diting’s tone was one she hadn’t heard yet. His voice sounded urgent. All it took was for Xiaobai and Shanxin to glance at each other, thinking the exact same thing before once more climbing onto the back of the illuminated beast, once more taking off into the air.

 

 

When they entered the building once more, Xiaobai noticed that the grand red doors that were once wide open were now shut tight. Diting led them through the building, his pace quick as the two of them did their best to keep up. Like this, the building felt eerie. The atmosphere was different than before, and it made Xiaobai’s heart clench.

Back in the room where they had first met up, Qing Ning was pacing around, a hand over her mouth as she seemed to be in deep, troubled thought. Lao Jun was no longer lounging and looking amused, and Beihe was sitting down silently. Both looked deep in thought as well.

It took a moment, but once Qing Ning noticed the three of them had entered the room, she stopped pacing and dropped her hand. “I’ll get to the point quickly,” she said, letting out a small sigh before continuing, “but I’ll first apologize for summoning the two of you. I know I said that all I would need from the two of you was to speak to my patients, but…”

“It’s okay,” Xiaobai said, taking a step forward. The energy here was uneasy, something was going on, and whatever it was, it wasn’t good. “Just explain what’s going on, and what you need.”

Qing Ning opened her mouth to speak, but before she could even get a word out, there was the noise of rushed footsteps from the hall, before another person burst into the room. “Qing Ning Dafu!!” A girl shouted, looking to be about Xiaobai’s own age, maybe a bit younger. “More people have shown up!! They’re shouting to receive answers now!!”

“How dare you interrupt an important meeting-” Diting seemed to bare fangs as he snapped, causing the girl to physically wince, as if the words themselves stabbed at her.

“Diting.”

Qing Ning just simply called out his name, and Diting stopped his advance on the girl, having only taken one step forward before not daring to take another step. After realizing he would stay put, Qing Ning turned back to the girl with a gentle smile. “Thank you, Xiao Hua’er. Please tell them I’ll make an announcement shortly.”

With a hesitant nod, as if she was still afraid that Diting was going to hurt her, the girl, Xiao Hua, left quickly.

This just added on to the unease of the situation. What were people demanding answers for? Is this why they closed those red doors, to keep those people out?

“Xiaobai, Shanxin,” hearing Lao Jun speak, Xiaobai and Shanxin quickly turned to him. Lao Jun was now standing with his hands behind his back. Still, he wore a serious expression. “We must urgently ask for your assistance again. You may decline, as you’ve already fulfilled your side of the agreement we had, and this… could very well get dangerous.”

Xiaobai’s eyes widened, and she quickly turned to look at Shanxin, who was already looking back at her.

Dangerous?

“Just… tell us what’s going on first,” Shanxin said, sounding much calmer than she probably felt on the inside.

Qing Ning once again let out a sigh as she shook her head. “It’s a bit complicated to explain, but I’ll do my best.

Beihe informed me that all those who possessed delusions had come from the cryo nation, after having signed up to join the tournament being hosted, and were given these delusions by a mysterious person. As soon as I heard of this, it sounded suspicious to me, but before Lao Jun or I could take any action, those infected by the delusions, and those that heard of the situation began getting angry.

They’re demanding answers. They started shouting, demanding to know what was going on, before they started to blame the Cryo Archon himself. Those people are now convinced that he had something to do with this, as well as Lao Jun and I. I had already tried to explain the situation, telling them that they were mistaken, but they refused to listen. Lao Jun and I have too close of a relation with the Cryo Archon, and instantly assumed we were lying.

This situation is becoming more intense, so now, we need to get to the bottom of this, and fast.

Lao Jun nor myself can make the trip to the Cryo nation, and if I send my retainers, people will once more accuse us of lying. So, the only ones I have to turn to now are the two of you, please go to the Cryo nation and figure out what’s going on.”

 

That was…

 

That was a whole lot of information to take in.

 

The fact that people were turning on their own Archon was startling, especially to turn against someone like Qing Ning, who was so gentle and kind. This entire situation didn’t feel right. Something inside of Xiaobai was telling her not to go, to turn around now and go back home, but once again, she fought against that feeling.

She already made the decision to stick this out til the end with Shanxin, so she wasn’t going to abandon them. They may have only known these Archons for about a day now, but Lao Jun was the Archon of her homeland. He, too, was kind and benevolent, and if things continued to escalate, she feared what may happen to not only him, but Qing Ning as well.

Xiaobai watched as Shanxin ran a hand through her hair letting out a heavy sigh that puffed up her cheeks as she turned to look back. “Well, we’re too wrapped up in this mess to leave now, I guess,” Shanxin finally said, dropping her hand and turning back to look at the Archons in front of them. Xiaobai could see the relief wash over Qing Ning, as her shoulders seemed to drop after letting go of the tension she no doubt had been holding.

“Doing this for me, I will forever be in your debt,” Qing Ning said as she gave a small bow. “I’m unable to send any help along with you, but I can promise, once you meet with the Cryo Archon, tell him that Lao Jun and I have sent you and he will see that absolutely no harm comes your way.”

There was just one worry on Xiaobai’s mind, as she looked around a bit hesitantly before speaking up. “If this is going to be dangerous… Could you keep Xiao Hei with you, until we get back?”

It would be too troublesome to carry him around if all he would do was continue to sleep. Not knowing what would lie ahead of them, she didn’t want to put Xiao Hei in any danger at all.

Qing Ning smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep him safe here and continue to heal him. In fact, he should wake up by the time you return. You have my word.”

It did ease some of Xiaobai’s worries. Now she was able to focus on the task at hand more.

 

 

Being zipped around from one unknown nation to the next was exhausting, to say the least. Yes, they’ve been able to get to each place in a decent amount of time, but that didn’t make it any less stressful or exhausting. The further they traveled from their home, the more homesick Xiaobai felt herself becoming.

Qing Ning had done as she said. She made an announcement to the mob demanding answers that she had sent two emissaries in her stead, ones that held no connection to her or Lao Jun. Of course, not everyone was happy with this decision, as they shouted and screamed that it would once more be a lie, but the majority were content enough, and were told to wait patiently for their return.

 

The Cryo nation was one up north, taking a longer amount of time to get there than to the Anemo nation due to being on opposite ends of the Hydro nation. Here, the air was harsher than that of the other two, the temperature drop caused it to nip at Xiaobai’s skin. Here, she could tell it experienced harsher winters, and cooler summers than the other two nations did, but it wasn’t a malicious feeling. Instead, the cold felt more like an invitation to play, much like how a dog would playfully bite.

Diting had once again been kind enough to escort them from one nation to the other, cutting their travel time by a significant amount by running on the winds. After reaching their destination, Diting made known his discontent with the Cryo Archon as well, before swiftly leaving.

At this point, Xiaobai was sure it was safe to assume Diting didn’t like anyone except for Qing Ning.

Having left as soon as they finished meeting with Qing Ning, the sun had quickly set on their travels, and the city was dark and quiet. From having been raised in the Hydro nation, and then having just been to the Anemo nation, she could see here that the buildings held a lot of resemblance, hinting that the three nations did hold a strong bond.

 

Walking the streets as they made their way to a nearby inn, Xiaobai felt her entire body ache all the way down to her bones, and pierce straight into her heart. She still couldn’t understand why people would hold so much rage against someone like Qing Ning. Of course, it was no surprise for the helpless and scared to turn their anger towards something, anything, that was tangible, even if such a thing was something as powerful and almighty as an Archon.

Though, from what Xiaobai could tell her in short time having met Qing Ning, the Anemo Archon was someone who interacted daily with people, whether it be as their doctor or as an acquaintance, maybe even as a friend to some. It was hard to think they could so easily point blame in her direction. It was almost unfair. It almost made Xiaobai angry on her behalf.

But in the end, even gifted with a vision, Xiaobai was nothing more than a human.

Despite Qing Ning seeming so humanlike herself, there was still that line that needed to be drawn that separated the two of them.

It really was a weird feeling to have, wanting to help the gods, despite not knowing them personally. It was some sort of nostalgic feeling in her chest that made her want to help them, one that she couldn’t exactly place. It was almost similar to the feeling she had when she was called to the ruins where she found Xiao Hei.

Almost.

To call them the same feeling wouldn’t be right, but it was something close.

 

Having already paid for the inn and already in their room, Xiaobai silently laid down. Her body continued to ache. She felt heavy. Her chest felt heavy.

Something wasn’t right.

Something felt wrong.

But she couldn’t figure out what it was. So for now, Xiaobai let herself drift to sleep, unknowing to the concerned looks Shanxin had been giving her.