He gestures around him. The world has changed, Fei. There’s no rank anymore, no artists lording above miners.
It’s true what he says. Most of our people have taken on new vocations as we work to rebuild our village. Those who still labor in the mines, generating metals for the pixius and outside trade, are regarded with as much esteem as everyone else. The old ways have fallen. We are all equal now.
Us . . . married , I say, still unable to believe it.
I knew we’d find a way to be together. I knew we’d always walk by each other’s sides in this world. His smile grows. And I did tell you we’d find another reason for you to wear the silk, didn’t I? The knowing look in his eyes suddenly turns uncertain. That is, if you want to get married—
By way of answer, I throw myself back into his arms and kiss him again, finally having the satisfaction of surprising him for a change. A new joy floods through me, and my imagination is filled not with things I might paint but with all the dazzling opportunities our future together holds. Yes , I say when I can finally bring myself to pull away from him and speak. Yes and yes. As many yeses as it takes to—
A loud sound on the other side of the shed makes me flinch and break off my ecstatic babbling. I jump back from Li Wei, who is startled in turn by my reaction. Walking around the building, I see Yin Feng has landed in the grass. The wind rustles her glittering fur, making me wish I could’ve spent more time on her portrait today.
You are ruining our moment , I tell her. She doesn’t understand signs, but I think she perceives my meaning. I feel a flash of amusement from her, and then she busies herself preening. Beyond her, I see other glittering forms landing in the valley. Even when the pixius aren’t directly interacting with us, they seem to take comfort just from being in our presence. The feeling is mutual, and Li Wei’s arms encircle my waist as we observe the others land and stretch out in the sun. Happiness burns through me, and I lean my head against him. Across the valley, I see others, including Zhang Jing, also pausing to watch the pixius.
Below this mountain, the world is dangerous and uncertain. But here, for now, we have beauty and hope again, not to mention the strength of our loved ones beside us. It is enough to weather any storm, I decide. It is more than enough.