The sun rose the next morning, peeking between the mountains, the rays glistening off the pure white snow. Tien awoke with Orin in his arms, sleeping peacefully. He got up carefully, so as not to disturb his slumbering companion. He dressed quickly, donning the locket Orin had so lovingly given him, then put on his coat and pack. He was ready to go, he just had to say goodbye. Orin turned over in his sleep, getting tied up in the sheets. Tien smiled. Orin looked so sweet when he was asleep. Tien ran his fingers lightly through his hair, then leaned down and kissed him gently on the forehead.
"Sleep well, my love. Maybe we'll meet again sometime." Tien whispered, then sighed, his heart sinking. Reluctantly, Tien stood and left the room, shutting the door silently. He walked down the hall, stopping just outside of Chaotzu's room. He knocked lightly on the door, not wanting to disturb anyone else at such an early hour.
"Chaotzu, are you in there?" he called through the wooden door. He listened for any sounds from within the room. He wasn't disappointed, as muffled sounds of someone stirring filtered through the door. After a moment, the door opened and Chaotzu walked out.
"Tien, leaving so soon? Can't you at least wait until after breakfast?" he pleaded, hoping to delay Tien's departure.
"Afraid not, Chaotzu. I must leave now if I'm going to make it to town before night fall. Tell everyone I'll miss them, and take care of Orin for me, okay?"
"Okay." Chaotzu's eyes filled with tears. He jumped into Tien's arms and hugged him fiercely. Tien hugged him back, his own eyes watering.
"Oh, Tien! I'm going to miss you!" Chaotzu cried.
"I'll miss you, too!" he knelt there, holding his sobbing friend in his arms, trying not to breakdown himself. "Hey, it'll be alright! It's not like we'll never see each other again! I'll visit when ever I can, and you can visit me after I settle down, okay?" Chaotzu nodded in agreement, though not very enthusiastically. "Okay, then. See me off?"
"Sure." They walked to the foyer of the temple and out the door to the top of the stone steps. There they found Bob waiting to see Tien off himself.
"Well, Tien, it looks like this is goodbye. Feel free to visit, especially during the planting season!" Bob joked as he shook Tien's hand, then gave him a hearty hug.
"Thanks, I will. I better get going. Goodbye Bob. Goodbye Chaotzu. Tell the others goodbye for me!" Tien hugged them both one last time, then started on his way. They watched him go, and after a few steps, Tien turned around and waved at the two, his final farewell. It wasn't long before he disappeared from view, for the steps wound around the mountain.
"Come on, Chaotzu. Let's get out of the cold." Bob lead Chaotzu back inside. They walked back to Chaotzu's room.
"Will you be okay? I could keep you company till Joe wakes." Bob offered. Before he could answer, an idea popped into his mind. And he rushed down the hall to Orin's room. Bob followed, puzzled by Chaotzu's actions. Chaotzu didn't bother knocking, he just rushed right into the room. He saw that Orin was still asleep. 'He didn't even say goodbye?' he thought.
"Orin! Wake up! He's gone!" he said, rushing to Orin.
"Huh? Wha?" Orin woke groggily. He hadn't gotten much sleep. He had spent most of the night watching Tien sleep before he himself slipped into the land of dreams. "Chaotzu? What are you . . . Where's Tien? He didn't leave . . . not without saying goodbye? Tell me he didn't!" he started shouting once he realized that Tien was not there.
"He just left! If you hurry, you can still catch him! Come on! I'll help you pack!" Chaotzu pulled him out of bed, and gave him his clothes. He then started gathering the few items in the room, placing them on the other bed for packing. By the time Orin had finished dressing, Chaotzu had finished packing, save one item. The carving.
"He . . . forgot the dragon?" Chaotzu said, perplexed. Orin looked over at the desk to where the statue still stood.
"He must have left it . . . for me." Orin's eyes filled with tears at the implication the left behind object represented. He picked it up, and turned it over in his hands, feeling the details with his fingertips. His tears fell down his face.
"How long ago did he leave?" Orin asked, determination filling his voice.
"Not ten minutes ago." Bob said from the doorway, startling the two. "You can still make it, but you better hurry."
Not three minutes later, Orin was out the door with his few worldly possessions, and chased after Tien's shadow.
Meanwhile . . .
It began to snow softly. Tien hadn't noticed. He continued down the steps carefully, so as not to slip. He could have easily just flown down, but he wasn't in the mood, nor did he feel he had the strength too. To say he was depressed would be an understatement. He plodded along, the snow clinging to his clothes. After a while, he couldn't take it anymore. He sat down on the steps and started weeping. The snow fell harder, as if taking it's cue from him.
Snow piled up around him, clinging to his clothes, soaking through to chill his very marrow. If it wasn't for an angel calling his name, he might have frozen to death on that very spot.
"Tien! Tien, where are you? Tien!"
"Huh?" Tien looked up. At first, he thought he was imagining things, but it came again, and closer this time.
"Tien! Damnit, slow down! Tien! Either answer me or show yourself before I start an avalanche!" Tien then knew that he was not dreaming, but it was in fact Orin who was calling him. His eyes filled with tears of joy at the realization that Orin chose to come with him. He stood quickly, much to the regret of his nearly frozen body, and turned around to see a vision from heaven. Orin had just came around the corner, the sun, which had decided to peek out from behind the clouds, behind him, making him glow with the sunlight, his hair on fire.
"Tien!" Orin choked back a sob then ran into Tien's stiff, awaiting arms. As they held each other, Tien felt the warmth returning to his cold body, and to his heart.
"Orin, my angel! My love! You came! I am so happy you came!" Tien's tears fell down his face as his joy flooded his every pore. "I am never letting you go, you hear me? Never!"
"I so glad you said that, because I'm about to slip off this damned mountain!" They moved away from the edge as they both laughed.
"I love your sense of humor, you know that?" Tien said as he pushed a strand of hair out of Orin's face, and gazed into his eyes.
"And I love the way you smile!" Orin said, wrapping his arms around Tien's neck. They kissed, this one rivaled the last as the snow stopped, the clouds parted, and the sun came out full fledged, it's heat second only to that of the two lovers below.
As they broke the kiss, so did the clouds, sending a flurry of snow down upon them.
"Let's get out of here!" Orin said, putting his hood up.
"I agree!" Tien picked Orin up and cradled him in his arms.
"Aah! Tien! What are you doing?" Orin asked with a smile on his lips.
"I want to get to town as soon as possible, so we are taking the express route down!" he said as he approached the edge of the mountain.
"Tien, I love you, but are you nuts?!" Orin tightened his grip on Tien's neck.
"Only about you, love!" And with that, he stepped off the mountain.