Jinde deliberately hadn’t raised the mirror and instead given it to Xin Lan so he could get ready in his own time before he looked. As it turned out, this had been a wise decision.
Despite having agreed to this and sitting through the whole procedure without a change in expression, Xin Lan suddenly became nervous when he held the mirror. It was probably nothing but he wasn’t used to seeing his own face anymore. And now, there was no way back anyway.
He took a deep breath and then slowly exhaled before finally taking a look. Dragons aged slowly and like any of the immortal races, they could deliberately stop their appearance from changing after a certain age. Xin Lan had done exactly that so he was perpetually showing the kind of face that a human man in his mid or maybe late-thirties would have had.
For him, this decision had also been a matter of prestige. There weren’t many dragons that liked the appearance of being ‘old’ so they would often stop the process sooner. As the only ancient dragon remaining, Xin Lan had also used this to highlight his status while not foregoing what he deemed to likely be his best-looking state.
Even with the mask on, this face had been good to look at. Now, it was finally healed. The result … it really wasn’t bad.
He reached up and brushed over the skin on the side of his face. The difference between his real skin and the one created by Jinde and Zheng Yin was minuscule. In fact, if he didn’t focus, save for the spot where one ended and the other began, he wouldn’t have noticed. Looking at it, the result was the same.
Maybe the color was slightly different but that was only noticeable when light directly fell onto his face and if people didn’t know what to look for, they might not realize either.
His skin was the least important though. After hesitating for another while, Xin Lan further raised his hand, his fingers brushing over his cheekbone. Back then, that acidic blood had melted that side of his face, including the scales and the bones below. That had been what made it so difficult to look at.
Truth be told, Xin Lan didn’t care about some level of disfigurement. No, to him, that was merely a sign that he had done a lot and survived just as much. It was a sign of his strength. But his face had gone past the state of showing scars. He had hardly been able to call it a face anymore. But now, that was different.
Jinde had never met him before he was injured so he could only reconstruct that side based on what the other still showed. Considering that no face was a hundred percent symmetrical, that task was more difficult than it sounded. But he had done a good job.
Looking into the mirror, Xin Lan was hardly able to tell that this wasn’t exactly his original face. It looked … natural. As if he had indeed looked like this from the beginning. Seeing it, he felt somewhat numb.
Xin Lan lowered the mirror and had no idea what to do or say. He hadn’t really thought this through. Even though he had assured Jinde over and over again over the last few days that he wanted this and wouldn’t come to regret it, that had only been because he wanted a result and was willing to live with the consequences. He didn’t care about those. He did care about how he looked now though. And strangely enough, he had some trouble adjusting.
Jinde watched him and then couldn’t help but reach out. He cupped Xin Lan’s cheeks and gently turned his head up, smiling faintly. “You’ll feel unaccustomed to it. Give it some time. Anyway, we just finished. You should rest a bit and give everything time to fully integrate. In a few days, you’ll notice the ‘skin’ on top change its quality. It will start to peel while your actual skin forms again. By the time that is done, you can try out whether you can still use your other form.”
Xin Lan stared up at him and was still silent for a moment. In the end, he smiled faintly. “Well, am I handsome?”
Jinde brushed the uninjured side of his face with his thumb and shook his head. “You’ve always been handsome. Although I guess I’ll need to get used to this new look. I’ve hardly ever seen you without that mask since the day we met.”
His gaze turned a bit nostalgic. Those years spent with Xin Lan, they felt like they were far in the past. Just thinking of it, he couldn’t help but sigh. “When you and your fiance make up again, you should convince him to move here. It’d be nice to have you around again.”
Xin Lan gave a hum and then got up. Looking at Jinde for a moment, he suddenly reached out and pulled him into his arms, closing his eyes. Before, he had never dared to do this kind of thing but by now, he felt that it didn’t matter.
Jinde was married and even though he and Hua Lin Yu currently weren’t together, he felt like it was only a question of time until they would indeed be an official couple again. So by now, the two of them … they were just friends. Why shouldn’t he hug a friend?
He took another deep breath before he pulled back. “Thank you. Also, I wouldn’t mind wearing another mask. Just … for the aesthetic.”
Jinde chuckled. He was well aware that Xin Lan had never been the type of man to care about that aesthetic. He merely hadn’t corrected people before who thought this was the reason. But hearing him joke about this, the tension in his body slowly left and he couldn’t help but joke back. “You can even switch sides now. Just imagine how you’d trip people up, trying to remember if this was the side you’ve always worn it on.”
Xin Lan gave a hum, actually seeing some humor in it. In fact, maybe he should try that when he saw Hua Lin Yu the next time. As his former fiance, he should be able to realize that something was off, right?