Rex Incognito (I)
A Liyue fantasy novel that tells the tales of Rex Lapis' incognito excursions in the mortal realm. Set in an age when the treasures of the world flocked forth, fact merges with fiction and both blend with old dreams in this charming tale set in the commercial port of Liyue.
Liyue is a land where all kinds of rare and exotic treasures congregate, and where there are precious treasures, one is sure to also find those with a discerning eye.
The very first owner of Xigu Antiques — the unconventional collector, Min'gui — was just such an individual.
Xigu Antiques of Feiyun Slope was frequented by well-to-do customers. Closed during daylight hours, it only opened to customers once the moon began to rise in the night sky. The shop's customers were anything but ordinary: they were the wealthy and leisurely, people with outstanding taste.
A meticulously crafted timepiece from Fontaine, incense from Sumeru, a wine goblet once owned by an aristocrat of old Mondstadt, a wooden stool whose surface was once graced by the buttocks of an adeptus for all of one hour, a delicate jade teacup from which the Lord of Geo once supped a sip of tea, a priceless celadon vase that Liyue's neighbor deity, the Anemo Archon, once
accidentally knocked the to the ground, shattering it to pieces...
All these and more were laid out for the customers to peruse at their leisure, each item just waiting for that one person with whom it shared a certain affinity.
One night, a wealthy young man who was walking by happened to pause in front of the shop, and began carefully examining the items on the shelves.
The owner was struck by his long, black robes, dark and solemn as the looming mountain peaks, and by his eyes, which were the color of amber.
This was no ordinary young man. This Min'gui could tell with one look.
"Welcome to Xigu Antiques," she said. "Please peruse at your leisure, and let me know if you find something you like."
Her soft voice broke the dead silence of the night.
'Ah...? Oh. I'm sorry."
The young man smirked, and spoke in a subtly coy manner.
"I'm just rather taken with this exquisite counterfeit.”
The item that had caught his eye was a damaged jade plaque.
The face exposed to the night sky was the one on which the pattern was slightly more intact, and as the moonlight shone
down, it seeped into the intricate blemishes in the jade, exposing them, and cascaded down into the ravines produced by the crisscrossing texture on the plaque's surface. The severe wear and tear on the front and the disintegration around the perimeter made it impossible to discern the words and images that had once been written on it. By all accounts, it seemed to have lived a turbulent life.
"Counterfeit, you say? What makes you so sure?"
Min'gui was quite used to customers making such provocative claims. But this young man spoke so bluntly and bitingly that she could not help but feel aggravated by his accusation.
Added to this was the fact that this particular item had been snagged by an adventurer from an abandoned palace deep in the heart of the abyss, who had then barely made it back out of that place alive. She recalled how she had haggled relentlessly with the adventurer to acquire the piece, and how in the end it had still cost her the better part of her fortune. If this truly was nothing more than a counterfeit, not only would it imply that she had lost an immense portion of her wealth, but it would also mean irrevocable damage to the reputation of Xigu Antiques as connoisseurs of quality.
Min'gui knew what she had to do: Not only must she somehow get rid of this calamitous customer who threatened to ruin her entire business, but she must also find a way to sell this jade plaque to him in the process.
"Please, continue," she said. "I would hope that you can give a detailed appraisal"
"As we all know, Teyvat was plunged into chaos two and a half millennia ago when the gods declared war on each other, the ensuing conflict spreading to all people in all corners of the land. Teyvat may not have been divided into the same seven nations we know today back in that age, but then, just as now, the people had their own settlements, cities and civilizations..."
"Gods whose names have now long since been forgotten were once venerated, worshiped, even adored by their people. Our forebears took pearls and shells from the sea, jade from the mountains, rocks from the plains, and salt crystals from the earth, each to build idols in the form of their gods."
”Jade plaques of this kind are relics of that era. They belonged to an ancient tribe who worshiped Rex Lapis... though, of course, the Geo Lord probably did not yet go by the name Rex Lapis at that time.”
"This was an age when the people watched their gods clash in bitter battles before their very eyes. Rex Lapis would not establish the currency of the seven nations and cast the first Mora coins for quite some time. So the tribes traded using pieces of ore they would chance across from time to time, with idols made in the likeness of the Geo Lord to ensure price stability."
”As you can see... Mortal wisdom is quite a fascinating thing. They were making their own way in the world even before Rex Lapis had made provisions for them to do so."
The young man paused as if to further contemplate the observation he had just made.
He stood there, cloaked in a veil of silver moonlight, which somehow served to make him every so slightly more diminutive in stature.
"This type of jade plaque is a rare find in this day and age. Most of them are buried in riverbeds up in the mountains. And since each one is hand carved, they are all unique... That is why they typically sell for astronomical prices. To claim that they are priceless would not be an exaggeration."
"So, it is quite a shame indeed that the one you display on your shelf is a recent counterfeit. By recent, I mean that it was probably made in your father's generation at the earliest."
"There is an industry saying, 'the jade without blemish is no jade at all.' This jade, for instance, has remarkably few imperfections, and the translucency is too good to be true... All of which points to the fact that it is unlikely to be a product of our forebears' making."
"As a side point, I would also add that the image carved onto this jade is that of a woman. This is a highly unusual thing to see among similar relics from the era in question."
The young man held the plaque up to the moonlight to inspect it in more detail.
"Although there are plenty of rumors to this effect, the claim that Rex Lapis once took the form of a woman is not attested to by any of the historical records, and there is no physical evidence of it ever occurring..."
Though young, the man had the air of an old and infuriating pedant about him.
"Ah, well this is where you're wrong..."
Min'gui smiled faintly, much as a fox does when toying with an inexperienced hunter.
"Perhaps you'd be willing to listen to my story before making your final verdict?"
The shop owner narrowed her eyes and began the process of reeling out her story...
"Rex Incognito (I)" can be found at Qingce Village on a table.