A breeze blew up Xie Yi’s hair, letting it fly. Shi Yue narrowed his eyes at it.
“You’re growing it out in a certain way?”, he asked, watching the much longer strands on the back compared to the front.
Xie Yi moved his arm to his back and tugged his fingers through his hair. “Yeah… I think I should be able to tie it up by now?”
Shi Yue remembered it.
Xie Yi had had a messy fringe and slightly uneven length in the front, up to his shoulder. A bit farther back, his hair had been even longer than Shi Yue’s. About a third to a half of it had been braided, then it had been wrapped up in thicker string, like a ribbon or strap.
Only the last bit had fluttered freely again. It had been something like a trademark. He had been surprisingly insistent on keeping it, as you could tell when people had tried to grab it.1A/N: No, there's no hidden reason for that. Xie Yi simply liked that hairstyle and got annoyed at people destroying it
It didn’t surprise him that Xie Yi wanted it back.
“What do you have in mind?”, he asked despite knowing.
Xie Yi described it with a short demonstration. In the end, he pouted. “Well, I need a good ribbon first. Something sturdy that won’t slip… It doesn’t need to be long yet considering my hair isn’t that long, either. I guess it will be more of a short tie.”
Shi Yue did not respond to that. In two years, when Xie Yi was of-age, his hair would be considerably longer. Maybe he’d get him one of quality for his birthday, as well.
For now, something simpler would suffice. “If I see something, I’ll take it along for you.”
“I can-” Xie Yi paused. He scratched his head. “Oh, right. Grounded. Yeah, please look out for me, too.”
Shi Yue quietly conversed with Xie Yi to take his mind off waiting. Distracted, the youth lost some of his fidgety behaviour and was fully immersed in talking despite his eyes being glued on the path.
As soon as the group appeared, he jumped back onto the ground of the wall and ran down the stairs towards the opening of the gate.
“Xu Yan!”, Xie Yi exclaimed happily. The slender figure flinched at his call, raised his head and saw him, then ran forward.
Xie Yi stumbled a bit under the force of the hug but didn’t complain.
“You…” Xu Yan muttered into his shoulder.
Xie Yi awkwardly smiled and returned the hug. Thank God that Xu Yan was…
The youth moved out of his arms.
Xie Yi did not evade the punch out of pure surprise. It went right against his cheek, snapping his head around and he could taste a bit of iron where his teeth had accidentally clamped shut over a piece of skin inside his mouth.
Shocked, he raised a hand to his cheek and looked at Xu Yan.
Behind them, the rest of the group was deadly quiet. Shi Yue merely tilted his head.
Xu Yan was heaving. He reached up to Xie Yi’s collar and shook him. “You goddamned bastard! Ungrateful, brainless meathead!”
The burning fury in Xu Yan’s eyes was something that Xie Yi had never seen on his friend before. He allowed the forceful tugging at his collar and didn’t resist even when Xu Yan hammered heavily against his chest.
“Don’t you dare to ever do that again!” Slowly, the angry tone turned sadder. Xu Yan’s lips began to tremble. “Don’t ever make me think you are running to your death again! I swear, I’ll find your corpse and throw it to the wolves!”
Xie Yi’s shoulder slumped. Softly, he forced out two words. “I’m sorry.”
“You’d better be!” Xu Yan was still howling but his face was beginning to show fear. Once he had thrown every profanity he knew at Xie Yi’s head, he calmed down.
Xu Yan looked exhausted. “Do you know I worried I was when I woke up? You had gone completely nuts and all of a sudden, you vanished. I really thought it was the last time that I had ever seen you. Can you imagine how terrified I was until the news came that you were alive?”
“I… didn’t consider that it might trouble you”, Xie Yi admitted.
“Don’t forget the people you are leaving behind when you do something like this, Xiao Yi”, the other whispered, his hand loosening. “I know that there are things that people want to take care of alone, but always remember how the ones that love you will feel at the thought of you dying a painful death while they are helpless.”
“I just wanted everyone to be safe”, Xie Yi explained with downturned lips. “I wanted to know that none of you are getting involved in my mess. That you won’t get caught up in it.”
Xu Yan lifted his hands higher to put them around Xie Yi’s cheeks. He spoke like he would to a very young child, in a slow and even tone. “Believing that no one other than you can be helpful is also a form to show missing trust. Do you not believe we can help you without following you into the fight?”
He looked hurt.
Xie Yi froze at the sight. He hadn’t thought about that.
Even if Xu Yan hadn’t come along all the way, he could have been close-by to help in case of injuries, or helped prepare some medicine beforehand, or just be there to call for help if needed.
People didn’t need to be part of a fight to help.
Xu Yan pulled him into a hug again. “I know that you’re a solitary person when it comes to fighting but please rely on us for things other than knowledge. It feels terrible to know that your friend thinks of you as useless.”
“You’re not useless!” Unhappy, Xie Yi rejected the words harshly.
“Then don’t treat me like I am.”
Xie Yi whimpered softly at slowly realizing the full extent of what he had done. It wasn’t only about going off to destroy the outpost, as it would have been in his last life.
It also included the effects it would have on the people living in the outpost, the sect nearby, the ones that helped him like Mingtian and the ones that came to help like Shi Yue, and even the people he had left behind like Xu Yan.
“Maybe I should go hunting with you often so that you can get used to it”, Xu Yan suggested with a sigh.
“Can’t”, Xie Yi responded. “I’m grounded for now.”
“That’s great.” The other laughed out loud with a certain satisfaction.
“...I never expected you to throw a punch at me”, came the slightly offended whisper of the taller cultivator.
“You deserved it. Also, I only did it because I was pretty sure you wouldn’t get mad at me. Does this even tickle you?”
“Uhh.” Xie Yi looked at the ground. With the overbearing pain of the poison, he didn’t exactly feel any other pain right now. “Nah.”
“Am I that weak…?”
“His body is currently under the influence of one of a type of poison commonly used to torture cultivators”, Shi Yue commented as he slowly made his way over. “As you can see, he doesn’t quite care. If your punch did have an effect, I would be worried.”
“You’re poisoned?” Xu Yan jumped out of his arms and worriedly looked over him.
“I’m fine. It only hurts”, Xie Yi shrugged.
Hearing that, Xu Yan had to let the issue fall. He turned to Shi Yue and bowed to him, similarly to the rest of the group that had caught up.
They all looked over the Grandmaster with a scrutinizing gaze, trying to see if he was truly hurt. Xu Yan glanced over to Xie Yi when he couldn’t find anything.
“Not a scratch left on his body”, Xie Yi said with a smile. He wouldn’t tell anyone about how exhausted and stiff Shi Yue still was. The main point was that he had no visible injuries.
“Are you sure?”, Xu Yan asked with uncertainty, not minding that the man he was talking about stood right in front of him.
Xie Yi nodded with a serious gaze and opened his mouth. “Yes, I-”
Xu Yan felt an instant bad premonition that had his hair raising up.
“Whatever!”, he shouted all over Xie Yi and only breathed when the other was stunned enough to stop. “...Whatever you want to say right now, I have a very strong feeling that we shouldn’t hear it. Please don’t say it.”
Xie Yi clamped his mouth shut.
Shi Yue looked at him a bit blankly. He… was just about to say something like “I’ve seen no injuries on him anywhere”, wasn’t he? The implications would have caused a mess. It wouldn’t have been a lie, but it would have been troublesome.
Also, Xie Yi hadn’t seen him completely without clothes. Only his upper body and a good part of his legs… Alright. He had seen most of him without clothes. Certainly enough to judge that Shi Yue had no external injuries.