...He never thought that the furious bellow of his senior could sound so sweet in his ears.
Xie Yi had not expected to appear in another forest after following the trail and using the tiny teleportation array that he knew from his past life. This place was weird - too quiet and with hardly any sounds.
He shuddered as he recognized some of the unusual plants growing around here. Eyes widening, he froze.
In a split-second decision, he pulled Shi Yue’s silver bracelet off his arm.
The bracelet wasn’t one that you were supposed to take off and it resisted, unwilling to expand to let him pull it off. He dragged it fiercely over his wrist, then pressed his fingers around it.
It broke with a crack and a jolt of spiritual energy.
This sort of bracelet, the type that reacted to his life force… There was no way that the one linked to it wouldn’t notice if it was broken.
“Please don’t be that far away”, Xie Yi whispered with a twisted face and ran into the direction where the dry, warm wind was coming from - towards the barren lands that he hated so much, following the sparsely dotted red drops on the ground that were slowly drying up.
This was no time for hiding. He had a good feeling he knew who had dragged Xiang Zhe away. At least which group.
When he found Xiang Zhe, the disciple was struggling to avoid a weirdly moving Yao Ming, who was trying to push him closer towards the edge of the chasm while seeming to try and avoid approaching it himself.
With a booming sound, Xie Yi slashed a wave of energy towards the dazed Yao Ming. Juxian was humming in his hands.
“Run!”, he screamed at Xiang Zhe on the ground, passing him to attack the retreating Yao Ming. The other disciple parried his strike weirdly and tried getting back to Xiang Zhe.
“Where to”, Xiang Zhe screamed back awkwardly, staggering up to his feet. This was in the middle of nowhere!
“Into the forest! Master will come, just get out of the way for now! Hide!”
Yao Ming wasn’t his opponent. Not when he used his full strength. However, he couldn’t be certain that he wouldn’t use any traps or somehow get a hold of Xiang Zhe and throw him down the canyon after all, so he preferred the other being farther away.
Xiang Zhe obeyed and stumbled away, holding his bleeding arm.
Yao Ming tried to follow him with abnormal tenacity.
Xie Yi was frowning deeply, uncomfortable. The other was quiet, and he wasn’t using his brain at all. Even with limited strength, Yao Ming didn’t look as if he could fight back.
Xie Yi paused his attacks when Xiang Zhe vanished into the forest and Yao Ming unnaturally jerked to a halt.
His head rolled around his neck, the stiff eyes focusing on Xie Yi. Yao Ming smiled - as if someone was dragging up his lips.
“Little monster”, he laughed. “You’re still alive.”
“What do you think you’re doing?”, Xie Yi hissed, furious. As much as he hated Yao Ming… He could not believe the other would betray his sect.
“Me? What am I doing? I’m doing my beloved a favour.” Yao Ming spoke in an infatuated tone that did not suit him at all. “She wants me to do something, so I'll do it!”
He laughed again. Xie Yi stared at him, lowering his arm in disbelief. “You… What is wrong with you?”
“There is nothing wrong with mE”, Yao Ming said, his voice cracking at the last sound and jumping up.
He tilted forward, almost falling before he broke into a run back towards Xie Yi. His attacks were disorganized and messy. Xie Yi parried them easily.
Yao Ming was out for blood. Despite his attacks being so messy, they were all towards vital spots, and without holding back.
Xie Yi frowned.
If Yao Ming was helping the Demonic Sect now, then he wouldn’t care. He wouldn’t endure that guy any second longer. Although he was acting unlike before, he had enough of that guy. This was one time too many.
“It’s your own fault”, he whispered darkly, slipping under Yao Ming’s attack and moving his sword towards the other’s throat. It would be a quick death, at least.
Then Xie Yi’s arms went numb, an electric shock running through them, all the way through his body and down to his legs. His lungs refused to move for a second, his breath hitching, and his heart jumped in his chest.
Confused, he watched Yao Ming throw out a palm, his body not reacting in any way.
The hit wasn’t lethal, possibly because the other person did not expect for him to be unable to react to it.
But it hit his chest hard, throwing him backwards.
Yao Ming’s head tilted, and he jumped backwards as Xie Yi watched numbly how the sky turned.
Stone rushed past him, followed by a thick layer of fog that obscured his view completely. Juxian slipped out of his strengthless hand, falling likewise.
The numb feeling was gone the moment he let go of Juxian, and Xie Yi screamed a curse towards the heavens. He twisted his body in mid-air, hoping to find a way to catch his fall somewhat.
He was falling abnormally slow through the fog, at least - suitable for the general abnormality of the whole day.
Tense, he readied himself for the impact.
The moment Xie Yi hit the ground, he felt a bone-chilling fear crawl through his veins. He struggled to get up, his jaw pressed together so tight that even his curses could not escape anymore.
He had thought he could deal with this place, but he had overestimated himself. The sickeningly sweet stench of decay and flowers lay around him like a thick blanket.
Where he tried to steady himself with his arms, the floor broke away with a wet squelching noise. He hurriedly withdrew his hand, the slimy substance dripping down his fingers. All of his hair stood up at the sensation.
Where his hand had reached through the flowers, it had rested on the remnants of a head. The scalp had somehow detached itself from the skull, a few hairs still attached. Where he had leaned on it, the skin had slipped away. It was dissolving and soft, hardly keeping its form anymore. Where he had grabbed into it, it had gotten stuck on his fingers.
Nausea welled up in his stomach at the sight of the smiling face, the upturned lips frozen in time.
Xie Yi scrambled to get up somehow, needing more than a few tries to find steady footing on the layers of half-rotten corpses and skeletons.
He wanted to look down to find a place to set his feet, but did not dare to do so in fear of the eyes that might watch him through the bright green leaves. He could sense them staring, like beasts hidden in thick foliage.
Near the edge of the canyon, parts were free from corpses and Xie Yi found a small corner to stand.
He was heaving as he rubbed his hand over the stone, scraping it open to overwrite the remnant feeling.
“Why”, he forced through grit teeth. “Why? I wouldn’t have fallen. I would have caught him. Yes, I wanted to come here, but slowly, and not like… this. Not today!”
Juxian was standing on the sea of flowers, light like a feather. He did not sink down but looked around leisurely, taking in the sight of lush green and tones of yellow and red that hid the mass-grave below.
They were beautiful, large blossoms. He leaned down to touch one of them before he crushed it in his fingers. The flowers bled through the gaps in his hand, red juice dripping down. The green stalk looked as if it struggled under the grip.
“Various reasons”, he said slowly, as if the reason why Xie Yi was down here had nothing to do with him. “Because Yao Ming dying right now would have been bad. Because right now is a good time for you to be here. Because you wouldn’t truly have walked in this far if not pushed. Because it was a suitable coincidence.”
“Yao Ming aside”, Xie Yi hissed, his body trembling. “I had planned to come! You were there when I said it!”
“Planned, sure. But you wouldn’t have managed it. You wouldn’t have walked in this deep again. Because this place forces you to face your excuse.” Juxian smiled emptily.
Screams were rising.
Xie Yi shook at the sounds and pressed his eyes shut. They were illusions. He was certain of it, but this was not one he was able to break out of. They sounded only inside his head, not going through his ears but directly echoing inside him.
He could hear Shi Yue scream in heart-wrenching pain. He could hear Mingtian howl, agonized and helpless. He could hear Xu Yan and Feng Yan, could hear Li Mei sob.
Li Mei was begging him. It did not sound far away, only just out of sight. “It hurts… Xiao Yi… Please…!”
The flowers in that area moved, as if someone was struggling to get up from the ground. He could see fingertips stretch up and fall down again, desperate.
The youth bellowed, clasping his hands over his ears and violently shaking his head.