The moment Shi Yue felt the bracelet break, he lost all control. The raid wasn’t solved yet, not completely. They were still following what was hints of one of the elders appearing, but he could not put his mind to it anymore.
The sect leader was wary and unwilling to stop following the hints so far. But when he saw Shi Yue freak out, he knew that something was wrong.
Some of the cultivators they had taken along were injured, so he refused to let Shi Yue take more than one additional person to check up on the sect for now. He believed it was more likely that Xie Yi had broken the bracelet on accident, but he understood that there was a chance that something was wrong.
Shi Yue rushed towards the destination of where he had felt it break, one more person with him. He didn’t know how exactly Xie Yi had gotten to that place in such a short time - it was barren land a good long journey of several days to the west, and not a place people ever spent time at.
Long, long ago, a heavy war had been fought here. The land never bloomed again and was discarded.
Shi Yue kneeled before what was the sparkling silver remnant of the bracelet and picked it up. There was no sign of blood on it, which was a relief, but he still felt the blood drain from his face. His hand tightly grasped around it, the sharp edges of the broken bracelet cutting into his skin.
The teacher behind him opened his mouth and shut it again. Everyone knew that Xie Yi was precious to their Grandmaster, but the disciple often got into trouble. It seemed like he attracted it naturally, but he always got out of it somehow.
The Grandmaster got up again and began looking around. The bracelet had shattered, and not all pieces were in one place. His greatest hope was that Xie Yi would be somewhere close by - he or a sort of hint where he was.
In the quiet, lifeless forest, the two of them wandered warily. Neither of them knew if there might not be danger around, considering that Xie Yi must have been attacked here. Both of them reacted at the same time when they heard a noise, rushing forward.
Xiang Zhe was leaning against the entrance of a small cave, breathing heavily. His eyes lit up and the stumbled forward, reaching out for the teachers. The other man rushed forward just as he fell forward, catching him. The disciple fainted immediately, his arm bloody and only roughly bandaged.
While the teacher checked Xiang Zhe, Shi Yue hurried past him to peer into the empty cave. There was no sign of another person around. Shi Yue's hand tightened.
“Still alive”, the teacher declared, lifting up the youth.
“Take him to safety”, the Grandmaster ordered the other cultivator, who bowed and obeyed.
Left alone, the white-haired man was stuck in the wastelands. It was terribly quiet around here, allowing him to hear his own thumping heartbeat inside his ears. Only the wind was making any noise at all.
Shi Yue was afraid.
Because he knew that this was Xie Yi’s second try at living, because he knew that the last one must have ended somehow, because he knew of the second, dying version in Xie Yi’s mind.
He tried to ignore it but ultimately he had to admit, he was afraid.
Afraid that Xie Yi would give up on this life and vanish from his.
“He's probably lying around here somewhere, completely oblivious that he's worrying me”, he said to himself, his voice carrying much more certainty than he actually felt. Turning around, he scouted the vicinity of the broken bracelet and gathering the parts. There was no blood, which could be a good sign, if only Shi Yue's brain didn't quietly supply him all the ways a person could die without bloodloss.
No matter how much he shouted Xie Yi's name, there was no answer. He would rather have heard his disciple screaming in pain. That would mean he was nearby, and would mean he was alive.
Shi Yue rushed on, disoriented, and never quite sure whether he had already checked a part of the forest that looked the same no matter where he looked. Above him, the sun moved on and on.
He had been searching for hours, hoping to find him somewhere. He called and shouted.
The longer he was without response, the tighter his chest felt.
He did not want to lose Xie Yi.
The sun was beginning to set, the sky becoming colourful. And still there was no sign of his disciple.
The Grandmaster felt exhausted. Not physically but mentally, the worry draining him harder than he would have thought. He had done missions to search for lost disciples before, even for whole teams, but it hadn't been as hard as it was today.
He sat on a fallen tree trunk and buried his face in his hands.
“You can’t be gone”, he convinced himself, steadying his breathing. For a while he kept his eyes closed to calm his state of mind before he stood up with renewed determination.
Even if he had to search for weeks, he’d find Xie Yi.
He was a Grandmaster. He wouldn’t give up this easily.
With his spiritual energy circulating through his body to relax his tense muscles, he began all over again. This time he searched methodically, covering bit for bit of ground.
If the forest was hard to search through, he'd simply have to walk over every inch of it.
There were parts where he thought it would be impossible to find Xie Yi but he decided to not skip them - who knew what that man had done? You couldn’t judge him with a normal mindset.
Hour for hour he worked himself forward towards the cliff.
He stopped in front of it and peered down into the white clouds of fog that no one had ever crawled out of. Then he decisively shook his head and looked away from it, unwilling to think about the possibility. Instead he looked around for any other signs of his disciple being around.
Shi Yue rubbed his forehead, then turned around. He needed to plan where to go next. This place was gigantic and Xie Yi could be basically anywhere, especially considering he had likely moved in the time it had taken Shi Yue to get to here.
Annoyingly enough, the ground was too hard to show footsteps. He had no idea if someone had passed through here.
Either way, he would not stop searching anytime soon!
With a returning look of determination, Shi Yue looked up at the setting sun's reddish colour and walked forward.
“Shi Yue?”, a weak voice dragged him back.
Shi Yue froze, then whirled around to find his disciple, dishevelled and injured but not dead, trudging along the edge of the cliff. Some parts of his clothes were bloody, others discoloured from who knows what. He was walking unsteadily, but that he was moving at all caused the Grandmaster's heart to do a jump.
“Xie Yi!” Shi Yue exclaimed, rooted to the ground in shock and relief.
The other man smiled. His speed picked up and he hurried towards his master.
Shi Yue’s arms twitched to welcome him into a hug when his disciple halted, a good two steps away.
“Did you come here to fetch me?”, Xie Yi awkwardly laughed, a touched expression on his face. “I hope Xiang Zhe is safe?”
Shi Yue blinked at him.
Xie Yi felt a bit embarrassed. He had planned to run into Shi Yue’s arms for a hug but decided against it in the last second. Not that he didn’t want to or didn’t dare to, but he did like the other. It would be both awkward for him and Shi Yue. Moreover, what if he couldn’t control his reactions?
Let alone the fact that he wasn't exactly in what you'd call a clean state.
Hm, it would be better not to do that.
“Of course I came. I was worried”, Shi Yue said slowly, then lifted a hand and crooked a finger at Xie Yi. All relief was turning into the uncontrollable desire to hold his disciple and make sure he truly was safe. “Come here.”
Xie Yi approached half a step closer.
“Cooomeee”, Shi Yue coaxed, continuing to beckon him closer.
Another half step. Xie Yi chuckled with a foolish grin.
Disgruntled, Shi Yue let his hand sink and crossed the large step in a split second, pulling Xie Yi into his arms.
It felt like a long time since he actually hugged his disciple like this. Not carefully, but tight to himself. Xie Yi smelled weirdly sweet like flowers and there was some kind of unusual stench mixed in, but also had the usual rusty scent that was his own. It wasn’t that uncomfortable if he blocked out the foreign smells.
Either way, no matter how dirty his disciple was in this second - he truly, honestly couldn't care less! 1A/N: I was so, so tempted to write 'Couldnt give a flying fuck.'
Shi Yue exhaled in relief, holding the other closer. With one arm around his waist and the other keeping his head placed against his neck, Shi Yue felt he could finally relax. Xie Yi's breath was echoing in his ear, slow and even.
Shi Yue's heart was throbbing painfully. Now that he knew Xie Yi was safe, he almost wanted to cry.
Maybe sensing how worried he had been, his disciple didn’t struggle but lightly leaned against him.
Shi Yue closed his eyes.
He could hardly swallow with how blocked up his throat felt. He had hated the feeling of thinking he might have lost Xie Yi. It was selfish, because he knew he hadn't felt as bad even when he had seen other disciples truly die before. Just Xie Yi, he truly couldn't stomach to lose. He had thought he might go insane.
He simply wanted for Xie Yi to be safe. He wanted to lock him up, but Ying Hua's words whispered inside his head. He couldn't hold Xie Yi down.
Xie Yi was not a woman. He wasn’t even an especially feminine man, although he was beautiful.
He was strong and resilient. He could crawl out of situations that looked lethal and survive things that would destroy any normal cultivator - not to mention what he had lived through on his own.
He knew how to stand his ground and how to protect himself. He was a one-man army with the determination to cultivate up and past being a Grandmaster for a second time.
Even if he appeared broken, his mind was more durable than anyone’s Shi Yue knew. Even in the face of his past, he managed to live on.
The man was no butterfly to cradle in your cupped hands.
He was a proud and wild beast - scarred but unwilling to stand down.
He was beautiful in his own way, both inside and out.
And the thought of that person not being with him, for whatever reason, was unbearable. It didn't even need to be such a terrible thought such as death; even if Xie Yi left him out of his own volition, he did not want it! Xie Yi should just stay with him!
Honestly, he was the polar opposite of what Shi Yue had thought he wanted by his side.
Not a cute, gentle wife that would welcome him when he came home.
Xie Yi would never be the type to welcome you back home.
That man was someone who would accompany you down to hell and back up - he’d never leave your side. There would be no need for goodbyes or greetings. You couldn't tie him down without breaking him.
The more he thought about it, the more his unsettled heart calmed.
Xie Yi was a former leader of the Demonic Sect. He was bloodthirsty, violent, had no common sense, was addicted to wine and arrays…
But he was willing to sacrifice his life for another chance, he was making up all of his past wrongs, he was determined to learn, he was loyal and proud.
Maybe he wouldn’t be the ideal partner.
But the trouble would be worth it.
It was an awkward and annoying thought, to think that he might have actually fallen for his male disciple. Not what he had ever wanted to happen, but how often had his own master teased him that ultimately, feelings weren't controllable? So instead of continuing to be all uncomfortable about it, maybe it was easier to accept it.
Shi Yue’s arms tightened. It was relieving to know that there was no problem.
Everyone knew that Xie Yi liked him and he had said so before himself. Xie Yi would freely stay at his side once they got together. His own master and family weren’t against it, either. They liked Xie Yi a lot.
A pleased, joyful smile bloomed on Shi Yue’s face.
There was no problem at all.
Shi Yue did not know how to voice the mixture of feelings inside his chest, but Xie Yi had always been more of a person of action, anyways. There were obvious ways to show someone you liked them.
He slightly slipped the hand that he had placed on Xie Yi’s head down, towards his chin, and tilted the other’s face around. His skin was soft to the touch.
Xie Yi’s eyes were blank and a bit widened, a cutely stupid expression on his face.
“Xie Yi”, Shi Yue softly called him to attention. In this position they weren’t really far apart from each other, their faces only inches away.
Xie Yi gave a tiny, almost imperceptible twitch.
Shi Yue began to lean his head over.
Suddenly, and without Shi Yue really understanding how he had done it, Xie Yi slipped out of his arms and jumped a step away.
“Thanks for searching for me”, Xie Yi said, laughing again, a bit awkward. His eyes moved to the side.
Ah, sheesh. He knew it! He hadn’t wanted to go over and hug Shi Yue, and look what happened!
He had almost kissed his master!
Of course it was an accident, but maybe he had instinctively tried to place himself close or something like that. Either way, it was very rude. He had to watch out that he wouldn’t do that kind of thing again.
Look at how he almost made his master angry.
“...” Meanwhile, Shi Yue felt unhappy about the emptiness in his arms. A small voice inside his thoughts returned, screeching and cursing at him for being an idiot.
What, no problem?
He had forgotten.
Xie Yi had indeed confessed… And said right away that he would absolutely never pursue his master since he wasn’t worthy of him.
Due to the awkward situation back then he had let the matter slide and not commented on it. A silent agreement.
He raised his arm and waved his hand.
“Nnnno”, Xie Yi rejected instantly, shaking his head and dragging the word. “I’m fine.”
Shi Yue took a step forward. Xie Yi backed one off.
“I still have to check your injuries. Come here.”
“It’s fine. They’re not bad.”
Another step forward. Another step back.
Xie Yi was twisting his body like he was ready to break into a run at any time. Shi Yue lowered his eyes.
“Don’t be stupid. I’m your master, I have to make sure my disciple is really okay. Who knows if what you’re saying is true - you’d probably say the same with an arm ripped off.” 2A/N: ’Tis but a fleshwound.
He smiled and began walking forward. Xie Yi retreated, constantly glancing behind him to make sure he wouldn’t walk into anything or fall down that dreadful cliff again.
Why is Master being so weird today! Is it because I vanished without telling him? Sheesh, Shi Yue, don’t come so close! - Was the worry of one side.
Xie Yi could go back in time. Can I go back in time, too, please? I’d like to hit my past self. - ...Was the thought of the other.
Just like that, a pair of cultivators, master and disciple, spent half a stupid hour playing tag next to a cliff.