“When did it get so late?”, Xie Yi shouted in surprise when noticing how far the sun had gone down. “We haven’t found a good place to watch the fireworks yet!”
The streets were filling up considerably. The darker it got, the more people gathered outside.
“Oh, yes”, Shi Yue said, a bit slow.
Xie Yi hummed and scowled, then ran forward to see if he could find any good area that wasn't too crowded. Since he wasn’t small, Shi Yue could still make him out in the crowd, looking around everywhere. He slowly followed.
His mood was complicated - technically, today was a good chance, and his mind was still on Master Chen’s words...
Do I really have to?
The question was stuck in Shi Yue’s head, revolving round and round. Although he did not say it out loud, it was written all over his face as he watched Xie Yi wander around the stalls on the way back.
Xue Hua lifted his arm to hide a small smile behind his sleeve. He lightly pushed his partner’s back and spoke in a quiet voice. “Speaking from experience; if neither side moves, nothing will be put into motion. And I fear you are staring at a rock.”
Shi Yue twitched, his eyes jumping over to his partner, who squatted down. Su Liang reacted to the movement and got on his hind legs to be carried. Xue Hua steadied him in his arms and threw another glance at his partner before turning around.
“We will go to watch the fireworks elsewhere. I suggest you take the chance.”
Shi Yue opened his mouth and closed it again, his lips pressing together.
He did not know where his aversion to speaking those simple three words came from. Even any way of talking around it and hinting at the same felt uncomfortable in his stomach.
It was now that he realized how absurdly strong Xie Yi was in confessing, not only to him but also in front of everyone else, without mincing his words.
The sentence was a vulnerability. It was like handing someone a knife and showing them your throat.
Despite his relationships, he had never been in one that he would describe as particularly loving. He did like those people, but not like this. Not so much that he dreaded the tiniest chance of getting rejected.
If Xie Yi took it as a joke - for whatever reason - he felt he wouldn’t be able to try again.
By now, Xie Yi had noticed that he had left the others behind and did a small loop to return to his master. Looking around, he found neither Su Liang nor Xue Hua or Mingtian. “Where are they?”
“Ah… They’ll watch the fireworks just as a new family”, Shi Yue awkwardly answered.
The young man found nothing wrong about that and simply nodded before matching his pace to Shi Yue’s slow one. He could tell something was up, but considering that his master wasn’t saying anything, he did not want to intrude.
Shi Yue was keeping his mouth shut, his eyes lowered and was mostly following Xie Yi without truly watching where they were walking. Because he stood out, especially as a cultivator, people made place for him and he did not have to worry about walking into anyone.
Xie Yi frowned a bit and began to move towards the quieter corners near the lake. Although farther away, it was peaceful and they still would be able to watch the fireworks.
He was interested in those smaller fireworks you could hold and the shows that you could only see in the city, but with everyone crowding around there, he felt that it did not suit Shi Yue’s mood right now.
When the Grandmaster noticed where he was, Xie Yi had already manoeuvred them to a beautiful little corner near the water, turned towards the city where the fireworks were expected to light up.
Surprised, he looked at his disciple.
“Thought you could use some quiet”, Xie Yi chuckled with a hint of embarrassment. “Or did I misunderstand?”
“No, it’s… fine”, Shi Yue hesitantly said, clenching his fingers inside his sleeve. Unknowingly, Xie Yi had prepared a more than suitable place for a quiet conversation.
Stressed, the white-haired man sat down.
They had wasted quite some time getting here, so the first sparks blooming in the sky did not start much later.
Excited, Xie Yi made a happy noise and sat down as well, staring up into the black sky.
The loud, thunder-like sounds boomed in their ears, while more and more colours exploded in front of the black curtain of the night. The fireworks whistled and crackled, a rain of colourful stars trickling down.
Xie Yi truly loved the sight. He sat, distracted, and hardly blinked so as to not miss any of them. In the silence, Shi Yue slowly relaxed.
The fireworks went on for over two hours, surprising Xie Yi who had not expected things to be over so quickly. Only his sense of time told him that in fact, two hours had gone by in which he did nothing but stare.
He quickly checked up on his master, whose calm face showed no unhappiness at being ignored for all this time and he breathed out in relief.
“Shall we go back?”, he suggested, standing up and stretching his arms before taking two steps.
He heard the rustle of fabric.
He expected his master to follow him, but instead, a hand wrapped around his wrist and tugged him back a bit.
“Xie Yi”, Shi Yue called out, his voice tinged with uncertainty. His grip switched between tight and loose, stunning the other man, who turned around with a questioning gaze.
The youth wanted to ask what was wrong, but something about the mood shut him up. He could only tilt his head with an inquiring gaze and wait for his master, whose lips pursed.
“I-”, Shi Yue started and broke off again. Unhappiness was wrinkling his brows as he struggled to speak.
All of those words would make him feel vulnerable and those that didn’t were far too obscure to relay the meaning he wanted them to have.
All this while, Xie Yi did not try to pull his hand away from the grip that, at some moments, grew strong enough to break an ordinary person’s bones.
The young man narrowed his red eyes and hummed softly. It was a gentle sound that raised in tone at the end, questioning, but also very soothing. It wasn’t pressuring, more like he was coaxing.
It did not suit a man not even twenty years old, but maybe it suited a man who knew well enough how hard it could be to find the correct way to converse with others.
Shi Yue used his free hand and rubbed it over his eyes while hiding his face. In the dark, the light flush on his cheeks wasn’t visible.
“I… am not sure if I won’t hurt myself with this”, he said in a breath. He looked everywhere but at Xie Yi. “So I hope that you will believe me, at least.”
“Whatever you say”, Xie Yi responded very quietly, his face a picture of sweet innocence and trust. He was honest; no matter what Shi Yue said, he would believe it.
Even if he said that the sky was green, he would believe it. That was his love. That was his trust - that the ones he loved so much would not see a reason to lie to him, since he would not disdain them for whatever cruel truth they had to speak.
“I-”, Shi Yue started again, flustered and a bit desperate. How had he not ever known how hard it was to admit your feelings to another person? “Look, you are my succeeding disciple, and that won’t change. I am your master, that is a fact, but…”
Xie Yi did not like that “but”. He scowled but didn’t interrupt.
“But I would hope that maybe next to being my disciple, you could also be something else”, Shi Yue stuttered his way through, hoping to make everything as clear as possible.
“Which would be?”, Xie Yi asked with mild confusion. He was a bit hurt, considering he saw himself as Shi Yue’s friend at least, not just a disciple.
“A lover, if you’d agree”, Shi Yue finally managed to say, although his voice was a bit rough. “Since I… I seem to be that fond of you.”
Since I have fallen for you.
Shi Yue swallowed an exclamation of annoyance at his sentence ending not quite the way he had wanted it to end. It felt like he was avoiding saying it directly, after all.
Xie Yi blinked, his eyes shining bright despite the darkness. He stared for a few seconds, allowing the words to go through his head a few times and making sure he understood the meaning correctly.
He took half a step closer and leaned in a bit; close enough that he could truly see Shi Yue’s face and every expression on it.
“Am I understanding it correctly that you are asking me to become your boyfriend?”, he asked in a carefully even voice.
“Yes”, Shi Yue grimly confirmed, as weird as the word felt. As if he was back to being a teenager.
“Because… You like me?”, Xie Yi asked, tilting his head again.
Shi Yue took a deep breath and involuntarily tightened his grip again - highly noticeable to the one being gripped, of course.
“Yes. I love you.”
Not just like. If it was just like, he would not confess. He would not confess over a fluttering heart and the bubbling excitement of a crush.
He would not confess if the feeling wasn’t steady and sweet, unyielding.