Because the sound of the sleeping Xie Yi lulled him in too deeply, Shi Yue ended up falling into a deep sleep as well.
Disoriented, he woke to the smell of blood and a body in his arms. Involuntarily, he tensed.
The reaction woke Xie Yi up instantly.
Like a startled dragon, the youth’s eyes snapped open and he half jumped up, every muscle tense and posture ready to strike or jump out of the way.
When he saw and sensed no enemy, Xie Yi fell back into his disordered, blank state and looked down at Shi Yue.
Startled, the Grandmaster had flinched back and was now looking at Xie Yi with wide eyes.
“The’s no-n here”, Xie Yi drawled and slumped back into the bed. He buried his face in the nape of Shi Yue’s neck. “Wha’s wong?”
“Ah, everything is alright. I had simply been surprised to wake up and smell so much blood”, Shi Yue explained and gingerly stroked Xie Yi’s hair. “Sorry for startling you.”
“Hmmm…” The youth hummed. Now that he had woken up, he wouldn’t go back to sleep. His mind cleared up slowly. “Is your back okay?”
“I’m not sure. I haven’t looked into a mirror yet.”
Xie Yi pushed himself up on his arm and peeked over Shi Yue’s shoulder. “Uhm… I gotta learn healing.”
“Just how bad is it…” Shi Yue muttered the words under his breath. He had a feeling his back was a bloody mess.
And indeed, rather than loving scratch marks, it would be more appropriate to say that the mangled sight was akin to a beast trying to tear open his body. It wasn’t deep, but there was hardly a corner untouched. It sure said a lot about how serious Xie Yi had been when he had said he didn't want to play nice.
“How are you? Is your waist okay?” Suddenly thinking about the one who should be having more issues, Shi Yue ignored his painful back and sat up to look at Xie Yi.
The black-haired man was happily unbothered. “What’s supposed to be wrong with my waist?”
“Doesn’t it hurt?”
Xie Yi stood up and walked one round through the room. “A bit sore? I’m fine.”
Then he went back to Shi Yue and softly kissed him.
“The most important thing is that I’m happy to have done this. Now that we are at this point, you won’t get rid off me for life. You’re forever stuck with me.”
“I can live with that”, Shi Yue chuckled. He returned the kiss lovingly. “I promise I’ll treat you well, Ah Yi. You don’t ever have to worry about me hurting you. And if there is something bothering you, you have to tell me immediately.”
“I will do that.” Xie Yi nodded, his expression relieved. “I trust you.”
Shi Yue was stunned at the relaxed expression on Xie Yi’s face. He hadn’t seen his lover like that yet - without a single tense muscle in his body. It was only now that he was noticing just how alert the usual Xie Yi was even in a relaxed state.
Right now, Xie Yi was taking some time to fully rely on Shi Yue’s senses and not to worry too much.
Exactly as it had happened a moment ago, he would react if Shi Yue reacted. If the Grandmaster was at ease, he’d be too. It made his mind nicely dull and thoughts comfortably sluggish, like being a bit drunk.
“Let’s have a large meal together with everyone tomorrow. It’s the last day”, Shi Yue whispered. “Let’s all eat together and rest a last night before leaving.”
Xie Yi hummed softly.
He was a bit relieved he hadn’t suggested to do dual cultivation yesterday. As he had been told, that would probably throw him out of the loop, and even just normal sex was taking a toll on his mind. Better to not have done it yet, it could wait until after the fight.
They allowed themselves to stay in bed for another while, focusing their senses outside. They could hear the children shuffling around and playing while the two adult beasts were conversing on the side.
When they finally came out, not even Mingtian complained. He did trail after Xie Yi for a while, making sure his little brother was alright, but didn’t growl at Shi Yue.
The peaceful mood was almost heavy - no one wanted to fight right now.
It lasted through their last meal together. They didn't talk about what was to come.
The children could tell something was up, although the one with the best understanding of what was happening was Xiao Zai. She stuck to Xie Yi’s legs, followed by her little guard, who was likewise followed by a white ball of feathers.
Xie Yi laughed at the image.
It truly was… adorable.
And yet, time passed too quickly.
Ying Hua sat at the table with her head lowered, troubled by the fact that she couldn’t help her owner. She quietly stroked Su Liang’s neck.
The child was unsettled, twisting here and there and whining.
It wasn’t surprising.
Both Xue Hua and Mingtian looked solemn and tense, not at all content with the situation.
Xie Yi smiled. “Ming-Ge.”
The beast responded with a low grumble.
“I have survived much worse. Look at it like this, it’s not bad for me to have a chance at revenge.”
“I hate that I can’t go with you”, the beast snapped. “I hate having to leave you alone!”
“You’re not, are you?” The black-haired youth tilted his head. “It has never been rare that we split up during a mission. Now you are here to protect others who are important to me, so I don’t have to worry about them.”
Mingtian closed his mouth. His face twisted, but he dragged Xie Yi into his arms without another word. Xie Yi gently hugged him back.
“We will be back soon. Safe and sound. Once that’s over, we can concentrate on other, nicer things.”
Xue Hua exhaled slowly. He took a step towards Shi Yue and placed his forehead on his partner’s shoulder. “I will use those words, as well. Come back soon, we will wait for you and watch over the sect.”
“Thank you. We will have to rely on you.”
“Come back healthy”, Xiang Zhe repeated in his childish voice. Su Liang whimpered along.
“Destroy them well”, Xiao Zai wished instead, her voice surprisingly solemn and surprising everyone in the room excluding Xie Yi, who smiled at her.
“I will. For you and me.”
The girl looked satisfied at that and raised her arms, asking for a hug. Xie Yi took up both her and Xiang Zhe for a moment. The lips of the children were trembling softly.
“Enough dragging out. Let’s go.” Shi Yue breathed in deeply.
After a last round of farewell, the two cultivators left the house.
Surprised, they paused for a moment at seeing Nie sit under Xue Hua’s tree, smoking his pipe. The deity lowered his head once in greeting before looking back at the pond, and the cultivators bowed in turn.
On the lower grounds, the silence was stiffling. Xie Yi glanced around, noting the unfamiliar faces of commoners standing with their nervous children, or of those who were crying at having to see their family go to war.
No one tried to pull out of the situation. Crying was the loudest sound, heartbreaking sobs, of people who knew there was no running away.
Shi Yue began to walk a bit closer to Xie Yi, their fingers sometimes brushing against each other.
Wherever they passed, the cultivators that would go to fight followed them. A steady stream of people walked towards the gate.
Xie Yi looked behind him, immediately finding the figures he was searching for in the crowd. To them, he had said his goodbyes in the early morning.
Feng Yan stood behind Li Mei and Xu Yan, who were not suitable to participate. Feng Yan gave a reassuring smile and waved.
Then he bowed, and Xu Yan and Li Mei bowed along.
The movement spread through the crowd, people lowering their heads in silent thanks and well-wishes.
Xie Yi forced himself to look ahead at the sect leader. The old man stroked his beard and spoke.
“We will win.”
And that was their sign to march forward.