Ch.242: On one side
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Xie Yi and Shi Yue left the group shortly after they were out of the vicinity of the sect. Those that knew the plan had sent them off with short bows or pats on the shoulder, and the sect leader himself had given them a hug.

“Everyone will meet at the canyon”, Shi Yue explained. “We are all moving at the same time. All people above a certain rank.”

Xie Yi nodded. He hadn’t seen Sheng Mu and the others in the group that left, most likely because they were still too weak and would act as basic defense for the sect.

The image of a figure popped into Xie Yi’s mind. “What about the prince?”

“He has to watch over his family and the castle, but he’s informed. They’ll have the military watch over the common people and try to protect them as best as possible if necessary.” Shi Yue shook his head. “I wish there was more we could do, but…”

“Let’s hope we will distract the whole Demonic Sect”, his disciple tried to cheer him up. “They won’t have that much time to care about others.”

Shi Yue gave a nod.

They avoided flying on Shi Yue’s sword and stayed low on the ground, where it would be harder to see them, but where it was also harder to move.

“It’s actually only about three weeks to the Demonic Sect’s place”, Xie Yi awkwardly commented. “That’s also why I could visit you so often during my last life. It was nearby.”

“It’s weird that we have never noticed them, considering they’re basically our neighbors.” Shi Yue frowned. “I was out of it when they brought me there in the last life, so I didn’t see much.”

“Well”, Xie Yi awkwardly coughed. “The sect is built into the mountain and mostly covered. In addition to that, it’s a desolate area and it’s covered in illusion arrays. You’re not likely to find the entrance unless you know where to go, or you randomly climb up the mountain. And if you tried that, you’d run into the guards who would kill you.”

“But you know the main entrance?”

“I do. There won’t be many guards around there either, because it’s used by the upper ranks and they hate being watched. The mechanism sucks to learn, so they have never been worried about someone breaking in.” Xie Yi paused. “Did I ever tell you that? The sect grounds aren’t built by the sect. It’s an old, well, castle that they found, including a number of mechanisms.”

“Remnants of old times and forgotten machinery. Great.” 

“I was intended to be someone who can freely enter and leave at any time. They made me memorize all ways and everything. I’d bet they have some hidden pathways just for themselves but… I know most, at least.” Xie Yi began to run closer to Shi Yue so he could reach out for his hand. The other gladly intertwined their fingers.

“So how will we get inside?”

“As amazingly tempted as I am to use the front door… We will use one of the paths that are more hidden. It should already exist at this time.” The cultivator smirked. He liked the thought of blowing up that nest of vermin.

It was easier to focus on his thoughts of vengeance than the discomfort of entering his former… lair. He did not want to call it home.

“How much time will we have? I mean, how much time can everyone else buy us?”

Shi Yue looked around as he talked, memorizing the path. “This isn’t a small fight. It will take time until everyone reaches the canyon, and it might take days or weeks until the actual fight is over. The ones fighting will be switched out, or one side gets pushed back and retreats for a bit, or both sides are forced to pause due to other circumstances.”

“I never participated in long fights. I came, razed everything I could to the ground and left. If I was exhausted, that’d be when I left, so I don’t know how it goes.”

“It might sound stupid to pause a war, but it has as many advantages as it has disadvantages. You can rest and plan, and so can your enemy.” The Grandmaster pursed his lips and frowned deeply. “It’s a very human thing to have rules for wars. Normally, both sides would retreat at the same times, for example at night. I know that the Demonic Sect likes using these exact times for sneak attacks.”

“Aah… That, it’s good if your enemy is tense all the time. It saps their strength”, his disciple uncomfortably explained.

“I know. We all know. It’s merely hard to avoid.” Shi Yue slowed for a moment as he heard the sound of a river. “We’re going the right way?”

“Yes. You know the mountain ridge we are approaching anyway.”

“But not the exact corner.” 

“I’m sorry I can’t describe it. I’ve gone this way many times to visit the sect, so I have it memorized. I could walk it blindly.”

Shi Yue gave him a wry smile. “You had terrible ideas of how to woo someone.”

“To my defense”, Xie Yi said with a sheepish smile in return, “I was neither aware I was trying to woo you nor were the ideas mine. My ideas now are better, right?”

“Much better.” Shi Yue laughed and touched the pendant on his waist. A little love token.

The two talked about whatever they could think of - whether that was the war, or a lesson on tactics, or the environment. The reason was simple; too many animals had fled the vicinity of the sects and the canyon, and those that were here were wary and quiet. The forest was creepily reminding Xie Yi of the silence the cultivators had had as they walked off to risk their lives.

With their voices filling the air, both felt better. It wasn’t as if not talking would do them any good, anyone who would hear them talk without them noticing the approach was bound to hear them move as well.

And so they relied on each other’s voice to fill in the emptiness and grant each other a bit of solace.

Whenever they did have to rest, they’d rest in turns, always sitting bundled up together. They’d lean their heads on each other’s shoulder and share a bit of warmth.

“I just realized...”, Xie Yi muttered as he looked up at the stars and took a sip of water. Shi Yue made a questioning hum on his shoulder. “Before MingMing was with me, I’d travel for weeks on my own. Leaving behind death and destruction with the worst kind of silence. I don’t even remember what I was thinking during those times… But maybe I can’t remember because I wasn’t thinking at all.”

“A life not lived”, Shi Yue whispered back tiredly. “Mistakes not made and time not passed. Maybe it all was a dream to warn you of what would happen if. I’ll say that every time.”


“Ah Yi, don’t worry so much. We will kill them all, everyone who we see.”

“Afterwards, can we build a house for me? Or rebuild yours?”

Shi Yue smiled. “Of course. What do you want? A little dragon cave with treasures protected by traps?”

“Doesn’t sound bad. Can I have it?”

“Whatever you want.”

“I’ve been thinking, if there’s anything from the Demonic Sect I want to take along.” Xie Yi took another sip of his water before putting it away. Another three days to the next source of fresh water. “Then I realized, I don’t know where the old men have their rooms.”

“How likely is it that we will meet one of them?” Shi Yue opened up his violet eyes and peered into the night.

“They’re wary and suspicious. They’re not my enemies if I meet them, or yours. They will be leaving if there isn’t enough protection in the sect, so it’s all a matter of luck and timing whether we can catch them. I do hope they will be there, though.”

“Any damage done is good damage.” Shi Yue closed his eyes again and moved a bit to make himself comfortable. 

He wasn’t sure he liked that the rusty scent of blood was beginning to smell nice to him simply because it was so close to what Xie Yi’s inherent scent was. That would be a weird connection to make during a fight.

“Good night”, Xie Yi gingerly said and rubbed his cheek against Shi Yue’s hair.

This is so hard to write oh my god.  Just a few chapters. I guess I'll be finishing around the end of this year/start of the next??? Uhhh. I don't have this final fight planned well at all. Like, I have what's going to happen, but more like in a summary sort of way. Gotta think of everything I want to tell.
I'm... kinda looking forward to my break afterwards. Well, I'll still upload extras for a while (but with no schedule) and you guys can make requests if you want to, but it's still a break. After that comes Gamblers' Game, which is going to throw everyone into depression because it really doesn't have a single funny or happy bone. It certainly continues my line of the strong bottom, though. Have a snippet!


“I don’t understand why turning a human off is a problem”, Aspen mumbled without being asked. He quietly talked away to himself. “We turn off machines. We turn off animals. But turn off a human and everyone freaks out. If they are so mad about it, why not find out how to turn them on again? Things that are noisy should be turned off.”

He leaned into River’s field of view again, his wide eyes empty. They were desolate, he noticed. Lonely. A person who felt that there was no other human on this planet.

“But you are interesting. How are you still moving when you are turned off? Why do I feel like you might come back alive from this?”

River’s lips parted in a confused sound. He took a step back but Aspen followed.

“You are already dead inside, a candle gone out… But it seems like there are sparks ready to reignite it.”

The concept was highly abstract but River roughly understood what was going on.

Maybe this person simply could not connect with other people. All they were in his eyes were loud, messy things and, as one would do if presented with something loud and annoying, he had chosen not to ignore and tolerate it but to destroy the origin of the noise.

He had no troubles doing that as for him, those weren’t people of his own species anyway. An alien mind forced into a human body, too cut off from his surroundings to become a part of them.

River, however, was someone whose greatest reason for not simply jumping off a bridge or whatever was that he did not feel like breaking out of his routine.

He already knew he would not run when faced with death - he had had both of his legs broken when he hadn’t tried to move out of the way of an out-of-control car last summer. It was truly only that he was too stuck in senselessly doing the same things over and over again that he did not want to pull up the energy to change it, even for death.

He was basically a moving corpse. He was turned off already, as Aspen said it. There was no true will to live.

Only… Only, he really, truly enjoyed things that would need him to use his brain fully. Those were the only moments he did not want to end, those he wished he could keep.

Maybe that was the flicker.

Maybe that was something that Aspen wondered if he could connect to.

“You’re insane”, River stated bluntly, his voice half stuck in his throat.

“I am different”, Aspen responded quietly. “I am bored. I am uncomfortable. That’s what I am."


Anyway, I'll say it at the end too, but thanks for everyone who stuck around until now for this monster of a story.