Far beyond just burning, the feeling on Xie Yi's chest was scalding hot.
It hurt as much as being burned alive, but the violent heat was also burning away the chilling cold. The screaming shadow slowed its struggling under its heat and lowered its head.
It was just angry. Angry and hurt and desolate. It didn’t know what to do about that second him that was happier - they felt too much apart to be one, so it was stuck with the greatest amount of negative feelings. It was drowning in them with no outlet at all. In that dark space, it was so cold that it just couldn’t endure.
The heat on his skin was sinking into his bones, pressing down on the shadow and soothing it. Maybe it was too hot, but this heat was much, much better than the cold.
The screaming grew quieter and quieter until it was just a whimper that was pulled back into the depths of Xie Yi’s core.
Finally, the pain subsided, but fear grew back in the same amount.
His arms were tied, but he desperately wanted to grab hold of the heat on his chest to make sure that it couldn’t leave him. The more he struggled, the more his uncertainty grew - he could hardly see through his blurred eyes, his body and core were in pain and he was tightly bound. He was having trouble remembering where he was and, even worse, in what time.
Someone leaned over him, their breath slow and soft. It was calming enough to put an end to his struggles.
“Are you awake again?”, Shi Yue’s voice asked carefully.
The Grandmaster was more than relieved. In whatever way, placing the crystal on Tiankong’s chest had calmed the cultivator down - it might be some sort of trigger to keeping his sanity. Either way, Tiankong had begun to struggle again for a moment and then stopped, but the snapping of the core had vanished. The bloodlust and fury that had been emanating from him had simmered down to near nothing.
His question earned him half a sound - not quite agreement, but more a confused acknowledgement that his words had been heard.
Shi Yue’s tensed jaw relaxed. He couldn’t let Tiankong go free just like that, but it was good that the cultivator was back to being conscious.
“You snapped and killed a cultivator of the Demonic Path. You didn't kill the waiter, but you still killed a human. I’m sorry, but I can’t just let you go.”
Surprisingly, Tiankong stayed still.
In the end, Xie Yi couldn’t find a problem. Just a Demonic cultivator? So what? Who cared if those were all eradicated? Actually it would be better that way.
On that note, that voice was his master, wasn’t it? Ooh, he shouldn’t have found his identity yet from how he talked. That was good - he would probably get mad.
He didn’t even have the energy to worry about anything. His mind felt so dark...
Shi Yue watched Tiankong, who didn’t move, closely. The man moved his lips just the slightest bit but no sound came out, so he leaned forward to see if he could hear anything.
At that time, the cultivator had already shut up again. His breathing was uneven and haggard, no surprise given how badly he looked.
That was family for you. Xie Yi got hurt and Tiankong followed right after?
“Don’t struggle”, Shi Yue warned, then stood up and bent down. In this position, he hesitated.
Normally, when he had to carry other cultivators, it was on his back. If they were unconscious, it was over his shoulder. Even females weren’t an exception. That way he would have a hand free, just in case… But he really felt bad at the thought of throwing Tiankong over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
That was a funny feeling. The whole floor was bloody, there was a corpse, a fainted waiter, Tiankong was tied up and hurt, and yet his brain just went ‘Nu-uh’ at the thought of picking Tiankong up. If it was his master then he could understand - carrying someone you respected was awkward, but this was more of barely an acquaintance.
In the end, he postponed the decision with a muddled mind; the waiter needed to get out of here as well. Him, he threw over his shoulder without a problem and then jumped down the stairs and walked towards the door.
Looking outside into what was already beginning to be morning, Shi Yue looked around. It was empty - Zhi Ruo had sent everyone away except for herself, who stood two houses farther down the road. When she spotted him she ran over, lifting her skirt.
“This-”, she started but was interrupted by Shi Yue.
“Not yet. Help me call a doctor for this young man here and some officers, as well. Tell them it’s about a dead Demonic cultivator, they’ll know who to send.”
He slipped the waiter down and leaned him against the wall. Zhi Ruo reached over to grip his hand, which was stained by blood, for a moment before giving a responsible smile and turning north to get help.
Shi Yue watched her run for a moment and breathed in the fresh air. He blinked several times, rubbed his temples and then went back inside.
Just before he could place his first step on the stairs, he heard a creak.
Shocked, he used his spiritual energy to jump up the whole set of stairs, landing soundlessly and just in time to see the broken window and the two figures in front.
The spell around Tiankong had been dissolved rather than broken, completely without Shi Yue noticing, and his body was hanging limply over the arms of another man. His arms were lying over his chest, cradling the small cloth bag, and his masked face was turned towards the chest of the man carrying him.
The man looked at him for a moment.
With every light source in the hallway either broken or turned off, only the moonlight gave him a slight peek at who was holding Tiankong. The man’s dark skin was covered in slightly shifting, intricate markings that glowed like molten gold as he moved to steady the figure in his arms.
Nothing about him showed any sign of hostility despite the aura of anger hovering around him. The man just bowed lightly, keeping Tiankong close to his chest, and then jumped out of the window.
The lack of spiritual energy told Shi Yue that this must have been a spiritual beast of insane strength, as it obviously wasn't a human.
He hesitated to follow, something stopping him.
By the time he came back to, the two figures were nowhere in sight. All that was left was the stench of blood.
...Mingtian carried Xie Yi right into the mountains first, the markings on his body stopping to glow. The manoeuvre - which was more teleportation than anything else, really - was insanely taxing and he had used it twice in a row. He was bathed in sweat but didn’t mind it.
Xie Yi hadn’t, not even in the slightest, become less prone to getting into trouble! That kid wouldn't move a single step out of the sect for this month anymore! How did he manage to encounter a Demonic cultivator just like that!
When Mingtian had felt something weird he had already taken off the collar and made his way towards the city. Only when he heard Xie Yi whisper his name did he use his fastest means of travelling to almost immediately arrive at Xie Yi’s side.
The boy’s channels were torn open, his core was cracked and he just looked bad in general.
Angry, Mingtian stripped him right down. Sure, he had helped keep up the array from the moment he fainted, but there was no use for that anymore.
Tiny Xie Yi, his face filled with tearstains, lay stark naked on the ground and whimpered.
“Why do you do this to yourself”, Mingtian complained quietly, then examined the boy. Mysteriously, the damage on his core was nearly none - despite the obvious cracks. His channels looked bad but more in terms of overuse and would heal on their own, the torn skin could be healed by him. Surprisingly, Xie Yi wasn’t in as bad a condition as he had looked?
Once he was awake, he would have to ask him what happened that night, but for now, he should return. He had made sure that the other child, Xu Yan, would stay asleep, but it would be morning soon and they had to be back before Shi Yue reached the sect.
Mingtian wrapped him in the cleaner, inner layers of the robe, destroyed the other part and picked the boy up again.
Really, what would the kid have done if he wasn’t around.