Although he had to make sure that his little brother would understand what pursuing someone meant. Otherwise, he might have to free Shi Yue out of some castle or cave someday.1A/N: So, who is the princess here?
“MingMing?”, Xie Yi asked while he was burying himself in the long, coarse fur. “Is Xue Hua like your wife?”
“Not yet”, the beast howled, the amusement in his voice breaking through. Xue Hua had the typical bird responses of fleeing and it would take another while to convince him of being any closer than holding hands. Trying to ask him to formally become mates was out of the question - he might say no in his panic.
“But in the future? Should I treat him as my brother, too?”, Xie Yi offered awkwardly. “If you… If you trust him like you said you do, then I can learn to trust him a lot, too. Slowly.”
“Un. Thank you”, Mingtian replied and licked his rough tongue over Xie Yi. “Are you tired from the past days? Take a nap.”
Xie Yi did not sleep too well out in the forest and he had been riled up after the city. He could use a good nap before the long evening.
The human made a sound of agreement at his suggestion. “I have stuff to do. Wake me up soon, okay?”
Guilt gnawed at Mingtian. Xie Yi was falling asleep, cuddled against him, defenseless as usual.
Sometimes, being fully trusted was almost a burden.
Even if Mingtian did have questionable reasons, Xie Yi was unlikely to believe that they would be to his disadvantage.
If he had felt that Mingtian was weirdly quick in shifting their topic to him taking a nap, he had shown no signs of it.
“I hope you truly trust me”, he whispered almost soundlessly. Golden lights flickered through his eyes, his fur reflecting the sun in the unnatural colour at the same time. “I hope you will ask me why. I hope you will understand, even if you’re angry.”
Dragging things on was dangerous.
He had found him six years ago.
Xie Yi was brittle; he was bound to break if you found his weak points. Getting rejected by Shi Yue was not something Mingtian could control but he would not ignore the weak point that was himself.
Xie Yi would wake up regularly in the night. Each time it happened, he would grow a bit more attached. A bit more cuddly.
The Demonic Sect leader would not have cuddled him like this. Even the Xie Yi of six years ago would not actively seek out touches for comfort rather than safety as much as now.
Xie Yi’s incessant refusal to talk any more about how Mingtian’s life had ended was worrying him. He wanted to avoid situations that would remind his little brother of the scene but that was impossible as long as he didn’t know what happened.
He had a right to know. It had been his life.
That he could tap into Xie Yi’s mind at all was something he had strongly forbidden himself to do unless in emergencies.
An ability taught by Nie and strictly warned about, for the damage of both himself and the one tapped into.
He would do it this once and hope that he could control it well enough to only gain the information he wanted and nothing else. Just enough to trigger his own memories.
It was like leaving his own body behind. He could strongly feel where Xie Yi was leaning against him and the aura of his soul.
Feeling the suction that emptied his thoughts, Mingtian laid down his head while praying for safety quietly.
It was no use to try and convince Xie Yi... convince Tiankong that the elders did not mean him any good.
Mingtian stood where he had stood so often before; besides the cultivator, his jaw tight and eyes lowered to hide the complex emotions whirling inside.
“Annoying”, Xie Yi said emotionlessly. It was the one word that suggested that people were about to die - or that their death had been a bit too messy.
Mingtian raised his gaze.
Xie Yi’s eyes were blank despite the annoyance written all over his face. The pursed lips were pressed together but his eyes were tranquil.
They were almost always like this. Sluggish and bleak, dark. The bit of light they had had before had dimmed down considerably over the years.
The cultivator waved his sleeve, shaking his hand off to the side.
He ignored the sea of blood and guts he was standing in, in favor of cleaning up his hands and the sword he was carrying.
“Look, I have what we need. This should be it? It’s not really that interesting. Well, whatever”, Xie Yi hummed, lifting up the crystallized structure that hovered in the middle of the gigantic array.
Even when blood and bodies had already destroyed it, the array had fulfilled its task.
Xie Yi lifted the material up to his eyes and against the sun.
Mingtian flinched and jolted his head away, pressing his eyes together.
The sound was like a shriek of a thousand souls and maybe that was exactly what it was.
He did not need to see his partner eat it. He did not need to think about the fact that this dreadful thing was the condensed, crushed cores of over two hundred cultivators.
“Do you really have to do this”, he pressed out through grit teeth, hoping to steady his uneven breathing. “Aren’t you strong enough?”
“They said it would be good”, Xie Yi responded with a shrug of his shoulder and a smile that was half drawn on his face.
Of course. Because they had said so.
“Maybe they are mistaken”, he tried it again. He always tried it. It never succeeded.
His partner chuckled and shook his head, red drops of blood flying away. “They know best.”
He had strict priorities. Under normal circumstances, he believed Mingtian and didn’t hesitate to change his plans for him but if the elders said a single word, it stood above everything.
Mingtian was his confidant and family. They were his gods.
Mingtian reached out for Xie Yi, grabbing his arm as he began to walk, ultimately stopping the other in the movement. The man blinked and turned to the beast, a questioning look on his face.
Mingtian’s breathing hitched.
No. Enough. It was enough!
They were destroying him, inside out!
He wished he could tear them apart and knew it was impossible as long as Xie Yi protected them. They had reached their goal with this. Their perfect guard-dog. Their faithful servant, slave to their wishes.
He would not watch this any longer. Not now that he had possibly found a way out.
At that moment, he decided to grasp at the spider’s thread that might help them crawl out of this hell.
“I will clean up here”, he said, his voice surprisingly calm. “I’ll be back in a while.”
“Sure. Go ahead”, Xie Yi responded without worry. Mingtian was strong. No need to worry.
He coughed and retched just as he finished answering, a blood-coloured residue of some sorts leaking out from the side of his mouth.
With a frown, he pounded softly against his chest. Another cough and the substance that had made him feel unwell was coughed out.
Nonchalantly, he wiped his lip. “See you later.”
The scene was so common that Mingtian felt too numb to react to it.
He stared after Xie Yi in a daze, standing in the red sea and enveloped by a rusty stench.
He had seen him.
His wing was torn and he was unable to fight, but Mingtian had seen a very old acquaintance at that Shi Yue’s side for just a moment.
They hadn’t noticed him but he had seen them.
He could talk to Xiao Jie2Xue Hua's old name and explain everything.
Xiao Jie was Shi Yue’s partner. If Xiao Jie talked to him, he would listen.
And Shi Yue was the only person who could coax Xie Yi away from the elders.
If the man baited Xie Yi, it shouldn’t be too hard to keep him away from the elders. They could spin some lies; keep Xie Yi long enough to realize what kind of terrible life he was having. To realize what kind of people the elders were.
It was impossible for Mingtian to approach Shi Yue personally - the man was a saint but he would not sit down for a friendly talk with the beast who had attacked them from hiding at their first meeting. He had botched that single chance.
Xiao Jie lived in the middle of the Virtuous Sect.
It was dangerous but not impossible.
Mingtian had a feeling that the bird would listen to him even given these circumstances. And god, if he was honest, he had missed him so badly.
That lovely little bird… When had they last met? It was surely hundreds of years ago. So much time had passed.
“I’ve turned into the demon you feared I was”, the beast suddenly realized, his voice breaking in the middle.
He had tried to run away from the demonic beast blood in his body at some point in time. Now he was almost embracing it. There was no repairing that, ever.