“Wait a second”, Xie Yi insisted as he ran off. Moments later, he was dragging a very resigned Xu Yan along. “Xu Yan, take a look at her.”
“I’m not a medic”, Xu Yan grumbled. “And you don’t have to drag me…”
He straightened himself and fixed his robes before facing the two females who were standing next to Xie Yi.
Bowing in greeting, he gave an awkward smile. “Sorry for the intrusion. My name is Xu Yan; I have some medical abilities. Can I take a look at your little sister?”
“That…” Zhi Ci hesitated considerably. It was the little girl who stepped forward and held out her arms with a tense face.
“Xiao Zai…”, Zhi Ci mumbled.
Xiao Zai glanced up at her. “I… want to get well…”
Heart-broken, Xu Yan hurried to squat down and show his gentlest smile to the timid girl. She was only a few years old and sickly pale. “I’m not doing anything scary, no worries.”
She girl hummed and allowed Xu Yan to touch her.
Xie Yi rubbed his ears, turning away to hide a frown. Over and over, he pressed his hand against his ears.
Why… What was it, those names… Had he heard them before? But he was sure that he hadn’t heard them in the Demonic Sect, it must have been elsewhere.
But he was so, so unsettled…
Xu Yan exhaled slowly. “This… I can’t help you with it, sorry. I think regular medical baths are a very good idea, though. Was she born with this weak body?”
“I don’t know”, Zhi Ci sighed. “But thank you very much for trying. That’s very kind of you.”
Xu Yan stood up again and gave a wry smile to the female cultivator. “I’ve done nothing. Little girl, do you want candy as a reward for being so brave just now?”
“You have candy?”, Xie Yi complained with a crestfallen face.
Looking at his betrayed expression, Xiao Zai giggled softly and hid behind her older sister again.
Zhi Ci’s eyes were warm as she brushed over the girl’s head. “Do you want some?”
The girl did not dare answer, so Xu Yan handed the wrapped candy to the woman.
“I’m in your debt”, Zhi Ci whispered with a lowered gaze.
“Xu Yan likes helping people”, Xie Yi decided without consulting the other, who hit him in return. “Besides, I like this little girl.”
It would have been a creepy sentence if Xie Yi’s face wasn’t so overly innocent. He smiled at Xiao Zai and the girl smiled back.
If she was a street rat, Xie Yi would have taken her home with him.
The thought was weird.
“You will be going to the city then?”, Xu Yan asked in an amicable tone, leaning against the handrail of the ship and looking downstream.
Zhi Ci shook her head. “That was the initial plan, but we will have to go back home immediately. My father called for us. We did get to stay in another city closer to the sea for a few days, though. It also had medical baths that helped a bit.”
“I hope you’ll get the chance to stay here sometime then”, Xu Yan genuinely replied.
Xie Yi glanced at them talking, then decided to waste his time away with the little girl. He sat down on the ground, pulled out some things from his storage ring, and waved her over.
Both of them stayed only for a short time before leaving at the next pier, waving to both of them with sweet faces.
Xu Yan looked after them. “When did you get to meet her?”
“In the valley. She was hurt after hunting and I gave her pills.”
“The one where you nearly died?”
Xie Yi walked around to stand in front of Xu Yan, raising an eyebrow at him. Xu Yan blinked several times when someone blocked his view.
“What?”, Xie Yi asked suspiciously.
“What?”, Xu Yan responded in confusion.
The black-haired man opened and shut his mouth. Well, he did not know how to put his question into words so he might as well not ask.
They wandered back to the group.
Most of the time, Xu Yan was busy convincing Xie Yi not to jump back into the water, and time passed fast.
The young man found his friend very curious in the little girl’s condition but Xu Yan had to shake his head at it. “As I said, I’m not a medic. I don’t have enough experience to get the full picture. I only know she’s rather weak.”
Xie Yi was unhappy at hearing that. He would have liked more info but he knew he wouldn’t get it.
Still, the thought was stuck in his head like a splinter.
After a large dinner in the city, Xu Yan brought a slightly dazed Xie Yi back into their room. They were conversing, but right now, his friend wasn’t really reacting a lot.
Xu Yan paused and tilted his head. “Xiao Yi? Are you okay?”
“Hmmm”, came the wordless reply.
He was only feeling a bit weird. Both mentally and physically.
It had started a few days ago already, the feeling had grown bit by bit.
Unsettled, Xie Yi pressed his lips together. He gave himself a quick wash, then changed his clothes and slipped under his blankets.
Xu Yan watched him reach out for his sword and tug it into his arms.
“Is this for safety or are you feeling unwell?”, he asked, walking over and placing a hand on Xie Yi’s head.
The youth was slightly hot, not quite like a fever, but with a heightened temperature.
“Unwell”, Xie Yi complained. Xu Yan’s hand was getting colder and colder, which was a nice feeling.
Xu Yan, though, was horrified. He could feel Xie Yi’s body temperature rise as he kept his head on the other’s forehead. With every passing moment, the beautiful face turned paler and paler.
“Xiao Yi?”, he called out worriedly. The young man frowned softly.
“I want to sleep. I don’t need medicine.”
Xu Yan hesitated on calling for help. Although the change was quick, the temperature was far from something truly dangerous for a cultivator. Nonetheless, he went to get his friend a pill and then pulled out a chair to sit next to his bed.
“You go to sleep. I’ll watch out until you’re fine.”
“Won’t you be tired?”, Xie YI muttered, already half asleep.
“I’ll be fine for a night”, Xu Yan whispered back, placing his cold hand back on the other’s forehead.
Xie Yi felt like his brain was turning to mush. His head hurt. All he wanted was to sleep, so he surrendered to the peace and darkness of it.
Xu Yan sat beside his bed, brushing the hair out of his face. Why did Xie Yi have to suffer so much? It wasn’t fair. Why was he suddenly so unwell?
With pursed lips and a lowered head, he kept watch, looking out for any sign of Xie Yi being in discomfort.
When the moon was up high, Xu Yan held himself awake with a potion. He refused to leave his friend’s side.
Suddenly, Xie Yi’s eyes opened.
■■■■ did not move. Only his eyes flickered and slowly turned to fixate Xu Yan.
At first, the young man had looked worried at his friend waking up, but he froze at the sight.
■■■■’s eyes were cold like the blade of a sword. They did not move at all. His whole body was still, except for those eyes with the bright yellow-white rim around his pupil that almost appeared to be burning.
“...Xie Yi?”, Xu Yan whispered questioningly, feeling the cold sweat run over his back. Every fibre of his body was screaming for him to run.
However, the attack that he feared never came. ■■■■ continued to look at him.
After minutes of terror, ■■■■ stopped staring at Xu Yan and looked through the room.
“Are… Are you feeling worse? Should I call for help?”, Xu Yan forced out, clenching his wet palms into fists.
■■■■ did not respond to him. He merely looked back over again and pursed his lips as if in thought.
A white hand was revealed from under the blanket, slowly stretching towards Xu Yan.
Out of habit, Xu Yan grasped it tightly. “Are you in pain?”
■■■■’s hand froze for a moment before slowly returning the grasp without any strength. He blinked, his gaze locked onto his hand.
A soft hum ran through the room, coming from the sword that lay on the other side of his body.
■■■■’s hand twitched.
Then he tugged it back, adjusted his head on the pillow and closed his eyes again.
Confused, Xu Yan lowered his hands again.
Whatever had happened at that moment, Xie Yi remembered none of it in the morning.