Some people had called him a hypocrite or a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but the leader of the Virtuous Sect, Shi Yue, truly never wanted anything but a peaceful world.
He was used to the taunts and ignored them - it irritated them more if he did and he also knew that a lot of it came from envy rather than justified reasoning.
He had always been a child that wanted a peaceful life with the people he loved, but his life hadn’t started out that way.
His family was one of four - his older sister, his parents and him. He hadn’t been planned. Their money had been comfortable with three of them and he messed their plans up.
The mother said the father was at fault for not earning enough. The father said the mother was at fault for getting pregnant. His sister noticed him when he walked into her line of sight and otherwise forgot about his existence.
In the first place, she preferred having all her mother’s gentle attention by herself.
When things got tighter, they fed their daughter more than their son. He was a ‘man’, after all. He could endure the hunger.
His parents had often fought until they finally sold him, not knowing that the man who paid for him was actually a cultivator in search of a servant.
When the man had realized his talent, he hadn’t hesitated to teach him, treating him lovingly and like a son. After that, things got much better.
When before there was a lot of unrest and the terrible company of his sister, he now had a lot of the things he wanted. An actual home.
Shi Yue was always, always trying to see from other people’s eyes; to understand what they were thinking. When he was young, and when he became a cultivator.
He knew that there were people who were pure evil and without a care for anyone else, and he didn’t hesitate to kill those.
But those that could still be taught, he wished to give another chance.
What the sect leader called a dangerous stubbornness had often led him into situations that threatened his life and health.
He had been poisoned and stabbed, slashed and tortured, but he persevered and learned. The scars faded as they advanced, only silver-white lines on his body being a remnant of their existence.
When he took over the sect, he had been proud. Proud to fulfil the expectations of the previous leader, who watched the following years with happiness before quietly passing away. That man, too, was a bit like family.
Shi Yue tried his best to use his strength for those who were weaker. The common folk that was at the mercy of the strong and the rich.
He had always known his path. Walked it without regret and confusion.
Until he met Xie Yi.
When he was first informed that the person before him, casually intruding into his home, was the leader of the Demonic Sect, he could hardly believe it.
Xie Yi was like a child. He was innocent and playful, sometimes outright giddy. He’d turn pouty at a moment’s notice, then happy again, darting here and there.
All the while covered in blood, swinging his sword to kill more and more people.
For the first time in his long life, Shi Yue felt that he had failed to see through the mask of someone else so badly.
That man hid his cruelty behind a cute smile, acting like the world was sunny and bright while walking over the corpses of Shi Yue’s sect members.
He’d twist Shi Yue’s words, playing around with them until it sounded as if he had permission to commit his hideous deeds, one worse than the other.
With every year, Xie Yi turned more malicious and more outrageous. Shi Yue could feel he was being played with but was powerless to work against it.
The techniques Xie Yi used far outweighed his own in cruelty and decisiveness, making them pale in comparison. It was hard to fight against his sect when the other side knew no hesitance. More and more people fell under his hands and Shi Yue felt his heart turn bitter. He had tried to make Xie Yi stop, but failed. In the end, there was nothing to be done against that monster.
In time, Shi Yue noticed the weird markings showing on Xie Yi’s body, peeking out from where his clothes sometimes ripped during fights. He couldn’t quite tell until the day that Xie Yi, without a care in this world, discarded his half-shredded robes to continue to fight.
He had even gone so far as to play around with his own body.
The bones that stuck out of his spine weren’t human, and neither were the patches of skin surrounding his ribcage. Shi Yue had heard stories of people doing it, but that had been his first time seeing a live example.
High-levelled beasts could turn into humanoid forms, and their bones could be implanted into human bodies.
It would result in mutations or disfigurements, unnaturally stuck in half a transformation, but the bones were much harder and filled with concentrated energy. Their marrow could filter the particles and gather them, essentially making the bones a piece of growing-type equipment that would become stronger and stronger with their owner.
Xie Yi had those.
He had bones and skin, had arrays engraved on his body and additional cores implanted into his flesh.
He still managed to look beautiful, like a work of art. A cruel, saddening work of art.
Shi Yue couldn’t understand how someone could disregard their body like that, destroy and deform it just to earn power. When his mind got to that thought, he gave up.
There was no rescuing Xie Yi. He had to go against him with all of his power. And so he tried.
But Shi Yue was different from Xie Yi - he had things he loved. He had weaknesses. And those weaknesses were used to ensnare him slowly.
By the time he realized that things were a bit too convenient for his enemies, it was too late. Even a Grandmaster couldn’t win against three dozen Masters with mutated bodies raining down on him.
They dragged him along, singing, happily tearing at his hair and joyfully leaving marks on his body.
He could hardly see anything with the blood running down his face, but he still recognized the banner of the Demonic Sect as they dragged him into their hidden home.
After that, it was nothing but pain and darkness.
“Just wait, you’ll be surprised”, he had heard them laugh joyfully. A lot of footsteps, all at once, but his mind was so terribly hazy he could hardly think about it.
“It took a lot of preparation and time, but we did pretty good”, another voice said, proud. He knew it as one of the voices that mocked him all the way until he was brought into the dungeon and hung up.
Xie Yi stepped into the hazy light of the room.
Shi Yue used the last of his energy to look up at him, wondering what kind of face he would make at seeing this ‘present’.
It was shock.
Widened eyes and a slightly parted mouth, then a terrified twist of his eyebrows over his crimson eyes.
Even when I’m dying, Shi Yue thought, I still can’t see through this mask. Even now, he looks exactly like a frightened child, unable to understand what is going on.
Xie Yi was a beautiful person, much more beautiful than any woman he knew, in a very weird way.
But that made it all the crueller. All the more humiliating. How that beautiful face now looked down on him as if everything had gone wrong.
Or maybe it had. Maybe he hadn’t finished playing yet, but Shi Yue was at his end. Indeed, maybe that was what made him show that face.
“Are you happy now?”, he asked, exhausted and sad.
He had never wanted anything but a peaceful world. Even though he knew that this little wish of his was actually presumptuous and arrogant.
He only wanted a little bit more peace wherever he could give it.
But he had failed at the hands of this monster, a terrible end.
As Shi Yue slowly felt his brain shut down, he heard a single sound beyond the rush of blood in his ears.
Just a single, quiet and agonized sob, somewhere beyond that endless darkness.
Ahh, he thought as his thoughts fell apart. Who here is mourning me?