Shi Yue awoke with a start, the bile in his throat blocking his ability to breathe.
Hastily he leaned to the side, arms finding places to settle disorientedly, and spit out the sour acid burning his mouth in violent coughs. Breathing was painful, but his head hurt worse.
Everything was wrong, so completely wrong.
“Shi Yue? Master? Are you okay?”, came the worried, familiar voice along quick steps, before someone steadied his body as he wheezed for oxygen.
So familiar, so wrong.
Which was right? Which was wrong? What were those memories in his head? Who and where was he even?
Another cramp shook his body, sending him retching without anything left to throw up. His eyes were fuzzy and his ears were beeping, but the soft voice still carried through.
“Thank god you woke up…”
So lightly whispered, not intended for him to hear.
Aah, but what was this all about?
The leader of the Demonic Sect, the monster that had raided the land, had killed and destroyed, had caused the death of his loved ones… Was this really the same person?
In that one’s mind, he had seen a body and heard the wail of a voice. Not quite Xie Yi’s, but still so similar that he had thought it was his father.
Now, thinking about it, did it not carry the sound of vocal cords mixed with a beasts? Did the cries not sound so much like that man’s voice?
But how? How was any of this possible?
Shi Yue pressed his eyelids together, shaking his head lightly.
The pair of hands was slowly settling him back into the bed, his torso upright. The pillow was gently moved to let him sit comfortably, and one hand was staying on his shoulder to help him sit.
“Rinse your mouth”, the voice suggested softly, and something was placed against his lips.
No other incentive was needed for Shi Yue to get rid of the remnant acid, spitting it out and then sipping a bit of the water to swallow and clean the rest of his pipe.
His sight slowly cleared up, revealing his disciple.
Red eyes like the sunset, pitch-black hair. Although he could see a hazy red line, he had a soft face that looked so innocent - and a character that went along with it.
There were people who taught me bad things, he had said.
I don’t understand what things are right and wrong, he had said.
Can you teach me? Shi Yue, Shi Yue, I’m just happy you are alive, I like you a lot-
Have you ever regretted becoming a cultivator?
...He had said.
The person before him looked haggard, obviously sleep-deprived and exhausted, lips dry like he hadn’t cared to drink enough water for quite some time.
“Xie Yi”, Shi Yue called out softly and the youth twitched, leaning closer with worried eyes and scrunched eyebrows.
“Yes? Can I bring you anything? Are you unwell?”
Instead, Shi Yue silently looked into his eyes, watching them closely. He reached out for Xie Yi’s collar and tightened his fingers around the fabric.
His voice was hoarse, but felt that he needed to say those words. “Stay by my side, Xie Yi, where I can see you. Don’t do bad things.”
The beautiful face showed a stunned expression, then brightened. His eyes turned into half-moons, the wide smile showing his teeth. Xie Yi laughed softly, his cheeks flushing red. “Un. I’ll listen to you.”
God, Shi Yue thought, if this all wasn’t just a horrible, horrible joke, if he can truly be changed, if there really is such a thing as a second chance in this world-
Then please don’t take it from me.
The world before him turned black as he sighed, his consciousness pulled into the familiar darkness of sleep that his body welcomed happily.
The next time he managed to pry his eyes open appeared to be another day. Someone had drawn the curtains so that the early morning sun wouldn’t blind him.
He blinked. His eyelids felt like lead and his eyelashes felt glued together. His head was still pounding like being hit with a hammer.
The transition out of his dreamless sleep had not been as violent as the one of remembering his memories. It allowed him to at least keep a sense of where he was when he finally opened his eyes.
“Finally, you’re awake”, he heard his master sigh and a set of footsteps accompanying the words. The sect leader stepped into his view and leaned forward, touching his forehead and then sitting down out of his view again - right next to him, on an overly cushioned chair.
Shi Yue let his head fall to the side to see the old man.
“You were out for another two days. Three weeks in total, now”, the sect leader helpfully informed. More than anything, cultivators liked having an overview of the things that happened when they were out right as they woke up. “How much do you remember?”
“Everything until I fell unconscious.”
“That’s good. You were in a really troublesome state for several days. Your disciple never left your side except to help out with the potions. We had you stabilized after a week but you refused to wake up. You looked like you were having a nightmare.”
Shi Yue pursed his lips and kept quiet. The sect leader continued summarizing.
“Xie Yi informed us that you woke up momentarily. I guess these last two days were you gathering some energy again. How do you feel?”
“Like run over by a horse carriage. Several times.”
“Fair enough. Anything I can bring you? Are you hungry?”
Shi Yue groaned. His stomach revolted at the mere thought of eating. “Some water please.”
There was water inside the room but the sect leader didn’t take it. He hesitated for a while and then left the room to fetch water from elsewhere to allow his disciple some time alone.
When the door closed, Shi Yue shut his eyes as well.
The memories were unnatural in his head. They felt like a dream; a bit like a story he had read recently, a bit like one he had lived himself. The strongest emotions had carried over, however.
And now that he was awake, it crushed down on him.
He still felt the tearing pain in his heart. Ying Hua who was broken. Xue Hua who was torn apart. His friends who didn’t survive the war.
Lastly, the feeling of his own body as he died.
The fury and bone-deep hatred was climbing up his veins. He was having trouble breathing.
This kind of hatred was too hard for him to control. It didn’t come bit by bit so that he could keep it under wraps but all at once.
Cultivators could destroy themselves from falling into this kind of state. Go crazy and turn to demon-like existences.
He knew and he had to control it, it was only-
Everything was too painful and he too exhausted.
It was a horrible feeling that made him feel worse and worse with every second. That man, the leader of the Demonic Sect, he was the one who had done it! He was the one who started it all! Xie Yi was-
The scream echoed in his head, loud enough that the one screaming must have torn their throat.
I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I never wanted this!
...No, that wasn’t true.
The leader of the Demonic Sect… was dead already. Committed suicide by tearing his own heart out.
His disciple wasn’t that man. Had Xie Yi not said so himself?
‘That one’ wants to vanish. And the wish was being granted.
Besides, he should not blame the weapon for being one. He should blame the wielder. Xie Yi could have been stopped if only he had realized it and had been willing to try.
Mingtian would have supported him on it. They would have had the time to turn things around.
But the preconditions for that to happen had been too unlikely, nearly impossible.
So things had gone the way they had.
The door creaked open hesitantly. Shi Yue forced his eyes open to look at it.
The one peeking inside looked hesitant but beamed when he saw Shi Yue awake. Careful, quiet steps tapped on the ground into his direction.
Xie Yi sat on the chair that the sect leader had sat on and looked at Shi Yue with strong concern in his eyes.
“Good morning... “, he said and hesitated on what else to say.
Shi Yue watched the awkward young man. He never knew what to say in complicated situations. He was easily confused and always a bit fidgety around Shi Yue.
The Grandmaster lifted his hand and brushed it against Xie Yi’s cheek, where the glaring red scar ended. His disciple twitched a bit, his eyes going wide in confusion but he didn’t reject the touch.