“Xiao Hei? Xiao Hei!”
The young boy blinked before lifting his head up, looking embarrassed. “Sorry, shifu, what did you say?”
Wuxian sighed a little. “What was the last thing you heard?”
Even after thinking for a moment, Xiao Hei… couldn’t remember the last thing he heard. He zoned out a long time ago.
Already expecting this, Wuxian shook his head but placed his hand gently attop Xiao Hei’s head, ruffling his white hair affectionately. “That’s okay, we’ll continue tomorrow, you must be tired.”
“I’m not tired!” Xiao Hei exclaimed quickly in defense, his cheeks puffing out. “Come on, I can still go a while more! Please, shifu!”
Wuxian opened his mouth, about to say something, when there was a low growling noise. They stood in silence for a moment as Xiao Hei’s face slowly reddened in embarrassment, his face twisting. “Maybe not tired,” Wuxian said slowly, obviously trying to keep the amused smile off his face, “but certainly hungry. We haven’t eaten anything since breakfast.”
“N-No, I’m not…” but Xiao Hei knew there was no fighting it. His shifu knew him too well, even after just two years of studying under him as his disciple. Xiao Hei was a growing boy after all, he needed to eat. Finally, with his eat down in defeat, Xiao Hei relented.
“What’re you hungry for?” Wuxian asked as he started leading the way, confident that the boy would follow him.
“Chicken!! I want chicken!!!”
He thought of spots of sunlight filtering through the trees.
Plants overgrowing human made buildings, reclaiming it to the earth. Birds chirped high up on their branches as other critters freely ran around, unafraid of the place they lived in.
It was a lovely place, one that made him feel safe and at home, like he would be taken care of here. He’d never have to leave.
A suffocating feeling suddenly came over, and upon looking down, he was wrapped up in vines, making it impossible for him to move no matter how much he struggled and tried to break free. His heart was pounding in his chest. The sounds from the forest were silent, but the silence was deafening, too loud, too much.
A familiar voice.
A flash of purple.
A dark ceiling was the first thing that greeted him when his eyes flew open, and he scrambled to sit up. The suffocating feeling from the vines was still deep in his lungs, kicking off the blankets he wraps himself in and attempting to get a full breath. His vision was swimming, everything feeling like he was submerged underwater.
“Xiao Hei, look at me, I’m right here.”
His eyes searched for that familiar voice before landing on Wuxian, his expression one full of worry. “You’re fine, it’s okay,” Wuxian said, his voice calm and reassuring despite the worry look he wore.
Slowly, Xiao Hei felt himself relaxing. There was no purple here. Everything was blue, and calming, and safe. He was safe here, as long as Wuxian was here, he was safe.
With careful hands, Wuxian reached out and placed a hand on Xiao Hei’s shoulder. For a moment, Xiao Hei flinched from it, his mind screaming that he was going to get hurt from that hand, but once it touched him and nothing happened, he relaxed. Slowly, he regained his breath.
Wuxian moved so he was now sitting on the bed, his back supported by the headboard, and allowed Xiao Hei to climb into his lap. “Focus on my breathing, Xiao Hei,” he said, running a gentle hand through the white hair that didn’t belong.
At first, this would happen every few days out of the passing weeks, happening too often for comfort, but it was to be expected. Xiao Hei, although an elfin, was still just a child. A child that only ever knew how to be on his own, and was hurt by the same hand that reached out and offered safety the very first time in his life.
Luckily, as time moved on, Xiao Hei was also able to move on, and these sorts of things came by rarely. They were working towards helping him to trust in others. It was a slow process, but at least the dreams came less frequently. That was the part that scared Xiao Hei the most, and the hardest to bring him down from.
This dream must not have lasted very long, because Xiao Hei was quick to focus on the calming breaths he felt from Wuxian, his breathing evening out and the shaking to stop.
Wuxian expected Xiao Hei to fall back asleep after using up so much energy from the scare, feeling exhausted right after, and that’s what he thought had happened as the silence dragged on for a few moments.
“Shifu?” Xiao Hei called out in a small voice, so completely different than the loud boy Wuxian was used to.
“What is it?”
Whatever he wanted to say, Xiao Hei seemed to take a long time in gathering his thoughts to say it, because he was silent once more for a few moments before once again saying anything.
“You… You knew Feng Xi before, right? Before… Everything?”
It would be safe to say that, upon hearing that question, Wuxian was surprised. For the most part, they never spoke about anything of what happened, nor with the ones that were involved. Neither one wanted to bring it up.
Well, Wuxian knew that this would come eventually. “I did,” he said, nodding his head lightly. He felt his own chest twist in a combination of feelings.
“Can you tell me a bit about him? Maybe then I… Then I can understand why he did what he did…?”
“You know you’re under no obligation to forgive him, right? No matter what, you don’t have to justify what he did to you.”
Xiao Hei weakly nodded his head. “I know, shifu, but I don’t know what to think. I just want to understand him, I guess. I’ve been thinking about it for a while.”
“Is that why you’ve been so distracted lately?”
Wuxian thought it over for a moment. Telling Xiao Hei everything, it would mean opening up his own wounds that time had slowly healed over, thinking back to those days he hadn’t thought of for so long, but still cherish enough to never let them go.
In a way, they both were scared, weren’t they?
He drew in a calming breath.
“Okay, Xiao Hei, I’ll tell you…”
“Shizun!! Wuxian and Feng Xi are fighting again!!!”
The shoutings of the surrounding crowd was blocked out as a punch landed against his face, making his head spin and thrown off balance for a moment. He wiped off the blood with the back of his hand, and threw a glare at the other standing before him.
“Why the hell does the guild allow a human like you in anyways?!” Feng Xi shouted, hand reaching out and grabbing at Wuxian’s collar. “You think you’re so much better cause you’re a human that learned how to control metal? Ha!”
Wuxian ignored the taste of iron in his mouth in order to knee Feng Xi in the gut as hard as he could, making the other sputter and cough, his grip releasing. He took advantage of the situation, shoving Feng Xi over onto his back and sitting on his abdomen, using his weight to keep the other down. He pulled his arm back, ready to land his own punch against Feng Xi, but was forced off of him by someone grabbing his arm.
“That’s enough, the both of you!”
Hearing the angry sounding voice of their teacher, it should’ve made Wuxian worried, but it didn’t. Instead, he attempted to fight against the grip, lunging at Feng Xi once again only to be held back effortlessly.
“Both of you are to come with me this instant!”
The taste of iron never left his mouth, as the two of them were dragged behind their teacher, exchanging glares whenever given the chance, until finally they were pushed into a room and the door slammed behind them.
At least they knew better than to start a fight right in front of the teacher.
Said teacher sat down behind a desk in front of the two, letting out a heavy sigh as he rubbed at his temples. “I understand you two are young, but must you really get in so many fights? This is the fourth one this week.”
Wuxian stood at attention, his hands placed politely behind his back but were balled into tight fists. Feng Xi, on the other hand, stood as if he was about to once again lunge, in defense. Of course, it was no surprise when he opened his mouth and fought with the teacher. “He instigates though! He’s so arrogant that he just begs to be punched!”
“Arrogance?” Wuxian scoffed. “Is that what you call everyone who’s stronger than you?”
“You are NOT stronger than me! Humans will always be inferior to elfin’s and that’s just a fact!”
“Knock it off!!!” The teacher yelled, followed by his hands slamming down onto the desk and effectively breaking it in half, the pieces falling to the floor in a heap. The two instantly stopped their bickering and closed their mouths.
With a heavy sigh in defeat, the teacher looked at the mess before walking around it, deciding to ignore it for the moment. “Feng Xi, there’s no such thing as humans being inferior to us. This is the whole reason the guild was formed, so we may all live in balance and peace with one another.”
Feng Xi wanted to argue against him, but kept quiet. It was one thing to argue against Wuxian, but it was another to fight their teacher.
“This might be the perfect time to give both of you a new mission…”
This instantly caught their attention, looking at their teacher now with interest and questioning gazes. It wasn’t often that students were given missions so early. But because of the timing, Wuxian couldn’t help but frown, feeling suspicious over what this new mission may be.
“It has come to my attention that, even though the both of you are the strongest students I quite possibly have ever had, reaching leaps and bounds above your peers, you both are also extremely naive and stubborn. Wuxian, you are very terrible with communicating with others and can’t work as a team. Feng Xi, you have yet to realize the purpose for the creation of the guild and your place within it.”
The teacher paused, looking back and forth between the two, challenging them to say anything against him.
“Therefore, before you two can be appointed Executors, I’m sending you to a human village, where you both will work together to not only help the humans living there, but also deal with an elfin resistance that’s threatening said humans.”
“So I’m being expected to fight against my own kind?” Feng Xi sneered.
The teacher nodded. “If you’re to become Executor, this is one of the things you may be tasked to do. Some elfin won’t listen to reason, and instead need to be taken down by force.”
“This is ridiculous.”
Wuxian rolled his eyes.
“There are already some of your classmates over there,” the teacher continued, “but they’re not to help with your mission. If either of you are to act out, they will notify me. If either of you fail, then you both will be held off from becoming Executors.”
“You’ll punish the both of us?” Wuxian couldn’t help but ask, his eyes widening a bit as such a thing sank in. The two exchanged looks, both of surprise and of distrust.
(“Ah, why did the room suddenly become full of static??”)
“Feng Xi, how could you almost let those humans get crushed?! I thought I told you to protect them?!”
“Since when did you start calling the shots on this mission? We’re supposed to work together, remember?” Feng Xi spoke in such a condescending way that made Wuxian’s blood boil, losing almost all of his well-kept composure. “Besides,” Feng Xi continued, shifting his gaze so he looked as though he was now looking down on Wuxian, as if he were the superior one, “you seemed to have no problem hurting those elfin, are they not worthy of protection?”
Wuxian gritted his teeth. “That’s not the same and you know it!”
“No, I don’t!” Feng Xi snapped back. “What makes humans so worthy of protection while the elfin aren’t?! All they’ve done is destroy! They destroy everything they touch, yet all you and the guild want to do is protect them! You’re biased, you’re not here for peace and balanced, all you want to do is save yourself and the rest of your kind!”
“You think I don’t know that? How do you think I ended up in the guild?!”
The silence that followed felt crushing to both of them. They never explained their pasts to each other, never gave an explanation to why they joined the guild. The only thing Feng Xi knew was that most of the members of the guild treated him different. Figuring that was because of him being a human, of that being a novelty, he never asked about it.
“I was taken in by the guild because I was left to die.”
From the moment elfin are “born”, they’re pretty much alone and left to fend for themselves, unless by some lucky chance there are others nearby that decide to take you in. Feng Xi didn’t have that sort of thing, he was alone the moment he was brought into this world, figured everything else himself. Therefore, he was able to help the other elfin that came into being, was able to teach them.
He knew vaguely that humans were different, they were small and very fragile while young and needed protection from the older humans for many years before they were able to take care of themselves.
“From the moment I was born, everyone could tell there was something different about me, and it scared everyone, even my own parents. Because of that, they left me abandoned me in the forest. If it wasn’t for an elfin who had already been nearby hearing my crying, I probably would’ve…” Wuxian couldn’t finish his sentence. Besides, Feng Xi could know what he meant by leaving it off.
“So why do you choose to protect humans?” Feng Xi asked, frowning. “If they were so ready to toss you away, then why protect them?”
It was a tricky question to answer, and some days, Wuxian didn’t even know himself. He’s aware that humans tend to destroy, that they’re selfish and have no care for the world around them. Some days, being the same species as them made him feel sick to his stomach. “Because I know that not all humans are terrible, and it’s those that are good that I want to help protect.”
Feng Xi opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out. He couldn’t think of a single thing to say in response to that. Finally, he scoffed, before walking past Wuxian. “Fine, but if I ever find out you have me protect one of those “terrible humans”, I won’t be able to forgive you.”
Wuxian had nothing to say to that as he watched Feng Xi walk away, shocked that the other didn’t try to fight him any more on the subject.
He let out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding…