Music drowned out the noises of children screaming and playing, of horns honking off in the distance. It was a bubble between him and the world, cutting him off from it.
Feng Xi stood staring up at the large tree in the middle of the city, untouched by humans itself, yet the surrounding area had become something beautiful. Concrete was long replaced with vibrant flowers and soft grass. It felt like a small paradise in the middle of such a hellish and harsh place, and he felt himself repeatedly drawn back to it.
However, no matter how often he came here, he never went up to that grand tree. Something stopped him each time, unable to bring himself to get close to it. Something aches each time he did, and so he would turn back around and walk away from it.
With the wind blowing through it and rustling the leaves, it looked as if it was breathing, alive.
“I noticed you’ve been coming here often.”
He looked over his shoulder and saw Xing approach, standing next to him and looking up at that same tree. “You know, they named this park after you,” she said after a moment of silence. “This area used to be a construction site, but they could never agree on what to build here, so it went unused for years, collecting rust and looking like a complete eyesore. Really, this was sort of a blessing in the end, now it’s not gross to look at.”
Feng Xi at least had the courtesy to pause his music and take out the earphones, though he was merely only half listening to whatever she was saying as he looked down, hands buried deep in his pockets.
Something hostile twisted in his chest, and he gritted his teeth, taking a moment to breathe before speaking. “You knew where Luo Zhu was this entire time, didn’t you?”
Xing shifted her weight on her feet, still looking at the tree.
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Why did you suggest that I get that damn job if you knew he was there?”
Finally, she sighed and turned to face him, frowning. “What good would it have done if I told you? Would you have reached out to him, or continue to hide away?”
He tried to control himself, he really did, but Feng Xi felt himself giving away his control to his impulsiveness from emotions as he turned to face her, hands now by his side and fisted tightly. “Why the hell did you deceive me? What did you gain from all of this?”
“Why are you so quick to jump to the conclusion that I did this for my own gain?”
“I would’ve never gone to that stupid flower shop if I knew Luo Zhu was there!”
“And that’s exactly why I didn’t tell you. You would’ve continued to wallow in self pity and refuse to reach out over some kind of belief that it’s your punishment, when in reality you’re just being a coward. How often do you think it is that someone gets a second chance?”
“What I do isn’t for you to decide!” Feng Xi shouted. He felt pushed against a corner, even though he was out in the open. He felt raw, exposed, and he tried everything he could to keep his throat from tightening from the emotions, to not lose control.
Xing sighed and shook her head. “No, it’s not, but I’m not going to let you waste this second chance, not after everything that was risked to bring you back.”
“Risked? What are you talking about?”
“I’m going to take a wild guess and figure you haven’t reached out to Wuxian since you’ve been back, have you?”
Feng Xi startled a little. What did Wuxian have to do with any of this? Wuxian hates him, Wuxian has hated him for so many years now, why would Feng Xi reach out to him? Why would he claw and reopen his own wounds, his own feelings, that he was trying desperately to ignore since all those years ago when Wuxian made it perfectly clear to him that he wanted nothing to do with Feng Xi anymore?
Silence filled in between them for a few moments as the two stared each other down, the only noise breaking the silence was the world continuing on without them, completely oblivious to the raging emotions and turmoil going on. The sun continued on shining, the wind continued to breathe, and humans cared not for the troubles of others.
Shoulders sagging with an invisible weight, Xing sighed once more as she closed her eyes. “I’m not the enemy here, Feng Xi. You’re standing in your own way, I can tell. You deserve this second chance, and I’m trying to make sure you don’t waste it. Anyways, I didn’t come here to start an argument.”
“Then why did you come here?”
Opening her eyes, she turned around and looked behind them, and Feng Xi followed her line of sight. He didn’t know what she was looking at, and just as he was about to open his mouth to ask, he heard someone call his name.
A familiar voice, the call of his name being something he had grown familiar too even if it was for a short time, one he always found himself wanting to reach out towards and wanting to protect. Even now, after all he’s done, after all the terrible things he did that couldn’t be excused or forgotten.
Even after 7 years, Feng Xi could still recognize him, even though the small elfin was no longer so small and has grown since then, carrying himself proudly and with confidence. He was less round, more agile looking, yet when Xiao Hei’s eyes fell upon him, they were still the same, full or adoration and wonder. They still shone brightly as Xiao Hei broke into a wide smile and ran with all his might towards Feng Xi.
Xiao Hei crashed into Feng Xi without hesitation and wrapped his arms as far as they could go around his waist. Feng Xi was startled for a moment, wide eyes staring down at Xiao Hei as he remained unmoving, and then, like a damn bursting, all sorts of feelings came to him and he was able to will himself to finally move. It was so easy to wrap Xiao Hei in his arms, still small even if he’s grown well, and he could hear the excited laughter close to his ear as Feng Xi knelt down and pulled him close, with Xiao Hei adjusting to wrap his arms around Feng Xi’s neck.
“Feng Xi!! You’re back!!!” Xiao Hei exclaimed, voice sounding just a little off as Feng Xi felt his shirt slowly dampen with tears.
“En, I’m back, Xiao Hei,” he reassured the boy, squeezing just a little bit tighter as his chest hummed with fondness and adoration for this little one.
He didn’t deserve this. He definitely didn’t deserve to have Xiao Hei laughing in happiness, not with what he did to him. Out of everyone, Feng Xi knew he wronged Xiao Hei the most, yet here he was, unhesitating in throwing himself in Feng Xi’s arms, as if everything has been forgiven.
He didn’t deserve this, but he wanted it so, so bad…
Xiao Hei explained how he and his friends had been hunting for Feng Xi for the last day and a half.
He hadn’t been to Long You in a while and didn’t know any elfins who might know something, so the beginning of their search was the hardest, however he did know a few that he had seen interact with Wuxian before, and figured that would be the best place to start. He remembered an elfin with strange bracelets that Wuxian had spoken to before about it, but had no idea what her name was nor where she might be in Long You.
What Xiao Hei did remember was Zi Luolan and her working at a flower shop, but he didn’t know the name of which one, so Xiao Hei and Xiaobai teamed up, while Argen went alone, to each flower shop inside of Long You, which… turned out to be a bit more than they expected, but it was still a manageable number.
And thus, the hunt was on!
Luckily, the hunt didn’t actually take as long as they thought it would, because Xiao Hei had been drawn to a particular shop that was a bit more out of the way than the others, as it gave off a strong amount of spiritual energy.
They had just almost missed the shop being closed when they got to it, but luckily Zi Luolan recognized him and allowed them to come in as she closed up the shop.
She willingly answered their questions, telling the children that the elfins name was Xing, as well as giving her address and phone number. It had been a shot in the dark that she would know who it was they were talking about, but it paid off in the end.
It had taken a few hours for Xing to get back to their messages sent from Xiaobai’s phone, but once they got through to her and explained the situation, she arranged a time and place for them to meet, knowing that Feng Xi would be at the park instead of his apartment.
Feng Xi smiled as he listened to Xiao Hei tell his story, his heart feeling lifted that the little elfin did whatever he could to find him. It was nice to know that someone who knew the terrible things he did still wanted him around, even when he knew he didn’t deserve it at all. Especially not from Xiao Hei. “It sounds like quite the adventure you and your friends had,” he said, patting Xiao Hei on the head, ruffling his white hair--
He pulls his hand away as if he was burned, shoving both of them into his pockets.
The action doesn’t go unnoticed by Xiao Hei, staring at Feng Xi for a few moments before taking a large bite of the sweet treat Feng Xi bought for them.
“I think the most dangerous part was my gege driving,” Xiaobai says with a large smile.
“Hey!” Argen shouts. “It wasn’t that bad! I think I did pretty well!”
“We almost went off a cliff at one point, I don’t think that counts as ‘pretty well’.”
Xiao Hei turned around to face the two, frowning. “Next time, we’re taking a bus if we need to go anywhere. Or I’ll just go alone. I threw up at least three times. Three!”
“You just have a weak stomach,” Argen waved off, though he looked down in embarrassment.
Listening to the children banter, Feng Xi slowly calmed himself down. He didn’t want to make Xiao Hei worry, especially since he spent so much time and effort already searching for him. It wouldn’t be fair. He didn’t have the right to make Xiao Hei worry either, so he just silently listened to the children talk among themselves and went wherever they wanted, as it seemed as though Xiao Hei’s two friends have never been in Long You before.
Eventually, Xiaobai must’ve realized that Xiao Hei would be fine on his own, and should have some time with Feng Xi, because suddenly she’s dragging Argen away from them insistently.
Xiao Hei waved to them, feeling a bit nervous, but he was happy they had made it with him this far, and there were still things he didn’t feel comfortable enough disclosing to them, so he was glad for this chance to talk with Feng Xi in private.
“You’ve made some good friends,” Feng Xi says, giving a small smile. “A little surprising when I realized that one of them was human though.”
Nodding, Xiao Hei smiled. “They’re really good friends, they’ve supported me through a lot.”
“Last I knew, you didn’t like humans.”
“Hmmm, I’ve gotten used to them, they’re not all bad. Xiaobai is really nice, and she mentioned something about wanting to become a wildlife conservationist when she gets older!”
Realizing that Xiao Hei’s view point on humans had changed, it made Feng Xi realize just how much time he had lost, how much different Xiao Hei was now compared to the last time they saw each other. The world had continued moving without him, it will continue to move with or without him.
It was startling.
In the end, it didn’t really matter if he was around or not, did it?
So far, he’s just brought people pain and made mistakes.
Maybe he should…
Blinking, Feng Xi looked down at a worried Xiao Hei, who was tugging lightly at his sleeve. “Are you okay, Feng Xi?”
His chest felt shaken up and rattled around, he didn’t trust himself to talk at first, so he nodded his head and tried to give Xiao Hei a reassuring smile. “I’m okay… What do you want to do now?”
The young elfin didn’t seem convinced by his words, even less so when he changed the subject, but luckily for Feng Xi, Xiao Hei didn’t ask any more questions about it. Looking down, he thought for a moment before looking back up, an excited smile on his face. “I wanna see where you’ve been living.”
Darkness was taking over outside, no longer the hours of golden light as the skies were now a dark purple to a black, specks of little white stars shimmering as they poked out one by one in the veil of darkness.
Entering the apartment, Feng Xi clicked on the light, and the place was instantly illuminated in a soft glow. After having seen Zi Luolan’s apartment, Feng Xi had very slowly been adding to his extremely barren and dull living space. It was still a work in progress, but now there were a few plants here and there, growing abundantly despite the short amount of time he’s had them.
Xiao Hei looked around curiously, an excited skip in his step. Feng Xi allowed the younger elfin to rush around and explore the small space. It didn’t have much to offer, but he seemed interested nonetheless.
“Did the guild give you this place?” Xiao Hei asked, poking his head back into the main living area once he was finished with his exploration. “It’s really nice!”
Feng Xi nodded, amused by his enthusiasm. “Is it really that nice? I can’t tell.”
“Well, it’s a lot nicer than some of the places I’ve been to and seen. Sometimes, shifu and I would have to stay in gross motel places if we couldn’t find anywhere else. Humans can be really disgusting sometimes.”
He listened to Xiao Hei’s rambling as he sat down, feeling a rush of exhaustion from the day.
“Who’s your shifu?” Feng Xi asked, frowning a little in confusion. A part of him already knew the answer, and it made him feel a little cold, a little conflicted.
Xiao Hei seemed to pick up easily on these emotions as he slowly looked away from Feng Xi, looking instead out to the window that showed the illuminated city before them, bringing light all around while the sun was absent.
“It’s… Wuxian is my shifu.”
Something really cold and conflicted twisted in Feng Xi’s chest. He didn’t really know how to react to that news, other than he truly wasn’t surprised. Wuxian was a highly skilled and powerful Executor, and with his help, there’s no doubt that Xiao Hei will become one of the strongest elfins known.
Feng Xi did his best to swallow around the lump that formed in his throat. “I see… Does that mean he’s in Long You as well?”
There was a moments pause before Xiao Hei shook his head before once again looking at Feng Xi. “I came here without telling him. He didn’t want me to come see you,” the child explained as he made his way over to the couch and sat beside Feng Xi, who flinched slightly.
The panic that was curling up began to even out upon hearing that Wuxian wasn’t in Long You, but it was now replaced with something else. Something hollow and bitter. Feng Xi scoffed. He didn’t need Xiao Hei to explain to him why Wuxian didn’t want Xiao Hei here, near Feng Xi. Wuxian made it very obvious what he thought about him so many years ago.
“I don’t… I don’t hate you, you know…”
Hearing Xiao Hei speak again, Feng Xi looked over and saw that Xiao Hei was clenching his hands and looking a little unsure, as if what he’s saying wasn’t the right words, or as if he was having a hard time speaking his mind.
“I wouldn’t blame you if you did though, what I did was unforgivable--”
“But I don’t!” Xiao Hei raised his voice a little, the outburst causing Feng Xi to jump a little. The uncertainty in his voice was now replaced with a determination to get his words across. “Maybe in the beginning, after everything that happened, I had some complicated feelings towards you, towards everything. I didn’t know why what happened had happened, but eventually I realized that I-that I really don’t hate you. I don’t! I just… want to understand.”
There was some kind of resolution in Xiao Hei’s voice, as if he had thought long and hard about this for a long time. And Feng Xi supposed he didn, Xiao Hei had 7 years to think about this, to think about everything that happened.
“Even if I explain, it won’t make what I did any better,” Feng Xi shook his head, closing himself up in all ways that he could, wrapping his arms around his waist and making the space between himself and Xiao Hei bigger.
He doesn’t get the right to explain, he shouldn’t be given the chance to. No matter how one looks at it, what he did was wrong, it was cruel, no matter what ways one would try to justify it, in the end it was unjustifiable, especially to a child who just wanted a home, a child that had placed all his trust and belief into to give him that home and protection.
Feng Xi didn’t deserve this, he didn’t deserve Xiao Hei smiling around him as if all was forgiven. He didn’t deserve Xiao Hei spending so long searching for him and even going behind Wuxian’s back to find him.
Feng Xi wasn’t worth it. In the eyes of the Guild and to most elfins, he was a hazard to be restrained and kept away from others. He was the worst kind of monster.
Something small and warm touched his arm, causing Feng Xi to open his eyes that he didn’t even realize he had closed tightly. Xiao Hei had moved across the distance between them and reached out, resting his hand on Feng Xi’s forearm, right above where the silver bracelet was located.
“If you don’t want to talk about it now, that’s fine, but you already told me the reason you did what you did was because you wanted to finally have a home, but you never explained why you did it, what lead up to it and how you were feeling to do that. I just want to understand, I want to know if… if it was something I did, if it might’ve been my fault.”
“What? Xiao Hei-- No, none of this was ever your fault, I was just--”
No matter how he tried to word and piece it together, it all felt like one big lame excuse. Feng Xi was just left feeling frustrated, trying to figure out what to tell Xiao Hei, but nothing- NOTHING- was good enough because he wasn’t good enough.
Scoffing, Feng Xi shook his head and leaned forward, propping his elbow on his knee and holding his forehead. “I was scared,” Feng Xi spat out, teeth clenched in his self-rage, “that’s all there is to it. The damn Guild wouldn’t leave us alone--for YEARS they had been following us, backing us into a corner. That island was the last piece of hope I had and I had to find some way to protect it from the guild, to make it so they couldn’t ever find us again.”
Xiao Hei listened intently, silently, a hand still placed comfortingly on Feng Xi’s arm.
Feng Xi sighed. “You were just dragged into something you weren’t supposed to be a part of. Originally, we just wanted you to live with us on the island because you reminded me so much of myself once. Alone, confused, wandering aimlessly for a home that was stolen from you. Honestly, I just-- I wanted to give you a place to call home, Xiao Hei, and I hoped that once you called it home and liked it there, then you would want to join me in protecting that little bit of sanctuary we had left…
But then the guild had to show up once again, and that was my fault. I had gone to get you personally, and I led them straight to us. If it had been anyone else, I would’ve been fine, if it- if it just hadn’t been Wuxian-- …. In the end, I was desperate. I wanted the guild to leave us alone, I felt responsible for destroying the island, and I knew that you would be told things that would make you no longer trust me. The consequences of my actions didn’t fully set in until after I had already used Realm, and at that point I couldn’t go back. I didn’t know how to go back.”
He let out a trembling sigh and closed his eyes. He couldn’t bring himself to look at Xiao Hei.
It all just felt like one big excuse in a weak attempt to justify his actions, but he wasn’t. In no way did Feng Xi want to justify himself. He knew what he did was extremely wrong, how he ended up almost manipulating Xiao Hei and almost killing him, how he hurt others in the process, and then left everyone behind to deal with the mess he created because he couldn’t see the point in fighting anymore, didn’t see the point in anything. The running, the fighting, the stress and the desperation-- there was no point in it, he’d never be given a chance to settle. He’d constantly be on the run.
Even now, he didn’t think he deserved to be here.
They should’ve just left him alone, let his spirit scatter apart. It would’ve been the best for everyone in the end. He hurt the ones he was trying to protect the most.
Desperate or not, they deserved better. They deserved better than him.
“You don’t need to shoulder so much on your own. From now on, you don’t need to face things alone anymore. We can work through things together, Feng Xi, because I know you’re good and want to protect everyone, but you have to let others carry the weight with you. Whatever happens now, we’ll work through it together, I promise.”
It was strange, being comforted by a child while he was decades older, had decades worth of wisdom and experience. Yet here Xiao Hei was, telling him the same thing Luo Zhu had told him, to lean on and depend on others.
Feng Xi shook his head with a breathy laugh, running a hand through his hair as he looked up at Xiao Hei, a small, broken smile on his face. “How did you become so wise?”
“I have an amazing shifu, and someone who cared for me and did their best when no one else was there,” Xiao Hei said with a smile, one that looked hopeful.
“You’re around Wuxian too much, he’s rubbing off on you,” Feng Xi reached out and ruffled Xiao Hei’s hair adoringly. “Create some mischief every now and again, isn’t that what children are supposed to do?”
“I’m creating mischief now by coming here, since he really didn’t want me to see you alone.”
Slowly, the smile on Feng Xi’s face disappeared.
Ah, that was right.
Wuxian hates him and thinks he’s dangerous.
He had probably been there that first day Feng Xi woke up in order to make sure Feng Xi wouldn’t do anything, wouldn’t end up hurting anyone.
Wuxian had probably been against the entire idea of bringing him back in the first place.
This will probably be the only time he’ll get to see Xiao Hei again, as he’s sure Wuxian will find every way possible to keep them apart.
Feng Xi can’t even find it in himself to be mad either. It’s what he deserves, isn’t it? To be treated like a monster like elfins were feared to be so many years ago, when the world still knew about them, and they would curse at their existence.