It was too hot, and too loud.
He felt dazed. He didn’t know where he was for a moment. It was too confusing, too much at once, too much noise too much going on and blurring by. His body hurt, drained. Moving felt like an absolute hassle, his limbs all feeling like lead.
Someone knelt down beside him, leaning over and shaking him, calling out to him, but whatever they were saying was just muddled noise. It took a few moments for the noises to slowly start to focus and sharpen, and as it did, it only made his head hurt even worse.
“Feng Xi!!! Come on, we have to go now!!”
Feng Xi frowned, blinking as he tried to get his senses together before a loud crashing noise nearby drew him out of his concentration. The tree fell and hit the earth hard, causing the ground to shake violently and groan.
Looking around, he saw that nearby trees were suffering the same fate, one by one falling down as machines cut into them, tearing them apart until they could no longer stand on their own anymore, gravity taking over and causing them to collapse.
Feng Xi remembered now what was going on, and he gritted his teeth, white hot anger instantly coursing through his entire being.
“No, I’m not--I’m not going anywhere,” he said through clenched teeth, attempting to stand on his own. He hardly got up past his knees before his legs gave out and he collapsed once more. He would’ve hit the ground too if Luo Zhu hadn’t reached out and caught him just before he hit.
“We have to go!” Luo Zhu said frantically, shaking his head. “The guild knew you were going to fight back, they sent elfins to fight against us if we tried interfering again. You’ve already been tossed around enough, there’s too many, we can’t keep this up!”
Did Luo Zhu just want to give up?
Did they just want to give up their home like this?
Why should they give it up? Why should these humans be allowed to tear down and take whatever they wanted? How was that fair?
Didn’t the guild promise that they would protect their home if he became an Executor? After so many years of doing what he was told, of protecting these selfish humans, this was the thanks he gets?
To be ganged up on by elfins that were obviously below him, yet had strength in numbers?
Luo Zhu tried to help Feng Xi to his feet in order to flee, but Feng Xi shoved Luo Zhu away, causing the other elfin to stumble to the ground just as Feng Xi barely caught himself from collapsing.
He felt so drained, so tired and weak. He wanted to fall to the ground and give up to die with this forest that they were tearing apart, but he would rather fight until his last breath than to give the humans and the guild the satisfaction of taking him down easily, of retreating.
“They’ll have to kill me before I let them take our home!”
What was meant to be an attack aimed directly at the machines the humans controlled, was instead deflected by vines shooting up from the ground and pulling them down, wrapping around them until there was nothing left.
Luo Zhu threw himself at Feng Xi, the two fighting against each other as Luo Zhu managed to restrain Feng Xi’s arms.
“Don’t attack!” Luo Zhu shouted. “If you do then the other elfins will know where we are and come at you again!! Damn it, Feng Xi! We need to go NOW!!”
He was too weak to fight back properly, far too weak to do anything than to push against Luo Zhu and drag his heels into the earth. Feng Xi shouted and demanded to be let go, but no matter what, Luo Zhu remained silent and continued to drag Feng Xi, his shouts and demands falling on deaf ears.
Seconds dragged on, passing by in a blink of an eye, and Feng Xi found the burning rage subsiding into painful desperation. Slowly, he lost the energy and will to fight back, growing more and more quiet until he didn’t speak at all.
It was a few more moments until Luo Zhu spoke up again, this time not talking to Feng Xi, but to Xu Huai and Tian Hu.
“I’ve got him,” Luo Zhu said. “Xu Huai, make a path for us to leave.”
In a final attempt to fight back, Feng Xi yanks away from Luo Zhu, but doesn’t even make a step before falling to his knees.
From where they were, he could see out to the forest, to their home they were leaving behind.
Trees were falling at an almost steady pace, one by one by one, as a fire raged in a different part of the forest, created by Feng Xi destroying a few of their machines before being dragged away.
Slowly, their home was being reduced to nothing, and his chest ached in a way he didn’t know was possible. It felt as though they were tearing him apart instead, piece by piece, limb by limb, and it hurt, oh it hurt so so much.
His fists clenched tightly, but that’s all the energy he had to be angry. His vision blurred with hot tears, running down his face as his shoulders shook at the force of his own anguish.
Was this what they deserved?
After everything he did for the guild, was this all that he was worth? Empty promises and chased away from his own home?
He was so sure that they would be able to spend forever here, that they would be happy and together here for as long as they wanted.
Not too long ago, he had even brought Wuxian here. He had wanted Wuxian to be with him forever here.
Now, he didn’t have either of those things. His home was being taken from him, and Wuxian decided he would rather stay at the guild, even after Feng Xi had told Wuxian they lied. There was no place for Feng Xi to be.
A hand softly touched his shoulder, and looking up, Luo Zhu wore the same pained expression, large tears running down his face and looking as though he was in complete anguish. Turning his head and looking over, he saw Xu Huai and Tian Hu also crying.
They all felt the same pain as they watched their home become destroyed.
“Come on, Feng Xi… We… We need to go…”
Feng Xi woke up, dazed and confused.
Memories from the dream lingered at the back of his head, demanding to rip open his heart and let the wounds bleed anew, but he swallowed down the lump in his throat and blinked back the burning in his eyes. No, he couldn’t focus on that now. Right now, he needed to figure out what happened.
The last thing he remembered was Xing apologizing to him, not falling asleep, so waking up in his room was really startling, to say the least. He felt worn down and out of energy, with his head spinning, even in the near complete darkness.
He sat up, and hand instantly shooting out to hold onto his aching head as he let out a groan. Seriously, what the hell happened…?
“We thought it would take you longer to wake up.”
Feng Xi turned his head slowly to the sound of the voice, not at all afraid, as even though it sounded worn down and exhausted, he could still recognize Luo Zhu’s voice anywhere.
Luo Zhu stood over by the door, looking as if he had only just entered the room a few moments before Feng Xi had woken up. He stood there rather awkwardly, hands behind his back and touching the handle of the door, as if he didn’t know where to put himself, where he belonged.
“How long have I been out for?” Feng Xi asked, looking over at the window, the curtains pulled back a little to show the city. It was still dark outside, but the moon was in a different position in the sky.
“A few hours, probably,” Luo Zhu shrugged. “I wasn’t told how long you were out for before I got here. The sun will be up soon, though.”
Well, that was a relief at least. He didn’t want to disappoint Xiao Hei if he weren’t able to see the young elfin.
The room filled up with silence, Feng Xi staring out the window and Luo Zhu staring at the ground.
It made Feng Xi’s chest ache a little. There was a time where Luo Zhu would say everything and anything on his mind without care. They would laugh easily, and conversation would come naturally between them. Now, the uncomfortable tension hung in the air like a thick fog, and Feng Xi had no idea what to say, what he should say. He was afraid of upsetting Luo Zhu further than he already was. At this point, Feng Xi figured it was just better for him to keep quiet and wait for Luo Zhu to say what he needed.
A noise that sounded like shifting weight caught Feng Xi’s attention, and he watched as Luo Zhu slowly walked over and sat next to Feng Xi on his bed. Without saying a word, he reached out and grabbed gently onto Feng Xi’s right arm. One hand held onto his wrist while the other ran his fingers over the silver bracelet. They were warm from Feng Xi’s own body heat, having worn them for so long now that occasionally he would even forget they were there.
After a while, Luo Zhu frowned, slowly shaking his head as his eyes stayed focused on the bracelet. “I don’t like this,” he muttered, close enough that Feng Xi didn’t have to strain to hear him. “I can’t feel your spiritual energy at all like this. It almost--It almost feels as though you’re still--”
Feng Xi placed a comforting hand over the one Luo Zhu was using to trace the bracelet, stopping his movement and holding it tightly, giving a reassuring squeeze. Luo Zhu’s shoulders trembled as he released a heavy breath, and Feng Xi could tell he was doing everything he could to keep from crying. Knowing that Luo Zhu was in such pain hurt Feng Xi’s chest, aching deep and down to his very core.
He never wanted to make any of his friends suffer. He never wanted to put them through this pain.
Eventually, Luo Zhu calmed himself down and he gave Feng Xi’s wrist a small squeeze to reassure him, to let him know he was alright.
“Why do you have to wear these things anyways? No one else has to, so why you? It’s just unfair punishment. Elfins are entirely made up of spiritual energy, I can’t image what kind of torture you’re going through wearing these…”
Feng Xi shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. It’s my punishment, you shouldn’t need to be worrying about me.”
“There you go again,” Luo Zhu scoffed, finally looking at Feng Xi for the first time since Feng Xi woke up. There was a fire in his eyes, one that told Feng Xi that he was upset and angry, and that he needed to shut up and listen. “Since when did you start going on about not needing to worry about you? When did you start hiding things from us? Why does anything bad that happens have to fall solely on your shoulders?”
He found himself unable to answer. Luo Zhu wasn’t looking for an answer anyways, so no matter what he responded with, it wouldn’t end well. Feng Xi looked away, back down at their hands that were still holding each other, and he couldn’t tell which one of them was shaking.
Luo Zhu let out a heavy sigh, as if there was a weight upon his shoulders of his own before leaning forward until his forehead was rested on Feng Xi’s shoulder, their hands held together in between their bodies, and Feng Xi found himself feeling comforted instantly.
It was a feeling that he missed greatly.
He missed the casual touches between him and the others since being back. Luo Zhu always initiated touch, always needed it whenever he needed comfort. Having grown up together, raising each other, they all grew used to it and it became something important to them.
Feng Xi didn’t realize just how touch starved he was until Luo Zhu was leaning against him, probably missing it just as much as he did, if not more. Besides, it was Luo Zhu who had to go almost 7 years alone, with no such comfort to get him by, as everyone from their little family had split apart in one way or another.
Unintentionally, he caused them all to suffer, even though all he wanted to do was to keep them from such a fate…
“Luo Zhu, I… I’m sorry,” Feng Xi muttered as his grip on Luo Zhu tightened, as if afraid he might pull away, as if he might leave. “I really never meant for any of this to happen. I just wanted to give you all a home, and when I failed and ended up hurting Xiao Hei…. I couldn’t live with myself at that point. I couldn’t handle the weight of the guilt of what I had done. I ended up failing you all again…”
“You never failed us, not even once,” Luo Zhu said as he shook his head against Feng Xi’s shoulder. “All we wanted, all we needed, was just to stay together. We face whatever comes our way together, remember?”
“So don’t go deciding things on your own anymore. Stop hiding things, tell us what you’re feeling and thinking and we’ll do the same. As long as we stay together, that’s all that matters.”
Feng Xi felt his heart ache as he nodded and pulled Luo Zhu closer, trying his best to fight the tears forming in his eyes.
He knew he should rely on them more, but he always felt that he needed to face all the hardships alone. That they shouldn’t have to worry about him, or about anything. Ever since losing their home to the humans, Feng Xi took it upon himself bit by bit to be the one to worry about things. It got so bad that, in the end, he couldn’t turn to them about the situation in Long You, and that they shouldn’t have to face the punishment of his actions.
Of course, in the end, they still had taken upon judgement for his crimes, and Feng Xi will never forgive himself for such a thing.
But, for right now…
Right now, Feng Xi felt like he could slowly learn to rely on others again. To not carry burdens larger than himself. It felt wrong, but he also felt something like relief.
They held each other close for a while, happy to be together, content in each others presence and warmth. Luo Zhu was the first to pull away, giving Feng Xi a smile that seemed like it was lighting up the darkness of the room before turning his attention back to Feng Xi's wrists. Luo Zhu once again just stared at the bracelets, rubbing his thumb across the surface of it now, before stopping with a confused look.
He said nothing as his attention moved from Feng Xi's wrists to his right hand, right at where the metal band on his finger was. “You still haven’t taken this off?”
Feng Xi was confused for a moment before he looked down and saw what Luo Zhu was mentioning. “No, I haven’t.”
"And you don't know where it came from? Or what it does?"
Feng Xi shook his head.
He knew absolutely nothing about it, and kept forgetting to ask Xing. Either way, it brought him a sense of comfort and calmed him down whenever he twisted it around when he felt nervous, so whatever it was it certainly wasn't malicious, that's for sure.
After a few moments of inspecting it, Luo Zhu muttered to himself, "this looks just like…", before he looked back up at Feng Xi and raised his eyebrows. "You honestly don't recognize it at all?"
This certainly was cryptic and confusing, but Feng Xi shook his head in response again.
That seemed to be the wrong answer because Luo Zhu was rolling his eyes as he finally let go of Feng Xi's wrist and hand, muttering something about being dense, low enough that Feng Xi couldn't pick up on it.
Oh well, if Luo Zhu wasn't too worried about it, then it certainly wasn't something for him to worry about either.
“Zi Luolan has already been told about your situation, she said she doesn’t want you going into work for the next few days,” Luo Zhu says as he gets off the bed and stands up, wrapping his arms around himself loosely. “It’d be best if you listen to her instead of trying to go in. She’ll get really upset and chase you out with some random gardening tool.”
He hadn’t known her for that long, but honestly, Feng Xi believed it. You’d have to be this kind of overly caring in order to be friends with Xing anyways, who has threatened him more times than he could count in the past.
Feng Xi followed to stand, only to have Luo Zhu quickly reach out, hands hovering in the air as if he was unsure of touching Feng Xi, like they weren’t just hugging a few moments ago. “Wait, you really shouldn’t be getting up,” Luo Zhu said with worry in his voice.
“Why not?” he asked.
“I don’t know what happened, but I guess whatever went on was pretty severe. You probably shouldn’t be moving around too much right now, you just woke up.”
Smiling gently, Feng Xi reached out to one of his hands hanging uselessly in the air and gave a small, gentle squeeze. “I feel fine, I promise. Besides, you seem like you’re ready to leave, and I want to see you out.”
Luo Zhu just stood there for a moment, mouth open slightly as if wanting to protest before he finally sighed, shoulder sagging and arms returning to wrap loosely around himself. “Yeah, I’m leaving. Unlike you, the rest of us didn’t get any sleep.”
The rest of us?
Feng Xi could guess that Luo Zhu was referring to Xing, as she had been the one with him before Feng Xi blacked out. She had probably also called up Luo Zhu instantly, figuring that he could help out since they were the same type and knew each other for years.
He felt guilty for having worried them and even making them stay up all night, especially Xing. Luo Zhu had spiritual energy to circulate through his body, he could stay up for a few nights without a problem. But Xing couldn’t regulate her spiritual energy, probably didn’t even know what it felt like to be flowing through her entire being. She was more human at this point than she was elfin.
Standing up, Feng Xi’s vision tilted just a little bit, causing Luo Zhu to once again reach out and stop right before they touched, but the dizzy spell passed almost as quickly as it appeared. As they left the room, Luo Zhu kept staring worriedly over his shoulder, as if Feng Xi was going to collapse again at any moment.
There was a soft glow from the living room from the dimmed lighting, casting most of the place into shadow. It hurt Feng Xi’s eyes for a moment before they adjusted to the glow.
Upon noticing them, Xing shot up to her feet from where she was sitting on the couch. She looked scared as her eyes quickly looked back and forth between the two of them, unmoving otherwise for a few moments before she let out a trembling breath, eyes landing solely on Luo Zhu.
“I-- Luo Zhu,” Xing muttered, reaching out a shaking hand towards him. Luo Zhu at the point made it clear he wasn’t going to look at her, and Feng Xi noticed how his arms wrapped tighter around himself for a moment before he practically stormed out of the apartment. Xing called after him and quickly followed.
In a way, Feng Xi felt bad for her, but at the same time, what she did was wrong. She didn’t lie to them, but she omitted much of the truth from both of them. Yes, what she did got them to reunite with each other, but it was still wrong to have done what she did. Luo Zhu had the right to be upset with her, especially since she was in obvious contact with him and didn’t mention Feng Xi’s return all this time.
With how quick and sudden everything happened, Feng Xi didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary until moments later.
He froze up, breath caught in his throat, before his hands tightened into fists as he scowled.
Wuxian was in a corner of the room that was mostly in shadow, unable to be spotted that easily. His hands were behind his back, as always, leaning against the wall behind him a little. He made eye contact with Feng Xi for only a second before looking away.
“What’re you doing here?” Feng Xi snapped. He was instantly on the defensive, just like when they first met all those weeks ago in the guild when Feng Xi had first woken up. “Are you here to make sure I don’t cause problems?”
“Xing called me,” was all Wuxian said, still not looking directly at Feng Xi.
For some reason, his very apparent avoidance was pissing him off, and Feng Xi did his best to not instantly lash out. He scoffed. “A precaution by the guild, I’m sure. I don’t know why they bothered to bring me back when they’re so obviously ready to get rid of me at a moment's notice.”
Maybe it was a trick of the light or just his imagination, but Feng Xi saw subtle movement from Wuxian that looked much like a flinch. However, it was there and gone within seconds, so he couldn’t be sure what he had seen.
“I had asked her to call me,” Wuxian finally answered, his voice sounding slightly strained and mumbled. His eyes finally wandered, looking downwards until they rested on something. Following his line of sight, Feng Xi saw that he was staring at the ring on his hand with an extremely unreadable expression. He felt a flare of protectiveness for it swell in his chest, not wanting anyone to look at it, so he stepped in a way that hid his arm behind him. Unable to stare at the ring, Wuxian looked up at Feng Xi, their eyes locking for only a moment before he once again looked away.
Of course, Wuxian wouldn’t want to be looking at a monster.
Before Feng Xi could open his mouth to say something more, Wuxian beat him to it. “Your spiritual energy became unbalanced due to stress, causing you to lose consciousness. Xing had called me for help, as she couldn’t transfer any spiritual energy of her own to you, before I got a hold of Luo Zhu. Since you two are of the same type, he was able to stabilize you quicker,” he quickly explained.
Feng Xi blinked in confusion for a moment before realizing what Wuxian was talking about. He was explaining why he was here, answering Feng Xi’s first question and clearing up the situation. It was a little odd though, to think that Luo Zhu would answer the phone sooner for Wuxian than he would for Xing, but he was currently upset with her. He probably would’ve let her calls go unanswered and messages unread.
This entire situation was just so messed up and it made Feng Xi feel restless. Not only did he have something else to worry about thanks to the guild, but now Wuxian was in front of him, and Feng Xi could only control himself for so long. He didn’t want to risk vulnerability. He didn’t think he’d be able to handle it.
They stood in silence for a bit, with Feng Xi unsure what to say next. He didn’t want to thank Wuxian, even though a part of him told him that he should, or at least say something about it. However, from the corner of his eye, he saw the slight shifting of colour, and turned to look out the window. Without having realized it, the sun was climbing up into the sky, slowly giving the world warmth and colour.
“Well, thanks for the help,” Feng Xi said sarcastically, slowly taking his eyes away from the view outside his window to once again look at Wuxian, forcing himself to, “but I need to leave soon, so you’re overstaying your welcome at this point.”
“I thought Luo Zhu told you not to work for a few days.”
“Then where are you going?”
“I don’t need to tell you.”
“..... Let me go with you.”
“Why? Did the guild tell you to keep an eye on me?”
“I’m leaving with Xing anyways, there’s no point in you going.”
“Xing isn’t home.”
“She followed Luo Zhu earlier and hasn’t returned.”
At this point, Feng Xi could probably go alone, all he wanted was to go buy a few groceries since Xiao Hei and said he’d come back again today. Feng Xi wanted to make the younger elfin some homemade food instead of buying them vendor foods that he most likely lived off of, since Wuxian is his shifu and Feng Xi remembers just how terrible his cooking had been years ago. He more than likely hasn’t improved since then.
But the thought of going alone, even so early in the morning where most were still indoors, still asleep or just starting to get ready for the day, it made him feel anxious. Feng Xi could go to the flower shop on his own because it was too early for even the sun to be up, and it was in a less busy part of Long You.
He could always wait for Xing to return, but he didn’t know how long that would be, and he didn’t know when Xiao Hei would show up either.
It took Feng Xi a while to consider his options until finally, he let out a heavy sigh, defeated. “Fine,” he snaps, “but you’re not going with me in that.”
Wuxian seems to blink in confusion for a moment before looking down at his outfit, seemingly trying to find anything wrong with it before looking back up at Feng Xi, a slight furrow to his brows. “What’s wrong with this?”
Technically, there wasn’t anything wrong with it. If Feng Xi could, he would’ve stayed wearing the same outfit he’d grown comfortable and used to for so many years. However, neither of their outfits apparently fit in with modern times, and warranted a lot more attention than Feng Xi would like. “I don’t want to be stared at,” he muttered. Whenever anyone stared at him, it was either full of nothing but judgement or fear, and while he particularly didn’t care more often than not, he didn’t like it when it came from large crowds. It made him nervous and caused his anxiety to grow quicker.
Wuxian was silent for a moment before once again speaking up. “I don’t have anything to change into.”
Feng Xi scoffed, shaking his head.
This was just going to be more work for him in the end, wasn’t it?