He jumped off the ledge.
He spread his navy blue cape, gliding with the wind that brushed his hair against his face, obstruct his vision even, if his hair wasn't neatly tied with a yellow ribbon. The golden hems of his cape glistened under the rays of the blinding sun, the golden floral patterns shining beautifully. The birds flew with him, circling around him to recharge his energy, leaving just as quick as they came. He flapped his cape once more, boosting himself through the cotton-like clouds and into the deep blue sky.
The view in front of him was breathtaking. The mantas honked, circling the three islands and carried whoever to the temple in a distance that settled in the middle of the huge sea of clouds. Butterflies and birds flew with the mantas, recharging any worn out traveler that deep called, or was lying on the soft grass that was occasionally adorned with flowers of different colours and kind. Daisies, dandelions, lavenders...
The warm rays softly wrapped him in their warm embrace, not too hot, but with a tinge of warmness that felt like home. He grinned, powering himself with a powerful boost of light energy that sent him flying so high, that the mantas couldn't swim their way up there.
Heck, he'd never felt so free before.
He could feel his anxiety and worries disappear along with the wind that gradually died down into a breeze, replaced by the adrenaline and thrill that nothing other than flight could ever replace, along with the refreshing taste of freedom he had never felt in years. He only grew happier and braver as he flapped his cape once more.
He was free.
However, his happiness was short-lived. Suddenly, everything came falling down as he couldn't boost himself with a surge of light energy anymore; it had run out. He felt himself fall, flapping vigorously as his anxiety grow with his panic and fear. He had just grasped that taste of freedom after so many years, and yet---
Just as suddenly as he fell, a slender hand suddenly grabbed his hand, grip tight. He panted heavily, holding onto the hand for dear life. He shut his eyes tightly, rubbing the tears away with his sleeve. He was going to die, almost was. He closed his eyes. Thank god, he muttered. Thank fucking god.
"Watch out next time, Jos." That familiar calm voice gently reminded, soothing Joseph who was falling mere minutes ago. Joseph looked up at the man.
There, was Xie Bi'an with his ever gentle expression. He wore a slightly worn out white cape with golden linings, which matched with his hair that was mostly white other than the occasional strands of black hair. Suddenly, there came a grunt from his side. The man beside Bi'an other than Joseph was Fan Wujiu, Bi'an's sworn brother. His colour scheme greatly contrasted with Bi'an's, donning on a cape of the exact opposite colour and his hair was mostly black, other than the white strands of hair that were messily braided. His face bore a more intimidating expression, which was one of the things that set them apart, other than their colour scheme, and their masks which had marks on opposite sides; Bi'an's on the left and Wujiu's on the right.
Though Wujiu was (most of the time) an angry man, he looked concerned when he flashed a look at Joseph's way, worried even. A rare sight, but understandable since a certain French man nearly killed himself.
"You scared the living daylight out of us you bastard!" Ah, that came his familiar rough voice again. Joseph could only stare at him, a feeling of guilt welling up in his stomach. He gulped, nodding as he looked away. Thankfully enough, Wujiu seemed satisfied with his answer, grunting as he turned forward and finding where to land.
".. So where are we heading right now?" Joseph softly asked. Bi'an didn't answer, but he pulled Joseph and Wujiu over to ride on a manta, reaching the temple and heading into the tunnel that led to a secluded area. Joseph didn't say anything, and neither did Wujiu, even when Bi'an set up a bonfire and took a seat on a log. Joseph was a bit taken aback at first, but then he remembered Bian had switched out his Feng Shui compass for a bonfire when they were heading to the Hidden Forest. "We'll need to take occasional breaks when we get there," He remembered Bi'an saying that as he switched his compass into the firewood.
"Let's rest here for a bit." Bi'an invited.
Joseph took a seat between the logs Bi'an and Wujiu were on after Bi'an kindly gestured the log. Perhaps he wanted to quickly talk about Joseph though, the Frenchman thought.
The three just sat in an awkward silence for a bit, before Wujiu decided to take the initiative to angrily start the conversation.
"Why did you suddenly fly off like that?! I swear, you could've fucking died right there!" Wujiu yelled at the short man, standing up. He definitely looked like he was going to start a fist fight, and that was very Wujiu.
"Didn't you know how much Bi'an and I--"
"I know!" Joseph yelled, fustrated. "I-I just wanted to fly on my own for once, alright?!"
"I don't want to keep holding someone's hand when we fly! I don't want to keep relying on you guys to bring me to somewhere, it just troubles both of you and I-I... I just..."
"It's alright, Jos." Bi'an calmly assured, cutting Wujiu, who was going to yell something, off. He shifted to Joseph's side, cupping the shorter man's face, bringing their eyes together. Bi'an wore a worried expression, making Joseph swell up in guilty.
"You said it twice. It's alright."
"Joseph. Listen to me."
It wasn't a common occurrence when Bi'an would called Joseph by his full name. Joseph liked how it smoothly ran about his tongue, but given the situation right now, it wasn't an appropriate time to think of those things.
"It's alright if you want to fly alone, but please, ask for our help. You've only started flying after so long, and I understand that you want to fly alone again. We were really worried when we suddenly saw you missing, and thank god we warped to you, otherwise..." Bi'an trailed off, going silent. Then, he sighed.
Joseph perfectly knew what Bi'an meant. He relaxed, taking Bi'an's hands in his.
"... I'm sorry I hadn't told you guys sooner that I was going flying. But I'll be fine, Bi'an. I'll tell you guys next time I go flying." He smiled, tightening his grip on Bi'an's hands a little as a sign of assurance.
Next came was some rough hair ruffling. Joseph flinched at the sudden pressure over his head, trying to stop the sudden intruder.
"You better do! Otherwise you're dead meat!" Wujiu harshly warned, but with some concern and worry laced in his voice. Joseph smiled a little, yelping as Wujiu dived in for a hug. He swore, he could feel the man in the black cape smile. The two indulged in each other's warmth, and Bi'an quickly joined in as well.
'Hey I want in too--"
"No go away, he's mine now," Wujiu growled, but Joseph just opened his arms to initiate a hug with Bi'an, who gladly accepted (to Wujiu's disdain), wrapping his hands over Wujiu and Joseph. Joseph only chuckled when Wujiu angrily grunted at Bi'an for 'stealing' Joseph, but the voices soon died down into a comfortable silence in which the three men indulged in, embracing each other tightly, each wishing to never let go.
"So, where are we heading now?"
Bi'an had a thoughtful expression, staring emptily ahead as Joseph held onto his hand tightly while holding his camera in the other hand. Suddenly, Wujiu swooped over to Joseph.
"Hey, you want to take some photos? Call it as a reward uh, trying to fly earlier."
"Sure thing, let's go--"
"Aren't we going candle farming though?"
"We're going to go candle farming and bring Joseph on field trip then! Lead the way!"
"H-Hey! You were the one who wanted me to take pictures first!"
The trio chuckled as they dived down into the tunnel connecting the Hidden Forest and Daylight Prairie, swimming through the white clouds and towards that rainy scenery ahead. Wujiu and Bi'an bickled about the rough landing, and Joseph merely laughed.
Joseph silently smiled; he was glad he had them with him, and how they were comfortable having him, although being the baggage he was most of the time. He smiles, walking into the wet terrain behind the two ahead of him. It's alright, since he's got with him after all.