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Baekhyun had to blink a few times before he saw past the hazy film that had gathered while he was sleeping, Yixing’s form sitting across him sharpening as he slowly wakes up. He snorts as the older’s head thunked softly against the window, not even stirring him from his sleep. His dark hair was sticking up in weird angles, and Baekhyun could be nothing but endeared as he noticed how much it contrasted against the soft white of Baekhyun’s jacket that his best friend was wearing. Sighing, he swept his hair out of his vision, staring at the shifting landscapes. From the modern apartments of the city to the old shaggy buildings from the countryside. Ever since he had been a child, Baekhyun had dreamed to live in the city, wanting to leave behind the family compound and start his own life. Back then, his parents had laughed, but the dream hadn’t lessened. No, he had followed through with it. Partly for now. Starting at university had been a big step for him. No one in his family ever went to University, never mind to study Psychology. He and his parents had fought about it, but Baekhyun had managed to convince them. This was his life, his dream, and no one would stand in his way.

‘Except maybe Yixing’, Baekhyun thought as he glanced at his friend, but Yixing didn’t even try. Instead, he had agreed, followed him to pursue his own dream of becoming a doctor. Both of them were, even if they were on the other ends of the spectrum. He had been Baekhyun’s light in the dark ever since they were kids, and Baekhyun was proud to say it was the same the other way around. Even when they were from rivalling clans, even when they didn’t speak the same language, didn’t have the same interests, Yixing and he had hit off right away, inseparable from day one.

Fondly he watches as the other woke up, but he also felt a slight dread. He didn’t know why he felt like this, he didn’t remember anything being wrong when they stepped on the train. Going back to their families wasn’t a bad thing, Baekhyun had missed his family dearly, but in all honesty, Baekhyun knew he was going to miss the city. The dorms they had been staying in could be used for 2, so they had moved in together. They had their routine burned into their system after just one day of living together. Years of growing up together made them attuned to one another. They didn’t need words to understand each other, to know what the other needed, to fall in a pattern. Going back meant they’d fall out of that, even for just a while, and Baekhyun disliked the thought. He wonders if that’s what's bothering him.

“Take a picture, it will last longer.” Yixing’s voice was sleepy, and Baekhyun finds it adorable that it made his Chinese accent come through heavily. He snorts.

“You already take up most of my polaroid film, can’t I just stare at you without being called out for it?” Yixing chuckles affectionately and Baekhyun can’t resist smiling back. “You woke up just in time, the next stop is ours.” He mentions and the other nods as the lapse back into a comfortable silence. Silence with Yixing had never made him uncomfortable, even though Baekhyun has always had troubles with silences as soon as Yixing was out of the picture. He’d crack a joke, or start a conversation about nothing, even leave sometimes. Yet back when they had first met it had been just them sitting against a tree, no words had been exchanged. They hadn’t even known each other's names. Yixing trying to read a book too difficult for his age, and Baekhyun basking in the sunlight in a flower field with a stranger with an even stranger book by his side.

He stands up as their stop comes into view, making their way out as they finished gathering their stuff. Before Baekhyun could start their track to the family compounds, Yixing grabs him by the elbow.

“You’re not still pouting about having to sleep in a different room, are you?”

On cue, Baekhyun starts pouting. “Kind of,” he mutters, turning away from the other to hide his embarrassment at being caught. “It’s just gonna be so weird to not be able to walk across the room and slip into yours whenever craving cuddles, or wake up at 1 A.M. and see you standing in the kitchen making hot chocolate milk with honey because you felt like it, or-“ A hand covers his mouth and Baekhyun’s mouth shuts with an audible click of his teeth. “I know Baek,” That nickname coming from Yixing never failed to make his insides all gooey, even when the other was reprimanding him. The fact they are still standing in an empty train station, almost pressing against each other as they talk so softly that they’re almost whispering didn’t make the butterflies roaming around in his stomach any less enthusiastic. “But it’s just for a little while. Knowing you, which I do very well, I’m sure you’ll have our parents convinced to sleep in the same room within the week and then you’ll have me to cuddle up every night.”

“It’s just… Not the same…” Baekhyun trails of softly, looking at the other with a hint of sadness. A look which was returned while fingers reach out to cup his cheek to stroke it softly. Yixing pulled back after a second, so they start making their way towards the exit, and the moment they left the station the dread Yixing had managed to shake away returns tenfold. He glances at Yixing and was somewhat reassured of the frown on the other’s face. He isn’t imagining it then. He softly squeezes the other’s hand before he starts walking the muddy work road that leads to home.

Both Yixing and he are children from rich traditional clans, each owning a compound that housed around 15 people each, children excluded. The clans dated back from the time that demons roamed the earth and humans were still in need of spiritual shamans to exorcise them. Or at least, that’s what the clans would tell them when they were younger. They still do, but Baekhyun simply stopped believing them. He believes in what he can see, what he can feel, what he can heal. So in other words, he believes in science. He and his family clash about it a lot, but Baekbeom accepted that that’s just the way he was and his parents decided the believes were less important than being a family so their interactions never soured. They love him how he is, and he loves them back with equal vigour. He wouldn’t give up his family for anything in the world.

Lost in thought as he is, he almost walked into Yixing who had stopped in front of him. He offers a sheepish smile at the taller as a form of apology. The other smiles back.

“We’re almost there.” He says like they both weren’t aware, and the smile slips from his face. Baekhyun knows he can feel the same dread increasing with every step he took closer towards their home, and they both know something is wrong. Never had his instincts gone so off the charts, and he has to swallow against a lump in his throat whenever he needed to breathe. He reaches out to touch Yixing’s hand hesitantly, filling with relief as the other immediately intertwines their fingers. If he learned one thing from his childhood it as to thrust his instincts. Right now, those instincts telling him to turn around and flee, as if something had settled in these familiar landscapes which he would never be able to get rid off.

Breathing in loudly through his nose, he collects all his courage to continue home. “Let’s go.” Finger squeezed as he took Yixing’s lead without question, the familiarity of it slightly comforting.

Yixing and he, they had met accidentally. Members between two different clans usually didn’t interact, but Baekhyun had been curious about the hole in the wall. He had gone through it without trepidation, hoping he’d catch a talking white rabbit to lead him to his wonderland. Instead, he had found this boy sitting underneath a weeping willow, hiding from the sun under the waterfall of leaves. The boy had blinked up at him, and patted the spot next to him, indicating for Baekhyun to sit down, which he had. They had shared silent moments before the boy had pointed at the flower drawn unto the page surrounded by words Baekhyun hadn’t known before he started talking in a language unknown. Baekhyun had looked at him, telling him he didn’t know what the other was saying, and then they had fallen silent again. The next time the boy spoke, he had pointed at the same flower, before saying one word. After a few repeats, Baekhyun had tried saying the word. The other wordlessly encouraged him until he had gotten it right, and they had gone to the next flowers. Only when the sun started to sink under the buildings did Baekhyun make his leave, but not until he had pointed at himself and said his name. The other had smiled, repeating it, before pointing at himself and saying ‘Yixing’. They had shared a soft smile and met up the next day. And the day after that. At a certain point, he had to tell his parents, as they had started getting worried about where he’d go off to, who had been surprised but all too willing to give their son a tutor to learn Chinese.

As the compound came into view, his reminiscence soured at the feeling of the heaviness expanding. He stopped right outside the closed gates, not letting go of Yixing even though the other had to be at another gate.

“Something is wrong.” Yixing whispered, and Baekhyun was equally glad and terrified that it wasn’t just his imagination. Breathing away the telltale signs of a panic attack, his hand gripping even harder at Yixing’s, who squeezed harder as a response. Letting go of his travel baggage, he reached out with a shaking hand and gave a push as he stepped inside. He felt like his heart stopped at the sight of no one, familiar setting tinted with unfamiliar silence, and he heard Yixing’s breath hitch behind him.

“Y-you should go check how things are at your end.” Baekhyun basically vibrated in his spot, already walking towards his house at the centre of the compound as he felt Yixing follow.

“Wherever you go, I go, remember?” His voice was barely a whisper, and it was only because Baekhyun expected the answer that he caught it.

“Whatever we see here, or don’t see,” Baekhyun started when they crossed the central plaza, “The moment we know what is causing this… feeling, we go and check on your parents.” Yixing squeezed his hands in agreement, and really that was all he needed to push open his front door, only to be met with more silence. Unnatural, heavy silence coated the air, and it made Baekhyun choke because the heady scent of ritual incense clogged his throat.

“This specific incense,” Baekhyun turned towards the other, “Is only ever used in case of demon attacks…” Yixing’s eyes were wide while looking at the younger, who let go of his friend in favour of bolting towards the basement, where he knew the rituals took place. Yixing followed him with haste. The moment he opened the door that leads to the basement, he was met with a stench he couldn’t place but turned his insides around. He has to stop for a second before he could ignore it. He feels Yixing’s hand trying to hold him back as he rushes downstairs. Opening the sliding door that was obscuring his view, he promptly pukes at the scent and sight of his families rotting frames.