He’d been angry. He didn’t understand why Xie Lian was being this way. He’d been so on edge lately. Lashing out and doing things that weren’t like him. It frustrated Feng Xin to no end. He didn’t know how to help Xie Lian because he didn’t know what was wrong with him. So Feng Xin left because it seemed that’s what the crown prince wanted.
After a few days he returns. His anger has settled and he’s calm. He couldn’t leave Xie Lian. He would march into the house and figure out what had his best friend, his prince, so torn up. What he finds is an empty house, destroyed. The king and queen aren’t there, Xie Lian is nowhere to be found. It doesn’t take much for him to piece together what happened. He races from the house, running as fast as his feet would carry him.
“Xie Lian! Xie Lian!” Feng Xin screams over and over as he runs through the woods. A plea that Xie Lian is okay. That he come to him. He’s sorry he left. He runs until he can’t anymore and then he just sits under some trees. All he can think of is the king and queen, the sorrow on their face in those last few days. Xie Lian’s fear and panic. Now that Feng Xin thought about it, Xie Lian was really scared. He was tired and scared and he couldn’t rest because he was so terrified. Feng Xin let out a sob, covering his mouth. Xie Lian’s terrified face filled his mind. He thought Xie Lian was stressed and exhausted, that’s why he was seeing the white calamity. What if that monster chasing him was real and Feng Xin had left him to it?
A few days later Feng Xin is walking through a town, he can’t remember the name, it doesn’t matter Xie Lian isn’t here. He stops when he hears whispers. The words make his eyes go wide and heart race.
“There’s a white masked man ravaging towns.” Someone said. It was low but not low enough for Feng Xin not to hear it.
“They say under the mask is the crown prince of Xian Le. I’ve heard rumors he seeks vengeance for what An Yong did to his people.” Another added. Feng Xin clinched his fists. It couldn’t be true, Xie Lian would never. He’d never hurt anyone, not without reason.
“They say he appears in all white, few have seen under that half smiling-half crying mask. By his side is his apprentice, no one knows who he is but he wears a similar mask and is in black. He does the monsters bidding and follows his every command.” Someone else adds. Feng Xin can’t take hearing anymore so he walks away. He’ll find Xie Lian and he’ll make this right.
He doesn’t find Xie Lian, only the damage he leaves behind. Feng Xin refuses to believe it’s him causing this mayhem. He shoved away all those words, stored them in his memory and did his best to forget.
Years later after Xie Lian has made his way back to them. He’s fought his way to survive. Feng Xin finds his nerve as they sit next to each other on the front stairs of Xie Lian’s temple. The place he’s made his home. Only then does Feng Xin get the nerve to ask Xie Lian what happened.
“Tell me what happened after I left. I need to know. I came back to look for you, but you were gone.” Feng Xin glances over. He sees the pain cross Xie Lian’s eyes.
“It was better you didn’t find me like that.” Xie Lian answered, drawing his knees to his chest.
“I found my parents dead. They killed themselves because they felt like a burden to me.” Xie Lian sounded so sad. The pain never seemed to go away. “You were gone, my parents dead, Mu Qing had left long ago. I had nothing. I’d been beat down, tortured. Everything hurt.”
“Tortured?” Feng Xin gasped, eyes widening. Xie Lian nodded his head.
“The white calamity kidnapped me, that’s why I was gone all night that night, he made people stab me thousands of times. I lost count, it hurt so much. I couldn’t even scream he gagged me with Ruoye. He mocked me as the people stabbed me and all I could do was take it.” Xie Lian shivered. The memories were still so painful. He couldn’t forget the feeling of being tied down as the blades drove into him over and over again.
“Xie Lian, I had no idea.” Feng Xin felt so sick. He couldn’t imagine it and yet his mind gave him an image. Xie Lian tied up, blood pouring from him while he screamed and begged for mercy. For someone to save him. No one came.
“Of course you had no idea. I didn’t want you to know.” Xie Lian answered turning away as tears slipped down his cheeks. “I didn’t want anyone to know what he’d done to me. How weak he made me feel. Plus, I knew you wouldn’t believe me.”
“I...” Feng Xin wanted to argue that he would have but at the time when had he believed Xie Lian. How many times had he cried and screamed that the white calamity was after him? How many times had Feng Xin wrote it off as nothing?
“I’m sorry I left you. I’m sorry I never believe you.” Feng Xin said. He should have stayed, he should have been there to help Xie Lian. He’d left him in his darkest hour.
“It’s okay. You did what was best for you.” Xie Lian wiped the tears away and pull himself together. He stood up and smiled as he saw Hua Cheng in the distance.
“Now you’ll do what’s best for you.” Feng Xin whispered. He knew his words went unheard. Xie Lian was already gone, running into the arms of Hua Cheng. Feng Xin felt his heart drop as he watched Xie Lian smile at Hua Cheng in the same way he once smiled at Feng Xin.
Hua Cheng and Feng Xin both saw Xie Lian at his worst. Hua Cheng stayed, Feng Xin walked away and right now he felt the greatest loss of all. He earned his freedom, one he never desired, and lost his prince.