It's almost sundown, the sun stabs through the dense Forestry like its threatening to cut it apart. The stream of the river is everlasting. It's sacred.
He had to wash himself in it, for every scent but his own, needed to be clean for what's to come. His body has seen 22 winters, 20 of which he trained for this very moment. The man learned how to ride a feral horse before learning how to talk.
It's time for another breath. He concentrates on nothing but the crisp air, body calm and mind in perfect meditation. Holds it, until the adrenaline pumping through his body threatens to pick up his well-paced heartbeat.
They smell fear like blood. The objective is to stay calm or die. Yixing had accepted his eventual death on this day a long time ago. If he was to be accepted, he would be part of the pack, live with it, become a warrior, a rider. It's an honour. Whatever happens today, he is at peace with his fate.
He takes another deep breath, the air of the forest is humid. He does not shiver. The sun has since set further, the river still flows by his ankles, unending and serene. It is the border of their territory, he cannot enter without permission.
A wolf begins to sing in the distance. That is a good omen. Wind picks up around him, rustling the leaves, making out a sound by ear becomes impossible. He still stares straight ahead, into the remains of the setting sun, between the trees, until it's rays won't hit the water's surface anymore.
It is almost time. The wolf's howling subseeds. He takes another breath, cares to straighten his posture. He wants to meet his destiny with pride. The sun is gone, its light still shines weakly, and he still looks forward, waiting for the pack. There lay a chain of made of iron in the dirt beside him.
He closes his eyes one last time, takes one last breath as gigantic paws -huge enough to crush his skull- thunder into the clearing. His heartbeat does not pick up, he does not move, he keeps his eyes ahead, no reaction visible.
The pack is quieter, now that they are close, assessing, studying. His lungs are still filled with air as he begins to sing. It's a lullaby, to serenade the wolves, or to grant his soul easy passing. There is growling and yipping behind him, as if the youngest couldn't him, as if the youngest couldn't be still in their excitement. They are quieted by their elders.
One of them steps into the river with a splash, his paws are big enough to wet his feet as it steps into his field of view. His muzzle is grey, his bones tired, his yellow eyes speak of wisdom as he bows down to stare into the human's eyes. A deep sound, almost like a purr, permeates from his chest.
Yixing does not blink until the wolf does, bares his neck in submission, still humming the tune which accompanied him to sleep for so many years.
He stretches his arm out, slowly, his fingers lay limp in his palm. No threats. The wolf must have made its decision then. It picks the iron chain off the ground, unbelievably gentle for a being greater in size than a warhorse, with teeth as long as Yixing's hand.
The wolf dips the chain into the river, washes it clean, deposits it draped over the still stretched out arm, steps back. He straightens his back again, some of the tension falling off of his shoulders. It is decided.
He still does not move, it is not yet done. The old wolf beckons another forward, who is seemingly reluctant to meet his fate, his human. He is black as the night, blending into the darkening forest like a shadow. His eyes are deep green, and he is huge, maybe the biggest wolf among the pack. He could swallow the man huge, yet he does not.
He, too stares at yixing for a simple moment, scanning him until he lowers his head, deep, deeper. The growling of the pack, the birds, even the wind has quieted.
The river streams on. It's sacred. He crawls into it, muscles aching because he sat unmoving for so long, the chain still in his hands. They are shaking, but he wills them to be still. He raises his arm, slowly, deliberately wrapping the chain around the neck of the beast, clasping it, steady. No sudden movements, for they could still mean death. Yixing does not smell like pack yet.
He has half the mind not to startle as he is finished with his task and the elder wolf raises his head to start the howl.
The pack joins. Yixing joins. He is part of it now.