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Death doesn't discriminate between the Sinners and the Saints

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"Don't touch him!" His voice echoed through the temple hall. Wu Xie stood in the big door slightly panting and bloodied from fighting his way through.

"Don't you dare touch him,” he repeated, eyes never leaving the robed man at the altar who was holding a far younger man up by the hair with an ornate knife pressed against his throat.
Li Cu was trembling, eyes wide and fixed on Wu Xie from the moment the man had stormed into the room.

"Let him go! He's just a child!"

"Ah, but what would you give us in exchange Mr. Wu? You're outnumbered, and you can't possibly believe we would let him go just like that. A child's innocent blood is the perfect tool to bring him back to us!"

Hearing the words, Li Cu whimpered and tried moving away from the man but his grip was too strong.

"You need a sacrifice? Fine! Take me!"

"No, dad!"

The robed man's laughter nearly drowned out Li Cu's frightened voice but Wu Xie was able to hear him anyway. Sending the youth a soft smile, Wu Xie slowly made his way towards them.

"Take me and let him go!" Wu Xie repeated, now standing in front of the altar, gazing soft and reassuring directly at Li Cu.

"Take you? Hmmm! I must admit that is a very tempting offer. Afterall your status might just trump his innocence!" The man grinned at Wu Xie, looking borderline manic as he did so.

"Fine! Have it your way Mr. Wu!" With that, the robed man pushed Li Cu from the altar. He landed on the hard stones, a pained noise leaving him as he met the ground.

"Li Cu!" Wu Xie tried to move towards his adopted son but was grabbed from behind by two other cultists.

"Ahaha Mr. Wu. A deal is a deal! We fulfilled our end now you will fulfill yours. “

The man laughed as his companions forced Wu Xie onto the altar. They bound his hands in front of him and then forced him to kneel as his son had moments earlier.

“Dad”, Li Cu called again weakly, pushing himself up on a pillar behind him, “don’t do this.”

Wu Xie heard the pain in his son's voice and his heart broke. But adopted or not, Wu Xie knew that he would do anything to keep him alive.

His thoughts went to Pangzi and Xiaoge. Even with the note he’d left for them, he doubted that they would arrive in time. Not that they didn’t know where to find the temple, where he and Li Cu were in right now.

Ironically, they had discovered this temple barely two weeks ago and with it an abundance of old parchment scrolls. They detailed the different rites and stories concerning the god to whom the building belonged.Wu Xie had gone through all these scrolls within five days of them finding the temple and had been intrigued by the god mentioned in them.

Pangzi had joked that Xiaoge had to be careful or he’d lose Wu Xie to an ancient war god. Though Wu Xie made sure to thoroughly placate his lover’s worries later that night. Not that the other ever had any reason to worry. He’d stolen Wu Xie’s heart the moment he appeared on the edge of the cliff all those years ago.

The problem in this situation was time. He had very little left and it surely wasn’t enough for his friends to come and save him, unlike all the times they had before. He just hoped they would forgive him for this, for rushing blindly ahead and into this mess without them but when he got the frantic message from Li Cu earlier this morning, Wu Xie had stopped thinking and started acting.

His mind was brought back into the present by rough hands on his shoulders and a smooth blade cutting away his sweater. The cool air hit his skin, and he couldn’t help but shiver, the rope scratching his wrists.

“I like that sweater; did you have to cut it?” He pouted, looking at the leader of the cultists in front of him with a raised eyebrow.

“Shut up”, the man growled, grabbing Wu Xie’s chin in his hand and tilting his head harshly to the side, “You know I think you will do nicely Mr. Wu! You read the prophecy too, right? Tell me what it said again about the owner of this temple”?

“Why should I tell you something you clearly know? Isn’t that a waste of time? You seemed quite eager to spill some blood earlier!”

“Your blood Mr. Wu, your blood!” The robed man smirked and then turned to his followers, throwing his arms out wide.

“Innocent blood spilled upon this holy stone when the moon stands full and high. Shall bring back what was lost to a jealous curse and once again he will rise and fulfill his duties of ancient times!”

The leader’s voice rang loudly, echoing and amplified by the wide arched ceilings. His followers cheered, kneeling and bowing three times before they seemingly froze with their hands stretched towards the sky.

“You see Mister Wu; it’s literally in your name. You will bring our god back to us and he will start the war that was always meant to take place between our families!”

Wu Xie blinked and stared at the man in front of him in a moment of confusion. Our families? What does he mean by that? It makes no sense unless…

“You’re from the Wang family aren’t you,” the bound man let his eyes wander over the kneeling men spread in front of the altar, “you’re the remnants. The ones that were in hiding when we took the others down!”

"I must congratulate you, Mr. Wu. You figured that out faster than I thought you would! I wasn't sure if you would come here for that child, but apparently, the rumors are true. You would do anything for your family! Now, we can finally get our revenge. You took everything away from us, and now we have the pleasure of watching as your family loses everything, too!"

“No, no don’t”, Li Cu stumbled forward but a Wang grabbed him and pulled him back, grip iron tight on the younger’s arms and holding him in place.

“Now don’t struggle little bird, you get a front-row seat in the great resurrection of our God”, the man who was holding Li Cu murmured into his ear, pulling a jolt of fear from the young man.

“No! Dad”, another sob was drawn from Li Cu as he struggled against the man.

“Li Cu!”

The young man froze, staring at his father with fearful eyes, tear marks clear on his dusty cheeks.

“It’s going to be alright, trust me!” Eyes crinkled from a soft smile, Wu Xie looked at his son, it was a smile Li Cu saw often in the past. A smile that promised safety from whatever trap he had found himself in. Even now he wanted nothing more than to believe that everything was going to be alright but the situation seemed so hopeless and not even Pangzi or his other dad was anywhere to be seen.

“It’s going to be alright”, the older man repeated, “but Li Cu; don’t look. Please don’t look!”

“Dad? What do you mean?”

Wu Xie sighed softly, his smile turning sadder. “No child should ever see their parent die in such a way! So promise me, that you will look away!”

“No, no! You’re not dying! You can’t”, new tears started streaming down Li Cu’s face. “No, I…”

“As touching as this is. It’s getting on my nerves. Shut him up!”

“Hey, don’t touch him,” Wu Xie’s protests were ignored as one of the cultists roughly tied a piece of cloth around his son’s head effectively gagging the young man.

“Now that’s much better! All nice and quiet!”

The leader looked up towards the ceiling and when Wu Xie followed his gaze he noticed a giant window. Perfectly circular and with careful designs on its edges, under other circumstances Wu Xie would have admired the craftsmanship but now his eyes were drawn to the glowing full moon that was positioned in the centre of it.

It’s time then.

Wu Xie swallowed and glanced at Li Cu again, a wave of guilt crashing over him as he watched the tears make their way down his son’s cheek. He’d pulled him into this mess a few years ago and after Gutong Jing he found himself unable to let go of the fierce kid. He was lucky enough that the kid didn’t want to let go either.

That’s how he found himself with a son in addition to his best friends. His friends, Wu Xie sighed softly. Pangzi and his Xiaoge, this was going to be a nightmare for them. He knew they were going to blame themselves for not arriving faster, for probably not being able to save him from this.

Pangzi would probably drown himself in work again, trying to keep himself occupied like he’d done when Yun Cai died all those years ago. He just hoped his friend wouldn’t overdo it. He didn’t want him to break like that, not because of Wu Xie. The man still had a good life ahead, and he needed to use that.

And then of course there was Xiaoge, his Xiaoge in whose arms Wu Xie would gladly curl up forever and never move again. He prayed that this wouldn’t shatter what little grip on life the other had. It had gotten better, together with Pangzi they had grounded him in reality as much as they could. He hoped it had been enough.

He could only hope that the three most important people in his life would hold onto each other should he not make it out of this with his life, which he highly doubted. He wished that his family didn’t break under the consequences of his reckless actions.

Wu Xie tore his eyes from his son and faced the leader again, the man smirked at him, all dark and sharp edges.

“Let the ceremony begin!”

Below them the kneeling Wangs started chanting, an eerie choir that drifted through the wide hall coaxing shadows from their corners and seemingly draining the air of all warmth it had. Their breath started to become visible in the light of the moon and Wu Xie was starting to freeze, stronger shivers shaking his half-naked body.

“Oh, great dragon of the east!”

Ah right, the god was portrayed as a dragon quite often in the scrolls.

“Hear our call, great God of War, and come retrieve what was stolen from you!”

This is it, and they’re not here yet. I hope they can save at least Li Cu from these mad men.

“With this man’s innocent blood, we lift the curse that was placed on you in a jealous rage and…”

The Wang leader was unable to continue as suddenly the heavy double-wing doors swung open with enough force to have them crash into the stone walls. Heads swiveled around and then a shout rang out.

“You stay the fuck away from Tianzhen and the kid you bastards!”


Wu Xie sagged a little on the altar, raising his head to catch a glimpse of his friends, and realizing that they truly were standing in the doorway. Pangzi with his fists raised, glaring at every cultist he could see as Xiaoge stood by his side sword drawn. His own cold, murderous eyes were fixed on the leader.

A muffled noise sounded from next to Wu Xie, Li Cu was trying to get their attention. Not that it was necessary, the men had long spotted him.

“Don’t worry Tianzhen, Xiao Cu.” Pangzi yelled. “You two just sit tight, we’ll be there in a moment!”

Wu Xie couldn’t help the huff of laughter that escaped him.

“Alright but hurry. I’m getting very cold!”

Xiaoge caught his gaze for a moment and another wave of relief washed over Wu Xie, they would be alright now. Xiaoge was here, he and Pangzi wouldn’t let the Wangs get away with this.

“What are you standing there and staring?! Get them! They are not allowed to stop us. We need to bring our God back!” The leader yelled, startling his followers into action.

Wu Xie wasn’t quite sure where the men had hidden the various knives that suddenly appeared, but there were many of them and that worried him. His friends were good but even they had their limits. Though it seemed as if they did not share his worries. Pangzi threw himself at his first opponent with a yell, knocking the man down and taking the knife out of his hand before he hit him again knocking him out, and turned to the next men that attacked.

Xiaoge moved opposite to Pangzi, his sword flashing in the flickering light of the torches on the pillars. He made no sound while he cut down whoever tried to stand his way. The movements more reminiscent of a dancer then of the deadly fighter he truly was. Wu Xie couldn’t help but be drawn in by him, eyes following the way the black and gold sword cut through skin and bones and how his love effortlessly dodged incoming knives and fists. The cultists were having serious trouble stopping his friends from reaching the altar but they were slowing them down quite a bit.

A movement beside Wu Xie caught his attention and when he glanced over he saw his son using the ongoing fight as a distraction to struggle against his own captor. Pride filled him when Li Cu kneed the Wang in the stomach, successfully slipping out of his tight grip. Now the young man was working on his bonds and managed to slip the gag down.

We might just make it out of here.

In that moment Li Cu caught Wu Xie’s gaze and froze, his own eyes growing wide and fearful. Wu Xie was confused, why was his son looking at him like that?

Suddenly all Wu Xie could do was scream as a searing pain spread through his body. Burning hot in his stomach and overwhelming his senses. He was dimly aware that Li Cu was screaming as well, pure horror in his voice. Whatever had been supporting him a moment ago disappeared, causing another wave of pain to flood over him and his body to fall, colliding with the shockingly cold stone of the altar. Then there was nothing.



A scream of pure terror tore through the noise of the fight, mixing with another filled with pain. Zhang Qiling froze mid-swing, head shooting around to the source of the scream only to be met with an image pulled straight from his nightmares.

None of them had paid attention to the cult leader. Now he was standing slightly behind Wu Xie, and his curved dagger was buried deep in the bound man’s abdomen. Out of the corner of his eye, Zhang Qiling noticed their sobbing son on the ground beside the altar but his focus rested on Wu Xie,who was staring straight ahead, his gaze clouded with pain. The robed man pulled the dagger from Wu Xie with a violent movement and blood splattered from the blade onto the altar.

A sudden rush of power made Zhang Qiling shudder and a split second later everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. He was distantly aware of Pangzi screaming, “Tianzhen”, of Li Cu struggling to reach Wu Xie and of the Wang leader laughing.

But, Wu Xie was the only thing he could see clearly. Blood dripped from his lover's lips as he collapsed onto the altar, flowing from the gaping wound in his stomach and soaking into the stone surface. With every drop, Zhang Qiling felt his former power return, rising up within him. He saw the moment Wu Xie lost consciousness, and then all he could see were bound hands hanging over the edge of the altar, blood running down tainting a silver ring before it hit the ground.
The pain that he felt was unlike anything he had ever felt before. So Zhang Qiling screamed, though it came out more like a roar. Shaking the temple hall and causing small pieces to rain down from the ceiling, shocking the cultists. He was vaguely aware of their surprised and fearful exclamations, of their eyes resting on him.

He was painfully aware of the amount of power that was coursing through his veins now and of the tight grip he had on his sword.

The one Wu Xie made for you.

A voice whispered in the back of his head as he lifted his gaze away from Wu Xie’s unmoving form to the Wang leader. The man was staring at him, eyes wide and hands trembling around the blood-stained dagger.

“My Lord?”

The robed man’s voice was shaking and he was taking small steps backward as if he had finally realized the mistake he made. It was not a mistake Zhang Qiling would ever forgive. He didn’t answer the man, just let a low growl slip past his lips. He ignored Pangzi’s confused look and swung his sword. The cultist beside him fell with a slit throat, dead before he had even hit the ground.

From then on Zhang QIling was nothing more than a fast and deadly shadow. There was no escape for the Wangs, their bodies hitting the floor with a speed that most of them weren’t even able to scream. The smell of blood hung heavy in the air and it squelched under his boots as he killed every single one of the cultists. With his powers back none of them were capable of stopping or outrunning him. They had made this choice, yet it had never been theirs to make from the start. These men had hurt someone precious to him, an innocent soul. The very thing he had sworn to fight for, to protect for as long as he lived.

Zhang Qiling came to a stop beside the altar. The cult leader was trembling due to his mere presence. A moment later, the insolent man knelt before him, begging for forgiveness, for mercy. Neither of them being something that he would grant the man.

Behind him, Pangzi had stormed up the stairs and freed Li Cu from the rope. He could hear them trying to frantically wake Wu Xie and stop the bleeding.

“The prophecy was never supposed to be fulfilled,” he snarled, “you were never supposed to touch him!”

He rested the tip of his sword under the man’s chin forcing it up, requiring him to look directly into Zhang Qiling’s murderous eyes. The cult leader continued to babble meaningless apologies, fear rattling his bones.

“My war was never for the likes of you either!”

With that Zhang Qiling stabbed the black blade forward, piercing the man’s throat and effectively separating his head from his body. It fell to the ground with a thud followed by the clattering of Zhang Qiling’s sword on the floor. He had dropped the sword, turning as he rushed to his families’ side.

“Wu Xie!”

He breathed his fiance’s name as he reached his side, a quick glance at Pangzi’s tear-streaked face revealing that it was not looking good. Li Cu, who was at this point kneeling on the altar, continued to try and stop the bleeding. His hands pressed against Wu Xie’s stomach, slipping as his father's blood spilled through his fingers, and mixed with Li Cu’s tears.

Zhang Qiling moved carefully, hands coming to cradle Wu Xie’s head as one hand moved to gently wipe away the blood that had flowed from his lips down Wu Xie’s chin. Wiping his blood-smeared fingers on his hoodie, Zhang Qiling repositioned himself so that he too was practically kneeling on the altar, pulling Wu Xie a little closer and pressing his forehead against that of his lover.

“Wu Xie,” he whispered again, “please.”

For a moment, the only sounds that filled the air were Pangzi’s deep sobs and Li Cu’s quieter, hiccuping ones before a rough cough left Wu Xie’s stained lips.


Pangzi exclaimed, relief sounding tentatively in his voice as the man leaned closer. Looking for more reaction from his friend and holding one of his hands in a tight grip.

“Come on Tianzhen! Please!”

“Dad?” Li Cu’s broken voice joined and while their son’s hands never left the injury, his eyes were now fixed on Wu Xie’s face.

Zhang Qiling leaned back a little, watching as Wu Xie’s eyelids started to flutter and a pained sound followed the cough. He softly started carding his fingers through his lover’s hair, trying to soothe whatever pain Wu Xie must be feeling at that moment.

He won’t survive this.

The thought hadn’t left Zhang Qiling from the moment he saw the dagger in Wu Xie’s abdomen but what could they do, there was no chance to get him to a hospital or anything.


His fiance’s voice was weak, barely audible, but it was there.

“I’m here Wu Xie”, Zhang QIling glanced over to Pangzi, who nodded before looking back down into Wu Xie’s now slightly open eyes, “we’re all here and we are alright!”

“Li Cu?”

“I’m here too, dad! Don’t worry I’m ok!”

At that a small smile appeared on Wu Xie’s face and Zhang Qiling could feel him relax a little in his arms.

Always putting your family first.

All too quickly though, that smile turned into a grimace of pain as Wu Xie started coughing again. Fresh blood spilled from his lips and onto the stone as Zhang Qiling moved his head to ensure that his lover wouldn’t suffocate on his blood The coughs were followed by more pained sounds and Wu Xie attempted to curl in on himself but couldn’t as his friends stopped him from moving too much.

Zhang Qiling continued to gently stroke his lover’s hair, mind racing to remember anything that might save Wu Xie.

“Tianzhen careful, that’s a truly nasty wound you ended up getting!”

Pangzi stroked his thumb over the back of Wu Xie’s hand that he was holding. “You need to save your strength until we can find a solution for this mess!”

“Don’t… be… ridiculous”, Wu Xie forced out, “I’m... not... getting... out of this one!”

Hearing those words had Zhang Qiling unconsciously tighten his grip on Wu Xie, he wasn’t ready for that. Letting him die now was not an option but he didn’t know how to change his fate.

Had there been anything in the scrolls Wu Xie had translated? Any word about healing abilities?

Zhang Qiling raked his brain for anything even the smallest bit of information could be what he needed. There were images in his head, pictures of a strange symbol drawn in blood but he didn’t understand what that meant. Was he supposed to draw it on Wu Xie? Would that save him?

“Dad, don’t talk like that! You’re not dying! We’re all going home together!” Li Cu was staring at Wu Xie with pleading eyes as more tears streamed down his face.

Zhang Qiling could see just how much their son wanted to believe those words, even as his own tears betrayed his thoughts. In his arms Wu Xie moved, attempting to reach their son but his injury prevented him from doing so. Zhang Qiling only hesitated for a second before shifting his own body to help. He carefully propped his fiance up against his own chest, giving him the ability to stretch an arm out and gently place a shaking hand on Li Cu’s wet cheek.

“Oh Xiao-Zi”, Wu Xie’s voice was barely more than a whisper, “I’m… so sorry!”

“You’re not supposed to be sorry! You’re supposed to survive! Please!”

Their son leaned into the touch, trying to press closer and find solace in his father’s fading warmth. If Zhang Qiling could, he would pull Li Cu close but he was holding Wu Xie and found himself unable to look away from his lover’s face. Drinking it in as much as he could, attempting to burn it even deeper into his memories. He had a plan now, vague memories reminding him of something that might work.

Wu Xie turned his lidded gaze from their son to Zhang Qiling, the smile on his face turning even softer. He could see the tears that were gathering in the corners of Wu Xie’s eyes and knew what the other wanted to say.


Said man lifted his head away from Wu Xie and faced Zhang Qiling with a confused look, though he didn’t try to stop the sobs that were shaking him.

“Give me my sword.”

Pangzi blinked through tears, “Wha…?”

“Please! I have an idea.”

Hearing this, the man nodded hastily, carefully setting Wu Xie’s hand down before he scrambled over to where Zhang Qiling had dropped his weapon. Pangzi returned a moment later with the sword and held it out to him. Zhang Qiling, unwilling to fully let go of Wu Xie, extended his left hand towards him instead.

“Cut it.” He said, and Pangzi did so without question.

At the same moment Pangzi slit Zhang Qiling's own palm, a confused, "Xiaoge?", quietly left Wu Xie's lips. Zhang Qiling simply looked down at him while he squeezed his hand together, drawing more blood from the cut.

“I have an idea”, he repeated and bent forward bloody fingertips coming to a rest over Wu Xie’s stuttering heart. He took a deep breath and started drawing. His fingers leaving behind a bloody trail that slowly formed an intricate symbol, multiple circles overlapping and creating a lotus flower.

“What are you doing there?” Pangzi questioned, examining the symbol closely, while had taken his position beside Wu Xie again. Li Cu had leaned closer as well, watching as Zhang Qiling finished the flower. He then lifted his cut hand to Wu Xie’s stomach, letting his blood mix with that of his fiance.

“I remembered something.”

“Ah well, that’s helpful,” Pangzi said, “does it have something to do with the fact that you’re apparently a god?”

“Later”, was the only answer he received before Zhang Qiling leaned forward and pressed his lips to Wu Xie’s. The latter made a weak sound but was unable to react any more than that, seeing most of his strength had already left his body. Zhang Qiling pulled back lips painted red with Wu Xie’s blood and stared down at him, eyes fixed on the lotus on his chest. Wu Xie coughed again, far weaker this time, and he could tell there was not much strength left within him.

Li Cu and Pangzi continued to watch the flower Zhang Qiling had drawn on Wu Xie's chest. They were all expecting something to happen but nothing did, except for Wu Xie growing paler by the second, his usually tanned skin taking on a sickly shade. The lotus remained dark.

“Why, why isn’t it doing anything?” Li Cu stuttered frantically looking between the symbol and his father, eyes wide and scared. Zhang Qiling mutely shook his head, hand gripping Wu Xie’s tightly.

“I don’t know,” he murmured. His free hand gently, but uselessly carded through Wu Xie’s hair. “I don’t remember how it was supposed to happen!”

“Don’t… blame… yourself”, Wu Xie rasped his hand weakly squeezing Zhang Qiling’s own, “my… luck… seems to… have run out!” His renewed coughing shook his body in Zhang Qiling’s arms, and the man had never felt as helpless as he did now. He was unable to do anything besides holding his love and watching him slowly slip away, their son and their best friend crying beside him.

He forced his thoughts back to the flower, to his blood now in Wu Xie again and to his powers, that were swirling in the mark but not doing anything.

Save him. Please save him. I don’t care about the price, just save him! He isn’t supposed to die like this, not now!

Zhang Qiling begged silently, sending his own prayers to whatever other god was listening and someone had to be. It couldn’t end like this.


Wu Xie’s frail voice had him lift his head again and he knew that the other could see the unshed tears that were now brimming in his eyes. Something about his fiance seemed to soften even further.

“Not… your... fault. I...lov…”

Wu Xie’s voice broke and Zhang Qiling felt him go limp in his arms, the hand he’d been holding nearly slip out of his grip but he held on tight.

“Tianzhen? Tianzhen!”

Pangzi exclaimed as he too felt Wu Xie’s hand slip out of his grip. There was no answer, Wu Xie laid still and quiet. A shudder seemed to run through Li Cu beside him before their son collapsed, sobbing, partly onto Wu Xie.

“Dad”, the young man called weakly, curling closer to Wu Xie’s unmoving form, “come back please!”

Zhang Qiling found himself frozen, no words coming over his lips as silent tears streamed down his face and he held his fiance as tight as he could.

Please, not him. Please!

It will cost you everything.

The new voice in his head startled Zhang Qiling, but he found no one when he lifted his head and scanned the room. The only ones there were his grieving family.

Without him there is nothing. So I already lost everything.

He replied nonetheless, wondering who exactly it was that was talking to him but he found he didn’t care if it brought Wu Xie back to their family.

Very well then.

Whatever presence had filled his mind moments ago vanished and in the same instant he felt his powers drain out of him and wrap around Wu Xie. The lotus on his chest began to slightly glow, like embers that were being relit. Zhang Qiling watched as the glow grew stronger, at the same time he could feel himself growing weaker.

Suddenly Wu Xie drew a raspy breath that startled Li Cu and Pangzi. At the same moment, Zhang Qiling felt the hand he held in his own squeeze back, the grip tightening as Wu Xie's eyes opened.

“Dad?” Li Cu questioned tentatively, lifting his head from Wu Xie, disbelief clear in his eyes. Pangzi had frozen and was now watching Wu Xie with red-rimmed eyes as the other man drew another shuddering breath and looked up at Zhang Qiling.


Wu Xie had been floating in endless darkness when a small spark ignited in front of him. Warmth spread through his body, the spark growing to a steady flame illuminating his vision.

He has given up everything for you.

An unknown voice stated but before he could question anything, a sharp pain returned. He found himself drawing a painful breath as he clutched onto whatever was in his hands, and through the pain, he felt warmth surrounding him.


The hesitant voice of his son reached him. Wu Xie didn’t like how desperate it sounded, how broken. So he pushed through the remaining haze in his mind and forced his eyes open. For a moment everything seemed to be too bright but then his gaze cleared and Wu Xie locked eyes with Xiaoge. The other was leaning over him, dark brown eyes holding his gaze and drawing him in as they usually did. This time though Wu Xie couldn't help but notice the tear tracks on his pale skin or the sickly pallor of said ivory skin.

“What happened?” He forced out, unsteadily pushing himself up aided by his fiance’s hands.

Pangzi looked at him in disbelief and started to open his mouth but was cut off by Li Cu launching himself forward, his arms wrapping around his dad and holding on tight.

“You died!” Li Cu managed between sobs, somehow holding on even tighter.

I died?

Wu Xie was confused for a moment until suddenly the memories returned with full force. The searing pain, Li Cu’s and Pangzi’s frantic calls, dimly seeing Xiaoge kill everyone in the room. All three of them leaning over him, holding him. Li Cu’s hands attempting to stop the bleeding. His own apologies, Xiaoge kissing him, Pangzi holding his hand, and the sudden nothingness that came with dying.

I died but now I’m not dead. How?

Wu Xie pushed any rising questions down and focused on his family. He lifted his arms and wrapped them around Li Cu, pulling Pangzi and Xiaoge in as well, due to the fact that they were still clutching his hands. Holding onto his son tightly he looked at the other two. Pangzi was grinning at him through fresh tears, and Xiaoge was smiling softly, despite the strange exhaustion on his face.

“I’m so sorry”, he whispered as Pangzi’s arms came to wrap around him and Xiaoge too, pulling the three of them even closer.

“You were lucky, Tianzhen, that your Xiaoge is a god and that you have him wrapped around your finger. He’s the one that brought you back, somehow!”

Wu Xie looked at Xiaoge in surprise, searching for answers on his fiance’s face. Xiaoge simply nodded, the soft smile never disappearing and Wu Xie found himself unable to not smile back and cuddle a little closer against him.

“This is your temple then? The prophecy was about you?”

Xiaoge nodded again, though his eyes turned sadder and his smile dimmed a little.

“The prophecy was never supposed to be fulfilled. No one was supposed to die for my powers.”

“Well, it’s a good thing I’m alive then, right? That you saved me again!” Wu Xie smiled brighter at his fiance, eyes crinkling into crescents using their connected hands to stroke their son’s trembling back. He untangled his other hand from Pangzi and used it to pull Xiaoge down into a soft kiss, their lips moving gently against each other before Wu Xie pulled back with a slight frown.

“You taste like blood! But it’s only mine, right? Is that how you brought me back?” He ignored Pangzi’s eye roll and looked intently at Xiaoge.

“The flower helped too”, came Li Cu’s muffled voice, their son unwilling to unwrap himself from his dad’s hold. “He used his blood to draw it on you and then it started glowing all of a sudden!”

Wu Xie looked down at him fondly before turning his gaze back to Xiaoge but the thank you died on his tongue.

“Xiaoge”, his voice was tense, “why do you have a crack on your cheek?”

From beside him, Pangzi spoke up. “Aiyah, Tianzhen. This is not the time for jokes. You haven’t fully recovered yet.”

Xiaoge looked at him unwaveringly even as Wu Xie reached from his neck to his cheek and carefully touched the crack, only to have it spread out further under his fingers. The cracks drew no blood; they looked more like the cracks that appeared on paint over time. Even though they didn’t seem to be causing any physical damage to Xiaoge, there was something menacing about them.

“Xiaoge? What did you do, to bring me back?”

At the seriousness of Wu Xie’s tone, Pangzi looked up and was startled at the fact that there were indeed cracks spreading over Xiaoge’s skin. Wu Xie himself was closely watching his fiance, hand resting where the first crack had appeared.

Xiaoge was leaning into the touch, breath fanning over Wu Xie’s wrist as he spoke, his eyes nearly black in the moonlight.

“Nothing that I regret. You’re safe and alive.”

“That’s not an answer! What did you do? Why, why are the cracks spreading like that?”

“Tianzhen is right, there is more going on than you are telling us! Come on spill it! Did you give up your powers?”

From his position in Wu Xie’s embrace, Li Cu looked up at Xiaoge as well, worry in his barely dry eyes. At Pangzi’s question Xiaoge nodded, the arm around their shoulders tightened and Wu Xie looked at his fiance with wide eyes.
“Why would you do that,” he whispered, “I’m just one human! You could have helped so many people! I don’t und…”

“Wu Xie”, Xiaoge interrupted him softly. “You’re my oldest connection to this world. I’d do it again.” His eyes never left Wu Xie’s as he pressed a delicate kiss to the palm that was cradling his face. “You’re worth it!”

Tears that Wu Xie hadn’t shed when he died started flowing down his cheeks, “it’s not just your powers is it?” He whispered, watching as a piece of Xiaoge's skin fell away and disappeared.

Li Cu stilled at Wu Xie’s words, new tears welling up in their son’s eyes. “Dad no”, the young man whispered, one hand reaching for his other father and clutching at his dirty hoodie, “you can’t do this!”

Xiaoge sighed softly and Wu Xie tracked his movements through a veil of tears. He watched as his fiance leaned down and pressed a kiss to their son’s forehead. After that Xiaoge turned to him, one of his own hands coming up to cover the one Wu XIe had placed on his cheek. The gentle smile on Xiaoge’s face had always been reserved for him and normally he would smile back and enjoy the fluttering mess his heart became at the sight. This time he could not, right now his heart was breaking at the sight. At the fact that once again Xiaoge had saved him but this time at the cost of something, that he couldn’t repay.

He reached for his fiance, pulling the other man down to him and kissing him, it wasn’t a gentle kiss. Wu Xie was desperate, he knew that he was losing his love and he tried to convey as many emotions as he could in this kiss. Xiaoge kissed back just as desperately, drawing Wu Xie close and tilting his head for better access. For a moment it was just them, they ignored reality and melted into each other but it wasn’t supposed to last.

Wu Xie broke the kiss when he felt the hand that had been holding his own disappear. He opened his eyes and caught Xiaoge’s eyes again. The other was still smiling softly, his still existing hand carding through their son’s hair as the young man sobbed into his hoodie, the quiet plea to stay never stopping.

“Pangzi”, Xiaoge looked away from Wu Xie for a moment, drawing the attention of their third friend, “watch out for them, please?”

Pangzi huffed a broken laugh. “As if I ever do anything else, always keeping an eye on these idiots!”

“Thank you!” Xiaoge had caught the unspoken message and sent his friend a last smile before he looked down at Wu Xie again.

“Xiaoge, please”, Wu Xie pleaded again, “can’t we reverse it?”

Xiaoge shook his head, just as his hair was starting to fade. Wu Xie sobbed, trying to wipe away his tears and get one last clear look at his fiance before he was gone.

“I love you!”, Wu Xie told him, voice shaking but resolute, “and that won’t change once you’re gone. I won’t forget you!”

Hearing those words caused some tears to slide down Xiaoge’s face. “I love you too and thank you… for everything!”

Wu Xie could only watch as Xiaoge smiled at him and as he faded away an echo of his voice resonating around them before an invisible gust of wind spread the pieces he had left behind and it was as if Zhang Qiling, no as if Xiaoge had never existed.

At Wu Xie’s side Li Cu broke down sobbing as he lost a father for the second time this day. Behind him Pangzi was muttering curses in between deep sobs and Wu Xie felt himself shatter even further. Xiaoge was gone and it was his fault as the remnants of his stomach wound throbbing slightly reminded him. He knew the other wouldn’t want him to blame himself. His fiance had given his life willingly for Wu Xie and he shouldn’t dishonour his choice but he simply couldn’t help himself. The pain was burning so deep and as he pulled their son and Pangzi close he knew this would be a scar that would never heal.

He wasn’t sure how long the three of them were sitting on the altar holding onto each other and crying until there were no tears left and the sun was shining through the same window the moon had hours ago.

It was Pangzi who moved first, untangling a sleeping Li Cu and picking him up. Wu Xie tiredly lifted his head to look at his best friend.

“Let’s go home Tianzhen”, Pangzi muttered, “we can’t do anything here anymore!”

Wu Xie felt himself nod mutely, pushing himself up from the cold stone with stumbling movements. As he went to walk towards Pangzi, he noticed Xiaoge’s sword on the ground, the black and silver blade glinting in the sunlight even with the dried blood on it. Wu Xie bent down and picked it up, sheathing it back in the scabbard that was laying a few meters away. He clutched the sword to his chest, too exhausted to properly pay attention to the fact that he was still not wearing a shirt until Pangzi came to wrap his own coat around Wu Xie’s shoulders.

They made their way home in silence and upon arriving in Wushanju scared the life out of a half-asleep Wang Meng, who had been waiting for them to return all night. Wu Xie knew the young man meant well but right now he simply couldn’t deal with him. So he walked past without a word, leaving Pangzi to roughly explain what happened. At least that’s what he guessed the other would do and then probably put Li Cu in his bed.

Wu Xie pushed the door to his and Xiaoge’s bedroom open. The sunlight filtered in through the thin curtains, bathing the room in a warm light. An early morning like this normally featured them still in bed, curled up together and trading soft kisses. Sometimes it was just cuddling and Xiaoge watching Wu Xie when he woke up too early. That would never happen again, he would only have the memories of all that he had once shared with Xiaoge. They wouldn’t even get married in a few months as they had planned.

Fresh tears slid down Wu Xie’s face as he stumbled over to the bed fully intending on simply curling up there and not moving again. He was stopped when his eyes caught on something red that was laying on his pillow. As he got close Wu Xie realized that there were red flowers laying on his pillow and a small piece of paper had been placed beside them. He curiously blinked his tears away and carefully sat down, placing the sword beside his nightstand. The man reached for the paper first, slowly unfolding it. Once opened a familiar handwriting was clear to see on it.

“Xiaoge,” he breathed, eyes flitting over the short sentences that had been written down.

Wu Xie
If you’re reading this, then you know everything and I’m sorry it was never supposed to be a secret, not for you but I was too afraid.
I know that whatever happened, whatever I did, I did it to save you. Because you have made me feel more alive and human than anything ever has and I will do everything to protect you and our family.
But I don’t think this has to be the end, I know you and how stubborn you can be. You will find a way.
I trust you...I know you can find me.
And whenever that happens, I will be waiting for you.
I love you, always.

Tears that he didn’t know he still had were running down his cheeks again, he couldn’t believe just how much trust his fiance placed in him. A weak laugh escaped him as Wu Xie picked up the red flowers and realized that they were Tibetian Sea Flowers, carefully wrapped up and dried so that they couldn’t break. New sobs shook his body and he clutched the letter and flowers close to his chest. Xiaoge’s name left his lips like a prayer, a promise. He knew where he had to look and Wu Xie would be damned if he didn’t go there and do whatever he could, to bring Xiaoge back.

Still even with the fact that Xiaoge had healed him it took him about one and a half months before he was able to set out with Pangzi and Li Cu to the old monastery around which the red flowers Xiaoge had left for him grew. According to Huo Daofu most of Xiaoge’s powers had gone into bringing him back to life and only very little had been left for any actual healing, though strangely a small amount still resided in Wu Xie’s body even though it wasn’t doing anything. In those bedridden months, Wu Xie buried himself in books and other media that held any information for the godly part of Xiaoge, scouring for the smallest details that might help him bring him back. Yet even after all that research and several clues (most of which were strange rituals he would definitely not try as they required someone to die), Wu Xie was terrified as they made their way up to Tibet’s freezing mountains.

The monastery looked the same as it had years ago when they met up with Xiaoge again after his ten years in the Bronze Gate. The monks greeted them with their usual friendliness and brought them in to warm up and eat something. Wu Xie declined the offer to warm up but quickly ate something before he stepped out into the cold again.

His feet lead him straight to the statue that stood in their central courtyard. It was untouched by time and weather and even now not a single snowflake was to be found on its bronze surface. The first time Wu Xie had come face to face with this statue of Xiaoge he had assumed the monks had created it due to his connection to the Bronze Gate, but now he knew better. Not just because he had learned the story behind it but also because he knew the truth about Xiaoge. This statue was his best shot at bringing his fiance back and filling the hole he had left behind with the properly fitting piece.

Wu Xie gently placed the dried flowers on the piece of cloth wrapped around the statue. One hand clutching the letter he silently stood across from it for a moment. Then he took a deep breath and focussed on Xiaoge’s sculpted face, eyes trailing the tear marks for a moment before he settled on directly looking into this Xiaoge’s sad eyes.

“Hey”, he started, “I honestly don’t really know what I’m supposed to do or say here right now Xiaoge. Sorry. I tried but I couldn’t find any answers in the books so I’ll be improvising!” Wu Xie laughed quietly, he already felt tears welling up again.

“It’s been one and a half months since you died and I, well we… we’re not doing too well without you. Whenever you left before we knew you would come back home. This time you’re not. Pangzi has been honouring your wish, and he always cooks the best dishes he can think of and tries his best to make sure neither Li Cu nor I get overwhelmed by the pain. We try and help him too of course but on some days I just can’t. You’re gone and even if you seem to have absolute faith in me, I don’t.

He took another deep breath swallowing harshly, absentmindedly twisting the ring still on his finger.

“I don’t know if standing here and simply saying how much I love you and how much I miss you and that I just can’t live without you, will be enough but it’s all I can give you. You already own my heart, and I would give my soul too if it brought you back but I don’t know how to give that to you. I only know that I miss you and that I need you and Li Cu needs you too. After everything he’s been through, he needs both his fathers. Pangzi needs you as well. He doesn’t show it as much but I know he does. I think Wang Meng misses you, and the others do too. We’re not complete without you anymore Xiaoge and it doesn’t matter how you come back. If you come back a human, a god, or something in between but we need you back,”

Wu Xie moved a hand through his hair before continuing, tears now running freely. “You have to come back. Please, oh god I miss you so much, sleeping without you by my side is terrible. I keep expecting you to show up at any time. I look over my shoulder and think you’re there but you’re not and I can’t do that anymore. Your letter gave me hope that we might still have a second chance ahead of us. That we can live that life together, the one we always wanted and dreamed about but the days pass by and I’m losing that hope again! So please, please tell me what I have to do now. How do I bring you back? How? Answer me! I can’t do this alone! I don’t know how!”

Wu Xie nearly screamed that last part, voice breaking and dissolving into sobs. “Please”, he whispered, “come back to me. I really can’t live this life without you!”

He sank to his knees in the cold snow, one hand crushing the letter, his other pressed over his mouth muffling the sobs that shook his body. He didn’t know how long he was kneeling before the statue until Pangzi and Li Cu came to drag him inside. To warm him up again and force him to eat and sleep a bit. The next morning Wu Xie came back to the statue, this time he sat down and waited. He didn’t move, just stared at the unmoving bronze sculpture and waited until Pangzi came to get him inside again. This repeated itself over the next few days. Wu Xie would sit or kneel down in front of the statue. Some days he was completely silent, simply staring at the statue until nightfall. On other days he cried and on some others, he talked. Telling the statue what had happened over the last few months. Some days he would do all of that.

Sometimes Li Cu joined him, sometimes it was Pangzi and a few times both of them sat with him. A month passed in that fashion and yet nothing happened. There was no bright light appearing out of nowhere that brought Xiaoge with it, he didn’t appear in his usual quiet way either. Pangzi was starting to worry the more time passed with nothing happening and Li Cu did too. His son would sit with him and ask if this was truly what his father had wanted and Wu Xie had no real answer. He knew that Xiaoge wanted to come back to them but he also knew that he wouldn’t want to see Wu Xie sitting out in the freezing cold day after day. That was the only reason Wu Xie didn’t fight Pangzi too much on the day his friend suggested they leave, as this was not going anywhere, and research more.

The morning of their departure Wu Xie stood in front of the statue again, staring into Xiaoge’s eternally young face and gently tracing his features.

“Huo Daofu said that there was a portion of your power still in me. I don’t know how he knows that but it doesn’t really matter. I’m not sure it will make any difference. Ah, we’re leaving today, we need to research more, I guess. Next time I’ll have a better plan, I promise. I’m not giving up on you yet!”

The man sighed, looking unsure for a moment before his face became determined. Wu Xie stepped closer to the statue, one hand coming to rest on its cold shoulder.

“As I said, I don’t know if Huo Daofu is right but if he is”, Wu Xie licked his lips, “I know this is just a very old statue of you but you gave me your powers this way. Maybe… maybe I can return what’s left of them to you this way.”

Please come back. Come home!

With that, he leaned forward pressing a soft kiss to the statue’s cold lips. When he pulled away, his lips were tingling and he tasted metal but other than that nothing. Wu Xie couldn’t push down the disappointment that rose in him, he had hoped that something might work but nothing had, if future research didn’t unearth a miracle he wasn’t quite sure what he would do. Pangzi called him and with a heavy heart he made his way towards the rest of his family. Wu Xie reached the gate where they had been waiting for him and threw one last glance over his shoulder. The statue was still sitting unmoving in the courtyard, the red flowers he had left were slightly glowing in the sunlight. It was a peaceful image and even if it hurt him, Wu Xie knew that peace was something he would never hold out of Xiaoge’s reach.

Their trip down the mountain was uneventful and so was the trip back to Wushanju. Back home Wu Xie started researching again but this time he couldn’t do it all day long. He was fully healed now, and that meant the shop needed his attention. So he worked during the day, selling antiques, some of which he and his friends had brought back from a tomb themselves. At night he would read until either he fell asleep at his desk or was bullied into bed by Li Cu or Pangzi. It even happened that whoever forced him to get some sleep, fell asleep with him and he would wake up much more refreshed than when he would sleep alone.

Roughly three weeks after their return from the monastery Wu Xie was in the shop, inspecting a vase that had arrived the evening prior when someone stepped into the shop. Assuming that it was a customer, Wu Xie let them be, thinking that they would wander around and call for him if they needed anything. He had his back to the door because otherwise, the light would have blinded him too much while inspecting the old artifact. When he realized that even after a few moments no steps sounded around the shop he went to turn around and ask if they needed any help, but wasn't given the chance.

“Wu Xie!”

He dropped the vase.