It’s rare enough still for Xie to leave the comforting dark of his room deep within Changming Mountain, but when he does he looks like a statue carved from jade, glinting in the sunshine, as still as a whisper. Both he and the snow are dazzling and Ye Baiyi has to turn away lest he become blinded.
“Come on, crazed child. If you’re going to be outside, the least you can do is help.” Maybe fetching wood for their fire will warm him up and get him to shed the furs he’s clutching tighter to him with every moment.
Xie shoots him an annoyed look, but does at least turn towards the forest. He doesn’t get more than two steps before there’s a noise, like noodles being sucked up and spat out at the same time, a horrid, visceral noise. Ye Baiyi draws his sword immediately and turns to face the monster.
But instead of something truly terrifying, a purple haze hangs low, shimmering in the air, and a man stands in the middle of it. He looks... odd to say the least. Though he appears to be a man in his thirties he has the short hair of a boy yet grown, and his attire... Ye Baiyi blinks. He’s never seen clothing like it, no robes to cover anything and everything so form fitting.
The man clears his throat and Ye Baiyi realises he’s been staring. He turns his sword but doesn’t drop it.
“Hi,” the man says with a cheerful wave. There’s a white stick in the corner of his mouth.
“We heard you’re the psychopath whisperer,” the stranger continues with a strange accent and at that, Xie cocks his head likes he’s about to murder the man without another word. Ye Baiyi moves between the newcomer and Xie in an instant.
The stranger puts both his hands up in a clear sign of surrender. “Oh relax, I’m not here for him. Here.” He reaches into the purple swirling air and pulls someone else forward. This man is more refined, with silver hair and calculating eyes. There’s half a smile on his face that likely doesn’t bode well for anyone that sees it, and Ye Baiyi is reminded of Wen Kexing, screaming that if Ye Baiyi kills him he’ll become a devil and cause even more destruction. They have the same unhinged wildness to their auras.
“Please can you fix this one as well? He’s a bit better. Stopped eating people at least, but he needs more attention than I or his brother can spare at the moment.” The man with silver hair glares at the stranger holding him by his collar and the other man grins back with a razor sharp edge to his smile. Ye Baiyi abruptly realises that this isn’t a man he thinks he wants to cross.
“Given that we’re currently combining two worlds with diplomacy and grace after dying ,” the stranger continues, emphasising the last two words while still smiling ferociously and the lunatic with silver hair has the wherewithal to look abashed.
The odd one looks back at Ye Baiyi. “So can you help? We’ve used up a reasonable amount of dark energy to travel to you in time, but we can come back and check on him in a month.”
Ye Baiyi has no idea what to do with this, mostly because he doesn’t understand what this man is saying, or even how he’s saying it. He wants to demand answers, or at the very least to understand what sorcery this is, but Xie beats him to it.
“Two months,” he says in his soft lilting voice. “Ye-qianbei will do what he can in two months. And even then he might kill him.” Silver hair looks amused at that.
“Well, try not to.” The stranger doesn’t sound surprised - or even displeased - more hopeful. Ye Baiyi wonders what sort of demon this silver haired pretty boy is to incite such apparently common murderous rage.
“I’ll be back in two months. Don’t kill anyone unless they mean to kill you or The Sword Immortal and his… friend.” It’s like the man is giving instructions to a puppy. Silver hair just glowers at him.
“Right, I’ll be off then.” The man turns back to Ye Baiyi and gives a lazy wave of his hand by his forehead. Ye Baiyi is baffled by this and the man’s grin turns feral.
“Saluting not a thing here, got it.”
“Wait.” Ye Baiyi commands with all the force he has. The man doesn’t look cowed at all.
“How do you know me? What do you mean travel in time?” None of this makes sense no matter how often he turns it over in his head.
“Ahhhhh,” the man smacks himself with the heel of his hand in the middle of his forehead. “I need to close the time loop. You, Ye Baiyi, must remember my name: Zhao Yunlan. One day, far from now, you’ll still be alive. You’ll be wanted for murder, but that bit gets straightened out.”
One last grin and the figure disappears back into the purple haze, which collapses on itself with another gut-clenching noise - and then there’s just the three of them, left in silence on the mountain. A bird disregards the portentous moment and shits on the snow in front of Ye Baiyi. Yes, that’s basically what’s just happened here.
“Who the fuck are you?” he asks, pointing Dragon’s Back at the silver haired devil.
Xie snorts inelegantly. He’s picking up some of Ye Baiyi’s mannerisms, he realises with a flush of heat. “That’s a little try-hard, no?”
Ye Zun’s eyes slide to Xie and flick over the length of him, once fast, then slow. “I’ve forgotten my other name. After all, it was over ten thousand years ago. Child .”
Ye Baiyi’s eyebrows climb higher and he and Xie share a look. Xie delicately picks up the hem of his robe and steps lightly to this Ye Zun. Ye Baiyi doesn’t lower his sword.
“Well then. Try not to eat this child and Ye Baiyi will help ease your mind. Or he’ll kill you.” Xie’s eyes narrow. “If you try to hurt him, I’ll kill you. Do you understand?” Xie has to tilt his face up to Ye Zun, but he meets his cold gaze without fear and something inside Ye Baiyi eases.
Ye Zun nods slowly, his posture relaxing. For some reason, the threat appears to have made him more comfortable.
“Good.” Xie offers him one of his brilliant, unguarded smiles and Ye Baiyi’s traitorous old heart thumps too loud in his chest. “Now then. Do you have nightmares?”
Ye Zun frowns. “Yes?” he says, making the word a question. It’s clear he was expecting something else. More threats perhaps, or chains, or them screaming in fear.
“Come along then. You look strong enough to help me with the firewood, and then I’ll make lunch. There’s plenty to do to tire your body out so you sleep.” Ye Zun flashes a confused glance at Ye Baiyi as he lets himself be pulled along the side of the Scorpion, his hand tucked into Ye Zun’s elbow like they are two courtly beauties discussing nothing more trivial than the weather.
Ye Baiyi grunts in approval and hoists his sword onto his back, following them closely enough he can step in if he needs to. By the looks of it, Xie has it well in hand. Perhaps it’s what he needs to get him back into the world of the living. To look after something else.
Ahead of him, Ye Zun presses his hip closer to Xie as they reach the narrow path into the forest and Ye Baiyi scowls. Better to have got him a puppy than a beauty, he realises just a little too late.