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Prompt #: 95
Title: Between Reality and Fantasy
Ship(s): Yixing/Chanyeol
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 16.8k
Trigger(s): blood, minor character deaths, mentions of torture, allusions to claustrophobia and near panic attacks?
Summary: Yixing isn’t sure he knows the definition of extinction anymore, but he can’t say he minds it all too much.
Author's note: first of all, this story was an incredibly wonderful journey i had the honor and pleasure of writing. dear prompter, i hope i didn’t disappoint too much with this story. to the mods, thank you for being so patient and kind with me. this is a wonderful world i love, so i hope you all enjoy it! (sungkyung is lami and xiaolu is not lu han)

“ Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvelous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror. ”
( -Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies )

Setting up his belongings next to the river may not have been the smartest idea. The water is never as smooth as it appears and there are always stray rocks or logs floating upstream that’ll come bumping along down the bank and splash whatever is within three feet of it. But the surface always looks so pretty, reflecting the sun’s rays or the moon’s beams, and Yixing can’t help but want to be as close as possible to it. He wants to bask in nature’s beauty and if it means his leather bag gets stray droplets on it and the back of his calves get wet every few minutes, then it’s worth it. Well, that’s what he tells himself anyways.

To tell the truth, he also loves the sound of nature. The way the water rustles and creates a soothing rhythm, the backdrop, to the staccato calls of the birds and the howls of the wolves in the surrounding forest always seems to clear his head. It allows him to play music from his heart, his mind, to strum the strings of his guitar to create songs that only he can hear in his head, and to draw a crowd around him wherever he goes. It brings a certain warmth of happiness in his chest that he can combine the sounds of nature with his musical instrument and voice to create what he hopes is beautiful entertainment for other travelers and citizens traveling through the outskirts of the closest towns.

It also helps that, sometimes, he gets several pieces of gold coins for every song he performs and from those who don’t offer, he gets a beautiful smile and a wistful look in their eyes instead. He thinks it’s a nice consolation.

His fingers finish off its current song, letting the notes fade into the night, and Yixing watches as a few men and children come forward to drop in a couple more pieces of gold before walking away. He gives them smiles in return, playing a short song out of gratitude, and he laughs with the children when they quickly turn back to him and dance around.

The river may be dousing his belongings with fresh water behind him, but the joy he feels in the air is enough to keep his mind off of worrying and drying out his spare clothes and music sheets. He continues to play until the moon is high in the sky and the last woman leaves, with words of praise and encouragement, and a case full of gold coins.

Yixing isn’t sure when it started happening. If he had to guess, it had to be when he was a child, carried in his mother’s arms, as she walked throughout their village murmuring tales of the earth’s magic and strength. She would walk from shop to shop, inspecting clothes made of colored threads and yarn, and say that the faeries had a helping hand in dying the bland strands. She would say that it was because of them that their lives have become so colorful, so full with life. She would then walk to restaurants and say that a mermaid’s tongue is exquisite, that they’re the reason why their foods taste so wonderful, because “if they could taste wonderful foods in the sea, what does it become when they’re out in tasteless air for the world to see?”

Some would encourage her tales, young children around his age in awe and young adults like his mother, saying that there were four species who once roamed the earth, long ago. There were the humans, faeries, mermaids, but before anyone could say the fourth, the elders would warn them of spouting such nonsense, saying it’s a blessing that humans were the species who survived, because they were stronger, mentally, physically, emotionally. His mother would always wave it off and say otherwise. She would tell them that it was vital to encourage a young child’s imagination, to enrich their true natural history, but Yixing couldn’t help it. He had listened to the old men and women’s warnings about what these creatures could do. There were sailors’ tales of mermaids luring them to their deaths and old men’s tales of faeries tricking them into marrying monsters of all kinds. To him, they all sounded farfetched, no individual being could be so horrible, so cruel, except the tales about elves. In all his young life, his mother has never once mentioned anything about elves.

Elves were large creatures with pointy ears. To some, they were the creators of this earth, mermaids, faeries, and humans coming after, but to others, they were the destroyers of civilization. They could disguise themselves as humans, not having some scaly tail or glittery wings, but they could lure anyone to do what they say, what they want, whether they had actual control over their power or not. It frightened Yixing, to hear a creature so powerful. He stared at everyone with wide eyes because what if these old men and women with grey hair were elves? Trying to tell him his mother is evil for spreading these stories when he knows that’s not true?

But then his mother started telling tales of how beautiful elves could be, how honest and wonderful they are if people gave them a chance like the beautiful mermaids and faeries. She told tales of long hair, pretty eyes, and such pointy ears that no human could resist the urge to tug on them at least once in their lifetime, living in the forests with the animals and plants. Yixing had stared at her each and every time with his mouth open, because it’s a completely different story than the ones those old geezers told, but then he would squeal when she tugged on his ears, telling him that humans would do it “just like this” because they are always curious beings.

And Yixing guesses it’s why he’s so fascinated with nature around him. He can see all the animals scurrying away and hear the music of the trees, but he can also see the travelers making their way through a bush and under branches to make it to the next city. They always look so tired, drained of the day’s labor, so he finds a spot that appears well used, either in the city or in the outskirts, and sets up his belongings to play songs until his fingers become numb and his voice starts to crack from being overused. If he feels better when he’s surrounded by nature and music, wouldn’t they too?

Traveling along the river is different from standing next to it. The neck of his guitar taps his leg with every step he takes and he makes sure to keep the beat consistent. It’s the base for the constant chirping of the crickets and he hums the melody on top of it all. Small bugs dance on top of the river’s surface and he can hear the gold coins clink unceremoniously in his bag. It’s distracting from the sounds of nature, but he tries not to let it. He tries to let it form a strange beat in his head, a song that only the bugs can hear, and he smiles. The elves resided in the forests, truly becoming one with nature, so he wonders if this is where they would hide. He definitely wouldn’t mind if he were one of them. He could make music all day long and admire what the earth has graciously given them.

He pauses in his tracks at the thought, looking away from the river and towards the tree line, where he swears he hears rustling of some kind. It doesn’t sound like the usual deer or rabbit, their scampering a little more frantic, but if it’s a wolf, Yixing hopes he can simply jump into the river and float downstream until they stop chasing him. After a few moments, the rustling stops. The bugs continue to dance on the river and the moon’s beams are bright in his path. Yixing can’t see anything glowing back at him, so he continues on his way.

And honestly, he should probably be worried, traveling at night like this, but it’s the only way he can feel peace other than strolling through towns and cities during their downtimes, browsing through products and clothes to see if he needs to replace any he owns. He doesn’t care if there are still ‘mythical creatures’ still lurking about, hiding from humans, because humans are too curious, too invasive, and he doesn’t blame them for disappearing entirely.

There’s that strange rustling again, like something is taking careful steps through the leaves of the forest, and Yixing stops in his tracks. He looks towards the tree line again, half expecting a deer to come rushing out or for a pair of wolf’s eyes to be staring back at him, but there isn’t anything he can see from his spot. He doesn’t know how far the next town is and, well, he hopes somebody ends up finding his body and identifies that he came from someplace west, sees the name of his mother etched into his arm and somehow make the connection and bury him next to her back home.

The rustling stops but it continues moments later, coming from Yixing’s left, and he looks to the side, reaching for the neck of his guitar and hoping it’ll forgive him for using it as a weapon to help protect himself. Without the sounds of nature distracting him, Yixing can tune into the strange noises, can hear a certain pattern to the way the dead leaves crunch almost to a steady beat. He frowns. It almost sounds like a person walking through the woods.

“Hello?” he calls out, voice ringing throughout the open area. The rustling stops immediately before the beat fastens, coming from his left and going towards his right. It’s like the person is walking the entire line. “Are you a traveler?”

There’s a gasp and a few more crunches before half a body peers out from behind a tree trunk. The person looks like a he, with a defined jawline and tall stature, but he has long hair that reaches his shoulders, brushing just off of one as he leans over to stare at him curiously. Yixing pouts. He doesn’t look threatening to any degree.

“Hello?” he tries again, hand still on the neck of his guitar. He silently apologizes to it. “Are you lost?”

The man stares at him longer, taking a quick look at his clothes consisting of a tunic and loose leather pants, before staring into his eyes again. “Are you not?”

It takes Yixing by surprise, eyes widening, at the deep voice. “No?” It comes out more as a question than anything else and he clears his throat before repeating, “No. I like traveling at night.”

“Isn’t it dangerous?” the man asks, still partially hidden behind the tree. “Harmful creatures roam these woods at night, searching for prey.”

Yixing eases into a smile when he can see the man’s eyebrows furrow together in concern. “As long as I have my trusty partner, I believe I will be okay somehow.”

“Your partner?” The man moves further out from his hiding spot, searching all around them for another person. He looks frantic when he can’t find anybody else. “There is another?”

“No, no,” Yixing hurries to say, turning and patting his guitar on his back. “This is my partner. My guitar has been with me ever since I started traveling.” When he turns back around, the man is gone from sight. Yixing stares at the empty spot in confusion before making his way over to the tree. He doesn’t hear any rustling except his own and he yelps when the man pops out from behind another tree to get a better look at the instrument on his back.

“Oh!” the man exclaims, eyes wide, as he takes a quick step back. “I didn’t mean to startle you!”

Yixing is right. The man is tall. Well, not much taller, but Yixing has to look up at him to see him eye-to-eye and he’s surprised to see the man’s eyes are a vivid dark green, almost the same color as the forest around them. They seem to glow under the moon’s direct beams and Yixing’s at a loss for what to say. His mouth opens and closes a few times and it’s with a startling realization and laugh that the man is mimicking his movements, staring at his lips in concentration and confusion. “What are you doing?”

The man stops what he’s doing. “What are you doing?”

The smile can’t seem to leave Yixing’s face, even if he tilts his head and the man continues to mimic him. “I can ask you the same question again,” he repeats, tilting his head back and forth, until the man in front of him laughs. It’s a deep, reverberating laugh that echoes within Yixing’s chest and he can hear the notes flying through the air because of it. “But I won’t.”

“Then allow me to ask you another question,” the man says, expression turning somber, as he takes another look around them. Yixing watches him carefully, eyes widening when he can see the tip of an ear poking out from the curtain of his hair. “What is it you see when you travel at night?”

“Besides a man with a pointy ear?” Yixing questions easily, smiling up at the man when he faces him with wide eyes. He shrugs, unsure why the man looks so surprised. “It’s peaceful at night,” he answers, looking back towards the river to see the bugs have dispersed, probably to take a nap before resuming their dance again. “I can hear the music of the trees, the tempo of the animals. She graces me with her inspiration and allows me to create music that helps fellow travelers feel less weary and my heart feel light.” Even speaking it, hearing the words in his own ears, makes Yixing smile.

The man in front of him hums, still carefully eyeing him, but Yixing isn’t sure why. A blanket of silence falls between them but the night birds still sing their songs, the crickets still chirp, and the river rushes to drown out any unwanted noise. It’s not uncomfortable between them.

After a few moments, the stranger speaks up again, edging his way towards the trees again. Yixing follows him with his gaze, confused by his sudden actions. “What is your name, musician?” the man asks, giving him a small smile, stopping next to the same tree he was hiding behind before.

Yixing stares at him, eyes his clothing similar to his own, but with hair down to his shoulders and ears poking out from within. He can see his eyes clearly this time, can see the way they continue to glow, even hidden by the shadows. “Yixing Zhang,” he answers, taking a step closer to him when the man searches the area around them once more. “What is yours?”

The man looks to him again, clearly pondering it over, before he reaches out a hand for him. “Chanyeol Park,” he introduces, but his hand isn’t positioned for a handshake. It’s an offer. Yixing stares at it confused. “For a few moments,” he explains, or doesn’t really.

There’s another rustling nearby and Yixing grabs the offered hand quickly, letting the man–Chanyeol–tug him until they’re hidden behind the tree. The width of the tree can easily hide both of them, but Yixing can’t understand why Chanyeol has pulled him so close. His hand is larger than his own, splayed against the small of his back, and its warm compared to the chill of the night. Even his body heat is radiating, and Yixing thinks he could stay there, wrapped in this embrace, because he’s really had a long day of traveling and playing songs from his heart. He could fall asleep like this.

The rustling is getting closer but Yixing can feel something moving underneath his feet. He tries to look down, only to see Chanyeol’s chest, before looking around him. Chanyeol is gently moving him, closer to the tree, and Yixing gasps when he feels the hard bark meet his back. But then the bark is moving, almost massaging his muscles, and Yixing watches with wide eyes as Chanyeol’s eyes continue to glow, the tree’s trunk slowly opening and growing to accommodate both of them.

Within minutes, he’s covered in darkness. He feels lost, floating in space, and he clutches onto Chanyeol in front of him, still holding him close with a hand on his back. He can’t see anything, feels like he can’t breathe, and he panics. He breathes faster by the second and tries to mold himself into the physical body in front of him. He can hear footsteps in the distance, idle talking and laughing, but it feels like time doesn’t even exist.

The darkness stretches, the overwhelming silence, until light suddenly floods his eyes. The moon’s beams appear brighter than before and Yixing lets out the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. His knees feel weak but he lets Chanyeol hold him up, gently lowering him until he’s sitting on the ground and his guitar is lying on the forest floor next to him.

“I’m sorry,” Chanyeol apologizes, reaching a hand out to brush the hair from his eyes. His touch is fleeting, fingers strangely rough, calloused, like Yixing’s own. “I need to keep my presence hidden.”

“Why?” Yixing whispers, trying to tune back to the sounds of nature. He watches as Chanyeol moves a hand to pull his hair behind his ears before turning his head so Yixing can see each of them clearly. They’re a little bigger, a little pointier, and clearly not normal. “What–”

“Would you believe me if I said I’m an elf?”

Yixing’s instinct is to say no. It’s been said in all the books, all the news articles, even through those old geezers, that elves have been extinct for centuries. They were the last to be eradicated by humans, even though they were the ones to help build civilizations and help humans develop everything they have now. But right in front of him is a man who clearly has a distinct feature of an elf, has some weird power that transports him into another dimension, and he doesn’t know what to say. “I don’t know what to believe anymore,” Yixing finally settles on, watching as Chanyeol chuckles softly before fixing his hair so it’s covering his ears again. Has he fainted and is now dreaming all this up?

“I don’t blame you,” Chanyeol murmurs. “I put you through a lot. I’m sorry.”

“Why?” Yixing repeats, pleading, but his eyelids feel heavy, suddenly feeling the entire day’s activities weighing him down. The tree behind him feels comfy as he falls back against it. He wants to sleep.

“I wanted to keep you safe too,” Chanyeol says, trailing off. Yixing struggles to keep his eyes open but he can hear Chanyeol chuckle, imagine him shaking his head, deep voice reverberating in his chest. “Sleep now, Yixing. The forest may be tricky, but I will keep you safe.”

Yixing has no idea what he means by that, but he falls asleep nonetheless, feeling Chanyeol move him until he’s warm all over.

When Yixing wakes, it’s to hear the birds’ singing, the rabbits scampering about, and the sun’s rays warming his face. He feels comfortable, lying atop something soft, and he turns, wanting the sun to warm his back instead. His fingers splay next to him, expecting to feel a soft mattress made of cotton, but he’s surprised to feel threads instead, almost as if they’re dancing underneath his fingertips. Yixing opens his eyes.

A field of grass fills his vision, the soft blades caressing his cheek before he sits up, and there are flowers scattered throughout the clearing. Behind him is a large oak tree, helping to provide shade from the morning sun, and he searches. His guitar is lying next to him along with his belongings, there’s a few fruits sitting on top of his bag and what looks like a wooden pitcher of water, but he doesn’t see Chanyeol anywhere in sight. He can’t hear the rush of the river anymore or hear people traveling by, joking, laughing, chatting about what’s in the next town.

He’s by himself, and he’s lost.

He checks himself for any bodily harm but he’s surprised to feel rejuvenated, muscles no longer aching and feeling like he did when he was years younger. He doesn’t see any bruises or strange scratches and when he sniffs the water, it doesn’t smell like there’s anything foreign in it.

“I would not provide you a place to sleep if I were only going to poison you in the morning.”

Yixing jumps at the voice, twisting and turning to see Chanyeol emerging from the woods to his right. There are stray leaves in his hair, a beautiful deep brown color, but it doesn’t seem like it bothers the man in the least. He’s carrying what smells like cooked fish on a pile of large banana leaves. Yixing looks around again, confused, because there are banana trees here? He jumps when he sees a deer poking its head out from a bush, staring at him for a few moments, before disappearing again.

“That’s Xiaolu,” Chanyeol introduces, sitting down next to him but leaving enough space for comfort. He offers the fish to him when Yixing turns back to him. “He was your guardian throughout the night.”

“He was?” Yixing asks, trying hard to decide whether Chanyeol is serious or not. “A deer?”

Chanyeol laughs, lowering the fish a bit. “Deer can be strong, protective creatures when they need to be. You shouldn’t be so surprised.”

Yixing frowns. “It’s not a matter of surprise rather than a matter of belief.” He stares at the fish in Chanyeol’s hands before taking it for his own and settling it on his lap. “I can’t tell if you’re telling the truth or not. What if you’re protecting me and feeding me for some ulterior motive? To kill me when I least expect it?”

“I only kill fish and sea creatures,” Chanyeol states, very seriously. It catches Yixing off-guard, looking up to see green eyes staring back at him. Taking the moment to stare, Chanyeol is actually very handsome, sun-kissed skin with long hair. His ears are still poking out and Yixing really wants to touch it. He flinches when Chanyeol smiles, but it’s kind. “I do not end humans. I’m actually fascinated by them.” He nods to the cooling fish on Yixing’s lap. “Eat. We’ve already had our share.”

Yixing stares at him confused. “We?”

Suddenly, the deer pops up again, right next to Yixing, and steals some of the berries lying on his bag. It makes Yixing gasp, cursing, and tipping over far enough to land against Chanyeol’s side. The deer looks to him after chewing and Yixing can see amusement dancing in his eyes. Chanyeol laughs.

“Eat, Yixing. You smell.”

Yixing gapes, looking over his shoulder and seeing Chanyeol so close. There’s a scar on his cheek and across his nose. It’s faint. “I do not smell,” he protests, almost whining when Chanyeol pushes him upright again. He frowns. “Do I?” The only response he gets is an amusing smile from Chanyeol and a nudge of the shoulder from the deer, wanting to be pet after stealing all the fruits on his bag.

The forest is different during the daytime. It’s not as peaceful with the activity of the animals and people crossing the woods but it does provide enough light for Yixing to see clearly. Now, he can see the individual leaves of the trees and bushes, can see the heads of people meters away as they make their journey to the next town, and Yixing itches to play his instrument, if it weren’t for Chanyeol carrying it on his back like he’s been playing it for years instead.

Yixing frowns, the deer still walking alongside him as he follows after Chanyeol. “Where are we going?” he asks, glancing over towards the other people walking in the same direction they are, except they don’t even acknowledge them. Sometimes, they glance over, but it’s like they can’t see them. “You can’t just take my partner hostage and not tell me where we’re going.”

“I’m not taking your partner hostage,” Chanyeol argues, though he does let out a few chuckles of his own. “I’m borrowing her.”

“Her?” Yixing returns his stare to his guitar in front of him.

“Of course,” Chanyeol says. “Her wood came from a fallen female rosewood. So, your partner is a she.”

“Huh,” Yixing murmurs, tilting his head and inspecting his guitar better. She’s worn down, scratches and discoloration where she’s been wet from the rain and dirt. It’s evident of how much she’s been through with him. He can see her as majestic rosewood, years ago in her prime. “Who knew.”

Chanyeol hums. “Not very many humans know,” he answers, “But not very many humans still appreciate nature.”

“It’s why I play,” Yixing explains, smiling when the deer bumps his head against his hand. He reaches out and pets him, feeling his ears twitch against his wrist. “I can hear the music of the forest so I hope to convey it with my partner to others who can’t hear it.”

“How noble,” Chanyeol muses quietly, veering off to the left.

Yixing follows after him instinctively, not even realizing what he’s doing until they’re in another part of a forest. It’s denser, more compact with trees and bushes, and Yixing struggles to get past a barricade of them when Chanyeol and the deer make their way through it easily. They obviously know these woods like the backs of their hands, but Yixing is pretty sure he’s going to get real acquainted with the thorns and branches that prick and poke his sides and face instead.

He really should have half a mind to turn around and find his way back to human civilization, but then the deer pokes his head out again, searching for him, until he comes closer and bites the edge of Yixing’s shirt. With a rough pull, Yixing is sucked into the plants and he yelps, before regretting it immediately and tasting leaves and dirt. He doesn’t understand why they couldn’t go through a different clearing.

But then he’s through. He blinks away enough of the dirt and webs covering his face and, of course, there’s only more trees and bushes and forest. He frowns as he lets Xiaolu drag him forward some more, wiping away the rest of the stuff on his face. “Chanyeol,” he calls out, searching for him. “Where are you?”

Chanyeol peers from around another tree, much like when they first met. “Here.” He smiles brightly at him, laughing at the deer’s attempts. “Xiaolu, it’s okay. We’re almost there anyways.”

“Where?” Yixing asks, laughing when the deer lets go of him and grunts, running over to headbutt Chanyeol in the side. It’s comical how Chanyeol yelps and bends over in pain, the deer prancing around like he’s won the biggest prize. He waits for the moment to pass before walking up to Chanyeol and placing his hand on his bruised side. “Are you okay?”

Chanyeol winces at the touch but straightens otherwise. “Yeah,” he answers, glaring at the deer when he stops to look at them. “Xiaolu didn’t hit me hard.”

Yixing is surprised to see the deer narrow his eyes at them and grunt. “Xiaolu,” Yixing calls, the name falling from his lips easily. The deer seems to soften at it, snorting as he looks away and starts walking off in another direction.

“He’s taken a liking to you,” Chanyeol murmurs. He grabs Yixing’s hand on his waist before tugging him in the direction of the deer. Yixing can’t help but look down at their hands and notice the way Chanyeol’s hand engulfs his own and keeps it warm. “I’m going to introduce you to some people,” he says softly, catching Yixing’s attention. His gaze immediately falls to the pointy ear right in front of him. “I know it may be early, but let me ask you again.”

Humming, Yixing doesn’t even notice that he’s already reaching out with his other hand until Chanyeol turns to look back at him. They freeze in their tracks, eyes widening, and Yixing honestly doesn’t know how to explain his finger hovering in the air almost poking Chanyeol’s nose. “Uh.”

The surprise forms into an amused smile, Chanyeol reaching out with his other hand to grab the one hovering right in front of him. Now he has both of Yixing’s hands and he knows his cheeks are turning pinker with the embarrassment.

“Well, now my question has changed,” Chanyeol laughs out, turning and dropping their hands so it rests between them, still clasped together. Yixing feels like they should lace their fingers together. “Do you have a fascination with my ears?”

“Why are they so pointy?” Yixing blurts out, completely forgetting about their hands. He frees one to point at an ear. “Were you born with naturally pointy ears?” He watches as Chanyeol reaches out with his free and gently caresses Yixing’s right ear instead. It feels funny.

“Were you not?”

Yixing frowns. “Why can’t you just answer my question?”

“Why can’t you?”

They stare at each other until they burst into laughter, Chanyeol turning back around and leading Yixing off in the direction the deer walked off in. He’s still holding Yixing’s hand and carrying his guitar and Yixing thinks this is nice. The forest is calm as if it’s asleep but then there are the mischievous squirrels making noise and trying to wake it back up. He lets himself relax as he simply enjoys the stroll. He really had nowhere else to be anyways.

By the time the sun reaches its peak, Yixing is feeling sweaty, gross, and thirsty. He feels his clothes getting damp and he’s starting to tire out from the nonstop walk. He doesn’t even see Xiaolu anywhere.

“We’re almost there,” Chanyeol informs and Yixing wants to hit him. He looks perfectly fine, if not a little winded himself.

“What were you even doing where I was when we first met?” Yixing tugs on his hand for good measure. “It feels like you don’t even really travel that far in the first place.”

Chanyeol shakes his hand in return. Yixing smiles. He’s a funny guy. “I don’t,” he agrees, veering right next. “But I heard there was a traveling musician making his way through the forest.”


“I heard your music within the trees,” Chanyeol continues, dragging him–what Yixing hopes–is the last of the way. “It made the forest happy. So, I wanted to meet you.”

Yixing rolls his eyes. “Quite obviously.”

“Anyways,” Chanyeol stresses, looking over his shoulder to give him a stern look. “I met you but there’s something different about you.”

“Other than the fact that I willingly let you take care of me for a night and are now taking me somewhere deep in the forest where I could be killed and chopped up?”

Chanyeol scrunches his nose at that. “I told you. I don’t end humans.” He gives him another odd look. “You also happen to talk a lot when you’re tired. Snappy.”

“I am not snappy.” Yixing frowns when Chanyeol pins him with a look. “Anyways,” he mimics, looking away from him and to the trees around them. It looks like the trees are making a path for them, leading towards what looks like another clearing ahead of them. “Where are we going?”

Chanyeol’s smile is cryptic. “You’ll see.”

Within a few more minutes, they stop at the edge of the tree line. There’s a waterfall in the distance as well as a small lake that channels into a river that goes to their right. It’s clear and beautiful and Yixing stares at it in awe, at the flowers that decorate the edges of the bank and Xiaolu resting near the stream. He feels Chanyeol let go of his hand before pushing him in the direction of the water.

“Go bathe, Yixing. Xiaolu will be your guardian.”

“Wait,” Yixing calls, turning back to see Chanyeol already walking towards the forest. He looks like he’s at peace wandering through the woods, like he belongs with the trees, calm and gentle. Yixing stares and watches as Chanyeol pauses to tilt his head back and look over his shoulder at him. “Where are you going?”

“I’m giving you privacy. I’ll return later,” is the simple answer he gets before Chanyeol walks between the trees and disappears.

The leaves barely rustle, crunch as they’re stepped on, and Yixing stares until he’s reminded that he’s covered in sweat when a droplet rolls down his nose. He grimaces, wiping it off of him with the back of his hand, before turning back to the water. Even up close, the stream is beautiful. He can see where the bank ends in the river and simply drops, a darker blue coloring the deepest parts of it, and he doesn’t waste more time. He quickly strips himself of his clothes before jumping in with an excited yell.

It’s like a breath of fresh air. The water is cool and refreshing, chilling Yixing’s heated skin, and he swims upstream a few minutes before surfacing for air. It’s been a while since he’s swam but his muscles start to ache a different way, a pleasant way. He smiles as he sucks in a deep breath before turning towards the deer curiously. As expected, Xiaolu is staring at him with his head up.

Yixing smiles at him then before dunking his head again in the water. He runs fingers through his hair repeatedly, pouting when he feels something rough entangled in the strands, before he surfaces and sees what was in it. There’s a trail of leaves leaving him with the course of the river. He turns to the deer again. “Did I have leaves in my hair, Xiaolu?” he questions. He’s not exactly expecting a response and he rolls his eyes when all Xiaolu does is blink once at him before lying his head back down for a nap. “Thank you.”

Turning back towards the waterfall, Yixing makes sure to twist and turn, submerge himself completely and come back up for air, to rid himself of all the sweat and dirt on his body. He swims around too, taking the chance to stretch and work out his stiff muscles. But what keeps catching his attention is the waterfall. It’s nothing magnificent, but it a sight for the eyes. It’s no longer than a few meters tall yet the roar of its mouth into the river below is pleasant to his ears. Yixing doesn’t think he’s seen a waterfall this strong before.

Looking over his shoulder, Xiaolu is staring at him again and it should be unnerving, but it’s nice to know he’s keeping watch over him. Who knows? Yixing could definitely injure himself, but he doesn’t waste the chance to swim up to the bank, run and find his way to get to the top of the waterfall, and jump off of the cliff with a victory shout into the water below.

When he emerges, Xiaolu does not look impressed.

Yixing dries quickly when he finishes. The sun kisses his skin in the most pleasant way and he waits until he’s comfortable enough to put on the spare clothes from his bag. His soiled clothes lie near the riverbank so he takes his time to clean them out. He never knows when he’ll get another chance without passing through a town.

And throughout the afternoon, this is all he does. He cleans his belongings and makes sure they’re in the best condition possible before taking a spot next to a softly snoring Xiaolu. Xiaolu doesn’t even flinch when Yixing makes noises next to him trying to get comfortable. Yixing frowns in confusion.

It’s like Xiaolu is a domesticated dog but he’s able to understand Chanyeol completely, almost as if Xiaolu was another person instead. Usually though, most dogs aren’t friendly to strangers yet this deer continues to watch Yixing as if he was someone special to him, if not like his own brother or sister. Although, he guesses he and Xiaolu could be related in some bizarre way. He isn’t sure how, but it’s a possibility.

Xiaolu has black and white spots scattered along his back but a white tipped tail. His entire being looks soft and small, only up to his lower chest, but Yixing knows Xiaolu can pack a punch with his head if he’s annoyed or angered. There’s no indication that he’s been tamed by injury of any kind.

Sighing softly, Yixing lets his eyes flutter shut, moving in until he’s close to the deer’s side. He wonders how Chanyeol and Xiaolu met.

“We actually met when I was starting to develop my sense of magic,” Chanyeol answers him later, walking back towards the woods from where they came. He’s still carrying Yixing’s guitar and he’s still leading them, but Yixing doesn’t really mind. He feels relaxed, wonderful, and Xiaolu won’t stop biting at his clothes and nipping his fingers. “I was, maybe, thirty years old at the time? Forty years ago?”

Yixing blanches. “Excuse me?”

Chuckling, Chanyeol looks over his shoulder to give him another look, one that Yixing can’t really discern. “I told you,” he repeats. “I’m an elf, whether you believe it or not. I hit my peak age of twenty-five and my appearance has stayed the same since then.” He still doesn’t look any different from a human other than the fact his ears are pointy and his hair may be a bit longer than usual. “I’m not going to prove it to you because it should be based on your own beliefs, but I am going to introduce you to a few more of us.” He shrugs, turning back around. “It’s the reason why I brought you to that river in the first place.”

“Astounding,” Yixing murmurs with a frown, hissing when Xiaolu bumps his hip with his head. “Xiaolu,” he whines, stopping and turning to see the deer doing the same. He’s looking up at him with wide eyes. “What do you want?”

“Oh,” Chanyeol interrupts, stopping to search around as well. “Go find some food, Xiaolu. I’m sorry. Meet us back at home.”

Within seconds, Xiaolu is bounding off towards the trees, disappearing from sight and leaving Yixing standing there with his mouth open. He’s seen deer flee from him before but Xiaolu’s speed is amazing when he’s hungry.

“I forget he has brothers and sisters too,” Chanyeol mumbles, waiting for Yixing to turn to him before walking off again. “I asked for his help and he’s been truly kind.”

Yixing hums, taking quicker steps so he can walk alongside Chanyeol instead. “It’s like you two can communicate effortlessly with each other.”

“More or less,” Chanyeol agrees. “We’ve known each other for quite a while now. He may not look like it, but he’s actually older than he appears too.”

“Right,” Yixing murmurs, looking off in the direction Xiaolu went in, before turning to the path in front of them. They have to duck under stray branches and Yixing has to follow after Chanyeol through a narrow patch of trees and bushes, but then everything starts to clear and lead to a more open area. Yixing stares around him carefully, reaching out instinctively and grabbing onto the back of Chanyeol’s shirt. “Where are you taking me?”

Chanyeol’s laughter is soft when he turns. There’s a warm smile on his face and his hand is even warmer when he takes his hand to hold into his own again. “I told you. I’m taking you to meet some of the other elves of the forest.”

“But I thought you were extinct,” Yixing blurts out, eyes wide, watching as Chanyeol grimaces. “I’m sorry,” he says immediately. “But I– It’s just–”

“It’s what you were taught,” Chanyeol finishes, sighing and holding onto his hand tighter. “I know. We all know.” He runs fingers through his hair and suddenly, Yixing can smell timber and spices, can feel a certain warmth that he usually only feels in the winter season. For the first time since they met, Chanyeol looks sad. “We’ve been extinct for two centuries.”

“Then how,” Yixing trails off, twisting his hand in Chanyeol’s grip until he’s holding onto it too, “Where did you come from? Where have you been hiding?”

Chanyeol’s answer is simple as he gestures around them, “The forest,” before he turns around to start leading him forward. He doesn’t answer anything else but Yixing has more questions than he’d ever thought possible.

Were his mother’s stories true?

Obviously there were four creatures who inhabited the earth, that led to the existence of animals, plants, and everyone else, but since anyone can remember, three of the four have been extinct. In front of him, Chanyeol is everything his mother could describe of an elf. He’s tall, has pretty eyes, and pointy ears. He’s been honest with him so far, if he had to guess, except for the fact he dodges questions with an annoyance Yixing never thought he could feel.

Slowly, Yixing starts to hear the music within the trees again. He can hear the leaves rustle with the faint breezes of the wind and the crunch of an occasional twig where they step. But he can also hear the faint sound of something melodious, like a human singing in the distance.

Ahead of them, Yixing can start to see the exit of the path leading to a larger type of clearing. There are large tents scattered about, mostly next to large trees, and there are people and children walking about, running and playing and carrying on with their business. It has the size of the field but the appearance of a true forest. Yixing tugs on Chanyeol’s hand when they’re close enough, digging his heels in the ground to prevent him from walking any further.

Chanyeol turns back to him with a curious look. “What is it, Yixing?”

The inhabitants here all have pointy ears. The children look to be the normal size of humans but all the adults are around Chanyeol’s height, though some a little shorter and some a little taller. They all have long hair and beautiful eyes and pretty smiles. Yixing forgets to breathe when one woman catches sight of them, warm smile fading into something a bit more curious.

“Yixing,” Chanyeol calls again, facing him properly. He blocks his view of the people and it takes a hand cupping his face to bring his attention back to him. “Yixing, are you okay?”

When Yixing focuses his vision, Chanyeol is looking at him with such concern, he can’t help but close his eyes to avoid his gaze. It’s then that he notices he’s breathing shallowly, shaking the tiniest bit, and he struggles to breathe deep and even.

“I know it’s a lot to take in, Yixing,” Chanyeol says, voice soothing in his ear. “There is a reason I brought you here. We are not extinct. We’re thriving with the protection of the forest.” Yixing can hear approaching footsteps. “Whatever you have heard of elves, please try to clear it from your head. I will protect you.”

Yixing opens his eyes to see greens of the forest staring back at him. He can see the care and concern in Chanyeol’s eyes and he wonders for a moment how he ended up in this one spot. If he didn’t start traveling, would he have still ended up here?

“Chanyeol,” someone calls, a female voice. “Who do you have there?”

Chanyeol moves and Yixing freezes when he sees children and few of the adults standing behind him. He sees the briefest of smiles on Chanyeol’s face before he stands partially in front of him, offering him a place to hide and peek through to see the rest. “His name is Yixing Zhang,” he answers. Yixing can see some of the children’s mouths fall open in awe. He smiles at them, watching as they catch his gaze and smile back. “He is the traveling musician I informed you about the other day.”

“Ah,” a man says, somewhere to their left. “The one who creates music with the forest.”

“It explains the musical instrument on your back,” the woman answers before the man is dispersing the crowd except for a few children who stay rooted in their spots. She smiles again, beckoning them forward with the wave of a hand. “The mysterious Yixing Zhang.”

Yixing doesn’t really want to move from his spot, more comfortable in the outer part of the forest where he still knows reality, but then Chanyeol is pulling him along with a hand to his lower back. He stumbles the first few steps, earning giggles from the children, before they’re running off away from them too. He heats up when Chanyeol leans in close to whisper in his ear, “I told you everything would be okay.”

Yixing gapes. “When did you ever say that?” he hisses back, whipping his head to the side to see Chanyeol recoiling and stifling a laugh. “Goodness, I should have run the first time I met you.”

“Then I’m positive wolves would’ve found you and eaten you.”

“How reassuring,” Yixing mutters, turning his attention back to everyone else around him. Most of the inhabitants have returned to their activities. They don’t spare him a glance, but he stares in awe at some of the tents they pass by. Some are large and spacious, the entrance pinned open to allow anyone to peek inside, and others are a bit smaller, maybe fit for one or two people, and barely decorated compared to the rest. He jumps when a child runs up to him with a flower crown in her hand. Holding it up to him, Yixing looks to Chanyeol who simply gives him a small smile.

“For you,” the child says as an explanation, still smiling up at him. Yixing smiles in return, leaning down far enough for the child to put it on his head. She messes with it until it feels comfortable. When he stands again, her smile is brighter, beaming up at him. “Pretty.”

“Thank you,” Yixing says, crouching down and opening his arms up. The girl looks at him curiously before she’s running into him and giving him a hug. He laughs and that warmth is back in his chest when she whispers ‘pretty’ again in his ear, gives an approving pat to Chanyeol’s hip, and then she’s off again.

“Usually,” Chanyeol whispers once they’re off again, still guiding him with a hand on the small of his back. “Faeries have the flower crowns, but her mother was one of the few half-faery, half-elf half-breeds.” He’s smiling when Yixing looks to him confused. “Truly wonderful creatures half-breeds are. Some don’t accept them, but others welcome the diversity.” Yixing flushes red when Chanyeol glances to the crown on his head, smiles, then looks back to him. “It fits you. You look pretty.”

Yixing doesn’t watch where he’s going, fumbling for words, before he trips on a stray root. Chanyeol catches him easily with hands on his stomach and back, and Yixing tries not to scream in frustration because what is going on? He lets Chanyeol fix the flower crown on his head because he can, but he still frowns.

“Now, what is Chanyeol doing again to cause such an unsightly frown?” another woman asks, amusement laced with her words. Yixing is surprised to see a shorter–exceptionally short–woman with a protruding belly, though her hair is still long and her ears are as pointy as everyone else’s. “Chanyeol, who is this?”

Yixing flinches when Chanyeol instantly tilts his lower body down for a bow. “Boa,” he addresses, before straightening again. “This is Yixing Zhang, the traveling musician I told you about.”

A smile graces Boa’s face and Yixing doesn’t know what to do when she waddles towards him. He feels like he should run when she comes close enough and reaches up to touch his face, fingers soft and fleeting as she touches his cheekbones. “Ah, what an interesting young man,” she muses. Her eyes are a bright amber color, skin as sun-kissed as Chanyeol’s, but touch incredibly gentle. “We’ve heard your music through the trees and the animals. Enchanting and light.” She smiles as she gives Chanyeol an amused look. “It makes sense why Chanyeol sought you out.”


“What?” Yixing asks, looking between her and a flushed looking Chanyeol. “Wait, you could hear my music through the trees too?”

“Of course,” Boa says with a laugh, reaching up to flick Chanyeol on the nose. He whines in response. “With music as beautiful and enlightening as yours, the trees respond enthusiastically. So does this one.”

Yixing stares at Boa bewildered, because what is she talking about?

“Chanyeol hasn’t played your instrument yet?” she questions him instead, surprise evident in her voice. She gives Chanyeol a quick glance. “He’s always making music too, with whatever he can find. He was the one who found you through the trees.”

“What?” Yixing echoes, looking to Chanyeol who looks positively embarrassed. “He literally did find me through the trees though.”

“Along the far riverbank,” Boa supplies. “I know.”

Suddenly, someone calls for her and they all look to see another man waving at them. Chanyeol and Boa wave back before she gives them small smiles and excuses herself. Yixing watches as she goes, waddling a bit over to where the man is, before he’s helping her cross through a few more trees and disappear from sight. The area is a lot larger than Yixing first thought.

“She’s our leader,” Chanyeol explains moments later, breathing out a sigh of relief before guiding them towards somewhere else. “Despite carrying a newborn, she’s strong and reliable. She’s helped ward off hunters for centuries and has seen me grow from a young elf to who I am now.”

Yixing frowns. “Hunters?” He’s heard that there were some hunters in the world, searching for any of the remaining three creatures for large bounties, but it’s been a dwindling business because only fakes have been found.

Chanyeol hums. “Yeah.” He’s guiding him towards a tent, one that’s moderately decorated but left open. There are several primitive-appearing instruments inside and Yixing doesn’t hesitate to enter the large space, finally sitting in the shade and resting his legs. He breathes out a sigh of relief. When he looks again, Chanyeol is giving him a small smile. “I’m sure you’ve heard of rumors of live mermaids, faeries, and elves over the years, discovered by a pair of hunters who claimed they’ve caught at least one of each.”

Oh. Yixing clearly remembers that story. He was only a newborn when it actually happened, but he remembers his mother telling him the story of it years later with a sad smile on her face. “Yeah,” he says, losing himself in his memories. His mother was truly sad about it.

“Hey,” Chanyeol calls softly, entering in the tent after him and moving to sit down next to him. “Yixing.”

“My mother told me about the pair of hunters,” he murmurs, coming back when he feels Chanyeol’s hand on his shoulder. “They happened to capture a male mermaid, a female faery, and a male elf. It made it to the front pages of all newspapers but before the officials could confirm their whereabouts and legitimacy, they were tortured to the point of death.” An overwhelming sadness pulls at him and he sighs, closes his eyes to regain himself. “My mother was sad about it. She was so fascinated by all of them.”

“Yeah,” Chanyeol says, smile as sad as it was earlier. “It was a sad time for all of us. It’s why most of us went into hiding.”

“Why though?” It’s incredibly warm in here. “Why did they torture them?”

Chanyeol shrugs, pulling his hand away and lying down, stretching himself out. Now that Yixing looks at him, he looks just as tired as he feels. “Each one of us has magical qualities. Mermaids can have control of the oceans, faeries can have control of the air and winds, and elves can have control of the forests and earth. Humans don’t know it, but they have a magical quality themselves.” He tilts his head to the side, smiling at him. “Humans have quite a strong control over other creatures. With one word, one action, they can convince others to do as they pleased.”

Lying down next to him, Yixing hums to show he’s listening, not sure what else he can say.

“Humans believed they could control us, take our powers by some terrible experimentation, but it doesn’t work like that. We’re all born with what we can handle, what we’re able to achieve, and it just happened humans weren’t meant to have ‘magical’ powers because they’re already powerful themselves.”

“How have you stayed hidden for so long?” Yixing questions quietly, staring up into the trees through the hole of the tent. “I read hunters have scoured the forests by horse and foot and the oceans by boats. They claim they see something but they can never get you.”

“Well,” Chanyeol quips, turning to him with a brighter smile on his face. He wiggles his fingers in front of him. “Magic.”

It makes Yixing laugh, curling up a bit to clutch at his stomach as well. “I’ve heard elves are strong creatures.”

“Well, we don’t like to boast,” Chanyeol agrees with a laugh.

Yixing stares at him with a smile on his face, admiring the way his face scrunches up when he truly laughs, eyes crinkling and hair falling everywhere. He suddenly remembers when Chanyeol hid him in complete darkness. “What about that time in the forest?” he whispers, watching as Chanyeol calms down and thinks about it.

“I asked the tree’s help to cover us,” Chanyeol explains, reaching out to fix the crown on Yixing’s head again. “Those humans who were passing by–I couldn’t tell if they were dangerous or not–but it was late at night, unnatural for normal humans to be out at that time. So, I had asked the tree to help us.” His hand gently falls to Yixing’s cheek, making him sigh softly and close his eyes. “He pulled us into him and engulfed us in darkness. I’m sorry I didn’t warn you that time. I just needed to bring you back safely.”

Yixing pouts, feeling himself slipping closer to unconsciousness. “You keep saying that, but I don’t know what you mean.” He hums when he feels Chanyeol poke his cheek. “Why do you want me safe?”

“Have you seen yourself, Yixing? You could be a prince with the flowers on your head.”

Yixing smiles, falling asleep when he feels the hand slip down to his neck, warming him instantly.

Yixing wakes to the feeling of someone poking his cheek. It’s that same young girl from before and she’s watching him with wide, curious eyes. He swats at her hand childishly, listening to her giggles, before he turns and pokes her in the stomach instead. “Hello,” she says, voice strangely soothing and light. “Chanyeol told me to wake you when the sun sets.”

“Chanyeol?” Yixing groans as he sits up. He stretches, trying to rid the kinks of his back and shoulder from lying on his side for so long. He looks to the top opening of the tent to see the sky is already darkening and the temperature’s becoming cooler. He looks to the child again to see her staring at him with a frown on her face. “What is it?” She points to the top of his head. He looks up, before leaning over so she can touch his head. She reaches up, a determined look in her eyes, and Yixing realizes the flower crown had been tilting off of his head. He smiles as she fixes it for him. “What’s your name?”

“Sungkyung,” the girl answers quietly, giving him a shy smile when she looks to him.

It takes a few more minutes before she’s satisfied with her work and leading him out of the tent. He’s surprised to see everyone gathering near a more spacious area of the clearing, small fires scattered about but everyone mingling and talking together like a large get-together. He can see the woman and men from earlier hanging out together and Boa near one of the fires to keep warm, but then he hears the music flowing between all of them, filling in the small cracks of silence, and he searches until the girl points him in a direction opposite from where he’d been staring. She pushes him with hands on the back of his waist.

“Chanyeol is playing something,” she informs him.

They break through the crowd and Yixing stops in his tracks at what he sees. Chanyeol is in the center of a small crowd, playing a different type of instrument, but it resembles a guitar. He’s plucking the strings easily and his voice coats the entire area, raspy, deep, and it sounds perfect to fall asleep to. Yixing melts a little when Chanyeol catches sight of him and smiles.

“Oh, there you are,” a woman calls, grabbing him by the arm and dragging him off to the side. She’s taller than Boa but still a little shorter than him. He doesn’t know what to do in this situation. “My name is Seulgi. We’re about to eat.”

Food is always a nice bargain. Yixing smiles as he sniffs the air, only to smell more fish. “Fish?” he asks, looking to her expectantly. “Where do you find such fresh fish?”

Seulgi laughs, walking over towards one of the larger campfires where the fish is cooking. “There’s a river almost an hour away where there’s plenty of fish to catch. We travel there everyday to get supplies for our meals.”

“Sometimes, we ask blessings from the forest to take their fruits, herbs, and berries,” another says, helping her with preparing the meals. “Long ago, the mermaids would fight with us about taking their fish, but they would take our animals in exchange.”

“It was a heated battle,” Boa comments in passing, walking by to check up on everyone. “We’d have to have constant meetings to form some type of equivalent exchange. The faeries and humans would have to settle matters between us.” She gives them curious looks. “That was centuries ago though. Stop talking so much about the past.”

“Yes, Boa,” they all chorus with a smile, laughing as she walks away with a dismissive wave.

Seulgi turns to Yixing with a teasing smile on her face. “She’s truly much older than she appears.”

“And she’s truly terrifying when angry,” Chanyeol adds as he walks up to them with a smile of his own. He laughs when Seulgi does, handing him and Yixing some fish and the man gives them drinks. “You shouldn’t mess with her so much while she’s with child.”

“She isn’t as temperamental as others I’ve known.”

“Now, that is true.”

Yixing watches the exchange, amused, smiling as he starts digging into his fish when Seulgi gives him the okay. It’s as delicious as the first one Chanyeol brought him, though it’s much fresher and warmer. He follows him when he tugs on his arm, moving towards a part of the area with less people. Looking around again, he can’t believe all these people are elves.

The night continues on as if it were a small gathering, a celebration, and Yixing watches with a happiness within him as the people start to dance when Chanyeol plays his instrument again. His fingers itch to play and he rushes back to where he thinks is Chanyeol’s tent only for Sungkyung to find him somewhere else entirely and guide him to it before going back to where Chanyeol is. He sits down next to him with a considerable amount of space between them before he starts playing along, creating a harmony to his melody and vice versa.

Together, they sing and smile, laughing as the elves in front of them start to dance and sing with them. Their ears aren’t as prominent, aren’t as obvious to him anymore, and Yixing is starting to understand his mother’s genuine fascination and love for them. Even Boa is trying to dance, but the children and other women always try to stop her, warning her that she could topple over and bring harm to herself and her unborn child. They’re just like everyone else. He doesn’t understand why anyone would want to harm them.

By the time, the festivities start to end, Yixing’s throat is starting to hurt and his fingers are sore, but the smiles on everyone’s faces makes it all worthwhile. Chanyeol makes the pain go away with a cup of hot tea and a soothing hand rubbing his back and Yixing enjoys this, much more than playing in the streets and receiving gold coins for something he genuinely enjoys doing for others.

That night, he sleeps in Chanyeol’s tent again. But this time, the flaps are closed and he waits for Chanyeol to succumb to slumber first, his even breaths being the notes to follow to dreamland.

The next day, Yixing accompanies Seulgi and a few others down to the river to capture more fish for their lunch. He helps carry some wood-woven baskets and cloths to cover the baskets with and smiles as Seulgi opens up about elves, about how some of them have evolved to freeze water enough to make ice and how some of them can create illusions with a simple thought.

Next to them is another man, one with a bored expression on his face, until Seulgi turns to him with a bright smile on her face. It amuses Yixing to see the bored expression immediately morph into something of slight adoration, gaze softening and speaking softly to her to keep the conversation going. He leaves them, veering off to the side, until he walks beside a man as tall as Chanyeol and the other elf with Seulgi.

“He’s Sehun,” the elf introduces, nodding in the direction to the pair. “If it isn’t obvious, he has been pining for Seulgi for as long as I can remember.”

Yixing bursts into laughter, staring at the duo incredulously. “That long?”

The man laughs, nodding. He has a set of bow and arrows on his back but he’s also carrying several baskets. “My name is Yifan.”

Turning to him, Yixing smiles, reaching a hand out to introduce himself properly. “I’m Yixing,” he says, watching as Yifan stares down at his hand with his eyebrows furrowed, before he simply reaches out and shakes it.

“I know,” Yifan says. His smile is incredibly gummy. “We all know.” Yixing gives him a look before Yifan tilts his head another direction and back. He follows the general direction and sees Chanyeol traveling with them but at the end of the group. “You caused quite the commotion.”

Yixing quickly looks away when Chanyeol looks to him. He takes in a deep breath to calm himself. “Why? I still don’t really understand why I’m here.” He fiddles with the collar of his shirt. He’s borrowing Chanyeol’s clothes and even though he likes minimal wear to the upper half of his body, this V-neck sleeveless shirt keeps slipping off one shoulder.

Yifan stares at him briefly, humming contemplatively. He shrugs. “Chanyeol should be the one to explain it to you.”

“But he won’t tell me anything or answer my questions.”

“And what questions might you have?”

Biting the inside of his lip, Yixing stares around at the others walking with them. They’re all minding their own business, just like Yifan is doing next to him, but it won’t hurt to ask him. “Why does he want me safe?” It’s strange how Yifan looks at him surprised, but he doesn’t hesitate to answer him.

“Hunters,” he says simply, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. He looks away from him and to Chanyeol several meters behind them, before looking back to him instead. “He heard word of an enchanting musician traveling through these woods being potentially hunted by some bounty hunters. He wanted to protect you because of your music.”

“What?” Yixing doesn’t understand. “But why would they hunt me? I just travel and play music. That’s not against some law.”

Yifan shakes his head at him. “I’m not sure either,” he says softly, giving him a small smile. “Chanyeol wouldn’t tell us what he knew about that. He only told Boa.”

“Yifan,” Seulgi calls, catching their attention. She’s grabbing the bow and arrows off of Sehun’s back and Yixing stares at them a little shocked. He’s carrying her stuff for her? Sehun looks awfully pleased with himself when Seulgi squeezes his hand in thanks. “Let’s hurry and go secure the area.”

“Oh, right,” Yifan mumbles, giving Yixing another smile before gathering the rest who have weapons with them. Most of them leave with them, but a few stick around, assuming to provide protection for the group as well.

Yixing sighs softly at being left behind. He simply walks by himself the rest of the way there, taking the time to admire nature around them. It’s comforting to see everyone so in tuned to the forest around them, so unlike most humans back in the towns and cities. In fact, it brings a strange sense of nostalgia, remembering his mother’s stories about them.

It’s like Yixing’s belonged in these forests all along, easily getting used to watching his footing and making sure he doesn’t bump into stray branches. He blends in well enough with the rest of the elves and nobody really gives him a curious look anymore except for the elders of the community. He almost shrieks when he sees someone suddenly come up beside him, only to see it’s Sehun trying to not openly stare at him.

“I wonder why hunters were planning to capture you,” Sehun muses. Yixing can’t tell if that was supposed to be offensive or what. “You’re human, aren’t you? Though, it isn’t all that strange for a human to prefer living with elves instead with others like himself.”

Yixing hums. “Why is that?”

“Have you met us? We’re awesome.”

Yixing doesn’t expect that answer at all so he laughs. It’s a full one, where he clutches his stomach and closes his eyes and even giggles, because what?

“It’s true,” Sehun says with a nod, but now he’s smiling and there’s a certain sparkle to his eyes. “We’re the coolest beings on the planet. We can fight for ourselves and shoot arrows. We can do magic and are tall–”

“Wait, is that an insult?”

“And we have pointy ears and pretty faces and nice hair. I think we’re pretty great.”

Sehun still looks immensely pleased with himself and Yixing can’t help but roll his eyes at him. “Yes. Yes, you are awesome,” he deadpans, watching as Sehun frowns at him in return.

“Hey, we are.”

“I’m not saying you aren’t,” Yixing fires back with a laugh, gasping when an arm circles around his shoulders. It’s not Sehun’s.

“What’s this young one doing now?” Chanyeol asks, looking between them curiously.

Sehun rolls his eyes. “I’m telling him elves are awesome, which is totally true. What have you been telling him?”

“Nothing,” Chanyeol answers. Yixing hums, the weight around his shoulders comfortable. “Some stuff.”

“Apparently not overly important stuff,” Sehun protests, though he sticks his tongue out at him after. “What have you two even been talking about since you met?”

“Now, isn’t that a good question?” Chanyeol asks in return. Yixing can’t help but roll his eyes at the response, before he jumps when Sehun snarls at them. He looks at him surprised, to see Sehun’s brown eyes flashing gold. “Oh, calm down,” Chanyeol drawls, using the arm around Yixing’s shoulder to lightly shove Sehun.

Sehun’s entire demeanor softens until he’s just frowning at him instead, looking away and towards the river they can all hear in the distance. “You know I hate it when you answer my question with a question. It’s idiotic.”

“It’s annoying,” Yixing agrees, sharing a small smile with Sehun.

Chanyeol simply laughs, returning to comfortably wrapping his arm around Yixing’s shoulders. “We’ve talked about some things, not so recent elven articles, and hunters. He’s met Xiaolu.”

“Oh, I haven’t seen Xiaolu in a while,” Sehun murmurs, before he’s waving at them and setting off towards the river, “You should teach him how to fish, especially if he’s going to stay here for a prolonged period of time.”

Yixing watches as Sehun unsheathes the knife attached to his leg, not noticing it there before, and tries to follow after him only to have Chanyeol pull him back and keep him rooted to the ground. Today, Chanyeol has his own bow and arrows with him, as well as his knife, and Yixing frowns as he accidentally bumps into it. “Chanyeol, what are you doing?”

“Something real quick” is all Yixing hears before he feels fingers gently touching his arm. Then Chanyeol is moving against him and Yixing looks next to him to see Chanyeol crouching down low enough to read what’s marked into his skin. “Whose name is this?” he asks quietly, before looking to him.

Yixing smiles as Chanyeol uses his finger to trace over the words. “It’s my mother’s name,” he answers. “Something to remember her.”

“As expected,” Chanyeol breathes out, though it sounded like he wasn’t supposed to say it out loud. They stay there for another few minutes before Chanyeol suddenly kisses Yixing’s shoulder and pushes him towards the river. “Xiaolu should be passing by here soon. I need to go check the forest on the other side of the river before I can join you.” Yixing gasps, barely noticeable, before turning back to see Chanyeol smiling at him.

“Then who’s going to teach me how to do this stuff? I don’t even have anything to gather fish with.”

Without hesitation, Chanyeol removes the hilt and knife from around his thigh. He hands them over to Yixing who stares at it briefly before looking to Chanyeol again, unsure with what to do with it. “Stay next to Sehun. I’ll be there.” He’s gone in a matter of minutes, running through the forest and between the trees to find another way across the river.

Sighing, Yixing turns to find Sehun and make sure not to cut himself in the process.

It takes the better part of two hours to catch enough fish and search for vegetation and wild fruits to have a proper meal for lunch and dinner later. Yixing watches as Sehun gathers some water in both his palms before freezing it, creating large slabs of ice two at a time along with another young girl to help keep the fish fresh. It’s the first time Yixing’s ever witnessed an elf’s magic and he’s pretty sure he may still be hallucinating when Sehun turns to face him curiously and his eyes are now a vibrant gold.

Chanyeol still hasn’t returned and Yixing waits even as Sehun is the last to leave, lingering with him a little longer before telling him to hurry back if Chanyeol doesn’t show up within a few minutes. Yixing promises, but he doesn’t know what to expect when he hears a hiss in the air before he quickly turns and avoids being hit by an arrow. It sticks a tree away from him and he searches frantically for the attacker. He doesn’t see anyone in sight, but Xiaolu comes rushing out of the bushes and tackles Yixing into moving quickly to hide.

The forest is completely silent when Yixing hides, Xiaolu quickly leaving his side to search the area, and he gasps when a hand clamps itself over his mouth. “It’s me,” Chanyeol whispers, Yixing immediately relaxing against his hold. “I’m sorry, but the hunters found us.”

Yixing turns in Chanyeol’s grasp. The hand falls from his mouth but his mouth drops open in shock anyways at what he sees. Chanyeol is bleeding and there’s a part of a broken arrow stuck in his left arm. He looks pale and weak, breathing shallowly, as he closes his eyes to regain his bearings. “Where are they?” he whispers, reaching out to gently touch the body of the arrow still left. He winces when Chanyeol winces.

“Yunho is taking care of them,” Chanyeol whispers, trying to remove the weapon from his body. “Boa is protecting everyone else.”

There’s a loud animal cry and Yixing doesn’t hesitate leaving his hiding spot, leaving Chanyeol to try and hurry after him, and searches to find Xiaolu injured as well, trying to run between the trees for cover. He’s limping and Yixing looks to the opposite way to see a woman with leather clothing holding a shotgun in her hand. He catches her attention and he freezes.

“Ah, the traveling musician,” the woman greets, bright smile on her lips. He recognizes her from when he played in the woods by the riverbank. “We’ve been searching for you.”

Without his consent, Chanyeol crosses what little distance is left between them and pulling the string back on his bow, ready to shoot the arrow at the woman. “I see you escaped,” he says, looking stronger than he did minutes before.

“To capture an elf and a half-breed,” the woman says wistfully, smile softening into a grin. “My pay will be good for the year.”

“Half-breed,” Yixing murmurs, echoes, now confused. If Chanyeol is obviously the elf, how is he the half-breed?

“I’m sorry,” Chanyeol murmurs to him, though he doesn’t take his eyes off of the woman for even a second. “I will explain later.” And then he’s off, lowering his weapon and running around. Xiaolu jumps out from behind a tree to tackle Yixing backwards before the woman can shoot.

There are shouts and gunshots and it happens way too quickly for Yixing to keep up. He tries to get up to help, to throw the knife at the bounty hunter, but Xiaolu keeps pounding his hooves into his chest to keep him down and away from harm. The deer shouldn’t even be moving, grunting with every movement as it jostles his back leg.

When it finally falls silent, Xiaolu moves. He gets off of Yixing and lets him get up and they wander over to where the woman is knocked onto her stomach, an arrow sticking out of her back, but still breathing. Her gun lies far away from her and Yixing keeps searching until he finds Chanyeol on the ground behind some bushes. He’s still breathing but it’s rapid.

“Go get somebody,” Yixing quickly tells Xiaolu, hoping he can understand, before he’s bounding off towards the direction of the main camp.

Chanyeol has a couple of bullet wounds as well as the arrow still in his arm, and Yixing winces as he kneels next to him and tries to get the arrow out of his arm. Chanyeol hisses but he doesn’t open his eyes, simply lets Yixing do as he wants.

It takes a couple of tries, but then the entire arrow is out and now there’s a steady stream of blood flowing from his arm. Yixing immediately takes off his shirt to tie it around the wound and he puts pressure on it, using his other hand to lift up Chanyeol’s shirt to see where the bullets hit and if it went straight through.

“I won’t die,” Chanyeol rasps out. He’s still sweating and pale. He won’t open his eyes. “I usually don’t injure this easily, but their weapons are infused with iron.”

Yixing frowns. “What does that have to do with anything?” There are two holes in Chanyeol’s chest and shoulder. “Can you breathe fine? Turn? I think it went straight through you.”

“It did,” Chanyeol groans, falling silent after. His breathing is slowly evening out, but Yixing can’t tell if that’s a good or bad sign.

“Chanyeol,” he calls softly, reaching up to brush the hair off of his face. He’s damp and partially covered with dirt and blood. “Can you get up? Let me bring you back to camp.”

When Chanyeol laughs, he coughs. “I’ll crush you,” he gasps out. He then starts to murmur something, tilting his head to the side, but Yixing can’t understand what he’s saying. It sounds foreign but familiar at the same time.

Within minutes, the tree closest to them is moving. Yixing can hear the soft rustling, a soft tune coming from it, before roots crawl their way towards Chanyeol. It freaks Yixing out, flinching when it comes close enough.

Before the roots have a chance to completely wrap around Chanyeol’s torso, Yixing hears hurried footsteps. He grabs an arrow and Chanyeol’s bow before he quickly turns and aims it at whoever is approaching. He doesn’t expect to see Yifan standing there, panting, with eyes wide with shock. His eyes are already golden, before he’s rushing forward and placing hands on Chanyeol’s chest. He frowns. “Iron,” he simply says.

“What’s with iron and elves?” Yixing questions quietly, lowering the weapon in his hands.

“Elves’ blood contains copper in it unlike humans whose blood contains iron,” Yifan murmurs softly, staring hard into Chanyeol’s chest, as the roots circle his wrists as well as Chanyeol’s torso. “Iron poisons us.”

The wind around them picks up, the scent of the trees and plants strengthen, and Yixing watches with wide eyes as it looks like there’s a faint glow surrounding both of the men in front of him. He can hear the music weaving its way between them and see the way its curing Chanyeol minute by minute.

It takes days for the poison to run out of Chanyeol’s system. He simply lies in bed and Yixing alternates with Seulgi and Sehun with bringing him fresh fruits to eat and drinks even though he doesn’t wake up except for mere minutes at a time. He says he won’t die, but Yixing sure feels like it when Chanyeol grabs onto his hand and keeps him close, turning until his head is in his lap and he’s snuggling close into his waist.

When Yixing’s not taking care of him, he’s out with the other elves, learning how to properly shoot an arrow and handle a knife. To Yifan’s surprise, Yixing learns quickly. He’s strong and agile and can keep up with them easily when they go out to get more fish and to secure their surroundings. It even catches Yunho’s attention who’s apparently Boa’s significant other and Yixing smiles as he greets them again, Chanyeol finally gaining enough strength to simply sit outside his tent and doze off in the afternoon sun. He stops in his tracks when Boa calls for him, following her and Yunho curiously, until he’s inside their own larger, spacious tent.

“I’ve heard some interesting things from Chanyeol while I was treating him the other day,” Boa starts, giving Yixing a small smile before Yunho helps her sit down on a bunch of feather-stuffed pillows. “He said that you know now.”

It takes a minute, but then Yixing remembers. “The bounty hunters who were after me,” he says slowly, frowning. “The woman called me a half-breed.”

Boa nods without a second thought, smile fading but the concern still swirling within her eyes. “There is a reason why you love nature so much,” she offers. “Why you can hear the music so clearly in the trees, the animals, the forest that surrounds you.” She smiles then, Yixing’s heart racing every time she speaks, realization dawning on him. “You’ve never met your father, have you?”

Slowly, as if time is barely moving, Yixing shakes his head. “My father died before I was born.”

“And your mother?”

“She was human,” he answers quietly, suddenly blinking back tears. “She died three years ago. She was fascinated by all the creatures of the earth, always told stories about mermaids, faeries, and elves…” It’s getting hard to breathe, suddenly becoming aware of Boa and Yunho’s pointy ears, their long hair, how unfairly pretty both of them are. “She–”

“She protected you as long as she could,” Boa softly says, getting up again with Yunho’s help to get to him. Instantly, she pulls Yixing into a hug the best she can. “Your father died protecting both of you.”

“He was the one who was tortured,” Yixing murmurs, feeling Boa nod against him.

“There was a meeting between your father, the merman, the faery, and the human then, hoping to start the process of protecting all species. He was a part of us, the older clan,” she sighs, “But humans can be cruel.”

“You’re real,” Yixing whispers, feeling Boa nod against him again. He looks to Yunho who’s giving him a sympathetic smile. “But why–”

There’s a type of knocking sound from the outside of the tent before Yunho is asking, “Who is it?”

“Sungkyung told me she saw Yixing come in here,” Chanyeol says.

Yixing tenses in Boa’s grasp, hearing the flap of the tent open. He can feel Chanyeol’s stare at his back and he stays put until Boa lightly pats his shoulder to let go. “Chanyeol will tell you what’s going on.” She eyes the intruder. “He will tell you everything, and it’s nice to see you finally up and about.”


There’s an amused expression on Yunho’s face and it takes Boa pushing Yixing away for him to finally turn and face Chanyeol, who looks just as shaken as he feels. Nothing is said between them but Yixing does squeak when he feels a hard push to his back. He stumbles forward to Chanyeol who catches him easily before they’re thrown out of the tent completely.

They stand there. Yixing’s heart is threatening to beat out of his chest and he doesn’t know what to do. He has elven blood in him but he honestly had no idea. His mother never told him anything, never mentioned his father or the pain she was going through, and he misses her so much. He doesn’t even know how they met, where they met, and now he won’t get the chance.


“I’m going to go clear my head,” Yixing murmurs, pulling away from Chanyeol until he can grab his guitar inside Chanyeol’s tent and run off towards the woods. He doesn’t hear footsteps behind him but he hears the crunching of leaves from something lighter, looking over to see Xiaolu trailing after him.

Xiaolu lifts his head up in greeting.

Yixing doesn’t know how long he travels, turning left and right and wherever Xiaolu headbutts him towards, and when he stumbles out of some bushes, he’s surprised to see the area where he first met Chanyeol in front of him. He can hear the rushing of the river and see people still traveling by, so he lets Xiaolu hide between the trees as he goes to set up near the river.

It’s comforting to feel the water kick up and lick the back of his calves, catching the backs of Chanyeol’s pants and wetting them. He frowns at the reminder, that his clothes are not his own, before he listens for nature’s song. It takes a few minutes to clear his head but then he hears the whistles, strumming his guitar along with the beats, and before he knows it, he’s singing along.

The sun has just past its peak, already starting its slow descent into the earth, and Yixing smiles as his songs gather the attention of all the travelers passing by. Some of them come up to him between songs, asking to accompany him to the next town, but Yixing declines, seeing Xiaolu stick his head out between some bushes to give him a stare, until another human tempts him with a meal when they arrive. He skipped out on lunch and it’s easy to hear his stomach grumble with how empty it is.

It’s distant, but he can hear Xiaolu grunt at him in annoyance when he leaves his spot.

Traveling with humans is almost foreign to Yixing. They talk about the weather, the news, any rumors and myths going around by word of mouth. They end up on the topic about bounty hunters, Yixing curious about their progress in their profession. The elderly man tells him that it’s a dwindling one but pays big if there’s an actual capture. He doesn’t understand why though because he was alive when the world declared all these other creatures extinct.

Yixing bites his lip at the reminder, thinking about his mother, his unknown father, about Chanyeol and the rest, and he sighs softly. “I heard there had been a couple of hunters passing through here lately,” he says, eyeing the man next to him. He doesn’t look anything like a hunter, too old to be as agile as the previous one he’s encountered so far.

“I’ve heard that too,” he says, humming as he taps his chin. “But I also heard their bodies were found… yesterday, was it? There were no arrows in their bodies but their wounds were deep. I believe they bled out.” He pauses as he frowns. “Or that their memory was erased? Maybe they’re alive. I’m not too sure, boy.”

“I see,” Yixing murmurs, beginning to hum another tune. This is a common passageway for travelers. The path is worn down and the trees have spread to allow them entrance. Yixing used to be comfortable like this.

“Thankfully, there’s only one more bend before the town is in sight,” the old man says conversationally, laughing. “They have those fancy cobblestone pathways and lampposts. They have nice restaurants that serve deer and fancy sounding fish names. I heard that even their most expensive inn has heated water and always fresh towels.” He turns to eye him, Yixing giving him a polite smile in return, even though he’s reeling from hearing that deer can be served as a meal. Where’s Xiaolu? “You even have a knife, boy! That’s good when you travel in case wolves attack!”

Yixing looks down immediately at those words, not even realizing he’s still wearing Chanyeol’s knife and holster around his thigh. “Oh, yes,” he says, trying to keep the conversation going. “It’s very useful at night. I feel more protected.”

“That’s good!” the man repeats, laughing jovially while patting his shoulder. “The young ones are getting smarter every year. Amazing!”

It isn’t much longer until they arrive to the town, Yixing’s jaw falling open at what he sees before him. It’s much more modern than the previous two towns he’s visited. Everything looks clean and pristine and his leather shoes make a faint tapping sound with every step he takes.

“Let’s go here, boy!” the man happily says, dragging him in the direction of a middle-class restaurant. “They serve something called deer sandwiches here.”

Yixing feels like throwing up. “Oh, no. I’ll get something else.”

“Oh, don’t be silly,” the other says. “I’m paying. Go ahead and get the special.”

“No, sir,” Yixing protests politely, giving him a smile when he faces him. “I’ll join you for a meal but I’d rather have some type of fish instead.”

The man gives him a strange look but he shrugs nonetheless, telling the waitress that there are two to their party. The restaurant is decently full but Yixing feels strange. He feels like he doesn’t belong here. He runs fingers through his hair, grimacing when he can feel how long it’s grown out now.

“You should cut your hair. Do you have some money?”

“I do,” Yixing says, not elaborating on it anymore. He does have money, but it’s not with him. It’s back in Chanyeol’s tent wherever that is.


They place their orders and make light conversation throughout their meals. Yixing finds out more about what’s going on in the town, any of the events happening, and he almost jumps in his spot when he sees a man walking by the restaurant. His outfit is made of leather and looks similar to the bounty hunter that attacked Chanyeol, a crossbow attached to his back.

“Oh, is that another bounty hunter?” the man asks, raising his eyebrows curiously. “That one has blonde hair. I heard the others were a woman with dark hair and another man with light brown hair.”

“There’s a third one?” Yixing questions in return, ready to bolt out of there.

“Apparently so, boy.”

There are another few minutes before the man is paying for their meals and they’re leaving the restaurant. Yixing thanks him for his time and generosity before they separate. The town is interesting, Yixing peeking into stores and shops to see what’s good, but he feels slightly out of place. He’s been in the forest too long.

He leaves the town entrance quickly, searching all around him and waiting until no one’s in sight to run into the forest to his right. He whispers for Xiaolu, wondering where he’s gone, because he has no idea how to get back to the elven community. He wants to warn them. He wants them safe.

Running blindly with his heart racing, he doesn’t even realize he starts calling for Chanyeol in between calling for Xiaolu as well. He thinks an area looks familiar before he almost runs into a branch he swears wasn’t there before. He trips over roots and rocks before he stops to catch his breath. Where’s Chanyeol?

The sun is starting to cast its golden glow between the trees. It’s a beautiful sight and Yixing takes the time to admire the scenery. He doesn’t see any more humans walking through his part of the woods and he listens for any abnormalities with nature’s song. There isn’t anything as far as he can tell but he can hear a rustling in the distance. He straightens and waits, not wanting to call for Xiaolu or Chanyeol yet.

Yixing waits anxiously next to a tree, slowly moving to hide behind it and place his hand on the hilt of his knife just in case. He can hear whistling but it sounds off, terrifying, and Yixing’s eyes widen when he sees the same bounty hunter from before. He doesn’t think he’s anywhere near the elven community.

“I saw you run in this direction, Yixing,” the man calls out, stopping meters away to search for him. He has a gun in his hand, the crossbow still on his back. “Yixing Zhang, one of the rare half-breeds to escape the system.”

Yixing doesn’t understand what that means. What system? He almost gasps when a hand covers his mouth again, feeling a second hand gently touch his shoulder and caress his arm until it’s covering his own smaller hand on his knife. There’s a small, soft kiss to his temple and Yixing relaxes, lets his hand fall away from the knife, so Chanyeol can unsheathe it instead.

“Come on out,” the man coaxes. “The reward to bring you back alive is high and I’d like to try out that new fancy restaurant in the nearest town.”

Yixing twists until he can see Chanyeol’s face. He’s determined and his eyes are shifting to a golden color. He slowly removes the bow and arrows from his back, handing it to Yixing quietly, and he gets the idea as he quickly lowers his guitar to the ground and straps on the quiver of arrows. He removes one and positions it on the bow, waiting for Chanyeol’s instructions.

“I saw you there, in that other restaurant,” the man continues. “With some old man. I wonder what you two were talking about.”

“If you bleed, Yixing, it’ll be hard for you to recover,” Chanyeol whispers, sparing him a concerned glance. “You have a strange, rare mixture of iron and copper in your blood. Your body can produce it, but you’ll heal at a lot slower than normal.” His grip on the knife’s hilt tightens. “Be careful.”

Within seconds, Chanyeol is moving out from behind the tree and running forward. He dodges every shot fired and Yixing waits until Chanyeol tosses his knife as a dagger. The hunter moves out of the way quickly and Chanyeol runs behind a tree. Yixing watches as a branch snaps out and manages to puncture the man’s arm before he runs out and aims. The man is screaming in pain but he grabs for his crossbow and tries to aim for him instead.

Yixing shoots three arrows before he hits the hunter in the stomach. A light feeling takes over him and he smiles in relief when he runs away to hide behind another tree, quietly asking it to help protect him from this hunter. He can hear Chanyeol running around, can see him taking his knife out from the ground, and towards the man again. He closes his eyes when he hears a slice.

There’s a blanket of silence before Yixing hears Chanyeol speak, sounding out of breath. “Yixing, you don’t have to stay for this.”

Yixing swallows around a lump in his throat. “Stay for what?” He doesn’t move from behind his hiding spot though. He can hear more rustling and feel the earth shift underneath him. It makes him curious, stepping away from the tree, to see the earth slowly starting to swallow the hunter.

“Yixing!” Chanyeol gasps, gold eyes quickly reverting back to green. He rushes over to him, blocking his vision of the earth’s deeds, and he pulls him in for a hug. His efforts are futile when Yixing’s already seen it all and he starts to shake. He doesn’t know if he’s awed or terrified. Did Chanyeol kill the man or did the earth? “Xiaolu came back for me when he saw you enter that town. You’re so far away from home.”

At those words, a smile finds its way to Yixing’s face unbidden. They stand there in silence, Yixing clutching onto the back of Chanyeol’s shirt, but then he remembers. He bites at Chanyeol’s shoulder in retaliation.


“You’ve literally been keeping me in the dark since the very beginning,” Yixing accuses, finally feeling the earth shifting one more time before it settles. He pulls away to punch Chanyeol in the chest. “You should’ve told me I was being hunted. Why I was being hunted.”

Chanyeol pouts, so unlike any other expression he’s seen so far. His hair is tied back, showing off his handsome face. Oh, that’s new. “You wouldn’t have believed me.”

“I–” Yixing stops himself, stares longer at Chanyeol, before sighing in defeat. “Yeah, I wouldn’t have.”

“Your parents had something special,” Chanyeol informs, sighing as well. “Their story was popular within our community. The elders always told stories about how an elven male stumbled upon a beautiful human woman, who loved all the creatures of the earth.” He shrugs. “Your mother probably told you all about her love story.”

Eyes wide, Yixing shakes his head. “My mother… She never said anything. The story of elves always made her sad.” He closes his eyes and pictures her crying. “Now, I guess I understand why.”

“I heard your father was so happy to hear your mother conceived but then there were rumors, threats, about humans turning their backs on us even after so many years of trying to be progressive.” Chanyeol sounds sad. “I don’t even know if he was able to actually see you before he passed.”

Yixing takes in a deep breath, slowly breathing it out. He can hear the trees move with him, the wind refreshing against his heated skin. “So, this is the reason you sought me out,” he quietly accuses, not wanting to open his eyes.

“I heard about his wife finally passing and their son who’s grown wonderfully. There are very few half-breeds out there, but they’re all treasured.” Yixing sucks in another breath when he feels a hand gently touch his cheek. “What Boa said is true though. I heard your music through the trees. I became enchanted by it.”


“You couldn’t see me,” Chanyeol interrupts. “But I did visit and keep watch over you with Xiaolu when you played by that river. I asked the trees to help shield my existence from the humans, but that also happened to include you because of your partial human blood.” He laughs softly, inadvertently lifting Yixing’s spirit as well. “I became enchanted by you.”

Suddenly, Yixing feels Chanyeol tilting his head up and then he feels soft lips meet his. It’s gentle yet firm and Yixing doesn’t realize he’s holding his breath until Chanyeol pulls away. He blinks his eyes open, focusing his gaze on Chanyeol in front of him, before Chanyeol is leaning in again and Yixing loses himself into the touch of soft petals, gentle breezes, and strong earth.

“I’m pretty sure the tree doesn’t appreciate you pushing me up against her,” Chanyeol murmurs with a laugh. Yixing simply groans, pushing himself closer to Chanyeol, and whining when he feels fingers tangle in his hair and pull.

Yixing can hear something harsh in the wind, finally pushing himself off of Chanyeol to catch his breath. He looks to the tree’s branches above them, offering a sheepish smile. “That’s probably true. I can hear it. I’m sorry.”

Chanyeol laughs again and Yixing smiles, letting Chanyeol carry his guitar again while he carries his weapons. They lace their fingers together, Chanyeol tugging Yixing back in the direction of their home.

Minutes pass by as they walk in silence, Yixing lightly tracing the engravings on the knife’s hilt. He’s now aware of the blood that’s been on it, aware of how strong an elf’s power can be, yet he’s also aware with how Chanyeol treats him. He knows he can handle himself, but it doesn’t hurt to feel protected, safe, every once in a while.

“Yunho had heard rumors about hunters passing by here,” Chanyeol murmurs, veering right. “And how he overheard them talking about a traveling musician possibly being an elf in disguise.” He scoffs. “Elves can’t really put on disguises like the faeries can, but it caught my attention because I could hear another’s music through the trees.”

Yixing shudders. “And they were hunting for me?”

“They’re hunting for any one of us, but you could probably still travel through towns, though not for long periods of time.”

Frowning, Yixing nods. “It felt weird though. After staying so long in the forest, it was strange going back to pure human civilization.”

“Is that so?” Chanyeol muses, smiling at him. “Well, you always have the choice to do what you want. I’m not going to stop you.”

Yixing hums, pleased with the answer, “But you kept me safe.”

“I wanted to keep you safe,” he emphasizes, squeezing Yixing’s fingers gently. “The stories about how they tortured us… It’ll only be worse with half-breeds, to see what they are capable of and what they are not. They’re the reason why the mermaids and faeries became extinct, if not hiding even from us.”

“So, they are gone,” Yixing says quietly, feeling a wave of sadness take over him. He never got the chance to meet one, except for Sungkyung. “Did my mother have the chance to meet them?”

Chanyeol smiles as they veer left. “I’m only assuming that she did long ago.”

Yixing smiles with him, as he pictures his mother dancing with the faeries, traveling with the elves, and arguing with the mermaids, because she took pride in her cooking.

“So, Yixing,” Chanyeol says, tugging on his hand to get his attention. When Yixing looks to him, his eyes are a vibrant green. His smile is cheeky. “Would you believe me if I told you I’m an elf?”

Yixing can only laugh.

“I’ll let you touch my ears?” Now that gets his attention, stopping and turning to Chanyeol with wide eyes. Chanyeol is amused and he has every right to be. “I know you’ve been wanting to touch my ears since the moment we met.”

Yixing can’t be any happier.


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