For only a second, time seemed to slow down. Her mind could barely process the man standing in front of her, or the massive Mountain Demon crouched behind him.
When 'Mountain Demon’ finally permeated her thoughts, Yu Zhunyao shrieked and stumbled back. The books in her arms fell with a loud clatter, which attracted the attentions of the man, though he made no motion to pick them up.
‘Mountain Demon!’ her mind cried incoherently. 'Why now? This is supposed to be a ward untouched by demons? Why are you touching it??’
But it wasn't the Mountain Demon who approached. It was the human.
He wore nothing but a simple black under-robe. It fluttered unnaturally with his steps, as if it had no weight to it, catching Yu Zhunyao's eye. Then she realized how eye-catching the man himself was.
His entire body was shaken by a deep tremble, but he did not appear sick beyond that. His face was hard and unyielding, with a razor-sharp gaze that seemed unimpressed with all he saw. His back was held straight and his head held high, as if he were a mighty emperor. His silver hair fell in silky waves over his shoulders, not a hair out of place, as if the world's elements were not worthy enough to touch it.
A true immortal.
Then Yu Zhunyao remembered the only person she's ever heard of having silver hair.
“Jian,” the man said. His voice was surprisingly soft.
The man stared down at her, and said in full, “my name is Xu Jian.”
It was him!! Xu Jinyue!! That golden scourge of WenDian!!
Sure, he was strong and skilled and brought renown to anyone who would have him, but he had as many horror stories as he did boasts. Disrespecting women, lying to cause trouble, forcing people to wait on him...and he was in the position to do all three in that moment.
She hadn't spoken to another human being in a solid month, and seeing another person was a huge shock, let alone this monster.
Then the Mountain demon - a mountain demon! - pushed his head into the room.
The demon didn't look nearly as poised, but he was certainly more traditionally beautiful, as well as bigger, and more dangerously amused, and more indecently exposed…
“I suffer from Qi Deviation,” Xu Jian declared when she'd been unresponsive for too long.
He stood with his back to the enormous demon. Then, as if the aura of an immortal was never there, his face fell into idle blankness. Every muscle seemed to go slack, and his expression took on a dream-like quality which matched the flat, gentle monotone of his speech far better.
“Qi deviation. I'm very sick,” he repeated.
Yu Zhunyao frowned. He looked fine.
Xu Jian stared down at her, seeming a little perplexed. Then he turned up to the Mountain demon behind him. “You should leave, my lord. You're very frightening, and that can cause complications.”
Ying Long's face tensed. “There's nothing to be afraid of.”
“Yes there is. My lord is very large and strong, and enacted a brutal siege on her sect. You have made no guarantees of anyone's safety. You are terrifying.”
The Mountain demon, beyond all expectations, actually looked pleased by this assessment, and slid back a little so that Xu Jian could close the door.
Leaving them alone together.
Xu Jian turned to look at her. He didn't look threatening, but he was only wearing his under-robes, and he was definitely known to behave poorly to women…
To her surprise, he lost interest in her, inspecting the room itself. It was a library, and there wasn't much to inspect besides books, which were all dense and hard to read.
She shuffled away from him, wary of sudden attacks. He glanced back at the noise.
“Where’s the other residents of this ward?” He asked.
“Huh?” Yu Zhunyao paused in her attempt to hide behind a bookcase.
“You're the only one here?”
“Oh...yes? I mean...everyone ought to have escaped or fled by now…”
“And you didn't?”
She flushed. “I...forgot...my notes…”
He stared at her, face still blank. Then he took a piece of paper and a brush she had been using. He scribbled out a question with a deft hand.
‘how good are you with arrays?’
She blinked. “I-”
He jabbed her violently in the stomach with the inkbrush, making her doubled over in pain.
Xu Jian then passed the inkbrush over. She looked at him cautiously, but he didn't make any more sudden movements, and he made no effort to intimidate.
She gently took the brush and wrote her own comment.
The edge of his mouth turned down.
‘Can you block out sound?’
Yu Zhunyao blinked curiously at him. He looked meaningfully at the door.
Of course! She hadn't considered why the Golden Star of WenDian would be at Hyacinth Palace to begin with. It was also strange for him to be so under-dressed so early in the morning, and in a demon's clothing, no less. He had been kidnapped!
She hurriedly grabbed her own paper, and with the brush, wrote a disrupting spell on it. It had no delicacy, and interrupted not only sound but also the flow of energy, the flow of air, and the flow of just about anything. It would even block out the warmth of the sun. If they set this up in a cave, it could kill them, but in a residential building, they could just open a window.
When the spell was pasted over the door, Xu Jian relaxed.
“Visits with a doctor need privacy.”
He sat on the table by the window and slid off his robes to reveal broad shoulders and a body that was far more muscular than she expected. He also appeared to be wearing pants, which eased Yu Zhunyao's anxiety somewhat.
However, he was peppered with yellow bruises, with a nasty one that seemed only halfway healed over his stomach. A cultivator shouldn't heal so sluggishly.
Then, Qi deviation...she rested a thumb under her chin. She'd never treated someone in the middle of deviation, but that had to be what was happening. Xu Jinyue wasn't known for being subdued, and he didn't seem to be threatening her, so...
But wait, if she cured it…
“It's not going to go away,” he said.
She jumped. “Ah? Huh? It's not what?”
Xu Jian's sharp gaze had returned. “My personality won't change even if you fix it.”
“Is that...so?” She didn't have a lot of experience treating Qi deviation, so she couldn't argue.
“Just check it.”
She bit her lip, and performed the Healing Clear Water hand arts. Her spiritual energy coalesced in her hands, and the nerves in her palms became sensitive. She itched at them immediately. Her master made it seem like this technique was very comfortable...those who had broken though more than two layers of cultivation were on another level.
Xu Jian, still trembling, looked unimpressed.
Yu Zhunyao flushed, and quickly placed her hand over his abdomen to feel out his lower dantian, careful not to press on the bruise. As the source of spiritual energy, anything that went wrong in his body ought to show itself in the dantian.
At first, she didn't feel anything amiss. It was consistent, undamaged, and maintained a steady amount of energy. She was about to say he was completely healthy before she realized what was wrong.
“You aren't taking in any energy,” she wondered. While the Qi was circulating just fine, nothing was being collected. All of his energy was flowing at once, like a second heart.
“Is that bad?”
“Well...it means you're purifying a small amount energy over and over again, which would make you quite powerful. However…”
“If you take energy out of your meridians, it's gone for good until you absorb more. That's fine enough for a demon, but humans have delicate systems. The more techniques you use, the more your body will break down, until you finally…”
Xu Jian titled his head.
“Until I finally die?”