“Either way, can you tell me what happened these three weeks?”
“Ignoring the issue, I see”, she scolded but handed him the glass of water that the sect leader had left for. “How can you even endure with that adorable little face on your chest.”
“He is indeed rather adorable”, the sect leader shamelessly agreed while stroking his beard. Even a scar did not change that.
“Can we get back to the topic?”, Shi Yue forced out.
“Whatever you say.” She smirked a bit before she turned serious. “Here is the thing. Xie Yi running away somewhere is the story that spread, everyone knows about this. Although people are raising their eyebrows, it’s not troublesome and since he got out alive, no one believes that he met anyone of the Demonic Sect either and things have calmed down.”
“There is a completely different problem in our own sect”, the sect leader sighed darkly. “We, of course, checked out the area around where he should have been and found an underground base.”
Shi Yue tensed at the dark expression on the man’s face. “And?”
“Nothing and”, the man responded. “It’s destroyed. There is nothing of it left. It was burned to the ground with spiritual fire; we could only find very little of what might have been around before. Not a single person was there.”
“If the Demonic Sect leaves behind an outpost, they blow it up”, Master Chen added. “That is common knowledge. That this one is burned out and not blown up hints at the fact that it was wiped out.”
“Xie Yi was injured, as you can see.”
At that comment, Shi Yue glanced down again. The ugly red marks running over Xie Yi’s face and arm were not fading.
“One of my teachers met the woman who likes using the poison that causes these reactions. It’s her toy - while not lethal, it’s nothing short of excruciatingly painful and it never fully heals. Some of the teachers recognized it. So what does that tell us?”
Shi Yue rubbed his temples tiredly. “That Xie Yi met her and survived. Also that he is somehow able to endure the pain.”
Of course he would be able to - Xie Yi had gone through much worse. It sure did explain his pain tolerance.
“Everyone’s suspicion about him broke out again.”
“We solved it somehow, by the way. I told them that there is a Transcendent who even let Xie Yi stay at his home, meaning he can't be that evil. However, even with everyone having calmed down, the suspicion sticks”, the older man explained slowly. “People could always say we faked it.”
“You need to rest a lot right now, anyway. Xie Yi can stay by your side to help you and you can keep an eye on him and see if he tells you a bit more on what happened. He refused to talk to us at all”, Master Chen declared. “He stayed a lot of time in the higher grounds anyway, he can continue doing that.”
Shi Yue gave her a thankful nod. “I will. What kind of state am I in?”
“Badly exhausted. I’ll make you some pills that will help get you on your feet again.”
“Enough of that”, the sect leader laughed lowly. “I am starting to feel awkward while looking at this. Besides, I believe Xue Hua and Ying Hua will want to come in soon, too. We can leave the rest for later.”
The white-haired Grandmaster decided to ignore the quip and kept Xie Yi on his chest.
Once they had left, he moved his painful body to sit up more and changed his hold on Xie Yi. He watched the peacefully sleeping face.
His head felt weird with all of this information and contradicting feelings.
Generally, he had decided to use the memories he had to understand Xie Yi better but otherwise treat him with this, his current, life as a base.
Xie Yi was his disciple, not quite an adult yet, and had troubles with social skills and common knowledge. He was bad at martial arts but a great fighter in total. Talented in arrays and forging.
“And what kind of state are you in?”, he hummed to himself and reached out to hold one of Xie Yi’s hands.
This time he was rejected almost instantly and the youth wriggled a bit in his sleep with furrowed brows. Shi Yue stopped the intrusion with his spiritual energy and placed his forehead against Xie Yi’s.
“It’s fine. Don’t reject me, everything is okay.”
The rejection lessened and vanished.
Shi Yue sighed as he examined the channels. They were a bit like burned from the inside, a rather unusual state, but healing. His left arm was hurt from overuse.
He wanted to check on the cracks but halted in surprise when what he found was not a simple crack anymore.
A wry smile spread over his face.
By now, he could say nothing but that timelines changing and Xie Yi switching sides was Heaven’s will. How else could he have taken over his core from a timeline that shouldn’t exist?
It came as a great relief that the dark demonic core was being cleansed.
When he reached for it, it lashed out at him violently, causing painful sparks to go through his body. He hissed to endure it.
The core calmed down quite quickly and pulled back again. Hiding behind the layer of pure spiritual energy, it was a lot like a ferocious animal in a burrow.
Shi Yue chuckled. He forced himself to keep the connection up for another while in hopes of Xie Yi getting subconsciously used to it and then withdrew. While awake, the youth would never allow him to do this again, but in a worst-case scenario, it would be good if an unconscious Xie Yi did not reject him.
“What exactly have you gone through?”, he asked, expecting no answer. “How can I find out what made you into that monster? Why is it so different now?”
Xie Yi mumbled incoherently in his sleep.
The older man grit his teeth to shift his body enough to place Xie Yi beside him, where the young man had his own place and pillow to lie down. He leaned back, exhausted, and closed his eyes.
It took him half a minute before he opened them again with a face that showed his annoyance.
“Ridiculous”, he grumbled, but endured the pain anyway to reach to the side again and return the warm, slender body to resting on his chest.
With a head of fuzzy hair nuzzling below his chin - actually nuzzling because Xie Yi was searching for the most comfortable position in his sleep - he finally felt satisfied enough to close his eyes again.
He was more than thankful that he woke up before Xie Yi did and had enough time to leave the bed and let Xie Yi lie there on his own. Also before anyone else came in again.
With a clearer head, he found the situation much more embarrassing.
Xie Yi rubbed his eyes heavily after waking up, hoping to get rid of the heavy feeling. He yawned wholeheartedly and scanned the room for Shi Yue.
The man’s long hair hung freely and a bit messily down his back and over his shoulders.
He turned around at feeling a gaze on him and gave Xie Yi a soft smile. “Slept well?”
“I took your bed”, Xie Yi awkwardly mumbled. “Sorry.”
“You needed it. Now come here and apologize for the mess you’ve caused”, Shi Yue called from the chair.
His disciple walked over but did not speak. He only pulled a face.
“Hmmm?” Shi Yue tugged an eyebrow up.
“I can’t do that”, Xie Yi responded. “I’m not sorry for what I’ve done. At most, I feel guilty you got dragged into it.”
Ying Hua had given him a prophecy that Xie Yi would never lie to him, years ago. Interesting to see.
“Anything you want to tell me about what happened?”
“A girl will come here soon”, the youth forced out after a deep breath. “As a refugee. Please help her.”
“Someone who managed to flee from the sect?”
“She will have to be taken as a captive”, Shi Yue warned.
Xie Yi forced a smile. Now that he knew more than before, Shi Yue could see the bitterness hidden deep inside the red eyes as well as the hint of insanity in his voice. “Better a captive here than living in the Demonic Sect.”
Seeing the downcast appearance, Shi Yue reached out involuntarily and placed a gentle hand on Xie Yi’s head.
The youth, confused, blinked and looked up.
Twitching in surprise, Shi Yue turned it into a messier headpat. “Leave it to the adults.”
God knows how shameful it felt to say this to someone with the mentality of a few hundred years. Xie Yi’s awkward face made it no better.
The youth couldn’t help but feel that things were weird. Shi Yue wasn’t acting like usual but at the same time, it hadn’t changed in a bad way. It felt… closer? As if they were more familiar.
He resisted the urge to jump forward and into his master’s arms for a hug. He wouldn’t, because his master wouldn’t like it, but after the heavy memories of the outpost, he loved this peace all the more.
The Grandmaster wasn’t planning on asking his disciple any questions about what happened, knowing he wouldn’t get an answer, so the whole mood was much more relaxed than expected.
When Xue Hua came in, he too had the feeling that something was different, but couldn’t pinpoint what.