“That’s good to hear anyway. What did we miss?”, Xiao Lu asked with a glance around. There were some people staring over suspiciously.
“I don’t know. I stayed in the upper grounds this whole time.” The red-eyed cultivator pulled up his shoulders. He already did not concern himself too much with the sect on a normal day and with Shi Yue hurt, he did not care at all.
“Nothing interesting then?”
One of the guards who came to change shifts heard the sentence and choked a bit. His loud coughing alerted the group who looked over in confusion except for Shi Yue, who was pretty sure the guard had seen the scene that had happened not too long ago.
So much on topic of nothing interesting.
“He’s coughing. Why is he coughing? What did we miss?”, Xiao Lu asked with glinting eyes and pulled-up shoulders.
Xie Yi frowned in thought. He couldn’t think of anything at all.
“Why am I so certain that it involves you and you’re not realizing the effect it has caused?”, Xu Yan groaned.
Shi Yue nodded half to himself. Xu Yan truly understood Xie Yi quite well.
“Okay. Let’s go through this one by one.” Xu Yan placed his hands together and in front of his face to take a deep breath. “You said you were grounded this whole time. Did you encounter people when you weren’t in the upper grounds?”
“Not really, no. I hardly ever left it.”
“So your first time being under lots of people should be now. There has to be some reaction then. Did anyone of them say something weird?”
“As in, to each other or to me?”
The group watched the interaction. Shi Yue found it amusing enough to stand by and wait.
“I guess one of them called me out.”
“On what? What did he say?”
“Uh, he called me disgusting for liking Master.”
“...And your reaction was?”
“Saying that me liking Master is none of his business.”
“So”, Xu Yan said in a slightly trembling voice, “you… confessed to Master Li in front of the whole sect?”
“...You admitted you like Master Li in front of the whole sect?”
“Yeah.” Admitting sounded a lot like it was a secret, though.
The side that did not see the problem stared at the side that wanted to scream. Xu Yan looked over to the very relaxed Shi Yue and found himself relieved that at least this wasn’t derailing but-
The three men behind them gaped. QingQing covered her mouth in surprise. Xiao Lu whistled.
“Okay, yes, I should have known you wouldn’t be too shy to do this”, Xu Yan breathed out. He closed his eyes and tried to calm his nerves. “That… definitely caused an uproar. Okay. Uhm, Master Li is… tolerating it?”
“Accepting”, Shi Yue corrected. As much as he did not care about the rumours, he did not want Xie Yi or his close friend Xu Yan to misunderstand.
“Language”, Xie Yi reacted while pulling a face. “Help?”
“Tolerating is often a bit more negative. It’s more of a barely allowing it around”, Xu Yan jumped to explain. “Accepting is saying that you don’t mind. You don’t necessarily agree with it, but you don’t feel the need for it to be changed.”
Xie Yi smiled at hearing the explanation. That Shi Yue had gone out of his way to make sure that he knew it was the more positive type made him happy. He would have been fine being only tolerated, but acceptance did sound nicer.
He did not need any return, he only wanted to be allowed to like Shi Yue. He also did not want Shi Yue to feel troubled, and that was included in acceptance.
“I didn’t know those words were different”, QingQing whispered to herself at the side.
Xu Yan gave a forced smile. He spent a lot of his time gathering this kind of knowledge so that he’d be able to explain as many things as possible when Xie Yi asked.
At first he had thought it was too much, but then he noticed that using this as an additional reason for learning was a good idea. After all, this was all knowledge he had. It could be useful at any time.
“Anyway, I’m not allowed to walk around on my own right now, which is why Master is here.”
“How long will it be like that?”, Sheng Mu asked in Xu Yan’s stead. Everyone responded by focusing on Shi Yue, who only shook his head.
There was no telling how long it would take for the mood to calm down.
“I’ll still be sleeping in my room as usual so we will at least see each other in the morning and evening.” Xie Yi grabbed Xu Yan’s hand in a familiar, intimate gesture.
The rest could only look on.
It wasn’t that easy to get into the circle of people with whom Xie Yi would act like that.
“That’s something. It will be pretty boring if you’re not around.” Xu Yan showed a wry smile.
“Well…” The other rubbed his neck. Xu Yan sighed.
After a short explanation, Xu Yan was torn between being mad again and being proud.
As it turned out, a good part of the reason why Xie Yi had risked his neck was to help Zhi Ci, the female cultivator from the ship.
As Xu Yan understood it - having seen Xie Yi’s notes - she must have been under the influence of the Demonic Sect. It would be good if she could take refuge in the Virtuous Sect; here, she would be much safer.
Because they were still standing near the gate, Shi Yue began to shoo them all away.
Xu Yan was allowed to follow Xie Yi towards the front area of the higher grounds to talk for another while so that Shi Yue could go do his work. Once there, he immediately pried for more info.
“Don’t ask her about it, okay?”, Xie Yi begged. “Ask her none of it. Not a word. Better, ignore it completely! I’m still not certain she will even come here.”
Xu Yan leaned on his knees. “You think she might go elsewhere? Where could she go?”
“I fear she might not go anywhere at all”, Xie Yi shuddered. If it wasn’t for the little girl, he’d truly be worried that Zhi Ci would simply find a place to waste away and die. Only because of Xiao Zai did he believe that Zhi Ci would try to pull through the horrible time she was having.
Not that he didn’t understand her. After all, his own reaction had been suicide.
“You’re a good person, Xu Yan”, Xie Yi whined. “You’re not-dangerous and reliable and friendly. I don’t think I’ll be allowed to go out and meet her, can you watch over her for me? Make her feel more welcome?”
“Why does it sound like you’re describe a pet dog? But yeah, sure.” Xu Yan patted his hand in a soothing manner. “As much as I can, I’ll try to make it comfortable for her. You do like her after all and that’s pretty rare.”
Rather than like, Xie Yi felt she wasn’t bad to be around. Maybe it was because they had both been stuck in the Demonic Sect and then wanted to get out.
But he did truly like Xiao Zai. Although she had been shy, she had been weirdly warm. It had made him want to pick her up and carry her around. She was even closer to him in experience.
“You be as obedient and quiet as possible in the meantime”, Xu Yan warned. “This is getting pretty dangerous. Even if a Transcendent kind of spoke up for you, there will be people who are very unhappy with this situation - just like Yao Ming. I don’t want you ambushed.”
“Yes, I’ll be up here with Shi Yue. He’s not feeling perfectly well yet, I don’t want to leave him out of my sight for too long, anyway.”
“How about you get yourself back to full health before saying that”, Xu Yan teased. Xie Yi stuck out his tongue in response.
While they talked, Mingtian came jogging over and greeted Xu Yan with a nuzzle of his face against the cultivator’s leg.
“Ah, MingMing”, Xu Yan happily cooed and ran his hands through the long fur. “Good thing you’re not hurt!”
“Not hurt...”, Xie Yi humpfed. “Didn’t even get a scratch.”
At first it hadn’t looked that bright in his fight against the demonic cultivator, but then Mingtian’s old memories of fighting and thus his experience began to seep through.
There was no way a human cultivator could go against the beast with easily three hundred years more experience than him. Especially not since Mingtian knew how the demonic cultivators trained.
Mingtian hadn’t intervened in Xie Yi’s fight, which he was very thankful for. That was the process of learning.
Xu Yan ruffled the fur and looked up to his friend, who cocked his head at the glance. Xu Yan smiled.