“I really don’t want to go down there either, honestly. I’ll take Juxian along and this time, approach from the far side where there’s less fog. As soon as I can tell that I won’t be able to endure, I’ll give up and leave.”
“Why risk that”, Mingtian rumbled. “Why insist on going down there?”
“Because they wanted it”, the youth whispered back. “Desperately. This time, I want to know what it is. If I get unstable, I will leave. You should go.”
“What?”, Mingtian asked in surprise.
Xie Yi blinked. “...I didn’t say that last sentence.”
He looked around through the room, pointing at a corner.
“Juxian, when did you get here?”
The sword lay silent. He hadn’t taken it along to the bath but… Here it was.
“Why does he have your voice?”, Mingtian asked through grit teeth and with all of his hair standing up like a nervous cat.
“He looks like me, too. Kinda. But you heard that, right? He said I should go. Guess the plan is fixed then.” Xie Yi nodded with certainty.
“Can you not just believe him?!”
“But he can see into my head”, Xie Yi blankly responded. “He also knew when the old me was gone and he can see my problems. I think it’s a good idea to listen to him.”
Mingtian opened his mouth to say that blindly doing as your sword spirit says was probably a bad idea but, to tell the truth? That sword spirit was creepy enough that it was possible. And it wasn’t an issue yet, he could deal with it when that time came.
“Trouble for another day”, he willfully procrastinated it. “Wash up and hurry out.”
Xie Yi hadn’t liked Xiang Zhe from the start and liked him even less the moment Xu Yan spoke of him.
The moment Xu Yan opened his mouth to praise the newcomer who had appeared a week ago, Xie Yi’s face had turned so black that it matched his hair. Xu Yan involuntarily stopped his talking.
“...You don’t like him”, Xu Yan stated more than asked. “You met him before?”
“He’s my grand-master’s family member.” Xie Yi stared right in front of him, holding the horse stance stoically1Really mean but common stance in all kinds of martial arts. Best to google it if you don't know it. His teeth were crunching.
“I smell vinegar”, Xu Yan commented, walking a circle around Xie Yi to squat in front of him and be on the same height.
“I shouldn’t have any on me?”
“I mean, you sound jealous.” Xu Yan smiled a bit.2Drinking vinegar is a common Chinese way of saying someone is jealous, probably because of the sour face
Xie Yi childishly blew up his cheeks. “I already don’t like Shi Yue being close to him. Now you like him, too. And even MingMing is around-... is elsewhere all the time!”
Xu Yan hummed and smirked broader. “Now you make me want to get along with him just to see you jealous. Don’t worry, don’t worry. You’re my best friend, not him. I wouldn’t ever exchange you.”
“I hate this mess right now”, Xie Yi admitted. “Why does that guy have to come? I’m still in the process of managing to control my thoughts towards Shi Yue. He’s not helping.”
“On topic of a mess”, Xu Yan interjected. “I still visit Zhi Ci every day, although I can’t meet her alone. She was a bit dejected a while ago but she’s cheering up now. She’s still unsettled, though.”
Xie Yi switched his stance slowly, getting used to the feeling. “You two get along?”
“Yeah”, Xu Yan happily responded. “She’s pretty awesome - she knows a lot. And she’s not too arrogant for harsh training, completely unlike a lot of other female cultivators. She’s often doing stamina or muscle training when I visit.”
Xie Yi tilted his head again, his brows furrowing. It was more of a thoughtful, sceptical look. “You don’t treat her like the other girls. You already didn’t, back on the boat.”
“Huh?” Xu Yan showed a surprised expression. “Well, how do I usually treat the others?”
“I don’t know how to say it.” The youth hummed. “Usually you’re… kind of distant and polite. Or with Li Mei, like she’s your senior and only happens to be female… I mean, you do treat Li Mei like a woman, but kind of not like she is-”
He chattered his way through his explanation but failed in the end.
Xu Yan pursed his lips in thought. “I’m not sure what you mean? Anyway, yes, she is pretty comfortable to be around. I enjoy talking to her.”
At that moment, Xie Yi suddenly came to the conclusion that he felt Xu Yan was giving her special treatment. Not a crush, not love, but special treatment.
He wanted to ask about it but having been told several times now that randomly uncovering others’ thoughts was rude, he did not do so. He was learning!
One way or another, if those two got along, he’d be happy.
Zhi Ci would be a good acquaintance that he felt comfortable around. Not a friend, but not a stranger like the others in the sect. Even better, once Xiao Zai was here, the little girl would feel more at home with her around.
She had been such a cute little thing, toddling towards Zhi Ci and shyly calling for her.
If he would hear that those bastards had done irreversible damage on her, he would have another reason to drag out their deaths for as long as possible.
“Say, if teenagers and older come as refugees, they’re taken in as regular prisoners. What happens if it’s a little child?”
“You mean Xiao Zai, probably? She’s very young. I imagine she’d have to go through the same procedures to make sure that she can’t attack anyone and then… Hmmm, since she’s too young, she’d need a legal guardian. Probably someone would take her in?”
Oh, he’d have to convince Shi Yue to do that. That way he could have an eye on her, too, and she’d have a really nice home.
Xu Yan sceptically watched his friend’s weird expression. “You want to take her in?”
“Eh? I highly doubt I can. Besides, I don’t think I could raise a child.” Xie Yi leaned on his hands. His body was sixteen, which was maybe a dozen years older than Xiao Zai. There was no way he would count as a legal guardian.
Xu Yan hummed in surprise. Xie Yi looked genuinely disappointed at that.
He thought about it for a second. “I actually don’t think you’d be bad at raising a child, given that you’re not the only one doing it and that you like them.”
Xie Yi’s care towards people he liked was incredibly loving and devoted. For a child, that would be ideal. The only thing he would be worried about is his common sense, so another person would need to be around to make up for it.
“It’s not up for discussion anyway”, Xie Yi ended the topic. “Moreover, we need to get her out first.”
“Do you think she’s in pain?” Xu Yan’s voice turned to a whisper.
His friend did not answer.
Xie Yi didn’t know how they’d treat her. She wasn’t as strong as he had been, so maybe her treatment was a bit softer. All he knew was that they had to get her out as soon as possible - before the true training started.
“You know a lot about the Demonic Sect.”
The brown-haired youth probed carefully, ready to drop the topic at any moment. Xie Yi looked at him for a long time before looking away.
Xu Yan didn’t pursue it.
He was one of the people that knew Xie Yi best.
He knew how innocent and ignorant he was, as well as how bloody. He also knew that Xie Yi had knowledge that was abnormal, both in topic and amount. He knew that Xie Yi had been able to pass as an adult using the skin when he had been not even a teenager yet.
He often wondered if Xie Yi maybe wasn’t human.
For example, some books described how dragons would grow. They could be decades old and still look like a child, only because their growth was different. A childish mind that had lived longer than most humans.
Because the Grandmasters of the sect had not shown any signs of Xie Yi not being human, he had forgotten about the thought. But in moments like this, he remembered.
He did not know what or who Xie Yi was. He simply decided to treat him as a friend.
As for the matter of how old Xie Yi truly was… That was too complicated to think about. Anyway, he usually acted like a child, so he would go along with it.
Not to mention how ridiculously suspicious Mingtian was.
“Well, as long as we’re on the same side and MingMing lets me hug him.” Xu Yan walked forward to do as he said and hugged the approaching beast.
Xie Yi and Mingtian exchanged a confused glance. Somehow they seemed to have missed something?