About another hour later, Shi Yue left the conference hall with all the other cultivators. The atmosphere was gloomy, although everyone tried their best to disperse the mood as soon as they were outside.
Shi Yue hurried to retreat to inside one of the buildings.
Stopping in one of the empty classrooms, he slumped against the wall and buried his face inside his hands.
Xie Yi called softly from somewhere near the door. The moment his master had left the hall, he had followed him, but finding him like this was unexpected.
Shi Yue looked dejected, his expression tired and desolate. He lowered his hands as Xie Yi approached and while he wasn’t crying, his lips were turned down.
Xie Yi stopped a good distance away. “The result… isn’t good?”
“Everyone accepted the information”, Shi Yue whispered and rubbed over his face. “Which is something. It’s just-...”
“Can you tell me?” Xie Yi swallowed heavily. Shi Yue acting like this did not mean anything good.
The Grandmaster breathed in slowly and exhaled again, deflating. His shoulders sunk down. “The course of action was decided by majority vote. Our sect can risk going against it, but it will strain the relationship between us and there’s always the chance that the other sects will try to enforce their decision.”
He stopped and closed his eyes, eyelashes quivering.
“...They decided by majority that it’s no use trying to save the… tainted children of the Demonic Sect. Even if we were to rescue one, the chance that they might be acting obedient only to stab us in the back is too high. That’s why… No matter the age, gender or status, anyone affiliated with the Demonic Sect should be killed without reservations. The only exception is for specialized torture in order to gain information, as it has been before.”
Xie Yi did not speak. The pain in Shi Yue’s voice was audible.
“They’re only children… I don’t believe we cannot help them if we don’t invest the time… But they decided against it.”
The black-haired youth clenched his jaw. “Then… What about Xiao Zai?”
“I don’t agree with their decision. I will have to raise the security measures, that’s for certain, but I’m unwilling to give up. If we can rescue her, we will - maybe I can argue that the Demonic Sect treating her well is suspicious enough that she is worth more while alive?”
The man laughed grimly, unhappy with the words he himself had to use. Speaking about worth when talking about humans, he truly didn’t like it.
“Thank you”, Xie Yi only responded in a quiet whisper.
Shi Yue had pulled himself together, so he walked towards the door and took Xie Yi along with him. “Enough of that for now. Let’s go and get the sect leader so we can go through with the ceremony. I still have a few hours of talking in front of me.”
“I share your pain. I’ve decided I don’t like events like today and in the future, I’ll coincidentally be out on an important hunting trip whenever one is going to happen.”
“Indeed. I do need special ingredients once in a while. Very important. Very urgent.” Shi Yue chuckled, the weight lifting from his shoulders with the playful conversation. “But don’t think I’ll allow you to run away from everything.”
“Thank you, Master. As you say, Master. This disciple will follow Master’s orders”, Xie Yi chirped with a smirk on his face.
The moment the two of them stepped outside, people were intending to surround them again. The sect leader had to step in and accompany them to avoid any more trouble.
This time, it was one of the private rooms of the sect leader that they used. It certainly looked more solemn.
“Do I need to know anything?”, Xie Yi asked his master in a hushed voice, feeling a bit stressed. He hadn’t been told things would look so serious!
“No need to worry, Xie Yi”, the sect leader spoke up. “Don’t think too much about the room. Since this is a private ceremony and none of us here believe that we need to make this stiff and uncomfortable, I see no reason for it, either. We will lead you through this step by step.”
Xie Yi relaxed.
With both the sect leader and Shi Yue playing along, the normally stiff procedure eased up a lot. Xie Yi even talked in between, causing the atmosphere to become even more leisure.
Towards the end, he curiously inspected his new identification bracelet that was now made from a different type of wood. Along the usual colours were black engravings, making it easy for anyone to see whose disciple he was even without the correct method of reading out the bracelet.
“Come over, my boy”, the sect leader intimately called him and Xie Yi skipped over to his side.
The sect leader handed him a something that had been placed behind him all this time and Xie Yi made a sound in delight, half ripping it out of the old man’s fingers.
Most people might not like being given something that reeked of “assassin”, but Xie Yi was beaming.
The long-sleeved shirt and pants were black in colour, quite unsuspecting. There was no decoration at all and the material was so light that Xie Yi hardly noticed carrying it.
Pulling the fabric slightly apart, Xie Yi’s grin turned wider.
How the set was made was actually closer to a chainmail than normal fabric. He could see the single, tiny elements linking together everywhere, forming a much sturdier material than normal cloth.
The set was priceless not for what it’s material, but its creation was worth.
The original material itself was cheap, but creating these chainmail-like links was an endless and arduous task. There were only a couple of people who knew the method at all and with the amount of time it needed to get a single set done, they were a rarity.
You’d have to order one and hope that they coincidentally had something close to the size you asked for.
The set wouldn’t be a perfect fit, but it didn’t need to be.
Xie Yi hugged it close to his chest and fawningly purred at the old man. “Thank you, grand-Master! I’ll put it to good use!”
“I’m sure you will, that’s worrying me a bit”, the sect leader laughed out loud.
Shi Yue watched the scene with amusement before beckoning Xie Yi over with a movement of his hand. Like a puppy, the youth stood in front of him with expectant eyes.
“The first thing I’m giving you is something you aren’t getting now. I’m only informing you, but you’ll have to wait another year and a half before you can have it.”
Xie Yi blinked to show his lack of understanding.
Shi Yue wordlessly pulled out an earthenware bottle from his storage ring and the young man almost tackled him down with the immediate, conditioned response of trying to reach it.
Feeling cold sweat on his neck, Shi Yue let the bottle vanish again. The greed in Xie Yi’s eyes was not to be underestimated. “You’re not of-age yet! You’re not getting alcohol before you’re eighteen!”
“Not even a sip?”, the young man greedily asked, licking his lips. The scent that had spread through the room in the few seconds the bottle was out of the storage ring was enough to entice him.
“No. Or do you not want the other two presents? I believe you’ll greatly regret missing one of them”, Shi Yue teased and Xie Yi let his arm sink with a pout.
Shi Yue smiled, then took out his second present. Xie Yi immediately recognized it as a sort of array-key that would unlock certain places.
“Since you’re running around on the higher grounds anyway, it’s inconvenient for you not to have one. The room that you’ve been staying in recently has also been remodelled over the day; it’s yours now.” He handed the thin wooden piece over and Xie Yi laughed happily.
With a deep bow, he placed it inside his storage space.
“Now for the last one… Fingerprint”, he said in a declarative voice and pulled out a paper that looked very much like a contract.
Xie Yi did not bother trying to read it. He bit one of his fingers bloody and used it to colour in his thumb. He stretched his arm forward and Shi Yue pressed his thumb against the paper.
It began glowing, the array activating softly but vanishing before he could read it.
Xie Yi tilted his head at Shi Yue, who smiled wordlessly next to the sect leader.