With the influence of being allowed to stick to Shi Yue, getting a new type of training of being fed the best meals by his master, Xie Yi endured staying put for a whole four months.
After that, things started to go downhill.
It took another two weeks before he turned sluggish. Shi Yue was relieved to see that he didn’t turn aggressive, at least.
“I just want to go out for a bit”, Xie Yi wailed. “I need air!”
He allowed his body to hang over the edge of the sofa in Shi Yue’s study and looked at the upside-down image of his master reading at the table.
Shi Yue felt bad for seeing Xie Yi like this. He hadn’t even thought that the youth would endure that long. “I don’t have time to go on a trip with you just yet. I’m still busy dealing with the investigations.”
The Black Spiders were a neutral group, so asking them to find out about the Demonic Sect as a general wasn’t possible. However, he could request for them to find Xiao Zai and report her situation.
A gloomy sigh.
Shi Yue hesitated for a moment. He did trust Xie Yi… “If you can be back in two hours and don’t let anyone see you, you can go out for a walk.”
“Out of the sect grounds?” Xie Yi rolled onto his stomach and peered over the edge.
“Well, a one-hour range. Only towards the north, though. I can’t have you run into people.”
The north was the one with the thickest forest areas. It went up the mountain, so there wasn’t too much of interest there. It had enough coverage for a disciple who needed to move around a bit.
“Don’t hunt or you’ll forget about the time. It’s only stretching your limbs”, Shi Yue warned.
Xie Yi jumped up “Thank you!”
With a beaming smile, he ran over to Shi Yue and gave him an overly deep bow before storming out of the room.
Shi Yue froze, then relaxed slowly. Without a mirror, he did not notice the doting smile on his face.
Once outside of the sect, Xie Yi got right to running. There was no reason for it other than wanting to use his legs and enjoying the wind against his face.
Humming a song, he jumped over the stones and climbed along the mountain ridge.
He decided to simply move straight-forward - no matter what was in front of him. He climbed up and down, ignoring shorter paths in favour of enjoying himself.
“Stupid restrictions! I want to run more!” Whining, Xie Yi stretched his arms as he walked.
MingMing wasn’t with him. Xue Hua had had another relapse of illness a few days ago. Because he was stressing about Shi Yue planning to stand against the Demonic Sect, his health never quite returned to normal.
Thankfully, that was his only problem and according to Mingtian, Xue Hua had been always been the type to become sickly once he’s stressed.
Humming his song, Xie Yi glanced up at the sun. He’d have to turn around soon.
“Bleh”, he muttered in complaint. “Hopefully, Shi Yue will have time for me soon.”
He kicked a stone over the mountain.
It rolled for a bit, making sounds along the way, then stopped.
Xie Yi paused.
He cocked his head, turning toward the stone. Then he bent down and threw one into the same direction. It flew a bit farther than the pebble he had kicked. A bit above the ground, it gave an unnatural jolt as it fell.
Frowning, Xie Yi moved over cautiously.
“An array…?”, he whispered to himself. On the middle of the mountain was a protective barrier.
Checking it, he found that it wasn’t too large. It wasn’t dangerous, either, it was more of a blanket.
After a third time circling around it, he was pretty sure that the barrier was covering up a cave or something, like a lid. It was too high-level to be used randomly.
Xie Yi thoughtfully bit his finger.
The mountain area he was in wasn’t used by people. You wouldn’t see travellers around here, so it was the perfect hiding place if you wanted to be close to the Virtuous Sect. It wasn’t even an hour away, after all.
There was a somewhat sweet, almost flowery scent in the area that made him worried. What was this scent?
With that, Xie Yi decided to return. He’d tell Shi Yue about this - they should be able to find it again, even if there was no landmark around - and ask him to break the array.
He himself was too wary to break it without preparation.
Turning on his heel, Xie Yi hurried back. He jumped down into the forest, running past the trees.
Some startled beasts snarled at him in passing, but were unable to follow him.
Xie Yi did not care about the howls of the beasts around him. He disturbed some of them while eating, others during their hunt.
Rolling his eyes, he changed direction when he almost ran into a large feline-like beast with much too large teeth that was intending on catching its prey.
He only glanced at the poor prey… and stopped dead in his tracks.
The moment he saw what was being attacked, he jumped in and dragged the bundle into his arms.
Ignoring the pain of his back being torn open a bit by the sharp claws, Xie Yi tried to hold the bundle as carefully as possible while he released a heavy wave of aura.
The startled beast shrieked and jumped back.
Xie Yi glared at it with dark eyes. It did not take long for the beast to decide that it was too weak.
It turned tail and fled.
Immediately, Xie Yi got rid of his aura and turned to face what he held.
The bundle was shivering, its large blue eyes looking up at him.
Xie Yi’s lips drew into a gentle arc.
“Hello, little guy”, he whispered kindly, tugging it closer. Gingerly, he adjusted his hold.
The bundle made a small squeaking sound when Xie Yi placed a soft kiss near its nose. It shivered tensely but Xie Yi simply placed another kiss on its forehead and then its ear. His fingers softly scratched the area of its neck.
When nothing bad happened, the bundle flicked an ear and carefully sniffed Xie Yi’s face. It’s tiny body kept on quivering.
The cultivator kept his gentle smile and whispered soothing words in a low tone. “Don’t be scared, alright? Everything is fine. You’re safe. You’re fine.”
He held the bundle close, like a little baby. Finally, it stopped shivering altogether and gave a rough lick on his jawline with a tiny tongue.
Xie Yi gave a soft laugh. He continued lightly caressing the furry feathers. A sweet scent, almost a bit like a flower, wafted up his nose.
When the bundle uncurled, it leaned a tiny paw against his shoulder and prodded his face with a second one. Its tiny, sharp teeth scratched against his skin as it experimentally tried nipping him.
A pair of tiny wings flapped open and close on its back; before hidden in the rest of the furry feathers but now more obvious. It was pure white in colour, like a little snowball.
The longer Xie Yi did not show any signs of unhappiness and the longer he simply soothed the ruffled feathers, the more upbeat the previously frightened bundle became.
It began to yip curiously, the long tail swishing from side to side, and twitched the long ears.
Xie Yi changed to holding it with only one arm and lifted a hand to poke the tiny black nose. It lightly bit his fingers.
“Little guy, are you feeling okay? You’re not hurt, are you?”, he softly asked and the beast responded with a yap that ended in a high-pitched whistle.
Compared to a canine, the bundle’s body was a bit longer. Its ears were long and narrow, as was the tail. The four little paws spread farther than a normal canine’s, with longer toes.
Its huge ice-blue eyes looked curiously at Xie Yi. Only around its eyes were a few golden-tinted feathers.
It was adorable.
Xie Yi couldn’t help but feel his heart gush over with love.
He began walking, slowly, so that he wouldn’t scare the little guy with his speed. It flinched at his first step, nervously glancing down. The whole time he talked in a quiet voice and soon the beast leaned against his throat, breathing deeply and only sometimes moving a bit.
Xie Yi could not remember ever carrying something as carefully as the little one.
Sometimes it would make a little sound, a bit like growling or a bit like whistling. Weirdly enough, there was no dissonance between the vastly different sounds.
No matter how he looked at it, this child was the perfect mix of the two beasts he knew.
Xue Hua had been doing mostly resting these months. The past days, he had gotten a fever again, so Mingtian hadn’t left his side anymore. He was overprotective. He only went out once a day, in the morning.
Those few months in which they had established a physical relationship would be too short for a normal child to form, but Xie Yi knew that mixed breeds were different.
The array in the cave he had found just now had not been broken, so it would not send a sign to its creator. If it had been opened from the outside, Mingtian would have noticed and come for help. A sort of safety measure so that he could be away from the cave while still feeling certain that the "treasure" inside was protected.
But maybe it did not react to the one inside leaving, or the array could not pick it up at all - that was a possibility, considering Xie Yi was unable to find the bundle in his arms if he searched with his spiritual sense. He couldn't imagine that Mingtian wouldn't have rushed here if he had felt the bundle leaving the cave.