His body had returned to its original healthy state, but there were a number of other things heavy on his mind.
A disciple was missing and no one could know, to avoid panic breaking out. The Demonic Sect was still inquiring about Xie Yi once in a while, always at different services, but hadn’t made any move.
Almost worse was the current combination of happenings.
Xue Hua wouldn’t be able to join him for now and to ensure the child’s health, Mingtian would be leaving as well. Xiang Zhe was here and Shi Yue had yet to find out how deep the Demonic Sect’s interest in him was running.
He couldn’t forget about Xiao Zai, either - Xie Yi would only allow himself to stay put for so long. Zhi Ci was thankfully highly cooperative.
Some powerful families were being more than obnoxious in insisting to introduce their children to Xie Yi and did not take a no for an answer.
Shi Yue had a terrible feeling of things being about to turn troublesome very soon, but as fate had it, it was far beyond his power to see the future and plan for it. At most, he could ask Ying Hua if she had any sorts of premonition again.
“Can I help somehow?”, Xie Yi whispered when he saw the Grandmaster’s face fall. He caught up to walking right at his side and straightened his back, showing his full height; truly, not that much smaller anymore.
“If you could just keep an eye on Xiang Zhe… Look, I know you don’t like him and you don’t have to. But it’s in your own interest that he doesn’t fall into the Demonic Sect’s hands, so just watch over him whenever I’m busy? That said, he’s not stupid, he won’t go out.”
Xiang Zhe was the most stressed by his own body.
It was a complete sponge that would work as the perfect breeding material for all the kind of high-maintenance things that the Demonic Sect liked planting into people. Finding a body that didn’t reject that was easier said than done.
As someone who did not have a plan of turning into a flowerbed or animal nursery, Xiang Zhe was quiet and obedient.
“I guess”, Xie Yi gave in with crunching teeth.
Shi Yue gave him a smile of gratitude. “Thanks. How about it, I’ll spar with you today.”
The sentence was a complete tease because by now, Xie Yi was not happy about sparring with Shi Yue at all and the Grandmaster found that fact too amusing to ignore.
Xie Yi hated attacking Shi Yue with full force, but Shi Yue did not hold back. Whenever Xie Yi did convince himself to throw a good hit, the result loss of distance between them would have him wincing away immediately and show too many openings.
Getting pummeled by Shi Yue had a great effect on Xie Yi, though.
He had Xie Yi spar with Li Mei and Xu Yan - both cultivators weren’t suited to fighting and their martial arts was mostly for self-defence, their spiritual energy trained for their own areas of expertise.
Both of them would only leave with scratches. Xie Yi was learning on how to hold back and not jump at every weak point he saw in another person.
“Master, you’re being mean. Even though you know I like you…” Xie Yi grumbled under his breath, but Shi Yue heard the sentence with his enhanced hearing.
The white-haired man felt his heart jump at the words. He wasn’t going to forget that fact, even if Xie Yi didn’t say it out loud. It didn't disturb him and Xie Yi did not cross the line, anyway. Xie Yi kept true to his words.
Shi Yue was only… a bit unused to the sudden distance.
Xie Yi had been plain cuddly as a child and even as he grew up, he was still very close to Shi Yue. That showed in all his gestures and even the distance he usually had when they walked or sat.
But now, Xie Yi would always be a bit farther away.
It was only being unused to it.
“Ah.” His disciple made a sound and Shi Yue was alerted to the tall figure of Xiang Zhe near the training hall.
The cultivator bowed low at seeing the Grandmaster approach and showed a slightly hesitant smile while stepping out of the way to avoid standing before Xie Yi.
In a foolish show of dominance, Xie Yi took a quicker step forward to be the one to open the door. Shi Yue stopped himself from rolling his eyes.
Xiang Zhe had taken a very clear stance in those four months. He didn’t like Xie Yi either - the black-haired guy was disrespectful and rude in his eyes - but he had to admit that in terms of skill, Xie Yi was a perfect candidate for a Grandmaster’s disciple.
That was why he usually went out of his way to listen to Xie Yi’s comments, if there were any, and otherwise stay away from him for both of their comforts.
“Xiang Zhe, I’ll be focusing on Xie Yi for the first part of today. In the meantime, I’ll let you spar with one of the paper-men. Try to strike them down in under fifteen minutes.”
Xiang Zhe was a good cultivator. What worried Shi Yue was that his focus on rules also appeared during his training; as excellent as he was when fighting against another sect member, as badly would he do against a fighter with unorthodox methods.
The paper-man that Shi Yue used for him was one that he had only used for Xie Yi once. It was imitating some of the Demonic Sect’s moves, which was something that Xie Yi had broken through in record time for obvious reasons.
Xiang Zhe nodded with a short “yes.”
Neither of them shared the changing room; Shi Yue went in first, followed by Xie Yi and then Xiang Zhe.
That Shi Yue did not change with others around was normal for him, as to why Xie Yi and Xiang Zhe didn’t share the room…
Would you enter a closed room alone with a very angry, very ferocious dog who doesn’t like you?
It wasn’t that weird.
Xiang Zhe never said it out loud, but he was quite happy to only be taught half of the lesson. The other half he could watch Xie Yi and the Master fight, which always resulted in amazing scenes.
Despite the stark differences in fighting style, master and disciple matched well during sparring.
Though he had yet to find out why Xie Yi would sometimes break the balance by doing unnecessary and flinching moves backwards. They always resulted in large openings…
Xie Yi dragged the warming up for quite some time, until Shi Yue merely stood right in front of him and stared with a raised eyebrow. Only then did he reluctantly stop his stretching and got into position.
What a torture.
Before, Xie Yi had always wondered why the elders had crippled him sexually. Now he was enlightened.
Attraction was a thing you could hardly control. With his brain screaming whenever he got too close to Shi Yue, he was completely distracted. On the battlefield, this would be a disaster.
If he didn’t want to keep these feelings out of pure spite of not wanting to do something those bastards had done, he would have found a way to destroy this again.
So far, it was nothing but trouble.
“Master”, Xie Yi hissed through grit teeth, barely catching the fist that would have otherwise hit the softest parts of his stomach. There was a lot of strength behind that punch. “Do you have to be so violent?”
“Yes”, Shi Yue agreed nonchalantly but with hidden glee. “It has good effects on you. Let’s have you fight Xiang Zhe later today for a couple of minutes and see how it goes?”
Xiang Zhe winced heavily at the side and missed the paper-man’s attacks. Did he have to? Was that mandatory? He had heard how many people lost parts of their bodies because of Xie Yi by now!
Xie Yi was very unhappy.
Shi Yue was a great sparring partner, but because of his own reactions, he was wasting the chances for good spars.
...And his master was having fun with it.
Shi Yue lowered his eyes, swept Xie Yi’s feet out from under him without any warning and hit his flat palm against the other’s forehead.
Under normal circumstances, the move paired with the strength used was quite harsh, but Xie Yi hardly reacted the pain and focused on catching his balance and hurrying out of reach to steady him.
The Grandmaster was ready to hurry right after but allowed his disciple the seconds to breathe once he was certain that Xie Yi was back to focus.
Sometimes, Xie Yi would draw out his inner core’s stronger energy to use during their spars. Shi Yue was doing everything to impart a sort of punishment every time he saw that unconscious behaviour.
First off, the energy he used subconsciously was still slightly tainted and Shi Yue did not want him to use demonic energy anymore. Second was that he simply shouldn’t have access to that energy and showcasing it was a terrible idea!
Even under pressure, Xie Yi should never draw it out unless it was a conscious action.