“Does Su Liang not dislike being underground? Isn’t he… part bird?”
Su Liang yipped and made a long whining sound and looked towards his mother.
“He is, but he seems to like underground as much as above ground. No problem for him, and we would feel calmer like this. If something happens, we can hide the door quite quickly. He doesn’t give off any scent or aura and is very quiet, so he will be safer down here.”
No matter what, his mate leaving at this time was clearly making the beast nervous.
“He’s a particular one. He eats, but not because of hunger. I wonder if it’s Mingtian’s blood”, Xue Hua complained worriedly.
Considering that Su Liang hadn’t done more than lick up some milk and gnaw on some fish and sweets these days, he looked happily unconcerned and very content.
Ying Hua went to the other corner of the room to work at whatever was placed there without participating in the conversation. She sat down and moved her hands.
Su Liang struggled in Xie Yi’s arms, wanting to over and see. Xie Yi straightened himself. “No hurry, little guy. I’m going already.”
“He likes having a personal carrier1A/N: Taxi.. The moment we started working here, he did not stop watching. Try placing him on your head”, Xue Hua suggested, reaching out at the same time to do just that for Xie Yi.
Xie Yi lifted his arms and Su Liang, with Xue Hua steadying him, found his place on Xie Yi’s head.
His hind paws on Xie Yi’s shoulders and the front paws clawed into his hair, he happily howled and wriggled around. Xie Yi nervously kept his hands up. “Why do I think that this works better with MingMing’s horns?”
“Oh? He doesn’t sit on my head, interesting. I wonder why? As you say, he likes having Mingtian carry him like that. When it’s me, he prefers being held in my arms.” Xue Hua was thoughtfully observing his son.
“Birds’ necks are not very strong”, Ying Hua distractedly commented. “Their claws are the best for carrying. Besides that, many flatland beasts like certain canine and feline beasts enjoy high places for a better overview, even when being carried by their parents.”
“So he’s adjusting to his parents? The claws, or arms, for the avian parent, and the high head and shoulder for the canine parent?” Xie Yi placed Su Liang back on the ground when he sat down next to Ying Hua. Did that mean he counted as a canine in Su Liang’s eyes? What about Ying Hua and Shi Yue, then?
“That does make sense”, Xue Hua hummed. “When he sleeps leaning on Mingtian, he sleeps lying over his neck, when it’s with me, he burrows himself under my arms. Maybe it’s two natural behaviour sets?”2Like a chick sleeping under a wing or a puppy lying over another puppy's body
“He’s a special snowflake”, Xie Yi declared. Su Liang whistled. “Right you are. So what are we doing here?”
“Weaving”, Ying Hua said. Her fingers did not stop, but Xie Yi was at a loss on how she even controlled the weird movements.
“A basket. As a base for the nest.”3Very flat, similar to a nest seat
“Is this the moment where I admit I don’t know how weaving works?”
Ying Hua glanced up and slowed her hands. “You move this here. Then like this, this, and this.”
“There, and there. Just continue on like that.”
Xue Hua sat down on the other side and Xie Yi tensed up a bit. They were supposed to be easy movements, but he… couldn’t follow them at all.
“I do not need you to do this”, Ying Hua declared with a roll of her eyes. “Weaving isn’t something for several people at once. Don’t be stupid.”
Even Xue Hua’s face twitched into almost a grin at the relief on Xie Yi’s face. “We need a first layer on the inside already. The material for the base is good, but its smell isn’t ideal so it’s best to do this as soon as possible.”
Xue Hua tilted the lense-like structure a bit and Xie Yi peeked inside. The inner area was neatly freed from any splinters and then oiled to lose its smell.
A type of finicky work that Xie Yi knew he would hate, but Su Liang growled playfully and tugged at his clothes and he fell all quiet and continued plucking splinters.
Shi Yue came by somewhere during noon with a meal. He had expected to find Xie Yi helping, so the portion was larger. “How is it going? Are your eyes fine?”
“The light could be better but it works. What’s for lunch? I smell meat!” Xie Yi jumped up. His back cracked as he stretched his stiff limbs.
“Don’t eat down here. Go up”, Shi Yue scolded and pushed Xie Yi to the ladder while quickly tucking a few of Su Liang’s feathers out of the black hair.
“I’ll finish this corner first”, Ying Hua declared, not moving an inch.
Xue Hua hesitated, then agreed. “I’ll come in a minute.” ...Or a few.
Xie Yi did not question their motives, unlike Shi Yue who raised his eyebrow, and climbed out of the cellar to find his meal. He was truly hungry by now and his eyes did feel strained.
“Good lord, what did you do down there? Why are you covered in feathers?” Even as Xie Yi began eating, Shi Yue awkwardly found more and more small feathers everywhere on his disciple. Clothes, hair, some already slipping into his collar. “Did you pluck Xiao Liang?”
“He made himself comfortable on my head. Are there really that many?”
The pure white contrasted with his dark hair. The tiny feathers looked like snowflakes that had settled on him, not melting away.
Shi Yue had planned on eating as well, but he couldn’t stand the sight of his disciple being so messy and concentrated fully on picking all of them out.
Xue Hua had waited a few extra minutes before coming up, but found his partner gentle brushing through Xie Yi’s hair while the disciple nonchalantly ate, not letting himself be distracted.
It felt so much like intruding that he stood as long behind the wall as Su Liang managed to keep quiet. Once he squeaked in discontentment at not moving, Xue Hua walked around the corner. He couldn't stay hidden any longer anyway.
Shi Yue was just about finished with his work and returned to his place when Xue Hua came over. He put some fish and vegetables on the other’s plate, then prepared a third bowl for Su Liang.
The little one only got a thin soup with smaller pieces of fish.
“Thank you for the meal”, Xue Hua warmly whispered and placed Su Liang onto the table.
With Xue Hua being upstairs to interrupt the scene already, Ying Hua soon trailed in. She only took some dessert for herself and otherwise watched over Su Liang.
“Xu Yan went to get permission for going out to gather the materials that we need”, Shi Yue said between two bites. “He will likely go with Sheng Mu - he’s a talented disciple and the two of them are acquainted. I believe Sheng Mu should be back soon, then the two can leave.”
“Sheng Mu is out?”
“Don’t talk while chewing.”
Xie Yi swallowed his food and repeated his question. Xu Yan might have mentioned something like that but he forgot already.
“Short joined mission with some disciples from another sect.”
“...I never participated in a joined mission.”
“You never participated in any normal mission. Look at what happened when I sent you out to deliver a message! How am I supposed to pair you up with a normal disciple, hmm?” Shi Yue knocked his finger against Xie Yi’s forehead with a resigned expression on his face.
Having nothing to say against that, the young man went back to eating.
The meal was generally quiet, as out of five people at the table, two weren’t the types to talk while eating and one couldn’t even talk yet. Su Liang was very well behaved, not causing a mess and eating more with curiosity than hunger.
Shi Yue had only begun to relax when the scrambling noise of an attendant reached his ears. “Master Li, Master Li!”
The Grandmaster winced and cursed mentally. It was impossible to catch a break right now.
He set his food down and threw an apologetic glance at Xue Hua, who was soothing the shocked Su Liang’s feathers. The child was baring his teeth into the direction of the sudden noise, but the attendant did not enter the Grandmaster’s house and only paced around outside.
“I’ll be back soon. I’ll be leaving the clean-up to you”, Shi Yue said and left the house with quick steps. Xie Yi looked after him with a tilted head.
Shi Yue did not come back that day. He did not even come out the next one.
Sheng Mu had rings under his eyes and was half asleep on the chair in the small room near the sect leader’s office. He had been awake for three days now, which certainly was his limit even with the help of spiritual energy and herbs, especially since he had spent most of it running.
For a few minutes, he had been able to hear shouting from the sect leader’s room but now it was quiet.
Sheng Mu’s head fell forwards and jolted up again. He had troubles looking forward.
“I’m sorry for keeping you up for so long. You can go to sleep now”, Shi Yue’s voice came from the entrance and Sheng Mu dazedly looked over. He wanted to stand up and bow but failed.