Shi Yue almost habitually reached up to rub his forehead, but he was still carrying Xie Yi. His disciple was much too light, in his opinion. Did he not give him enough to eat?
Xie Yi saw his master’s usual frown and blatantly reached up to smooth it out.
Shi Yue stopped dead in his tracks and stared down at Xie Yi, who pulled his still unsteady hand back.
“Sorry”, he said awkwardly. “I thought, since I’m occupying your hands... You always rub over your head when you crease your brows.”
“You noticed that?” Shi Yue’s heart did a small jump.
“Of course.” I’m staring at you most of the day, how couldn’t I.
Additionally, Xie Yi had spent numerous days reaching out to smooth the crease on Shi Yue’s forehead when the other had been unconscious. He didn’t like seeing it.
Shi Yue was a bit surprised. It was the sort of small, observant behaviour that he hadn’t expected from Xie Yi.
After all, it was a thing that even couples often did not have. To put so much attention on your partner to memorize their small habits, while still making sure they did not feel disturbed by your attention…
Well, it was sweet. He had to say that.
Shi Yue snapped back to the topic at hand and went back to walking. “Do you know how all of this happened? Xiang Zhe wouldn’t have left on his own, Yao Ming must have come for him. When did Yao Ming enter the sect? Also, did no teacher notice him? I’ve informed every one of them to watch out for him.”
“I didn’t see him”, Xie Yi said with a frown. “I wasn’t in the lower grounds a lot that day. I didn’t have time to talk to Xiang Zhe either, so I don’t know what happened.”
“I see.” Shi Yue gave a long hum. “How convenient that Yao Ming appears just as a number of us aren’t in the sect.”
“Right, what about the raid, how did it go?” Xie Yi moved a bit in his arms, tense excitement colouring his voice.
“It was a normal raid, mainly.” The Grandmaster did not want to mention the full story to Xie Yi for now. It had been a perfectly normal raid, except that they indeed found traces of one of the elders appearing.
He couldn’t have been around for too long, as neither sect members nor villagers remembered seeing anyone that powerful, but he was there long enough to leave a trace of his power.
Xie Yi heard the weird tone but did not inquire further. “Shi Yue, what should we do about Yao Ming?”
“Well”, Shi Yue hissed through grit teeth, “I believe it’s time to solve some grudges. We might as well stop by his family on the way back, since it is almost on the route.”
“Walking right into their home? Is that alright?”
Yao Ming’s family included a Grandmaster. Otherwise, they would not have treated the previous situations so carefully.
“Someone tried to kill my disciple the third time now. I’d like knowing what’s wrong.”
How did Yao Ming acquire the knowledge of demon spawns? Although it wasn't a question he would ask, it did make him suspicious. More importantly was, what had been wrong this time?
“You said he pulled Xiang Zhe towards the canyon? Was he trying to throw him down?”
Xie Yi tried to remember the scene and lowered his eyes.
No, not quite.
Yao Ming had not wanted to approach the canyon in the first place, but he could have always thrown in Xiang Zhe from farther away if necessary. Yet, he did not do it. What was he doing?
“I don’t know. He was doing something, though. Maybe Xiang Zhe knows it?”
“Is there anything that would have helped the Demonic Sect if they had thrown him down?” It was a veiled question. Xie Yi had avoided talking about what was down there.
Xie Yi could have guessed that maybe they wanted Xiang Zhe eaten, but as there was no way to retrieve him unless they threw him in closer to the edge of the sea of flowers, it did not sound feasible. “They couldn’t have gone down at that point.”
“Getting out is-...”
Xie Yi hesitated.
“You’re alive, though”, Shi Yue commented. “And while you’re exhausted, you’re still in a much better state than any of the other people that went down there… Considering they never got out again.”
“It’s best if people don’t go down there”, Xie Yi warned. “It will only mean death. Don’t approach it from the side, either.”
Shi Yue shuddered. What kind of place could make that Xie Yi wary?
“Well, we will leave it at that. For now, rest. I need you back on your feet by the time we reach that place.”
“I’m not sure if you maybe shouldn’t leave me here and continue on your own. Otherwise, you’ll have to carry me until I can walk”, Xie Yi resisted.
But his master leisurely walked on. “You’re light, it’s no problem.”
“That’s… not the issue.”
“It’s not exhausting, it’s not distracting me from anything, and I feel better knowing that you’re safe”, Shi Yue shamelessly said. “We will just continue on like this.”
Xie Yi pouted. Here he was, trying to keep a distance, and his master was making it hard for him.
“Don’t worry so much.” Shi Yue hummed softly, trudging on.
After another day, Xie Yi could move again, and although their speed slowed down a bit, he felt relieved to know he did not need to be carried anymore.
The Zhu estate came into sight soon enough. It was on the outskirts of another city, towering arrogantly. Xie Yi sensed the numerous guards surrounding it, but no one stopped them in approaching.
It might be because Shi Yue was well known and easily recognizable that they could walk right towards the estate’s entrance and were immediately greeted by a well-clothed servant.
“Master Li”, the servant said as he bowed low. “Welcome.”
“We need to talk with your eldest master. Preferably, get all of them together - as soon as possible.” Shi Yue’s voice was calm, but held a determination that allowed for no rejection.
The servant hesitated. “This…”
“This is not a request.” Shi Yue’s eyebrows drew together. “I believe your masters will not be stupid enough to procrastinate meeting me?”
The servant blanched. Even he could feel the hostility coming from the Grandmaster.
To be fair, he was not involved in the situation at all - he could only hope that his masters would indeed come quickly. He was just the poor guy delivering messages.
But if Shi Yue did not press the small servant, the masters behind him would not feel any pressure, either. He did not like being so strict with someone uninvolved, but he had to keep his apology inside.
“Please come inside”, the servant nervously stuttered, opening the gate. He did not ask who Xie Yi was - either because he already knew, or because he did not dare to ask as long as the Grandmaster did not introduce.
The three men stepped inside. Xie Yi looked around, curious.
The Virtuous Sect was rich, but it wasn’t interested in flaunting it. Quite on the contrary, this estate made sure that even the greatest novice would be able to recognize the worth of the things that were everywhere.
The servant straightened, expecting the usual reactions of awe or acknowledgement, but ultimately was disappointed.
While Xie Yi had not shared any of it, the elders of the Demonic Sect also liked showing their wealth. The things around here weren’t surprising enough to impress him.
“Master Li, might I ask you to wait in the pavilion for a while? I will inform my master”, the servant courteously asked, stopping before a pretty pavilion in the middle of the garden.
Shi Yue didn’t make things harder for him and agreed. He and Xie Yi sat down side by side, while maids soon came running to bring tea.
“So Yao Ming lived here?”, Xie Yi commented, continuing to look around.
“Yes. This is their main estate.”
“You’ve been here often before?”
Shi Yue did not pull a face despite wanting to. You could never know how many people were watching, and being rude would not help.
“Most Grandmasters on this part of the continent are acquainted.”
The old monster here did not belong to any sect and preferred living here as the patriarch. Because he did not come to any sect meetings, Shi Yue, the sect leader, and other Grandmasters affiliated with sects had come to visit him here once in a while.
Xie Yi hummed and waited.