He could feel the Zhu family’s Grandmaster approach from far away; contrary to Shi Yue, the man did not hide his aura. He was the only one, without any other family member following.
What approached was a man appearing to be in his late fourties. He had reached the Grandmaster level later than Shi Yue, so his appearance was older. As for his actual age, Xie Yi would not know.
His robe was unnecessarily decorated and the graying hair was carefully put up, not a single strand out of place. He had creases on his forehead from frowning and a generally dark face.
The Grandmaster was surrounded by servants that acted as polite as the old monster didn’t. He sat down and took up his tea, not even glancing at Shi Yue, let alone Xie Yi. “Master Li.”
“Master Zhu”, Shi Yue responded calmly.
“What brings you to my humble abode? And so suddenly, too. If you had notified me you were coming, I would have prepared.” Master Zhu spoke in a serene voice, but the taunt did not go unnoticed.
“I’m here to settle some things”, Shi Yue kindly responded. “After all, your descendant tried to kill my disciple. Thrice.”
Xie Yi watched the man closely. He was still calm at hearing about the killing attempts, but something flashed through his eyes at the word ‘thrice’. It seemed he was informed of the previous two times, but that it had happened again was not within his knowledge.
“I fear I am not sure what you are talking about.” He smiled grimly, his voice darkening.
“Let’s not play games, shall we?”, Shi Yue said, his voice serious. “Where is Yao Ming? I have been more than tolerant given that I prefer to avoid fighting, but my patience has reached its limit.”
“This is my grandson you are talking about”, the old man growled. While Yao Ming wasn’t his literal grandson, it was easier than naming the actual status. “You don’t truly think I will hand him out for you to slaughter, do you?”
“Master Zhu”, Shi Yue whispered darkly, setting down his teacup and glowering at the old man. All servants retreated nervously, their heads lowered and shoulders tensed. “Are you planning on revolting? I have reasons to believe that Yao Ming is working together with the Demonic Sect. What do you think will happen if I inform the other sects of this?”
The old man jumped to his feet and slammed his hands on the jade table. It cracked once through the middle, but managed to hold together.
Xie Yi sat, unmoved, only having quickly reached forward to rescue both his and Shi Yue’s tea.
It was now that the old Grandmaster noticed the youth. Despite the air crackling with spiritual energy and the open hostility both Grandmasters were displaying, this child sat relaxed.
His own expression darkened further. This was the disciple that Yao Ming had wanted to kill.
“I sure dare”, Shi Yue humpfed, not moving from his seat. “We all follow rules, but just because Yao Ming is your descendant does not mean he can do whatever he wants. He not only tried to kill my disciple thrice, he has also kidnapped another disciple under my protection. One that is of great interest to the Demonic Sect.”
The old man sneered. “Your protection? You sure have gotten weaker if Yao Ming can snatch him from under your eyes.”
“Don’t anger me, Master Zhu”, Shi Yue slowly said, now standing up as well. “If you cared for the common people at all, you would know that I was out to destroy a raid while you were comfortably relaxing here.”
He leaned forward, standing eye to eye with the old man. He whispered his words slowly.
“I don’t care if you are a coward that hides the moment those elders are mentioned, but don’t think that everyone is like you.”
Xie Yi wondered if they’d start fighting. It looked like it, and if he was younger, he would surely have already jumped to attack this aggressive old monster to protect his master’s honour.
Now, however, he realized that despite the gunpowder in the air, the situation still would not blow up.
“Hand out Yao Ming, or I will assume you are collaborating with the Demonic Sect.” Shi Yue stated his last threat and sat down again.
Master Zhu was furious.
If he attacked, the fight would draw the attention of every cultivator from here to the capital. Moreover, he sure would be stupid to start a fight in his own home, where his family was.
At the same time, he wasn’t certain if he would be able to catch up to Shi Yue the moment the other left, and if the other sects were informed, their family was done for.
Let alone the fact that he would be the one to start the fight without being able to argue that it was an impulsive action. Shi Yue was wary of the unknown Judges’ rules and would not make the first move, so the only provocation he could name would be verbal.
Master Zhu’s gaze was dripping venom. As a Grandmaster, there weren’t too many people that could still act arrogantly around him, but the man in front of him was one of them.
“I can’t”, he forced out through grit teeth.
“Can’t or won’t?”, Shi Yue asked and furrowed his brows. The other’s tone had already hinted at what it was.
“Can’t”, the old man spit out angrily. He sat down in a huff, smoothing his sleeves. “He has vanished into nowhere weeks ago. We don’t have a single hint on where he is.”
“You’re telling me that a Grandmaster lost his precious descendant?” Now it was Shi Yue who threw out a taunt. Given the situation, though, he quickly switched back to the correct topic. “Why have you not informed anyone?”
“My family is my business!”
“Your family might have fallen prey to the Demonic Sect and you did not think for a single moment of informing anyone! You know very well that Yao Ming could not have vanished without a strong group’s help! How long are you going to pull in your head like a turtle?!”
Shi Yue was shouting. The situation was dangerous enough as it was, but the old man was too frightened.
He was one of the few who had met the elders of the Demonic Sect. He had come out alive, barely, but ever since then, he had grown paranoid.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to go against the Demonic Sect, it was that he didn’t dare. He’d rather ignore everything and block his eyes and ears than risk getting on their radar once more.
At the mentioning of this, Master Zhu directly thrashed the table. The female servants shrieked in fear at the precious material shattering.
Master Zhu had always been the type to react violently at people pushing him into a corner. Only against such an overpowered group such as the five elders did he lower his head in fear.
Xie Yi rescued their teacups with another sigh. He wanted to join in, but Shi Yue would get mad… Alas.
“If the flow of information is not in your interest, then you should not mind me cutting it and not taking you into account, right?”, Shi Yue declared, returning to being calm again. “This is not a matter that you can skip over. I’ll inform the other sects - we need to find Yao Ming as quickly as possible.”
“Why do you even believe he is being controlled by those bastards?” The other Grandmaster finally picked up on this, his dark eyes moving over to Xie Yi. “Have you seen it yourself? Any of those assumed assassination attempts, actually?”
He had not.
Shi Yue’s fingers tightened inside his sleeve for a moment before relaxing. Each time Xie Yi had been attacked, it was only Xie Yi who had been around.
Xiang Zhe would be able to testify that Yao Ming caught him, at least. But Xiang Zhe was not here right now.
“Another disciple was almost kidnapped by him. He can testify.”
“Testify that it was Yao Ming, for certain? Testify that he joined the Demonic Sect? How?” The old man had finally found his ground. His shoulders relaxed as he laughed darkly. “You are being very arrogant, Master Li, coming here if you have nothing to prove.”
“That your grandson ran away without contacting you is a fact.”
“So what? He’s young. He might be travelling. He might even have been the one being kidnapped. But that’s our concern, not yours.”
He sneered, turning up his nose.
“So, it might have been your disciple lying to you.”
The teacup in Xie Yi’s hands only cracked. It didn’t break, and by all means, the sound should be much quieter than that of the table being destroyed.
And yet, somehow, it managed to reach everyone’s ears.
Shi Yue glanced over to his disciple, who had frozen up and stopped breathing in an attempt to keep himself calm. The tips of his fingers curled and uncurled around the cup.
The old grandmaster felt that something was off and looked over to the disciple whom he had been ignoring up until.
He felt a chill at the sight of the child. It was ridiculous, but somehow that boy was almost… dangerous.
“I”, Xie Yi started, speaking very slowly and pronouncing every very clearly, “would never lie to my master. Take it back.”
Shi Yue knew Master Zhu well enough that he was aware that the following reaction was out of pure spite for sensing the dangerous aura around such a young man like Xie Yi.
“Ill-mannered little liar.” Master Zhu spat the words out just as slow and with half as much grace as Xie Yi did, but the result would have been the same no matter how he had said the sentence.