Ch.190: Return – Part 1
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Feeling the two disciples' questioning gazes, Shi Yue explained.

“All of us, who go out for larger missions often, have set meeting points. If we are separated for whatever reasons, we leave for the nearest meeting point. This inn is one of them. Either he would have left behind a message for me, or waited - in which case I could find him here at any time.”

“That’s useful”, Xiang Zhe praised with surprise.

“It’s common for groups to split. It could be due to an attack, or because the mission required it. Since we often have no means of communication, these meeting spots are important.” The teacher nodded along. If it wasn't for this, he would have tried taking Xiang Zhe back to the sect.

“Xiang Zhe, can you walk?”, Shi Yue inquired, throwing a questioning glance at the youth.

Xiang Zhe got out of the bed and wobbly stood before them. “Slowly, yes.”

“We’ll just slow the pace. Don’t worry.” Shi Yue spoke in a consoling tone at Xiang Zhe's depressed face. It wasn't the boy's fault.

Xie Yi incredulously looked at his master who, when Xie Yi had been in the same state, had vehemently insisted to carry him. Hadn’t he said something about having to watch one’s health and leaning on their masters if necessary?

Xiang Zhe and the teacher looked between Xie Yi’s weird face and Shi Yue, who had promptly begun to look out of the window the moment his disciple had turned to him.

Being ignored, Xie Yi wondered if this was the benefit of being Shi Yue’s succeeding disciple?

No, actually, this definitely had a good reason. Both of the adults were of much higher rank after all, and a succeeding disciple had a special status. That meant that even if he wanted to, Shi Yue couldn’t carry Xiang Zhe. Since Shi Yue was a kind person, he must want to, but be unable to in this situation.

Xie Yi breathed in and out deeply. “I’ll carry him.”

“What?” The question came thrice; once with mild surprise, once with awkward hesitation, and once in a hiss.

“I mean, I don’t like you”, Xie Yi said grumpily, turned to Xiang Zhe. “You know that. But this is the best for returning home, and I can’t let any of the teachers carry you, right? I’ll just carry you on my back.”

“Senior Yi”, Xiang Zhe awkwardly mumbled, rubbing his neck. He hadn’t expected the disciple to say that.

“It’s fine, really. We can walk slower”, Shi Yue insisted with a forced smile.

“No way. Master, you want to return quickly, right?” Xie Yi guessed his master must still be worried about his health, but he was quite alright by now. “Xiang Zhe, I’ll carry you on my back. If you can’t hold on anymore, I’ll carry you upfront. If I’m too exhausted, you can just walk and we can take the slower pace then.”

Xie Yi spoke so decisively that even Xiang Zhe - who winced at the thought of being carried like a princess - did not complain anymore but quietly vowed to not get too tired. He solemnly nodded. “Senior, thank you. I’ll try to not create any more trouble.”

As one of two people in the room who truly did not suggest carrying Xiang Zhe because it would be weird with his status, the teacher felt gratified at Xie Yi’s suggestion.

He smiled and whispered to the Grandmaster next to him, who had a surprisingly stern expression on his face. “He’s a good disciple.”

“He certainly is”, Shi Yue pressed out. 

“We will be leaving tomorrow morning then. Rest for today”, the teacher said to Xie Yi and patted his shoulder.

Xie Yi looked at the hand that touched him, accepted it as a common gesture and merely nodded. “I’ll go rent rooms for me and Master.”

“One room is enough, we don’t need to waste money”, Shi Yue tried - and failed - to get a slight advantage.

“Don’t worry, Master”, Xie Yi laughed. “I won’t be wasteful.” Translation: I’ll get the cheapest room for myself, since I won’t really be sleeping anyway.

Shi Yue only now realized how hard it was to approach a person when the other side was dead-set on avoiding you coming closer. 

God, he’d have to come up with damn good explanations to convince Xie Yi to put down his inhibitions.

Unwilling to make a scene in front of two other sect members, Shi Yue was forced to accept his disciple’s behaviour and watched him leave.

Back to concentrating on Xiang Zhe, now that the person that kept most of his attention was out of the room, he softly pushed Xiang Zhe to sit down again.

“Don’t stand on ceremony, keep your strength. Any details you remember? Can you tell us why you were out at all?”

Xiang Zhe narrated what had happened again. Even Shi Yue got a headache  - you couldn’t blame Xiang Zhe for following Yao Ming outside. The other disciples knew Yao Ming and would treat him as usual, causing Xiang Zhe to let his guard down. Yao Ming’s sudden switch in behaviour was exactly how Xie Yi had also described it.

“What was he doing?”

“I can only say that he was pushing me closer to the cliff. Not over the edge, I don’t think that’s it, only closer. He focused on Senior Yi when he appeared, though.”

“Anything unusual other than his behaviour? Did he say something?”

Xiang Zhe frowned. “I think… I think he was carrying something. He often checked his left pocket, over and over again and also when we were near the cliff. More, I can’t say.”

“Good detail. Thank you.” Shi Yue was speaking softly, immediately causing Xiang Zhe to calm his tense nerves. With the teachers around, he felt much safer again.

“Master Li, it’s quite late already. I will go buy us some food.” The teacher to the side spoke up, smiling as well.

At this time, Xie Yi came in, carrying two room keys and handing one to Shi Yue. “Lunch?”

“Late lunch, yes. We haven’t eaten anything yet either”, the teacher confirmed. “There’s a good stall close by, you saw it when we passed it.”

Shi Yue’s eye twitched.

Xie Yi gaze jumped over to Shi Yue and back. He awkwardly cleared his throat. “Hmm, actually, if you don’t mind, I heard there was a really good restaurant here? I had wanted to try it. What was its name again… Uhm, it’s supposed to be the best around here?”

“Clear Sky Palace?”, the teacher answered, supplying the name of the best restaurant around.

Great thing when people make up the things you don't know by themselves.

“Yes, that was it! Master, do you mind if we get food from there?” Xie Yi threw a beaming smile at his master.

That Shi Yue was an obsessive foodie wasn’t commonly known. People knew he liked cooking, but his obsession was completely hidden.

He was generally regarded as someone very adaptable and had the image of not rejecting anyone’s goodwill. So if someone out of the group offered to buy food, he wouldn’t reject it.

He’d only silently cry and force it down into his stomach.

The thought that his poor master would have to eat food from the stall they had seen… Not that he judged the food to be bad, but simply seeing the way they threw the spices into the pot was bound to make Shi Yue unhappy.

“Well, that...”, Shi Yue hesitated, obviously noticing his disciple was saying those things for his sake. His heart jumped up, a sweet feeling spreading.

“If he wants to try, why not”, the teacher changed his mind. In the first place, he had no complaints about getting better food, as long as the Grandmaster agreed.

“Alright”, Shi Yue gave in, exhaling slowly through his lips the moment the teacher was turned away from him.

Xie Yi chuckled at the hint of relief on Shi Yue’s face. His master was quite cute when he was stuck between his image and his obsession.

“Then I’ll go buy it. What should I get for everyone?” Under normal circumstances, Xie Yi would not offer such a thing, but after feeling guilty for allowing his master to carry him around, he wanted to take over some minor tasks at least.

“I’ll go along with you. Carrying everything alone will be troublesome. Do you two mind if we order for you?” Shi Yue smoothed his clothes and took the place next to his disciple while glancing at the other cultivators in the room.

...Master, this is kind of ruining the reason why I’m doing this!

Xie Yi’s lips twitched a bit and he looked up at the ceiling. Shi Yue was just too kind!

The whole process of Shi Yue trying to get Xie Yi is just SY approaching, wanting to be closer, and XY going "Oh I guess he wants more space" and retreating.
Since I heard no complaints about the pace, I'll try keeping it up like that! Basically, no scene will be super long, neither tense nor relaxed ones. I hope that works better then.

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