“You look tired. Is right now a bad time? I brought Xu Yan over, to ask if we can play with Su Liang, but…”
“It’s fine. Let him come.” Xue Hua’s voice was a bit lower than usual. At any other time, the appearance of the Demonic Sect would have caused his fighting spirit to awaken, but now it was pure worry that filled his heart.
The elders of that sect were too powerful - he was scared of what might happen if they found his son, and that was draining his energy next to the natural exhaustion that still gnawed on his bones from bearing a child.
Xie Yi did not ask. He only went to call Xu Yan, then dragged his uncomfortable friend forward.
Su Liang hopped out of Xue Hua’s arms and approached him with a wagging tail. Standing before him he paused, then sneezed several times.
“Ah? Is something wrong?”, Xie Yi asked in surprise. “Do I smell?”
Xie Yi sniffed his arm, and Xu Yan leaned over as well. “A bit sweet. Pollen?”
“I wonder if he dislikes the scent of the flowers…?”
After sneezing a few times, Su Liang got into a playful mood again. Picked up by Xie Yi, he defenselessly looked at Xu Yan with his large, beady eyes.
“Tiny. Is he not growing?”
Xu Yan softly scratched the child behind his ear.
“No.” Xie Yi sighed. Mingtian was gone for about a month now - according to his estimations, it might be another two before he could return.
“His father went away at an inconvenient time”, Xue Hua said, his brows furrowing a bit. If he had known that this period of time would be like this, he wouldn’t have thought of having a child already.
“I don’t want him to act like a weapon, always going around solving every problem for me by fighting. It's fine for him to think only about his child right now”, Xie Yi responded. He knew that Mingtian would do it for him, but he didn’t want it to be like that.
The three of them fell quiet, with only Su Liang’s yips to be heard once in a while.
When Xu Yan’s stomach began to grumble, Xie Yi stood up to leave. “Let’s go get some food.”
The other nodded. He had a feeling that Xie Yi was very distracted and wanted to ask about it, but he didn’t want to ask in front of Xue Hua.
Once they were on their way again, Xu Yan patted the other cultivator’s shoulder. “Hey. Something on your mind?”
Xie Yi nodded dazedly. “I’ve got several pieces of information and am trying to fit them together. It’s making me nervous.”
“Have you talked to Master Li about it?”
“I don’t want to, not yet. I want to try finding out what’s bothering me before I talk to him… But I won’t have another choice if I can’t think of it soon. I don’t want to withhold information, either.”
“Rest for now. You didn’t have a break these days, either.” Xu Yan decisively grabbed Xie Yi’s shoulders and, ignoring his own hunger, steered his friend towards the medical ward.
Li Mei was sitting at the entrance, her eyes closed.
“Senior Sister”, Xu Yan called out softly and she opened her eyes with a weary smile.
“Are you about to take a break, too?”
“Yes, he is. I wanted to know if you could give him a check-up, though. If you’re not too tired, that is.”
“Sure. Come along.” Li Mei waved at the two of them and stood up.
She brought the two of them into a separate room, then sat down.
“No internal examination for you, right? Take off your clothes, please. I’ll just do a superficial one.”
Obedient, Xie Yi undressed down to his underwear. Li Mei came closer and began to systematically check every inch of his body. Several times, she pulled up her nose.
“Did you stay a long time around the sect leader? There’s this sweet smell.”
“We’ve noticed that, too”, Xu Yan said in surprise. “It’s on the sect leader? Is that bad?”
“It’s a different situation, don’t worry.” Although Xie Yi tried to calm them down, Li Mei pushed him to sit back down and, with a frown on her face, began to check skin deep.
Xie Yi tensed at feeling her spiritual energy move over his body but relaxed again when she showed no signs of going deeper.
Li Mei looked unhappier with every second. “There’s… something there, like a contact poison, but dormant. Not doing any damage. I don’t like it, because the sect leader has something, too.”
“I know I’m not in danger. Seriously. Trust me on that”, Xie Yi insisted. If he truly was in danger, he was sure Juxian would have warned him after he left the canyon.
“I hope the gods above hear your words”, Li Mei grumbled. “Xu Yan, help me out. Get me the bandages.”
“The whole crate.”
Li Mei spent a whole hour on Xie Yi. Like a mummy, he ended up covered in layers of bandages that kept a creepy green paste on his skin.
Uncomfortable, Xie Yi scowled. “And what is this supposed to do?”
“Endure it until tomorrow morning, then you can wash it off.” Li Mei gently hit his head. “This is useful for sucking out toxic substances. I’ll feel better that way. And come back tomorrow for another examination.”
“Whatever makes you happy.” Xie Yi sighed deeply, then awkwardly put his robes on again. Li Mei had only left his face and hands uncovered. “Xu Yan should be starving by now, let’s go eat something.”
“I can endure.” Xu Yan showed him a wry smile and thanked Li Mei again before leaving.
That night, Xie Yi slept surprisingly deeply.
Because Shi Yue was managing the sect, he didn’t want to interfere. He talked to Xu Yan and decided to spend his days meditating.
The sweet smell around him vanished after a couple of days, but the topic stayed on his mind. While waiting for Xu Yan to come back with dinner, his thoughts were circling around the matter.
With his eyes closed, Xie Yi was lying on his bed. His forehead was crumpled.
Yao Ming who had reappeared, acting weird. The sudden raid. The sect leader who was unconscious, the scent of the flowers, and Zhi Ci confirming the Demonic Sect had found them. Xiang Zhe, who had been kidnapped and injured…
Xie Yi’s eyes flew open. He sat up abruptly, staring into nowhere.
“Why let him bleed?”, he muttered, thoughtfully. “I couldn’t have found them if Xiang Zhe hadn’t left a trail of blood.”
Shi Yue mustn’t have noticed because Xie Yi’s description of this part had been vague, but this was the thing that kept on bothering Xie Yi!
Yao Ming had acted weirdly, but he had been conscious. He had reacted to Xie Yi appearing, had been able to answer and had been able to fight.
So, as someone who was trying to kidnap Xiang Zhe, why do something like attacking him with a sword? There were many different ways to use paralyzing poisons other than by using open wounds.
It was risky.
Later, according to Xiang Zhe’s testimony, he had even gripped the arm at the wounded area, causing it to open further.
Yao Ming was not enough of an idiot to make such a stupid mistake. Not by far.
“Okay, wait”, Xie Yi mumbled tensely to himself. “Wait, wait, wait. Due to the timing, we can guess that Yao Ming acted under the orders of the Demonic Sect. That means they didn’t purposefully lure me there - they’d have gotten a stronger cultivator in case I have some special weapons.”
As the succeeding disciple of a Grandmaster, there was no telling what kind of hidden weapons Xie Yi might have been given. You wouldn’t send a normal cultivator against him.
That meant that leaving a trail could not be part of the plan. Xiang Zhe might have been supposed to be left at the canyon according to their plan, but only after they would have been finished with what they wanted to do and not before.
Now, that was the issue.
If leaving behind evidence was on purpose… Then why was Yao Ming acting the way he did at all?