Xie Yi shuddered at the thought that came up.
There was no way to fully control a cultivator without destroying their sense of self. They’d be puppets, unable to act on their own. Forcing your will onto someone so that the cultivator acted as if out of their own volition was impossible.
Juxian had said it. The parasite was able to fully take over a human, while the flowers were useful for illusions.
Yao Ming had told Xie Yi the reason why he was acting the way he was; some kind of beloved, whom he wanted to please.
Xie Yi did not know Yao Ming well enough, but he couldn’t imagine that the cultivator would fall that badly for a person in the short time he was gone.
But what if it was an illusion?
The illusion of falling for someone so deeply that nothing in this world was more important than doing what they wanted? The illusion that everything he was doing was out of his own free will?
“It’s not perfected yet”, Xie Yi exclaimed in sudden understanding. “That’s why he was acting weird!”
There was no way it would be easy to perfect such a technique quickly and considering that this hadn’t happened in his last life, they had to have started their tests in the previous years. Not a long time at all.
So maybe, just maybe, Yao Ming had truly hurt Xiang Zhe on purpose.
Yao Ming hated Xie Yi, but he loved his sect. He was a proud cultivator.
If you asked the other disciples, you’d hear mostly positive reactions - Yao Ming was arrogant, but he was the type to show his strength by helping others do what they couldn’t do on their own.
It wasn’t an impossible thought that while Yao Ming had been chosen for his convenience of being a disciple of the sect, he was also quietly fighting against the control.
“Damn it! I don’t remember if Xiang Zhe smelled like the flowers!” Xie Yi cursed and groaned. The fight had been too distracting, he didn’t remember something as subtle as scents.
Otherwise, he’d know whether the purpose of the whole action had something to do with the flowers. It would certainly explain why it had happened near the canyon, where the mother plant might be helpful. Possibly.
“Shit. Are you telling me that the sect leader is about to be controlled? They can’t seriously control Grandmasters already?”
He couldn’t believe they were that quick.
Yes, the Demonic Sect was full of highly intelligent people, but even they couldn’t accomplish such a feat in only a few years.
...Even using plants from a higher plane.
Still, they wouldn’t be wasting anything on a random try; it didn't matter if it failed. As long as no one knew about the flowers, they couldn’t destroy the origin. Even if they knew, it was hard to protect yourself against something you had no information about.
Once it was perfected, there was no other way than to doubt everyone around you.
“This is a nightmare.”
He was wary about the possibility of trying to burn the flowers in the canyon. He neither knew whether the fumes would be dangerous nor if this would wake up the parasite - after all, they couldn’t leave the mother plant around and only destroy the little flowers.
His only relief was Juxian’s words; it wasn’t easy to breed them, and approaching the canyon was also dangerous.
Now, here was an issue.
He wanted to tell Shi Yue about the situation. He wanted to explain it, but…
What was he supposed to say?
He needed to explain where he had seen the flowers before and how he had gotten information about them. For one, Juxian’s knowledge would be highly dubious in anyone else’s eyes. They might as well be lies that Xie Yi was telling.
The next issue was where he had seen them. If he told them about the canyon, they would go check. If he tried to stop them, or everyone died, the question would remain how Xie Yi came out alive.
Telling everyone that this art wasn’t perfected yet was useless, as well - the only reason why he knew they must have only gotten their hands on the flowers recently was because of his memories.
However, if he tried to lie about where he had seen the flowers and why he believed that they were the origin of some mind controlling drug, he was bound to slip up.
Not only was he hardly the best liar, he was also unable to stomach the thought of lying to Shi Yue.
But before he could find a solution, Xie Yi was summoned over to the higher grounds.
The sun was setting with beautiful red hues while Xie Yi jogged up the stairs into Shi Yue’s office.
The Grandmaster smiled at him when he entered.
“How is the sect leader?”, Xie Yi blurted out nervously. He hadn’t heard any news the previous days.
“Better. The poison, whatever it is, is weakening slowly. While this is good news, it is worrying that he could be knocked out for such a long time.”
Shi Yue leaned back in his seat. If his hair wasn’t silvery white already, he was sure he would be getting gray hairs from stress by now.
“And how are you? I heard you went to the medical ward?” A different kind of worry seeped into his voice as he looked over his disciple.
“I’m fine. They were only safety measures, I’m healthy.”
“That’s something. At least you and Xiang Zhe ended up alright.” Shi Yue felt tempted to examine Xie Yi to make sure, but he knew as well as everyone in the medical ward that Xie Yi did not allow that anymore.
The Grandmaster watched the youth in front of him for a while.
Others were ill at ease during this time, but while there was a shadow of uncertainty and worry hanging over Xie Yi’s face, there was also a calm sort of confidence that things would turn out alright.
“With the Demonic Sect having created a new weapon, we must be careful”, he sighed, lowering his gaze again.
Xie Yi pursed his lips and tried to soothe his master. “I’m sure we still have time to find a way to fight against it.”
That caused Shi Yue to pause. If Xie Yi said so, there must be a reason. Maybe he somehow knew that the sect could not use this weapon freely yet, for whatever reason?
“I sure hope so”, he whispered. Then he stood up, folding his arms behind his back. “I will return home now. What about you?”
“Oh”, Xie Yi hummed thoughtfully. Because he was so fidgety lately, Xu Yan wasn’t sleeping well. “I’ll sleep here, too, so I’ll come along.”
He didn’t feel like eating right now - he only wanted to meditate and think.
Shi Yue nodded and stepped forward to walk right at Xie Yi’s side. At first, Xie Yi corrected their distance, but Shi Yue cheekily closed it again and Xie Yi did not think to check another time.
Their figures drew long shadows on the ground as they walked.
“Would you tell me what it is about those flowers that you asked Zhi Ci about?”, Shi Yue asked. “I have not seen them before and that worried me.”
“Oh, those”, Xie Yi hesitated. “I still need… a while…”
Xie Yi’s thoughts wandered off to the same problem again. How to tell? How to explain? How to leave out information without endangering anyone, including himself?
“Xie Yi?” The Grandmaster called out, but got no answer. Distracted, Xie Yi was staring into nowhere, walking the path out of pure habit.
Shi Yue made the decision after he realized how much the matter must be weighing on Xie Yi’s mind, to not even hear him.
For a second, his hands shook, but immediately afterwards, he calmed down and breathed out slowly through his nose. The matter was too dangerous.
Xie Yi was distracted when they returned back to their rooms, so distracted that he did not even notice Shi Yue following him inside.
“Huh?” Xie Yi blinked himself back to reality, although he still had a slow and dumbfounded expression on his face. “Master?”
Why come in?
Shi Yue held his eyes, causing Xie Yi to warily retreat a step.
The reaction surprised Shi Yue. He hadn’t seen Xie Yi act like this before, or take on such a wary stance. Xie Yi was never the type to show such feelings in front of him.