Shi Yue had felt shocked when Xie Yi had run and even more so when he noticed that Xie Yi was running seriously; there was no chance of catching up. His disciple was intent on not being caught.
Then he thought that Xie Yi might need a while to cool off his head, which was fine, but he was neither back the next day, nor the day after that.
He felt unwell and irritated, next to being worried.
Xie Yi… would come back, right?
Deep in thoughts, he didn’t hear the loud footsteps before his office.
“What in the world is the matter?! I’ve lied to people that there was a demonic cultivator that Xie Yi is currently pursuing, but even I don’t believe that! What happened?!” Master Chen closed the door behind her with a slam. "How long are you going to lock yourself up here and letting me handle the mess outside?!"
Her expression twisted a bit when she found Shi Yue sitting slumped in a chair, gaze distracted. He twitched to attention at the sound of her voice.
“Thank you. Please use that explanation, there is no danger.
“What happened?”, she repeated grimly.
“Xie Yi ran away. The energy was from an item.” Shi Yue avoided her eyes.
“Ran away? That child? The little puppy who loves you so much that he wishes he could tie himself to you?” Master Chen took on a sarcastic tone, but when Shi Yue did not respond, her voice dropped down to a freezing point. “What did you do.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Well, maybe that’s the problem then, because something must have happened for him to run! What happened in that room? Did you try to rape him?”
“No!” Shi Yue glared at her. “We… only talked.”
“About what? Don’t make me ask for every little thing. Either say you won’t tell me, or tell me everything at once.”
Shi Yue looked down for a while. Master Chen waited patiently, her arms crossed and eyes fixed on him. Finally, Shi Yue spoke.
“There is… something he is keeping secret. I’ve become aware of it and the current situation demands that I can talk to him about it, so I’ve confronted him.” He scrunched his eyebrows. “He didn’t even let me finish! I was about to say that everything is fine. I was sitting with him and talking as gently as I could. Nothing to make him think I was berating him!”
“You mean to tell me”, Master Chen said slowly, “that you suddenly informed him of being aware of something he was desperately trying to keep a secret?”
“It was necessary. And he did not have anything to worry about; I was trying to make it clear that it was fine.”
“But he ran away before you could finish.”
If Shi Yue had any head to watch out for Master Chen’s mood, he would have noticed her dark face.
“Why doesn’t he trust me?”, Shi Yue’s fingers clenched around the cup in his hand. His teeth were making noise as he pressed them together.
He felt disappointed. He didn’t think that Xie Yi would still not trust him enough to even wait for him to finish his words.
“Wrong!” Master Chen needed all her energy to keep herself under control. Right then, she truly wanted to hit this stupid Grandmaster with something. “You are seeing this the completely wrong way! Don’t be so self-centered!”
“Self-centered?!” With a bad mood, Shi Yue looked up, only to find himself staring right into the unblinking, moist eyes of Master Chen.
The woman breathed in shakily. “You know him, don’t you? You know what he is like. So rather than wondering why he doesn’t trust you…”
She sat down, her expression hurt. Even she felt heartache for the youth.
“Shouldn’t you think about just how much that secret of his must scare him, that the fear even overwhelms his trust for you?”
Shi Yue froze, surprised.
He hadn’t thought of the situation from his angle. His first reaction was that Xie Yi must not trust him enough, but Master Chen thought differently; as she saw it, it was simply that the fear was stronger than the trust he had. That did not mean that his level of trust was low at all, only that his fear was overwhelming.
“Look, I don’t know what you confronted him with, and I don’t want to know. But don’t you think that this fearless child must truly be traumatized to be scared into running away? Has he ever showed such a reaction before?”
Shi Yue tried to go over everything again. Hadn’t he only made it clear that he remembered things? If he wanted to kill Xie Yi, then he would have done it by now, so there was no reason for Xie Yi to think he might be planning to do such a thing.
“Stop hurting yourself over this. I fear he must be suffering worse than you right now.” She sighed. “Under normal circumstances, I’d tell you to run after him, but… Well. He must know that it’s impossible for now.”
“Then what am I supposed to do?” Shi Yue leaned into his hands. He couldn’t leave the sect right now. He couldn’t! No matter how painful it was, he couldn’t leave everyone here.
The mood was tense. Everyone was trying hard to stay calm, but the youngest could be heard crying every once in a while. It was only getting better now that Shi Yue took a walk around the sect each day, to give them a peace of mind.
If he left, he’d be leaving everyone here alone.
“Love and obligation don’t mix well. I know it will be hard for you to choose.” Master Chen hesitated again. “Wait for a couple of days to allow him to calm down. If he isn’t back by then, you can still decide if you want to rush out to find him.”
For once, Shi Yue didn’t correct her use of the word ‘love’. He desolately stared out of the window. Hopefully, he wouldn’t be forced to make the choice.
The message came timely, just when he was about to snap and run out after all.
The situation was gnawing at his nerves; every disciple in the sect was heavily relying on his presence, but he alone was going insane with the desire to leave.
Almost worse than the thought that Xie Yi wouldn’t return on his own was the worry that he might be misunderstanding something.
If Xie Yi simply didn’t dare return, Shi Yue could find him at any point in time and bring him back. But if he was misunderstanding that Shi Yue didn’t want to find him, allowing more time to pass would make it worse.
Just then, Master Chen placed a little origami crane into his hand without a word and closed the door to the office from the inside.
The crane was simple and cute, all green and made from a leaf.
It had been unfolded before - likely by Master Chen - and still carried a faint trace of a familiar spiritual energy.
Slowly, Shi Yue unfolded it again and read the single sentence that was written in blood. (If it was anyone else he would worry about a bloody message, but he was very willing to believe Xie Yi simply used blood because he didn’t have ink.)
“Will return soon”
That was all it said.
“Look at you. Your forehead has unwrinkled for the first time in days”, Master Chen teased him slightly. “We can be lucky it reached us. Cranes are hardly good messengers.”
Shi Yue carefully refolded the crane and placed it on the edge of his table.
“Are you going to work again now? Because honestly, the paperwork has been piling up with you being so fidgety.”
Shi Yue pulled over some scrolls.
“Alright, act like you’re not relieved enough to cry. I’ll be with the sect leader again, you stubborn guy”, she said while rolling her eyes and strutted out of the door.
Shi Yue waited until she was gone, then placed his forehead onto the table and simply breathed for a while. Once he had gathered his thoughts, he poked the little leaf crane and began to work on everything he had procrastinated these days.