Mingtian blindly waved an arm towards Xie Yi’s direction in a nondescript reply but did not turn away from the expressionless Nie. When the dark golden eyes of the deity moved over Shi Yue and to Xie Yi, the youth twitched.
It was frightening, like being an ant confronted with a huge beast. Even if you knew the other wasn’t planning on doing anything, it still made his skin prickle.
“Shi Yue and Xie Yi. I know your story and I know your plans, but there is only one thing I have to say about it. Mingtian cannot be involved in this war”, he said in his melodic voice.
That caused the mixed breed to look up in surprise. His eyes were wet with tears, but now tinged with confusion. “What? Why can’t I?”
Nie smoothened out his hair in gentle strokes. “Because I let your blood wake up in this life, you gained a strength that you were not supposed to have. If you get deeply involved in this war, you might catch the attention of those I have avoided so far. It’s too dangerous.”
His eyes lowered at Su Liang, who cocked his head.
“Likewise, Su Liang must never involve himself in fights of a larger scale. If you do wish for him to live freely, I will ensure that he never gains strength exceeding the limits of this plane.”
“We will do that”, Xue Hua decided in a determined voice as he wiped his tears away. His face was serious. “We will accept that offer. Thank you.”
“I’d rather our son is limited through something naturally rather than him always having to control his strength. What if he accidentally uses too much and is taken away?” Xue Hua shook his head. “It won’t hurt him if you limit it, right?”
“He won’t even feel a difference.” Nie returned his attention to Mingtian. “Would you mind allowing me to carry your mother’s memento for another while? I do not have a suitable replacement yet and it is not convenient for me to walk around uncovered.”
“Sure”, Mingtian nervously said, returning it to Nie. When he placed the mask back over his face, a good part of the previous pressure vanished.
“So we need to get bellflower fruits from somewhere? That’s going to be a problem”, Shi Yue carefully led them back to the main topic.
“Ah, I-” Mingtian patted around on his chest and finally around his waist before he found what he was searching for. Opening up a small bag made of simple fabric, he revealed the golden bell.
Everyone looked at him in surprise, excluding Nie, whose body was perfectly still.
“It was supposed to be a, uh, dowry”, Mingtian said and cleared his throat while glancing over to his mate.
Xue Hua flushed a bit. “A normal bell would have been fine! Don’t be stupid, we will use it for Su Liang! The ones on the hairpin, too. You can give me normal bells in exchange.”
“Where did you even find that?”, Xie Yi asked curiously and Mingtian lowered his head.
“...There was a tree on the way. I didn’t get into trouble last time, so I thought…”
“They did not mind indulging you because you are my son”, Nie said in an emotionless voice, but somehow his amusement was still clear to everyone. “Still, the fruits are our reward for hard work. Don’t steal them anymore.”
“I won’t”, Mingtian hurriedly promised. He held the fruit out for Nie, who merely motioned towards Su Liang.
When Mingtian held it out for his son, the little cub showed actual hunger for the first time. He struggled towards it, happily chewing on the fruit with loud crunches.
“He will be able to change into a humanoid form in a couple of weeks. As long as his diet is correct, you will mainly see his growth in his humanoid form; this one will grow very slowly. It’s natural”, Nie explained.
He turned to face Shi Yue. “Is there anywhere convenient I can stay out of people’s eyes but nearby? A place that you would not mind me occupying.”
“The nest?”, Shi Yue wondered. “We have prepared a room underground for Su Liang.”
“That will be fine.” Nie nodded. “I know where it is. I shall go and settle there. If anything is the matter, do not hesitate to come to me.”
Nie turned around and left in the correct direction without anyone guiding him. Shi Yue opened his mouth to say something but shut it again.
After all, that was a deity. He shouldn’t underestimate his abilities to know things somehow.
“Alright, you go back to your mom”, Xie Yi said to Su Liang before handing him to Xue Hua. Then he looked at the still slightly dazed Mingtian, waited until the other noticed his gaze, and jumped up at him.
Mingtian took a step back when the tall man hung over him, legs around his waist and arms around his head. Laughing, Mingtian held him up. “I’m back!”
“How have you been!”
“I got thrown down the canyon by my sword spirit!”
“You got - what?!”
Shi Yue watched the messy situation a bit wistfully. Ying Hua patted his shoulder. “They’re brothers, after all.”
“I am aware. I might have to split them up soon, though”, he mumbled back. “Mingtian, Xie Yi told me everything I need to know about the Demonic Sect for now. We will leave soon to inform the other sects.”
The beast took in the phrasing without comment. It wasn’t unexpected that Xie Yi would tell Shi Yue sooner or later, although Shi Yue relaxed attitude was slightly surprising.
“Seriously?” Mingtian whined and peeked out from under Xie Yi’s arms. “It’s his birthday soon! You can’t take him away right now!”
Xie Yi climbed down from Mingtian and wryly smiled. “No choice. It’s important.”
“Yue, how were you planning on travelling? It would be best if I came along, wouldn’t it?”, Xue Hua questioned after hearing about the issue the first time. His eyebrows were lowered a bit.
“Yes, but you have to watch over your son”, Shi Yue rejected him quickly. That was why he had decided against asking Xue Hua.
“You are travelling only to inform them, no? Then there is no real danger. We can come along, all three of us… If Nie does not have any issues with it. That way, we can celebrate Xie Yi’s birthday together.”
Xie Yi looked at Shi Yue.
In truth, even if he understood why they had to leave and why he had to come along, he’d wish he could have Mingtian there for his birthday. If everyone could come along, it would be ideal.
“Worst case, I can protect them”, Mingtian said and wrapped an arm around Xue Hua. “Even if I limit myself and avoid larger fights, I can still watch over my family! They’ll be safe with me!”
“Well…” Shi Yue hesitated.
There would be a festival a couple of days after Xie Yi’s birthday in the city nearby the Honourable Sect. It would be exciting for Su Liang, and probably enjoyable for all of them in general.
Moreover, Xue Hua and Mingtian would allow a faster and safer journey over there.
“I don’t think anyone can even stop you if you decide to go”, Xie Yi bluntly said from the side. Neither he nor Shi Yue would be able to win against the two adult beasts. Especially since, himself, was on their side.
“Fine. But only come along, don’t get involved in the mess”, Shi Yue pressed them and Xue Hua nodded in satisfaction.
“Then that’s solved. Let’s go back to Nie, and on the way, I want to hear some more details”, Mingtian declared while looking at Xie Yi.
As they walked, Xue Hua was also filled in with the missing information on topic of Xie Yi’s rebirth. He accepted it quietly, only wondering if he should ask Mingtian about their relationship back then but finally deciding against it.
If it was something he wished to share, surely the other would tell him someday.
Shi Yue had to grab Xie Yi by the collar when they were back in the sect. The young man flailed a bit, unhappy, and continued to stare towards the room that included the entrance to the nest.
“Don’t play around with a deity. It’s dangerous”, Shi Yue scolded gently. He used the chance to wrap one arm around Xie Yi’s waist to hold him in place.
Mingtian stopped walking towards the nest and gnashed his teeth at the sight, then forced himself to continue.
As he had somewhat expected, knowing Nie for such a long time already, the deity was… uncomplicated. He found him sitting next to the nest, puffing his pipe relaxedly.
“U-Uhm, Nie”, Mingtian started, too awkward to call the man his father directly. “We wanted to know if it was alright if Su-”
A short pause ensued before Nie tilted his head up towards Mingtian.
“I am listening to the things you say. I always have.”
Mingtian mentally screamed at remembering how he had always boasted about Nie and how often he had said that the other felt like his father. Somehow he had a feeling that Nie didn’t think any of that was embarrassing.
“Su Liang will be full with the bellflower fruit for a month. You have three, so you could use those up first. Afterwards, I will supply different food for him. You only need to be here then.”
“That sounds good! I-Is it a problem otherwise? I mean, you came all the way, and we are immediately gone...” The beast tried to keep his voice steady but he still felt a bit insecure.
Nie needed a solid five minutes to even understand what his son was hinting at. “...Even a couple of years is no time for me at all. Do not worry about me.”
He waved his gloved hand at Mingtian as if to say he could leave, and Mingtian beamed. He ran over, nervously gave Nie half a hug, and then back upstairs again to find his mate.