The moment Xie Yi strapped Juxian over his shoulder and turned to look at Shi Yue and the fluffy furball with the scorpion tail on the floor, the two of them put on neutral expressions.
“I’ve got everything. MingMing, you’re going to follow in hiding, right?”
“I’ll be a bit farther away but within range. Don’t worry about me and watch out for yourself.” The furball - Xie Yi had to admit there were similarities to Su Liang - waddled over and wagged his scorpion tail. People wouldn’t notice a beast that tiny, especially if Mingtian was intending on hiding his presence.
“I’ll be going out already and hide in the forest. You two just go ahead.” Mingtian jumped out of the window after nudging Xie Yi’s leg and left the two humans alone.
Shi Yue nodded towards Xie Yi and left the room. Xie Yi followed behind with a slightly lowered head.
It was still early enough that it would be considered early for a cultivator. Only the sect leader came to send them off, his hands tightly clenched behind his back.
Shi Yue gave him a reassuring smile and the other sect leader tried hard to return it. Everyone would start on their tasks, including them.
Xie Yi bowed low enough for it to be courteous before the two of them walked into the forest.
The young cultivator wasn’t sure how he could act. They wouldn’t talk about Mingtian or their plan, to be safe, and that much was clear… But was he allowed to treat Shi Yue as his lover or was that an issue, too?
Not that he knew when he could do it anyway. Technically, they were alone now and Shi Yue had said it was fine when they were alone, but they were also outside.
“Shi Yue, what are you going to buy at the auction?” He changed the topic instead.
Shi Yue lowered his eyes and gave a low hum. “There are some interesting armaments. We should be able to find something good for you.”
Xie Yi bit his tongue and only nodded in response.
His own sect leader’s present, the set of black clothes, were below his broad robes. The snug fabric was covering his skin, a hidden layer of protection. This time he preferred being prepared.
It seemed like they were simply going to assume someone was watching them at all times as long as they wandered around outside. It would certainly be annoying, but he could understand why it was safer that way.
They travelled at such a leisurely speed that Xie Yi soon began to pace around and return to his master in regular checks and whenever they would eat together.
It was hard to control his impatience. He was scared that something might be happening to Xiao Zai.
One evening, Shi Yue lowered his voice to a whisper and warned Xie Yi in a stern tone. “I know you are used to rushing in and solving situations as soon as possible. But remember that this isn’t solely about you and there are lots of things we have to watch out for. Hurrying can be just as dangerous as being too slow.”
Xie Yi dejectedly looked away. He understood, but it was hard to accept.
Shi Yue forbade him from running around once they came closer to the Singing City. Xie Yi chewed the insides of his mouth bloody, the pain the only hidden distraction he could find.
Shi Yue frowned at him when he noticed the soft smell of blood but did not comment, although his eyebrows took on a worried tilt.
The guards greeted them so happily that Xie Yi wondered if they were really the same people he had seen before. They didn’t recognize him, either, and made no large fuss about the two of them entering.
“The auction is tomorrow night”, Shi Yue said relaxedly, looking around. “Let’s find an inn and eat something, then we can look around.”
And they’d certainly be looking around - just not overground. Xie Yi nodded several times and hid his hands in his sleeves before clenching them tightly.
They could talk once they were in their room. It was common for cultivators to put up all kinds of arrays around their room and no one would question it. He only had to endure until then.
With Shi Yue accompanying him, the two of them went to the best inn in town. Due to the auction, everywhere was full.
“One or two rooms?”, the servant asked with a stiff face. “There are only double rooms left, however.”
Confused, Xie Yi tilted his head and Shi Yue explained softly.
“When large auctions are happening, a lot of travellers will come. While this is generally a positive thing, most are single people. This results in only double rooms being left over and a lot of unhappy customers, who will have to pay for a larger room despite not needing one.”
The servant didn’t nod or shake his head, but his face visibly contorted. The customer had exactly explained his issue - he had been dealing with unhappy people all day.
The black-haired cultivator scratched his cheek. The servant looked so tired, he was about to topple over. “I don’t mind a double room, if it’s fine for you.”
“Neither do I”, Shi Yue agreed. “Alright, give us a double room.”
“Yes!” The overly enthusiastic reply made Shi Yue smile.
One more room for another guest.
The thought process of the two cultivators who were being led up the stairs were quite different. One thought with satisfaction that a double room was much more convenient for both communication and safety, while the other was caught in a loop of thinking whether they were going to share a bed.
Shi Yue glanced over at his relaxed disciple and quickly realized that the other hadn’t meant anything by suggesting the double room. Scolding himself for being caught up in love when there were more important things to consider, Shi Yue sighed.
The room wasn’t large, but it was neat and clean. There was a single large bed with an equally large blanket and two pillows, clearly intended for two people.
Curious, Xie Yi checked out the room while Shi Yue already began walking around to set up arrays.
The one he focused on the most was actually not one for safety, but one that made sure no one could spy on them. As two Grandmasters, they could protect themselves well enough but being spied on would be a problem.
Only when everything was secure did the white-haired Grandmaster sit down next to his disciple and gingerly stroke his hair. “We will have to wait until night falls. You said you know a good place to get a human skin mask?”
“Yes. We can stop by on the way to the market, it’s very convenient.”
“If you didn’t know the way, we would be stuck. It sure is an advantage that you have these memories.”
“Rather, it’s good that they never changed the codes in all these years. I guess it’s because no one figured it out”, the other responded with a shrug. “I’m happy that my memories can help. It makes me feel less bad.”
He flopped back onto the bed and looked at the ceiling.
“I don’t want history to repeat itself. Shi Yue, we can protect Xiao Zai, right?”
“We will, I promise”, Shi Yue murmured. “Rest a bit for now, we might have a long night before us.”
With his head lowered, Xie Yi looked like a younger teenager again. He crawled towards the pillows and dragged one into his arms, curling around it.
Shi Yue looked at the scene for a few seconds before feeling it was a bit annoying. He decisively pulled the pillow away from a confused Xie Yi and inserted himself into the gap.
“If you need hugs, then hug me”, Shi Yue complained, pulling Xie Yi’s head under his chin. The youth hummed before snuggling closer.
Xie Yi’s nap was so light, he might as well have done it while sitting or standing. His consciousness was just below the surface, ready to react at any second. Shi Yue merely closed his eyes, too focused on his disciple to rest.
He could feel the constant, subconscious tension in the lithe body, hear the quiet and controlled breath, and felt the tight hold on his clothes.
It wouldn’t be easy to give Xie Yi all the security he needed. He was still too unstable.
Shi Yue thought back to his past life.
He would have never, not in a thousand years, considered dating Xie Yi back then. If someone had told him they’d get together in another timeline, he’d have thought them insane.
To be fair, taking away all the bloodthirst, Xie Yi was a very intelligent and interesting person.
...Also frankly speaking, he was visually very attractive. It was very hard to hold back, especially considering that they were officially a couple now.
But he didn’t think that rushing it would be good - he’d like following Xie Yi’s pace, but figuring that out would be more than annoying.