It was clear that Yao Ming was just short of fainting again, so both cultivators opened the door to call in the guards and left. Thoughtfully walking side by side, they left the cold prison to stand under the warm rays of the sun.
“He’s a kid”, Xie Yi said with an exasperated sigh. “Not that being a kid frees him from crime, but still, he’s so young. I feel like I’m the last one who is allowed to find fault with him - even at a few centuries of age, I also misunderstood things and mindlessly attacked, didn’t I?”
“They’ve made sure to not let you grow into an adult. Keeping you as a stupid child was more advantageous”, Shi Yue corrected him.
“Yes. And? What about Yao Ming? Look at how badly he freaked out when he thought I was one of those things. When he was confronted with them, whatever happened, why didn’t his family teach him correctly? Why let it fester? He’s not the only one who made mistakes”, Xie Yi rambled on. “I don’t mean to absolve him. I want him to get punished, yes, I just think it’s sad that things turned out like this.”
“You know…” Shi Yue started his sentence and only finished it after a while. “For some people, it might be better to not have the strength of a cultivator and the pressure of their family. It is a punishment, but maybe it is better for him to become ordinary and dedicate the rest of his life to helping others. Many doctors in that region are people who have injuries that don’t allow them to travel too far, but they’re all content at still being able to do their craft.”
“A fulfilling life, huh… Well. I say, let him get his punishment and learn. As long as he is alive… We can always give him an easier or worse life, depending on how he turns out. Can’t do that with a corpse.” Xie Yi shrugged and folded his hands behind his back.
“Yao Ming will have to stay in the prison for another while. Were we to wipe his memories and destroy his core right away, he would not survive it.”
Suddenly, Shi Yue stopped walking. Xie Yi took another two steps before noticing and looking back in confusion. The expression on Shi Yue’s face was conflicted, with sadness in his eyes.
“Do you think like him?”
“About what?” Xie Yi tilted his head.
“That… your body isn’t clean. That the demonic energy has tainted you.” Shi Yue forced the painful words out. He did not want his beloved to think of himself as impure, ever.
Xie Yi scratched his cheek and looked up at the pure white clouds hovering in the sky over them. “I’m… not a very good person. If I could decide now, I wouldn’t want to have it with me, but since I do, I will use it as it’s a weapon in my hands. But I won’t mind if it’s ever gone completely.”
He laughed dryly.
“I’m not a clean person, but that’s not related to the core in my body. I’m simply like that. ...And I’m sorry, but I will drag you down into the mud with me, since I am unable to become clean .”
Disregarding the possibility of being seen, Shi Yue bridged the gap between them and kissed Xie Yi. It was a bit of a violent kiss that ended in the taste of iron. Xie Yi licked the red colour of Shi Yue’s lips, the question written all over his face.
“In fact, the purest beings on earth die too easily”, Shi Yue whispered with a lopsided smile. “If I learn from you, I’ll only be raising my chance of surviving longer. Ah Yi, it’s good like that.”
The black-haired youth made a childish snicker and rubbed their noses together. As long as his family did not mind, he himself wouldn’t care.
He also really liked that form of address. It was ticklish in his heart and sweet.
Still, he was a bit worried. “We are still outside.”
Shi Yue felt miffed.
Right. He was hiding his relationship with Xie Yi. This really was… beyond annoying.
“Wait until I’m sect leader, then I’ll officially marry you”, he said without much further thinking. “Actually, we might as well place Mingtian’s and Xue Hua’s marriage on the same day. And if Master Chen and Li Mei want to marry, they can do that, too. I want to see who is going to complain about it, if it’s their sect leader marrying a guy.”
Xie Yi half choked. “That’s going to cause an uproar.”
“So? I want to marry you. I’ve spent decades only living for others, I want to be a tiny bit selfish once in a while. Or do you not want to marry me?”
“No, no, I do”, Xie Yi hurried to confirm. “As long as you don’t mind… I’m good at ignoring people anyway, I won’t care if they stare.”
Shi Yue wasn’t as good at it, but he was determined to learn. That was the exchange for being able to hug and kiss his beloved whenever he liked.
“Lovers rub off on each other, it’s a good thing”, Shi Yue said seriously, trying to sound a bit more upright than his thoughts were. “Let Xue Hua become more outgoing and Mingtian calmer, let you become more peaceful and me more ready to be cruel when necessary.”
“Yeah. That does sound good.” Xie Yi beamed at him.
Neither of the two noticed the very simple, very dry proposal that had been accepted in an equally dry way. Once Li Mei heard about it - and she only heard after excitingly asking how exactly the proposal had gone once Xie Yi told her he was getting married - she had the guts to drag out Master Chen to scold Shi Yue.
Shi Yue, who belatedly realized the chance for a nice romantic proposal… was probably regretting it more than the person proposed to.
Either way, for Xie Yi the most important thing was confirming that Shi Yue liked him.
He was looking forward to officially calling Shi Yue his husband, that was all.
As they stepped closer to the edge of the sect territory, Shi Yue caressed Xie Yi’s cheek a last time before folding his hands behind his back. “I need to take care of some paperwork, including a report on how to continue with Yao Ming. If you want to see me, come by the office at any time.”
“Yes!” Xie Yi agreed but swerved back to his… well, Shi Yue’s house.
Not finding Mingtian anywhere, he climbed the ladder down to the cellar.
Su Liang was lying in his nest, breathing slowly, and Nie sat on the side, smoking his pipe. Whatever he was smoking, it vanished into nowhere and did not cloud the room.
The pressure he mitted was stronger as he had taken off his mask - the golden eyes moved to Xie Yi and narrowed a bit in greeting.
Mingtian was lying all the way over Nie’s lap and was using his mother’s fur as a pillow. His dazed eyes opened, but he didn’t manage to fork out more than a low grumble in greeting.
Xie Yi curiously watched Nie’s free hand press along Mingtian’s spine, rub some places and sometimes push down a long fingernail.
Not sensing any sort of rejection, he walked over to squat before Mingtian. “Getting a massage?”
“Kinda…” Mingtian jerked suddenly, his face distorting. It quickly regained its original calmness. “Wassup.”
“It’s about Xiao Zai. My view on what happened to me is very one-sided, do you think there’s anything I have to watch out for when trying to talk to her about what happened and what she knows?”
“Keep in mind that she’s a kid.” Mingtian stretched lightly. Maybe to accommodate him talking, Nie’s massage (he was, in fact, resetting the placement of Mingtian’s spine) became a bit gentler.1No, you shouldn’t do that without having learned it. And no, it doesn’t work if someone is lying over your lap. You do it on flat surfaces or while sitting. I just wanted Mingtian being a cooked noodle.
“Her understanding of the world around her, as well as her memory, aren’t the same as an adult’s. Things might be distorted or mixed up. Take everything with a grain of salt. What’s the main thing that you want to ask?”
“If she knows anything about the flowers. In addition to that, I want to see if my memory of the strongholds are the same as hers, just to be safe.”
“Comparing memories should work but I’m not too sure about the flowers.” Mingtian’s face scrunched up. According to the description, they might have been something I’ve seen, too. Icky things.”
Nie’s lips pursed the tiniest bit at the topic. Everyone in the room, including the sleeping Su Liang, felt a sudden chill that was gone as quickly as it had come. Clearly, Nie was not too happy about the Cursed Netherworld flowers, but similar to Juxian, he could not get involved.