“Come with me. We will go to Shi Yue and talk to him about this family issue.”
“Well, you know when he has time”, Xu Yan mumbled and stood up while stretching his arms.
No one stopped Xie Yi on his way to Shi Yue’s office. Ying Hua came down the stairs as he went up, pausing when she saw him. Her clear eyes shimmered in the light.
In a rare display of support, she placed a hand on his shoulder for a moment while passing him. Xie Yi looked after her for a second before continuing upstairs.
There was another person inside the office. The teacher paused at seeing two people walk in without knocking but relaxed once he saw who it was. Xu Yan and Xie Yi bowed, waiting to hear if they’d be sent away.
“It’s fine. Sit down at the side”, Shi Yue gave them permission quickly. His eyes were focused on the tense-looking teacher.
“How long do you think we will have?”
“Not too long. They’re just short of exploding. Master Li, what exactly did you do to warrant this reaction?”
“Stole someone important from under their nose”, Shi Yue admitted easily. “Someone we need to prepare ourselves against what they’re planning.”
With just this exchange, it was quite clear what the teacher had come here to talk about. The Demonic Sect was raging.
“Was that necessary?” The teacher scowled. “I don’t mean to question you, but-”
“The Demonic Sect is working on a weapon so horrid that it knocked our sect leader out for a while. Yes, it was necessary. We have no time to waste on gaining the upper hand.” Shi Yue sat up straight and calmly stared at the teacher. “This is not restricted information. We will inform all the teachers soon to prepare themselves, it does not matter if you tell them. Just don’t make the disciples nervous yet.”
“How long-” The teacher broke off in the middle of his sentence and waved his arms around in a loose gesture.
“As soon as the girl talks, we will inform all other sects and large families. Given the situation, I believe everything will be accelerated.”
“I understand.” The teacher bowed solemnly, nodded at the two youths and left with a thoughtful and serious expression.
Shi Yue rubbed his temples. “Alright. What can I help you two with?”
“Xu Yan wants to know what we will do about the families when it gets that far.” Xie Yi simply threw the matter on the table without any worries. Xu Yan pulled a face at his bluntness.
“In the first place, we do not plan on letting the fights happen near the sect. It’s simply an additional precaution. We will only take in parents and siblings and only those who are in the nearby cities, otherwise it’s too obvious something is happening.”
“People won’t be happy about this”, Xu Yan whispered tensely.
“People will die”, Shi Yue said with a blank gaze turned into nowhere. “And that is something we cannot avoid. War takes people’s lives. Disciples will die, teachers might die, and commoners will suffer from this as well. Yet, we will have to weigh their lives against the ones who will die if we don’t have this fight.”
Xie Yi placed an arm around Xu Yan’s shoulder. The youth had lowered his head and was clenching his fists.
Xie Yi did not have too much care for the deaths of those he didn’t know. He would prefer if the least amount of people died, but he had fought enough to know that there was no such thing as a victory without sacrifice. The most important thing was winning and ensuring his own family was happy.
But he knew that Xu Yan was much softer than him. Maybe one day he would grow up righteously like Shi Yue; someone who always gave his best for everyone. For now, he was a child who had barely grown into an adult.
You could not expect him to be able to deal with the situation yet.
“Uhm, Shi Yue”, Xie Yi started to change the topic. “Can we please let Zhi Ci out of the prison for a while? I think it will be helpful with Xiao Zai. She misses her sister. I think we can get her to talk if we put them together.”
“I’ll talk to the sect leader about what we can do. We are about to get into a situation where we have to bend and break rules anyway - law and order are nice, but not too useful when you need to make quick decisions and have to be flexible.” Shi Yue made a note on an already filled paper to the side.
“Can we help you somehow?”
“Not yet, but thanks for offering.” Shi Yue gave them a tired smile. “Sorry, I still have to work for a while. Xie Yi, please try to let Xiao Zai relax as much as possible for now. Xu Yan, you are free to go with Xie Yi and play with her. She likes you.”
“Okay.” Xu Yan’s voice came out a bit hoarse. The youth took a few deep breaths and calmed down. “I will.”
They left as quietly as they had come.
Xiao Zai could tell that they were tense so she was unsettled at first but soon got distracted. Qiang Ren, who was a bit more sensitive to what was happening around him right now, could sense that things were getting dangerous.
He stuck to Xiao Zai and watched over her, making sure she wouldn’t trip or fall.
Xie Yi did not officially go to send Yao Ming off. On one hand, he knew the other didn’t want to see him anyway, on the other, he felt uncomfortable approaching someone with a completely crippled cultivation. After all, he himself had a weird core.
Xie Yi sat farther away in the tops of the trees - nowhere a common human would be able to see.
Yao Ming had lost a lot of weight. It was mostly noticeable on his face, not his general frame - he still had the broad body of a well-trained youth. However, his skin was pale and he was unsteady on his feet.
Xie Yi could see the slightly blank gaze with which he looked at Shi Yue. As far as he was told, Yao Ming’s memories were limited to roughly sorting names and faces and the fact that it was his own decision to let his cultivation be destroyed. He would still have rough memories of the sect but nothing that could cause them troubles.
It was weird to see him like this and a bit sad, in truth.
The other cultivators noticed him of course, but no one spoke up. The small group that was going to bring Yao Ming to where he'd live from now on only glanced into his direction before greeting Yao Ming.
Because there was a long way to go, they had brought a horse for Yao Ming. The youth of a rich family easily got on after bowing to the sect.
His eyes stayed on the sect for a minute or two. No one hurried him.
When Yao Ming left, it was with a straight back.
Shi Yue looked sadly after the young man whose end had become something like this. He hoped Yao Ming would find a comfortable home somewhere else, far away from all the intrigues of the larger families.
Xie Yi leaned against the tree trunk and let his leg dangle down the branch.
Shi Yue stood at the gate for a long time. Once everyone else had left inside, he walked to the tree Xie Yi was sitting on and jumped up to join him.
“I hate crippling someone’s cultivation”, he said in a low voice. Because he was the best one to do it, Shi Yue had taken over this task before Yao Ming’s memory was partially wiped.
“I don’t even know how to do it”, Xie Yi muttered. Destroying someone’s core wasn’t quite the same as destroying their complete cultivation foundation.
The core was only one part of the cultivation. The channels running through their whole body was the other.
With intact channels, someone could get a new core implanted - well, that was a demonic thing - and would still be a good lot stronger than an average person.