Shi Yue gave Xie Yi his trust blindly.
When the other stepped out, he followed obediently. Xie Yi was the one who knew where to go.
Outside the storage room, the walls were still nothing but stone. Rather than the building being created under the mountain, it looked like the mountain had grown over it - the walls weren’t one smooth area but rather bricks.
They were light in colour and looked the same as the mountain’s rocks, but if Shi Yue had to say what the discerning difference was, it was the smell.
It smelled dark.
There was no better way to describe it. He sniffed and thought it smelled dark somehow, even though the area was well-lit.
While Shi Yue was focusing on his sensations, Xie Yi was fighting a bit with himself.
He liked this place in itself.
Not the people. But he did like the layout, the airflow, everything. It was such a nice and well-protected castle. It was too bad he would have to destroy it, but on the other hand, he’d happily watch it break down as the headquarters of the Demonic Sect.
Maybe he’d find a ruin like this too and make it his own.
As he thought so, he placed the first few bombs with ease. They were all around the area and nowhere protected.
Harder would be the lower floor, where they might run into people and where he knew some ugly rooms were placed, and the higher floor where the strongest lived and might still be roaming around.
Xie Yi boldly used the stairs to enter the lower floor. In the back area, the stench of rot immediately filled his nose. Familiarly sweet; the Cursed Netherworld Flowers.
Shi Yue’s nose scrunched up. Habitually, he almost stormed forward to find the source of the smell, but Xie Yi grabbed his arm in an iron grip and jerked him backwards. The Grandmaster stumbled and widened his eyes.
Xie Yi pulled Shi Yue behind him with a disapproving scowl on his face and used his fingers to find the edge of the array encircling the hallway before them.
Considering they were in one of the experiment corners, he didn’t expect less than arrays over arrays.
The minutes he needed to unravel the arrays and tear them apart was nothing in terms of the usual amount of time this could take.
But for Shi Yue, who was on edge and waiting, the minutes dragged on terribly. He strained his ears - they were steps he could hear, far away, and of several people. Not hurried, simply wandering around, but a sign that there were indeed people left behind in here.
Xie Yi only motioned for Shi Yue to follow him again once the array had fallen apart, its pieces wriggling on the ground like worms in the form of dissolving demonic energy.
He walked over them, crushing the bits beneath his boots, and approached the first door.
The room had not changed too much from his past.
The youth looked over to his master, whose face was filled with confusion at the sight of the various needles, thin knives and bottles with mainly dark fluids.
Involuntarily, Xie Yi rubbed over his chest.
How nice, to still have a heart not sewn together from all kinds of pieces, and lungs not covered in inky arrays.
Thankfully the room did not make too much sense to someone who did not know it was intended to cut someone open and change their insides. He dearly hoped that Xiao Zai had not seen the inside of this room and had been cut open somewhere else. The less traumatic, the better.
Many of the rooms were connected directly and not only through the hallways. Some experiments would require different tools for different steps, and the Demonic Sect was surprisingly organized in the way they conducted their tests.
There even was a clean rest room with a bed and a comfortable corner for the ones having to watch over their test subject.
“Can’t say I ever heard of a subject dying from missing hygiene”, Xie Yi mumbled dryly to himself. That would have been a waste of a valuable specimen, so the Demonic Sect never let their test subjects due to such stupid reasons.
Even the Spiritual Sects were not as advanced as this.
If the Demonic Sect did not want you to die - you would not die.
Whether you’d still be useful for anything other than existing was an entirely different matter.
“Is this hard for you?”
Shi Yue’s sad and worried voice sounded right next to his ear and Xie Yi’s eclipse eyes flickered over. The Grandmaster looked as if he was ready to abandon the mission the moment Xie Yi voiced any discomfort. A nice thought, but not necessary.
Xie Yi shook his head. “I feel numb. I went through so much, these rooms don’t scare me anymore.”
But they had, back then when he had been a child.
He had never dared to wail out of fear of being abandoned, but he’d cry silently and bite his arms bloody to keep himself from screaming. At some point, they gave him cloth to bite on instead.
He’d often feel like throwing up when he knew he had to come down here, but he never could. Food was too valuable to throw up. Sometimes he’d not eat before the tests and keep the food in his room so he’d only throw up bile. He’d shiver at even the thought of this place.
And yet he never complained. He dragged himself down here on his own when he was called.
So he wouldn’t be a headache. So he wouldn’t risk them deciding he was too much trouble to keep.
Besides, they weren’t stupid. One of the old men would personally come to fetch him after the tests were over, smiling and petting his head. Praising him. Giving him slightly better food than usual.
That was enough to make him smile again.
He did well.
Like a dog.
Xie Yi casually decided to place two of the backup bombs as well - they wouldn’t help with the chain reaction or the fall of the building, but they’d destroy some of the rooms he had hated the most and that was worth it.
Shi Yue left him alone with his thoughts. He watched the surroundings, allowing Xie Yi to move freely and sink into his memories.
They hadn’t talked about it, but the cooperation was wordlessly progressing without a hitch.
Finally, they reached the room with the flowers in the innermost corner. Xie Yi pulled at the door and found it locked.
The first locked door they had walked into.
Because there wasn’t any reasonable explanation to lock rooms filled with weird materials for human experimentation, really. What was anyone gonna do? Experiment on themselves? They only had to ask if they wanted that and there’d be a lot of people ready to help.
“Where are all the-” Shi Yue paused and made a motion with his hand.
“Doctors? ...Researchers?” Xie Yi tilted his head. Not sure what to call them. “They’re small fry. Evil minds but weak. They’ll be holed up in the living area, I imagine.”
“You can reach it from one floor higher. It’s deeper into the mountain.” Xie Yi shrugged and checked the door. Could he tear it open…? “The way we will let the building collapse will cave them in. It’s a waste of time making our way over there; too many people who could alert possibly stronger foes.”
On that topic, Shi Yue was tempted to disagree. Going over there to kill a bunch of insane minds thinking up terrible experiments sounded like a great use of time to him even at the risk of alerting someone, but then again, staying here for longer was indeed dangerous.
They had no way of monitoring when the troops would return. Better to leave too early than too late.
He wouldn’t be able to fight against a whole sect.
He’d be like a hawk drowning under a nest of termites. Their sheer numbers would suffocate him, no matter how much stronger and more dangerous he was.
“Why would they be there? Isn’t this whole place pretty safe?” Shi Yue had already wondered about that when Xie Yi had mentioned that the elders might leave and not stay within the building during the war.
“If it’s safe, people want safer. If they can run deeper into the room, they will. The small fry feels better when they’ve huddled into a pile in the corner where they can curse their enemies together.” Xie Yi had seen that kind of behaviour often. “As for the elders… Maybe they’re planning in case someone betrays them. That feels like something they’d do.”