Feng Yan sighed, long and resigned. His movements turned into a worried half-hug before he placed his large hands on Xie Yi's shoulders, looking straight into the reddish eyes. “Nothing is ever set in stone. You can still be thrown out if you don’t manage to make it to the first level or don’t behave, so… Just try your best and listen to them. Follow their rules.”
Xie Yi showed a small smile, revealing his little teeth. “I’ll be fine. I’ll visit when I can.”
As far as he knew, visiting people who had taken care of you was a normal and good thing. Besides, Feng Yan was rather nice.
The old man roughly patted Xie Yi’s messy black hair and pulled him into a full hug. He was hesitating, still a bit uncertain about giving the little one into the hands of someone so overly powerful - as nice as the stories about him were, you could never be sure. “You’ll do fine if you just… behave. And listen. Really. Listen to them.”
Because Xie Yi was a child who didn’t even understand the concept of being in danger from being below another. Or the concept of rules. If it didn’t make complete sense to him, he wouldn’t do it. Once Feng Yan had figured that out, dealing with Xie Yi was easy, but before that, he had quite some trouble with Xie Yi just saying one thing and doing another. Because ‘I understand (that this is what you want me to do)’ doesn’t mean ‘I will do it that way’...
The old attendant approached Xie Yi with a smile at seeing their interactions. He had a scroll over a wooden tablet and a brush in his hands, noting something down.
“Little kid, you’re really lucky to catch the Grandmaster’s eye. What’s your name?”
“Xie Yi”, the boy answered.
Silence for three seconds.
The cultivator turned to Feng Yan, who helpfully spoke up. “Ah, he doesn’t have a last name. I took him in, so I guess he can have mine. Please note down ‘Wang’.”
The attendant nodded and wrote something down, although Xie Yi tilted his head. Last name? What for? His name is his name. He could just share Feng Yan's like that?
“Alright, Xie Yi. We will be leaving at sundown, so you can go home for another while or stay here”, the attendant explained patiently, looking between the boy and the adult. Even when families had made up their minds to let the children become cultivators, parting wasn't easy, especially since it wasn't possible to just randomly leave the sect at first or visit. Since the parents had to trust the sect fully with the responsibility of their children's well-being, they were often nervous.
“Stay”, the child said determinedly, to Feng Yan’s amusement. As expected.
Their parting was simple, surprising the man a bit. He peered down at the young boy who was fully relaxed at leaving his guardian and held out his hand.
“Let’s go. I’ll show you where you can wait.”
Not understanding, Xie Yi stared at the held out hand for a while before walking past it in a circle and then glancing back at the old man with an impatient gaze that said ‘What are you waiting for?’.
Stunned, the man let his lonely hand fall down. Alright. That child didn’t need to be pampered. Good to know.
Xie Yi wasn’t the youngest - there were children about eight or nine years of age - and not the smallest - there were some little girls smaller than him - but he was easily the calmest. Despite there being teenagers.
The younger ones were trying hard to stay calm with trembling lips, just having parted from their family. The teenagers were nervous under the pressure of doing well. There were about fifteen of them in total and no one noticed Xie Yi’s arrival, and he didn’t care.
He just sat in a corner and relaxed, burying his head in his arms to hide his grin. Shi Yue was just as he remembered, but this time, he hadn’t glared at him. He had been nice. He had been kind.
For Shi Yue to be kind to him… It was worth it to kill himself. In this life, he would be obedient and stay at Shi Yue’s side. As for his elders…
He would get rid of them another day. There were another few months until they would appear in this town, if he calculated right.
His former sect, he would eradicate it as soon as he had the power. As revenge.
Light steps pulled him out of his thoughts. They stopped right in front of him, scratching over the ground. From his view, he could see a pair of simple children's shoes. He lifted his head to see a curious boy, probably his age but a full head taller than him, peering down at him with curious eyes, staring right into his.
“They really look like the sunset”, he happily chirped, then immediately jumped to introducing himself. “My name is Xu Yan. Yan, just like Feng Yan, the smith! Funny, isn’t it? Let’s be friends!”
The boy plopped down beside him. He had messy flaxen hair and brown eyes that looked absolutely harmless. His clothes suggested that he was from a family with moderate living conditions; most certainly not rich, but well-off enough to live comfortably, given his clean and neat clothes.
Xie Yi stared at him for a few speechless seconds.
There… probably was… some sort of logic in that train of thought… that he just didn’t understand… Surely, there was, right?
“You’re Xie Yi, right? I know you. My father bought a sword from Uncle Wang once”, he continued to babble on. “It’s great that you were chosen, too! Let’s get along and help each other.”
There was a layer of nervousness and insecurity that Xie Yi could hear through his words, prompting him to not disagree for some reason. Maybe it was that familiar wording in his sentence that made him feel that way. He just stayed quiet, deciding that he could let things go however they’d go.
“Nice! Xiao Yi, you were really brave to hang onto the Grandmaster like that. Weren’t you scared? I mean, I only ever heard good things about him, but it’s still kinda scary with how powerful he is”, Xu Yan continued, scooting over to sit closely next to the other boy and talking quietly.
Xie Yi frowned. “He isn’t scary. He’s amazing”, he declared softly but with full conviction. “I’ll definitely become his succeeding disciple.”
“Whoa”, Xu Yan gasped, then slapped his hands in front of Xie Yi’s mouth with a ‘shhh’. “You can’t say that kinda thing out loud! For small fry like us, we shouldn’t reach for anything other than being secondary disciples for now! There’s a limit to what you can say!”
He lowered his voice even farther. “It’s fine if that’s your goal, but you should keep it to yourself. There are a lot of people who want to be Master Li’s succeeding disciple, and a lot of them are very powerful. You can’t make them mad if you don’t have the power to protect yourself.”
Primary disciples were already closely linked to their respective masters, but a succeeding disciple was different. They would be able to learn absolutely everything and even follow into their master's footsteps, having access to everything their master had. It was the master's responsibility to ensure that their succeeding disciple wouldn't cause a mess with their knowledge and rights. A risky choice, actually. What Xie Yi cared most about, however, was the fact that succeeding disciples could follow their master absolutely everywhere, whether invited or not.
Xie Yi obediently nodded and the hands over his mouth vanished. He blinked his eyes innocently and forced a light smile. If this child would stick around him, then maybe he could learn some common things from him. And if Shi Yue said he was bad afterwards, then he’d get rid of him as punishment and just strike everything he learned from his brain.
But there was no hostility, just like with Feng Yan, and the boy seemed to know more than he did, so he would be a good start.
Xu Yan blushed at the innocent hint of a smile and turned away. “Uhm, when we’re at the sect, let’s try to get a room together. You shouldn’t be in a room with someone else”, he muttered worriedly. “Especially not older disciples.”
“Why? Wouldn’t it be good?”, Xie Yi asked, confused. Older disciples could show you the ropes from what he had heard, which was essential for integrating as well as establishing possibly useful connections in the Virtuous Sect. And he might need to do that.
“Some of them have… habits”, Xu Yan nervously explained, looking over Xie Yi. Fluffy black hair and bright red eyes, really like the sun going down, beautiful and innocent. His face had soft contours and he was small, really cute. But his older brother had told him about some bad rumors and warned him… “A-Anyway, don’t ever be alone with anyone else, okay? No, wait, I’m fine, and the teachers are fine… probably? And girls should be- ...ah, but, what if…”
Xie Yi watched dumbfoundedly as Xu Yan mumbled himself into a nervous mess, oblivious to the fact that his new friend had already started worrying that Xie Yi might end up as someone’s pet.
That’s what having four cute younger siblings does to you, in those times.
“Anyway! Xiao Yi” - there he went again with the pet name… - “if any of them want to do stuff like dual cultivation, you gotta say no!”
Xie Yi stared.
“...Please just say no, okay?”
He had no idea what dual cultivation was. He hadn’t heard anything about it in all those years he had lived, so it shouldn’t be too interesting anyway. Though, ‘dual’, did that mean you did it together with someone else? Like sparring, maybe?
Caught up in his thoughts and Xu Yan’s babbling, time passed amazingly fast.
When the other cultivators came to take them along, the rest of the children began to turn nervous. None of them had ever flown on a beast or weapon before, after all. Being away from the ground was unnatural for them.