His jaw was tight as he began to draw, dragging his mind of those eyes. There were a lot of things he didn’t understand, but he hated it. Not knowing another’s thoughts and having to wonder, he had enough of that. He didn't need to see those eyes he didn't understand.
The blood gathered in the small hole, greedily taking in the rough mixture of ingredients, to Xie Yi’s surprise and satisfaction. That made it easier to draw.
With practised motions, the array began to flow from his finger, the warm blood from his open wound bleeding over the fake ink to create the connection. Like electricity, he could feel the current move up his arm and through his channels, sometimes ticklish, sometimes like it was pricking him with needles.
When he turned back up to look at Xu Yan, the other child was biting his lip and worriedly looking at Xie Yi. The red-eyed child spoke calmly, ignoring the worried expression. “Can you do the rest? We need to approach them. They’re less likely to be suspicious of you.” ...Since I can’t act like a normal child.
The other boy was visibly upset, but he nodded anyway. This time, it was Xie Yi who reached out for his hand, pulling the other’s palm unto the array. With his own, bleeding finger still lying in the pool of blood and Xu Yan’s palm touching the open circle that was placed on one side of the array, he began to activate it.
Contrary to when working with ink, this array was glowing in a dark, almost black colour as it began to do its work. The writings wiggled like worms, then made their way towards Xu Yan’s hand. The child twitched back, but Xie Yi was holding him firmly in place.
For a few seconds, the wiggling writing did nothing but wind itself around Xu Yan’s hand before it faded to invisibility. Satisfied, Xie Yi pulled his hand back and began to quickly close up the hole, ignoring Xu Yan who was staring at his hand in panic.
“Don’t touch anyone else with it”, Xie Yi warned. “When we finish this lap, go to that guy and complain you can’t run anymore. You just need to touch him or his clothes.”
Maybe it was the abnormal sight that had turned the commoner child wary belatedly, but he scrunched his eyebrows and stared at Xie Yi. “What does it do?”
Humming, Xie Yi took a look at his finger. Hm, it would close up soon enough. He could say he scraped it. “Mischief. After it’s set, it turns into something that looks like fleas. It doesn’t do anything beyond itching and hopping around.”
Normally, he would have given the fake fleas some kind of disease to carry, but he neither had the right conditions for that nor did he know of any disease that wouldn’t kill their host or turn into a plague. Not suitable. Fleas sounded alright; he had always heard the people in the city complain that people with fleas were dirty. It would hit that guy’s pride. And it would itch. He knew that from the fleas that others had set unto him sometimes.
Relieved, Xu Yan exhaled. If it really was just that, then it would be funny and not dangerous. He didn’t want anything bad to happen. Especially not after Senior Li Mei had warned them not too long ago to not agitate the seniors!
He held his hand away from his body, palm pointing upwards, and carefully scrutinized it until Xie Yi began to fall into a jog again.
“Ah, wait for me!”, he exclaimed as he also moved his legs to catch up, his hand stiffly hanging at his side, never quite touching his own body. Even though Xiao Yi hadn’t warned him to not touch himself, he was still rather suspicious. He didn’t want fleas!
The second round was much worse than the first one, especially since their limit had already been reached before. Xu Yan just kept staring at the back of the boy jogging before him, trying to not fall behind. When the cultivators on the training ground came into his sight again, he didn’t have to act at all.
With exhausted tears brimming in his eyes, he turned a corner to run towards Yao Ming. The older cultivator didn’t expect the child to suddenly grab his robes at all, so he was frozen for a moment before reacting.
“You-!”, he started, annoyed, as he tried to pull his sleeve out of the tiny hands.
“Senior, we can’t run that much!”, Xu Yan genuinely wailed. The rest of the newcomers had also slowed down, watching him and hoping that maybe their senior would have mercy.
Yao Ming snorted and patted his sleeve with disgust as if it might have been dirtied. “You will have to go through much harder training in the future. Don’t whine and continue running.”
Xu Yan couldn’t tell whether the array’s curse had worked, but he hoped it did. He had touched Yao Ming’s sleeve, so that should be enough. He also wasn’t brave enough to completely go against the senior so when Yao Ming glared at him, he winced and retreated a few steps back.
The cultivator looked like barely just an adult, but everyone knew that people’s lifespan extended depending on their level. That meant it was very likely that the young-looking man in front of him was already the age of his father, and the stern aura worked well on the boy.
“Maybe-”, Xu Yan began to stutter, only to be silenced by a frown. With another quiet whine, he turned tail and ran back to Xie Yi.
“Good”, the child commented with a small, innocent-looking smile that confirmed the curse moving over to Yao Ming. “It’ll take a while until it takes effect.”
“At least it’s only jogging and not what comes after his warm-up”, Xu Yan muttered sulkily, then dragged his heavy legs forward again.
The space between the first-placed and last-placed runners became greater and greater, the difference in physical abilities obvious. The younger newcomers, especially, couldn’t keep up with the older ones.
Only two didn’t worry at all, just waiting as they forced themselves stubbornly forward.
About twenty minutes later, the first of the four cultivators reacted. It was only a frown as he inspected his arm, where a small red mark was forming. After some contemplation, he ignored it, until the second cultivator also began to inspect his hand.
Yao Ming was also frowning. He refused to pull up the fabric of his pants to look at the itchy spot on his leg. It was probably just a mosquito-
At about the same time, all four cultivators noticed something odd. The three lackeys only that there was a sudden rise of tiny red spots on their arms, Yao Ming something else.
He was already at the sixth level and very talented, so he was a primary disciple at his young age. He didn’t let it show, but he spent quite some time on making sure he was always informed about everything just so that he could look down on others for not knowing.
And there were currently two problems. One was that common bloodsuckers didn’t like cultivators. Their skin was too thick. It was very rare for them to try and bite one. The other was that the teachers didn’t like being annoyed bugs humming around their heads. There were bees and some other useful insects in the sect, but those were controlled and avoided people.
The dome that the arrays formed around the sect was pretty much a bug-free zone. There shouldn’t be any mosquitoes and the like in here.
The only possibility was that the bugs weren’t common.
His face falling, Yao Ming whirled around and grabbed the arm of one of his followers, roughly pulling it under his eyes to inspect it. The confused man kept quiet and just watched as Yao Ming quietly cursed and then hastily retreated.
Fleas?! What kind of flea could bite a cultivator?! And get through the array?!
If he felt itchy as well-
Yao Ming made an incoherent exclamation of anger, then rushed away from the training grounds towards the medical ward. Confused, his followers called out for him and followed.
The newcomers, meanwhile, stopped jogging as soon as they realized that their stand-in teachers were gone and awkwardly gathered at a corner of the training grounds, the slower people trickling in to join the group after a while.
The other cultivators that had been training had stopped as well, their weapons lowered and necks stretched as they stared towards the medical ward with curiosity.
A few minutes later, the sect was in chaos.
“Whoops”, Xu Yan whispered, watching with wide eyes.
Whoops, Xie Yi thought. Where exactly was the problem? Sure, fleas multiplied easily, but why did everyone look so out of it?
“You said they were just fleas”, Xu Yan whispered in a panic, shaking Xie Yi’s arm. Frowning, the child stared on the ground. He had definitely drawn the array right and not added anything else.
“Xiao Yi, does that look like the reaction towards normal fleas?!”
Indeed. The whole medical ward was running around outside, the group of four cultivators were standing in the middle of an array with dark faces, and teachers were flying from one corner of the sect to the next with weapons drawn.
Every disciple had to stay where they were, so the two boys were sitting at the edge of the training ground, watching the chaos continue as they waited to be released.