“How are you feeling now?”, he asked in a roundabout way.
Xie Yi turned his red eyes down to his body and began to move the particles in the air around him, effortlessly taking them in. It was nicer to feel his channels flow with energy again. He hadn’t had the chance to do it before but a state of not being constantly ready to use his energy was discomforting. He hadn't had that in his last life.
“It’s nice”, he honestly responded. “I didn’t notice, but it is better like this. Thank you, Shi Yue!”
“Master Li”, the man corrected almost habitually now. Out of ten times the child would call him, two or three would be his name, especially when he was distracted. Another cultivator might have taken offence, but the soft, cute voice calling his name made it hard to feel offended.
“Say, have you used arrays several times before this? I am aware that you as disciples have ink at your place, and even if it’s not suitable to be used for arrays, it does work as long as the array isn’t too strong and you use more energy to make up for it. I had a feeling that the energy in the new dormitory was unusual, so was it you playing around?”
Xie Yi ducked his head. Busted. Hurriedly, he tried to defend himself. “It was just, just, stuff like summoning little elementals and playing with them or making my clothes comfier and stuff like that… Really, really nothing bad! Is that forbidden, as well?”
…Couldn’t leave him out of his sight at all.
“Don’t just play around with arrays. Moreover, summoning elementals? What if you make them angry by playing around like that? You can’t just use arrays only because you can. It’s like playing with fire.” Literally, depending on the elemental.
Xie Yi nodded but kept his mouth closed. He didn’t intend to stop doing it. He had experience with handling arrays and was planning on using them many, many more times.
His master, who was unaware of the full extent that his disciple’s knowledge reached, didn’t push the issue anymore and just mentally noted to make sure his disciple would know and understand the dangers.
“Master Li”, Xie Yi suddenly said, reaching out to tug the sleeve of the robe that was still within the reach of his short arm as the man hadn’t returned to his previous spot. “Uhm, you said you would take me as a disciple, right? I heard that?”
Looking at the upturned eyes and feeling the soft pull on his clothes, Shi Yue felt like his heart was melting. Children were adorable and he liked small and soft things, there was no way to resist.
“I did say that. Well, I’m only saying it two days before the actual date, so it’s not a problem. Your talent far surpasses my expectations, after all. You still need to participate in the exam and pass it, though, and you're under permanent probation for causing trouble, do you understand?”
“I understand”, Xie Yi chirped, then jumped off the chair and bridged the gap between them. Happy, he curled his arms around Shi Yue’s waist - as much as somehow possible - and hugged the cultivator. Shi Yue’s body was hard with muscles but even then it felt nice.
Stunned, Shi Yue looked down at the figure hugging him before he gave a sigh and dotingly patted the fluffy head. This would be his first official disciple, he had to train him well and not skimp on showing affection or his disciple would feel neglected. (That was his master’s tip, anyway. Just like raising a pet.)
“However, you need to be aware that being a Grandmaster’s disciple is hard work. I won’t let you slack off. Quite on the contrary, my pace will be faster than that of the other teachers”, he warned, already wondering if he should avoid skinship with the child. Would he get used to that? It would be bad if he did, it was fine now, but it would be awkward once he was older.
“I’ll catch up to you fast”, Xie Yi declared steadily. He had already gone through the process once, the second time wouldn’t be as hard since he already achieved enlightenment in a lot of areas. His goal in this life was more of a ‘staying with Shi Yue forever’ while exploring the path of cultivation.
...On that topic, there was still an annoyance around.
“Master”, the child said with a sudden drop in mood, “I heard that you’ve taken in some girl as your daughter? Ying Hua?”
Surprised at the sudden switch, Shi Yue stopped his hand and watched the head that was buried in his robe for a second. “Yes. Ying Hua can be considered my daughter. Is something the matter?”
The man paused. Were they about the same age? “Xiao Hua isn’t easy to get along with, so I won’t force her to get along with you. You will have to talk to her by yourself.”
Xie Yi stared into the fabric right in front of his eyes and held back on screaming.
Who wants to get along with that brat! And why are you calling her ‘Xiao Hua’ so lovingly! Fuck, she’d get it the next time he’d find her!
Hearing his disciple-to-be grumbling incoherently, Shi Yue just smiled lightly. Xiao Hua wasn’t too fond of skinship and Lao Hua was an adult. He himself had been an adult for… quite some years now and started avoiding female companionship at some point, so it was rather rare that he had someone so close.
It couldn’t be helped that cultivators had to be suspicious of people coming too close. In the end, they were still human, so even with the strongly lowered desire for sexual relationships, the human desire for ordinary skinship still existed. It wasn’t needed - they wouldn’t go crazy without it - but the desire was there.
“Enough cuddling your future master now. Let go of me.”
The arm around his waist squeezed tighter for half a second, then released him. Xie Yi stepped back, his face dark and lips pulled down in a huge pout. It looked amusing enough to cause Shi Yue to chuckle.
The atmosphere in the room was warm to the point of causing Xie Yi’s eyes to sting for some reason. Suddenly startled, his head twitched to look at the door that led to the other room, before he looked at his future master with a hesitant gaze and tugged at his sleeve, mouth open but without saying anything.
The cultivator just softly moved his hand, gesturing for the child to talk and showing an open, calm smile.
“If it’s possible, when I’m a bit older, can I leave the sect to fetch someone?” The voice was a whisper but Shi Yue could still identify the unusual tone. Somewhere mixed between guilt and expectancy - whoever he wanted to fetch might be someone he had a complicated relationship with.
“I can’t promise you that they’ll be able to live here, but we can certainly fetch them and make sure they’re fine, if that’s what you mean”, he suggested. Xie Yi lowered his eyebrows.
“But it’s important that he lives with me… He has to”, he complained, more to himself.
A family member?
The words weren’t directed at him anymore so he didn’t comment but just stood up, which caused Xie Yi to lay his head in his neck again to look at his master’s face.
“The lessons are cancelled thanks to the mess you caused. Everyone is supposed to stay in their dorm room for today”, Shi Yue explained. “Go back now. If you need something or want to eat, ask one of the attendants to fetch it for you. Other than that, don’t leave the building. Just think of it as a rest-day.”
“What about Xu Yan?”, the child inquired, red eyes lowering as he thought about the little happy-go-lucky. He hadn’t thought that their prank would end like this and he didn’t want Xu Yan to be thrown out of the sect because of him.
“He should be there as well. You two will hear about the sect leader’s decision by tomorrow.” The man turned and made his way to the door, indicating the conversation was over. Xie Yi followed him expressionlessly, deep in thought, and made his way out of the building.
It was late noon by now and the sect appeared deserted with everyone having to stay in their rooms. Shi Yue didn’t accompany him all the way back but just gently pushed him towards an older, very professional looking attendant who bowed down and then led the way back mutely.
Xie Yi couldn’t care less about the silence. He didn’t want to talk to the random person and since neither Shi Yue nor Xu Yan were around, he was also inclined to just keeping his silence.
Instead of talking, he was planning. In his last life, what had MingMing said? When had he been around the Virtuous Sect? He needed to be prepared for that time and fetch him. It didn’t matter if this was like a new life, MingMing had to be safe this round. He still had questions he needed to answer.
There was only so much he could do as a little boy without any status and money. In two days he’d be Shi Yue’s disciple and an official member of the Virtuous Sect, which would give him some freedom.
Whatever job Shi Yue would find for him, it wasn’t going to be something that would get him the great money immediately. There was a much better solution for that. Even one he could prepare for! After all, he hadn’t been completely idle these two weeks!
“Mister?”, he asked the attendant just as they reached the dorm.
With a surprised twitch, the attendant reacted and then turned around to the boy whom he hadn’t expected to speak up. The child’s eyes had done a 180 degrees turn to how he had been with the Grandmaster; from cute and adorable to chilling to the bone.
“How can I help you?”, he asked in a polite tone, then felt a shiver down his spine at the boy’s weird smile.
“Could I maybe have a dark-coloured robe? I don’t want to dirty my clothes while working.”
Unless necessary, don’t ask questions. Unless suspicious, don’t inquire. Cultivators were weird - as long as there was no good reason for him to ask, he just had to do what was ordered. “Of course. I’ll get it immediately.”
Even if it was rather weird to have a newcomer that wasn’t even an official disciple yet ask for a dark robe.