“Xiao Yi?”, the soft and insecure voice asked the moment he opened the door. Xie Yi paused at it, then hopped the last few steps forward while letting the door fall shut behind him.
Xu Yan was nervously curled on the bed, sitting in the corner and leaning against the wall while fidgeting with his blanket. A book about materials from demonic beasts laid discarded next to him - an intended distraction that didn’t work.
“Are they mad at you?”, he instantly asked and crawled forward on the bed, looking all over Xie Yi as if to search for injuries. Only when he was certain that Xie Yi looked perfectly fine did he breathe out and deflate back into his nervous state. His hair was ruffled and skin a bit pale.
“I’m just fine. How are you? What did Master Chen say?”. Xie Yi climbed onto the bed next to Xu Yan, leaning his back against the wall and pushing the book out of the way. Xu Yan didn’t look too good.
“She said they’ll finish their investigation and decide afterwards”, he whined. “I don’t know - I don't think I can stay here. It was a bad idea. I shouldn’t have done that.”
In fact, the sect was used to their disciples causing troubles - fights between the students would end with both sides unnecessarily badly injured, fights between the dorms would cause damaged buildings, pranks got out of hand. They hadn’t had the issue appearing like this with newcomers up until now, since those usually didn’t have the possibilities to play around with spells and arrays, but that didn’t mean it was worse than usual.
It had already happened that someone accidentally set the whole main building on fire, after all.
Those stories were always kept away from the public. Other sects had the same problems, but none of them really talked about it unless there was a large meeting. Xie Yi and Xu Yan couldn’t know, but even their prank that had gotten out of hand still wasn’t the worst that the sect had seen up until now.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine”, Xie Yi said with the habit of someone who just made things fine if they didn’t go his way.
Xu Yan rubbed his toes absentmindedly. When he spoke up, it seemed like he was talking to himself. “You know, I don’t really like fighting.”
Seeing the boy behave this way, Xie Yi just closed his mouth and slightly leaned forward, listening quietly.
“My family is not poor or anything, but we’ve got some trouble with my Mum’s family. My uncle’s wife is really annoying and believes that she’s more important than others, so she keeps on offending people. The problem is, she likes pushing the trouble unto Mum - always saying that family is supposed to help each other.” He paused, then gave a long, resigned sigh. “If one of the family was a cultivator, she wouldn’t dare do that. I just want to help my family and let them all live a better life. They don’t understand how cultivation works and aren’t hoping that it will work, so they won’t be mad if I fail, but…”
He stopped again, burying his head in his arms. His words were muffled and sad. “Worse than what will become of me, I just don’t want to disappoint them.”
Xie Yi thought about Feng Yan, who just wanted him to be happy, and the elders, who had never stopped demanding things of him. Become this, do that. Even if they hid their demands behind sweetened words, at the end he had realized that they weren’t any different.
Was that what he didn’t have in his last life? Actual people that just wanted to see him grow?
“Shi Yue said that we will hear about it tomorrow”, Xie Yi tried to cheer him up but just earned a grunt.
“Sheesh, you’re supposed to call him Master Li!”
“His name sounds closer…”
Xu Yan not-very-scarily glared at his friend, lightly hitting his shoulder. “Don’t make him angry, or he will hate you!”
Xie Yi winced and hurriedly nodded. Not again!
Just then, a careful knock sounded at the door. Xu Yan jolted but Xie Yi calmly turned to glance at it. He had an idea who it was likely going to be. “Yes?”
“I’ve brought the robe you asked for”, a relaxed but polite voice sounded. It was familiar enough to remind Xie Yi that it was the attendant, who had left only a short while ago to fetch his order and, as expected, was now bringing it to him.
The door opened to indeed reveal him, carrying a folded robe in his hands. Not really looking at the two, he walked into the room and placed in on the table before giving a half-bow-half-nod and leaving without another word.
The happy Xie Yi jumped up and went forward to take a look at the robe. It was simple and dark reddish-purple in colour with black sleeves. Thankfully the colour wasn’t just reserved for the Demonic Sect - it looked very much like clothes that anyone outside would wear, just a finer quality.
Xie Yi smirked, then ran around the room for a while before crawling back unto the bed next to Xu Yan and making himself comfortable.
The taller boy blinked at the needle and thread Xie Yi was holding. The thread especially looked very weird in colour and there was a peculiar smell wafting around.
“What are you doing?”, he asked, highly suspicious and lowering his eyes to glare at Xie Yi.
“Just adding some stuff to make it waaay more useful.” Xie Yi hummed his words lightly and began to move his fingers. Sowing wasn’t something he was adept at, mostly because he felt it was boring, but simple stitches weren’t hard. And he just needed simple stitches for the array he was going to put on the clothes.
Oh, arrays. Multiple. Just one wouldn’t be enough.
“Xiao Yi!”, Xu Yan scolded. “Don’t immediately get into trouble again! You’re going to do something bad, aren’t you?”
With a quick movement, the needle and thread were gone from his hands. With an offended ‘Ah!’, Xie Yi turned to glare back at Xu Yan who held the two things like a treasure, close to his chest.
“Tell me what you're going to do, first!”
“Well, for one, I’ll make the material appear more coarse”, Xie Yi explained, his eyes wandering as he tried to calculate if he could overpower the boy. With his energy, yes, but that was too dangerous.
“What else?”, Xu Yan growled, unwilling to back down and holding the needle even tighter to his body.
“Just an array to make me look older”, Xie Yi mumbled. It wouldn’t be as good as the one he had tried with Shi Yue, but the base was the same. It was bound to be instable - less of a child turning into an adult and more of a child sitting in and moving a puppet shell that looked like an adult. Not suited for fighting, kinda okay for walking around. For a while.
An expressionless person that didn’t look like they were breathing and with choppy movements would definitely look weird.
“Just?”, Xu Yan howled with an unbelieving expression. “I don’t know how, but that’s dangerous! No! And you’re going to do bad stuff! I’ll call the-... No, I’ll tell Master Li!”
Xie Yi blanched. “You can’t do that! I’m not going to do anything bad, I just need to look like an adult!”
“You’re going to sneak out!” Xu Yan’s declaration was accompanied by a finger pointing right into Xie Yi’s face. The boy pursed his lips.
“You’re talking like I’m going to run away! I just need to go to the city!”
The sect didn’t hinder their disciples from leaving. If someone wanted to walk out, they’d be stopped, but if they weren’t seen, so be it.
They’d have to leave their bracelets behind, which would alert the teachers otherwise, but other than that, there was hardly anything stopping them.
Well. There was the anger of the teachers if they caught someone and the fact that ordinary people wouldn’t make the way up and down the mountain. If you were good enough to do it, you were already at the level of being able to earn official leaves.
Generally, the sect didn’t mind their disciples trying to test their boundaries, but they had to deal with the consequences. If they caused trouble outside, the punishment wouldn't be light.
Xie Yi didn’t know any of that - but he wasn’t planning on getting caught or staying out longer than for a while.
“What for?”, Xu Yan whispered, his stance relaxing. If Xiao Yi just wanted to see Uncle Wang-
“Gotta earn money.”
Why is everyone always telling me ’No’?
A confused Xie Yi sat on the bed, twiddling his thumbs sulkily. That hadn’t happened in his last life. Everyone was so rude… But he didn’t want to make anyone he liked mad… And what if there was some sort of good reason for it…
“Why can’t I go out and earn money”, Xie Yi complained in a whiny voice.
It wasn’t even something that was against the law! (Feng Yan had said that it’s important to follow the law, or he’d be thrown out of the sect.)
Cultivators were usually proud people, so those with a higher level weren’t likely to spend their time doing what they thought were lower tasks. He, however, had all the knowledge and skill of a Grandmaster - even if not the strength - and no qualms about finding work.
He could easily find some semi-precious herbs in the mountain and sell them later for quite some money, while at the same time, already find some of the materials he’d need. He didn't know how much what would cost, but he could find out. Comparing the prices in stores wasn't a hard task and he happened to know where several places selling herbs could be found.
There were things he needed to prepare for MingMing, and then there were things he needed to accelerate his growth so that he could get rid off the old geezers in a very permanent way. That, as well as one other thing.
“It’s Shi Yue’s century-celebration next year”, he mumbled while staring at his hands grasping his robe. “I dunno what he likes, but if I find out it’s expensive then it’s going to be too late to buy it.”
The continued complaints of Xu Yan didn’t come, so Xie Yi peeked up to see his friend with his hands on his face, completely still. Then he groaned and exhaled.
“That’s not a fair way to argument”, he whined back, then lowered his hands and looked at Xie Yi with a defeated look in his eyes. “Can I even stop you from doing this?”
“Do you have a better reason?”, Xie Yi suggested after thinking it over. If there was a really good reason for not going, he’d listen, but right now he felt that money was weighing heavier than Xu Yan’s worries that were completely unfounded.
“I don’t think there’s anything that can win against Master Li in your head, so, no. Then, at least let Uncle Wang help you, okay? Otherwise I’ll die from worry!” This kid was worse than his younger siblings! There was no way he could be left alone!
Xie Yi considered it. Feng Yan had knowledge about how what people called common sense. That was useful. He also knew people. Very useful. He was likely to worry - not good - but on the other hand, worry was acceptable if the other possibility was him messing something up.
“Okay.” His agreement was easy-going but serious, calming Xu Yan who had no way of keeping that weird friend of his in check.