Ch.24: Xu Yan says No.
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The small, scarred hand reached out for needle and thread again, this time finally getting them back. The thread had soaked in ink under the effect of an array - easy material, a huge annoyance to draw - for a while. Over a week, to be precise. It wouldn’t last through rain and had a maximum amount of time it would endure at once, but he only needed it for running around in the city and nothing else.

An array to hide the quality of the cloth, one for added stealth and the most important one with an effect on his body and the robe's size. The link would be more than annoying to hold but it was better than engraving an array on his body, which would surely count as the blood-array type that he had promised to avoid.

“Aren’t you going to draw it on first? To make it easier to keep it in line?”

Xie Yi halted in the middle of inserting the needle. That did kind of sound logical. “I can’t really draw on cloth though, can I? With what would I do that?.”

“Well, use chalk? Or soap? I mean, there’s a lot of materials you could use to just have a line that goes away after washing or patting it off.” Xu Yan looked into nowhere as he remembered home. That was how his mother did it, anyway.

“Just regular chalk?”, Xie Yi slowly repeated. It wouldn’t be hard to acquire but it was suspicious. “But how do I get it on correctly?”

“Have you ever done what you’re doing right now?”, Xu Yan sighed.

The black locks flew around as Xie Yi shook his head. There had been very few on his clothes and those had been done by the old geezers (maybe?) or someone else. He himself hadn’t cared about it, he just knew how to prepare what he needed.

Who would have thought he’d ever regret not having this kind of weird knowledge.

Xu Yan rolled his eyes. “If you can draw the array, I can do the stitches. What if you do them too haphazardly and they end up affecting the array?”

“Uh-” He hadn’t thought of that possibility. Could that happen?

Xu Yan looked around the room for a while before he began to frown. “Asking for chalk is kind of suspicious but we don’t have a fireplace, so we have no charcoal either. Is there anything else we could use? Would it be bad if you used the brush and ink? Although that will be rather hard to see, it’s better than nothing.”

“I was think about placing the array on the inner layer, so I guess it doesn’t matter. I’ll just place a linked array on the outer one after that”, Xie Yi explained, opening up the robe and placing the outer layer away while holding the inner one which was a bit lighter in colour. “Should be fine? I’ll first need to use an array to make it able to change its size.”

Hooray for the sect not caring about random plants going missing. Or feathers. Or scales. Or fur. Or, to be completely honest, a bit of the materials they used for practice during the lessons…

The array that could adjust the size of clothing was a very simple one that even someone without too much practice could do. It could also be linked to the one that would let his body grow, which would make it a bit more stable. Those two would have to be first.

“Let me help you”, Xu Yan just said as he took the inner layer out of Xie Yi’s hands and placed it on the table, inside out. He carefully smoothed it so that the back-part was lying flat on the table, then he went ahead and found some heavier things to place at the corners. Books and the like would serve as weights to keep it in place. He looked at it and sighed. “Not perfect, but it will do. Draw the array on.”

“Un.” Xu Yan was weirdly reliable for this kind of thing.

Without another word, Xie Yi went ahead and quickly drew on the array that would change the size, then much more slowly wove the body-changing one into it. Gosh, this would be messy if he made a mistake.

“Now, shoo”, Xu Yan humpfed, motioning Xie Yi to go away. “Don’t disturb me.”

For a commoner’s family, sowing wasn’t necessarily something that only the females knew how to do. Even for the males, basic stitching was an ability that proved to be very useful. Xu Yan had been mending his own clothes for years now, so just stitching a line into the cloth was easy. Some… wriggles were harder to form, but the task was helpfully in clearing his mind and easing his tensed shoulders.

A full two hours later, the sun was starting to move towards the horizon. Xu Yan stretched.

“Done and enough for today. Gosh, I’m starving. Take a look at whether this is alright while I go ask for some food.”

Xie Yi blankly stared after Xu Yan hopping out of the room to go find the attendants.

Amazing. He just sat there, for two hours, doing such a terribly boring task without a single complaint. The stitches looked really nice, even.

Snapping out of his trance, Xie Yi stopped his meditation and crawled forward to take a closer look at the robe. He couldn’t see any problem with the array, but he checked several times before being happy with it.

By the time he was certain that there wouldn’t be any problems, Xu Yan came back with two boxes that smelled like rice. “Dinner”, he said as he placed it on the table. Then he stared at the robe.

“Are you going to put it on?” The curiosity he felt couldn’t help but leak. How could he not be interested in something so cool?

Xie Yi turned his red eyes to the door, then nodded. The attendants would never come in without knocking and he just needed a moment to disable the arrays. They wouldn’t function without him using his energy to keep them running, after all.

Without a care in the world, he stripped right in front of Xu Yan who just sighed and turned away (for some reason) before he grasped the inner layer and pulled it over his body.

With a slow breath, he let the warm energy flow through his channels and finally towards the array that was pressed tightly against his body. He felt it activate and radiate a soft heat that evenly spread through his body. Compared to before, he didn’t feel like he was being stretched - it was more like a layer of wax enveloping him. He could tell it was different, but it felt stiff and unnatural.

Xie Yi looked down at himself, then turned his body around and moved his arms. Not comfortable, but okay.

“I think this works”, he heard himself say in complete monotone, but no monotony could cover up the smoothness of his voice that would make others feel like tasting honey.

Xu Yan twitched, then glanced back at him, then widened his eyes and dropped his jaw. Then, his eyes turned dark and he declared: “No! You’re not going out! I take everything back!”

The darkness of the robe only accentuated Xie Yi’s soft skin and even with the expressionless face, his beautiful features weren’t hidden. It wasn’t quite feminine, rather androgynous; although you could tell he was a man, if he dressed up as a woman then no one would question it. 

His soft black hair fell over his face, sticking up messily in some places and giving him a sort of lazy charm. The red eyes glinted dangerously, contrasting the softness of his face but evoking an atmosphere of mystery in return.

Seeing this kind of person, even Xu Yan at a mere ten years of age felt like following to find out what kind of secrets he might hide. It was a weird sort of temptation.

All the more reason to absolutely not let him leave.

“Why did you change your mind?”, Xie Yi asked in confusion. The fake body filtered it back to monotone, but his eyes and slightly tilted head showed it anyway.

Xu Yan huffed and pulled his fingers through his hair. “Do you have no self-awareness at all! Look into a mirror!”

“Okay”, the adult agreed and stood up, his movements rigid. They had a mirror in their room to help them fix their robes before going out.

He looked into it, looking himself up and down. The adult man in the mirror looked back. Somewhere around his mid-twenties, face a bit too still and movements a bit too weird, but otherwise, only his red eyes stood out. The robe was obviously too good in quality, but he was going to change that later. “I don’t see a problem?”

“Xiao Yi, if you go out like this, you will be pulled in some shady business and raped”, Xu Yan decided to say as clearly as possible. If Xiao Yi didn’t understand, he just had to be direct.

Xie Yi redirected his gaze back to Xu Yan and looked at him unblinking.

Once several reactionless seconds had passed, Xu Yan’s eyebrows lowered. “Do you have some kind of plan to avoid that happening or why are you so relaxed?”

Xie Yi pursed his lips. “Hm, I’m just trying to figure out what you mean.”

Oh lord.

Ooooh lord. Xiao Yi was, what, the same age as he was? He had lived on the street, so that was a valid reason to miss some common sense, but he had been with Uncle Wang for a year and… Uncle Wang had forgotten to teach him, hadn't he.

Feng Yan didn’t have children - he hadn’t ever needed to think about the fact that children couldn’t know what they weren’t taught or didn’t learn. He had tried his best to catch up with Xie Yi’s missing common sense, but even just the boy’s warped sense of what was okay to do and what wasn’t had taken up the full year to correct a bit. He simply had missed out on the fact that this topic they had never touched on was something that Xie Yi didn’t know about.

“You don’t know what I mean by ‘shady business’ and ‘rape’, do you?”, Xu Yan asked, trying his best not to wail. No way he could teach someone else about this! Shit, that would be too awkward! He couldn’t do it, but he couldn’t let Xiao Yi run into an open knife!

“No clue”, Xie Yi said expressionlessly. He had heard both words being used before, in the city and from his subordinates, but it was never in a conversation with him and it just hadn’t sounded like something he wanted to know about. He never asked.

A shady business was maybe something that needed to be done in a dark place? Or at night? Killing was something that you’d better do in dark places. Was killing ‘shady’? Or was this one of those things were the words didn’t hint at the actual meaning at all?

As for ‘rape’, he couldn’t find a link to something he knew, at all. It just sounded a lot like ‘grape’ but that was highly likely a coincidence. Besides, Xu Yan had said it like it was a very bad thing, and grapes were rather delicious.

Xu Yan closed his eyes and inhaled very slowly. “We are going to have a long, long talk about the fact that I absolutely refuse to let you go outside like this.”

Xie Yi deactivated the array, shrinking back to his small size. With tiny steps and a lowered head, he went to the table to get his dinner. It sounded like a long discussion was coming.

I'm sorry for the mess with Ko-Fi but it's my first time doing it lol
Since I doubt that people would donate when there are still so many sponsored chapters left, soooo I've thought about it and I'll place a 'donation goal' rather than reward with extra chapters for now. You can look at it on my Ko-Fi page: Basically it'd be a funny dating sim visual noovel to this story! Play as Shi Yue or Xie Yi and try to seduce the other in absolutely not-canon events :P I don't know if you all would be interested in that? It's not a small goal tbh but maybe some of you would want to donate for it ¯\_(ツ)_/¯