Ch.25: Before the entrance exam
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All in all, you could say that Xu Yan managed to warn Xie Yi about a topic without actually touching upon the topic of what there was to be warned about.

Munching on his meal, Xie Yi had gotten a very long list of what not to ever do and what to watch out for, including things like not going along with strangers, not taking off or allowing anyone else to take off his clothes, not letting anyone who wasn’t a close friend or stranger touch more than his arms - there were exceptions like medical staff, though…

Xie Yi’s head was buzzing by the time he went to sleep. So many rules, and he didn’t understand the reason for pretty much all of them. Most were very much within the limits of what Xie Yi would just follow anyway, just out of a pure feeling of discomfort, but it did feel weird to not know why he was supposed to act like that.

Xu Yan had strongly refused to touch upon the reasons and had just said that he would think about how it would be best for Xie Yi to learn about it.

It would have been funny to see Xu Yan all stressed, mumbling about asking Shi Yue and then discarding the idea, about Feng Yan then discarding the idea, if only Xie Yi didn’t feel like Xu Yan was looking down on him a bit.

Xie Yi was pouting as he curled up to sleep.

In the morning, the attendants went to every room to announce that the ban from going outside was lifted. The one that stopped by in the room of the two boys also took the moment to explain how things would proceed for them:

Since it truly turned out to be a prank, they’d just be on probation. If they passed the test that would be on the next day and become official disciples, then their punishment would be not getting the medical potion that would help them with cultivating for a month. It was a setback compared to others that could only be made up with hard work, and the intention was to make sure that they didn’t have time to cause trouble again.

At the end, the attendant - who was a young woman with a flirty smile, whispered a comment before leaving. They actually didn’t have to worry too much, as disciples causing trouble was a regular happening. The teachers were lenient if no one was harmed.

Xu Yan could finally relax and fell right back on top of his bed, crumpling his clothes. Xie Yi approached him quietly, making sure that he was alright and only then tugging at his clothes to call him to go outside.

The last day of lessons was nothing but preparation for the test. The newcomers were fidgety, but the teachers shut their mouths about what the test would include and just grinned broadly. They kindly calmed some of the more nervous newcomers, saying that the test was manageable as long as you had studied and practised well.  

The atmosphere stayed tense - around the newcomers. The actual disciples were all looking forward to watching the test and were making fun of the newcomers from the side, acting like they themselves hadn’t been that nervous. 

Xie Yi was happily relaxed. There was nothing that the test could do to mess him up.

In the evening, Xu Yan occupied his bed, insisting that they’d sleep together - which made no sense to Xie Yi at all. What exactly would cramming into one bed accomplish? There was still a test tomorrow.

The other boy complained and complained, lamenting the fact that Xie Yi wasn’t nervous at all.

At some point just before they were planning to sleep, someone knocked on the door. After calling out, a figure dressed in white stepped in.

“Shi Yue!”

“Master Li”, both cultivator and boy corrected him at the same time. Xu Yan awkwardly looked away but Shi Yue smiled at the behaviour.

“Are you well prepared for tomorrow?”, he asked his almost-disciple, scanning the boy’s face quickly for any signs of paleness or otherwise troubling effects of nervosity.

Xie Yi blinked his red eyes and tilted his head. “Yeah.”

Shi Yue cleared his throat and looked away. “Alright. I should have expected you to not worry about the test. What about your friend here, hmm?”

Xu Yan made a small sound and pulled the pillow he held closer to his chest. His friend and a Grandmaster were staring at him.

“I dunno. He says he wants to sleep in one bed with me. He’s also saying that I’m an idiot for being relaxed?”, Xie Yi repeated in a confused tone.

“Xiao Yi!”, Xu Yan hissed, about to jump off the bed and rush over to silence his friend. His cheeks were quickly blushing red in embarrassment of a teacher hearing this kind of thing.

Shi Yue merely smiled good-naturedly. “It’s fine. Being nervous is normal. Xie Yi isn’t a good example of what newcomers are usually like.”

Since he had come by anyway, Shi Yue saw no reason not to do what he had planned. Xie Yi looked relaxed, but some extra wouldn’t hurt.

With slow steps he walked towards the window, placing down something that looked a bit like a small candle that he lit with a flick of his finger. Immediately, a soft fragrance filled the room.

Xie Yi sniffed around, his eyes wide. The scent was gentle and warm, like being curled in a blanket. It was a bit familiar, so maybe Shi Yue used it, too. He could recognize the scent of some flowers he knew mixed in, but some of the scents creating the whole were unfamiliar.

“This smells so nice”, Xu Yan whispered, his drawn-up shoulder slowly lowering.

Shi Yue smiled softly at him. “It’s not cheating since it does nothing but help you relax a bit. It also won’t hold for too long, but just long enough that you can fall asleep peacefully.”

“Do you like it, too?” Xie Yi’s inquiry felt weird to Shi Yue, but the cultivator nodded anyway.

“Yes. It does smell really nice, don’t you agree?”

The boy hesitated, then finally nodded as if a bit uncertain on how to judge a scent that made him relax. Anyway, it wasn’t bad, it was just that he wasn’t used to things that would lower his guard. It did go a bit against his habits.

“Sleep well, you two. Tomorrow morning, the attendants will make sure you don’t oversleep, so don’t worry.”

“Goodnight, Master Li”, Xu Yan muttered as the cultivator went back towards the door.

“Goodnight”, Xie Yi echoed, feeling weirdly fuzzy at being able to say those words to Shi Yue. 

The door closed with a click, leaving the two boys behind to stare at it. Snapping out of it, Xie Yi made his way to his bed and climbed in next to Xu Yan.

“Don’t move too much in your sleep”, he warned Xu Yan, then rolled himself into his own blanket. There really wasn’t any need to share it.

Just as Shi Yue had said, the attendants made sure everyone was awake. The two boys were already up and about with the usual wake-up call and had finished washing up, but the attendants personally knocked at every door anyway.

When the low hum of the morning bell rushed through the building, all children walked out together with their backs straight. Some of them were quivering, but they tried their best to keep themselves tall.

The training grounds were full with people who were there to watch the show. When they saw the newcomers approach, everyone moved to the edges and made space for them, leaving the large area creepily empty.

Xie Yi looked around, spotting Li Mei in the crowd. When their eyes met she smiled, then raised her fists up in a ‘You can do it!’ gesture.

The boys gave her short waves, then hurried to get in line with the other newcomers who were gathering before a number of teachers. 

Even the sect leader and Shi Yue were around, comfortably watching from two large chairs that someone had placed to the side. Each of them had two attendants standing next to them clothed in black and golden. Just their attire was enough to make it obvious they weren’t just your common attendants, let alone the aura.

Some teachers that hadn’t had anything to do with teaching the newcomers were also watching, their chairs considerably less fancy.

Other than that, there was nothing at all to hint at what their first real test would be about.

Curious, Xie Yi cocked his head and stared at Master Chen, who was once again taking on the role of explaining. With her hips swaying, she walked forward and stopped a good bit before the rows of newcomers. Her voice carried clearly to each of them as she spoke with a smile.

“Welcome, you all, to the official entrance exam of the Virtuous Sect.”

We're getting closer to the first short-ish timeskip so that things will pick up a bit :3 Also, to the chapter introducing my probably actually favourite character of the story, just that he totally isn't suited to being one of the mains so I'm not sure how much I can explore his story orz

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