Ch.32: Starting the hunting trip
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“Look at it positively”, Xu Yan tried as he gathered together his books for the day. “You’ve got several days where you can do nothing but stick to Master Li. That’s… something to look forward to?”

“It is”, Xie Yi growled. “But that bastard is bound to mess the trip up. I don’t want Shi Yue to get mad at me because he did something!”

“Listen, I totally understand”, Xu Yan calmed him. “I don’t like him either. But you’re really good, right? Just don’t let him catch you unaware and enjoy the trip.”

He swallowed after an awkward cough. Aahh, it was really only Xiao Yi to whom he could say to enjoy his first trip out slaying beasts…

Xie Yi looked over his things once more. There were a lot of things that beginners thought they needed in the wild that you could actually get yourself, while other things were more important than you’d expect. He had enough experience to judge what he needed, so packing was easy.

“Are you really going to be okay with that?”, Xu Yan asked sceptically, looking at the small amount of things Xie Yi was carrying in his backpack. It just didn’t look like it was everything. Not that he believed in any way that his experience was higher than Xie Yi's.

“Yeah, this is fine. Well then”, Xie Yi mumbled. He turned to Xu Yan and pulled him into a short, very stiff hug - Xu Yan liked hugs, but Xie Yi wasn’t used to them. “See you in a few days.”

Xu Yan laughed and squeezed back. “Be careful out there. And bring me back something interesting, okay?”

“Will do.”

Xu Yan stared at the closed door for another while before sighing and sitting down again. Xie Yi was just as unreliable as he was reliable. He really was worried...

Outside, Xie Yi scanned the dark clouds that looked like another pour of rain was about to come. He watched them move in the wind for a moment, then picked his pace up again and went to stop by the canteen, fetching himself some food for on the way and then walking to the gate.

Shi Yue was already waiting, his eyes closed and arms crossed as he leaned against the pillar of the gate. Next to him was Yao Ming, who lowered his eyes at the annoyance coming closer - the feeling was mutual - before continuing to whisper something to Shi Yue who responded with a light smile.

Xie Yi pushed down the bubbling disgust in his stomach. If only he could turn that man into meat-paste!

“Good morning, Master”, Xie Yi greeted, pointedly ignoring Yao Ming who did the same.

Shi Yue moved, opening his phoenix-eyes and looking over Xie Yi. As he had thought, the youth showed no signs of not having slept well. “Are you prepared?”

“Yes”, the child confirmed. He pulled his backpack into position again and then gave a toothy grin, not worried. On the contrary, he was really looking forward to the trip as long as he didn’t have to acknowledge Yao Ming’s presence. 

“Master Li, I took the liberty of bringing along everything necessary, just in case”, Yao Ming said quietly, hands folded behind his back and smiling softly. “As far as I know, this is Junior Xie Yi’s first time on an extermination mission?”

“It is indeed, and I haven’t talked about what he should take along”, Shi Yue confirmed, then stopped himself from continuing when he coincidentally saw Xie Yi’s face on the side. It looked like he was hearing something very ridiculous, an expression that looked rather adorable on a young child but was actually to be taken seriously since it was his disciple they were talking about.

Shi Yue opted to instead just quietly shake his head in amusement, then slowly beginning to walk down the path out of the sect. “It will be about a day’s worth of travel to reach our destination. We don’t want to arrive too late, so let’s get going.”

“Yes”, Yao Ming enthusiastically replied, eyes glued to Shi Yue and catching up to quietly converse with him.

Behind them, Xie Yi followed, seething with anger and keeping his head lowered to avoid Yao Ming noticing the gaze filled with killing intent. The cultivator was at a high enough level to feel it.

“Master Li is really amazing. Junior is already at the late stage of the second level! As expected from a Grandmaster, to teach their disciple so well. I’m jealous”, Yao Ming sighed. “May I ask what you are currently teaching him? Except for extermination of beasts, of course.”

“Common sense”, Shi Yue replied while looking forward, his lips twitching a bit.

Yao Ming laughed, then smiled politely. “Alright. I guess I shouldn’t try to find out about your secret teaching methods.”

I’m not joking though, Shi Yue thought, slightly awkward. At first, he had thought that Xie Yi was the type to form habits fast - he had such a large amount of them, after all - but as it turned out, everything he did appeared like engrained. It was a mystery. 

This was the boy who managed to unconsciously replenish his energy. A habit that others needed fifty to a hundred years to form.

He often found himself talking to Xie Yi like a fellow Grandmaster whenever he was concentrating on something. He’d stop when he caught himself doing it, but often enough, Xie Yi followed his train of thoughts perfectly - only to stumble a moment later at things that should be obvious.

The trip would be a very good chance to get a better idea of how good Xie Yi really was and see more sides of the boy that were currently foreign to him. How would he react to the ‘long’ (for a child, anyway) trip and having to deal with the strange environment? How about actual fights with wild beasts?

Once Xie Yi reached the third level, others were allowed to challenge him officially. It was bound to happen.

Xie Yi was good at making enemies. Some hated him for being a Grandmaster’s disciple, some for his talent, some just because the child had no interest in showing his Seniors respect.

There was a number of disciples just waiting for his breakthrough to be announced before they’d pounce the attendant responsible for managing challenges. That was another reason why he wanted to make sure he’d have a better insight on Xie Yi’s fighting abilities, beyond their usual training.

“It might be rather rude, but could I ask Master Li for some pointers during a break? I’m rather troubled; I’m stuck on advancing my newest technique. I seem to be missing something”, Yao Ming continued to prod carefully, always watching Shi Yue’s body language exactly to stop before the Grandmaster would get annoyed.

Shi Yue didn’t look troubled at all and nodded amicably. 

All of this was a walk in the park for him, literally. Traversing the mountain was nothing more than a comfortable stroll. For Yao Ming, it was still at the point of having to watch out for dangers, but he was bound to be a bit bored.

Only Xie Yi would have his hands full just managing the journey. The moment they left the street, he had to fight with shrubs blocking his way and the ground growing uneven.

Shi Yue lightly walked, his feet not actually touching the ground as he hovered a bit above it to keep an even walk. He’d lightly hop over trenches, looking back regularly to make sure his overly quiet disciple was still around and not stuck somewhere.

Tenacious, Xie Yi refused to ask for help and just climbed his way up despite his skin tearing.

The blood that lightly seeped from his cut palms was annoying, but nothing was more annoying than Yao Ming’s voice. Besides, it would heal and was only a minor inconvenience with how superficial the wounds were.

Shi Yue frowned at the sight but kept quiet. He planned to help Xie Yi heal up (the boy was only eleven, that wasn’t too much in terms of helping) as soon as he asked.

Minutes passed, turning into hours. Around afternoon, Shi Yue stopped next to a creek, the hands hidden inside his sleeves opening and closing.

Stubborn boy, couldn’t he ask his master for help even once!

Xie Yi, oblivious to his master’s worries, squatted next to the creek and cleaned his open palms before cupping some water to drink from it. It was refreshing and cool, running down his throat softly. He shivered in delight at the nice feeling, then spoke up for the first time.

“Master, are we taking a break here?”

“Yes. Rest a bit and eat something”, Shi Yue suggested, settling down on a large stone after straightening his robes out.

Yao Ming showed a surprised expression. “Ah, indeed. Xie Yi is still young, he is bound to need a break once in a while. Well, he held out for quite long for someone his age.”

Xie Yi's eyes twitched as he continued holding his hands into the running water.

...Would Shi Yue notice if he threw that pretentious ass in front of some demonic beasts?

He would, hun. He would.

Shi Yue can't act as much as master as he would like to, but he's also proud that Xie Yi is so independent. Meanwhile, Xie Yi just never really considered the possibility of people helping him in return for nothing, just because he asked.