Xie Yi bit the insides of his lip nearly bloody. He would never hesitate to mess with Yao Ming, it was just that he didn’t want Shi Yue to get mad at him for causing trouble so he controlled himself.
With his hands finally clean and closing up due to the temperature of the water, Xie Yi had a moment to open his backpack and take out some dried food. The jerky had been made with special herbs that would lower hunger and exhaustion. He could eat an actual meal to get back his energy in the evening, for now, it was just important to get through the day.
The jerky wasn’t exactly tasty. No, it was disgusting. But it was a familiar disgusting taste that he was so used to, it was actually nice. He often ate that kind of jerky in his last life. How funny to hear that the Virtuous Sect used it, too.
Shi Yue watched his disciple munch away happily on the jerky that he would absolutely refuse to touch and felt his stomach twist with sadness and disgust.
“While this trip is supposed to be practice, we don’t need to overdo it the first time. How about an actual meal?”, he tried to coax his disciple, ready to pull out better food from his storage ring.
Xie Yi looked up, continuing to gnaw on the jerky like a little animal and blinking innocently. “No, I’m fine. This is good enough.”
“It’s no-good if you feel unwell after eating the jerky. Most people aren’t used to the taste-”
“It’s not bad.”
Once more, Shi Yue stopped talking and slowly closed his mouth. He hadn’t watched his disciple’s meals over this year. He had to start doing that. He understood that an orphan who had lived on the streets would be tolerant with food, but-
“Xie Yi”, Shi Yue said darkly, lifting his hand. “Come over here and have an actual meal. And give me all of that jerky.”
Xie Yi swallowed, stunned, then obediently stood up and waddled over, carrying the paper in which he had placed the jerky.
Shi Yue took it out of his hands with a look of disgust, throwing it into the river. “There will be enough animals happy to eat it. A child like you needs a balanced diet to grow.”
“Master Li is very considerate. Junior Xie Yi, stop staring and thank him”, Yao Ming commented, praising Shi Yue while offhandedly ordering Xie Yi around.
The boy snapped out of his surprised daze and shot a glare at the man before bowing to Shi Yue. “Then, thank you, Master.”
Shi Yue hummed and opened his hands, letting a box filled with something that looked like dumplings and vegetables appear. With a wave of his sleeve, everything was back to steaming hot and considerately placed on a thick piece of fabric so that Xie Yi could hold it on his lap. Chopsticks to eat were next, then an apple appeared on the stone next to him - red and yellow, looking juicy and mild in taste.
Despite the overly nice meal for a trip, Shi Yue sighed. He had taken the food along for Xie Yi in case the boy forgot to bring any along, but this was terrible. They were just simple stuffed dumplings that had been quickly made…
Xie Yi bit into the first one, then opened his eyes wide and stuffed it all into his mouth.
The delicious taste was spreading through his mouth. The dumpling’s outer layer was slightly crunchy, then fluffy and almost melting on his tongue. Meat and vegetables had been used, keeping a light and fresh taste.
The taste of the meat wasn’t overbearing at all, it mixed well with the vegetables and added a sort of juicy texture as he chewed on it. With the softer meat and harder vegetables, he had a number of different textures to enjoy.
A savory scent was going up to his nose, the hot steam warming up his cold lips.
Happy, he licked the juices and crumbs from his lips, then hurriedly picked up the next one.
Shi Yue observed him eating heartily and felt a twinge of pride. To be honest, he hadn’t let anyone other than his master and the two Huas try his cooking. Making some for Xie Yi had been done after long consideration and taking into account that he didn’t want to go get more canteen-food for him.
Now, seeing how happy Xie Yi looked, he felt satisfied with his decision.
Xie Yi munched down what was, in fact, the most delicious meal in both his lives. He had never cared too much for food since the old men had convinced him it was a waste of time, so even when his subordinates had said they brouught something delicious, he had only rejected it as unnecessary.
His only love was alcohol - he would either drink the best of the best or none at all. Doing something like faking it as he had done in the dorm was only because he missed it.
“Eat slower or you will choke”, Shi Yue scolded with an incredibly gentle tone. He had deliberated on telling the boy that eating so fast would be a waste for the taste, but the child just looked so delighted that he didn’t want to complain about it.
“Hmm”, Xie Yi hummed, then did his best to chew slower. The box was empty way too fast, leaving him behind a bit disappointed.
Still, his mood was good enough to even ignore the way Yao Ming was looking at him - with a bit of ridicule and disdain. Well, when didn’t he.
Xie Yi sat for a few minutes, then stretched his legs seriously before standing up. “Okay, I’m alright. Let’s continue.”
“You won’t need a longer break?” Or someone to heal your hands? Or help with your backpack? Or something to relieve your fatigue?
Shi Yue felt himself getting fussier and fussier but stopped himself from saying it out loud. This wasn’t any better than when he was with Ying Hua… Children just looked so ridiculously weak in the eyes of a strong cultivator like him.
Xie Yi shrugged. “Taking a longer break won’t make it better. I’d rather get to our destination and set up the camp.”
“Master Li, children sometimes have to test the boundaries of their strength. Why not let him try to endure it?”, Yao Ming agreed happily. If the brat wanted to exhaust himself then he wouldn’t stop him. The more he overestimated himself, the funnier would it be when he was finally up against beasts.
However, he was destined to be disappointed.
Xie Yi was very well able to gauge his own strength and endurance and knew how to plan so that he wouldn’t need to pause for longer than a moment.
As tired as he was in the evening, it wasn’t so bad that he couldn’t move anymore.
“Well done”, Shi Yue praised. “It seems you have a good feeling on how to manage your strength. Sit at the side, leave setting up the camp to me.”
Xie Yi hesitated. “But-”
“You don’t need to learn everything at once. Your pace is much higher than that of the average cultivator, so take it a bit easier”, the cultivator insisted. It would be better for the boy to regain his strength for tomorrow. “In the meantime, tell me what you have taken along and how you would have set it on your own.”
Since Shi Yue was cheating with his storage ring, the camp was set up in a matter of seconds and didn’t exactly represent how any normal person would have done it. Even for Yao Ming, this was a total luxury.
Xie Yi earnestly opened his backpack and explained his thoughts. It was impossible for him to take along a whole tent - let alone two - as Shi Yue had. What he had was a coarse but thick blanket and materials to prepare an array for protection of wind and weather. Additionally, a flint to start a fire and some herbs which would create a emit a smell that’d keep beasts away when burned.
His master nodded along appreciatively, proud to her that his disciple had informed himself. For a young cultivator, this was ideal preparation for camping outside.
“You’ll have the luxury of sleeping in a tent, this time.” The two tents were made of a dark-green fabric that fit in well with the surroundings, brown stitchings showing the complicated markings of arrays.
Xie Yi stared at the tents, then blinked. “There are only two, though.”
“That is correct”, the man said while raising an eyebrow.
Yao Ming made a small sound. “Well, one of them is mine - once again, thank you very much for taking it along. That was rather comfortable for me.”
The two younger cultivators were still staring quietly until Shi Yue got the hint and smiled lightly. “I won’t go to sleep too early and will share with Xie Yi for a few hours. He’s just a little boy and it’s his first time out here - if he sleeps unwell, it will change the results of his fights.” (And his master had said that with children that young, even if they acted strong, they might still be scared so he had suggested to let Xie Yi sleep in the same tent.)
Little boy… Share… Little boy… Share…
Xie Yi hadn’t thought that being called a little boy could be so terribly pleasant. On the other hand, Yao Ming had never been so annoyed at being an adult already.
“There really is no need, he can sleep with me”, Yao Ming hurried to try and fix the situation with a dark glint in his equally dark eyes.
“He is my disciple. Besides, my tent is larger than yours.” It was, by a lot. It could easily hold three or four people, let alone one and a child.
“Thank you, Master”, Xie Yi chirped with glee, sticking out his tongue to Yao Ming while Shi Yue was turned away.
The man bared his teeth, glaring down and then walking away.