As much as cultivators only needed smaller amounts of food with every level, they also needed less sleep. Generally, a Grandmaster could stay a week quite comfortably without sleeping, but they rarely did unless the environment was troublesome.
The reasons for that were quite simple.
For one, they still did need sleep at some point of time, so not taking any when they could was stupid. There was also the fact that it would help them stay at their ideal state of awareness.
Another reason was simply the way a human body functions. Sleep is a necessary thing for the brain to work through the happenings of the day and sort them out as well as commit some things to a longer-term memory. Avoiding that process would do nothing but mess with the cultivator’s brains, and no one wanted a sleepy cultivator working on spells or arrays.
Even Grandmasters made it a habit to catch an hour or two of sleep a day at least, even just to be prepared in case of incoming danger restricting their freedom to rest.
Well, there were also a lot who just enjoyed sleep and the peace it brought and just kept their old habits for several hours a night.
Shi Yue belonged to the group that preferred keeping the normal human sleep-rhythm, but as soon as he was out of the sect he would change it to a maximum of three hours and always make sure there were sufficient arrays around him.
He never truly slept deeply, though. That was a thing reserved for those that had a cultivation partner - a spouse on a near or equal level. If he had, he would have trusted her to watch out for him, but alas, he wasn’t married.
Xie Yi, as a child and low-level cultivator, still needed a very common sleep-rhythm to keep his body running, so the moment his belly was full with a warm and fresh meal, he was already yawning. The day had been tiring.
“Go to sleep”, Shi Yue said and lightly pushed the standing box towards the tent. “Be at ease, I am watching out for any dangers. Nothing will be able to harm you.”
Xie nodded and hummed in agreement, then slouched off while rubbing his eyes.
The tent closed behind him, watched by the two adults.
“I hadn’t expected you to share a tent with him”, Yao Ming commented, the annoyance he felt lightly seeping through. Shi Yue conveniently ignored it.
“I also sleep with Ying Hua sometimes crawling into my bed. There is no difference, is there? They’re both children.” For the Grandmaster, there really wasn’t much difference. His disciple was mature in a way other than Ying Hua, but ultimately, he was eleven.
Yao Ming saw the situation in a different light. Eleven was old enough for a child to take interests in others and for some, it was also old enough to develop physically far enough for it to show. The mere thought annoyed him. The brat was obviously interested in Shi Yue, but he was allowed to share a tent with him?! Of course it wasn’t like Ying Hua! That weird girl actually did treat Shi Yue as her father, contrary to how this disciple viewed his master!
It was impossible to voice his complaints, though, so he simply changed the topic. Shi Yue had promised to give him some pointers and now was the perfect time for it.
As the two talked, Xie Yi lay rolled up in the tent.
There was no way or him to have a good sleep. Just like Shi Yue, the sect leader or Master Chen, he could never have true peace of mind when trying to sleep. Too many assassination attempts and sneak attacks were lying in his memory, refusing to let him just fully relax.
He slept lightly. At every sound, he twitched, half asleep and half awake, and listened. When nothing else sounded he would drift off to sleep, but it wasn’t very helpful. In the sect, he had had a feeling of safety on being surrounded by hundreds of other cultivators - he would at least sleep through the night even if not deeply.
Sometime in the very early morning, a bit past midnight, Shi Yue entered the tent, only to be greeted by a slit of red staring at him in the dark. He paused, then slowly and soundlessly stepped closer, watching the slits follow him.
Carefully, he squatted down, seeing the daze in the red eyes that had just barely opened to look at him. Xie Yi was wrapped in the blankets as if hoping they would grant him some additional protection.
“It’s alright”, Shi Yue whispered gently and brushed a strand of stray hair out of the boy’s face. The eyes closed and opened in a slow blink, their dazed look fixated on him. “I won’t leave. I’ll be here to protect you.”
He kept his hand lightly touching Xie Yi’s cheek. For a moment, the boy just stared at him as if debating on whether he could believe those words, then he weakly tilted his head to rub his cheek against the warm hand and closed his eyes with a soft exhale like a sigh.
This time, the tensed jaw and shoulders relaxed completely and the slow breathing that could be heard within the tent was of an even rhythm.
Shi Yue felt a twinge in his heart. Just his word hadn’t been enough to make his disciple believe him. For these days, he would definitely join Xie Yi whenever the child would sleep, to make sure he felt safe.
With gentle movements, he fixed the blanket lying over Xie Yi, then laid down to rest himself and closed his eyes, immediately falling into the light, dreamless sleep state.
In the morning, the two adults were up before Xie Yi, even considering that the boy was used to not sleeping overly much. When he stepped out they looked up, stopping their training.
Yao Ming had already used the early hour to drag the Grandmaster into another lesson. Shi Yue was silently accepting the role, not completely denying Yao Ming to treat him as a teacher even if he wasn’t his official disciple.
Xie Yi stared darkly but swallowed all insults and curses on his tongue down. Instead, he used the easiest weapon available.
“Master, I don’t want to delay for too long. I will just take a bite for breakfast and then we can leave?”
“Good morning”, Shi Yue just greeted, raising his eyebrows at his disciple.
Xie Yi swallowed and chuckled awkwardly. “Ah, sorry. Good morning, Master!”
“...Good morning to Senior, too.”
A pause. Staring. Teeth crunching from another direction.
Finally satisfied, Shi Yue nodded. Disciples of the sect should get along. The seniors should teach their juniors and the juniors should show respect. Even Xie Yi had called him ‘Master’ more times in a row than the past whole year (but it did sound somewhat weird to hear).
It wasn’t that he didn’t notice their enmity and Yao Ming trying to coax him into becoming the disciple’s master, but they were young. He hadn’t been any better at that age.
All in all, he really wasn’t interested in becoming Yao Ming’s master. In the first place, he hadn’t expected to become anyone’s master; he just couldn’t ignore Xie Yi’s talent and how the boy idolized him. That he worried about another teacher messing the child up was also a point, though he couldn’t say that openly. He wasn’t saying that the other teachers were any worse than he was, just-
Shi Yue looked at Xie Yi, who had strapped a short sword around his waist and kept his backpack with only something to drink, bandages and some food. He also went around the camp to check that the arrays were set up well - almost habitually - and then circled back to Shi Yue with a bright smile on his face.
Cute little monster. If he had the will to go against his teacher, it’d end quite messy.
“You look ready to go, but sit down for another moment. I want to repeat some knowledge with you”, the white-robed man said as he himself sat down on a stone, waiting for Xie Yi to sit down at his feet like a boy listening to a storyteller.
Yao Ming joined them at the side, listening with relaxedly crossed arms.
“Most things that live in this forest are common animals”, Shi Yue repeated slowly. “Rabbits, deers. Since it’s so close to the sect, most beasts avoid it. What we can find here are lower-levelled beasts - stupid, rarely in greater numbers. There are some lower-levelled demonic beasts around here, too, but those are rare and, although not to be underestimated, manageable.”
He stopped and waited for Xie Yi to repeatedly nod before continuing. “What we will track down is a rather straightforward type of beast that is similar to a large boar in size. They have very thick skin and large teeth, but since they aren’t too hard to avoid, the danger isn’t as high. We will bring you into the vicinity of one and otherwise leave the hunting to you. If you need a hint or help, we will always be around. Don’t be stubborn if you are stuck.”
Once more he paused, then gave a gentle smile. “Depending on how well everything goes, we might think about trying to go after a demonic beast, but I’d rather have you go against another type of beast again. We have planned for a few days out here so you have several tries, even if things don't work out perfectly. Always keep in mind that your health is the most important.”
“I’ll listen to you”, Xie Yi sweetly responded, feeling like his insides were being covered in sugar.