And there he was again, trying to find the thread of conversation he had completely lost. How exactly had they gotten here? Where exactly was the link between Xie Yi being drugged and being a bad disciple? How did that boy define ‘bad’? If his definition of a bad disciple included being easy to drug, he wouldn’t know how to respond.
“You are a wonderful disciple”, Shi Yue helplessly responded. “You might lack... some… knowledge here and there, but that’s what I am here to teach you. I never regretted taking you as my disciple. How did you come to that conclusion?”
“Because I’m not fitting in well. I’m not like the others my age”, Xie Yi complained, essentially summing up Yao Ming’s words and leaving out a whole lot of context that might have made the situation a bit clearer.
Shi Yue didn’t answer for a second. Yes, he surely wasn’t. But there was nothing wrong with that.
“Yao Ming said the sect will want me dead sooner or later and that you won’t refuse because you won’t offend so many people and his great-grandfather just for a weird disciple.”
Yao Ming sure said a lot of things. He had known him since the young man had entered the sect, but he had never noticed that he was so talkative. Especially about topics that he shouldn’t care about and couldn’t judge.
Although it was true that the sect leader had repeatedly warned Shi Yue that in case of Xie Yi derailing towards the wrong path they’d instantly set out to kill him, the sect was generally more inclined to just raising an outstanding talent to be a good person. They didn't agree with judging someone for something they might do one day.
On the topic of Shi Yue not offending anyone, that was true. Power came with responsibility and that was something he couldn’t ignore. Still, he had managed to survive thus far for a reason and there were more ways to enact revenge than to try and kill the other. Yao Ming's great-grandfather had his ploys that allowed him to support Yao Ming beyond acceptable means, even helping the youth hurt others indiscriminately, but did he really think he was the only one?
They dared to touch his disciple; he wouldn’t ignore that.
“He spoke wrongly”, Shi Yue just coldly said, skipping over unnecessary explanations. His jaw was set tight and his violet eyes glazed over with frost.
It felt unusual for Xie Yi to see the expression on Shi Yue’s face directed to someone else, especially since it had often been turned towards him. The three words he spoke were nonetheless amazingly reassuring, bringing the shine back to the young boy’s eyes.
“I will make sure that he gets his retribution”, Shi Yue said in hopes of additionally calming Xie Yi, who merely shook his head.
“Uhm, can you leave that to me?”, he asked carefully, not sure if his master would agree. Almost contrary to his expectations, Shi Yue nodded after a while.
“I understand”, Shi Yue sighed. He had expected Xie Yi to answer like this - the boy was quite independent when it was about managing his matters. “It's your grudge, after all. I won't keep you out of the matter, but you mustn't do anything I don't know about, alright? You can't just go against a Grandmaster without a plan.”
Xie Yi nodded and showed his teeth in a wide grin.
At the sight, Shi Yue felt his heart soften and responded with a soft raise of his lips. Finally, his eyes moved over to the beast that was obediently sitting to the side.
It was quite weird that the horde of boar-beasts didn’t approach the camp even though they were being lured. There was a good chance that the little thing was at fault.
There were tyes of spiritual beasts that, even at birth, would cause other beasts to go running with their scent or aura. Dragons, phoenixes and the like belonged to that group. Those, however, were rare but famous - just because people could spend generations not even hearing of their appearance didn’t mean that they weren’t aware they existed.
On this continent, there surely was a large number of spiritual beasts that hadn’t been found yet, let alone the even rarer cross-breeds. When two different species got children, the genes of one parent would usually win, it was only in very few cases that both sides would shine through.
Seeing the horned puppy with its scorpion tail, Shi Yue had the sneaking suspicion that this was one-of-a-kind. The question was, how did it come here, to this common mountain?
“And who is this little one over there?”, he inquired, glancing at Xie Yi who didn’t look troubled by the question at all.
“That’s Mingtian”, the boy chirped. “He chased the boars away. Can I take him with me? Please?”
The huge eyes were watery and glimmering, the red looking rather cute at the moment. Shi Yue hesitated a bit at allowing his disciple to take in a foreign, strange spiritual beast, then turned towards the puppy.
“Come here”, he experimentally called to see how far the beast’s intelligence already went. Surprisingly, the puppy obeyed and hopped over with tiny steps before sitting a bit away from Shi Yue, wagging his tail again and showing a tiny reddish-black tongue.
“You want to raise him as your beast-partner?”, Shi Yue continued asking, then reached out to pull the puppy up by his neck and looked into the turquoise eyes.
Well, given unusual eye colours, it sure fit into the group. Lao Hua had a rainbow, he himself had violet, Xie Yi was red and now the puppy with turquoise.
It should also be something that would grow up to be very strong - thus very suitable for Xie Yi -, was intelligent, obedient and young.
...Probably? Its eyes didn’t feel like those of a young beast and the bright colour was shining in annoyance at being picked up, even though it didn’t show signs of resisting. Some beasts grew up very slowly, so there was a chance that the beast was much older than its tiny appearance suggested.
Had Shi Yue known that the beast was capable of shifting his appearance, he would have probably thrown it away as too suspicious. As that ability was something he had never heard about before, though, he didn’t question it any farther and placed the puppy back down.
“I won’t interfere with your decision of a beast partner”, Shi Yue slowly said. “As I believe that fate plays a part in it. Still, you are very young and this is an unknown beast, so if you want to take him back to the sect, we will have to use restrictive collars on him.”
“What will they do?”, Xie Yi asked confusedly. He knew that the beasts in the sect often had collars, but not the spiritual ones, as far as he could tell.
“It will keep his strength capped on the level of a cultivator on the first stage. We can continuously expand on that, but only ever if I can be sure that you can control him. There are official exams for getting that permission. If it’s just capped on the first level, with me as your warrantor, the sect will allow it.”
“Okay. Then we will do that. MingMing, you can come along!” Xie Yi looked quite happy with the decision and reached his still slightly quivering arms out for the puppy, who immediately made its way over to him to nuzzle the wet nose against his cheek. The tip of his scorpion tail stayed curled up as if to make sure it wouldn’t accidentally hurt the child; something that reassured Shi Yue of the beast’s intelligence.
“Well then”, he muttered softly. “I’ll call Xue Hua over. I want to go talk to the sect leader with you before we go back to the sect.”
The sect leader was cultivating on top of a mountain. Flying over there was possible but annoying, especially since Shi Yue couldn’t use his aura to keep wild beasts away without affecting Xie Yi. Xue Hua’s scent had the same effect without being overbearing and would allow them a more comfortable travel method. Since Xie Yi was still being affected by the drug, he wanted to keep watch on him.
“Ah, I guess I’ll let him bring Ying Hua along”, he said too himself. “She can gather all the clues.”
“Won’t that be a problem for when Yao Ming comes back?”, Xie Yi wondered. The little girl was strong and annoying, but he didn’t want her to get hurt because of that bastard.
“Yao Ming will know that he failed and that I found out when he doesn’t find your corpse at the latest”, Shi Yue sighed. “With his great-grandfather around, it seems he has become arrogant enough to forget that I can’t be played around with like a toy. He won’t and can’t hurt Ying Hua. Now, stop worrying and let me deal with everything for a while.”
With that he stood up, ignoring the still hesitant Xie Yi, and whistled.
The whistle had a melodic sound but cut off weirdly instead of the sound travelling farther. It was like it hit a wall and was swallowed.
In the sect, Xue Hua lifted his head abruptly and turned to the mountain. The other spiritual beasts around him looked up for a moment, then resumed what they were doing. Xue Hua, on the other hand, gave a loud cry and flapped his wings.
It didn’t take long Ying Hua to appear at his call, her face dark. She didn’t ask and didn’t speak, merely using the long feathers to nimbly climb up Xue Hua’s back and then lowering herself to hide within the plume as the large bird spread his wings to fly.
For him, getting over to the camp was a matter of minutes.