A white hand, shimmering blue, stretched out to him. The voice that accompanied the movement was calm and collected.
“Well then, Xie Yi’s beast partner Mingtian. I am Shi Yue’s partner, Xue Hua; the partner of your partner’s master. We will be living in the same sect from now on. Let’s get along.”
The hand was shaking a tiny bit, betraying the nervosity of the person it belonged to.
Mingtian looked at it for a moment, then stepped forward with very slow, deliberate movements and reached out to take the hand. Just barely encasing it he held it for a moment, feeling its warmth.
“Let’s get along”, he echoed and pulled his hand back, not wanting the other to do it first.
That wasn’t bad in its own way. A postponement, so to speak; not the most elegant way to deal with the situation, but still satisfactory. If it meant he could talk to Xue Hua again, it was certainly satisfactory. Sometimes, rolling up the past and trying to fix old problems would just lead to new ones appearing, sometimes you just had to let it rest.
Wu Mingtian and Xiao Jie1From the saying 'One smile undoes a thousand worries' / 一笑解千愁 could stay in a bitter past. Maybe Mingtian and Xue Hua would get along better.
Xue Hua focused all his attention on taking back his hand and keeping it still. Although his hand felt sadly cold the moment Mingtian had taken his back, he couldn't show it. If he started to fidget now, it would be too weird. Moreover, as much as he wanted to, he absolutely, absolutely couldn’t take out the hairpin.
If he did that right in front of Mingtian, he would probably die of embarrassment.
What would be a very normal and not suspicious behaviour for now? Anything like asking about the other’s wounds was no-good, and generally, talking was too likely to turn out badly…
Troubled, Xue Hua just went towards the other half of the staircase to farther down and settled on the first step, staring out into the forest. If he didn't know how to talk, then he shouldn't.
Mingtian stared after him, then soundlessly put up his hands to his hair and pulled at it with a nervous expression, then fixed his face and followed to sit on the other edge of the step like nothing had happened.
Xue Hua didn’t object and so the two of them sat, awkwardly, staring into the forest without any reason. It was a beautiful forest, but the foliage was so thick that you couldn't really see anything other than a sea of leaves.
A bit helpless, Mingtian tried to find a conversation topic that would be useful enough to not appear stupid but not too personal. After some thinking, he did indeed find something that he wanted to ask for Xie Yi’s sake.
Mingtian felt like pulling his hair again. If he asked that, he might make Xue Hua mad again, but now that he thought about it, he couldn’t let it lie down! The little kid, he needed to make sure he was save, so ignoring things wasn’t an option, but Xue Hua had just started talking to him again and the question screamed of being suspicious.
The bird beast, feeling a sort of familiar change in breathing from the person next to him, fiddled with a feather of his hair.
“Ask”, he demanded curtly, trying to keep his tone as even as possible. He knew that Mingtian had a question lying on his tongue from how he was acting-
“The little girl who accompanied you”, Mingtian finally carefully asked, glancing over. “Who is she? She’s not human.”
He had just heard her voice, felt her aura and smelled her from inside the bag, but that was enough. It was very, very subtle, but her scent didn’t belong to a human. He couldn’t fully place it, but definitely not human.
Xue Hua twitched, then rubbed his forehead. “Alas, I should have expected you to be able to discern that. You can take her as Shi Yue’s daughter.”
“Sorry”, Mingtian lamented and pressed the issue, curling up his hands. “I want to know what kind of people are around that child.”
Meaning, I won’t accept only that as info. He couldn’t risk that yet. Just because someone was currently on the same side as he didn’t mean it wouldn’t change, and knowing what person the other was would always be helpful. Too many times had he encountered situations where he wished he would have just watched the people he trusted a bit more, just to be ready for when they would betray him later - or even just to be aware of how to help them.
Xue Hua gave a tiny nod in understanding. He, too, had spent a lot of time just watching Xie Yi out of suspicion. It wasn’t weird for Mingtian to do the same for his master. Moreover, it was Mingtian asking, so he could understand that the other was wary.
Under normal circumstances, he had neither the right nor any interest in telling others about the matters of himself and Yue. It wasn’t anyone’s business, especially the more delicate matters. Ying Hua’s identity wasn’t something he should freely talk about, but even as he was thinking the thought, Xue Hua felt his mouth already open.
His mother had been right. He was an incurable idiot. Even now - even angry - he was absolutely unable to deny Mingtian anything. If he wanted to know, he would answer. That was why he had to run back then, because he knew himself - he would scream out all his grievances otherwise.
Maybe it was his luck that Mingtian had never used it to his advantage, or maybe Xue Hua had managed to hide it well enough.
He turned his hand to the feathers hanging over his shoulder and smoothening them to hide the fact that he just wanted to place his hand against the clenching heart in his chest.
“Her name is Ying Hua. You better shut your mouth up about what I’ll tell you next.”
“I swear”, Mingtian said seriously and without a moment of hesitating. The secret didn't belong to him, he just wanted to know it out of worry.
Xue Hua looked at his eyes as he said those words, then turned his head away in a hurry. Too hard to endure. Nonetheless, he answered.
“She is Yue’s Sword Spirit.”
The beast’s eyes faltered a bit, confusion obvious on his face. He knew Sword Spirits and that little girl had nothing in common with one. He did feel that she was weird, but contrary to other Sword Spirits, she felt more… alive. Of course, it could be attributed to the fact that he had never seen a lot of them, but it did feel a bit unsettling.
One way or another, he had his answer, and shouldn’t push the matter. Flustered, he tried to pull the conversation to another direction. “She treats Xie Yi well, from what I could tell. That’s good.”
Xue Hua stopped himself from blowing up his cheeks. Speaking of Xie Yi, that reminded him; would Mingtian have stayed hidden if he had the chance? He would have avoided him completely!
Mingtian glanced at Xue Hua and wailed internally. What had he said? Why did Xue Hua look angry again?
“You three live together in the sect? Does Xie Yi live with you?” Desperate, the beast just threw out another question to distract Xue Hua, who either took the bite and focused his attention on other things or took the hint and went along with it.
“No, Xie Yi lives in the dorm rooms. Yue, Ying Hua and I live with the teachers. We have a separate area. For the disciples, their beast partners or pets can’t live with them. They usually stay in an area just for them, but I imagine Yue will try pulling some strings”, Xue Hua hummed thoughtfully. “He’s very good to the boy. Although he’s strange, that child isn’t a bad person. I think Yue will feel better knowing that he has a spiritual beast at his side.”
Mingtian twitched. “Ah, I know it’s rude, but, can you maybe not tell him about me?”
Mingtian lowered his eyes and pursed his lips, which was enough for Xue Hua to understand. The bird hesitated, then nodded.
“But only as long as it’s convenient. If trouble starts appearing, I won’t keep it a secret for you!”
Mingtian nodded his head like a chicken. “Of course, of course. I would never ask that of you.”
Xue Hua humpfed and returned his attention to the forest while his mind wandered a bit. Shi Yue wouldn’t be mad if he kept this from him, as long as it wasn’t dangerous. And Mingtian wasn’t-
Or, well, he was maybe-
...It really was no use. He couldn’t think of Mingtian as a danger in any way. Goddamn those obstinate remnant feelings of-