Xie Yi was sitting on the ground, facing a corner to think about his mistakes, why what he had done was rude, and why you shouldn't just randomly chat up people above your status, and why you can’t just try touching everything.
It was a lot to think about, but he had been sitting in the corner for half an hour already, so it was enough time for all the topics.
Shi Yue had shouted the sentence ‘Go sit in a corner’ on a whim, but he was surprised by the effect. For cultivators, taking away their usual dose of pills would be a punishment, or giving them extra practise or the like. For Xie Yi, that didn’t work at all, but instead, having to sit in a corner seemed to really trouble him.
Maybe it was specifically because Shi Yue had forbidden him from using the time to cultivate, so he had nothing to do but stare at the wall and think.
A method that you would use for a common child was very effective, it seemed. He had to remember that.
“Xue Hua will be close by until we leave”, Shi Yue mentioned as he came back in, glancing at Xie Yi.
The sect leader checked the herbs again before lifting up his head. “That’s good. There is a chance that taking the concoction will cause Xie Yi to be very tired, so it is possible that he will sleep much longer than normal. Xue Hua shouldn’t have to be stuck here while waiting.”
Shi Yue nodded thankfully and sat down. He continued glancing over to his disciple, who had been encased by a sound barrier so that he couldn’t distract himself with the sounds of the sect leader walking around. “Master?”
“What kind of disciple was I?”, Shi Yue asked, for the first time in his long life. He hadn’t really taken his time to watch the disciples of the other teachers or cultivators before, but now that he saw what Xie Yi was like, he was rather curious about how his master had seen him.
“You were a storybook disciple”, the old man chuckled. “Discarded by your family, coincidentally picked up. Weak, but with an unbending spirit. You were the perfect example of a cultivator that people tell their children about before going to bed.”
“From the start, you were always interested in helping everyone. Running around, doing tasks for free, and cultivating and practising every free minute. You were stubbornly pressing onwards to get stronger - just so that you could help the next one in trouble”, the sect leader said as he reminisced. “You weren’t mischievous, exactly, but I remember you getting in trouble quite often because you thought that a stronger cultivator was being unfair. For you, not being allowed to practice was the best punishment, but I never got that habit out of you.”
“Was I a lot of trouble?”, Shi Yue asked as he tried to remember his childhood.
“No. That rightful spirit of yours was something I never intended to break, even if you caused a mess sometimes. I’m pleased to be the master of a cultivator like you, so I hope that my grand-disciple will turn out just the same. Someone with a strong sense of justice, who won’t ignore the weak.”
He paused, then shook his head with a good-natured smile. “Although for now, it will be a lot of work to get that child to stop ignoring everyone. It’s not even bad will, he has just completely imprinted on you.”
Shi Yue nodded in agreement. “I’m relieved to see that he likes Xu Yan a lot. He also seems to rather appreciate Li Mei, Master Chen’s disciple. How should I say it? He is getting better. He still likes ignoring everyone around him, but he started accepting the possibility of getting along with others.”
“How is he with your two little flowers?”
“Good, surprisingly”, the younger cultivator said with a smile. “He was more tolerating them at the start, but by now you could say that they get along. I was worried that their relationship might break when he attacked Xue Hua back then, but thankfully he understood that it was only because Xie Yi was under drugs.”
“His body takes in whatever it is given”, the sect leader commented. “That would also explain why the nourishment pills work so well on him. It’s as much a curse as it is a blessing. As long as we can even out the negative effects of his constitution, he can be thankful for having such a body.”
Shi Yue hummed a reply, then rolled his eyes up to the ceiling and let the sound barrier fall. Xie Yi turned his head around with a distressed look; the sides of his lips were downturned and his eyebrows scrunched together.
“Do you understand what you did wrong?”
“I shouldn’t have treated a very strong cultivator like a random person and not show him respect”, Xie Yi obediently responded, shuffling around on the floor to face his master. Shi Yue was trying to teach him about things that everyone already knew and did, so even if he was a bit annoyed at being scolded for it, he was also thankful.
“You should be happy that your luck is so great. If it had been a more impulsive Transcendent, you wouldn’t have gotten off so easily-” Shi Yie stopped himself. Rather than getting off easily, Xie Yi had even reaped benefits. He couldn’t tell if life was being overly harsh or surprisingly kind on Xie Yi.
Be an orphan, get taken in by an incredibly nice and honourable man. Get in contact with Demonic Sect disciples, get taken in as the disciple of a Grandmaster from the Virtuous Sect. Get nearly killed, earn a rare and strong spiritual beast. Be drugged, end up being invited to a Transcendent’s house.
All in all, he would have preferred Xie Yi’s life to have a more evened out structure, but at least it wasn’t just full of terrible downs.
“I will start making the concoction now”, the sect leader said from the table as he stood up. “It’s getting rather late.”
Shi Yue glanced outside. Time had indeed passed very fast; it had been around early dinnertime when he had left Xie Yi and Yao Ming. Now it was pretty much the middle of the night.
“Do you want an actual, drug-free dinner before going to sleep?”, Shi Yue asked as he motioned for his disciple to come over. Relieved, the boy stood up and made his way to Shi Yue, who was much closer to his height now that he was sitting.
“It’s fine”, Xie Yi rejected. He wasn’t too hungry. It was at a manageable level and he felt kind of… weird at the thought of asking Shi Yue for food.
“I did not ask whether it’s fine or not. I asked whether you want a meal”, Shi Yue repeated himself, raising an eyebrow.
Awkward, Xie Yi hesitated a bit and then gave a tiny nod.
In return, he got a pat on his head. Shi Yue didn’t continue the conversation and just opened one of his dimensional bags to fish out another portion of ready-made food that he stared at for a moment before handing it to Xie Yi. “I would prefer if you had a fresh meal, but I can’t just use this place’s kitchen.”
“You can cook?”, Xie Yi asked in surprise, already half-way to stuffing himself with what appeared to be some sort of airy looking bread that had salt sprinkled over it.
“I can. I made the dumplings, for example, as well as this”, Shi Yue responded in amusement and pointed at what Xie Yi held in his hand.
The child froze, his eyes growing wider. Visibly troubled and flustered, he looked between the food and Shi Yue.
Shi Yue had actually made food? For him? That he was allowed to eat? But- That was-
Seeing Xie Yi overwhelmed and with a dropped jaw, Shi Yue began to feel a bit bad. God knows what the child had been through.
“Alright, alright. Don’t look like that. If you like it, then I’ll make you something once in a while”, Shi Yue coaxed and placed his hand around the tiny one of Xie Yi before moving it up to the boy’s mouth and stuffing the bread into it.
Waking from his stupor, Xie Yi instinctually bit down on the fluffy bread. Without further contemplation, he decided he really liked it and began chewing without a second thought.
Satisfied, his master patted him on the head.
“Is there anything you want to try eating?”
Xie Yi continued eating the maybe-bread as he thought about it. In his life, there had only ever been one instance where he wanted to eat something but greatly regretted it. It hadn’t tasted nice at all. Later, Mingtian had told him what he had done wrong.
“Would you eat it with me?”, Xie Yi mumbled between two bites.
“Would Ying Hua and Xue Hua eat, too?”
Shi Yue tilted his head. “Certainly, if we ask them.”
“And Xu Yan and Mingtian?”
“Everyone together? Well, I don’t mind, but what is it?” By now, Shi Yue was rather expectant to hear what Xie Yi wanted to share with everyone.
“I dunno what you call it”, Xie Yi admitted, curling up on his chair.
“Then describe it”, Shi Yue suggested, taking out another piece of the bread for Xie Yi.
“It’s dough… Like, for bread. And you put it on a branch and roast it over an open fire.” Xie Yi stopped eating in favour of burying his head in his arms. A sudden burst of embarrassment was washing over him.
It was a fun little thing for children, Mingtian had explained. Friends and family and whoever you liked got together and went into the woods or a meadow out in the dark, where it was quiet. Then you made a campfire and everyone together makes the dough. Then you go find sticks - actually, branches - to put the dough around. The whole group sits around the fire to eat while telling stories.
It was neither a very filling meal, nor was it overly tasty, but the group that Xie Yi had seen had eaten as if it was the best thing they had ever tasted.