Ch.54: Returning
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“Meaning, we are all just uncertainly following a set of rules we don't even clearly know? You don’t actually know if you’re making the Judges angry?”

Xie Yi tilted his head and pulled a face, unhappy. He didn't want to make someone powerful enough to kill him instantly so angry that they’d take action.

“Power comes with responsibility. You can’t truly expect that you can transcend the limitations of mortals without restrictions”, Shi Yue warned seriously. That was a point that was dangerous to forget.

“What about Demonic Cultivators?”, Xie Yi insisted. 

Shi Yue scrunched his eyebrows and looked out into the garden. He didn’t like and didn’t want to strengthen Xie Yi’s interest in the demonic path. He did believe his disciple’s hate in that sect, but he was still very young and the temptation of lawless freedom the Demonic Sect offered was large, for many.

Compared to the limitations of cultivators using spiritual energy, the rules that the ones using demonic energy fell under were much more uncertain. Shi Yue hesitated a bit, then decided to just turn the common assumption into a fact. Maybe it would scare Xie Yi off a bit.

“Demonic Cultivators don’t get punished during their life. In return, their soul gets scattered once they’re dead so that they can never reincarnate”, the man said, turning his head so that his hair would hide the expression in his eyes. If Xie Yi believed this for a long time, then it was for the best. 

Xie Yi froze, then dropped the topic without another word and just hummed to make it clear that he heard. Troubled, he looked at the garden.

Strikingly red and yellow butterflies were hovering around the beautiful flowers. This part of the garden was left to grow almost fully as it pleased, so although the lawn was kept somewhat short, the flowers and plants were still free to find their own spot. It was beautiful in its own way.

It was a bit colder today but the sky was quite clear, allowing him an unobstructed view to the far horizon. Slightly dazed, he settled his hands down again, then turned to his master.

“Let’s go back?”, he asked in a sudden burst of longing. Back to the sect that he knew, where things were less complicated. Just cultivate, just learn. He wasn’t used to having to think about so many things.

“Un”, Shi Yue consented and stood up to smoothen his robes.

They couldn’t leave the Transcendent’s place behind messy so they orderly cleaned up their meal - more Shi Yue cleaning and Xie Yi following him like a little tail - and found the sect leader again.

This time, the man was meditating under the open sky, so Shi Yue put an arm before Xie Yi and shook his head. Only when they were out of direct hearing range did he speak up: “He knows we are leaving. We shouldn’t disturb him.”

“As you say”, Xie Yi shrugged. Not that he minded that much.

Compared to going up, going down was much more comfortable. For some reason, absolutely any spiritual pressure had vanished, leaving Xie Yi comfortably skipping down the stairs. 

He could already make out the feathery figure of Xue Hua, who had arrived at some point, resting a bit farther down. He was distractedly grooming himself, only making a small sound in greeting to Xie Yi and Shi Yue who were walking down.

With quite some lead compared to Shi Yue, the child reached the area much sooner. Overjoyed, he ran towards the fluffy ball hopping towards him. Once he was out of the barrier, the ball jumped up and towards his arms.

Giggling, Xie Yi squashed the soft Mingtian against his chest and nuzzled his face against the dark fur.

Mingtian felt imaginary sweat running down his face. Good thing he was a strong beast. If he was a common one, getting so squashed would break his bones. The kid didn’t seem to know how to control his strength, though, and Mingtian was sturdy, so why not?

“MingMing, I slept in that place”, Xie Yi stated the obvious. “I also got some… what was it, soup? Soup so that I won’t get drugged so easily anymore. It’s going to be useful when dealing with that ass.”

The small furball opened his mouth to reveal the sharp, pointed teeth, then closed it again. Should he comment on how a little level-two was going against a level-six? He didn’t know why, but he felt it was ridiculous to worry about it. The memories again? 

In the night he had stayed here, the memories had assimilated a bit, maybe because he had met Xie Yi now. His brain felt a bit mushy; he knew Xie Yi well but he didn’t at the same time. It was like having read a story with yourself as the main character. No matter how often one half of his brain insisted that he only knew the child for a day, the other half kept on resisting and declared that every single movement, speech and thought pattern was familiar. The moment he had seen the boy run down, he had already known that he was going to get squashed and told about completely unlinked events.

Hmm, it didn’t feel bad. It was very comfortable and relieving, so he decided to just let the memories do their thing. Also, they were a nice distraction from sitting next to Xue Hua all night - the bird hadn’t moved at all…

So much uncomfortable silence… But they didn’t really have anything to talk about, did they…

“How about you? Were you comfortable?”, Xie Yi finished his report after belatedly realizing that you were supposed to inquire about other people’s days just as much as you could talk about your own. Xu Yan had said that.

Mingtian, unwilling to talk in front of the approaching Shi Yue, could only respond with a soft howl.

To his surprise, the boy nodded seriously. “Oh okay, later then.”

What a joke. How long had he been stuck with Mingtian for twenty-four hours, seven days a week? A howl was enough for him to tell the vague message, and a long, awkward ‘Weeeeeeeell’ was pretty much telling him to not ask any more yet.

“I’m back”, Shi Yue greeted Xue Hua, patting the other’s beak. He had a sneaking suspicion that Xue Hua was a bit more… fidgety, but that proud little beast would certainly refuse to tell him. He just had to wait.

“Are we going to pick up Ying Hua now?” Xie Yi’s voice sounded muffled from burying his head in Mingtian’s fur. Shi Yue could very well imagine him doing that as the beast grew up; going from snuggling it in his arms to just lying all over it. If Mingtian really was a high-level beast, then growing up to two meters would still be considered small, meaning he was suitable as a huge plushie.

“Yes. After that, once we’re back at the sect, I’ll ask Master Chen about the possibility of using poisons to give you a tolerance. You will stay in your room for the rest of the week!”, Shi Yue decided and jumped unto Xue Hua’s back. The bird lowered itself a bit for Xie Yi to get on, then halted and lowered its eyes at Mingtian.

The beast, seeing the glare, whined and flattened his ears. It wasn’t his fault! As much as he understood that it was uncomfortable for Xue Hua to carry him around, he couldn’t just turn full size and run back to the sect, right? Wouldn’t he get thrown out immediately?

Xue Hua turned his head away and allowed Xie Yi, holding the furball in his arms, to climb up.

Xie Yi left the spire behind with a weird feeling. Not uncomfortable, just foreign. Mingtian’s tiny tongue came out to lick the underside of his chin, tickling him, and he laughed, distracted.

The trip had hardly gone ideally, but wasn’t Mingtian with him now? That was a pretty good thing.

Lovingly, he let his finger slide through the soft fur over and over again, keeping the tiny warm body close to himself. Mingtian never resisted it - for one, it felt nice, and then there was the fact that his memories were hinting at the fact that this was quite normal and a calming activity that Xie Yi had often done.

Shi Yue didn’t disturb the boy, who was obviously very attached to his new partner. They didn’t have an official bond, but as long as both sides agreed to the pact, there was no reason to not see the furry ball as Xie Yi’s beast partner.

Xue Hua flew steadily until he reached the same camp as before.

Yao Ming’s tent was gone, but Shi Yue’s still stood. In front of it, Ying Hua was sitting, stroking a squirrel that was resting on her lap. It only twitched when Xue Hua landed, but didn’t run away yet when Ying Hua’s hand continued petting it calmly.

Haughtily, she stared over the group and stood up, placing the tiny animal back on the ground from where it ran towards the forest. She, herself, just stalked over to Xue Hua and climbed up on him with quick, habitual movements.

“Let’s go back. Sleeping in the forest doesn’t suit me”, she complained. Her washed-out eyes looked critically over Xie Yi, then moved to the front while ignoring him. 

Shi Yue gave her a short pat on the head as a greeting but didn’t talk either.

Like everyone else, he was looking out into the distance, where the sect was visible. 

Read this before the poll, please xD
We are almost a 100k into the story now and as you can tell, Xie Yi is still a kid. I've got the story planned out to a certain extent but I've never been one to force myself into my plans, so I adjust things as I please. Now, a lot of you appear to be sighing over the fact that Xie Yi is still a kid - so much a kid that you can't even show the start of romance. While the next mini arc (which is like, a few chapters?) is something that I insist to have with Xie Yi as a child, the events after that work with different ages. Basically, at this point I can freely play around with where I place my timeskip - before or after the events, as it doesn't affect the storyline. I want my readers to have fun, and since I'm perfectly fine either way, here's a poll for you! Do you want a teenage (~16,17) year old Xie Yi rather a bit sooner than later? (Please be aware that this is, by no means, pushing me to do something I don't want. I still manage the pacing by myself, I'm just getting an overview of opinions and then deciding on what I want to do, so feel free to be honest and vote)

Would you prefer to have the timeskip rather soon? (As opposed to another 50k of story later?)
  • I don't care either way Votes: 13 18.6%
  • I like the slower pacing Votes: 13 18.6%
  • I'm fine with both, but would prefer a slower pacing Votes: 15 21.4%
  • I'm fine with both, but would prefer a faster pacing Votes: 22 31.4%
  • I want a timeskip! Votes: 7 10.0%
Total voters: 70 · This poll was closed on Oct 18, 2019 10:41 PM.
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