Xie Yi walked outside for some time, staring up at the moon. The city wasn’t lively in the middle of the night, but it wasn’t completely empty, either. From some buildings, sounds could be heard and the smell of food was wafting out.
Xie Yi ignored them, fully intending to just go back until… the scent of… alcohol…
It hadn't been that long since he had died, so it hadn't been that long since he had good wine, but! That really was his favourite thing! The taste, the scent, the feeling on his tongue - he really liked a good wine!
Xie Yi swallowed heavily. He did have money with him - he didn’t go to the city without any - so generally speaking, he could drink some… And it was his last chance because Master Chen had said that once the therapy began, his whole diet would be watched because his body would be too sensitive or something. And, as he was aware, intoxication from alcohol wasn’t exactly far from being poisoned but he didn't know how well he'd be able to use his spiritual energy to wash it out.
Xie Yi stopped walking in the middle of the street.
That restaurant looked nice… It was lively and looked expensive, which meant that they might have expensive, good wine, too…
Before he could hold himself, Xie Yi had walked into the building and lifted his nose into the air. Good, it smelled good!
“Welcome, sir”, a waiter said, greeting him right away and looking over his considerably suspicious appearance while keeping a polite face. “How can I help you?”
“Which wine is it that smells so nice?”, Xie Yi asked in a stern tone, like dealing with a subordinate.
The waiter involuntarily straightened and his smile changed to something even more polite. “It is our precious Moondrop Wine, sir. Our personal brand.”
“I want some”, Xie Yi directly ordered, still not looking at the waiter, who showed an awkward smile.
“That, well, the Moondrop is a special wine that we only sell to cultivators. If I may ask-”
Before he even finished, Xie Yi made a noise of understanding and lifted his hand. The spiritual energy around his fingertips condensed into a soft white glow, shimmering and moving around his hand like a wisp of smoke. The waiter smiled, then bowed and stretched out his arm, showing to the side.
“If Mister Cultivator would please follow me.”
There were two floors to the building. The ground floor included a large stage where, at the moment, a beautifully dressed woman was singing while her companions were dancing around her. The people downstairs could only sit openly at the tables to watch them, while one floor above, everyone had separate partitions like rooms opening up towards the stage.
Xie Yi glanced around curiously, seeing everything for the first time. The waiter didn’t stop his customer from looking around and randomly stopping walking - cultivators were weird, but that was none of his business.
While Xie Yi was distracted by the foreign environment, Shi Yue was not far, glaring at the woman pressing her chest against his arm.
She was smirking broadly and twirling a lock of red hair with a tanned finger, winking seductively. Her appearance was quite gaudy but not overly so, and it was rather obvious that she was part of the restaurant. Usually on stage, she had come up precisely for Shi Yue.
“Don’t be mad, honey”, she purred. “I thought you’d like it.”
Shi Yue’s dark face turned a bit darker. He appreciated good wine, but only with good food and honestly, this was good wine… with terrible food.
“It isn’t quite to my taste”, he said mildly, pushing Zhi Ruo away from his arm.
She had invited him over to her new workplace and of course he would come when a precious friend was inviting him. He hadn’t planned on eating anything and had just taken up the offer of trying some Moondrop, but she had convinced him. Now his tastebuds were complaining bitterly.
She giggled coquettishly. It was too bad that Shi Yue just wasn’t interested in her, but alas. Everyone had their tastes.
“I get it, I get it. Don't force yourself anymore”, she laughed. “I’ll let you go for today. I’m happy enough that you came to watch my show, you don’t need to waste more time. You’re planning something, right? I can tell that you’re distracted, so I don't want to hold you back any longer.”
Shi Yue smiled wryly. Distracted? Certainly. Yao Ming had gotten a spontaneous official leave to go home for a while. Was he supposed to be relaxed about that? He needed to make his move soon, but he couldn’t do it without all of the Masters agreeing and some of them were still arguing. This concerned the whole sect.
“Thank you for being understanding”, he said quietly and stood up. For once, he was dressed in darker robes and his conspicuous silver-white hair was dyed black. His eyes had turned dark enough to at least not be obviously violet, which was enough for the moment. He wasn’t overly recognizable like this.
“I’ll accompany you outside”, Zhi Ruo hummed, standing up as well and tugging her dress a bit closer over her chest. It kept on slipping. Happily, she hooked herself around Shi Yue’s arm again, who allowed her to do so as they stepped outside.
“Here is your room, sir”, he heard the waiter say. There were enough nobles and cultivators around that used these rooms, so he didn’t care to look over, but then he heard the other person reply with a hum.
His stop was so sudden that Zhi Ruo went another step, only to be jolted backwards by Shi Yue’s unmoving arm. Startled, she looked up to see the side of his face, his eyes fixated on someone down the hallway. She looked past him, trying to see who was there.
The man who had been brought in wore an ugly mask to hide his face and very simple black robes. She knew them as overly common cultivator’s robes, and given the reactions of the waiter, it was likely that the man was indeed one. That wasn’t what held her eye.
It was the frozen atmosphere around him. So cold, you might wonder when the air might start crackling - just like a killer, an assassin, but far more arrogant. Some powerful overlord who cared not for the waiter right in front of him; just an insignificant existence.
She had seen nobles. She had seen cultivators. Heck, she had even met assassins, and yet, this man seemed none of it. Too deeply uncaring for a noble, too bone-chilling cold for a cultivator, too imposing for an assassin.
She held her breath for a second, then tugged at Shi Yue’s arm. “Shi Yue, have you seen him before?”
She spoke quietly, but Shi Yue must have heard her. However, it wasn’t him that reacted to being called, but the man.
The masked face turned to them - or to Shi Yue? - and kept still for a while before bowing deeply.
Shi Yue flinched, then returned the greeting mutely.
That the other party was dangerous was obvious at first glance for him, but there was something else entirely that attracted his attention. It was the striking similarity in the atmosphere between the person in front of him and the hidden existence in Xie Yi’s mind.
Alarm bells ringing in his head, Shi Yue turned his tense face to an amicable smile. “Good day, fellow cultivator. Have you come here for the Moondrop Wine?”
The man tensed obviously, then opened his mouth after a few seconds of silence. “Yes.”
Shi Yue’s eyes lowered. Was the man wearing a fake appearance? His movements were slightly unnatural, his voice sounded altered and the robes he wore was showing signs of being changed with arrays. Basically, who knew what the man actually looked like? Probably not like this. So what was a cultivator doing here, changing his identity? It was too suspicious to pass up on.
“I was just about to order another bottle after bringing my friend back. How about it, would you care for some company?”
Thank god that half of all cultivators were abnormally social. Being invited by one wasn’t even considered weird - it often happened that groups that didn’t know each other would share rooms in restaurants. It was a good way of exchanging information.
The waiter, too, didn’t think of it as too weird and immediately suggested: “If the two guests wish to sit in a room together, then that is of course possible.”
The man hesitated weirdly. He had first opened his mouth on impulse, then shut it and pursed his lips. After two more times of flapping his mouth open and shut he finally nodded.
Zhi Ruo worriedly tugged at Shi Yue’s arm, but the cultivator ignored her and spoke to the waiter. “Would you kindly bring us two bottles? I will be back in a moment.”
As he steadied Zhi Ruo and pulled her forward, Xie Yi was left behind, stunned.
Master… Who is that beauty on your arm… Why are you inviting strange people (me)… Why are you being so friendly…