When Xie Yi woke up, Shi Yue was leaning over him and distractedly holding his hand, muttering something incomprehensible.
“Should I say it’s, like father, like son? Though maybe it’s siblings… Is this a genetic disposition…”
Anyway, it didn’t really make sense.
Shi Yue looked quite busy and Xie Yi felt the cold strands of spiritual energy run through his body, so he didn’t disturb the cultivator. He was quite content just staring at Shi Yue; the stray hair falling into his face, the lowered eyelashes covering his violet eyes, his eyebrows that were just ever so slightly lowered…
Mingtian yapped into his ear, alerting Shi Yue.
“Xie Yi”, the adult said, sounding relieved. His face relaxed for a moment, then it turned into a scolding frown. “When I said I wanted you to use the months for resting and meditation, I didn’t mean breaking into the third rank without anyone watching over you!”
Ah? What third rank… Oh, now that he mentioned it, it did indeed seem like his body had achieved the third level of cultivation. He didn’t remember it happening, so it might be linked to yesterday’s events.
Usually, the cultivators were very strict about anyone breaking through to the next level. The first few, especially, were very critical for the unskilled youths. Later levels held their own dangers, but the first ones were mainly because young cultivators tended to mess up without help. It was also a very rare occurrence for those breakthroughs to happen without the cultivator actively working on starting it, so all of the young disciples had been forbidden on trying to break through without the consent of and attended by a teacher.
As it stood, Shi Yue appeared to have misunderstood that he had stubbornly broken through in the night, which resulted in his slightly messy condition.
“How does it look?”, Master Chen asked from the side, making herself known. Xie Yi tilted his head at her and she smiled wryly, rubbing her fingers. ...She probably got bitten while trying to examine him even though he was asleep.
“The cracks got worse1Check Ch.3; Xie Yi had a damaged core from the start”, Shi Yue responded with a scowl. “This didn’t happen for the first two levels. Is it because the threshold is higher or because he messed up? Either way, it doesn’t appear to be actually affecting him.”
“People with cracked cores surviving is not exactly commonplace. We don’t know enough to judge on how badly the damage is”, Master Chen sighed.
“I know two, now”, Shi Yue commented quietly, placing Xie Yi’s hand back on the blanket.
The boy blinked a bit tiredly, then tilted his head to the right again, where Mingtian was staring at him. He tried to smile and earned a bite on his nose. “...Ouch.”
Mingtian gave a tiny growl and climbed unto Xie Yi’s face, laying down directly over it to Master Chen’s amusement. He could hear her chuckle.
“MingMing, I can’t breathe”, Xie Yi mumbled and the puppy moved over to lying on his eyes like a wet towel instead. Eh, it was fluffy.
“Shi Yue”, he complained without being able to see anything.
“Are you mad?”
Shi Yue gave a very long sigh. How often had he heard that question this year? Most of the time he wasn’t actually mad and didn’t have a reason to. This time he had a reason, but thinking about everything that had happened, he felt that it was a bit hard to get angry.
“Do you want to talk to him alone?”, Master Chen whispered and Shi Yue gave a small nod. She brushed over her sleeves, smiled at Xie Yi and left with the words that she’d get some medication for him.
Xie Yi reached out to pick up Mingtian, but the puppy already got off his face and curled himself around his neck. Xie Yi squinted into the light, blinked a few times and then looked at Shi Yue who was sitting next to his bed on a chair. It should be late morning, so Xu Yan was likely in one of the lessons.
“I’ll be blunt with you and I’d hope you’d at least answer me this question. Any of the ones afterwards, I won’t press you, but tell me”, Shi Yue said with serious eyes but a very gentle tone. “Do you know someone named ‘Tiankong’?”
Xie Yi twitched, then pulled up to blanket to cover his face. He knew. Tiankong, it was the leader of the Demonic Sect. He knew him.
Shi Yue gave a very long sigh. “As expected. You two do have some similarities at times.”
Xie Yi stayed quiet, but Mingtian began to tug and pull at the blanket to uncover Xie Yi again. The boy frowned, not sure what Mingtian wanted.
“He appears to hate the Demonic Sect a lot”, Shi Yue continued, unaware how cruel it was to Xie Yi’s ears. “Do you know why?”
Since Mingtian was pulling the blanket away, Xie Yi tried to turn around and bury his face in the pillow. Once more Mingtian intervened, biting his ear softly and tugging at it to keep Xie Yi from turning over.
The longer the silence stretched, the more uncomfortable Xie Yi got, but Mingtian just wasn’t letting him go.
“They did very bad things”, he relented after a mental struggle.
“Is that the same reason why you hate them so much?”
Xie Yi tried to push Mingtian away, but the beast kept on biting him softly. Not enough to hurt, just enough to be uncomfortable. He nipped and bit him constantly, only stopping whenever Xie Yi answered. The boy pursed his lips in frustration and lowered his head.
“Yes”, he answered Shi Yue. He hated being forced to answer by Mingtian, but Mingtian didn’t do things just because.
Shi Yue turned his face away, then spoke in a very quiet and strained voice. “Now that he is here again… Do you want to go with him?”
Xie Yi shivered. “No! I don’t want to go where he is going!”
Tiankong was the old him. The old him that lead the Demonic Sect, that killed everyone, that lost his home and the people precious to him. He couldn’t go with him.
“...Where is he heading?”
Since the place that Tiankong wanted to go was-
“What?”, Shi Yue blurted out, startled.
The old Xie Yi wanted nothing but to be erased so that he could fully make space for the new one. All the blood that he was covered in couldn’t be washed off, so he needed to be shed like old skin. Until then, he would continue to wait deep inside Xie Yi, sobbing in an ocean of blood.
As Xie Yi was finally released and allowed to hide himself under the pillow, Shi Yue sat frozen. Was what that cultivator had experienced truly so bad that he wanted to kill himself? Even if that was the case, he could commit suicide at any time - so what exactly did he want? The images of the mysterious man were popping back up in his head.
Lofty and cool-headed at one time, then again overly curious and excited. Maybe he was the type of person to change depending on how comfortable he was with the people he interacted with… And such a person who, by nature, was actually very honest with their feelings and somewhat pure in expressing them, had snapped so terribly at the mere sight of a Demonic cultivator.
In his heart, Shi Yue decided that he wouldn’t let the other waste away. How should you call it; maybe it was just a spontaneous attraction and liking for the other that made him unwilling to see him die.
“Don’t ask me more”, Xie Yi whispered from under the cover and Shi Yue reached out to pat the puppy beast that was baring his fangs at him the moment Xie Yi had begged him not to inquire further.
“I won’t. Thank you for answering this much even if it makes you uncomfortable. Let’s talk about something else - does your chest hurt? The breakthrough injured you a bit. Don’t hesitate to tell me if there is something that would make you feel more comfortable; the last days have been more than messy for you.”
Xie Yi peeked out from under the blanket, his red eyes shining brightly again. “Can you make me something to eat?”
“Of course. It’s better that I am watching over your diet for this month, anyway”, Shi Yue readily agreed. “Don’t try to cultivate for the next few weeks. For the following days you will need to rest, but you won't have to spend the whole month in here. How about it; once the first week is over, you can just come over and play with Xue Hua and Ying Hua if you’re bored.”
“I can visit your place?”
“Only as long as Ying Hua doesn’t complain”, Shi Yue made sure to say. Not that he worried it would be an issue; Ying Hua had inquired about Xie Yi’s health three times already. She didn’t like showing it on her face, but she was most certainly fond of Xie Yi.
Xie Yi nodded his head like a chicken, the movement making him a bit dizzy. As he pulled a face, he sunk back into the pillow.
“It’s annoying to be weak”, he grumbled darkly. “I want to grow up.”
“Adults have a lot of responsibility”, Shi Yue countered. A lot of children wanted to grow up without noticing that being an adult wasn’t the tiniest bit easier. Actually, it could be considered to be worse.
Xie Yi shot him a bewildered look. “Worse than fighting for survival?” - Because that was what his last life as an adult had been and it hadn’t been that different from living on the streets.
Shi Yue paused, then rubbed his forehead. “Well, I guess that someone who has had a life like yours really won’t find being an adult problematic.”