“How is it now?”, Xu Yan asked very quietly, peeking at the munching Xie Yi. The boy was slouched, his hands wrapped around something like a bun that he had been chewing on slowly for quite some time.
The angle of his eyebrows had continually lessened bit by bit these past hours, so Xu Yan finally dared to open his mouth.
Xie Yi stopped his chewing for a hum, then bit down again. He did, however, look over to Xu Yan - something he hadn’t done up until now. Not being confined to his bed was doing a lot to soothe him.
“Tomorrow, do you want to go jogging?”, Xu Yan suggested, fiddling with his hands. He missed happy Xiao Yi. Stressed Xiao Yi was stressing him.
“Hmm”, Xie Yi agreed, this time much faster. His feet on the dirt were moving back and forth, drawing ridges into the sandy ground. At this time of the early evening, it was still quite bright outside and a large number of disciples were practising. Only some were doing light spars, most of them were gathered in smaller groups to do the usual sets of sit-ups and the like.
Some were even moving their swords, just swinging up and down.
With every strike the air would hiss, the wooden swords coming to halt at a perfectly paralleled line to the ground. Pause for a second, then return back up and stop in line with the cultivator’s back, before pausing again and then swinging down with another hiss.
The younger ones were a bit more unstable and didn’t quite dare to make any sounds, but the more experienced cultivators gave a small shout with every strike, pushing the air in their chests out at the same moment that they concentrated their strength in their arms.
Hundreds of hundreds of strikes, always the same movement, without the slightest change on their faces. It was the most basic movement, but that didn’t mean it was to be taken lightly.
It was easy to angle the strike, or not stop accurately. You could hurt your arms and shoulders if you tried to haphazardly throw your sword around, too.
Besides, they had lowered their bodies into the horse stance. With their feet parted at the level of their shoulders and their bodies lowered down until their legs were at a ninety degrees angle, the stance was very stable but also quite the strain on the legs. It was funny to see how often the younger ones had to correct their stance from continuously going upwards without realizing, their bodies easing the burden on their legs subconsciously.
Xie Yi had done the same as them, a long time ago. Just swung his sword up and down, up and down. Sometimes he’d do the motion while sitting, placing a candle in front of him. More than a few candles had been smashed until he managed to stop it perfectly, just above the wick, blowing out the tiny flame with the gust of air made by his sword.
Obviously there was a large number of other strikes and movements to be practised, but people would always return to the basics.
“I don’t think you can return to using the sword yet”, Xu Yan threw a bucket of water over him.
Indeed, he wasn’t allowed to continue training that hard yet. Young disciples like him didn’t have too much to do with the swords in general, anyway. Only rarely.
The reason was that experience had told the teachers that disciples got cocky with swords. Even worse than spiritual energy, they loved swinging their swords around. It was only since about a quarter year that they had started getting taught sword-fighting, although Xie Yi was an exception. With his quick jumps in ability, he was allowed to train a bit more and earlier.
Fighting with knives and general sparring was taught earlier, but the actual wooden swords that served as the base for the later spiritual swords were often out of their reach.
Xie Yi finished his bun and licked over his finger.
His ears had hurt a lot when he came out, everything still too loud and annoying, but things had tuned down. He liked the sound of the others training.
“Let’s jog, at least”, he muttered as he placed his hands between his thighs, warming them up against the colder air outside.
Xu Yan placed a hand on his chest in relief at Xie Yi reacting again. He happily smiled, then patted his friend’s back. “I hate being sick, too. It’s really annoying to just lie in bed all day. Why don’t you come along to my lessons tomorrow? Even if Master Li isn’t giving you any right now, you can still accompany me!”
He seemed to like the idea more and more. “Pleaseee? I’m not that great with the others, so lessons are really boring! I get along with them, but it’s just funnier with you around!”
“How does it make a difference whether I’m there or not?”, Xie Yi pushed himself to talk.
“Well, because if you’re there, then I can talk about the lesson with you and comment on fun things and stuff. Just, you know, have someone to talk to during the lesson”, Xu Yan explained, moving his arms wildly. “It’s just nicer to be in a lesson with someone you’re close with. And you don’t have anything better to do, right? Until Master Li’s lessons continue, you have a lot of free time.”
He did, indeed. There was no harm in accompanying Xu Yan and on the contrary, he might learn a bit about how this whole social stuff worked. He always felt like it would be better to understand Xu Yan’s excitement about certain things a bit more.
“Why not”, Xie Yi gave in. His main lessons were the obligatory physical training and Shi Yue’s lessons - if the latter wasn’t happening right now, then he had more than enough time to fill it up with other teachers’ lessons.
“Yay!” Xu Yan was cheering childishly and laughing.
Xie Yi sighed lightly, his face softening a bit. Ehh, he had been rather rude to Xu Yan and Li Mei a while ago. To Mingtian, too…
“Sorry for glaring at you”, Xie Yi honestly said. Xu Yan had looked… what was it? Hurt, actually. Like he had scraped his knee. That, and worried, but Xie Yi had been in no mood to deal with it.
“It’s fine”, Xu Yan waved the issue away. “I know you didn’t mean it.”
The black-haired boy bent down to the fluffy ball at his feet and placed his hands around it, picking it up. The turquoise eyes were blinking at him and a red tongue appeared from between the sharp teeth.
“And sorry for throwing you”, he added, looking at Mingtian. Apologizing was always a bit awkward but… he felt it was important.
Mingtian yipped, then wagged his scorpion tail and rubbed his tiny wet nose against Xie Yi’s hand. He then proceeded to pointedly stare behind Xie Yi.
The boy pulled a face. Somehow, compared to Xu Yan and Mingtian, there was some sort of aversion to seriously apologizing to Li Mei. Not overly large, but it was there. He didn’t want to do things he wasn’t fully happy with, but Mingtian was making it clear that he also had to apologize to her.
At least the feeling wasn’t strong enough to actually make him unwilling. It was just like moving when you had just found a perfectly comfortable position. Annoying, but not terrible.
“Sorry for being rude”, Xie Yi plainly said as he stood before Li Mei.
Just like Xu Yan, Li Mei wasn’t intent on pressing the issue. She was watching from a bit farther away just like a guard, making sure that she could come over to help Xie Yi if he felt unwell without intruding in his space.
Xie Yi relaxed when she accepted his apology.
Apologizing randomly was no problem, but it was a bit different if it was supposed to be more than just the word. He just usually felt that he didn’t owe the people any remorse, so he didn’t care about giving empty words.
Actually feeling like he owed them was making him feel a bit iffy; he didn’t want to owe people remorse - which was why he felt uncomfortable apologizing to Li Mei - but he also didn’t like the fact that just because you apologized, people owed you nothing but acknowledgement.
Acknowledging and accepting an apology were vastly different things.
“Humans give me a headache”, he whispered to Mingtian as he returned to Xu Yan. He didn’t have to apologize to people in his last life. The only person he felt he ever truly owed was Shi Yue, but that had been a price he would never be able to pay.
“Whom are you telling that”, Mingtian commented with amusement.
Spiritual beasts weren’t that much easier, though… Xue Hua was still running away from him.