Next to stretches, Xie Yi also did things like practising his balance and muscles by going slowly up into a handstand. Seeing him so unfazed made it look easy, but the disciples were crying inside.
After one exercise, Xie Yi stopped quite abruptly. “Enough for today.”
The others broke to the ground, wheezing. They had finished the routine five times, and each time had been easier than the last. It gave them a feeling of satisfaction, but it was amazingly exhausting.
“You have to rest?”, Xu Yan asked, approaching him instantly.
The black-haired boy placed a hand on his stomach and nodded. Ideally, eat something and then take a nap.
“Then let’s go ask Senior Sister for your meal and go back to our room.”
“Oh, thanks for helping us”, one of the children spoke up before Xu Yan and Xie Yi could turn away. “And get well soon!”
Everyone knew that Xie Yi was in some sort of rehabilitation. No one knew what had happened, yet - they had been told they’d get information, but not yet, so everyone guessed it must be a large matter. Large enough that the Grandmaster’s disciple, who had reached the third level, could not be challenged yet and had been confined to his room. He also hadn’t participated in any official physical lesson since coming back from his trip outside.
However, they didn’t ask. Pressing someone on their issues was likely to cause discord.
Xu Yan amicably exchanged a few words with them before running after Xie Yi and throwing an arm over the other’s shoulder. “Don’t just run away like that. You have to wait for me.”
Walking like that was unnecessarily complicated, but Xie Yi had come to get used to the skinship. He wasn’t exactly averse to the numerous friendly gestures that Xu Yan used; he had freaked out quite badly the first times but it was getting much better now.
“What are you going to eat?”, he remembered to ask Xu Yan. The food that was ready at Li Mei’s place had been made by Shi Yue, but Xu Yan wouldn’t get any of it.
“I’ll stop by the canteen on our way back. Let’s just eat in the room. We can both take a nap.” Xu Yan looked quite happy at the thought of it. Having an afternoon nap was a great thing and he had been able to do it here for the first time. If he had breaks between lessons, he liked getting in a short time for sleeping.
Xie Yi wasn’t the type for sleeping a lot, but as soon as the poison had started acting up, he felt his strength being drained away. Walking was taxing enough and once he had filled up his stomach and fulfilled the priority of eating, he could really use some rest.
“What will you do afterwards? I’ve got lessons, you can come along”, Xu Yan suggested but Xie Yi shook his head.
“No, I’ll go over to Shi Yue’s house and distract myself for a while.”
“I’m so jealous you can do that. Grandmaster Li’s house must be pretty cool.” Xu Yan pulled a face and took back his arm. He did understand why Xie Yi was getting so many privileges, but that had never stopped a human from wanting to have what another could have.
His friend didn’t answer and continued to walk.
Lunch was a portion of noodles in soup with vegetables and chicken. Xie Yi slurped it down, then barely made it to his bed and slept curled around Mingtian for a good hour. By the time he woke up, Xu Yan had left - he vaguely remembered watching that happen - and Xie Yi felt quite well again.
“MingMing”, he said as he stood up and put on his outer robe again, “I’m gonna go over to Shi Yue’s. Do you want to come along? You know Xue Hua, right?”
“I’m coming along!” Mingtian had made his decision instantly.
He allowed himself to be carried to the gate, then hopped down and walked next to Xie Yi. The guards knew Xie Yi and allowed him in without a fuss, making it clear that Shi Yue had talked to them.
Xie Yi looked around with a pleasantly relaxed look on his face, slowing his steps and idling around near the pond a bit before approaching the small house and knocking at the door.
Some seconds later, it opened to reveal Ying Hua, who scanned him up and down.
“So it’s you. Why are you here?”, she asked, crossing her arms.
“Bored”, Xie Yi said with a shrug. “Can I come in?”
Ying Hua rolled her eyes but stepped aside. Xie Yi walked in without another courtesy, followed slowly by Mingtian.
The beast stopped when the Sword Spirit stepped into his way.
“The bird is in the backyard. If you sneak over, you can probably catch him”, she said quietly so that only the puppy could hear.
“Why are you telling me that?”, Mingtian asked, slightly wary. So she knew that he was stronger than he appeared.
She humpfed and turned her back on him. “He’s an idiot, but that doesn’t mean that he should be unhappy.”
With her nose held high, she walked after Xie Yi. The puppy stood where he had been, his ear flicking. Once Xie Yi had vanished around a corner, his body began to shift slowly.
Could he sneak up on Xue Hua? Maybe, if the other was distracted enough. At least he knew where the backyard was.
He coincidentally reached Xue Hua from behind; the bird was in his human form, lying on one of the thick branches of the willow tree reaching over the small pond. He was letting crumbs fall down from his hand, attracting the koi fish to swim around under him.
Mingtian held back the desire to shock the bird and see him fall into the water. Instead he stepped on a branch on purpose, giving off a crack.
Xue Hua twitched, then twisted his upper body to look behind the tree and see who was approaching.
When he spotted Mingtian, who smiled sweetly and stopped walking, his calm face turned flustered.
With slightly too fast movements he stood up and jumped from the branch to the area next to the pond, ultimately increasing their distance.
“And what are you doing here?”, he asked with a renewed pokerface, but his voice quivered a bit.
Mingtian didn’t start to happily giggle as he would have loved to do. He didn’t even try to get closer but just stood where he was.
“I’m accompanying the kid and wanted to say ‘hi’.” His white, pointed teeth were showing through his wide grin. That Xue Hua was still awkward around him was pleasant - if he had been calm, Mingtian would have felt disappointed.
“Well, you did.” Xue Hua’s tensed shoulders turned and he already showed signs of trying to run away. This time, Mingtian wouldn’t let him - he easily bridged the gap between them with his large stride, reaching out for Xue Hua’s hand and intertwining their fingers.
“Oh, where are you going? I’ll come along”, he sang, gripping the hand tightly enough that it couldn’t escape.
Xue Hua froze mid-step, then stared down at their hands and gave it a tug.
Another, stronger tug.
Still couldn’t pull it away.
He leaned back, using his body weight to pull at the hand.
Mingtian cooperatively allowed his arm to stretch, but he didn’t let go. Even when Xue Hua was half hovering over the ground, his feet stepping against it and pulling, he still stubbornly held that hand and smiled.
Xue Hua pulled and pulled. He tried to pry the fingers open, tried to hit his hand, even bit it. His face took on a suspiciously embarrassed blue-ish tint that was beginning to spread over his nose and his ears.
Mingtian watched the show quite happily and allowed Xue Hua to do as he pleased.
Maybe he had tried to approach Xue Hua wrongly. The bird was kind of proud - that much could be seen easily from their interactions.
If he had troubles taking the first steps or even reacting to Mingtian doing it, then Mingtian just had to help him out.
If you need an excuse to back down, then I don’t mind giving you one.
“You won’t mind me holding your hand, would you?”, he asked sweetly. “It’s nicely cold to the touch. I burned my palm last evening when Xiao Tian messed up the tea, so it feels very soothing. Please?”
He really had burned his palm when Xie Yi dropped the teacup accidentally. But spiritual beasts weren’t that fragile. It was a burn, but it didn’t restrict him in the slightest and also didn’t hurt.
Xue Hua hesitated, then brought the hand up to look at it. The skin was indeed peeling a bit and there were tiny blisters here and there. He lowered their hands again, stared at them for a while with a conflicted gaze, and then turned his head away.
“I guess I’ll be that kind”, he said in a resigned voice, not trying to pull his hand away again.
“Thank you”, Mingtian easily replied, his voice low and warm.