Ch.72: Holding hands
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He was aware that Xue Hua still felt troubled about the things that had happened in the past. Back then, he himself had also been too shocked to try and solve the situation - he had run away and instead of treating the wound, let it fester. It had left a scar on their relationship, but scars weren’t necessarily bad. It was just important that he wouldn’t tear it open again.

He tugged Xue Hua back to the tree so that they could sit down under it. Xue Hua pulled his knees up and leaned his head on it, avoiding to look at Mingtian who was sitting more relaxed.

“You know”, he started after a while of contemplation. “I had always been incredibly uncomfortable in that village.”

The hand in his twitched lightly.

“People didn’t like me for being a crossbreed. I couldn’t understand that; I didn’t know who my parents were, but it was true that I didn’t belong to any normal species. I never saw the problem. Who would hurt that? I just had parents of different groups, nothing else.”

He paused then rubbed his face and the scars of his horns. They often ached. “I felt wronged most of the time, but that was about it. When some of the kids made fun for me not having a family, I shrugged it off. Can’t miss what you can’t have. I thought that other than that, I wasn’t really different.”

He tightened his grip on Xue Hua’s hand. It hadn’t been quite that easy as he made it out to be. It was hard to be shunned by most part of the people, but he had indeed gotten used to it over time.

“So when I snapped that day and you ran, I freaked out”, he sighed, his voice turning quieter. “I was different, after all. Vastly. I was dangerous in ways I couldn’t control. I could have managed, maybe - but when you, who was the closest to me, were scared and angry as well, I didn’t know how to handle it anymore.”

“You yourself didn’t know?”, Xue Hua muttered in a muffled voice, face half-buried in his arm on his knees.

“No”, Mingtian confirmed while shaking his head. “That I was different, yes, but I only recognized the Demonic beast blood when I saw it. I was just as shocked as everyone else.”

“What happened?”

“As you know, mostly. I fled. To the edge of the continent, actually. A small patch of dangerous forest in a deep valley.” It had been a long journey, but he had wanted a corner where he wouldn’t meet any of the intelligent spiritual or demonic beasts. As dangerous as that forest was - only common beasts lived there.

“You got hurt on the way?”, Xue Hua asked in a small, pained voice, glancing at Mingtian with his watery eyes. They jumped up to the scars on his forehead.

Mingtian chuckled awkwardly. “Oh, no, I… kind of ripped them out. Useless, I know. They regrew pretty fast. Still, I… just wanted them gone for a while.”

Xue Hua winced and shuddered but Mingtian continued talking.

“I met Nie in the forest. A deity. He’s a very kind person. I stayed there since recently. I think I would be in a lot of trouble if I hadn’t met him. Even during the journey to there, my temper grew quite badly. I was irritated all the time and snapped at random things. It’s probably the Demonic beast blood acting up, so I was relieved that he could help me with it.” A good number of scars on his body were from that journey. He got into fights with pretty much anyone and the only reason why he didn’t indiscriminately kill everyone was that he would start running the very moment his mind cleared up a bit.

“I’m sorry”, Xue Hua whispered without any context.

Mingtian exhaled through his nose and smiled, then used his free left hand to reach over and ruffle through the feathery hair.

The bird made a noise of discontentment and Mingtian chuckled.

“That was a long time ago. I don’t snap anymore! I’m really good at controlling myself.”

Xue Hua’s lips were still downturned, but he relaxed a tiny bit.

Mingtian looked at him for a moment, just enjoying the way the light hit the beast, then looked up and past the pond.

Xie Yi was running out, followed by a much slower Ying Hua, and towards him.

“MingMing, come play! Ying Hua has some game, but you need at least three people to play it”, he called out, completely ignoring Xue Hua who instantly tried to pull his hand away again and failed.

He reached them quickly, then realized that there was another person there with a blue tint on his face, holding Mingtian’s hand. He tilted his hand and squinted his eyes. It took him a moment to remember that it was Xue Hua’s human form. “Why are you holding hands?”

“Because I wanted to”, Mingtian joyfully replied, pulling Xue Hua’s arm over and placing it on his leg where he wrapped his free hand around it, as well.

“Oh, okay”, Xie Yi nodded without real understanding. His eyes moved over to Xue Hua, whose face was going through a number of emotions. “Wanna play, too?”

“He’ll come along since Mingtian is playing”, Ying Hua interjected with a roll of her eyes, not at all surprised by the scene in front of her. “Hurry it up. It will take forever to teach you the rules, anyway.”

“Sure, let’s go”, Mingtian laughed, pulling Xue Hua up. Even though Ying Hua and Xue Hua knew his identity (to a certain extent, at least), Shi Yue didn’t appear to have the knowledge. Xue Hua had promised not to say anything unless necessary and Sword Spirits… Well, they were weird anyway. You could never quite tell what they were thinking.

Probably because other people were around, Xue Hua began trying to free his hand again but Mingtian refused to let go. “My palm still hurts”, he simply said.

Xie Yi gave a questioning glance at hearing that - sure, Mingtian had ended with a burned paw when he had let the steaming hot cup fall and the water splashed over it but hadn’t he said that these kinds of minor burns didn’t matter for a beast? How come it had begun hurting now?

Out of the three other people, only Mingtian understood his sceptical gaze. Xie Yi wasn’t showing disagreement to Mingtian holding hands with Xue Hua, he just simply didn’t understand the reason for it.

Even in his memories, Mingtian was aware that the elders had made carefully sure to keep Xie Yi away from anything sexual. Mingtian had noticed the heavily scented incense in Xie Yi’s room once they had become partners, but by then it was too late. The Xie Yi of that time had simply been drugged to a point that he had no sexual desire left - maybe the only drug they made sure he didn't have a resistance to. Added to that, they made sure not to give him any information, and Xie Yi just turned everyone away by default.

They didn’t want him to become too easily controllable by his bed-partners or distracted by something he shouldn’t be. It was the easiest if he didn’t forge any physical connections that might turn into emotional ones.

Mingtian had deliberated telling Xie Yi about it, but the cultivator had been hard to convince that the elders ever did anything wrong to him. He was deaf on that ear, so Mingtian dropped the issue - Xie Yi wouldn’t resist anyway, as he wouldn’t understand what had been taken from him.

In this life, little Xie Yi would have just as much information about relationships. He knew that there were things as married couples and couples, but as to what they did above somehow conceiving children, he didn’t know, didn’t care, didn’t ask.

Mingtian wasn’t sure how to handle it. His main fear was that Xie Yi would take too large an interest if he explained everything, which could be dangerous. Besides, he didn’t know how much Xie Yi’s mental state might affect his physical abilities.

So he had decided to keep quiet and watch for now. If Xie Yi had questions, he would probably come and ask.

In the end, you would never know whether one decision would lead to a better outcome or worse. He had decided to do it that way, and so be it. Xie Yi did dislike strangers touching him at least enough that he would resist if anyone tried to do anything to him.  

Honestly, he was also kind of worried that Xie Yi might try jumping Shi Yue if he knew, and he didn’t want that mess to happen.

The poor Grandmaster had no idea what the future years would bring. 

Adult Xie Yi had some nasty habits. Not putting on his clothes neatly, napping out in the sunshine, eating food with his fingers and licking them clean. The kind of thing that had his subordinates breaking their necks.

Mingtian was slightly torn between looking forward to how Shi Yue would manage his disciple at that time and worrying about it.

More info! And finally another hint as to why Xie Yi never got into any relationships in his past life... Still, we are far from the nastiest thing that the demonic Sect has done

Btw, I'm all ears for christmas special suggestions!

Evil teaser for what I'm currently writing in the main story after the timeskip:

Spoiler

Shi Yue kind of accidentally takes Xie Yi to a brothel. Xie Yi has absolutely no idea what is happening. Mingtian is elsewhere, suddenly having a bad feeling. I'm pretty sure I will write this scene twice, just to have it as 'Shi Yue view' and 'Xie Yi view' lol

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