Xie Yi trailed in the front with Ying Hua. He looked at her - they were of similar height - and then back to Xue Hua and Mingtian.
The beast noticed his gaze and smiled softly, giving his head a questioning tilt.
Xie Yi slowed his steps for a moment, looking around, and then lowered his head and continued onwards.
Mingtian was the best of the group. Mingtian liked having Xue Hua around and that bird wasn’t bad, so he was good, too. Ying Hua was annoying at times, but generally okay. Just… somehow, he felt a bit unhappy. He was in his master’s home and spending time with his master’s family, but Shi Yue wasn’t here.
Mingtian thought about the weird look for a bit, then sighed. “Sorry, little brother. That is no good.”
“I know”, Xie Yi said in a pout. Shi Yue seeing Mingtian was bad. He was obviously not hiding from Xue Hua and Ying Hua for reasons, but he hid from Shi Yue. There was no way to call him over.
“Be patient”, Ying Hua whispered, looking at Xie Yi with watery eyes before turning them away. Behind them, Xue Hua’s steps appeared to falter for a moment, but he caught himself and walked on.
The game was something like a card game often played in bars in the city, just more complicated.
It ended with Mingtian winning, Ying Hua in second place, Xue Hua in third and Xie Yi in fourth - the boy’s points jumped everywhere you could calculate, and then dropped badly when it was about reading the others and raising or lowering the stakes. Xue Hua didn’t have a bad pokerface, but Ying Hua and Mingtian read him easily. In the end, Mingtian was just better at calculating the cards and won against Ying Hua.
He smirked proudly and puffed out his chest.
“The food is mine!”, he declared, pulling all the tasty snacks - that had been bought by Shi Yue from god knows where - over to himself.
Xie Yi stared at them, unhappy. The food Shi Yue liked was quite different. It always had the kind of taste that you would want to have more of, compared to the food he was used to.
The boy hesitated, then tugged at Mingtian’s clothes.
“I won’t share-”, the beast humpfed, sternly looking down.
“Ming-Ge…”, Xie Yi begged with wide, upturned eyes and pursed lips.
Mingtian looked at him for two seconds without moving. Then he pushed the snacks over to Xie Yi, took one out for himself and grumpily stuffed it into his mouth with an irritated face.
Ying Hua snorted and covered her mouth.
Xie Yi beamed and followed Mingtian in eating. He did feel slightly embarrassed but well, it had worked. He had seen some girls do that when they wanted something and the last time he had called Mingtian his brother, the other had been very happy, so he thought it was worth a try. 1A/N: Xiao Yi, you’re learning bad things. (‘Ge’ can also be used flirtily by women, but Mingtian is just happy being called his brother. He can't say no to his family.)
“You have a great relationship”, Xue Hua commented with surprise. Although they looked different, they really did feel like siblings.
...If Shi Yue found out, then both of them would have to leave. Xue Hua kept his face calm, but his fingers tightened around where he had curled them on his lap.
Ying Hua looked up, her eyes shining. “There is no need to worry. Don’t tell Yue about Mingtian, ever. Even if he were to ask, you know nothing.”
Mingtian stopped his chewing and redirected his gaze to the Sword Spirit. His turquoise eyes lowered, but Ying Hua ignored him and continued talking to Xue Hua as she stood up.
“If you did, you would mess things up, so just keep quiet. I am tired now. I will go to sleep.” Not gracing them another look she stalked right out of the room, leaving behind two stunned figures and one confused child.
“This-”, Xue Hua started and stopped immediately.
“Whoops”, Mingtian whispered, his voice already distorting with the shift. As soon as he was nothing more than a fluffy ball he jumped unto the table and moved the cards around before jumping on Xie Yi’s lap, only seconds before the door opened.
No sound had alerted them of Shi Yue coming, so Xie Yi twitched in light surprise. “Shi Yue!”
“Master”, the man corrected instantly as he walked in. “You were bored?”
He looked around, seeing the mess of cards on the table and the sweets that had been used to make bets. Since he could sense Ying Hua close by, she must have been another player.
“Yeah, we played cards”, Xie Yi confirmed. A lot of things weren’t making much sense to him right now, but then again, not a lot of things had been making sense for him these past years.
Xue Hua lowered his face and turned it away from Shi Yue, his thoughts still running.
The Grandmaster noticed the movement but didn’t call him out on it. Xue Hua was almost constantly in human form these days. It was suspicious, but he was an adult and easily as old as Shi Yue. Pressuring him wouldn’t get him anywhere and he trusted that the bird would tell him if there were problems.
Seeing Xie Yi munch on some of the expensive snacks he bought, he raised an eyebrow. “You like them?”
Xie Yi flinched and hesitated for almost a minute in which he opened his mouth and closed it again before burying his face in Mingtian’s fur.
“I like the spicy ones”, he admitted with embarrassment. That’s what it was for him. Embarrassing.
Xu Yan had often asked him about favourite foods. It was obviously a normal thing and something that everyone had, but Xie Yi had been alive for hundreds of years and this was the first time he had found food that he felt he preferred over other types. In everyone’s eyes,he was just a child, but even then Xu Yan had made fun of him for being unable to name what food he liked. Knowing that he had taken much, much longer than that was a bit…
It just felt embarrassing.
Shi Yue exhaled. “Much better compared to that jerky you had, isn’t it?”
Xie Yi still didn’t think the jerky was bad, but if he compared the food of his past life, then the food at Feng Yan’s place, the canteen’s food, Shi Yue’s and the snacks… He had to admit, he liked the things that Shi Yue ate better.
“It’s convenient, though”, he defended himself, troubled. “It’s easy to carry, it fills you up, it has all the nourishment you need…”
“But do you enjoy eating it?”, Shi Yue said sternly. Xue Hua almost showed a smile at the way his partner's eyebrows were lowering. When it was about food, Shi Yue was merciless.
“I… guess not?”, Xie Yi responded slowly.
“You may need to eat daily, but that doesn’t mean you should waste those chances. If you can enjoy your meals, then isn’t that better than just eating for necessity?” With the way Shi Yue talked, it was clear that he was taking the topic as seriously as his lessons.
“I will adjust your meals a bit. Always eating only spicy things isn’t healthy, but if you like them, then it is no problem at all to include them. I also have some other smaller pastries that you can take with you”, he continued, half talking to himself as he already started walking around.
Not too long later, Xiie Yi found his arms filled with food instead of Mingtian. His master looked very satisfied with himself.
Xiie Yi stared at one type for a very long time, having fallen quiet. Then his eyebrows creased and he looked up. “Master, for what reasons would people not share tasty food? Or rather, make sure someone never got any?”
Shi Yue stopped to consider the question seriously, with how calm Xie Yi’s tone was. “Good food uses good ingredients, and those are often expensive. Moreover, as you said, simpler food is easier to carry around. You might also not want someone to get used to the better taste and then shun the simpler food.”
Xie Yi’s eyes darkened, his gaze fixed on the small, flower-shaped pastries that he had seen in the elders’ rooms more than once. He hadn’t even known it was edible at all from the way it looked.
Then his gaze cleared up and he laid his head into his neck to blink at Shi Yue. “And why share it?”
Shi Yue pulled his lips into a smile and leaned down lightly. “The things I like make me happy. Seeing the people I like happy, makes me happy, as well. So I give the things I like to the people I like in hopes that we can all be happy with it, together.”
He broke it down to as childish a concept as he could and felt his face soften with Xie Yi’s eyes widened in understanding. The boy giggled in delight, then held the snacks closer to his chest.
“I understand”, Xie Yi said, somehow feeling his throat constrict in a weird but warm way. Sharing the things you liked with the people you liked, that really made sense. Besides, Shi Yue had just included him in the circle of people he liked.
Xie Yi realized something, then turned in a circle where he stood, looking around, before letting the snacks fall unto the table for a moment. He skimmed through it, then found the same type that Mingtian had eaten before, unpacked it and held it before the beast with bright, expectant eyes. “Here!”
Mingtian’s body froze, then the scorpion tail wagged and he nibbled the snack out of Xie Yi’s hand and licked over it.
Xie Yi laughed louder, then beamed up at Shi Yue. “Un! That works!”
He was feeling a bit light-headed, like under drugs, but it was a good kind. Shi Yue was sharing the food he liked with him. He could certainly find something to give in return. Oh, now that he thought about it, Xu Yan often brought back all kinds of well-scenting flowers and placed them on Xie Yi’s bedside. Maybe they could eat the snacks together once he got back.
Shi Yue was surprised at seeing Xie Yi so overjoyed at such a simple realization. That just told him that for a good part of the boy’s life, no one had been willing to share anything with him.
He watched warmly, resting his arms on each other. Xue Hua approached him from the side, speaking quietly so that the boy wouldn’t hear.
“I stand by my opinion from the start. As suspicious and weird as he is… I can’t feel any malice from him at all. He might be full of hate for the Demonic Sect, but that doesn’t mean he should be robbed of his right to live a normal life”, he muttered, leaving the last sentence unspoken. As much as he had that right, he would need help to realize it.
“I don’t intend to let him fall down that path”, Shi Yue said. A shiver went down his spine the second he finished the sentence, just like someone stretching out a cold hand and stroking it over his back.
He whirled his head around, looking behind him. Xue Hua jolted a bit but, seeing no one there, relaxed again. “Is something wrong?”
“No”, Shi Yue mumbled, rubbing his neck. “It’s nothing.”