The array shone prettily on the ground, like soft starlight illuminating the room.
Xu Yan stopped writing notes and looked up wearily.
It was the fifth one.
The first one had lowered the noise in the room. Not even that necessary because it was only the two of them and Mingtian, but whatever, it wasn’t a complicated array.
The second one was dispensing some kind of calming scent. More playing around than anything and it did smell like a meadow blooming with flowers, so that was very nice.
The third one had purified the air. He was pretty sure that this one was supposed to be used in toxic environments, but the air now smelled clean and felt fresh.
The fourth one had darkened the room. He had thought that Xie Yi was maybe planning to go to sleep, but no.
The fifth one was throwing the room into a dim light as if the night that had fallen over it was broken through by the light of the stars and the moon.
As it turned out, Xie Yi was absolutely not averse to using arrays to get rid off his boredom.
He was just sitting on the ground with a pleased, slightly dazed expression, drawing array over array like it was meditation.
The first two arrays weren’t that special, but the latter three were starting to get pretty expensive. Although it was Shi Yue paying, it did hurt his heart a bit to see so much money wasted.
“Xiao Yi”, he experimentally called out and earned a very absent-minded ‘Hmm?’ in return. “This is nice, but I wanted to learn…”
And it was another two hours until sundown, but their room was dark.
Xie Yi accepted the criticism by reaching out for another set of ingredients and grinding them to dust.
A while later, Xu Yan had a swarm of fake fireflies hovering around him, giving him light.
“Pretty”, he exclaimed, distracted by their beauty.
As Xie Yi debated on array number seven, Shi Yue knocked at the door and entered. Stunned, the cultivator stopped in his step and looked around before sighing and closing the door.
“Peas in a pod”, he commented before approaching Xie Yi with several scrolls.
Curious, the boy stretched out his neck. “What did you bring?”
“Something you might like, and a better alternative to using up ingredients and cores”, Shi Yue explained, relieved to see that Xie Yi had been obedient enough to use cores rather than his own spiritual energy which he wasn’t allowed to use yet.
Xu Yan approached them with the same twinkle in his eyes, watching as Shi Yue set down the scrolls and then opened one on top of the table.
Drawn in ink was a pattern. A pattern spanning the whole page, delicately drawn, with fine colours creating an astounding artwork. 1It’s a mandala. I just didn’t want to directly name it as such xD
Some of the patterns were runes used in arrays, but some were just plain triangles or circles, set together in inexplicably intricate designs.
Xie Yi stared at the image, immediately stuck on it. It looked nice; calming, somehow.
“You can look at some of these”, Shi Yue calmly explained as he tapped on the scrolls. “There are different kinds drawn on them. I’ve brought you paper - rather than drawing arrays, why not draw one of these?”
“Okay”, Xie Yi agreed without a second thought, already itching to grab a quill. A brush would be too large for those fine patterns.
Shi Yue looked at the ceiling.
When he had been young, he had hated drawing those. His master would inspect them afterwards - look out for unclean lines or scold if the patterns were too easy.
Only after becoming a Master had he learned to appreciate the exercise that was quite helpful as both a meditation and for keeping a quiet hand needed to draw arrays.
Usually children would hate this kind of task, but as expected, Xie Yi liked them.
He had mentioned them before Tiankong, too - the man had shown a great amount of curiosity at the mentioning of the drawings. It was too bad that he couldn’t show them to him, as well.
“Take your time to draw it slowly. Once you’re finished, we will choose seven suitable colours for it.”
“Yes. No two spaces are allowed to have the same colour. That is possible with even just four, but seven is an auspicious number. You can also focus more on creating a good balance between your colours like that”, he continued. A good work would have hundreds of tiny fields that could be coloured, and you needed to concentrate to not accidentally use the same colour on touching fields.
That was an extension of the work that he didn’t doubt Xie Yi could use.
“Are runes allowed?”
“As long as you don’t draw a functioning array; yes.”
Xie Yi’s red eyes sparkled as he looked on the empty paper. “I have some that I like a lot!”
There were some complicated ones that would flow out of your hand if you knew them well enough. Drawing them just felt nice in his fingers and he had spent weeks just perfecting a single one of them.
Shi Yue had planned on letting Xie Yi try out some smaller patterns first, but the boy didn’t hesitate at all to pull over the largest paper and begin his work right in the middle.
The Grandmaster watched him for a moment, then turned to the other person in the room who gave him a belated bow with an awkward smile.
“How are your studies coming along?”, he inquired amicably, walking over to look at Xu Yan’s notes. “I imagine that Xie Yi is being quite distracting these past days.”
“I don’t mind”, the child hurried to deny. “Xiao Yi helps me a lot, too.”
Shi Yue gave an appreciative nod.
Xu Yan was one of those disciples with slightly above mediocre talent but a lot of determination. They could go far, but Shi Yue had a feeling that the boy would reach a wall as soon as he’d leave the sect.
Xie Yi had shown no signs of having problems with killing beasts.
Almost all disciples would be hesitant at first and some would never get over it, ultimately staying in the sect. Not everyone was suited for the harsher environments outside.
He couldn’t say for sure whether Xu Yan would be able to overcome that threshold. He looked quite peaceful, which would be a problem in dangerous situations.
It would be good if Xie Yi and Xu Yan could rub off on each other.
Shi Yue smiled at the boys, then left for the upper grounds again.
His attendant followed quietly the moment he reached the restricted area, all the way until the room that he had prepared for himself. Numerous scrolls were still laying openly, waiting to be looked at.
Shi Yue sat down on the chair, then halted.
After a long moment of hesitation, he turned to his guard.
“I want you to open up a commission for the Black Spider”, he said calmly, but his attendant twitched at the name. “Price negotiable, priority urgent.”
“Yes, Grandmaster”, the attendant said stiffly, bowing before he stepped closer to Shi Yue who had pulled over a piece of paper and was drawing a quick sketch and jotting down some words.
“I want them to find this person. Just a localization. Information, too, if possible. They are to absolutely not disturb or even harm him! He should not become aware of their existence or at least not bothered by it.” He finished his artwork, rolled it up and handed it to the attendant who gave another bow and then left the study.
Shi Yue looked after him.
The Black Spiders were experts in stealth missions - usually assassinations - but that didn’t mean that they weren’t useful for gathering information.
The capital was aware of them and their branches spread all over the country. An expensive service that mostly the large sects and powerful figures were aware of.
He didn’t really like using them, but in the end, he couldn’t resist.
The more he saw Xie Yi these days, the more he saw Tiankong. That delighted tone when he had brought over the paper, especially.
On one hand, he had already hidden a potentially dangerous person and needed to make sure that things didn’t get out of hand.
On the other, he felt unwell at leaving that man alone - someone who appeared to be slowly killing himself. There was always a way out.
He hoped they would be able to locate him.
Neither Tiankong nor his spiritual beast had appeared to think of Shi Yue as a hostile person. The man himself had been very amicable while talking and the beast that had brought him out hadn’t even tried to make him shut his mouth as if he trusted Shi Yue to not say anything.
Shi Yue rubbed his forehead. What was he getting obstinate for? He felt like he was searching for excuses.
“I should take some time to calm my mind”, he muttered to himself just as a knock sounded on his door.