The days passed on like that until it was finally the day that Shi Yue had called everyone together - the last week of Xie Yi’s rehabilitation.
For today, he was dressed in a robe of finer material and in a darker colour that simply looked better on him. Attendants had come by and made sure that he was dressed well, one even suggesting that Xie Yi wear some of the special equipment that they brought along.
Xie Yi merely shook his head. He had his identification bracelet and Shi Yue’s silver bracelet. That was enough.
It wasn’t long before noon that he left his room for the first time of the day, a tense Xu Yan next to him.
When they stepped out, they sucked in a breath.
People were everywhere. The whole sect was standing outside, but there were also common mortals standing to the side and a large number of smaller groups with different insignias mixed in - visitors from other sects.
Everyone was talked in hushed voices, so the noise wasn’t too large, but it was still unusual loud and full.
“So many people came”, Xu Yan gasped to the amusement of the attendant accompanying them.
“It’s to be expected. Everyone wants to know what a Grandmaster could possibly want to declare”, the youngster chuckled. “Shall we go over to Master Li? It’s to be expected that you are at his side. Your friend can’t come all the way, but he can wait outside.”
“I’ll come along as far as possible. Maybe I’ll find Senior Sister on the way”, Xu Yan agreed. He looked around for Mingtian whom he wanted to carry, but the puppy was at Xie Yi’s side.
Unusually solemn, the little beast appeared much more intelligent and dangerous than usual. Normally, Xu Yan would focus on the fur sticking up in all directions, making him look fluffy; this time, his eyes were drawn to the shining turquoise scanning the crowd.
Xu Yan pulled his hands back. If Mingtian wasn’t feeling like being carried, then he wouldn’t push him. It was nice that the beast let himself be cuddled by him usually, anyway.
“Where are we meeting up?”, Xie Yi asked, looking around. His skin was prickling from the stares that people were giving him.
It was incredibly annoying. There was a mix of curiosity and hostility directed towards him and he greatly disliked it. Somehow, he could already hear them whisper about his red eyes.
His mood dropped rapidly. Even the attendant noticed it and spoke a bit calmer: “For now, the upper grounds.”
Xie Yi hummed and began to walk briskly forward.
Most people made place out of pure courtesy of someone wanting to pass through, others because they appeared to recognize Xie Yi. Some moved out of the way purposefully slow - watching his reactions and then twitching in surprise when his cold eyes moved to meet theirs.
The boy lifted his hand to touch the chest pocket where the crystal was heating up again. Since he had snapped that one time, he was quite irritable. Possibly just because of the poison, but it was a bit of a problem.
Heat and slow breathing calmed him down significantly, although it was still a hassle to pass through the staring masses.
“Xiao Yi”, Xu Yan called out at some point of time, pointing to the side. “Senior Sister is over there. I’ll be waiting with her, alright? I’ll see you later.”
“Un”, Xie Yi reacted, looking over and finding Li Mei in the crowd. Their eyes met and she smiled, lifting her hand for a tiny wave.
Besides her, her female friends looked up as well and smiled at him before turning to her and saying something. She giggled.
The attendant waited patiently until Xie Yi began to move again before accompanying him until the gate where the lower grounds were separated from the restricted upper grounds.
The group of guards - imposing men with a certain level of cultivation and grimly looking weapons - scanned them before parting. Even then, the array that covered the area gave a hum as it checked Xie Yi’s and the attendant’s bracelet and then matched it to their bodies to make sure that they were the correct owners.
Only when the hum of the array quieted down could they move again. Walking forward, they stepped into the restricted area.
Attendants of different levels were bustling and running around, carrying things.
The people who had come had to be treated like guests for their stay, and that needed managing. It was quite the orderly mess.
Some teachers were moving around or talking to the side, but not many of them. The spiritual beasts he usually saw were nowhere to be seen.
“Xie Yi”, Master Chen greeted while she walked over, her hips swinging. Just like the other teachers, she had changed into a more awe-inspiring robe. Although she usually wore quite covering robes, today she wore a tighter design that showed a bit more skin. Just enough to enhance her beauty without making her look like she was showing off.
“Master Chen”, the boy said quietly, his expression easing up a bit.
“It’s fine, you can go”, she said quietly to the attendant, who bowed low and left. Once he was gone, she turned to Xie Yi.
“Your master is still busy organizing things with the sect leader. I hope you understand that you need to be at your best behaviour today?”
The child nodded seriously. “I know. I won’t shame him.”
“Him specifically, and not the sect, huh”, Master Chen chuckled. “Well. I imagine you’ve guessed it, but the sect is going to announce that you’ve been attacked and that we are looking out for the perpetrator.”
She slowly turned and began to walk, motioning for the child to follow with a flick of her hand.
“You will be standing with us when he announces it, so that means that everyone will know your face. There will be a lot of attention on you - both positive and negative. We will keep the masses away from you today, but they won’t forget you. Once you are older, they will start watching you closely.”
“Because Master spoke up for me?”
“Because of your talent.” She looked down at him and spoke in a warning tone. “They will all know how fast you have jumped levels despite your average core. They will continue to watch you to not miss the spectacle of us showing our teeth to the perpetrator and they will see your growth in the process.”
Xie Yi turned quiet. He himself knew best that his progress wouldn’t slow down at all. He could slow it on purpose, but once his body had gotten to a better level of health, he would naturally advance faster and faster. The usual estimates for how long it took people to advance were nothing to him.
“Keep a low profile”, she sighed. “And I’m saying that, aware that your low profile will probably be a common person’s high profile. But it’s better than you showing everything you can.”
Geniuses were a group on their own.
Everyone liked singing praises about the old legends, but there was always going to be someone better. This generation already had Shi Yue, but if Xie Yi continued like this, it would have a second immeasurable genius.
Given that Xie Yi would grow up losing that unstable mentality of his, or he would break down at some point.
“Stay with me for another while. I’ll take you to your master once it’s time to go out.”
Xie Yi nodded and glanced down at Mingtian, who looked up at him with a calming gaze. His red tongue lolled out curtly as he breathed, then hid back inside his mouth.
The boy breathed in and out slowly, then brushed his black hair out of his face. “What am I supposed to do out there?”
Master Chen hummed and led them to a somewhat quiet corner where they could sit down. The day was cool but not cold and the sun was peeking through the clouds.
“Be quiet, be still and do exactly what your master tells you to do”, she said simply. “You don’t need to do anything other than showing yourself. Ideally, you shouldn’t even look at anyone, lest they think you are challenging them. Just… look at your master or the sky.”
Xie Yi frowned but nodded. “I… understand.”
“Your little partner can follow you if you’re sure he won’t make a sound. From what I know, he’s very intelligent and quiet, though?”, the woman asked, leaning her head back to look at Mingtian who was lying behind the bench they were sitting on.
He looked up when he felt her gaze, then lowered his head again and rested in on his paw.
Normally he was more upbeat, but he was obviously aware of the seriousness of the situation and behaved well.
“Then I’d like for him to come with me”, Xie Yi responded, his shoulders deflating a bit. He looked like even the thought of Mingtian being next to him was already calming.
Master Chen gave a wry smile and placed a hand on the tiny shoulder for a moment. “It will be alright. We are all here to protect you; your master first and foremost. We won’t let anyone hurt you.”
Xie Yi blinked. Actually he wasn’t really worried, he just felt better knowing that Mingtian could immediately warn him in case he was about to do something stupid, but the fact that the cultivator was trying to cheer him up made him feel better.
He gave her a tiny lift of his lips. “Un.”
He hesitated, not sure what to say in this situation. Thank you?
“In times like this, you can say I’ll be relying on you, you know?”
Xie Yi gave her an incredulous look and she laughed.
“Not a concept you are comfortable with, I see. We will have to prove that we are worth being relied on, then”, she chuckled, holding a hand in front of her mouth. Her tone was betraying that she wasn’t too serious when she said those words, but Xie Yi didn’t take them seriously anyway.
As she had said, the thought of relying on them was a bit strange.
An attendant soon stepped up, bowing before them.
Master Chen made a sound and stood up. “Looks like it’s time to go.”