The knocking was soft and rhythmic. Once, twice, thrice, then a long pause. There was a sound of shuffling from clothes and movement, indicating that the person behind the door had taken a step back.
Shi Yue laid his brush carefully to the side, then stood up and smoothened his robes as he walked over to the door and opened it with a calm “Yes?”.
In six years, Xie Yi had decided on a very clear cut between when to call him by his name and when ‘Master’. ‘Master’ was reserved for when people were around or when he wanted something, his name for other times. It was absolutely not following the rules, but if Xie Yi wanted to be stubborn, then there was no changing his mind.
And god, was he stubborn.
Shi Yue blinked into the light of the sun sneaking up the sky behind him, illuminating his figure and giving him a halo. The red and orange eyes were shining, his soft black hair moving in the wind.
To Shi Yue’s horror, his disciple had indeed turned out to grow into a heartbreaker. As an older teenager, he turned heads everywhere - not that he appeared to care. He had just that kind of looks that walked a fine line between seductive and just plain beautiful; soft but defined features and a slender body that allowed him graceful movements.
There hadn’t been confessions yet, but only because Xie Yi was being so obvious at not showing interest in any of them. There was a large enough mass of lovestruck teenagers wandering around him, though, and Xu Yan was hissing and snarling in a panic to keep his position as Xie Yi’s roommate with the help of the teachers.
The main problem, however, was the sight in front of him right now. Xie Yi was the type to have an emotionless face, but he bloomed when around his friends and started beaming whenever Shi Yue was around. He’d be overjoyed with his presence.
So Shi Yue looked at the youth encased in light, smiling up at him so happily because he wanted to wish him a good morning… and closed the door right in front of the youth’s face.
“...Ah?”, he heard the confused sound from outside.
With one hand still on the doorknob, Shi Yue used his other to rub the bridge of his nose.
Xie Yi is just chasing after an ideal image, he had said. It was a lot like imprinting, he had said. He would grow out of it, he had said.
Xie Yi did not grow out of it. Not in the slightest.
He wasn’t really interested in men, but he felt like a stone that was slowly and continuously being chipped away by water.
Cultivators had very adaptive minds, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to think of someone with the looks of a twenty-year-old as a person who had lived dozens of years. They rarely had the problem of commoners, where some were unable to see children who had grown up as adults.
Xie Yi was approaching adulthood now, and Shi Yue’s mind acknowledged that. That was very troublesome for trying not to be chipped away and he disliked it.
He held back a sigh that his disciple might have heard and opened the door again.
Xie Yi, whose face had been stuck with wide eyes and a slightly opened mouth in surprise, immediately began to smile again at seeing his master.
There was also the thing with Xie Yi intruding on the restricted teacher areas.
At first he had snuck in once in a while, talking in roundabout ways so that it seemed like someone had let him in. In the course of a year, he had stopped trying that.
He just broke holes into the arrays and walked in.
On one hand, their array master was delighted that Xie Yi was helping him find loopholes and perfect the defensive arrays, on the other hand, it was a bit of a problem that he kept on destroying the very expensive formations.
Anyway, he could now walk wherever he pleased.
“Good morning”, Xie Yi purred, brushing a long strand of his hair out of his face. It fell unevenly - longer on his back, reaching over his shoulders.
It would have made him look soft and adorable, but the fingers pushing back his hair came back bloody.
He made a sound and looked at the crimson on his fingers, then smiled and quickly wiped it on his robes.
“Another challenger? So early?”, Shi Yue inquired, feeling a headache incoming.
“Yes. I hadn’t wanted it to disturb the lessons later, so I moved it to the morning”, Xie Yi explained easily. “Ah, he’s fine. The finger can be reattached.”
“Stop cutting off people’s body parts during spars.”
“...I’m trying.”1A/N: He said, his hair dripping with the blood of his challenger...
God knows where the boy had that kind of vicious habit from. If you weren’t careful enough, you could easily end up with a hand or arm flying during a fight with him.
The medical staff was always hovering around the arena since Xie Yi had started accepting challenges.
The bad habit didn’t stop people from challenging him for various reasons, and they could be reattached quite well considering how cleanly Xie Yi would cut them off.
After the first time, Shi Yue had scolded him a lot. Since then, Xie Yi was trying his hardest to control himself during spars and not overdo it, but he hadn’t perfected it yet.
It still was a far cry from that mess of his first fight, though.
He had never seen Master Chen show that kind of expression before.
“Shall we eat breakfast?”, Xie Yi switched the topic, clearing his throat. He often ate with Shi Yue, especially when Xu Yan was busy and didn’t have time to eat with him.
“Alas”, Shi Yue muttered to himself. “Come in.”
The young man didn’t need to be told twice.
He entered without restraint, walking forward towards the inner room. It had gotten too cold for eating outside.
He glanced around but didn’t see Xue Hua anywhere. Since he hadn’t seen Mingtian this morning, either, it was likely that the two were off to somewhere again.
Mingtian appeared to like Xue Hua a lot. It was different from how he interacted with Xie Yi, but the beast always looked so happy that Xie Yi dropped the issue and didn’t ask. As long as Mingtian was happy, that was enough.
Ying Hua wasn’t around every time, either. Who knew where she was. Possibly sleeping.
“I’ll bring your portion, too”, Xie Yi called out from the kitchen, hearing Shi Yue reply with a hum.
Breakfast was a light soup that was perfect for warming up.
He easily carried the bowls and placed one in front of Shi Yue before sitting down himself. He was pleased whenever they had soup; somehow, he liked the sight of Shi Yue lowering his eyes and carefully sipping out of the bowl.
Shi Yue talked in between sips of the nourishing soup while gazing outside. It looked like it would snow soon. “How is your progress with the martial technique I have taught you?”
Xie Yi winced and sipped slowly at his bowl to gain a few seconds. Unable to drag it any longer he finally had to set it down and awkwardly avoid his master’s eyes.
“I’m… working on it.”
Xie Yi had had to realize a quite painful truth as he advanced.
He knew arrays like the back of his hand and was happily engaging in learning the ones of the Virtuous Sect.
Controlling spiritual energy was like breathing to him.
Physical training was easy and his talent at fighting was undeniable.
So, it came as a great surprise to him and everyone around - excluding Mingtian, who had feared exactly that -, that Xie Yi stumbled badly at integrating his spiritual energy into his movements and use special, martial techniques.
Mingtian and he knew the reason, of course. Hundreds of years of the demonic path had given him habits. The very roots of the demonic and spiritual path were the same, but the way their energy was used was quite different. Ultimately, that meant that Xie Yi had never had to perform a single technique of the spiritual path.
Contrary to everyone else, who were starting at zero, he was starting at a minus. He needed to get rid off his old habits first!
That did throw his progress to a point where he wasn’t any faster than any other disciple when it came to learning techniques.
His master was at his wit’s end. He simply couldn’t understand why Xie Yi was having so many problems.
Xie Yi ducked his head embarrassedly. Actually, the techniques that the Virtuous Sect used were too kind for him and not that suitable.
His old techniques were cold; quick and violent, with a focus on recklessly attacking and then evading before repeating. They were flexible and mixable.
Those new ones were the polar opposite. All of them had a good balance between never ignoring your defence or offence when executing them. They were structured to the point that you almost had to memorize which techniques could be paired well.
It went against his instincts.