Ch.85: Zhongyang
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“I was thinking of trying to forge a sword”, he said slowly, his eyes locked to the small, walnut-sized sphere.

“Why?”, Mingtian asked, keeping his eyes closed. His growling voice rumbled on Xie Yi’s thigh.

“I dunno. I… somehow think it would help”, the youth explained, his voice tinged with frustration and confusion.

“Then go ahead”, Mingtian chuckled. “I’ll offer a tooth or horn as additional material. I can ask Xue Hua for a feather or claw, as well - that will already give you a great supply for the enhancements. Do you have a base material in mind yet?”

“Not yet”, Xie Yi complained.

Spiritual swords were, on their base level, made out of ore like any other sword. Copper, steel, whatever was suitable. There were ores that were more suitable and some that were less, but it generally depended on the type of sword you wanted.

During the forging process, using your spiritual energy to infuse the ore would result in a basic spiritual sword.

A lot of the rest were enhancements. Similar to arrays, they needed the correct materials and knowledge on how to engrave them. They’d visibly vanish after the process is completed.

This was where things got complicated. Not only did engraving take a monumental amount of precisely used spiritual energy, it also needed a very pure type and was sensitive about mistakes.

Moreover, different materials had different attributes. You couldn’t randomly throw water and fire attributed materials into your sword and expect them not to clash and break it apart. It was a delicate matter.

Parts of a beast from the phoenix family were obviously first-class, and Mingtian had proven in his last life that his bloodline was astounding.

Obviously, they could supply amazing materials if Xie Yi had an idea on how to use them.

Additionally, he had the option of asking Shi Yue for help, so all that’s left was to decide on a base material.

“Leave it up to fate then. You’ll find the perfect one in time”, Mingtian suggested. “I mean, there are all kinds of traders and auctions everywhere that get new wares regularly.”

Xie Yi hummed. He hadn’t snuck out ever since the mess with the demonic cultivator because his body was too unstable and Mingtian had warned him not to do it.

He missed the city, but he knew that pushing the matter would end badly.

“Auctions are boring”, Xie Yi rejected. He placed his crystal back and then reached out with both hands to pull Mingtian onto his lap. 

The puppy’s paws were starting to show signs of what he would be like and were too large for the rest of his body. The greyish-white nails were hard and starting to get long from not being used enough.

“They probably are”, Mingtian laughed with his inhuman vocal cords. “Just dozens of people, sitting in cabins, throwing money out and drinking themselves to oblivion-”

The hand in his fur stilled.

“...Auctions sell alcohol?”

Mingtian wanted to bite his own tongue. Damnit.

But lying about something that Xie Yi could find out with a single question towards almost any other cultivator in the sect was not an option. “They do offer it.”

“Good one?”

“...Probably depending on the auction hall. The more prominent ones probably have good alcohol.”

“Where is a prominent one?”, Xie Yi’s voice sounded, eager. 

Mingtian exhaled. It had been years… He couldn’t imprison Xie Yi anyway.

“...In Zhongyang.”

Zhongyang was a good bit away, but Xie Yi got permission for a personal trip outside to hunt after a very long discussion with Shi Yue and a number of promises.

It wasn’t the first time that he had gone on a beast subjugation by himself; hunting demonic beasts was something he regularly did to quench his thirst for blood and let Mingtian run around.

This time it was a cover - he was going to spend at least a day not actually doing what he had said.

Zhongyang was less a city than a den of sin. Gambling, prostitution, auctions, a huge black market. The isle in the middle of a crystal clear lake would shine throughout the night, bewitching anyone passing by.

It was a dangerous place for someone who didn’t understand humanity well enough yet, so Mingtian was leading Xie Yi by the hand and forbade him from talking the moment they had stepped onto the boat.

Xie Yi pulled his hand back with a tilt of his head, but nodded in agreement and walked close to Mingtian without ever losing sight of him.

With both people wearing cloaks, no one questioned them, and when Mingtian threw down a bag full of gold to prove they had money, the beauty greeting them in the auction house showed her sweetest smile.

“Please follow me, dear gentlemen”, she said, curiously glancing at the demon mask glinting out from under Xie Yi’s hood.

She did not inquire.

The auction house had yet to fill up considering there was still time until the auctions would begin, but it was already getting quite loud.

In regular intervals, the type of auction and thus visitors would change. It was easy to know when expensive items would be on display, and you needed to prove you could possibly pay for them before even entering.

Today was one of those days where things got more expensive, so Mingtian didn’t worry about small fry coming to annoy them.

The beauty led them forward with swaying hips, curtly explaining.

Everyone had a fixed room. You gave your bet by literally shouting what you wanted to offer and one of the servants would take note of whose bid was the highest.

If two bid at the same time, the one with the next higher bid would be the current winner.

Threatening others (openly) was forbidden and could result in getting thrown out.

You had to pay for everything on the same day, ideally right after winning it. Failing to be able to do so would result in them getting their money in another way. Whether that meant keeping some kind of collateral and waiting for you to bring it, or using the bidder themselves… Both were possible.

The cabin that Xie Yi and Mingtian were led into wasn’t overly large but it was quite comfy.

A table with three chairs was placed at the open window from where they could see the stage and the numerous other cabins. A thin veil was covering it; from outside, it would be hard to tell who was sitting inside one.

The chairs were more similar to armchairs than the common ones, so Xie Yi noted them as very comfortable and sat right down.

Mingtian rolled his eyes when he got stared at.

“Bring us a good wine right away”, he ordered the beauty, who bowed and left with a sweet smile.

“You should eat something later, though”, Mingtian grumbled and sat down, ignoring the softly smiling Xie Yi.

A good while later, the wine reached their place and the lights began to dim the tiniest bit to indicate that the auctions were being prepared. There was a soft, constant murmur from out of the cabins. 

“This is worth it”, Xie Yi hummed lowly, letting the cold fluid run down his throat.

Mingtian sat to his right, rather than opposite of him - which he thought was weird but didn’t question - and leaned on his arm to look at Xie Yi.

The fake body was in a better condition than the last time it had been used. For one, the change wasn’t as drastic anymore, and then Mingtian had gone out to find some ingredients that could enhance it a bit.

It was more life-like now.

Mingtian’s heart hurt badly at the sight of a smiling Tiankong. It looked so uninhibited and carefree, unlike the smiles in his memory that had always been tinged with a number of bad emotions.

At the same time, he closely observed the differences that Xie Yi showed the moment he had taken on Tiankong’s skin.

He was walking straighter, with his head held high. There was an aura of danger and arrogance hovering around him, contained enough to not be overbearing. His tone of voice was calmer and more focused, compared to the young Xie Yi’s that carried a hint of his jumping thoughts.

He was watching the people around downstairs with mild interest and a perfectly still body, just like a beast lying in hiding.

Xie Yi was changing as he was growing up. It was normal for anyone else, but Xie Yi had already lived a life up until adulthood. Mingtian felt that a number of changes he had gone through were unusual for someone who was supposed to have reached maturity before.

Now, the Mingtian of his memories whispered into his ear with a wistful sigh.

Xie Yi had never grown up. It was only now that he was slowly growing into what he had been supposed to be - the person sitting before him.

Not like the Demonic Sect leader.

Not like a traumatized, uncontrolled child.

Not like that.

That wasn’t what he should be like. But discovering the fact now, Mingtian felt his shoulders relax rather than tense.

He had to admit, he liked the one sitting before him right now best of all.

The sect leader was robbed of his freedom to develop and show all emotions, tiny Xie Yi robbed himself of it out of fear of doing something wrong. Now he's finally starting to get to a point where he acts more like himself - a childish adult, but an adult nonetheless.
I look forward towards Xie Yi being an adult and the scenes I can write then, hehe. Do you all remember that this story is flagged with mature content? If I'm saying things are getting explicit, then I mean it lol. I hope everyone here is over 18! (Eh... as if...)

Very random mini theater:
Xie Yi: Don't you think the whole marrying thing sounds great? I want to get married to you!
Xie Yi: You know, like, may nothing but death do us part!
Shi Yue:
Shi Yue: Why does that sound so foreboding

Sorry guys, I'm pulling quite the asshole-move here.
Something happened a while ago that has me so on the peak of discomfort and pissed off to the brink of exploding that I'm just barely short of erasing all the stories here and closing down the account. I might be throwing nothing but a tantrum that will go away in a while or even in a day or two, but just in case, I want you all informed. The story might go on a hiatus until I get over this and in the worst case, will get a spoiler-summary chapter if I do decide do abandon it completely.
Probably hard to understand as a reader, but I'm really on edge right now.