Tiankong moved slightly. He turned his face to his companion, then reached under the table and pulled out a pouch and placed it on the table. His lips pursed.
“That’s no good. We can pay on our own.”
“It’s my disciple”, Shi Yue refused. “This ore is indeed suitable for him. For me to buy something for my disciple, it is very much normal.”
Tiankong was fidgeting. It was enough to prove that he and Xie Yi had a complicated relationship.
“Still, let me pay some of it”, he insisted almost nervously.
“How about half and half?”, Wu threw into the conversation. “That would be the best.”
Shi Yue took a long look at him, then at Tiankong. Maybe the man just wanted to do something for his family.
“Half, then”, he quietly agreed.
In the next moment, he turned to glance outside again and raised his bid. Fifty-five.
Wu chuckled. “Good, good.”
Tiankong looked satisfied with that, too. Shi Yue felt himself smile at seeing the man pleased.
The ore was worth about fifty thousand gold. Now that the price exceeded it, people were considerably more reluctant to give their bids. Especially since Shi Yue had raised the price by three thousand in an instant, people were discouraged.
When the hammer fell, Shi Yue showed a pleased expression.
“Please excuse me, I’ll go collect it”, Shi Yue said, making a motion of standing up.
You could obviously fetch your items after the full auction was over, but for many, it was a good tone to pay immediately.
However, Wu made a motion with his hand. “No, let me. I wanted to go take a look at the store, anyway.”
The store was part of the auction house - a first come, first serve place, where people could place their items at their own price and see if anyone was interested.
Shi Yue looked over the beast, who was fully focused on Tiankong, and sat down again.
“Xiao Tian, don’t leave without me, okay?”, he said almost condescendingly, his hand curtly placed on Tiankong’s head. The man responded with a nod, his head slightly tilting to follow Wu who went around their table.
Shi Yue placed his half of the gold coins on the table with a swing of his sleeve and by using the dimensional space of his pouch.
Wu gave a gratifying smile and made a small wave before leaving.
His sudden movements were confusing.
“Does your friend always act so… spontaneous?”, Shi Yue asked, his lips curling.
Tiankong made a confused sound. “He usually has reasons for what he does.”
“You know him well? You act quite close”, Shi Yue asked curiously. Xie Yi, too, was very close with his beast.
The man chuckled as if he heard the sentence often. Tiankong’s voice softened greatly. “He is my family.”
“Xie Yi is too, isn’t he?”, the other cultivator decided to ask directly. “You are very similar.”
Tiankong stiffened. “We are? How?”
Shi Yue smiled gently. “Your love for arrays, for one. That endless thirst for knowledge.”
The man pressed his lips together and turned to face his wine.
The Grandmaster’s attention got drawn to the mask again. A classical demon mask, nothing special. Barely enough to cover half of his face.
“Do you wear it because of your eyes?”, he blurted out, then scolded himself for it. Cultivators had more than enough things they didn’t want others to know.
Surprisingly, Tiankong responded with an awkward nod. “It’s an unusual colour.”
Shi Yue laughed, then raised a finger to tap against his cheekbones. “Is that really something to say to me? I know Xie Yi’s eyes. If you are uncomfortable wearing the mask, then you don’t need to wear it around me.”
A stare met his violet eyes, holding them. Several seconds later, he exhaled through his nose in amusement and raised his hands to fiddle with the mask.
It became clear that it was indeed not too comfortable to wear it, as the man began to rub his cheeks the moment it was taken off.
Then his eyes twitched upwards and Shi Yue forgot to breathe.
Xie Yi’s eyes were crimson with orange tints, like mixing in yellow spots into the red. It was an uneven colour that couldn’t quite be compared to a sunset, but Shi Yue had drawn the comparison anyway.
Tiankong’s eyes, though, were an eclipse.
The outer crimson ring faded into a pale marigold colour, fine strands of it drawing themselves into the bright red. Between the two colours, an orange transition was faintly visible.
And then, right around his pupil, a vibrant yellow ring was drawn; blending into what looked like almost white, surrounding the eclipsed blackness of his pupil.
His eyes were so bright that it felt like the sight was burning into his brain.
In the end, the man’s eyes were just like the person himself. So beautiful you wanted to look and approach, but not half as harmless as it appeared at first sight.
If you reached out carelessly, you might burn your fingers.
Stunned silly, Shi Yue tried to find his brain again.
He knew people who were more beautiful. Those fairy-like women with their gentle appearances and sweet tempers were, from a general standpoint, more attractive than Tiankong.
But there were always people who would slip past what you had believed was the type you liked being with.
Shi Yue drew in a breath - and cut the feeling off like slicing a piece of paper apart.
It was far, far too dangerous to play this game.
His thoughts and heart settled and Shi Yue smiled gently. “You have beautiful eyes. Even if they are unusual, I don’t feel that they are any weirder than my own.”
“I like your eyes”, Tiankong hurried to assert. His eyes were incredibly expressive; there was no lie to be seen.
Either that, or he was a master at lying.
“Thank you”, Shi Yue chuckled. “Were you born with them? In my case, both my hair and eyes are a result of my breakthrough to the Master-level.”
“I had red eyes”, Tiankong explained. “But they did change, too. What did you look like before?”
“Oh, common”, Shi Yue sighed. “My family was nothing special. Black hair and dark eyes. I wasn’t any different from any child around.”
“Being common is nice”, the other complained with a huff. “It is much harder being different.”
Shi Yue reached out to fill his cup again. They were drinking a lot, but it was comfortable. “I certainly agree with that. But as Grandmasters, we are not common in the first place.”
Tiankong’s eyes quivered and his light smile shook a bit. Then it solidified back into its amicable appearance from before.
“Have you ever regretted becoming a cultivator?”, he whispered, his black hair falling down to cover his eyes.
Shi Yue raised his eyebrows.
Although there were numerous new problems that would arise from being a cultivator, you were in a much more advantageous situation than a common mortal. A longer life, longer youth, a stronger body and mind.
If you wanted to, you could always hide your cultivation while still enjoying all its benefits.
He had never heard someone say that they regretted becoming a cultivator, but now-
Tiankong gave a sigh. “Regretted. More than anything. But not being one is not an option either.”
He gave a self-loathing chuckle.
“I am giving everyone around me so much trouble. Say, Shi Yue, what about you? Did you ever regret taking in the disciple who causes people to whisper?”
It was common knowledge. The disciple who had caused numerous families to become at odds with the sect. Even Xie Yi noticed, given that visiting people would always greet him with ‘Oh, so you are the one…’ and scrutinizing gazes.
“Not once”, Shi Yue said decisively. With his back straight and his face stern, he seriously looked at Tiankong. “I agree that he is not a common disciple, but I am not a common Grandmaster either, am I? I feel we suit each other quite well.”
The genius pair of master and disciple with the unnatural looks.
He really did enjoy the boy’s company.
A heartfelt, sweet smile bloomed on Tiankong’s face. Even more so than before, he now looked peaceful - like a burden was off his shoulders.
“It’s a good thing that I came here today”, he heard the other say in a pleased tone.
“Oh, that reminds me. Is there something in particular you had been looking out for?”, Shi Yue asked slightly awkward. They had missed a large amount of the auction because he had begun talking about arrays again and Tiankong’s obsession had acted up, completely taking all his attention off the auction.
The man held his eyes for a few seconds, then raised his cup without looking away.
Shi Yue looked at the cup, then broke out in laughter. They had joked about it but it was indeed the truth. “I see. So in the future, it is likely that I will find you at any place that sells good alcohol.”
“Hm”, the man hummed delightedly, sipping at his drink with his eyes turning into slit moons.