Finally, the little average youth came and dragged the peacock away. Suddenly, Xie Yi felt that the guy was much more pleasant looking.
That guy Huo Cheng talked a lot and loudly and he couldn't follow his train of thought. The colours of his clothes were so bright, it was burning. Xie Yi wondered if this was normal. He didn't like it.
Either way, Xie Yi’s eyes and ears were hurting. Searching for something more calming, he looked over to the still playing girls and listened to their music. Music was uncomplicated. Music didn’t need you to interact with it.
He was fully intent on just dozing off, when he heard that Huo Cheng speak again.
“I was bored. besides, I’ve found that ancient array you wanted me to bring.”
Xie Yi’s hands twitched. Ancient? As in, people hadn’t really seen it before? And he had it here?
Alas. He was Shi Yue’s friend. It would be bad to ignore him.
“Array?”, Xie Yi asked, his voice becoming slightly giddy.
Everything after that was much more fun again. The strange cultivator had a lot of interesting things with him and wasn’t hard to talk to, causing Xie Yi to return to a better mood.
He really wasn’t interested in becoming friends with him, though.
These years he had worked hard on becoming friends with the people he had planned to be friends with and it worked out well. He felt at ease around them and didn't worry too much about making mistakes. It would be bad if another person would mess up the balance. He was a bit unwilling.
They decided that their relationship wouldn’t be time-consuming after a short exchange of words and Xie Yi nodded in approval. As long as it didn't need a lot of time and work, he was alright with it.
Huo Cheng was not uninteresting, Xie Yi thought. He said a lot of things he didn't know about yet. There was also the situation with the girl who sat on his lap.
Before, one of the women had sat on his own lap. Xie Yi tilted his head to watch, not wanting to miss what exactly should have been done in that situation.
Frankly, he didn’t see a reason why moving your hand around on a woman’s leg would bee anything you would want to do but Huo Cheng stopped quite quickly. Maybe it wasn’t the correct behaviour, after all - he had apologized afterwards.
Xie Yi felt himself a bit stuck on the matter. He wanted to know what to do in case he met Shi Yue again and they would come here but on the other hand, he really didn’t like it when those women with the uncomfortable looks in their eyes came close.
He only snapped out of the thought when he noticed Shi Yue pointing at him.
“Xie Yi is very much like Tiankong when he is talking about arrays”, he heard his master say and felt his heart jump nervously in his chest.
To hear the comparison gave him a tickling feeling. In a way, he wanted to be compared. He was the same person!
Huo Cheng tugged around at Shi Yue, but the Grandmaster refused to elaborate.
His phoenix eyes narrowed and he glared at Huo Cheng. “Hands off my disciple.”
It was the same voice that Xie Yi had heard six years ago when Shi Yue had talked about going against the Zhu family. A similar tone to when Mingtian would tell him not to worry.
It was a protective tone.
That Shi Yue was worried about him, even showing he was willing to protect him against a dear friend.
Like feathers tickling his skin, Xie Yi had to force down a delighted laugh and let out a smile instead.
If only he could come out more often to be with his master like this. If the next time wouldn’t be in years, that would be great. He had yet to think of a reason to not do it.
His mood took another dip when he noticed that morning was coming. The whole night had been an up and down of moods.
It was both unsettling and pleasant to feel his emotions fluctuate like this. Seeing Mingtian again was a bit of stability in this night.
At the dock, the group slowed and Mingtian rushed towards them.
“Xiao Tian”, he greeted, ignoring the rest of them. “There you are.”
While he spoke, his first instinct was to inspect the black-haired youth. He bluntly grabbed his right arm and pushed the clothes away, revealing the bandaged wounds, and then pulled the cultivator closer to lean his face towards his neck. Xie Yi heard him breathe in.
Unhappy, he pulled back. “Why are you hurt? And why do you smell like powder?”
Xie Yi’s lips pursed a bit. “It’s nothing. I was merely a bit irritated by some women coming too close while we were drinking.”
“He had not rejected them outright, so they thought they were supposed to serve him”, Shi Yue added helpfully.
Mingtian’s face twisted into a very unusual, unreadable expression. He swallowed. “You… You took him into a brothel?!”
Everyone paused. The silence was answer enough.
Mingtian grabbed his hair and breathed in like he was about to start cursing but stopped himself. His teeth crunched together while he turned a circle where he stood.
Neither Shi Yue nor Huo Cheng could tell what that behaviour was supposed to imply.
Actually, Mingtian was scolding himself. Shi Yue had said he would distract him - for the common man, a brothel was a great distraction and nothing weird.
It was just, that was Xie Yi! Little, innocent Xie Yi! (Well, not so innocent in most regards, but that one at least.)
He didn’t even know what to start panicking about! They could have eaten him up! Or, uh, gotten themselves killed (maybe)! They made Xie Yi uncomfortable! They could have taught him crooked things! With Shi Yue around, Xie Yi would never reject anything outright!
Oh my god! The entirety of the situation was- was-... No!! His little brother! In a brothel!
Mingtian resisted the urge to pull Xie Yi into his arms to calm himself down and did his best to give the boy’s master and the additional person - that he honestly didn’t really care about - a very forced and stiff smile.
“Anyway, thank you for distracting him for a while.”
Shi Yue showed a slightly weird expression at seeing Mingtian's stressed-out face.
“Did you get them all?”, Xie Yi asked from the side, his voice becoming colder. Huo Cheng looked over in surprise.
Mingtian laughed dotingly. “Let’s say that this lake now has another few bones to stand on. I’ve contributed a lot.”
The black-haired man nodded appreciatively. “Good…”
“We will be going then. ‘Til we meet again, Master Li, Mister Cultivator”, Mingtian said towards the other two men in the back and returned to the dock to jump into one of the boats. The old man sitting inside it waited patiently, seeing as the other guest hadn’t entered yet.
Xie Yi looked towards Mingtian, then back at Shi Yue. He gave a bow. “Thank you for today. It was fun.”
The words felt foreign on his tongue. He had said them a lot of times in his past life, in all kinds of situations, but it felt different to say it about spending time with someone, directly like this. He hadn’t used them in this regard yet, as far as he could remember.
He wanted Shi Yue to know that. That it was fun to talk to him and spend a few hours not really doing anything. Sitting together, keeping a conversation. His feelings were more complicated about the time Huo Cheng had joined them but he did enjoy the night1A/N: Context, Xie Yi, context..
Shi Yue gave a genuine smile and bowed back. “Well, I hope we can repeat this sometime.”
“With me, too”, Huo Cheng chimed in rudely, swinging an arm over Shi Yue’s shoulders. “Don’t forget about me! I enjoy company like this, too!”
Xie Yi chuckled a bit, then retreated and approached Mingtian. The beast waited until he sat in the boat and only then lowered himself to sit beside him. Xie Yi glanced back and gave his master a wave.
The boat began to rock as they set off.
With their shoulders touching, Xie Yi was close enough to smell the rusty scent of blood on Mingtian.
It felt calming.
He looked into the water that was starting to mirror the golden rays of the sun and tried to look at the bottom of the lake, hoping to see a glimpse of the newest additions of corpses.