Truthfully, Shi Yue had been waiting eagerly for Xie Yi to return from his hunting trip. The moment he felt the identification bracelet hum when the youth passed through the gate and formation of the sect, he sent out an attendant to fetch him.
Xie Yi was obedient enough and hurried to meet his master with a delighted smile.
“Master”, he called out, considering there were other people around.
“Hm”, Shi Yue hummed, then waved Xie Yi closer. The youth’s cheeks were a healthy, rosy colour. He looked a bit dishevelled after running through the forest but was otherwise in peak condition.
“Did you encounter any difficulties?”, Shi Yue inquired first, motioning for Xie Yi to sit down opposite of him in the pavilion.
The black-haired youth plopped himself down and smiled happily. “None at all. I had a good catch. I even brought back some useful materials and cores.”
The topic was perfect for the Grandmaster.
“About materials… Did someone deliver something to you?”
Xie Yi stared blankly for a second, then remembered that he had told Shi Yue as Tiankong that he was going to give the Ink-Drop Ore to himself.
He hastily fished out the space-ring that he wore around his neck and inserted his spiritual energy. The ring obeyed, giving out the fist-sized piece of ore that he held out.
“Were you alright? Did you get along?”, Shi Yue felt the need to ask. There was no helping when he thought about Xie Yi’s relationship to Tiankong being shaky.
Xie Yi’s lips moved a bit before he embarrassedly lowered his head and avoided Shi Yue’s eyes.
His adult form had some bad memories linked to it. He liked being an adult, but the appearance reminded him of his past life.
Now he was growing to the same age again and had met Shi Yue twice with it.
It wasn’t the same as his last life and frankly speaking, it didn’t feel bad. He kind of liked that adult version of himself.
Seeing Xie Yi embarrassed, Shi Yue sighed in relief. It looked like their relationship had gotten a bit better. The more ties Tiankong had to the living, the better it would be.
“Do you think he still intends to vanish?”, Shi Yue gently prodded, phrasing it as Xie Yi had.
Xie Yi froze. The thought of lying to Shi Yue came up in his mind but his head violently rejected it the same second. He could not lie to Shi Yue. Never.
However, the matter was complicated.
“It’s…”, he started, then fidgeted.
Just like Mingtian had said: People can’t help you if they aren’t aware of your problems. Xie Yi was torn between asking Shi Yue for help and not wanting the man to know anything about that bloody, distorted existence.
“It’s not him”, he weakly said. “Not… Not he who wants to vanish. It’s Tiankong-”
He struggled with putting what was only a feeling into words.
“Tiankong is the name of the man who bought this ore for you, is it not?”, Shi Yue asked in confusion. He leaned slightly forward to watch Xie Yi’s twisting face. “The man who looks like you.”
“Yes, but…” Xie Yi groaned impatiently and tightened his hands into fists in frustration. “They’re different. The one who wants to vanish and the one who you met this time are not the same.”
Shi Yue listened intently. He kept his mouth shut and tried to find the logic in what his disciple was telling him. After a few seconds, he carefully spoke out the best solution he could think of: “Is it separate personalities?”
It wasn’t a common phenomenon. Most people with it were regarded as simply insane but Shi Yue had met one man once and had realised that he was perfectly clear in his mind. It was simply that a part of his self had split off - like a heart-demon.
He was stuck on Xie Yi’s phrasing, especially. Even six years ago he had said that Tiankong wanted nonexistence. Not death or destruction, but to vanish. He had talked like it was something that the man couldn’t easily achieve, which made no sense if you considered suicide.
It was a different story if one of two personalities wanted to vanish. Suicide would kill both of them, rather than eradicate a single one.
Back then, in the bar, when Tiankong had snapped he had appeared like a different person and hadn’t reacted to being called. Was this the one that wanted to vanish?
Xie Yi gave a look that showed his lack of understanding and Shi Yue dropped the issue.
Gently, he reached out to brush some strands out of the youth’s face and gave a soothing smile. “That is enough information. Let’s return to other matters; have you thought about what to do with the ore?”
Xie Yi’s mood turned like a flip being switched. He hummed thoughtfully. “I wanted to try forging a spiritual sword for myself. See if I can get a sword spirit.”
“You want to forge it yourself?”, Shi Yue asked with a sceptical gaze. He hadn’t seen Xie Yi ever touch a forge and spiritual weapons were not the easiest topic.
“Why not ask a professional for help?”
“It would be too bad if an accident happened and the ore got wasted.”
“No one is touching the materials except for me”, Xie Yi growled unhappily, pressing his lips together.
Not only would he use the soul crystal that wasn’t anyone’s business, but he was also going to use part of Mingtian’s horn. He didn’t want outsiders working with those. Moreover, it was his own sword.
“Xie Yi, you don’t have experience in forging”, Shi Yue tried to convince him awkwardly. His disciple was stubborn.
“I can forge and I’m doing it myself. If you can’t help me with a furnace, I’ll go home to Feng Yan and ask for his”, Xie Yi complained, obstinate.
“Don’t get cocky”, Shi Yue snarled back and Xie Yi twitched.
Realizing that he was becoming too rude, Xie Yi lowered his head again. His lips pursed into a pout. “I’m sorry. But I absolutely want to do it myself.”
“No.” Shi Yue’s final rejection was accompanied by the sound of him standing up and looking down at Xie Yi.
The youth felt his muscles tense. Shi Yue rarely rejected him completely and even less often like this. Without a full explanation and while taking the physically higher ground to stare down at him.
Shi Yue was not the type to play mind games. He preferred suggestions over orders and being on the same level as the people he talked with. Only in the rarest moments would he purposefully use the common tricks; expanding his aura, taking a stance that would allow him to look down, ordering without leaving room for discussion.
The youth felt unhappy at being put on the spot like this. He wanted to retaliate. On instinct, he didn’t want to be put in this situation where he had to be the one to surrender.
His habit demanded to resist and force Shi Yue’s acceptance. If words weren’t enough, then violence was always a way - however, he didn’t want to take it.
Xie Yi couldn’t read Shi Yue’s mind.
He couldn’t understand his master’s worries.
Forging a spiritual sword could cause a terrible backlash if it failed. Exploding furnaces were considered common and the number of cultivators that had ruined themselves by trying to achieve more than possible was high.
There were points of no return during forging. If he passed those, even outsiders couldn’t pull him back without consequences.
Shi Yue didn’t want to see his obstinate disciple work past his limits and injure himself.
He had intended to explain this at first but didn’t.
The thought came spontaneously: If he refused to allow Xie Yi to do something that the youth was placing his heart on, would he do it anyway? As his disciple, did Xie Yi really trust his master enough?
Shi Yue was glad to see that Xie Yi was beginning to trust him. It had only begun slowly, despite everyone’s comments. People thought that Xie Yi believed him fully from the start but that wasn't true.
Xie Yi had followed him like an addict or devotee. He hadn’t trusted him.
Bluntly following someone’s orders was not a sign of trust. Trust meant that you could question them fully and believe that they always had a good reason.
But Xie Yi didn’t question.
Shi Yue saw Xie Yi’s mouth open in indignation and the hesitation that was clouding his eyes. Ultimately he closed his eyes and lowered his head.
He didn’t promise not to attempt it and Shi Yue didn’t ask him to.
“Xu Yan needs to go visit another sect to fetch some things for his master in two weeks”, he said quietly instead. “Why don’t you accompany him?”
“I will”, Xie Yi mumbled quietly, then stood up and left.
His hand reached to his chest as he walked out of the gate to the common, lower grounds all the while ignoring the guards and attendants.
“We will definitely meet soon”, he whispered into the wind and felt the area of his chest pocket warm up a bit. Would his sword spirit be really strong?
It might be one for stealth, just like he was used to. One that would help him attack quickly and lethally.
Or it might be one to enhance his strength; he was lacking in that area and it was quite annoying.
It could be an elemental one, too. Fire would be very useful but wind might not be bad, either, to hide his scent and dampen his sound.
Maybe it was like Ying Hua, with a very human temperament. It had been really unexpected when Mingtian had told him that Ying Hua was Shi Yue’s sword spirit!
He was excited to meet it. It would be a partner he didn’t have in his last life. That’s why he didn’t want to postpone it.