Ch.102: Xue Hua’s mate-to-be
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It was easy for Shi Yue to find his partner considering that his favourite place was under the tree in the garden, exactly like Ying Hua’s. They all liked it equally much.

He was staring down at his hairpin in a daze, turning it over and over, the bells ringing delicately.

Shi Yue sat down next to him and spoke while he smoothened out his robes. 

“You can talk to me if you’re troubled”, he offered, not looking up.

Xue Hua twitched. His body moved a bit to sit closer to Shi Yue, a reaction that he rarely displayed. When he spoke, his voice was very quiet and hesitant.

“If… If I maybe find a mate, would that be troubling for you?”, he mumbled, half swallowing the words. Only the nervous curling of his lips moved his otherwise relaxed face.

Shi Yue held back a sigh. After years, his partner finally decided to talk about it. He had been waiting. “The one who gave you that hairpin, right? Then, no, I wouldn’t be troubled. If he dares to give you a pin with bells, he must be serious.”

Giving a male pronoun was half probing Xue Hua. Since the bird didn’t react, it confirmed his thoughts.

“What are you worried about? If you like each other, nothing else is important.”

“It’s complicated”, Xue Hua complained with furrowed brows. “We… We knew each other when we were young. He has demonic beast blood but didn’t know about it. One day, our village got attacked by a horde of demonic beasts and killed my parents. He reacted to that. He didn’t hurt anyone but his demonic aura flared up. I freaked out and ran away. We hadn’t seen each other since then.”

Shi Yue hummed lowly and waited for his partner to continue.

Xue Hua brushed back some of his feathery hair and bit his lips unhappily. The water before them bubbled with the movement of the fishes.

“I know he would never hurt me. But it has been so long and I must have hurt him back then.”

“People can forgive. How about it, I’ll meet him and take a look. If even I say that he is a good person, you can stop worrying.” And I can stop worrying, too.

Xue Hua hummed and hawed uncertainly.

“He needs to introduce himself one day, anyway”, Shi Yue pressed with a smile. “Ask him. What is his name?”

“It’s…” Xue Hua began and stopped. After a weird pause of a second, he finished his sentence. “...Wu.”

Shi Yue’s eye twitched.

“...Wu?”

“Yes.”

“Almost a head taller than you, numerous scars, tanned skin, kind of mischievous? Probably canine type?”

“Y-...Yes?”

A long silence began to stretch out in which both parties looked at each other.

Finally, Shi Yue broke the contact and stared out at the pond with a stony gaze. “...He is a good person.”

Why did he feel so unhappy all of a sudden? Of course he knew that Wu was strong and even just seeing how he treated Tiankong, it was clear that he was very loyal and caring. He was also handsome and intelligent.

Only…

No. He really did feel unhappy about this. That scheming guy would become his partner’s mate?

“I really need to have a talk with him”, he said darkly and Xue Hua made a confused sound. “Also, if he intends to marry you, he’d better bring a real bellflower fruit as dowry.” 1A/N: Mingtian be like; Working on it, bro.

“You met him before?”, Xue Hua exclaimed in surprise. He hadn’t expected that Mingtian would dare appear in front of Shi Yue. It was heavily suspicious and something he would have to talk to Ying Hua about.

“Yes”, Shi Yue grumpily confirmed. Realizing something, his face changed and he looked back at Xue Hua again. “Wait, you said he had demonic beast blood?”

“Hm”, the bird nodded, looking at his partner with furrowed brows.

“I can’t believe that”, Shi Yue denied it. “When I met him, he barely felt like a spiritual beast. If you told me he was a deity, I’d think it likelier.”

When he had fetched Tiankong in the bar, his skin had shown golden, moving markings. That peculiar shade was a bit similar to a Master’s eyes - Transcendents and Immortals would have a slightly different shade, one that was even closer to the colour of the markings.

It was a colour that belonged to the other world and beings of powers they could only imagine.

Even thinking that Wu was a half-blood spiritual beast with a deity bloodline was ridiculous enough so the violent opposite, him having demonic beast blood, felt even more unlikely.

“He definitely has, though. I saw it myself”, Xue Hua insisted. “But he doesn’t know who his parents are so his full bloodline is unknown.”   

“There really is mystery after mystery about them”, Shi Yue said loudly to himself, rubbing his temples. Either way, if Wu did get together with Xue Hua, he would see Tiankong around more often. That sounded good.

Hm? Wait a moment.

“Wu often comes to meet you?”, he asked, raising his eyebrows.

Xue Hua awkwardly looked away and nodded.

That bastard! He knew that Shi Yue was part of the Virtuous Sect but didn’t even come to visit! Worse, as a canine, he might even be able to identify Shi Yue’s smell on Xue Hua!

He had a feeling they’d have troubles fully getting along for a while.

“As long as he loves you”, Shi Yue conceded. His partner flushed blue.

“You will have to share him with his partner, though”, he warned.

Xue Hua swallowed. He remembered Ying Hua’s words to not ever let Shi Yue know what he knew. He didn’t want to cause trouble, so he would follow her advice. It sounded like Shi Yue had met someone he judged to be Mingtian’s partner - maybe a disguised Xie Yi.

At least he couldn’t imagine anyone else around Mingtian who would make it look like Xue Hua would have to share him with.

“That is fine for me”, he said sweetly. “I mean, I am like that, too. If you were in trouble, I might have to let him down. We know about that when we choose a mate.”

Actually, that was why he wasn’t worried. Xie Yi might become Shi Yue’s spouse, after all. Then there wouldn’t be any problem.

Xie Yi would protect Mingtian and Shi Yue. Mingtian would protect Xie Yi and Xue Hua. Xue Hua would protect Mingtian and Shi Yue, and Shi Yue would protect Xue Hua and Xie Yi.

It made a good circle.

Slightly excited, Xue Hua peeked up at Shi Yue. “Have you found someone you like by now?”

Shi Yue froze for half a second. His eyes were calm, but his body had betrayed him. “No, no one.”

Well. There certainly was someone his partner had taken an interest in. He hoped it was Xie Yi… Ah, the disguised Xie Yi would be fine, too.

One day they would have to come clean about everything anyway.

No secret could be kept forever, especially not from cultivators.

“Anyway, back to you. I’ll allow Wu to pursue you but he will have to convince me first. And bring the bellflower fruit as a dowry.”

“That’s a rather impossible dowry…”

“I want to see how he will react to the task. I don’t expect him to actually bring one.” Shi Yue gave a smile and reached out to take away the hairpin from Xue Hua’s hands. 

He moved and gathered the feathery hair together, twisting it a bit and inserting the hairpin. It rung with the movement, a clear and crisp sound.

“Allow me to give you a human marriage ceremony when the time comes”, he hummed, fixing Xue Hua’s hair. The neck of the beast was tinted blue. “Your beast ceremonies don’t include family, but Ying Hua and I want to be part of it.”

“Alright”, Xue Hua replied, tilting his head down and smiling lightly.

When his family had died, he had been sad, but their relationship had cooled down at the time. They kept on ignoring Xue Hua’s wishes and that was a constant strain, especially once it got past the point of wanting the best for him. 

It was more them demanding for Xue Hua to push back his own happiness for the sake of his parent’s plans, and that went too far.

He was fine with Shi Yue taking the role of his parents - despite being younger - and Ying Hua his sister’s. 

Now it would be great if they could find Mingtian’s parents, since Xie Yi would be there as his little brother.

Xue Hua touched the pin in his hair and breathed in and out for a few seconds before standing up hurriedly. “Well. This is getting awkward. I’ll… go for a fly.”

“Go ahead, cool off a bit”, Shi Yue laughed loudly. It came as no surprise that Xue Hua could not handle the talk about marriage for long.

It was kind of satisfactory to know that Wu would have to court Xue Hua for a long time while knowing that Xue Hua actually liked him already.

Shi Yue was bad with the type that hid their intentions and led others by the nose.

He could understand that Wu’s greatest interest was helping Tiankong - their conversation had felt guided by him to give him information. 

Currently, Shi Yue believed that this was Wu’s intention. Let the presumed split personality vanish and return the true Tiankong back to his life.

A life where he could forget whatever terrible things he had gone through that had marked him so badly.

If that was indeed what he wanted, Shi Yue would support him to the best of his abilities. He hoped that Wu’s intentions would not go any farther.

Although pursuing Xue Hua was an acceptable intention as long as it was whole-heartedly.

Shi Yue rubbed his face and went through the most important things he had to watch out for.

His disciple needed something to help control his temper issues before it got worse.

Yao Ming had not made a single move in six years, which was more unsettling than calming as it only proved that the young man was not impulsive enough to mess up another time.

There were reports of the Demonic Sect beginning to stir after years of being nearly fully silent, possibly meaning that their plans were progressing.

“The Demonic Sect is the most pressing”, he muttered to himself. “It is far too suspicious that they are quiet.”

The sect had an official leader who was nothing more than a figurehead. The real leaders were those damned five old men. Even to the most vicious of demonic cultivators, Shi Yue wished them a quick death.

It was only those five that he would love to tear up bone by bone.

He could hardly believe they were humans at all.

A single meeting had been enough to ingrain a deep feeling of both disgust and hatred into him. 

They weren’t evil in the definition that most people had. They didn’t break rules for fun or believe that they had the right to break them.

No, those five were people of a different belief. In their eyes, everyone else was living wrongly and didn’t understand the world. Only they were doing the right thing. The wrong rules of other people didn’t apply to them.

They were like adults looking at children playing and laughing over their make-belief - at least from their point of view.

There was no convincing those men. All you could do was try to destroy them before they could wreak havoc. 

Sadly, their fanatic followers protected them well and they hardly ever left their sect. He did not even know if they had changed their looks by now.

He could have tried to ask Xie Yi or Tiankong who, according to their hatred of the Demonic Sect and their terrible state of mind, were likely to have met them, but he didn’t want to.

They had suffered enough.

Shi Yue is absolutely not amused about Mingtian being a scheming person lol. Also, even if Xue Hua is older than Shi Yue, their mental age progresses differently. Xue Hua does not mind Shi Yue taking on a fatherly role, just like Mingtian acts more like a brother than a father to Xie Yi

Btw, the minigame is funded :3 I'm currently writing the script! Obviously it'll take a while but I intend to finish a  lot of the story during my vacation, ahaha. It'll just be a cute lil extra, not sure how long it'll be. Will have three endings, but I want to have a number of small choices that you can all play around with. Ah, I'm also keeping it quite close to my usual writing style, so the transition from story to visual novel would not be hard :)

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