“You have been to one before?”, Zhi Nan probed. He couldn’t quite believe it.
“Master is… a Grandmaster”, Xie Yi bubbled into the water. “I can’t shame him. I’m very durable.”
Xu Yan laughed at Xie Yi’s childish tone. “That’s not exactly a word used for a human.”
“That is amazing”, Zhi Nan said with a stiff smile. The thought that the weak-looking disciple actually had a Grandmaster’s favour was hard to accept.
Otherwise, why would a Grandmaster go through the trouble of getting their disciple used to ice springs?
Some of the other people around them appeared to listen intently to their conversation. There weren't that many people in the cold water and the area was not too large, so everyone could listen easily without needing any effort.
The fact that everyone kept on looking at Xie Yi while hearing the info about him being the disciple of a Grandmaster made Xu Yan a bit nervous.
For a few minutes, he tried to distract himself by talking about meaningless topics with Xie Yi and Zhi Nan.
“Either way, I’m way too cold. I’m going to switch”, Xu Yan finally surrendered with chattering teeth.
Xie Yi followed like a puppy and so did Zhi Nan, unwilling to have a position other than sitting in front of Xie Yi, from where he could stare without it being suspicious.
Because of the obvious topics that outed them as cultivators, none of the men in the bathhouse disturbed them, no matter how rowdy.
It ended up being much more peaceful than expected, up to the moment theey were going to leabe.
Xu Yan caught himself having that thought and regretted it instantly. Had he jinxed it?
A group of men entered the baths. Their messy spiritual energy suggested that they were rogue cultivators; self-taught people that sometimes managed to get to certain heights.
One of them whistled after Xie Yi.
“What a waste for that face to be on a man’s body.”
“Isn’t it all the same when they’ve got their asses up in the air and face down?”
The vulgar laughter echoed. Less than reacting to their words, Xie Yi reacted to the intent behind them by slowing down.
Xu Yan swallowed. He had jinxed it.
He gripped Xie Yi’s arm and tugged him forward, but the movement and Xie Yi’s slowing down had been spotted by the four men who were out for trouble.
“What? Tempted by the thought? I will make an exception for you, pretty guy. Usually I wouldn't waste my time on a man, but…” The idiot chuckled and rubbed his chin with an appreciative nod as his gaze slid over Xie Yi’s bare legs.
Because he had his head lowered, only Xu Yan in front could see the slow narrowing of his red eyes and the growing sneer.
Zhi Nan was the one who intervened. “Don’t cause trouble. You should know better than to aggravate sect members.”
Xu Yan screamed mutely.
Had that guy never met a rogue cultivator before? Was he too stupid to notice that they were bound to have inferiority complexes and would only flare up at arrogant sect members?
As foretold, the group got seriously pissed off by his comment and were all the more willing to make a fuss.
“Or what? Are you going to attack us in a public place, hmm? Go ahead, hit me”, the one from before goaded, stepping closer with large steps and hitting his chest.
He did not actually touch Zhi Nan, but he walked so close that the young cultivator had to step back if he did not want to hit chests with him.
Xie Yi thought about it.
It was a public place. If he got violent, it would shine a bad light on his master.
Ignoring the act-weak thing, he simply couldn’t let that happen.
He uncertainly stepped closer to Xu Yan, alerting the men to him again.
“Getting shy? Come here, little guy, I’ll treat you well…”, one said in a disgusting tone, his tongue licking over his lips.
Time slowed as he watched the hand get closer.
Damnit, what could he do? He couldn’t just not protect himself-
The simple movements that MingMing had shown him! Not only were they perfectly legal, they could also be learned by everyone and were suitable for knocking someone out without hurting them!
Xie Yi grabbed the hand. His other darted forward and towards the man’s armpit.
It took half a second before the man found himself slipping on the wet ground and falling towards it.
Cursing, he stretched his arm to catch his fall but felt something like a momentary, dull pain on his stomach.
Both Xu Yan and Zhi Nan looked relieved at Xie Yi’s idea and copied it quickly. The men went flying… a bit. Nothing overboard that this city wouldn’t tolerate.
“Let’s hurry and get out”, Xu Yan pressed with a glance back.
It was a bit weird… Why was it that the guy that Xie Yi had thrown down - the one with the biggest mouth - was looking so troubled? Based on his body, there was no injury anywhere.
Xu Yan pulled his friend into one of the half-opened cabins under the weird looks of some people. Leaning in closely, he whispered.
“Did you do something to him?”
“No”, Xie Yi said with a shrug. Then he corrected himself. “Yes.”
“I guess I did something, but it’s so small that it’s not worth mentioning.”
Xu Yan gave him a long stare. Xie Yi blinked innocently.
“I pressed an acupoint on his stomach. He will simply have some bowel problems for the next days. Weeks. ...Year. ...Some-... large. Problems.”
“That is a surprisingly petty but for you reasonable level of payback.”
“It’s not like I had my stuff around”, Xie Yi whispered sadly. “I would have liked to poison him, that would have been just as quick. It’s not easy to find something that can't be traced…”
“Well”, Xu Yan dragged on. “Good thing we were in a bathhouse, then.”
“Are you alright?”, Zhi Nan asked, approaching the two of them. Xie Yi quickly lowered his head.
“He got a bit of a shock, but it’s fine”, the young man lied without a hitch. “Thankfully, his older brother taught him some self-defence. Not even the city guards could complain about us using normal, mortal self-defence against cultivators who were picking a fight with us.”
“This has never happened before”, Zhi Nan said half to himself, a deep frown on his face. It was easy to see that he was unhappy about being picked on by some weak rogue cultivators.
Xu Yan had no doubts it would be because the guy always walked around flaunting his robes and expensive items.
He also highly doubted that Zhi Nan had ever stepped into this place without that scary looking guard of his following him.
They walked outside, where Wei Lan was waiting already. With her slightly flushed, small face, she looked rather adorable on the huge bench.
“There you are”, she called out with a tiny smile.
Zhi Nan fixed his face and smiled again. “Sorry to keep you waiting. Let’s go.”
Since he expected Xie Yi to like it, he asked the two to show them the areas where all the stores with interesting things were.
Xie Yi was happy with getting food from a street stall and otherwise wandered around, checking which stores he wanted to take a closer look at.
Xu Yan was dragged into a clothing store with staff that felt sorely tempted to convince Xie Yi to wear female clothing but didn’t dare to.
They did, however, put him into pair outfits with Wei Lan that turned her bright red.
Xie Yi endured for three outfits before his distaste was too large and he went to hiding behind his friend again.
Zhi Nan actually bought him a hairpin intended for men; Xie Yi’s hair was growing quite long.
The cultivator took it and quietly threw it to some random street rat the moment no one was looking. There was no way he would wear something that guy bought.
Zhi Nan looked proud at Xie Yi getting used to him and stuck even closer.
In truth, it was only that.
Xie Yi was getting used to the constant annoyance and was ignoring it. It really had nothing to do with being bashful.
“I like plays”, Wei Lan happily mumbled when they stopped to take a glance at an open performance.
“Me too”, Xu Yan echoed, watching Zhi Nan offer Xie Yi some food that the youth took like a tribute from a servant or slave.