The next morning, the group gathered to look around the sect. After playing around, they did not forget to take the chance to see what another sect was like compared to theirs.
The disciples watched them with curiosity. Some were visibly more hostile than others, while some had more of a nonchalance.
Because too many women were watching Sheng Mu and Xie Yi, some irritated male cultivators came over and mustered them.
“You are that Grandmaster’s disciple, are you not?”, one of them asked the very obviously black-haired young man with red eyes. Xie Yi nodded a bit hesitantly.
“Why don’t we exchange some pointers? I’m interested in finding out how your master teaches you”, the other smiled fakely. “You won’t say no, will you?”
“I-” Xie Yi began to fidget. The other was goading him. “...Okay.”
Because it was not an official duel, they did not need to prepare anything special. They simply walked to the sparring grounds and all of the people who followed went behind the designated area.
Sheng Mu raised an eyebrow. “He sure is good at acting nervous. I didn’t expect that.”
“That’s because he is”, Xu Yan sighed. Everyone was watching the scene with rapt attention; one of theirs against a Grandmaster’s disciple, and the other was already frightened.
Xie Yi was indeed in a panic.
His own sect knew his unorthodox fighting style but this one didn’t and he did not want to disgrace his master by not using the correct arts. He should use the martial arts of his sect, but he was way too bad at it!
Also, what if he accidentally tore the other’s arm or leg or whatnot?! There was no medical team around! Surely they’d think he’d have done it on purpose!
Xie Yi’s fidgeting and biting his lip did not go unnoticed.
After a few moments, it dawned upon the group why he was nervous, and all of them could be seen slumping in resignation.
The disciples of the other sect interpreted it as a resignation of their side being bound to lose and they grinned in glee.
Xie Yi’s brain was running at full speed. Could you… win a spar just by evading?
If he evaded until the other was tired, was that still considered a win...?
He probably couldn’t go over to Xu Yan and ask since the other person was already getting into a stance.
Xie Yi threw a helpless glance at Xu Yan, who wildly motioned while shaking his head.
Do! Not! Attack!
...Evading is it, then.
Xie Yi bowed to the other disciple, who twitched in surprise and relaxed his stance to return the bow. It was common courtesy for duels, but many disciples ignored it for spars.
Xie Yi fell into stance much faster than the other but waited patiently, as he had been taught.
Because he had decided on what to do, his face was fully relaxed again, changing the aura around him. He hadn’t drawn his sword yet, contrary to his opponent, but the pressure was heavier. He was calming down.
“Will he be alright?”, a worried voice called Xu Yan out of his thoughts. He looked over his shoulder to find Wei Lan.
Xu Yan forced a perfunctory smile. “I imagine not much will happen. Xiao Yi is good at evading so he will… probably… use that tactic. He won’t be willing to attack the other.”
Because then he’d risk an accidental corpse, and accidental corpses would make Master Li angry.
Uh, non-accidental corpses too, of course.
Now that both of them were in their stance, the other disciple darted forward to get the first blow.
Xie Yi considered blocking, then realized that he was used to attacking right after blocking, and neatly moved out of the way with sweat from stress running down his neck.
Hmm, how did you only block again? Why hadn’t they used practice swords?
He tried to calm himself.
Alright, Xie Yi. This isn’t the first time. You’ve exchanged pointers with other disciples before and they were all fine. Even if this one held higher stakes, nothing would happen. He had to believe he could do it.
Allowing yourself to get pressured and nervous was the quickest way to making the mistakes you wanted to avoid.
The youth pushed the worries out of his head and slowly managed to clear his mind fully as he danced out of the other’s reach.
The disciple was getting annoyed by his inability to catch the other despite believing he was stronger.
That Xie Yi was beginning to look relaxed did nothing to ease his irritation.
Sensing that dodging would be getting harder soon, Xie Yi began to block while constantly reminding himself to only increase his power by a bit.
The other noticed the change with terror. Xie Yi looked different from before and he was slowly switching from excellent dodges to excellent blocks and then movements that were beginning to make him stumble.
He wasn’t attacking at all. He was only diverting the other disciple’s strength.
That was an art in itself. Most disciples weren’t interested in learning it but it surely was part of what would be taught at the sect and thus the perfect cover-up for Xie Yi’s inability to use the martial arts.
The fight got quicker and quicker, their movements beginning to blur.
Xie Yi jumped around like a squirrel, not allowing the other to ever get a hit on him while tiring him out heavily.
It all would have ended fine.
But then the other disciple got so irritated during an attack that for a split second, there was a hint of bloodlust and Xie Yi’s block turned into an attack.
The sword made a short cracking sound as it slid through the fingerbones.
The fight froze.
Xie Yi’s face turned into one of terror. In a panic, he threw his head around and looked at Xu Yan with eyes so wide you could think he was about to cry.
“Medic!”, someone called. The other disciple stepped back and, with a contorted face and hissing in pain, created some distance between them.
The medic came running and made the preparations to attach the three fingers again. A second teacher approached Xie Yi, intending to scold him when he was faced with the frightened face and all of his annoyance dropped away.
“Well”, the teacher sighed. “I guess that’s what can happen if you wear no protection and fight with real swords. It’s not your fault.”
“It’s not…?”, Xie Yi asked hopefully.
The teacher sighed again. “No, it isn’t. I guess that’s a lesson for both of you… Although especially him.”
The teacher looked at the disciple who was holding back shouts of pain.
Xie Yi, breathing out in relief, watched him. He raised his hand and inspected his bloody sword. “There’s no poison on it, is there?”
“Why would there be?! Did you do something?!” Xu Yan was at his back in an instant.
“No, it’s just that he looks to be in so much pain…” Xie Yi frowned. A special condition?
“He got his fingers cut off.”
“...So?” Xie Yi blinked at him.
“Not everyone is as numb as you.”
“...Ssssso? Our disciples aren’t that sensitive”, Xie Yi asked in confusion. His pain tolerance aside.
Sheng Mu walked up with a deadpan face. “That’s because they’re masochists and take special potions to dull their sense of pain before fighting with you.”
“What’s a masochist?”
“Someone who likes pain. Very simply summed up.”
“You like pain? Weird”, Xie Yi commented while looking at Sheng Mu with an estranged gaze.
The disciple flushed, red with anger. He was also one of those fighting Xie Yi. “It’s a good practice!”
“Anyway, keep in mind that our standard has changed really weirdly because of you”, Xu Yan admitted. “Now clean up your sword. It’s creepy.”
A more relieved Xie Yi lowered his head and, using his sleeve, began to wipe the bloodstains of his sword with a meek expression.
Xu Yan felt relieved that they had started the whole ‘Xie Yi is a shy little thing’ act, otherwise everyone would find it hard to believe that it had actually been an accident. They, of course, knew that this kind of thing happened often.
This wasn’t how Xie Yi hurt you on purpose.
Wei Lan hurried over, touching Xie Yi’s shoulder with a worried expression. “Are you okay? It was an accident, please don’t feel guilty.”
“I should have been more careful”, Xie Yi responded with a lowered head. Imagine the teacher had interpreted it as malicious intent!
Wei Lan stuck to him as if she was the kind girl next door only worried about her dear friend.