“You… lived on the streets before, didn’t you?”
“Un.” Xie Yi nodded without a hint of awkwardness. “I might not have had a childhood like everyone else, but I have enough time to catch up with it now. That’s why I’m exploring the city so much.”
“Right, what else do you want to do the next days?”, Xu Yan asked. “We should talk to the rest of the group.”
“I still want to swim sometime. Other than that… I want to look through more shops and get some useful material and want to take a look at one of the lectures in the sect and… Can we just wander around? I don’t know what’s there to see here”, Xie Yi awkwardly counted over his fingers.
Huo Cheng jumped to the table. “I can show you the best places! You won’t even need to worry about getting inside with me at your side.”
“You-”, Mingtian growled as he pointed at Huo Cheng and poked him into the arm, “will spend your time in some other corner of the city, far, far away from the kid.”
“Oh? And how will you convince me to do that? Use violence?”, Huo Cheng humpfed back.
The beast smiled. “No, I’ve thought of a way better method just now. I’ll simply tell Shi Yue that you groped him.”
“You wouldn’t dare”, Huo Cheng whispered back breathlessly.
“I don’t want to lie to Master”, Xie Yi interjected with a troubled face.
“He groped you when he caught you on the streets, did he not?”
Xie Yi frowned. Admittedly, Huo Cheng did grope his arms and, before he had recognized him, also his waist. “That’s true. Okay, no complaints then.”
Obviously he’d be more on the side of his older brother than on the prince’s.
Huo Cheng slumped his shoulders. “Fine”, he grumpily muttered. “I’ll wait until he’s an adult.”
The other stood proudly.
Xie Yi somehow felt that the two of them looked childish.
As Xu Yan had agreed, they spent a week doing everything that came to their mind.
Thankfully no one challenged him again and while he ran through the city, he was able to pick up and interesting thing or two.
Xie Yi was in a good mood.
During another breakfast, everyone was planning again. Wei Lan and Nan Zhi were habitually sitting with them, spoiling an uninterested Xie Yi.
“I’ve got a good knife in that store, so if you want anything, you might want to look there”, Song Lan suggested to a thoughtful Xu Yan.
“I don’t know, maybe getting one forged is better after all”, Xu Yan hesitated.
“Suit yourself”, Song Lan shrugged, picking up his fork again and glancing over to Xie Yi who was avoiding Wei Lan leaning on him.
“On the topic of weapons, we have hunted a few times and found a number of interesting beasts. What are everyone’s plans for today?”, Sheng Mu asked into the group, taking a moment to look at each of them.
Xie Yi wanted to hunt, but he did not dare do it with any of the rest around. He knew his hunt was animalistic and violent, he did not want them to see.
“What about a trip along the lakes?”, QingQing suggested. “There are… a lot of interesting things around there.”
Especially a not very strong but rare species of aquatic spiritual beasts she wanted to see, if she had the chance.
“Let’s go”, Xie Yi chirped. “Maybe we can see mermaids or sirens!”
“Sirens are said to be near extinct”, Xu Yan laughed. “And even if there were mermaids around, I doubt they would show themselves to us. But looking for them won’t hurt.”
“Sirens are nearly extinct?”, Xie Yi asked with a frown.
“Said to be, at least. No one has seen one in forever, so they might be extinct or simply in hiding”, Xu Yan explained.
“They are a subspecies of spiritual beasts that are much closer to humans, or rather, cultivators. They were hunted because their voices can drive people mad and a lot of them died”, Sheng Mu added as an explanation.
Xie Yi scratched his cheek with a long, thoughtful hum. Before he could catch the thought in his head, it was gone.1Not a hint for this story. Linked to the Transcendent's.
“The lakes are famous”, Wei Lan commented. “It would indeed be nice if you could take a look at them. They are perfectly clear and shine like coated in crystal on a sunny day.”
“Then let’s go to the lakes today”, Zhi Nan decided as if it was any of his business and as if anyone had invited him.
When they reached the beautiful scenery, they all needed a moment to take it in.
By itself, the lakes weren’t too large, but it was fascinating to look out into the land and see the river connect it to the next one.
Due to the soft stream flowing through, ships were swimming everywhere, allowing themselves to be carried along the flow of water. Even smaller ones with people who had come to enjoy the scenery were travelling along.
“So nice!”, Xie Yi exclaimed, running forward to the water.
“Xiao Yi! Don’t run off!”, Xu Yan shouted after him like a mother hen.
The cultivator only stopped right before the water, skidding to a halt. Seeing that other people were wading through the shallow sides, he, too, took his boots off and folded his pants up before wading into the water until his knees.
The long sleeves had to be rolled up unceremoniously but got wet anyway the moment he dipped his fingers into the cool water.
The high sound of his uninhibited laughter attracted the attention of the nearby families. The youngest children, especially, felt attracted by the sound and wobbled a bit closer.
Water splashed and Xie Yi glanced back to see Xu Yan awkwardly hold up his pants as he stood next to him. “Sheesh, you really like water.”
“I’ve got good memories of it.” Because Mingtian liked ice springs and water in general (as long as it wasn’t saltwater), they had often taken breaks near larger waterbodies.
Xie Yi would spend long times on Mingtian’s back as the canine was swimming while he himself dozed or stared out into the waves.
They were such peaceful and sweet memories that the sight of the lakes made him giddy.
Besides, he did not remember these being around anymore in his last life.
“Can you go swim here?”, he asked out loud, looking over the lake.
“There are a lot of boats around, it probably isn’t the best idea. There might be a smaller lake somewhere that people use for swimming”, Xu Yan calmed his enthusiasm.
The girls stayed at the shore and sat down in the grassy area near the sand-stretch around the lake.
The boys, on the other hand, soon joined in with more or less hesitation. Sheng Mu looked as if he did not want to lose to Xie Yi and did not care about getting wet, Zhi Nan did not look too happy about dirtying his robes.
Chen Hu and Song Lan followed once Sheng Mu was in the water.
Xie Yi pouted, sticking his lips out. “Whatever. I’ll go swim right here. Hey, diving is just swimming underwater while you hold your breath, right?”
“Huh? Very simplified, I guess, why? Ah! Xiao-”
There was no time for him to grab Xie Yi’s arm before the youth was jumping forward, throwing himself into the water and using the weight of his clothes to pull him down.
He forced his eyes open - it was a bit blurry and uncomfortable, it also stung a bit, but he could see.
The ground sloped down considerably soon enough, the steep curve allowing him to swim freely.
Unhurried and without too much worry, Xie Yi moved forwards.
Swimming underwater wasn’t that hard! It was quite nice; he felt weightless and could directly see the small fish that swam close to the shore as well as the tiny green plants.
Diving deeper, he was surprised by the amount of life that could be found.
It wasn’t even that deep, but the intelligent eyes of the long fish growing up to his size were almost scary to encounter. They weren’t interested in him, though, and only glanced by before swimming lower again, away from the eyes of the public.
The lake had not been created by the flow of the upper river alone. There was a second, much larger stream deep down that brought bluer water in heavy currents.
Down there, the number of weird creatures using the stream was much higher and the plants looked much more exotic, as if out on sea.
The common fish hurried to flee away from him, but the creepier, larger, and more intelligent ones observed him long enough to notice that he wasn’t hostile and then ignored him.
Xie Yi felt a delighted shiver at the unknown discomfort.
Because he had never fought with creatures underwater and had never taken his time to explore their existence, they were entirely foreign to him.
He couldn’t gauge their strength well and did not know the best way to find them.
It made him want to try.