Xu Yan’s first reaction upon waking up at morning and not finding Xie Yi was running outside.
Sheng Mu, who had already been awake, was surprised to see him in a panic and, after a few minutes of failing to understand Xu Yan’s messy, chopped sentences, he dragged him to find a teacher.
Huo Cheng found them on the way and Xu Yan, remembering the prince was a friend of Shi Yue’s, nearly clung to his robes to beg.
They had to contact Master Li, right away.
Xie Yi was gone and Xu Yan had a feeling that whatever he was planning to do might be life-threatening.
The sects had crystals to contact each other for worst cases and with a prince making a fuss, they were allowed to use it.
Shi Yue had been quite bored the past days, mostly spending his time working or staring out of the window. It was very quiet, something he wasn’t used to anymore.
Ying Hua often gave him raised eyebrows when he was a bit listless during breakfast, causing him to awkwardly eat them on his own again.
It was only a short time but… it was a bit lonely.
That’s what he got for having a disciple that lingered around him for at least half of the day.
Shi Yue was sitting in the pavilion when the sect leader appeared from the sky, his eyebrows tensely drawn together. Immediately, Shi Yue jumped up, ignoring the teacup that fell to the ground and shattered loudly.
“Come with me”, the sect leader only said before he hurried back towards his home, followed closely by Shi Yue.
“Master, what is going on”, Shi Yue warily asked but got no answer.
The crystal in the room was softly glowing and Shi Yue’s stomach churned.
It couldn’t be…
“Master Li”, came the helpless call. “Xiao Yi is gone!”
Shi Yue ran over, grabbing the crystal in his hands despite knowing it wasn’t much of a use. “Tell me what happened! Now!”
Xu Yan had gotten his thoughts together at last. The people in the room heard about the problem for the first time as well, their faces turning into complicated expressions as Xu Yan narrated how Xie Yi had become weird after meeting the two girls.
He had described everything as closely as possible, including the writings that Xie Yi had done.
They did not know the crest the girls wore, but that was suspicious enough in itself. Truly suspicious was the naming sense, though.
The Demonic Sect had official disciples and discardable children. The children were either street rats or unwanted descendants of the disciples.
They were ‘kept’ for limited amounts of time; usually for experiments, as sacrifices, or sometimes as practice materials.
For those, the sect tended to use names with suitable meanings. The children weren’t taught the meaning of their names and were generally taught not to interact with outsiders, so they never found out.
Even if one found out, or tried to run, they were exchangeable. The sect had no problem killing them if they were disobedient.
Despite saying that, the children rarely ran.
They were well-trained dogs. No matter how much they were hit or abused, they returned to their owners with a lowered head and obedient smile. In all those years, it was rare that one of the discardable children kept their wits together enough to flee if they had the chance.
The possibility was gone from their heads.
The suspicion was there for the people of the Honourable sect, but for Shi Yue, it was a near certainty.
He couldn’t think of anything that would make Xie Yi go mad with rage, if not the Demonic Sect.
“He went out to free them from the Demonic Sect”, Shi Yue said blankly, feeling his blood grow cold. “He knows I would notice, that’s why he asked you not to tell me. He doesn’t want anyone to follow.”
“That idiot!”, the sect leader cursed, slamming a hand on the table. “Why would he not talk to us? If we knew there was a chance to help one of the children, we would have discussed if there was anything we could do.”
“This is a very unusual case”, a mature voice sounded from the crystal. “Although I understand your worry, I hope you will not feel offended if we do not intervene in this matter. Your disciple will have alerted them with his appearance so even if we did find him, we would walk right into their hands.”
“There is not much we can do”, someone else said. “It’s not even likely he will find them. Let’s wait; he surely will come back with a lowered head.”
Shi Yue looked at his master with a twisted expression and the old man sighed deeply.
Somehow, they had a feeling that Xie Yi knew exactly where he was going. He knew where to find them and he would not hesitate.
“Please let our disciples stay at your sect for another while and do not let them go out. We… will see how we deal with the situation. Thank you for informing us so quickly.”
“It surely sounds worse than it is”, the opposing sect leader tried to soothe them before breaking off the contact.
The air in the room was heavy.
Shi Yue placed his head into his hands.
“Can you locate him?”, the sect leader asked quietly. He did not want to lose Xie Yi. Most of all, he did not want to lose him to those people.
“Why is he always running into his death”, Shi Yue muttered without strength, his eyes pressed closed tightly.
“Is he?”, the old man asked, looking outside.
Compared to what life threw against him, Xie Yi was actually very careful. He was quite good at estimating how bad a situation was and rarely missed.
Would he truly run brainlessly into the Demonic Sect? Or did he have a reason to believe he would come out alive?
“Wu is with him, is he not?”, he continued to muse. “That means that there is possibly a high-ranking spiritual beast and a Grandmaster accompanying him. Let’s say he doesn’t run into the main ground, but rather approaches one of the outposts… It’s likelier he had been there if he had truly been in the Demonic Sect before. The outposts are protected, but mostly by defensive mechanisms rather than people.”
“There aren’t that many cultivators in the outposts. Xie Yi is a genius when it comes to finding and destroying defensive mechanisms, and so is that Grandmaster, if what you told me is true. If all of this was the case… Then the chances are not as bad, aren’t they?”
Shi Yue stopped his whirling thoughts to think about what his master was saying. The possibility that he was correct was actually high.
“I can locate him through the bracelet”, Shi Yue pressed out. “He will notice the connection, though. He could take it off if he wanted to hide.”
“So we only have one chance of guessing where he will be going.” The sect leader paced around the room with his hands behind his back. “How far can he reach in about the time it takes for you to get to the Honourable Sect? How much ground would we have to scan to find him?”
“If he is accompanied by Wu, it will be impossible to catch up to him”, Shi Yue groaned. “That man is abnormal. Finding him would be pure chance.”
Irritated, he stood up and joined his master in pacing around.
“It can’t be that our only choice is to wait for him to come back! I’d rather search around at random from Lao Hua’s back and see if I can find a trace!” Worry was written all over his face.
What was that luck, to meet two sacrifices of the Demonic Sect outside? Of course for Xie Yi, it might indeed be luck - he hated the Demonic Sect to the bone and would certainly try to get in their way using any possible method.
“Would Wu endanger Xie Yi?”, the sect leader inquired. He hadn’t met the man himself and only knew what Shi Yue had told him.
The white-haired Grandmaster stopped, bringing a hand up to his face in thought. “Probably not…? He looked at Xie Yi like family, I can’t imagine that he would risk his life.”
“Xie Yi should not have the skills to escape Wu’s eyes and run out by himself, meaning Wu is most certainly with him. We might truly be forced to wait for them.”
“Then let me search at random”, Shi Yue insisted, facing his master with a determined gaze. “Even if by coincidence, I want to see if I can find him. I can’t sit around doing nothing.”
His face twisted sadly.
“What am I a Grandmaster for, if not to protect the people precious to me? Master, you can’t tell me not to go after my disciple. The Demonic Sect is dangerous, but I have this strength and I can go against them.”
“Can you keep your cool when you are faced with them? Make your priority finding your disciple and not fighting against them?”, the sect leader responded after a long silence.
“Then go and inform Xue Hua. I’ll prepare a package with some antidotes and pills for you, just in case. Take some Masters along with you, whoever you want to trust”, the sect leader decided with a deep breath. “Let’s hurry. Who knows how much time we have.”
Without wasting another second, Shi Yue rushed out of the room and over the upper grounds.