Xue Hua was lying in the sun, his long neck stretching when he heard someone approach. His large rainbow eyes opened and closed several times, a bit tired.
His feathers rustled as he moved from lying to sitting, alert once he noticed his partner’s urgency.
“Yue, how can I help you?”
“Xie Yi is gone. We believe he is out to go after the Demonic Sect”, Shi Yue said, pulling his hands over his hair and dishevelling it worse than it already was.
“Tell me what happened”, Xue Hua asked, shifting back into a human form and stepping forward.
With his slender fingers, he tugged out Shi Yue’s crown and hairpin, allowing the other’s hair to fall freely.
He tugged the stray strands into neater positions as Shi Yue summarized, allowing his partner to smoothen his hair. Even though he knew that Xue Hua would not be able to put it up again considering he was useless at styling hair.
After failing for a few times, Xue Hua scrunched his brows awkwardly and pursed his lips.
Shi Yue thanked him with a tense smile and put his hair back up by himself.
“We will leave as soon as you are ready”, Xue Hua assured him, returning back to his avian form and stretching his wings.
The sect got quite unsettled when they saw a Grandmaster hurry around with a stern face.
In a short time, a number of higher-ranked teachers accompanied him back to the higher grounds where everyone got their beasts and left together under the worried gazes of the other teachers.
Shi Yue was one of two cultivators with a flying beast.
He was up high, looking forward to the horizon.
“If Wu is with him, he is surely safe”, Xue Hua repeated his own thoughts. “Don’t worry, Yue.”
“I have a weird feeling”, Shi Yue admitted.
“He is precious to you”, the beast commented. “It’s natural to worry a lot.”
Shi Yue only hummed.
He had not ever expected to have a disciple that would grow on him so much. He had always planned to keep a strict relationship with his disciples.
But it was impossible. He couldn’t keep his cool at the thought of the young man being forced to be confronted with his painful past.
“Rest now”, he heard the bird say. “Once we are closer to the Honourable Sect, you will need to be able to keep your eyes open.”
Shi Yue agreed, leaning on the long feathers.
They moved night and day, the spiritual beasts understanding the urgency of the situation. The Demonic Sect might snap at the chance and attack whatever nearby settlement was in their way as retaliation.
While this would mean that there would be signs of where they were hiding that the other sects could follow, it also meant that there would be a number of victims before the could react.
None of them wanted to see that happening.
Only for a couple of minutes did they slow down considerably to communicate with the wary cultivators that came out of the Honourable Sect at the sight of the large beasts.
The sect switched into an alert mode; in case the Demonic Sect made a move, they could react quickly.
Shi Yue thanked them before flying off with Xue Hua again.
At some point, Xue Hua flew lower without warning, sticking closer to the roof of leaves with weird movements.
“What is it?”, Shi Yue called out, motioning for the others behind him to slow down.
“I think I can follow a trail”, the bird beast hesitantly said. “Wu is very large. No matter what, it leaves different signs than the usual beast.”
Shi Yue frowned. “How large is he?”
There were signs that could be found, that was true. They did look a bit too regular to be coincidental.
“He towers me easily”, Xue Hua responded with a slightly awkward slur. He was rather fond of Mingtian being taller than him, no matter whether human or beast form.
If human, he could cuddle in his arms, if beast, he could rest leaning against him - almost hidden in the long fur.
Shi Yue was a bit shocked at hearing that. Xue Hua was very large. Many beast’s strength was linked to their size, which was why there was a limit as to what size you could expect to partner with a human.
Tiankong was more amazing than he had thought, to have Wu as a partner.
“Then follow this trail. It’s our best chance, it seems.” The group of Masters behind him adjusted their paths, following Xue Hua who could see the signs best out of the air.
It was like an overall change in the environment. Not simply broken branches that were too common in beast-filled woods, but rather a much broader area with evenly broken branches.
If the forest was not filled with trees that grew more towards the top but not densely together, the canine would not have been able to pass through without breaking whole trees.
Soon, the forest changed to grow so dense that it was unlikely for him to have been able to pass through and indeed, the trail vanished. They set down to the ground, stopping to talk about the situation.
“We won’t be able to follow the trail if they moved on foot”, one of the Masters lamented.
“This place is suspicious enough”, another quietly observed. “Look around. The trees grow higher than buildings and this brush is so high that it’s hard to walk. There is an oppressive air around here and I fear that if we did not come here as a group with our partners, we’d long be surrounded by the beasts that are watching us.”
“You mean we could be close”, Shi Yue summed it up.
“The last outpost we found was underground. This forest would be good for hiding an entrance into the ground. It doesn’t necessarily need to be inside a mountain, it could be a path straight down.”
“We will search with that in mind”, Shi Yue agreed, spreading his spiritual sense. If there was any hint of an entrance, they would find it!