Faced with Xiaoli’s expectant gaze, Hei wasn’t moved in the slightest.
His silence caused her to start thinking about these last few interactions. Had he been trying to say something?
[So, are you going to help her?]
[Oh. So you do believe that demonic cultivators should be disposed of?]
[… Then why? Could it be that you have a thing for her?]
Though Yuying didn’t know this business partner of hers that well, there was no way he would reject her and go after this Xiaoli… Right?
Xiaoli was some junior of some random clan in the lower continent, and Yuying had already told her business partner that she was from the middle continent. In terms of looks, she didn’t lose to Xiaoli either, so the choice should have been obvious.
But her business partner did say some strange things from time to time. Who knew? Maybe he had seen something in this girl.
Now that she thought about it, he didn’t hesitate when telling Xiaoli that she was beautiful. One of the most beautiful he had seen, for that matter… And yet, Yuying herself got regular sized donkey… A very pretty, regular sized donkey…
Unaware of the road Miss business partner was walking down in her mind, Hei answered.
[No, that’s not it.]
[What do you mean? Have I not answered your question?]
[You answered the second one, but not the first.]
[But since you asked the second one, didn’t you intend to focus on that point specifically? By answering the second question, have I not given you the answer you were looking for?]
[No… I wanted the answer to the first one. I didn’t think you would interpret it that way… That’s not normal, you know?]
Wouldn’t most people have answered the second, then answered the first? That was what Yuying was thinking as she gave her partner an odd look.
Though, he couldn’t see it.
[Is that so…]
Hei took a mental note. Apparently, some people asked extra clarifying questions for no reason. How impractical.
[Well, to answer your question, I’m not exactly helping her. I just so happened to be looking for people who had a high chance of being demonic cultivators within the Zhu Clan in the first place. You have already seen the women in the spatial fold.]
[Right. But what do those things have to do with each other?]
[The ones who kidnapped them are likely to be demonic cultivators. I was already looking for the kidnappers.]
[Oh? Are you going to get justice for the women?]
[… Then… why are you looking for those kidnappers?]
[I will let the victims address their own grievances. Whatever they choose to do with their kidnappers, I will facilitate it. Though, I do hope that they can find it in their hearts to forgive.]
[Not going to happen. The kidnappers… are already dead!]
[Even I want to kill a few.]
[… I see. Well, that’s a shame.]
[That’s a strange way to look at it.]
Hei started looking around, and Xiaoli did the same.
“Well? W-will you help us? Please?”
Hei turned back to Xiaoli.
“You are asking for my assistance in exposing demonic cultivators within the Zhu Clan?”
Hei then looked around to the other members of the Zhu Clan.
“Is this a shared sentiment?”
A few of the children, who had snuck out to watch, hid behind their elders. That metal mask was too scary for their liking.
The others remained silent, which caused Xiaoli to reprimand them.
“This is our chance to change things for ourselves! Our clan has been poisoned with demonic cultivation techniques. Don’t refuse the antidote!”
While she was part of the younger generation, she was still a transcendent realm cultivator and one of the strongest in the clan, so her words held some weight.
And then when one added the fact that the greatest enemy the Zhu Clan had ever faced was standing right next to her, conversing leisurely, there was some extra persuasive power.
As a result, there was a general agreement among the audience, however, some were still concerned. They decided to wait and see how things would turn out. Only speaking if their worries came to pass.
Seeing their agreement, Xiaoli turned back to the masked one.
Immediately after Hei’s words, his form seemed to transform into one of black flames. Those flames grew in individual masses all over his body before launching themselves into the surrounding Zhu Clan members.
If they hadn’t heard what these black flames did by now, they would have had to have been in seclusion at the wrong time.
But before they could even panic, the flames had arrived and consumed people without mercy.
One small boy saw the very person he was hiding behind get consumed by flames, swiftly disappearing.
He fell to his backside in terror and was surprised that he was able to keep his soul within his body. But as he patted his chest to make sure his heart was still beating, he saw a wave of black flames coming straight towards him.
Ah. He should have listened to his mother!
That was what he thought as he was engulfed by the flames.
No. When he opened his eyes, he saw that the flames had split right in front of him, going to his left and his right.
Behind him, he could hear the voice of another older fellow as he was consumed by the flames.
Ah. He was right not to listen to his mother! This was the craziest thing he had experienced in his life.
He watched as the flames danced through the people, seemingly knowing who they were going after, and as they receded, there were a few notable gaps which lacked people.
The flames returned to the masked one and danced around his body as if they were seeking praise, before merging with him.
The young boy’s eyes shone as he watched this. When would he be able to do such things?
He wasn’t the only one. Yuying had the exact same expression.
[More of this! This is what we need!]
Of course, not everyone shared these kinds of feelings.
“Xiaoli! Is this what you wanted? This is going to make our clan better?”
“Your cousin, my son was among them, Xiaoli!”
Xiaoli also wasn’t expecting the masked one to act in such a way.
“Uncle Kong, I-”
“How can we even be sure they were demonic cultivators? Where is the proof?”
“This was too rash, Xiaoli!”
Funnily enough, no one was pointing their anger at Hei. Xiaoli was the much safer target for them to voice their grievances.
At the moment, Xiaoli was at a loss for words. Everyone standing here was her family, and any demonic cultivators they found were bound to be mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.
Many people would be devastated upon discovering that their own loved one was a demonic cultivator.
There was also the fact that what the elders said was true. They didn’t know that those people were demonic cultivators for sure. It was all based on the masked one’s judgment, which, even if it was correct, it wouldn’t let anyone have closure.
With them being eliminated so fast, there was no way they could verify the truth.
That being said, Xiaoli remembered that she had also been swallowed by those black flames, but on the other side was not death. It was the largest spatial fold she had ever heard of.
She turned to the masked one, hoping that he hadn’t taken it upon himself to eliminate those he believed to be demonic cultivators.
“Is it the same as earlier?”
Hei turned his gaze to her and saw traces of the apprehension she was feeling.
It seemed the people of the Zhu Clan believed he had murdered all of those individuals…
At first, he thought the idea was silly, but after some thought, he could sort of see how they would come to such a conclusion.
[They think I killed those people… Is it the mask?]
[… Well, I can tell you that it isn’t the mask… It’s probably the fact that you came in and made people disappear using fire… And then there’s your companion, who plainly killed people. Wouldn’t it be strange for people not to assume that you also killed them?]
[Ah. I see. These people have not been taught to see the positive side of things.]
[You’re the same?]
[There is no positive side of this… Where is it?]
[If you look at the situation properly, what reason would I have to kill people so thoroughly that not even ashes remain? Besides that, all of their items also disappeared. I would plainly gain nothing. Who would do that? That being the case, I have obviously captured them alive.]
[That’s not… When you have a proper motivation, you don’t exactly think about gaining material wealth during the slaughter. That’s not even mentioning some of those eccentrics out there. They’ll slaughter eight generations because you exhaled too loudly.]
[I see. How impractical.]
[… You should probably tell that to Xiaoli. Your silence seems to be scaring her… and everybody else.]
Hei noticed that Xiaoli’s apprehension grew with time.
He didn’t know that she felt this strange stifling pressure when he remained silent. There really was something about that mask.
Instead of speaking, he decided to open up his storage space.
On the ground appeared a sea of flames and after those flames died down, a number of bodies could be seen, lying down, their arms and legs restrained by shackles of black flames.
“These are the Zhu Clan members who I believe have an increased chance of being demonic cultivators. This most likely isn’t all of them, as some aren’t in the residence at this time, and others may be hiding themselves.”
Hei himself could not say with certainty whether any one of these people were demonic cultivators or not. His abilities relied on him knowing what he was looking for when searching for ‘treasures’. Since he didn’t quite know how to define what a demonic cultivator was, he was unable to detect them.
Though, he did have some ideas from the brief contact he had with the patriarch. Still, the patriarch alone wasn’t enough to create criteria which would encompass all demonic cultivators.
That being said, he could always just ask them and determine the truth using his lie detector ability, but that wouldn’t be sufficient proof to the Zhu Clan.
Among those people lying on the ground, the audience could see a few familiar faces. They were those who had just disappeared.
The one Xiaoli had referred to as Uncle Kong wanted to run forward and retrieve his son, but he remembered that the masked one was standing there, so he restrained himself.
There were many similar people in the audience.
Hei turned his gaze to Xiaoli.
“I have only found that these people have a higher chance of being demonic cultivators. Whether they are or not, I cannot say. Your Zhu Clan can use your own methods to determine the truth of the matter.”
He then turned around and walked towards Honghuo.
“Did you find anything of value?”
“Just a few talismans. For a minute realm cultivator, this fellow didn’t have much.”
“Ah. I destroyed a few of the talismans he had.”
Honghuo placed his hand over his face.
“Ah. You can’t keep doing this, Heihuo. Even if you don’t value them, there are people like me, to whom these things could mean the difference between life and death.”
“One shouldn’t rely on external protections. Or something like that. How can you surpass your limits if you know you can rely on a few talismans to save your life?”
Perhaps Hei’s words would have had some effect, if only he had said them with some enthusiasm. But as he delivered them, they could only be interpreted as uninterested deflecting.
It didn’t help that he was waving his hand in a shooing manner.
“… If you don’t care, just say so.”
Yuying stepped in.
“He has a point.”
“Ahem. Anyway, there must be more than a few talismans. Are there any books? Information jades? Things like that.”
Honghuo scratched his head as he produced a spatial ring from his own.
“Maybe there are things like that in here, but the defences he put on it are too tough. I was going to take a look after breaking through to the minute realm. Why don’t you give it a go?”
Honghuo tossed the spatial ring over to Hei, who examined it for a moment.
He didn’t detect any defences, but since Honghuo had been unable to access the ring, the patriarch must have put some hard-to-detect protection measures on it.
As such, Hei used his full might when trying to break through those defences. The only thing was…
The spatial ring was reduced to dust.
“Eh?” The Zhu Clan.