“You didn’t have to do all that, Heihuo!”
Honghuo rushed over and took the powdered spatial ring from Hei’s hand. He tried in futility to piece it back together.
“You have some of the blame for this as well, Honghuo. You said there were strong defensive measures on it. There were none.”
“Ha? What are you talking about? There were at least five layers.”
“There wasn’t a single one.”
Honghuo could only scratch his head in confusion. Hei was feeling much the same.
Onyx took the liberty of leaving Hei’s storage space.
[What is it, Onyx?]
[I think I can give you a clue as to what happened there.]
[It’s likely that those defence measures did exist, but when you took possession of the ring, those defence measures were removed.]
[Why would that be the case?]
[Beats me. But I’ve seen stuff like this before though. Weirdos who get favourable treatment from natural Qi. It’s hard to lock anything away from them.]
[That being said, all is not lost. The spatial ring was destroyed, yes, but the space itself still exists. You’ve just lost the access point.]
[Then with a sufficient understanding of spatial laws, that space can be accessed?]
[Exactly. However, you are still lacking if you wish to do something like that. I’ll handle it. You can consider it owing me a favour.]
[So I’ll just… Huh?]
[I’ll do it myself.]
[But I told you that you can’t-]
Hei ignored Onyx’s words as he put his attention on his storage space. Even if his understanding of spatial laws wasn’t enough, he felt that there was something special about the storage space. Almost as if it was guiding him along.
He manipulated its shape and wrapped it all around himself, bringing himself inside.
Seeing him suddenly disappear, Onyx wanted to follow, but Hei had already learnt how to lock his storage space.
[The disciple locks out the master…]
From inside his storage space, Hei was able to see several items floating in front of him.
‘This must be the contents of the spatial ring.’
He moved his hand to retrieve the items, but there was a force preventing him from moving forward.
Hei was at a loss. He could tell that this was a force he was unable to overcome through brute strength.
As if answering him, the storage space started pulsating. The items in front of him were trembling, and before long, he felt a sensation like a film being burst. Then, the items came to him of their own accord.
‘The storage space has grown larger?’
This was an unexpected bonus. If he wasn’t mistaken, the storage space had just consumed the other space. Though, it didn’t seem to be a one-to-one conversion. In fact, it was quite minuscule, but Hei was able to notice it immediately.
Having obtained the items, Hei retracted his storage space and reappeared before Onyx and the others, items in tow.
[You managed to do it, huh? How?]
[I’m not sure myself. It seems the spatial fold was hungry.]
[Hungry? It’s can consume other spaces?]
[Seems like it.]
[… How did you obtain such a thing?]
[Picked it up along the way.]
[If you don’t want to tell me, then just say so.]
[Would you believe that I asked and received?]
[Then there is nothing more I can say.]
Hei then thought to ask what was on his mind.
[The spatial fold did consume the other space, but only a fraction of it was absorbed. Why is that?]
[Because a spatial fold is inherently different from the types of spaces used in spatial rings. Spatial rings and other similar spaces tethered to an object are spaces created through a cultivator’s understanding of spatial laws. That is why they are generally unable to hold living beings.]
[I see. So, spatial folds are spaces that already existed and have been tethered to an object?]
[Pretty much. The exact details would go over your head right now, but you can think about it that way. Most spatial folds use space from the outer boundary, that way, things aren’t disturbed, but if someone unscrupulous came along, they could take a chunk of land and convert it into a spatial fold, creating a strange area where space is all wonky. It’s actually happened a few times, creating danger zones, but over time, interesting things happen and some become places rich in treasures.]
[Now, with your spatial fold being of a different nature to the artificial spaces, it won’t consume the entire thing. Only the parts which are truly well crafted will be able to merge with a spatial fold.]
[Then, in theory, one is able to create a spatial fold with enough understanding?]
[Mm. Not to brag or anything, but back in the day, even I made a few spatial folds. Though, that’s because I’m an unparalleled genius.]
[What? You don’t believe me? Who do you think you’re learning from.]
[Anyway, the explanation is appreciated, but your services are no longer required.]
Hei went on to take Onyx by the hilt and slid him back into the storage space.
[W-wait a minute! You should show some more respect to-]
Hei turned to Honghuo.
“This is what was inside that spatial ring.”
“So, we’re not going to talk about that sword just now? Why did it look like it was unwilling?”
“Actually, it’s a shield.”
“… So… no… Is that what you’re saying?”
“… Anyway, you can have these things.”
Hei tossed over everything that wasn’t information. Honghuo didn’t know, but in the next stage of the mission, he would be the decoy. It was better if he was able to handle the assault which would inevitably come.
“Wow. Now, this is what I’m talking about. I knew a minute realm cultivator couldn’t be so broke.”
Honghuo’s eyes lit up as he received the various treasures.
“But, what about you? Don’t you want some of these?”
Hei shook his head.
“They say that with material wealth, comes worldly troubles.”
“Hehe. It also comes with worldly women. Whoever said that was probably just mad that they didn’t have anything.”
“Well, it was I who came up with it, so…”
“Ahem. Such a great expert has no need for these trinkets. I shall accept them with thanks.”
Honghuo said this as he shifted the items into his own spatial ring.
Hei paid no mind to that.
“I got what I came for.”
In Hei’s hands, were a handful of information jades and a couple of books. There was also a token of sorts which had ‘Zhu’ written on it. This last item was of particular importance. The token itself had the functionality of a communication jade.
Hei put the other things away and prepared himself to use the communication jade.
““What are you going to do with that?””
Both Honghuo and Yuying wanted to know.
“There are a few people outside of the Zhu Clan’s residence right now. This will bring them back.”
“… Is that why you sound like the patriarch?”
Hei had already studied the patriarch’s voice when they were interacting earlier. With all the pieces in place, he didn’t hesitate to move on. He brought out the formation’s master jade and issued instructions to allow one-way communication from this particular token.
“All Zhu Clan members, drop what you’re doing and return to the clan immediately. Do not concern yourselves about the formations surrounding the clan and the city. Also, you may have noticed that communications have been cut for the last few hours. This is because I have invited the famed master Qingyuan to bolster our defences. Those who fail to appear by the end of tomorrow will be punished according to clan rules.”
Everyone in the area was surprised to hear several dozen instances of the same messages being spread. All of their communication jades were issuing the same instructions.
This was Hei’s way of trying to rustle up any of his targets who may have slipped through the net. Surely, they would heed the words of their patriarch.
The Zhu Clan could also understand what he was doing. It’s just… Wasn’t this fellow being way too thorough?
“Where to now? You said we’re moving out at night?”
“Mm. First thing is to rescue any kidnap victims within the Zhu Clan and find out what happened to their families. Then… Do you want to finish up with your revenge?”
Honghuo tilted his head as he thought. He then interlocked his hands behind it and stretched his body.
“Nah, I’m good. I can see that their justice isn’t fully an act. They even turn against themselves, which probably means that most of them were tricked by the patriarch. I think my clan can rest peacefully now that he got what he deserved.”
“I see. Then we’ll gather the victims and be on our way.”
The two started walking away from the scene and headed towards one of the areas where Hei’s spiritual perception was blocked. These were likely to be places where people were held.
That, or they were treasure reserves.
Either way, they were a good place to start.
Honghuo nudged Hei with his elbow.
“Ay. Teach me that Inferno Sword?”
Hei tossed Honghuo a manual which contained his modifications of the Fang Clan’s Inferno Sword technique.
“So it’s like this. How did you come up with these changes?”
“Keep the practical, remove the impractical.”
“I hear what you’re saying, but to create a visually impressive technique can have it’s practical uses as well, you know.”
“I am aware. The Radiant Jade Sect’s Radiant Slash is one such example. By creating such a dazzling light, one can momentarily stun the opponent.”
Hei then took Honghuo’s spatial ring from his finger and extracted one of his swords.
Hei handed the ring back, and when Honghuo examined it, his eyes opened wide.
“What happened to my imprint?”
“Was there such a thing? I didn’t see it.”
“No wonder you broke the patriarch’s spatial ring, you freak!”
Honghuo held his spatial ring on his palm and stroked it gently, afraid that it would blow up in a puff of smoke.
After seeing no signs of damage, he breathed a sigh of relief.
“My mother gave this to me, you know? What if it had broken?”
“You’re right. I should have considered such a possibility. Accept my sincerest apologies.”
“But why does it sound like you don’t care?”
“I assure you that’s not the case. I simply wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I destroyed a gift you received from your mother.”
Yuying could see Honghuo’s confusion.
“Ah. He’s always been like this. This guy could cut off one of his fingers in apology and you would still think he wasn’t taking it seriously.”
No one took note of the fact that Honghuo had known Hei longer than Yuying had. There was this strange atmosphere that made it feel as if they were childhood friends.
“Come to think of it.”
“I think it’s because of the you-know-what.”
“Ah. Makes sense.”
After speaking with Miss business partner, Honghuo understood why Heihuo’s words felt odd.
He patted his shoulder.
“Ah. Don’t mind, don’t mind. Nothing bad happened in the end.”
Somehow, they had gotten back to the subject of emotional suppressants. These two…
“Anyway, the reason I took this sword was for demonstration purposes. You said that appearance can also be practical. That is indeed the case, but I find it’s more of a distraction tool.”
Honghuo and Yuying paid attention. The advice of an expert was not to be ignored.
“In the case of Inferno Sword, you can create a version which looks far more fearsome. For example.”
Hei ignited the sword in scorching flames. The heat it produced could be felt from tens of meters away. The same went for its piercing red light.
Honghuo felt his throat drying and needed to use his qi to protect his body.
“Now, that’s an Inferno Sword! Look at those aggressive flames.”
“Indeed, that’s a real sword technique. Not like that strange one you used back then.”
Hei shook his head.
“Indeed it looks quite fearsome, however.”
Hei swung the sword at Honghuo, who was caught off guard. It came so fast that he couldn’t avoid it. All he could do was to try to defend.
He pulled his sword from his spatial ring and clashed head-on with Hei’s attack. Barely having enough time to wrap his sword in qi to protect it from the heat.
Mind you, the two hadn’t gone far from where the Xiaoli and the kidnappers were.
“What’s this? Now they’re fighting among themselves?”
“And such a powerful attack. They’re not playing games.”
The kidnappers only wondered why this couldn’t have happened the day before. Then, maybe they would have still been free to move around instead of in this situation.
Xiaoli had some concern in her eyes as she watched the violent clash. Had that boy said something to upset the masked one?
Yuying also didn’t expect such a development.
“… What’s this? Did he become a minor inconvenience in the past few seconds?”
Of course, she was joking. She knew that her business partner wasn’t the type of fellow to explode all of a sudden. Though, how she knew that, she didn’t know.
Honghuo, on the other hand, realised what this was.
“I see. There’s no substance to it.”
He found it laughably easy to defend himself against this attack.
Hei withdrew his sword.
“Precisely. When you take into consideration the energy used, an impressive looking attack may actually pose very little threat. When used correctly, It can be a cost-effective way to manipulate your opponent.”
Honghuo and Yuying nodded their heads. Of course, they knew about things like feints, but to create such a fearsome-looking feint was unusual.
“Then if you vary your attacks, you can create quite a bit of confusion.”
“Switch your sword to one you don’t mind losing. I’ll demonstrate.”
Honghuo shrugged his shoulders and switched his sword to one he had taken as the spoils of victory. He then jumped back to create some space between himself and Hei. He wouldn’t be getting caught off guard this time.
“I’m good to go.”
Hei took a step towards Honghuo. A completely leisurely step.
And then another.
Honghuo completely lost track of Hei, which was strange because his spiritual perception was locked on to him the entire time.
But where had he seen this before?
He moved on instinct, placing his sword behind his back.
After a moment, Hei’s form appeared once more. However, this time, his blade was covered in flames.
Hei swung horizontally, aiming at an area Honghuo had left defenceless.
Again… This was oddly familiar.
Honghuo took a step forward, and as he did, he rotated himself to face his enemy.
When he saw no one there, he swung his blade to his right.
Then from above him, Hei appeared once more and swung his sword down.
Honghuo intercepted the obvious attack with one of his own.
This time, there was no sound of metal striking against metal. It was almost as if the two swords passed right through each other.
Hei’s form retreated a landed a few meters from Honghuo.
Hei’s sword erupted in flame and scorched even the ground beneath him.
Honghuo decided to respond with his own Inferno Sword. His didn’t lose out to Hei’s in the slightest.
Hei dashed towards Honghuo and swung his sword down in a frontal assault, performing one of the simplest sword moves imaginable. Honghuo responded with a skyward slash.
Again, there was no sound of metal clanging.
No, there was. It was just delayed.
-Clang. Clang. Clang. Clang.
Starting from the tip of his sword all the way to its hilt, Honghuo saw it fall to pieces. Neatly cut pieces, which fell to the ground one by one.
As Honghuo stared at the barren hilt, he noticed that a blade was pressed up against his neck.
Yuying’s eyes were sparkling.
This would definitely end up in the movie.
“But all of your fights are too short!”