Seeing all of the elders welcome them as guest elders, Hei wasn’t particularly happy or honoured or anything like that.
“Thanks and all, but did you happen to conduct a background check on us? I think you would find some interesting things if you did.”
Surely, with the Fang Clan’s resources, they should be able to discover the link between the Shao Clan and the Wu Clan.
To so easily accept ‘Wu Clan juniors’ as guest elders could be considered foolish.
Hearing Hei’s words, the matriarch responded.
“There is no need. I trust you. In fact, I have forbidden anyone from trying to find out about your background.”
She smiled as she said this.
Hei didn’t really understand why the matriarch would do this, but it worked for him.
‘Looks like there is a surprise plot in the works.’
Hei wasn’t opposed to this. It would actually be beneficial in dealing with the Wu Clan in a more dramatic way.
‘How could this be? The trash that we discarded have become guest elders of the Fang Clan?’
‘Our guest elders were from the Wu Clan all along?’
‘Shao Tianlan is so handsome… wait, what the heck?’
Hei was thinking of how things would unfold when he unintentionally included the girls in the audience.
Having brought his own mood down, Hei decided to stop thinking about the future and return to the present.
He responded to the matriarch.
“Ordinarily, I would say you are foolish, but this time it earned you some points. Tell you what, we’ll help one junior a day with their cultivation issues. Let’s have the Fang Clan sweep the competition at the 5-sect summit.”
With several hundred days to go until the 5-sect summit, the three could help many juniors, giving the Fang Clan a nice boost.
The matriarch was excited to hear this, but she maintained her composure and gave a calm response.
“Mm. That would be appreciated.”
Hei could see the sparkle in her eyes.
Conversely, Fang Ren seemed to be down.
“Don’t worry, Sister Ren. Friends are separate, we’ll help you whenever you want.”
Those words seemed to do the trick. Fang Ren seemed to be normal again.
After seeing this, Hei spoke.
“So, do we get some kind of symbol for being guest elders?”
The matriarch responded.
“Yes. When we hold the welcoming ceremony, you will be presented with guest elder tokens, which will allow you access privileges on the level of any other elder.”
“Welcoming ceremony? Is this a public event?”
“Yes. Everyone in Spring Leaf City will be there to honour you.”
Hei wasn’t too fond of this idea. It would ruin the shock factor in the future. He wanted them being guest elders to be revealed at the 5-sect summit where they would denounce the Wu Clan and start a conflict.
He voiced this to the matriarch.
“We don’t need honour. It’s better if this is kept quiet, otherwise, you would ruin some of our fun, and also yours.”
The matriarch didn’t understand. Why wouldn’t they want the honour of being welcomed in front of the entire city?
She then recalled Hei’s words from the day before.
[Some people want to be heroes or achieve heaven shattering feats, but some just want to go home.]
She still didn’t understand the home part, but she could understand that Hei did not seek glory or the like.
She could only acquiesce.
“Then we’ll do it that way.”
She took three tokens from her storage ring and passed them over to the three in a similar way to how Hei had given her the papers.
The elders were also a little deflated. The Fang Clan didn’t accept guest elders often and it had always been a big event. Why did it feel like a shady transaction this time?
After looking at his token, Hei put it away and spoke.
“Since that is settled, we have some things to discuss with the matriarch. If everyone else would please leave, that would be appreciated.”
The elders could see that they were no longer needed here, so they left without issue.
Some of them even nodded to the three before they passed.
After they had left, it was only the matriarch, the three and Fang Ren.
Hei was originally going to have Fang Ren leave, but she already knew about the matriarch’s problem and there weren’t going to be any new secrets revealed.
The three stood up and walked to the centre of the hall. The matriarch joined them, and Fang Ren was already standing there.
Hei spoke to the matriarch.
“We’re going to have Tianlan thoroughly assess your condition. I warn you, it will be very uncomfortable.”
The matriarch was prepared for this.
With her approval, Tianlan activated his eyes in full force.
The matriarch was now feeling something similar to what Hei had felt the first time Tianlan used his ability on him.
It was like she was standing naked in a snowstorm. Even her thoughts were slowed.
Tianlan started writing his observations on the floor and Bai copied them onto paper while adding her thoughts.
This lasted for an entire hour before it was complete.
By the time it was over, the matriarch’s face was pale, and her body was shivering. It took her a while to regain control of her body and for her thoughts to become clear.
To her surprise, there were hundreds of pages in front of Bai.
“You really are thorough.”
“This much is necessary if we want to minimise Brother’s pain.”
They had noted all of the movements of Qi in and out of the matriarch’s body and the interaction with her damaged spirit roots and how it circulated.
They wanted to capture every variation and pattern, so there was a lot of information.
Bai then turned to Fang Ren.
“While we’re here, we also had an experiment in mind. I wonder if Sister Ren is interested.”
Bai gave a mischievous smile.
Fang Ren was frightened. She had already heard how they treated Hei yesterday.
“I don’t have a unique physique. I won’t be able to recover.”
“Don’t worry about that. Brother will handle the dangerous things, you just have to be the final part.”
Hearing this, Fang Ren became more relaxed. She glanced at Hei who was mumbling something with an upset face.
“What kind of experiment is it?”
“A technique created specifically for 5 elements mixed spirit roots.”
Fang Ren didn’t need to hear any more. She knew that although the Fang Clan’s core inheritance was a technique that could be cultivated by anyone, she would fall behind those who had higher concentrations of water or fire element spirit roots.
“… Then it’s settled. Big Brother.”
Before Fang Ren could react, she was already drawn into a blizzard.
It was much worse for Fang Ren than it was for the matriarch, because of her lower cultivation.
Even though her examination was shorter than the matriarch’s it took her much longer to recover. In fact, by the time she came to, the three had already left, and it was just her and the matriarch.
She turned to the matriarch.
“… Maybe his eyes really do lure away souls.”
Both Fang Ren and the matriarch shivered at the thought.
After examining the matriarch and Fang Ren, the three headed to the cultivation hall, where they continued to read on the first floor.
They decided to take in all of the information on each floor while creating the body refining techniques for the matriarch and Fang Ren.
This way, once they had resolved the problem with the matriarch’s spirit roots, she would have techniques to practice immediately, should she choose to abandon her cultivation and practice their techniques.
Hei’s spiritual perception sped up the information gathering process many-fold. He was able to remember everything he had read, so by scanning all of the books on the floor, he had essentially duplicated the entire floor in his mind.
He would then transcribe them using his Qi and allow Bai and Tianlan to read them.
After having scanned through the first floor, Hei spoke.
“I suppose we can head over to our office now.”
While Fang Ren was unconscious, the matriarch suggested that the three have an office in the Fang Clan. This way, it would be easier to help the one junior per day, and the place would become recognisable.
The three agreed. It would be useful to have a space in the Fang Clan for when they came to visit. It was better than sitting in the library.
They headed over to the location the matriarch had told them.
When they got there, they could see that it was quite large.
“Isn’t this a bit much? We only needed a small room…”
What they were seeing, was a mansion, complete with caretakers, and a doorman.
They could see people maintaining the garden and a butler issuing instructions to the maids.
After noticing them, the butler came forward.
“Welcome home, young masters.”
He placed his hand over his chest and bowed.
“Home? Wasn’t this supposed to be an office?”
“Yes. The matriarch instructed us to make you feel at home. Please forgive my mistake.”
“Then this way, young masters. I shall guide you through the office.”
The three were speechless. How shameless did one have to be to refer to this as an office? It was obviously a house.
They followed behind him regardless. It didn’t matter what shape the ‘office’ took, they just wanted a space to conduct their research and a hub for communication with the Fang Clan.
After showing them around, the butler left to carry on his duties.
Hei noticed something.
“Six bedrooms huh? They even included MIA Grandma.”
“It seems like the matriarch is trying hard to make us want to stay.”
Tianlan added on.
“Too bad she doesn’t realise who our mother and grandfather are. They wouldn’t care for this at all.”
Tianlan was shaking his head.
This place was very nice. It had a training room and several amenities, but all of them were worthless to their mother and grandfather.
Hei stepped in.
“Let’s just go about our business as usual.”
The three went to the study and Hei transcribed the contents of the first floor onto paper, which Bai and Tianlan read.
After a few hours of researching spirit roots and improving cultivation techniques, the three heard a knock at the door.
“Pardon my interruption, young masters, but you have guests.”
It was the butler.
Hei opened the door.
“Guests plural? Wasn’t it supposed to be one per day?”
“One of the guests is Fang Ren. I was instructed to allow her to seek an audience at any time.”
“Ah. So, who’s the other one?”
Knowing that it was Fang Ren and another, there was no problem. He did say they would help her whenever she wanted.
The butler responded with a troubled face.
“The other guests are Fang Lian and Ji Dian.”
“… Does she not know how this works?”
“She is the matriarch’s daughter. I can’t refuse.”
“Heh. Okay then. Let’s see how this goes. Lead the way.”
Hei didn’t want to cause trouble for the butler, so he didn’t complain to him. Instead, he would handle it himself.
The butler led the three to the reception room.
In the room were Fang Ren, Fang Lian and Ji Dian, seated on a couch.
There were three thrones in the room that the three hadn’t seen during the tour.
Noticing the confused look on the three’s faces, the butler spoke.
“The matriarch had these office chairs custom made for you.”
Hei decided to ignore this and the three took their seats. The butler went to a corner.
“Sister Ren… What do you want? We are in the process of creating your cultivation technique, so it would be pointless to help you practice the one you are using.”
Fang Ren was embarrassed. Truthfully, she just wanted to see the three’s house. It was much bigger and nicer than the one her family had.
She came up with an excuse.
“There were some things I didn’t understand about spiritual perception. I was hoping you could clear them up for me.”
Hei could tell that this was a made-up reason, but he decided to let it go. He turned to Fang Lian.
“And you, young miss rule breaker. What brings you here?”
“My name is Fang Lian!”
“Whatever. What do you want?”
“My mother told me you were competent enough to offer me assistance. It is your honour for me to allow you to help me as one of the Dual Polarities.”
Hei wasn’t impressed. It turned out that this girl was quite spoilt.
He decided to skip the nonsense.
“You can see yourself out.”
Fang Lian was shocked, and she wasn’t the only one.
The butler was wondering what was going on. This was the matriarch’s daughter. To treat her this way…
Seeing that Fang Lian seemed to have no intention of leaving, Hei rephrased his words.
He stood up and Tianlan and Bai followed suit.
He turned to the butler and spoke.
“From now on, you will walk out to the Fang Clan and pick a random junior. You can offer them a chance to discuss with us. If they accept, that will be the slot for the day, and if they refuse, we shan’t see anyone for the day.”
Hei started walking away, and with his back turned to everyone he continued.
“You can start today. Come, Sister Ren. We’ll show you around.”
Fang Ren got up and followed after them.
Fang Lian shouted out:
“If you don’t come back and apologise, I’ll tell my mother!”
Hei ignored her, and the butler feared the consequences.
Eventually, Fang Lian left and the butler went to find a junior.
While the butler was out, the three were leading Fang Ren around the ‘office’. Along the way, Bai was explaining the concepts of spiritual perception as she had deduced them from Hei’s description.
Even though Fang Ren didn’t actually come for help, she found herself benefiting from Bai’s explanation.
Shortly after the tour was complete, the butler returned with a junior.
The three helped him with his issues and sent him on his way. It was now also time for them to head home, so they bid the butler farewell and left the Fang Clan with Fang Ren as an escort.
The butler tried hard to make them stay, but they didn’t want to suffer the consequences of missing the baking reflection at dinner.
This would be where their mother and grandfather would go over the areas they could improve.
After getting home, the three decided to start on the body refining techniques for the matriarch and Fang Ren.
Since Hei didn’t have any spirit roots, they couldn’t create complete formulas, but they were able to figure out the correct circulation paths to produce the desired outcome.
Creating a new technique was different from modifying an existing one.
When they modified a technique, they only worked on creating more efficient circulation paths, they didn’t touch the spirit roots at all, but when they created one, they wanted to be in precise control of every step. That included attracting qi, to the branding process itself. Hyper-focusing on the specific cultivator’s constitution.
Now they had to work on creating spirit roots from pure soul, which had unknown consequences.
Luckily for Hei, it seemed his soul being manipulated didn’t cause any pain, and all of the changes reverted over time, which meant that he wouldn’t be suffering physical torture until they started on the externalisation technique.
It also meant that they could continue this research at the Fang Clan without the issues.
The three would continue their days of study and technique tweaking for a while.
After a few days, they had fully absorbed what the first floor of the cultivation hall had to offer, so Hei went to scan the second floor.
They decided to postpone the creation of the second layer of the Way of Essence until they completed their spirit root research. It would allow them to run more trials, as his soul recovered faster than his body.
Fang Ren would visit their ‘office’ often, but the frequency reduced as time went by.
It seemed she had managed to reconnect with her old friends using the knowledge she gained from being around the three.
The butler was in constant stress over the situation with Fang Lian. He was waiting for the punishment, but to his dismay, it was quite delayed.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later that Fang Lian returned, with Ji Dian in tow.
The butler was relieved to find that there were no elders with them. He hurriedly informed the three of her arrival, but similar events played out.
Fang Lian felt entitled to something, and Hei wasn’t having it so he kicked her out.
The butler wanted to cry, but there was nothing he could do about it. He was told not to offend these young masters under any circumstances.
His life was also becoming more interesting.
After a few weeks, news spread about the ‘childish sages’.
This was what the juniors were calling the three new guest elders who would only allow one person to visit a day.
After a few months, the juniors started recognising the butler and would approach him, trying to get a slot. He even got the nickname ‘dream state doorman’.
This made choosing a random junior more difficult, so after some discussion with the three, they decided to have the maids hand out the invitations.
They would send a different maid for each day, but this started a new legend among the juniors. The maidens of fortune.
The legend stated that if they were invited by a young woman dressed in a maid outfit to meet ‘the bakers’, their lives would be changed forever.
“Did you hear? Apparently, Fang Ren is personal friends with the childish sages.”
“Where did you hear that from?”
“I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I was waiting for the dream state doorman when I saw Fang Ren walk up and be allowed in immediately.”
“What? M-Maybe she was selected that day.”
“That’s what I thought at first, but then I saw someone else being led in by a maid.”
“Mm. It seems Fang Ren is exempt from the one person per day rule.”
“Ugh. How did she get so lucky? Is she related to them?”
“I heard they met by chance…”
Discussions like this were happening all throughout the Fang Clan. Sessions with the childish sages were just too valuable. Everyone who had had one showed a dramatic improvement in their cultivation.
Other juniors had noticed Fang Ren’s unnatural improvement as well. She had risen from the least talented of her age to being solidly in the middle in a matter of months.
They now knew where it had come from.
It even got to the point where some of the elders were disguising themselves as juniors hoping to get a slot.
Unfortunately for them, they were always discovered by Tianlan and given the boot. What’s worse, the childish sages would count that as a slot having been taken.
When they found out about this, the juniors launched a protest.
What were the elders doing taking food out of their mouths?
There was one junior who wasn’t a fan of the childish sages. That was Fang Lian.
She was too proud to apologise and the three gave her no face. This meant she had to watch as all of the other juniors were making tremendous gains.
The matriarch could only sigh.
“This is it! We have succeeded!”
On one particular day, four months into their work, the three had finally succeeded in manually forging spirit roots. Hei was displaying water element roots like the matriarch.
Bai was happy.
“We can finally complete the body refining techniques.”
The three had been working non-stop on the spirit root forging method, which left them no time to work on cultivation techniques.
This left Bai and Tianlan feeling indignant. Hei was already in the externalisation realm and was getting more and more powerful, while they were still in the body refining realm.
They were also still gaining power, but it was at a slower rate than Hei.
What the three found, was that Hei did not get the immediate strength jump that other cultivators got after breaking through to a higher realm. What he did get, was an increased growth rate.
After spending a few hours for the final tweaks, they had perfected the body refining techniques for the matriarch and Fang Ren.
The three met their junior for the day, who happened to be the doorman they were familiar with.
After giving him some advice, they instructed the butler to get Fang Ren.
The butler was reluctant to leave the ‘office’. The three didn’t know how much the juniors wanted to be part of the sessions because the juniors would always stay clear and allow them to go where they wanted without trouble.
They had heard of how Fang Lian was shown the door, and they were afraid of being banned so they made sure to give the three their space.
There would be the occasional fan of Tianlan’s though, which annoyed Hei to no end.
The butler, on the other hand, was fair game. If you could squeeze a slot out of him, then it was your good fortune.
The three could see the pleading face of the butler, so they prepared to go out and find Fang Ren on their own.
Luckily, Fang Ren showed up unannounced.
“It’s good that you’re here. We just completed your cultivation technique. Are you ready to go back to the body refining realm?”
Hei knew how much Fang Ren enjoyed being an externalisation realm cultivator like her friends.
Fang Ren agreed without hesitation. The only reason she was able to get to this point was her three friends as far as she was concerned.
‘No hesitation… Should we make her a subordinate? Nah.’
Hei was considering taking Fang Ren as a subordinate. She already had a weird level of loyalty to the three.
He decided to just let her be Bai’s friend instead.
Without delay, Fang Ren began practising the new technique the three had given her.
She was soon back to the beginning stages of the body refining realm and felt like she could be blown over by a slight breeze, but she could tell that her rate of improvement had increased dramatically from the previous method she was using.
“What is this cultivation method called?”
She wanted to know the name, so she could proudly declare that she was practising it.
The three hadn’t put any thought into this.
“We created the technique especially for you, so why don’t you name it?”
Seeing Fang Ren become flustered, Bai stepped in.
“There is no rush. Take your time. We’ll soon make the externalisation realm version, so cultivate diligently.”
After that was settled, Hei asked:
“What brings you here?”
“Nothing in particular.”
With this kind of timing, Hei was sure that there was going to be an annoying side quest, but it seemed it was just another of Fang Ren’s random visits.
“Alright then. We’re going to go meet with the matriarch. You can cultivate here if you want.”
With that, the three went on their way to the matriarch’s residence.
“Hold it right there!”
As they walked past the gate to their ‘office’, the three could hear a boy’s voice.
‘Here we go…’
Hei took a deep breath before turning to the source of the sound.
He saw a boy in a red robe. Fang Lian was beside him, and Ji Dian was there as well. There was also an audience of juniors behind them.
The boy spoke.
“Are you the childish sages?”
“Who wants to know?”
“I am Fang Long. One of the Dual Polarities.”
Hei could hear the audience discussing.
“That’s Fang Long? He has been in closed-door cultivation for a while now.”
“Why does he look so different?”
“It’s better though. But Sage Tianlan is still the best.”
“That’s right. No one can beat Sage Tianlan.”
These juniors had gathered when they heard that Fang Lian had been seen around the childish sages’ residence. They did not expect to see both of the Dual Polarities here.
“I wonder what’s going to happen.”
“Probably not much. I mean it’s the childish sages and the Dual Polarities. Both are heavyweights.”
“I don’t know. I heard Fang Long went into seclusion because he was trying to break through to the internalisation realm. Since he’s here, he probably succeeded.”
“A 13-year-old internalisation ream cultivator? That’s crazy!”
“But it wouldn’t be a surprise either.”
After hearing this much, Hei was starting to understand what was happening here.
“So, what do you want?”
Fang Long responded.
“I heard that you were disrespectful to Fang Lian. That not only disrespects her, but it also disrespects me, the matriarch, and the Fang Clan as a whole.”
“So you will get on your knees and apologise in front of everyone here.”
“…” The audience.
“…” The three.
“…” The heavens.