“Ugh. You guys are the purest form of evil!”
Hei was hunched over in pain.
“I know why your hair turned white, Little Bai. That was the day your heart turned to ice.”
Hei’s words fell on deaf ears. Bai continued to make adjustments to the cultivation technique, while Tianlan continued to monitor Hei with no sympathy in his eyes.
One would think the pain would be less after having experienced it before in the body refining realm and coming up with several measures to reduce it, but one would be wrong.
To Hei’s dismay, his segmentation method was useless, so all of the consequences struck at once.
The most important aspect, was that now, since he was an externalisation realm cultivator, he had formed a relationship with the natural Qi in a three meter radius around him.
They would communicate information whether he wanted them to or not, which meant he was always overloaded with sensory data.
It turns out, his ‘friends’ the natural Qi, would become extremely upset whenever he cultivated a faulty technique. They would attack him, trying to make him stop, which negated his segmentation efforts.
“It really is great to have Brother around. Isn’t that right Big Brother?”
“Mm. Saves us a lot of trouble. How are the modifications coming along?”
“I think I have solved that particular problem. We’ll have Brother try again when he recovers.”
“So, what will we do in the meantime?”
“I have been looking at some of the combat techniques, and I was thinking of creating some for ourselves.”
Tianlan’s eyes lit up. Every day, they would be studying cultivation techniques, and all he could do was take in the information Hei and Bai were sharing.
He was unable to input because he lacked the aptitude.
When it came to combat techniques though, that was where Tianlan was quite competent.
Having monitored many combat techniques with his eyes, he had developed a sense of what worked and what didn’t, which meant he would be able to actively participate in the creation of combat techniques.
“Mm. Since we are null element cultivators, the combat techniques that are widely available aren’t suitable for us. That is why I thought we would create our own.”
“Mm. Good idea. Let’s get to it then.”
Hei was listening as his siblings showed no concern for him whatsoever.
The three had found the best time for Hei to die. That was just after baking training because he would be healed in time for the next day’s baking training.
Hei tried to get support from his grandfather, but that was fruitless. All he got was ‘Ah. I remember doing something like that way back when. Your life really isn’t a desirable one’.
He noticed that Shao Chen also had the golden glow at times and Xiulan was displaying it more and more often as time went by.
Soon the three’s birthday came, and it was time for another birthday banquet.
This would the first time Hei and Bai had a birthday banquet with their grandfather.
Hei noticed that the golden glow was very strong as Shao Chen was baking the banquet bread.
What surprised him was that the bread was made using the same ingredients as any other bread. It seemed Shao Chen was applying some kind of technique to alter it.
He asked Tianlan to observe, but Tianlan didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
‘Something Tianlan can’t see? It’s like my healing ability then?’
Hei was very intrigued.
“Grandpa. What are you doing to the bread? How does it become like that?”
Shao Chen turned to Hei.
“It’s a secret technique I developed. Only when you have met my standards will I teach it to you. That will be when I fulfil my promise to the eastern guardian and live the rest of my life carefree.”
“When will I meet your standards?”
“Your mother is almost there.”
Hei was surprised. Xiulan lived and breathed baking. For her to not have met his standards yet…
Hei decided to let it go. It would come with time.
Later that day, Hei and Bai realised why there was no mercy at the birthday banquet.
Even with his cultivation sealed, Shao Chen was able to take most of the bread. The rest barely managed to get any.
“Grandpa. I’m severely injured, surely you could have gone easy on me?”
Hei wanted to pull some sympathy strings, but they weren’t attached to anything.
“Do you think the world will go easy on you because your personal situation isn’t so good? I won’t allow my grandchildren to be caught off guard by the cruelty of this world.”
Shao Chen made it sound like he really was thinking of what was best for his grandchildren, but as he was saying those words, he was popping pieces of bread into his mouth happily.
Hei was severely disappointed. This banquet bread had become his favourite meal since coming to this world.
To be fair, all he ate was bread to begin with. But even if offered a normal meal, he would think it strange at this point.
And so, Hei’s days would proceed as such: In the morning he would go through baking training, then he would be murdered by his siblings and come back to life the next day. Rinse and repeat.
Over time, Tianlan noticed the changes in Hei’s body continue. His blood had become completely clear, and his internal organs resembled crystal.
Hei also noticed some changes.
The three-meter radius started expanding. Every day, it would extend slightly, and the information would become clearer.
Originally, his spiritual perception would give him a vague representation of objects, but they were becoming clear. He was even able to notice some faint colour whereas before, it was completely black.
Bai noted these things down and was adding them to the cultivation technique.
Unfortunately for Hei, his body was becoming more and more compatible with natural Qi.
Normally, one would be happy with such a situation, but in Hei’s case, it meant that he was more susceptible to the wrath of the natural Qi.
Bai’s technique was getting better and better, but the natural Qi did not care one bit. As soon as Hei reached a fault in his cultivation, the natural Qi would assault him.
Unlike in the body refining realm, where the pain would decrease as the technique became reached perfection, here the pain would increase as he became more compatible with natural Qi.
As the months went by, the three were nearing completion of the second layer of the Way of Essence.
Hei discovered an annoying side effect of the trials. His spiritual perception had gotten very detailed. It was almost the same whether he had his eyes open or closed as to the vividness of the relayed information.
The only thing was, he became hypersensitive to motion. If a fly happened to enter his radius, he would notice it immediately, and his attention would automatically be drawn to it.
This meant he had a difficult time focusing on things.
‘I need to practice multitasking. At least it’s ridiculously difficult to catch me off guard now.’
This was the silver lining. As long as his body was faster than a moving object, it would never hit him if he didn’t want it to.
“This is it.”
Hei was excited. So far, the current trial had gone without a hitch.
“Mm. Big Brother, pay close attention.”
Bai was also excited. It had been a long time since Hei had broken through to the externalisation realm, and she could feel herself and Tianlan falling behind.
After a while, Hei completed the last step of the method.
He learned his lesson from the previous times, so he immediately stopped his intentional cultivation once he had confirmed that there were no problems.
Bai turned over to Tianlan.
The three were very excited.
They were about to celebrate when the ground started shaking.
Hei was upset. He had even taken measures to prevent this.
[Those damn brats. They’re hiding themselves away like turtles again. What are they trying to pull?]
[Mother! Why do I have to apologise? It’s that Shao Hei who is the problem.]
[The summit is coming up pretty soon, I wonder if we’ll find any decent talents this time.]
[Heh. You can be the peak leader of the man peak. That’s good enough for you.]
[I miss my daughter. It looks like that crazy man was right.]
[These lower continent scum. Let’s just find one and leave this place.]
[Ugh. These seniors are really overbearing. I wish there was a place for us.]
[Where did that unfilial boy go? Sigh.]
[I want, you to find her and I want you to kill her! No excuses!]
[Your days are numbered, Eastern Guardian.]
[It’s only a matter of time until this world is- Hm? Is that spiritual perception? Who dares spy on me?]
Hei received stream after stream of information.
‘That sounds like a whole lot of side quest. Let’s ignore all of that.’
Hei decided to forget everything he just heard. It wouldn’t do him any good to get involved.
“We were quite fast. It only took four months.”
“Mm. Now the two of you can break through to the externalisation realm as well.”
Bai and Tianlan proceeded with their breakthroughs and there were no surprises.
Bai did notice one thing.
“It looks like the mental energy use is higher in the second layer.”
Tianlan added on.
“Mm. We will have to slowly work our way up again.”
Tianlan and Bai were back to the point where they could only cultivate for a few hours before becoming exhausted.
Tianlan turned to Hei.
“What do you say to a little sparring match tomorrow?”
“Sparring? But Grandpa forbade it.”
“We can go to the training room in the ‘office’.”
“I suppose. Then let’s finish up the matriarch’s and Sister Ren’s externalisation realm techniques.”
For the next few hours, the three worked on the techniques and by morning, they had perfected them.
The three went straight to the training room, without bothering to check on their stockpile of promised sessions.
“Since I have a big advantage, I think we should start at level 1.”
Hei had been in the externalisation realm for almost a year now, that gave him quite the advantage over Bai and Tianlan who were in the body refining realm during that time.
Tianlan and Bai agreed and after giving each other a look they began the sparring match.
Unfortunately for Bai and Tianlan, Hei, matched with spiritual perception, was essentially invulnerable.
He was faster, stronger and had better awareness than the two, so the sparring match was hard to call a match at all.
Tianlan used his usual slow and fast alternating combat style, but Hei could see his every move.
Bai tried to lure Hei into traps, which worked, but they were never able to do any damage, as he would react to the slightest movements.
After a while, Bai and Tianlan became tired.
“I think we should end the match here. You guys can cultivate for a while, and we can have another match.”
Bai shook her head.
“We still have one more thing, Brother.”
“You do? Then give it a shot.”
Hei was fully confident that he would be able to handle whatever scheme Bai had in place.
Bai nodded her head, and Tianlan moved.
He appeared behind Hei and launched a fist attack.
Hei went in to redirect the attack, but Tianlan pulled back and moved to Hei’s side. Bai was approaching Hei’s other side.
‘A pincer attack? Let’s play.’
Hei wasn’t too concerned. Bai and Tianlan were both too weak even for level 1.
All of a sudden, Hei felt a sharp sensation at the side where Tianlan was.
What his spiritual perception told him, was that Tianlan had somehow formed a blade of Qi around his hand. It seemed to be vibrating at incredible speeds.
This was concerning. Hei knew how vibrations could destabilise his defence.
He decided to avoid the attack, but when he landed, he could feel a fluctuation of Qi coming from the ground.
He let out a surprised voice and immediately moved away.
Unfortunately for him, Tianlan seemed to know exactly where he was going to move and had already arrived there.
“Nice try, but you’re still too slow.”
Hei wasn’t too concerned. In the worst case, he could just catch Tianlan’s attack. That was exactly what he decided to do, but before he could, he could feel an incoming attack from behind.
It was sharp and small and distracted him for a moment.
After he determined that it wasn’t a threat, he turned his focus back to Tianlan, but another projectile entered his radius.
Hei could see what was happening. It was Bai launching small attacks to distract him. She knew of the weakness in his vivid spiritual perception.
Soon enough, hundreds of tiny projectiles were flying in and out of his radius.
Hei had no choice but to escape. He would be unable to defend himself properly under these conditions.
After Hei landed, he felt a familiar fluctuation of Qi and the ground exploded under his feet.
He was launched into the air and crashed into the ceiling. He then fell back to the ground and was in pain.
“You got me. What was that?”
Hei was interested in the way Bai and Tianlan had fought just now. They had used skills he hadn’t seen before.
Tianlan was happy.
“Those were the new techniques that we created for ourselves. Mine is Sonic Qi and Little Bai’s is Territory.”
Bai added on.
“As you can tell, for Big Brother, who is apt at finding weaknesses, but lacks destructive power, we created a technique that allows him to breach defences by using rapidly moving Qi.”
Tianlan followed up.
“And for Little Bai who is good at strategy, we came up with a method for her to lay traps. These traps are difficult to detect even using spiritual perception. Not only that, but she is able to lay communications for her allies that they can hear when they reach the location.”
Hei now understood what had happened.
“So those spots of Qi in the ground were placed during the initial sparring, and you coordinated your attack with Tianlan through planted communications?”
“Mm. And since we know you are confident in your defence and would try to take the attacks instead of avoiding them, we were able to force you to move the way we wanted you to.”
“You guys are getting really good at deception.”
They had played the same trick the last time. They allowed him to think he had fully grasped their abilities, but then they revealed new things and defeated him handily.
Hei smiled and spoke.
“So, what will you do next time? I’m sure you realise that the same tricks won’t work again.”
To which Bai responded.
“We will cultivate.”
Tianlan jumped in.
“Mm. We won’t face you unless we are sure we will win.”
The three were laughing when they heard a knock at the door.
“I’m sorry to disturb you, young masters, but you have a guest.”
Hei went over to open the door, and he saw a nervous butler standing on the other side.
“Who is it?”
“It’s. Gulp. The matriarch!”
“Oh? Lead the way.”
Hei was curious as to why the matriarch had come. Was it to deliver the list of juniors?
The butler led them to the reception room, where the matriarch was waiting. He bowed to her and left the room.
He would usually stand in the corner, ready to serve the young masters, but he didn’t feel comfortable in front of the matriarch due to the things that had happened with her daughter.
The three sat down, and Hei set up a barrier to block spiritual perception. He did this by causing the Qi to move chaotically, making it difficult to extract any information.
This was different from the way the matriarch had done it as an internalisation realm cultivator.
“So, what brings you here, miss matriarch?”
“I have the list of juniors who will see you.”
She pulled out some papers from her storage ring and walked over to hand them to Hei.
It had been a long time since she had to move herself to deliver something.
After the matriarch returned to her seat, she spoke again.
“Also, I have completed my cultivation of the body refining technique.”
Hei was surprised to hear this. Bai had estimated that it would take around 5 months.
“I guess you can’t underestimate experience.”
Hei realised that it was probably due to the matriarch having already reached the transcendent realm before that allowed her to cultivate so fast.
“How do you like it?”
Hei was interested in finding out her thoughts.
The matriarch responded.
“It is quite impressive. I already have strength equivalent to what I had at the peak of the externalisation realm before.”
“Good. We happened to complete the externalisation technique yesterday. That was why we came here.”
Hei pulled out a stack of papers and floated it over to the matriarch.
The matriarch’s eyes shone as she looked at the papers. She immediately started practicing the technique, and not long later, she had broken through to the externalisation realm.
She prepared to return to her residence to overcome the tribulation, but to her surprise there wasn’t any.
The three didn’t explain it to her, as she wasn’t considered part of the group yet. Any leaks could be catastrophic.
Later in the day, Fang Ren came to visit, and the three gave her her externalisation realm technique. She wasn’t as fast as the matriarch, so she had more cultivation to do before she could break through.
For the next few days, the three were advising junior after junior.
Since they had been gone for quite a while, there were over 100 juniors on the list.
After having intensively studied the externalisation realm, which was where most of the juniors were at, the three were able to give much better and more precise guidance than they were before.
And since they had studied all of the Fang Clan’s cultivation techniques up to the externalisation realm, they were able to create roadmaps for the juniors all the way until they broke through to the internalisation realm.
Due to this, the Fang Clan entered a period of growth unlike they had ever seen before.
The legend of the childish sages became even more prevalent in the hearts of the juniors. It was almost as if they would side with the childish sages over their own clan.
This worried some elders, but the matriarch reassured them. She knew full well that the Fang Clan held no value to the three, so they had no reason to poach juniors.
Fang Lian was regretting her previous behaviour. She could see the distance between the Dual Polarities and the other cultivators narrowing rapidly.
Even though she had managed to break through to the internalisation realm during the past few months, she wasn’t the only one. It seemed like every other day, a junior would break through.
The three spent a while updating the Fang Clan’s externalisation techniques before they headed to the third floor of the cultivation hall to see the internalisation techniques.
Because they all had spiritual perception now, the information gathering process was much faster.
Hei and Bai were able to remember everything they scanned, and Tianlan was able to remember most of it.
With that, the three began another period of research and torture.