The next baking training session was an interesting one.
After the three had come home with a bunch of medicinal herbs and natural treasures, they decided to try baking some bread with them.
It was what one could call a success if one were pushing it. In other words, they did produce some bread. They even managed to get some customer reviews, which were a mix of questioning gazes and unwillingness to poison themselves.
To be fair to the customers, the bread didn’t look like any bread they had seen before. The familiar golden-brown colour was nowhere to be seen. Instead, there was a mishmash of various colours that would draw anyone’s eye… straight to the exit.
After this debacle, they received some very detailed constructive criticism from their mother and grandfather.
Having heard an earful, the three decided to head back into the forest.
Unlike the previous day, they came across a few cultivators on their treasure route. There wasn’t any conflict though, because those unfortunate fellows seemed to be new trainers. Hei didn’t see a single Tianlanmon among them. As a result, they weren’t able to find the hidden treasures as easily as the trio.
‘There are all sorts of OP I guess.’
Hei was happy with the ease at which they were finding treasures. When he thought about it, he realised that it wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t all three of them.
Sure, Tianlan was the one with the magic eyes, so he would be able to find the treasures anyway. But without Sonic Qi, he would have a very hard time breaking through the defences around some of these treasures.
Bai was a key player in the creation of Sonic Qi. Without her comprehension ability, neither Hei nor Tianlan could have come up with the technique. Don’t get me wrong, Hei had comprehension ability on par with Bai, but he didn’t have the interest in creating things that she had.
He would have used his ability to benefit himself alone, so Bai was quite the asset when it came to improving a group.
And obviously, Hei was the framework that Bai and Tianlan were building from. It’s hard to say how long Bai and Tianlan would have taken to blossom, had Hei not been there.
However, Hei didn’t consider himself to be the only reason for their current position. He was fairly confident that they would still become major players in this world, even if he wasn’t there. These things just had a way of working themselves out. And at most, he was just accelerating the process.
After a while of gathering treasures, the three headed to where they had separated from the little one the previous day.
‘And now, we wait.’
The three jumped up to some tree branches and waited for the little one to show up.
It had been a few hours with no sign of the little one when Tianlan said something.
“I think I know where it is…”
Hearing these words, Hei was surprised. He asked Tianlan for clarification.
“How do you know?”
“Well, I was getting tired of waiting, so I complained in my mind, and somehow I was able to sort of feel it.”
‘Where is that little fellow? To keep us waiting so long. Doesn’t it know that we have absolutely nothing better to do right now? The nerve.’
All of a sudden, Hei felt a slight tugging sensation internally, and an illusory string appeared in his vision.
”Eh? Just like that?”
Hei was surprised at the outcome. Who would have thought that complaining about something would show you exactly where it was?
‘Where is that darn treasure. To hide from me for so long. Doesn’t it know that I have absolutely nothing better to do right now? The nerve.’
Hei waited for the strings to roll in, but to his disappointment, it didn’t work like that.
He then turned to Bai, who nodded her head.
“So, we can all sense it?”
Bai and Tianlan nodded their heads in response to Hei’s question.
‘Where is that adorable Little Bai? To run around being cute all day. Doesn’t she know that there will be hordes of little punks trying to talk to her in the future? Does she know what her big brother will have to go through to protect her? The nerve.’
Sure enough, a string appeared connecting him and Bai.
‘Where is that creepy Tianlan. To stare at people all the time. Doesn’t he know that his eyes make people uncomfortable? And what’s up with all the young ladies? Is Tianlan so good? What about me? I’m also here you know? The nerve.’
After a string appeared connecting him to Tianlan, Hei confirmed that he was able to locate all of the people he knew to have the same aura as him.
‘Hm. Maybe I can use this for the long-distance communication method.’
Hei decided to discuss this with Bai in the future. Since he had now found a solution to the problem of locating the recipient.
It would be extremely useful to be able to communicate over a long distance in the future. He was planning on having each of them act independently, gathering the other envoys, and creating a special branch within the Shao Clan.
After confirming the location of the little one, the three decided to just go to it instead.
Hei had initially planned to form a trust between them over time, but if he could let the little one realise that they had something in common, it would speed things up dramatically. After all, it was often easier to be around those similar to yourself than those you viewed as different.
And they were already entirely different. Three humans, and a dog-like spirit beast. It’s hard to get much more different than that.
With that in mind, Hei landed in front of a small cave.
Without much thought, Hei sent in his chains and used the sensory feedback to locate the little one. After yanking it out, they were face to face.
“Ugh. You again. What do you want this time, Human?”
The little one was not pleased, at all, and spoke in an annoyed tone.
After the events of the previous day, it had been absorbing the beneficial elements of the medicinal herb it had consumed. It was almost fully recovered when a bunch of chains rudely barged into its home and dragged it out.
Hearing this disgruntled statement, Hei let the little one down and responded awkwardly.
“I to come, is your not there…”
It took the little one a while to understand Hei’s words.
“I was recovering from my injuries.”
Hearing this, Hei took a closer look at the little one.
It wasn’t just a white, dog-like creature. It had various red markings on its fur, and its irises were also red.
Compared to the big fellow, this little one was quite small, but when compared the Hei, it wasn’t exactly little. If it were to stand on its hind legs, it would be about the same height as Hei.
Being stared at by Hei, the little one became uncomfortable. It already wasn’t too fond of this human who had chased it through half the forest.
Noticing this, Hei pulled out a medicinal herb from his storage space. This herb was one that would increase the vitality of whoever consumed it.
The little one didn’t know the specifics, but it could tell that the herb would be beneficial.
“Eye is to close.”
After a short while, the little one closed its eyes. Before long though, it peeked through one of them, before closing it again after Hei’s gesture.
The little one opened its eyes again and gave Hei a confused look.
Hei pointed at the little one.
“Eye is to close.”
He then pointed to himself.
“You want me to find you with my eyes closed? Why.”
After saying this, Hei disappeared, and the little one was left on its own.
For a moment, it had the thought of returning to its home, but it was sure it would just be dragged out again, so it played along.
After a short while, Hei could see that the little one had had a surprise, so he reappeared in front of it. And when he did, it opened its eyes and looked at him with a confused face.
“Is you see?”
“I saw it. What is it?”
“You, we, light is same.”
“The same light? I have it too?”
For a moment, the little one seemed to be interested, but then it spoke.
“So, what’s your point?”
“Is you us, same. Family.”
After hearing the word ‘family’, the little one became sad.
Seeing this, Hei apologised.
“No. Never mind. What do you want from me.”?
Hei wasn’t sure if saying, ‘Join my clan. We will climb to the peak of the world together’ would do the trick. So, he decided on a different approach.
“Teaches beast talk.”
“You want me to teach you Beast Language?”
The little one was surprised.
Hei nodded in response.
“Is have writing?”
Hei wanted to know if there was a form of written communication in Beast Language. He would be able to communicate better through text.
After hearing this question, the little one spent some time carving out some characters on the ground.
It wasn’t quite sure why it was willing to do this, but there was something about this fellow. Something comfortable.
After the little one had finished, Hei took a look at the characters and memorised them. He would now be able to try combinations of characters in his mind before he presented them to the little one.
By fumbling around with combinations that seemed to work, Hei found what he wanted to say. He transcribed his thoughts using his Qi, creating characters that were visible to the little one.
“I will come here every day, so please teach me. In exchange, I will give you medicinal herbs.”
He then handed over the medicinal herb he had revealed before.
“Sure, why not?”
The little one seemed to be blinded by greed, as it quickly accepted. Before anyone knew it, the medicinal herb was already in its stomach.
“So, what do you need help with? You seem to be able to understand what I am saying.”
Hei spent a long while to find the correct combination of words.
“I am able to understand every word, but I don’t know how to pronounce them. I just need you to repeat the phrases I show you until I am able to speak them properly.”
“That’s all? OK then.”
The little one was prepared to spend some real time here. In the first place, it didn’t have much else to do. It mostly roamed around the forest looking for things to ease its boredom.
Hei realised something. So, he wrote a question.
“What is your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Mei. I am Hei.”
“…Nice to meet you.”
With that, Hei began his study of Beast Language.
He would put up phrases, and Mei would speak them aloud. Then Hei would try to mimic her.
To his embarrassment, it took him a very long time to be able to speak the phrases properly. Beast Language was just far too different from what he was used to.
While they were there, Hei had Bai and Tianlan join in on the fun.
He would translate the words so that Bai and Tianlan understood what they were saying, and all three started learning Beast Language under Mei’s instruction.
Bai and Tianlan had a particularly difficult time. Their throats were unable to produce some of the sounds for a long time.
After half a day, they had gone through a few phrases and it was time for the three to return home.
Hei tried to use what he had learned.
“We come tomorrow. See you again.”
“Needs a little work, but you’re getting there.”
For the next few months, the three spent their time creating new ‘bread’ formulas, helping out the Fang Clan’s juniors, and learning Beast Language from Mei.
After a long period of frequent communication, the three learned some things about Mei. First of all, she was female, hence ‘little princess’ and secondly, she believed she was something called a scarlet arctic fox. She wasn’t too sure because there were no other foxes like her in the forest.
As for why she was called ‘Little Princess’, it turned out that the other animals in the forest saw her as a superior being, so they treated her with respect.
Hei recalled the various descriptions of bloodline suppression he had read about. He assumed it was something similar.
Hearing that she was a fox made Hei think of the fox Fang Lian had described. Even after searching, he couldn’t find a trace. He had asked other cultivators if they had seen a red fox with white eyes running around, but none had seen it. Or at least they didn’t acknowledge having seen it.
Hei decided to forget about it. Mei was probably better anyway. Heck, maybe Mei and that other fox, were one and the same. After all, their appearances were basically inverted.
Hei was now able to articulate himself properly in Beast Language, so he decided to cut to the chase.
“I tried to say this before, but since you have the same glow as us, we’re basically family.”
“And since you live alone out here, why don’t you come with us?”
Mei was hesitant. If she had a motto, it was ‘trust no one’. She had experienced the cruelty of the world first hand.
Having noticed this, Hei reassured her.
“My family is the most important thing to me. No matter who aims their sword at my family, they will be shown the meaning of true suffering. That is true for both present and past enemies.”
Noticing that the Mei was lost in thought, Hei moved in and placed his hand on her head. As he stroked her fur, he felt that comfortable feeling become stronger, and he spoke.
“Do you think I would ever do you wrong?”
“This… But I am a spirit beast. How will I live in a human city?”
Hearing this, Hei smiled.
“That shouldn’t be a problem. Our home is pretty safe, and we’ll be with you all the time. No one there can cause trouble for us.”
Hearing this, Mei decided to go along with them. The feeling she had when she was close to Hei was hard to describe, but it was a pleasant one.
Not to mention, his words seemed to have weight behind them. She couldn’t imagine too many people being able to take a full powered swipe of hers and brush it off like nothing.
With that, the four headed back to Spring Leaf City.
As they were walking through the streets, many eyes were drawn to Mei. That is on top if the stares Hei and Tianlan usually generated.
This group was quite a diverse one. A very handsome, blue-eyed boy, a very… dark-skinned boy, a white-haired girl, and a white fox. Not something you see every day.
One person, in particular, took a special interest in the white fox.
There was a palanquin, in other words, a covered box with seats inside, carried by a few people. It approached the three, and from inside came a girl’s voice.
“I am interested in your spirit beast. Name your price.”
Hei was surprised to hear this.
‘Well, this is going to blow up.’
He knew that interactions like this were never simple. Obviously, he couldn’t very well hand Mei over, so this was sure to become a persistent problem.
Since the conflict was unavoidable, he decided to just get it over with.
“She isn’t for sale. You can go now.”
The four continued on their way to the Shao Bakery when they heard the same voice again.
“I’ll pay 50 spirit stones.”
Hearing the familiar term, Hei stopped and turned back to the palanquin. Many of the stories he had read had spirit stones in them, so he was interested in finding out more.
One of the bearers carrying it snorted with contempt.
“These worthless lower continent plebeians. Spirit stones can be used to cultivate. They are dense stores of natural Qi that have solidified over countless years, forming a stone.”
Hei didn’t take well to these words.
“So, ignorance makes someone worthless? Then do you know how many stars there are in the sky? Do you know how many blades of grass there are in the forest? How many times have you breathed in your life? How many footsteps has your mother taken? If you can’t answer, then you are also worthless by your own standards.”
Hei didn’t allow the man to respond.
“And plebeians? Coming from you, who is just a human-shaped beast of burden? Please.”
Once more, Hei spoke.
“Lastly, you mentioned the lower continent, so I presume you are from the upper continent? You think being born there makes you better than everyone here? Then let me tell you something. I, this ‘lower continent plebeian’ will never lower myself in front of whoever it is that you are carrying around like a horse.”
“You! What do you know about honour? It is a privilege to be able to escort the young mistress.”
“Ah, so you view being a bearer as something to be proud of? Kind of sad, isn’t it? Obviously, your life won’t amount to much. Just a leaf in the wind.”
Hei turned back around to continue on his way.
The bearer was about to respond when his young mistress spoke.
“100 spirit stones.”
Hei continued walking as he spoke.
“I already told you, she isn’t for sale.”
“I have strong connections to the Merchant Guild. I’m sure we can come up with a mutually beneficial exchange.”
Without stopping, Hei responded.
“Merchant Guild? Never heard of it.”
There was a slight pause before the young mistress spoke.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
Hearing this, Hei turned around.
“Oh? Is that a threat?”
“Take it how you will.”
“I see. Then let me offer you some words of wisdom. Those who make enemies of the Shao Clan never have happy endings.”
There was a long time with no response, so Hei continued on his way, the other three followed behind.
“Didn’t you say no one could cause trouble?”
“Cough. I said no one here could cause trouble for us. They were from somewhere else.”
Hei was embarrassed. He never expected to come across one of these situations, which surprised him. After all, he had seen the whole ‘give me your treasure or else’ plot before. So, he should have been able to plan for it. If he had known, he could have just put Mei in his storage space and avoided all of this.
In Hei’s defence, these situations usually involved treasures and not living beings.
As they were walking, Hei gave his people some insight.
“We’re probably going to come across that girl again, and it will probably be quite troublesome. It could actually be a pain in our side for a long time. We should probably look up this Merchant Guild. Then we will decide how to resolve this.”
Hei had seen this plot quite a few times. Beat a junior and someone stronger comes. Then beat them and someone even stronger comes. Rinse and repeat. And even if you left the junior unharmed, they would come with a bunch of juniors and things would end up the same.
He would rather skip all of this. Why couldn’t people just let him take over the world in peace?