Seeing the determination in Mei’s eyes, Hei was surprised. He could feel that she was very angry right now, which wasn’t necessarily the best thing for her. But it was better than being depressed.
Hei decided to handle this whole situation very carefully. He didn’t want her to have to go through this alone, because he had seen how situations like this could alter a person’s way of thought.
It was possible that she would end up eliminating her whole tribe, which may very well turn her into an indiscriminate killer. And that wouldn’t be so good.
Not because of the killing itself. Hei didn’t really care if she became a mass murderer, who cared nothing for life. But he figured it would be quite difficult to have someone like that be loyal to him to the point of death. It would also probably mess with the morale of his other subordinates.
So, he was going to be there for her, every step of the way, making sure to keep her on the right path. In other words, the path to undying loyalty.
Having settled this in his mind, Hei turned to Shao Chen.
“How do you know all of these things, Grandpa?”
Hei felt it was quite strange for Shao Chen to have all of this knowledge about Mei, having never met her before.
Sure, he had mentioned knowing the acting chief of the arctic fox tribe, but simply knowing him wasn’t enough to have such an in-depth understanding of their situation.
Being from the middle continent alone wouldn’t do it either. After all, which group would let information like this be public knowledge?
Hearing Hei’s question, Shao Chen stopped to think before speaking.
“Well, the Shao Clan that I used to belong to and the arctic fox tribe have a connection. And that connection started because I became friends with a young member of the arctic fox tribe.”
Shao Chen seemed to be troubled by his recollection, but he continued.
“That boy and I had been through many life and death situations together and became best friends. Sigh.”
Shao Chen placed his hand over his eyes as he continued.
“Eventually, that boy became the acting chief. And knowing that he and I were close friends, the Shao Clan had me go and gather information on the arctic foxes. I discovered a trace of internal conflict, which I reported to the clan, but with the knowledge, they made contact with that uncle. That damned uncle!”
Shao Chen was trying to hide it, but it was clear to see that he was crying.
The children could understand his feelings.
He had just learned of the death of his best friend, his lifelong brother. What’s worse, it was at the hands of the people who should have cared for him the most.
He paused to regain his composure before continuing.
“At one point the clan asked for too much. They would have me end the life of my best friend with my own hands. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I told him everything I knew before I came here, I even told him about my deal with the eastern guardian, hoping he would also seek something similar. But alas.”
Hearing this, Hei now had an understanding of why Shao Chen had run his business the way he had. With ‘Shao’ hanging right over the door and making sure that there wasn’t a crowd. Could he have been waiting for his best friend all this time?
Even though the mood was quite heavy right now, Hei decided to ask about something.
“Grandpa. You said that this was the last straw, the one that broke the camel’s back. What else was there?”
If he was able to get a better picture of the Shao Clan, it would also be helpful in dealing with Mei’s situation. After all, Shao Chen had said that the Shao Clan was in communication with the uncle who set this all off.
Hearing the question, Shao Chen began to recollect his past experiences.
“Without going into detail, the Shao Clan will do whatever it takes to advance their position in the middle continent. Stealing, cheating, treachery, instigating rebellions, assassination, you name it. And I had to do a lot of those things myself. If it weren’t for my wanting to bring honour to my mother and father within the clan, I would have left long ago.”
With this, Shao Chen seemed to have finished his explanation, but Hei had one more thing to ask.
“How did you and the chief become friends in the first place?”
Hearing this, Shao Chen let out a chuckle before he explained.
“It was during one of the continent-wide inheritances. A big one that spanned for several months. While there, he and I stumbled into each other, and after a fight to the death, we grew to respect each other. So, in the end, we taught each other our languages, and completed the trial together, taking the top spots I might add.”
It was an interesting story, but what Hei wanted to know specifically was the following:
“But how did you end up being friends with a spirit beast?”
Hearing this, Shao Chen realised that he had been assuming too much.
“He was in humanoid form at the time, so it was hard to tell that he was a spirit beast. Ah right, for the most part, spirit beasts are able to transform into humanoid forms when they reach a certain level. There they can practice cultivation techniques similar to those of humans. Before that, they have to rely on natural resources, and their unique traits to gain strength.”
Hei wanted to confirm what he had read about spirit beasts being able to transform into a human-like form after reaching a certain cultivation level.
Bai and Tianlan were also interested in this, as they had been thinking hard about what to do with Mei.
She was a spirit beast, so they didn’t know if their cultivation method would do anything for her. Now, hearing that the spirit beasts who had transformed into humanoid form, were able to practice similar techniques to humans, it was much simpler.
“So, what level is needed to be able to transform like that?”
“They have to reach foundation establishment or thereabouts. It varies between individuals and tribes.”
“Foundation establishment? Which realm is that?”
Hei caught on to these familiar words. Many of the stories he had read included the foundation establishment realm, but it was always one of the earlier realms.
So far, he had learned of four realms, none of which was the foundation establishment realm.
“It’s the sixth realm. The first six realms are body refining, externalisation, internalisation, transcendent, minute, and foundation establishment. Most spirit beasts will be able to transform after they gain some understanding of the concepts of the foundation establishment realm. But there are exceptions.”
“Oh? Like what?”
“Like the dragon race and the arctic fox tribe for example. They are able to transform from birth.”
Hearing this, the eyes of Hei, Tianlan and Bai sparkled. If Mei were able to transform right now, they would be able to teach her their techniques and gain another strong companion.
They all turned to Mei and stared at her with anticipation.
Mei gave them an awkward response.
“I don’t know how…”
She had been separated from the other arctic foxes before she could learn anything like that. Up until this point, she had been living her life as just a fox in Spring Leaf Forest.
Seeing this, Shao Chen spoke:
“It isn’t too hard. You just have to reverse your blood circulation.”
Tianlan, Bai and Hei all turned to Shao Chen and looked at him like he was crazy.
She just has to reverse her blood circulation? Not that hard? How would someone even go about attempting such a thing?
“The bodies of high tier spirit beasts such as yourself, have adaptable cardiovascular systems. If you concentrate on your heartbeat, you should be able to reverse all of the valves and have your blood flow in reverse.”
Shao Chen then proceeded to explain, in detail how the process worked.
Apparently, he had learned it from the acting chief as they were out on their adventures together. Every now and then, the acting chief would switch forms, so he could better handle a situation.
Although the transformation to a humanoid form came with cultivation benefits, it also came with dulled senses, and reduced explosive power, so sometimes it was more beneficial to be in beast form.
After hearing the explanation, Mei attempted to transform.
Shortly after, a cloud of white smoke enveloped her and was circling around a centre point.
Tianlan tried to observe with his eyes, but what he saw was blurry. There wasn’t enough detail to be able to deduce anything.
As the cloud rotated more, it started to take a human shape. It was about the same height as Hei.
After a short while, the clouds started to change. One section of the cloud turned red and flowed from the top of the human shape’s head, down to its waist. most of it turned a similar tone to Bai’s skin colour but lighter and the human shape became more distinct.
The fingers and toes began to form, and the facial features grew distinct.
Seeing this, Hei became anxious.
He quickly took off his robe and placed it over the human shape from behind and then turned away from it.
After seeing how the cloud was condensing into her body, he could tell that Mei would have no clothing on once her transformation was complete.
He didn’t know why, but the thought of her standing bare in front of everyone made him very uncomfortable. This was even more so than when he had taken baths with Xiulan during his early days.
Usually, he wouldn’t react this way, but there was something else going on that he couldn’t explain. Something deep within him seemed to be trying it’s best to take control of his body. It was screaming at him to turn around.
After a short moment, Hei heard Shao Chen’s voice.
“It was a pretty slow transformation, but for your first time, it was quite good. That’s from what I’ve heard anyway. As you practice, you will be able to transform faster. Eventually, you will be able to transform instantly.”
Hearing these words, Hei turned around to take a look at Mei’s humanoid form, but when he did, his heart started beating faster, and he could feel his chest tightening.
‘What is happening to me?’
He couldn’t understand it at all.
When he turned around, his eyes landed straight on Mei’s, who had also turned around to see him.
The moment their eyes met, the connection between them grew more intense and Hei started to feel light headed.
At this point, his heart was beating madly, and his breathing was stifled. Mei had a flushed face and was also short of breath.
Seeing this, the others noticed that something was wrong.
“Brother! What’s the matter?”
Hei couldn’t hear Bai’s voice. He could only see Mei. It was as if there was nothing else in the world.
His hands involuntarily started moving. He tried to resist it, but the thing inside him was overpowering his intent.
Soon he had taken Mei’s hands and pulled her closer as he continued to gaze into her eyes. Mei didn’t offer any resistance whatsoever, which didn’t help Hei’s mental state.
The lightheaded feeling grew more and more as time passed, and soon enough, they both lost consciousness, still standing and looking into each other’s eyes.