After he had snapped Jingfei out of her daze, Hei walked back into the mountain.
He would now begin his work on improving the formation, allowing things to react to forces applied to them.
Footsteps would produce the appropriate sounds. Brushing past leaves and snapping twigs would all be realistic.
Unfortunately, the information provided by Jingfei wasn’t advanced enough to create a beguilement formation, which would fully trick the senses.
If someone tried to pick up a stone or tear a leaf, they would find it extremely difficult, unless they were stronger than the defence formation. In which case, the illusion would be broken anyway.
In the event that someone attempted these things, Hei would just say he had reinforced the mountain. Whether they believed him or not was none of his concern.
As far as he knew, his defence formation was indestructible in the face of anyone in the sect. That was unless there were minute realm cultivators. If anyone else tried to attack, the formation wouldn’t be affected in the slightest.
The matriarch, Liling, had already told him that there was only one such cultivator at these sects at most. Most of them didn’t have a minute realm cultivator. This is what classified them as the lowest sects, the third-grade sects.
When a third-grade sect had a minute realm cultivator, they could either apply for the sect’s rating to increase, or they could try to become an elder of a second-grade sect, which was what most of them did.
Most found it better to be the most powerful third-grade sect than the weakest second-grade sect.
This was because, while increasing the sect’s grade would allow them to have more territory, it would also give them stronger opponents to compete with. They would be babies among giants.
As a result, most would wait until many of their own reached the minute realm before applying for advancement.
Knowing the limitations, Hei decided to just do the best he could.
Seeing that Jingfei was still interested in the image of the formation’s circulation paths, Hei spoke.
“Hm. Would you like to learn the concepts behind the formation?”
Jingfei’s eyes lit up.
Hei was a little surprised by her enthusiasm.
“… Sure. I can’t have my maid be distracted all the time.”
Jingfei realised that she had reacted too strongly, so she calmed herself down and walked over to Hei, who was creating another, smaller version of the image.
He gestured her to sit down.
“Fist of all, you need to understand the basics of Qi conduction and circulation. These chains are a special application of condensed Qi, formed into solid objects. There are…”
Hei began teaching Jingfei the concepts behind the formation in full detail. If he wrote it into a book, anyone could make the formation, regardless of experience, as long as they had the materials.
“And since the chains can be used as both the circuitry and the power source, there are some efficiency improvements that can be made. Take a look at this node here. Usually, one would have to cluster the circulation path here to create a step-up transformer, but that isn’t necessary if the circuitry can provide its own power. Also…”
As Hei was explaining the formation, he was simultaneously creating chains and thinking of improvements to the formation, which he was also sharing with Jingfei.
“Now if we make these changes, we should be able to create realistic textures and movable elements.”
Jingfei was amazed by Hei’s in-depth understanding of formations.
She had also read all of the books she had given him, but she wouldn’t be able to come up with such a formation as the one Hei had created.
Not to mention, he had done so in a mere few hours. What kind of understanding was required for that?
Most of the array formations within the sect required at least a few days, and up to a month for some of the more elaborate ones. And that was excluding preparing the materials and the actual construction.
“How long have you been striding formations Shao Hei?”
She couldn’t help but ask.
After the age verification section of the 5-sect summit, she knew that Hei was 10 years old. To reach this level, he must have been studying formations intensively under his mother and grandfather.
“I started when you brought those books. That’s why my understanding is still shallow.”
Jingfei responded with a blank face. Started when she brought the books? Shallow understanding? Then what was her understanding? A raindrop?
Seeing the blank expression of Jingfei’s face, Hei realised something.
“Mm. Shouldn’t you call me Young Master Hei or something?”
Since she was his maid, for the time being, something like this was to be expected, right?
“… I suppose.”
Jingfei wasn’t quite used to this kind of thing.
Despite her current circumstances, she was quite famous and well respected in the sect.
Never did she imagine that she would one day have to address someone as Young Master.
Seeing that Jingfei would take a while to get comfortable with it, Hei decided to move on.
“Anyway, we have now completed the adjustments. Let’s carve out the paths together. I noticed some problems in the paths you made before, that I’ll show you now.”
With that, Hei and Jingfei started making the adjustments and additions to the circulation paths.
“I’m quite impressed by your carving technique. It is a lot better than what I have seen in some of those books. Evidence of your extensive practice.”
As they were doing so, Hei would point out the problems with the paths Jingfei had carved out, going into detail in his explanation of why they were reducing the strength of the formation.
“Now, this the way I would have carved this section. Notice the alignment with the earth node. This is a nice little trick I discovered, which accelerated the flow of Qi at zero cost.”
Jingfei was amazed by Hei’s carving technique. It was extremely precise but didn’t require a large amount of practice. It seemed the earth wanted to move out of his way as he carved his paths.
Even she was able to improve her carving tremendously, in a short amount of time.
“Impressive, Jingfei! You learned it quite quickly. It seems I have found a good maid.”
Hei smiled and rubbed her head as he spoke. This was the kind of thing his mother would do for him whenever he did well.
He always enjoyed these moments, so he decided to emulate his mother when interacting with his subordinates.
Both Hei and Jingfei were quite pleased with the situation. Hei had found someone talented in formations and Jingfei had found an array master to learn from.
The more time she spent with Hei, the more she realised that her preconceived notions about him were wrong.
His appearance at the summit was rash and arrogant, leading one to think he was an unreasonable spoiled brat, but he was extremely attentive and thorough in his instruction.
He called her his maid, but he treated her as a parent would treat their child. Sure, he had requirements of her, but he was also helping her to improve herself.
He didn’t complain about her shortcomings but instead pointed her in the right direction. This was much like a parent looking at their child’s atrocious artwork and praising it to the moon, encouraging them to practice more.
“Now, let’s take a look at our finished work.”
Hei stood up and took the lead in leaving the mountain. Jingfei followed closely behind.
When the turned to look at the final version, they were both quite proud of their accomplishment.
Even standing at a distance, they could see and hear the leaves rustling in the wind.
When they stepped onto the mountain, they could feel their feet sinking into the soul, and could hear the sounds of their footsteps.
It was so realistic that stones could roll around.
As long as they were still in contact with the surface, they could be slid or rolled at will.
As she brushed her hands through the grass, Jingfei was amazed.
If she didn’t know any better, she would think this was the same Man Peak she had been living on for over a year now. There wasn’t a stone out of place.
Hei was also impressed with the realness of the illusion. It really did feel quite similar the Man Peak he had just destroyed.
“This way, if someone comes to pay a visit, they won’t see our true residence.”
Hei patted Jingfei’s shoulder as he walked back into the mountain.
“Come. This was only the beginning. We still have to make the actual residence.”
This time, Jingfei immediately followed.
Since she had heard Hei’s explanations the entire way, she had a very good understanding of how the formation worked, so she wasn’t as shocked as before.
When they had returned to the inside of the mountain, Hei made several illustrations of circulation paths, which Jingfei was to carve onto the material blocks.
“You want to add formations to the buildings too?”
Jingfei’s eyes sparkled. She had gained so much already today.
“Of course. The mountain formation is only for show. I will eventually leave this place and the mountain formation will stay behind. The real formations will be in the buildings themselves which I will take with me.”
Jingfei’s eyes opened wide in response to Hei’s words. He would leave the mountain behind? It was likely that the mountain formation was stronger than the formation protecting the sect itself, and Hei treated it as a disposable thing.
She then realised the meaning of his words.
“J-just how big is your storage ring?”
“Ah. Right now, it won’t be able to store the entire estate. But by the time I leave, that problem will be solved.”
Hei was planning to let his storage space grow until Bai finished gathering the information in the sect.
If at that time, the space was still too small, he would go off into the wilderness somewhere and cultivate intentionally until it was large enough.
With that, Jingfei began her carving, while Hei was studying architecture, masonry and carpentry.
‘Hm. So they like rectangular designs.’
Hei could see a lot of examples of residences which had a large rectangular garden, surrounded by buildings.
‘Let’s go with that then.’
He also liked the sweeping roof style, with curves that rise at the corners of the roof.
He had even chosen the colour scheme.
It would be red roofs and white walls. This was for Bai’s white hair and Mei’s red eyes. The sky was already blue, so Tianlan was covered, and at night, the sky would be black for Hei.
Once he had decided on the design, Hei focused on creating the chains that would power the formations.
After a while, both Hei and Jingfei had finished their respective tasks.
Hei released the chains he had been forming and threaded them through the circulation paths Jingfei had carved in the material blocks.
He formed a large rectangular wall, which marked the end of the territory, taking up all of the space within the mountain formation.
He then formed the large structures of the buildings. After which, he used the knowledge he had gained and some temporary spirit roots to process the materials into the shapes and colours that he wanted.
After he was done, the buildings had their structures complete. All he needed to do was add the roofing and flooring.
He took some material blocks and formed them into red tiles, which he would use for the red roofs.
He needed to get some wood before he completed the flooring, so he left that for later.
He would also move some grass from outside of the mountain to add some greenery.
“Now for the finishing touch.”
Hei grabbed the gold and heated it until it became liquid.
He then shaped it into a large sign that read ‘Shao’ and threaded his densest chains through them. It would act as the heart of the formation and provide the largest source of power.
He placed the sign above the front gate of the residence and took a moment to appreciate his work.
‘This is a good start.’
Hei was nowhere near finished. Even after he got the wood and moved the grass, he would still have a lot of work to do, but the residence was now in a livable condition.
“Come with me, Jingfei.”
Hei led the way as he stepped out of the mountain.
“What are we doing?”
After they had stepped out, Hei had Jingfei wait for him as he gathered some wood and grass from near the mountain.
When he came back, Jingfei was curious.
“You wait here. I’ll go finish up.”
Hei went back into the mountain and Jingfei waited outside.
By the time Hei had come back, it was already dark. The stars were visible in the sky and the mountain was only lit by the cool blue light of the moon.
Hei looked to Jingfei who seemed to be bored.
“I’ve kept you waiting long enough, huh?”
“What were you doing?”
Hei didn’t answer and instead looked to the sky.
He could see a cloud about to block the moon, so he waited for a moment.
“Here it is.”
Hei drew a symbol in the air using his Qi and sent it over to the mountain.
The symbol passed through, and after a short while, the entire mountain emitted a very faint glow.
It wasn’t enough to be a nuisance, but it made the mountain very visible in the night, giving it a magical feel.
Jingfei was surprised. The formation they had created for the mountain didn’t have any lighting features.
“What is this?”
Hei chuckled in response.
“You haven’t seen anything yet.”
Hei led the way as he walked into the mountain.
Jingfei followed closely after and what she saw as she passed through the illusion took her breath away.
She could see a shimmering and glowing residence, perfectly complemented by the stars in the sky.
The sign Hei had placed above the gate was accentuated by the gentle glow of the walls around it.
Even the roofs and the very grass below her feet were glowing slightly, creating a beautiful scene.
Hei had used the concepts of night pearls in the buildings and in one of the formations buried underground, which would absorb light during the day and emit it during the night.
Since he didn’t need these to be bright sources, he was able to maintain the colours of the buildings during the day, by creating less efficient light absorption.
At night, everything would have this subtle glow, which didn’t obstruct the view of the stars.
Hei turned to Jingfei with a smile and asked.
“What do you think of our new home?”
Jingfei was surprised.
She was sure that Hei was building himself a residence because he was unwilling to live in a cultivator cave. Surely, he would give her back her cave and have her live there, while he lived in luxury.
“Of course. You are my maid, so naturally, you will have a place in my home. I have already put all of your things in your room.”
Seeing Jingfei’s shocked expression, Hei led the way to the space he had created for her in secret.
He opened the sliding doors he had made from the wood he had collected and revealed a room with delicately carved wooden floors and all of the things Jingfei treasured.
He had even taken the time to create a large mirror for her and framed it with the gold he had left over.
“There still isn’t any water system, but it should be better than a cave, right?”
The entire residence had a heating formation which could be adjusted for each individual space.
There were glass windows, Hei created out of the sand, which allowed someone to have a view of the night sky and the glowing grass.
As far as Hei was concerned, if one wanted to live in a cave instead of here, one would be crazy.
“I… This is for me?”
Jingfei couldn’t believe what she was seeing. It was more beautiful than any residence she had ever seen.
The furniture wasn’t quite there, but it was the same furniture she had when she was in the cave, so she couldn’t blame Hei for it.
The fact that Hei had created this space for his maid, and a temporary one at that. It was unbelievable.
She turned to Hei with a disbelieving face.
“Mm. You can live here while you are my maid. Tomorrow, we will gather more wood and create proper furniture. Then I’ll go explore the area a bit. It would be nice if you accompanied me to answer my questions.”
Hei spoke as he made his way out of Jingfei’s room. He was thinking about learning textiles, so he could make other furnishings such as carpets and pillows.
He would rather purchase the materials for those, so he also needed to make some money.
Jingfei was lost for words.
“Mm. I will accompany you Shao-Young Master Hei.”
“Good night, Jingfei.”
“Good night Young Master Hei.”
With that, Hei went off to his own room and slept for the night, not knowing that he was going to have an… interesting encounter the next day.