The next day, Hei woke up to find Jingfei standing outside of his room.
To be more exact, Hei had noticed Jingfei’s presence long before he had woken up, thanks to his best friends, the natural Qi, who took the liberty of informing him of her arrival. They didn’t seem to care at all that he was sleeping.
“You can come in, Jingfei.”
Shortly after Hei said these words, Jingfei slid open his doors and stepped in.
What she saw left her lost for words.
For his room, Hei had used an open concept. The wall opposite the door was completely missing and was replaced by a barrier, which Hei could tint at will.
This wall was facing the rising sun, the light of which was reflected off of his wooden floors, creating an orange glow that was very pleasing to the eye.
Hei had extended the floor of his room a few meters beyond the wall, creating the feeling that his room was tied to nature itself.
Jingfei was left in a daze as she observed Hei, who was seated on a wooden chair, at a small wooden table, appreciating the scenery.
“Good morning, Jingfei.”
Hei’s words snapped Jingfei out of her daze.
“Ah! Good morning, Young Master Hei.”
Jingfei had unintentionally used Hei’s preferred title. This surprised both of them.
Hei stood up and walked towards the door as he spoke.
“Today, we will go into the nearby forest to pick up some wood. After that, I would like for you to show me around the sect.”
Jingfei agreed without too much thought.
The two exited the residence and walked to a forest that was close to the mountain.
“This is one of the training areas for the juniors. There are spirit beasts from the body refining realm, all the way up to the transcendent realm within. There are also herbs that can be collected and turned in for merit points, or to practice alchemy.”
As they walked, Jingfei gave Hei some information about the forest.
“Most of the spirit beasts don’t have any cores, but if you are lucky enough to find one, you can trade it in for quite a few merit points.”
“Oh? What are the cores used for?”
Hei was interested in this. He had read many stories where beast cores were made use of. He wanted to know if it was similar in this world.
“They can be used for all sorts of things. Alchemy and array formations are two examples. The cores are the crystallised power and life force of the spirit beast and are thus dense with natural qi. This makes them good as power sources for formations and also ingredients for pills.”
This was similar to what Hei had read. He decided to confirm something else.
“And the energy within the beast cores is too wild to be consumed directly?”
“Yes. That is where the pill refining process comes in. A cultivator uses their internal fire to refine away the chaotic elements within the cores.”
Hearing this much, Hei had learned enough.
The two continued into the forest.
A while later, they ran into a small spirit beast who happened to be passing by.
“Hopefully it will have a core.”
Jingfei immediately pulled out a sword from her storage ring and went in for the attack. Her opponent was no match for her, so she only used one of the sect’s standard sword skills.
Having noticed Jingfei’s approach, the spirit beast tensed itself, ready to retaliate.
As Jingfei’s sword slashed through the air, it created a sharp sound.
Just as it was about to tear into the spirit beast’s skull, a hand came out of nowhere and grabbed Jingfei’s wrist, stopping her sword skill.
Jingfei was made alert by this.
She turned to see who had interrupted her hunt.
It had to be known that stealing another disciple’s target was strictly prohibited by the sect.
She was surprised to see that it was Hei, who was looking at her with disappointment in his eyes.
She could hear him grumbling:
“These cultivators. Sigh. This fellow is alive as well, you know?”
She looked as Hei turned to the spirit beast and made strange growling sounds at it.
This was him saying ‘Run along now, little fellow’ in Beast Language.
The spirit beast seemed to be surprised, but it soon turned around to escape.
Hei then turned to her and she was surprised by the seriousness in his face. He was even emitting a slight authoritative aura as he spoke.
“I know that hunting spirit beasts is a normal thing for you cultivators, but when you are with me, you will refrain from such actions.”
Jingfei was stunned by Hei’s perspective. In all her life, she had never come across a cultivator who was against the hunting of spirit beasts.
His words made her feel like she had been doing something wrong her whole life.
They also made her aware of another side of Hei. The kind protector, who cared not for one’s circumstances, but tried to protect life in whichever form it took.
This was vastly different from the portrayal of men she had been given by the sect.
On top of that, the way he treated her was much different than the way she had heard men treated their maids.
She wondered how many layers there were to this Young Master Hei and was interested to find out.
From there, the two continued on their way.
After a while, they ran into a similar spirit beast. It was so similar in fact, that it was difficult to say it was a different one.
It was currently locked in battle with a young lady from the sect and was clearly on the losing side. Any moment now, it would be slain.
Noticing Hei’s presence, the spirit beast turned to him and pleaded for help.
“Please save me, kind human.”
Jingfei could also see that the spirit beast was looking to Hei for help, but when she noticed that he hadn’t moved, she became confused.
She turned to him but could see that he wasn’t moved by the plight of the spirit beast in the slightest.
“Aren’t you going to save it?”
She could only ask what was on her mind.
“Eh? Why would I do that?”
Hei turned to Jingfei with a confused face. What did he have to do with this?
“But… Just now, you-”
“Ah! You are wondering why I stopped you back then.”
Hei had now understood what Jingfei was speaking of.
“I am against the needless taking of life and I myself will never take life intentionally. But I won’t act to stop others from doing it.”
He paused to structure his thoughts.
“That young lady over there has nothing to do with me. Similarly, that spirit beast over there has nothing to do with me. What they do or what happens to them is none of my concern, as long as it doesn’t affect me.”
Jingfei observed as Hei allowed the creature he just rescued to be slain at the hands of another. She was quite conflicted.
Was Hei a kind protector or a heartless fiend?
Even though she had been the one to attack the spirit beast initially, to her it was as natural as breathing.
Hei, on the other hand, had already saved the spirit beast from the jaws of death, only to look on coldly as the very beast he had saved was slain before his eyes.
Hearing its cries for help, even she was moved. However, the sect rules prevented her from interfering.
After watching the spirit beast die, Hei continued walking.
Jingfei was debating whether or not to say something but Hei spoke first.
“You are wondering how I could watch as that poor fellow was slain?”
He hadn’t turned to face her but continued to face forward as he walked.
“Mm. I find it… strange.”
“Sigh. Then let me ask you. What should I do about the ones I can’t reach?”
“This… There is nothing you can do. But-”
“But I should help the ones that I can?”
“That’s right. If you are against the hunting of spirit beasts, you should stop it when you see it.”
“That sounds nice, but frankly speaking, I don’t care enough to do so. In my eyes, whether it is right in front of my face or a thousand miles away, it is the same thing. If I cannot stop it completely, I won’t do anything at all.”
Jingfei wasn’t able to finish her words. She didn’t really understand Hei’s way of doing things. Wouldn’t most people to as much as they could, even though they couldn’t solve the entire problem?
“Of course, there are a few people in this world who these rules do not apply to.”
Jingfei was interested in this.
“My people. Namely, my grandfather, my mother, my brother, my two sisters and my maid Liling. For my people, no matter what happens, I will do my best to save them.”
Hei paused for a moment before he continued.
“You are also one of my people.”
Jingfei was surprised to hear this. She didn’t particularly care how Hei felt about her, but to think he had placed her so highly. She was flattered.
“Mm. From the moment you became my maid until you are no longer my maid, I will not let you come to harm.”
“So, when I’m no longer your maid you’ll toss me aside like that spirit beast?”
Jingfei was curious to find out.
“Naturally. The moment you cease to be my maid, you will become something unimportant. Equivalent to that spirit beast.”
Jingfei was quite offended. She didn’t appreciate being told this so bluntly. Even if it was true, couldn’t he have said it in a nicer way?
“So, if someone isn’t your family or subordinate, they are worthless?”
“Essentially. Everyone else is equally insignificant. But they do have worth, which is why it is a shame for them to die.”
As they were talking, they came across another spirit beast.
This one wasn’t as weak as the previous one, and was in fact, stronger than Jingfei.
If Hei were to describe it, he would say it was a bigger and more vicious version of a tiger. It had black fur with red stripes and large sabre teeth.
It immediately pounced on Jingfei, who wasn’t prepared and knocked her off balance.
After that, It struck her with its paw, knocking her to the ground, before it went in for the finish.
It opened its mouth wide, ready to bite into her neck, but a hand suddenly gripped one of its teeth, stopping it in its tracks.
The tiger viciously flailed its paws around, trying to strike the meddlesome fellow who had restrained it.
As its claws came into contact with the fellow, it discovered that it couldn’t deal any damage at all. It was like striking a solid wall.
“Naturally, the one who had stopped the tiger was none other than the one who was expected to have interfered at this opportune moment.
It had been said for aeons that a hero would one day rise up and stop the tyranny of the Red Stripes Black Tiger, and that very hero had now arrived.
That’s right. It was the one and only other person at the scene when the tiger had appeared and brutally knocked down the fair maiden.
That brave young hero turned to the maiden and with his dazzling smile and his skin as dark as the night sky, he spoke the words the young maiden would carry in her hear for the rest of her life.
‘The heck happened to you, Jingfei? Don’t you think you were a bit too relaxed just now? Even if I said I won’t let you come to harm, you still have to be a little bit competent, no?’”
Jingfei looked up to Hei, who had casually prevented her death and made a joke out of the entire thing. What brave young hero? Would a brave young hero narrate himself?
The tiger was also in a tight spot. It didn’t quite know what to make of the situation. Shouldn’t it have died already? What was the purpose of the theatrics?
“The breathtakingly handsome young hero turned to the Red Stripes Black Tiger and shouted:
He then let out an earth-shaking roar.
The young maiden was stunned by the mighty roar of the man of her dreams. She watched in awe as her hero released the infamous Red Eyes Black Tiger, which shivered in fear before turning tail to run.
After the tiger was gone, the young hero turned to the maiden and extended his arm to her.”
Hei waited for Jingfei to take his hand.
Jingfei was confused by Hei’s nonsense, but she took his hand anyway.
“After their hands touched, the young hero raised the maiden from the ground and helped her to straighten up her gown.
‘I can’t have my maid so susceptible to sneak attacks.’
The young hero showed concern for the maiden in his own way before leading the way deeper into the forest.
Little did the young maiden know, the roar of the young hero was not merely an energetic yell. It was actually a message to all of the beasts in the forest to stay away from his precious maid.
From that point forward, they would not encounter another spirit beast.”
“…What are you doing?”
Jingfei was thoroughly confused by Hei’s self-narration.
“Hm? What are you talking about, Jingfei? Did you fall into an illusion formation or something? You’ve been standing still there for a while now.”
“Stop playing games, Young Master Hei! All of that was real just now.”
Hei looked at Jingfei with the most baffled expression he could form.
Seeing the confusion in Hei’s eyes, Jingfei was even starting to doubt if what had just happened was real. It really was unlike her to be caught off guard by a spirit beast.
“I-Didn’t you just? What?”
“The young hero enjoyed teasing his maid as they walked through the forest.”