As the two continued deeper into the forest, Jingfei noticed that there really wasn’t a spirit beast in sight.
“What you said before. Was it true?”
“Hm? About the illusion formation? I was just messing with you.”
“No. I was talking about the roar. You said it was a message to the spirit beasts?”
“Oh! Yes. I told them to stay away from us. They were getting annoying, right?”
“… You can communicate with spirit beasts?”
“I learned Beast Language a while back.”
“How did you learn it?”
“My sister Mei taught me.”
“But how did your sister learn it?”
“Hm? She has been speaking Beast Language her whole life. As for the specifics, I don’t know.”
“Why didn’t you learn it in the same way your sister did?”
“We hadn’t met until recently.”
“I see. By the way, why does your sister call you Darling?”
Hei instinctively reacted to the word ‘darling’.
“Cough. That’s because she is kind of my fiancée.”
Jingfei had a disgusted face as she heard this.
“Your sister is your fiancée?”
“Don’t misunderstand. Mei joined the Shao Clan and became my sister in that way. And if you are asking why I call my fiancée my sister, it’s a long story.”
Seeing that Hei didn’t want to go into any more detail, Jingfei changed the subject.
“You never did tell me why you stopped me from hunting that spirit beast earlier.”
“That’s simple. Because you are one of my people. Unfortunately for you, you are subject to my will.”
Jingfei was unable to respond. This sounded eerily similar to what she had learned about men. That they forced themselves onto women.
“As one of my people, your problems are my problems and your happiness is my happiness.”
These words calmed the anxiety in Jingfei.
“However, your wrongdoings are also my wrongdoings. That is why I stopped you from hunting that spirit beast. I won’t allow my people to do what I consider to be wrong.”
Jingfei could understand this point.
She now realised that Hei really was like a parent, and his people were his children. He was trying to raise them into what he considered to be good people.
It even extended to his attitude to external situations.
Some parents would take it upon themselves to discipline the children of others, and some would only do so for their own children.
Hei was the latter.
He was hyper-focused on his own children and indifferent to all others. He would protect his own children at all costs, and let the other children fight amongst themselves.
This wasn’t something she disagreed with, but she did think Hei was a little extreme.
“You’re like a little father, Young Master Hei.”
“It’s just the way you view things. It seems like the way a father would be.”
Jingfei didn’t know her father. She had been born and raised in the sect, which didn’t allow men to enter.
Even though she had never experienced the real thing, Hei was what she imagined a father to be like.
Hearing this, Hei became frantic.
“A father? A respectable one, right? Not a strange one who puts on shows, right?”
Hei didn’t want to be like his father, who always waved his suppressive aura around. He wanted to be more like his mother, a respectable expert.
Jingfei laughed in response to Hei’s words. It seemed his defence wasn’t invulnerable after all.
“And since you are so small, we can call you Baby Daddy.”
“B-Baby Daddy? Let’s not.”
Hei didn’t want this label to stick. How would he face his mother if he had come to be known as Baby Daddy Hei?
Having reached this point in their discussion, the two had realised that they were quite comfortable around each other.
Hei was always comfortable around his people, so it wasn’t a surprise to him, but for Jingfei, she was very new to being someone’s maid and a man’s maid at that.
She found it interesting that she was so easily able to talk to Hei. Maybe it was because he was only 10 years old and not much different to the young ladies his age.
The two spent a while exploring the forest that was now seemingly devoid of spirit beasts as they collected materials.
Once Hei was satisfied, he stopped their forest exploration and turned his attention to the sect.
“Now that we’re done here, could you show me around the sect?”
“Mm. And I know just the place to head to first.”
Jingfei spoke as she guided Hei to the sect’s entrance.
As they passed through the gates, Jingfei introduced Hei to the marketplace.
“This is where disciples trade their goods. Most of the treasure that they find can be seen here.”
“Does the sect take a cut of the transactions?”
Hei was curious to know this. He would expect the sect to charge a fee for providing the platform by which the disciples are allowed to trade with each other.
“They do. Most transactions are done using merit points as currency. Around 10 per cent of the merit points will be taken back by the sect for each transaction.”
“They take back the merit points? Are they a finite resource?”
Hei was curious about this. Surely, merit points could be given out infinitely.
“Mm. The sect doesn’t want merit points to be too easily obtainable. The idea is to have the disciples complete tasks which benefit the sect, rather than just trading things among themselves. Selling treasure to the sect, for example, doesn’t have any transaction fee, so there is an incentive to do so.”
Hei could understand the idea. If they made helping the sect more beneficial than helping each other, then there would be reason to help the sect over a fellow disciple.
“Of course, there are some things that the sect has no use for, hence the marketplace.”
Jingfei continued leading Hei around the various stalls that the disciples had set up.
Most of the young ladies they passed would clasp their fists to Jingfei and exchange a few words with her.
‘It seems she is quite popular. Then the Man Peak?’
Hei was still in the dark about this particular detail, but he would soon find out. After all, he was here because Jingfei had a side quest for him.
As he passed the various stalls filled with shiny treasure, Hei thought there must be some good things among them.
He was just thinking that it was a shame to be without Tianlan at a time like this when he saw something interesting.
“Hm? Peak Leader Jingfei, who is that?”
Hei changed the way he addressed Jingfei when they were in public. Even though she was his maid, he still wanted her to have the same respect from others that she had before.
He was looking at a shadowy figure, seated in plain view, with no one near them.
There was a black sword rested beside them that was emitting a very familiar white glow.
Jingfei turned to face the same direction as Hei.
“Is this another one of your games? There is nothing there.”
She couldn’t see anyone where Hei was looking.
“Eh? Are you trying to pay me back for earlier?”
“I’m not. It seems that even you get caught up in your own illusions.”
Hei was going to continue speaking to Jingfei, but then he saw the figure turn to him.
He then heard the voices of two young men in his head.
[Is this the one you were looking for?]
[An interesting fellow.]
[That’s for sure.]
[Well, I’ll be going now. No use in angering that bird. Good luck old friend.]
[Good luck? When have I ever had luck?]
[Hehe. You’re right.]
With that, the shadowy figure disappeared, leaving the sword sitting there.
‘Was that an Innate Shadow Physique? But it’s daytime.’
Hei felt that the shadowy figure looked very similar to him when he was in night mode. The only thing was, that ability was only supposed to be available in the darkness.
‘Maybe it’s a case of misinformation.’
Hei decided to look into this. It would be useful for undercover work if he could activate the night mode at will.
At this moment, Hei heard Jingfei’s surprised voice.
“Eh? Where did that sword come from?”
“You can see the sword now?”
“But you couldn’t see it or the person with it before?”
“No, there was nothing there.”
She turned to Hei.
“How did you see it? Did you use some eye technique?”
“Sigh. No. This is no eye technique, it’s a side quest. Let’s get moving. Didn’t you say you were going to show me the formation hall?”
Hei pushed Jingfei forward trying to get her to lead him elsewhere.
“But I think the sword was left for you.”
“Don’t want it. Let’s go.”
Hei was trying to get out of here asap. He had heard two voices earlier, and he didn’t want to hear the second one again.
“This… Then can I have it?”
Jingfei was surprised that Hei would ignore a treasure that fell out of the sky for him.
She had heard of instances where a person would obtain a tremendous fortunate encounter and swiftly rise up to the heavens.
The Mountain Splitting Sword Saint was one such example.
Hearing Jingfei’s question, Hei became a little panicky. They had already stalled for too long.
[You there, Boy.]
“That thing is no good Peak Leader Jingfei. It will cause a lot of trouble.”
[Boy! I know you can hear me!]
‘I didn’t hear anything just now. It was the wind. Yup. The wind.’
“Ha, haha, ha… So, the formation hall. Is it a nice place?”
Hei had succeeded in getting Jingfei to begin walking as he desperately tried to avoid this side quest.
[Envoy of the Heavens! Hear my call!]
‘The number you have dialled is not in service.’
Hei continued walking, and as he got far away, he heard some spine-chilling words.
[He really is an interesting one. Hehe.]
‘I’m not interesting at all. Please forget about me. There are other envoys out there. Go bother one of them instead.’
Hei had a bad feeling about this.
This felt like a side quest that came at him like vampirism in a game he had once played which contained both elders and scrolls.
Once one was afflicted with it, they had to do a side quest if the didn’t want to become a vampire. Essentially, a forced side quest.
He felt that this was similar. If the sword was like his siblings, then it would be able to locate him no matter where he went.
To avoid despairing about it, he put it at the back of his mind.
Right now, he wanted to explore the sect and see what it had to offer his little sister.
Jingfei led the way, looking back to Hei every now and then.
She still couldn’t understand why Hei would leave such a mysterious sword behind. Wasn’t he just handing his fortunate encounter over to another?
“The formation hall is one of the most popular locations in the sect. Almost half of all disciples are also apprentice array masters. That includes me.”
“So even you are still considered an apprentice? The quality of formation masters must be high.”
Hei found it interesting that Jingfei was still an apprentice even after having seen her carving ability. He must have been underestimating the professions.
“My carving ability is at the level of official array masters, but my theory is lacking. Being a formation master is both being able to conceive the circulation paths and being able to actualise them into working formations.”
Hei could understand it now. It did seem that Jingfei’s theory was lacking.
She was able to follow his instructions to a tee, but she lacked the ability to make good improvisations and followed textbook methods even when they weren’t the best choice.
“I’m hoping I will be able to become a one-star formation master by the end of the coming year. I’m almost there.”
“If you need help, you can come to me.”
Jingfei was quite excited by the idea. She didn’t think Hei would help her even outside of the construction of their home.
“It’s not exactly like I have a mountain of things to do. My life at the sect will mostly be peaceful. So, if you want to learn anything from me, you can come at any time.”
This wasn’t just Hei trying to accommodate Jingfei. He truly didn’t have anything to do.
In order to do basically anything, he would need to pay merit points, which he would have to complete tasks for, which would benefit the sect that made him have to do the tasks in the first place.
He could only lose this way, so he planned on having Jingfei bring him some cultivation techniques every now and then and let Bai handle the heavy lifting this time.
As long as one of them was able to absorb the information, it would be spread to the rest, so technically, he didn’t have to lift a finger if he didn’t want to.
“Ok. I will.”
Jingfei wasted no time in accepting Hei’s offer.
If she didn’t know better, she would say Hei’s understanding of the apprentice level material surpassed even that of the elders of the formation hall.
She proceeded into the formation hall, where she stumbled into an acquaintance.
“Well, well. If it isn’t Peak Leader Jingfei.”
Even though she had used Jingfei’s proper title, she had spoken it in a mocking tone.
“Qiuyue. What are you doing here?”
Jingfei did not seem to be happy to meet Qiuyue.
“What am I doing here? Taking my advancement exam of course. Not all of us are only good for carving. Some of us actually have talent.”
‘A haughty young miss?’
Hei didn’t know how this situation came to be, but he wouldn’t stand idly by as his maid was being ridiculed.
“Some of us actually have talent? Nicely said. Why don’t you also go for your advancement exam, Peak Leader Jingfei?”
As he spoke, Hei pulled out a stack of papers from his storage space and scattered them in the air.
He then transcribed his understanding of formations onto them, before floating them over to Jingfei.
As they approached her, they arranged themselves into a neat stack.
Qiuyue couldn’t help but laugh after seeing this scene.
“You think the knowledge of a little boy like you is enough to become an official array master? It seems you’re caught up in your own illusions.”
The old lady and Elder Yu had already spread news of the Dark-Skinned Con Man to some of the juniors. It was only a matter of time before the rest of the juniors heard it.
Jingfei, on the other hand, had sparkly eyes as she read the title page of the stack of papers.
‘Shao Clan Formation Foundations.’
Nothing that had the Shao Clan’s name on it had been simple. All one had to do was look at the events of the 5-sect summit to verify this.
She turned to Hei.
“Mm. I will be sure to become an official formation master.”
She wasted no time beginning to go through the information Hei had given her.
Qiuyue wasn’t happy when she saw that Jingfei was actually interested in what Hei had given her.
Even though Jingfei wasn’t the most talented, that didn’t mean she lacked good sense.
If she was so confident in being able to pass the advancement assessment because of the information Hei had given her, then there was probably something to it.
Hei watched this as he thought of likely future events.
‘It looks like a few faces will be slapped soon.’