As Jingfei was reading the information Hei had given her, she was amazed by how easy it was to understand.
Where the books she has read before would say:
‘One must be sure to maintain the structural integrity of the circulation paths and the harmony with the earth nodes if one wishes to achieve maximum effect. One must also take into account the lay of the land and the relative positioning of the earth pulses, minimising signal corrosion while being mindful of attenuation.’
The Shao Clan technique would say:
‘There are several ways to arrange your circulation paths. The best for each situation differs, but generally speaking, you want to reduce the amount distance the Qi travels. Also, the earth nodes are your friends, so include as many of them in your circulation path as possible without increasing the distance.’
These were very different methods of information delivery.
One assumed that theory was important to the individual, whereas the other hid the theory and only spoke of the practical uses.
If one wanted to study independently and come up with new formations, the first approach would win hands down. But if one simply wanted to make powerful formations, then the second approach was better.
Hei had done this on purpose.
It was clear that Jingfei’s theory was lacking, and that her ability to translate the theory into practice was even worse. So, he decided to feed her the exact information she needed without any of the extras.
There were both positive and negative points to this approach.
The advantage was obvious. She would be able to make formations without much difficulty now. As long as she knew the purpose of the formation, and it was within her skill set, then she would be able to come up with the paths on her own.
The disadvantage was that she would have to learn from the Shao Clan’s method if she wanted to increase her repertoire.
Hei would overcome this disadvantage by creating manuals for all of the formations he had seen or thought of himself. He would then have Jingfei learn from the manuals and practice the formations.
Sooner or later, she would develop a natural sense for what worked and what didn’t. At which point, the theory would have naturally been absorbed by her.
The best part was, he could use the same manuals to teach his future subordinates about formations.
While Jingfei was reading the manual, Hei decided to take a look around the formation hall.
He would have enjoyed exploring the place, but unfortunately for him, it seemed that everywhere except the lobby area required merit points to access.
That was the case for Hei. But of course, the female disciples were able to enter any area free of charge.
Qiuyue watched as Hei bumbled around being rejected at every turn.
She quite enjoyed seeing Hei realise the situation he was in.
Like Jingfei, Qiuyue had been born in the sect and had never come into contact with a man before.
The only things she knew about men were the things she had learned from the sect, and those things were all horrible.
They had even mentioned that at young ages, boys were very similar to girls, but once they reached around the age of 13, they would become violent oppressors of women.
Needless to say, she had no good intentions towards Hei and was disappointed at Jingfei who had agreed to something as foolish as being the maid of a man.
He was just a ticking time bomb.
In truth, Qiuyue admired Jingfei’s hard work and determination.
Even though the theory eluded her, her carving skill was second to none among the juniors. Evidence of her countless hours of practice.
Seeing her submit herself to a man, was like seeing her rival crippled.
Hei had tried to join the hall as an apprentice, but of course, that cost merit points too.
‘You really can’t eat out here if you’re a man.’
Hei was curious as to why the situation was like this, so he asked Qiuyue.
“Senior Sister, why is it like this?”
Qiuyue had a disgusted face after hearing Hei’s words.
“Whose senior sister am I?”
Hei was surprised by the response.
“… Young Lady?”
“That will do.”
“Then, Young Lady, why is it so hard for male disciples? Doesn’t it seem a little unfair?”
“Unfair? It’s because no one wants you here. Do you not know what happened?”
“No. What happened?”
“Ignorant as well as a man. Tsk-tsk.”
Qiuyue had a disdainful tone as she insulted Hei.
“Many years ago, there was no Radiant Jade Sect. It was part of another sect where men and women learned in harmony.”
“You also interrupt people. Why don’t you let me tell you what you want to know before you speak again?”
‘But you also interrupted me just now…’
Hei decided not to speak these words. It was possible Qiuyue would just walk away and tell him nothing.
“You want to know what caused the change? At some point, when a man was the sect leader, he found a demonic inheritance and used the female elders as cultivation furnaces, leaving them with nothing.”
Hei was starting to understand the situation. There was a deep-seated hatred of men within those elders.
Qiuyue continued her explanation.
“After that, he spread a simplified version of the technique among the male disciples, causing a tragedy for the female disciples. The men then went off and used their new-found power to join the second-grade sects.”
Seeing that Qiuyue seemed to have stopped her explanation, Hei asked for more information.
“So, how was the Radiant Jade Sect formed?”
“The female elders and disciples decided to start afresh. They used their knowledge to teach the children that were born as a result of the actions of the male disciples. Those children grew up to be strong cultivators, and over the generations have built the Radiant Jade Sect into what it is today.”
“But what happened to the male children?”
“The initial group of male children were given to the other sects to be servants or whatever else. The male children born after that were sent to live with their fathers. And that continues until this day.”
After this explanation, Hei had a question.
“Then why does the Man Peak still-”
Hei realised he was speaking of the Man Peak as if it still existed.
“Cough. How did the Man Peak come to be?”
“The Man Peak? That was put up as a monument to the men who died trying to protect their female relatives.”
Hei realised that he had been too rash in his renovation.
‘I guess I’ll have to make the formation extra good.’
He decided to make a formation that was even better than the real thing.
It would also be good training for Jingfei.
“If the Man Peak has such a background, then why are male disciples treated so… differently?”
“Hm? The Man Peak was never meant to have actual disciples. The founders of the sect made the obscure rule that the peak leader of the Man Peak could invite male disciples, but there has never actually been one until now.”
“So, Peak Leader Jingfei is the first peak leader of the Man Peak, and I’m the one she invited? This…”
‘It can’t be a side quest can it?’
Hei felt that this situation was slightly strange. It almost sounded like divination.
Add some rule that no one sees the need for, but then one day, that very rule is what allows the sect to overcome catastrophe, and in turn, rise to the heavens.
‘No… No way, right?’
If the founders of the Radiant Jade Sect were able to predict such a thing, how could they be caught off guard by the male disciples?
Hei decided that he was probably just over-thinking things, but he began his preparations just in case.
Even though it wasn’t a side quest. Yup! Definitely not.
“I wonder why you are able to say all of this so calmly.”
Hei was curious as to how Qiuyue was able to describe these terrible events so matter-of-factly.
They were both indifferent about the information, but to Hei, it simply had nothing to do with him. Qiuyue, on the other hand, was much more involved.
Qiuyue turned to Hei with a questioning look.
“You expected me to be indignant?”
“What is the point in being angry at people who no longer exist?”
Hearing this, Hei smiled.
‘I was wrong about her. She is actually a level-headed young lady. A little arrogant, but a good fit for Little Bai.’
Hei was thinking of how he would rope Qiuyue in as Bai’s friend when he thanked her and turned to leave.
“Thank you for sharing this information with me, Young Lady.”
“… You’re welcome.”
Qiuyue watched as Hei turned to return to Jingfei.
This was her first ever interaction with a man, and it wasn’t anything special.
She didn’t have a negative impression of him and she didn’t feel the ‘lascivious eyes’ that the elders had described, nor did she feel like he was trying to con her.
She attributed it to his young age.
“… Senior Sister is also okay.”
For the time being, he wasn’t a ‘violent oppressor of women’, so letting him call her his senior sister wasn’t a problem.
She would wait until the transformation occurred before she made her final judgement on him.
Hearing this, Hei turned back to her and gave her a smile.
“Senior Sister Qiuyue it is then.”
Qiuyue was slightly bothered by Hei’s quick adoption. This was very similar to what was described by the elders.
He may not be a ‘violent oppressor of women’ yet, but he did take every opportunity to lower their guards. This must have been how he got Jingfei to accept the maid position.
She turned around and went to a bench, where she waited for Jingfei to finish reading.
Hei was wondering what he did wrong as he went back to Jingfei.
When he neared Jingfei, she turned to him with a confused look.
“Is this really all there is?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean… Isn’t there more? This can’t be all of it, right?”
“This covers the contents of the books you gave me. Every formation mentioned in those books is present.”
“I know that, but shouldn’t there be more… more…”
Jingfei seemed to be having trouble finding the word she was looking for.
“That’s it! It’s too easy. Even a small child could understand this. How can it be at the level of a one-star array master?”
Hei hadn’t considered this point. He didn’t know what was required to become a one-star array master. All he did was dump all of the information in an easily digested form.
“What are the requirements for becoming a one-star array master?”
“One must be able to identify and produce all of the standard one-star formations. This is both in their theoretical forms and in any modified forms for specific environments.”
Hearing this, Hei let out a sigh of relief.
He used his Qi to draw a formation on the ground and spoke.
“What is this?”
Jingfei answered without delay.
“That is an acceleration formation.”
“Will it work?”
Hei drew another formation.
“How about this?”
“A friction reduction formation.”
“Will it work?”
“How about this?”
“A dome defence formation. And it will work.”
Jingfei had caught on to Hei’s cycle.
“Then what about this one?”
“This is a sphere defence formation and it will work.”
“It is also a sphere defence formation, but it won’t work.”
“Because it’s lonely.”
“… In other words?”
“It doesn’t pass through enough earth nodes.”
“Make it work.”
Jingfei activated the technique Hei had included in the manual, which allowed one to sense the flow of the earth nodes.
She then adjusted a few of the paths of the formation and supplied it some Qi.
As she did, she saw the formation work as expected.
She then turned to Hei with a questioning look.
“Why are we doing all of these simple things? They will hardly help me to understand the theory, which is where I am lacking.”
It wasn’t Hei, but Qiuyue who answered.
“What lacking theory? You just displayed the ability of a one-star array master. Sure, your reasoning for why the sphere defence formation didn’t work was weird, but you were able to adjust it to suit the current environment. How is this possible?”
She had been watching as Hei and Jingfei were going through the exercises and she was amazed at how fast Jingfei was able to recognise the very weirdly set up arrays that Hei had shown her.
The way Hei had drawn those arrays was so far from their theoretical forms, she was surprised that they were even functioning formations.
Hearing Qiuyue’s words, Jingfei also realised what she had just done.
To her, it was as easy as putting shapes into their appropriate holes. How could she believe that it was the same incomprehensible formation theory that had baffled her for years?
“The Shao Clan’s formation foundations really are deep. To think you could also learn it like this.”
Jingfei had no choice but to admire the Shao Clan’s mastery.
Hearing Jingfei’s words, Qiuyue became intrigued.
“It’s my family clan. You can also practice the techniques if you want, Senior Sister Qiuyue.”
Hearing that the source of the information was Hei’s family clan, Qiuyue lost interest.
Inviting her to practice it was obviously an attempt to lure her into some kind of trap. The same thing had clearly happened to Jingfei, and she didn’t even realise it.
She was thinking that the Dark-Skinned Con Man was very subtle. It was easy to fall into his illusions.
Hei wondered why Qiuyue turned away every time he spoke her name.
‘Is it because of my irresistible charm?’
Hei knew he would only be fooling himself if he believed this, so he decided to move on.
He turned to Jingfei.
“I believe you should be able to pass the advancement exam now.”
Jingfei was also confident in passing. Who would have known that asking Hei for help would give her unexpected gains?
So far, being his maid wasn’t bad at all.
After a while, the doors behind the reception desk opened, and from them came an elder.
“Those of you who have come for your advancement should come to be registered.”
After a short while, the only examinees were Jingfei and Qiuyue.
The elder looked to Jingfei and spoke in a surprised voice.
“I didn’t expect you to be here, Jingfei. Have you finally overcome your limitations?”
It really was unexpected for Jingfei to show up.
Everyone knew that she still had a ways to go before she was ready for the advancement exam.
Qiuyue spoke up.
“Teacher, she received some help from our junior brother over there.”
The elder was confused for a moment.
Qiuyue pointed at Hei, and all three turned to look at him.
Hei smiled and waved his hand, but the elder did not return the gesture.
She turned to Jingfei and with a stern expression spoke.
“What is the meaning of this? The advancement assessment isn’t for fun and games.”
The elder was hard pressed to believe that a small child had enough knowledge about formations to help another and especially not Jingfei, who had come to her for help on several occasions.
“I’m not messing around, Teacher. I really feel that I am ready for the advancement assessment.”
Jingfei tried to clear up the bad air and Qiuyue was also about to speak up, when the elder spoke.
“Enough! If you insist on this foolishness, then you will need to pay a deposit of 10 merit points if you wish to participate.”
“What? But the advancement exam is meant to be free.”
“It is free for those who have a good chance of success. For you, who is insisting on wasting resources, I will charge a deposit.”
10 merit points were quite a lot. Even the most difficult of missions only paid a maximum of 100 merit points.
Jingfei was about to complain when she heard Hei’s voice.
“Peak Leader Jingfei. Do you lack confidence?”
Hei then spoke to her in private using his Qi.
Hearing his words, Jingfei was intrigued.
She handed over a jade token to the elder, who was surprised that Jingfei was actually paying the deposit.
If before, she thought that Jingfei was messing around, she was now having second thoughts.
Jingfei was known to lack understanding of theory, but she was no fool.
“Very well. Follow me.”
The three walked to the sight of the assessment.
When Hei tried to follow, a young lady blocked his way.
“You will need to pay 100 merit points in order to spectate the assessment.”
“… Never mind then.”