Jingfei wondered what exactly Hei’s plan was.
“Alchemy? I don’t think it will be as easy as you think, Young Master Hei. There aren’t many parallels between alchemy and formations.”
Hearing Jingfei’s concern, Hei smiled.
“That’s not a problem. Our Shao Clan actually also has alchemy foundations.”
Jingfei never thought that the Shao Clan not only had a mysterious method of teaching formations, but also a foundation in alchemy.
“Mm. It may not be as complete as the sect’s though. We had access to limited information when we created our alchemy method, but it should be good enough to refine a few pills.”
“Then, you want to turn in those pills for merit points?”
“That’s the plan.”
“I see. But the ingredients also cost merit points, and the success rate of forging pills, generally means that juniors are taking a loss if they wish to earn merit points in that way.”
“There’s no need to worry about that. Our Shao Clan’s technique has a 100 per cent success rate for the formulas included. Once one fully masters the method, failure is very rare.”
“One-one hundred per cent? How-”
“Is it a surprise? Our technique was developed by my adorable little sister and me. How could it be any less than spectacular?”
“What exactly are you, Young Master Hei?”
“Hm? What do you mean?”
“… Never mind.”
“Alright then. The general plan is to find out all of the tradable pills. Arrange them in order of best cost to profit ratio, and then find the lowest level pills with the highest profit margins.”
Jingfei agreed. Was there any other way?
“After that, I will personally refine the pills required to recoup our investment, the rest of the ingredients will be for you to practice with.”
“For me? But my alchemy skills are no good.”
“Of course. After all, your merit points are what’s funding this.”
Hearing this, Jingfei thought for a moment before she responded.
“No. You can use my merit points for free. You have already helped me tremendously. Besides, if you do all of the alchemy, you will be able to grow the merit points faster.”
Hei smiled in response.
“Is it that you have no interest in alchemy?”
“No. I just don’t have the aptitude.”
Seeing Jingfei’s slightly furrowed brows, Hei could tell that she really did like alchemy.
“Then worry not. To our Shao Clan, aptitude is about as important as whether you are left handed or right handed. It is only a matter of tailoring the information to the individual.”
Jingfei’s brows slightly relaxed.
“It is the same as with formation theory. It wasn’t that you were incompetent, but the way the information was delivered, did not match your ability to learn.”
Upon hearing these words, Jingfei remembered how everything became so easy after studying the materials Hei had given her.
“You will come to learn that nothing is out of reach for our Shao Clan. If you wish to become proficient in alchemy, then I will show you the way.”
Hei stopped walking and turned to Jingfei.
“Do you wish to become proficient in alchemy?”
Jingfei looked to Hei with bright eyes.
If his alchemy was anywhere near as good as his formations, she would have a lot to gain by learning from him.
“Yes. I would very much like to learn from you.”
She also liked the fact that Hei was not seeking to maximise his own gain, but was trying to help her improve herself instead.
He always said words like ‘our home’ and he kept saying ‘our Shao Clan’, which made her feel like an important person to him.
She didn’t really care how Hei thought about her, she only needed his help. But being important to someone was always nice.
From there, they went to the alchemy hall, where they gathered the information they needed.
After organizing the information, Hei discovered that the current Shao Clan alchemy method really was quite limited.
It seemed that the information contained within the Fang Clan was not very expansive.
After choosing an appropriate formula and confirming that Jingfei had all of the necessary tools, they spent every last merit point Jingfei had on the ingredients.
They then returned to their residence, cutting their trip short.
Hei led Jingfei to the alchemy room he had built into the residence.
It was just a plain room which had formations to fortify the walls in case of cauldron explosions.
It was also well ventilated to prevent smoke from affecting the breathing of those within.
There were several small platforms where one could place cauldrons, which had formations to suppress the lesser explosions.
Even though his defences were able to handle cauldron explosions, they were still quite messy, so Hei made sure to put extra focus on these formations.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a formation to detect faulty pills as far as he was aware. The most deadly ones were the ones that didn’t have any outwardly visible flaws.
Jingfei placed her cauldron on one of the platforms and Hei did the same.
His cauldron was a gift from the Fang Clan. He received it after having improved their alchemy foundations.
Hei described what they would be doing for the next few days.
“I will refine pills to recoup our investment, and any successes you have will be used to purchase books.”
“As your success rate improves and we are able to obtain more books, we will be able to increase our profit margins by refining better pills, which will allow us to get even more books.”
“Once we have all of the apprentice level books, hehe.”
“We take all of the merit points?”
Hei nodded his head.
“We take all of the merit points.”
From there, the two spent the rest of the day doing their respective tasks.
Hei created a manual for Jingfei, which she began studying, while he refined the pills that would sustain their operation.
After Hei had finished refining his pills, he spent the rest of the time helping Jingfei with anything she found challenging or confusing.
Once Jingfei had understood the contents, she sat down in front of her cauldron and began refining her own pills.
It was failure after failure, after failure, but she didn’t lose hope.
Hei was behind her every step of the way, pointing out her mistakes and encouraging her to continue.
After each failure, Hei’s comments reduced, and the difficulty Jingfei felt decreased.
Until, finally, she succeeded.
“Well done, Jingfei. But there are still a lot of materials left. Let’s see if you can succeed again.”
Jingfei was quite pleased with this result.
Previously, her success rate had been somewhere around 1 per cent. This was only the 50th try and she had already succeeded.
While it may not seem like much, she could feel that she had made a major improvement.
Failure, failure, failure, failure, failure, failure, success, failure, failure, failure, success.
This kind of pattern continued until all of the resources were used up.
Jingfei was amazed by what she was seeing.
Right next to Hei’s pile of pills, there were a handful of pills that she had refined herself.
If one took into account all of the resources she had used, her final success rate was around 10 per cent.
This was a huge improvement from her usual performance, and it was concentrated near the end, so her current success rate was likely higher than that.
Hei noticed her happy expression.
“Mm. This is a good improvement. You will likely have many more successes tomorrow.”
“Why wait until tomorrow? We can go and exchange the pills right now.”
Seeing Jingfei’s enthusiasm, Hei could only bring her back to reality.
“Take my hand.”
He extended a hand to Jingfei, who took it.
Jingfei tried to squeeze Hei’s hand, but she realised that there was no strength behind her grip.
“What is this?”
“The Shao Clan technique may be profound, but it takes a massive toll on mental energy. It seems your foundations aren’t so good, so if you continue, you could cause yourself harm.”
“Don’t worry. Just allow yourself to rest. As you practice the technique more, your exhaustion will reduce, and one day, the effects will be negligible.”
Jingfei tried to stand so she could walk to her room, but she realised that her legs had the same problem. In fact, she had now lost her ability to hold herself up.
As she realised that she was in a helpless position, she started to panic.
The sect had told her that men would use underhanded means to paralyse women before having their way with them.
She went through all of the interactions she had had with Hei and started to notice some sinister intent. It was almost as if Hei was trying to lure her into something.
As Hei reached his hand out to help her up, she tried desperately to move away.
Seeing her pale face and the way she was trying to avoid his hand, Hei raised a brow in confusion.
“What’s wrong, Jingfei?”
“St-stay away from me. You’re just like they described.”
“Eh? What are you talking about?”
“All of this. It was all lies! You just wanted to lower my guard. I should have known.”
At this point, tears were flowing from Jingfei’s eyes. She had tried to escape a tiger, only to land in the den of a lion.
‘Well, yes. I was trying to lower your guard, but there’s no need to-’
Hei was thinking that Jingfei had caught on to the fact that he was trying to have her become his lifelong maid, when he put the pieces together.
His brows furrowed, and he looked to the ground before turning back to Jingfei, who was repeatedly saying ‘I should have known’.
He used his Qi to raise her from the ground and took out the bed he had been making for himself from his storage space.
He placed Jingfei on the bed and covered her with a blanket.
Then, he drew a symbol in the air using his Qi and floated it over to Jingfei.
“This is the key to the defensive formations of this room. I’m sure you know how to take control for yourself.”
He then turned around and started walking.
As he got to the door, he paused and turned back to Jingfei, who seemed to have calmed down a bit.
“I know it is a result of what you have been taught, so I won’t resent you for it, but it hurts me that you would think of me that way.”
He then vanished, returning to his own room.
He was thinking that it may not have been the best of choices to have Bai come here.
It was only because he thought it would be a good place for her to learn from older women, that he encouraged her to choose the Radiant Jade Sect.
But it seemed there were some serious problems with the education the sect provided.
As she was left alone, Jingfei was in a state of confusion.
On one hand, the Hei she knew would not do such a thing. She hadn’t known him for long, but he had been nothing but kind to her throughout their interactions.
On the other hand, the sect had informed her that men were capable of the most heinous manipulation of the emotions of women. Anything they said or did, could have harmful ulterior motives.
She looked to the formation key Hei had given her, and used the abilities she had gained thanks to him, to alter it such that she was the only one who could enter or exit the room.
After verifying that it was functional, she began to reflect on the previous events.
She thought about how heavy Hei’s final words were. They were laden with sadness.
After long consideration, she decided that if she was able to recover fully the next day, and her alchemy had improved, she would earnestly apologise.
She knew that accusing Hei of something like this was unfair without proper evidence, especially when he was trying his best to help her.
Having made up her mind, and exhausted from the alchemy practice, she fell unconscious.
Hei was seated in his room looking out into the night sky.
The natural Qi had told him that Jingfei had fallen asleep.
‘What exactly are they teaching the young ladies here?’
He was thinking about the terror he saw in Jingfei.
After hearing Qiuyue’s story, he was fairly confident that Jingfei was not an isolated incident. It was likely that such fear was widespread within the sect.
‘It seems this side quest is bigger than I thought.’