Soon, the rain stopped, and all returned to normal.
Hei removed his hand from his face and placed both hands behind his back as he walked towards Qiuyue and Jingfei.
He really looked misunderstood.
Qiuyue was unsure what to think. This particular illusion was very realistic. Too realistic.
Even the ground shook, and rain clouds filled the sky. If this was a mere illusion, how had it achieved such scale?
Jingfei could see that Qiuyue was deep in thought.
She lightly patted Qiuyue’s arm.
“He did the same thing at the 5-sect summit.”
“… I see.”
Qiuyue was still unsure, but if Jingfei said he had done the same thing before, then it coincided with what the elders had been saying about his illusions.
They were unfathomable.
Seeing this, Hei complained in his mind.
‘Ugh. Jingfei sure does like to spoil people’s fun.’
He smiled and rubbed his head.
“Cough. Shall we proceed?”
He pointed the way forward and the two young ladies continued on their way.
[Was that The Heavens just now?]
[Mm. I just got Heavenly Bestowal.]
After the information had been transferred, Hei discovered that Heavenly Bestowal was the opposite of Heavenly Revocation.
If he wanted, he could transfer some of his cultivation to another, regardless of whether they had spirit roots or not.
On top of that, he could take the spirit roots he had revoked and give them to another cultivator. He could even absorb the spirit roots to add to his own cultivation.
[What? You are telling me that The Heavens just now granted you Heavenly Bestowal?]
[Mm. I asked, and I received.]
[You asked? And you received, just like that? How is this possible? Why did it never work for me?]
Hei decided not to go into the details. It seemed this fellow may not be able to handle it.
[When you have an amicable relationship with The Heavens, such as I do-]
Hei’s words were interrupted by a slight tremor in the ground.
[Cough. It just worked out that way.]
Onyx still couldn’t believe it, but this was good news for him.
[Then bestow me the spirit roots.]
[Not going to happen.]
[Eh? Why not. It will help me to-]
[Yes, yes. You are about to tell me how it will benefit you. Why don’t you try telling me how it will benefit me?]
[This… It will increase my abilities. Right now, I am not complete.]
[Question. What does it matter to me if your abilities increase?]
[… You will be able to use me to greater effect. My barrier will become stronger among other things.]
[Because you have been a tremendous help to me thus far, right? Your barrier has saved me countless times? And if it were only a little more powerful, I would be able to achieve something I am currently unable to?]
[… I know. You want to use it to strengthen yourself, but I have several-]
[I have a mother, you know.]
[What does that have to do with-]
[Who do you think is a higher priority to me. You, or my mother?]
[Probably your mother. But I don’t understand your point.]
[Every time I use Heavenly Bestowal for you, I am not using it for my mother. Now take a moment to think about it. Why would I use Heavenly Bestowal for your sake?]
Onyx never expected Hei to prioritise his mother over himself.
Most other people would have rejected him for their own strength, to which, he had several compelling arguments. But he felt none of them would be able to persuade Hei.
[I… I suppose you have no reason to do so.]
[Never mind then…]
Hei could hear a loss of hope in Onyx’s voice.
[Don’t be so glum, chum. There will be many opportunities to use Heavenly Bestowal. If I ever actually need your shield to grow stronger, or if you come up with a compelling reason, I will consider it.]
[What would be a compelling reason?]
There was a little hope in Onyx’s voice. He had built up a large network over his lifetime. If there was something Hei wanted, he was sure he would be able to obtain it.
[I don’t know. Figure it out for yourself.]
With that, their conversation came to a close.
Hei followed as Jingfei showed Qiuyue all of the rooms that she knew about.
When Qiuyue entered Jingfei’s room, she was particularly drawn to the large mirror.
She turned to Jingfei.
“Where did you get this mirror from? I’ve never seen one like it.”
Jingfei smiled in response.
“Young Master Hei made it for me. Apparently, it is standard issue for his maids.”
Qiuyue opened her eyes wide. She turned to Hei, who was smiling.
“All of your maids have things like this?”
She didn’t believe it. It was probably just some lip service to lower Jingfei’s guard.
“Mm. And this is just for temporary maids like Jingfei. My permanent maids get a lot more than this.”
Hei signalled Qiuyue to follow.
He led the two to the room he had created for the matriarch, Liling.
“This is the room of my first maid, Liling.”
Hei opened the door, and on the other side, there was a field of peonies as far as the eye could see.
A gentle breeze brought forth their scent, which calmed the minds of those who entered the room.
The sky was at sunset and a simple wooden bed stood alone, adorned by the flowers.
Qiuyue and Jingfei couldn’t believe their eyes. Was this a room or a world?
As they stepped into the room, they noticed that the flowers avoided their feet.
Qiuyue was the one to speak.
“This is also a mixture of defence and illusion formations?”
“Mm. The scenery can be adjusted to suit the individual.”
He snapped his fingers and the entire scenery changed to a simple log cabin. A fireplace by the side and the same bed in the corner.
A warm and cosy environment.
That was all Qiuyue could say. Even one-star array masters wouldn’t be able to create such a formation.
Hei placed his finger over his lips.
“It’s a Shao Clan secret.”
“This… If I learn your Shao Clan’s formation techniques, will I be able to do this?”
“That depends on your ability, but as the techniques improve, it shouldn’t be too hard for even Jingfei to do this much.”
Jingfei jumped in.
“What do you mean even Jingfei?”
The three laughed and Hei spoke.
“Then let’s head over to the formation room.”
Hei led the way to the formation room, which was a place Jingfei hadn’t visited yet, but she may as well have. It was exactly the same as the alchemy room, platforms and all.
However, these platforms were to practice interactions with earth nodes.
Hei had located areas with good concentrations of earth nodes, which would allow one to practice a wide variety of formations.
When they settled down, Hei had Qiuyue and Jingfei discuss formations.
He would pose questions and listen to both of their answers.
Since they were both newly advanced one-star array masters, their abilities were similar, but there were differences in the way they understood things.
Hei used this knowledge to create a foundational manual for Qiuyue, which would reinforce her foundations, filling in some of the gaps, where she wasn’t sure of the correctness of her understanding.
As she read the manual, she came to understand why Jingfei was willing to call him Young Master Hei.
The way he described the theory spoke straight into her mind. It was like reading notes she had made herself. Almost as if she wasn’t actually learning anything but was going over things she already knew.
This was the case, even for things that she previously had difficulty understanding. She was amazed as she felt the fog clearing up.
She was now able to understand what Jingfei meant when she said a formation was lonely, or that a circulation path lacked friends.
It wasn’t just some oversimplification of the theory. It was a fundamental difference.
The way the Shao Clan created their formations, was as if they were communicating with the earth nodes, entering a relationship.
It was much different from the cold, almost forceful approach she had learned prior.
It was no wonder Hei’s illusions were so profound. If he had formations like these at his fingertips, even the world itself would help him to fool people.
While communicating with Jingfei and Qiuyue, Hei was also assimilating the information held within the one-star books.
He had now finished creating manuals for both young ladies.
“These are the manuals for the both of you. It’s best if you study them alone and don’t compare notes until you have finished. It will just confuse you both.”
Hei handed them their respective manuals and some chains he had formed, which they could use for the circuitry and power.
He then began his own practice.
It just so happened that the one-star books mentioned some basic implementation of combat techniques in formations.
All three were in silence as they focused on their respective tasks. Onyx was thinking about what he could use to negotiate with Hei.
After Hei had become comfortable with the new information, he went around the residence and added some water-gathering formations, and heating formations so there could be baths.
He then worked on the mountain, increasing the realism.
To complete the illusion, he had the mountain remember its state. If someone had picked up a stone, that stone would be removed from the illusory mountain.
Similarly, if they placed it back down, it would reappear.
This was done by mixing in Bai’s Marionette.
By hijacking the cultivators’ circulation paths, the cultivators themselves would become part of the formation.
Now, as soon as one entered the area within a few meters of the mountain, their senses would become Hei’s playthings.
They could feel like they were holding a stone, but in actuality, they were only grasping the extension of the defensive formation that had been formed in their hands.
The only problem lay in if they let go of the rock and it was left in the air.
That was when things would get difficult, as there was no way to know where the rock was as soon as it was disconnected from the formation.
Hei had no idea how to solve this problem right now, but he assumed the knowledge would be available in more advanced books.
For now, he resorted to creating a thin line between any extensions and the main formation. This way, there would be a string attached and the rock could realistically fall.
He wasn’t too pleased with this patchwork solution, as it felt like the same thing he had to go through with his chains. The way they needed to be attached to his body wasn’t ideal.
Once Hei was finished with his adjustments, he returned to the formation room, where Qiuyue and Jingfei were discussing their recent gains.
“You two seem to be lively.”
They both turned to Hei.
Qiuyue spoke first.
“This is unbelievable.”
Jingfei added on.
“Mm. We haven’t been able to talk about formations like this for years.”
This was the truth.
Qiuyue and Jingfei used to be close friends who did nearly everything together.
Their relationship started to become strained when Qiuyue’s talents in formations outclassed Jingfei’s. She tried to help Jingfei, but a little over a year ago, Jingfei just stopped trying.
Frustrated, Qiuyue took a harsh tone with the friend that she didn’t want to see lose hope.
After all, she worked harder than anyone else when it came to carving circulation paths, and her skills showed it.
Now that they were able to speak on the same level again, their friendship could continue as it had.
This was why Jingfei was looking so hard for Qiuyue earlier in the day.
“If it’s like this, Elder Ping doesn’t stand a chance.”
She placed her hand on her chin and seemed to be concerned.
Hei decided to ask what was on her mind.
“Are you concerned about Elder Ping? Should we go easy on her?”
Hei was just trying to teach her a lesson. It didn’t have to go too far.
Qiuyue’s response was much different from what Hei expected.
She raised her head and looked straight into Hei’s eyes.
“I want in.”
“I want in. I’ll give you my merit points and you’ll give me back 800 per cent. You can keep the other 10 per cent as thanks. How about it?”
Qiuyue was factoring in the 10 per cent transaction fee between students. She would give Jingfei her merit points which would become 90 per cent, which would be multiplied by 10 after defeating Elder Ping, becoming 900 per cent. But it would be deducted again when Jingfei transferred it back to her, becoming 810 per cent.
“… Do you have some personal grudge against Elder Ping?”
Hei was surprised that Qiuyue was so easily able to take from someone she called her teacher.
“No. Why? Do you expect me to forgo a good opportunity because of something like that?”
Qiuyue was only looking at the gains. As far as she was concerned, it was Elder Ping’s fault for agreeing to such an exploitable set of conditions.
One would think that the 7 days were to allow enough time to teach Jingfei, and Elder Ping must have been thinking the same thing, but that was clearly not the case.
Jingfei was ready to compete right now, and there was still time to spare. Evidently, the plan was to increase the merit points using the 7 days.
Qiuyue remembered feeling it was odd when Hei had said that Jingfei’s merit points would be calculated at the end of the match, as opposed to right there and then, or a simple fixed sum.
She now knew why he did so. He had left a loophole for himself and even had Jingfei stoke up Elder Ping’s confidence, causing her to miss the small detail.
‘There it is again.’
Hei was noticing Qiuyue’s strange disconnect from emotional things.
She was able to describe tragic events that influenced her without batting an eye and robbing someone she had known for years was even easier.
“How many merit points do you have?”
“Around 8,000. I have been saving up to purchase all of the one-star books as well.”
“I thought it would look cool.”
Hei gave her a smile and a thumbs up.
“My kind of Senior Sister.”
He had found a fellow practitioner of the art of flashiness. Sure, she wasn’t riding in on dragons, but the concept was the same.
‘She just seems to lack the concept of being low key at times. That is where she and I differ.’
This was what Hei was thinking, conveniently forgetting the events of earlier.
“How about you become my maid? We can be the coolest Young Master and maid combination under the nine heavens.”
Hei was imagining the things he could do if he had a partner in flash. It didn’t even matter if she was a blue or not. The mindset was more important.
Jingfei performed fairly well when he was fooling the elder, but she lacked a certain quality. A certain flair.
Qiuyue wasted no time in her response.
She nodded her head, causing Hei to become excited.
She then smiled.