After having finished his conversation with his business partner, Hei got back to his preparations.
This continued for a few days. He was constantly tinkering with the movie jades and fine-tuning the details of his plan.
The cat mostly did its own thing. Every now and then it would leave the room and go who knows where. Sometimes it would watch as Hei worked on his surveillance system.
After a few days, a familiar voice was heard from outside the door.
Hei had forgotten about this way of address.
He wasn’t particularly fond of the name. However, he didn’t want to reveal his name, and coming up with a codename seemed kind of… so he had to deal with it.
“Don’t mind if I do.”
Honghuo entered the room and sat opposite Hei, who was still working on his movie jades.
“What are you working on there?”
“Movie jades? Are you interested in making home movies?”
“Something like that.”
“Sigh. While some of us are out here doing hard work, others are sitting at home making movies.”
“How is that working out for you?”
“You got nothing?”
“That’s the gist of it.”
Honghuo shoulders slumped as he released a heavy sigh.
“They’re getting more cautious. It’s getting harder to find the lone wolves.”
“Which makes sense. You’ve been attacking them left and right. It’s a surprise you haven’t been surrounded yet.”
The corners of Honghuo’s mouth raised slightly.
“I have my means as well.”
“So, how goes the search for your sister?”
Honghuo shook his head.
“You know what people would say in this situation, right?”
“Okay, okay. I get it. You were right about that. I really have no idea what I’m doing. But you have to understand, I can’t just sit around doing nothing.”
“I understand. For you, this is a matter of urgency. For me, not so much. Your way isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s just a little impractical. In fact, there’s a version of myself who would act much in the same way as you.”
Honghuo didn’t quite understand the meaning behind his companion’s words, but the general message was clear enough.
“Right… But still, it doesn’t feel too good to have achieved nothing in all this time.”
“What you haven’t achieved, is discovering your sister’s situation. But your actions have no doubt prevented a number of kidnappings. I know nine young ladies who owe you their lives. That is something you can be proud of.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
Honghuo had a bitter smile. Sure, it was great that he saved those girls, but if he couldn’t rescue his sister, what did it matter?
“So, I take it these movie jades have something to do with the Zhu Clan?”
“They do indeed.”
“Are you going to elaborate?”
“These movie jades are part of a surveillance system I’m developing. I’ll use it to monitor the Zhu Clan and gather information.”
“Why do you need a surveillance system?”
“Because I want to get them all. Not a single one will be able to slip past my fingers.”
“… Are you sure they’re just a nuisance? There’s no deep grievance here?”
“When I say all of them, I mean all of the nuisances. The regular members, I have no intention of acting against.”
From the information he gathered from the man he had interrogated, many of the Zhu Clan were innocent of all of these matters.
The public opinion of them didn’t come from nowhere. There were quite a few decent people within the clan who deserved the respect that they were given.
Hei wanted to make sure they wouldn’t be displaced too much, but it was inevitable that their lives would be impacted by this.
For instance, the Zhu Clan’s patriarch was one of the troublesome elements that needed to be removed.
In fact, most of the troublesome elements were higher-ups within the Zhu Clan, meaning Hei’s and Honghuo’s actions would cause quite the disturbance.
“Right. You did show me a list of names. I actually ran into a few of the people on that list.”
“Oh? What was the outcome?”
“They’ve been dealt with.”
“Did you loot their bodies?”
“Let me see.”
Honghuo released the contents of his spatial ring onto the table between the two. A large number of miscellaneous objects with various glows and sparkles appeared.
After sifting through the objects, Hei found what he was looking for.
When he saw what Hei had taken, Honghuo raised a brow.
“Why are you taking those?”
“Because they’re the most valuable things here.”
Honghuo couldn’t help but shake his head. It seemed the rumours about powerful experts being eccentrics were true.
Amongst all of the various items he had taken from his enemies’ bodies, the communication jades could easily be described as the least valuable.
“One man’s trash, I guess.”
“One man’s trash?”
Hei said this with a light breath. These words had caused him to reconsider some things.
Honghuo, not knowing what Hei was getting at, decided to enlighten him.
“It’s a saying. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. It means value is subjective, and that really, it’s how much you yourself value something that determines whether it is a treasure to you.”
Of course, Hei already knew this. He was just thinking about his treasure detection ability. He may have been looking at it from the wrong perspective.
Every time he had tried to use this ability before, he had wanted to find ‘treasure’. But maybe treasure wasn’t something the ability was able to decide on its own. Maybe it depended on Hei giving it a metric with which to determine whether something was a treasure or not.
With this thought, he again looked at the pile of objects Honghuo had laid out on the table.
He tried to activate the treasure detection ability, but this time, with the intention of finding a specific item within the pile.
The item he tried to find was a plain-looking dagger, and when he tried to activate the ability, the dagger was made very prominent in his vision.
‘So, it really is like that.’
He then tried obscuring his vision of the dagger by placing items in front of it, and sure enough, he was no longer able to detect it as a treasure.
‘It needs a direct line of sight.’
After checking his spiritual perception, and seeing nothing special about the dagger, he realised that the ability required the object to be visible to his eyes.
‘It has a different utility than Tianlan’s ability.’
Hei was contrasting and comparing his treasure detection ability and Tianlan’s eyes.
Tianlan was able to see through all things, and as such, if he were searching for a treasure or something of the sort, no obstacles would be able to prevent him from discovering it.
Hei’s ability, on the other hand, required him to know exactly what he was looking for and to have a direct line of sight with it.
There were advantages and disadvantages to both.
Tianlan’s ability was one such that he could scan an area and find all things of value, but Hei’s ability was one such that he would know exactly what he was looking at and would be able to appraise it.
While Tianlan may see an area of strange activity, Hei could use filters to determine if it was a trap, if it was a fragment of something they were looking for, if it was harmful or beneficial.
If they were to combine their abilities, they would have a very robust detection and appraisal system.
After confirming that, he tried using the ability to find multiple items, namely the communication jades in his hand.
He wanted to see if the ability could be used to find classes of objects rather than individual objects.
As he was familiarising himself with the treasure detection ability, Hei looked quite strange to Honghuo.
All of a sudden, he started shuffling things around on the table and looking at them, placing his hand in front of his face, and all sorts of actions that seemed strange out of context.
They really were eccentric.
After confirming several things, Hei decided to try one more approach.
If the treasure detection ability was able to show him things he was looking for, did it extend to people?
If this was the case, he may be able to find envoys without releasing his aura, which would reduce the risk of being discovered by the enemy.
He looked at Honghuo and tried activating the treasure detection ability, searching for an assassin.
It seemed his thoughts were not wrong. The Honghuo in Hei’s vision was made very prominent. It was hard to describe what exactly the change was, but it was such a change that Hei knew that this was the ‘treasure’ he was looking for.
This was good news for more reasons than one.
At the very least, it would drastically reduce the amount of reconnaissance he would have to do. His biggest problem was to find all of the troublesome elements within the Zhu Clan. It wouldn’t be as easy as interrogating one person.
He had been planning to monitor them for months if need be, but if he were able to just stroll in and use his treasure detection ability, then things would be much simpler.
Now, all he needed to do was gather the important information, such as who they were collaborating with, where the sect leader was, and ideally what was done with the other women they had kidnapped.
However, the last item wasn’t a priority.
Other than being useful for this mission, the treasure detection ability could play a large role in any internal cleaning operations.
Hei wasn’t so naïve as to believe that all envoys of the heavens would be on his side. It was entirely possible that there would be those who also wished to take the throne of the world.
If people such as those were to be brought into the Shao Clan, it would be bringing in those who would inevitably become traitors.
At that time, the treasure detection ability would be extremely useful. After all, those closest were also the ones who had the most potential to cause harm.
Being stared at by Hei, Honghuo felt a little uncomfortable.
“What? Something on my face?”
Of course, Honghuo wasn’t being serious. If there truly was something on his face, he could just use his spiritual perception to check.
“I was verifying a few things.”
“All right then. So, what do you want with the jades?”
“I want to see if there are any formations that act to keep conversations between those using these communication jades private.”
Honghuo wasn’t proficient in formations. He mainly studied alchemy as his occupation. This was so he could train his mental energy and make a living.
It was also what the spirit in his ring encouraged him to do.
The reason Hei wanted these jades was that part of his surveillance system involved intercepting communications between those within the Zhu Clan’s residence and those outside of it.
This would be useful in finding out about their collaborators, and also the movements of the Zhu Clan members who were outside of the residence.
After having interrogated that man, he had learnt of the secret messages that the Zhu Clan used, but he still wanted to check if the jades themselves held formations that scrambled the information.
If they existed, he aimed to analyse them and create encryption and decryption systems based on them.
That way, he would be able to intercept the messages, check their contents, and then move them along in the exact same way they were originally sent, such that the parties involved would not be able to detect his intrusion.
Having finished talking, Hei went back to working on his surveillance system.
“So, you’re just going to keep working on those jades?”
“For the time being. You?”
“I suppose I can only continue what I’ve been doing. Even if I can’t do much, I can still crush a few of their toes.”
“That is, of course, unless a certain hidden expert decides to move a little faster.”
Honghuo leaned towards Hei as he said this.
“That would be convenient, wouldn’t it?”
“Truly. I wonder where I can find such a… hidden expert…”
He emphasised those last two words.
“A dilemma indeed. Have you tried a cultivation chat group?”
“Hm? Chat group?”
“All right then… But it sure would be nice if say, I don’t know, someone dressed all in black, maybe with a metal mask on his face, accompanied by a green cat, would step in and march over to the Zhu Clan in indignant fury. Don’t you agree?”
“I think you should find yourself a black outfit and metal mask. Maybe even a green cat if you’re feeling whimsical. You already have the indignant fury.”
“Sigh. If you don’t want to do it, just say so.”
“If you want my help, just say so.”
Honghuo’s eyes sparkled.
“Will you help me then?”
“Mm. Since you’re looking for a powerful expert…”
“You should become that powerful expert…”
“Learn to use your power better. It was only when you became enraged after I mentioned your sister that you started to show some decent ability. Learn to fight like that all the time.”
“You must forge yourself through life-and-death battles. Only then will you be able to fully realise your potential.”
Hei then muttered under his breath.
“Or some nonsense like that.”
He wasn’t afraid of sending Honghuo to his death. All of the main characters received zenkai boosts after being beaten to near death.
“So, that’s what being an expert means.”
It seemed Honghuo received Hei’s words well.
The spirit in his ring had also said things like this. He didn’t quite believe it, but if two experts were saying the same thing, who was he to doubt it?
“Then, I’ll be heading out.”
Honghuo was about to leave when he noticed the cat, who was lazing around.
“How have you been these past few days?”
“You seem to be the most carefree of us all.”
After seeing the strangely expressive actions of the cat, Honghuo decided to take his leave.