After Honghuo had left, Hei continued working on his surveillance system.
Having obtained these communication jades from Honghuo, Hei had all he needed to proceed with his plan. Once the surveillance system was completed, he would be moving onto the next phase.
The days went by, and a few weeks later he had completed his work.
Honghuo hadn’t appeared again for the entire duration.
Hei wasn’t too concerned about him. He would probably show up later, having gained some new ability or item.
For the entire time he had been working on the surveillance system, he had remained seated in the same position, but even then, he didn’t neglect his baking training.
He knew it would only be causing trouble for himself if he were to do so, so before he left the sect, he had already transferred one of the ovens into his storage space.
Since it used formations to produce its heat, there was no need for it to be rooted in the residence.
Aside from working on his surveillance system, he would also make his daily bread.
Now that he was finished, he decided to install the surveillance system around the Zhu Clan.
He got up and proceeded towards the door of the inn.
“Oh? Where are you going?”
“To set up the surveillance system.”
“Finally moving? You’ve been sitting there all day and all night for weeks now.”
The cat jumped up onto Hei’s shoulder.
“I don’t see why my movement is any of your concern.”
“Well, I haven’t been eating well lately, if you know what I mean.”
“Your part will be coming soon.”
“That’s what I like to hear.”
Hei proceeded to leave the inn, with the cat on his shoulder.
“What, we aren’t waiting for Honghuo?”
“Who knows when he’ll come back?”
“Right. He hasn’t been around for a while. But if you want, I can take you to him. For the right price, course.”
The cat rubbed its paws together.
“That won’t be necessary.”
“Sigh. It really is hard to eat these days.”
“You can go find your own food.”
“Ah… No, I’m fine.”
“Then there’s no use in complaining.”
“If it was just me, I wouldn’t complain. But the children…”
“There you go again.”
“So, where are we headed?”
“We’re heading for the city that the Zhu Clan stays in.”
“Oh? A new city? I wonder what it will look like.”
“You can keep wondering. We won’t be going inside the city.”
“But, the formations.”
“The formations will be placed outside of the city.”
“Outside the city? How will you get them to do what you want? I thought you were trying to set up a surveillance system at the Zhu Clan.”
“I am. But to do it from within the city would be too obvious.”
“But to do it outside the city… Isn’t that impossible?”
“Are you going to explain?”
“What I need to do is set up the formations outside of the city, and then move them to the city.”
“Move them? How will you move a formation? Won’t it mess with the earth nodes?”
“I’ve already made the necessary considerations. If the earth nodes are displaced, you just have to replace them with other earth nodes.”
“But to calculate that… What level of array master are you?”
“It should be two-star. Though, I haven’t taken the advancement assessments.”
“That’s the level of the materials I have access to. You know about the human array master system?”
“I’ve heard things here and there. But only two-star… You shouldn’t be able to set up such a large formation then, right? And what about the materials?”
“If you use the conventional knowledge, then that would be an accurate judgement, but when you use that conventional knowledge as a reference for other ideas, you can find things that normally wouldn’t be possible. As for the materials, I have my means.”
“Well, I suppose I’ll see with my own eyes soon enough.”
“That you will.”
The two continued their conversation as they walked closer to the city which held the Zhu Clan.
After a while, they could see it in the distance.
“That’s the place.”
“And this is as far as we go.”
Instead of responding, Hei cleared up a section of his storage space and used it to transfer the earth beneath them into it, creating a staircase that led underground.
“Eh? What happened to the ground?”
The cat was surprised to see the ground open up all of a sudden. Not many people would use their spatial rings for digging purposes, so this was not a commonly seen occurrence.
Hei didn’t answer but instead walked down the staircase he had created.
Since his storage space was limited, he filled in the ground behind him as he walked down, making it seem as if nothing had ever happened, but he continued to walk down the stairs that kept being produced as he moved along.
To prevent the ground from caving in, he used his Qi to reinforce the surroundings.
“It’s dark in here. Not the greatest place to be.”
Hearing this, he pulled out a night pearl from his storage space and held it in his hand.
“That’s better. So, you’re going to build this formation down here?”
“That’s the idea.”
“How deep are we going?”
“Deep enough to avoid the foundations of the city.”
After he got a good distance down, what he felt to be around 100 metres below the city, Hei stopped making the stairs and started working horizontally.
As he walked through the tunnel he had created, he was constantly creating black stone materials and embedding them in the walls of the tunnel.
These would be the circulation paths of the formations he was creating.
“You’re putting the formations on the walls? How are they going to work?”
The cat was interested in this. Most formations would be placed on a horizontal surface, such as the floor, not a vertical one, such as a wall.
“This is a formation built out of many smaller formations. When they move, they’ll align and create one big cohesive formation.”
Hei worked, creating several small formations, and adding his movie jades and other components of his surveillance system to them.
He was moving quite slowly, because he was trying to make use of the natural Qi, rather than his own. If he were to use his own Qi, it would run out long before he was able to complete the formations.
“So, am I to believe that you’re going to walk in a circle around the city?”
From what the cat was seeing, Hei seemed to be intending to wrap the whole city in a formation.
When it had heard that he wanted to move the formations, it had thought he meant he would be creating a reasonably sized formation, and then using some method to move it along.
But now that it was seeing what he was doing, it looked more like he was about to create a ring around the city.
This on its own would already be a big task, but they were currently very far from the city, nowhere near it, so the circle Hei would have to walk around was huge.
“That’s exactly what I’m doing.”
“… That… Are you crazy?”
“What’s so crazy about it?”
“Well, for one, you don’t have to be so far away from the city. Why don’t you try moving in a little? It would greatly reduce the amount of materials you need.”
“I chose this distance to avoid detection. Moving in closer, and I would potentially enter the spiritual perception range of certain people. On top of that, even if I am discovered, at this distance, no one would believe that my actions have to do with the city.”
“So, you are crazy. And you’re just relying on the fact that everyone else will see you as crazy as well.”
“If you want to put it that way.”
“Also, it looks like you’re putting up these formations willy-nilly. Where is your compass? How are you aligning the earth nodes with your formations? Are you sure they’ll work together the way you think they will?”
“It isn’t willy-nilly. You don’t have to use a compass if you can see the earth nodes.”
“See the earth nodes? You can see them?”
“In a way.”
“… Even so, you still have to consider how they connect. Even if you can see them, that doesn’t mean you know how they’ll interact with each other.”
“If you want to know how they’ll interact with each other, you simply have to ask.”
“That confirms it. You’re crazy.”
“Maybe it is you who is ignorant.”
“As if. Do you know where I’m from?”
“Does it matter where you’re from?”
“Technically, it doesn’t, but it does mean I have access to certain information that you don’t.”
“But you don’t have access to the things I have discovered myself.”
“True. But how much could it be?”
“Enough to be able to talk to the earth nodes.”
The cat decided to just wait and see. The things Hei was saying were just too strange.
With that, Hei continued his work, answering the cat’s questions every now and then, and making sure he was going according to plan.
It took an entire three days and nights for him to complete his path around the city.
Upon seeing the circulation paths connect to the beginning, the cat commented.
“It sure took a while, but you got there in the end.”
“This is only the beginning.”
“Right, you said you were going to move the formations.”
Hei pulled out the master jade and used his Qi to issue instructions.
After a short moment, the circulation paths shook, and the ground beneath them vibrated.
The black stone then started to burrow its way into the walls and started to move further and further away from Hei and the cat.
As it moved, the circulation paths constantly adjusted themselves, overlapping and interconnecting as they proceeded on their journey.
“How are you doing this?”
“For one, how is this jade causing a change in the formations?”
“The black stones have the ability to both act as circulation paths, and the power source of the formations. Within the circulation paths, I have embedded a few of my movie jades, which can receive instructions from this master jade. After receiving the instructions, they can cause changes to occur in the formations.”
“The circulation paths are the power source?”
“Interesting. And so, I’m guessing you have a formation that is coordinating all of this?”
“Correct. Using the information I’ve gathered about the Zhu Clan, I set up a few formations which are leading the rest of the formation to surround their residence.”
“And since it’s underground like this, it’s very difficult to detect.”
“Mm. Once it reaches the correct location, it will raise itself until it discovers any other formations or buildings in its path.”
“So, what exactly is the formation going to do? You said it was surveillance. What method are you going to use?”
“In terms of visual information, I’m primarily interested in the movement of people into and out of the Zhu Clan’s residence. As people pass by the formation, it will capture their appearances and store them in movie jades.”
“What’s the use of that? By itself, that kind of information doesn’t seem very useful.”
“It will also record whether they were entering or exiting at the time and is able to detect if the same person has appeared again, so I can see how many times they have entered and exited, and at what times they entered and exited.”
“I still don’t really see how that would be useful.”
“The Zhu Clan has been kidnapping people. If the formations show a lot of people entering, but never exiting the Zhu Clan, then they are likely victims. Similarly, those who spend more time outside of the Zhu Clan than within it, are more likely to be the people I’m looking for.”
“Ah. I see.”
“Other than that, it will be useful in determining whether the people on my list are currently within the Zhu Clan’s residence or outside of it.”
“Isn’t that just taking food from my mouth?”
“If you want to put it that way.”
“Sigh. Let’s hope most of them will be outside of the residence then. Do the formations do anything else?”
“They will intercept any messages sent to and from the Zhu Clan’s residence and create copies of them. I’ll be able to listen to those messages from this master jade.”
“This is an awful lot of work.”
“More work now makes things easier later.”
The circulation paths were now out of sight.
“So, why are we still here?”
“I want to make sure there aren’t any problems. It’s not too late to call the formations back out.”
After saying this, Hei waited for a while, and when the master jade reported that the transformations were complete, he activated it to test the formations.
In front of him, a projection appeared, which displayed the entrance of the Zhu Clan.
“Oh? Is this the entrance to the Zhu Clan’s residence?”
“Looks like it.”
As people passed by the entrance, their images would freeze for a second and be drawn into the ground. Of course, they themselves couldn’t see this, but through the master jade, Hei and the cat could see it.
“Oh. You can also hear what they’re saying as they pass by?”
“This feature is more for trying to attach names to those who pass than trying to eavesdrop. The more important communications would probably be held through communication jades.”
Hei went through the tests he had prepared previously and saw that there were no issues with the formations. It also didn’t seem that anyone had discovered the presence of the formations underground.
After having confirmed that, he made his way back to the inn, where he would begin his information gathering.