After having returned back to the inn, Hei prepared for his information gathering.
He set up a formation which would be able to connect to the master jade and separate several streams of information such that he could view them individually.
What he was primarily interested in was the communications rather than the flow of people in and out of the Zhu Clan.
He decided that watching the people enter and exit the Zhu Clan wasn’t an efficient use of this time, nor was it strictly necessary. He was primarily using this for detecting who was outside of the Zhu Clan when his operation began, rather than trying to identify possible kidnap victims.
What was convenient about his method of surveillance, was that he didn’t have to actively monitor the situation. Everything was saved in the formation, such that he could view it at any time.
That meant at the time of his operation, he could check for each individual whether or not they were currently inside the Zhu Clan residence. This would greatly simplify his search efforts, as he had already put measures in place to prevent people from leaving the Zhu Clan’s residence once his plan began.
For those who were outside of the clan, he could have the cat locate them for him. But if they became too many, even his supply of treasures may not be enough to find them all.
He didn’t have a way to counter this problem, but at the time, he would know exactly how many people he would need to find.
If he were to find any patterns in the people’s movements, then he would plan his operation for a time when most people were in the residence.
Having decided this, he began his monitoring of the communications that were going in and out of the Zhu Clan’s residence.
Time slowly passed by and Honghuo was nowhere to be found, but Hei was not too concerned about this. He focused on his information gathering.
As the days went by, he found interesting pieces of information here and there. His understanding of the situation was becoming clearer and clearer, and some interesting things came to light.
While the information wasn’t whole and was contained in small snippets, Hei was able to deduce certain things after stitching them together.
One of the bigger things he discovered was the general picture of the Zhu Clan’s black-market activities.
The primary reason for the kidnappings that they were performing was that they were in the business of trafficking women. Especially young and pure women, who were particularly useful as cultivation resources.
On top of that, it seemed the Radiant Jade Sect was one of their main targets. And it wasn’t just because they were an all-women sect.
This had actually been going on for a very long time, ever since the Radiant Jade Sect was established. It was only in recent times that it was happening at a noticeable rate.
After all, there were many dangers in the world. Any cultivators who stepped beyond the safety of the sect were submitting themselves to the reality of possibly being killed at any time.
This was a common occurrence, nothing to be surprised about.
But when it was happening so frequently, it was clear that something else was going on. At the very least, the disciples of the Radiant Jade Sect were the targets of some nefarious plot.
Thus, the Radiant Jade Sect had been warning the disciples not to leave unless they had some urgent matter.
To make matters worse, the Zhu Clan’s clients were all practitioners of certain demonic cultivation techniques, and these particular techniques fed on the fear of the subject.
While the techniques worked perfectly fine with those who consented to it, those who were afraid added a unique element, which amplified the effects.
As such, to improve the quality of their ‘merchandise’, the Zhu Clan steadily infiltrated the Radiant Jade Sect with their own women, who were sent there with the express purpose of inducing fear within the disciples.
These women would all claim to have had similar stories to the founders of the sect, as in they had suffered similar attacks, and were left for dead.
It was when they heard about the Radiant Jade Sect that they decided to start new lives, or so they claimed, easily being accepted.
This was how they were able to infiltrate the sect and begin their harmful actions.
Given the circumstances of the Radiant Jade Sect’s establishment, half of their work was already done. There was already a distaste for men within the members of the sect and seeing a steady stream of people who had similar origins only worked to foster such negative feelings and fear.
They had essentially converted the Radiant Jade Sect to a farm for fearful women, who could be used to boost the cultivations of their clients.
This was the reason why the fear of men remained in the sect, even after generations and generations of new people entering and new ideas coming in.
While those new ideas were coming in, seeing a constant stream of the very victims that were described, erased any influence that outsiders had within the sect.
No matter how much anyone spoke of the good things about men, all one needed to do was turn their head and they would see another victim.
The fatal mistake of the Radiant Jade Sect was to open its arms to all women, regardless of their situations, not even conducting background checks on those who they were promoting to elders.
With their sympathy for fellow women, they didn’t doubt the truth of the words spoken by others who were in a similar situation. Instead, they were quick to warmly welcome them and make them feel at home.
It was the belief that anyone in a similar situation to them could not be against them. This was the same thought Hei’s goofy self had when he was quick to accept envoys of the heavens into the Shao Clan.
Surely other envoys would never betray them, right?
Not necessarily. Such open acceptance could easily be exploited by enemies who knew about it. As was the case for the Radiant Jade Sect.
As Hei thought about this, he didn’t feel that the Radiant Jade Sect had brought this upon themselves. He just felt that their way of doing things did not suit this world at all.
Having such sympathy for others was a concept that didn’t quite work unless one had strength. This was why the Radiant Jade Sect could not be safe in such an environment.
It was essentially a collection of women who sought sisterhood and happiness and a positive environment. This was not going to work unless they had a way to protect themselves, which they currently didn’t.
As a third-grade sect, they had no second-grade sect who was keeping an eye out for them, nor did they have any extremely powerful experts, except the sect leader, who was a minute realm cultivator.
But it could be seen how effective she was in preventing unfortunate events.
Hei felt that places such as this would actually be nice to have. In this world where strength determined everything, he wanted to create a place where people could just live good lives, regardless of if they were experts who could shake the heavens or simple bakers.
This was what he wanted to give to the Shao Clan, but it still required strength.
It just so happened that Hei was setting up a pillar and wouldn’t mind creating such an environment for the Radiant Jade Sect, so long as they were willing to submit themselves to him.
That way, they could slowly erase their fear of men, which was mostly based on the fact that they were vulnerable.
If there was someone who could weather the storm for them, then what would they have to fear?
Even if they chose not to submit, they would be able to prevent such a thing from occurring again once the truth came to light.
They would surely become less accepting and would be more rigorous in their selection of elders in the future.
That was what Hei was able to deduce about the relationship between the Zhu Clan and the Radiant Jade Sect.
Other than that, Hei found out more information on what was actually done with the women who were kidnapped.
Some of them were kept at the Zhu Clan as cultivation resources, and to sell to their clients. Others were sent to another place, which was actually a second-grade sect, but it was a hidden sect.
This greatly increased the amount of work he would have to do, as it seemed the Zhu Clan was only a front for a bigger problem.
He decided to proceed in sections. The Zhu Clan would come first. As soon as he was done with the Zhu Clan, he would immediately move on to the second-grade sect, but he wouldn’t be doing any surveillance of that sect specifically.
He had already gathered the information that was relevant to his current mission, which was to dissolve Jingfei’s marriage arrangement and rescue her mother, the sect leader.
Other than that, he had also taken on the task of finding the families of the missing disciples.
The interesting thing about the kidnap victims was, they were left completely untouched. That was especially so for the yin physiques.
While the other women, those without yin physiques, would be used as cultivation resources, either by the Zhu Clan, their clients, or the second-grade sect, no one dared to lay a hand on those with yin physiques.
There was a very good reason for this.
The ones who were seeking these yin physiques and were using the second-grade sect and the Zhu Clan as lackeys were the Merchant Association.
Hei wasn’t too clear on the details, as the communications he was intercepting didn’t have too much on it, but he could tell that the Merchant Association was the mastermind behind the kidnappings of those with yin physiques.
This usually wouldn’t be a concern for Hei, but it turned out that the sect leader, Jingfei’s mother, also had a yin physique, so she was likely being held at the second-grade sect, waiting to be transferred to the Merchant Association.
Fortunately, the frequency of collection wasn’t too high. Yin physiques weren’t exactly common and gathering a good number of them took some time.
The next collection wouldn’t be happening for a while, which gave Hei some time to come up with a plan to disrupt it and rescue the sect leader.
This would also be good news for Honghuo, who still hadn’t returned to the inn.
In all likelihood, his sister was safe and sound for the time being.
Now, Hei’s objectives were split into two locations.
To resolve Jingfei’s marriage, he had to deal with the Zhu Clan, but to rescue her mother, he had to get involved with the second-grade sect.
It was inconvenient that he couldn’t complete his objectives in one fell swoop, and the fact that he had to get himself involved with a second-grade sect, which was likely to have quite a few minute realm cultivators, wasn’t something he was pleased to discover.
But such was life.
With the sect being hidden, he now had to find a way to get its location from the Zhu Clan, which would involve more interrogations.
As for the minute realm cultivators. While they may be quite powerful, by Hei’s estimates, they weren’t too much for him to handle right now. But if enough of them came, he wouldn’t be able to progress and could only retreat. This would open up the possibility of unfavourable changes occurring to the situation.
Given all of this information, Hei began preparing a detailed plan for his actions.
This involved both dealing with the Zhu Clan in a quick and efficient manner and also heading over to the second-grade sect.
He had to leave some leeway for the second-grade sect because he didn’t know how far away it was, and how long it would take to get there.
Conveniently, soon after he had finished his plans, Honghuo returned, a new aura in tow.
Hei notice this and decided to ask.
“You’ve increased your strength?”
“I had some fortunate encounters.”
“Of course, you did.”
Hei wasn’t surprised at all to hear about this. Since when had a main character headed out for any long duration of time without experiencing some fortunate encounters?
It was either that or gaining a new enemy.
Thinking Hei was doubting him, Honghuo decided to emphasise.
“What? You don’t believe me?”
“Never mind that. Are you ready to face the Zhu Clan?”
Hearing this, Honghuo’s eyes sparkled.
“Are you making a move?”
“Mm. We strike.”
The cat perked up its ears upon hearing this. It was finally time to eat.
It jumped onto Hei’s shoulder, and the three left the inn immediately.
Hei decided he would tell Honghuo the plan as they proceeded, in order to save time.
The first thing Hei did was to pull out the master jade and issue some instructions to the formations he had set up.
These instructions would usher in the downfall of the Zhu Clan.