“All sorts of eccentrics? Why do you look at me when you say that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe because both of you keep women in your personal spaces?”
“For very different reasons.”
“Or so you claim.”
Hei decided to stop this exchange. It was going nowhere and was a waste of time.
He turned to the woman who had led them here.
“What is all this?”
He was referring to the situation within the cellar.
After having gone through several people on his list, he had seen many similar confinement areas for the kidnap victims, but none were quite like this one.
Where one would expect the conditions to be quite poor, for example, the women wearing shabby clothing which barely kept them warm, or them being shackled to the walls with hardly any room to move, these ones seemed to be quite comfortable.
First of all, they all had their own ‘rooms’, which were large enough that they could fully stretch their bodies and not touch the walls. If it weren’t for the bars preventing them from exiting, and the chains that were limiting their range of motion, one wouldn’t find anything odd about this place.
Then there was the fact that each of these rooms was fully decorated and furnished, each with different styles. Just based on their appearances, one couldn’t say for certain that the same person decorated them all.
To say the least, it was an odd level of care for a confinement space.
On top of that, every single one of the captives had a different outfit. Many of them looked quite expensive and extravagant. As one’s eyes moved across the rooms, the level of eccentricity of the outfits increased.
It went from elegant and classy to just plain strange.
In the rooms at the end, one could see an assortment of what appeared to be animal costumes, most likely inspired by spirit beast.
And lastly, all of them seemed to be performing various activities. It went from dances to what appeared to be yoga poses.
One woman was just jumping up and down repeatedly.
Noticing that Hei seemed to find the situation strange, the woman also didn’t know what to say.
“Uh… He had some strange interests. To tell you the truth, I don’t really know why he did this. Every now and then, he would come here and just observe before leaving.”
After hearing this unsatisfactory answer, Hei decided to move on.
The woman had no complaints as she immediately went over to open each cell one by one.
Another event took place which surprised Hei and Honghuo.
“What do you want?”
“Oh, watch your tone. You wouldn’t want her to report to that monster, would you?”
“Right. I almost forgot she was one of them.”
“How could you do this to us? Don’t you have any sympathy for us as women?”
As she released the captives, they each voiced their negative feelings for her.
She tried to explain herself.
“I told you, there was nothing I could do.”
But her words didn’t seem to have any effect.
“Sure. While you’re out there enjoying yourself, we have to be locked up, and yet you were once in the same situation as us? Who do you think is going to believe your nonsense?”
“That’s right. What’s so special about you?”
“It’s obvious she’s just trying to lower our guards. Why don’t you just tell us who it is today, huh?”
Hearing this, the woman clenched her fists.
She had tried many times to explain that she had once been in the same situation as these women, but they didn’t believe her.
Noticing this, Hei waited for her to release all of the captives and decided to ask.
“What’s going on here?”
“They don’t believe me. They think I’m the enemy.”
The original group of women she had been with when she came here had long since been sold to the sect, she was the only one remaining.
Every other woman who came from that point onward saw her as someone who was on the same side as Lo Gang, which was understandable.
From their perspective, she didn’t seem to have any restrictions within the residence, and her relationship with Lo Gang seemed to be quite amicable.
They didn’t know what she had to go through every day as someone who was trying to help them but was seen as an enemy.
Even her attempts at trying to persuade them to take approaches similar to hers, so that they could improve their own situations, came off wrong, and they vehemently opposed all of her suggestions and advice.
Unlike her, who had given up all hope of external assistance, these women all still had the hope that they would somehow be rescued from the situation, much like the young lady who had been relying on her brother to rescue her.
Seeing Hei and their warden having a conversation, all of the women’s faces paled and they cowered in fear.
They only dared to speak such words in front of their warden. If it was anyone else, they knew what kind of trouble they could be getting themselves into.
“P-p-please f-forgive us.”
They all kept their heads low as they waited for the response.
Surprised by the sudden switch, Hei didn’t respond for a little while.
“Your captor is dead.”
Thinking this would resolve the situation, he was very surprised at the response he got.
“No, please don’t kill us!”
“We’ll do whatever you say, just please, let us live!”
Hei turned to the woman, who understood his intention.
“Calm down, everyone. Lo Gang is dead.”
It took a while before the message sank in.
“Lo Gang is dead?”
They were quite suspicious of this news. It seemed a little too good to be true. But seeing Honghuo and Hei, along with the young lady who came with them, but a distinct lack of Lo Gang, they started to believe it.
“He’s really dead?”
All four of them nodded their heads in unison.
“Does that mean…”
Sudden joy burst through all of the captives, but it didn’t last long before someone raised a concern.
“But… Where will we go?”
“What do you mean where will he go? We can go wherever we want!”
“Maybe you can, but when I was kidnapped, my family was murdered. I don’t have anywhere to go.”
At this point, a few of the women realised that they were in a similar situation. Even if they were free, where could they go?
To be vulnerable, as a woman, and one who had already been in this situation. It was essentially asking to be thrown into a similar situation.
There was an interesting split among the captives. Those who had a place to return to were sympathetic for those who didn’t, but the joy of being released overpowered that.
There were hugs all around, but those who had a place to return to didn’t remain for long. They all took their leave of the place. That included the young lady.
Now, the only people remaining in the room were Hei, Honghuo, and those who had nowhere to return to, which included the woman who had led them here.
Seeing the dejected expressions on the women’s faces, Hei was about to speak, but one of the women spoke before him.
She had turned to Honghuo, and seeing his appearance, she felt hope.
“You’re the one who saved us, right?”
Honghuo turned to Hei who didn’t react.
He turned back to her.
“It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that.”
She nervously clenched her fists, bunching up parts of her dress.
“Can you help us?”
Honghuo was about to refer her to Hei, but he was cut-off.
The others joined in.
“Please help us!”
They all bowed to Honghuo as they made their pleas.
Seeing this, Honghuo didn’t know what to do.
“Uh… There’s really nothing I can do for you, but…”
He gestured at Hei, but the women didn’t even look back up before they started sobbing.
Hei and Honghuo looked at each other and Hei spoke.
“Maybe, if instead of being roundabout, you had told them how they could get help first, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“But if they had just listened for a few more words…”
Hei turned back to the women who were now trying to comfort each other and was about to speak, but he was interrupted, yet again, by the woman who had led them here.
“You’re being disrespectful to our saviour!”
Hearing this, the women realised that they had been ungrateful just now.
They again bowed to Honghuo.
“We apologise. It is enough that you have rescued us, to expect you to trouble yourself even further was overstepping.”
Honghuo didn’t know what to say, neither did the woman. She turned to Hei with an apologetic expression.
She spoke again.
“You’re mistaken. It’s not this handsome young man, but this mysterious expert who will be giving us a safe place to stay.”
‘Was there a need for the extra details?’
Hei felt that ‘handsome young man’ was more than necessary when describing Honghuo, and ‘mysterious expert’ didn’t seem to be a necessary detail either.
The women raised their heads and turned to Hei, all showing different expressions, but there was a common theme of doubt.
There was a trace of something unfriendly in the words of one of the women, who was surprised at this turn of events.
Detecting this, and knowing that Hei had also detected it, the woman immediately rushed over and placed her hand over the mouth of the one who spoke.
She then whispered into her ear.
“Shut up! Why you being so rude to the only support we have right now? Even if you don’t appreciate the offer, don’t ruin it for the rest of us.”
“But… Don’t you see his appearance? What’s the purpose of that mask?”
“Don’t ask stupid questions. The business of eccentric experts like him is none of ours.”
While these two were talking, another person spoke to Hei.
“You’ll be taking us somewhere safe?”
“May I ask where?”
Hearing this, the woman’s body violently twitched.
Why didn’t these fools know the meaning of overstepping their boundaries?
Sure, the question was quite an appropriate one, but these eccentrics, the slightest annoyance could cause them to change their minds, especially when there was nothing in it for them.
It would be too late for tears if he decided to just leave without them.
To her relief, he answered the question without any hint of being annoyed.
“The Radiant Jade Sect.”
Hearing this, there was a reaction among the women. They had all heard of the Radiant Jade Sect, and what was of particular importance, was that quite a few of the people who had left came from the Radiant Jade Sect.
One of them voiced her doubts.
“The Radiant Jade Sect? That place doesn’t seem to be all that safe either. You know, quite a few of the people in our situation seem to be coming from there.”
At this point, the woman felt her soul leaving her body.
Even if someone had these doubts, why would they voice them? It was practically asking to be abandoned.
Hei’s words were like a gift from the heavens.
“I know. But by the time I take you there, the Radiant Jade Sect will be the safest place for you in all the lower continent. Until then, you can stay in my spatial fold. Though I warn you, I can only offer you food and water. As for luxuries, you’ll have to make do without them.”
Nobody listened to anything Hei said after he spoke the words ‘spatial fold’.
This was the term Onyx used to describe the storage space, so Hei also used it.
“You have a spatial fold?”
After hearing his confirmation, the women broke out in discussion.
It had to be known that only the peak experts of the lower continent or those who were from extremely wealthy families could afford to have a spatial fold.
In fact, most of the stories about spatial folds came from the upper continent. The number of people who were confirmed to have them in the lower continent could be counted on one hand.
The main difference between spatial folds and spatial rings was that special folds could hold living beings. That made their value far greater than spatial rings.
And the fact that Hei’s spatial fold could hold all of them, meant it was quite large, meaning he had very strong backing.
All of a sudden, his credibility had gone through the roof in the hearts of these women.
Seeing that they had gotten distracted, Hei decided to move things along.
“Those of you who wish to come with me, step forward.”
Not a single one remained where she was. They all stood up and came closer to Hei. It was only now that they had noticed how short he was.
Hei used his black flames to create a gateway, which led into emptiness.
“Step through here.”
While they were grateful to have been rescued, this black door was ominous nonetheless.
Having experienced this before, Hei already knew what to do.
He used his spiritual perception to speak to some of the women who were held in his storage space and had them come out to reassure them.
When they walked out, everyone was surprised, but not as surprised as they were.
They looked at this group of women, who were all dressed quite nicely, and seemed to be in perfectly fine condition, which was much different from the way most of the others had been.
Sure, some of them were wearing strange animal costumes, but these women looked much better off than they had been when Hei and Honghuo came to their rescue.
If Hei hadn’t called them out personally and told them why they were here, they would never have guessed that these women were in the same situation as they were.
With odd expressions, they spoke.
“Come on in.”
“You’ll be safe here.”
“And the bread is out of this world.”
Hearing this, there were no more reservations. The women bowed and thanked Hei as they walked into the storage space, one by one.
The last to enter was the woman who had led them here.
She gave Hei a meaningful look as she bowed and thanked him.
As for this look, Hei paid it no mind. He had already checked all of the women with his treasure detection ability, and there wasn’t a blue among them.
In fact, after meeting his business partner, he hadn’t met a single blue.
The room now empty, Hei pulled out a treasure and flicked it to his shoulder, were disappeared from view.
He used his Qi to create a projection of the list of his targets and marked Lo Gang as dealt with.
So far, they had only made it two thirds down the list.
Fortunately, most of the people on the list were honest business people and didn’t have any part to play in this.
Of those that did, they were all currently in Hei storage space, except for Lo Gang who had been revealed to have played a part in the massacre of Honghuo’s clan and was executed as a result.
From his shoulder, a voice came.
“That would be south-east.”
This was the cat, who had hidden its presence at Hei’s request. Surprisingly, even Hei was unable to detect it, even though it was standing right on his shoulder.
“Is it far?”
“Not too far.”
Hei was about to take his leave when he heard a voice from his storage space. It was a reminder that there were still five women who were confined outside of the cellar.
After freeing those women and presenting their choices to them, they all chose to go their own ways.
With that settled, Hei and Honghuo continued their operation, moving according to the cat’s directions, in order to find the closest target, until they finished the list of those who weren’t members of the Zhu Clan.
“That was the last one.”
“Only two of them were involved in my matter, huh?”
“Seems like it. But that number will probably increase soon.”
After having gone through the list, they had taken care of everyone who wasn’t part of the Zhu Clan, and now all that was left were the Zhu Clan members.
This was where the cat’s eyes sparkled, but nobody saw it.
“Mm, mm, let’s find the rest of them. The closest one is to the north.”
The cat eagerly waited for the treasure to come flying, but after some time it noticed that there was nothing there.
“Hmm? What’s the idea here? You can’t be refusing to give me my payment, can you?”
“That isn’t it.”
“Then what is it?”
“For the Zhu Clan members, your services may not be necessary.”
Hearing this, the cat became flustered. Even though its belly was already round from the treasures it had eaten, one could never have too much of a good thing.
“It may be possible to have them come to us.”
Hearing this, the cat became stiff.
“Then that means…”
“It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.”
These were the same words it had said to Hei a few times.
Hei ignored the cat and turned Honghuo.
“This is where it really begins. Are you ready?”
“Do you need to ask?”
Instead of responding, Hei led the way as he headed towards the Zhu Clan’s home territory.
Instead of using a flying mount, he decided to run on foot, which was slower but also less conspicuous.
They ran at a very fast pace over to the Zhu Clan, and when they got close, Honghuo’s eyes opened wide.
“Hmm. Our plans may be disrupted by this.”
“That isn’t the case.”
“What do you mean?”
Honghuo wasn’t sure why Hei was so confident that the plan would be unaffected, but then he remembered the jade Hei pulled out before they started this operation.
“Is this your doing?”
“This! How- When- What?”
What Honghuo was looking at was a giant translucent black dome which covered the whole city.
Where had Hei gotten the time to set such a thing up?
“It’s a simple formation. People can enter, but nothing gets out.”
“You set up a formation around the entire city?”
Not only was Honghuo shocked by this, but the spirit in his ring was also lost for words.
“What have I been doing this whole time?”
When Honghuo contrasted his own efforts over the same timeframe, he felt he hadn’t achieved much at all.
“Gathering communication jades. Quite useful.”