Hei looked down at the spirit roots in his hand, or what should have been spirit roots. He wasn’t quite sure as they seemed to be dissolving right before his eyes.
[What is this, Onyx?]
[Ah. This is what happens when you use Heavenly Revocation on a demonic cultivator. Since his cultivation was primarily based on these kinds of techniques, his spirit roots have been tainted by them.]
Onyx noticed that Hei paid no attention to the voice of the young lady on the other side of the jade.
[You going to respond to that, or…?]
If Onyx could have shrugged his shoulders, he would have.
[Once Heavenly Revocation is used on spirit roots such as these, the tainted elements get destroyed, leaving what we like to call a Soul Essence.]
[Soul Essence? What is its use?]
[That’s where the extent of my knowledge ends. All I know about Soul Essences is that they can be bestowed just like regular spirit roots, however, the effects of doing such are unknown.]
[R-right… We tried a bunch of times, using the Soul Essences for Heavenly Bestowal, however, while it was successful, the exact effects are unknown. When you use regular spirit roots, the effects are plain to see, but the Soul Essences don’t really show any kind of discernible effects.]
[If you don’t know the effects, why don’t you just ask the Heavens?]
[Ask the Heavens? You know, things aren’t as easy for the rest of us as they are for you. Most of us, even other kings of kings, can’t just ask the Heavens to provide information. The response is usually something about a protocol that has to be followed, and that information will come in times of need.]
[Why make things so difficult for the envoys?]
Hei had been wondering about this. It was the same with the knowledge of Heavenly Bestowal. When he asked, the Heavens brought up some protocol.
[The Heavens don’t have it all that easy either. From what I know, if they influence the world too much or too directly, Rubie will have something to say about it.]
[Even the Heavens are suppressed by this Rubie?]
[Yeah, now we’re going into really fuzzy territory. As far as I’m aware, Rubie is an existence above the Heavens, we call such existences administrators. That’s what the Heavens have labelled her, and apparently, they’re both under certain restrictions, preventing them from influencing the world too directly.]
Hei was about to voice a doubt, however, as if he read his mind, Onyx’s continuation answered it.
[However, the Heavens are considered to be part of this world, and as such, they are able to play a bigger role in the events that occur here, but if they go too far, Rubie has the authority to step in. Beyond that, you’ll have to ask someone else.]
“Partner? You know I can see you, right? Why do you keep ignoring me?”
‘She’s so intrusive that she affects my focus. Is this a benefit or a detriment?’
Normally, when he was speaking to Onyx, Hei should have been unaware of his surroundings, but his business partner was able to pierce through regardless.
In some situations, this may be useful, but in most, it would likely be a nuisance.
Now that he thought about it, there were other people who were able to break his focus. Bai was the most notable. His goofy self paid attention to every motion of hers.
There was just something about that adorable little bundle of cuteness.
However, these thoughts were limited to his goofy self. His current self couldn’t understand this cuteness thing at all. Wasn’t she just like every other little girl? Wouldn’t Mei also be considered cute? What were the metrics?
That being said, Crystalia was something different. Even his current self could see that, in her child form, her cuteness was off the charts.
She was actually the first thing he had described as cute. In his life prior to that moment, he had never considered anything to be cute despite the numerous encounters he had with what others called cute.
“… Partner. What are you trying to do? This isn’t the way to have me leave, you know?”
Hei put the Soul Essence in his storage space and finally decided to turn to the jade floating beside him.
“I wasn’t intending to ignore you, Partner.”
“Okay. Anyway, I was just thinking, wasn’t this fight way too quick?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’m just saying, this was supposed to be the big climactic battle, right? But it ended really abruptly. That, and it seems you didn’t even have much trouble during the fight. As the protagonist, you should face difficulty in these kinds of situations. There should have been some kind of back-and-forth.”
“I suppose you have a point, but that was made possible by my extensive preparation.”
“Right. But for the movie, it just doesn’t work.”
Hei placed his hand on his chin as he thought about her words.
He wasn’t particularly concerned about the results of the movie, however, it was true. He didn’t really allow the minute realm cultivator to display his prowess.
Of course, this was all part of the plan. Why would he make things more difficult for himself when his planning was for the purpose of making this as quick and easy as possible?
However, it wouldn’t be as useful to the Shao Clan and his subordinates if it didn’t fully portray how powerful minute realm cultivators were.
Yuying thought her words had caused her partner to be disappointed in himself.
“Don’t get me wrong, it was really fun to watch. But it was just too short. Usually, a fight like that should take 5, 10, maybe 15 minutes, but it barely took one.”
“That was by design. If the fight went any longer, it would only show that my preparations were lacking.”
“Right, but the planning wasn’t recorded, so as someone watching the movie, what we have so far, it kind of seems out of nowhere. I suppose we could add some of that later.”
Hei and his partner were on two different pages right now. He was analysing this as a study resource, and she was looking at it as entertainment.
“But that’s not even the main problem. Even if the fight is short, we can make it work. The problem lies in encountering the final boss so fast.”
Hei looked down at the body of the Zhu Clan’s patriarch and he couldn’t help but agree with his business partner’s words. Even he felt it was strange for the patriarch to have come out so soon.
From what he remembered from the stories, the final enemy would usually wait for the main character to approach them rather than coming out to face the main character.
As such, he asked a clarifying question.
“Does the Zhu Clan have an old ancestor or the like? Someone who’s hidden and trying to break through to a new realm that would bring the Zhu Clan to greater prosperity.”
Since she was able to recognise the patriarch at a glance, Hei thought she may know a little more. If she didn’t, then he could overstep his boundaries and ask the young lady behind him. Perhaps she would be willing to answer.
“If that were the case, then I wouldn’t be so concerned about this. They don’t have anybody like that. At best, they have a few people in a second-grade sect.”
She answered his question very confidently. Hei wondered how she could be so confident about the status of the Zhu Clan, but he decided not to ask as it wasn’t that important.
“Now, let’s review.”
“Right now? I don’t think this is the appropriate time for that.”
“Oh? Then your left arm isn’t a problem? You don’t want to recover from that?”
Hei looked down to his left arm, and it was indeed violently twitching.
‘How did I not notice that?’
This was surely the backlash from using Heavenly Revocation, however, it was more severe than in previous cases.
‘Is it because I used it on someone with a higher cultivation than my own? And the only return was this questionable Soul Essence.’
This was Hei’s guess, but as his partner stated, it would be best to recover before proceeding.
Fortunately, capturing the patriarch was equivalent to achieving half of the goal. As far as targets for interrogation, there wouldn’t be many who were more suitable than the patriarch.
He turned back to the jade.
“Then, do you have any input?”
“Indeed, I do. First of all, let’s discuss the beginning.”
“The beginning was actually pretty good because it was a sneak attack. It not only surprised you, but it will also surprise the audience. You could really feel the pressure emitted by the patriarch, as shown by your hasty defence which was broken through.”
“Right. I failed to notice the incoming threat. I should maintain a higher awareness in future operations.”
“No! That was, that was very good. We need more of that!”
“More vulnerability? Why would-”
“Vulnerability is the spice of cinema. It lets you wonder how the protagonist is going to overcome the situation.”
“But this is real life. Vulnerability means death.”
“Ah… This is all real, isn’t it? Hm…”
“You forgot about that?”
“Cough. Anyway, after that, you rescued the girl, which was a nice touch by the way. The imagery was really good there, it will be one of the highlights of the movie. And then you faced the patriarch and confronted him on how despicable he was for attacking his own family. All good.”
“But that’s where the pacing became too fast. In one moment, you were the underdog facing a great foe, and in the next, you were throwing the patriarch around like a rag doll. It was a little jarring.”
“It may have looked easy to you, however, I was relying heavily on the element of surprise and that my opponent was underestimating me.”
“Mm. By throwing this… shield at him, I made it look as if I was in the transcendent realm, which I am. To any ordinary minute realm cultivator, it would mean that I’m not a threat all.”
“Right. We’ll add this as internal dialogue.”
“… Anyway, that was the patriarch’s mistake. I took full advantage of him believing I was stuck to the ground, which most transcendent realm cultivators would be. From there, I didn’t give him a moment of rest, leading to a decisive victory. If the battle were to occur again, it would be far more challenging.”
“Hm. If we add this information, we could make it work. Though, we’ll need to hire a few actors to fill in some roles.”
“I’ll leave it to you.”
“Actually, I’m thinking of redoing the whole thing and adding an actual motivation to the protagonist. We’ll use this original recording as reference material. Don’t worry, I’ll keep your aesthetic and character, but I think the protagonist should be a little taller… What do you think?”
“Do what you want.”
“This is why like working with you.”
Yuying liked that her business partner placed a lot of responsibility on her. She was aware that it was mostly because he was unwilling to do the work himself, but surely, some of it was due to his trust in her.
At this moment, she noticed that the young lady was approaching.
“It looks like that girl has something to say to you.”
Hei turned around to face the young lady who was still approaching.
She stopped in front of him and turned to the patriarch’s body. At first, she had thought he had been killed, but once she used her spiritual perception to monitor his body, she could tell that he was still alive.
Coming to this realisation, she was conflicted. By all accounts, she should be furious with the person in front of her, the one had barged into her clan and hurt her patriarch. But just a few moments before this, her patriarch had intended to eliminate her.
Either way, the person in front of her had saved her life today, so she gave him a sincere bow.
“Thank you for saving me.”
At this point, Hei heard his business partner’s voice.
“Perfect! Let’s throw in a romantic scene to finish up the movie.”
She was very interested in how her business partner would approach doing such a scene, and as such, she didn’t hesitate to bring up the suggestion.
Since the young lady was in such close proximity, Hei decided to use his qi to communicate with his business partner in private.
“What are you talking about?”
“You know, as a reward. So far, what have you even gained from coming here? As the protagonist, after overcoming several hardships, you should come away with something, right? Throwing in a potential romance would be good if you ask me. Obviously, it doesn’t have to be real, but it would give the audience something to chew on.”
“First of all, the reward I came for is information. Secondly, didn’t you say you’re going to remake the movie? Why would you need me to do this? You can have the actor you hire do it for you.”
“Right. Obviously, we could have the actor do his own thing. We could come up with a romantic scene of our own. However, would that be true to your character? Something gives me the feeling that only you could do it like you, and as such, in order to maintain authenticity, we would need you to give us a little example first, don’t you think?”
“But it doesn’t have to be that authentic, does it? As long as it’s engaging, it should be okay.”
“I don’t know. From my experience, people resonate with real. It’s easy to like a movie if the characters are portrayed realistically, even if the story itself isn’t all that good. However, even a good story can be ruined if the characters feel off.”
“I suppose so.”
Hei didn’t have much experience with movies, but he could see the logic in what she was saying.
On top of that, he had reason to participate in this nonsense.
While she never pressured him about it, Hei knew that his mother wanted grandchildren. Perhaps he could use this world to practice his social skills, such that when he returned home, he would be able to fulfil his mother’s wishes.
He was her only child, after all.
And besides, he was currently recovering from Heavenly Revocation, so he might as well do something productive in the meantime.
Even so, there was another argument preventing him from proceeding.
“Fair enough, you want a realistic portrayal of my character. However, I don’t want to play with the feelings of an innocent young lady.”
According to Hero Syndrome, which his goofy self came up with, it would be extremely simple for him to cause this young lady to develop feelings for him. He had already saved her life once, and she didn’t view him as an enemy right now.
However, a relationship between himself and this young lady. Nothing would come of it. He would only be leading her on.
Yuying already had a good impression of her business partner, but his attitude towards this matter made her fondness towards him grow.
“As long as you only tell the truth, there shouldn’t be any problem, right? If you only tell the truth, then what comes cannot be considered to be wrong. You can’t be considered to have manipulated anyone’s feelings, right?”
She could see that he was still reluctant.
“Don’t worry, if something bad happens because of this, I’ll take responsibility.”
“Why are you so intent on this?”
“Curiosity. To be honest, I just want to see what you’ll say.”
“You’re quite direct.”
“I think being direct is good for our continued cooperation. For example, my dress. Do you remember it?”
“What do you think of it?”
“It seems to be the right size.”
“Mm. That right there, that’s, that’s some good old cooperation right there.”
Unsure of what she was getting at, Hei decided to move on.
“Okay, I’ll give it a shot. But I warn you, I’m very inexperienced when it comes these things.”
His mother had only ever told him to be himself, which he didn’t quite understand. Who was he supposed to be if not himself? Surely, the meaning was too profound for his current self to comprehend.
As had always been the case, he would surely see the wisdom and practicality in her words when the time came.
“Oh? Who would have thought?”
“You’re being sarcastic?”
“Mm. Anyway, since I’ve been approached by several merchants’ sons, I can give you a few pointers.”
“Then I’ll be in your care.”
“Mm. Leave it to me.”
Hei turned his attention back to the young lady. She had stood back up from her bow and had been waiting for a while now.
She could see that he seemed to be busy as he was engaged with the floating jade next to him, so she didn’t interrupt.
Hei could hear his business partner’s instructions beginning.
[All right, first you’ll want to address her thanks, which should be obvious. Remember, be honest.]
“There’s no need to thank me.”
[That’s a good start. Humble, I like it.]
But then Hei continued.
“We came to kill, to steal, and to destroy.”
Hearing this, the young lady’s eyes opened wide and she took a step back.
Yuying’s eyes also opened wide on the other side of the jade. She waited for Hei’s follow-up words, wondering how he would turn this around.
Even after a while, there had been nothing.
[Hey! Where is the follow-up? You’re not going to leave it like that, are you?]
[Follow-up? I’ve said what I wanted to say.]
[You’ve said what you wanted to say?! Kill, steal, destroy? Why would you say that?!]
Yuying refused to believe that anyone could be so… Why did he turn a perfectly good opening into this?
[You said to be honest.]
Hei didn’t understand why his business partner was being so energetic. Didn’t he do exactly what she had instructed?
[How… Anyway, quick! Say something reassuring. We need to salvage the situation!]
Hei shrugged his shoulders.
“However, for those of you who are innocent-”
[That’s too general. Make it more personal.]
[Right! Now, add some physical contact.]
[I don’t think that’s-]
[Just do as I say.]
[As long as you take res-]
[I know, just to do it!]
Hei stepped forward and took the young lady’s right hand with his own, then placed his left hand on top of it.
Of course, having heard his previous words, she wasn’t very comfortable right now. Would this be killing, stealing, or destroying? Either way, it wasn’t good for her.
“I won’t let any harm come to you.”
As she felt his shaking left hand and heard his words, she became less apprehensive.
Hei could see that she had calmed down slightly. However, she did seem quite confused and conflicted at this time.
[So, what’s next?]
[All right, somehow that worked. Now, we can begin the actual romance part. You should start by complimenting her on her appearance. Oh, I forgot, you’re incapable of-]
Yuying’s words were cut off by her business partner’s words, which left her eyes wide open.
“This may be irrelevant, but I wanted to let you know that in all my days in this world, I haven’t seen many that match your beauty and elegance.”
[Eh? What’s the meaning of- I forgot to remind you to be honest, right?]
[I was being honest.]
[Then why didn’t you-]
Her words were cut off by the young lady.
“Oh, really? Is that clothed or unclothed?”
Hei quickly released the young lady’s hand, leaving it hanging in the air.
Yuying was not spared from the shock of this statement.
Even the young lady herself was left without words. In her confusion, she unconsciously spoke what she had been thinking out loud.
Upon realising this, her face turned red and she hid it in her hands.
“Ugh. I can’t believe I said that out loud.”
[Me either! I mean, sure, I had been thinking the same thing. But why did she say it out loud?]
[You were thinking the same thing?]
[It was a pretty memorable event, okay?!]
[Fair enough, but I think it’s time for you to take responsibility.]
Hei had now officially washed his hands of this whole thing. Wherever it went now, that was none of his concern.
[She is embarrassed, code red!]
[Now isn’t the time for your jokes, okay? We need to, we need to reduce her embarrassment. Quick, say something soothing!]
“You needn’t worry. Your form was obscured by mist at the time, so I didn’t see anything that would cause you shame. I assure you.”
Hei’s words were so calm and neutral that the young lady felt she was being overly dramatic. Was this not as big of a deal as she thought?
He almost sounded like an old man who had been around this block many times before, which brought some questions of its own, but she decided not to ask.
She separated her fingers, revealing her eyes.
Hearing this, she removed her hands from her face.
“Ahem. Well, I suppose that’s good to hear.”
“But to answer your question, I think you’re more beautiful when you’re not trying to kill me.”
“Haha. Fair enough.”
Now that the atmosphere had gotten light, the young lady let out a bright smile.
None of the three noticed that the atmosphere around them really didn’t suit the scenery at all. But one young man did.
[Nice! Now that we’ve stabilised the situation, you can-]
Yuying’s words were cut off by her business partner’s partner in crime, who had just arrived.
“You can’t be serious…”
[I’m getting interrupted a lot today.]
Honghuo didn’t pay any attention to Yuying’s words, he couldn’t hear them anyway.
The only thing he knew was the smile that was brightening the area and the metal-faced recipient of it.
He rushed over to Hei’s side and turned to the radiant beauty opposite him.
“Excuse me, Miss. I have something I need to talk to my companion here about.”
The appearance of Honghuo broke the atmosphere, and seeing his damaged clothing reminded the young lady that these two were technically enemies and that the Zhu Clan was currently being attacked.
Her expression turned serious as she nodded her head. Even if she wanted to, there was nothing she could do to prevent them from having their discussion.
The only thing Honghuo saw, was another dazzling beauty showing favour to Heihuo, and turning stone-faced when looking at him.
He clenched his teeth and led Heihuo over to a quiet place in between two buildings, where he set up a barrier.
Seeing this, Hei set up his own barrier. It was his practice to always make his own measures when it concerned his privacy.
Since Honghuo wanted this to be secret, Hei assumed he had something serious to discuss.
“What is it? Have you discovered something important?”
Honghuo clenched his fists and spoke as he raised his head, looking to the sky.
“You don’t even have a face!”
Seeing that Heihuo didn’t understand what he was saying, Honghuo approached him and grabbed his shoulders before shaking him back-and-forth.
After having known Heihuo for a while, Honghuo noticed that, though he was mysterious, he wasn’t exactly scary. He was a fairly mellow fellow, and as could be seen by the fact that he was going around saving women, there wasn’t really anything to fear when it came to this companion of his.
This was quite contrary to the initial impression he gave off.
As he was shaking his companion, Honghuo voiced his grievances.
“Uncle, you already have Miss business partner. Leave some for the rest of us!”
“What are you talking about?”
Honghuo stepped back and turned to the jade that was floating beside his companion.
“Miss business partner, if you would show yourself, that would be appreciated.”
Shortly afterwards, Su Yuying could be seen lying on her bed as she looked to Honghuo.
“What’s this about?”
Hearing her question, Honghuo stretched his arms out to the two people in front of him.
“Are you really going to keep telling me that there’s nothing going on between the two of you?”
He still remembered the interactions they had on the way here, and he was pretty confident that these two were more then they said they were.
Hei and Yuying turned to each other, then back to Honghuo.
They spoke at the same time.
After a moment, Yuying felt something was off.
Recalling her business partner’s words, she snapped her gaze back to him. What did he mean by ‘as if’?