While their brother was out of the sect, Mei and Bai were busy accomplishing the goals he had set out for them.
The first was, of course, to gather as much of the sect’s information as possible, focusing primarily on cultivation techniques and battle techniques, which would be the foundation of the Shao Clan’s ability to be unrestricted in their actions.
Then there was the collection of other information, such as that on occupations and general information about how the world worked and the common knowledge that they lacked due to their… unique upbringing.
Other than that, they had the most recent task Hei had given them, which was to spread the idea that he was a hero among the disciples. They took this task even more seriously than the others.
In order to best accomplish it, they used what cultivators yearned for the most; to increase their cultivations. With their experience of having taken the Fang Clan up a notch, helping a few disciples of the Radiant Jade Sect was no issue.
They thought of how the other disciples looked at them with eyes of envy upon hearing about all the records they had broken and thought of how to take the already established name of the Sisters Shao and put it to good use.
As such, they followed a similar path to what they did in the Fang Clan, helping a few fellow disciples here and there and letting word of mouth do the rest.
With this assistance, which they lent free of charge, they were able to generate an awful lot of goodwill towards themselves, taking the reputation that they had already built and making it even more well-known within the sect. After a few months, there weren’t many disciples who hadn’t met the Sisters Shao. Even those who had been envious had become fans.
One could be jealous of someone who had achieved a lot, but when that very same person was generously helping others to overcome their own difficulties and limitations, there was a point at which only respect would remain.
When that point came, the girls changed their approach and started promoting Hero Hei.
Most of the juniors’ impressions of Fellow Apprentice Hei came from the formation duel where Jingfei performed most of the feats.
Those who had watched his match against Bai were also aware that he had an interesting illusion technique which was usable in battle, but for the most part, he hadn’t left much of an impression on the juniors.
Knowing this to be the case, Bai and Mei were able to create an idealised image of Hei within the minds of the other disciples, though, they were only speaking their true thoughts. However, both of them were biased towards Hei in one way or another and conveniently overlooked some of his odd traits.
In the descriptions Bai and Mei gave, Hei was a natural born hero, who refused any kind of compensation.
“Hm? He forced Senior Sister Jingfei to become his maid while he is at the sect? Do you know that our brother had noticed a problem in Senior Sister Jingfei’s cultivation and helped her to solve it? Have you not noticed her dramatic improvement over these past few months? Did you think that occurred on its own? Ask Senior Sister Jingfei what price our brother demanded, you’ll find that it was nothing!”
When Jingfei heard this particular rendition of the events, she was left feeling strange? Had it been so? Why did she get the impression that Young Master Hei just liked collecting maids?
Hadn’t he also tried to recruit Qiuyue? Was there also a problem with her cultivation?
“He took too many merit points from Elder Ping? Are you aware that there was a major problem in the formation hall’s conduct and that our brother was trying to let Elder Ping see that the quality of one’s character is more important than one’s position? Furthermore, do you remember what happened to those merit points? They were given to Senior Sister Jingfei. Our brother did not take a single one!”
Elder Ping felt a stinging sensation on the side of her face when word got to her about what the Sisters Shao were saying. That brat wouldn’t leave her alone even after the fact.
What had she done to deserve this? Sure, she was a little forceful in her demands for his formation techniques, but how could she know that a 10-year-old child would be so vicious?
And how would she get this darned stench of sulphur out of her robe?
“Good news everyone! Our brother has encouraged us to share our knowledge of formations with all of our fellow disciples. We aren’t accepting merit points either. All those who wish to learn are welcome.”
This particular announcement triggered a response from the elders of the cultivation hall.
Bai and Mei and all the fellow disciples there were surprised when six elders all appeared at once, surrounding the Sisters Shao.
They had thought the young girls would be easily pressured without their brother, but it seemed that the juniors from the Shao Clan weren’t people that could be intimidated by just this much.
They had a menacing aura when they arrived, but after Bai and Mei raised their brows in annoyance their tones quickly shifted.
“Sisters Shao, we of the formation hall would like to enter into a collaboration with you, that way we can help more disciples. What do you think?”
If these little girls were also able to instruct people in the same way as their brother, then if they were allowed to do as they pleased, the formation hall would be in some real trouble.
Hearing this, Bai and Mei looked towards each other and shrugged their shoulders. This didn’t affect their plan at all and, instead, it helped them promote their brother even further.
After discussing the matter with the elders in private, they agreed with the idea.
They turned to the fellow disciples.
“We think our brother would be happy to help the formation hall.”
“However, he believes that information should be shared freely among allies, so we would have to insist that no merit points will be charged for the information that we provide and that our brother is credited properly.”
After seeing the sparkling eyes of the disciples, they turned back to the elders.
“These are our only terms.”
“Do you find them acceptable?”
“Yes. We agree and we admire your generosity.”
Hearing this, instead of being flattered, Bai and Mei shot a look to the elders.
How could they not understand what the problem was? They understood, but they hoped they wouldn’t have to say it.
Unfortunately, the cooperation seemed to hinge on it, so they had no choice but to do as the Sisters Shao wanted.
“Ahem. Of course, your brother is also very generous. Our Radiant Jade Sect is… fortunate to have such a magnanimous and exemplary disciple.”
Another of the elders spoke up as they were about to leave.
“It’s just too bad about what happened to him.”
Bai and Mei looked to each other before Mei responded.
“Hm? What do you mean, Honoured Elder?”
The elder placed her hand over her mouth.
“Oh! Have you not heard? Sigh. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard news of your brother, disciple Shao Hei since he left the sect on his mission. A new mission has been recently added. It was for the search and rescue of Shao Hei.”
She seemed to be greatly saddened as she said this.
The entire place turned to silence as all eyes shifted to Bai and Mei.
“What?! This can’t be.”
Bai’s knees grew weak and Mei hurriedly caught her.
Both had tears welling up in their eyes.
Bai seemed to be breaking down, so Mei supported her.
“Do you think our brother would fall just like that? He promised he would bring the missing disciples back! When has he ever broken a promise?”
“Have faith in our brother. He will definitely rescue our senior sisters and come back to us safe and sound.”
Mei said this, but everyone could tell that she was trying to be strong for her sister.
She turned over to the fellow apprentices.
“Please excuse us.”
She took Bai and started heading back to their cultivator caves.
As she passed the elder who had informed them if this tragic news, she could see a mocking expression on her face, which caused her to sharpen her eyes, making the elder take a step back in fright.
Behind them, words of consolation could be heard.
“Don’t worry. I’m sure your brother is okay.”
“Mm. It’s as you said, he is going to bring back the missing disciples.”
“That’s right. Before you know it, he’ll be here kicking up a storm.”
They said these things, but they had little hope. They had seen the statistics. Missing disciples simply didn’t return.
But seeing the sadness on the faces of these girls, some of the youngest in the sect, who had now lost their brother forever, they couldn’t help but feel sorry for them.
Bai and Mei continued walking, Mei supporting Bai until they got to Mei’s cave.
“I don’t know what that old hag’s problem is, but it seems she has something against us.”
Mei was pacing around with a scowl on her face. She remembered the look on that elder’s face as they passed by, she was obviously enjoying the fruits of her labour.
Bai, on the other hand, was seated on a couch, interacting with a jade she had purchased which allowed disciples to keep track of the available missions.
“Even so, she wasn’t lying. Brother has truly been recognised as a missing disciple. Here’s the mission listing.”
Mei took a look.
“Only 50 merit points? The standard reward for a search and rescue mission is the full 100 merit points. These people are going too far!”
“Calm down, Sister Mei. Didn’t brother already tell us something like this could happen?”
“I know, but still.”
The girls didn’t believe for a second that their brother was in any sort of a predicament. Aside from the fact that he had contacted them only a few days ago, they were easily able to locate him as fellow titled envoys.
From what they could see, he was quite active today.
The scene from earlier was an act to generate some sympathy in the other disciples. After all, it would be quite strange if they showed no reaction at all when told that their brother had disappeared.
“Don’t worry about minor issues, Sister Mei. We should be more concerned with the effect this will have on Project Hero.”
“Mm. It will be difficult to promote a person who is supposedly in the same situation as those he wished to rescue.”
“Mm. It will be difficult, but I think there’s a way we can play this.”
“You want to act as the sisters who have faith that their brother will overcome all adversity and save the day?”
“… Yes. Is it too simple?”
Bai was surprised that Mei was able to come up with the same idea as her. Had her mind dulled in the past few months?
“I don’t like what you’re implying Sister Bai.”
“My, whatever could you be referring to, Sister Mei?”
“That your ideas are some great masterpieces that only you could come up with. That if I had the same idea then it must have been too simple.”
“Goodness no. I would never!”
Mei went over and placed her hand above Bai’s head.
“Do you believe I won’t rub it?”
Bai put her hands on top of her head and puffed her cheeks out.
“You wouldn’t dare. Only Brother can rub my head!”
“You know, the instructions Hei gave me said I could rub your head when you’re being a good girl. I think you’re being very good right now. Come, let your sister praise you.”
Mei went in for the attack, but Bai moved away using Point Impact and turned to face Mei.
“Do you believe I won’t tell Brother that you’re bullying me?”
“Chapter 12 article 14 subsection B, and I quote: ‘If Little Bai tries to intimidate you by using me as a shield, you can feel free to ignore her.’”
“There’s such a clause?”
Mei appeared behind Bai.
Surprisingly, her hand landed on Bai’s head with no struggle. She could feel Bai trembling.
“Hm? Are you okay? Did you get hurt somewhere?”
She started inspecting Bai’s body as written in the instructions, but there were no obvious problems.
She looked at Bai’s face and could see tears welling up in her eyes.
“Eh? Are you really hurt? Should I take you to the doctor?”
Bai shook her head.
“It’s Brother. He’s back to normal.”
Mei opened her eyes wide.
“Darling? You’re speaking with him?”
Mei stepped away and couldn’t help but feel slightly envious. As she sat on the couch, she started thinking about things.
Over the past few months, Hei had been very consistent in keeping the girls updated on his situation, allowing them to go about their days without worrying about him too much. He would always speak to them together in a group communication channel and on the same day of the week and at the same time.
They had both been concerned about him after noticing the change that took place in the way he spoke to them.
Mei’s concerns were not the same as Bai’s.
Bai was concerned that Hei had returned to his original world, leaving the other soul in possession of their body, explaining the sudden change.
Mei, on the other hand, was sure that the person on the other side was not her soul mate, but it wasn’t the Hei that they knew either. So, who was it? That was her concern. She thought a foreign entity had possessed the body of the one she loved.
Hearing that he was back to normal left her relieved, but she wished that she could have heard it from him and not Bai. That the one he thought of first had been her.
She was aware that the relationship between Hei and Bai was one that was forged by 8 years of closeness and that she had only been there for two of those, thus she couldn’t expect the exact same level of treatment, but she couldn’t help but wish that she was on Hei’s mind as well.
After a while, Bai came over and sat next to Mei.
Noticing that Mei seemed to be down, Bai poked at her.
“What’s the matter, Sister Mei? Jealous?”
Mei placed her hand on Bai’s head and rubbed it vigorously.
Bai moved Mei’s hand away. She had let down her guard because she had been happy to hear from her brother.
“I’ll let you off this time, but if you try it again, see if I don’t tell-”
Mei took back her hand and rested her chin on it.
“You know, Sister Mei, Brother has two sisters.”
Mei raised a brow and turned to Bai.
“Obviously, I know that. What’s your p-”
As Mei was speaking, she was stopped by a familiar voice.
“It’s been a while, Mei.”