Because they were a nuisance? That was all?
Both the boy and the cat were left speechless. Who could have imagined that Hei’s motivations were so…
It was as if it were a decision he had made on a whim. As if the Zhu Clan were but a loose thread on his robe that he wanted to cut off.
“Just because they’re a nuisance?”
Hei nodded his head.
The boy didn’t know how to respond to this.
Here he was, out on a quest to rescue his sister, or at least find out what happened to her, but Hei was out on a stroll and decided to pull some weeds along the way.
This also brought up a question in the boy’s mind. The same question he had wanted to find the answer to earlier.
“Then why haven’t you already done it? With your strength, you should be able to handle the… nuisance.”
The last word was hard for the boy to say.
“One of the main reasons I’m out here was to find those young ladies who you rescued back then. After I heard their story, and about you, I decided, why not deal with the Zhu Clan along the way?”
“And since you’re also trying to deal with the Zhu Clan, I thought, why not bring you along?”
Hei didn’t know that his words were able to cause much harm to a person’s soul. Even the spirit in the ring had almost dissipated after hearing his words.
Of course, he wasn’t exactly telling the truth. The true reason why he hadn’t dealt with the Zhu Clan, was both because he was trying to gather information, and he didn’t want to do it himself.
If he could have someone else do all of the heavy lifting, why would he lift a finger? And on top of that, he could have someone else walk into the endless line of progressively stronger enemies.
It was especially helpful that this boy, for whatever reason, even as a supposed assassin, walked around in his true appearance, completely unobscured as he went after his enemies.
Hei couldn’t hope for a better trouble magnet than this boy.
After having answered the boy’s questions, Hei decided to move things along.
“Then let’s head over to a nearby town where we can discuss our plans.”
Without waiting for agreement, Hei began walking and after snapping out of his daze, the boy followed.
After walking for a while, the boy realised that he still didn’t know some basic information.
“So, what’s your name?”
Shouldn’t the fact that he was currently fully concealed behind a mask and clothing show that he wasn’t exactly willing to have his identity be known?
Why would he reduce the effect of this cover by revealing his name?
‘Ah. I did reveal my identity to the missing disciples.’
Hei remembered that he had shown the missing disciples his identity jade. But that was to facilitate the completion of his mission.
He didn’t need to tell this boy his name at all.
The boy seemed to know what Hei was thinking.
“Ah, let me rephrase. What should I call you?”
“That doesn’t matter.”
What relevance did names hold? Were there 15 collaborators that they were working with that they would need an easy way to distinguish between them?
It was only the two of them and the cat. To the boy, any words he said would be directed towards Hei. And the same would be true vice versa.
The boy didn’t seem to agree with Hei on this matter.
“That won’t do.”
The boy thought for a moment.
“Hmm… How about Heihuo?”
Heihuo could be translated to black fire. Hei could see where the boy got the idea.
He decided not to respond.
“And I’ll be Honghuo. It’s a good match, don’t you think?”
“You’re not very good at choosing names.”
After saying this, Hei remembered that he had named Bai simply because she was the opposite of him.
But that was his goofy self, he couldn’t be blamed for that.
The boy resented Hei’s words.
“Hey, it’s better than nothing.”
With that, the three headed over to a nearby town, where they found an inn and got two rooms.
Hei and the cat stayed in one room and Honghuo stayed in the other one.
After having stabilised their current living environment, they met in Hei’s room where they discussed their plans.
“From my information gathering, I have gathered a list of names of most, if not all, of the kidnappers that the Zhu Clan sends out. Not only that, but I have a comprehensive list of their business partners and a fairly detailed map of their residence, among other things.”
Hei transcribed what he knew onto paper and placed it on the table.
Of course, he had already set up barriers to prevent anyone outside of the room from eavesdropping.
Honghuo was surprised that he was able to gather so much information. Even his own clan had only stumbled upon the Zhu Clan’s underground actions.
To think Hei had already understood the situation with such depth.
After having shown Honghuo his information, Hei asked what Honghuo had gathered.
“So, what have you discovered?”
Honghuo scratched his head awkwardly.
“Ah… Besides the yin physiques, not much. I know that they seem to be cooperating with other powerful organisations in this business. But as for the specific powers, I don’t know.”
Hei and the cat looked to each other.
Was this boy worth anything?
Hei turned back to the boy.
“Haven’t you been out here hunting their people all this time? You haven’t gained anything at all?”
“This… They’re very slippery. I tried to gather some information, but they had multiple suicide methods. There was nothing I could do…”
The room remained silent for a long while.
“… And… Right! I tried to use some of our torture techniques, but even then, they didn’t let anything slip. How did you get so much information?”
At this point, Hei was not inclined to answer Honghuo’s questions.
When he had initially heard about the yin physiques, he thought Honghuo would be a good source of the information which he currently lacked.
It seemed, he wasn’t anything of the sort. Hei would still have to go and gather the information himself.
He decided to tell Honghuo about his plans.
They involved gathering very detailed information of each and every major player of the Zhu Clan from top to bottom.
Beyond that, he wanted to gather some information on their business partners and clients or any interpersonal relationship that existed between the Zhu Clan's higher-ups and others.
What he was aiming for was complete removal of the troublesome elements of the Zhu Clan, such that they wouldn’t be able to re-emerge.
Now that he knew there was cooperation with other organisations, the amount of information he needed to gather was far more than he had initially thought.
After hearing Hei’s plans, which would require a very long time to execute, Honghuo couldn’t help but voice his disapproval.
“We can’t be so slow. Every minute, every second we spent doing nothing, is another moment my sister… I need to find her!”
Hei wasn’t amused.
“Oh? Do you know where she is?”
Honghuo spoke resolutely.
“No. I don’t.”
“Then, do you have any idea where she could be?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Then surely, you must have heard some news. Something to let you know you’re going in the right direction.”
“But you’re sure she’s still in the Zhu Clan’s hands though, right?”
“Then, in the event that you fail to find her in the Zhu Clan, your excellent information gathering abilities will give you an idea of where to go next, right?”
“You don’t see any problems with this?”
Honghuo clenched his fists.
“I’ll find a way.”
‘Sigh. Emotional people.’
Hei remembered that a lot of these main characters would run headfirst into situations without properly taking the time to consider if it was feasible.
Strangely enough, things always seemed to work out for them in the end.
With that in mind, Hei shooed Honghuo away.
“Fine. Do as you please. This inn will be our meeting place. If you discover any new information, let me know. I’ll be here making sense.”
Honghuo didn’t even wait for Hei’s words to finish before he nodded his head and headed back out into the forests.
The cat walked up to Hei while shaking its head.
“That boy is quite… Are you sure he’s a good partner?”
“Not just good. Optimal.”
Hei wanted this exact kind of person. Honghuo would be sure to attract trouble wherever he went, conveniently taking the attention off of Hei.
“And if the wind blows right, I can use this to my advantage.”
If Hei’s predictions came true, he should be seeing wanted posters for Honghuo eventually. He would be able to use that as an entry point into the Zhu Clan, which would let him conveniently walk right into their home base.
But that was only one of the many possibilities.
“It seems like both of you are quite…”
Hei ignored the cat’s words, but there was something he could use its help on.
“I want to find movie jades and communication jades. Take me to someone who is selling them.”
Hei flicked a treasure to his shoulder and the cat ate it joyfully.
He added on.
“It would be better if they had information on those kinds of jades as well.”
“Leave it to me, Mister.”
Hei was actually pleased that this cat didn’t call him Heihuo. He didn’t know how far he would have thrown it away if it used such a name when referring to him.
The cat began to lead Hei to a person who fulfilled his requirements.
When they got there, Hei saw a large man energetically promoting his wares.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I assure you, these are the best movie jades in town!”
A person walked by him and he hushed his voice as he spoke.
“Between you and me, some of these movies aren’t even in the cinemas yet. Don’t ask me how I got them, but just because I like your face, I’ll give you a special price. What do you say?”
The person showed no interest as they kept walking while muttering.
“Every day it’s the same thing. 'Buy my movies, buy my movies'. Get a life.”
Hei couldn’t help but turn to the cat.
“This is the person?”
Why did this look like someone selling pirated DVDs?
The cat raised its head proudly.
“You won’t find a better one than this in the whole town.”
Hei couldn’t help but start doubting the cat’s abilities. But since it had proven to be reliable so far, he decided to trust it.
He walked up to the large man, whose brows twitched slightly when he saw the green cat on Hei’s shoulder.
“This customer, what can I do you for? Are you interested in movie jades?”
The large man gave a hearty laugh.
“Hahaha. Heroes really do come from the young. Let me show you what I’ve got.”
The man walked into his small store and waited for Hei to follow him.
The people walking by couldn’t help but give Hei sympathetic looks. It looked like he didn’t know what he was getting himself into.
Hei, on the other hand, was surprised by the large man’s words. Either he had simply guessed by the sound of his voice, or he was able to tell that Hei was actually a young person.
Most people, especially normal store owners would never make assumptions like that when dealing with a person who was in disguise.
The risk of offending an eccentric expert was far too high.
Hei was slightly interested. It seemed the cat had led him to someone who was more than meets the eye.
As Hei entered the store, he noticed that the noises from the outside of the store disappeared.
The man was leaning on his counter with a smile on his face as he looked towards Hei.
“Hahaha. Young man, do you know what that is on your shoulder right now?”
The man's smile grew even brighter. His eyes squinted so much that they appeared to be closed.
“Then I’ll tell you. That right there is-”
Hei cut him off.
“And I don’t care either.”
If Hei wanted to know what the cat was, he could have easily asked Onyx or the cat itself for that matter.
“It’s the… huh? You don’t want to know?”
“I have no interest in it.”
“Now, about your movie jades.”