The truth was, Yuying detected a slight fluctuation in her own internal state when her partner spoke those words, so she wanted to confirm it.
Strange though it may be, Hei decided to give her what she wanted.
“As long as we’re in collaboration, you are also someone I wish to protect, Partner.”
Yuying’s heart skipped a beat, causing her to start thinking. Was he using some kind of technique? Using sound to beguile another? And was it innate? Or was he doing it on purpose?
If she could get a hold of this technique, it could potentially prove massively beneficial in her future negotiations.
Because of her thoughts, she remained unresponsive, so Hei spoke once more.
“Was that sufficient?”
“Mm. You know, that was oddly impactful.”
“Is that so?”
“Mm. Say it to the sword, I’m sure he’ll say the same thing.”
Hei was unsure of whether this activity had any merit, but this was potentially the manifestation of one of his abilities, so he thought it was worth an attempt. Though, he didn’t remember asking for such an ability.
Somehow, the two had gotten on the same line of reasoning.
“As long as we’re in collaboration, you are also someone I wish to protect, Onyx.”
“… Yeah. Sure. You too, Buddy.”
Hei turned to Yuying.
“It doesn’t appear to be as you’ve said.”
“I guess not.”
Hei was always slightly bothered that Crystalia hadn’t thought to give him an instruction manual, but there was nothing he could do about it.
Yuying started to think. It didn’t seem to be a passive thing, that, or it didn’t work on shields. Actually, there were various possibilities. One of them in particular wasn’t ideal.
“Well, it’s nice to know that if the big bad Azroth shows up, my partner will protect me with everything he has.”
“I think you’ve placed words in my mouth.”
“Just let me have this!”
“… Very well. Though, on the scale of importance, you and Honghuo rank at the bottom.”
“Gee thanks. It’s great to know that.”
“Are you being sarcastic?”
“I wonder what gave it away.”
“It seemed your tone was odd for the words you selected, creating an incongruity between the meaning of the words and the intent behind them. This caused me to believe you were possibly hiding the true meaning of your communication in the tone as opposed to the words, potentially intending to deliver the exact opposite of the words you spoke. Perhaps you meant to say that it wasn’t pleasant to learn exactly where you stand in the hierarchy of those who I wish to protect. Is that accurate?”
Yuying turned to Onyx.
“Which world do people like this come from?”
“Not sure. Though, I’ve seen a few autonomous puppets who sounded similar.”
“A puppet! Is that it?”
“No. He’s human.”
Hei detected that he was no longer needed in the conversation, so he went back to creating his technique.
“You see how he just went back to work? Are you sure he’s not a puppet?”
“You know what…?”
Onyx thought for a moment.
“Nah. He should be human… Right?”
“Maybe puppets have gotten really advanced.”
But why would the heavens make a puppet into an envoy? It would be ridiculous. Besides, the way he normally acted, there was no one who would make such an… interesting puppet.
“No, the boy’s human. Stop trying to confuse me.”
“If you say so.”
Yuying also believed he was human, well, for the most part. Would a puppet be able to disrupt her internal state with only a few words like he did?
She laughed at herself internally. The only one she found even slightly interesting hadn’t even the slightest interest in her… Was this karma for all the boys she rejected?
Hei turned to Yuying.
“What is it?”
“Just curious. What would you do if a girl confessed her love for you? Say, me, for example. If I told you right now, that after all of our interactions over the past few months, you’ve somehow wormed your way into my heart, and that I think I love you, what would you do?”
“I would first ask how you can love someone without having seen their face.”
“It can happen. People fall in love over communication jades all the time, and that’s just voices.”
“Fair enough. But then, the question becomes, what have I done to make you love me?”
“Let’s just say that I find you more interesting than anyone else.”
“But there are various things you don’t know about me. And besides, you are already aware that I’m not this way at all times.”
“Well, can’t I learn about you over time? And what stops me from loving both sides of you?”
“I suppose, but I’m not long for this world. Eventually, I will leave, and you can’t follow.”
“Let’s say I’m okay with that. That even if it’s only 20, no, 10… even 3 years. I’m okay with it as long as it’s with you.”
“I won’t condone such a thing. The woman I choose to love, I cannot leave her behind while I return to my home.”
“But what if you never manage to get back? Then you can be with me, right?”
“No. I’ll never stop trying.”
“Then, what if you’re wrong about me not being able to follow?”
“Hmm. In such a case, then as long as you are willing, there isn’t a problem. Though, I believe there’s no chance of that.”
“I see. Interesting.”
Hei was about to get back to his work when he thought to ask a question.
“Was there any truth to your words?”
“Was that a hypothetical situation, or were you being truthful?”
Yuying smiled and hid her mouth with her hand as she gave her partner a mischievous look.
“Oh? Why? Do you wish it were true?”
“Not in the slightest.”
“A… Well, it was mostly hypothetical, but I do find you quite interesting.”
Again, Hei was about to go back to his work when a question popped up in his mind.
“Incidentally, I also have a hypothetical question.”
“What would you do, if there was a boy who knew he couldn’t be with you, but still had feelings for you?”
Hei thought of an extra detail to make the question more applicable.
“Let’s say the boy is around 10 years old. How would you handle it?”
“10 years old? Haha. I would just leave it alone. He’ll probably get over it as he grows up. Little kids don’t truly understand the meaning of something being unattainable.”
“He’ll get over it? I was thinking the same thing. I appreciate the assistance.”
“Don’t mention it.”
As Hei turned back around, Yuying narrowed her eyes.
Knew he couldn’t be with her? 10 years old? This fellow was pretty short and sounded quite young… Hmm…
After shaking her head to get rid of her pointless thoughts, she turned her sight to her partner and watched as he did his work. It was oddly satisfying just watching the silent progression.
Eventually, Hei sat up and dusted off his hands.
“This first part, yes.”
“How much are you going to charge them for it?”
“It’s free of charge.”
The corner of Yuying’s mouth twitched.
“Wha? What’s that supposed to mean? Didn’t you say you would hunt me down and take my legs if I didn’t pay? Now you’re going to give it away for free? You really do like that Xiaoli, don’t you?”
“I suppose you want me to answer all of those questions?”
“It means this won’t be a trade per se. I did say those words, but you have modified them. I am giving it away, not for material wealth, but in exchange for gratitude. And no. I don’t have any intentions towards Miss Xiaoli. Is that sufficient?”
“In exchange for gratitude? Then can we use the same payment method?”
“Your gratitude isn’t worth much.”
“… And hers is?”
“Not Miss Xiaoli’s specifically, but the Zhu Clan’s, yes.”
“Then let's do it like this. If you can show that the Zhu Clan’s gratitude was worth giving them your technique, then I’ll pay 150% without complaint, but if it ends up as a loss for you, then you’ll accept my gratitude for the technique. What do you think?”
“I don’t gamble.”
“That being the case, I’ll agree to your conditions. This is your chance to change your mind.”
“I don’t go back on my word, Partner.”
“Then there won’t be any need to take your legs.”
Yuying rolled her eyes at her partner’s attempt at making a joke.
“Ugh. Just stop.”
He really wasn’t any good at it. She would have to help him later.
Hei walked over to the door, and when he opened it, Auntie Yimin was standing right in front of him. He also noticed another person had joined the group.
“Have you had your fun messing around in there?”
“Mm. It was quite the learning experience.”
From there, Hei handed over two manuals he had created, one for the battle formation, and one for the combat technique.
After getting to the middle of the second manual, all three exclaimed in surprise.
“How is this possible…?”
Hei was surprised to hear the exact same name Onyx had used coming from these three.
“Have you also heard of this technique?”
Auntie Yimin answered immediately, revealing her excitement.
“Heard of it? Of course we’ve heard of it. It’s Lady Shufang’s signature technique! Where did you find this?”
Xiaoli and the other boy were also visibly moved.
It seemed the Lady Shufang they had mentioned really had been the same Fang’er Onyx was acquainted with.
“I didn’t obtain this from some external source. This is a technique I have created myself through certain comprehensions I had, and with some assistance from a teacher of mine.”
“You really made this yourself? Why am I unable to believe it? It’s just like Lady Shufang’s technique.”
Hei didn’t know what exactly to say. How would he make them believe him? And was it even that important that they did? The important part was that he had fulfilled Xiaoli’s request.
“Whether it’s the same or not, you can confirm it by comparing them side-by-side. I feel that your Lady Shufang’s technique should be more refined than mine.”
After his words, there was an awkward silence.
Auntie Yimin spoke up after a while.
“You see, the thing is, Lady Shufang never did pass down her technique. And she had no children, so we don’t have a link with her anymore. As far as we know, ever since she ventured into the outer boundary, she hasn’t returned.”
At this point, Onyx’s spoke to Hei from within his storage space.
[Ask them what happened to their clan. Why aren’t they on the middle continent anymore?]
“I was told that the Zhu Clan which Lady Shufang belonged to was on the middle continent. How is it that you have ended up here?”
Auntie Yimin’s brows furrowed. The other two were unaware of this, but she knew.
“That’s a complicated story, but it boils down to the fact that there were differing opinions within the clan, and our faction decided to start anew. We will slowly work our way back up and we’ll stand on our own.”
Jing’er decided to ask for more information.
“What exactly happened, Auntie Yimin?”
Auntie Yimin turned to Jing’er.
“Sigh. It’s about the origin of demonic qi.”
“You mean Azroth?”
“Mm. Well, actually, there are two schools of thought when it comes to this matter. One is the legend of Azroth, which you already know, and the other is that demonic qi is a mutation caused by the evil within the hearts of man.”
Both Jing’er and Xiaoli raised their brows.
“How could anyone believe that? It’s obviously Azroth who has fooled them into borrowing his power. To think it comes from one’s own heart… Then how are there people who commit atrocities without becoming demonic cultivators?”
“Mm. It wouldn’t make much sense at all. That’s not even mentioning that there are plenty of demonic cultivators who don’t seem to be as evil as the others. Some even only target other demonic cultivators. How does one explain that?”
Auntie Yimin nodded her head, but she had to speak impartially.
“That’s the way we teach, but the other side’s argument does have some merit, otherwise, we wouldn’t have split up.”
The two nodded their heads. The Zhu Clan wasn’t made up of imbeciles. If they truly believed the other idea, then there was probably something to it.