Inside the study, Xiaoli turned around after closing the door.
She was met with an interesting scene. There was a large window behind the masked one, the same window she had sat in front of for years. The sunlight from outside was shining onto the table and revealed the various particles floating around in the air. And finally, there was the masked one himself, with his head rested on his hand, as he looked down at the sheet of paper in front of him.
It was the picture of calm.
There were sheets of paper everywhere! The room was full of papers messily scattered around. Even to the point that she found it hard to find places to put her feet down without stepping on them. The walls weren’t spared either. Aside from the window, the entire room had papers plastered all over the place.
Xiaoli looked up to the ceiling, and sure enough; papers!
How could two such contrasting scenes exist in the same place?
Hei noticed her odd look through his spiritual perception.
“Don’t worry about that. Those are just scrapped ideas.”
“Then… shouldn’t you put them away?”
Hei used his qi to pick up the scattered sheets of paper and sorted them into a neat pile on the desk.
Instantly, the room turned from a cluttered mess to an immaculate work environment. Which further amplified his image in Xiaoli’s eyes. Did she also look like that when she was working at the desk?
“I apologise. When working alone, I like to be able to see every step of my progress at a glance. I do realise that it can be strange for other people.”
“N-no. I shouldn’t have interrupted your process.”
“Don’t mind it.”
Xiaoli walked to the side of the desk Hei was at, which meant she was now facing the door and had the sun shining on her back.
She placed one hand on the table to support herself, and the other on the back of Hei’s chair as she looked down at the sheet of paper he was working on.
She noticed that he was tapping his pen on the page repeatedly.
“Are you having trouble?”
Hei replied, but he didn’t turn to face her as she expected.
“Not exactly. I’m just trying to get it to a point where you won’t be too inconvenienced.”
“Don’t worry about that. I don’t mind a little inconvenience if it means I can repay you a little bit for bringing us Lady Shufang’s Evil Slaying.”
A section of Xiaoli’s hair fell in front of her face, obstructing her view slightly.
She removed the hand which was placed on the chair and used it to move the hair behind her ear as she smiled.
“Though, I suppose it was you who created the technique, wasn’t it? What should we call it?”
“Evil Slaying will do. It’s fine if you consider it to be your Lady Shufang’s technique. I did draw some inspiration from her experiences.”
Hei spoke as he made some adjustments to the dual cultivation technique.
Yuying watched all of this with a fan covering the lower half of her face and her eyes narrowed into crescents. She had already switched to audio-only mode on her side, so her form was no longer visible.
As she looked at this scene, she couldn’t help but let out a mischievous smile.
This Xiaoli girl was very calculating.
But too bad for her, she was a mere donkey among unicorns. Partner wouldn’t notice any of her advances.
Xiaoli didn’t know that she was being observed by a third party, and to be honest, even if she did, her actions wouldn’t change much.
She read a few sections of the information on the paper Hei was working on and found that it contained quite a few concepts she was unfamiliar with.
She pointed at one section in particular.
“What does this mean? To avoid the corruption of the pure core?”
“It’s as it says. A delicate balance must be maintained in order to avoid the corruption of the cultivators’ pure cores.”
Hei assumed that Xiaoli was able to understand most of the technique, as she hadn’t asked any questions about the information before that point.
“But what exactly is a pure core? Are you referring to the null element core of spirit roots? Or is it something else that I’m unaware of?”
“The pure core is referring to the pure yin cores in most women and the pure yang core in most men that naturally exist at birth. Though, some women have pure yang cores and vice versa. And then there are some who have rare variants of pure cores, which naturally contain a mixture of both yin and yang elements. Are you unfamiliar with these things?”
“N-no. I know about those, but what kind of technique uses them? I can only think of…”
There was a long pause in Xiaoli’s words, so Hei decided to fill it.
“Dual cultivation techniques are the first thing that comes to mind for most people.”
“Right… but this isn’t…”
Again there was another pause.
Hei spoke as he wrote an amendment to the technique.
“A dual cultivation technique?!”
Xiaoli’s hands found themselves back at her sides, and she was now standing straight, a few steps away from the table.
“Then, what’s the meaning of inviting me here?”
“I didn’t invite you. I asked for a participant, and you volunteered. Isn’t that how things happened?”
“Y-yes… but, I didn’t know it would be a dual cultivation technique!”
“Is there a problem? Is it too intimate?”
Hei was slightly confused. Xiaoli had evidently read the technique, otherwise, asking a question without having read the information before the confusing part would be impractical.
Even so, she was reacting in such a way… Could it be that holding hands was taboo in the Zhu Clan?
“If it’s too much for you, then do you think Auntie Yimin would be willing?”
“A-Auntie Yimin? How could you… No one would be willing to help you with this!”
Hei tapped his pen against the page, thinking of how he could make the technique more suitable. Perhaps he would have to use the stronger remote version. But the problem was, he wouldn’t be able to monitor the changes in the other person’s body as easily without direct contact.
As he was thinking, he heard Yuying’s voice.
[I think it’s time for you to explain how the form is different, Partner.]
[Is there a need? She has already read the technique. I think the form is still a problem for her. I was unaware that holding hands was forbidden in the Zhu Clan.]
[I also read the technique, and I can tell you that she didn’t. No one would react like that if they had. And since when was holding hands a big deal?]
[Where I come from, there are certain people groups who frown upon such actions between loosely related boys and girls.]
[Is that so?]
[Anyway, just explain it to her.]
Hei spoke to Xiaoli.
“Is it that holding hands is forbidden in the Zhu Clan? Would it be more suitable to practice the technique without any physical contact?”
Xiaoli tilted her head.
“Mm. This technique requires physical contact, and my chosen form is the holding of hands. Did you not read the introduction?”
Xiaoli’s face turned red. She hadn’t read the introduction. She skipped to the middle section near where Hei was tapping his pen.
“I was just surprised that it was a dual cultivation technique and overreacted. D-don’t mind it. If it’s just holding hands-”
Xiaoli walked back to the table and took the hand Hei was resting his head on.
“Is this what you want?”
“Perhaps allowing me to offer my hand to you first would have been better.”
[Oh? Did she just upset you?]
[She did. Although, it’s just a minor inconvenience.]
This was one of the things that could actually get under Hei’s skin. Disturbing him while he was working, especially physically moving him, was a sure way to have him decrease his opinion of you by a few notches.
[But wasn’t the Zhu Clan also a minor inconvenience?]
[Then Xiaoli’s in for a world of pain.]
Yuying looked at Xiaoli with pity in her eyes. The fact that her partner didn’t say anything to the contrary… Sigh.
She shook her head as she thought of the fate that awaited Xiaoli.
It was only after feeling a slight iciness in his tone that Xiaoli realised that she had acted rashly.
She let go of his hand.
“Sorry. I was flustered and just-”
Hei held his hand out in the air.
“Then, if you would take my hand.”
Xiaoli placed hers on top of his.
“Don’t resist. I’m going to attempt to synchronise our circulation paths. But do tell me if you feel discomfort.”
Hei focused on extracting small amounts of his own yang essence and transferring it to Xiaoli through her hand, and when that was successful, he used his spiritual perception to look inside her body.
Xiaoli couldn’t help but let out an uncomfortable moan. Was he using his spiritual perception inside her body? Was that possible? Even when Auntie Yimin used her techniques, she didn’t invade other people’s bodies with her spiritual perception.
Shortly after she voiced her discomfort, she noticed that he immediately increased the strength of his spiritual perception by multiple times, further increasing the uncomfortable feeling.
Hei had noticed her discomfort and had thought it was due to a mistake in the manipulation of his yang essence, so put all his focus on her internal state, not realising that observing her internal state was the actual cause for the discomfort.
He ascertained that there wasn’t any problem on his side.
“From what I can see, there shouldn’t be anything wrong at this point. What is the cause of your discomfort?”
“N-no. Nothing is wrong. I just didn’t expect you to use your spiritual perception within my body. Where did you learn such a thing?”
“It’s not something I’ve learnt. It’s just something I’m able to do. I apologise for not warning you earlier.”
“Then I’ll proceed.”
Hei turned his focus back to the manipulation of his yang essence. Next was to mix it with her yin essence and move that mixture between the two, allowing it to run through their circulation paths.
As he did so, he noticed something outside of his expectations. With the way the technique was written, he, the one in control of the technique, should have witnessed a change in his circulation paths, such that they became more similar to hers, but that wasn’t the case.
He decided to pause the technique to check on her and noticed something interesting.
“Your circulation paths are shifting, are you conscious of it?”
“Is that what it is? I just feel a tingly sensation and a warm current. Isn’t that your yang essence?”
“Not quite. It’s true that my yang essence should feel warm to you, but the tingly sensation wasn’t expected. It seems your circulation paths are shifting to become more similar to mine. There shouldn’t be any consequences in the long term, but I’m unsure of what will happen if your circulation paths fully adjust to being like mine. At this point, it’s up to you if we continue or not.”
Xiaoli thought for a while.
“If there are no long term consequences, then let’s continue.”
“Are you sure?”
“Mm. It’s the least I could do.”
Hei continued the circulation of the mixed essences and observed intently as Xiaoli’s circulation paths became more and more similar to his own.
At the moment when they matched perfectly, there was a major fluctuation in the natural qi around them.
Xiaoli withdrew her hand and stumbled backwards before losing her balance.
Hei didn't expect her to suddenly break the connection between them like that. It could have dire consequences.
He immediately left his seat and caught her before she fell, swiftly taking her hand and extracting his yang essence from her body.
At the same time, Auntie Yimin rushed in.
Hei ignored her and activated his spiritual perception to inspect Xiaoli’s pure yin core.
Fortunately, there wasn’t any contamination.
He then inspected the rest of her body and found that her circulation paths were returning back to their normal state. There didn’t seem to be any other harm done either.
That was good news. However, Xiaoli was currently in an unresponsive state, and Hei wasn’t sure what the cause was, nor when she would come back to her senses.
He had been far too negligent this time.