Auntie Yimin changed her clothes according to Hei’s request. She was now fully clothed from the neck down, leaving only her hands and feet uncovered.
“There. Is that better?”
“I think so. Now, you were telling me about this lady?”
Auntie Yimin dashed forward and launched a kick at Hei, which he avoided by jumping into the air.
“Ugh right. She came out of nowhere and ruined everything.”
She followed after him and tried to grab his foot but was repelled by an impulse.
“I think you should consider using fire element for your movements.”
“Mm. Since you’ve focused on the heaviness and attraction aspects of the earth elements, you have a strong impact on the environment. For movement, this is inefficient. If you instead focus on the lightness of fire, you will be able to move more swiftly and without causing as much damage.”
Auntie Yimin looked down to the ground and could see traces of her presence all over it.
“Can you help me out?”
“When we’re speaking of the fire element, it is easy to think of destruction and heat, but within that heat, there is an element which seeks greater heights, pushing things up and reducing the pressure they exert on the ground. If you focus on…”
Hei went on to explain his understandings of the fire element and how it could be used for movement.
All the while, the two were entangled in an intense brawl.
Jing'er noticed something.
“Do you see that?”
Xiaoli turned to Jing’er.
“Under Auntie Yimin’s feet. Is that fire? Her feet aren’t sinking into the ground any more.”
“You’re right. And it looks like she’s gotten faster too.”
“She’s improving her abilities right before our eyes.”
“It’s probably the masked one who’s helping her. His words are really deep.”
“And then she showed up at my birthday celebration without gifts saying she hadn’t known about it prior. Why then, was she dressed in such a way? That wasn’t an outfit one just throws together.”
“I see. It does lead one to believe that she had some ulterior motive.”
Hei deflected Auntie Yimin’s palm strike and grabbed her wrist before pulling himself towards her and throwing her over his shoulder.
She was able to plant her feet on the ground before she fell, and returned the favour by throwing Hei over her own shoulder.
“That’s what I said, but people said I was overreacting.”
“Blind to the truth.”
“I’m glad someone understands.”
Hei used a pulse to free himself from Auntie Yimin’s grip and retreated a few metres, before appearing behind her, sending a chop to her neck.
She evaded his strike and sent a spinning kick behind her, which Hei avoided before sending a fist toward her abdomen.
“Now you’ve improved your movement, you can also use the fire element to increase the striking force of your blows.”
“I’ll be in your care.”
“Aside from heat and destruction, there is also an explosive element. This can be used at the point of impact, similar to the technique I’m using, to deliver devastating blows without expending too much qi or mental energy. It also adds an element of surprise to every attack because the opponent won’t know which attacks have the explosive element behind them. The way I like to think about it…”
“So… It seems Auntie Yimin’s gotten stronger again.”
Jing’er said this almost absentmindedly.
Xiaoli straightened her hair, which had been blown away by a wave of hot air generated by one of the two’s collisions.
Xiaoli again straightened her hair and then decided to protect it with her qi.
“I don’t think this is fair. Didn’t I meet him first? If I didn’t ask for help, would Auntie Yimin have been able to improve this much?”
“Don’t be like that. You need the ability first. Auntie Yimin has always been quick to learn in the heat of battle. Even if it were you instead, you likely wouldn’t even gain half as much.”
“Then what if it were you?”
“Of course, I wouldn’t be any less absorbent than Auntie Yimin. That’s the difference between hard work and being handed strength.”
Xiaoli clicked her tongue and slapped the back of Jing’er’s head.
“I’m stronger than you now, you know? Shouldn’t you treat me as a senior?”
“In your dreams. Did you ever treat me as a senior when I was stronger than you? Besides, whether you could beat me in a serious fight has yet to be seen.”
“Oh? Do you want to go right now?”
“Do I want to waste time with you or learn from a fight between two great experts… You tell me.”
As usual, Xiaoli couldn’t shake Jing’er’s dedication to self-improvement.
“And in the end, he told me that I was too violent and that she was a kind and gentle woman. What am I supposed to do with that?”
Auntie Yimin attacked with her elbow and Hei deflected it before sending an uppercut, which she evaded with a back handspring, kicking at him at the same time, missing by only a hairs width.
“Sometimes what catches our eye isn’t necessarily the best thing for us. You shouldn’t compare yourself to that woman. It is more important to compare yourself with the you of the past. Ask if your past self would be proud of the person you’ve become. If not, then that’s what you should focus on. I think that’s far more important than if the person you have intentions towards returns those feelings or not.”
Both went in for a fist attack, and then their fists collided, they were both blown back, tumbling along the ground.
They picked themselves back up and ran towards each other once more, but when their fists collided, there was no major change.
“It looks like we’ve both run out of steam.”
“What are you talking about? I could go another ten rounds!”
Hei pushed his fist forward, and both fell back to the ground, gasping for breath.
“Maybe you're right...”
Auntie Yimin didn't realise how exhausted she had become.
“That was the best fight I’ve ever had.”
“It’s surely the first of many. Now that you know how to control yourself, you’ll be able to live more peacefully.”
“Will we ever have the chance to fight again?”
Auntie Yimin was feeling bittersweet. She had finally found her path, but she was all alone on it. No one in the Zhu Clan would be able to give her a proper fight like this.
One reason was that they weren’t strong enough, and the other was that they were all weapon users. She was the only hand-to-hand fighter at her level.
“Perhaps we will.”
Hei sent her a message through his spiritual perception.
Auntie Yimin received the message and her eyes opened wide.
Even her exhausted body found itself sitting up.
“A new pillar? What’s this?”
“When the time comes you will naturally know.”
“You can’t drop this on someone all of a sudden and then not answer anything.”
Hei raised his feet over his head and flipped himself up.
He pointed to the ground and a black string extended from his finger before a light shone and a chair appeared.
“Take a seat. I made it extra sturdy for you.”
Auntie Yimin got up and did as he said.
When she sat on the seat, she used the concept of heaviness to put it under as much strain as she could.
The ground suffered the consequences, but the chair remained unfazed.
“Humph. It really is sturdy.”
Auntie Yimin wanted to break the chair, but there it stood, as if she were weightless.
Hei went behind the chair so that he and Auntie Yimin were facing the same direction.
“Never mind that. About that new pillar. Certain people like yourself are invited to join it once it’s established. There, you will find so many opponents that if you picked one per day, you would be able to fight for weeks on end.”
“Really? How can you be sure?”
“Because I’m the scout. I naturally know the level of the people who will appear there.”
At this point, Hei had straightened up Auntie Yimin’s robe and used a simple water technique to clean her face, which had become dirty due to the fighting.
Auntie Yimin turned to look at Hei.
“Will you also be there?”
Hei turned Auntie Yimin’s head such that she was facing away from him again.
“Then I’ll definitely show up.”
“Mm. It will be good to have you.”
Hei pulled Auntie Yimin’s hair so it was all behind the chair, then used a water technique to clean it.
“Is he washing her hair? What is this?”
Xiaoli watched with eyes wide open.
How had the two gone from an intense battle to a hair salon?
“I have no idea.”
Jing’er didn’t have any explanation for this either. And neither did any of the people who were observing this.
Most of them were still thinking about the battle that had just taken place and how light-hearted the atmosphere was. It was almost as if the two were dancing instead of engaging in an epic melee.
Xiaoli saw something interesting.
“That… Is that bread? What’s he going to do with- he’s putting it in her hair… What in the world is this?”
“Perhaps it’s soap in the shape of bread?”
“But why would anyone do that?”
“These eccentrics. No one knows why they do what they do.”
The masked one pulled out a comb and started combing out the bread. It definitely wasn’t soap.
“Is that gold in his hand?”
“Looks like it.”
The masked one moulded the gold into a phoenix hairpin before placing it in Auntie Yimin’s hair which he had already dried.
Both Xiaoli and Jing’er didn’t understand what was happening. Had Auntie Yimin and the masked one bonded over their battle somehow?
Hei placed the hairpin he had made out of some scrap gold he had left over from the construction of the Shao Residence in Auntie Yimin’s hair.
“My mother taught me that the most important thing is to be yourself. Those who appreciate it are the only ones worth keeping around. Of course, her teachings aren’t as simple as that. She also taught me that sometimes those who care for you the most will also be the ones who wish for you to change for the better. But if they only want you to change for their own convenience, then it is better to cast them aside.”
“She sounds like a wise woman.”
Hei let out a rare smile behind his mask.
“Indeed she is.”
He performed the finishing touches then stroked her head.
“There. You look much nicer now.”
He patted her shoulders twice, signalling her to stand up.
She did just that and used her spiritual perception to examine her own appearance.
Even though it didn’t show off her figure, she felt it was aesthetic in a different way. She didn’t dislike it. Not at all.
She stroked his head.
“Thanks, Little Buddy. For everything.”
“There’s no need to thank me. I’m only returning the favour.”
“Favour? What favour?”
“You offered me a place to rest and a drink after I completed Evil Slaying. Even though I didn’t take you up on it, I appreciate the hospitality.”
Auntie Yimin decided not to ruin the good impression he had of her by telling him the truth. Next time, she would offer those things in earnest.
At this point, Jing’er and Xiaoli approached along with the ten elders who had been injured by Auntie Yimin.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you so happy, Yimin.”
“Mm. It’s good to see you smiling again.”
Auntie Yimin smiled and then raised her hand to the back of her head to scratch it, but when she did, one of them flinched.
Her expression dimmed a little when she saw it, and Hei placed his hand on her back.
A more observant elder slapped the other fellow’s back.
“Why are you acting like a scared kitten? She’s not a monster, you know?”
‘Speaking of kittens… Where did that cat go? Well, it doesn’t really matter.’
“R-right. I’m sorry, Yimin.”
Everyone got closer and started speaking about the good old days. It was clear to see that Auntie Yimin was in a stable state right now, and besides, even if she did lose control, there was someone here who could bring her back to her senses.
Auntie Yimin hadn’t been able to speak with her peers like this for a while now. She mostly interacted with the juniors who came to the library and tried to keep to herself, but at this moment, it was like she was a child again. Back when her only problem was that she was a little too energetic.
“It’s just a shame that none of us is strong enough to give you a good fight. Even Xiaoli probably isn’t a match.”
“Hey! We haven’t even tried yet.”
Auntie Yimin turned to Xiaoli with excited eyes.
“Do you want to go a round, Xiaoli?”
“N-no. I think I need to consolidate my cultivation. It may take a few days- months! A few months. We can have a match then.”