As Bai and Mei were falling, they were caught by Hei who had jumped onto the stage after seeing them lose their strength.
“That was a good fight.”
Hei wasn’t quite sure what they were fighting about, but overall it was a good match. They had put their all into it and seemed to be satisfied with the result.
Mei and Bai were too tired to even respond, so he took them back to the stands where he had the young ladies make room for them to sit.
The audience were left speechless by the match between Bai and Mei.
It was much different from any of the other matches and displayed a level that was far above the rest.
Even the reduced forces they felt after having passed through the barriers were immense.
Also, it seemed the illusions were actually quite useful.
They now knew that Bai wasn’t discarding the illusions in her other matches due to impracticality, but because her opponents were just too weak.
This made them want to learn the trick even more.
Since that was the final round, the competition was brought to an end.
Bai and Mei were declared joint winners and the reward was split evenly between them.
Because the rewards for first place and second place were different in the cultivation caves they were able to access, it was decided that they would rotate periodically, switching caves after a set amount of time.
After all of the rewards were distributed, the elder made an announcement.
“As for all male disciples, you are to report to the Mission Hall within the next two days.”
Everyone could tell that this was a direct message to Hei. It was conveniently decorated with ‘all male disciples’ but the intention was obvious.
‘So, they’re starting this already?’
Hei knew this would come eventually, but they had originally said it would be once every 6 months.
Technically speaking, this was within six months. But they could have at least given him the whole amount of time to relax.
‘Perhaps things are starting to move faster than I had anticipated.’
He had expected Jingfei’s situation to escalate closer to the year's end, which was still a ways away.
With the announcements over, the audience was dismissed. They were now all official disciples of the Radiant Jade Sect.
Bai and Mei had now recovered some of their mental energy and were able to stand by themselves, but Hei decided to escort them back to their caves before heading to the Mission Hall.
When he got there, he walked up the reception and handed her his identity jade.
“Your mission is to find nine missing disciples.”
The receptionist gave Hei an information jade and shooed him away.
“Wait. Nine missing disciples? Doesn’t that sound like nine missions?”
The receptionist extended her hand and looked at her nails, ignoring Hei.
“Then what about failure? How does it work? What if I can’t find them?”
“In the event that you are unable to find the missing disciples, you need not return to the sect.”
This was quite strict.
Hei imagined this particular penalty wasn’t one given to every disciple upon failure of a mission.
“What if I find some of them but not all of them?”
“In the event that you are unable to find the missing disciples, you need not return to the sect.”
The receptionist also felt that this wasn't quite right, but in the end, she had a job to do.
"I don't write the missions, I just provide information about them."
Hei now understood what was going on. It seemed they were shamelessly trying to make him leave the sect.
It even caused him to have a question.
“These disciples… Are they even real?”
The receptionist shifted her gaze from her fingernails up to Hei.
“Yes, I knew them personally.”
The receptionist didn’t seem to be lying. It seemed she was personally affected by the content of the mission.
“What’s wrong, Senior Sister?”
The receptionist frowned slightly.
“No missing disciples have ever returned before.”
The reception shook her head.
This was interesting information for Hei.
If none of the missing disciples had ever returned, why were there only 9 for this mission? Where were the missions involving the other missing disciples? Or had they given up after a long time?
But this was also an opportunity.
Hei clenched his fist tightly and looked up to the receptionist with determination in his eyes.
“Don’t worry Senior Sister. I’ll make sure to bring them back safely.”
Before the receptionist could say anything, Hei had already left.
“Sigh. If only.”
This wasn’t the first time this receptionist had given out missions to find missing disciples.
But even those who accepted the missions sometimes went missing, which made the other disciples refrain from searching for them.
After checking the information jade, Hei found that he had to leave the sect by midnight the following day.
‘Does that mean if I came here tomorrow, I would have to leave immediately?’
Hei headed back to the Man Peak, where he found Jingfei, who was currently cultivating.
“You seem to be getting there.”
Jingfei turned to Hei, who had surprised her. She wasn’t using her spiritual perception so his appearance was sudden.
“Ah, Young Master Hei. Yes, I’m almost back to the transcendent realm.”
Hei nodded his head.
“So, I have this mission and I’m going to need some pills to take with me. If you don’t mind, please refine a batch of healing pills and some Qi condensing pills for me.”
Just because the formation competition had finished, it didn’t mean Jingfei had stopped practising alchemy.
She had been routinely going over to the alchemy hall to purchase ingredients to refine pills as well as earn merit points.
So, she always had a batch of ingredients on hand.
“Oh, and since I’m now an official disciple, can you show me some of the cultivation techniques?”
Jingfei gave him the cultivation techniques she had on hand, and Hei went over to the kitchen, where he made himself a large amount of bread to eat during his mission.
He didn’t know how long it would take, and although he didn’t require food, he still enjoyed eating bread.
After the bread was done, he placed in his storage space where it wouldn’t expire.
The storage space was quite an interesting thing. It was able to hold living beings, but it knew what was permitted and what was not.
Hei didn’t quite know how it worked, but it meant that things he wanted to preserve would be preserved.
With that out of the way, Hei went back to his room, where he continued to work on his communication system and started reading some of the cultivation techniques he had been given by Jingfei.
Since he wasn’t too occupied right now, he decided to read them slowly.
As he worked his way through the cultivation manuals, he could see that they were quite similar to what he had seen in the Fang Clan.
Most of the concepts were the same and there was little specialisation to be found.
But this was to be expected.
This was only the material available to outer disciples, so it would be surprising if they had anything extraordinary within.
After a while, Hei found an interesting book.
It was titled ‘The Phoenix and the Vermilion Bird’.
‘Oh? So, the movie was based on a book.’
Hei was interested in this. He wondered why there was a storybook mixed in with the cultivation techniques, but he wanted to see how it compared to the movie.
‘I wonder if I’ll be able to see the tragic romance Jingfei mentioned.’
As he read it, his eyes grew wider and wider.
He did indeed see the tragic romance. It was just…
“D-d-d-d-d... Dual cultivation technique?!”
The Phoenix and the Vermilion Bird wasn’t a storybook at all.
Hei was shocked to his core.
What would an all-women sect need with duel cultivation techniques? Were they a remnant from the past? Or…
As he read further, he couldn’t stay seated.
He burst out of his room and found Jingfei.
“Jingfei! What is this?!”
Jingfei was surprised to see Hei so frantic.
She looked at the thing he was showing her and saw what it was.
“Oh? The Phoenix and the Vermilion Bird? Yes, it’s a technique some of the juniors practice in their free time.”
Hearing this only made Hei’s eyes grow wide.
“This! How? No, don’t tell me. Just-do you also practice this?”
Jingfei couldn’t help but laugh at Hei’s behaviour.
“What’s the matter with you, Young Master Hei? No, I don’t personally practice it.”
“Then, what about Senior Sister Qiuyue?”
“As far as I’m aware, she also doesn’t practice it. She’s way too focused on her formations.”
Hei breathed a sigh of relief.
It would be a terrible shame if he had taken Bai away from the lions, only to feed her to the tigers.
Seeing this, Jingfei spoke.
“Ah. You’re too young for these things.”
She now realised why Hei was overreacting.
Hearing this, Hei’s eyes sparkled.
“Then, Little Bai is also too young, right?”
If there was an off-limits age, then surely Bai was also within that range.
Jingfei shook her head.
“The reason you’re too young is because men mature slower than women. Your sisters should be okay.”
“Eh? What do you mean?”
This was one of the most ridiculous things Hei had ever heard.
Jingfei decided to explain.
“The primary purpose for techniques like this one is to help new disciples catch up. When new disciples enter the sect and advance, they are encouraged to abandon their previous cultivation techniques and adopt the sect’s techniques.”
Hei nodded his head with a blank expression. There was nothing wrong with what she was saying so far.
“Because this would result in having a large number of weakened disciples, techniques like these were developed to help them regain their cultivation quickly by cultivating with the senior sisters.”
“It’s actually quite similar to what you had done a few weeks ago. Because my cultivation was lowered at the time, you used a technique to help me raise it.”
“Similar? It’s completely different!”
“The form is different, but the function is the same.”
“The form is the problem!”
“Why? What do you mean why? Isn’t it obvious?”
Hei opened the book and repeatedly tapped on a particular page.
Seeing this, Jingfei understood what he was saying.
She shook her head in disappointment and looked at Hei with disdainful eyes.
“They said men see things differently. This isn’t a lascivious act. It is born from sisterhood and wanting to help others.”
Hei was wondering how he had become the one who was wrong.
“But… Why is it like this?”
“Not everyone has the Shao Clan’s methods, Young Master Hei. We have to make do with what we have.”
Hei was left speechless. Why did she make this sound so reasonable?
“Then… I’ll be seeing you later…”
Hei slowly backed away and slid the door closed.
This was not how he expected things to turn out at all.
But even if Jingfei made it sound reasonable, there was no way he was going to allow Bai to practice these kinds of techniques. Not for a very long time at the very least.
He scanned the sect for Bai’s whereabouts.
Part of Hei’s training was to keep his spiritual perception active at all times. That is beyond the active radius which he couldn’t disengage. This meant he was able to see everyone within the sect.
In order to avoid awkward situations, he purposefully reduced the fidelity of the images he was able to see. So, most of the time he could only see simple shapes that represented people and objects.
He placed special markers on Bai and Mei as well as Tianlan, Xiulan, Shao Chen and Liling so that he could distinguish between them and other people.
Having located Bai, Hei dashed out of the Man Peak and rushed straight towards her.
He was wondering why she was already outside of her cultivator cave. It hadn’t been very long since the competition and she should have still been tired.
When he got there, he saw Bai and Mei along with a few other young ladies.
“Little Bai, why are you walking around? Shouldn’t you be getting some rest now?”
Hei turned to Mei who smiled in response.
“We are getting rest.”
Hei frowned slightly and tilted his head sideways.
It was Bai who answered Hei’s confusion.
“Senior Sister Fung said she has a way for us to quickly replenish our mental energy.”
Hei turned to this ‘Senior Sister Fung’ with a raised brow.
“Don’t worry, Brother. I’ll be sure to remember the technique so we can make use of it ourselves.”
She smiled after saying this.
Hei’s eyes opened wide.
He spoke to Senior Sister Fung.
“Senior Sister Fung. What is the method you have in mind?”
Senior Sister Fung didn’t quite seem to appreciate Hei’s presence. She answered in a cold tone.
“It’s a dual cultivation technique called Blooming Lotus. After practising it, their mental energy will be replenished in no time.”
This was all Hei needed to hear.
He cupped his fist to Senior Sister Fung.
“I appreciate you wanting to help my sisters, Senior Sister Fung. However, that won’t be necessary.”
He then smiled.
Ordinarily, he wouldn’t have been amused by this at all. But according to Jingfei, this Senior Sister Fung should be coming from a place of kindness.
“Your input isn’t necessary.”
Senior Sister Fung brushed Hei aside.
“Come now, junior sisters. I’ll show you the Blooming Lotus technique.”
Senior Sister Fung turned to walk away, but Bai and Mei stayed where they were.
Since Hei had already stated his position, Bai and Mei would not be going with Senior Sister Fung. Evidently, the Blooming Lotus technique was not something he was interested in.
Senior Sister Fung noticed this and turned back around with a confused expression.
“Aren’t you coming?”
“No, they’re not.”
Senior Sister Fung clicked her tongue.
“No one was talking to.”
She turned back to Bai and Mei and reached her hand out as she spoke.
“Come, there’s no need for you to keep suffering when there’s a way to alleviate it.”
At this point, Hei had had enough.
‘Born from sisterhood? Not lascivious? It isn’t me who is seeing things differently, Jingfei. It is you who is too naïve.’
Clearly, not everyone in the sect thought the same way Jingfei did.
He grabbed Senior Sister Fung’s wrist and glared at her, bringing out a suppressive aura, and spoke in an icy tone.
He released her hand and she stumbled back a few steps before falling on her backside.
She looked at Hei with fear in her eyes before standing up.
“You! You’ll regret this!”
She said this before leaving the scene with a few of her friends.
After she had left, Hei removed his suppressive aura and dropped to his knees.
He muttered a few words soullessly.
“I… I offended a Senior Sister…”
It wasn’t only Bai, Mei, Senior Sister Fung and her friends at the scene. There were also a few new disciples who were following Bai and Mei around.
“Is this the Hero Hei they mentioned?”
“Looks like it.”
They saw, or they thought they saw Hei regretting his impulsive actions, brought about by his protective nature.
Seeing this, Bai decided to take advantage of the opportunity.
She sent Mei a private message and walked up to Hei.
“It’s okay, Brother. You were only trying to protect us.”
“That’s right. No one can blame you for that.”
Hei was slightly confused. He didn’t need consolation right now. What he needed, was a way to escape this series of events he had just kicked off.
He tried to explain it.
However, his words were cut off.
“No buts, Brother. That’s just the way you are.”
“And that’s the way we like you.”
The girls helped Hei to stand and pulled him by the arms, heading away from the crowd.
Hei just walked with a blank expression. He had no idea what his sisters were doing right now.
This only helped the illusion.
“Maybe there’s some truth to this Hero Hei thing after all.”