Han De spent the next week cooped up in his house. In the beginning, he was worried that not going out might look suspicious since he was an arrogant young master turned elder after all. He thought about going out and randomly bullying people, but when he looked at cultivation freak's memories, he relaxed. That guy could stay in closed-door seclusion for a year, so why would anyone find it suspicious if he spent a month without going out.
First few days, he alternated between learning one of the remaining four cultivation methods, experimenting with Qi control, and practicing common sense Qi techniques.
He found out that although masters of these cultivation methods had unexpected insights of natural phenomenons, due to not sharing their results most of their works had a massive amount of duplication of effort. Between his family's Starfall Scripture, Light Through a Single Thought, and the newly learned Luminous Clouds, he found three different ways of describing the same natural reaction. All three were described in nonsensical flowery language as well.
One silver lining, due to this duplication of effort from the authors, Profound Point usage of similar cultivation methods were reduced substantially.
'This is a blessing, but it highlights a different issue. If all the cultivation techniques I choose to derive from are similar to each other, the derived method will be inevitably similar as well. I need to find more methods based on the Light element, but all of them are obnoxiously cryptic. Mastering them manually is out of the question, and using Profound Points will be just a waste…'
Han De decided not to waste his points, he was already down to 3.
The results of his Qi training were rather good. He practiced near one of the lakes inside his estate. Although he froze the entire lake, nearly burnt down a large grove, and ended up uprooting that entire grove through summoning a gale, he was finally able to learn how to summon a small fire, cool down a cup of water, and to cause a small breeze out of nowhere.
All cultivators were capable of manipulating all elements to a small degree. Their roots just determined how effective they were. Having Light element roots Han De couldn't use Fire cultivation methods to cultivate Fire Qi, or couldn't cast spells that required Wood Qi, but given enough control, he could summon a small fire for alchemy, or cause a flower to grow and bloom from just a seed. He just couldn't cause that flower seed to grow out of control and strangle dozens of people in an instant.
Han De decided not to practice Heaven Defying Tyrannical Sword. After recent contributions to his dark history, he didn't want another incident happening so soon. He decided to practice it together with his flying, in isolation, far, far away from the sect.
'Since I am a Core Formation cultivator, I have a tremendous amount of Qi. With no expertise in general Qi control, I end up judging things poorly and output too much energy and produce an explosive result. If I try that sword art now, it would definitely cause a commotion.'
* * *
[Host's disciple Ning Bi successfully reached Qi Condensation Level 3]
[Issuing 25 Profound Points as a reward.]
[Host's disciple Ning Bi successfully reached Qi Condensation Level 4]
[Issuing 35 Profound Points as a reward.]
2 days into the week, Ning Bi reached the 3rd level. 4 days after that she reached the 4th level. Han De thought Ning Bi would make a report to him, but she just kept cultivating nonstop. Reaching the 4th of Qi Condensation in 7 days was unheard of. She was already past the highest level of cultivation during the Disciple Acceptance Ceremony. Han De was baffled but felt happy since he got a decent amount of points out of it.
Since Ning Bi was cultivating nonstop and consuming pills like a bottomless pit, she didn't go outside of her room at all. Han De used this period of opportunity to scout for the flour and other spiritual ingredients he could use. He didn't know that thanks to her father, Ning Bi explicitly chose to use normal ingredients when she made those dumplings, rather than spiritual ingredients.
[White Wheat Flour]
White flour made by only refining the wheat endosperm. Refining processed removed all of the spiritual Qi inside it.
Safe for consumption.
'Wow, even a Xianxia world is biased toward whole-wheat bread huh'
Finding the flour, Fire-Chicken eggs, and some questionable milk, Han De wanted to make some pancakes. But lacking baking powder or baking soda, ended up settling on french crepes instead.
Together with some strawberry looking fruits that totally weren't strawberries according to the system, and expensive-sounding spirit honey, he was finally able to have a relaxing and familiar meal.
* * *
"What is that smell?"
"What sme- WHAT?! How could a demon infiltrate our sect?!"
"Elder brother? What demon?!"
"Hey, stop exagge- !!!!"
4 servants that were on duty waiting on Elder De's instructions as per usual, caught a peculiar smell. Older pair had a stern look on their faces. But the reactions of the two younger ones were varied.
"Heavens, I can't take this anymore, I need to get away."
"Hey, it isn't that bad, it kinda reminds of the tofu that old man Chen used to make."
"Shut it! The two of you have no idea, but I have been to many excursions before. This ever-changing but foul scent is a telltale of the plague-devouring demon."
"Listen to your elder brother. Before anything we need to make sure, we especially need to make sure that Elder De's cultivation isn't interrupted, otherwise we'll be the ones to pay."
Nodding to each other, 4 men alerted the sect guards, this was beyond their pay grade, the elder brother had decided. Core formation stage guards quickly arrived, with only a whiff they could tell the gravity of the situation. With stiff faces, they quickly patrolled the area. It didn't take long to discover that smell came from inside the mansion.
"So it is the young master, I see."
Guard Captain was a prudent man. When he first heard of the situation he had scoffed inside, 'Do you expect me to believe a demon with a formed core could slip into the sect unnoticed?' he thought. After seeing that reporting servants belonged to the young master, he decided to take the safe approach and go there personally.
"Nothing to worry about, your master is probably experimenting. If he was in trouble we would've known. Carry on with your work."
Captain went back as quickly as he came and decided to report the issue to a Han faction elder. There was no room for error when it came to the young master. 4 servants were left alone in front of the servants quarters.
"Uuhh, should- should we contact Elder De?"
"Contact who, you want a beating? You heard the captain, Elder De is just experimenting..."
"With a plague devouring demon?"
The elder brother of the servants, the one that participated in many demon hunts was silent for a while.
"I might not look like it now, but years ago, before I got crippled and became a servant, I went to a few demon hunts with Elder Yu and heard him explain many things."
"Although the scent is foul to the extreme, it doesn't contain demonic Qi. Captain probably noticed immediately it. Removing demonic Qi from a core formation demon is extremely difficult. You have to remove its core. This noxious smell rapidly disappears if the core was damaged in any way."
"It requires profound expertise and insight to be able to so cleanly dissect a demon, let alone plague-devouring demon that melts as you cut it. Stench without the demonic Qi is a sign of perfect removal."
"So keep your mouths shut if you know what's good for you. Even though we can't block the smell, at least make sure that any rumor out there didn't originate from you."
* * *
Since it was just some crepes, Han De wasn't concerned about other people finding out, crepes were an easy affair to hide after all. However, he didn't realize the difference between normal ingredients that a mortal would use, and spiritual ingredients that a cultivator would use.
All spiritual ingredients had spiritual energy inside them. An immortal chef wasn't someone that just removed monster Qi and cooked a meal from random ingredients. They would use their impressive Qi control to contain, harmonize, and combine Qi from different ingredients. It was not unlike Alchemy in a sense.
Through meticulous efforts, they would create dishes that had a divine taste and fragrance. These dishes would also retain their qualities, even their heat, for a long time if they were prepared by a proficient immortal chef. If the chef didn't have enough experience though, the stability of the fragrance, and the taste, would collapse over time. Less experienced the chef was, the more quickly it would collapse.
Han De didn't know any of this. He didn't have precise measurements, in fact, he didn't have any measurements at all. 'Eeeh this feels right, but maybe a little more flour to make it thicker' was his approach. As he cooked and ate, everything was alright, he was the eye of the storm so to speak.
After about half an hour later while he was cleaning up, he finally realized the stench, and how the after-taste of the crepes kept changing. While he did panic a little, he used to go to Chinatown every so often and had already developed a taste for fried stinky tofu. So he didn't really mind the taste or the smell, just that it was a bit weird that it kept changing. He didn't want the kitchen to stink though, so he used his small breeze spell that he mastered to ventilate the area.
Spiritual ingredients are extremely fragrant by nature. As Han De ventilated the scent got carried away and it kept mutating. After a while, permeated the entire valley.
"Where is this foul stench coming from?!"
"Who dares to release such stench? If I don't beat you to death after finding you, I'll be your mother!"
Meanwhile, after cultivating and not eating anything but pills for about a week, Ning Bi exited her first closed-door seclusion. She was oddly hungry.
* * *
"A Plague-Devouring Demon?"
The man that listed to the report frowned. He deliberately pronounced every single word.
Although the person that was giving the report was an elder himself with Nascent Soul cultivation, standing in front of this man he was still susceptible to changes in his moods. The difference in cultivation was just too vast.
"Yes, Grand Elder"
Grand Elder, who was now thinking with a blank face, looked rather similar to Han De. Or rather, Han De looked rather similar to him, being his son.
'What is this rascal doing with a plague-devouring demon? Any other demon is fine but to contain a plague-devouring demon is just an exercise in frustration, even for the experts'
"How is it that there was no breach in containment?"
It would be impossible to hide a breach, especially of this size.
"After I received the report, I went there myself with a few trusted Core Formation elders. Demonic Qi was expertly removed. I suspect the demon itself was kept alive for about an hour after core extraction. There were also some peculiarities within its trace. I cannot be sure, but it might have been a mutant or a variant."
Han Wei creased his brows.
"That brat was always focused on his sword. He didn't have any side interests, not in spells, not in formations, and certainly not in alchemy. Someone helped him, but why."
"As my duty, I have to remind the grand elder that he reached mid-stage Core Formation rather quickly as well"
Han Wei didn't want to hear this old argument, normally he would rebuke him, but today he didn't feel like it.
"What of his disciple?"
"No one has seen the girl since they visited the archives. I had the archive records looked at again. Although the girl didn't take a cultivation method, I found that Elder De had taken 5 Light element methods and one Fire element scripture. The scripture itself was stored in the 7th floor, and it is called Blazing Sun"
Hearing the scripture's name, sect master frowned again. Being a cultivator he remembered the reason this scripture was shelved to the 7th floor and how dangerous it was.
"Why haven't I heard of this before?"
"The person that had taken the scripture was Elder De himself. At first, we thought he didn't allow the girl to take a cultivation method due to her still being in the Qi sensing stage and Elder De's temperament about the archive itself. Only after we heard a rumor about Elder De taking out techniques we checked his records"
"What do you make of this?"
Elder Yu thought for a while before answering.
"Someone is influencing him, and the matter with Blazing Sun is serious. However she is still someone at Qi sensing stage, so no action is necessary until she reaches Qi Condensation, and that might take a while considering her low talent"
Han Wei first faintly nodded, but then shook his head.
"The girl's background is too clean. She shouldn't have made it into the sect, even as the last place. She shouldn't have been able to withstand Heaven Defying Tyrannical Sword's aura, she shouldn't have been selected by little De. Too many coincidences."
"De himself shouldn't have gone to the archives in the first place. Five Light element methods seem like a smokescreen for Blazing Sun, but Blazing Sun itself seems to be a smokescreen for something else."
"And now the plague-devouring demon…"
Han Wei felt uncomfortable. Han De was him and his wife's only child. The entire family doted on him, this made him a bit presumptuous but that was fine with him. Although he liked to attract attention to himself once in a while, he was always consistent.
"Invite him and his disciple to the reception tomorrow, keep it under wraps and handle it well. Go."
Elder Yu was surprised but didn't show on his face. He immediately started carrying out his orders.
Grand Elder Han Wei, always had a 'don't interfere' policy when it came to his son. He wanted him to concentrate and increase his cultivation. And that was exactly what Han De was doing. In fact, perhaps he was doing it a bit much, but that was fine. On the occasions that he didn't cultivate he would stir up trouble, but even then Han Wei wouldn't interfere with him.
Han Wei never, not once, called his son to an official sect event. If he wanted to come by himself, fine, if not, also fine. Elder Yu knew Han Wei was a doting parent. He wasn't surprised when Han Wei put importance to the events surrounding his son, but he was surprised to see Han Wei becoming so concerned, that he actually changed his plans.
'His approach was bound to change when his son became an elder, I guess.'