Han De saw 'his' father standing near the pond with clasped his hands on his back. He couldn't help but comment in his heart.
'A natural expert's pose.'
His father Han Wei's cultivation was much higher than his own. A week ago Had De had used his spiritual sense completely envelop Ning Bi. He was able to sense any and all fluctuations in her mood, physical body, and the waves of her soul.
Han Wei could do the same to him. The only difference was, he didn't need to use his spiritual sense he could just do it passively, Han De being none the wiser. If he wanted to avoid suspicions, Han De had to rely on the truth.
"You have grown stronger, well done."
"Thank you, father."
Han Wei looked at the pond.
"You've changed, haven't you?"
"You mean me taking in a disciple?"
"That too, but in other ways as well."
Han Wei turned to look at his son. He looked at him, how he carried himself, how he stood. Han De knew there wasn't any point in delaying or hiding things now.
"I went to the acceptance ceremony to get a disciple, provided that the disciple was talented enough. Nearly all of the newcomers there were disappointing, to say the least. That girl was the only exception. She is extremely talented. In fact, her talent is better than mine by a large margin."
Han Wei kept staring at his son. He knew Han De was a genius among geniuses, reaching Core Formation before his mid-20s. He also knew how arrogant he was. He never acknowledged anyone's talent, until now. Han Wei squinted his eyes as he asked.
"Are you mistaken? Her roots are-" Han De interrupted him.
"Her roots are of extremely high purity. Spiritual waves caused by her roots are weak, not because she has poor roots but because her roots gave her unparalleled control over spiritual energy. It seems like she has poor roots but in reality, her roots are of an even higher purity than ours. No one noticed it because no one looked closely enough."
Han Wei thought about it for a while. He had a deep accumulation, this conjecture was foreign to him, but he could see that it somewhat made sense. However, if this was true, it would make Ning Bi rarer than a phoenix's feather.
"When I realized this, of course I had to take her in as a disciple. If her talent wasn't satisfactory, why would I even bother?"
"What of the Blazing Sun?"
"Technique itself is insidious. Only someone like Ning Bi could cultivate it."
Han Wei conjured a chair out of thin air for both himself and Han De. He asked as he sat down.
"What I mean is, how was it completed?"
Han De wasn't sure how to answer this. If he leaked something about the System, it would be all over. He shrugged and spoke.
"I completed it. After I comprehended it a little I wrote down some tips for her and gave her some instructions about it."
Father Han was speechless. Han De's claims about higher purity roots were 'out there' already. But this? What do you mean you completed it, what do you mean you comprehended it a little?
They sat in silence for a while. Han De sat along with his dad, watching the pond.
"You just completed it?"
He couldn't help but ask. He was beginning to doubt what he had heard a moment ago but then saw Han De nod with an expression that meant 'that's what I said, why are you asking again'.
Taking a deep breath, Han Wei asked another question.
"Who was the person that dissected that plague-devouring demon of yours?"
It was Han De's turn to be speechless. What? What demon? Plague-devouring? What would even I do with those disgusting perverted things? Han De wasn't bothering to act like an arrogant young master right now. If he did, it would be seen through and raise more suspicions. So when he was bewildered he showed it on his face.
Han Wei looked at him in a daze. He thought that this son of his was getting better and better at feigning ignorance. If he hadn't known about it beforehand he would've believed him right now. A smirk crept upon his face.
"Cut the crap, I know there was a plague-devouring demon that was perfectly dissected and it was even kept alive for a while. Few hours before Elder Yu visited you. Ring any bells now?"
Sudden tone change from his father caught him off guard. What was he doing before Elder Yu? He was just making and eating crepes. Lots and lots of crepes. He was practically stress eating.
Han Wei caught a small embarrassment on his son. Thinking 'got you' he pressed on.
"You don't have to feign ignorance. We had studied Blazing Sun a long time ago. In those years we had similar ideas about using demon cores as catalysts, but we could never make it work."
Thinking that things were getting out of hand, Han De decided to answer as truthfully as possible.
"I was alone experimenting with new techniques. Ning Bi was in closed-door cultivation in her room. No one but Elder Yu came to my abode since the disciple acceptance ceremony."
Han Wei furrowed his brows.
"You mean it was you wh-"
"I have no idea about this plague-devouring demon you are talking about. I will say that apart from basic Qi condensation pills, Ning Bi didn't take anything else. She doesn't need a catalyst, certainly not one from a disgusting demon like that."
Han Wei thought for a while and decided to drop this for now. He didn't mind letting Han De keep his secrets, today wasn't an exception.
"Is that why you won't be teaching her martial arts until the 5th level?"
Remembering his dark past, Han De's face went dark. He involuntarily facepalmed while trying to think about how to answer this question. He had to keep his dark history hidden, no matter the cost.
Father Han watched different expressions appear and disappear on his son's face. He thought about how strict Han De was with himself in the past. He found this sudden change strange, but a relief at the same time.
"Ning Bi really reached 4th level in 8 days. I know people were talking about keeping her cultivation hidden, but she really was just a Qi sensing disciple, and she really is now at the 4th level."
"She is compatible with Blazing Sun. Her cultivation is the fastest I've ever seen. Certainly much faster than mine. It doesn't make sense for her to stop and play around with weapons when she could make good progress right now."
"And no, her foundation is stable, but you've probably seen it yourself already."
He knew about this, but only when Han De put it in front of him he was able to connect the dots. With his immense knowledge, Han Wei made a conjecture.
"She started cultivating late and stayed at Qi sensing for a while. With her high compatibility, it makes sense for her to have a fast start. When some special constitutions and bloodlines are cultivated with a matching method, they too soar through ranks quickly. However, this is only temporary, she will start slowing down soon enough."
Han Wei tried to act like an expert in front of his son, but inside he was shocked! 4th level in 8 days? What kind of speed is that? Are you even human?! Are you trying to reach Nascent Soul under a year?!
Han De nodded. He was quite bummed to hear such news. Without quests, his only income of Profound Points was Ning Bi advancing her cultivation…
'This brat really changed hasn't he, he really seems to care about this girl'. Thinking this was a good thing, Han Wei smiled and nodded.
"Father, do you know what happened between me and Plum Seed Sect?"
Seeing his serious look, Han Wei was confused, but still answered.
"I do, you crippled a genius of theirs, that Cao's nephew, did you not?"
Han De nodded while saying 'I see' with a faint voice. This was the confirmation. He really did lose some memories, or rather didn't receive them in the first place. It was risky, but he had to bring this in now before it can inevitably cause headaches down the line. At this point, he was banking on the System's ability to completely hide itself.
Sensing uneasiness of his son, Han Wei patiently waited for him to gather his thoughts.
"It seems I am missing some of my memories. I'm not sure how much. Morning of the acceptance ceremony my memory became fragmented, I have not realized that I might be missing memories until that Li Honghui greeted me."
Han Wei lost any expression on his face. He thought for a while, then sent his spiritual sense to him. Han De didn't resist, not that he could do anything even if he did. He waited as his dad scanned him with his spiritual sense.
'His memory is damaged but it isn't extensive. It seems to be focused towards a certain timeframe, or certain people. Although there is damage, there are no signs of alterations. No abnormalities in his soul. Strange, such an attack should've left some minor soul wounds at least.'
Using his powerful cultivation base and deep knowledge, Han Wei was able to pinpoint the problem areas with impressive accuracy. He wasn't a sect master for nothing. One could not rise to this position with just raw power or scheming. Pondering for a moment, father Han explained what he found and added.
"You don't have to worry, recovery of the memories is possible. The affected area is small, but the damage itself is thorough. We can concoct a Seven Luminaries Reminiscence pill, its ingredients aren't that rare, we'll be able to gather them soon. That should take care of the most, if not all of the damage, be at ease!"
"I'll send Elder Yu to you, review your actions of the past few years. Find out what is missing, that can also help you remember and repair some of the memories yourself"
"I don't need to remind you to focus on your, and your disciple's cultivation. Do not reveal you are missing memories to anyone. We will find out who is responsible and teach them their place, do not worry."
Father Han had talked rapidly. He stood up, the conference was about to start. Recalling something, he spoke.
"Don't tell your mother about this, not until we solve it, at least."
Han De immediately understood what his father was saying.
"Yes, thank you, father. Do not worry."
Father and son looked at each other, they shared the same expression as they came to a tacit understanding.
As he watched his son leave, Han Wei's face got darker and darker.
'When I find you, the last thing you'll learn in this world will be how cruel I can be.'
* * *
Han De felt a weight coming off his shoulders. Since he came to this world, matters with his family was a constant source of anxiety for him. Now that he came clean about his missing memories, some peculiarities in his behavior can be blamed on just that.
'Sigh. Being crazy rich is truly amazing. Seven Luminaries Reminiscence pill ingredients are not that rare? Are you kidding? If a normal sect gets their hands on just one of its ingredients, they'll place it in their treasuries and include it in their sect inheritance for generations."
Han De felt immense gratitude towards his father just for saying that. Even for Starfall Mountain Sect, it was a big matter. And yet, his father just waved his hand and told him not to worry about it. Han De headed for Ning Bi be with a smile on his face.
"..tay away from Xiao Bai. Don't even think that you are worthy of being in his presence."
"Who is Xiao Bai?"
Han De heard a furious female voice and his disciple answering her in a baffled tone. Thinking about it, Han De thought this name was familiar. 'Could it be that kid from the Archives? He is Xiao Bai?'
"You! You dare to act innocent in front of me? Don't think that I didn't see how you flaunted your body in front of him!"
"You are just a village girl, know your place! Xiao Bai only talked to you out of pity! You are nothing but a toad chasing after a swan!"
Seeing Ning Bi's confused look, Han De decided not to speed up the process by telling her who Xiao Bai was.
'Perhaps this bullying might increase her MC powers. This poor villainess is rather bad at it though. Being a Xianxia world I would've expected a more ruthless approach. Like threatening her family or something. Could this little villainess be just a side character? Is she a member of the true villainess' entourage I wonder?'
Saying her piece, the little villainess left with a self-satisfied look.
Han De didn't want Ning Bi's powers to increase quickly. First, her stats were already a cheat, even the System was impressed by her. Second, she had that dreadful grudge skill, it was a cheat that rivaled her stats. It even generated a quest! Third, Han De had just learned that he had a disciple quota from the System. If Ning Bi grows fast and leaves, where could he find another disciple with 30 potential points? MCs do not grow on trees!
'But a short term bullying might be able to help with the duel in 16 days? Maybe?'
He wasn't worried about her cultivation or her power reserves. He was worried about her fighting experience, which was none.
'Inexhaustible spiritual power against a grudge doesn't mean anything if her opponent can knock her out in a few moves.'
'I need some cannon fodder, basically. Some stepping stones that could polish her fighting skills fast.'
16 days time frame was a difficult nut to crack. He could think of many methods that would force Ning Bi to fight with her life on the line, but none of them fit the 16 days limit. Not to mention she wasn't even at the 5th level yet.
'If I had time, I could've sent her to the mountains alone for training, and leak her destination to that little villainess and her friends. Or I could've sent her to the Zhao faction for training, using faction relationship growth as an excuse, and let them beat her up every day. Or...'
As long as Han De could not be implicated by it, and he could suddenly appear as her lifeline when things got out of line, he was OK with most methods. Only a fool would worry about the MC during her power-up arc.
Not knowing what her master was thinking, Ning Bi silently followed him back to his abode.