Ning Bi opened her eyes. She was successful. She finally reached the 5th level and consolidated her realm.
At first, she thought it would take her 10 days to breakthrough. That was the reason why she was cultivating like crazy. She was worried about not having enough time for the duel.
Normally, her estimate would've been accurate. Even with her immense talent and the highly compatible scripture, she was still someone that started cultivating a little over a week ago. However, on the second day, she achieved enlightenment.
Her enlightenment lasted for four days, and she was able to get double the result for half the effort during that period. The last 2 days were just her meditating over her experience. When she was done, with one swift motion, she broke through the thin barrier in front of her and reached the 5th stage.
Feeling ecstatic, Ning Bi stood up, she wanted to find her master, to report her advancement, and seek guidance about her enlightenment. She had many questions about the improvements she had made, and the insights she gained about later stages.
As she was heading out, she spotted an exquisite scroll case under the closed window. She knew it wasn't there when she started cultivating, but the scroll case even had a layer of dust on it. As if it had been waiting there all along.
Curiosity getting the better of her, Ning Bi opened it up and started to read. As she read, her eyes opened wide, and her jaw became loose. This was a record of notes and comments on her cultivation technique, including a new and improved cultivation matrix. It was even better than the improved one she gained during the enlightenment.
This unassuming scroll case contained answers to all her questions, even the ones that she didn't know how to articulate. For the current her, this was a priceless treasure. And it was gathering dust for who knows how many days.
'Master is really amazing. He predicted all of my questions. Did he even predict that I would achieve enlightenment?'
Enlightenment was a fickle thing. Even geniuses among geniuses might not achieve it all their lives. Those who achieve it call it fate, those who can't, call it luck.
Ning Bi was covered in goosebumps. Once again, she felt an immense sense of gratitude for her teacher. She vowed to make him proud, then continued to study the scrolls.
Su Jing, currently cultivating, felt a terrifying chill penetrate him. If he wasn't a genius and a person dedicated to his craft he would've suffered from Qi deviation at this moment. He frantically stopped cultivating, but that chill was already gone. He stood in a daze, unsure if that was his imagination.
* * *
Right now, Han De was walking towards the side house Xiao Lan was in. After Peng's revelation of the kidnapping, Han De was baffled and could only tell them he would re-educate them at a later date.
‘As the MC, once he figures out the culprit, this guy will start heading here, make a ruckus, and somehow start a fight with me to win his woman back.’
‘Let’s completely forget the 'fight with me' part. This guy will probably use a bullshit item to kill or cripple me during a fight. It would be quite easy for him too, I don’t have a fighting sense after all.’
‘Even if I send 10 Nascent Soul cultivators, an MC will probably slip through. After all, he was able to run away from his family after the cultivation idiot crippled him. He is already mid-stage Core Formation, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he dropped off the map right now. He might even have an OP item for stealth.’
‘What if I flip the table? He expects me to act arrogantly, he will probably expect the worst for his woman.’
Han De pondered on the concept of flipping the table. Could he just say ‘Sorry, my bad! Here’s your woman, please never come back!’ and expect it to be all over?
‘I might be able to bullshit him in private, but seeing me in private he’ll most likely attack immediately. I won’t be able to do it in public, it is too divergent from the cultivation idiot’s behavior. Also doing it in public would affect sect’s and family’s reputation as well. I wouldn’t be dealing with only my parents if that were to happen.’
‘If I release this girl now, I’m almost certain she would get tangled in something unrelated and die. Even if I can convince the MC that I released her, it will be just a delay. MC will come back after finding her corpse and blame me anyway.’
Han De considered convincing the girl. He might perhaps be able to muddy the waters and convince her that he isn’t a threat.
* * *
Taking a deep breath, Han De entered the room Xiao Lan was in.
She was inside a lavishly decorated room. Thankfully Peng hadn’t put her in one of the dungeons. Han De already knew what she looked like from his memories. That was nearly a decade ago though. Current Xiao Lan looked a lot more mature.
‘She turned into quite the beauty. Thankfully she doesn’t have that ridiculous jade-like skin. One uncanny valley is enough.’
Xiao Lan turned her to see Han De looking at her. Without restraint, she started talking.
"So finally you have come. All those years ago you had crippled him and disgraced me. That wasn't enough? Ping had to endure unimaginable pain after what you have done. Even eating or drinking was an ordeal for him. He even left me and ran away from his own from my family. When he was exiled I left the sect to search for him. I didn't want him to endure alone. When I found him after months of searching, he was changed. He didn't even look me in the eye. As if I was sullied. As if I was nothing more than a dirty piece of rag. Yet I endured. He had already miraculously regained his cultivation. I don't know when but he had done it. I never felt happier in my life. I hoped that things would be different, we would be able to forget and live a happy life. But he turned colder and colder every day. I could tell he only wanted revenge. I could feel he was getting consumed by it. Every step of the way he was getting hungrier for it. I followed him to the Ming Empire, silently hoping he would get better one day. It got even worse. Whenever he talks, it feels like he has contempt for me as well. We fight more than we talk. Before you came he was so happy. But that was before, he was now different. I tried to accept who he was now. It pained me but I knew I could do it. I could do it. I wanted to do it. Yet here we are. You kidnapped me again. You taunted him again. Your men even used the same exact words. What wrong did we commit to you? Why? Why are you doing this for us? Didn't you say all those years ago that I wasn't even worthy of playing around? You disgraced me so greatly, you hurt Ping so much, is that not enough? When I thou.."
‘Holy. Shit. Sister, what the hell? When are you going to stop?’
While listening to the nonstop exposition, Han De remembered that the cultivation freak always filtered her voice out when she was talking. He now understood why.
Han De didn’t hold it against her. She was kidnapped twice. The first time she saw her lover get crippled, and the culprit, the cultivation maniac, even insulted her to her face. Now she was kidnapped once again. By the same person no less. Everyone reacted differently to a stressful situation. This lass' coping mechanism was just talking. She just kept talking...
Han De didn't interrupt her. He let her talk and listened to her. At the same time, he tried to extract a few usable pieces of information.
‘This guy never gave up on his revenge.’
‘Xiao Lan doesn’t know how he regained his cultivation.’
'His aura changed, turned colder, perhaps affected his personality as well?'
'Is he ignoring her because of his shame? He is humiliated because he couldn't protect her, perhaps thinking he is unworthy of her. She stays with him, but he remembers his failure when he looks at her. Does he think he needs to kill me to get rid of his shame and be worthy of her? Fits the MC template...'
He realized he figured out something very important. But he wasn’t happy. With a motive like that, even if he had convinced the girl, Xiao Ping would still fight him to overwrite that dishonorable memory.
'Wait, did she say my men said the same words to challenge him?'
Han De broke into a cold sweat. He was thinking of keeping an eye on him, and perhaps try covering up any clues left behind. He hadn't gotten a detailed report from Peng on what happened. Thinking he had time, he wanted to perhaps resolve this issue before the guy even found out, perhaps resolve it via this woman, Xiao Lan, once and for all. But the reality was different.
Han De started panicking. He needed to do something, very soon. He couldn't let this matter rest anymore.
"...your fault. It was all your faul-"
"Yes yes. It was my fault. So what? Did I mess with you after that? He ran away and regained his cultivation, you even betrayed your sect and found him. Then what? You should've led a happy life. Did I keep goading him? Did I interrupt your peace? Was I the one that forced him on the revenge path?"
"I didn't take you with me, I didn't even touch you. Are you somehow dissatisfied with that?"
While Han De was in a panic, Xiao Lan kept talking and accusing him of the cultivation moron's actions. Of course, she was right. The cultivation moron had damaged them deeply, she had every right to complain. But Han De wasn't in the right mind and just lashed out.
Hearing Han De's words Xiao Lan was surprised. She had suffered through a lot. First and the last words Han De ever said to her was his shameful rejection of her. He had never even acknowledged her before that.
"He had more than a decade. He regained what he had lost and perhaps even surpassed it. His cultivation is now in a better place than it would’ve been. You couldn't even have an open relationship when you were both in the sect."
"I might be the one that crippled him, but he is the one that couldn't get over it."
"All of your sufferings are caused by him. You gave him everything and got treated like dirt, and now you are complaining to me for it?"
Han De recognized how warped his logic was, but after sitting through 10 minutes of a one-sided exposition storm, it felt good to say what he said. Realizing there is nothing to be gained by talking to her, Han De left without even looking at her.
* * *
<Y-yes, Elder De.>
<I will definitely re-educate you lot as soon as possible. Look forward to it.>
Hearing his young master's unnaturally relaxed tone, Peng shivered.
<Y-yes, Elder De.>
<Send 10 Nascent Soul experts after Xiao Ping. Kill him. Anything is fine as long as you are not found out by the Ming Dynasty. Deny everything if you are, and regroup near our territory.>
<E-elder De, I-I just received word that our men lost sight of Xiao Ping 2 days ago. We don't know where he is right now.>
"F#$%... These guys really perform their ‘incompetent henchman of the villain’ roles perfectly."
<Dispatch 10 groups with 1 Nascent Soul each. Scour everywhere from here to Ming Empire. Kill him on sight.>
'With this, he won't be able to fly uninterrupted, his speed will be much lower. Longer he takes to arrive here, the more chances of mistakes there will be. If one group can capitalize on that it'll be fine.’
'I feel more and more like a bad guy no matter what I do...'
Without bothering about the Peng's response, Han De severed the connection. He walked towards his house in silence.
* * *
Ning Bi respectfully entered Han De's favorite courtyard. She had spent the last 2 hours reading and rereading the scrolls Han De left for her. Truthfully she was a bit intimidated. The insights on the scrolls were too on point for her. Over time though, her desire to practice with weapons won over, and she looked for her master.
"You have reached the 5th stage. Well done. Now you can choose a weapon."
Han De had the second variation of his Profound Expert look equipped for this occasion. This was a more amiable version, the first one being specialized around the concept of 'distant but cool' expert.
Seeing her master's warm smile, Ning Bi couldn't help but respond with her own.
"Thank you, master. It is because of your teachings that I was able to reach this level. I will not disappoint you!"
Han De gave a satisfied nod. "I know you won't."
"It is time to select your weapon. This is an important decision that will affect you for the rest of your life. You have to choose carefully. You also need to keep in mind, sometimes not choosing is also a choice. If you can't find something that speaks to you, something that stirs emotions deep within you, then perhaps you might be more suited for a different path."
"There are many weapons inside the armories. Go and start practicing with them all. You are to practice with every single type of weapon for exactly an hour. Try them all, feel how they move. Try to figure out the best way to move with them, attack with them, and defend with them. Come back once you are done. Go now."
Ning Bi was surprised, but she didn't object. "I will do so, Master."
Seeing her leave, Han De contacted the attending servants.
<Bring me all of the different weapon type’s basic scriptures from the Archives. Ask for Elder Fu if anyone asks for permission.>
<Sword, spear, bow and arrow, ax, polearm, whatever, I don't care what it is, just bring me the sect's standard scriptures for all of them.>
<As you wish, Elder De.>
This was one of the methods Han De thought for increasing Ning Bi's battle sense. Being an absurd genius it is easy for her to comprehend techniques very quickly. If she can get a sense of many types of attack and defense moves, she won't be at a disadvantage against different opponents.
'I have 45 Profound Points, even if I upgrade Blazing Sun to master level, it won't make much of a difference. Her understanding should already be near the peak of the Qi Condensation realm.'
'Basic weapon scriptures of the sect shouldn't cost too many Profound Points to comprehend. I might even be able to master a few of them. Giving her the insights that come from higher comprehension levels should increase her combat power quite a bit.'
With 10 days left on the count down, she didn't have time to go through normal training. Her starting point was too low for that.
'If she was at least Foundation Realm, she could've used the fighting pagoda. I wonder which idiot limited that to Foundation Establishment only.'