Zhao Dong was currently on his knees. He, and most of the higher realm elders of his family were captured alive. Alive was the operative word. Most of them were crippled, many were missing limbs. On top of that, Zhao Dong knew most of them wouldn't survive till dusk.
Han faction elders and Han family loyalists were currently performing soul search on every single Zhao elder alive. The only exceptions were Zhao Dong himself and his 3 trusted subordinates. A fate far worse than death awaited them.
Zhao family had supported Starfall Mountain for generations. Zhao Dong couldn't remember when he had started making moves against the Han family. It didn't matter now. Han Wei was already several steps ahead of them. He even had called the Han family to be on standby.
It was only a matter of time until they discovered the Zhao family's indirect attempt against Han De. When Long Xiu learned of it, the family would be wiped out. The name Zhao itself would become a taboo in the entire south-east region of the continent.
'If only that hidden family hadn't interfered and changed sides...'
Zhao Dong breathed out a long sigh.
* * *
Han De woke up early in the morning. His Core Formation body didn't need sleep thanks to his regular 2 hours a day cultivation routine. But perhaps due to his habits back on Earth he still slept every day anyway. On an average day waking up in the morning felt like waking up from a long nap. So comfortable and so cozy! Today though, all he felt was emptiness.
No auras, no booms, no screams. It was all silent now. Han De could see smoke still rising from the core section of the sect. His mind was filled with possible Xianxia disaster scenarios.
Zhao faction and their family was a considerable force no matter how you looked at it. Their elimination inevitably weakened the Starfall Mountain. Not to mention the loss of life on the Han faction side during the rebellion.
Han De watched the smoke rising from far away. Last night was an eye-opener for him.
'I need to get as many godly escape items as I can. An entire storage ring full of them should be my starting point.'
Han De already had many death preventing items. Unfortunately, that cultivation idiot treated these items as status symbols rather than something that he would actually use. As such, when Han De faced the cultivator from yesterday those items were all useless. So what if you have 10 life-saving items? I can break all of them with nothing but flicks.
'I should've spotted this weakness ages ago. My build should totally focus on escaping. Worries about my reputation can only be secondary. My life is far more important. I should get disguise items while I'm at it, another storage ring full of them should be a good start.'
Aside from making contingency plans, Han De didn't do anything. He waited. The entire sect was under curfew until this thing was over anyway, not that he went outside normally. He waited, while Ning Bi continued to cultivate and train.
[Host's disciple Ning Bi successfully reached Qi Condensation Level 6]
[Issuing 55 Profound Points as a reward.]
Han De was surprised that he was still getting surprised at this girl's progress. He made a mental calculation.
'So even when she cut her cultivation time significantly due to martial arts training and sleeping, she could still reach the 6th level in 20 days huh.'
Han De tried his hardest to not get depressed.
'Peaceful thoughts... Yes, peaceful thoughts...'
* * *
A week had passed. The sect had finally stabilized and the curfew was over. Many disciples and local martial art families were shocked to their core by the news.
Zhao family and all their branch families were wiped out by the Han family head, Long Xiu. No one was spared, their bloodlines were completely wiped, their properties were completely razed. Anyone that had close relationships with them was also eradicated. This included sects, martial arts families, even trading partners. Long Xiu was nothing if not thorough.
Outside forces watched these events with wary eyes. It had been a while since Long Xiu had gone into a rampage like this. It seems she didn't lose her edge, on the contrary, perhaps became even sharper.
Han De also kept himself informed. These events weren't surprising to him. Despite that, he was still shaken inside. He decided not to think about it since the Zhao family rebellion had nothing to with him. Besides, if his mother hadn't arrived, who knows what could've happened to him? Han De wasn't about to feel bad for an enemy that would've killed him without hesitation.
The week had passed, but things weren't over, at least for Han De. He had received a summons from his father. He requested him and Ning Bi to report to him personally. Thinking about it made Han De a little nervous. Although his father had invited him to the gathering, it was just an invite. This was an official summons that addressed him and his disciple.
Currently he and Ning Bi were climbing the stairs of the Starfall Mountain Palace. As usual, they had walked all the way. Before even mentioning sword flight Ning Bi had insisted on walking, Han De wasn't about to refuse such an offer so he obliged.
'I was worried that it would get tedious to climb these absurdly long stairs, but this is rather nice! Very Xianxia like! Little clouds around the stairs is a nice touch. Definitely gives you an otherworldly feeling.'
That cultivation idiot had visited this palace in the past, but that was when he was just a kid and he flew over with a higher realm escort. This was a first for Han De. And for Ning Bi as well. Climbing through the clouds to reach the immortal palace. A few of her father's stories had elements like this. Her eyes were sparkling non-stop since they started climbing.
Of course, neither of them had any idea of the symbolic meaning of their actions. Cultivation maniac was prideful and wouldn't pay attention to these rituals, while Ning Bi had started cultivating a month and a half ago at best. That wasn't the case for the elders in the palace, however.
They kept their spiritual senses near the entrance and looked at them from afar. Some of the elders had bewildered expressions. Some of them were sagely nodding, clearly thinking very highly of the Han De's gesture. They had guessed the reason why Han De was summoned. Seeing them climbing the stairs confirmed it.
Han Wei himself was expressionless and didn't leak his bafflement. While Long Xiu made no effort to hide her mischievous smile. She was clearly enjoying this stunt.
Han De and Ning Bi finally arrived at the palace after an hour-long climb. They saw many eyes on them. Minor elders, core elders, and disciples that act as their servants. The usually tranquil palace had become a busy place over the last week.
Han De had his Profound Expert A look equipped while walking towards the inner palace. It was the one that required the least effort from him, he just had to ignore people while staying expressionless. This made it the most suitable one for meeting his parents. He would drop his act when talking to them anyway, if he had used Arrogant Young Master before that, it would just look jarring and suspicious.
They arrived at the audience chamber. Han Wei was sitting while listening to a report, while Long Xiu was resting her head on his shoulders. She didn't care about minor things like etiquette when it came to her family. No one would dare to say anything to her anyway.
Han Wei ordered everyone else to leave the hall as his son finally had arrived. Long Xiu didn't bother to wait and ran to her son and hugged him tightly.
"Oh, little De! How I missed you! Did you miss your mother as well? Are you eating well? You know even if you are in the Core Formation realm you should still eat! Just gobbling pills all day isn't..."
Han De was stunned by the never-ending words and the equally never-ending hug of his mother. But soon broke into a slight smile and hugged her back. He couldn't stay expressionless at the sight of this onslaught of motherly love.
"Yes, mother. I've missed you as well."
Long Xiu was startled by her son's response. This little rascal would usually act distant on the outside. Delighted by this change, she maintained her hug for a little longer. She wasn't the only one surprised by him, Han Wei was frozen and Ning Bi's mouth was open as she watched.
A long while later, Long Xiu finally broke her death hug and looked at her son from head to toe.
"Hmm! Your technique has improved quite a bit! Come, show your aura to your mother! Release it at full power!"
Seeing his mother's enthusiastic request, Han De had no choice but to oblige. He excluded Ning Bi from the aura and released it in full power just as Long Xiu said. Hallway lights quickly dimmed, sunlight almost completely disappeared from the entire palace and stars appeared in the sky, shining brightly.
"Good! Hahaha! Good! Your technique includes concepts and natural laws, it even contains some essence as well! As expected of my son! Alright, turn it off."
Long Xiu had a look of satisfaction in her face. She had heard of the reports before but wanted to witness her son's advancement for herself. Her mood improved quite a bit.
"Little De, you've used this aura to subdue that pagoda of yours, did you not?"
At the unexpected question, Han De just nodded. It wasn't like this was an important thing for him. Long Xiu quickly turned to her husband and smirked.
"See, I told you. It was obvious from the start."
Han Wei skillfully held his sigh back and offered no response. Long Xiu spoke to Han De with a bright smile.
"Alright. Now my dear Han De. Could you tell me the location of this hidden family now? Your mommy will pay them a visit and have a little chat with them."
While her demeanor didn't change even a bit, Han De had the cultivation idiot's memory and knew this 'little chat' was a thinly veiled prelude to violence. However, he was baffled at this unexpected statement, he also wasn't trying to act like an expert right now. So he instinctively replied.
"What hidden family?"
Long Xiu's smile got even wider after seeing his son's perfect act. Since when did this kid could act so perfectly and hide things from her? How dare this little 'hidden family' influence her son like this?
"My dear, why are you not answering your mommy clearly? Why are you defending these people? They are bad influences you know? Be a good boy and tell me where they are, right now."
Han De saw the dangerous glint in his mother's eyes, but he had no idea what was happening right now. What hidden family? What's going on?!
"Is this because of this little girl that you are defying your mommy? It seems she is a bad influence on you. It seems I really, really need to teach some manners to this family."
Han De saw his mother's dangerous stare at Ning Bi. Latter was just as puzzled as him. Since Ning Bi was his lifeline Han De quickly interjected.
"Uuuh, mother, what is this hidden family you are talking about? What is their family name? Maybe I've heard about them."
Han De looked at his father for help, but he didn't expect to see him completely ignore the situation.
'What the hell? Why are you not saying anything? Don't you have a spine?!'
Oblivious to Han De's concerns, Long Xiu's face finally showed a change. Her smile slowly disappeared. She kept looking at Ning Bi with dead eyes but spoke to Han De.
"Did they promise to give you the Blazing Sun Scripture? Are you doing this because of your father? Do you want to complete it that much that you would make a deal with strangers and ignore your mother?"
Han Wei that was successfully ignoring everything up until now suddenly froze. He didn't want to get involved in this, especially when he was innocent.
Han De had already started to panic a little and answered without thinking.
"Why would I even make a deal for it with someone? I already completed and rewrote the entire thing three times already."
Long Xiu looked at him and narrowed her eyes. The events went beyond her threshold for tolerance. Her little son was now lying to her outright! Unacceptable! Unacceptable!!
By now Han De had understood that there was a misunderstanding, somewhere. If this was his father, Han De wouldn't be worried. But his mother was a person that would slaughter cities first and ask questions later.
He had watched enough TV shows and read enough books to know that things were advancing towards a dangerous storyline and he needed to decisively steer it back on course.
"If you don't believe me, ask Ning Bi and completely envelop her with your spiritual sense. She doesn't have a treasure and she is only at the 6th level of Qi Condensation. There is no way for her to keep any secrets from you. You can do the same thing to me as well if you want."
Long Xiu was already many realms higher than Han De and didn't need to envelop someone with her spiritual sense to know whether a Qi Condensation is lying. However, this was just passive reading and could be falsified with enough effort. Some treasures could hide their presence if they were of high enough quality. There were also techniques to control emotions and spiritual waves at higher realms too.
Han De's offer to envelop him with spiritual sense had embarrassed had her a little. Doing so was nearly a taboo for family members, but she didn't stand ceremony with Ning Bi.
Father and son watched as Long Xiu enveloped Ning Bi and started questioning her over voice transmission. Both of them broke into a cold sweat and looked at each other.
'Dad, what hidden family?! What did you tell her? Are you out of your mind?!'
'You think I can stop her? Han family gathers intelligence too! Do you think your mother would believe Ning Bi gained enlightenment?!'
'At least try to explain the situation! She is your wife after all!'
They didn't speak with words but they perfectly understood each other. His father was a lofty and domineering man. Except when it came to his wife.
Han De was reminded of some rumors that the cultivation idiot had heard but discarded. In those rumors, Long Xiu saw Han Wei by chance and got infatuated with him. She chased him but ended up getting rejected. Infuriated, she kept chasing and chasing and finally forced herself on him, then commanded him to marry her after completely dominating him. Anyone that tried to prevent the marriage from the Han family side mysteriously disappeared, along with Han Wei's potential fiancee candidates.
The cultivation idiot didn't believe this story, because he knew that his father loved his wife dearly. His mother was an otherworldly beauty and his father was a legendary hunk. They were the perfect fit for each other after all. However, Han De came from Earth and was familiar with the concept of Stockholm Syndrome.
He had some doubts.