Han De and Ning Bi arrived at a place called Immortal Palace. Although the name sounded fancy, it was basically a cultivator hotel that had spirit springs in each room. Han De would've made a comment about how modern it looked, but he was currently feeling intense sorrow over his ruined sword.
'If I had known I would've never done something so stupid! That goddamn dragon! That goddamn fox! Aaaah my sword… My poor sword… I should've just turned around the spiritual boat and bombarded them until they turned to ash...'
Both Cultivation Maniac and Han De had never used other swords for flying around. Cultivation Maniac was filthy rich, why would he use an 'ordinary' spirit iron? Han De himself didn't care about fighting so why would he even use other swords? He ordered some backup swords to cover his base, even he didn't think he would need them.
His short 'ordinary' spirit iron flight from docks to the fancy cultivator hotel illustrated his predicament perfectly. Without his star iron sword, he painfully slow. So slow that if he wasn't feeling an immense loss in his bones he would've been bored with the flight. Even Ning Bi kept training her Breach skill.
'I need to buy the most expensive sword at this auction. There is no way I can escape anything with ordinary weapons like these. I need at least a half-way decent placeholder until a new one can be forged.'
Han De hadn't planned on buying swords. He was thinking about ordering a back-up star iron sword just in case, but that wasn't a high priority. Forging spiritual treasures took a lot of time. It wasn't something that could be done in days. A rush job would take weeks, a work of quality would require months.
'Why is my luck so abysmal. I just wanted to collect escape items, yet I destroyed the best one that I had myself.'
'If I see that dragon again, I'll skin it alive and make handbags and boots out of its skin while it's still watching.'
Han De cried himself to sleep. He didn't know how to deal with the monumental loss he had suffered by his own hands.
* * *
The next day, Han De ordered his lackeys to compile a report on every faction that was attending the auction. He needed to understand the attendees to spot potential MCs and avoid any unnecessary flags.
Old Guy A sitting by himself in VIP and suddenly starts bidding in millions? Yes, let's not touch that grandpa. Obviously, he is hiding his identity. His cultivation is probably hidden too.
Prominent Sect B is bidding for a storyline related item? Sure, let that go. There is no need to force them to attack us after the auction.
Demonic Sect C gets outbid by some unknown young guy? Shit, let's leave the premises before we get involved with some MC bullshit.
He needed information. Starfall Mountain had lost a lot of elders, breeding enmities now would hasten his own downfall. His fate hadn't changed according to the System after all. Han De's only bottom line was the spiritual herb needed for the Seven Luminaries Reminiscence pill, anything else was secondary.
"Greetings master. I. Um. I never visited a city like this before. I was wondering if-"
Ning Bi's voice momentarily disturbed his thoughts, but then he raised his hand and interrupted her. Han De's eyes started shining. Of course!
'This little MC has Maximum Luck! Even a pebble that she trips on would probably end up being a spirit stone! All I need is to sic her- I mean let her walk around the city and ancient treasures will start flying to her like moths to a flame.'
"Go ahead and take a look at the city. During this trip, experiencing the world is a disciple's duty."
Han De nodded towards the door to forcefully finish this conversation. He could tell Ning Bi was going to ask him to accompany her. She was 13 after all and aside from going to the pagoda a few times, her entire time as a disciple was spent in either cultivation or interacting with Han De himself. He didn't want her to become dependent on him.
'Arrogant Young Master + Ancient Treasure = Trouble. I'm not going to stay anywhere near an MC during this trip, sorry. Besides, there are probably people here that were already offended by the cultivation idiot.'
'Lay low and keep a low profile. That's what I'm going to do!'
A while later, Han De ordered Peng and slow-talking Immortal realm guy that he nicknamed 'Treebeard' to follow and protect Ning Bi during her outing.
"You will stay in the shadows and never be seen by anyone. Also, although she already got some spirit stones, if she seems to be interested in something, anything... You will buy it or acquire it by any means after she is gone. I don't care if it is a brick, or if it is a dirty rag. Just get it without her finding out."
"Do not interfere if anyone tries to harass her. Just silently watch and take note of the persons. Only interfere if there is a significant danger to her. Minor injuries are fine, she has to deal with those just like anybody else. But. Anything that could cause her a serious injury, you will deal with it and deal with it with full force. Got it?"
Peng and Treebeard clasped their hands and gave a respectful bow.
""Yes, young master.""
Han De nodded them towards the door.
'A dozen Nascent Soul and an Immortal freak should be enough to guarantee her safety...'
* * *
At the center of the city, under many hundreds of meters of solid rock, there was the central chamber of the Brass Stallion catacombs. No one knew what these catacombs were originally made for. Even the Tan family who built the Brass Stallion city on top of it had no idea. They only knew that it was big, empty, and ancient.
A few generations ago this was a highly exclusive spot for secluded meditation. The spiritual energy here was rich. The entire structure, and especially the central chamber had a calming effect on the mind. The most important family elders would be chosen to have their cultivations and breakthroughs here. Ordinary members would not be allowed to go near.
About 200 years ago, the Tan family heir of the time, had found this spot to be the ideal place for making business plans. Emotions and desires were curbed here, it was the perfect place for making monetary decisions, what was not to love? Since then, the empty central chamber was converted into an office and side chambers became archives for business records.
To his credit, that heir was right. Tan family business thrived after the Breach. Brass Stallion Auction became the biggest and most prestigious auction in the south-eastern side of the continent. Not to mention the side ventures that were silently generating massive profits. Their family was rolling in spirit stones!
Sitting on his desk, reading a report inside this grand chamber, was that very same heir, Tan Renhsu. In front of him was his youngest grandchild, Tan Enlai.
"Great Elder. Preparations are complete. We are only waiting for the attendees to arrive for the reception. It will start 4 hours from now."
Tan Renshu's eyes didn't leave the fiscal report that he was inspecting. Although it was minor -just a few hundred spirit stones- there was a discrepancy. The culprit had to be found, the report had to be amended. He had been looking for traces for these last few hours. He was so close he could smell it.
"There was also something else..."
Tan Renshu frowned but allowed him to continue.
"Starfall Mountain Sect's young master Han De violated the no-fly law. He and his disciple used great speed while they were leaving the docks and caused a small commotion. Father chose not to pursue it. However, it seems Starfall Mountain dispatched dozens of Nascent Soul experts. On the surface, they seem to be following around Han De's disciple, but their current objective is unknown. Father also suspects an even higher realm expert might be following them. He is awaiting Great Elder's orders."
Great Elder Tan Renshu finally put down the report and look at his grandson.
"I assume that child wanted permission to rebuke the Starfall Mountain?"
Tan Enlai's eyes showed no emotion. He was a rather timid kid, but right now he looked at his grandfather without blinking.
"Yes, Great Elder."
"Mmm. You seem to agree with your father in this matter. Why do you think your father's course of action is correct?"
"Starfall Mountain Sect lost large numbers of elders. Some of their cultivations were extremely high. Their loss of power is evident, we should seize this opportunity to readjust our relations with them."
Tan Renshu shook his head.
"Such a rigid thinking. You interpreted the information to fit your own desires. Only shallow thinkers like your father could come to a conclusion like that."
"They did not lose elders. They purged their uncertainties, and they did so with ruthless efficiency."
"Sect's reserves are still intact. We received no news that their grand formation was even activated. Zhao family had already lost their old monsters inside the Breach, but the Han family still has more than half remaining."
"Starfall Mountain is now more powerful than before. What they lost was just fat, nothing more."
Tan Renshu explained this to his grandson, first to educate him and second to prevent his musclehead sons and grandsons from needlessly offending the dragon.
"Tell Tan Yi to not interfere with Starfall Mountain, and especially with Han De. He is not to offend them even if they destroy half the city. If he does offend, he will be the one apologizing to the Han family head."
Tan Renshu was a businessman. He was cut from a different cloth than his father and grandfather. Both of them had lost their lives during the Breach. Tan Renshu had turned to commerce to keep the family afloat and let it gradually recover its strength. He wasn't a genius at it, but at least he was good enough in reading the currents and choosing which mountain to lean on.
"Yes, Great Elder."
* * *
A few hours later, Han De finished reading the report on the auction. The report also included a general state of the Brass Stallion city as well. This was something that was missing from cultivation idiot's memories. Han De wasn't sure if it was because of the memory loss, or if it was caused by the usual arrogance of the cultivation idiot.
'Well, not much to it. Loose cultivators everywhere. Independent meeting ground for different sects and factions. Many independent businesses. A textbook generic Xianxia city.'
'Basically everyone and their dogs are attending this time. Since Brass Stallion itself is calling it the biggest auction of the century, it is safe to say there might be an MC or an old monster or two hiding among the crowd.'
Han De frowned. He wanted this to be a normal auction, which would've reduced his chances to raise any flags. But reality had something different in mind.
'There is a reception starting in an hour as well...'
Normally he wouldn't even consider attending something like that. He would just say 'What a death trap' and continue lazing around. However, Starfall Mountain Sect's position was rather uncertain this time. They had lost a lot of power, and not attending such an event might needlessly offend some parties.
Han De took a deep breath and calmed himself down. Then, he decisively stood up and changed his natural stoic expression with his Profound Expert A look.
* * *
Ning Bi had been walking around the city for hours. At first, she had wanted to explore the city with her master, but she understood he was busy with the upcoming auction. As she was about to go out alone, a few disciples called out to her. She agreed and went along with them and that was how she found herself in this situation.
"YOU ARE COURTING DEATH!!"
Currently, a Starfall Mountain disciple named Xu Fan, was shouting at a young boy in his mid-teens. Judging by his attire, this unnamed boy was a member of a sect. Since no one could recognize which sect it was, everyone unanimously decided it was a trash no-name sect.
Ning Bi herself didn't really mind the 'clearly outrageous behavior' of the young boy. She was educated by her father in court etiquette, but she was still a village girl that didn't mind small stuff. In fact, even with etiquette in mind, she still couldn't understand what was supposed to be outrageous. He had just asked for her name.
Xu Fan and the young boy were in a standoff. Both had their weapons drawn. Both at the same stage of Qi Condensation. The young boy was alone, but Xu Fan had many disciples behind him.
Standing a few streets away from them, Han De's mouth was wide open. He had decided to attend the reception to do a minimal show of face as a precautionary measure. While walking he heard the classic warcry of arrogant young masters everywhere. Intrigued, he used his cultivator senses to observe the situation, only to see Xu Fan and his posse cornering a single boy.
'Dammit, how can you not grasp the concept of the sect losing power? Why are you acting like you are owning the place? How can-'
'Wait, why is Ning Bi with them?!'
Han De furrowed his brows. He looked around and sure enough, Treebeard revealed himself. Han De immediately asked for Peng. He didn't have the patience to converse with this ent right now. Peng briefed him on the situation.
The young boy stared at Ning Bi for some time then asked for her name, Xu Fan escalated the situation. Boy's sect was unknown.
'An unknown sect?'
Han De narrowed his eyes. This was getting too close to an MC type encounter. Sooner the situation was defused the better. He used some spiritual power to enhance his voice.
The powerful voice caused everyone to flinch. When they turned their heads they saw Han De slowly moving towards them.
'Ah, I really need a footwork technique. One that allows me to travel huge distances with just a few steps. It would've been perfect for a situation like this.'
Han De made a mental note about acquiring such a footwork technique. Even in a dubious situation like this, his mind still worked on improving his best asset in this world.
Seeing Han De, Xu Fan's eyes started shining. To him, it was obvious that Ning Bi respected her master greatly. Gaining points with Han De could also mean gaining points with Ning Bi. Eager to please, he gave a bow and started talking.
"Disciple Xu Fan greets respected Elder De."
"This piece of trash ignored the dignity of the Starfall Mountain Sect. Even dared to directly talk to the fairy Ning Bi. As her senior brother I couldn't just stand by. I was about to show this trash the difference between Heaven and Earth."
The young boy smirked, then murmured.
"So her name is Ning Bi... and this must be... Han De..."
The young boy looked at the man wearing yellow robes of the Starfall Mountain Sect. If it wasn't for the obsession of his 'master' he wouldn't care at all, but his 'master' kept talking about Han De day and night. So of course he knew about Han De, but this was the first time he had encountered him.
He was someone that had survived countless tribulations, persevered through desperate odds, seen the most bloody and brutal wars, traveled through the darkest depths of the void, and lived to tell the tale. However, right now, he felt strangely uncomfortable at the gaze that this insignificant yellow-robed young man was giving him.
Meanwhile, Han De only had one thought in his mind right now.
'A reincarnated MC template!!!'