Han De kept looking at the Crimson Terror with a complex expression. Although he did have a deep impression of this spiritual plant, he had no idea if this was the one that the dragon and the fox were nurturing. However, thinking about how close it was to blooming at that time, and the fact that the reincarnated cockroach was an MC, Han De couldn't ignore the possibility.
'Better act like they are on their way. Let's assume the worst…'
"Treebeard, Ning Bi, both of you will come with me to the reception. Peng, have some of your people bring these disciples back, the rest of you will follow us discreetly. Keep your eyes open for a blue dragon in the late Nascent Soul stage and an orange fox. Inform me immediately when they appear."
Without waiting for anyone's response, Han De started moving towards the auction house.
'Next time, better keep things PG-13.'
Han De had the memories of the cultivation maniac. Back on Earth, he was also an avid Xianxia web novel reader. He had no delusions about the brutality of this world. Yet, the death of the reincarnated cockroach was still a bit too violent for his modern mind.
Cultivation maniac had killed many people, but none of them were as graphic as this one. Watching the last struggle in despair and terror, and seeing the light slowly disappear from his eyes was rather haunting. Han De didn't want to think about it. He didn't want to experience it again.
'Nope. Nope. Nope.'
Although he was disturbed by the violent death of the cockroach, he wasn't going to become a Japanese MC all of a sudden. All of his experiences in this world taught Han De one thing:
Let somebody else do it.
'Re-education will commence as soon as I return to the sect.'
He was filthy rich and violence was inevitable. If his lackeys were incompetent, he just needed to train them and increase their numbers. Maybe a 2 fold increase would suffice. Perhaps 3 fold? Or 5 fold? He settled on a 10 fold initial increase.
Han De made his decision as they walked. He gave a side glance at Ning Bi. Although this future Purifier of Planes had viciousness of her own, Han De still didn't want to badly influence her.
"That cockroa-ehm. Disciple was a practitioner of dangerous demonic techniques. Coincidentally he was also part of the same hidden demonic sect from before. Your master wouldn't have burned his soul otherwise. Such a punishment cannot be given lightly."
Han De saw Ning Bi thinking. He decided to press on.
"Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."
Ning Bi was still silently thinking.
"With great power comes great responsibility."
Ning Bi was still silently thinking...
'Aren't you supposed to give me a "Yes! Master!" and nod?! Why are you so silent?!'
Han De decided to continue this later. He realized he wasn't in the right mind and was just babbling. He had a limited amount of quotes, he couldn't afford to spend them all at once.
'Let's hope she doesn't turn into a terminator and start killing people left and right…'
Both Ning Bi and Treebeard was aware of the hidden demon sect and their attempt on Han De's life. Hearing the identity of the disciple and master pair, both of them instantly became furious. Before they could say anything Han De's quotes stunned them both in different ways.
To Ning Bi, her master was an enigmatic expert. Everything he said or did, had profound meaning. His knowledge was so deep it left true masters speechless. His cunning was so great he caused the destruction of the Zhao family with a few moves. He even offended many peerless experts on her behalf. To Ning Bi, her master was a huge mountain that she could depend on. Han De's quotes left a lasting impact on her, and she became even more determined.
Treebeard however, knew Han De differently. He watched him grow up and knew about the antics of his young master. Changes in the last few months were startling. Perhaps it was wrong to call them changes to begin with. Perhaps this young master was finally revealing his true colors.
Xiao Ping was a random nobody. Yet Han De went out of his way to cripple him and insult his lover. Years later at the decisive moment, he herded him to the sect as if he was a sheep and used him as a chess piece. No one, not even the Han family knew about this deep plot. Then there was the case with the Zhao family, and the worn-out sword from yesterday.
In his youth, Treebeard was an accomplished scholar before the Han family took him under their wings and nurtured him. Throughout his life he studied many schools of thought. Yet Han De's simple words stunned him. Profound wisdom was hidden within. Familiar, yet so alien at the same time.
Treebeard gave a deep look at Han De. This young master was becoming more unfathomable by the day. Treebeard was now certain that Han De was waiting for the disciple-master duo. To what end, he did not know, but he knew it was part of something.
It seemed like this young master's actions always had a profound reason. Treebeard started to view Han De's past in a different light.
* * *
Han De's group arrived at the auction house. Reception had started already. Tan Xiaodan spotted them immediately.
At first, when Starfall Mountain elders arrived he was relieved that Han De wasn't there. He was relieved but still a bit nervous. Thankfully Starfall Mountain elders didn't mention anything. Perhaps that was them silently implying that the issue was dropped.
But right now, Han De had arrived. With his disciple and that Immortal freak no less. Tan Xiaodan broke into a cold sweat.
'This is it. They are really going to make a scene. He even brought the Immortal freak!'
Before he could do anything, he heard his son, Tan Enlai, that was loitering around the entrance greet them.
"Elder De, greetings. It is an honor that you've joined us."
Han De was able to collect his thoughts and assume his Arrogant Young Master A pose during the walk. He knew about the sarcasm of the Brass Stallion and had expected such a greeting. He just gave a slight nod and arrogantly walked away. Tan Enlai was anticipating this reaction and didn't disturb him further.
This reception was just a social event, but it also exhibited some of the auction items. Of course, Brass Stallion didn't put any of the expensive items in the exhibition. These items were just rarities. Although they were rather peculiar and seeing them all at once like this was impressive, ultimately they were all cheap items individually.
The term 'cheap' was relative. This was supposed to be the biggest auction of the century. Participants of this reception were obviously the heavyweights of the region. Even a relatively normal item here could cause a small sect elder to salivate.
'Small sects have it really tough huh.'
Han De was looking at the items with disinterest. It wasn't that the items were uninteresting, it's just that Han De chose these items as his medium for the Arrogant Young Master A act. Last time he tried to show disdain and do a few well-timed scoffs, he ended up forcing a duel on Ning Bi. If it wasn't for the OPness of that little miss MC he would've died already. Literally. This time, Han De truly didn't want any accidents.
'Just let me act arrogant in peace. Please...'
As Han De was showing a variety of disinterested expressions, he was also keeping an eye on Ning Bi. Even if he showed disdain, he was still going to buy anything that she found remotely interesting. As long as it didn't involve a storyline...
"Elder De, greetings."
A middle-aged man and a stunning beauty had launched a sneak-attack greeting at Han De, who was too absorbed between displaying his disdain skills and watching Ning Bi's reaction to the items at the same time. He was in full character and gave them both a casual nod.
'What the hell... What a beauty. Amazing proportions, a smooth skin, tender lips, gorgeous reddish-brown eyes...'
Thankfully Han De was fully immersed in his character, otherwise he would've openly gawked at this unnamed beauty. Just a fleeting glance was able to impress him enough that he had to depend on his training to prevent a double-take. Han De immediately pulled his guard up.
A Xianxia world was full of dangers. Some were obvious, some were hidden. Han De had used his extensive web novel knowledge to weigh the pros and cons of different tropes some time ago. He didn't rank them all, but if he did, peerless beauties would be very high up in the tropes to avoid list.
Seeing Han De's casual nod, the middle-aged man was a bit surprised. But just doing what he was doing meant that he had to have a certain amount of shamelessness in his blood, so he did not take it to heart and pushed forward.
"This is my niece, Xin Qiang. Although she may be young, her cultivation is rather good. She had heard of your unequaled talent and was hoping to meet you for some time. Meeting here at this auction, it must be fate! Oh, pardon me, I must pay my respects to the Tan patriarch. I am sorry for the trouble, I hope I can leave little Qiang to your care, Elder De."
The shameless middle-aged man didn't even wait for a response and left. Han De was rather impressed. Even though he was so bad at it, he completed everything with practiced ease. He was about to feel bad for this girl, but he noticed her cultivation.
'Are you serious? Nascent Soul? Again?'
Han De looked at Xin Qiang. He was speechless. Even this stupidly gorgeous woman in front of him was in Nascent Soul. Feeling dejected, he didn't bother with her and continued looking at the exhibit items.
There weren't many items left. He was still checking them one by one with the System just in case. On the last item, he had to stop. Auction provided item information listed it as Mysterious Bead. The only known function was that it purified Qi during cultivation. System pop-up however, told a different story.
[External use purifies Qi 0.012% of the user's Qi during a cycle. Ingesting and absorbing it has a chance to unlock the potential of a target. Chance of acquiring a skill 2.1%. Chance of improving on cultivation method 3.41%. Chance of improving an existing skill 5.75%. Chance of unlocking potential gets reduced by 15% for every major realm above Qi Condensation.]
[Notes: Manifestation of a Transcendent expert's tenacity. Infused within is the will to survive. Approximate age is 9.52617 million years.]
Han De sneakily looked at Ning Bi but this item actually didn't catch her attention. There were various thoughts in Han De's mind right now, so he didn't pay attention to anybody else. Besides him, Xin Qiang was unimpressed. Although Han De ignored him, she also ignored Han De. Neither of them noticed the brown-robed man looking at Han De and the bead with a panicked expression.
Xin Qiang was here to acquire a certain spiritual herb. She was using a disposable family's connections to attend this auction. The shameless 'uncle' had no idea, but his family was already on Xin Qiang's 'to be wiped off' list. This despicable man actually tried to use her as a political tool! Just thinking about it infuriated Xin Qiang.
Thankfully, this little Core Formation expert was actually dumb enough to fake ignore her to gather her attention. This stupid act suited her interests perfectly. However, she kept giving odd looks at Ning Bi. This girl gave a sense of familiarity. Xin Qiang was able to sense the astonishingly pure Fire Qi around her. Its characteristic was rather similar to her own. She couldn't help but probe her a bit.
Han De made some calculations in his mind and ultimately ignored the item for now. Since he had shown his face and gave a fashionable arrogance act, he didn't have a reason to stay here anymore. As he was leaving, he heard a voice transmission from Treebeard.
<Young Master. This Xin Qiang's...>
<... Cultivation seems to be higher than my own.>
Suppressing his surprise was easy for the current Han De. He took a look at the Xin Qiang and saw her checking out Ning Bi. He instantly understood the situation.
'We got a hidden expert right here. Family connections are probably fake, probably her name is fake too. She is obviously interested in Ning Bi's talent. Is she thinking of making an attempt at poaching her? Are you kidding me?!'
Han De's face darkened. This was a situation that he predicted long ago and had made plans for, yet it still pissed him off greatly. He continued his conversation with Treebeard.
<Can you sense anything else about her? Does she have a particular element? Perhaps Fire?>
<... I can't be exactly sure, I only sensed she was...>
<... Hiding her cultivation when she probed Ning Bi.>
<... If my cultivation method wasn't sensitive to...>
<... Qi vibrations, I wouldn't have noticed.>
<Treebeard, I got to ask. Why are you talking so slowly?!>
<... My cultivation method isn't perfect. This is a...>
<Side effect got it. Write down your cultivation method completely and give it to me when this is all over.>
<Side eff-. Yes, young master.>
'There is no way to collect more information. We are outside the sect too, so the first 5 options aren't available, her cultivation is higher than Treebeard, so next few options are also destined to fail. Only indirect methods are left...'
Han De didn't waste time and sent a voice transmission to Xin Qiang.
<My disciple is impressive, I know. But she is my disciple, keep that in mind.>
Xin Qiang was surprised.
'It seems this little boy didn't have any patience after all.'
Normally she would've frowned and taught him his place. Han De's tone was disrespectful towards her, but she wasn't supposed to reveal her identity and cultivation. This inability to take action angered her even more. She decided to ignore him.
Han De watched her non-response and frowned. Her nonchalant behavior wasn't a good sign. He chose to go all in.
<Your cultivation might be high but remember. Starfall Mountain Sect will not let things end peacefully if you continue this behavior. Know your place, or I will send Transcendent masters after you.>
Han De did actually have the ability to dispatch masters that were on the Transcendent realm. He just needed a good reason to rile them up. Someone potentially kidnapping his genius disciple was a good enough reason.
'Considering her desire to stay secret, threatening her with the nuclear option is the right choice. Probably. I hope. Oh god please...'
Xin Qiang was stunned. She guessed that the Immortal expert had somehow seen through her. She also knew Han De's and Starfall Mountain's position. Although she didn't have ulterior motives and was just curious about Ning Bi, she was able to understand their reaction. As an expert she obviously could detach herself from the situation and view things objectively. Unfortunately, this ability only intensified her anger.
Ultimately, Xin Qiang didn't answer Han De. She was only an Ancient Realm cultivator, how could she handle a master that was 3 major realms above her. Once they appeared she would definitely get caught and it would all over. She wouldn't even be able to burn her soul to prevent revealing the location of her family.
Han De watched as Xin Qiang gracefully walked away. He wasn't comfortable at all with pissing off a hidden master. But Ning Bi was his lifeline. He would quite literally die if anything happened to her. She was weak, a sneeze from a Nascent Soul could kill her. She was young, any old demon could influence her.
After quickly weighing his options, Han De decided to send a message to his mother with long-distance communication jade and asked for 5 low profile Transcendent masters as a precaution.
'Better be safe than sorry.'