Han De felt angry at the System for misleading him, but he concluded it didn’t matter in the end.
First, he was filthy rich, so the spirit stones he had spent had no meaning. Second, even if that bead was related to the item that killed cultivation idiot, him buying it was better than leaving it to the hidden demonic sect. All he needed to do now was to ignore it completely and maybe hide it somewhere. Perhaps he could give it to Ning Bi anyway. Her MC powers might shield it from other MCs. Maybe?
Long Xiu dispelled her killing intent. She remembered one of the reasons for her visit. Her eyes started shining as she tried to act casual while asking the big question.
“How is Lei Chen? Is she doing OK?”
“Lei Chen? Who is that?”
Han De saw through her mother’s intentions. It wasn’t hard, she was nearly fidgeting. However, he really didn’t know who this Lei Chen was. He was hoping she wasn’t someone from his missing memories.
“Oh you are getting playful again. You know, the Lei family princess? They even call her Princess of Fire? Wasn’t she here during the conference? Didn’t little Yu make preparations for her?”
“No one but me and Ning Bi was here during the conference. Did Elder Yu made some arrangements without my consent?”
Seeing Han De’s dark expression Long Xiu fell into doubt. She had heard Han De kidnapped this princess and little Yu even made preparations with the Lei family to accept her as Han De’s concubine. Long Xui made a mental note to start an investigation on this.
“Well never mind about that. What about Chu Chen? She really is quite the beauty, isn’t she? She has such smooth skin, even I am jealous!”
“Nope! Her flat colored skin is way too creepy. She is like a freak show! I mean, it is probably a physical ailment so I know I shouldn’t be judgmental but still! I can’t stand looking at it. She has a bad character too. Certainly not someone I would want to interact with.”
Han De didn’t know how his mother found out the name Chu Chen, the uncanny valley girl. But he had to break this flag, right here and right now. He had to disintegrate it into dust so that no strange accidents would occur down the line. He made a mental note to ask about this to Elder Yu.
Upon Han De’s strong rejection, Long Xiu didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t trying to marry her son, these girls’ status and cultivations were too low for that. As long as they distracted Han De from cultivation it would be fine. She couldn't even bring Xiao Lan into the conversation since she might have a part in Han De’s plans.
“Ehm. What about the fox girl you brought? I heard she is a beauty once she hides her ears?”
Seeing Long Xiu grasping straws, Han De relaxed a little. It’s not that he didn’t want a relationship, he just didn’t want the implications that a Xianxia world brought into the fold. Casual relationships weren’t a thing here. A relationship could only result in a marriage, or a grudge. He had Ning Bi too, he couldn’t even visit brothels. The risk of his incompetent lackeys leaking information was just too high. He was also concerned about how well Ning Bi and his mother got along.
It was already stressful to keep up his act, would he have to do it all day long if he was married? Even if it was a political marriage Han De felt it was all kinds of wrong to deceive his spouse in such a way.
“Her brother tried to feed my life force to a flower, I got away but my sword was ruined. She later tried to rob me.”
Light in Long Xiu’s eyes slowly disappeared. She was back to square one. Perhaps she had to execute one of her contingency plans after all. She didn’t want to make this decision lightly. After faintly saying “Okay dear.” She started leaving. Suddenly, one last hope appeared in her mind.
“Don’t you think Ning Bi would benefit greatly from the Starfall cultivation realm? A few days could change things a lot. I should prepare it for her...”
Han De had relaxed after he saw his mother gave up on the topic. Once she brought up the cultivation realm and Ning Bi, he froze.
‘Few days? Isn’t that like a few decades?! She might even surpass me by 4 or 5 big realms if she spent that time cultivating! How could I stay as her master if she returns as an Immortal Realm master?! Are you trying to kill me?!’
Han De exploded in full force.
“Absolutely not! Ning Bi’s talent is already great. There is no need to rush her. Why should she spend decades in a boring cultivation realm? Is there a need to rush her cultivation? Cultivation is important but it isn’t everything. She should be able to live her life! Mother, as her master I will not allow this. Please don’t mention it again.”
Long Xiu was taken aback after Han De’s forceful response. She realized she couldn’t pinpoint the reason for this explosive counter. Their relationship was that of a master and a disciple, from both sides. Perhaps taking in a disciple gave her son the perspective he needed? She was happy that Han De finally realized that cultivation wasn’t everything. Long Xiu’s mood improved greatly!
“That is good. Since she is your disciple you should be the one that makes those decisions. Good! I’m happy that you are taking good care of her! Well done!”
Han De didn’t dare to relax anymore. He thought her mood had improved a bit too fast.
He was right, although Long Xiu’s mood did improve, she was now even more confident with her contingency plans. With the perspective change from Han De, perhaps things wouldn’t be as forceful once one of the plans was in motion. Long Xiu didn’t delay things and left after hugging Han De once more.
Once she was gone Han De released the breath he was holding. He really needed to transition into a Hidden Expert soon. After that, he could find someone to marry. His standards weren’t high, as long as there was mutual love and trust it would be fine.
‘Otherwise mom might end up obtaining brides from who knows where…’
<Oh, I forgot to mention, little Mo will start concocting the pill after the last ingredient matures in a week. You should be able to take the Seven Luminaries Reminiscence pill within a month.>
<Also, your cousin sent a message. He is returning from that lower realm within a week. Apparently, he has a special gift for you. Wait, I wasn’t supposed to say that. Nevermind, just act like you didn’t now. Don’t forget to eat well!>
News about his cousin didn’t matter to Han De. The cousin in question was a variant of the Arrogant Young Master template. Him and cultivation idiot had a cordial relationship and they would not step on each other’s toes.
‘Little Mo will concoct the pill? Is that the same Transcendent idiot that didn’t say anything while I got drugged?!’
* * *
Xiao Ping, no, Ming Ping was sitting in the lotus position inside the ascendance chambers of the Ming palace. He had spent the last week consolidating his realm after he surpassed his tribulation. He was now a Nascent Soul expert.
He had access to unlimited cultivation ‘resources’ thanks to his father, the Ming Emperor. Through the amazing Crimson Lotus Scripture, he was able to reach a new height that he didn’t think was possible after his encounter with Han De all those years ago. He should be feeling joy, but inside he only felt rage.
Ming Palace wasn’t a good place for him. He had resources, but his father didn’t restrain his half-brothers. He was deceived, ridiculed, and plotted against ever since he came here. He nearly died the first few times. Once he killed one of his half-brothers, things got even worse. The ‘heirs’ realized their father wouldn’t protect them, just like he didn’t protect their new ‘brother’. A silent bloodbath was initiated once they realized this.
Ming Ping opened his eyes. He reveled in his newfound powers. As he released his aura a comfortable groan escaped from his lips. His spiritual sense was strengthened too. Even with all the formations in this room, he could still sense the 2 figures waiting outside, sitting in front of the door with their backs facing it.
He didn’t need to guess, those two were Ming Nui, his brother, and Zhang Cheng, his brother’s trusted servant. These two never ceased their attempts at getting close to him. Perhaps it was due to their cultivation being low, Ming Ping didn’t feel too guarded when he was near them. Although he didn’t trust them, he didn’t hate them either.
‘Ming Nui reminds me of the Emp- father. Among my half-brothers, he is the one that resembles him the most. Perhaps I can trust him, he is the youngest and the one with the lowest cultivation.’
Ming Ping opened the doors. Two teenagers in front of him stood up and clasped their hands.
“Big brother, you have succeeded at last! Congratulations, I knew you could do it.”
Ming Ping, being a Nascent Soul expert, immediately knew there was something wrong. They were hiding something.
“I don’t like schemers, so you better speak!”
Ming Nui and Zhang Cheng looked at each other, both of them were startled by Ming Ping’s sudden change. Neither of them could respond, they could only open and close their mouths.
“Big brother, my apologies. We are not scheming anything… It’s just that… we....”
Ming Nui looked at Zhang Cheng, as if he tried to gain strength from him. Ming Ping wasn’t impatient, he knew these two trusted each other greatly. He also knew they couldn’t hide anything from him.
Zhang Cheng hesitantly continued Ming Nui’s words.
“We received new intelligence from… Starfall Mountain…”
Ming Ping’s eyes narrowed, he stayed silent but his killing intent was leaking. Even if he did consolidate his realm, he was still a rookie in the Nascent Soul realm. It would take him some time to get used to his powers.
Zhang Cheng looked like he didn’t dare delay it any longer.
“Intelligence says, Xiao Lan formed a core, and became a Starfall Mountain elder…”
Ming Ping’s already pale face somehow became even whiter. He stormed away, leaving the two teenagers behind. After a few minutes, teenagers looked at each other, both of them had faint smiles on their faces.
In the palace courtyard, Ming Emperor received a report about these events 5 minutes later. Ming Ping was the most important person for him and he was always informed of matters related to his son within minutes.
‘Good. This kid used the information at the right moment after waiting for so long. He is getting better.’
Ming Emperor looked at the clouds above him. His face was expressionless, but those who knew him would know that right now, he was content.
‘At least 70 years would be saved now. A good push at the right moment might even achieve 100 years…’
While Ming Emperor was peacefully planning his advancement, an intelligence agent arrived without making any sound and placed a sealed envelope in front of him. During his rest, no one would dare disturb the Emperor unless it was news about Ming Ping, or something else equally vital. Emperor frowned after reading the news.
‘Possible Transcendent expert massacred unknown group at Royal Maw. Traces of pure Fire Qi. It couldn’t be a weak point. A natural aperture? Those that died didn’t have low cultivations either, otherwise there wouldn’t be any traces left. Yet another hidden entity.’
This was the perfect opportunity for the Emperor to see the power of the Blazing Sun hidden family, and how deep they collaborated with Starfall Mountain. He decided to keep watching before giving a helping hand to these unknown interlopers.
* * *
Han De lazily walked around inside his estate for a few hours after his mother left. He needed to empty his mind to figure out what he could do.
‘The most pressing matter is the Crimson Terror. To give, or not to give. Ning Bi already saw it, even if her comprehension was 0 she could still understand that it is something immensely beneficial to her.’
‘If I don’t give it to her then in the future she might see that as me holding her back, which would be the truth. Depending on our relationship at that time, things might get complicated.’
‘If I give it to her then her cultivation will soar. With her roots and her talent she’ll be able to absorb an absurd amount of it every time. She doesn’t need to worry about her foundation being unstable with her cheat-level spiritual roots.’
‘At most I can use her martial arts as an angle and prevent her from chugging the entire flower. I guess that is the best case’
Han De sighed. He needed to increase his own cultivation. Unfortunately, even if he somehow got auto-cultivation from the system, he was still 100% certain that Ning Bi would be able to surpass him in a short amount of time. Han De had thought of a wide variety of nightmare scenarios. He imagined Ning Bi explaining events with her excited voice.
‘ “Master! Master look! This random weed I pulled was actually a hundred million years old divine fire ginseng!” ‘
‘ “Master! Master look! This little pebble that got stuck on my shoe was actually a primordial void essence crystal that survived the collapse of the previous billion cycles! What are the odds?!” ’
Han De gave another weary sigh. He remembered the look in the cockroach's lifeless eyes. The image kept popping up in his mind at the oddest times. Han De didn’t give in to frustration and tried to move on.
‘Let someone else do it. Right…’
‘Sure, I can re-educate my lackeys and improve their cultivation and martial arts methods. That’s probably the best bang for the buck long term with my current profound points. After that, I should focus on my cultivation. Ning Bi doesn’t need anything, she already has that OP flower...’
[Quest: First Step]
[Difficulty Level: G]
[Summary: Your extremely talented disciple has stumbled on her first bottleneck and cannot make progress inside the sect’s black pagoda. As her master, you must carefully guide and nurture her. Help Ning Bi overcome her first bottleneck!]
[Requirements: Assist Ning Bi with surpassing her limits by helping her reach higher floors of the black pagoda.]
[Time Remaining: 7 days]
[Success: 100 Profound Points]
[Notes: Bonus Profound Points will be issued depending on the maximum floor Ning Bi can reach.]
‘This… is… surprisingly reasonable?! No fail conditions?! I won’t die if this quest fails?!’
Han De looked at the System pop up. He read it over and over again, he even asked the System (no response).
‘It really seems like this is a no loss situation for me. Is the System embarrassed about the Crystalized Tenacity?’
'Still, issuing a quest for a bottleneck? Isn't that a bit too biased? Will there be a quest for getting a new weapon? No, I already ordered 5 for the next 3 realms, maybe I should've waited for a quest.'
After getting a piece of rare good news, Han De was in a better mood. There were still 7 whole days, he could afford to relax. With that in mind, he went directly to Peng.
* * *
“These are all of the cultivation and martial arts methods?”
“Yes, Elder De.”
Peng had worked extra hard in these last few days. He had returned to the sect on his own without waiting for the spiritual boat and had already collected nearly everyone’s cultivation information.
“Total of 21 cultivation methods across thousands of people?”
“Yes, Elder De. Our cultivation methods come from the Han family, not Starfall Mountain. There are probably some minute differences among the Nascent Soul experts, but any of the lower realms should be following their methods to the letter. Reduction in different cultivation methods was one of the first orders that the family head gave.”
Han De nodded. Of the 21 methods, he also saw his own Starfall Scripture. Unfortunately only 6 cultivators used it, and none of them were in the Nascent Soul realm. Light element roots were pretty rare, to begin with. It was highly possible that those 6 guys had some blood connection with the family.
He was happy cultivation methods were at least somewhat manageable. Unfortunately, 2000-something experts that were directly under him right now, were using nearly 500 martial arts methods.
‘It is also evenly spread. There isn’t a method that is a minority compared to others. These are only their primary methods too, they probably have many supplementary methods. It is possible that there may be some overlap between them, but... Nope, no way I can afford to even learn these 500 methods.’
Han De instructed Peng not to collect martial arts methods from now on.
‘I have 111 Profound Points left, I could probably master about 4 or 5 of the most popular ones and leave the rest for later. That quest was really timely! I guess I better not ignore it…’