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[Do you wish to absorb?]

‘...’

After the initial surprise, Han De didn’t mind it. The System was the System.

‘This should be a pill to make me remember the rest of the cultivation idiot’s memories. Why did it suddenly become a soul restoration pill? Sorry, ‘Herb Arrangement’, what was I thinking?!’

Han De rolled his eyes and continued thinking. He knew that the System would only do things that would benefit him in some way, but his seed token episode made it clear that those benefits might involve typical Xianxia bullshit with them. It was a good habit to evaluate everything when a new function appeared out of nowhere.

‘I can certainly ignore this and try to absorb it on my own, but whatever. It’s just memories anyway. Soul restoration shouldn’t have harmful side effects.’


[Gathering Statistics]

[Calibrating...]
[Filtering Secondary Effects]
[Primary Absorption Rate: 99.999978%]

[Preparations are complete]
[To prevent permanent soul damage, the host will be put in sleep mode]
[Initiating Partial Soul Restoration]
[Time Remaining: 138:53:19]
[...]

* * *

Han De found himself in the middle of the mountains. Just a second ago he was taking the soul restoration pill, but now he was somewhere else. Out of habit, he wanted to facepalm, but he realized he couldn’t move his body.

His head turned on its own, and he saw a guy with shining white skin. A wide smile was on his delicate face. His body smiled, he thought ‘This guy is always like this.’

‘Wait, hang on, I get that this is a memory trip but why is it affecting my thoughts?’

The scene changed, Han De himself wasn’t resisting it, he was just startled. As the scene changed he realized the rest of the ‘scene’ was integrated into his memories like the other ones.

Now, he was in his abode cultivating. He circulated energy. Once, twice, thrice. His mind was completely empty.

The scene changed again. He saw a beauty with a jade-like skin. ‘So elegant. So beautiful..’ His mind went blank. He immediately asked Peng about her identity. This woman was the one!

The scene changed once again much to Han De’s relief. For a second, he really thought that the uncanny valley girl was his fated one. He was starting to regret using the System to absorb this pill. Having memories of another person was creepy enough, but now he was feeling that person’s emotions, their thoughts were mixing with his own.

Now he was using the Prayer Beads to cultivate. ‘Where did Bai found this thing.’ He was baffled by its effects. It wasn’t just increasing the purity of his Qi, his cultivation was also much faster. Nearly a twenty-fold increase...

“Hmph! Presumptuous!” He was now holding an old man by his neck. This trash was selling contaminated pills under the Starfall Mountain’s nose. He slowly stabbed him with his sword then activated his sword art without mercy. The scene changed, but Han De knew from memory that the soul of the man was extinguished.

He was meditating now. Occasionally he would remember Chu Chen and get excited over the upcoming disciple acceptance ceremony. Nothing in this world could make him miss it. Just a few more days…

The scene changed once again. Han De was now cultivating in his courtyard. The Prayer Beads was in his right hand.


...
...
2054 cycles.
2055 cycles.
2056 cycles.
2057 cycles.
2058 cycles.
2059 cycles.
2060 cycles.
2061 cycles.
2062 cycles.
2063 cycles.
2064 cycles.
2065 cycles.
2066 cycles.
2067 cycles.
2068 cycles.
2069 cycles.
2070 cycles.
2071 cycles.
2072 cycles.
2073 cycles.


‘Hmm?’ A slight fluctuation caught his attention.

“You really do have some skill. Not many would be able to notice us.”

Under the starlight, Han De saw two figures enter his courtyard. He narrowed his eyes after quickly coming into a conclusion.

The figure in the front smirked. “I like smart people. It saves so much time…”

Han De’s aura exploded. In his mind, he only needed to hold on until some of his men arrive. That would drag his father into it as well and it would be over. ‘I never thought those life-saving trinkets would be useful one day. I’ll have to think about it later, I can’t be distracted now.’

The man sneered. “A futile effort. Do you really think we would be here if we didn’t have a guarantee about the grand array?”

Without warning, Han De felt his neck was grabbed. He gritted his teeth and tried to escape, but the difference in cultivation was insurmountable. While he was struggling the second figure took the prayer beads and put them into a jade box.

“This will hurt a lot. It will hurt even more if you struggle. So make sure you struggle as much as possible. Who knows, maybe your father will arrive to save you, isn’t that what you are hoping for? Hold on as much as you can...”

Spiritual energy started invading his soul. Han De struggled with all his being. He tried to hold on, tried to condense energy, tried to send some sort of signal. Nothing worked. The pain was already unbearable. A groan escaped from his lips.

“Ah, there is it is…”

His groans turned into screams. He remembered Chu Chen, he remembered the prayer beads. He remembered his cousin, his cultivation. His screams got louder with the realization of the inevitable.

He opened his eyes. The man was sweating profusely. Han De felt his consciousness slipping. He could feel his soul shrinking by the second. For the first time in his life, he felt deep regret. He couldn’t remember what the source of this regret was, it was just there.

Only instinct was left now. The instinct to resist. Time became meaningless. Then suddenly, there was a release. Finally. It knew that the pain would be over soon.


. .]
[ . [
[ .]
[...]
[...]


The scene changed again. This time he saw himself polishing a wooden fishing boat with his wrinkled hands. Suddenly he grabbed his chest and collapsed.

This time he was crossing a rope bridge. Suddenly the rope snapped and he fell down to the chasm. He hit his head to the sidewall while falling.

This time he was sweeping the floor with a broom. He raised his head and saw a young woman in a blue dress, kindly smiling at him. They were both at a tower, high above the clouds.

* * *

[...]

[Time Remaining: 00:00:00]
[Partial Soul Restoration Complete]
[Awakening Host]
[Operation Successful]

[Memory integration complete]
[Sync point confirmed and verified]
[Calibration started]

[Congratulations, your soul has been partially restored!]


Han De opened his eyes and found himself in the familiar lotus position. His mind was completely blank. He could only stare at nothingness.

* * *

{Quite clever this brat… That was only a basic low-quality soul mending pill...}

{Now, what did you see?}

{...}

* * *

A few hours had passed, Han De was still silent. Finally, he gave a long sigh. He wasn’t out of the woods. How could anyone be safe in a Xianxia world?

He needed to train hard. He needed to cultivate. Relying on others was one thing, but he needed a power that was his own. The strong preyed on the weak. It was the rule of the jungle, it was the rule of the Xianxia.

‘I need to grit my teeth and just put up with the cultivation. I’ll just start cultivating right now.’

He paused for a moment.

'...'

‘Tomorrow… Yes, tomorrow. I’ll definitely start tomorrow…’

* * *

The next morning Han De decided to make himself breakfast. He couldn’t sleep very well last night and kept remembering the last moments of the cultivation idiot.

As he went to the closest kitchen he remembered some of the new memories about cooking with the spiritual ingredients. Although the cultivation idiot truly was a freak and used pills for sustenance, he did have a conversation with an immortal chef to impress Chu Chen.

‘For once, I agree with the cultivation idiot. That chef really liked to smell his own farts…’

This immortal chef had boasted about his ability to no end and kept exaggerating the effects of a badly cooked spiritual dish. He reminded Han De of a certain Italian TV chef. While it was true that the after taste would change, the effect really wasn’t as exaggerated as he had said. Han De would know, he had already cooked with spiritual ingredients himself.

Han De made the basic crepes once again. He purposefully avoided looking at the descriptions of the ingredients through the System.

As he ate he thought of the hallucinations that he saw after the cultivation idiot’s death. ‘I wonder if those were the cultivation idiot’s past lives. They surely can’t be mine, there wouldn’t be a cycle of reincarnation on Earth, would there? The first two were pretty normal but the last one seemed like a fantasy environment…’

He took care of the dishes after he was done eating. It had been a while since he last ate anything. Perhaps this simple act was more important than he realized. He decided to send Peng to grab an immortal chef after the lecture.

“Little De… What are you doing?”

At the far side of the kitchen were his mother and his 3 disciples, staring at him with odd expressions.

Long Xiu had returned from her expedition a few days ago. Since her husband was visiting the northern continent, and her son was still absorbing the pill, she thought she’d interact with Ning Bi and the new disciples that she had heard of.

Today she had realized her son was done with the pill and was already dissecting another netherworld demon. She thought this was a valuable experience for the disciples considering the future direction of the sect, so she had grabbed them... only to find him in the kitchen.

Han De had listened to her flat explanation with patience. This was the second time someone was accusing him of dissecting a netherworld demon. First was his father, and now it was his mother. ‘Are these little shits joking about my cooking ability? Is this something that went over my head while I was looking at the cultivation idiot’s memories?’

He gave up after a few seconds. He couldn’t be bothered with an inside joke that he missed and just shrugged. “Just cooked a mortal dish that I learned a few years ago. You could’ve tasted it if you had come half an hour earlier.”

The family stage of the Hidden expert transition might as well start today. “By the way, I thought I’d get an immortal chef.”

Long Xiu wanted to ask about the demon thing but Han De’s expression made it clear that he wasn’t going to explain. She switched to the immortal chef angle, it gave her the best entry point for her plan.

“Good! I have always thought you should get a personal immortal chef. Especially now that you have disciples!”

Seeing his mother smile like that made Han De smile as well, but Long Xiu wasn’t done.

“During the expedition, I encountered a very skilled immortal chef by accident. I was undecided about assigning this person as my own personal chef, but since you are looking for one the matter is settled! Good!” Long Xiu nodded at her own words.

Han De thought it was strange for her to send a guy she just met as his personal chef after how she talked about it for years. ‘Perhaps he’s someone she knew before. She would never send someone she didn’t trust…’ Although he had a weird feeling about it, Han De couldn’t find any problems with her logic. It was probably the after effect of the pill. He just nodded and said “Alright.”

Now that the hard part was over, relief washed over Long Xiu. She contained it and asked the number two question in her mind. “What about your memory?”

“I recovered it. Completely.” Han De wanted to give a normal smile, but for only for a tiny moment it turned slightly bitter without him realizing it. How could Long Xiu miss that subtle change as his mother? She made a mental note to visit Zhao Dong, it had been a while.

She just nodded without saying anything. Of the 3 disciples, only Ning Bi knew about the situation from start to end. She sighed with relief upon hearing her master’s answer.

Long Xiu changed the subject. “We’ll depart in 4 days. Now that you have recovered there is no need to delay it.”

“Depart?”

“Ah, your grandfather didn’t tell you. We are going to the northern continent for a conference. Get your affairs in order, we’ll be away for more than a month at least.”

‘Aaah, grandfather... What exactly did you say and didn’t say to her...’ This was a touchy subject that could blow up in unexpected ways, so Han De decided not to dig deeper. He suddenly realized that his grandfather probably told him of the real reason to distribute responsibility. He decided to feign ignorance no matter the cost.

They talked about the sights Long Xiu saw during her expedition for a while. A while later Long Xiu left, her time was extremely limited already. She was using her cultivation time to meet with her son.

While she was going back she thought about the past events regarding that plague-devouring demon. It was hard to believe such an event was only a well-timed bluff. She smiled and continued her work.

Yao Qing watched as Long Xiu went away. She had no idea that she could be starstruck after all these years...

* * *

Han De finished his lecture and looked over the reports of the past 2 weeks.

'132 total subjects, 34 consistent anomalous behavior. 67 disappeared? 12 confirmed dead?'

He looked at the Peng, but the look on his face suggested that he had no idea either.

"I can understand the dead ones, but how can so many disappear in just 2 weeks? Investigate immediately."

"Yes, Elder De."

Han De saw Treebeard coming towards him. "Did you find the Anomaly at the lower realm?"

Treebeard first nodded, then shook his head. He grabbed a scroll from his storage ring and presented it to Han De. After reading it Han De looked at the Treebeard.

"Disappeared? Him too?"

Treebeard could only nod with a bitter expression. What should've been impossible had happened, and it had happened on his watch. It truly was a great shame upon his record.

"Alright, send a few mid-level experts and keep an eye on it just in case."

Han De thought about it. MCs disappearing was actually a good thing for him, but not knowing the reason made him wary. He couldn't do anything about it for now, so he stopped thinking about it.

After experiencing the pill, Han De thought he still didn't have a stable footing in this world. Cultivation was something that couldn't be rushed, at least for his own template. Therefore he needed something else. Perhaps a way to take the initiative.

"Of the remaining ones that show anomalous behavior, pick the ones that show good character. Prioritize the most stupid ones first and invite them to the Starfall Mountain. Invite. Only invite. Do mention the benefits, offer protection for their immediate and extended families, but keep things at the invite level."

"Contact Tan Renshu of the Brass Stallion and tell him to start small scale tests at once."

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