Han De wanted to ask about Ning Bi’s issues, but on second thought, he decided not to say anything for now. It was possible that his mother already knew about it but refused to say anything. And in case she didn’t, it was best not to associate Ning Bi with the Breaches at this time. His mother’s reactions to the eldritch horror were too suspicious.
After a sigh, he looked at his disciples. It was too dangerous to drag them along a journey like this. In fact, it was too dangerous for himself too!
‘If I was a nobody, I could’ve started working on a rice farm by now. I might’ve even married someone. The most dangerous thing I would have to look out for would’ve been insects.’
‘Right, since I have Transcendent guards under my command, better utilize them while I wait for the meat paste’s amulet.’
“How many of you are there?”
Not even a second later, he received a voice transmission.
<241 Transcendent Experts, all ready to follow your orders young master.>
‘That’s pretty much all the Transcendent experts on the spiritual boat. Aah, shit…’
There was a distinct possibility of his mother going berserk after sending this many experts away. Han De didn't want to think about it.
Traveling with this many Transcendent experts was also a risk. In Earth’s terms, this was like traveling around with 200 armed nuclear warheads.
‘ “Hey, yes, I know there are hundreds of armed nuclear warheads behind me, ready to go off at a moment's notice, but really, those are just for my protection. No, I can’t leave them behind, sorry, my mother wouldn’t allow it. Nice country, by the way, I really like those gently rolling hills!” ‘
‘Peaceful thoughts… Yes, peaceful thoughts…’
Han De sent one of them to the Brass Stallion city, to ask Tan Renshu about the sacrifice chambers. Using it blindly without knowing its original function was out of the question.
Old Peng, being a loyal lackey, was waiting just inside the hearing distance. He quickly came as if he sensed that his young master needed him.
“Peng, get that Blazing Sun family here.”
That almost sneak attack during the battle almost caused him to fail the quest. While he did have 240 something Transcendent experts with him now, it was still possible for her to grab Ning Bi and run away. She didn’t have to go that far, just 5 meters was enough for him to fail the quest. It was better to tie this loose end now.
A minute later, Xin Meili and Xin Qiang followed Old Peng and copied the same respectful bow from him. Han De was tired of dealing with this family, so he ignored all courtesy.
“I gave you a warning but you ignored it. Then the second one of you appeared and still looked at my disciple with dubious intent. Once again. Your behavior is clearly suspect. But just to clarify, I ask you. What is it that you want? Think carefully before you answer!”
Both of them fell into deep thought. Han De scrutinized their looks while waiting. It was clear that they were related, but one called the other ‘matriarch’ during the battle. Of course, due to cultivation, one’s appearance wouldn’t reflect their age. A man that looked like he was in his mid-30s might be a few hundred years old, but he might be younger than someone else that looked in their 20s while being a few thousand years old.
The existence of cultivation screwed things a lot. There were also special cultivation methods for those that wanted to maintain their youthful looks. Most of them were practiced by female cultivators, but there weren't any gender limitations behind their principle according to the cultivation idiot’s analysis.
Even though they physically looked the same age, the one on the left carried herself more maturely.
‘I suppose she is the elder sister. The younger one asked for her help, the mature onee-sama obliged. Their comprehension of the Blazing Sun is pretty good, but the one they practice is clearly at the Mortal level. Ning Bi’s is at Earth level. I guess I could give them a nerfed version of the scripture and make a deal. As long as they don’t ask for Ning Bi, it should be fine.’
The leverage he got this time was pretty big. He was also dealing with the top-level decision-maker. The younger sister also tried to appease him before, so it was obvious that they could be reasoned with. Maybe some miscommunication between them caused the sneak attack? Han De was willing to give them the benefit of doubt for now.
Actually, now that he thought about it, this whole situation was started by the younger sister. If she hadn’t revealed the meat paste’s stupid revenge storyline he would’ve been sitting comfortably inside his cabin right now. Instead, he was in the middle of a crash site.
Xin Qiang who was looking at her feet felt Han De’s gaze and saw his deep frown. From the side, Ning Bi was slightly frowning as well. Xin Meili, the matriarch of the family interrupted Han De’s intense displeasure gaze.
“Elder Han De. Our Xin family practiced the Blazing Sun Scripture for generations. Countless years ago, there was a sect calle-”
Han De interrupted the onee-sama looking woman by slowly shaking his head. Xin Meili continued after a brief pause.
“The legacy of the Void Flame Sect is a matter of utmost impor-”
She was interrupted again. By a shaking head. Han De didn't want to continue this charade, he wanted a fast solution.
“I asked you what you wanted. I didn’t ask you to reveal your backstory. Here, I’ll make it simple. The Blazing Sun Scripture was found during the last Breach. Starfall Mountain had an incomplete version of it, but now it is complete and slightly improved. Now, do you want it or not?”
Jaws of the two sisters dropped, they subconsciously looked at each other.
Previously Han De didn’t want to share the scripture, but it was apparent that this family had obsessive-compulsive tendencies. It was better to throw them a bone before things became irreconcilable. A hidden family owing him a debt of gratitude wasn’t a bad thing either. In his time of need, they could provide him with a secret hiding spot.
Besides, not many could practice the Blazing Sun Scripture anyway. Even the complete version required at least 75% roots. Jin Shu only had 63% roots, and that was a common wood element root!
Their matriarch being at the Transcendent level also alleviated some of Han De’s worries. Their power was manageable! Of course, there was a possibility that this was some sort of play, but that was an acceptable risk.
“W-We did wish to negotiate for that version of the scripture before, but now we just wish to establish friendly communications with the Starfall Mountain...”
Han De’s face didn’t betray his thoughts. He looked absolutely composed from outside.
‘Are you frickin’ serious? Then why did you make all that fuss-... Ah, I guess this is due to mom. Well, I don’t blame them.’
He alternated his gaze between the sisters. Although the situation made some sense somehow, he still didn’t want to leave anything to chance. Not solving this issue right now might bite him in the ass down the line. He shook his head.
“You got caught in an unrelated battle. Although this was your doing, the other one’s cultivation was sealed to demonstrate her good intentions, yet she still got injured during the process.”
Han De nodded to the pale-faced younger sister.
“I’ll give you the improved Blazing Sun Scripture at a later date. The exchange will be made with Fire, Lighting, or Wood element resources. I will not take advantage of you.”
He paused for effect and continued.
“With this, we shall put the previous matters behind us. I hope we will be able to cooperate in the future. I assume there won’t be any more of your family members looking for my disciple?”
The onee-sama’s baffled look turned confused and bitter. She shook her head.
“Our hidden realm won’t be able to send or receive anyone for hundreds of years. Although I am no longer the matriarch, I can still guarantee that no one from the Xin family will have ill intentions toward you, your disciples, or your family and sect!”
‘Wait, come again, you are no longer the matriarch? No one can enter or leave your home?’
‘You are vagrants?!’
Suddenly, Han De regretted not listening to her exposition.
‘Well, it doesn’t matter. Her cultivation should be fairly high if not the highest. Otherwise, how could she have become their matriarch in the first place? Having good relations with their former leader is the next best thing.’
If his mother hadn’t cleared them, he wouldn’t be able to talk to them right now. He didn’t have a reason to doubt the hidden realm entry issue. There were too many Transcendent experts around for her to make up a ridiculous lie like that.
Silence reigned while Han De thought about his mother’s intentions. Finally, he just gave up and started looking around.
<Young master. Your will?>
<What are my mother’s orders about these two?>
<...They are to follow all your orders, young master...>
‘I see, mom already showed them the stick. Me offering the carrot was overall a good thing still. Not surprising but still annoying. Whatever. This way pressure won’t build up and they won’t have to resort to some desperate attempt to get the scripture and Ning Bi.’
<Keep an eye on them when they are near Ning Bi.>
<By your will, young master.>
Han De dismissed the sisters.
He had used his Hidden Expert persona throughout the conversation. Their cultivations were still many times higher than his, showing an Arrogant Young Master act would only needlessly piss them off. He was well aware that the respect he commanded came through his family.
‘Hmmm. Unlike the sect masters, these two didn’t show any signs of fear even though they saw me talking with the tentacles. Maybe I am overblowing this eldritch horror thing. The sect masters’ fear could be easily explained through mother. Maybe she said something because I was hurt? Possible...’
Jumping to conclusions would only serve him well if he quickly followed up with unbiased verifications.
<Where is the closest place with a high concentration of beings evolved from spiritual animals?>
<... If young master means demons that awakened from animals, the nearest would be the White Forest city of the former Ming Empire east of here. It is a gathering city for the spiritual beast hunters employed by the former Ming Empire.>
‘Oh, I didn’t know there was such an isekai like city here…’
<We’ll leave for the White Forest city once the amulet is found.>
<By your will, young master.>
* * *
After 5 days inside the healing formation, Han Wei finally opened his eyes. The recovery effect of a light element healing formation was truly a sight to behold. Most of his injuries were healed completely, and those that remained only gave him slight discomfort at worst.
“Good, this is enough for now.”
Han Shan, father of Han Wei nodded with satisfaction. Upon seeing his son’s gaze he gently smiled. It was impossible for Han Wei not to feel the disturbance even when healing.
“A clone of mine is near his soul light. Nothing happened. The sect is under siege, but it is manageable. Little Xiu will probably do a clean up before coming to this continent.”
Han Wei was baffled.
“The situation is that bad? Netherworld demons are already sieging the sect?!”
Han Shan cleared his throat and fixed his long mustache.
“The Breach was closed. The siege is from the sects you have suspected.”
Han Wei kept staring at his father without blinking. Finally, the old man sighed and explained.
“I don’t know either. From the size of the initial waves, it was an enormous Breach that should’ve been impossible to close. Long Xiu is keeping a tight lid on this. We’ll have to be patient until she arrives. However, if the current trend continues… We will have to go with little Xiu’s plan…”
Han Wei and Han Shan looked at the weak point that was far in the distance. Their cultivations were beyond the limits of this world, sensing minute changes around a weak point was easy for them, even if it was dozens of miles away.
Han Wei narrowed his eyes. A tear in space would naturally heal and close by itself. Then it would become a weak point, and continue that long healing process over thousands of years, depending on the initial size of the tear.
This particular weak point wasn’t even a tear, it used to be a mid-sized stable Breach. It was forcefully closed unknown years ago, and its healing process should’ve been nearly undetectable. Yet Han Wei could sense that the space all around him was slowly, but surely, getting strengthened.
“I can’t sense anything beyond, what happened? Weren’t the demons restless?”
Han Shan explained with a flat voice, but he kept fixing his mustache.
“An hour ago they suddenly went into a frenzy but recovered a few minutes later. If it went on, they would’ve reopened the Breach after a few hours. Luckily, they turned meek and now all of them are keeping their distance…”
Han Wei facepalmed, and stayed silent for a while.
“Maybe we can use some of the points Han De got from the Ming Emperor. There is no need to involve the Long family…”
Han Shan cleared his throat.
“That won’t be possible. The disturbance was caused by little Xiu’s and Ming brat’s fight, apparently. I am afraid Han De will have to take this one for the family...”
Han Shan gave an uncertain smile.
* * *
Han De was staring at the Old Peng with a raised eyebrow.
“What do you mean you can’t find the amulet anywhere? I saw that idiot turn into a meat paste, the amulet should be around, even if the spatial disturbances sent it away, the distance shouldn’t be too far.”
“Young master, we have made 4 sweeps in the last few hours, we have also recruited some of the Transcendent experts. Their opinion is that either someone took the amulet away, or it slipped into the cracks and fell into the netherworld…”
Han De started into the horizon. This Xiao whatever’s luck was truly out of this world.
‘This amulet restored his cultivation before, odds are it probably has the ability to store his soul. It might even construct some sort of body for him.’
After a sigh, Han De was full of regret. He really didn’t want to hear that lunatic's shouts ever again.
‘Maybe it won’t be so bad this time, maybe he just died, and the amulet is harmlessly sitting inside the netherworld. No human will ever touch it ever again. The end.’
Han De dismissed Old Peng. Some of the Transcendent experts were nearly done with engraving the formations on the Ming Empire spiritual boat commandeered from a nearby city. With the remaining formations in his storage ring, he could still convert another mid-sized spiritual boat into a standard bunker design.
The spectacular crash of the flagship was a predicted, but still a highly unexpected scenario.
‘Maybe I should carry a few disassembled spiritual boats. At the very least I should also quintuple the number of formations that I carry. The original amount was fine, but if I want to bunker up then it obviously isn’t enough.’
Han De looked around, he was ready to go but realized he hadn’t heard from the guy he sent to Brass Stallion city. He asked the Han family experts.
<... There seems to be a problem with the catacomb’s origin and purpose. The Brass Stallion claims that they do not know. The Transcendent expert we sent is trying to determine its purpose, but no progress was made so far.>
<According to the analysis, the catacombs operate on 9-year cycles. There are approximately 2 years before it reaches its highest point.>
‘2 years? Not a long time for a cultivator, but a long time for a crippled cultivator.’
Han De was surprised at his own willingness to sacrifice 20 people. 2 year wait time was a bigger issue than the lives of those Transcendent sect masters. He felt a tiny bit of reluctance, but in his mind this event was already set in stone.
‘They killed 708 and crippled 34 of my lackeys, maybe it would be weirder if I felt compassion for them.’
Han De shook his head. He wouldn’t sacrifice innocent mortals, but his enemies were different. There was no need to doubt himself on that.
<Yes, young master.>
<Everyone except you, Treebeard, and those that are below Unity Realm will circle back to the family estate. Instruct everyone not to get close to the sect until the siege is over. If the family estate is also attacked, everyone will disperse. Tell them to use the appropriate crisis plan for the situation.>
<...Yes! Young master!>
Han De was about to stand up, but Old Peng didn’t terminate the voice transmission.
<Young master, what should we do about senior Wu Fu?>
<Who is that?>
<... Chief advisor of the Sun Empire, he was brought here by miss Xin Qiang… The member of the Blazing Sun hidden family...>
‘... I see, wasn’t that really old looking Core Formation guy at the back?’
<What was his true cultivation?>
<...He is a Core Formation expert, young master.>
For a second, Han De’s mind blanked out. But Old Peng continued after a brief moment of silence. As a diligent lackey, he understood his young master’s thought process.
<He failed to advance to the Nascent Soul realm, and he is at the end of his natural lifespan.>
‘Right… These guys also exist. Everyone I meet is at high cultivation, but most people can’t even reach the Core Formation realm if we go by the statistics… Right…’