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Han De’s previous cultivation speed was slow enough that he wasn’t concerned about the tribulation in the midterm. But that situation changed 2 weeks ago when he cleansed his roots and upgraded his understanding of the Starfall Scripture to Grand Master level. According to Han De’s current calculations, he was going to reach the Nascent Soul realm in a few years at most. A completely different result than his initial estimate of 20 years for the late-stage Core Formation realm!

He still had to survive until then, but the possibility of a tribulation became an ever-growing concern. The cultivation idiot was a genius at cultivation and was able to overcome the tribulation of the Core Formation realm rather easily. While Han De did have the complete video recording of that event in the form of his memories, he was, at the end of the day, an amateur watching a tutorial video of an easier level.

The Starfall Mountain had many resources concerning tribulations. But these resources came from people that successfully entered the Nascent Soul realm. The sect also had many low-level elders that couldn’t surpass the Core Formation realm. In his position though, asking them about their failure could be interpreted in a variety of ways that went against his Hidden Expert transition.

‘Becoming chief advisor of an empire at only Core Formation realm is nothing to scoff at. This guy probably has rich experience in failing to overcome tribulations.’

Han De ordered Old Peng to bring Wu Fu to him. Offending a single unrelated guy was different than bullying his own sect elders over and over again.

Wu Fu followed Old Peng and elegantly bowed to Han De with practiced ease. Han De adopted an unfathomable and uninterested expression and directly asked him the question. He didn’t want to butter him up, that didn’t fit the Hidden Expert persona of his.

“Why are you still stuck at the Core Formation realm?”

Han De watched Wu Fu’s uncomfortable silence. This old man with the wrinkled face wasn’t angered, he just looked at Han De and his disciples and faintly nodded.

Over the last few days, Han De’s disciples followed him wherever he went, so their presence became a normal part of his daily life very quickly. But of course, a master asking a question with his disciples’ presence had a different meaning than asking privately.

Han De realized he should’ve noticed this before, but he was just dealing with some random people from his perspective, so there wasn’t any need to pay attention to such details.

Wu Fu started explaining with a tired voice.

“Everyone has a different destiny. During my youth, I thought my talent was as high as the heavens. I thought I was a genius among geniuses, but my path for cultivation was cut short. The reality disagreed with my ambitions.”

Han De patiently waited. Thankfully, Wu Fu was a tactful grandpa. He continued with a bitter smile. His disciples were listening to Wu Fu intently as well.

“While I was able to form a Core much earlier than my peers, the special constitution of my soul prevented me from taking that last step and forming a Nascent Soul. Spiritual pills and herbs could do nothing to remedy that shortcoming.”

The Nascent Soul realm was a realm that was concerned with the soul, as the name suggests. Not all souls were capable of reaching the Nascent Soul realm, just like not all people could become cultivators.

The cultivation idiot’s soul was most likely tested when he was born, and any shortcomings were probably long addressed by his parents before he could even walk. Since Han De’s soul was integrated with the System, he assumed that there were no problems in that regard. There wasn’t anything related to soul constitutions under his status screen anyway.

“I have done extensive research and experimentations. I have translated ancient texts about the soul, grew spiritual herbs for years, learned and practiced many soul cultivation methods. I even created one of my own in the process. But all of it failed one afternoon in a field full of soul lilies. In the end, I could only give up and find a new purpose.”

Wu Fu continued his tale about his efforts and talked mostly toward Han De’s disciples. The disciples themselves were fascinated with his story. Meanwhile, Han De was half listening, and half thinking about the Soul Lily spiritual herb family that Wu Fu mentioned in the passing.

‘An artificial Seven Colored Soul Lily should be a mutation of fourteen different soul lilies after 2 phases of successful grafting. It makes sense that he planted an entire field with them. What an ingenious idea. Hmmm, wait, you can’t really plant them en masse without filtering the excreted spiritual energy.’

Han De realized his knowledge about the Soul Lily varieties was lacking. While Wu Fu was still talking, he nonchalantly took out several spiritual jade slips that held the next few volumes of the standard herbalism scriptures.

[Profound Points: (-5) 44 -> 39 ]

“Advisor Wu Fu. You mentioned a field full of Soul Lilies. Did you try forming your Nascent Soul in that field?”

“Yes. Soul Lily varieties are known for stimulating the soul, especially the violet one has the closest effect to the Seven Colored Soul Lily. Because of that, it is often the recipient of the first grafting phase. Mass quantities of Violet Soul Lily are hard to cultivate properly and often require other varieties to compensate.”

Wu Fu answered the question without thinking, but at the same time, he was wondering the reason for the question. He stopped talking after he finished and waited.

Han De nodded. This guy knew his stuff. It was a shame he couldn’t advance due to his soul constitution.

“Did you use high quantities of Violet Soul Lilies every time you tried to form a Nascent Soul?”

Wu Fu narrowed his eyes while answering.

“Yes, this spiritual herb is hard to refine but the raw effects of it are miraculous for the soul.”

A basic plan for his Nascent Soul was being formed in Han De’s mind. Through the power of money, he was going to prepare many sets of Nascent Soul pills and spiritual herbs. Comprehending additional volumes helped him to understand the effects of soul lilies. As long as he paid attention, cultivating an entire valley of them was feasible.

He could even try to make his own artificial versions of the Seven Colored Soul Lily. The one he bought at the auction some months ago was also an artificial variety.

‘Yes, that should take off the edge of the disharmony between the different varieties. Otherwise even just a field of it can have adverse effects on the soul. Huh, I wonder what this guy’s soul constitution is. Why would he need to take such a risk? Shame he wasn’t crippled during the fight. I could’ve looked at his stats if that was the case...’

Han De was baffled at his own thought process and shook his head as a reflex. He thanked Wu Fu and sent him away. While the soul cultivation method he invented intrigued him, it was probably tailor fit to the special soul constitution that he had.

‘I could also ask Jin Shu to mutate some of the lilies. Yes, that might be a good idea...’

* * *

Meanwhile, Wu Fu was in deep thought after his meeting with Han De. After the conference at the Starfall Mountain, he had extensively researched Han De’s history and found many mild inconsistencies. On their own, they meant nothing, but on the whole, every action of his was highly suspicious.

This battle was also another highly suspect point. It seemed as if everything was predicted by Han De. His subordinates had many life-saving treasures and high-quality healing pills. The one of a kind spiritual boat played a key role in the battle, and the subsequent struggle for survival. Not to mention the sudden closure of the enormous Breach.

Wu Fu’s eyes started shining.

From outside everything looked as if it was an accident. But Wu Fu could smell a plot. It was a good thing he accepted the ‘kind offer’ of the Han family.

‘I wonder if there is a thing I missed with the violet soul lilies…’

 


* * *

Silent Silhouette found his disciple exactly as he divined. His soul was eroded significantly. Some of it was his own doing, some of it was caused by something that grazed him. The power he exerted during his escape was about to break his mind and body.

Silent Silhouette’s divination also showed dozens of Transcendent Han family guards, which had caused him to start doubting the divination's accuracy at first. But now, just as he predicted, 30 Transcendent guards were closing in on him.

“I hope you will give me some face and leave this matter alone.”

Although he was still deeply injured due to the strange event that occurred near the weak point, he could still utilize his aura and scare away these Transcendent guards. Killing them was also possible, but it would slow down his healing process.

Unexpectedly, the guards stood their ground, and one of them crushed an exquisite white spiritual jade.

‘So they were under direct orders of little Xiu. This damn idiot, bringing trouble wherever he goes…’

Silent Silhouette used the power of space and temporarily sealed the space around the Han family guards, then teleported himself and his useless disciple away. They arrived at a dark cave that was lit by a faint yellow light. His disciple Yuan Zemin immediately collapsed to the ground. Silent Silhouette sighed with emotion.

‘Sometimes my divinations are just too accurate. Good thing I prepared this cave a few hundred years ago. It really was well worth the effort.’

The ‘distract and teleport away’ method he utilized was actually the most power-efficient one he could divine. All others would end up reducing his healing speed. This was the first time he utilized this hidden cave as well, it would be hard for anyone to find him here.

“Master, I don’t know if you have given up on our cause, but you have to do something…”

Silent Silhouette frowned. He brought out eight coins with square-shaped holes and started divining. Yuan Zemin patiently waited.

Just like before, the events surrounding the battle around the capital of the Ming Empire were nebulous. He was hoping that having access to his disciple would clear the divinations, but that wasn’t the case. Half of the reason why he came just vanished to thin air.

“What exactly happened to you?”

Under intense scrutiny, Yuan Zemin explained everything starting from the prayer beads, how he thought he killed Han De but failed, how Han De ‘didn’t die’ and made a deal with the Ming emperor with the support of the Xin family. Then moved on to the betrayal inside the Silent Silhouette sect, and finally the battle at the Ming capital and the siege of the Starfall Mountain.

Silent Silhouette closed his eyes and nodded.

“Your first mistake was to ignore the origin of those Prayer Beads. You really think Long Xiu wouldn’t know if her only son, one of the two reasons for her staying in this world, received a heaven-defying treasure like that?”

He shook his head.

“You really think that girl would let it go?”

Yuan Zemin’s head dropped. He didn’t have the courage, nor the energy to defend his choices.

Silent Silhouette sighed and ignored his disciple. He tried another divination for the means of Han De’s survival. As he expected, it failed. He tried to divine how Han De survived Yuan Zemin’s attack during the battle. It failed yet again. He tried to divine Han De’s past, present, future. Failed, failed, failed. After each failure, his sense of crisis began to grow.

Before giving up, he tried to divine Han De’s disciples. Finally a result! But that only increased his wariness. He could divine the disciples, but only their past before they met Han De.

Silent Silhouette tried to organize his thoughts.

‘Makes sense for the Ming brat to make a deal for the weak points. Little Wei would know the Ming brat couldn’t refuse such a good deal and supported his son Han De from the shadows. The situation was a win-win for them. Ming will breakthrough easily and the Han family would get their weak points. If one of them connects to the Eternal Fire realm, the Xin family gets a pass too. A good smokescreen.’

‘Han De’s soul returning back from a sliver could only be done with prior arrangement. Which means this idiot’s assumption about the betrayers in the sect was accurate to a degree.’

Divination coins scattered on the ground once more.

‘Yes, it is Yuan Zemin’s brother.’

Betrayal was a fact of life for Silent Silhouette, so he wasn’t surprised that one of his disciples betrayed the sect. First, he thought it was Yuan Zemin, but now it turned out to be his brother. But it didn’t matter to him at all.

Han De’s grandfather Han Shan and Silent Silhouette were very old friends. Their relationship cycled between friends and enemies over tens of thousands of years. Silent Silhouette thought he had a good grasp of his friend’s character. But now he was not so sure.

‘Making a deal with a higher void being. Now that is something unexpected. It could only be done through the Long family.’

“M-Master, you cannot let them cause another intersection!”

Silent Silhouette could only scoff.

“They aren’t trying to cause another one, they are trying to make the one that already exists disappear.”

Yuan Zemin blankly looked at his master. Silent Silhouette could sense his disciple's thoughts from a mile away.

“Are you really thinking ‘that isn’t such a bad thing’, really? Who do you think is going to suffer when fate tries to right itself after all this time? Do you think people will be able to survive? Do you think you will be able to survive? Are you that certain of your own karmic ties?”

Silent Silhouette wearily sighed. This situation was due to the sins of their ancestors. Playing with fate like a child playing with fire. The Han family had one solution to the problem, he had another.

“Fortunately, the formation will activate in less than 25 days. Once that is done, the difficult part will be containing the fury of Han Shan. Your attempt was admirable, but it only made things worse in the end...”

Yuan Zemin’s head dropped once again. Consciousness was finally leaving him.

Silent Silhouette organized his thoughts. He hadn’t contacted Han Shan since the birth of Han Wei. He tried to find a way for reconciling, but everything was past the point of no return. His friend had finally outplayed him.

He tried to ignore the repercussions of the battle. It was better not to think about the higher void entities for too long. But, Silent Silhouette was fairly certain whichever deity that was, it wouldn’t bother with this world once it was sealed. But he didn’t dare divine anything about it.

* * *

Han De happily sat at his new movable spiritual bunker. It was a rush job, but it was better than nothing. He was already feeling nervous about having to carry around more than 241 armed nuclear warheads.

His disciples were all around him. He was used to their presence at this point and nearly completely filtered them out.

“Peng. Find some way to seal everyone’s scent. We will only enter the city once that is done.”

“Y-Yes, young master.”

The bloodline effect was called Scent of the Progenitor. Han De didn’t know its exact mechanics, maybe that was just a name, maybe it really worked with his scent.

‘If it is a scent, then things like clothes should have some temporary effect. Hmm. It is a bloodline, does my blood have that ‘scent’ in it? Or am I just secreting it like a pheromone?’

Han De thought about it. He couldn’t test this just by going to a city incognito. The best option was to establish its mechanics first, and then do a live test. Peng was still in the room, contacting someone with a voice transmission. Han De spoke after he was done.

“Hire spiritual beasts, demons evolved from spiritual animals, and if there are any, netherworld hybrids or netherworld demons. Hire 20 of each, move them to a clear area outside the city where I can meet them.”

Then he looked at the empty corner of the room and talked.

“Get someone with an invisibility spell. I want one that works on all the people that are being hired.”

“By your will, young master.”

The disciples were silently listening from the side. Yao Qing was surprised, but she was reminded of the weird tense behavior of the fox tribe.

Han De nodded at the guard. Once he was done with this, they could start their journey to the shore. He wanted to use this time to improve his disciples’ cultivations. Now that Treebeard’s spiritual roots couldn’t be instantly restored, he needed at least 800 points for the Spiritual Roots Healing Token.

‘I hope only 1 token is enough, it’s going to be a serious problem if it needs 3 just because he has 3 element spiritual roots.’

An hour later, they arrived at the open area near the city. The ‘test subjects’ were already there. Everyone was arranged according to his instructions. However, the sight of them made Han De frown.

“Why are they in cages?”

It wasn’t just the spiritual beasts, but he could see intelligent demons that were also in cages. He had already asked out of reflex, but a closer look at their attire answered Han De’s question. Old Peng, being an understanding lackey, explained it to him anyway.

“They were bought as slaves, demons are only allowed as slaves inside the White Forest city.”

‘Yep, looks like an isekai city.’

Slavery was very common in this world, and it wasn’t limited to demons either. Han De thought about it and smiled. Ming Emperor was awaiting his eternal torture, so this city was actually quite available for the taking. And he already had the perfect man for the job to take the fall.

“Bring my cousin Bai here. I’ll have a talk with him afterward.”

Everyone’s scent was already sealed by a spell that was originally used by the spiritual beast hunters. Invisibility spell was also applied to Han De and Ning Bi. Han De realized invisibility was actually perfect for testing. He decided to explore the possibilities with his Heaven Defying Tyrannical Scripture later.

Demons, spiritual beasts, and a few netherworld demon hybrids were placed in a grid. The breeze was suppressed by another spiritual spell. It was perfect conditions for testing his bloodline. He opened the vial filled with blood and waited for the scent to permeate through the air. This vial was specifically excluded from the scent seal.

‘Hmm, a near-instant reaction? That crocodile looking thing really has a sharp sense of smell.’

‘...’

‘Why did it stop breathing?’

The crocodile looking beast had jerked first, but after a few sniffs, it froze completely. A few more spiritual beasts started giving the same reaction. All of them froze. Han De looked at the demons nearby.

‘They seem concerned, but they are in a cage, and these beasts are acting pretty odd. In hindsight, this contaminates the experiment involving demons…’

Han De didn’t fret, he waited for a while longer.

‘No effect from netherworld hybrids? Shit, that’s not a good sign.’

He closed the lid of the blood vial. After nearly 20 minutes the beasts started going back to normal. The next test was his body odor. He removed one of the life-saving items he was wearing underneath his robes from the scent seal. The reaction was more or less the same, albeit a little bit weaker. He experimented with range by getting closer to different spiritual beasts and demons.

‘Range does seem to matter, but only because it makes the scent stronger. Some of the beasts have better scent detection than others. It’s not conclusive, but the intelligent demons evolved from spiritual animals seem to get quite nervous. I couldn’t see such an effect from the fox tribe. The current unique situation might be exaggerating the effects. After all, they are in a bunch of cages in the middle of nowhere, and the animals near them are acting up.’

For a fast test, this was good enough. Next he could go to the city incognito and try to observe more natural reactions. He knew the effective range and some properties of the effect.

‘It is really concerning how nothing happened with netherworld hybrids or netherworld demons though...’

While Han De and Ning Bi were slowly walking back to the spiritual boat, from the corner of his eye, Han De spotted the immortal chef. The Transcendent guards had brought her with them under orders from his mother. He couldn’t do anything about it. The woman was trembling as usual.

‘She made… dumplings?’


[Exposure Threshold Reached]

{...ope that they will be to your liking, oh exalted one.}

[Congratulations!]

[New Bloodline Effect Unlocked!]


[Bloodlines]
-------------------------------------------
[Primordial Void Dragon (Unawakened)]
[Concentration: 0.01%]
[Power: Extremely High]

[Effects:]
[Aura of the Progenitor]
[Higher beings touched by the aura cannot be disrespectful.]
[Notes: Cannot be detected by lower beings.]

[Scent of the Progenitor]
[Beings evolved from spiritual animals will pay their respects when they detect the scent. Beings evolved from the netherworld will accept your rule when they detect the scent.]
[Notes: Effects will be extremely limited on lower beings.]

[Will of the Progenitor]
[Higher beings will understand your will by instinct. Communications from higher beings can be understood regardless of their medium.]

[Further effects are locked.]

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LivingSpoon

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