Clear blue skies, light breeze, and endless dunes across all directions. That’s what Han De was looking at while waiting. He looked towards the east with anticipation. Just a little more patience, just a little more!
He tried to fix up his clothing once more, everything had to be perfect for this moment!
‘That's odd, why do I suddenly feel naked? Everything is in order, I’m not missing anything, right?’
Han De shook his head. There was no need to second guess himself. He assumed his dignified pose once again. A few moments later, he realized what was missing.
‘Where are my life-saving items?! Why am I not wearing any?!’
In a panic, he looked at his storage ring. He was about to scold himself for forgetting something so essential, but his mind went blank.
‘W-Where are my life-saving items? My escape items?! F#$%!! Where is my stuff?!!’
Han De retraced his steps. Without his stuff, he could easily die to any random Nascent Soul expert. He had a knack of attracting those types too.
‘I was… dragged into a tribulation?’
He looked at his surroundings in confusion. When did he get here? A movement disrupted his train of thought. A woman wearing white clothes appeared behind a dune. A white umbrella was blocking her face. Han De’s heart started throbbing. This was the moment he was waiting for.
She stopped, and put down her umbrella, revealing her delicate features.
Han De gulped after seeing the woman’s sweet smile. This was the crush of the cultivation idiot. The walking talking uncanny valley.
‘Is this… the legendary inner demon tribulation?’
Chu Chen started walking towards Han De. Her affectionate expression didn’t change as she closed the distance between them with her graceful steps.
‘Isn’t this the cultivation idiot’s inner demon? This feels like an invasion of privacy...’
Han De turned back started walking in the opposite direction. There was no need to play a romantic scene with that flat-colored freak. As he walked, he admired the desert scene. The heat, the breeze, the feeling of his feet getting slightly buried in the sand. Everything gave a perfect deserty feeling. Truly, the tribulation seemed to have spared no expense.
“Dear husband, where are you going?”
The sweet voice stopped Han De in his tracks. Just a minute ago she was so far away, but now she was only a few meters behind. Han De reminded himself that she wasn’t real. There was no need to be unsettled by something like this. He tried to enjoy the desert while ignoring her.
Han De felt two delicate arms hugging him from behind. He could feel Chu Chen’s breath on his neck. First, his body went stiff, then, he used all of his power to elbow her. Han De didn’t let her recover and decisively cut her down with his sword.
Chu Chen’s body faded away almost instantly. Han De breathed heavily as he warily checked his surroundings. His violent reaction surprised even himself.
After calming down, he continued walking while occasionally checking his surroundings. 10 minutes later, he got bored and jumped on his sword. Half an hour of high-speed flight later, Han De frowned.
‘Ok, this is a desert, I get the idea. Now what? There is nothing here. Wait, is this one of those things where the MC has to spend a lifetime inside just to emphasize their unbreakable will?’
Han De came to an abrupt stop and fell into deep thought. The condition of his body was… not… good. If the reason he was dragged by the heavenly tribulation was because of those leviathans’ own tribulation, he was bound to die anyway. No one could quit a tribulation just because as far as he knew. Only low-level tribulations could be dispersed by someone that was 3 realms higher.
‘Spending a lifetime here wouldn’t be that bad, depending on the fantasy setup of this world of course.’
Han De felt regret at accidentally killing Chu Chen’s illusion. She looked freaky for sure, but at least she showed affection for him and called him husband. That was a billion times better than hearing the ‘confession’ of the cronenberg chef. Han De involuntarily shuddered at the memory.
‘Alright, if Chu Chen’s illusion appears again, I won’t ignore or destroy it. Now that I think about it, I won’t need to hide anything while I’m here. What happens in inner demon tribulation, stays in inner demon tribulation…’
Han De dashed forward again at full speed. This time, he was actively searching for signs of life. If this was really some sort of tribulation that was trying to seduce Han De, he might as well let it happen. A freaky flat colored skin meant nothing in front of true happiness!
*More Thunder SFX*
Thunder sounds were coming all around him, but the sky was completely clear. Han De tentatively reduced his speed. A faint flash of light appeared in front of him. Then another, and another. Thunder sounds started to get louder as well. Han De immediately stopped.
‘Shit, did I get to the edge of the level?! Isn’t this a bit too shabby?! How can an inner demon tribulation have an edge?!’
Han De decisively turned back at full speed. How could he give up a lifetime of happiness just like that?
Unfortunately, even though he kept flying at his top speed, lightning strikes kept appearing one after the other. Soon, he started hearing roars. Their volume increased. The sky got darker.
‘No, no, no, no. I didn’t even get to-’
* * *
As he woke up, Han De heard endless roars. His vision and his hearing returned slowly. Aside from the blinding flashes of light, there was nothing to illuminate his surroundings. But not even the heavenly tribulation lightning was enough to illuminate the endless emptiness surrounding him.
It took him a few minutes to get used to seeing things. As the lightning flashed, Han De saw large shadows on the clouds. Looking at the shadows’ shape, it was obvious that the leviathans were in the middle of their tribulation.
Han De closed his eyes. He didn’t want to check his own condition. Thankfully, he wasn’t feeling any pain. Even without using his spiritual sense, or his vision, he could tell there was something very wrong with his body. Some of his limbs were definitely bent in a way they weren’t supposed to. The slimy feeling around his left might actually be his internal organs. At this stage, it was better to close his eyes and wait.
As minutes passed, Han De started freaking out more and more. Was his leg split in two? He didn’t want to think about it. He shut his eyes even more. Something was brushing on his left arm. Even though he didn’t want to, he couldn’t help but wonder.
Han De opened his eyes. He didn’t peel pain, but he felt that it was difficult to parse what he was seeing. Warily, he looked to his left and saw a few strands of white hair, fluttering with the wind.
Han De closed his eyes once more.
‘Of course, she was hugging me, wasn’t she. Was she forcibly dragged into the tribulation? Well, it doesn’t matter now. I don’t think I can even lift my fingers...’
He wanted to forget, he just wanted to rest, but something kept bothering Han De. Her cooking was delicious, but she was unreliable in Han De’s eyes. Was she waiting for him to die just to absorb his soul?
With great effort, Han De tried to move his body. Everything in his being was screaming at him to stop, but Han De couldn’t. He had to know. It was better not to know, but he had to know!
Han De moved his arms in an attempt to turn himself. The snaps and sloshing sounds he was hearing made him thankful for his inability to feel pain. He balanced his body with his three right arms. The white hair was definitely there, it was just laying on the floor, but he still couldn’t get a clear look.
One of his right arms crushed under his weight and snapped, causing him to lose the sight of the white hair. Han De sighed and looked to his right.
‘Wait, what the hell is that… thing…’
The thing could only be described as a convulsing mound of flesh. There were torn and burnt pieces of cloth all over it. Some of them were yellow, some of them were grey. Han De tried to move away, he didn’t care if he had to break his other two right arms. He flailed his arms, and the creature flailed his arms. Almost as if they were in sync.
Han De’s hearts dropped. In the background, the leviathans were continuously roaring.
‘No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no…’
Han De closed all of his eyes in denial.
‘This is not happening. This is not happening. This is not happening…’
In desperation, he tried to open up his status screen. Surely the System would prevent something like this, right?
[Status check is unavailable due to an ongoing inner demon tribulation]
Han De tried to open it once again, the same error came up once more. After a few more confirmations, relief overwhelmed Han De. Some things were far worse than death.
As he waited, Han De kept trying to bring up the status screen, just to confirm and reconfirm that this was just a bad dream.
* * *
‘Oh wow, this is so juicy and tasty… This chef really knows her stuff...’
Han De was eating his steak with intense satisfaction. It was most likely the most delicious thing he had ever eaten. He had to actively restrain himself while eating. If he gave in, he would start devouring everything. Even with a table chock-full of dishes, he wanted this experience to last for as long it could.
‘This is so good… I’m seriously gonna cry just from the taste…’
Alas, all good things must come to an end. Han De finished his steak. He was all alone in the dining room, so he naturally didn’t pay any heed to his dignity and started licking the plate. Only once it was squeaky clean, Han De looked the fried roll looking things in front of him. The steak was a special order, now he wanted to taste a Xianxia dish, and to his eyes, those rolls looked sufficiently Chinese.
Out of habit, Han De did a status check of the food. By now, he trusted his immortal chef, but he thought it was a good habit to do a status check anyway. Someone else might’ve poisoned the food during transit, he could never be too careful. It was free anyway, so why not spam-check everything?
[Status check is unavailable due to an ongoing inner demon tribulation]
Han De did a double-take on the pop-up window.
‘That’s right, I was about to get pulled into the tribulation... Then is this the legendary inner demon tribulation?…’
After considering his options, Han De decided that ignorance was bliss. He nonchalantly bit into the fried roll.
‘Mmmm, definitely not oily. Is that ground pork? No, it must be some sort of spiritual ground pork I guess. Mmm. Garlic is balanced perfectly as well.’
Han De kept eating the rolls without a worry. The plate had more than 20 stacked on top of each other. Perhaps it was better to change his strategy, sample everything first, then come up with a proper eating order. He bit into his third.
Han De stopped chewing momentarily. That thunder sound gave him an ominous feeling.
*More Thunder SFX*
Han De stood up and hurriedly started eating a little bit of everything. A few seconds later, roaring sounds appeared.
‘Just a little more, please. Please, please, please...’
At this point, Han De jamming food inside his mouth. Due to this Core Formation cultivation, and his body cultivation, he was very confident in his jaw strength.
*Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough*
* * *
Han De was sweeping the floor with a broom. His job was nearly done. Just a few more sections and he could climb down this stupid tower and get some food.
“I didn’t expect to see you here again.”
The voice from behind startled Han De. He was on top of a tower, high above the clouds. Although the view was amazing, it was windy and cold. After the first time, you’d have to stupid to come up here. He turned back to look at the owner of the voice.
A young woman in a blue dress was staring at him. Han De rubbed his eyes and looked at her again. The woman chuckled, but Han De was still baffled. Aside from the eyes and eyebrows, everything else in her face was… hidden. He couldn’t see any of her facial features below her eyes.
‘Is this some sort of new spell? Is it more trendy to use this veil spell instead of a physical veil?’
The woman chuckled, but Han De realized her voice was neither male nor female. Apparently, the woman didn’t mind Han De's confusion and walked towards him. She exaggeratedly sized him up and down.
“That Dao Seed doesn’t really suit you. I’m surprised you would even attempt to condense it... Are you really going to condense it?”
The term Dao Seed jolted Han De’s mind. A second later, he realized he was in the inner demon tribulation.
‘Wait, why am I so sure this is an inner demon tribulation? What happened to the cronenberg chef?’
The woman raised her eyebrow at changes in Han De’s state of mind.
‘Wait, didn’t I see her before? During that pill thing? Why is her face censored like this? Is it because it's a faint memory? Then why was she selected as my inner demon? The production value of this tribulation is surprisingly low…’
Han De looked around to take in the view. This really was the same place as the last time. Just as he remembered, everything looked rather fantasy-like. Behind him there were some floating islands, some strange bird looking things were flying. Picturesque mountain peaks were piercing through the carpet of fluffy clouds. Everything was spread around with unnatural symmetry. Almost as if everything was engineered.
‘Wait, why did she ask if I was going to condense the Dao Seed?’
Han De narrowed his eyes. This woman could be an inner demon, but there was also a possibility of her being an NPC. Some inner demon tribulation would last a lifetime, the MCs would raise their family and grow old. It was natural to assume some of the ‘people’ were unrelated characters.
The woman furrowed her brows for some reason.
Han De nodded. Since she was an unrelated character, there was no need for pretenses.
“What do you think I should do? Is there even a way to disperse the seed? I’m rather worried about the tribulation.”
The woman blinked a few times. It seemed like she didn’t expect to hear such a question.
“Of course… You can disperse it...”
Han De wanted to facepalm, but he resisted the urge.
“Yep, she really is an NPC. So unreliable…”
The corner of the woman’s eyes started twitching. She fixed her posture and continued in a calm manner.
“Just act in a way that is the opposite of the seed’s essence. Yours is actually a double essence seed. You have to disperse them at the same time. If only one is dispersed, the other will immediately condense and create a flawed seed. You’ll never be able to advance with that.”
Han De considered her answer. It seemed too simple and unreliable.
“Well, I suppose I have nothing to lose. That is, assuming that I’ll be able to escape this place. Actually, apart from the cold, the view here is pretty nice.”
After a big sigh, Han De went to the edge to get a better look.
“Yes, staying here would be the best option. There is also that Nascent Soul tribulation. That could be dispersed before, but there is no one to disperse it now…”
Han De was freely muttering his inner thoughts. If this was an inner demon tribulation, why would he need to watch what he was saying? Could the NPCs tattle tale to his mother like his lackeys?
“Are you condensing a dao seed during Nascent Soul tribulation?”
“Hmm? Ah, no. It’s the other way around. Didn’t expect a meta-question from an NPC, but you did mention Dao Seed first…”
Han De couldn’t see the facial features of the woman, but her eyes and eyebrows were enough to convey her expressions. She was clearly questioning his intelligence. Han De rolled his eyes, he had enough problems as it is.
“If you are worried about cultivation tribulation, why don't you scatter your core? That should be enough to forcibly cancel a tribulation. Then, you can disperse your seed.”
Han De was about to roll his eyes once again. How could stopping a tribulation be that easy? But, the idea strangely made sense. He turned towards the woman. Could it be that she wasn’t an NPC, but a real inner demon instead? Was she trying to tempt him?
“Then, what should I do about the knowledge tribulation?”
After a minute of silence, the woman chuckled while shaking her head.
“Just ignore it.”
“Just ignore it?”
“Yes, just ignore it. In your case, that should work once or twice if you don’t abuse it.”
Han De was instantly unsettled when he heard the thunder. He instinctively knew that this was a sign of the illusion breaking up.
“What should I do to get back to my world then? Will the tribulation kindly send me back?”
“Of course! Why wouldn’t it? It is a tribulation after all.”
“I’m amazed, miss inner demon. You’ve practically increased the survival rates of all cultivators by two orders of magnitude just with those simple, easy to follow cultivation hacks!”
*More Thunder SFX*
Han De’s annoyed expression surprised the woman. After he disappeared, she stood still for a time.
“Did he spend all of his transcend tribulation tokens already? Doesn’t the welcome gift box give out at least five?”
She chucked after remembering how he called her his inner demon.