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‘How did I escape the tribulation?’

The last thing Han De remembered was a blinding flash of light. Then, he just woke up inside a small crater. There was a suspect blank period between the flash of light and him waking up. Before taking the Seven Luminaries Reminiscence pill, he frequently tried to identify any gaps in his memory. His attempts were mostly failures, but he was able to gain some intuition regarding memory gaps. The current feeling was very similar to those times.

‘Why didn’t I realize this when I woke up. It seems strange, logically speaking I should try to figure out what happened to me, instead of immediately running around leaving fake trails...’

Han De frowned and looked around.

‘Am I still in the inner demon tribulation? I checked the System though, it didn’t say anything about that, I even got profound points…’

Thinking back, it was rather peculiar how he was quickly convinced by that inner demon to destroy his core.

‘Sure it was a desperate time, but still, I didn’t even think about it. What was that stuff with the dao seed as well?’

The memory of him submitting to the tribulation flared up Han De’s anger in an instant. Perhaps due to being mentally tired, the anger didn’t last long. A few moments later he regained his calm and started going through the events.

‘Is this a leftover from the cultivation idiot? Something I haven’t noticed before because of my position as the sect heir? The dao seed was created by the aura from the Heaven Defying Tyrannical Scripture too...’

‘I did upgrade that idiot’s art heavily during the battlegrounds, and I did grand-master it during the Ming capital battle. But that shouldn’t be it, I grand-mastered herbalism and divination methods too.’

Han De’s mind went back to his small spiritual herb garden, he couldn’t help but sigh.

‘My little garden is gone… No way that boat survived everything. I guess I can start anew once I get back to the sect. In fact, I should redo every single garden while I’m at it. I can’t trust those brutes with this type of work.’

Tending to herbs was Han De’s oasis during those troubled times. If it wasn’t for Jin Shu’s attempts to randomly mutate his herbs, Han De would’ve expanded it to the entire lower deck of the spiritual boat. To prevent the catastrophic failure of his garden, he had to keep things small scale.

Han De found himself pacing around the small cavern. At some point, apparently he got up and started to randomly walk around.

‘Wait, where was I? I was thinking about the dao seed? Yes, this might be a leftover from the cultivation idiot. After all, I always loved gardening, even back on Earth…’

Han De didn’t own a single pot of plant back on Earth. He never saw the point of decorating a house with plants. Even when he transmigrated, he never really cared for the spiritual herbs. If it wasn’t a filthy-rich grade pill, he wasn’t interested.

“F#$%...”

The contrast between his habits from Earth and the current way of thinking was impossible to gloss over. Han De could’ve sworn he always loved fiddling with spiritual herbs. It was only after gaining the knowledge from those standard herbalism volumes he was able to spot errors all around him. Doing something in the right way, the proper way, was a pleasure on its own. Perhaps that is why he didn’t do it before!

Han De immediately tried to reassure himself by going over his time in this world. After his transmigration, the first thing he recognized was the Weathered Iron-Bark trees in his favorite courtyard. Each of them was precious enough to be a legacy treasure of a small sect. He had 15 of them!

‘Which idiot thought of planting them so close together? Those trees shouldn’t be planted in a garden to begin with! They need harsh mountain winds and harsh temperature fluctuations to grow well. It’s in the name, they need to weather the elements…’

It was the cultivation idiot that ordered his servants to plant them in the same courtyard. Han De liked them purely for their absurd price tag. Just looking at them made him feel rich. He couldn’t care less about anything else, it was the servants' job to take care of them.

‘Shit...’

‘Alright, herbalism might be an outlier. Whatever, I need to heal my body. Maybe I should try to divine what sort of pill I need to recover…’

As a divination expert, Han De calculated the needed variables to get the most accurate result. He was disappointed to discover that he could only get a partial result. It was better not to trust such a result under his circumstances.

‘I grand-mastered divination too, and I’ve been constantly annoyed during the voyage because I couldn’t divine anything…’

Han De shook his head and sat down in lotus position. His plan was to take as many healing pills as he could stomach, then relax with a body cultivation session using a medicinal bath. Not being able to properly cultivate his body was frustrating, to say the least. If it wasn’t for the quest, he would’ve reached late-stage Foundation Establishment long ago.

‘Right… I grand-mastered a body cultivation method too…’

Han De sighed and laid down on the stone floor.

‘I grand-mastered Starfall and Yellow Grove scriptures as well. They didn’t have any effect…’

‘Wait, how did I escape the tribulation?’

Han De jolted up, but his mind started wandering again. Why were those leviathans there? Was the false ruler a netherworld being? Han De facepalmed when he realized what was happening. He quickly took out his diary and wrote down with big letters.

‘How did I escape the tribulation?’

Han De didn’t have an iron will. He didn’t have an optimistic outlook in life either. Even back on Earth, he would see the glass as half-empty. His mind was fragile, and he knew that it was fragile. If he woke up on an insane asylum someday and the doctors kept insisting that his life was a hallucination, he would believe them. Why wouldn’t he? He was just a mediocre paper salesman, not some sort of obsessed main character.

Therefore, after coming to this Xianxia world, Han De was wary of anything that had to do with his state of mind. He didn’t drink alcohol, he preferred water or tea. Except for that one exception he didn’t take any drugs. He was wary of the cultivation idiot’s body affecting his mind, so he started writing a diary to spot any problematic behavior.

‘My mind keeps wandering away whenever I think of the tribulation. Did that creepy grandpa do something? He whispered some stuff to Ning Bi and Han Bai. Can he influence minds?’

Han De decided to have a talk with that creep.

“I know you are there. Come out, let's talk. I’m not an unreasonable guy, let's hear about your deal.”

There was no response. Han De waited, talked, and waited again. No one answered him.

‘Either he isn’t here, or he is just watching.’

‘He must’ve done something. In fact, this probably isn’t the first time either.’

Han De sat down and started writing down the events that started from the day before their arrival to the endless shores. He had a cultivator’s memory, as long as he made the effort, he could remember everything. Most of the time he was too lazy for the effort, and Peng would always inform him before he even tried anyway.

‘I’m never leaving the house without divination, that’s for sure. This entire thing could’ve been avoided. The divination is ambiguous? Just stay the F#$% home. Easy. Problem solved.’

His apparent readiness to sacrifice himself for his disciples was an unsettling realization as well. He liked his disciples, he wouldn’t want them to get hurt, for sure. But the situation wasn’t so desperate that it was either him or them. He could’ve easily ordered the Transcendent experts to take one disciple each and scatter around with teleportation. There were so many Transcendent experts, if they tried to escape in different directions, surely they would’ve been able to fool the Transcendent demons at least. This was one of his emergency plans too. Even his lackeys could’ve participated in it.

‘Maybe this is just hindsight, and maybe the perverted grandpa put more pressure on me then I realized...’

The number of maybes was already past his comfort levels.

‘I really don’t understand how I didn’t notice the non-randomness of the random tokens though. The same goes for the million point quest. That seems like a giant F#$%#$ flag...’

Han De had 13 entries since he started the diary. In those 13 entries, neither the quest nor the bloodline of his disciples was ever directly mentioned. The only related entry about a bloodline was Han De ordering his lackeys to get spiritual herbs from the surroundings. He remembered it was to stop Jin Shu from wrecking his small spiritual herb garden, but that reason wasn’t written in the diary.

‘That pervert did mention my bloodline being invisible, he also talked about my constitution. It didn’t seem like he could see the System. If he couldn’t see the System, the only one that could manipulate me regarding that quest was… naturally… the System...’

‘...’

“Hahaha, no way… HAHAHA, no, no, no… No way…”

Han De tried to brush it away. He didn’t want to think about it, but his mind couldn’t stop. The more he thought about it, the more it made sense. He hurriedly wrote down in his diary.

‘The System manipulated my thoughts?’

The System was the only thing that was with him since he came to this world. Han De had near absolute certainty that it couldn’t be detected. Its obtuse nature suggested that it was more of an advanced program than an intelligence. Almost everything it had done was beneficial to him in the end.

Han De’s whinings and bickering at the System were always good-natured, born mostly out of the need to talk to someone, rather than genuine hate. Even with the initial death threat quest, Han De couldn’t really bring himself to hate the System. It was there for his benefit, what good would it do to hate it? Even the Primordial Void Dragon bloodline he liked to complain about still saved his life in hindsight.

Therefore, Han De’s trust in the System was nearly absolute. It was an unshakable mountain that he could depend on. It would always be there.

Han De sighed.

‘System, I know what you did. Still not going to talk to me?’

‘Hey, System? Still going to feign ignorance?’

For a while, Han De tried to talk to the System. Naturally, there was no response.

Han De’s current feelings were hard to describe. It felt as if he caught his wife with someone else. The unshakable bond he had was shattered. The feeling of uncertainty and dread kept increasing as time passed. The System was his lifeline, he literally depended on it with his life.

Han De took a shaky breath and forced himself to analyze the situation.

‘Maybe it is an automatic thing that happens? Something to encourage the user?...’

Although he tried to justify it, even he could see that it was just a flimsy excuse. The tapestry was getting unraveled by the second.

‘If the System can manipulate my thoughts, make me aware or unaware of something, then… What about grand-mastering? Is it not interest generated by sudden knowledge? Is it really slowly rewriting my personality?’

‘Am I going to forget everything and assume none of this happened?!’

Han De hurriedly started writing in his diary. He didn’t even know what he was doing, he just wrote whatever came to his mind. Him that didn’t know and him that did know were different people. Perhaps this happened before, and the him that did know was just a side character, ready to be thrown away at the mercy of the System. He wanted to leave something behind, some proof of his existence.

Han De wrote all his speculations. He didn’t even know if this was an inner demon tribulation. The previous encounters were mostly solved by luck and the System. Perhaps this one was the real deal, the one that MCs spend a lifetime to break. In each encounter, the inner demon seemed to have evolved and even mentioned his illusory dao seed. Could it be that the System was now the part of the tribulation? Was his access cut off by the tribulation? Maybe he didn’t have access to begin with, and it was just the inner demon messing with him?!

“haha..hahahaha...”

Han De began giggling to himself. He couldn’t decide which was worse, getting trapped in an illusory reality, or his mind getting rewritten piece by piece.

“Hahaha… Now that I think about it, I started caring about those girls after getting the privilege upgrade… Did the bloodline affect me too? How could it not! Why didn’t I refuse that cronenberg chef? I could’ve just given any excuse to place her outside my estate. I didn’t even get to open those schools either, I kept forgetting about them! What a joke! You know what, F#$% you, System. Let’s see how you’ll deal wit-”

“I’ll need to be careful about which scriptures I’m going to learn and master. What would’ve happened if I grand-mastered a demonic scripture? Yeah, let’s keep away from weird, bloody, and perverted shit.”

Han De gave himself a pat on the back. He never did something as stupid as ‘researching’ demonic methods.

‘This is quite dangerous. Grand-master the wrong scripture, and I might become a ‘blood for the blood god’ lunatic.’

‘I’ll need to be careful about the quests as well. I should review the diary frequently.’

Han De decided to limit his usage of the System. Grand-mastering scriptures and methods weren’t to be taken lightly. In the event he really needed to grand-master something, he needed to meticulously write down his experiences regarding the subject.

‘Right, I need to place some ground rules so that even if I keep forgetting about it, on a review, I’ll be able to spot any discrepancies. Rule number one should be writing all my interactions with the System. It is quite dangerous to leave this alone.’

Han De spent nearly an hour coming up with different rules. He wrote everything in his diary as well.

‘My main interaction with the System is learning and mastering the scriptures. Then there is bloodline and body constitution stuff. Finally, there are the quests. I doubt status check would do anything, but better limit that one too. Bare essentials only.’

‘Right, I really need to heal my body, I kept forgetting it. Quite dangerous to leave it alone like that.’

Han De reentered the lotus position. He decided to continue his plan of healing and body cultivation cycle. His body cultivation scripture was quite gentle. His constitution was modified by his bloodline too, he was curious about the effects. He had a feeling that the medicinal bath was going to surprise him.

While Han De was trying to calm his mind before swallowing the healing pill, he felt some sort of aura brushing against him. It was a very subtle effect, something he never felt before.

The aura was weak at first, but it rapidly became stronger. A few moments later Han De felt the aura with his body and soul. It was obvious that it was coming from an overwhelming existence. At that moment, Han De realized something.

‘If I came out of the tribulation near this locatio-’

|This worthless servant greets your excellency!|

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LivingSpoon

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