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|This worthless servant greets your excellency!|

The voice that reverberated inside Han De's head sounded... highly respectful.

'S#$%… S#$%, S#$%, S#$%...'

Han De -who was still in lotus position-, looked around the dim cave. The communication jade was still silent. The excruciatingly painful headache that had suddenly appeared a few minutes ago, was the least of his worries now.

|This worthless servant apologizes for his incompetence. This worthless servant's body is too large. It cannot enter the immortal cave that your excellency has carved.|

This way of communication reminded Han De of the Cronenberg chef and the void grandpa. Similar, but also remarkably simpler. Nuance and intensity were completely lacking.

At the same time, a mass of spiritual energy and pressure appeared far above. There was no way to mistake this energy for something else. The memory of the netherdemons called leviathans was fresh in Han De's mind.

'OK, relax. I expected this. Relax. Be cool. Be cool. I've made plans for just these occasions…'

Indeed, Han De had many contingency plans for a variety of situations. Some of them were rather farfetched, but as he witnessed during the final moments aboard the jury-rigged celestial ship, his plans weren't farfetched enough. Clearly, it was Xianxia: 2, Han De: 0. An unacceptable result. But now wasn't the time to reconsider the past events.

Right now, he was fresh out of tribulation. He had fled and carved this single-room cave hundreds of meters underneath a riverbed. His body was failing. His memory was fading. His medicine wasn't working. His messages to his family weren't getting through. He was alone.

Not all was lost, but it was getting dangerously close. Now that there was an opportunity, Han De chose desperate measures and tried to squeeze out his last bit of courage. To speak, with a mildly displeased tone.

"A worm that can't shrink its body? Am I hearing that right?"

Silence ensued. Han De was confident in his "Close Encounter with the Nether Kind: Higher Being Edition" series of plans. The first step was to gauge the effect of his bloodline. He tried his best to ignore the suspicious headache and stared at the status screen.


[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.]


Highly respectful and deferential tone? Without ever seeing him? Must be the aura. Must be a higher being. And a netherworld being on top of that? Han De would be a fool not to use, no, -abuse-, his advantage.

The uncomfortable silence remained. Beads of sweat forming in Han De's forehead were completely unrelated to the situation. He wasn't nervous at all. Not one bit. It was probably the headache that was causing it. Probably.

'…'

Above, far above, the mass of spiritual energy fluctuated.

'F#$%… Don't Final Flash me, please…'

Han De was too preoccupied to notice a crucial point. How could a normal Core Formation detect spiritual energy fluctuations of this nature? Detecting the spiritual waves of a higher major realm should've been impossible.

Not only he was sensing the energy, but he could also somewhat understand its spatial relation.

Whatever was happening, it was happening somewhere extremely far away. Yet Han De could sense that the mass of energy was violently compressing itself at a frightening pace.

Of course, he wasn't even a Core Formation expert anymore. But he didn't notice that either.

What felt like an eternity later, the mass of spiritual energy disappeared and reappeared, right in front of Han De.

|This worthless servant greets your excellency.|

It was as if a sun had appeared right in front of him. Han De couldn't help but reflexively look away. In truth, there wasn't any light in the cave, it only felt like there was to his spiritual sense. He had no idea why his body interpreted spiritual energy as intense light, and unfortunately, it wasn't the time to ponder on such things.

Han De fixed his facial expressions and equipped the Profound Expert A persona. He slowly opened his eyes and looked at the now miniature-sized leviathan.

The so-called leviathan had changed since the last time Han De saw them. Before they were like flying sandworms straight out of Arrakis, now it was a strange mixture of a stone snake and tattered whale flippers. The dirty grey scales that covered it from head to tail lacked any luster, making it look like a flying statue, rather than a living being. The leviathan's appearance satisfied the definition of the word ancient. Only a few meters long at most, but still ancient!

"Quite the bold greeting…"

The open-ended statement was only for Han De to get his bearings. Easily misinterpretable statements were the bread and butter of the Profound Expert series.

The leviathan lowered its head until its tiny chin touched the ground.

'F#$%… is it… vibrating? Don't… Don't do that…'

Han De would've missed it if he didn't have the eyes of a cultivator.

And why would a leviathan vibrate ever so slightly? A solitary monster that bathed in the miasma of the netherworld for millions of years. A freak species even among the nether-kind, known for their relentless hunger, now uncontrollably shaking?

Unfortunately, not even the leviathan itself knew what was happening. Its bloodline was screaming for it to run! Nothing else mattered!

Even more unfortunately, it was incapable of doing so. Though leviathans had a different cultivation path, they still possessed enough intuition to judge the events without knowing the full picture. It was through that level of intuition, the leviathan was able to tell that its existence was standing on a thin line.

Not that the concept of death would bother a leviathan, nor would they be worried about being outside the cycle of reincarnation. However, both were far more preferable to non-existence.

"Hmph. I suppose you'll do…"

Uncontrollable joy swept away the terror. The joy of being acknowledged by a being linked to its creation was simply unimaginable!

At the same time, the leviathan was inwardly shocked. Was this being, really linked to its creation? When did that happen? Soon that did not matter. Numerous ancient bloodlines that it possessed seemed to have come to a consensus. Or maybe they felt threatened by that single drop of blood essence it received inside the tribulation realm.

Meanwhile, Han De became 90% sure that this leviathan wouldn't do anything to hurt him. Maybe. He was at least 80% sure. Probably.

He was at least confident enough to ask a few questions…

He sighed wearily with a 'could've been worse…' expression all over his face. This was the most basic technique of doublespeak that Han De had developed to talk with higher cultivation experts. All those emotions were genuine, the only difference was the reason.

'Yeah, this could work. Interacting with the netherworld creatures should be taboo, but F#$% that! My life is more important.'

As Han De's confidence increased, so did the leviathan's. However, there was something else that also increased. What started as a minor headache had officially turned into teeth clenching pain. If it wasn't for his constant image training, Han De would've started howling by now.

"This body, and its senses are… limited. What is its current condition? Be concise."

|This worthless servant dares no to presume, your excellenc-|

"Be. Concise."

|Thi-|

Han De narrowed his eyes. The leviathan dared not to delay and quickly spoke.

|… The body is in the critical stage of metamorphosis...|

"… I'm in what now?"

Han De wasn't sure if he heard it right. Surely this flying statue of a snake didn't actually say metamorphosis. Suddenly, Han De's mind was jolted awake. He had forgotten about healing his body, over and over again.

Despite the fact that he was treating the leviathan's words with suspicion, Han De still believed it. At an intellectual level, he knew not to trust a random expert, let alone a netherworld higher being. Bloodline or not, this was Xianxia 101 after all. Unfortunately, the reality wasn't so black and white.

Though Han De himself wasn't aware of this, deep inside he knew that this insignificant worm in front of him wouldn't dare to speak lies in his presence.

"Continue…"

|Your majesty's body is in a state of metamorphosis brought by the… strange condition of the body and soul. The meridians are in the Nascent Soul realm, but...|

Human cultivation was a mystery for the leviathan. It only knew about the terms. Connecting the dots and correctly deducing the condition took a few seconds.

|...The soul is half in the Spirit Origin realm, and yet the connection between the body and the soul is reminiscent of the Unity Realm. The pathways opened up by the constitution looks to be nearing the Immortal Realm stage.|

Han De felt his thoughts starting to become foggy. Even listening to the leviathan required tremendous effort. A dull panic set in after realizing he had felt like this once before.

| ...annot interfere with the process, but if your majesty wishes to switch over to another body, there ar-|

'No. I'm not going to switch to another body…

Unless it is the last option...'

The leviathan couldn't hear Han De's thoughts, but his deep rejection was as clear as day. At the same time, it recognized the signs of the deep meditative state.

The last thing Han De remembered was replying 'yes' to the system's prompt.

Now that the consciousness of the being had entered a deep slumber, the leviathan could think a lot more clearly.

Though it was unsure why this unimaginable being had possessed the body of this unlucky human, and how much power can be safely driven through that broken human body, the leviathan didn't care. Usually, extraordinary beings had the tendency to overpower anything and everything on their path. Temporary weakness was meaningless because it was temporary to begin with.

Hence, the leviathan stayed. It wasn't prudence that stopped it from fleeing. The thought of staying and serving while the being was weak to reap the benefits later didn't even occur to the leviathan. It simply couldn't leave because it had already swallowed the single drop of blood essence during the tribulation.

In reality, that tribulation wasn't a tribulation at all. No heavenly lightning had struck, no heavenly pressure had come down. Quite peculiar, but not an unexcepted turn of events in hindsight.

* * *


[Host has entered the optimum conditions for evolution. Do you wish to proceed?]

[Host has entered the optimum conditions for evolution. Do you wish to proceed?]

[Host has entered the optimum conditions for evolution. Do you wish to proceed?]

[Host has entered the optimum conditions for evolution. Do you wish to proceed?]


'…yes…'


[Evolution Process Invoked]


Han De's consciousness immediately became crystal clear. At the same time, he realized he didn't have access to any of his senses. The only thing he could detect was the System's prompts.


[Gathering statistics]

[Checking usable resources for evolution]
[1. Cultivation requirements not met]
[2. Body cultivation requirements not met]
[3. Soul cultivation requirements not met]
[4. Body constitution cannot be modified further]
[5. Soul erosion within tolerance levels]
[6. Bloodline incompatibilities exceed tolerance levels]
[7. Evolution will result in conflicting spiritual roots.]

[Warning: Privilege level 2 does not allow customization of the evolution process.]
[Warning: Body constitution will break down during the process.]
[Warning: Bloodline incompatibilities are over tolerance levels.]


'...'

Han De watched the messages scroll away with resignation. He had an extremely bad feeling after reading all those warnings.


[Initiating Automatic Evolution]

[Calculating optimum evolution path...]
[Considering options...]
[Suitable option found]

[Preparations are complete]
[To prevent permanent soul damage, the host will be put in sleep mode]
[Error: Evolution process does not support sleep mode]
[...]
[...]
[To prevent permanent soul damage, the host will be put in standby mode]
[...]

[Log only mode enabled]
[...]


[Evolution In Progress]

[Cultivation base dispersion complete]
[Primordial Void Dragon bloodline concentration increased by 0.01%]
[Suspending Primordial Void Dragon bloodline]
[...]

[Mutated Luminescent Body dismantled]
[Body cultivation insufficient and incompatible, removing spiritual energy from cells]

[Soul erosion complete, total damage is within tolerance levels]
[Life energy removal complete]

[Body reconstruction started]
[...]
[...]
[Meridian reconstruction complete]
[...]
[...]

[Soul removal complete]
[Soul reconstruction started]
[...]
[. ..]
.[ .].
]. .[ .
.[ ..]
[...]
[Partial soul reconstruction complete!]
[Body reconstruction complete!]

[Calculating rejection possibility]
[Possibility of rejection is at 0.005%]
[Soul injection starting]
[1%...5%....55%....99%....100%]
[Soul injection complete]

[Time Elapsed: 97:13:20]

[Integrating stored #=*_?:=?;-^=?&&-_!:=:!?>?<#&?&^= energy]
[Secondary refinement started]
[Warning: Spiritual root damage exceeds tolerance levels, cannot maintain balance]
[Considering Options...]
[Considering Options...]

[Redeeming (5) Spiritual Roots Seed Tokens and (4) Spiritual Roots Cleansing Tokens]
[Warning: Insufficient energy]
[Warning: Soul erosion levels not suitable for spiritual root construction]

[Priority Override: Spiritual root construction started]
[Converting existing roots]
[Converting existing tokens]
[...]
[Error: Cannot maintain elemental cohesion due to high soul erosion levels]
[Attempting to compensate]
[Error: Unknown Error]
[Analyzing...]
[Error: Success]

[...]

[Spiritual root construction complete!]
[Roots: Primordial Light (42%)]

[Time Elapsed: 166:39:59]

[Warning: Remains of the body constitution incompatible with the current roots.]
[Substituting 3 Bloodline Removal Tokens into 1 Constitution Removal Token]
[Redeeming Constitution Removal Token...]
[Removal of Luminescent Body complete!]

[Time Elapsed: 174:23:20]

[Primordial Void Dragon bloodline containment failure in 5.12E-35 standard cycles]
[Considering Options...]
[Considering Options...]
[Considering Options...]
[Considering Options...]

[Error: Host is in standby mode]

[Priority override accepted]

[Redeeming Bloodline Awakening Token]
[Forcefully awakening Primordial Void Dragon bloodline]
[...]
[...]
[Awakening successful]
[Warning: Primordial Void Dragon bloodline gained Parasitic trait]
[Warning: Bloodline containment critical]
[Redeeming (4) Bloodline Removal Tokens]
[Warning: Insufficient energy]
[Advanced bloodline removal process activated]
[Targeting upper layers of the Primordial Void Dragon bloodline]
[...]
[Partial layer removal process complete]

[Bloodline grafting process started]
[Processing...]
[Processing...]
[Grafting process failed]
[...]
[Bloodline removal failed]

[Warning: Grafting failure resulted in bloodline attribute mutation]
[Warning: Primordial Chaos Dragon concentration is at 1.04%]
[Bloodline incompatibilities within tolerance levels]

[Time Elapsed: 197:13:20]

[Warning: Body constitution incompatible with the bloodline. Further cultivation will result in negative effects]
[...]

[Redeeming Random Constitution Token]
[Remnant constitution information detected]
[Absorption complete]
[Utilization successful]

[Purging cultivation base]
[Compatible cultivation method not found]

[Warning: Modifications successful]
[Error: Modifications in progress]

[Calibration started]

[Time Elapsed: 197:13:21]
[Disabling standby mode]
[Evolution _Complete]


Han De was in a strange state during the process. He was wide awake, but the passage of time was inconsistent with what the System displayed. From his perspective, the entire ordeal took a few minutes at most. Excruciatingly stressful few minutes, especially during the horrifying soul reconstruction process, but it was only a few minutes nonetheless.

The feeling of having a body returned to Han De at once. Apart from a minor cramp -presumably from sitting in the lotus position for too long- nothing seemed amiss.

He was alive, once again. Yet, he felt incomparably weak.

Compared to his peak state at the Core Formation realm, the current Han De was nothing more than an ant. His spiritual energy was non-existent, his muscles had decayed. The cave was far too dark to see anything. The faint scent of soil was no longer there. He couldn't hear or feel the vibration from the river above. All his senses were dulled to the point that he might as well call himself crippled.

For Han De, who rarely used his cultivator powers in daily life, this was quite shocking. Thanks to both cultivation idiot's memories, and the System's comprehension mechanic, he rarely felt powerful. Only in the context of his memories as an Earthling, he was able to grasp the power difference between a Core Formation expert, and a normal human being.

Losing his cultivation base gave a whole new perspective over the real power of a cultivator. Before he was aware, now he understood.

The most shocking was the spiritual sense. Han De realized how much he depended on it, more so than his physical senses! Unexpectedly, some of his spiritual sense remained, but it atrophied so much that it wasn't useful for anything but detecting spiritual energy within his body. He couldn't even check his body's condition.

One exception was the leviathan. Though Han De couldn't sense anything beyond his own body, he could still sense the leviathan’s presence. After a brief consideration, Han De decided that this was a considerate gesture from the leviathan, rather than anything else.

This also brought the leviathan back to Han De's attention. Sitting in the darkness, patiently waiting for god knows how many days…

'I should be grateful, but it is rather… creepy…'

Due to the existence of a concept called Dharma Protector, Han De sighed his uncomfortable feelings away.

'Yes, this is normal. In a Xianxia universe, this is normal.'

And thus, Han De decided to ignore the worm for a little while longer. Until he had a good grasp of the situation at least.

* * *

The nameless leviathan waited for 8 days without moving an inch. Normally, considering its age, 8 days or 80 years wouldn't have really mattered. For any cultivator, time would become meaningless after a certain point.

Of course, for the leviathan that only just became a higher being, the situation was anything but normal.

Its master had entered a deep slumber. What could a worthless being such as itself could do? It never had a master before!

After a few seconds, the leviathan understood.

It seemed the body its master was currently inhabiting was quite important. Why else would its master go through such an effort to completely reconstruct it? Because the body was weak, it needed the leviathan’s protection!

Thus, anything that could remotely be a disturbance was promptly erased.

The definition of anything, included scouting cultivators, sleeping spiritual beasts, and even foraging animals. The flowing water from the river introduced vibrations, so naturally, the river also had to go. The instability of the ancient world array also produced unstable spiritual waves, which was quite concerning!

In the end, the leviathan decided to split off the surrounding space.

Everything within 1/10th of its length came under the authority of the leviathan. All in an effort to provide a completely still, and fertile environment for its new master's metamorphosis. No wind, no temperature fluctuations, no movement of any kind.

All of this was done in the first few minutes. For the remaining duration, the leviathan observed its master. From a respectable distance of course. And without any involvement of spiritual sense, naturally.

The metamorphosis was over far too quickly. Which… should be expected from a being of this caliber! Of course!

The leviathan was just a frog at the bottom of a well. Truly…

True experts, could morph their own souls, consume their own bloodlines, destroy and rebuild their spiritual roots, all without invoking heavenly tribulation.

Yes, the leviathan was convinced. This was the way of true beings.

Completing everything in 8 days, including heaven-defying spiritual roots… Should be expected! Of course! For an unfathomable being, these were nothing but child's play…

If the leviathan wasn't afraid of disturbing its master's concentration, it would've furiously nodded at its own thoughts.

After trillions of years, all of a sudden, there was a whole new universe in front of it. No wonder the heavenly tribulation didn't dare strike during its ascension.

* * *


[Cultivation: Qi Condensation - 1st Stage (0/1)]


'I see. So it has finally come to this. As expected, I lost all of my cultivation base.'

After thinking things over for half an hour, this was the conclusion that Han De arrived.

'I knew this day would come.'

There were many varieties of crippling one's cultivation, and Han De had made plans for every single one of them. Damaged spiritual roots, cracked golden core, ruptured dantian, broken meridians, cut tendons, pulverized bones, spiritual energy sucking curses, energy disrupting treasures being embedded into his bones, and more. Much, much more…

For completeness' sake, he had also made plans for losing his cultivation base, without becoming a cripple. He was truly thankful that he had worked hard on covering his bases back in the sect.

'Alright, all I need is to contact my family, hog the prayer bead cheat item and swallow copious amounts of filthy rich grade pills for a while…

Good, that's good. Waaay better than dying. Yep. No problem at all. No problem… at all…'

While Han De didn't have any grand ambitions, he too recognized that a certain amount of power was required in a Xianxia universe for a leisurely life. Not too much, not too little, just enough. He needed just enough amount of power.

'Oh S#$%, wait. Did my spiritual roots change?...'

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A note from LivingSpoon

*Pssst* Hey you. Yes, you! Keep your voice down!

*Nervously looks around*

Alright, looks like it's only two of us.

*Hides the bloodstained kitchen knife on his back*

Surprise!

So… Some stuff happened. Neither positive nor negative stuff. But stuff happened nonetheless.

Anyway, here’s 71 more chapters!

(Mild spoilers below)

Yes, I still like to write and think about this silly story. Though consistency has been out of the window for a long time, unfortunately. Sometimes I write 10 chapters a month, sometimes it’s only 1 chapter every few months. To be completely honest, I’m not sure whether the situation will improve or worsen.

Originally, I was going to release about 40 chapters a year back. Everything was fine while writing, since I did have all the context in my head, but while re-reading pre-release, I realized the two new (permanent) characters lacked the necessary breathing room. Some of the developments felt rushed too.

After that, I made a V2 folder and rewrote a bunch of stuff.

As a result, some of the overarching plot points got pushed back, a certain one-off character became a regular, a few more one-off locations got introduced and forgotten (though their existence does have an over-arching point!).

On the whole, I (think I) learned a lot. These extra 31 chapters (out of 71 total) brought some breathing room, and the developments became less disconnected. Probably.

In short, broad strokes remains the same, but the details changed a lot.

Fair warning, 71 chapters is around 230k-ish words and 600-ish pages (according to Word). Though I did a basic spelling and grammar check with Word and Grammarly, there’s probably a fair amount of errors still.

After re-reading the V2, I did end up shortening some of the chapters. You can probably spot those points pretty easily. Most of it was background information that I thought was getting too long. In short, nothing of value was lost. Probably.

There were still some spots that I thought would’ve been better to extend, but doing so after this point would require a fair amount of restructuring, and that’ll simply take too long. I’d rather spend the energy to write new chapters than re-writing existing ones.

(Less mild spoilers below)

Originally (when this part was only 40 chapters), I thought the story would end around 250-ish chapters. Considering how some parts blew up, I (in my unprofessional opinion), predict that everything will wrap around 300-350-ish chapters at most.

(Mildly serious spoilers below)

I don’t think there’ll be new additions to the permanent cast after this point (probably). Some of the previously introduced characters will get more important later on though (definitely).

(End of spoilers!)

“When will it finish tho?”

Unfortunately, I have no idea. And I sincerely apologize for that! For me, this is disappointing to think and talk about, because I truly have no idea.

I planned the ending about 2 years ago and the ‘broad strokes’ are still the same after all this time. The rest depends on (in)consistent writing. :(

I can say that I will eventually finish it, because I do like writing this story. I like the cultivation theme, I like the system mechanics, I like the idea of meeting the end boss at the beginning, I like yanderes, and so on :D

*Realizes everyone has already left while he was talking*

Hey, where did you…

*Looks around and starts shouting in panic*

Hey! I tried to avoid cliffhangers as much as possible. Honest! Hey!...

*After listening to the silence for a while, goes back to his hidden realm to prepare for his next breakthrough*


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LivingSpoon

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