[Wandering Mirage Scripture (Earth I)]
[Power: Extremely Weak]
[Stage: Early-Stage Nascent Soul]
'Not bad! Maybe not good for a disguise, but definitely impressive stuff.'
The Wandering Mirage was a collection of different illusion arts. It started with holographic images, then added on features that served other senses, like sound, smell, taste, and touch. Later stages would also allow imprinting will into the illusions. Overall it was a safe choice for Han De to practice.
A simple cosplaying test also confirmed Han De's suspicions. Practice was key for the physical illusion arts. The scripture had many techniques for constructing the Light Qi, or in this case, Primordial Light Qi in different configurations. But it was up to Han De to bring his imaginations to life.
'It's like I am a grandmaster pianist, but I still need to practice and build up my repertoire.'
He could create anything he could imagine with illusions; he just needed to practice and build it first. It was both disappointing and exciting at the same time. There were samples of regular illusions within the scripture, but Han De the Grandmaster Illusionist found them limited at best.
'I should find some time to recheck every scripture and spell I have. Sooner the better.'
"Hide yourself and take me to the city."
|By your will, young master.|
As Han De expected, surroundings changed instantly as Sebastian moved him with the power of space. Unlike the previous times though, he sensed something unique.
'So that's the power of space huh. I need to test that thoroughly too now that I’m a Nascent Soul master!'
The Brass Stallion city didn't seem to change much on the surface. People went on their business as usual. Though the residents seemed to be a bit quieter, Han De thought that was to be expected. This wasn't a clueless mortal city, it was a cultivator city, and a popular one at that.
Over the distance, Han De spotted the main attraction of the city, the auction house. Thankfully, Han De wasn't going to attend an auction this time. One auction arc was simply enough for the next few hundred years, provided he could live that long, of course. However, since the auction house was also the base of operations for the Brass Stallion patriarch, it was still the place to visit.
Han De took the scene in and was about to head towards his destination at a leisurely pace, but he saw Sebastian, waiting right behind him. Sebastian was really there, floating in the air. Han De sent a voice transmission with a mild frown.
<Didn't I order you to hide?>
Sebastian wasn't flustered at all. In truth, it expected this situation since it had already happened once before.
<|Of course, young master. No one on this plate could see or sense me. No one, but the young master.|>
Han De nodded.
'Could he be flexing? No, no way. This is a netherdemon, not a superpowered anime maid.'
If Sebastian were to enthusiastically say '|A butler/maid should always stay invisible to anyone but their master!!|' Han De didn't know how he would or should react. That level of genre mishmash was simply too uncanny.
Han De assumed it was just Sebastian being considerate and gave it a mental thumbs up.
However, that wasn't the case. Sebastian was doing its best to stay invisible to anything and everything, Han De included.
* * *
The Brass Stallion city was simply too quiet. It didn't take long for Han De to notice the citizens' efforts to maintain that silence. Vendors didn't shout, people spoke with whispers, workers' faces were filled with unease. Even the cultivation bases everyone displayed was minimal.
One time that a customer dropped a few spirit stones, the entire street stopped. Cultivators from all walks of life waited with bated breath, for something. Once everyone was convinced that nothing would happen, the street emptied at once. It was as if that place was now cursed. No one, not even the shop owners themselves were willing to stay.
Han De watched the spectacle with bewilderment, but he wasn't concerned at all. Thankfully he had Sebastian with him. At the first sign of trouble, he could nuke the culprit and escape! There was no need to ask questions!
The silence was even more emphasized in the auction house. The noise from Han De closing the door, and the muffled footsteps of the receptionist running toward him felt unnaturally loud. The young girl spoke urgently with voice transmission before she even arrived.
<Senior, please refrain from making noi-…>
The voice transmission stopped, and the receptionist started staring at Han De with a blank expression. Few breaths later her mouth dropped, and she took half a step back. She didn't avert his eyes, not even for a second.
Who would've thought that a Qi Condensation disciple could successfully creep Han De out? Her gaze was so strong Han De used status-check on her to prepare countermeasures.
[Name: Tan Shun]
[Race: Human (100%)]
[Cultivation: Qi Condensation (3/13) (41.7411%)]
[Roots: Metal (13.74%)]
[Potential Points (Total: 6)]
[Expand to view...]
[Martial Arts Methods]
[Expand to view...]
[Cannot be accepted as a disciple.]
'Oh thank god she isn't some weird MC…'
"Tell your patriarch that Han De of the Starfall Mountain sect has arrived. We need to discuss his progress in industrial farming, among other things."
The girl shook from Han De's words and bowed in a hurry, but Han De waved his hand dismissively.
"Just go. The quicker you inform the better."
Mentioning industrialized farming and the Starfall Mountain was to make sure that he was credible enough to be Han De himself. What would happen if he were to just tell his name and demand the patriarch to meet him?
'Serial faceslapping sounds so exhausting. Besides…'
Han De gave Sebastian a no-look look.
<|The humans have tried to interfere with your breakthrough, young master. I have dealt with them based on the severity of their offenses. 14 died and 83 were crippled.|>
Sebastian felt there was a mountain-like pressure weighing its body down.
<|Only 2nd step disciples were harmed, young master.|>
Han De narrowed his eyes as he stared at Sebastian.
'2nd step disciples? It takes 2000 years to get to Immortal Realm and that's still a disciple huh.'
The power discrepancy between him and Sebastian was so huge, Han De couldn't even begin to imagine it. Under the circumstances, less than 100 people dead or injured was a small number. In another timeline, Ning Bi destroyed the planet after 1000 years of cultivation. Sebastian could do it with only a thought. Any time.
Reading Han De's mood and avoiding excessive bloodshed was good. However, if it was that good at reading Han De, soon it may find out that Han De is actually faking it. If, -or rather, when- that happens, would Sebastian try to resist the bloodline effect? Since there was one effect that specifically mentioned being 'irresistible' then maybe other effects could be defended against.
This was all within the expected parameters of the "Close Encounter with the Nether Kind: Higher Being Edition" series of plans. Therefore, Han De didn’t panic. However, it was obvious that his plans weren't meticulous enough. Sebastian was progressing faster than he had expected.
'I really don't want to find out if the bloodline can be resisted or not…'
* * *
Tan Renshu, the accountant patriarch, and Han De, the Earthling, sat down inside the sacrificial chambers. Nearly everything looked the same. Down to the cup of tea Tan Renshu offered to Han De. This time though, Han De politely refused. He hadn't forgotten how he had gotten drugged by the Tan family before.
The exchange of pleasantries didn't last long. Which matched Han De's impression of Tan Renshu. This patriarch wasn't fond of beating around the bush.
"Young master Han De. Why are you still here?"
The patriarch wasn't concerned about him at all. The question wasn't out of curiosity either. Tan Renshu was simply asking whether Han De was a vagrant or not.
Han De didn't answer, instead, he chose the 'meaningful smile' from the Profound Expert template. Keeping his eyes deep and serious while showing the right amount of superiority and hidden anger with his mouth, that expression, took two entire weeks to master. If the cultivation idiot's default smile didn't look so sinister it would've taken a lot less time. But Han De thought it was time well spent regardless.
Tan Renshu held back the urge to gulp. He had some doubts about whether this Han De was genuine or not. He had the same attitude, but he looked… different. Not only there was a major realm difference in his cultivation, but the quality of the cultivation base was completely different too.
"What is your progress with the education of mortals?"
Han De's voice broke Tan Renshu from his stupor. 'Let's see where this goes' the latter thought.
"We have diverted our resources to collecting spiritual herbs while the spiritual energy concentration lasts."
Han De secretly glanced at Sebastian and saw his butler shake its head.
"Spiritual energy will not recede."
Tan Renshu didn't share Han De's confidence. The Tan family had done hundreds of tests over the past 2 months. Spared no expense to travel to different regions to test spiritual energy concentration. Consulted divination experts, conversed with the remaining sects. The conclusion was obvious.
Han De wasn't surprised at Tan Renshu's silent disagreement. However, he still internally rolled his eyes. Tan Renshu was the type of person that wouldn't believe anything until it hit the balance sheets.
"Sebastian, put the necessary information in his head."
|As you wish young master.|
Tan Renshu's whole body violently trembled and his soul grew weak. Mere words were enough for him to feel the breath of death. But it wasn't over with that. Flashes of images were forcefully inserted into his mind as if he was enduring a reverse soul-search.
Meanwhile, Han De felt genuinely grateful for Sebastian's existence. So much of the unnecessary explaining was waved away, just like that! If he were all by himself, it would take hours to convince Tan Renshu.
'… Man, that doesn't look good…'
Pure agony warped Tan Renshu's face completely. Just as Han De was about to tell Sebastian to stop, the old accountant relaxed and started taking deep breaths.
Not much was transferred to Tan Renshu. One of the first orders Sebastian had received was to be concise. And by heavens, Sebastian was concise!
Sacrificial chambers underneath the Brass Stallion city had a peculiar calming effect on the mind. Tan Renshu exploited this phenomenon to make sound business decisions throughout his life. This unorthodox method would've been frowned upon by his ancestors, but Tan Renshu didn't care, there was profit to be made. Unexpectedly, for the first time ever in Tan family history, the calming effect disappeared.
Flashes of unimaginably huge formations, connected through impossible geometry, feeding off of an ingot that was as old as time itself… Tan Renshu's mind was a mess. The knowledge he had gained wasn't meant to be for someone of his cultivation. Anyone that could hold and understand should've left for even higher realms in the primordial times.
Tan Renshu saw Han De with a new light. No wonder. No wonder this young master of the Han family made preparations for the shattering. Who could've guessed that the Han family was pretending to be pigs to eat the tiger?
One of the most powerful families on three continents was hiding their strength… Tan Renshu find it hard to believe it, but the evidence was overwhelming.
Han De smiled as he spoke.
"This is good. If everyone thinks the spiritual energy will recede, we can use this to our advantage. Quadruple the price of all pills and quintuple the price of all spiritual herbs. Stop all spiritual stone spending."
Tan Renshu scrambled to find the right words.
"W-we have already tripled our prices and limited our sales volume 2 months ago."
"That's fine. Do it again. Offer gold and silver to buy all the spirit stones too. Give the impression that you are hoarding everything. Double the prices every two months. Even if you don't sell anything keep doing it.
All sects have their independent economy anyway, it doesn't matter if you completely crash the trading between them with our speculation. Eventually you can fill that void with mass-produced cheap items. No one will be able to complete by then, and sects themselves will eventually become dependent on you for lower-level goods.
This disaster is a blessing in disguise. Economically speaking."
Tan Renshu nodded. Despite the lingering feeling of doom, what Han De said made sense to the patriarch. Everyone was focusing on preservation and stopped thinking about lower cultivation realms. Some sects were preparing for hibernation, some were looking at alternative sources for maintaining higher elders' cultivation.
"Using mortals as the workforce will further convince the sects. They'll think we know something they don't and assume the situation is worse than it already is.
Increase the investments to the mortals in general. Especially for the steam technology development. Don't interfere with their culture, let them develop content on their own."
Han De realized something crucial as he nonchalantly gave directions.
'S#$%, this isn't why I'm here…'
"Give me a list of all currently active sects and high cultivation individuals. Look for the whereabouts of the Silent Silhouette sect's members, then the Meng dynasty heirs. Especially the smallest one, and the latest one."
Han De took out a brush and started writing names of the sects that the cultivation idiot had interacted with.
Aside from the MC that turned out to be the latest heir of the Meng Empire, the cultivation idiot didn't have deep enmities with others. Insults, beatings, and/or humiliations were the general theme. Crippling or killing was rare. Relatively speaking.
"Send these sects gifts under my name and offer them 50% discounts under the guise of 'working together in these tough times'. Aim the gifts towards Core Formation realm and under, only sprinkle a few elder level gifts in moderation."
Han De felt his mind was working exceptionally clear after reaching the Nascent Soul realm. A lot of jumbled thoughts untangled themselves.
"Here's the up-to-date list of sects and individuals."
Tan Renshu didn't need to write anything, he only took a piece of paper from one of the drawers. Han De understood why he was so prepared when he read the title "Potential Clients".
'All 3rd step and above cultivators left? That's perfect.
Most Transcendent experts are missing or their whereabouts unknown. Kind of a pain, but OK, I guess.
None of the sects that attacked us on the Meng capital are here. Makes sense, they were probably wiped out after the attack anyway. Not bad.'
In fact, quite a few sects were missing. Han De went through his memory and realized they were the ones clustered around the Starfall Mountain sect. Did they leave as well? Or did they perish? Since the cultivation idiot didn't have deep enmity with any of them, they weren't worth thinking about.
If he did dig a bit further, perhaps he would've realized that the disciples of those sects had some interactions with a certain vengeful young girl. But he didn't.
A simple exchange of lists put 95% of Han De's worries to rest. The feeling was invigorating. This was as close as he could get to a soft reset. Once Sebastian takes care of the Silent Silhouette sect, Han De wouldn't have to worry about anyone, save for the void beings.
Having gained a new perspective of his home planet, Han De thought about his previous plans, and how he could continue developing them.
"… I sense… That my name became known across the Cloudy Mountains. What happened since I've left?"
Though the sensing part was complete bulls#$%, Han De was still technically correct.
[Fame: Cloudy Mountains: 2795]
'When I first transmigrated it was sitting at 50…'
Tan Renshu seemed embarrassed. However, he knew that this question would come up eventually.
"Ehm. Young master became famous after wiping out the majority of demonic cultivators in the Meng Empire. As the Tan family, we had borrowed the young master's name as per our agreement."
Han De silently counted potential outcomes. It certainly made sense that wiping out the demonic faction would make him famous. What would the demonic cultivators do if they thought the spiritual energy would regress hard and fast? They would create cultivation vessels en masse. Wiping them out was timely development, that was all. However…
"Why am I involved instead of Han Bai?"
Han Bai should've been the scapegoat for this. Han De specifically gave his cousin's name as a smokescreen for any potential demonic MCs rising from the ashes. Han Bai was hiding his cultivation; he could deal with the backlash far better than Han De.
"After the shattering, some of the witnesses changed their story and put forward young master's name. The righteous faction led by the Flying Star Court took used this story as justification to gain control of the cities involved."
Han De wasn't interested in this B plot, so he waved his hands to stop Tan Renshu. He couldn't be bothered with the flimsy reasonings of greedy sects. That said, random people borrowing his name was a problem that had to be dealt with eventually. But that was a job for his lackeys, not him. Or in this case, lackey. Singular, since Sebastian was the only one with him right now.
'Things are better than expected. The mortals will be able to develop their own unique culture if I keep this place sealed. A damaged lower world that is on lockdown is the definition of uninteresting.'
It was the best kind of place for Han De to lay low in case of a worst-case scenario. If a local MC appeared, he could just kick th-, no, help them reach higher realms. No questions asked.
Han De couldn't help but smile. Tan Renshu was skilled in money-making, but his cultivation was limited. Even if he discovered the truth behind Han De's plans he wouldn't care. The Tan family was truly the perfect administrator for this.
"Have you started collecting orphans yet?"
Seeing Tan Renshu's blank expression Han De continued.
"Sooner you start the better. Just make sure they are true orphans. Do a background check of them. If their parents end up being alive reunite them. If they are truly orphans with no meaningful connections start training them. Don't skimp out, let them live a life of luxury. Let them do what they want."
Wasn't this a surefire way of turning those orphans into salted fish? Tan Renshu wondered. This way the antithetical to how cultivators would treat disciples.
Han De knew why a cultivator might oppose this idea.
"If they become useless that's fine. What I need are the few overachievers that will push the limits. At worst they'll become a good PR move.
Remember. This is a two-pronged approach. Create massive amounts of Qi Condensation disciples and nurture the mortals at the same time. Do not slack off."
Tan Renshu hurriedly nodded in acknowledgment. By the time he raised his head, Han De was long gone.
Suddenly alone in the ancestral chambers, Tan Renshu fell into deep thought.
'… Maybe it wasn't such a good thing I invited him for a talk that day.'
He wasn’t a superstitious man, but he could shake off the feeling of wrongness whenever he interacted with Han De. After the last time they talked, the world itself shattered and locked everyone up.
Tan Renshu shook his head. The thought that just came to his mind was absurd. Surely there wouldn’t be a connection between their efforts, and the shattering of the world. It was just bad timing. Just a little bit of bad luck.