A few minutes ago…
Long Juan was glad that she invited the disciple girls too. Due to the sensitive nature of their purpose, this gathering was supposed to be limited to those who were absolutely needed. Long Juan though, decided to trust her intuition. And her intuition didn't fail her!
The Blood-Devouring Great Unconstrained God Resonator was a primordial artifact of unknown origin. By using the blood of a person's ancestors, they could locate the person in question across great distances. The higher the cultivation of the ancestors, the better the result. That was the guideline the Long family matriarch provided for this artifact. In the entire history of the Long family, this was the third time it was being used.
As a primordial artifact from a long-gone reality, the Blood-Devouring Great Unconstrained God Resonator, was a peculiar one.
Guidelines for its usage included precise calculations, and warnings. There were hundreds of warnings about the high spiritual power usage of the artifact. But no mention of the sudden appearance of a swirling mass of fog.
The fog was about the size of a person, but it had no discernable shape. As it swirled, its shape kept changing. Most of it was pure white, but Long Juan spotted a small pitch-black section that was clashing with the pure white majority. On a deeper look, she saw the white sections turn into patches of motionless gray whenever two colors intersected.
The Blood-Devouring Great Unconstrained God Resonator had greedily absorbed the blood of Long Juan, Long Xiu, Han Wei, Han Shan, and even Han De's own, yet, there was no sign of Han De's location. Only this mass of fog. Was it supposed to be a map of sorts? But the patterns and the way it moved suggested it was sentient. Perhaps, it was the spirit of the artifact?
Among those present in the ancestral chambers, only Yao Qing knew what was happening. She held back her urge to facepalm. The Blood-Devouring Great Unconstrained God Resonator was a powerful primordial era artifact. It was thought to be destroyed by the war that ended the primordial era, but apparently, it ended up in the hands of the Long family. To be able to keep this a secret from the Grand Path Library was no minor feat.
Yao Qing had never seen the artifact until now, but she was confident that her knowledge rivaled everyone in the Long family. The reason was simple. She had read the instruction manual of the artifact!
In her past life, a few thousand years later from now, she had discovered the manual in an abandoned sect. It was only dumb luck that she picked up that jade slip, but it was the second biggest turning point of her life.
The features of the artifact were determined by the bloodline of the subjects. Only a qualifying bloodline would be able to display the artifact's higher functions. Obviously, her oblivious master gave himself a qualifying bloodline! If the word got out, the Grand Path Library would spare no effort in getting their hands on her master.
Thankfully, the Long family had kept the artifact's existence a secret. The probability of a leak was non-existent.
Long Juan paid great attention to every detail. Naturally, this unexplained phenomenon would have to be recorded. Unfortunately, this observation had to be done with her visual senses, because her clone's spiritual sense couldn't detect the swirling mass of fog. It was clearly there, and not there at the same time.
While Long Juan was meticulously committing everything to her memory, the fog started to take shape. The pitch-black pits were swallowed by the motionless gray, and the pure white sections wrapped everything around, and finally took the rough shape of a person.
Now it looked like a silhouette made of white smoke. No one could see any distinctive features. The only resemblance between Han De and the white smoke was their posture. The arrogance of a profound expert wasn't so easy to hide!
Yao Qing barely held back her frown. According to the instruction manual, when two people were connected, they would display their inner selves to one another. Their mannerisms, even their clothing could be different. Privacy mode was the only exception, where a black silhouette would replace inner self-image. However, this wasn't a black silhouette, nor did it looked like a person.
/Are you... related to the Long family?/
The voice that came out from the silhouette sounded like chimes, but Han De's voice was unmistakably present within. It was faint, but it was there.
Long Juan immediately guessed what was going on.
|Ah... So you are Han De. The artifact made it hard to recognize you. It's been a while since I've last seen you. 27 years to be exact…|
The white silhouette didn't respond. It was as if it was gauging the situation. Even after taking the shape of a person, the white smoke continued to swirl within. Some sections were fast, some sections were slow. When Long Juan said Han De's name everything became turbulent.
Connecting the dots after that was easy for Long Juan. She was expecting to see a map with the location of her grandson but ended up communicating with him instead. Perhaps letting Long Xiu stay on that frontier world all that time wasn't for naught! Strange things were bound to occur in unorthodox worlds!
|The answer to your earlier question is yes. Long Xiu is my daughter. And that makes you my grandson.|
Long Xiu fiercely grabbed the shoulder of Han Wei, who was dumbfounded himself. They didn't dare to assume until Long Juan confirmed it. That silhouette wasn't the spirit of the artifact or some other life form! It was a communication method! They didn't expect the artifact to be so straightforward!
The white silhouette that represented Han De seemed to ponder something.
/I see. Where are my family and my disciples? Are they safe?/
"Little De! We are here!"
After waiting a while for Han De's response, Long Juan realized the limitations of this new method of communication.
|Your family and your disciples are here, safe and sound. They can hear our conversation, but they can't join in.|
The speed of the swirling decreased, and its previously constricted motions became relaxed. It looked like he was relieved after knowing that they were safe.
On the other side, still within the boundaries of the Silent Silhouette sect, Han De truly was relieved. He was relieved, but he didn't realize how deep that relief really was. He knew his disciples were somewhat safe because he was still getting Profound Points from them, and in the case of Ning Bi, she was still listed as suspended. The situation with his family though, was uncertain until now. He was only operating on the assumption of them being fine, and didn't dare to think otherwise. Thankfully, they were safe!
The projection of Long Juan was now openly laughing. Though Han De had no way of knowing it, the real one was as expressionless as ever.
From what Han De could tell, this lifelike hologram only conveyed emotions. His grandmother's voice was transmitted directly to his head. The lips of the projection never moved. Quite a strange, and useless feature. More importantly, it was uniquely dangerous to someone like Han De, who had to hide his emotions to maintain his facade.
He instinctively wanted to sever the connection, but obviously, he had no idea how. If a cultivation freak like his grandmother couldn't hide her inner emotions, there was no chance that someone like Han De could. If a wrong question were asked he would have a tough time explaining why he reacted in a certain way. The realization came with massive amounts of anxiety.
Inside the ancestral chambers, on the Long family side, the white smoke inside the silhouette started rotating around itself. The family and the disciples didn't know what to make of this change. Since Long Juan didn't know how long this connection would last, she decided not to dwell on minute details.
|Considering your circumstances we are the ones that should worry. Do you know where you are right now?|
Long Juan's face on the projection turned serious for a moment, but before her sentence had even finished, it turned back to the usual playfulness. Han De thought his grandmother was switching between emotions too easily, and too randomly. This wasn't a good sign.
More importantly, now that they were able to converse, how was he supposed to respond to that? Should he just tell them and watch them obliterate what remained of the planet just to retrieve him? That was a very real possibility!
'They might have some idea anyway. Why would heavenly tribulation spit me out to another planet?'
Han De thought there was something amiss here. However, time was ticking, and he needed to respond.
/I'm in the same continent. In Red Stone Basin, in fact./
The mouth of the Long Juan's projection dropped. Even the real Long Juan started frowning. It took the disciples a few moments to register what they heard. Long Xiu's face had long become pale by the time Long Juan spoke.
|Are you… sure you are in the same place?|
/Of course. I visited the Brass Stallion auction house half a day ago. Things are so peaceful, it is hard to believe that the world was nearly destroyed. I know about the seal too, and I'm working on it. The situation is stable enough for me to look after some loose ends./
Long Juan's projection switched to a serious expression.
|It's good that you are safe. I will arrive shortly to retrieve you. It should take a couple of days at most.|
'Can you F#$%&@ not?!'
/Shouldn't you wait until I disable the seal? Or do you have a way?/
|There isn't much time. That place is about to become a battlefield.|
/…About to become what?/
|The Myriad Realms declared war on the Long family the day after you disappeared. You should know them well, considering you killed their precious heir Shen Xing.|
The motion inside the silhouette stopped for a moment.
/Shen Xing? …/
'Who the F#$% is that?!'
Han De's mind immediately went over the people that the cultivation idiot killed. Thanks to his cultivator memory, he could remember everything with perfect clarity as long as he spent some effort. Though he was giving his maximum right now, he couldn't find anyone named Shen Xing. Then he remembered. Han De himself had personally killed exactly 1 person.
/… The cockroach?/
Corners of Yao Qing's mouth started twitching. She was naturally very much aware of Shen Xing's history in the alternate timeline. Long Juan's projection smiled but her eyes remained serious.
|Shen Xing was the son of Shen Guo, the Emperor of the Myriad Realms.|
/… Is this emperor called False Ruler by any chance?/
|I've never heard of anyone calling him False Ruler.|
Maybe False Ruler was a translation error? Perhaps. But now was not the time to dive into that tangent.
/Is this Shen Guo related to the damage on the ancient world array?/
Long Juan gave a side glance at her daughter, but it seems everyone was surprised that Han De knew about the existence of the ancient world array. Han De's voice interrupted Long Juan's thoughts.
|Shen Guo wanted revenge for his son. I managed to restrain him for a few days but the ancient world array paid the price. We didn't care about the shattered pieces because you shouldn't have appeared within the same world after the sealing arrays became activate. In the past, heavenly tribulation would transfer people to nearby worlds in such cases.
Shen Guo wants to completely destroy that world in honor of his dead son. Though he doesn't know who you are, he should be suspecting that you are one of us. Right now, he only has an image of you through the shattered soul shard of Shen Xing.|
The white smoke within the silhouette started rotating once again, and the once calm swirlings became violent. It was obvious Han De wasn't taking this news well.
Their guess was right on the money. Han De was under the impression that this calamity was brought on by the void grandpa, through a random higher being expert. He never would've thought the one responsible was himself.
'If I hadn't killed the cockroach...'
While Han De did feel remorse for a time after personally extinguishing the soul of another human being, he knew it was the right choice under those circumstances. At that time though, there was no way of knowing that the consequences would be this severe.
Countless lives were lost. An entire mega-planet was reduced to few continents barely floating in space. His family was about to enter a war. All because of one decision.
'What if I tried to reason with the cockroach? If I displayed some of the abilities from the System he may have become my disciple... but that would only be temporary. He knew too many demonic methods, not to mention they were all at master level comprehension. If he didn't have a System then the only way he could've mastered them was by killing countless people.
No, even if I didn't go to the Brass Stallion, sometime later he would've noticed either Ning Bi, or Yao Qing, and he still would've stolen their roots. With that cheat-level disguise spell entering different sects would be a piece of cake. Geniuses of the current generation would be like an open buffet in front of the cockroach.'
This line of thought wasn't anything new. Han De had gone over the death of the cockroach quite a few times to ensure he had made the right decision. In the end, he didn't know if he was right, or if he was able to successfully justify his actions. What was done was done and the matter was closed.
F#$% that! Who attempts to destroy a planet for one person?! What kind of a monster would you have to be to do something like that?!?!'
Perhaps due to sheer shock, Han De momentarily forgot about his own family's tendencies. Normally, he would've remembered how many cities his mother had massacred for dubious reasons. He would've remembered how she laid waste to the Cloudy Mountains region. On his father's side, he would've remembered the annihilation of the sect just because its leader dared to talk about divining Han De's future. All of that had slipped away from his mind at this moment. In the moment of crisis, he reverted to the simpler 'me or them' mentality.
However, this state didn't last more than a few moments, and Han De regained his calm rather quickly, at least, for his standards. The reason was simple. A war involving his family was well within his expectations. The scale was completely different than what he had imagined, but it was war nonetheless.
'I knew this would happen someday…'
While Han De was quickly reviewing his '109 ways to survive a Xianxia war' plan, Long Juan kept observing the silhouette. She didn't ask Han De how he knew about the destruction, nor did she mention the seal.
She felt some regret at being too blunt with her grandson after seeing how chaotic his silhouette had become. Long Xiu had mentioned her son's merciful tendencies before. That was something Han De had to deal with sooner or later. Long Xiu and Long Juan preferred it to be sooner, as soon as possible!
/If they don't know of my connection to the Long family, why are they about to declare war? Why aren't they just destroying the planet and be done with it?/
|We don't know. At first, Shen Gao didn't seem to know your real location and had destroyed a few dozen worlds prior to arriving at your world. It is natural to suspect the Long family after encountering us, but that's not enough to wage total war.|
The expression of Long Juan's projection didn't change as she spoke. If Han De didn't know the situation, he would've thought she was talking about some other family.
'The cockroach's father didn't know my real location and destroyed other worlds? Then how come he found this one just at the right time? How come he is considering waging a total war without evidence?'
If his grandmother was telling the truth, the behavior of the cockroach's father was suspect. Han De's mind went to the void grandpa at once. This whole thing reeked of his involvement. The void grandpa 'came back' when Han De had arrived at the endless shores. The void grandpa also had the ability to influence minds.
The void grandpa wasn't the only variable either. There was also someone else hiding in plain sight. If grandpa could stir the pot, why wouldn't she? Weren't those ancient freaks all crazy/eccentric?
/Where is that... immortal chef right now?/
Long Juan looked at Long Xiu, who in turn looked at the disciples. Han Wei and Han Shan had no clue as well, they reflexively stared at the disciples too. The disciples themselves were puzzled by their master's inquiry. Jin Shu took responsibility and broke the silence.
"Sister Meng Xue left a few days before our tribulation."
Long Xiu searched through her memory and remembered a pair of beautiful pink eyes, along with pure white hair. She was the 'immortal chef' she found for her son. She did remember that she disappeared a while ago. At the time she had more important things than finding her son's missing potential concubine, so she had let the matter go.
Long Juan listened to Jin Shu and Long Xiu's explanations before answering Han De.
|It seems your 'immortal chef' regained some of her memories and left through some unknown means.|
/… Are you sure? Did she really leave?/
|Yes, there is no mistake.|
Long Juan stared at her daughter Long Xiu. The disciples introduced her as Han De's exclusive immortal chef, but Long Juan knew her daughter better. Mother and daughter's eyes met. A few seconds later Long Xiu averted her gaze and confirmed Long Juan's suspicions.
On Han De's side, the image of Long Juan had an expression of disbelief. The projection of Long Juan facepalmed while asking the next question.
|Do you… perhaps... wish to find her?|
If Han De's fiancé hadn't changed, having a concubine wouldn't have been a problem. But the Wen family heir was known to insist on her future husband being pure. Long Juan didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the moment.
The ancestral chambers turned silent. Han De had no idea what was happening on the other side so he continued.
/In fact, if she appears again one day, don't ask her anything. Just treat her normally./
The expression of Long Juan's projection turned blank and stayed that way for a good while. Han De wondered if there was a glitch in the communication.
/Are you still there?/
|Yes, everyone heard you.|
The rotation of the silhouette seemed to slow down a bit.
/And finally, try not to think or talk about that immortal chef too much.../
Both real and projection Long Juan's deeply frowned.
/That's right. No, I'm not wrong. There's no way I could be wrong about that./
While both sides were silent, the white smoke that represented Han De was in turmoil. He was considering whether to tell them about the void grandpa. After some considerations, he decided to not keep it a secret.
/… There was a third one too. It appeared right before the leviathans, but it sounded like it was there the whole time. Be careful about that one./
|That is enough. The matriarch will talk to you for the rest. You should know not to speak of this to anyone else. If one of them finds you act as if nothing happened.|
Long Juan sighed. She noticed the part about the chef recovering memories and started swearing inside her head. Of the 8 higher void beings, the one with the memory problems was the most unpredictable. She could end an era, or she could polish fishing boats for decades, live and die a mortal life. There was no rhyme or reason for her actions.
In the ancestral chambers, everyone except Ning Bi and Jin Shu froze. Long Juan's answer confirmed the validity of Han De's claims. The future purifier of planes and the nameless horror were the only ones that didn't know much about the higher void beings at present.
Yao Qing in particular couldn't move a muscle. When the immortal chef had first arrived, his master specifically asked her opinion of the chef. At the time Yao Qing had dismissed her as a netherworld hybrid, but her master suggested there was something more. She felt frustrated that her master hid this from her, but she also realized that even if he had told her, she probably wouldn't have believed him. What worried her the most was the part about the immortal chef leaving due to remembering some past memories.
Part of this was due to her body affecting her emotions. Yao Qing didn't use to be like this. Even controlling her expression had become a challenge.
It was Long Juan who broke the silence.
|This needs to be reported to the matriarch right away. Han De, stay put. I will come to pick you up personally in a few days once a few more issues are resolved.|
They had confirmation that he was safe, that was the most important part. Meanwhile, Han De's silhouette turned turbulent again, but Han De himself stayed silent. Long Juan interpreted the situation on her own.
|Our Long family isn't so weak that we'll be afraid of war. Many things work differently here. You'll get used to it in time. This isn't solely for your benefit either, there are obligations that you need to fulfill.|
Long Juan felt the stabbing gaze that was coming from Long Xiu's direction. This daughter of hers was really too protective! Her other daughters weren't like this at all. Maybe this was the reason why the matriarch, Long Juan's grandmother, favored Long Xiu so much.
The chaotic swirlings of the silhouette continued, albeit at a slower pace. What was the reason behind this representation? Something wasn't right, Long Juan could feel it.
|Ah… Did you reach the Nascent Soul realm?|
The Nascent Soul realm had a special significance for Han De. Long Juan's question wasn't a good sign and even made Han Shan frown with worry.
Of course, Han De wasn't aware this and didn't feel the need to hide anything.
"Mother, we need to get to Han De, right now."
Long Juan gestured at Long Xiu to stay silent. Unfortunately, her guess was right. The fog represented Han De's soul. White sections should be Yang energies, while the small black sections should be Yin. In the absence of a balance, they would clash with one another, and slowly erode the soul, giving birth to the motionless grey sections.
|Han De, this is important. You need to stop cultivating until we arrive. There could be imbalances in your soul. This is why you weren't given Nascent Soul methods, you were supposed to breakthrough here, where we could assist you.
Even if you've created a method of your own, stop. In the Nascent Soul realm you can't detect important changes in your soul.|
'Hmm… Is she talking about the stuff that happened during evolution?'
Not cultivating was Han De's default state, therefore following Long Juan's advice wasn't very difficult. Still, there was the matter of cultivation idiot's persona.
/Very well, I will not cultivate. For a while./
For some reason, Long Juan couldn't bring herself to believe him. This was a genius that created his own sword and divination arts. Geniuses' minds didn't work within the confines of common sense.
Han Wei lost his composure and shook his head. His wife would have to go to significant lengths to stop Han De from cultivating. Would he stop after a warning like this?
Suffice it to say, no one inside the ancestral chambers was convinced. That included Han De's disciples as well. Yao Qing was sure that her master was going to do something strange, perhaps even induce a strange soul constitution just because he could do it. As she fought the urge to shake her head in frustration, Long Juan's finally responded to Han De.
|Keep safe until I arrive.|
Once the connection was cut, an enormous pressure weighed down on Long Juan. The energy expenditure of this needlessly long-named artifact was truly monstrous. She would need to recuperate for some time, but that had to wait until she got Han De out of there. Before that however, she needed to report everything to her mother, Long Ruolan.
Inside the ceremonial chambers, there were three worried and three surprised faces. Disciples naturally had no idea what was going on. However, looking at the usually calm sect master's intense expression, they gathered something was wrong.
* * *
The 'call' had ended some time ago, but Han De had yet to move a muscle.
Han De's knowledge of the Long family was practically non-existent. His mother never spoke about it, and the cultivation idiot never asked. It was possible that they were powerful enough not to be concerned by war, but since Han De is one that caused the war, they might decide to send the invoice to the Han family anyway. The so-called 'obligations' of Han De may very well be the first installment.
The very first idea that came to Han De's mind was to use the Will of the Progenitor to give an irresistible command to Shen Guo, the cockroach's father, but he immediately rejected it. The bloodline was his last resort, reserved for the void S#$%&. He couldn't use his most precious resource willy-nilly.
The major realm difference between Han De and the cockroach's father was probably into two digits. Clearly, there was nothing Han De could personally do to affect a war of this scale.
<Sebastian, do you know of this Shen Guo?>
|I apologize, young master, there is one Shen family known in the netherworld, and this Shen Guo shouldn't be a part of it. His cultivation would be too low.|
‘Well… S#$%... Don’t tell me he’s part of an ancient family…’