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'Obligations… Obligations… What kind of obligations could I even have?! Did they move the sect? What about the Han family? Is this about me becoming a family elder?

Interacting with a room full of wrinkly old murderous arrogant family elders was an ordeal in and of itself. But now, these elders had lost their footing, their planet was nearly destroyed, and what was left it was inaccessible. Their lifeline was the Long family, and their only relation with that family was Long Xiu. If his mother really left the head position, Han De could see those old foxes trying everything they could to increase their influence.

Of course, this was all a scenario constructed from the cultivation idiot's memories. Since he never really showed interest in family matters, most of Han De's assumptions were unreliable.

The second possible scenario was him getting involved with the sect, but that seemed unlikely at best. The sect was just a front for the Han family, why would his grandmother from the mother's side call it an obligation?

'The only alternative that involves me is… arranged marriage? The Han family doesn't have any influence over there though.

Would the Long family care about that? Mom never talked about her family. She also tried to set up Ning Bi with me. Perhaps the Long family doesn't care about marriage alliances at all.'

Being a thorough planner, Han De went through the worst possible scenarios in his mind. While he did have some insight on the workings of a Xianxia family, and the workings of a 'righteous' sect, his exposure was ultimately limited to the experiences of the cultivation idiot. Inevitably, the conclusion he arrived at reflected what he thought to be the most important issue. Which was the upcoming 'war' with the cockroach's father.

As long as his mother was alive, Han De was certain that the Long family wouldn't be able to use him as a scapegoat for the war. She was his shield, so was his grandmother by proxy.

His disturbingly young-looking 'grandmother' did say it would take some time for her to arrive. But Han De obviously didn't trust her word. She seemed the type that could arrive in a few minutes then complain about how long it took her to get there. His impression of his grandmother was like a child with a magnifying glass. One that could observe random things for hours or commit ant genocide on a whim.

'No matter what, the safest option for me is to play the role of a filial son. If need be, I could rely on the System to impress the Long family to increase my worth, and have more leverage in general. I wonder how the girls are doing… Long Juan- no, my grandmother said that they were fine. They should have kickass body constitutions so they should be fine...'

Normally having powerful body constitutions would become a trouble magnet for MCs, but Han De's mother was with his disciples. She would never allow someone to take advantage of them.

'I really don't know anything about the Long family, nor the Myriad Realms or whatever the cockroach's faction is supposed to be...'

Han De tried his best to forget the cause of the war and the destruction of his homeworld. Whenever he thought about it his breath would become ragged, and his heart would start to race.

'Just forget about it. Don't think. Do something else. Let's do something else, yeah. Why not test the Nascent Soul swords? That should take my mind of useless things…'

While he absent-mindedly browsed his storage ring for the pair of Nascent Soul level swords, Han De noticed a worn down book tucked away in a corner. It took him a second to remember, that was his diary. Why was it so worn down?

He was looking for a distraction, why not check the diary out? The reason he started writing one was to keep an eye on his psychological state anyway, this seemed like a good time as any.

The first couple of pages were notes about educating his lackeys, sprinkled with his annoyances regarding the spiritual herb gardens. That was around the time he noticed the effects of the grandmaster level comprehension.

Han De had a cultivator's memory and could remember how he wrote every single letter, let alone the contents of that day. Against his better judgment, he felt that writing a diary might be a waste of time. His memory was simply better than an unreliable medium such as paper!

Still, Han De flipped to the next page. Which were filled with more ramblings about the inefficient treatment of the spiritual herbs. Being reminded of the truly atrocious conditions inside the sect made Han De furious. He flipped the page in anger. And immediately frowned.

'k{> |w£|$k \' the best! 1 million x]&w(<"n k>%]#<?! Fucking score! All I need to do ?\ k_ -'+y ^x'] )^ &__zm +y c}! What an easy z<?<£! Of course, this could cause some k_*r{_tpr<m½!v{<£, but who cares?!?! 1 million x]&w(<"n k>%]#<!!!'

'What the F#$%...'

Han De only needed to spend a little effort to remember every stroke of every letter of every word. Those garbled words were no exception. Han De himself enthusiastically drew those nonsensical scratches into his diary.

More pages were flipped. Among the ramblings about the lack of privacy, there were more and more garbled words. Anytime he mentioned the quests, the profound points, and the System itself, the words would turn into random scratches.

Pages after the last day of the voyage were even worse. Only a few words could be read behind the page full of random lines. Some pages were crumbled, some were completely missing. Han De felt his blood go cold.

On the final page, he wrote with such intensity, the quill had penetrated more than a dozen pages behind it. Han De knew exactly what those scratches were supposed to mean.

'How did I escape the tribulation?'

Han De broke into a cold sweat, then an overwhelming panic enveloped him.

'What the F#$% do you mean how?! I bowed so that I would get spat back out of the tribulation realm! I even destroyed my own core for F#$% sake!'

Could Han De still be inside the heart demon tribulation?

'No, no, no.

No.

No, that's not possible.'

A heart demon tribulation should involve something unattainable, something that should shake the person's will to cultivate, to prevent them from going against the heavens will. What was unattainable to Han De?

Riches? He was filthy rich! He didn't know how many spirit stones he had inside his storage ring. He even had stockpiled enough gold to fill up a massive lake! Just to guarantee his chances of a rich life in case he got crippled inside a mortal domain!

Cultivation? He… used to be in the Core Formation realm… Advancing into the Nascent Soul realm was certainly a lucky break…

Safety? He wasn't safe at all! A maniac had blown up two-thirds of the planet, and was already eying the remaining third! He was in the middle of a war! Even the Long family mentioned some dubious obligations! Who knows what they would turn out to be?!

'Ah… I see. This is looking more and more like an MC origin story.'

Being an MC… Was certainly unattainable status for Han De. Naturally, he had noticed this trend right after the privilege upgrade. Stars were aligning, desperately, to give Han De an MC background.

'Am I still in the heart tribulation?'

Han De couldn't find an answer to that question. He retraced his steps, further and further back. Maybe, just maybe… Maybe he never transmigrated in the first place. Maybe his 'disciples' were nurses, his 'lackeys' were caretakers, and his 'sect' was a mental institution. Maybe losing focus and forgetting was just medication taking effect. Maybe Sebastian was a random kind old man that was doing his best to help Han De.

'I see. So it has finally come to this. As expected…'

Han De knew, that one day he would encounter something bizarre enough to make him question his own sanity. It could be an illusion, it could be a heart demon, it could be a curse that had developed its own consciousness. It could be any number of random Xianxia elements! This stuff was the cheapest MC halo check!

Though this situation was quite common, there was no foolproof way to solve it. He only had the major outlines of a plan, nothing concrete.

Keep safe. Observe. And go with the flow.

Han De closed the diary with a swift motion and threw it back to his storage ring. He was glad that he had considered the possibility of losing his sanity and made a rough draft of a plan! But that didn't make him feel better.

All of his actions, all of his choices, seemed pointless.

Han De fell into deep thought, and did not notice the Immortal Realm expert that was getting closer and closer.

* * *

Li Ling and Ping Xiang have been flying according to the Seven Paths Convergence Compass throughout the night.

During the flight, Ping Xiang had followed Li Ling's advice and cultivated most of the way. When he stopped with the first light of the day, the terrain underneath was almost uniformly red, giving Ping Xiang an ominous feeling.

"The soil here is tainted by resentment and miasma. Do not touch it."

Ping Xiang nodded. No wonder they were flying far above the ground! However, that warning made Ping Xiang curious.

"Sister Li Ling, why did we come to this place?"

An unsettling red haze was covering everything on the horizon. The soil was dangerous. Even the wind that was gently brushing his face felt unpleasant somehow.

"Some sects seek out inauspicious places like this, either to temper themselves, or to use it for their cultivation."

Tempering oneself in an environment like this? That got Ping Xiang's attention. Perhaps, this was a good place after all!

'As I thought, this girl isn't simple.'

The voice in Lan Fan's mind belonged to his master. A year ago, Ping Xiang was baited into joining a sect expedition, where he ended up falling off a cliff! Through luck and perseverance, he survived the affair, and became the disciple of the disembodied voice. No one but Ping Xiang was aware of his master, Dong Wang's existence.

'Even in this state, I can feel the faint cosmic energies seeped deep into the soil. This isn't a place that you could ever hope to visit with your cultivation. Don't overestimate yourself.'

While Ping Xiang was listening to his master, the red gaze gave way to a strange mountain.

'Old man, is that…'

'Haaah… Yes, that's a sword mark.'

Ping Xiang was a swordsman, seeing a slash that cut through a literal mountain was of course an impressive sight for him. What kind of cultivation could achieve that, he wondered. Could his old patriarch of the Thousand Cicada Sect do that? Could sister Li Ling do that? Could his master do that?

'Hmph! You really are a country bumkin! Stop gaping like an idiot! How can a revered saint's disciple act like this over a sword mark?!'

Seeing how Ping Xiang struggled to hide his awestruck expression, Li Ling smiled, then slowed down her flying fan.

With a flick of her sleeve, a seal rose up and displayed two golden characters. Grand Dao.

Ping Xiang heard Dong Wang speak in his mind. 'Hmmm, no wonder…'

Li Ling couldn't use the seal at full power, but she didn't need to. The best function of this seal was identification. But that didn't stop the two characters from resonating with heaven and earth. Even if it was merely being used for identification, a powerful spiritual artifact, was still a powerful spiritual artifact.

"Your cultivation is too low to directly look at the seal. Don't try it, unless you want to go blind."

Ping Xiang, who was intently staring at the two characters despite the considerable amount of pain, immediately retracted his gaze. He could endure pain, but he couldn't endure being blind. He heard another weary sigh in his mind, but after a year of unsolicited commentary on his daily life, he had learned to ignore these little moments.

The words 'Grand Dao' lasted only a few moments, then faded away on their own. This much was enough. Li Ling started waiting, but the expected response, or rather, the welcoming, never came. She frowned with her delicate eyebrows.

Down below were tens of thousands of black-colored buildings. Ping Xiang's senses were too dull to see clearly, but Li Ling was different. She was an Immortal Realm expert. Even without using her vast spiritual sense, she could detect minute energy fluctuations coming beneath the mountain.

At the same time, Ping Xiang heard Dong Wang's voice in his mind once again.

'This… design. Hmm, this peerless saint had seen these before. It is a type of formation created from the arrangement of buildings and their materials. In my time only the poorest sects used such methods, but the materials here aren't simple. Not bad, you might gain something here, provided you can stay alive, that is.'

'Do you know what's in here?'

Dong Wang scoffed. 'How should I know?'

Ping Xiang held the urge to roll his eyes. However, it seems Dong Wang wasn't done, he continued in a thoughtful tone.

'A sect like this would never be empty. There could be only two reasons, either they ran, or they were massacred. In this case, it should be the latter, since their grand array seems to be completely obliterated. Your girl seems to have noticed this too.'

This was why Li Ling was inspecting the sect from afar and without her spiritual sense. Unlike Dong Wang, however, she could rely on her Immortal Realm physical senses.

The sect was empty, except for one Nascent Soul cultivator, who was boldly staring at Li Ling and Ping Xiang from afar.

Was it an aboriginal survivor? Li Ling looked at the Nascent Soul cultivator's appearance. At first, she couldn't decide whether this person was male, or female.

Full, well-shaped lips, along with the long black hair gave off a dignified aura. His deep black eyes seemed stoic, but there was something else about them that she couldn't pinpoint, something that seemed unsettling. And those eyes, were staring at Li Ling!

Li Ling was the prodigy of the Li family. Though she was only 152 years old, she had seen and experienced many things through the Grand Path Library. She couldn't help but stare at this person. The more she looked at those eyes, to more she was able to discern. Those stoic eyes seemed to hide a mixture of indifference, and madness. It was as if Li Ling, no, the world itself was an illusion.

This man is dangerous, she thought. Yes, that beautiful visage belonged to a man! She had refrained from doing a close inspection with her spiritual sense, but the purity and the intensity of the Yang energy was unmistakable, even from the distance.

If this man was an aboriginal, Li Ling wasn't an expert. She used the power of space to transport Ping Xiang and herself near the lone Nascent Soul cultivator.

Ping Xiang's eyes opened up with surprise, not only everything around him had changed in an instant, but he could feel a tremendous sword energy from somewhere. It took him some time to notice his surroundings properly. Behind them, was a bottomless cliff, and in front of them, was a beautiful… man?

There were only a dozen meters away from each other, but neither side closed that distance, nor did anyone speak. Ping Xiang heard an uncomfortable murmur in his head. For the first time, he couldn't understand the words of Dong Wang.

The silence was broken by the unknown cultivator.

"Are you here to avenge the Silent Silhouette sect?"

A Nascent Soul cultivator shouldn't be able to threaten an Immortal Realm expert like Li Ling. However, the emotionless voice carried a finality within it. Li Ling's intuition, her instinct, was warning her.

Despite her character, she lightly shook her head. The man spoke once more in response.

"Are you affiliated with the Silent Silhouette sect?"

Li Ling shook her head once more. Rather than keep up appearances, she decided to lay everything out. As she spoke, she released characteristic energy fluctuations of the Unity Realm and made it so that a Nascent Soul cultivator could detect them. She didn't release full Unity Realm pressure in consideration of Ping Xiang.

"We are here to retrieve a treasure."

Surprisingly, the man wasn't affected. Instead, he asked yet another question.

"Are you from a demonic sect that was affiliated with the Silent Silhouette sect in the past?"

Li Ling frowned. She was the Li family princess and didn't need to inform anyone of anything! The Unity Realm pressure increased to a level where a normal Nascent Soul cultivator would start coughing up blood. Ping Xiang was naturally excluded from the pressure, otherwise, Li Ling was sure that the boy start pestering her day and night for training.

She was confident in her ability, as such, she turned back and started walking away at a slow pace. The expected sound of coughing, gasping for breath, and the painful grunts, those never came. Of all the things she had imagined, what she heard was a sigh.

The man turned back, and started walking slowly towards the suspended platform in the middle of the chasm, leaving Li Ling speechless.

'Boy, be careful of that one. He's far above the level of your girl.'

Dong Wang didn't want to mention the sword energy he felt, because if he did, Ping Xiang would definitely ask that old monster for guidance…

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