Long Ai appeared inside the main Song palace.
Ancestor level higher beings were the trump cards of their respective organizations. They could erase all lower realms in the blink of an eye. The crossfire from two of them going all out could wipe out all life in a universe! When the results could end up so destructive, most of them would restrict themselves when interacting with lower beings. Most of them.
Normally, a higher being of that level appearing out of nowhere in the middle of someone's territory was enough to warrant a life and death conflict between the involved parties.
Proper procedures involved sending visitation requests from low cultivation disciples. In most cases that would mean a Transcendent Realm disciple. Sending someone of lower cultivation could be taken as an insult by the other party if their relationship wasn't on solid ground.
Once the request was received, it would travel along the long chain of the hierarchy until it reached the ears of the higher being in question. Then the ritual would begin anew for the response. Sometimes it would take a few decades to reach a consensus! Time was something that higher beings had plenty of.
Neither Long Ai nor Song Nuan bothered with those trifles.
Song Nuan waved and pointed at the spot next to her.
|Feels weird to always meet with our clones. When was the last time we met with our true bodies?|
Long Ai smiled as she sat down. It took her a few seconds to recall the memories of the past.
|Shouldn't it be around the time you killed Shao Ru?|
|Hahaha! That might be it. I forgot about her completely, I wonder if I could find her reincarnation after all this time...|
A tea set appeared with a wave of Song Nuan's delicate hands. She smirked as she spoke.
|While you were in seclusion I thought I should try something new, and cultivated this tea myself.|
Long Ai rolled her eyes then smiled for an answer. This was the first time Song Nuan had shown interest in tea making. In the past, she would call such endeavors unrefined at best. Song Nuan wasn't the only one that went back on her previous words and practiced what she loathed. This kind of habit came with the territory of being a higher being.
Strong spiritual waves escaped from the steaming golden liquid as Song Nuan skillfully poured. Long Ai immediately felt an urge to sigh, but she restrained herself.
Song Nuan took one cup and gently sipped while watching her lifelong friend.
Long Ai finally gave in. |Fine, I'll taste it.|
Just like Song Nuan, Long Ai took one, very careful sip. Powerful spiritual energy released inside her body exploded after a few seconds. The tea was quite beneficial for her clone's cultivation. However, Long Ai put down the cup. She looked at Song Nuan with an exasperated expression.
|It tastes like grass...|
The corners of Song Nuan's lips curled upwards. Both of them knew she wasn't the kind of person to admonish Long Ai this way. This was all a coincidence. Song Nuan definitely wasn't implying Long Ai's efforts in the Whispering Realms were worthless…
Speaking of Long Ai's efforts...
|How goes the search for the key?|
|Some progress, some regressions.|
|You've spent so much effort for that Yin-Yang Gate, aren't you afraid it won't be worth it in the end?|
The Long family was created specifically to search for a solution. Their operation in the Whispering Realms, which was a high tier realm for the so-called higher beings, started before the inception of this cycle.
Long Ai smiled while lightly shaking her head.
|It was a pleasant journey. So far.|
The first part meant that Long Ai didn't care about the results anymore. The last part, however, confirmed the reason why she left seclusion this early, and why she came to the Song Palace right after.
Song Nuan sighed before she spoke.
|For the sake of clarity, I will ask you only once. Is it really her?|
Song Nuan closed her eyes after seeing Long Ai's nod.
|Ai, are our true bodies safe?|
|I was able to get in contact with mine through some trickery, but nothing can go in or out anymore. We should be fine as long as we don't provoke her.|
Both of them fell into deep thought. They spoke little, but each word contained immense meaning. Regular higher beings could read profound meaning from simple words, but Long Ai and Song Nuan far exceeded them. Not only were they lifelong friends, but their true cultivations were beyond anything that Whispering Realms could support.
They were caught in the middle of an… unlucky turn of events.
Truthfully their current clones didn't matter much, but Long Ai's creation, the Long family, had affected her more than she could ever predict. Their demise was not an option at this point.
Song Nuan on the other hand didn't have any tethers to the Whispering Realms. Her reason for having a clone here was entirely to keep Long Ai company. The current Song family wasn't even related to her and was completely expendable.
When Song Nuan mentioned 'her', she meant a rather special existence. A very troublesome existence. Song Nuan immediately tried to assure Long Ai.
|I'm sure once she gains some of her memories there won't be any issues. She was your teacher after all.|
When there was one, there would be others. The one that blocked the Long Ai should be another special existence. Not enough to threaten Long Ai or Song Nuan as of yet, but enough to cause some concern. If there were two, more would follow soon. Then, 'she' would definitely snap.
Of course, the time frame of soon was relative. Unless it was less than a few thousand years Song Nuan wouldn't start worrying.
Long Ai considered her next words carefully.
|She might have already recovered all her memories.|
Song Nuan's face dropped. She gently put down the teacup and gazed at the horizon.
'She' would always meet Long Ai after regaining 'her' memories. Only when 'she' was dissatisfied with something, would 'she' ignore 'her' student.
For a moment Song Nuan considered cutting off this current clone. Her main body would be informed by Long Ai's main body, and there wouldn't be any big losses for her.
However, she decided not to take that step for now. Long Ai knew 'her' better than anyone. If Song Nuan ever had to trust her friend's senses, now would be the time.
Long Ai couldn't help but grimace after bringing the teacup to her lips. The taste of grass was simply too domineering. Upon seeing her expression, Song Nuan chuckled.
|You're quite lucky, actually. A few thousand years ago it tasted like raw sewage.|
Seeing Long Ai's questioning look, Song Nuan could only smile.
They talked about trivial things for a while. Sharing cultivation insights were meaningless at their level. They had their own paths, and their cultivation systems were too different.
A few hours later, Long Ai stood up.
|I'll bring you a souvenir next time.|
They nodded at each other, then Long Ai went back to the shattered world she was in previously.
It was the first world that her teacher lived in before the rise of the primordial sects of this cycle. She would always make a pilgrimage to such a planet's remains after regaining her full memories. Once Long Ai detected her teacher's remnant energy at the center, she visited Song Nuan without delay.
After thinking for a while, Long Ai decided to sort the matters of the Long family. Starting with Long Xiu's case.
Her senses pierced through the veil. Just as she was about to peek at Han De, she stopped. In an instant her breathing became difficult. Naturally, she no longer needed to breathe. The sensation of shortness of breath was a remnant from her past. A reflexive response to fear.
Long Ai was dumbfounded. She deduced that there were no powerful beings around the location of Han De. An imprint couldn't affect her either. She fell into deep thought after retracting her spiritual sense in a hurry.
* * *
Han De knew the name of Pan Zhi from somewhere. He used his cultivator memory to its fullest potential and recalled the relevant information.
[Divine Alchemist System Level 3 Leaderboards]
[Name: Pan Zhi]
[Cultivation: Divinity Formation - Early Stage]
[Fate: Crazy Pill Master]
Could they be the same person?
'He did write that he was a Divine Alchemist… Wait, can he even write that? Doesn't System remove any mention of System terms?'
Han De chalked that up to not all Systems being equal. He also realized never tried to write the words 'Unrivaled Master', the name of his System, so he wasn't exactly sure of anything.
The password was more important right now.
'What the hell is a noble number, and what the hell is a reverse lotus pattern…'
* * *
'Ugh… I don't have a liver anymore but somehow it still hurts…'
Ping Xiang couldn't care less what Dong Wang was talking about. He was too busy raiding the treasures of the sect with the weird name. There were more than ten thousand high-quality swords in his cosmos bag right now! Even the cosmos bag itself was from this treasury!
'… Those pills are for the Core Formation realm. If you swallow even one, you will explode.'
Ping Xiang's hand paused. However, he still put it in the cosmos bag. At worst he could sell them!
'… Didn't you take millions of spirit stones a few minutes ago? Those bottles are worth a few thousand at most!'
Ping Xiang shook his head. 'Master, money is important. How could I sleep soundly if I miss even a single spirit stone? How could I afford to train if I don't have…'
This was a serious matter, so Ping Xiang's detailed explanation wasn't over until he emptied the mineral section of the treasury. Dong Wang had gone silent long ago, it was impossible what the old master was thinking at this point.
From Dong Wang's perspective, none of the remaining items were worth anything. Clearly, this sect was raided before by a group of cultivators that had much more sense than his stupid disciple!
A few hours later, Ping Xiang emerged from the treasury with a content smile, for the third time. He had already scraped the treasury clean under an hour, but his heart just couldn't settle without checking and rechecking deep recesses, just in case he had missed something.
Dong Wang saw the content smile disappear from Pin Xiang's face, yet again. He had no choice but to resort to the ultimate solution.
'That sword energy you've felt won't stay there indefinitely, you know…'
Ping Xiang froze. Missing something so obvious! He felt ashamed and thanked his master from the bottom of his heart.
'… At least you still know what's important…'
The treasury wasn't going anywhere, Ping Xiang could always do 5 more laps after tempering his body nurture his sword intent!
Dong Wang was starting to get suspicious that his incorporeal form had developed a liver.
Meanwhile, Ping Xiang merrily followed Dong Wang's directions to the sword energy to the source.
'The sword aura is radiating from that platform. Stop here and don't get too close. Take it one step at a time. More haste, less speed.'
'Um, master, shouldn't I just charge ahead?'
'Your cultivation is weak, and your sword intent is yet to take shape. The Purple Sword Array you've broken cannot be compared to the aura here. I won't be able to save you if you take a misstep. Don't be in a rush, and make the most of this opportunity.'
From far away, Li Ling watched Ping Xiang's cautious movements. She half expected him to rush into the sword aura and make a mess, that's why she kept a close eye on him, to step in if necessary. Thankfully, the usually reckless boy was quite sensible this time. He really did have keen senses when it came to training.
'As expected from a boy that gained the recognition of a primordial spirit…'
Their meeting wasn't an accident. Nothing could hide from the Seven Paths Convergence Compass, not even fading spirits!
Out of nowhere, Li Ling detected a voice transmission from an unknown source.
<Little lady, this place is dangerous, you should leave while you still can.>
A moment later the same voice continued in an uncertain tone.
<Or maybe stay, if you wish to experience being eaten alive by rampaging beasts and live one of the most horrendous deaths possible.>
Li Ling judged that the sender of this voice transmission had much higher cultivation than her own. She calmly tried to deduce whether this was a threat or not.
<Oh well, I guess it doesn't matter now…>
A brown fox, followed by an old Buddhist monk appeared with the power of space, and confirmed Li Ling's guess. Both of their cultivations were much, much higher than the Immortal Realm. They should be able to feel the aftereffects of the Grand Dao seal and deduce she was from the Grand Path Library, at the worst, assume that she was from a prominent ancient or primordial family. If so, why were they here? Paying respects? Making connections?
The old monk looked at his surroundings and shook his head.
"Amitabha, this place…"
The brown fox nodded confidently. "This is the handiwork of senior Silent Silhouette. You've met him before, haven't you?"
The old monk silently gazed at his surroundings and didn't respond.
The brown fox shook its head in disapproval at the monk, then turned his attention towards Li Ling. Its demeanor changed completely in an instant.
"Little lady, is Li Dexin still doing well?"
Naturally, the old fox wasn't really asking about Li Dexin's well-being. This was a way of asking if she got permission from Li Dexin to be here. The earlier comments about horrendous death made sense in context.
"Uncle Li Dexin is in seclusion."
Li Ling had a calm demeanor as she answered, and that made her attitude feel all the more overbearing.
This was her way of telling them; they did not have the qualifications. Neither their pedigree nor their cultivation was enough. They were only fit to answer her, not the other way around!
The brown fox's expression didn't change, but it felt like a massive headache was coming up. Not only this girl was from the Grand Path Library, but she was from the Li family as well. No wonder she was so arrogant, so confident.
The old monk sighed, then closed his eyes. The implications of this girl being here was just too heavy for his old heart.
"Your cultivation should've been enough to escape this place, why are you still here?"
Li Ling casually glanced at the weird duo. A month ago, she had no choice but to stay put when she realized that this world was caught in the crossfire of higher beings. But these two had enough cultivation to slip through the cracks.
The brown fox answered with a bitter smile. "When you spend hundreds of thousands of years in one place, you can't help but get attached."
Li Ling raised an eyebrow. A fox demon was getting sentimental? That was rare, but in hindsight, so were the circumstances of this world.
It was nearly a shame that someone had activated the world seal. If they hadn't, the Li family wouldn't have to shatter the world array to bits to rescue her.