Han De cultivated the Endless Slumber for 3 days. This was his longest uninterrupted cultivation session to date. A pitiful record compared to the cultivation idiot, but it was still a record for Han De nonetheless.
It wasn't that he suddenly found the meaning in cultivation and decided to dedicate his life. He cultivated for 3 days nonstop, because his situation seemed that serious.
When he switched his perception to his soul, what should've awaited him was a sea of energy. Instead, he found nothing. Vast, almost infinite emptiness was all he could perceive.
The Nascent Soul realm was ill-equipped to deal with the depths of soul cultivation, therefore Han De's perception was limited. Still, as a grandmaster in soul cultivation, he knew this emptiness was a symptom of soul corrosion. And he also knew, this wasn't something that could be solved with mere cultivation. No matter how nourishing a technique was, it still needed supplementary resources, and a proper catalyst.
And so, Han De cultivated his soul for 3 days. The more he cultivated, the weirder his mood became.
As he tried to mend his soul however he could, he inevitably ended up touching the corroded parts. Even though they were corroded, they were still parts of his soul. Through the mending process, Han De realized some parts contained fragments of memories.
According to common sense, those should be the remnants of past lives. An echo of the past that was unrecoverable, save for the flashes of images, sounds, or even certain smells. Those were all that remained.
Naturally, these were the cultivation idiot's past lives. Han De was transmigrated, and the cultivation idiot's soul was most likely merged to his own. That was his conclusion when he took the Seven Luminaries Reminiscence pill back in the sect.
Now that he thought about it, he took a soul-restoring pill before, yet his soul was still on the verge of collapse. If he had used his bloodline on Shen Gao, perhaps he would've died right there on the spot. Usage of the bloodline seemed to increase the corrosion of his soul.
Han De tried to apply some first aid to all damaged locations, but his soul was too vast. Or rather, his ability as a Nascent Soul practitioner was too low. Probably.
'This is just like taking medicine. I just need to do it every day, and it'll be fine… It'll be fine…'
Through the power of money, anything was possible. As long as he took some industrial-strength soul medicine, and cultivated his soul every day, he would get through this.
'Last time, why the F#$% did I take just one pill?'
Han De, once again, realized the limitations of his thinking. He really was but a frog in the well. He was filthy rich, he could afford to build and mobilize hospitals for a papercut. Why was he being frugal? He wasn't on Earth anymore!
'Ok, focus. Less useless thoughts, more bandaging…'
His soul seemed endless. Han De started to wonder if he was making a mistake somewhere. Did he somehow use a different magnification level? Was such a thing even possible? He decided to go deeper, to observe and get a better idea of the situation. On the first day, he had panicked so much that he started cultivation without even thinking.
Unfortunately, going deeper only elevated the sinking feeling he had inside.
'My soul is really F#$%&@ up…'
So many flashes of memories, so many lives. Even some of Han De's Earth memories were mixed in.
'Hold up, why are my memories scattered here?'
When Han De said 'my', he meant his memories from Earth. He clearly saw a blurry image of a young girl and remembered the feeling of intense anxiety.
'Wait, I remember her, she was…'
Another memory appeared, this time it's the sound of a bell. The distinct off-tune chime of the Eastside Junior High bell wasn't easy to forget.
The cultivation idiot losing his memories due to damage to his brain and soul was expected. That was the natural result. Further than that, the fact that he lost so little was a testament to the tenacity of the soul.
Han De the Grandmaster, naturally, expected to find the cultivation idiot's memories. He was the one who had his soul nearly extinguished, some of the damage had to leave some scars behind.
Yet another memory appeared, of him staring at 16-bit graphics, playing a popular console game from the late 90s. The bits of memory Han De saw from Earth weren't from random events. They were distinct memories that he remembered very clearly.
'This doesn't make any sense. Was the corrosion strong enough to melt my soul? Is that it? I doubt my physical brain was sturdier than my soul...'
Han De remembered some disturbing grey-colored goo leaking from his nose before the evolution. If information stored both in his physical brain and in his soul was damaged, then the common-sense conclusion should've been a total loss of data.
'I remember everything from Earth though...'
Of course, he didn't remember everything about Earth. A mortal's memories would always be unreliable to begin with. Han De certainly didn't have eidetic memory on Earth. He was an average joe, not some child prodigy. It was normal to forget unimportant details. Even faces wouldn't survive and eventually be forgotten.
'Am I looking at this the wrong way?'
Was he being limited by his grandmaster comprehension, and ignoring the obvious?
Han De stopped cultivating. He didn't open his eyes but instead tried to remember the very first System prompts. As expected, his cultivator memory was perfect, and he remembered those messages with perfect clarity.
[ . [
[Searching for a Host Body]
[Possible host body found]
[Calculating rejection possibility]
[Possibility of rejection is at 0.005%]
[Host body confirmed]
[Soul migration starting]
[Soul migration complete]
[Integrating remaining memories from the body into the soul]
[Memory integration complete]
[Sync point confirmed and verified]
'Remaining memories from the body, into the soul? That should be… the cultivation idiot's memory?
Nothing on soul merging…
… And the part host body to soul migration was almost a copy of the text I saw during evolution…'
Unfortunately, Han De's cultivator memory was perfect. As he retraced his memory, he inevitably remembered the cultivation idiot's death, with perfect clarity. In the end, the poor guy had even lost his sense of self. Not the kind of memory he would ever want to remember. In fact, he would delete it in an instant if he could.
However, that made him remember something else. Something that he failed to notice before. The cultivation idiot had actually seen the System prompts. The same kind of distorted three dots that Han De saw during evolution, during the horrifying soul reconstruction process.
Han De's mouth dropped, his eyes opened wide, his breathing intensified, his heart rate went wild. The Grandmaster Soul Cultivator within him, had made a bold guess.
'H-Hey, System. Am I…'
While his soul was barely holding on, it was still whole. The Endless Slumber scripture was at the mythical [Weak] realm, and his comprehension of it was at the grandmaster level. Though he now knew that the System altered his cognition an unknown number of times before, he couldn't find any faults in his memory, even after remembering and recognizing that the System had forcibly diverged his thoughts.
The conclusion he reached through the grandmaster level comprehension, looked disturbingly reasonable.
'…Am I… the previous life of that cultivation idiot?'
Naturally, there was no response.
However, in Han De's mind, everything was clicking into place.
When the cultivation idiot's soul was burned, nearly everything was gone. But the soul was a peculiar thing. It could be made whole again, even if a tiny sliver of it remained. Cultivation idiot's personality was gone. And into that void of a soul, came Han De. Appeared from the memories of the past lives.
'No, if his soul was burned why did my memories remain? Was I just lucky? Was I 'stored' inside that sliver? Did the System restore the soul randomly?'
Han De frowned. He felt like he needed to know. He deserved to know. But no matter how much he tried, he knew that the System would never answer.
Was he a random guy that got transmigrated? Was he the previous life of an arrogant cultivation idiot? Was he sitting on the floor of a mental hospital, drooling, as he was making up his own reality?
|Many have lost their minds while traversing the depths of their souls.|
Woken from his thoughts, Han De raised his head and saw Long Ai, sitting in the lotus position just an arm's length away. He didn't even notice her presence before she spoke.
|Remember your name. Focus on it. Repeat it in your mind. Use it as an anchor.
Don't lose your sight.|
Long Ai's face, and voice, were expressionless.
|The circumstances of your birth, your grandfather can explain them better. For now, focus on your cultivation. The more progress you make with your soul now, the better the efficacy of the Beginning and End Heaven Warding Lily will be.|
Han De closed his eyes and tried to regulate his breathing. At that moment, he was truly grateful for Long Ai's presence. She exuded the stillness that Han De desperately needed.
Once he got his breathing under control, he started cultivating the Endless Slumber once again.
* * *
Four days later, Han De still wasn't sure enough whether he made progress or not. The XP bar on the System wasn't moving at all.
Throughout those four days, Long Ai never left his side for a moment. Maybe she even stayed during the first three days too, but Han De wasn't aware of it.
[Issuing a Quest]
[Quest: Be Careful What You Wish For]
[Difficulty Level: C]
[Summary: Your beloved disciples have worked hard, and now all of them are on the verge of forming their very own Cores. A truly joyous occasion for any master!
Such potential would naturally be the subject of jealousy. And no one can be more jealous than the Heavens themselves!
The tribulations your disciples will face may endanger their cultivations, their lives, and even their souls! Be their master, and guide them into awakening their bloodlines. Show the Heavens, that you will not tolerate their arrogance!]
[Requirements: Awaken the bloodlines of all disciples]
[Time Remaining: 14 Days]
[Success: Tier 5 Exchange Token]
[Failure: Disciples list will be reset. Privilege level strike (Current: 0/3)]
[Notes: With current Privilege Level (3), the host has to maintain a minimum of (2.8) disciple(s) (25% of the maximum disciples limit). Failure to do so will result in additional Privilege level strikes per standard month.]
Han De couldn't find it in himself to sigh.
[Tier 5 Exchange Token] [x1]
[Can be exchanged with a Tier 5 token.]
[Notes: Limited to tokens available in Privilege Level 3]
[High-Tier Random Bloodline Token]
[High-Tier Random Body Constitution Token]
[High-Tier Random Soul Constitution Token]
[Method Creation Token]
He had one Tier 5 Exchange Token in his inventory right now. During the past week, he frequently thought about exchanging one for the High-Tier Random Soul Constitution Token. However, being in close proximity with Long Ai, and his condition being serious, he simply didn't dare.
Naturally, he didn't believe that Random was Random. The odds of gaining a soul constitution that is perfect for his needs was 'Extremely High'.
|Your progress isn't bad. Beginning and End Heaven Warding Lily will bloom in a day.|
Seeing Han De's inquisitive look, a jade slate appeared on Long Ai's hand.
Han De wordlessly took the slate then simultaneously sent his spiritual sense inside, and did a status-check at the same time.
[Chop-Chop Herbalism Made Easy, Lily Edition, Part 53, Vol. 6770961]
[Contains extremely surface level information about the qualities of certain strands of lilies, narrowed by their color, spiritual energy quality, spiritual energy quantity, length, texture, and taste. Requires 1 Profound Point(s) to comprehend at Master level.]
'1 point isn't that bad, I've already stuffed tons of formation scriptures into my brain anyway…'
[Profound Points: 178 -> 177 (-1)]
At first, Han De was startled, because the amount of information he gained was simply huge. He deliberately ignored everything and focused on the Beginning and End Heaven Warding Lily.
A spiritual herb that blooms only after spending a hundred thousand years in a specific environment. In the beginning, the spiritual energy levels must be close to zero. By the time of blooming, the spiritual energy requirements rivaled that of private cultivation realms.
|Just like your world was experiencing a spiritual energy decline, some worlds experience the opposite. Among a select few of them, only three were able to sprout, and of the three, only one will be able to bloom. The timing is perfect.|
Not only that, but the damn flower was also incredibly finicky. To the point that the vibrations from a single Unity Realm expert could disturb the process. Even spiritual veins that are the basis of sects could have adverse effects.
|As fragile as it is, its efficacy is nothing short of heaven-defying.|
The scripture he learned called the Beginning and End Heaven Warding Lily useless due to its properties. Han De agreed, once bloomed most of its energy was spent on dispersing its seeds.
|There are many treasures that exist for no more than single a breath.|
'F#$%, is she reading my mind?'
Long Ai smiled mysteriously.
|Once you arrive your aura will slowly influence the Beginning and End Heaven Warding Lily, causing it to experience subtle changes. You have to find it fast before it blooms.|
'I have to find it? Ah… right, its seed gets carried away with spiritual currents.'
|I will come back in three days.|
With that, Long Ai disappeared, leaving Han De alone inside an empty room.
Of course, this Beginning and End Heaven Warding Lily also wasn't an accident. This was one of the reasons why Long Ai created the Long family in the first place. The number of lilies that the Long family planted and bloomed so far was simply extraordinary. All in the off chance of finding a suitable descendent.
Long Ai went back to the Long family homeworld, to meet her daughter Long Ruolan. For any other higher being, the distance would take days, if not months to travel, but for Long Ai, who had a deep understanding of the void, she arrived in an instant.
Long Ruolan, as always, seemed to be waiting for her. As if she couldn't wait any longer, Long Ai spoke of her opinion immediately.
|This Han De, really isn't bad.|
Seeing her daughter's subtle look in response, Long Ai smiled as she continued.
|He is a bit too single-minded, your usual methods may backfire.|
Long Ruolan nodded. She realized, not only Long Ai's assessment of Han De was unusually high, but she even went out of her way to arrange matters for him. The last time Long Ai was this involved was for Long Xiu.
Long Ai pondered for a moment.
|Han De, hmm, let's call him Long De.|
That… was a first. Long Ruolan now realized her mother's mood was quite extraordinary. Long Ai continued while ignoring Long Ruolan's dubious stare.
|We might need to hide him for a while…|
Did she hear that right? Long Ruolan doubted her senses. Then, she realized Long Ai didn't bring Han De along.
|Is that why you didn't bring him with you?|
|No, I sent him to retrieve the Beginning and End Heaven Warding Lily.|
Long Ruolan frowned, she really thought she heard her mother wrong. Surely she didn't send him to get the flower with that absurd name. Long Ai's lips twitched after seeing her daughter's cute little frown.
|He is close. Unexpectedly close. You can feel it Ruolan, when he walks, when he speaks, when he mediates. Almost there, just lacking that final touch.|
|Try both ways and see what happens? Is that what we are doing now?|
|Even if he can't reach equilibrium, his soul is a mess. Beginning and End Heaven Warding Lily will go to waste regardless.|
Long Ruolan started rubbing her temples. He became a Long, which meant he had to get the best treatment. If Long Ai assessed his ability and found that he could withstand that much energy without exploding, she didn't have anything to say.
|What was the girl's name?|
|Wen Jiayi. She has the usual mutated poison roots. Though in her case, her constitution is much more impressive and unpredictable. She may need some convincing.|
Long Ai pondered. Then she tried to get a feeling of this Wen Jiayi through her intuition.
|... Not bad... Send the fastest boat to that Wen Jiayi and give her Long De's coordinates.|
She should know enough to give Long Ai some face, is what Long Ruolan understood from that sentence. It didn't seem like Long Ai was worried about Wen Jiayi. The problem should be on Long De's side.
Long Ruolan somewhat understood Long De's temperament from the way her mother treated him. Meanwhile, someone equally troublesome as Long Ai was making movements. Long Ruolan mentioned it, even though she knew what her mother's response would be.
|Long Xiu is working on a backup plan for Yang roots.|
This was within Long Ai's estimations. She approved with a nod, then gave one more order.
|Invite all families, we'll hold a banquet next week. Cut off the Shen's and everyone that has dealings with them, leave them for Long De. Find someone called Yuan Zemin then give him to Long Xiu. Remind her to pace herself.|
The banquet was for Long Xiu's return, and for announcing Long De's existence. The Shen's seemed to be relegated into being stepping stones, quite a fitting role for them.
Everything was as Long Ruolan expected. Though, it had been a while since she encountered a person as unlucky as that Yuan Zemin.