Han De slowly tried to open his eyes. Unfortunately, that was a mistake. The blinding light of the sun only served to increase his excruciatingly painful headache.
'Ugh, what the hell man…'
He used his spiritual sense to perceive his surroundings. He was still on the same grassland, still near the spot where Beginning and End Something Lily bloomed, but the flower itself had disintegrated into nothingness already.
Han De sat down in the lotus position with great difficulty and tried to perceive his soul.
'She wasn't lying huh…'
There were still large patches of nothingness, but altogether, he had clearly made a significant recovery. If only there was another, or perhaps 15 more of those lilies…
'Alright, I'll have to rely on filthy-rich grade soul medicine from now on. I'll have to think big.'
Han De realized even his mood had improved. If this were before, his soul's state would depress him to no end, but now it was like a minor speed bump, something he had to take care of, but didn't affect him too much in the end.
Listening to the wind, to the sounds of birds chirping away at the distance, Han De took a deep breath. The feeling of being alive was so overpowering, even his headache lessened on the spot.
'Wait, hold up. Where the hell did this mood come from? Was I drugged again?!'
Han De went over his actions. He was sure he didn't eat or drink anything strange, nor did he remember anything smelling funny. Eventually, Han De the Grandmaster Endless Slumberer, realized this was the effect of soul restoration. Nothing to be concerned about. Probably.
'37 hours passed since the lily bloomed. I waited for 16 before that. Long Ai should return within a day or two at most…'
Suddenly, he realized he had a lot of free time on his hands. Which was a rare, but most welcome development! As he consulted with his Soul Cultivator side, Han De came up with the most favorable conclusion. He should let his soul settle into its current state first before he started cultivating again.
Even if it was a System assisted repair, in the end, he still absorbed extremely high amounts of energy and cultivated non-stop on top of that. There was such thing as too much of a good thing.
'This world, shouldn't be empty, right? It should have some people, even if they are mortals…'
The Sun was at its highest point. The stars looked foreign, and there were two moons. Han De's lips curled up.
'Why does this feel like a generic isekai beginning?'
He shook his head and slowly got up. Once his eyes adequately adjusted, and he became confident that he could walk and use his spiritual powers without issues, he started operating Through the Starlight scripture. His speed-focused Nascent Soul was faster, but the footwork technique was much cooler!
After wandering around aimlessly for an hour, taking in the picturesque landscape, strange wildlife, and inspected the generally impressive fauna, he spotted fluctuations of spiritual energy. Two of them, in fact.
'Looks like the 3rd Stage of the Qi Condensation realm. That, should be a decent cultivation level for this world. Wouldn't they affect the lily if they were this close though?'
Han De pondered for a moment, his inner grandmaster herbalist wasn't happy, but begrudgingly admitted that as long as they weren't Foundation Establishment realm, the lily would've been fine. Since Han De had already absorbed the finicky little flower, that must've been the case.
'Are they sparring or fighting?'
He sent his spiritual sense to take a peek.
The two locals were fighting inside a grove at the base of two intersecting hills. Both of them were out of breath. As evident from the broken branches surrounding them, they've been at it for some time.
Han De immediately assigned temporary names to them. Boy A and Boy B. Judging from their clothing, these boys in their mid-teens belonged to influential families. Appearance-wise, both had sharp features. In Han De's professional opinion, these two were local arrogant young masters. In the absence of a natural predator like an MC, the biggest threat to an arrogant young master, was naturally another arrogant young master.
They were both trying to catch their breath while looking for an opening. Boy A took the opportunity to say something.
Boy A: "Nahti tu osrnl.on enae itiaw itsr' ou e.ohi u rho un gsha.khfl nHrioagte, egaynnsIhhsrtdiatrsIuuyf uees'kertoasa ln siwahgbo'e otobuo"
Boy B: "Suw h!ht.me wmep sI tsl on.nt li fOnvokce f aaitau nhHry tr lsi .leten sim gdnH e's.cfa.ehlre i hotsemul niriaekti rg sse yo o !ob a ruaon sfobsysir mu.ain ssh dooog!say, Utisstrr s"
Boy A: "THUAAA!!!"
Boy B: "Nbnbnb.. ru un dteashn hrs t hwIou!a,tmsyNsiok dloreahTt emOth u t, ttto htri ysiiou imthcaYI i eifh aaiyr tyy Iutcuraomoit i km oass enmfssdtigrn n Ynhyi sd atpa h !Npepy urm…"
It was against Han De's expectations to hear them speak a completely different language. Due to Boy B's pointing gesture, Han De realized their fight had something to do with the scroll that was tossed away behind Boy A.
'I see. That scroll is tremendously precious for Boy A.'
Han De shook his head. This plot was completely irrelevant to him. Solving the language barrier became the new immediate priority. He could not enjoy the virgin culture of this world without a means to communicate.
He thought about it for a while, but he got nothing. Somehow, he assumed everyone would be speaking the same language throughout the universe. It was a Xianxia universe after all. Freaks that were millions of years old were dime a dozen here. Even if mortals were to evolve other languages, old freaks would have too much influence on the cultivators.
'This world should be recovering from the spiritual energy decline, where not even spiritual veins have started forming. I suppose in the absence of old monsters the language would naturally steer away from the norm.'
Unfortunately, making up theories about the difference in language wasn't going to help him learn it.
'If only I could comprehend a dictionary or something. It's too bad that I can only comprehend cultivation-related things.'
In the past, Han De would've complained about this fact and think of it as an arbitrary and unnecessary limit. After getting a glimpse at the System's manipulation though, he was somewhat relieved that the System was still adhering to some of its rules.
'I wonder if I can comprehend the contents of that scroll if it is a cultivation method. It has to be a cultivation method, right? Why fight over it if that isn't the case?'
The symbols on the Endless Slumber scripture had gained meaning after comprehension. Why wouldn't the same logic apply here? In fact, the System displayed everything in English, but the scriptures of the Starfall Mountain were obviously in the local language. Comprehending the contents was one thing, but the raw text of the scriptures was transferred to Han De's mind as well.
'I might be able to Tom Hanks the language with that scroll… Maybe…'
Han De changed his aura to be at the 7th Stage of the Qi Condensation realm and started operating his footwork technique at full power. He arrived at the scene nearly instantly.
Boy A and Boy B's incomprehensible conversation was interrupted. Both of them bowed deeply before they could even see him.
This was the effect that Han De wanted. Although he could've hidden his cultivation completely and appeared as an ordinary mortal, he didn't want to go through all that trouble. Face slapping was meaningless if he couldn't understand their language.
Boy A and B: "waCatha;te!"
Han De ignored the boys and picked up the scroll.
[Righteous Blood Scripture (Incomplete)]
[Power: - ]
[Roots: Metal, Water, Earth, Wood, Metal/Earth, Wood/Water]
[Bloodlines: Expand to view 142 compatible bloodlines.]
[Notes: Cannot progress past Mid-Stage of Foundation Establishment realm without modifications. Not compatible with host's bloodline. Requires 1 Profound Point(s) to comprehend at Master level.]
'... Is this something weird? Please, I really don't want to master some weird technique…'
Han De immediately scrutinized the boys. He did not trust the word Righteous at all since the following word was Blood. If this turned out to be some sort of demonic technique, it would be a hard pass.
[Name: Qiu Zhang]
[Race: Human (100%)]
[Cultivation: Qi Condensation (3/13) (17.3157%)]
[Bloodline: Noble Honey Badger (Awakened) - (85.15%)]
[Roots: Earth (31.97%)]
[Potential Points (Total: 15)]
[Righteous Blood Scripture (Incomplete)]
[Power: - ]
[Comprehension: Advanced (1/3)]
[Stage: Qi Condensation (3/10)]
[Martial Arts Methods]
[Mountain Smashing Fist ( - )]
[Power: - ]
[Comprehension: Advanced (1/2)]
[Stage: 3rd Circle (3/16)]
[Unyielding Smash ( - )]
[Power: - ]
[Comprehension: Advanced (1/2)]
[Stage: 2nd Circle (2/12)]
[King Ju's Reality Breaking Punch ( - )]
[Power: - ]
[Comprehension: Advanced (1/1)]
[Stage: 1st Circle (1/12)]
[Expand to view 3 more...]
[Bloodline: Noble Honey Badger (Awakened)]
[Power: Extremely Weak]
[Unable to feel fear during combat.]
[Extremely minor increase to hand to hand combat arts.]
[Extremely minor increase in cultivation speed.]
[Extremely minor increase in Earth Qi purity.]
'Definitely not a demonic cultivator. Feels more like a Wuxia character rather than a Xianxia one though. Mountain Smashing Fist huh. Not something I would expect from a honey badger.'
[Profound Points: 177 -> 176 (-1)]
Boy A and Boy B didn't dare look up while Han De was holding the scroll. It wasn't just the cultivation difference that made them forget their battle and bow their heads. The quality of the cultivation was different as well.
Meanwhile, Han De was dumbfounded after learning the Righteous Blood Scripture. He didn't expect the entire thing to be so wordy. Unexpectedly, the scripture explained everything through storytelling. It read more like a religious scripture rather than a cultivation scripture.
'Hmm. It seems martial arts families started relying upon the bloodlines when the spiritual energy decline started. That's why everything is centered around bloodlines and minimizing spiritual power usage.
Their martial arts methods are basically Kung Fu with extra bits. No wonder the System doesn't even bother to rate their power… What an amazingly useless planet! This place is a paradise!!!'
The boys heard the 'Martial King' in front of them chuckle. That chuckling turned into a laugh and continued for what seemed like an eternity. Naturally, neither one of them dared to raise their heads.
Han De calmed himself down and regained his composure. He entered the Profound Expert mode out of habit but forced himself to relax after realizing that. There was no need for him to act out here.
'Hmm, the scripture contained a lot of useless fluff, but that fluff gave me a good understanding of their language. Not bad. I'll need listening and pronunciation practice, but overall, I have a much better starting point than I've expected.'
There already were quite acceptable test subjects in front of him. Han De tried to speak casually.
* * *
"Raiseth thy heads."
Young masters did as they were told. Once they saw Han De's appearance, they immediately knew something was wrong. Martial Kings were all supposed to be incredibly old people! The one in front of them looked like he was in his mid-20s.
"What art thy names? Thee seemeth to receiveth 'long with each other quite well…"
He was too young! Even their patriarchs who were at the Martial Grandmaster stage had wrinkly faces with pure white hair. The baby-like skin and pitch-black eyes in front of them made them swallow their tongues.
These boys weren't idiots. Their minds started working at full speed. This man appeared out of nowhere! They couldn't even feel his approach! His cultivation level was too high! It seems like it is at the Martial King level, but most likely it was at least on the Martial Emperor level! His appearance was too young and too perfect! His speech was too weird! He spoke as if he lived in ancient times!
Could he be one of those mythical demonic cultivators? An evil cultivator that devours the life energy of the young to defy the heavens and achieve endless youth?!
"Is thither something wrong? This fusty one won't consume thee, this one just wanteth some information."
Both boys inadvertently flinched at the word consume. They were trying to keep their composure, but they were just teenagers in the end. They could conjure fire, or smash boulders with their bare hands, but they were still teenagers.
The silence continued for half a minute. The demon looked at the boys, then glanced at the scroll he was still holding in his hands.
"This handsome visage isn't trying to taketh thy scripture, hither, this is yours isn't it? Taketh it!"
Boy A caught the scroll out of reflex. He had read the scroll countless times over the past few months, so he knew this was the real manuscript. This demon had returned the most precious scripture of his family just like that. He didn't even open it!
"R-Responding to S-Senior, this one is called Qiu Zhang. This one thanks Senior for returning our Qiu family's scripture..."
Boy B came to his senses after Boy A's introduction.
"T-This one is called Shi Huan! This junior part of the unorthodox faction!"
The thoughts of the demon were a mystery, but his frown told the boys that whatever the demon was planning, it wouldn't be pleasant for them. Neither of them had the idea of resisting. Perhaps the demon would leave their families alone that way!
"This one shalt taketh his leaveth. Doth not worry, this one shalt not bother thee. Liveth long and prosper."
The demon took one step towards the horizon and disappeared into thin air. Just like that. The only proof of the demon's existence was the scroll in the hands of Qiu Zhang.
The boys stared into the spot that the demon was standing on. A few minutes later, they caught themselves staring at each other. Neither of them had the will to fight anymore. This matter had to be reported to their factions!
* * *
Han De left the poor boys behind. He didn't intend to scare them in the first place. He just didn't want to deal with the usual faceslapping routine.
'Hmm, I guess I did gain big from that scripture. Maybe I should've given them some pills or something...'
Han De considered it for a moment, but decided against it in the end. He didn't take away the scroll anyway. He didn't even open it! He had no debts.
'Why were they so afraid of me though? Is the 7th Stage of the Qi Condensation that powerful here? It is close to the top according to their scripture, but shouldn't produce this strong reaction. Those 2 were at the 3rd Stage at the age of 15, their family leaders should be 7th or 8th at least...'
Was it his robes? Han De was wearing the same gray-colored robes. Aside from being just a few centimeters short, it was just another Daoist robe. It did have some inscriptions on it, but those were invisible to anyone but the wearer.
If it wasn't his clothing, was it his face? Both Boy A and Boy B were Asian, just like Han De, so it was impossible for it to be a racial thing.
In the end, he shrugged these concerns away. If those boys could fight to their heart's content, there should be a city or some other settlement nearby. This time he hopped on his sword to get a birds-eye view. Sometime later he spotted a road, then a convoy of merchants. Without delay, he started to listen in on their conversations.
What he understood from the important-looking people's conversations was that copper was mined in a nearby city, and it was an important strategic resource due to the lack of consistent methods for making usable steel.
At that point Han De noticed their weapons, they really were made from bronze! The technology on the planet was apparently stuck somewhere between the bronze age and the iron age.
'…It doesn't make sense for these people to stay at this level of technology for long periods of time. They should've made some technological or cultural progress at least. Why does everything look so uniformly Wuxia-like?'
On Earth, civilizations would get influenced by their living environment and develop different architectural patterns. This world was far too remote, yet the convoy here, down to the leather armor of the guards, looked like they were from a historical Chinese drama.
Mannerisms of the people, their clothing, even their technology were obviously ancient Chinese influenced. They didn't have reliable steel, but they were comparing notes; paper was ubiquitous. Some scouts were using south-pointing chariots. Leaders had jade jewelry. The only cultivator of the group was wearing Daoist robes. The only different thing was the language. Even the Xianxia classic, the concept of face, was present!
Listening to boring conversations about mining, more mining, management of miners, smelting ore, complaints about the pricing of tin, concerns about the inspections, worrying about the hidden inspections, hushed woes about the royal family, and more, eventually wore off Han De's patience.
One thing he realized was that he had learned a very old version of the language. Considering that he learned everything from a pseudo-religious scripture, it wasn't surprising. Though the conversations were boring, at least it gave Han De to get used to the modern version of the language.
'Wait, if there is civilization, there should be… massage parlors too, right?'