Yu Xian immediately swallowed the pill and started absorbing its effects, which left Han De speechless. This was something he wouldn't even consider. How could someone trust others so easily in a Xianxia universe? It was a truly mind-boggling sight to see an MC enter deep meditation in the presence of someone he met less than an hour ago. But trust wasn't the issue here.
'Dude, we are in the middle of nowhere. Couldn't you have just waited until we arrived at City A? Your condition isn't that urgent to begin with. It's just some messed up meridians, fix it on your own time...'
For a while, Han De entertained the thought of hiding Yu Xian in an illusion. He could both guard and get away from the MC at the same time. Clearly a win-win-win scenario. In the end though, he decided to stay. And it wasn't just because of his promised 1 unit of gratitude. There was a different reason. Yu Xian seemed to be having a tough time adjusting to his circumstances as a transmigrator.
No one was there to help Han De when he 'arrived'. The System, the sole entity that was supposed to help him, had issued a do or die quest the first day! His family was a collection of murderous maniacs, and even now would kill him without hesitation if they knew the cultivation idiot was dead. Probably.
Han De knew firsthand that transmigration wasn't all roses. It was a way to escape death, at the cost of accepting someone else's life -and body- as your own. The more Han De thought about it, the more he was convinced that he should offer some help. Not fully fledged help, gods no. Just a subtle, preparatory help meant for dealing with transmigration-related issues.
Just to be safe, he still created a simple invisibility illusion around the surrounding area. Some time ago he had wondered about the possibility of achieving invisibility with his sword art. Technically speaking, it was perfectly possible, just tedious and useless. With his Wandering Mirage scripture though, the process was vastly simpler. Still useless against cultivators, but vastly, vastly simpler to apply. If he were to use more advanced illusion techniques, or mental illusions, the result would fool a cultivator as well. But there was no need for that here.
Once he was sure of the quality of the illusion, Han De retreated a dozen steps away from the MC for good measure. Normally, he would've wanted to appear as if he was meditating on top of the sword, but right now the thought of sitting in the lotus position was repulsive enough to make his face go white.
'I want to sit on a couch. Not on those meditation cushions made out of god knows which exotic spiritual beast's skin. Just a simple, normal, and soft couch, where I can put up my legs and read the latest chapters of my favorite novels...
Right, I'm a grandmaster illusionist. A couch is but a simple matter! I can conjure thousands of couches here if I want! The possibilities are endless!!'
After internally psyching himself up, he started assembling the illusion. The physical sensation was the most important factor. A couch wasn't a couch unless it was comfy enough. It took only a minute to assemble the base couch template, and less than a second to create the actual illusion. Everything seemed alright visually, but once the couch touched the ground, rather than behaving like a classic couch, it turned into an oddly shaped bean bag.
Han De ignored his failure and threw himself to the bean bag couch. He knew exactly where things went wrong, why it went wrong, how it went wrong, and he knew exactly how to fix it. Grandmaster illusionist within him was frothing with rage over the ambiguously set requirements of the couch, yet Han De didn't mind that at all.
'I bet this is what a cloud feels like. It looks like a bean bag, but feels like a pile of clouds. Heh, If I made a pile of clouds in the first place, that would've been more Xianxia-like. A hidden master resting on top of a cloud… Not bad!'
After the initial discovery, Han De's mind came up with various applications of this cloud tech. The first one that came to mind involved wearing an orange martial arts uniform while carrying a red pole on his back. There were some logistical concerns over decreased flight speed due to shielding the illusion with Qi during flight, but they were all minor details.
'I can even change my hair color to glowy yellow at will. I should've learned this illusion scripture months ago. It wouldn't have helped at all, but at least the downtimes would've been more fun.'
Han De stared at the rising moon while lying on the bean bag couch shaped cloud illusion. As his thoughts wandered from topic to topic, a subtle frown appeared on his face.
'I came from modern times, shouldn't there be something that I can use to my advantage? Isekai MCs would always craft some modern weapons and imbue them with the local magic system. There should be something that even I could make...'
This wasn't the first time Han De had given thought to bring modern items into the Xianxia universe. Initially, he had given up on it altogether to avoid catching attention. The cultivation idiot's modus operandi severely limited his options since the idiot was only interested in Heaven Defying Tyrannical Sword and cultivation. Over time Han De gradually expanded 'his' interests to spiritual spells and the sect's standard scriptures, all thanks to his disciples.
The closest call was when Han De met the accountant patriarch at the Brass Stallion auction. Thankfully everything was delegated to that person, and Han De's only responsibility was providing ideas and enjoying the fruits of someone else's labor. This was still within the acceptable limits of the cultivation idiot's character.
Did he expand his character enough to attempt something else? Han De thought maybe he did. And maybe his precautions were useless from the beginning. In any case, after his recent experiences, he no longer worried about maintaining the cultivation idiot's image.
He shook his head and started thinking of modern tooling.
As a Nascent Soul expert, Han De could fly much faster than the speed of sound. There wasn't a bullet on Earth that he couldn't outrun. The power of the said bullet was suspect as well. Could a sniper rifle bullet penetrate Han De's shield spell? He had no idea, but the odds weren't great.
Without some heavy R&D into spiritual guns and spiritual bullets, making modern weapons was useless.
'Explosives might work, but I don't know how to make any of them. I can find black powder in the mortal world, but that can't damage a cultivator. Maybe C4 or nitroglycerin could damage lower realms, but those are too high-tech for me. Might as well try to make a nuclear warhead...'
Inorganic chemistry and nuclear physics were similar in that Han De had no clue what they actually involved. His knowledge of those topics mainly originated from technobabble. At least he could describe the process of enriching uranium to a cultivator, but the chemical synthesis was a no-go from the start. It wasn't as exciting as nuclear reactors, so back on Earth he never watched any videos about homemade nitroglycerin. A profoundly serious mistake in hindsight.
'I guess modern weapons are a bust. Sci-fi weapons are even more impossible. Maybe?'
While Yu Xian was uncomfortably absorbing the effects of the medicine, Han De switched his line of thinking.
'Modern weapons are a no-go, but there is plenty of magical stuff in this world. Sci-fi weapons could work. Heavenly Gaze is basically a laser that gets powered by spiritual energy. It is pretty useless but that's the fault of the spell being too simple rather than the theory.'
An ideal trump card would be able to damage an opponent a few major realms higher with a low cultivation base user. That was the principle behind guns on Earth. Even a child could pull the trigger and kill a healthy adult. In some ways, guns were the cheats of Earth.
Something like that was impossible for a Xianxia. Even heavenly treasures would eventually extract the cost of using them. The cost could be anywhere from catching the attention of the wrong people, or simply absorbing the soul of the user. It was anybody's guess.
Han De took out his tattered diary and started writing down any possibility that came to mind.
'Power armor: Arrays and semi-permanent shield spells is a sound approach. Probably already exists somewhere, maybe check the family treasury later. Hard yes.
Laser beam/Death Ray: Already exists as a spell. Maybe a laser array that is powered by ultra-high quality spirit stones might provide some extra oomph. More research is required.
Missiles: Conventional explosives require too much effort. Exploding formations already exists. As traps. The delivery is the problem. Could still be useful depending on the circumstances. Solid maybe.
Tesla/lightning gun: Already exists. Would require ridiculous amounts of power to kill a cultivator though. Cultivators have many ways to deal with electricity thanks to heavenly tribulations. Soft no.
Particle beam: I have no idea if that's something real or just sci-fi. Hard no.
Plasma sword: Same as the particle beam. Hard no. Cool for illusions though. Soft yes for cosplay.
Railgun: Can it move faster than a cultivator? Sof-'
Han De immediately stared at Yu Xian with suspicion. Although he didn't spread his spiritual sense around the perimeter, nothing on this planet could escape the notice of a Nascent Soul expert. Hearing Yu Xian's painful grunt and seeing him soaked in sweat, filled Han De with confusion. Some moments later Yu Xian twisted his 'Grade A MC' face and started gritting his teeth.
'Nothing attacked you, and you are absorbing the smoothest healing pill known to the cultivation idiot. There is no possible wa-... Whatever.'
The most likely explanation was an MC-level power-up. Realizing the fact, Han De immediately lost interest and returned to his list. If something went wrong he could either cast Golden Spark or give him another filthy rich grade healing pill. That was the extent of his capabilities as a healer anyway. If those didn't work, then the MC was sadly outta luck. Who told him to cultivate a dubious technique just now? Not Han De.
'Right, railgun. I'm sure a proper railgun could injure… Hmm… Could it injure a Nascent Soul? Maybe? If the Nascent Soul is sitting and waiting for the rail?'
In all honesty, Han De had no idea how modern weapons, let alone a railgun, would fare against cultivators of various realms. He had heard of some mortal cannons, but the tech level of those cannons was highly suspect, and stories were hard to trust. Cultivators had the tendency to exaggerate or downplay events based on their moods.
'Hmm. Isn't a railgun basically a long tube filled with magnets? And the projectile is literally a metal rod that gets pushed out by the magnets. That's… That's quite doable with arrays...'
Now that he thought about it, railgun was a popular choice for isekai MCs. It was a versatile enough technique that even making handgun versions was possible. Any self-respecting isekai MC would craft a railgun if the story had the slightest sci-fi elements.
'If the projectile isn't fast enough, I can increase the power of the magnetic array. If it doesn't have enough damage, I can make the projectile bigger, isn't it just a big chunk of iron anyway? I can even use spiritual iron and engrave formations that reduce air friction on the rod itself. Hmm, if the rod is big enough, I could even put an exploding formation inside. Then hide everything with a concealing formation…'
The idea seemed plausible. In fact, Han De the Array Grandmaster could already make one on the spot, if he had the necessary materials.
Magnetic formations were used for shielding inside celestial ships. They were simple, efficient, and made to purpose formations. Modifying them into exerting a one-directional magnetic field was doable.
'…I can use some of the items from the bunker formations. I just need some usable metal rods as ammunition…'
Han De couldn't help but nervously chuckle. It couldn't be that simple, right?
'No, no no. Even if I could make a railgun, that doesn't mean it has enough destructive power to be useful. Don't get too excited!
Still, even if it is only useful against my own realm, that is completely acceptable. Who would expect something like a railgun anyway? That's a surprise factor on its own. I can also use mental illusions to lock people into their place so that they wouldn't have time to raise their defenses.'
That awkwardly long painful grunt/moan mix succeeded where the short one's failed, and finally interrupted Han De's power fantasy. He frowned while thinking about what he should or could do.
Interrupting the absorption process was risky at best. There was a 99% chance that it may temporarily cripple the MC before a power-up. The remaining 1% was of course power-up too, it just skipped the cripple arc entirely. In any case, stopping him now was ill-advised even if it ended up becoming a benefit later.
External help was out of the question. He had no idea what kind of cultivation method that Yu Xian was practicing, and he wanted to keep it that way. Anything that could make a filthy-rich grade pill cause pain was most definitely masochistic in nature. After the Grandmaster comprehension level revelation, there was no way that Han De would learn a scripture like that. No way!
Han De chose the most sensible option, and continued to do nothing. Just to be sure, he made a mental note to warn Yu Xian about the pain levels. His new body was young, and probably had a lower threshold for pain. MC or not, Han De felt obligated to remind him.
'A railgun doesn't sound that bad. It's simple and should scale well with size...'
While watching the stars, Han De thought about how to approach the problem. Should he learn some forging scriptures too? All he needed to do was to melt some iron, could he rely on the simple fire spell he already knew?
'Just finish absorbing it already for F#$% sake!'
There were black dots all over Yu Xian's skin. Only a few at first, but then they rapidly increased in numbers. Naturally, a foul stench also started emanating from Yu Xian's body. Unlike the rainbow discharge, this stench did not care for the wind direction. Staying near this place was no longer an option.
Han De took out a spare bathtub from his storage ring, and filled it with water through simple everyday spiritual spells. Then without a second thought, he left a spare unmarked Daoist robe, dispersed the bean bag couch illusion, and operated his footwork technique to get away as fast as possible. It was only after Yu Xian became a tiny ant in the distance, he realized his mistake.
'I should've conjured a bathtub illusion instead. Damn, I didn't need to take out a tub at all. Now I just have two left.'
His original tub was still inside the cave he carved under the riverbed. The three spares he had were originally meant for his disciples. If Ning Bi's quest was successful and nothing had happened, the original plan was to teach them body cultivation. Naturally, body cultivation of any kind meant medicinal baths, hence the spare bathtubs.
Han De carried nothing but essentials in his main storage ring.
The fact that he wasn't compulsively using illusions came as surprise to Han De. That single grandmastered herbalism volume had annoyed him to no end when he was in the sect. Even now, even though this planet didn't have a single spiritual herb on it, the thought of creating a spiritual herb garden never really left his mind. By that logic, he should've been using illusions left and right, but so far his usage of illusions was almost entirely reactionary.
'Wait. I shouldn't complain about not gaining a strange new habit. Let's count our blessings.
That said, I really should use illusions a lot more though. Even dad uses illusions quite frequently. Didn't he conjure chairs when I first met him after the reception?
Yes, it is perfectly normal to use illusions for everyday things.'
Although he was nodding to himself, he was also questioning if this line of thinking was the result of the grandmastered illusion scripture. There was no way of knowing, of course, the only one that would know was the System.
Han De positioned his spiritual sense some distance away from Yu Xian. It was like watching a CCTV camera from the corner of his eye. The figure in the lotus position was just tiny enough to get a sense of what was going on.
In the next few hours, Han De reviewed his repertoire of external illusions. If he screwed up while melting iron, it would be quite an embarrassing sight in front of an MC. Illusions were a safer choice since he could dispel them at a moment's notice.
A variety of illusory chairs, bathtubs, toilet bowls, beds, mattresses, and more was added to his list of everyday items. He even created templates for cutlery. Among the plain and the medieval versions, there was also an ornate gothic version. His main purpose in creating the last one was to find out if he could do it. The result was debatable, but it was definitely ornate and definitely gothic.
When it came to the internal illusions though, he paused with mixed feelings. As a mind-altering scripture, most of its techniques were open to the target's interpretation. Different minds and different emotions would produce different results. The scripture tackled this problem by establishing a baseline. The illusionist would increase or decrease the power of the illusion by observing the target's mental power relative to the baseline.
The way to establish this baseline was to use the mental illusion on oneself, or by entering a test subject's illusion. Latter was obviously the safest way since the calibration often required generating intense emotions.
Unfortunately, Han De couldn't do any of that due to Reality Sense. The best he could do was visual observations. On the bright side, Han De was a grandmaster, and could pinpoint the issues with a few tries. On the other hand though, not being able to do it properly was simply too infuriating!
Still, he didn't let the frustration get to him. The scripture seemed way too useful to be ignored. Anything from training to torture was possible. Naturally, he wouldn't want to torture someone, but if there was no other choice, an illusion was the best option. An illusion wouldn't leave any lasting injuries! Technically speaking it wasn't even torture, it was just a simulation. It wasn't real!
Han De left the torture part alone and focused on the training part instead. He did not want to risk the grandmaster level scripture acting up if he made a meticulous torture illusion. Training was far more useful and practical.
Everyone trained differently in a Xianxia universe. The cultivation idiot mostly trained by cultivating and image training. Ning Bi's mostly involved doing cool-looking moves and one-shotting netherdemon illusions. Yao Qing was the classic case of swinging it ten thousand times without a break. And then there was Jin Shu, who didn't seem to be interested in combat at all.
The matrix dojo illusion he haphazardly made was... barely… acceptable. But it had serious limits. It wasn't interactive, and only relied on the subject getting beaten to a pulp as the teaching method.
There was no such thing as one size fits all, that's why Han De wanted to make 3 scenarios instead. One for single target DPS, one for AOE damage, and finally a battlefield survival scenario. In the idea stage, it was all well and good, but the execution revealed glaring issues.
Crafting a detailed mental illusion was hard work. Even simple ones took a long time to make if there was no visual reference. Making an elaborate mental illusion simply from imagination was out of the question. It would take weeks, if not months, or even years to finish. That was fine for regular cultivators that went in seclusions for decades, but it was completely unacceptable for Han De the Earthling.
Working with a clear visual reference though, was different. A memory could be embedded in the illusion template itself and act as a blueprint. The clearer the memory, the better the end result would be.
Han De attempted to create mental illusions from various forms of media, and relied on his grandmaster comprehension to guess whether the illusion he crafted would work or not. Unsurprisingly, the best result came from video games, followed by movies. Anime became a distant third. Anything else was basically the same as doing everything from scratch.
'… I've been doing this for hours, that guy didn't die did he?'
Yu Xian almost looked like he was covered in tar. Pain, was written all over his face as his muscles were twitching non-stop. But other than that, he seemed alright. He could be screaming right now, but Han De wasn't listening, so it was anyone's guess really.
'Man am I glad for getting the hell outta there. The whole area must smell like raw sewage by now. How long is he going to do that anyway? I'm wasting precious hours here...'
Although he was getting concerned, Han De still decided to continue doing nothing. That guy unironically called himself god-king. Obviously, he knows what he is doing. Probably.
Han De decided to have faith in the god-king.
'Didn't his fate say he's going to be the Jade Emperor or something? Isn't that a stereotypical big shot rank? He should be fine. What are the odds of a Jade Emperor dying from the mildest healing pill known to the cultivation idiot?'
Han De shook his head and went back to illusion crafting. Referencing video games certainly made things easy, but considering the superstitious tendencies of the Xianxia people, most video games were inapplicable.
'Anything close to netherdemons should work I suppose. I do have lots of visual references to real netherdemons anyway thanks to the black pagoda. Using the real thing shouldn't be hard.
I could also change the theme and make everything more cultivation-like… But… That sounds like a lotta work for a test. Actually, that's a lotta work in general.'
In the end, he settled on a relatively old sci-fi RTS game for the battlefield scenario. There were much better options, but that game was the one Han De played the most. There was a third-person shooter from the same franchise as well. Combining the two just made sense!
Without even realizing it, Han De kept working on the battlefield illusion for hours. What was supposed to be a simple horde mode ended up having 4 factions with their lore intact. He added more characters, tweaked their behavioral values, added more units, expanded the battlefield, increased the size of factions. He was completely absorbed in it.
Unfortunately he didn't and couldn't see any of it. His work was just a pile of symbols and diagrams with his memories being embedded in certain sections as reference. Han De didn't know, but what he was doing in his mind was quite close to programming. To him though, it was just a much more complicated version of a spiritual spell.
If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. Han De realized the true meaning of that quote after noticing the rising sun. Everything was fine as long as a System of dubious origin rewrote one's personality to accommodate the stupid amount of extremely specific knowledge crammed into one's brain. Then, you really wouldn't work a day in your life! A simple matter, really.
Han De rolled his eyes at the thought. For once, he was in a really good mood! He never would've guessed that working on a mental illusion template would be this satisfying. Before going back to work he decided to check Yu Xian's condition.
'What an MC! He's still absorbing the pill. So diligent!'
There were black splotches everywhere around the 10-meter radius of Yu Xian. It seemed as if at some point he flailed his limbs to get rid of the black goo, yet he was still covered with a generous amount. One big difference was that he looked calmer. Still doing something with the pill, but he was much calmer. Han De breathed a sigh of relief.
'Dude it's been like 10 hours. Please just finish your thing and take a bath. Seriously. I have places to be...'
Deep down, Han De knew that the relief he was feeling right now wasn't for Yu Xian, but it was for realizing that he still had time to fiddle around with new illusion ideas.
He didn't know whether he genuinely liked creating illusions or not. What he did know, was that he was good at it. He knew it down to his bones that his work was impeccable. He didn't even need to see the illusion. Seeing it would only serve as a distraction at this point!
In the future, there was bound to be a point where needed some art to advance to Dao comprehension level. It was inevitable. The Dao comprehension level was already unlocked. Han De had seen the message. The System clearly had an end goal. If stopping it was impossible, then perhaps it was better to look for mitigation strategies.
'What's the worst thing that could happen if I increase the Wandering Mirage's, or Twilight Phantasm to Dao level comprehension? Will I spontaneously start cosplaying? Will I start conjuring illusions all over the place? Those seem pretty mild compared to going berserk from Heaven Defying Tyrannical Scripture...'