"My name is Han De. As you might have guessed, I'm not from around here. And I won't be staying for too long."
Liang Cuifen was sitting timidly on the chair in the middle of the long table. The identity of his savior, Han De, wasn't simple, so she didn't dare to directly look at him. 3 years of living in the royal palace had taught her this was the simplest way to avoid causing any trouble. She only nodded to acknowledge she understood.
After a moment of silence, Han De spoke again.
"I'm not the kind of person that differentiates between nobles and commoners. You can be at ease and act normally. In fact, I would prefer to be among commoners than the nobles of this place. I brought you to this place simply because it looked like it had better food than others."
After his words finished, the servants of the Red Moon hurriedly brought her warm towels then left after a deep bow. None of them dared to breathe out loud.
During her escape, Liang Cuifen dirtied herself to pass off as a beggar that entered the noble district. She took a sneaky glance as she cleaned her short hair and face.
Thankfully, Han De, sitting at the opposite side was looking outside at that moment. As soon as Liang Cuifen took a good look at him, she almost gaped. Even while sitting on a chair, he looked tall. His gaze was confident, as if he could see through everything. His long black hair was shining as it neatly rested on his back. She had never seen such a beautiful man before.
She hurriedly looked away and concentrated on cleaning. Though she felt her face was burning, it passed quickly, and soon calmness returned.
"Those men of the royal palace won't wake up for some time. The palace will think they are still on your tail since they won't be able to find them until they wake up and return.
Is there anyone that you are concerned about their safety? Parents, siblings, friends? For me, it is a simple matter to find and bring them here. You don't need to hold back, or feel that you'll be owing me."
Liang Cuifen froze. The pain in her heart started to come back.
I have no one... M-My parents..."
Her voice quivered, she couldn't continue. She had agreed to go to the palace to keep her parents safe. It was only a month ago she had learned of their death. The truth came out of the first meeting she had with the 5th prince. They've been lying to her for 3 years! Even the retainers she met once a week didn't know the truth. It was at that time she realized she was too confident, too dependent on her ability to discern the truth.
"It's fine. You don't need to force yourself."
Dozens of servants appeared once again, carrying a variety of dishes. Just before they put the plates on the table, Han De ordered them to bring the dishes to him. Only after inspecting them one by one he allowed the servants to place them on the table. Even the wine was inspected first. The manager of the restaurant offered to do poison testing, but Han De refused.
"I have my own methods. If there was a drop of poison in anything you wouldn't be standing here right now. Leave."
Could he detect poison in one glance? Liang Cuifen knew he was telling the truth. After thinking it over she decided that detecting poisons wasn't as impressive as healing her wounds in the blink of an eye.
"Eating will help you. Even if you don't want to, you should force yourself to eat. A body without sustenance will only weaken you."
After eating simple rice porridge and rye bread for 3 years, the dishes on the table looked like monstrous creatures. The smell was inviting, but as Han De said, she didn't have an appetite. But, just like Han De suggested, she forced herself to eat.
She couldn't taste much, and when she swallowed, the food sat heavily on her stomach. Han De was eating too, she saw out of the corner of her eye. Perhaps to make her more comfortable, he was eating a little bit of everything at a very slow pace.
Liang Cuifen inadvertently frowned. While she was strangely calm, that didn't mean she had stopped thinking. Whether it was a good thing or not, her mental state was altered. She was receiving favorable treatment. And most importantly, not a single lie was uttered.
This was as good a time as any to inquire about Han De's intentions. At the same time, Liang Cuifen felt burdened that this man didn't know what was going on. Though he was powerful, could he be as powerful as the Qin Emperor?
There were many legends of the emperor, and the previous emperor before him. Liang Cuifen grew up hearing about monarchs smashing mountains with one fist, generals defeating armies with a single move, princes defeating wild animals while still drinking their mother's milk. She lacked the perspective to make a comparison between them and Han De. Naturally, she didn't want to bring calamity to the one person that helped her.
"Mister Han De… Why did you save me?"
She had almost called him 'Senior', but changed to 'Mister' at the last second. Latter seemed… more appropriate, and it suggested they belonged to the same generation. After a moment of pause, Han De spoke without expression.
Han De elegantly used an eerie-looking knife and fork to cut a piece of meat. When or where those absurdly detailed black cutleries appeared was a mystery.
"It was only a mild curiosity at first. I didn't expect you to have heaven-defying potential, and a rare constitution on top of that."
Liang Cuifen had expected this outcome, she nodded without expression. Then she froze. Since Han De kept telling the truth, she had glossed over one part and focused on her constitution. Did he say she had heaven-defying potential? What did that mean? Her intuition told her the term 'potential' had a distinct meaning.
No, that wasn't important right now. She had to take the initiative!
"This Liang Cuifen… I... am aware of my constitution. I will willingly give every drop of my blood, if mister is willing to take me away from this place. The Qin Empire kept me in a tower, no one touched me..."
This was as far as Liang Cuifen could go. It wasn't as quick as it was a few minutes ago, but once she stopped talking, the embarrassment faded away and calmness returned. She glanced at Han De, and saw him looking at her with a confused frown.
"They… took your blood?"
Liang Cuifen averted her gaze and nodded.
...Ehm. Your blood doesn't have anything to do with your constitution. I don't need any compensation for helping you either.
This may sound arrogant, but saving someone in this world isn't even worth mentioning to me. The power difference is simply too vast. Even if there were tens of thousands of emperors and they attacked me at the same time, they wouldn't even be able to scratch me.
It isn't me that is strong, it is them that are too weak. I am only in the Nascent Soul realm. In my world, my power is considered weak. In my sect, Nascent Soul elders can only attend to matters related to new disciples. Compared to the true experts, a Nascent Soul cultivator is nothing more than an ant.
There is always someone more powerful, someone more ancient, lurking in places unknown. Never forget that."
Under Han De's stern gaze, Liang Cuifen nodded. None of his words contained a trace of duplicity. Naturally, she had to accept it as the truth. However, she couldn't help but feel wary.
The ability to tell lies wasn't absolute, if the person really believed the words they were saying, that would come off as the truth. When her 70-year-old granny claimed that she was only 11 years old, Liang Cuifen couldn't detect any lies. The granny's mind had regressed, she couldn't even recognize her own son or granddaughter. In her mind, she truly was 11 years old.
However, despite knowing this, Liang Cuifen rejected the possibility. Han De didn't sound as if he had lost his mind. If what he said was true, and he was that powerful, then the reason why he didn't tell any lies was that she was simply too weak. There was no need for him to deceive her!
Han De continued with a confident tone.
"In my sect, the type of your constitution can be considered rare. There are many names and definitions for it. The exact classification is unimportant.
There are five effects that are significant. First, it increases your cultivation efficiency while your vital yin is present. Second, it increases dual cultivation efficiency. Third, it increases your resistance to Ice Qi. Fourth, it makes you immune to cold temperatures. And finally, it causes the ambient temperature to gradually drop.
The practice of drawing your blood is the superstition of the locals. I would call it a demonic technique, but the cultivation level of this world is too low for even that. Suffice it to say, you don't need to endure that kind of treatment anymore."
Liang Cuifen nodded.
"Mister, what is vital yin?"
Since someone explained the properties of her constitution, naturally she wanted to understand everything she could.
"...Vital yin and vital yang are the energies that everyone possesses after their birth. Woman and man respectively. Some cultivation methods rely on them, nurture them, draw power from them. These vital energies are lost when one takes in a husband or wife."
Han De closed his eyes for a moment. It looked like he was considering something profound. A moment later he opened his eyes and continued.
"I can bring you far, far away. So far away that no one had even heard the existence of the Qin Empire. No one will find out about your constitution, even if they did, no one will dare to take advantage of you. From there, you'll have two choices.
You can live a lavish life without worries. Live and die, enjoying the privileges of being a mortal.
Or, I can leave you an Ice element technique. Cultivation is an arduous journey. But, so long as you spend the effort, you will be able to stand on top of this world. You have enough talent and comprehension for that.
You don't need to think about this right now. Take your time, and eat."
Then he stopped. Liang Cuifen saw him looking outside with a serious expression when she glanced at him.
Han De sighed.
"I just saw a talented, but... a little troublesome… person. He also saw me. He has troubles of his own, so I invited him to join us. I hope you don't mind."
Liang Cuifen shook her head. She did not mind. Even if she did, she wouldn't say anything. She had nowhere to go and had lost everyone she held dear. She had no grounds to refuse someone that offered her kindness.
More importantly, this was the first lie she detected from Han De. A chill appeared in her spine when he said 'little'. But every other word, he meant it.
Her heart rate began to accelerate as she considered the implications. Han De didn't believe this person was a 'little' troublesome. It was quite the opposite. The reaction she got was too intense!
Less than a minute later, the sound of footsteps approached them. When the room's door opened, a blue-haired youth appeared. The first thing she noticed was his robes. They were the same color as Han De's, in the same style as Han De's. Maybe they were from the same place, she thought.
"This junior apologizes for his unsightly behavior before and begs for forgiveness."
If Liang Cuifen's short hair was a little bit shorter, they all would've stood up. His words had too many lies to discern which parts were the truth. Perhaps they were all lies.
"Be mindful of others. They may be mortals, but they are still people. Sit, you must be hungry too."
A maidservant respectfully entered the room and put down a new plate, along with chopsticks. Her eyes were filled with fear. Liang Cuifeng could see that the servant was barely keeping her hands from shaking.
"This Yu Xian thanks the senior for his magnanimity."
Blue-haired youth, Yu Xian, sat down and confidently started eating. He glanced at Liang Cuifeng a few times but strangely chose to ignore her presence. Apart from looking young and being somewhat handsome, she couldn't spot anything special with him as a person.
The robes he was wearing were a little big for his frame, just like the brown robes Han De gave her. Maybe he had circumstances on his own and met Han De while he was in trouble. Then Han De gave a robe to him. Which meant that the robe she was wearing right now belonged to him too. Did Han De wear the brown robe before? When she realized what she was thinking, she found herself speechless.
After a week of starvation, normally she would've eaten everything piece by piece over a long period of time. Otherwise, she wouldn't be able to digest anything. However, her body felt exceptionally strong after Han De healed her. Once she got over the initial awkwardness, eating became much easier. In no time she ate two day's worth of food. At first she forced herself to eat, then she had to force herself to stop.
This was the first time in 3 years Liang Cuifeng wasn't alone during a meal. The atmosphere was awkward with no one talking, yet still, she felt far more comfortable than she ever was at the palace. She couldn't help but wonder what would happen from now on. The anxiety and fear that were on a timeout were showing the signs of their return as she considered what Han De said earlier.
"Senior, would I be overstepping my boundaries if I were to ask a question about that illusion..."
Upon Yu Xian's question, Han De nodded to acknowledge he could continue. Even a normal-sounding question from this guy was filled with duplicity. Not that the question contained lies, it's just that Liang Cuifen became apt at detecting duplicity after using her gift throughout her life. She imperceptibly frowned and listened intently.
"The details of the illusion weren't ordinary. Senior must have spent a lot of time perfecting it."
Liang Cuifen glanced at Han De. He was looking at his plate and took a few seconds to answer.
"It's just a trifling thing I made recently in my spare time."
One would think he was boasting, but everything he said was the honest truth! However, the blue-haired youth called Yu Xian wasn't lying either. He really thought that the illusion wasn't ordinary!
Meanwhile, Yu Xian was thinking he was on the right path. The pause there must've been because of his compliment. And there was a quick look from Han De in the direction of the girl. Han De was acting differently than before as well. Combined with the girl in brown robes, Yu Xian was getting an inkling that maybe something was going on there. Certainly, the girl wasn't bad, and she would look even better with some care. Remembering the freckled girl earlier, he made a deduction.
He was glad and a bit disappointed that a mysterious and handsome cultivator like Han De would enjoy mortal girls as his companions. But, everyone had their weaknesses.
Meanwhile, Han De was getting increasingly agitated due to not being able to lie. He had to meticulously think over his every word because of his history of being serial bulls#$%ter. Nearly all of his prepared lines were useless. He almost replied to Yu Xian's question with a video game quote out of reflex but managed to hold himself back at the last second.
Suddenly, he thought bringing the two MCs together wasn't such a good idea. He definitely should've sent Yu Xian away instead of inviting him over with a voice transmission. So what if he saw him? In the first place, he should've covered the entire place with the strongest illusions he could muster. But, it was too late now.
Liang Cuifen took a sip from the wine. There were many first for her today, and wine was another one. She had often heard that quality wine would quadruple the cost of a meal in the Red Moon, because they refused to serve anything younger than a century-old wine. She didn't know how old the wine she was drinking, but she didn't like it. Who would've thought a village girl would dislike the wine of the most famous restaurant in the Qin Empire!
"Surely senior must be jesting. The design and the quality of the illusion... It must've been the result of your tireless efforts."
Though there was some slime, Yu Xian's statement only contained truth. He really must have a high opinion of whatever they were talking about. Liang Cuifen began to wonder what they meant by 'illusion'. Surely they couldn't be talking about street performers who called themselves illusionists. She couldn't picture Han De performing in the middle of a street. Unless he was wearing a mask, no one would watch the performance.
"There was something I've been wondering. Where did senior get the inspiration for the setting? Was it a real event?"
Han De smiled and responded immediately.
"Of course not. How could that be real? That training illusion was based on a fictional work. I can't take any credit for it."
Liang Cuifen was only glancing in his direction, but Han De's smile gave her a dangerous feeling. His response was all true, but the accompanying smile warped its meaning in a way she couldn't understand.
In front of her, Yu Xian must've thought similarly, because he was deeply thinking about something.
"This junior is grateful for the opportunity provided."
Though it was a simple and contained statement, Liang Cuifen was still surprised at the sudden honesty.
"If it helped then it's fine."
Han De stayed silent after answering Yu Xian. The absurdly ornate and pitch-black knife and fork disappeared into thin air, and he looked towards the skies. Liang Cuifen saw Yu Xian looking at Han De with a serious expression. It was unfortunate that she couldn't read the blue-haired youth's expression like others.
"I will be taking my leave temporarily. Take these lifesaving treasures and carry them with you at all times."
A dark-colored leather wristband hovered in front of Liang Cuifen. She could not help but be amazed at the fact that an item was suspended in mid-air. Up until today, the most supernatural occurrence she had witnessed was someone punching through an old tree.
Liang Cuifen wasn't a cultivator. Like the vast majority of the mortals, she had no idea of the capabilities of a cultivator. To the royal family, she was but a tool. There was no way she could witness the renowned prowess of the dynasty. If she did, perhaps she never would've dared to escape in the first place!
She did not realize, but the effects of Han De's calmness illusion were nearly over. This illusion, like the name suggested, was only an illusion. It only forced emotional changes on the target momentarily. Once it was dispelled the target would go back to their true nature.
She had scraped her knees on the following days of her escape, but now they were in pristine condition. There was not a scar in sight. At the time she naturally found this to be earth-shatteringly impressive, but her mind was calm, and acceptance came easily. But now, the thing that came easily, was panic. Slowly she was realizing who, and what, she had gotten involved with.
Meanwhile, Yu Xian looked at the jade amulet with a strange expression. Lifesaving treasures became too complex, expensive, and time-consuming to maintain after a certain cultivation level. As the God-King, he would rather spend that time on refining more treasures! However, he did remember wearing them a long time ago. Therefore he wasn't surprised. What surprised him was the color of this jade amulet. It was… so green, and... so dazzling…
Why would someone make a lifesaving item more noticeable? He had no idea. Once he grabbed the jade amulet he immediately used his little hammer to take a look at its composition. Just as he suspected, there was a complicated pattern of energy that was surrounding the lifesaving jade amulet. The structure was complex, and the energy was stable. If it was an illusion, that meant it was cast by someone of immense skill and profound cultivation.
Yu Xian would never describe a Transcendent Realm disciple as having profound cultivation. His perspective was colored too much by his 'previous' life. When he said immense skill, or profound cultivation, he meant it in every sense of the word.
The stability of the illusion wasn't ordinary, and the composition of the energy lines required no less than tens of thousands of years of commitment. Yu Xian could still discern that much!
He wondered. Why green? Was there a significance to this color? Was it the color of the Han family?
"Yu Xian, take care of Liang Cuifen for a while. Her circumstances aren't unrelated to yours."
A stack of yellow paper appeared from Han De's storage ring.
"Each of these is enough to wound a Core Formation, or kill a Foundation Establishment disciple. Don't hesitate to use them..."
Han De disappeared into thin air. Yu Xian naturally recognized the attack talismans. Like the grey robe he was wearing, these talismans could also be utilized by Qi Condensation experts.
Yu Xian couldn't help but raise an eyebrow. There were over a hundred talismans in the stack. More than enough to destroy this entire city ten thousand times over.