The dark and vast clouds looked docile, but they had the unmistakable stink of the heavenly tribulation.
Han De went over the Celestial Storm Scripture in his head, but couldn't find anything that could display such a phenomenon. Yao Qing's practice was exemplary too. Han De could point out numerous improvements, but they were all minor things. After all, Foundation Establishment methods couldn't be too complex. Otherwise, no one would be able to cultivate anything.
'Ok, she can absorb lightning, that's good. But, are those clouds a heavenly punishment of sorts, or just something she condensed on her own.'
This wasn't the time to be cautious. Han De inspected clouds in detail. The energy they contained felt stifled, the heavenly pressure that was within felt constrained.
'Can she absorb a very powerful tribulation lightning in this state? Isn't that just seeking death at this point?'
While Han De investigated, Yao Qing felt tremendous pressure. Since her master was at the Nascent Soul realm, she couldn't feel his spiritual sense. However, the moment he started looking at her, the violent storm within her spiritual mountain became obedient. As if it instinctively felt there was something nearby that no one could dare to disrespect.
Sweat droplets started to form on her forehead. Was there a problem with her cultivation? But she did everything perfectly! She had a perfect foundation!
Soon she was released from her master's gaze, and could breathe normally once again.
'Well, those are definitely formed by her Qi. Probably has something to do with her fate, or bloodline… Probably…'
The developments surrounding MCs always defied common sense. Han De decided to ask about Yao Qing's situation to Long Ai. If this were something dangerous, it would be better to deal with it as soon as possible!
If there were no problems though, that meant all of his disciples were getting comprehensive MC developments, in full force! It was a nice sight to see!
"Not bad. If you need any more of the standard scriptures, give me a list and I will simplify them down." Han De looked towards Ning Bi and Jin Shu. "The same applies to you too."
'Should I give them body cultivation methods? There are only 9.8 days left. Can they even make enough progress? Can I lock them into a cultivation realm? Will that advance the quest timer?'
There were too many unknowns.
"Master, will the new disciples attend the banquet?"
Jin Shu interrupted Han De's train of thought.
As if she expected this, Jin Shu answered without delay.
"Tomorrow at 17:00 the Long family is holding a banquet in honor of elder Long Xiu's return, and to announce something important."
Of course there had to be a banquet. Han De secretly swallowed an annoyed sigh.
"Liang Cuifen needs to learn the common language first. Yu Xian might know it, but neither of them are my official disciples. Not yet. And both still need some time to adjust to their circumstances."
'If it is Treebeard, plus Liang Cuifen and Yu Xian, I'll probably survive even if the disciples list reset. I should still be able to meet the disciple quota…'
Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea to have them as disciples. If only they weren't so… Han De shook his head.
'Right, I almost forgot.'
He turned entire his attention to Jin Shu, an action that caught the disciple off-guard.
'Man, she smiles so easily. Who would've thought she was a master at seeking death.'
"I heard there was a problem. Your former fiancé appeared and made some outrageous claims…"
"Yes, master. But the matter is solved, completely this time."
"Is that so. Then, explain your reasoning."
Jin Shu didn't skip a beat, it was as if she expected this question from the start.
"Feng Xiaoli always had excessive pride. Through that pride, he sent that announcement claiming me as his fiancé. To break this, I decided to crush his spirit. His friends abandoned him. His lovers ran away. The pillars that he trusted are no more, and his name became worthless. He will never be able to raise his head ever again. No one will dare help him. For the rest of his life, he will be nothing more than a beggar."
Ok, that's one way to look at it I suppose…'
In these situations, Han De's go-to method was to imagine the people involved as his siblings. What if his brother/sister did that thing? What if someone did something to his brother/sister?
What if Han De's imaginary sister was engaged against her will?
What if the person she was engaged with ended up being a trash that couldn't even protect himself?
What if the trash reappeared sometime later and claimed the imaginary sister as his fiancé? Despite the imaginary sister's refusal?
What if the trash -henceforth known as Scumbag A- already had multiple lovers?
What if the 'Scumbag Harem Trash A' tried to use his influence to go forward with the engagement despite the imaginary sister's refusal?
"Why didn't you just kill him?"
Jin Shu's answer was immediate.
"He doesn't deserve death."
Considering how meticulously she planned to ruin the Scumbag Harem Trash A's life, Han De interpreted her words as 'he doesn't deserve (an easy) death'.
Han De started tapping on the chair while considering how to explain the concept of MC halo to his disciples. While he did give a crash course of Xianxia elements to his lackeys, he wasn't sure if that would work for his disciples.
Said disciples were MCs themselves. Their standards were vastly different than 'normal' people like Han De.
'Hmm… At some point I'll have to explain it to them though…'
Another mental note was added to Han De's ever-growing list of things to do.
"Is this Feng Xiaoli an important person to you?"
The answer was obvious; Jin Shu shook her head.
"Then why did you spend so much effort into that person?"
Jin Shu looked like she didn't understand. Han De nodded with an 'I see' expression.
"You've made a plan to bankrupt his associates, ruin his reputation and relationships. Whether you personally spent time on making those things happen is irrelevant. Thousands of experts worked day and night to execute your plan. The Long family even exchanged their influence.
When you put that much effort into one person, all that you are doing is increasing their importance.
Through your attention they will gain more power. Through that power they will entrench themselves into your memories. And through those memories, they will have a conduit to exert influence over you."
This wasn't anything groundbreaking. In fact, this was the basis why many cultivators tried to isolate themselves. The fewer attachments they had, the 'purer' and more powerful they would become.
Three disciples understood the concept. Jin Shu too, understood. But how could she let Feng Xiaoli go after all he had done to her?
"It is conflict that strengthens us... and isolation that weakens us, erodes us."
Three disciples raised question marks in their hearts. Didn't their master just advocate the opposite? However, they thought their master made sense. Closed-door seclusion could increase one's cultivation base, but everyone would eventually encounter bottlenecks. Yao Qing was extremely familiar with the concept, while Ning Bi was extremely familiar with her father's stories.
Jin Shu's eyes opened wide. She… understood what her master was trying to teach!
Normally, Han De would've stopped after seeing this reaction. A disciple learning something on their own? Let them! This was the time-honored tradition of Profound Teacher Templates A through D.
However, this matter was too important to rely on misunderstandings. Han De needed to be absolutely crystal clear here.
"Don't try to take excessive revenge. If events have already spiraled out of control, if the enmity is irreconcilable, simply cut it off with one swift strike. Don't involve bystanders, don't involve innocent people. Strike only at your enemy."
Han De's demeanor ever so subtly changed. Other people may not have noticed it, but the three disciples were extremely familiar with their master's expressions. His seriousness alarmed the three disciples.
"When it is time to strike, don't underestimate your opponent. Don't give them time to rest, don't give them an opportunity to escape. Use ten times more power than you think is necessary. Always strike with excessive force. Always.
When you strike, it should be to end enmities, not to create new ones. Use your judgment.
You don't have to do everything on your own. Rely on each other, rely on me. If I'm absent for any reason, use my servants. They are trained to deal with such circumstances."
Han De turned his head toward Ning Bi.
"Protecting your parents is also part of your filial duties. And, the circumstances weren't ordinary. In the future, I know you will do better."
Ning Bi couldn't help but avert her eyes. This was the effect that Han De wanted. She was in a delicate psychological state where admonishing her could backfire spectacularly. But, reminding her of Han De's earlier quotes, and encouraging her at the same time, would allow her to do self-introspection. Probably…
If that didn't work, Han De could try being stricter in the future. But that had to wait until Ning Bi got better.
Han De stood up and gave his disciples a grim look.
"You have your task. If I catch any of you cultivating for the next 10 days, I will be very disappointed."
He didn't give them time to respond and activated his Through the Starlight footwork. Leaving his disciples with dumbfounded expressions.
It took the three disciples some time to digest their master's words.
Ning Bi remembered what her master said to her a few months ago.
'Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.'
'With great power comes great responsibility.'
At the time she couldn't understand the meaning of those words. Today, her face felt hot with embarrassment.
She always thought her master was an enigmatic expert, able to convey many thoughts with few words. Ning Bi always paid great attention to his every move, yet, she ended up forgetting such fundamental teaching! What a shameful disciple she was!
Despite the overwhelming negative feelings, Ning Bi wasn't depressed.
With her master's return, that insurmountable feeling of loneliness had dissipated in an instant. This was the first time her thoughts became clear since coming aboard this celestial ship.
Ning Bi looked back at how she dealt with the mortal Queen and her followers. Even she had to admit, what she had done was excessive. They were mortals that couldn't cultivate, she didn't need to kill every last one of them. And the ones that do need to be killed, she could've been much more thorough!
Ning Bi blushed with shame and silently made an oath to follow her master's teachings. To the letter.
There were no feelings of guilt towards the mortals she had killed. They attempted to manipulate her parents! How could she let them go unscathed?! If her master hadn't mentioned the event, she would've forgotten about it already. The grudge she had was settled!
Yao Qing made an "En…" sound, as if she realized she was right. Soon, a sigh followed. "Master won't let the Long family off the hook."
Ning Bi's eyes snapped at the figure of Yao Qing. Her eyes started glowing with ominous intent.
"Of course. And neither should we. Weren't they the ones that leaked sister Shu's name?"
From the beginning, Ning Bi was against sparing that Feng Xiaoli. If she had her way, all of the sects, families, and friends involved with Feng Xiaoli would've died horrible deaths!
Jin Shu smiled at her righteous rage. "We were both right and both wrong at the same time. What's done is done. We can only hope not to repeat same mistakes."
Ning Bi rage was gone in an instant. She agreed with Jin Shu after remembering how she failed to follow her master's teachings.
"Yao Qing, did master look… different to you?"
Hearing Jin Shu's question, Ning Bi stared intently stared at Yao Qing.
As a former Celestial Realm master, Yao Qing had vast amounts of cultivation knowledge. Though she usually appeared low-key, she frequently helped Jin Shu and Ning Bi with her experience. The tips she gave away simply couldn't be the result of a strong will, or sharp comprehension.
Despite noticing this abnormality, both of them stayed silent. They didn't mind waiting until Yao Qing herself felt ready to say something. They simply accepted her as she was.
<If I'm not wrong, master has gone through a half-step ascension.>
Yao Qing frowned as she tried to remember more about the subject.
<You've seen Han Shan, our master's grandfather. He became a higher being, a different form of life. If he so wishes, he could create or destroy realities. Rewriting the natural laws would be nothing but a child's play. Even time would have no choice but to obey his will.
Ascending to the Immortal Realm is a similar existential change, only on a much smaller scale. But not all ascensions are equal.
Under the heavens, there are countless different cultivation systems. Even though they all share a common root, their results are different. Some cultivate to the 100th stage of the Qi Condensation realm before establishing their foundation, while others breakthrough as early as the 3rd stage.
Half-step ascension is a forbidden technique, censored by the heavens themselves. It is equivalent to being reborn with a Flawless Dao body.>
Jin Shu nodded, but she couldn't help but ask again. "… So he did look different to you too?"
Jin Shu felt relieved. For a moment she thought she was seeing things!
Yao Qing tentatively turned towards Ning Bi. "Did master say anything else to you?"
"He said: Move well. Learn well. Play well, eat well, and rest well."
Jin Shu's impression of Han De was that he was a man of balance. Only someone like him would think of balancing one's life in this way. Anyone else would staunchly tell their disciples to cultivate nonstop.
Yao Qing also arrived at the same conclusion. Their cultivations advanced leaps and bounds after getting their body constitutions. Yao Qing and Ning Bi didn't even use the prayer beads treasure anymore. Most of the time it was left with Jin Shu.
Meanwhile, Ning Bi poked the illusory armchair. The brown texture looked like leather, but it was strangely smooth to the touch. "Sister Qing, what is this?"
Yao Qing sent her spiritual sense to the armchair. "It… should be an illusion art."
Ning Bi did the same thing and frowned. "Our cultivations are too low."
The Breach skill was always active. Anytime Ning Bi closed her eyes, she could perceive the massive light coming from the world above. The light of Han Shan and Long Juan too, was ever-present. Higher beings, especially when they were nearby, distorted her "Breach Vision" as she called it.
However, this was the first time she saw a piece of furniture light up in her Breach Vision. Other objects never looked this eye-catching, no matter how much spiritual energy they had.