An hour ago.
Ning Bi, Yao Qing, and Jin Shu were brought to the observation platform by a Long family elder they've never seen before. With an oval face, full lips, and an incredibly voluptuous body, she looked extremely stunning amongst the elders they had seen thus far. The most striking feature was the white and violet flames dancing within her eyes. It was clear she wasn't an ordinary elder.
Unlike them, this elder wasn't wearing ceremonial robes, but a comfortable-looking design that was in-between a robe and a gown. The dress emphasized her curvatures even more. When the elder finally spoke, her voice made them feel as if they were in a dream.
"I am Long Yanmei. You will be transported to the banquet shortly. My lord Han De will join the event an hour later."
Ning Bi became completely mesmerized. While Jin Shu felt there was something wrong, she couldn't help but admire Long Yanmei. Only Yao Qing was able to resist going into a daze, but even she was affected by her voice.
"Thank you, elder Long Yanmei."
The voice of their always sensible sister woke up both Jin Shu and Ning Bi. Former subtly scrounged while the latter blinked continuously at the beautiful elder.
Long Yanmei was filled with regret as she observed Ning Bi with the corner of her eye. The girl's roots were on the low-quality side, but her constitution was truly perfect. If only she could have her in the Everlasting Violet Flame sect…
In the short term, Long Yanmei had to suffer some indignities, but in the long term, her potentials were huge. Just a few short decades, she just that!
Long Yanmei had to pay special attention to her spiritual energy usage as she transferred the girls, because an hour later she also had to personally transfer Han De.
For the third time, Han De's disciples felt like their bodies were divided into innumerable chunks and were put together again. After the first two Ning Bi thought she was much more prepared, but she still failed at using her breach skill during transport. Maybe on the return voyage, she would be able to…
Yao Qing first confirmed everyone was alright, then sent the two a voice transmission.
<Keep an eye on that Long Yanmei.>
She naturally noticed how Long Yanmei called their Master 'My lord', a multi-faceted title that could have many different meanings. When a member of an ancient family, famous for their arranged marriages, started using that word for a person they just met, the meaning narrowed down significantly.
Despite using the same language, Jin Shu and Ning Bi were oblivious to the connotations of the Whispering Realms. While they were following their guide to their seats, Yao Qing explained the basics. Once she realized what was going on, Ning Bi immediately asked.
<Master will have multiple wives?>
Though their only exposure was through Han Wei and Long Xiu, they were under the impression that Han and Long families favored monogamy.
<How many wives can he have?>
Ning Bi's questions seemed to come from genuine curiosity. The answer though, came from Jin Shu instead.
<I don't think master is someone that would agree to have multiple wives.>
Her words made a lot of sense. Yao Qing agreed with her, but she didn't point out the crucial part of Jin Shu's phrasing. She didn't need to, because Ning Bi understood everything, and a frown immediately appeared above her glowing eyes.
When they were finally outside, they saw a huge palace floating above the clouds. Simply looking at the majestic sight was enough to make them dizzy! Even at that distance, the wave of spiritual energy coming from it wasn't ordinary. That, was the location where their master would attend the banquet.
They traversed the elaborately decorated gardens without uttering a single word. The curious gazes they got were ignored. And invites to join others were refused. Even if they didn't receive word from Senior Peng, the girls would've still done the same thing under the guidance of Yao Qing. They were aware of the effects of their body constitutions.
However, they encountered something unexpected. A teenage boy and a young woman were already sitting on the tables they were led to by the attendant.
Upon seeing them, the boy and the woman stood up, and the former greeted them in a somewhat stiff tone.
"Disciple Yu Xian greets senior disciples."
The woman followed Yu Xian's gestures, but stayed silent.
"Please excuse sister Liang Cuifen, she cannot speak the common knowledge. I- myself only learned it recently."
Jin Shu noticed the change in Liang Cuifen's expressions. She looked troubled despite not understanding what Yu Xian was saying.
"Ning Bi, first disciple."
"Yao Qing, second disciple."
"Jin Shu, third disciple."
Upon seeing their organized greeting, Yu Xian was momentarily surprised. He quickly translated their words to Liang Cuifen.
Ning Bi and Jin Shu heard Yao Qing's voice transmission.
<The stiffness in his voice is fake. He is using an older accent on purpose to hide his origins.>
Jin Shu couldn't ignore how Liang Cuifen was desperately trying to hide her expressions.
<The girl is wary of him, to the point of barely keeping herself from flinching at his words.>
It was impossible for Ning Bi not to blink, and therefore impossible for her not to notice it.
<There's something inside him.>
No wonder their master had a subtle reaction towards the boy! In the end though, Yu Xian was going to be their junior brother. Three disciples decided not to judge a book by its cover.
Then, Ning Bi openly frowned at Yu Xian.
Two disciples. Two disciples decided not to judge a book by its cover.
"Why don't we sit down? We will be brothers and sisters soon, let's enjoy the banquet."
Yao Qing made sure Ning Bi saw her side glance and gave a sign. Ning Bi chose the closest chair, while Yao Qing and Jin Shu purposefully sandwiched her between them.
Seeing the timid behavior of the young woman, Jin Shu smiled and patted down the chair to her left. Just as she expected, Liang Cuifen hesitantly sat down on the spot without complaints.
Yu Xian noticed the extreme wariness of the four girls. Liang Cuifen was one thing, but why to did those three were looking at him with suspicion? Did he breach some sort of unknown etiquette?
The smallest disciple, the one called Ning Bi, wasn't even trying to hide her hostility!
Unfortunately, dealing with children was an outlandish concept for a God-King. Despite having many wives, Yu Xian never had any children. Nor did he take any disciples.
But this was fine. In his youth, he had dealt with many hot-headed young masters and delicate princesses. He was confident that he could handle a few youngsters.
While the attendants fixed the table arrangements, Jin Shu took the lead.
"Master was away for some time, and only recently returned. Your acceptance ceremony will be held soon. The Han family is busy with many things, I'm sure master is waiting for the right timing."
Their master had told them Liang Cuifen and Yu Xian wouldn't attend the banquet, but here they were! Jin Shu suspected this was another interference from the Long family, but naturally, she didn't hold it against the two. On the contrary, she felt sympathetic towards them, especially towards Liang Cuifen. They weren't 'official' disciples, yet they were attending an important banquet with the official disciples. It was normal to be nervous.
Liang Cuifen smiled gratefully at Jin Shu once she heard the translation from Yu Xian. The third disciple Jin Shu looked like a thoughtful person.
It was quite unfortunate that everyone was speaking the same foreign language! It wasn't strange once she thought about it. Other empires of her homeworld used different languages too. In fact, according to Yu Xian, the truly strange thing was to see a higher being use the official Qin empire dialect. What was a higher being? What did that mean? She didn't know, but it sounded important.
Nevertheless, Liang Cuifen knew that Jin Shu's words didn't contain any trace of deception. She and Yu Xian had woken up only a few hours ago, but through the servants' talks, she learned that her skill in detecting lies worked on other languages too. A shocking revelation that went against her intuition!
Yu Xian nodded at Jin Shu's words, and switched to a 'somewhat reluctant' expression.
"May I ask, is master related to the Han family? We…" Yu Xian glanced at Liang Cuifen as if he was taking strength from her presence. "We… don't really know anything, just that master accepted us as his disciples…"
This was the unfortunate truth. After waking up, Yu Xian realized he knew nothing about Han De. Multiple times he thought he had a grasp on Han De's power, motivations, and character. Yet each time his assumptions were proven wrong.
Yao Qing knowingly nodded. Yu Xian's question certainly made sense. How could anyone not be curious in his shoes? Anyone would be nervous after seeing the grand display from the Long family as well. Yu Xian's reluctant expression was completely justified, and on point.
At the same time, a thought suddenly came to Yao Qing's mind. 'Master said this Yu Xian was skilled in forging arts…!!!'
In the previous timeline, there was a famous young forging master that shook the lower realms with his skill. Yao Qing never met him, but she had heard many times that his forging techniques weren't ordinary.
This connection was too strong to ignore. Yao Qing also remembered her master's reluctance when he talked about Yu Xian. Clearly, he knew there was some abnormality with the boy.
'Whatever Ning Bi saw inside him, must be a primordial artifact.'
Yao Qing had been an agent of the Grand Path Library for thousands of years. She could smell a primordial artifact from ten thousand miles away. No wonder the boy's perfect behavior irked her the wrong way!
Naturally, Yao Qing's expression didn't betray her thoughts. Even her heart rate remained steady. With the discipline she had, ordinary people would never be able to discern her true intentions.
She changed to an understanding look and shifted her left index finger slightly to the right. Ning Bi and Jin Shu acknowledged the signal to play along.
"Master is the heir of the Han family. Their origins, you will have to find that out yourselves."
As Yao Qing talked, Yu Xian translated her words to Liang Cuifen in real-time. The latter couldn't understand why Yu Xian was acting so thoughtful. She couldn't help but feel a little bit of guilt in her heart for branding Yu Xian as garbage.
"After this banquet, he will also become the heir of the Long family. One of the biggest families within the Whispering Realms."
Whispering Realms? That was the keyword for Yu Xian. Wasn't that mentioned inside the ruins where he found the Shattered Veil Scripture?
"Gnuu'rlia Hgra'f Ya'ht'?"
This was the first time Liang Cuifen spoke. Three disciples looked at her with interest, then they focused on Yu Xian.
"She is asking about the Whispering Realms. What is it exactly?"
Upon seeing Yu Xian tell the truth, Liang Cuifen nodded in approval and looked at Yao Qing.
"This… can be difficult to explain without seeing for yourself. There are many realms, and the meaning of the word 'realm' depends on the context. The Forgotten Realms was the home of the Han family until recently. Netherworld is an ever-present shadow. The Whispering Realms is different. It is not a single place, but a status."
After seeing their confusion, Yao Qing smiled. Their reaction was just as expected. Yu Xian definitely heard of the Whispering Realms before. Liang Cuifen though, looked similar to Yao Qing in the previous timeline. A typical country bumpkin that suffered more than anyone should bear.
"Master's position isn't simply a matter of status either. Though he may be in the Nascent Soul realm, his comprehension is unrivaled. His understanding of the primordial laws is unequaled. Even his mere words can summon heavenly punishment. Both Han and Long families value merit over pedigree, that's why they value master so much.
You are his disciples now, no one under the heavens can bully you."
Jin Shu barely held back her smile. How ironic that they could utter those words after what they've been through. The difference between a few weeks ago and now, was the presence of their master.
Meanwhile, Yu Xian could concentrate on only one thing. Han De, was in Nascent Soul realm?!
His mind went into overdrive!
According to Yu Xian the God-King's estimates, Han De had to be close to becoming a higher being! All evidence was pointing that way. He was supposed to be a perverted hermit with a taste for mortal women!
Why would a higher being involve themselves with a Nascent Soul cultivator in the first place? Preposterous!
"No… how could that be…?" Muttered Yu Xian under his breath.
Yu Xian had researched the path to ascension thoroughly. Throughout the history of Sable Dusk Realms where Yu Xian ruled absolute, there were only 2 attempts at ascension. One failed, and created a catastrophe for their sect. And one, disappeared without a trace, all mentions of the person were wiped out! Through indirect methods, one could infer that this person succeeded, but there was no conclusive proof of anyone overcoming the great barrier.
Then, Yu Xian remembered Yao Qing's words. The Whispering Realms was a status, not a place. Within the tomb where he found the Shattered Veil scripture, the Whispering Realms was referred to as the seat of power. Yu Xian used his intuition to fill in the blanks.
Could it be, that he ended up coming to the realm of higher beings? Said higher beings didn't leave, because this is where they belonged in the first place? Then, what would that make Han De? An unprecedented genius born from incredibly old higher beings? Was he the son of ancient monsters?
Yu Xian remembered the overly respectful behavior of the servants. Just by sitting on the table alone, he could detect dozens of precious metal types, used in absurd quantities for decoration! For decoration!! Not even a secret array, but truly, only for decoration! This level of wealth wasn't ordinary, not even for a God-King!
"…it must be…"
Han De… wasn't an enigmatic master on the verge of ascension, but a young master of a hidden ancient family. That seemed like the only logical conclusion. Perhaps he was born with an Innate Dao Body, or some other ridiculous constitution, but in the end, he was… a young master…
Yu Xian was quite familiar with the type. Those that would rely on their families instead of cultivating their own path. Eventually, their life would turn them into arrogant beasts, unable to see the truth even if it slapped them in the face.
Did he accept such a persona as his master? Did he… kowtowed… to him?
Yu Xian had no problems accepting a master that much wiser than himself. No one was perfect. Even a God-King like him had many flaws! But, accepting a Nascent Soul fledgling as someone superior to him? That was not possible.
He could pay lip service for resources, but he would never truly become Han De's disciple.
"No… this matter doesn't look that simple…"
Yu Xian decided to keep observing. He had to admit, he was out of his depth when it came to the Whispering Realms. Making hasty judgments now would only bring him trouble in the future. He had to rely on the patience of a God-King to discern the truth!
Besides, he had received the help of this Han De on more than one occasion! If he was truly at the Nascent Soul realm, then his actions could've been sincere! Maybe it wasn't calculation that made him help.
Three disciples and one Liang Cuifen watched Yu Xian's varying expressions and mutterings without a word. When his emotions finally stabilized, Yao Qing broke the silence.
"Master will explain the principles of cultivation after your acceptance ceremony. I'm not sure of the cultivation rules of your world, but Qi Condensation realm isn't even considered the start of the ladder here."
Yu Xian continued to assist Liang Cuifen with his translations, but inside, his liver was burning. It was as if this Yao Qing girl was purposefully targeting his weak spot.
"Like us, you will also quickly increase your cultivations through master's teachings. Ning Bi here, for example, started cultivating only 3 months ago, but she is almost ready to form a core."
After realizing Han De was yet another chosen young master, Yu Xian had already labeled the three disciples as Han De's women. Why else would a young master have 3 stunningly beautiful disciples? Perhaps it was because Han De was bored of their beauty, he ended up looking for mortal women to have fun with!
Yu Xian was tens of thousands of years old, yet, he still had to deal with a toad lusting after… Actually, he realized he couldn't even call Han De a toad, appearance-wise at least. Suddenly he felt very old, and very tired…
Ning Bi seriously nodded at Yao Qing's words. The pride in her voice became stronger as she spoke.
"Yes. Before meeting master, I couldn't feel Qi no matter how much I tried. After only a few words from master I reached the 2nd stage in the same day."
It looked like this Han De was truly born as the chosen son. Yu Xian resisted the urge to click his tongue. Just as he expected, the disciples weren't only beautiful, but they had heaven-defying constitutions too!
Yao Qing felt she had understood Yu Xian's character to a degree. She relaxed her posture and stopped probing. Ning Bi and Jin Shu secretly acknowledged.
This Yu Xian actually wanted to use their master for his own benefit…
Yao Qing had no doubts that their master was aware of Yu Xian’s intentions. However, the thought process of their master was in a completely different realm than their own. He could ignore, or even outright be amused by such behavior!
That would’ve been alright, if not for Ning Bi’s existence. After their master’s arrival, it was as if the “little girl” was born anew. Her previous hesitance started to disappear. Her uncertain thoughts became stable.
‘… Even if she eventually kills him, isn’t that fine?’ thought Yao Qing. Surprisingly, she also didn’t want an uncertain element near their master. Her eyes met Jin Shu’s and saw that her junior sister also had the same thought.
Originally, Yao Qing had assumed that “Han De” was a reincarnated primordial master. The word itself had different meanings depending on the context. There were multiple Primordial Eras, for example. A primordial sect would mean that the sect was from the first Primordial Era. The era where the true masters ruled absolute.
Within the archives of the Grand Path Library, tucked away in an unassuming corner, there was a little diary. In the previous timeline, Yao Qing had found it by accident! Though the contents seemed crazy, it was still a true primordial artifact. Therefore she ended up reading it!
Now that she had the context of two timelines, Yao Qing thought the diary wasn’t as crazy as she first thought. In fact, it made quite a bit of sense in some places!
The parts about the forgotten slumbering entities were clearly far-fetched. Obviously the result of the over-active imagination of an insane primordial. Yao Qing didn’t spare single thought to that stupidity.
The theories about the high void beings though, had some truth in them. Perhaps her master wasn’t a primordial, but a higher void being instead.
This would explain the Long family’s favor. Why else a matriarchy would officially declare a male offspring as the 5th direct heir? If a higher void being’s future power could echo back to their origin, to their moment of birth, then the Long family would be able to detect it!
The Forgotten Realms was the birthplace of both Han De and Ning Bi. A world where the lines of fate intersected with themselves. A fertile ground for…
Yao Qing forcefully cleared her mind. Though she was inside the Long family homeworld, protected by the Long family ancestor’s edict, such thoughts were still nothing more than seeking death for someone of her cultivation!
She heard Yu Xian’s voice and focused on his conversation with Ning Bi.
“… I have never heard of a weapon called warglaives.”
There was a tinge of derision in Yu Xian’s voice, but thankfully it didn’t seem like Ning Bi caught it. Instead, she enthusiastically took her weapons out of her storage ring.