After a few hours of being on display, the banquet was nearly over.
Apparently, their engagement was announced 13 days ago. Which meant that there were no ceremonies. Their engagement was as official as it could get!
According to Han De’s calculations, 13 days ago he was at the Silent Silhouette sect, where he ended up making contact with Long Juan.
At least in the case of his lackeys, he could understand; how could mere lackeys go against the will of the Long family? But what about his family? What about Han Wei, Long Xiu, Han Shan?
Han De shook his head as he stood up from his seat. The last awakening item was the priority right now.
As if it was natural, Wen Jiayi also stood up. She seemed to have a penchant for acting like an obedient wife. Han De made a special mental note for this.
Meanwhile, Long Juan came over. Unlike their conversation through illusions, she didn’t let her mood reflect through her expressions. Combined with her ceremonial attire, she looked like a typical taciturn monarch.
<|I heard you were looking for a flame from the previous cycle?|>
Unbeknownst to Han De, Wen Jiayi was also hearing their conversation. Long Juan didn’t have an objective, she simply thought Wen Jiayi’s reaction would be interesting.
<|Objects from the previous cycles are very hard to come by nowadays. We can get a few in the next couple of months, but looking at you, it seems you really mean it when you say urgently.|>
A couple of months? Han De had 8.2 days left.
<|If you can’t wait that long, why don’t you get the one from your subordinates? There are two that grew up inside a Fire element secret realm.|>
<… My subordinates have a flame from the previous cycle?>
Long Juan smiled at Han De. A few higher beings that saw her expression held their urge to gasp. The air within the hall turned odd.
<|It’s their secret realm. Objects from previous cycles are mostly useless and worthless. They are nothing but toys for the curious. But, they can be used as a medium for creating secret realms. Those two, have that scent.|>
‘Those two? Is that supposed to narrow it dow-’
The image of two vagrant sisters came to Han De’s mind. They were obsessive-compulsive, practiced the Blazing Sun scripture, and were from a secret realm.
‘Right, they were ‘persuaded’ by mother to follow my orders…’
Han De didn’t dwell on minor details. Han Shan silently arrived as he tried to recall the relevant parts.
|Elder Long Juan.|
|Patriarch Han Shan.|
Han Shan was far younger than Wen Jiayi’s father, but at the same time, he looked much older. Wen Jiayi was familiar with Han De’s history, but the details of the Han family were limited.
“Daughter-in-law greets grandfather.”
Han De sent a hidden glare at his grandfather who seemed to be enjoying Wen Jiayi’s antics a bit too much. Then he sent a voice transmission to Long Juan.
<What are the chances of that secret realm being intact after Shen Guo?>
A giant world array was left in shambles simply from the crossfire of Long Juan and Shen Guo. Could a mere secret realm survive that? Han De didn’t know enough about space to answer that. Long Juan’s answer was immediate, as if she expected his question.
<|Secret realms created by objects of the previous cycle would not be ordinary. A higher being can pierce one through great effort, but destruction isn’t possible. They are nothing if not tough objects. How else can they survive a cycle otherwise? They might drift away if there is nothing to anchor them, but destroyed? No. Not unless they are struck by something that can surpass the highest heavenly punishment.|>
Though Wen Jiayi was listening, she noticed a hint of worry on Han Shan’s face. For a higher being to show such mood, she knew there was more to it than idle worry. When Han Shan spoke, it was almost as he confirmed her thoughts.
|How about I take you to those two?|
Han De nodded at his grandfather, then bowed to Long Juan.
“Thank you, grandmother.”
His feelings were genuine, but Long Juan dismissed it with a smile. By now, all of the higher beings had left already, a lucky development on their part.
|I didn’t do anything. I will give the order to continue the search, just in case. Who knows, we might get lucky.|
‘Oh, you will get lucky. Probably. Yeah, probably…’
|Clear your mind for transfer. I don’t want my cute grandson’s mind to be squashed by our grand array.|
Long Juan stared at Han De as if she really was waiting for him to really clear his mind.
‘… Wait, that’s a thing??!’
Before he could ask, Han De’s vision changed once again. They were on the celestial of the Han family. Again. Han De checked his own condition, but nothing was out of the ordinary.
‘Why do they keep saying that?’
Long Yanmei had warned him about the grand array as well. Was that some sort of hazing ritual? Long Juan didn’t even wait, she randomly teleported them! Meanwhile, Wen Jiayi on the side stumbled and nearly fell to her knees. Reflexively, Han De’s moved on its own and helped her.
Being a jade beauty, Wen Jiayi was already exceptionally white. But now she looked even paler. The healthy glow of her skin was missing, and even her sparkly pink eyes seemed to be less bright.
Han De immediately suspected foul play.
‘… Is this some sort of setup? They are in cahoots to make her seem vulnerable?’
Wen Jiayi’s voice weary voice disturbed Han De’s thoughts.
Han De was about to help regardless, but he felt conflicted. What if it wasn’t an act? If he insisted on helping her now, would he get positive, or negative points?
If Wen Jiayi was a normal person, she may appear to refuse help, but still appreciate it. Everyone would go on their merry ways and forget that this event ever happened.
But since she was an MC, with violent and unstable tendencies on top of that, would she consider it degrading instead? Negative emotions would always stand out when recalling memories.
What if she was a Jade Beauty Template B, Variation 5 (Cold but Vulnerable)? She may end up loading unnecessary connotations to his simple act of kindness.
Han De’s indecision lasted for less than a moment. There was no need to overthink common sense responses. Probably.
“Isn’t it fine to accept your fiancé’s help?”
Wen Jiayi didn’t resist his touch, but there was a slight pause in her movements that Han De didn’t miss.
‘Well, S#$%. That looked like a normal response.’
It was hard for the current Han De to keep his urges under check. His need to solve this arranged marriage crisis was simply too strong. Why wait for tomorrow when he could cleanly solve everything right now? He acted nonchalantly on the outside, but in fact, he was deeply, deeply concerned. The existence of Wen Jiayi felt like a permanent loose end. Something that forced him to over-analyze anything and everything.
As a higher being, Han Shan could read his grandson like an open book. It was difficult to imagine that Han De had it in him to act like this. But Han Shan wasn’t too surprised. As far as he was concerned, the intense worry that his grandson was desperately trying to hide was a good thing. Wasn’t Han Shan like that in his youth as well?
Thankfully, though Han De had similarities, he was still quite different. Maybe, he wouldn’t have to suffer as much as Han Shan had.
Wen Jiayi could also detect some of Han De’s hidden anxiety, albeit barely. Something about it felt off. This… should’ve been a good development. Wasn’t this what she wanted in the first place? Then again, she couldn’t help but wonder. Wasn’t Han De a bit too easily infatuated? Was the intense pain affecting her mind?
Han Shan held back his smirk at Wen Jiayi’s suspicions. She was on her own on this one. He pushed back his own sluggishness and turned his attention back to Han De.
|Those two might not be able to help. The scent of their realm has grown weak. Tracking might prove difficult.|
“That’s fine. If they are useless I’ll think of something else.”
Han Shan nodded and the Blazing Sun sisters appeared out of nowhere. The two seemed confused at first, but both immediately bowed once they saw Han De and ignored everyone else.
Their manners seemed impeccable. So impeccable that they looked out of place! Two gorgeous women were bowing and speaking like gangsters!
‘… Was Peng educating them or something? Ehm, whatever.’
Han De pushed away his interest and focused on the essentials.
“Do you have a way to find your secret realm?”
Both shook their heads at the same time. Han Shan thoughtfully spoke from the side.
|You are from the Void Flame Sect, are you not?|
Sisters looked very similar to each other, but just like the last time, Han De felt one of them had a mature onee-san feeling.
‘A gangster onee-san…’
She answered with composure.
“Void Flame Sect is no more. Our Xin family protects their legacy, but much of the secrets were lost throughout the years. I, Xin Meili, used to be the matriarch of the Xin family. And this Xin Qiang, is my daughter, used to be the next line.”
‘… Ok, that’s completely irrelevant, but… hold up… No…’
Han De swallowed his own words.
‘…Mother and daughter? Really?!
… Forget it. Not important. Not important…’
Han Shan nodded at the two women and sighed.
|Pity, Void Flame Sect used to have a secret art to help them escape into their secret realm.|
Han De the Divination Grand Master’s ears perked up.
“That sounds like a divination art of sorts.”
Han Shan subtly frowned, as he still had some reservations against divination arts. However, such worries were useless now. There was no harm in discussing such techniques anymore.
|Such arts would usually have minor divination components.|
‘So, that secret realm can be divined after all. And don’t I have the best conduits for that?’
Han De evaluated the mother and daughter pair.
‘No, it’s been more than a month since they left their realm. They should’ve spent a lot of Qi before meeting me as well…’
Qi was one of the best conduits for divination. Especially if there were vast amounts of it.
“I assume you’ve depleted or reconstructed your Qi reserves multiple times already since leaving the secret realm?”
The meaning was obvious to Xin Meili. In the past, she had researched such thoughts in length.
“Yes, young master. We have tried utilizing the unique Qi to restore the secret arts many times, but…” Xin Meili couldn’t bring herself to continue.
‘… Why is it that both Yao Qing’s and Jin Shu’s items almost fell to my lap, but Ning Bi’s of all people requires effort? Doesn’t she have maximum luck? Shouldn’t 10 different flames simultaneously materialize the moment she needs one?’
Han Shan saw that Han De’s interest in the secret realm wasn’t just an idle one. Knowing Han De’s temperament, he decided to provide some context.
|Hmm. The veil of our old world has gradually gotten weaker. A secret realm made from a special treasure can influence the spiritual energy around it. Even the prevalence of the fire element roots could be related.|
‘So there is too much noise to filter through. No wonder they couldn’t divine anything even though they had access to the secret realm.’
However, none of that proved to be an obstacle in Han De the divination grandmaster’s mind.
Han Shan smiled how his grandson became more and more excited.
‘He was like that while creating his sword art too…’ Han Shan thought. Though he didn’t think divination was a reliable method, Han De’s approach to cultivation arts was usually unique. Rather than disturbing, he waited in silence.
Meanwhile, Han De had defined the requirements of the divination in his mind.
‘…If the result of the divination is too nebulous, the solution is triangulation through aggregation. Isn’t it a secret realm? Just a direction should be enough, divination itself doesn’t need to be complicated. On the contrary, since the conduit is polluted, the parameters need to be kept simple.’
“Do you have any treasures from the secret realm? Pills, swords, herbs, anything would do.”
Xin Meili shook her head at Han De’s question.
“… Unfortunately, young master, when a Xin matriarch steps down, they leave their possessions to the next. Resources in the secret realm are ubiquitous, but bringing them outside is difficult due to the unstable gate.”
‘S#$%... Hmm… I suppose their flesh and blood could work too.’
Blood was excellent for finding a person but terrible for finding a specific location in that person’s past. Han De’s guess put the blame on the cells themselves. Constantly getting repaired and replaced, they were easy to influence from the perspective of specific divinations.
It wasn’t an ideal situation, but Han De wasn’t going to complain about it. However, he needed to cover all his bases. Low-hanging fruits had to be exploited or eliminated first.
“Do you have any natural Fire Qi treasures that grew close to the secret realm’s gate?”
Han De looked at Xin Meili, but he didn’t keep his hopes up. They were two si-… mother and daughter that got locked out of their home and ended up having an unfortunate meeting with a void higher being, and Long Xiu. If their luck wasn’t in the negatives, it was still pretty close.
“… I found some after I exited the realm.”
‘… Oh, maybe her luck isn’t that bad?’
“How many, and what kind?”
Han De tentatively asked while ignoring Xin Meili’s perplexed expression. Even if it was just a few, as long as they were influenced by the secret realm, Han De could make the divination work much easier.
“… A few hundred.”
“444, to be exact.”
“… You found 444 natural fire treasures? After you exited the realm?”
“… Yes, young master.”
Xin Meili found it as absurd as Han De, but she did find many treasures after leaving the secret realm. She spent less than a month on the outside, and most of that was spent looking for Xin Qiang, yet every day she would find dozens of treasures. Specifically, Fire element treasures.
‘I see. It makes sense. Somehow.’
Han De couldn’t make any sense of it. Not unless Ning Bi’s luck somehow transcendent time and space. But that was impossible, if her luck were that domineering, there wouldn’t be any need for this many steps!
‘In that case, getting directions would be easy. I just need to recover my spiritual energy first.’
Profound Expert A persona came out on its own as Han De faced Xin Meili.
“I’ll be blunt. I’m looking for your secret realm to obtain it for myself. You’ve lived with the Han family for some time, you know I will offer generous compensation. Your family can also choose to leave or stay with the Starfall Mountain sect, that is your own matter.”
Normally Han De would’ve tried to negotiate a deal satisfactory for both sides. Forced deals would usually result in hidden enmities, and those could be extremely dangerous hidden threats.
Despite that, Han De chose a more direct approach this time. He couldn’t afford to go back and forth on the negotiating table over details. Only 8.1 days were left! Time was of the essence. Whether they liked it or not, Han De was going to make sure they take their blank cheque!
For Xin Meili, and for the Xin family, this was actually a great opportunity. They had become stuck in their secret realm for too long. Even in the past, Xin Meili wanted their family to migrate, but they didn’t have any means to do so. Not even a Transcendent Realm expert like her could do anything!
She kowtowed, and Xin Qiang followed after her mother.
“My Xin family doesn’t need any compensation if we can leave the secret realm. We will follow the arrangements of the young master.”
Han Shan nodded. After hearing the end of the Void Flame Sect, he suspected its successors, the Xin family, would follow the same fate. This matriarch wasn’t that bad. She understood when to decisively cut off her losses.
Meanwhile, Han De was surprised.
‘… Are you kidding me? Didn’t you try to take Ning Bi to your secret realm? Now you want to ditch it?’
Did they realize they were but frogs in a well after spending time outside? Whatever the case, Han De shook his head at Xin Meili.
“A Han always pays their debts.”
Dao of Money was a profoundly mysterious path that Han De would never hesitate to use!
Han De’s words were so natural, they left Han Shan startled for a moment. ‘Strangely fitting’ he thought. Did his grandson always have such considerations?
‘I’m going to stuff so many spirit stones into your rings that you will cry and beg me to stop.’