After their conversation, Han De refused his grandfather’s offer to teleport him directly to his palace and opted to walk instead.
Originally, he was under the assumption that the System related events had charmed Long Ai, and that was why she was being so helpful. Now that he found out that they were building a constitution, doubts appeared all too easily.
‘… That’s a possession plotline, isn’t it? Why would an old monster that should’ve left this universe long ago, bother with building a constitution on someone of her direct bloodline? I should’ve known. Why else would she give me a ‘Weak’ soul cultivation method on the spot…’
Han De was exceptionally calm, because this was the second potential possession-related plotline he encountered. The first one being the System itself.
‘… I can’t really reason with the System, but maybe I can bargain with Long Ai?’
Instead of acting like he didn’t know, Han De would rather put everything on the table. The power of Long Ai was greater than anything he had seen anyway. Unless he could somehow encounter a higher void being and convince them to hide him, there wasn’t anything he could do against her.
Could he run away? No, even though he was ‘Untethered’, Long Juan still contacted him. In fact, the Long family even used the term ‘Untethered’ as his title! They were aware of the bloodline effects to some extent!
Could he fight Long Ai? Maybe if he stimulated his bloodline and gave an active command. But that wasn’t fighting, that was the last resort. Odds of his soul surviving the active command… was suspect.
‘As long as the possession isn’t related to the totality of the soul, I might be able to bargain for another body...’
Though the Endless Slumber was more of a nurturing scripture, it also gave Han De a good idea about the resilience of a soul. Han De could survive even if most of his soul were sliced off. It would be difficult, but it was possible. In fact, the soul’s resilience was the sole reason for the cultivation idiot’s survival. Han De the Grandmaster Soul Cultivator had no doubts about that fact.
‘I should’ve known. The Endless Slumber Scripture is pretty good, but its name was suspect from the start…
… Still, better than getting refined into a questionable pill, I suppose.’
Han De felt heavy in his heart, but he still believed that preparing for the worst was always better than ignoring the obvious. The ‘All Things Related to Xianxia Possessions’ series of plans had specific guidelines for a variety of situations!
‘… Isn’t this too much effort to possess someone though?’
After reviewing his earlier preparations, Han De once again realized how ill-prepared he was for dealing with the higher beings. Though he had a bloodline advantage, he felt like he couldn’t relate to them at all. If he couldn’t relate, or even predict their behavior, how could he ensure his own safety? How could he ensure his disciples’ safety?
‘I need to establish a power level and behavioral pattern for the average higher being…’
It looked like higher beings used the same rules as other watershed cultivation realms. They were all eccentrics. All higher beings he met fit the criteria.
Song Nuan was crazy enough to carry corpse juice with her and offer it to random people. Long Juan seemed like a kid with a magnifying glass. Long Ruolan looked like she stopped having emotions in 8th grade. Han Shan was still as obsessed with the concept of Face as ever. And Long Ai was more and more looking like the generic big bad boss, in charge of possessions (probably), and stirring stuff up at random.
‘…Wait, isn’t Nascent Soul the first watershed realm? Am I eccentric too?’
As he walked towards the palace that looked more like a huge city, Han De pondered that question. Was he really an eccentric?
‘No way. Right?... Probably not…’
Originally, he had plans to introduce significant behavioral changes when he reached the Nascent Soul realm. Expanding the range of his activities was always a welcome development, and opportunities to do so were very rare. Just so it happened, now that he was in the Nascent Soul realm, his concerns for keeping up appearances were at an all-time low!
Meanwhile, he felt another Nascent Soul realm spiritual power fluctuations. A moment later the culprit, Old Peng, appeared.
<Young master. The report on Wen Jiayi…>
Han De took the jade scroll expressionlessly and sent his spiritual sense into a tiny piece of decorative jade on the scroll case. The moment he saw the report, he sighed with emotion.
<… Well done.>
Old Peng bowed and left. The acknowledgment from their young master… made him feel conflicted. He felt both happy, and guilty at the same time. Though they were restricted from informing their young master of his engagement, they still did their work and collected everything they could.
‘I didn’t train these guys for nothing!’
However, it didn’t take long for Han De to notice something peculiar. In the usual fashion, his lackeys didn’t record the involved people’s names. A basic defensive measure to maintain plausible deniability in case an outsider found the report.
‘Why is she labeled as FC0-003???
… F#$%! Do I have three fiancés?!’
Han De started reading the rest of the report with utmost concentration.
Hair Color: (239, 164, 177, 381, 511) -> (137, 077, 130, 120, 14)
Eye Color: (199, 94, 125, 147, 512) -> (125, 41, 64, 0, 0)
Face Shape: REDACTED
Body Shape: REDACTED
Power and abilities:
The subject is believed to have Mid-Stage Immortal Realm cultivation base. Inherited the REDACTED family REDACTED scripture. REDACTED combat techniques involve needles enhanced with poison arts. Known to have exceptional spiritual sense. (Verified.)
Cultivating Poison Qi. Special constitution or bloodline is highly suspected, but no information available on both. (Confidence rating: 75%, third independent source is unreliable)
All 4 major sightings of the Poison Qi of the FC0-003 suggest that subject exhibits anomalous behavior. In each sighting, the subject’s Poison Qi eradicated targets of at least 2 major realms higher. (Confidence rating: 66%, third independent source is missing.)
Subject exhibited poison immunity in the year 14-384-1613, by surviving an Ancient Luminous Breath Poison Caterpillar. (Confidence rating: 13%, rumors’ source is unknown. See WRF-000-W0-FC0-003-005.)
The incident report contains 47 accounts of unverifiable acts of combat. At least 12 involved 1 major realm difference. (Varying levels of confidence.)
Suggestion to enter the subject as an anomaly was rejected by REDACTED. (Year 14-384-1687)
No information on equipment. See WRF-000-W0-FC0-003-005.
Personality and traits:
Cannot establish behavioral patterns due to WRF-000-W0-FC0-003-005.
Confirmed public conception is that the subject is a genius among geniuses, and does not deviate from the norm for the class 1 family heirs. (Reliability rating: 5%, cannot determine sources of rumors.)
No known weaknesses. No speculated weaknesses. No known associates. See WRF-000-W0-FC0-003-005.
Born from REDACTED and REDACTED, the subject is the heir of the class 1 (95% confidence) REDACTED family. Engaged to A0-001 in the year 14-384-1670. Engagement to REDACTED was announced in the year 14-384-1687. (Verified)
The incident report contains 13 unverifiable public appearances. (Varying levels of confidence.)
Currently believed to be in the process of taking over the REDACTED family. (Confidence rating: 10%, single source only.)
Due to the involvement of REDACTED, records of the subject require the highest level clearance to modify.
Class 1 protection detail unless overridden by REDACTED.
‘… Well, S#$%.’
Poison was one of those things Han De was extremely wary of. So far he hadn’t encountered any, but he knew it was only a matter of time. It seemed as if his luck had run out.
‘What about the Wen family?’
Han De was severely lacking context when it came to these families. How powerful was the Long family? How powerful was the Shen family? Li family? Wen family?
In the continent of Cloudy Mountains, the Han family was among the most powerful forces, and Starfall Mountain was one of the most powerful sects. Even if he didn’t know the exact power levels, Han De could still distinguish the powerful from the weak.
Thankfully, the jade slip didn’t just contain information about Wen Jiayi, but her family as well.
Size: Class 1
Power: Class 1
Base of Operations: Unknown
‘… That’s it?! Are you kidding me?’
Han De couldn’t believe it. As he tried to find a hidden and/or encrypted message, reality started to dawn on him. Higher beings could suppress lower beings at a fundamental level. Sebastian was at the 25th major realm! So was his grandfather!
25th major realm, the beginning of the 5th step in cultivation. A realm and step so far removed from Han De, he didn’t even know of their existence until Sebastian mentioned it.
Even Immortal Realm experts could act as fake gods at the beginning of the 7th major realm! Transcendent Experts could rewrite natural laws at the 12th major realm! What could the 25th realm do?!
‘… Maybe I shouldn’t have S#$% talked the old man and let him explain instead…’
At some level, it made sense that higher beings could suppress any attempts at collecting information about them. If anyone could gather intel about higher beings, it would have to be another higher being.
The fault didn’t lie with the lackeys. In fact, a higher being could interpret their actions as seeking death! Han De valued his privacy, why wouldn’t a higher being value theirs?
<Stop gathering intel about higher beings’ affairs until further notice. Get the official information from the Long family concerning Wen Jiayi, and someone called Li Ling.>
Han De’s contingency plans and his lackey’s training weren’t designed to account for such differences in power levels.
<Yes, young master.>
Old Peng left after Han De’s dismissing hand gesture, leaving the young master of the Long family to his own thoughts.
‘She was engaged to A0-001? Who was that?’
Han De’s cultivation memory worked in full force and remembered the confidential details of the A0-001. Codenamed ‘The Cockroach’.
While he was comprehending that his fiancé was previously engaged to the one person he personally killed, a voice transmission came from yet another troublesome individual.
<My lord, lady Wen arrived and she is currently speaking to my lord’s disciples…>
Getting caught off-guard, Han De grimaced at the soul-shaking voice at first, then came to a full stop after understanding its contents.
‘OK, relax. There are no official hostilities between us, or between the Wen and Long families. She doesn’t seem to be fond of the cockroach anyway…’
Wen Jiayi’s asking about the cockroach made sense in this context. Han De decided to thoroughly investigate this matter regardless.
‘… I really need some clarity of mind before I deal with Random Jade Beauties. This is getting dangerous.’
He made a mental note to reconsider everything after getting the official Long family intel of both Wen Jiayi and Li Ling. One was his (temporary) fiancé, while the other was a System user. He couldn’t afford to make a mistake just because the people in question were extremely hot.
‘… Can a panacea cure or expel Poison Qi? It should have some efficacy even if the Poison Qi is inert, right?
… Well, she wouldn’t poison me inside the Long family territory anyway… S#$%, please don’t tell me that was a flag…’
After reconfirming that meeting her now was the correct choice, Han De used the still open voice transmission line.
<Lead the way.>
Long Yanmei came in with the power of space. Even though Han De was preoccupied with a ‘battle’ plan, he still noticed the oddity in her demeanor. She looked even more reserved than before, and the way she walked almost suggested that she was wary of him.
Han De simply shook his head in silence. At least this Long Yanmei had the Long surname. Even if she was 9th or 10th cousin from a branch family as Han De was assuming, she still shouldn’t pose a great threat. Not at the moment, at least. Not while Long Ai was favoring Han De.
Though Long Yanmei controlled her demeanor perfectly, she was slightly shocked. Long De’s temperament was completely different! Was this the inexperienced pure Yang cultivator that she seduced yesterday? Did the news of the engagement shock him this much?
As she led him to the guest courtyard, Long Yanmei continued secretly observing Long De, who seemed to be regretting something! Perhaps this wasn’t the time to muddle his feelings. Too much manipulation could back also backfire on Long Yanmei herself!
Once they arrived, she did not alter her tone, and instead spoke plainly.
“They are inside my lord.”
Han De sighed inside, then entered the courtyard by himself. Wen Jiayi was sitting underneath a Weathered Iron Bark tree, along with the disciples. Unexpectedly, Yu Xian was missing.
Even Liang Cuifen stood up and joined Ning Bi, Yao Qing, and Jin Shu with her slightly broken pronunciation. Han De nodded in the Profound Teacher demeanor and turned his full attention towards Wen Jiayi.
“Ning Bi, get ready. In a few hours we might be leaving. Yao Qing and Jin Shu, clear your minds and meditate.”
Then he switched to Liang Cuifen’s language.
“Simply relax for now, you don’t need to worry about the language barrier. There are ways to resolve everything.”
Seeing their master’s serious mood, they received his orders and left after giving Dao salutes. Ning Bi’s eyes lingered at Wen Jiayi a bit longer before she exited the courtyard.
Han De conjured a chair by reflex, then internally regretted that decision. His reserves were down to 5%. Though it may be small, a chair illusion was still a needless expenditure. What if there was an emergency? At single-digit percentages, he needed to watch his every move!
He cleared his throat, though it was a needless gesture since he would never use speech for matters like this, the motion itself gave him some confidence.
<What are your thoughts on this engagement?>
Wen Jiayi raised an eyebrow. Han De’s demeanor somehow felt different.
<I think it is a beneficial alliance.>
<Beneficial… For whom? You? Or your family?>
Han De was nearly certain that this engagement was forced upon Wen Jiayi. That was the way Xianxia engagements usually went. His confidence level surpassed 95% once he saw her frown. Now he was more certain that he needed to dissolve this engagement at the earliest opportunity.
An Arrogant Young Master killed a Random Jade Beauty’s fiancé, then became the fiancé of that same RJB? Not only that, but that RJB was an MC as well?
Just the thought of that ringed 5 separate alarm bells in Han De’s mind!
‘…Why isn’t she responding?’
Han De paid great attention to the pink-haired MC’s every move. It was only natural. He couldn’t afford to make a mistake and say something wrong at the worst possible time! MCs were delicate creatures! The Dao of talking to them was profound!
Wen Jiayi was still frowning. She could see that Han De was against the engagement. This wasn’t just idle talk from an inexperienced man to gain her attention.
Like Long Yanmei a few minutes ago, Wen Jiayi too, thought of Han De’s earlier behavior. On Yu Xian’s home planet, Wen Jiayi’s disguise easily aroused him. Before the banquet, a simple look was enough to excite him. During the banquet, she noticed how her real voice also increased his heart rate. All signs were positive!
But now, his gaze was calm and unrelenting.
Wen Jiayi decided to gauge his response with a non-answer. She wasn’t sure how determined he was. <This matter isn’t simple.>
Han De shook his head. <It is simple. Very simple, in fact. So what if a few elders throw tantrums? Are we not cultivators? Are we not talented? At worst we’ll outlive those elders.>
Though the report was barebones, Han De did learn that Wen Jiayi was the heir of the Wen family. Naturally, she would have to have the necessary ego to go along with that. Han De knew this from experience. Specifically, from the cultivation idiot’s experiences.
Wen Jiayi’s frown grew deeper when she realized she couldn’t tell which version of Han De was the real one.
Did he play with her on Yu Xian’s home planet? But he couldn’t have known she was someone else back then. Was he doing this to everyone?
Did he fake excitement during the banquet? She would’ve noticed it if that was the case. The sense of an Immortal Realm expert couldn’t be fooled by a mere Nascent Soul disciple! No matter how exceptional they were!
Unlike before, this alliance through engagement made sense to Wen Jiayi. How could she throw away the knowledge of the future? The jade rectangle’s knowledge defied the heavens. Only a fool would ignore it!
Then, she remembered. When Long Ai came to pick up Han De, she said Wen Jiayi was from the Su family. Wen Jiayi even received a profound look from the Long family ancestor! In hindsight, everything made sense.
Han De was suspecting something! Though Wen Jiayi didn’t know what, her thoughts inevitably went to the graphic novel. The intuition of a cultivator… could not be underestimated!
‘… What kind of mental gymnastics is she performing…’
Han De could smell it. The delicate flowery scent that was tickling his nose had a tinge of bulls#$% underneath. He could not let misunderstandings fester at such a juncture!
<I will be honest with lady Wen. I don’t intend to take a Dao companion, and even if I do in the future, it won’t be for benefits. I can see you have your own considerations, and I sincerely apologize on behalf of the Long family for getting lady Wen involved.>
Han De bowed deeply, and sincerely. He could bow all day if he could solve his problems by apologizing! Bowing was free.
<I spoke with my great-grandmother Long Ruolan alread->
<I don’t mind.>
Wen Jiayi had a faint smirk on her lips as she nodded at Han De. She continued as if to answer his unspoken question.
<Is there any reason not to proceed with our engagement?>
‘… Hold up, didn’t I just sa-’
<As you said, both of us are cultivators. In terms of talent, pedigree, appearance, we are well suited for each other. I see no reason to refuse you as a Dao companion.>
Wen Jiayi looked absolutely sincere. So sincere that Han De immediately considered if he made the wrong move.
‘Is she one of those types that get interested when rejected?’
Han De denied that instantly. The timing didn’t fit. Usually, those kinds of RJB’s would build curiosity over a matter of days or weeks, even years! Not in minutes or seconds! Han De hadn’t done anything that could be considered rejection until a moment ago.
‘She is definitely hiding something.
…Don’t tell me she is a required component of a possession technique?’
Han De’s real knowledge of possession was nearly zero, but he could fill in the blanks with his Xianxia knowledge. Though in this case, it was like building a skyscraper from cardboard rather than filling in the blanks, but such a minor detail couldn’t stop him.
‘Makes perfect sense. She might end up being an indirectly useful element. Aren’t dual cultivation techniques a perfect job for that? Cultivation bases, even roots can be stolen. Maybe stealing one elemental root is a precursor to possession.’
In truth… The threat of possession wasn’t that realistic, because there were many little signs that indicated otherwise. However, when the true purpose of an old ancestor was unknown, anything was possible! Han De tentatively filed the Long Ai’s possession possibility under Weak Maybe.
While Han De was analyzing Wen Jiayi, she was also analyzing Han De. She spoke casually to test her idea.
<I heard you’ve had a run-in with the Li family princess…>
Han De’s frown was instant, and his wariness levels rose by a few notches.
<You also made an enemy of the Shen’s by killing their 9th heir.>
Wen Jiayi held back her smile and continued.
<The Long family didn’t explain anything about the Whispering Realms to you. Am I wrong?>
She took Han De’s silence as an affirmative response.
<Wen, Long, Shen, Li, Song, Tang, and Ji. These seven families sit at the top. As a Long, you will never need to worry about any of them. None of the other families will dare to touch you. Even the Shen’s will have no choice but to swallow their grief. The Long’s never care about anything but their family. This is why they are special among the seven families.>
Han De listened intently. Unexpectedly, this was the exact information that he needed right now.
<Beneath these seven primordial families, there are thousands of ancient families. The Whispering Realms is the domain of higher beings, even ancient families will have at least dozens of them. Some support the primordial families; some create their own factions.
Beneath them, are the countless small clans formed by the gathering of a few higher beings. They compete over resources and try to increase their cultivation. Same behavior as the lower realms, only at a higher scale, and with higher stakes.
Lower beings like us are a rarity. If it weren’t for the higher beings’ self-control, none of us could survive. Ripples from their existence are enough to kill Transcendent Realm masters.>
<Wen family is on bad terms with the Shen’s, and I do not like the Li family princess…>
‘Our interests align, is that what you are saying?’
Han De frowned and fell into deep thought.
Meanwhile, Wen Jiayi became certain. Under the guise of a normal young master, Han De was unusually cautious. Everything he did seemed to have thousands of calculations underneath. No wonder he received the Long surname. Underestimating him was Wen Jiayi’s own mistake.
<The Long family only cares about our offspring. What will happen to your disciples when they leave to experience the world? Won’t they inherit your karma?>
‘Offspring? Where did that come from?!’
This was the first time Han De heard about that. And Wen Jiayi noticed his surprise thanks to her superior physical senses.
<Benefits aren’t limited to our families.>
If she couldn’t use her charms, then she could use the truth. Han De’s cautious and extremely protective behavior would make him consider everything. This way, he wouldn’t focus on her secret.
After sending a provocative smile, Wen Jiayi disappeared through the power of space.