‘Hot, violent, and smart.’
Han De increased the danger level of Wen Jiayi another notch. He didn’t buy her reasonings at all.
The Long family only cares for their offspring?
‘There’s no way the Long family could be Xianxia Bene Gesserit. That’s way too convoluted…’
Then again, Han De was reminded how every servant he had seen in this palace was female. During the banquet, all of the important Long members were all female.
‘Now’s not the time for that. I need to cultivate. My batteries are almost out…’
“Where is the nearest cultivation chamber with the most neutral spiritual presence?”
Though there wasn’t anyone in the courtyard, with Wen Jiayi’s exit, Han De was sure that someone was keeping an eye for any of his orders. And Long Yanmei didn’t disappoint!
<My lord’s private chambers were prepared by Long Juan herself, and it is the most sophisticated cultivation chambers on this celestial ship.>
‘… I didn’t want to know who made it.’
Why would a higher being personally prepare cultivation chambers for a Nascent Soul young master? Han De shook his head as if the physical motion would help him forget.
Thankfully, Long Yanmei didn’t seem to mind walking everywhere. As Han De followed her, he started to notice a new presence. The distance, shape, and direction made it obvious. Reality Sense was starting to pick up Han Shan. As far as Han De could tell, Long Ai hadn’t moved. She was still on the planet, drowning everything else with her mere presence.
‘If she didn’t move or her power didn’t decrease all of a sudden…’
The Reality Sense was expanding. The effect of the bloodline was getting better, and that meant Han De was going to get worse.
By the time Han De arrived at the cultivation chambers, he was still in deep thought. Long Yanmei silently prepared the chambers, then went outside to act as the dharma protector. The protection itself had no meaning since there was a higher being on the celestial ship already. But she did it anyway, because this was also her duty.
‘Let’s solve what we can solve first…’
Han De entered the lotus position and started cultivation right away. The more he delayed it, the harder it would be to start.
* * *
Ever since her niece Li Ling’s visit, Li Qingzhao felt restless.
This wasn’t an echo from her intuition, because she knew exactly why she felt that way. Though Li Ling herself wasn’t at fault, the little girl still felt like a harbinger of doom.
Just as Li Qingzhao expected, Li Ling came back from the banquet and immediately headed towards her. The cold, unexpressive face of her niece seemed even colder today.
Li Qingzhao waited. It felt as if time itself came to a stop. When Li Ling landed in the courtyard, each step she took made Li Qingzhao’s heart jump.
The stench of Long Ai was too domineering. It looked as if Li Ling really did interact with that calamity. Again.
From her tone, demeanor, and choice of words, Li Qingzhao guessed that her niece was threatened. There weren’t many beings crazy enough to threaten a Li. Even without the power of foresight, it was easy to guess the potential culprits through the process of elimination. Her first two guesses would be Long Ai, then Song Nuan.
“I will not interfere with the matters of juniors.”
Li Qingzhao was taken aback. Li Ling’s quote was clearly from Long Ai, but the message suggested a context where Li Ling was the aggressor. Such a thing… Was it possible?
|… Did you do something?|
Li Ling bowed before answering.
“I tried to use the status check function on someone called Han De. Son of Long Xiu, who was declared to be the 5th heir and received the surname of Long.”
A son, received the surname of Long? Li Qingzhao never foresaw something like this!
“Aunty, what kind of legacy does the Long family possess? Can they really detect a status check?”
The underlying question of Li Ling was whether the Long family was dangerous. If the answer was yes, when should the Li family wipe them out?
The confidence of her niece was truly something else…!
|No one can detect a status check. Even if you use it against a higher being, at most they will become aware of your presence. But catching a higher being’s attention isn’t good either way.
Tell me what happened instead of making your own assumptions.|
Sometimes being too smart and too talented could be a disadvantage. Unlike the geniuses that climbed their way to the Immortal Realm through their own efforts, Li Ling was yet to experience failure. She relied on her intellect to assess the matters on her own. And eventually, grew conceited enough to run away from home.
Li Ling had to realize this flaw on her own. Li Qingzhao could only give her hints, as she did just now. Whether Li Ling could understand the intentions of her aunt, was up to her own ability.
“Status check failed.”
How could a status check fail? That was absurd. The simplest and the most obvious explanation was that Han De was hiding his cultivation.
“It didn’t only fail on him, but there were partial failures in his disciples too…”
As Li Ling spoke, a sinking feeling started growing in Li Qingzhao.
“… On the disciples, anything but name, race, gender, age, and cultivation was unreadable.”
Once she heard the ‘unreadable’ part, Li Qingzhao’s eyes started glowing with a strange light. Li Ling saw the peculiar state of her aunt and did her best not to be a distraction.
Li Qingzhao took a deep breath, then started writing something on air with her Qi.
|Did his name look like this?|
‘ Name: !#$%^+/- ‘
Upon seeing Li Ling’s nod, Li Qingzhao procured a brush and threw it to her niece.
|Draw his physical appearance, no embellishments.|
Despite her long life, Li Qingzhao never taught her skills in fine arts to anyone else. Her niece was the only exception. It was a shame that the frequency of the girl’s visits decreased as her cultivation increased. But such things had to be expected. Cultivation was an arduous journey.
Li Ling skillfully recreated Han De’s appearance as instructed. While doing so, she did not bother to hide her disdain.
|… Are you sure you did not add any embellishments?|
A speechless Li Ling soon regained her senses and immediately refused.
‘That’s odd.’ Li Qingzhao thought. There were similarities but the bone structure looked different. In her vision, the face was more masculine, and pure. Li Ling’s drawing almost looked like a different interpretation of the same person. A variation of the same theme.
|… What did this Han De do after your status check failed?|
If this were the Li Ling of a few days ago, there was no doubt she would only speak of her own conclusions. Unexpectedly, the famous princess of the Li family, the one that ran away, did not hide anything. She plainly told everything.
|A tyrannical and heaven-defying sword art? Are you sure?|
Li Ling’s nod confirmed it.
The vision that Li Qingzhao had all those years ago, was finally proven to be correct.
“Is there something abnormal with this Han De?”
|… Who knows. The legacy isn’t infallible. There are infinite secrets in the universe, how could a single legacy know everything?|
Li Qingzhao unhurriedly continued.
|Stay away from the Long family and Han De.|
Hearing unthinkable words from her aunt, Li Ling’s emotions flared.
“Little Aunt, how can we stand for this provocation?”
Not just Li Ling’s, but the whole Li family’s pride was trampled! They were treated as if they were commoners!
Li Qingzhao tilted her head as if she were looking at something incomprehensible.
|So what are you going to do?|
Li Ling stayed silent, then a few seconds later a frown appeared on her usually emotionless face.
|Weren’t you the aggressor? Weren’t you the one that tried to dig into their secrets?|
This was a new feeling for her niece, Li Qingzhao could tell. A stimulus like this could become a powerful motivator for cultivation. This was one of the reasons why the Li family allowed Li Ling to run away. Without risks, there could be no rewards.
|What do you think of Long Ai’s threats? Can she do it?|
Li Ling’s frown grew deeper, but eventually she shook her head.
|That’s wrong. It’s not a matter of whether she can. She will do it.|
Li Qingzhao had seen it.
|Remember these words. You are not invincible. The legacy doesn’t care if you live or die. It doesn’t care if you suffer unimaginable cruelty as long as you live. It doesn’t care if your soul is destroyed when you die.
If I tell you why Long Ai is dangerous, heavenly punishment of the highest order will immediately descend and strike at your soul with all its might.
Stop thinking about such trifles. Reflect on your own behavior.|
Li Qingzhao waved her hand away and ignored her niece. If Li Ling couldn’t understand anything after this, that was all she would amount to.
‘… She is smart, she will figure it out.’
Li Ling went away after a bow and left Li Qingzhao alone. After a moment of pause, the legendary artist brought out a special brush. As she lazy waved it, profound waves of spiritual energy surrounded the courtyard.
Focusing on something she had no talent with was her own way of preventing unwanted visions.
But today, spiritual waves stopped abruptly and collapsed.
‘… I should send a message, just in case.’
At the same time, she thought of the countermeasures she took. Were they working? Were they making a difference?
After she sent the message signed with her pen name “Little Blue That Hates Coffee”, Li Qingzhao diverted her attention to her artwork once more. Even if she tried to calculate the future with all her power, this matter would always remain blurry.
* * *
[Cultivation: Nascent Soul - Early-Stage (294/1000000) (+294)]
Han De held back the urge to dry heave and checked the System time. Only 144 minutes had passed! That was for 3 cycles!
‘I knew cycle time would be long, but isn’t 48 minutes just too much for a single breath?’
The grandmaster within him knew the reason. The energy inside the cultivation chamber was neutral, and his roots were only at 42%.
‘Ugh, I didn’t expel any impurities after reaching the Nascent Soul realm, why did I end up doing so now…’
The stench was so overwhelming, it even interrupted his grandmaster evaluation! Of course, Han De also knew why he ended up with mucus-like black gunk all over his skin. He had eaten and sampled many mortal foods. The mediocre taste of the Xianxia pizza still lingered in his mind!
Evolution was a System process, and somehow it made sense that even bacteria wouldn’t be able to escape getting repurposed. If the System could create an Extremely Powerful bloodline in the blink of an eye, impurities should be basically nothing!
Han De desperately wanted to take a shower, but before he could get up, he noticed that the gunk was slowly disappearing. A few moments later, all of the expelled impurities were gone, and a refreshing citrus scent replaced the vomit-inducing stench.
‘Damn, now this is a cultivation chamber. Auto-cleaning? Even air refreshment?’
A whistle came out of Han De’s lips. He knew for a fact that the Starfall Mountain cultivation realm did not have this function. If the cultivation idiot were here, he would be extremely touched!
Thanks to the small quality of life feature having a big effect, Han De’s attention went back to his cultivation.
‘Soo… It comes down to 122.5 XP per hour, if I cultivate 12 hours a day here, I can reach the middle stage in… 683 days?...’
This calculation didn’t account for the pills he would normally consume. Naturally, a Light element saturated environment would also increase his cultivation speed. But everything was under the assumption that he would cultivate inside a filthy-rich grade cultivation chamber.
‘I wish I had a root cleansing token…’
Those tokens were really convenient! Only a single one could increase his roots to the maximum level! It was the most straightforward cheat that Han De could get. Instant root upgrade!
Han Shan had mentioned that the original attack that killed the cultivation idiot also disturbed the balance in his soul. Considering how the cultivation idiot’s soul was almost extinguished, this made sense. It would be weirder that the attack didn’t mess anything up.
However, thinking of the root cleansing and upgrading tokens, Han De couldn’t help but remember the System’s prompts.
[To prevent permanent soul damage, the host will be put in sleep mode]
Han De the Earthling posed a question. What would happen if he were to upgrade his roots right now?
The answer came from Han De the Soul Cultivation Grandmaster.
Of course! Of course upgrading his roots would disturb the energy balance within his soul! How could it not? This was a direct modification of his soul! Purer the root, the purer the energy!
‘… Did I… F#$% up my own soul?’
If he did, how did his family not realize that? Maybe they thought it was because of the attack? That was a very big maybe. But then again, they weren’t aware of the System and its capabilities.
Would other tokens have similar side effects? There was a brief, very very brief period of time where Han De considered creating new roots through the Spiritual Roots Seed Tokens.
‘Thank god I didn’t do something stupid…’
If the said tokens didn’t summon a tribulation, Han De would’ve bought elemental treasures around the world, and used the tokens without delay.
‘Ok. Cool. Relax. The System already consumed those tokens already. I can’t even use them accidentally now. It’s in the past. Relax.’
Han De took a deep breath and focused on acquiring Ning Bi’s awakening item. Especially his divination of the secret realm.
‘… Wait. Why am I trying to execute a plan that directly involves me?’
Technically speaking, if Han De could find that hidden realm, so could someone else. The single biggest benefit of being a young master is to have lackeys with stupidly high cultivations!
Doing something himself was abnormal behavior! And Han De immediately figured out the reason.
‘I see. I wanted to do the divination myself. Because that sounded cool at the time… This grandmaster level comprehension is getting troublesome…’
The grandmaster level comprehension introduced the habits of a true grandmaster. His oddly impulsive behavior to perform the divination himself was clearly a result of this.
Even now, despite recognizing the glaring problem, Han De still wanted to continue as planned.
‘What are the risks, and what are the advantages?
My family should be aware of the divination scripture anyway. The Immortal Sentinel is a [Very Weak] scripture, but its power shouldn’t pose a problem. The Long family should have much more powerful scriptures anyway. And if I fail, I can still ask Long Ai to step in. Failure doesn’t have a cost.’
Han De couldn’t think of any advantages, other than satisfying his grandmaster level curiosity. Letting his family see the Immortal Sentinel scripture might prove to be advantageous too. As a young master in a Xianxia, he had to improve himself at a steady pace. Not too fast, not too slow. Just enough, to continuously prove his worth while avoiding unwanted attention.
‘This might not be a bad idea to gauge grandfather’s reaction to a [Very Weak] scripture.’
With a nod, Han De decided to proceed.
‘… I should still take a shower first though. And take off this ceremonial robe while I’m at it.’
* * *
Just like everything else, baths too were ridiculously large. He had no idea how big an Olympic pool was, but no doubt that the baths in this palace were multiple times larger.
Big palaces, big banquets, big baths. Everything was super-sized.
‘The Long family sure likes it big…’
Han De sent his spiritual sense around. No one else was inside.
‘… There couldn’t be any peeping holes around, right?’
Han De dismissed the idea immediately. However, considering the tendencies of his mother, and the Long family, it would be a lie if he didn’t have any doubts.
Inevitably, his spiritual sense encountered a presence that could only be described as a spiritual control panel. Its contents were designed quite intuitively. Temperature, water level, steam level, spiritual energy levels. One section though, grabbed Han De’s attention.
‘Illusions? Nice, I was going to do that just now.’
Lush rainforest replaced the jade interiors of the baths. Sounds, scents, everything changed in the blink of an eye. The illusion even worked on Han De’s spiritual sense. If Long Ai’s and Han Shan’s power signatures weren’t there, Han De would’ve doubted whether he was still inside the celestial ship.
‘Damn. Now that’s technique!’
Contrary to Han De’s expectations, he didn’t learn anything from the illusion array, nor did he find it interesting. Due to the extremely high level of the array, his spiritual sense was useless. Reality Sense was also, equally useless, since all it did was to make the illusions transparent when he concentrated on them.
It was neat to look at, but that was it.
Han De read the labels of different illusions. Most seemed ordinary, like White River, Black Mountains, Green Mountains, Dead Sea, the list went on.
‘… Seriously? That’s it? Not Green Mountains of the Planet X, but literally just Green Mountains? Not even hiding the fact that the illusion is made up?’
Han De felt slightly better after finding something he could scoff at.
‘Yellow Springs? That can’t be THE Yellow Springs? Right?’
The illusion changed. The sound of gushing water replaced the wind. The sweet scent of the exotic soil and moss disappeared. All around him, were numerous springs, pouring questionable-looking yellow liquid into the gigantic pool.
Han De felt immensely disappointed with his fellow illusionists. The technique looked top-notch, but the content…
‘Let’s just forget about it.’
Slowly, Han De kept zapping between illusions. Doing so almost made him forget about the matters of the Long family, or the System, or the higher void beings, or the ever-increasing number of enemies he seemed to be making. Almost.
Han De sighed, and the moment of uneasy relaxation came to an end.
‘Really? Dark Tower? Light Tower? Blue Tower? Really?... This has to be some sort of Xianxia computer generated list of names. I refuse to believe anyone who could design these illusions would be this bad at naming them.’
There was even one called Broken Tower. Han De decided that one would be the last.
The moment the illusion changed, Han De was hit with an overwhelming sense of familiarity.
Underneath the baths, fluffy white clouds were covering everything but the symmetrical mountain peaks. Floating islands far away seemed to be in sync with the landscape. The final detail the completed the scene, was the thin tower in the distance.
Han De used his cultivator memory without delay to recall where he had seen this vista.
‘… Wait, isn’t this… the scene of the cultivation idiot’s previous life?’
A woman with a blue dress came to Han De’s mind. She even ended up becoming part of his heart tribulation!
‘What a strange coincidence. Let’s leave it alone. I’m busy...’
Of course Han De didn’t think that. Even if it was just due to chance, this was something from his previous life! Or rather, cultivation idiot’s previous life. Probably.
In Han De’s mind, the jury was still out on whether the cultivation idiot was an incarnation of him.
‘I didn’t look like a cultivator during that single memory…’
<Long Yanmei, enter.>
Asking was the fastest way. Long Yanmei obediently entered, and saw Han De staring at the illusory surroundings while wearing a stylish bathrobe that looked like it was about to fall off.
<Where’s this illusion from? Is this a real place? If so, what is its name, and location?>
Once Han De realized she wasn’t responding, he frowned and looked towards Long Yanmei. To his surprise, she was intently looking down at her feet.
‘I really can’t deal with this right now…’
<Just answer the question.>
Long Yanmei complied with a sigh.
<This illusion is the replica of the Li family realm.>
<… Is that the same Li family as Li Ling? The one from the banquet?>
Han De saw Long Yanmei’s nod, but everything took a little while to register.
‘Hold up, a scene from my-… from cultivation idiot’s past, is actually linked to the one family with the System?’
Various crazy scenarios came to Han De’s mind.
‘… Is there a link? Did I get the System from them? Could they know of the System’s o-’
Han De froze, only for a tiny instant, he froze. Not even Long Yanmei noticed it.
‘I should’ve just absorbed that sliver or whatever it is called.’
Pure, unadulterated regret warped Han De’s face.
‘I really am a F#$%&# idiot. How could I let her go? Isn’t this going to cost me?! What if she appears randomly at the least expected moment?!’