After entering the small restaurant, a sharply dressed waiter welcomed Han Li.
Han Li didn’t head to the second floor and instead chose to sit in a remote corner of the first floor. He ordered a few dishes and silently observed everything that was occurring in the restaurant.
There were people from all backgrounds sitting on the first floor, just like Han Li had seen from other restaurants. Regardless whether it be hard laborers or small business merchants, they were all present. The only thing that stood out was the table full of burly men.
These six burly men were all effortlessly carrying a meter long cloth bag at their sides. Han Li didn’t need to use his spiritual sense to guess that they were bladed weapons. From their similar uniforms, they clearly belonged to some sort of organization. However, this greatly aroused a feeling of familiarity from Han Li as he recalled his days in the Seven Mysteries Sect.
He swept his spiritual sense past the people and he clearly heard their conversation. As expected, they were killers belonging to an organization. Han Li soon lost interest and turned his attention to examining the other patrons.
At that moment, two young scholars walked into the restaurant. They were walking slowly and chatting with smiles on their faces.
“I heard that Assistant Minister Han has arrived back to the home village to pay his respects to his ancestors. Not only are grand characters of the province coming to pay an official visit, but the Fan and Li clans are also sending men over. It seems the Han Clan truly wishes to have this matter be bold and grand.”
“Exactly so! I heard that for this ancestral offering, the Han Clan sent out many letters summoning their side branch clansmen regardless of the distance. Even the government officials of little repute are sending men to pay their respects. From how I see it, the Han, Fan and Li Clans will soon become the three great families of the Jing Province.
“Tch tch! It is rather inconceivable that the Han Clan’s abrupt rise in power took place over a span of just a hundred years!”
“What’s so odd about that? Ever since a member of the Han Clan managed to rank first in the imperial exams, their rise in power has been momentous. Each of their later descendants began to achieve great rankings in the imperial exams. With several generations of success, it is no wonder they are currently so impressive. Still, it would be better for us to later...”
The two scholars casually sat down at a table next to Han Li while they spoke.
‘The Han Clan!’ When Han Li heard them, he hastily thought to continue listening to them, but the two scholars quickly changed the subject and began to discuss literary works, much to Han Li’s annoyance. After some thought, he suddenly stood and walked towards the scholars.
“Brothers, my name is Han Li. Might I ask which Han Clan you were referring to? I’ve arrived here after receiving an invitation to pay my respects to the clan’s ancestors. However, I’ve grown up in a small countryside and am extremely unfamiliar with the main clan, nor do I know where to pay my respects. Could you two brothers give me a few directions?”
The two scholars were stunned, but after seeing that Han Li also wore a scholar’s robes and spoke with refined words, the two replied without any suspicions, “So it turns out that brother is a Han Clan disciple! We’ve been quite rude. However, these is only one Han Clan, the Han Clan of the Three Kilometer Valley.
‘The Three Kilometer Valley!’ This entire area was the small village where the Han Clan once resided. Because the entire village only spanned three kilometers over the mountains, it received this unsophisticated name. It seems the Han Clan they spoke of were most likely related to him somehow.
With a calm expression, Han Li insipidly said, “If that’s the case, then this Han Clan is truly my own. Could you two tell me about the finer details of the clan? I’ve never participated in the clan’s ancestor offering. I’d rather not make a fool of myself.”
The two scholars glanced at each other and then examined Han Li. Feeling that he wasn't holding any ill intentions, they agreed, “This... we can only give a few general details. They are known by everyone.”
“Many thanks!” Han Li smiled.
One of the scholars began to speak, “If Brother is participating in the ancestral offering, it would be best for you to not immediately head to the Three Kilometer Valley. Several decades ago, the Han Clan changed their location to the Han Clan Castle. They will only return to their ancestral home in Three Kilometer Valley on the day of the ancestor offering. The Han Clan...”
Han Li’s expression remained calm as he listened, but his heart stirred with excitement.
Four hours later, Han Li appeared above the verdant mountains from his past. He didn’t descend, merely looking down in silence.
Was this the same small village from the past?
The yellow earth roads, short walls, thatched huts, and village children could no longer be seen. Instead, they were replaced with large courtyards, roofed buildings, pebbled roads, and well clothed servants. Not a single sign of the past remained.
Han Li shook his head at the sight and thought to depart when his gaze suddenly arrived at the building at the very center of the residence. This building wasn’t larger than the others, but it was the only building to have more than a single story making it rather eye-catching.
The building’s doors were shut and a pitch-black signboard appeared on the outside. The words “Han Clan Shrine” were written on it in silver paint.
A strange expression appeared on Han Li’s face. After some thought, he reappeared in front of the building in a blur.
Several burly shrine attendants stood in front of the shrine, but with Han Li’s invisibility technique, they were incapable of spotting him. He casually swept his gaze past them and entered without further thought.
Once he entered the shrine, he spotted rows of memorial tablets, numbering over several hundred. They were arranged on long tables which had empty spots on them for future generations.
After sweeping his gaze over them, he found many names but none that he was familiar with. Without any further thought, he climbed to the second floor.
The memorial tablets on the second floor were clearly more grand and important. Not only were there many lit incense burners, there was also a huge cauldron at the center. It was filled with scented oil and had a huge candle wick that was brightly burning. It made for a solemn sight.
This time, Han Li blankly stood in place as he read the several memorial tablets at the center.
“Han Zhu, Han Tie, Han Tiansheng...” These familiar names were all coldly written on the pitch-black memorial tablets. Han Li’s heart grew heavy and he found it difficult to breath.
As the saying goes, the great Dao was emotionless! However, that was only a self-deceiving lie. Han Li may be an Immortal from this land, but he was incapable of severing his emotions. He was only able to bury them deep inside his heart.
Han Li eventually moved, and slowly walked towards the memorial tablets at the center of the room. He stopped and expressionlessly stared at the memorial tablets as images of his close relatives began to continuously appear in his mind.
An unknown amount of time slowly passed by. The heavy sound of the building’s door opening woke Han Li from his reminiscent mood. However, he merely stood in place without making any moves.
At that moment, the footsteps and voices of two middle-aged men could be heard.
“Brother Li, you are far too impatient. Didn’t I say that I would lend you the letter for reading after the shrine visit? There is need to be so anxious!” This man spoke with a helpless tone.
In the other person’s embarrassment, they responded, “Hehe! Esteemed Brother Han, who was it that had you mention that the later portion of the letter had a set of nameless martial arts left behind by your ancestor? I am rather baffled as to why our Li Clan knows nothing of this matter despite the fact that our ancestors created it. It is only natural for me to wish to see it as soon as possible.
However, why is it that you enshrined the letter? It would be an absolute shame for someone to steal it!”
The first voice sighed and spoke with a voice of complete confidence, “Who would possibly think of stealing something from a clan’s ancestral hall? While our Han Clan isn’t necessarily a nest of dangerous characters, we still have many skilled martial artists standing guard. Ordinary people wouldn’t even be able to approach it. Even if they succeeded, they would still have to fear our retaliation.”
“That’s true!” The other man agreed.
As the footsteps became clear, a scholarly man and a man with thick facial hair appeared on the stairs of the second floor.
The two initially arrived with a smile, but after spotting Han Li, their expressions froze.
In their alarm, the large man stepped forward and covered the front of the middle-aged scholar. With a fluttering mustache and beard, he softly roared, “What a clever villain to think of waiting here in ambush, but you will not be leaving alive.” Once that was said, the man’s hands tightened into fists and he ferociously pounced towards Han Li.
But before he arrived, a gale with astonishing pressure suppressed him.
Han Li remained motionless as he stood in place with his back facing them.