Liang Chen had already experienced it once before with Yi Xue and the others, but that didn't mean that he found it any easier to bear this second time around. The kowtows of the newly anointed disciples were one thing, but the titles they shouted out while lowering their heads was another matter entirely.
But quite frankly, the reason he had all these titles showered upon him was mainly his own fault. He said that he was one of the leaders of the Storm Wolf sect, not THE leader, just one of them. As such, they couldn't exactly call him patriarch or sect master, but because of how youthful he looked they also couldn't call him elder since it might offend him. Calling him senior brother or the like would also be awkward since their standings would be too far apart, so it was inevitable that they resorted to whatever title they could think of.
"Alright, that's enough of all that, get up already. I'm not gonna lie, I called it a sect, but the Storm Wolf sect really doesn't have a lot of members. The leaders are me, my wife, and her brother, and other than us there's only a further 174 members. Well, at least that was the number when I last saw the disciples, I'm not sure how many remain now."
Liang Chen could only wave his hand somewhat exasperatedly to beckon the kneeling people up. He perfectly remembered the previous people he had picked up, who had somehow ended up joining the sect. They had all left this place after his last meeting with Yan Ling, going their own way to hone themselves out in the real world. Including the people here, they finally broke the 200 barrier, but that number was still extremely small for a sect, to the point that it was questionable to even call it a sect.
"I don't have many rules, I'm not a terribly good leader or teacher so that's just how it is. Don't kill your comrades, don't kill innocents, don't take advantage of innocents, and don't act like the people who hurt you. I won't ask you to save innocents or kill evildoers when you see them, your path is yours and yours alone to choose."
Liang Chen didn't know how to lead a sect or how to guide people, it had been nothing but battles since the first time he stepped onto the path of cultivation. So he was skewed, everything he had was geared towards combat and killing, that single-mindedness was one of the reasons he was so strong. Of course, him seeing things like this didn't entirely mean that was how it was in reality.
"There is no need to belittle yourself, Benefactor, anyone who can reach a realm like yours is bound to be an excellent teacher for weaklings like us. I can't speak for the others, but I am personally fine with starting the training whenever... No, truthfully, I would like it if we can start as quickly as possible."
Liang Chen turned his eyes sideways to look at the black-haired girl with the ruined eyes, Jiao Hui Xin. She was one of those that had suffered the most, Liang Chen guessed that she would have to reach a pretty high body-cultivation realm if she ever wanted to regain her lost vision. But perhaps because she had suffered so much and for so long, the way she carried herself was incredibly subdued and polite, it was probably something she picked up out of fear that the smallest thing could set off her tormentors.
Liang Chen also felt that she was one of those most similar to him here, filled with such anger and hatred that it threatened to consume her from within. The faster she started training, the faster she could fight and release all the anger that was bottling up. He knew this, but he didn't decide to start training them straight away.
"I can understand wanting to start straight away, but no. First, you all need to fill your stomachs."
The people around him were all malnourished, some of them were in such a poor state that it looked like a simple breeze could bring them down. As such, Liang Chen brought out several large pots from his interspatial ring and set up several fires. The pots were filled with water and some of the vegetables that grew on the farms outside the city, he luckily had some normal meat so he could also toss that into the pots as they started cooking.
He also brought out a Demonic beast corpse from his interspatial ring, but he only added a few drops of its blood to each pot. These people were far too weak to handle the meat or blood of the Demonic beast corpses that Liang Chen had on him, the sudden surge of Qi would make them explode. It wouldn't be a terribly good soup, even with the handful of spices he could throw in, but it would be enough to get them some nourishment.
With his speed, each pot was set up extremely quickly, he even used his law of time on them to hasten the process at which they cooked. The smell of food quickly started to spread throughout the area, but Hui Xin, and the others, appeared a bit dumbfounded as they directed their gazes towards Liang Chen.
"Benefactor...You want us to eat our fill before we start training? Forgive me for saying this, but the help provided by your companion has already left us in a state good enough to start the training."
They didn't know Yumao's name or position so she went with the safest possible way of calling him. And indeed, he hadn't given them privacy, but he had done as Liang Chen asked and taken care of their wounds by using the plethora of medicines they had on hand. But that wasn't enough for Liang Chen, wounds weren't the only thing that could hurt a person.
"Again, it's Liang Chen, not Benefactor. And the help Yumao provided only healed your wounds, it can't be considered leaving you in a good state. One meal won't help all that much, but it's still an important first step. There's also another reason to eat first, you all need to unwind and empty your hearts."
Even the longest journey started with a single step, they were so malnourished that it would take a bit of time, but that was all the more reason to start straight away. The people around him could understand this thought process, but his final statement evidently confused them somewhat, one of them questioning while tilting his head, receiving a swift reply from Liang Chen.
"Empty our hearts?"
"Cry, scream, curse, punch the earth, you need to organize and vent out your emotions. You were pulled out from your circumstances and then brought right here, there's no way any of you have had enough peace of mind to properly digest your emotions yet. So you need to digest and vent them, because anger and sorrow are emotions that will fester and harden like a tumour if they aren't given a voice periodically."
In truth, most emotions were like that, they had to be voiced periodically or they would fester in one way or the other. And once they did, they would inevitably start to affect your mind in various ways. Liang Chen was an extreme case thanks to the bestial instincts that had plagued him at the start, but that was indeed one example, albeit a mixed one.
It didn't take long for the food to finish, it was just some simple soup after all. Liang Chen handed out bowls and spoons to everyone and let them serve themselves, pouring himself a bowl before sitting down on the ground. He also took this chance to hand out new clothes to everyone, he couldn't really let wear the rags they were dressed in. It was quiet at first, but the sound of crying slowly started to come from a few people, subdued curses quickly following and growing louder.
"See? Not noticing it doesn't mean that it isn't there. Cry and curse all you want, there is no shame in showing weakness, it's the first step towards strength."
Liang Chen simply sat there and slowly at the soup as he looked at the people around him, a soft and gentle smile on his face. They had bottled things up for far too long, even being brought in here couldn't stop them from worrying. Only now did things finally started to truly settle so only now did they get to work through their own emotions.
Liang Chen didn't interrupt them and simply allowed them to cry and scream as they pleased, he didn't even interfere when some of them hit the ground with such force that the skin on their knuckles split open. Just like he said, they needed to vent, to expel at least a part of that anger and sorrow. Things slowly started to calm down as the minutes ticked away, Hui Xin wiping away a bit of snot from her face as she lowered her head to Liang Chen.
"Thank you, Benefactor, forgive me for doubting you earlier."
The other people also lowered their heads slightly to show their gratitude. They hadn't interacted much with Liang Chen, but it seemed like they had already formed a small hierarchy, they had at the very least taken Hui Xin as their mouthpiece when it came to him. But whether that was because they also noticed traces of similarity between them or simply because she had been the first to speak up was uncertain.
"It's still Liang Chen. Don't think too much about it, doubt is natural, it's also a highly valuable thing, never forget that doubt. But now you've filled your stomachs and emptied your hearts so now it's time to follow me, we can start the first steps now."
Liang Chen shook his head as he stood up and put away his bowl, leaving the pots around so that they could use them to cook in the future. The people immediately tensed up somewhat when Liang Chen revealed that he would start their training straight away, a few uncertain gazes directed towards Hui Xin as they stood up to follow Liang Chen.
"Excuse me, Benefactor, but could you tell us what the first steps are? Just so that we may mentally prepare ourselves."
Hui Xin couldn't see the people around her so there was no way she could see their gazes, but Liang Chen guessed that her senses were surprisingly sharp. She had been the first one to notice his arrival after all. Of course, this could mean that she had lost her sight so long ago that she has already gotten enough time to adapt and sharpen her other senses, and that was hardly a thing to celebrate. Liang Chen of course didn't have anything against explaining things to them, it could be considered his duty even.
"Again, Liang Chen. It's simple, we need to check your affinities. You can cultivate elements and laws you don't have an affinity for, but the efficiency is reduced by a fair bit. And you guys are already lagging behind, so you cannot afford to lose efficiency."
People would inevitably have affinities, laws or elements they were better suited for. Taking himself as an example, his only inborn affinity was the law of time. But the Sebettu were quite special in how they worked, at first they only had the affinity that carried over from their ancestor, but the moment they first came into contact with another law or element their bodies would alter to become perfectly suited to those elements.
Liang Chen had bathed in the blood of extremely weak Demonic beasts that just so happened to be poisonous, and as he was drawing in a bit of Qi he had also touched upon a strand of lightning. Ever since then, his path had been set, Lightning, Poison, and Time, his three main affinities and elements. Of course, now things were a bit different since he used his body cultivation technique to completely alter his body, but at first, it had only been those three affinities.
The people listened intently as they followed Liang Chen, even the strongest among them had just barely reached the Heaven's Gate realm so they truly knew preciously little when it came to cultivation. Granted, Liang Chen followed a different cultivation path since he focused on his Dragon Lotus rather than an Ascended Tower, but he had read enough books to at least be able to point them in the right direction.
Liang Chen guided them through the city with calm and slow steps, he had inspected every inch of the city already so he knew where everything was located. He helped Hui Xin a bit since she clearly had some trouble accurately locating him when there were so many other people moving about, but it was really only him letting her hold his sleeve as they walked. They eventually reached a small square house that was a bit secluded from the rest of the city, Liang Chen pushing open the door and gesturing towards the centre of the room.
"Here we are. You can place your hands on that orb and I'll have it send a bit of energy into you, it'll dig deep into you and reveal your affinities."
The square house only contained this one room, and the only thing inside the room was the two-metre tall crystal that Liang Chen was beckoning towards. Intricate runes that Liang Chen couldn't understand filled the entire room, the walls and ceiling were completely filled with them.
He couldn't understand the array, but he had already read about the usage of this item so he could explain it rather confidently. He had seen many things in his travels so an item like this wasn't anything special to him, but to mostly normal mortals like Hui Xin and the others, it was undoubtedly something special, something that could measure something as ethereal as affinities.
"So even something like this exists...Benefactor must be more amazing than we thought to set up something like this."
Hui Xin and the others had no idea what it took to set up this crystal, but they were confident that measuring ethereal things was incredibly difficult. But that was just their misconception, it really didn't take too much to set up a crystal like this, it was quite common in clans who wanted to save their descendants a bit of trouble by discovering their affinities right off the bat.
"I didn't set it up, I was just given it. I didn't set up anything here for that matter, everything in this city was prepared by someone else, even the city itself was prepared by them."
Liang Chen contemplated the idea of correcting Hui Xin again, but he had already done so several times so it seemed like she had no idea of actually calling him by his name so he gave up on it. And indeed, this treasure of a city wasn't prepared by Liang Chen, he didn't have the connections to prepare something like this.
"I see, they must be a good friend to prepare a treasure like this for you."
This time it was someone other than Hui Xin who spoke up, the man seemingly mustering up his courage to speak up. But what a shame, the words he managed to squeeze out with all his courage made Liang Chen's eyes grow a few degrees sharper.
"A good friend... quite the opposite actually, I'm still not sure if I'm going to take his head."
No matter what he did, no matter how many times he convinced himself that he had gotten over the past, Liang Chen still wasn't able to forget Qing Lan Yong. His actions had caused the execution of Liang Chen's parents, but it was also his actions that had saved Liang Chen's sister, at least until Liang Chen returned and failed to save her. Everything here had been prepared by Qing Lan Yong, a parting gift he gave to his daughter, Yi Xue, probably so that she could set up a clan or sect of her own if she so desired.
He didn't know what to do with Qing Lan Yong yet, he had a personal hatred for him, but he had to admit that he had been a good man. That was why he had let him live when they last met, he still wasn't sure if he would actually go through with the final threat he left him with. He closed his eyes and stopped thinking about it, drawing in a deep breath before opening his eyes again, his gaze returning to normal.
He walked up to the crystal and placed both his hands on one end, using his chin to beckon one of the others over. They placed their hands on the crystal somewhat nervously, Liang Chen pushing his Qi into it to activate the array that drove it. A bit of energy was pushed into the man who stood on the other side of the crystal, the energy helping him draw in a bit of the surrounding Qi.
The crystal then measured the speed at which the Qi was drawn in, or more specifically, it measured the speed at which the various laws inherent within the Qi were drawn in. It then displayed an image representing the laws that the man's body had drawn in at a quicker pace, signifying that these were the elements he had an affinity for.
Once the affinities were displayed, Liang Chen memorized them and then made the other party memorize them before sending them aside and calling up the next person. He went through them one by one, Hui Xin coming up last. Liang Chen repeated the process, two images floating up within the crystal before long, one of the images allowing Liang Chen to let out a light breath.
"One of them is wind, huh, it'll be a good replacement for your lacking eyesight."
The two affinities she showed were wind and what should be the visual representation of the law of strength. The second one couldn't be used to discern her surroundings, but the law of wind excelled at this aspect so she wouldn't have to cultivate until she unlocked her perception before she could observe her surroundings properly.
She couldn't see the images so he explained them to her, simultaneously bringing out several small jade slips. All the jade slips were empty, but he used his Qi to fill them up with the information he had acquired from the scale that his birth parents had gifted him. He himself didn't know too much about other laws, but the scale contained the collective information gathered by the Sebettu race so it held a tremendous amount of information.
"I've transcribed several different usages of your elements here, they are good for forming an idea about how you want to use your elements. But first, you need to start cultivating properly, some of you have already reached the Ascended Tower realm or the Heaven's Gate realm so I expect you to give a bit of guidance to those who haven't reached that realm yet. These are the easiest of the realms so using the manuals I've left you is plenty to guide you through it. But of course, if you have any questions or when you're about to break into the next realm, you can contact me. I can easily check the inside of this city even from the outside, so you just need to call out to me."
Liang Chen handed out the jade slips he had just filled up as he spoke, passing out the various cultivation manuals he had acquired over the years at the same time. There were also quite a few cultivation manuals prepared within the city itself so he also handed out them, there truly was something for just about every law, with the more exalted ones being an exception of course. He handed out the items, but he didn't give the people time to read through them yet.
"With that being said, follow me, there are several places prepared for the more common elements, cultivating there will save you a fair bit of time. You can just pick out whatever house you want here when you need to rest, the farms outside the city should be fully stocked and there's plenty of water. I'll get my hands on some meat and animals shortly and send them in here so you won't be missing that either."
He had plenty of Demonic beast meat on hand in case he got hungry, which was extremely rare to begin with, but that meat was no good for these people. Luckily, the Mystic's Hidden Realm he was in held plenty of normal animals he could catch and send in here, it wouldn't take too much for them to set up some proper rearing areas by the already existing farms.
He headed for the exit of the room as he spoke, but the others behind him stopped walking just after they left the house. They exchanged a few looks, a minority of them in disbelief that Liang Chen was actually treating them this well. But they all seemed to come to a quiet mutual agreement, bending their waists until their torso was nearly perfectly horizontal.
"Thank you, Benefactor. Truly, we owe you our lives."
Liang Chen may have said he would take responsibility and care for them, but saying something and doing something were two different things, these people were keenly aware of that. But Liang Chen hadn't lied, he had even fed and clothed them, given them time to cry and curse, he had given them the chance to become humans again. But Liang Chen waved his hand in the face of their bowing, straightforwardly rejecting them.
"You don't owe me a damn thing, not a single one of you. I chose to help you, I didn't do it for any reward, I did it because I chose it. If you really want to repay me, live long and happy lives, have children and give them a happy life. It is enough that we've had to suffer, it is not our duty to push that suffering onto future generations."
For better and for worse, Liang Chen was someone who moved by choice, what he chose, he would do, no matter what others said. Hui Xin and the others looked like they wished to speak up again, but Liang Chen stopped them before they could and simply repeated himself. They had no choice but to silently engrave their gratitude on their hearts and follow him as he guided them to the various training grounds.
There was luckily a reason that some laws were considered more common than others, it was just easier to have an affinity for the elemental laws that you constantly interacted with daily. As such, all of the newly acquired disciples could be brought to a training ground that suited at least one of their affinities, Liang Chen letting out a light breath when he finished sending them all away.
"Alright, that should keep them busy for a bit. Yumao's probably already waited a bit, let's hope he hasn't caused too much of a ruckus..."