"Jin, I guess if you're reading this letter, then I'm already dead."
Xie Jin gripped the letter tightly as its words hit him. He continued to pack up the furniture and other odds and ends that were left behind in the almost-empty house of his grandfather, Xie Ming, who had passed on recently.
The lawyer who was handling the inheritance of his only caretaker had given Jin a key to open his grandfather's safe. Jin's mother had given birth to him when both she and her partner were in their late teens, but unfortunately, they were brutally murdered by a rogue, psychopathic cultivator.
That's right. In today's world, anyone could become a cultivator so long as they had the potential. Those with sufficient cultivation could run at high speeds that rivalled modern-day transportation systems or even fly. That said, public transport was still available for both commoners and cultivators anyway.
However, that did not mean that commoners (those who were without cultivation, or who had not yet awakened their abilities) were at a disadvantage against modern-day cultivators.
In the interest of keeping safety and order, the top ten most supreme cultivators during the golden age of cultivation had convened and acted on their collective wisdom, thus drastically changing the laws of nature. As a consequence, all babies that were born after that change had their Dantian chi point solidified, and all humans — cultivated or otherwise — could never truly be killed.
This meant that if someone (whether commoner or cultivator) was accused wrongly, or killed due to collateral damage from another cultivator's fight, they could be resurrected. However, the cost of resurrection was prohibitive, and not only because of the money involved in doing so.
There were rituals that needed to be done, expensive but obtainable materials that were required for the resurrection process, and experts that had to be hired as well for the after-resurrection care. The hospitals and rescue services would not resurrect someone unless the person killed was cleared by the court as innocent.
Hence, the law was strict and the penalties against cultivators who had committed a felony were extremely harsh. With an entire eco-cycle being developed around this new law of nature, commoners and cultivators alike could progress better together. This subsequently brought upon the age of innovation and modified science, which made life easier for everyone.
However, that did not mean cultivators were not allowed to fight; rather, they now fought at their own risk. As long as duel pacts were initiated properly and the parties had settled the arrangements for resurrection rituals, the government would not accuse them of murder.
Duels used to require a third party witness. Thanks to the advent of modern technology and the numerous security cameras in place, all that cultivators needed to do now were merely to apply online via a phone app.
Unfortunately for Jin's parents, a psychopathic cultivator had, through an old defunct cult, found a way to circumvent the law of nature and managed to destroy their Dantian permanently — eliminating all possibility of resurrection. They were the first and last victims as Jin's grandfather, Ming, was a two-star General, and on that score, the police and military cultivators mercilessly hunted the rogue cultivator down with extreme prejudice. The case was later labelled highly classified in order to keep the public unaware of the existence of a method that could destroy the Dantian.
The paternal side of Jin's family did not approve of the actions of their son, and would neither acknowledge his existence nor partake in any responsibilities concerning him. Ming, being the prideful general that he was, could not care any less for pity or what Jin's paternal side thought of him, and he took on the full responsibility of bringing up his grandson.
In order to take care of Jin, Ming stepped down from his long military service and opted to live a humble life with his grandson. Jin's grandmother passed away at a young age, and so his grandfather was the only relative who took care of him. Ming knew that his daughter and his son in law-to-be were deeply in love and that they had been determined to make amends for that moment of recklessness.
"Jin, you are now 23 years of age. I want you to understand that no matter how highly cultivated one can be, it is impossible to beat the Grim Reaper and the onset of illness. Also, I am leaving this terrace house to you. Worry not about the near future, for the house has already been paid for and there is definitely enough money in the bank for you to live very comfortably for a few years."
"However, I know that you have always wanted to be self-sufficient — and an entrepreneur, at that! I blame my old habits… in truth, I have been monitoring what you were surfing online, so I knew what you wanted to be even though you were trying to keep it hidden from me. (Ahem — your taste in girls is nearly the same as mine, and I strongly approve.)" Jin did not know whether he should laugh or cry, but he read on.
"Instead of giving you my full inheritance, I have had it locked. My lawyer will give it to you portion by portion when you fulfil the conditions that I have in mind. I bought a piece of land right beside the shopping street that we often visit for you to create what you want. It should be sufficient for future expansions as well." Jin's eyes welled with tears a little, recognising and appreciating his grandfather's great concern, effort and love.
"Lastly, there is a very special secret that I have saved specially for you. Even the military does not know about this — a secret which I am keeping to the grave. It served me well."
The letter ended there. Jin checked the envelope again, remembering that there was a bolt of silk inside. He took out the beautiful cloth and unfolded it. Wrapped within was yet another piece of paper, but this time, it was covered in an encrypted code. A special one, homebrewed by Ming and Jin, and they alone knew the encryption algorithm. Jin wiped away his tears and started to decode the hidden letter.
The code was unusually difficult. The hardest decryption that Jin had attempted prior to this had taken him half an hour at the very most. However, this time, his grandfather had sneakily introduced a new element to the algorithm, something that he did from time to time.
Jin persevered. To his relief, he succeeded in breaking the code after one and a half hours, but all his efforts resulted in a mere four words out of many sentences of gibberish.
"Welcome to the System." Jin read aloud.
Without warning, an intense pain shot and coursed through his whole body. Jin immediately fell to the ground and started convulsing. As though a pair of invisible hands were choking him, Jin was unable to utter a single word, much less call for help. Next, waves of high-tension headaches racked his brain, making him feel like his brain was going to explode. The five seconds that had passed in reality seemed like five decades of pain to Jin, but when it stopped, a serene feeling passed through him.
He took a deep breath and heard a sweet, heavenly voice that felt ever so familiar.
"Welcome to the System, Jin. I have analysed your dreams and desires and have made certain adjustments to the System as per my father's requests."
"Your father... ?" Jin asked, dazed and sprawled on the floor. "Does that mean that you are my mom?"
"In a way, yes, I was Yun Er, your mother. Ming had this system module installed in him before I was born, but he used it only when he felt it necessary because he felt like it did not suit him at all."
"Later, he made a request to the System, and thus managed to extract the remaining spirit of me from my broken Dantian, which was fused into the System. Subsequently, the System acknowledged my presence, placing me as the person in charge." Yun's melodious voice rang out gently and clearly within Jin's mind.
"When you say the System, you mean the System referenced in fantasy novels? THAT System? Such things exist?" Jin's mouth was agape with astonishment.
"That is correct. Your grandfather was chosen by the System, but he did not wish to utilise the System, because—" Yun paused. "...it was not what he wanted. The system is more useful for the purposes of business-building rather than pursuing cultivation, which was what your grandfather was passionate about."
"So... should I call you Mom?" Jin hesitated a little but decided to speak his thoughts.
"Just call me Yun. I have no rights to be called your mother as I have no recollection of you being my child. The system informed me that it was part of the consequences of spirit transference when the Dantian is broken."
"Okay, Yun it is." Jin finally sat up, and a screen appeared in front of him. "Thank you for welcoming me. So what does this system do?"
"It will make you the number one Dungeon Supplier." Yun's voice had a twinge of happiness to it as she said the words.