"Haha, that's all I needed to hear. What do you think of Elder Ling from our Star Palace?" the elderly man asked with a smile.
"Are you referring to Fellow Daoist Ling Yuling?" Han Li asked with a peculiar look on his face.
"Indeed; she is also the daughter of our two palace masters!" The elderly man nodded in response.
"Fellow Daoist Ling naturally has exceptional cultivation aptitude to be able to reach the Nascent Soul Stage at such a young age. I'm not quite sure I understand what you're asking, fellow Daoist." A hint of confusion flashed through Han Li's eyes.
"Elder Ling's aptitude is indeed quite exceptional, but it's far inferior compared to yours, Brother Han. However, there's no doubting the fact that both of you are supremely-talented prodigies. If you two join forces, perhaps there will be a chance for you to succeed in your pursuit of the Great Dao and Immortality. Brother Han, would you be willing to become Elder Ling's Dao Companion?"
"Dao Companion?" Han Li was given a massive fright upon hearing this, and his jaw dropped straight to the ground.
"Indeed. Both Brother Han and Elder Ling are so young with such exceptional aptitude; you two are a match made in heaven! Would you allow me to act as a matchmaker for the two of you?" The elderly man wore a wide smile on his face.
The astonishment on Han Li's face immediately receded as his brows furrowed.
The elderly man was slightly surprised to see this.
Could it be that Han Li was unwilling to accept such a brilliant arrangement?
One had to realize that in the cultivation world, female Nascent Soul cultivators were almost nonexistent, and it was even more difficult to find a female Nascent Soul cultivator of a similar age as Han Li. As such, even though everyone knew about the benefits of dual cultivation, most male Nascent Soul cultivators could only take Core Formation or even Foundation Establishment female cultivators as their servants or concubines. There were very few of those couples who actually became Dao Companions. A female Nascent Soul cultivator would occasionally appear, but she would immediately be pursued by many male cultivators with similar cultivation bases.
Ling Yuling was a Nascent Soul cultivator-an extremely beautiful one, at that-and she was also the daughter of the vastly renowned Star Palace masters. Wasn't this almost the best possible thing that could happen to Han Li? So why was it that he appeared to so reluctant to accept this arrangement?
That was simply astonishing to the elderly man.
However, this man was a late-Nascent Soul cultivator, so the elderly man naturally didn't dare to express the displeasure in his heart. His expression remained unchanged as he continued in an enthusiastic manner, "The two palace masters have said that as long as you're willing to become Elder Ling's Dao Companion and live in our Heavenly Star City, you'll be the next master of the Star Palace for sure. In that case, you'll become the ruler of the Scattered Star Seas Brother Han, and on top of that..."
The elderly man began to rattle off a long list of benefits that the dual cultivation arrangement could bring to Han Li, and his voice was tinged with more than a hint of envy.
Han Li continued to remain silent, but the elderly man didn't who any intention of stopping anytime soon, so he could only heave an internal sigh in the end, and cut him off.
"I'm very grateful to the palace masters for thinking so highly of me, but I must refuse this proposal."
"What? Please consider this carefully, Brother Han! This is an important matter and it would be unwise to make a rash decision." The elderly man could sense from Han Li's aloof reaction that he was quite averse to the proposal. However, his heart still sank after hearing Han Li's refusal, yet he was still unwilling to give up. It would place him in a very awkward situation if he failed to complete this mission that the Heavenly Star Sages had assigned to him.
"It's not that I think Fellow Daoist Yuling isn't good enough for me or that I harbor any unfavorable bias toward the Star Palace; it's just that I already have a Dao Companion, and she's also a Nascent Soul cultivator," Han Li explained.
"I see. There's no helping it then. Looks like you and Elder Ling simply weren't meant to be. I still think it's quite a pity, though." The elderly man heaved a resigned sigh upon hearing this.
However, he was also quite relieved that he would have an excuse to pass on to the Heavenly Star Sages.
At the same time, he was feeling rather perplexed. It seemed that in the past 100 years, there were no new female Nascent Soul cultivators that had appeared in the Scattered Star Seas aside from Ling Yuling.
Could it be that this man's Dao Companion was also a powerful yet obscure cultivator like him?
The Heavenly Star Sages hadn't mentioned to him that Han Li may have been a foreign cultivator. As such, he automatically assumed that Han Li was one of those cultivators who spent the majority of time cultivating in seclusion, thereby making him an obscure figure in the cultivation world.
The elderly man heaved a forlorn sigh before suddenly changing the subject as he said, "I won't press the issue with Elder Ling any further, but the palace masters have instructed me to pass on another message to you if you turn down the dual cultivation proposal; would you be interested in hearing it, Brother Han?"
"Of course; please go ahead," Han Li replied.
Seeing as the Star Palace had failed to recruit him, they were naturally going to try some other tricks; this did not come as a surprise to Han Li.
The elderly man suddenly adopted a more solemn expression as he said, "The palace masters would simply like to meet with you again. Of course, you're free to choose the location as long as its within or somewhere close to Heavenly Star City. The palace masters have said that they would like to discuss an important matter with you regarding a breakthrough to the Deity Transformation Stage. I hope you can accept this proposal, Brother Han."
"Something related to a breakthrough to the Deity Transformation Stage, eh?" Han Li stroked his chin with a contemplative look.
If it weren't for that final part of the message, he would turn down the proposal without any hesitation. However, this proposal was quite tempting and he had to think carefully about it.
After all, he didn't have a single clue with regard to how he was going to progress to the Deity Transformation Stage. Even if the process was likely going to be quite risky, he still didn't want to miss out on an opportunity like this.
After contemplating for a long while, Han Li finally said, "If the Heavenly Star Sages wouldn't mind, I can meet them on that small island 1,500 kilometers north of Heavenly Star City. I'll be there on the island in the three days." At his current power level, as long as he wasn't trapped in an inescapable place and ganged up on by too many Nascent Soul cultivators at once, he didn't need to fear any ambushes or sneak attacks. As such, meeting them shouldn't incur too much risk.
"Alright, I'll be sure to pass on your response to the palace masters." An elated expression appeared on the elderly man's face.
Han Li chatted with this man for a while longer before taking his leave.
The elderly man could see that Han Li wasn't interested in conversing with him any further, so he didn't try to keep Han Li.
After that, Han Li headed straight toward the teleportation formation on the island.
At his speed, it didn't take him long at all to reach the mountain upon which the teleportation formation was situated. Once there, he just so happened to catch sight of the burly cultivator who was guarding the teleportation formation on the previous occasion that he was here as well. The man wore a stern expression and was speaking to several cultivators. As he did so, he shook his head incessantly as if he were refusing something.
Dazzling azure light flashed and Han Li appeared in front of the group of people, seemingly out of thin air.
"I pay my respects to Senior Han!" The bury cultivator immediately recognized Han Li, and he hurried over before extending a respectful salute.
"I want to go back to the inner seas. The teleportation formation is ready to go, right?" Han Li asked coldly.
"Of course! Right this way, Senior Han!" the Star Palace cultivator quickly replied. Before Han Li even had to ask, he immediately handed over a teleportation talisman.
Even though he had the Greater Teleportation Medallion, Han Li still took the talisman before entering the teleportation formation.
Moments later, white light erupted within the stone chamber and Han Li disappeared.
The other cultivators had all put on reverent expressions in response to Han Li's arrival, and following his departure, their expressions eased in unison.
One of the Core Formation cultivators who was familiar with the burly cultivator asked, "Brother Yu, was that senior an elder of your Star Palace? He looks quite unfamiliar to me."
"He actually isn't. I've only met this Senior on one previous occasion, and he's carrying a guest elder badge from our Star Palace. Even though no official announcement has been made, I assume he must be a new elder who's about to join our Star Palace," the burly man replied with a smug smile.
"I see. Doesn't that mean your Star Palace is going to grow even more powerful now? It appears this elder is quite powerful; I wonder if he's an early-Nascent Soul or mid-Nascent Soul cultivator," the Core Formation cultivator clicked his tongue with wonder.
"I'm not too sure of that, either. This senior seems to be carrying some sort of treasure that prevents people from ascertaining his cultivation base. However, I assume that he's still an early-Nascent Soul cultivator. After all, if he were at the mid-Nascent Soul Stage already, surely he would be more renowned," the burly cultivator speculated hesitantly.
"I agree with you one that one. In any case, he's not someone that the likes of us can compare with. Tsk tsk, a thousand-year lifespan... I wonder if we still have a chance to progress to the Nascent Soul Stage." A cultivator with a sword strapped to his back heaved a forlorn sigh.
Three days later, on a nondescript coral island 1,500 kilometers north of Heavenly Star City that was only several kilometers in size, there was a young man meditating with his legs crossed and his eyes tightly closed.
That young man was, of course, none other than Han Li.
Several days ago, after returning to the inner seas using the teleportation formation, he had immediately left the massive island without delaying so much as a single moment.
He had been wary that the Heavenly Star Sages would take advantage of that opportunity to attack him, but it appeared that he had been overly paranoid.
He managed to leave the Star Palace's territory without any impediment.
Han Li was quite relieved as a result, and stayed for a few days in the nearby region before arriving on the island that he had agreed to meet the Heavenly Star Sages on.
At this moment, he had already released his powerful spiritual sense to its maximal extent as a safety precaution. Everything within a radius of several hundred feet had been enshrouded within his spiritual sense, regardless of whether it was the seabed that lay at depths of tens of thousands of feet or the sky hundreds of thousands of feet above; all of it was within the scope of his surveillance.
Han Li naturally wasn't going to get complacent when faced with vastly renowned cultivators like the Heavenly Star Sages.
They were a couple and both were using the same cultivation arts so when they combined their powers, they would most likely be far more troublesome to deal with than two normal late-Nascent Soul cultivators.
Furthermore, the Divine Essencefused Light was certainly no joke. It was said that it could crush all powers of the five elements in this world; that was clearly an exaggeration, but it wasn't too far off the mark.
Han Li didn't want to lose his life over a moment of carelessness.
Thus, he had made sure to establish surveillance over everything in the surrounding region prior to the arrival of the sages, in order to protect himself from any sinister intentions they could harbor.
When it was close to noon and the sun had almost reached its highest point in the sky, Han Li suddenly stirred as he opened his eyes.
In the far distance, there were two spots of white light flying through the air side by side, heading directly toward the small island that he was situated on.