"Master, what do you mean by that?" Tian Qin'er was starting to feel a little unsettled.
"What did you feel during your time in the bamboo building?" Han Li answered her question with another question.
"I don't know, but it was a very strange feeling that I can't put into words," Tian Qin'er murmured in reply.
"That was the past residence of one of my old friends. She also possessed the Dragon Cry Physique and was a natural formation spell master. However, she passed away at a very young age," Han Li said in a slow voice.
Tian Qin'er faltered upon hearing this before asking, "Didn't you try to save her, Master?"
"I hadn't even reached the Core Formation Stage yet back then, how was I supposed to save her? Besides, her heart had already died due to other factors. The formation spell book I left to you was something that she had given me. I first came into contact with Fellow Daoist Xin Ruyin through another fellow Daoist by the name of Qi Yunxiao. Back then, I had only just reached the Foundation Establishment Stage, and attended an underground auction." Han Li began to give Tian Qin'er a recount of past events, from how he had encountered Qi Yunxiao by chance, then encountered Xin Ruyin, then the reasons for their eventual deaths.
His story only concluded after he told Tian Qin'er about he had met Xin Ruyin's servant following his departure.
However, by this point, Tian Qin'er was completely dumbstruck by the story. Only after a long while did she exhale as a complex look appeared on her face, and she said, "I see. So you think I'm a reincarnation of that person, Master?"
"I was rather skeptical initially, but after seeing your reaction in that bamboo building, I'm at least 50% sure that this is indeed the case, and that's enough for me. It appears that reincarnation most likely does exist, after all," Han Li chuckled.
"Then the reason why you accepted me as your disciple..." Tian Qin'er was becoming rather uneasy upon hearing that.
"Don't worry, I genuinely wish to take you under my wing. Fellow Daoist Xin was a good friend of mine, and I admired her greatly for her aptitude in formation spells. I accepted you as my disciple partly because you could very likely be the reincarnation of my old friend, but I also want to raise you to become a true formation spell master, as you could prove to be very useful to me in the future. Of course, if you change your mind and no longer wish to be my disciple, I can take you back to the Scattered Star Seas right away," Han Li said calmly.
"I don't know if I'm a reincarnation of Master's old friend, but even if that were the case, I can't remember anything about my past life. I am extremely fortunate that a great cultivator like Master has decided to accept a Qi Condensation Stage disciple like me; how could I possibly give up on such a brilliant opportunity?" Tian Qin'er hurriedly shook her head with a panicked expression, as if she really were afraid that Han Li would change his mind about taking her under his wing.
After all, no official disciple acceptance ceremony had been held yet, so she was only an in-name disciple of his.
"Good. I can't guarantee you much else at the moment, but at the very least, I'm confident in my abilities to get to you to progress safely to the Core Formation Stage," Han Li said with a smile.
"Qin'er is willing to serve her master wholeheartedly." Tian Qin'er immediately pledged her loyalty to Han Li.
"Alright, when we get back to the Drifting Cloud Sect, I'll officially take you as my disciple. I've never officially accepted any disciples in the past, but I do have an in-name disciple; you'll be able to see her at the sect," Han Li continued with a smile.
Tian Qin'er's heart stirred upon hearing this, and an elated smile appeared on her face.
After that, Han Li accelerated even further, and the two of them disappeared into the distance in the blink of an eye.
A few months later, Han Li and Tian Qin'er reached the State of Xi.
Several days after that, a streak of piercing azure light appeared near the Dreamcloud Mountains. When they were roughly 50 kilometers away from the mountain ranges, an earsplitting cry suddenly erupted from within the azure light.
The cry was like the roar of a dragon, but also like the cry of a phoenix, and even the nearby clouds were disturbed by the powerful resulting soundwaves.
The streak of azure light was traveling at an incredibly fast speed, and covered a distance of several tens of kilometers in just a few flashes. The immense spiritual power imbued within the cry had alerted all three of the major sects within the Dreamcloud Mountains.
Everyone within those sects, from ordinary Qi Condensation and Foundation Establishment disciples, to Nascent Soul elders, were all stunned upon hearing this cry from afar.
All of the Nascent Soul cultivators sprang into action at once, emerging from their respective sects to see which powerful being was declaring his arrival at the Dreamcloud Mountains in such a reckless manner.
Thus, when Han Li was still close to 10 kilometers away from the mountain ranges, five streaks of light had already come out to meet him, and they appeared to be Nascent Soul cultivators from the three sects.
Han Li's heart stirred up seeing this. His emotions had been in a state of disarray at the thought of being able to see Nangong Wan again soon, but he was forced to calm himself down here.
The azure light receded and the loud cry subsided as Han Li revealed himself with Tian Qin'er by his side. He then turned his attention to the five streaks of light hurtling toward him.
Moments later, a rare smile joyful smile appeared on his face.
When the five streaks of light were around 300 to 400 feet away from him, the lights receded to reveal five cultivators, most of whom Han Li recognized.
A blue-robed middle-aged man identified Han Li from afar, and following a split second of stunned inactivity, he yelled with surprise and elation, "Junior Martial Brother Han!"
He was none other than Lü of the Drifting Cloud Sect, the very same Elder Lü who had invited Han Li to join the sect many years ago.
"You look well, Senior Martial Brother Lü!" Han Li's smile widened as he cupped his fist in a salute.
"So it's Fellow Daoist Han Li; I was wondering who would be capable of putting on such a mighty display of power. Huh? Brother Han, have you already reached the late-Nascent Soul Stage?" The next person to speak was a cultivator in a set of red robes. He was none other than Child Fire Dragon of the Ancient Sword Sect. At this moment, he wore an expression on his face that suggested that he had just seen a ghost.
Han Li took a glance at Child Fire Dragon as he said with a smile, "Brother Lan, you've also reached the mid-Nascent Soul Stage, haven't you?"
Child Fire Dragon gulped before replying drily, "Surely you jest, Brother Han. How can my progression to the mid-Nascent Soul Stage compare with your breakthrough to become a great cultivator?"
His words sent waves of shock surging through everyone else's hearts and they all swept their spiritual sense toward Han Li in unison, upon which the same dumbstruck expression appeared on their faces. Lü Luo's voice trembled as he asked, "Is that true? Have you reached the late-Nascent Soul Stage already, Junior Martial Brother?"
"My trip was quite bountiful and I managed to progress to the late-Nascent Soul Stage by chance," Han Li replied calmly.
Lü Luo was naturally ecstatic to hear this, and he was temporarily at a loss for words, but there was a beaming smile on his face.
"Congratulations, Brother Han. Who would have thought that after a mere century apart, Fellow Daoist Han would make such massive strides on your cultivation path? Looks like our Dreamcloud Mountains will also be a force to be reckoned with in the Heavenly South Region from now on." The man who had just spoken was none other than Elder Feng, the man whom Han Li had once encountered in the Hundred Possibilities Pavilion. Following a brief stunned stupor, the man immediately put on a warm and enthusiastic expression.
Han Li nodded with a smile, but didn't say anything in response.
Even though early-Nascent Soul cultivators and late-Nascent Soul cultivators were both Nascent Souls, and referred to one another as equals, both of them were well aware of the massive disparity between the two.
As such, everyone else was naturally struck by a sense of inferiority when standing before Han Li.
As for the other two unfamiliar men present, they were new elders of the Ancient Sword Sect and the Hundred Possibilities Pavilion.
In the presence of Han Li, these two were feeling even more uneasy, and after extending a greeting toward Han Li, both of them refrained from saying anything else.
"Brother Lan, Fellow Daoist Feng, you two can go back for now. I've been away from the sect for a long time, so I plan to stay there for a few days before visiting the Ancient Sword Sect the Hundred Possibilities Pavilion. How does that sound?" Han Li proposed.
Child Fire Dragon and Elder Feng immediately replied by expressing that there was no need for Han Li to visit their sects. Instead, they were going to gather their fellow elders to visit the Drifting Cloud Sect instead. They secured Han Li's agreement to pay the drifting cloud sect a visit in three days before taking their leave.
Thus, the only one that remained from the initial five was Lü Luo.
After the other four cultivators disappeared into the distance, Han Li turned to Lü Luo with furrowed brows, and asked, "Senior Martial Brother Lü, the other two sects have all recruited new Nascent Soul cultivators; does our sect still not have a new Nascent Soul elder? Why do you have to go to the trouble to come here and welcome me in person?"
"I'm quite ashamed to admit this, but with your resounding reputation, we were able to recruit many disciples with good aptitudes. However, their cultivation bases are all rather lacking, and there aren't that many who're even close to reaching the Nascent Soul Stage. However, I'm sure they'll all develop into pillars of our sect in the future. By the way, who's this?" An awkward expression appeared on Lü Luo's face at first, but that soon gave way to befuddlement as he turned his attention to Tian Qin'er.
"This is a disciple that I accepted during my travels. I haven't held an official disciple acceptance ceremony yet," Han Li replied with a smile.
Tian Qin'er was very clever and she immediately stepped forward before extending a respectful curtsey, "Tian Qin'er pays her respects to... Martial Uncle Lü." She was only a Qi Condensation cultivator, but after being accepted by Han Li as his disciple, she was naturally different from all of the other sect disciples, whose position in the sect hierarchy was determined by their cultivation base.
"Haha, I didn't think that Junior Martial Brother Han would be accepting disciples so quickly. As your martial uncle, I don't really have anything good to give you. Here's a protective treasure that I've used in the past." Lü Luo laughed heartily as he patted the storage pouch hanging from his waist, upon which a shimmering red crystal ball appeared in his hand, which he offered to Tian Qin'er.
Tian Qin'er faltered upon seeing this before extending another delighted curtsey, then accepted the treasure with a joyful expression.
Han Li smiled upon seeing this exchange before the two of them flew toward the Drifting Cloud Sect with Tian Qin'er in tow.
On the way there, Lü Luo gave Han Li a rough recount of what had happened in the Drifting Cloud Sect during the past century. However, the most important events were naturally the death of Senior Martial Brother Cheng, and Nangong Wan's perilous situation.
Han Li had anticipated that Senior Martial Brother Cheng was close to the end of his lifespan, but he was still struck by a hint of grief upon hearing about his demise.
After all, Han Li was once very close with this Senior Martial Brother Cheng.
Upon learning the fact that Nangong Wan was still afflicted by her seal, Han Li's heart sank as a tense look appeared on his face.
However, Lü Luo smiled, and explained, "Not to worry, Junior Martial Brother. Even though Sister Nangong's seal still hasn't been lifted, she's already woken up and she'll be fine. It's just that she's practicing a cultivation art in the ice wall, and if she were to break out from it now, her prior efforts would be wasted."