As for the white-robed Dong Xuan'er, her vibrant red lips moved a few times, but she didn't say anything in the end. However, the expression on her face was slightly complex, seemingly a mixture of excitement and joy, as well as hints of distance and resentment.
"I'm overjoyed to see you here, Fellow Daoist Han, it's certainly not too much trouble for me at all. You don't need to refer to me as senior this or senior that, either; just call me Big Brother Han. You seem to have reached the mid-Core Formation Stage already; looks like it won't be long before you progress to the late-Core Formation Stage," Han Li greeted with a smile.
The yellow-robed woman blushed slightly before nodding her head with elation upon hearing this.
"We've come here to thank Big Brother Han for sparing my life on two separate occasions. If another cultivator had been in your shoes, I would've most likely died twice already," Han Yunzhi said in a grateful voice.
Han Li faltered initially upon hearing before bursting into laughter. "Looks like you've recovered all of your memories surrounding the Trial by Blood and Fire, and you're aware that I was responsible for what happened next."
Han Li was unconsciously regarding this woman as something like his little sister, and Han Yunzhi also harbored similar feelings toward Han Li. As such, they were only a few sentences into their conversation, but she had already forgotten Han Li's current lofty status and was speaking to him in an intimate manner as if he really were her elder brother.
As their conversation progressed, the two of them began to talk about the Great South Meeting and the Trial by Blood and Fire, and both of them were filled with nostalgia. Back when they had attended this meeting, neither of them could've imagined that they would be standing where they stood today, 200 to 300 years down the track.
At the time, they had to look up to even Foundation Establishment cultivators.
All of a sudden, a thought seemed to have occurred to Han Yunzhi, and she abruptly turned to Dong Xuan'er with a smile as she said, "By the way, I met this Big Sister Dong during the ceremony. I heard that she was once a member of the same sect as Big Brother Han, and she has something she wants to speak to you about."
"Fairy Dong and I did indeed once both cultivate in Yellow Maple Valley. However, it appears that your cultivation base hasn't progressed in the slightest since I last saw you, Fellow Daoist Dong." Only after hearing Han Yunzhi's words did Han Li turn to Dong Xuan'er with an indifferent expression.
Dong Xuan'er's face suddenly became quite flush, and she gritted her teeth with fury as she retorted, "It's all because of you that I became like this!"
Han Li was completely bemused.
Han Yunzhi also blinked with befuddlement in her eyes.
Han Li soon came to his senses, and was naturally unhappy to hear this. As such, his expression darkened as he asked, "What do you mean by that, Fairy Dong? How could your stalling cultivation base have anything to do with me?"
"If it weren't for the fact that you became an inner demon of mine, how could I have tried and failed to make breakthroughs on so many occasions? It's all because of you that I'm still stuck at the mid-Core Formation Stage even after all these years!" Dong Xuan'er's rage seemed to have also made her forget Han Li's current identity, and she began to vent all of her fury and frustration.
"Inner demon?" Han Li murmured to himself with a hint of bewilderment on his face.
"Back when I was at the Yan Clan fortress, I was abducted by Tian Buque, and forcibly taken to back to the Harmonious Bond Sect. Only then did I discover my true lineage. It turns out that I'm a directly lineal descendant of the Harmonious Bond Sect's Old Devil Cloudpart. It was only through an accident that I ended up becoming a disciple of the Yellow Maple Sect. Before I was even born, Old Devil Cloudpart used a secret technique known as the Graceful Dream Art on me, which is a cultivation art related to cultivation and bewitching charming techniques. The cultivation art would significantly enhance my rate of cultivation, yet the easiest, but also the most difficult obstacle for cultivators using this cultivation art would be the trial of the inner demons. If it turned out to be easy, then the obstacle would be virtually non-existent and I'd progress as easily as eating food or drinking water. However, if it proved to be difficult, then I could be impeded by my inner demons for the rest of my life, in which case my cultivation base would never progress. In fact, there have even been precedents in other cultivators using this cultivation art, where their inner demons have been too strong and their cultivation base had even been forced to regress as a result," Dong Xuan'er spat through gritted teeth.
After a prolonged flabbergasted silence, a peculiar look appeared on Han Li's face as he asked, "Even so, how did I become an inner demon of yours? I've barely even met you before."
"How would I know?! As soon as I reached the Core Formation Stage, you began to appear in my cultivation as my inner demon. Even though I was able to barely make a breakthrough to the mid-Core Formation Stage by recruiting some external assistance, I haven't been able to progress ever since. I have to overcome the obstacles posed by my inner demons before I can continue to make progress. I also asked Old Devil Cloudpart about this, and he told me that the reason you became my inner demon was most likely because you used some kind of special cultivation arts in the past, and was immune to my bewitching charming techniques as a result. After that, when I was abducted and suffered backlash from my own bewitching charming technique, you left too strong of an impression in my heart, thereby becoming my inner demon."
Han Li was completely speechless.
Han Yunzhi was also completely bewildered.
After a long while, Han Li finally managed to compose himself. A cold light flashed through his eyes as he asked, "I heard that you once deployed some people to search for me right after you progressed to the Core Formation Stage. If you had found me, how were you going to take care of your inner demons?"
"How else does anyone overcome their inner demons? They either have to do so by sheer force of will or destroy the subject responsible for the manifestation of their inner demons. Alternatively... At the time, I wanted to employ the latter of those two methods." Dong Xuan'er was stuttering slightly as she spoke, and a blush suddenly appeared on her face, further enhancing her seductive charm.
Han Li's eyes narrowed initially upon hearing Dong Xuan'er's words, but after listening to everything she had to say, a surprised look appeared in his eyes. A thought then seemed to have occurred to him, and a slightly awkward expression surfaced on his face.
He was silent for a moment before asking, "I know why you're here now. You want me to use my spiritual sense to pass my secret technique onto so you can overcome your inner demons, right?"
Dong Xuan'er had also recomposed herself as she willingly admitted, "That's right. I wanted to request for your help during the Moulan invasion, but at the time, you'd already progressed to the Nascent Soul Stage, and I hesitated to approach you, thus missing out on that opportunity."
"What makes you so sure that I would help you, Fellow Daoist Dong?" Han Li asked with a faint smile on his face.
"You're already the number one cultivator in the Heavenly South Region, so I don't know if you'd be willing to help a lowly Core Formation cultivator like me, either. However, if I want to have any chance of reaching the Nascent Soul Stage, then this is my only hope," Dong Xuan'er replied with an indignant look in her eyes.
"I know that we aren't exactly on good terms with one another, but we were once both disciples of the same sect, and your inner demon did stem from me. Helping you out here won't be a difficult task for me, so I can lend you my assistance on this occasion," Han Li said in a slow voice.
"Really?" Dong Xuan'er was elated to hear this.
"It would be easy for my current self to help you overcome your inner demon; why would I lie to you? However, after this, the two of us will no longer have anything to do with one another. Don't expect me to lend you any further assistance in your cultivation," Han Li warned.
Dong Xuan'er's face paled upon hearing this, and she was silent for a moment before replying expressionlessly, "I'm already extremely grateful that you're willing to help me just this once; I wouldn't dare to dream of troubling you any further."
"Alright, take a rest here for three days, Fellow Daoist Dong. Three days later, I'll come back here and help you overcome your inner demon," Han Li replied calmly.
Dong Xuan'er nodded in an aloof manner and refrained from speaking any further.
After that, Han Li and Han Yunzhi chatted for a while longer before he departed from the pavilion.
Five days later, Dong Xuan'er and Han Yunzhi departed from the Drifting Cloud Sect one after the other, returning to their respective Controlling Spirit Sect and Harmonious Bond Sect.
After receiving Han Li's help in overcoming her inner demons, Dong Xuan'er would encounter no further impediment during her attempt to progress to the late-Core Formation Stage. Meanwhile, Han Yunzhi received many treasures and pills from Han Li, and he also entrusted her with a letter addressed to the grand elder of the Controlling Spirit Sect.
When Han Li descended in front of his cave abode as an azure streak of light, there was a young woman in a white palatial dress waiting for him with a smile on her face. As soon as Han Li arrived, she asked in a gentle voice, "Why did Little Sister Yunzhi leave so soon? You could've asked her to stay for a few more days."
"There's no need for that. Spending a few days here with me is enough for her." Han Li shook his head with a smile.
"By the way, I just received some news about your other soulmate, that Violet Spirit woman; she reached the Nascent Soul Stage several years ago, and has since embarked on a journey to the Great Jin. You probably won't be able to see her for a while," Nangong Wan said with a hint of a smile on her face.
Han Li smiled, and replied, "With Violet Spirit's aptitude, it's no surprise that she was able to progress to the Nascent Soul Stage. As for whether she's here in the Heavenly South Region or not, that's completely inconsequential. We'll naturally meet again if we're fated to do so. Also, I'm getting some tool refinement materials sent here in a few days, and I plan to go into seclusion after that. I want to get to the pinnacle of the late-Nascent Soul Stage as quickly as possible, then completely master the Great Development Technique. After that, I'll fuse the five types of glacial flames with the Unbroken Cinque Devils."
"Sure. I was just thinking about making a breakthrough to the late-Nascent Soul Stage as well. Hopefully, we'll both have achieved our objectives when we come out of seclusion." Nangong Wan nodded with a gentle smile.
"Haha, I certainly hope that would prove to be the case. However, in the days before I go into seclusion, you'll have to keep me company in my lonely nights." A sinister look suddenly appeared in Han Li's eyes as his eyes roamed over Nangong Wan's sensitive regions.
"When did you become such a smooth talker?" Nangong Wan scoffed with a deep blush on her face, but the amusement in her eyes was quite apparent.
"This is the first time anyone has called me a smooth talker in my life. You're probably the only one who'll get to see my smooth-talking side." Han Li threw his head back and chortled heartily as his laughter echoed throughout the interconnected peaks.
Within the cave abode on another peak, a young girl was reading a jade slip in her hand, and her concentration was broken by Han Li's raucous laughter.
A sweet smile also appeared on her face before she turned her attention back to her jade slip.