The brightness of the blue light barrier immediately increased, following which a circular passageway around 10 feet in diameter appeared.
Han Li briefly examined the passageway that had opened up in front of him before flying into it as a streak of azure light, appeared on the other side in the blink of an eye.
The light barrier shuddered again, and the passageway disappeared.
Ling Yuling turned to Han Li with an elated smile on her face as she said, "Fellow Daoist Han, you're finally here."
"I made a promise to your parents, so I certainly couldn't ignore your request for help in your time of need," Han Li replied with a smile.
"I'm extremely grateful for your assistance, Brother Han. With you here, there's no need for us to fear those Starfall Coalition clowns. This is not the place to talk; come with me to the sacred mountain, Fellow Daoist Han. Elder Sun, inform all of the elders who aren't currently on duty to gather at the sacred palace; I have important matters to discuss with them." Ling Yuling extended an invitation to Han Li before issuing some instructions to the yellow-robed cultivator beside her.
"Yes, Palace Master!"
The yellow-robed cultivator was an early-Nascent Soul cultivator, and as soon as Han Li had passed through the light barrier, he had tried to ascertain Han Li's cultivation base using his spiritual sense. What he discovered was that Han Li's cultivation base was completely unfathomable to him, and a hint of awe and veneration intermingled with shock appeared on his face. After hearing Ling Yuling's orders, he immediate cupped his fist in a salute before pulling out a stack of voice transmission talisman to inform the Star Palace elders of the palace master's instructions.
At this moment, Han Li turned toward the white-haired elderly man, and said, "Long time no see, Fellow Daoist Zhao; you're looking quite well. Not only that, but your cultivation base has also improved drastically. I must congratulate you."
The elderly man was none other than the very same Elder Zhao who had approached Han Li with that dual cultivation proposal on Silver Shark Island. It had been more than a century since Han Li had last seen him, and he had reached the mid-Nascent Soul Stage as well, just as Ling Yuling had.
However, a wry smile appeared on Elder Zhao's face upon hearing this, indicating that there were some hidden circumstances involved behind his breakthrough. "Hehe, I wouldn't have been able to take this step by myself. It's all thanks to the two former palace masters that I was able to take another strike in my cultivation base."
"Oh, I see." A contemplative look appeared on Han Li's face after hearing this.
"So you and Elder Zhao are old acquaintances as well; I'm glad to see that. Let's head to the sacred palace first, and we'll continue our conversation there," Ling Yuling suggested with a smile.
Han Li naturally had no objections to this, and he nodded in response.
Thus, the group rose into the air and flew toward the sacred mountain at the center of Heavenly Star City.
Under the guidance of Ling Yuling and the others, Han Li flew directly toward the highest level of the sacred mountain before descending in front of what appeared to be a very nondescript bluestone palace.
Han Li appraised the stone palace with a hint of surprise on his face.
"Do you find our sacred palace to be too mundane, Brother Han?" Ling Yuling turned to Han Li with a dainty smile.
"It's indeed not what I was expecting." Han Li made no effort to deny this.
"It does indeed look quite ordinary, but all of our past palace masters have cultivated here before, so it was preserved and is regarded as one of the most important places in our Star Palace. We normally wouldn't let outsiders set foot into this palace, but you came from afar to help us in our time of need, so you're naturally exempt from this rule, Brother Han," Ling Yuling explained with a smile.
"The palace itself does look quite mundane, but there's a remarkable abundance of spiritual Qi in the surrounding area, so it's an exceptional place to cultivate in. I doubt there would be many islands on the Inner Star Seas that could provide a cultivation environment comparable to this one." Han Li nodded in response.
Ling Yuling's smile widened upon hearing this, and she immediately led Han Li toward the gates of the stone palace.
The dozen or so Star Palace disciples guarding the gate hurriedly extended respectful bows toward their group, and all of them wore rather curious expressions at the sight of Han Li.
Ling Yuling naturally wasn't going to waste time providing an explanation to these guards as she led Han Li into the palace. Their group filed into a short corridor before arriving in an antiquated hall, where all of them took a seat.
"Brother Han, you must've learned about our Star Palace's situation on your way here, right?" Ling Yuling cut straight to the point.
"Of course. It appears that the Star Palace is in a rather perilous situation," Han Li replied calmly.
"Then I suppose you're also aware of the fact that our Star Palace had initially gained the upper hand, and we've only been plunged into this situation because that Wan Tianming suddenly reached the late-Nascent Soul Stage. Only after he became a great cultivator did the Starfall Coalition manage to turn the tables, so he is the key in this battle. Brother Han, as long as you can hold off that man, I'm confident that our Star Palace would be able to destroy the Starfall Coalition again!" A cold look appeared in Ling Yuling's eyes as she spoke.
"So you want me to fight that Sect Master Wan?" Han Li asked.
Ling Yuling faltered slightly, and a hesitant look appeared on her face as she asked, "Are you unhappy with that arrangement, Brother Han?"
Han Li raised an eyebrow, and replied, "It's not that; I just think there seems to be a misunderstanding here, Fairy Ling."
"A misunderstanding? Could it be that you're not here to help me, Brother Han?" Ling Yuling's expression changed slightly upon hearing this.
"Of course I'm here to help you, it's just that..." Han Li was just about to explain when his words came to a halt, and he suddenly turned toward the entrance of the hall.
Ling Yuling naturally also cast her gaze toward the same direction.
Moments later, three cultivators strode into palace, one of which was a mid-Nascent Soul cultivator, while the other two were at the early-Nascent Soul Stage.
The mid-Nascent Soul cultivator was a purple-robed man with a pockmarked face. After entering the hall, he refrained from extending a salute toward Ling Yuling, and instead turned toward Han Li with an unfriendly expression, giving off a rather uncouth and antagonistic demeanor.
However, his pupils immediately contracted as he swept his spiritual sense toward Han Li, and his expression became quite strained.
At this moment, Ling Yuling smiled, and said, "Elder Ma, I didn't think you'd get here so quickly. Have a seat. When all of the other elders get here as well, I'll introduce to everyone an esteemed guest of our Star Palace!"
"Indeed, I can sense that this fellow Daoist possesses an unfathomable cultivation base, so a warm welcome is very much necessary." The purple-robed man quickly composed himself before giving Han Li a forced smile and taking a seat. After assessing Han Li's cultivation base, he was clearly a lot more subdued than he was just a second ago.
The other two Star Palace elders were naturally unable to identify Han Li's cultivation base, but the purple-robed man's reaction told them everything they needed to know. As such, they exchanged an astonished glance with one another before cupping their fists in a salute toward Ling Yuling and also taking a seat.
However, in response to this, Ling Yuling merely tucked a few stray strands of hair behind her ear as a cold light flashed through her eyes.
Han Li was observing all of these minor details, and a hint of a smile appeared on her face.
It was quite clear that this Elder Ma wasn't content to serve this new master of the Star Palace, and Ling Yuling was using him to intimidate these elders and keep them in check. Han Li was feeling both rather amused and a little speechless.
However, Ling Yuling was an old acquaintance of his, so he didn't take this to heart. After all, what she was doing wasn't causing harm to him in any way.
Following the arrival of Elder Ma's trio, the rest of the Star Palace elders also began to arrive at the sacred palace one after the other. All of them were immediately given quite a surprise by the sight of the unfamiliar great cultivator present among their ranks.
Even though none of these Nascent Soul Stage elders could ascertain Han Li's true cultivation base, all of them turned to Elder Ma as a litmus test for Han Li's power, and all of them were quite stunned by what they saw.
Before long, over 20 Star Palace elders had gathered in the hall. Aside from three mid-Nascent Soul cultivators, Elder Zhao, Elder Ma, and Ling Yuling, all of the rest were at the early-Nascent Soul Stage.
Ling Yuling slowly rose to her feet and pointed at Han Li with a smile as she announced, "Seeing as everyone's here, let me introduce to you all an esteemed guest. This is the guest elder appointed by the former palace masters, Han Li!"
All of the elders present had naturally heard of Han Li before, and Ling Yuling's announcement created quite a stir among them, to the extent that one of them couldn't help but exclaim, "Han Li?!"Han Li turned toward the Star Palace elder who had spoken to find that it was a benevolent-looking white-robed elderly man.
Han Li's eyes narrowed as a contemplative look appeared in his eyes. All of a sudden, a thought seemed to have occurred to him as his expression darkened.
"It appears that we've met in the Heavenvoid Hall before. I recall that there were two fellow Daoists responsible for opening the Heavenvoid Hall back then; may I ask where he is?" Han Li's voice had become rather cold and unforgiving.
Meanwhile, the white-robed elder's face had turned deathly pale.
This man was none other than the Star Palace enforcement elder who had almost stabbed Han Li through the heart in the Heavenvoid Hall. Back when he had just entered the hall, he had found Han Li to be rather familiar, but he failed to immediately identify him. However, Ling Yuling's introduction made him recall the memories of the events that had taken place in the Heavenvoid Hall, and he naturally managed to identify Han Li.
Ling Yuling could naturally glean the cold look in Han Li's eyes, and her heart sank in response, but she could only muster up her courage, and ask, "Do you recognize Elder Ximen, Brother Han?"
A series of emotions quickly flashed through Han Li's eyes, and he seemed to have arrived at some sort of decision as he reverted back to his normal calm expression, and replied, "I'm not very familiar with him. It's just that Fellow Daoist Ximen had caused some trouble for me back when I hadn't reached the Nascent Soul Stage."
Ling Yuling was quite relieved that Han Li was making light of the matter, and she hurriedly changed the subject as she said, "I see. If Elder Ximen caused you any offense in the past, I hope you may forgive him, Brother Han. Let's get back to our discussion about Wan Tianming, shall we? After all, the top priority for our Star Palace is to eradicate the Starfall Coalition!"
The white-robed elder was also slightly relieved after hearing Han Li's words, but he was still unable to completely quell the fear in his heart.
"I don't know what the late sages told you, Fellow Daoist Ling, but the promise I made to them was that I would only step in if and when your life is under direct threat, and I'll do everything in my power to save you. I didn't promise them that I would fight for the Star Palace against a cultivator of the same cultivation base as mine to the death," Han Li said in a slow voice.
His words were met with complete silence.