After opening the wooden box, Han Li discovered that it contained the half-page that he had requested. He then injected his spiritual sense into the green jade slip, and even though there was no way for him to immediately master its contents, it didn't appear to be fake.
Han Li stowed away the two items before turning to the small child with a smile, and he said, "You've upheld your promise, so I naturally won't go back on my word, either. I'll begin using a secret technique right away to slowly sever your avatar from the Heavenvoid Cauldron. However, this process will most likely take several decades, so you'll have to exercise some patience, Fellow Daoist Endless Sky."
"Of course. I'm happy with any arrangement as long as you can free me before your ascend." The small child seemed to be quite content with Han Li's promise, and the projection slowly disappeared.
A short while later, Han Li opened his mouth to expel a burst of green light, which swept toward the small cauldron.
The cauldron rapidly shrank within the azure light before being swallowed into his mouth.
Almost at the exact same moment, the Nascent Soul that was meditating within Han Li's body abruptly opened its eyes and waved its little hand, upon which the tiny azure cauldron appeared before it.
The cauldron was then tossed into the air, following which the Nascent Soul made a hand seal. Azure light immediately radiated from its body, enshrouding both the cauldron and the Nascent Soul within, creating a murky expanse of light that made it impossible to see what was going on inside.
Meanwhile, Han Li's expression remained unchanged as he accelerated slightly, disappearing into the distance in the blink of an eye.
After a while, a mysterious cultivator appeared at various cultivation sites all over the human world, and he specialized in collecting rare treasures, secret techniques, and cultivation arts. These items were either related to spatial abilities or possessed extremely powerful defensive properties.
However, this mysterious cultivator had a set of extremely lofty standards, and there were very few items of that nature that actually appealed to him. Furthermore, he came and left extremely quickly, altering his appearance and attire as he traveled from one place to the next. If he set his sights on an item, he would either forcibly purchase it or bypass any restriction guarding the item before disappearing without a trace.
The extent of everyone's knowledge about this mysterious cultivator was that he was unfathomably powerful, and even Nascent Soul cultivators were like powerless infants in the face of his astounding might. Thankfully, this mysterious cultivator was only interested in collecting treasures, and refrained from attacking people unless it was unavoidable.
As such, even though the sects and powers that had lost those items were extremely unwilling to part with them, they could only concede to their bad luck, and none of them dared to try and track down this unfathomably powerful being.
In contrast, normal cultivators were completely oblivious to the existence of this mysterious cultivator.
Thus, one year flew by after another.
One day, 70 years later, on the peak of a nameless mountain, a mysterious cultivator stood with a blank expression while two elderly men glowered at him from the air above.
The mysterious cultivator was a middle-aged scholar dressed in a set of inky-black robes.
The two elderly men facing him were an early-Nascent Soul cultivator and a mid-Nascent Soul cultivator respectively.
"I don't care who you are, but if you don't want to get hurt, then you better hand over the Shimmering Golden Ring that you stole. For you to be able to steal the ring despite all the restrictions we set around it indicates that you're at least a mid-Nascent Soul cultivator; why would you stoop to such a lowly act of thievery," an elderly man with bushy eyebrows interrogated in a cold voice.
The mysterious cultivator hadn't been traveling very quickly, so they were able to chase him down with ease. However, they were quite perplexed to find that they were unable to glean this man's cultivation base. As such, they refrained from attacking immediately, hoping to test him with their words first.
In response, the mysterious cultivator merely raised a hand and sent something flying toward the elderly man who had just spoken.
The latter faltered slightly before reflexively catching the object, only to find that it was a storage pouch.
A perplexed look appeared on his face.
"The Shimmering Golden Ring is very useful to me, so I'm willing to pay for it with the spirit stones in that pouch," the mysterious cultivator said in a flat and slightly coarse voice.
The elderly man was initially started by the immense number of spirit stones in the pouch, but a furious look then appeared on his face as he roared, "Nonsense! The Shimmering Golden Ring is the most important treasure of our sect! We won't sell it to you no matter how many spirit stones you offer!"
"In that case, I'm afraid I can't help you any further. I won't be returning this treasure," the mysterious cultivator continued in an indifferent voice.
"Hmph, then I'll just have to take back our treasure along with your life!" the other elderly man with a pair of slanted eyes harrumphed coldly. He then opened his mouth and blasted forth a streak of red light, which hurtled toward the mysterious cultivator's head at an alarming speed.
The man was clearly unwilling to return the treasure, so the mid-Nascent Soul cultivator was planning to take it back by force.
However, an incredible turn of events unfolded!
The mysterious cultivator didn't summon any treasures; he merely waved a hand through the air, and a burst of grey light swept up into the air.
As soon as the red light was struck by the grey light, the former immediately receded to reveal its true form, which was a small crimson sword that was several inches in length and shimmering with a cold light.
This sword was currently trapped within the grey light, seemingly having lost the ability to move.
The elderly man who had unleashed the flying sword was both shocked and enraged to discover that he had completley lost his connection with the sword. The elderly man beside him could see that something was amiss, and he immediately swept a sleeve through the air, letting loose a loud cry as a golden rectangular object was hurled forth.
The object swelled drastically in size, transforming into a massive golden brick that came crashing down viciously like a small mountain.
The mysterious cultivator seemed to be quite intrigued by the sight of this golden brick, and he slowly raised his other hand toward it.
An even larger burst of grey light swept forth, crashing directly into the golden brick.
The grey light had only just washed over the surface of the brick, upon which its spiritual light faded, and it rapidly shrank, having also lost the ability to move.
The mysterious cultivator then waved a hand through the air again, and both the crimson sword and the golden brick descended toward him.
The mid-Nascent Soul Stage elderly man was truly getting quite flustered now, and he immediately made a grabbing motion toward the mysterious cultivator.
A massive white hand abruptly appeared above the black-robed scholar before crashing down with devastating might. He was clearly trying to put an end to this mysterious cultivator's life!
However, the cultivator down below merely flicked a finger toward the massive white hand.
Golden light flashed, and a burst of sword Qi swept through the white palm, slicing it cleanly in half and reducing it to specks of white light that disintegrated into nothingness.
The mid-Nascent Soul Stage elderly man's face paled upon seeing this.
Meanwhile, the mysterious cultivator brandished the two treasures in his hands before looking up at the two elderly men with a cold expression.
"If you think I'm offering too many spirit stones, then I'll take these two treasures as well. Are you willing to make the exchange now?"
The elderly men's hearts sank in unison. It was completely incredible to them that this mysterious cultivator could take their treasures from them as if he were merely taking candy from a baby. Just what was that unfathomable grey light?
Neither of the elderly men dared to give a reply.
The mysterious cultivator chuckled upon seeing this before tossing the two treasures into the air and flying away as a streak of azure light.
The two elderly men faltered upon seeing this before hurriedly recovering their lost treasures. They then glanced at the streak of azure light in the distance before turning to look at one another.
After a while, the elderly man with bushy eyebrows hesitantly asked, "Senior Martial Brother, should we give chase?"
"Give chase? Do you want to die? He's clearly just spared our lives. If we continue to pester him, he might change his mind," the other elderly man heaved a resigned sigh.
"But the Shimmering Golden Ring is our sect's most important treasure! What are we going to tell the rest of the sect if we can't recover it?" The elderly man with bushy eyebrows was still unwilling to give up.
"We'll just tell the truth; we encountered someone far too powerful for us to oppose, so we had to let him go. This is the nature of the cultivation world. The strong can impose their will upon the weak as they please, and nothing can be done about it. Come to think of it, the Shimmering Golden Ring didn't always belong to our sect, either; our martial forefathers plundered it from another sect. We can only concede our bad luck now that it's been taken away from us as well. Let's go back. The sect still needs us, so we can't throw away our lives likes this." The mid-Nascent Soul Stage elderly man gave a wry smile before departing back the way they had come from.
The bushy-browed elderly man was rooted to the spot for a long while before heaving a resigned sigh as he also departed from the scene.
High up in the air a long distance away, the mysterious cultivator suddenly stopped after flying for tens of thousands of kilometers.
A series of crackles and pops erupted throughout his joints as he grew taller by around an inch. At the same time, azure spiritual light surfaced over his face, warping his appearance into that of a young man with a set of ordinary features.
This man was none other than Han Li.
He rustled a sleeve and a golden ring abruptly appeared his hand. He gently waved the golden ring, and countless projections were summoned.
"Not bad. In terms of defensive ability alone, this treasure ranks among the top three that I've collected during these past years." A pleased smile appeared on Han Li's face.
"It's about time you went back, Fellow Daoist Han. Otherwise, you'll be in complete despair if the spatial node suddenly collapses before you get back," the voice of a small child chuckled from within his sleeve.
"There's no need to remind me of that, Fellow Daoist Endless Sky; I was just preparing to make a trip back to the island. I've obtained some treasures and secret techniques during these past years, but there are only about four of five that are actually useful. Most of them are very renowned, but they certainly don't live up their reputations; they'll be next to useless once I enter the spatial node." Han Li's expression darkened slightly as he spoke.
"That's rather overly critical of you, Fellow Daoist Han. You're comparing the normal ancient treasures of your human world to spirit treasures like your Eight Spirit Ruler, so they'll naturally be quite lackluster in contrast. In any case, they're better than nothing. Besides, during your travels, you've managed to derive more insights from that half-page of the Golden Jade Tome as well. Perhaps these things will be able to save your life in your time of need," the small child disagreed.
"Perhaps." Han Li gave an absentminded reply as he clenched the fingers on the hand hidden up one of his sleeves before releasing them again.
Unbeknownst to the Endless Sky Beast, the most significant acquisition he had made during the past years wasn't one of the treasures or secret techniques he had obtained, and nor was it the insights he had derived from the Golden Jade Tome. Instead, it was something else...