Han Li stood below the ball of light, looking up with a solemn. Nangong Wan stood beside him in silence.
Everyone else was also completely silent, and they seemed to be waiting for something. Among this group of people were Tian Qin'er, as well as Shi Jian, who had already become the Thousand Bamboo Sect Master.
After a long while, Tian Qin'er couldn't help but ask, "Master, will Senior Phoenix Really come here today? It'll be quite troublesome if we can only lift the seal after noon."
"Don't worry, Fellow Daoist Phoenix sent me a message a month ago, so she'll definitely arrive today," Han Li replied without even turning his head.
Tian Qin'er fell silent again and continued to wait upon hearing this.
A short while later, Han Li abruptly turned his gaze toward a certain patch of mist.
Everyone else also turned their attention in the same direction.
A heavenly cry soon rang out from that direction, following which the mist tumbled and surged before revealing a snowy white Ice Phoenix that was several tens of feet in length.
The phoenix only flapped its wings several times before reaching Han Li and the others, upon which it transformed into a silver-robed woman amid a brilliant flash of spiritual light.
The woman turned to Han Li with an indifferent expression, and asked, "I'm not late, am I?"
"Of course not. You can lift the seal now, Qin'er. Fellow Daoist Phoenix, we can set up each other's restrictions now." Han Li issued an instruction to Tian Qin'er before turning to the Ice Phoenix with a smile. He then disappeared into the mist as a streak of azure light.
The silver-robed woman raised an eyebrow before following him as a streak of silver light. Nangong Wan remained standing on the spot, looking at the direction that the two had disappeared in with a hint of concern in her eyes.
At this moment, Tian Qin'er and a dozen or so other cultivators rose into the air, where they assembled in a strange formation directly beneath the massive ball of light. After that, spiritual light flashed as they produced a series of formation plates, formation flags, and various other types of treasures.
Following an instruction from Tian Qin'er, all of these cultivators raised their formation tools in unison. Scintillating light radiated forth as the formation tools released either pillars or wisps of light, all of which disappeared into the ball of light up above.
Tian Qin'er and the group of cultivators then set about lifting the restriction around the spatial node.
Time slowly passed and as the restriction was gradually loosened, the ball of light that had previously been quite blurry and indistinct became clearer and more dazzling. Furthermore, its color also transformed from a dull grey into a scorching white, making it appear as if a new sun had surfaced over the misty seas. In the face of such piercing light, even a great cultivator like Nangong Wan was forced to narrow her eyes and look away.
Meanwhile, Tian Qin'er's group of cultivators had already closed their eyes and were manipulating their formation tools through the use of their spiritual sense alone. Right this moment, a large hand suddenly appeared on Nangong Wan's shoulder. At the same time, a warm male voice sounded beside her ear. "Are you still worried?"
Nangong Wan's body stiffened before relaxing as she put on a rather forced smile and turned around. Han Li was standing behind her, appraising her with a smile on his face.
"I definitely am still worried, but we're defying the natural order by pursuing the Great Dao anyway, so there are bound to be hazards involved. Have you and Fellow Daoist Phoenix already finished setting up restrictions?" Nangong Wan asked in a gentle voice after heaving a faint sigh.
"Yes. Both restrictions are very secure and cannot be lifted by anyone aside from their respective casters. Looks like we won't have to worry about the other person plotting against one another now," Han Li replied with a wry smile. "Hmph, as long as you don't try anything, I have no reason to plot against you." White light flashed behind Han Li, and the silver-robed woman emerged from a spatial rift. "Fellow Daoist Phoenix, I'd advise you not to use your spatial abilities now; you should conserve your magic power so we can better deal with the hazards present within the spatial node." Han Li's brows furrowed.
Perhaps it was due to the fact that both of them had set restrictions on one another, but the Ice Phoenix's enmity toward Han Li seemed to have been curbed slightly, and she replied in a slightly more amicable manner, "Rest assured, I know what I'm doing."
Han Li smiled and didn't offer a response. He stepped forward and stood beside Nangong Wan as they both looked up at the seal being lifted overhead. The silver-robed woman had also fallen silent.
Around 15 minutes later, when the ball of light in the sky had reached its most dazzling point, a dull thunderclap suddenly erupted. The white light receded and the ball of light in the sky suddenly transformed into an inky-black hole. It was like the bottomless gullet of a giant beast with not even a single hint of light to be seen within. Han Li and the silver-robed woman both stirred upon seeing this, and she said, "Let's go, Fellow Daoist Han."
Silver light then surfaced around her body as she slowly hovered toward the black hole.
Han Li's lips twitched as he patted a storage pouch hanging from his waist. Silver light immediately flashed from within as a second "Han Li" emerged. It was none other than the humanoid puppet. Han Li raised his hand and imprinted his palm onto the humanoid puppet's head like lightning. An inky black Nascent Soul emerged from the humanoid puppet's head before disappearing into Han Li's body.
Han Li then pointed toward the puppet, and brilliant silver light abruptly erupted from its body. The puppet shrank rapidly amid the silver light, reducing itself to a tiny little wooden puppet in the blink of an eye.
Almost at the exact same moment, Han Li whipped his other sleeve through the air, and two tiny blue cauldrons emerged along with a ball of three-colored flames. "Wan'er, these treasures won't be very useful to me after I pass through the spatial node. You'll most likely have to face many more tribulations here in this human world, and I can only leave these items behind to assist you, so please accept them." Han Li swept a sleeve through the air as he spoke, sending a burst of azure light sweeping forth, which pushed those four treasures toward Nangong Wan.
After that, Han Li rose into the air and flew toward the Ice Phoenix as a streak of azure light.
Nangong Wan gritted her teeth and waved a slender hand through the air, drawing the four treasures into her grasp. She then stood on the spot and looked up at Han Li's departing figure with a set of slightly pale features.
At this moment, the Ice Phoenix stopped in front of the unfathomably deep black hole. After Han Li caught up to her, she asked, "Aren't you going to speak with Fellow Daoist Nangong for a while longer? I'm not in a hurry to enter this spatial node, so you can spend some more time with her if you want."
The Ice Phoenix was putting on a rare display of thoughtfulness.
Han Li took a deep breath before replying in a calm voice, "That won't be necessary. Wan'er and I have already said everything that needs to be said long before this. We just need to focus on passing through the spatial node now."
He then laid a hand over the top of his own head, and azure light flashed as a miniature azure cauldron emerged. He then gently stomped a foot into the air down below, and green light flashed as a green ruler abruptly appeared amid the projection of a silver lotus flower.
Following a nonchalant flap of his sleeve, a silver talisman shot forth and transformed into a tight-fitting suit of three-colored armor that settled over his body. Immediately thereafter, 72 small golden swords short forth from various parts of his body, transforming into fragments of golden light that revolved around him.
At the same time, Han Li flipped his hands over to produce a shiny golden ring and a small jade umbrella that was around several inches in size.
A hint of surprise flashed through the silver-robed woman's eyes upon seeing this before she shrugged her shoulders in an unhurried manner, sending a dozen or so streaks of white light flying through the air, which transformed into a series of long translucent feathers.
The feathers swirled through the air before descending to form a white barrier that shielded the Ice Phoenix within. At the same time, silver spiritual light revolved around her body, manifesting a mystical image of countless birds revering a single phoenix. What was most surprising was that she then opened her mouth to expel a semi-transparent ice ark.
The ark was already several inches in size as soon as it emerged from her mouth, and it swelled drastically thereafter, reaching a length of over 100 feet.
The silver-robed woman's body swayed as she drifted onto the ice ark before turning to Han Li as she said, "This Heaven Puncturing Ark is a top-grade defensive treasure that finally took shape within my body after being nurtured by my glacial essence for over 10,000 years. It should be able to protect us and save us a lot of inconvenience during the initial phase of our journey."
Han Li didn't waste any time with formalities as he also immediately strode onto the ark. He stood beside the silver-robed woman with a calm expression, and said, "Seeing as you have such a potent treasure, allow me to give you a hand."
A large swath of grey light immediately surfaced from Han Li's body as he spoke, following which a dark shadow flashed, and a completely mundane and nondescript miniature mountain appeared.
The miniature mountain was only around 10 feet in size, and before the Ice Phoenix was able to figure out what it was, it had already emerged from the expanse of grey light and landed securely on the ice ark.
Immediately thereafter, Han Li made a hand seal, and a vast expanse of grey light erupted from the mountain, enclosing the entire ice ark within.
The silver-robed woman didn't know what this grey light was, but she could tell that it possessed extraordinary properties. As such, she summoned a silver light barrier from the ice ark which combined with and fortified the grey light emanating from the miniature mountain.
The ark then shot forth into the black hole, and disappeared in a flash. Everyone down below looked on with wide eyes, staring intently up at the spatial node with unblinking gazes.
However, everyone was soon disappointed. Following Han Li and the Ice Phoenix's entry into the spatial node, the condition of the black hole remained completely unchanged, as if nothing had ever happened. Nangong Wan finally withdrew her gaze as she issued a calm instruction to Tian Qin'er. "Qin'er, station a couple of disciples here, and get everyone else to go back. There's no point in having too many people remain here."
"Yes!" Tian Qin'er extended a respectful salute and organized for two Core Formation disciples to remain here before returning to the island with Nangong Wan and the others.
After a month, no changes to the entrance of the spatial node were observed, and Nangong Wan instructed Tian Qin'er to seal the entrance with a formation spell again. She then left several disciples behind to guard the entrance while everyone else returned to the Scattered Star Seas with her.
Han Li didn't leave a soul lamp for everyone, so no one knew whether Han Li had already passed through the spatial node and emerged on the other side, or had followed in the footsteps of Xiang Zhili and the others, perishing to spatial storm and the power of the boundary between realms present within the spatial node.
This was exactly why Han Li was unwilling to leave a soul lamp behind. After all, it was always better to have some hope rather than be plunged into complete despair.