Han Li's eyes flashed upon hearing Long Dong's words, but he didn't say anything. Xiao Hong and the white-browed young man exchanged a glance with one another, and they also offered no objections, seemingly of the opinion that Long Dong's suggestion was more reasonable.
In contrast, Ye Ying sided with Han Li, and said, "It really is quite strange that other cultivators would appear in this place. I think it would be best to continue ahead and spare ourselves from any potential trouble."
Long Dong contemplated Ye Ying's words for a short while, but still shook his head in the end. "It's exactly due to the abnormality of the situation that we should ascertain why these people have appeared here. As a safety precaution, we can ask the people outside of the city rather than entering the city. Brother Li just said that there are no Spatial Tempering cultivators in the small town, so we have nothing to fear anyway. We'll reach the Skyline in a few more days, and the environment there is extremely perilous. If we go in without gathering all of the information we can, we could quite possibly all die in there. I still think we should proceed with as much caution as possible."
"It really does sound like we should try and gather some information. How about this? We'll survey the town from afar without alerting the cultivators there to our presence for now. If there really is an issue that requires further inquiry, we can just show ourselves then." Xiao Hong offered a compromise between the two proposed courses of action.
"That's a good idea." Long Dong nodded in response.
Han Li stroked his chin while Ye Ying offered a dainty smile, and neither of them said anything else.
Thus, everyone concealed themselves once again before flying soundlessly toward the small town.
Even though they had decelerated quite significantly in order to prioritize stealth above speed, with their cultivation bases, it still didn't take them long to cover the distance of several hundred kilometers to the small town.
At first, the oasis was only a smudge of green in the distance. After drawing closer, they discovered that it was indeed a relatively large area. Not only were there shrubs of different heights in the surrounding area, there was even a lake with a radius of several kilometers situated at the center of the oasis.
Beside this lake was a small town that was surrounded by white stone walls that were several tens of feet tall. Directly up ahead was a massive city gate that was over 100 feet wide, and there were a dozen or so yellow-robed cultivators standing guard there, all of whom were at around the Foundation Establishment Stage.
Outside the small town, near the lake, there were mortals who didn't possess any magic power milling around in a bent-over manner, seemingly planting something.
Han Li paused in mid-air before sweeping his spiritual sense toward the small town in a stealthy manner.
Long Dong and the others also stopped as they unleashed detection secret techniques of their own.
"The inhabitants of this town are indeed all humans, and the mortals, as well as the cultivators, all seem to be normal as well. There are quite a few cultivators in the town, with about seven or eight of them at the Deity Transformation Stage. There are either no Spatial Tempering cultivators in there or they've concealed their auras in order to not be discovered," Xiao Hong concluded after a short while.
"It really does look like everything is normal. Has anyone else discovered anything amiss?" Long Dong asked following a prolonged silence.
"There doesn't seem to be any restrictions or formations set up around the town, and the only noteworthy feature about the place is that the temperatures there seem to be a lot cooler than it is everywhere else," the white-browed young man said.
"That is indeed rather abnormal, but the fact that an oasis exists here is already quite incredible in itself, so that doesn't really tell us anything," Xiao Hong mused.
All of a sudden, an unfamiliar voice sounded in the air above. "There's no need for so much speculation; why don't you all come to visit our town and find out everything for yourselves?"
Everyone's hearts jolted with shock upon hearing this, and they instantly dispersed without any hesitation. All of them fled to several hundred feet away before carefully looking up into the air above.
It turned out that all of them had failed to notice an elderly purple-robed Daoist priest who had appeared overhead. At this moment, he was looking down at everyone with a benevolent expression on his face.
What was most shocking to everyone was that this Daoist priest was a mid-Spatial Tempering cultivator. If it weren't for the fact that he was a human cultivator, all of them would've immediately fled the scene.
Long Dong cast his gaze toward the Daoist priest, and there was a hint of disappointment intermingled with the surprise in his eyes.
"We pay our respects to this esteemed senior! Senior, who are you and why have you come to this place?" Xiao Hong asked in a wary and respectful voice.
"Ah, so you're a fellow Daoist from the Black Phoenix Race. I am Master Purple Cloud, and I was the one who built this town. I can see that all of you are quite confused, but this is not the place to talk. How about all of you pay my city a visit and we can have a chat there?" The elderly Daoist priest smiled before extending a gesture of invitation.
"Master Purple Cloud?" Xiao Hong was quite alarmed by the fact that this elderly Daoist priest had managed to identify her origins right away, and she immediately exchanged a cautious glance with Long Dong.
Neither of them had ever heard of a Master Purple Cloud, so they were naturally rather hesitant to accept his invitation.
The elderly Daoist priest could see the caution in everyone's eyes, and he adopted a benevolent smile as he said, "There's no need to be overly cautious, fellow Daoists. I've always been living in seclusion and very rarely come into contact with anyone, so barely anyone has heard of me. I presume that all of you are trying to get to the Skyline, right? If that's the case, then it would be very much to your benefit to take some advice from me. Some changes have recently taken place at the Skyline, and it would be quite dangerous if you were to rush ahead without learning about what's happened first."
Master Purple Cloud's words naturally couldn't completely erase everyone's wariness, but their caution was slightly alleviated. Upon hearing that something had indeed taken place on the Skyline, everyone’s expressions changed minutely.
"Seeing as you've extended such a warm invitation, it would be rude of juniors like us to refuse." Even though Long Dong had changed his mind, and the last thing he wanted to do now was to enter this town, he couldn't just reject such a polite invitation from a Spatial Tempering cultivator outright. As such, he could only muster up his courage and nod in agreement.
Han Li and the others naturally couldn't contradict Long Dong's words, so all of them also agreed to visit this small town.
Master Purple Cloud's smile became even warmer and more benevolent as he guided everyone toward the city gates.
Everyone could only follow along behind the elderly Daoist priest upon seeing this.
There seemed to be a vast distance between themselves and the city gate, yet it didn't take them long to approach their destination. After a short while, they had already reached the oasis, and they could even clearly see the children playing happily beside the lake.
"I only moved to this place recently with my clan, and I had to bring the mortals within my clan to this place as well. There isn't a whole lot here, but we do produce some spirit fruits that are quite rare in the outside world, and you must taste them before you leave," the elderly Daoist priest explained with a smile.
Everyone was enlightened by this explanation.
A short while later, everyone had reached the city gates. The Foundation Establishment cultivators atop the city walls extended respectful bows toward their group before stepping off to the side to allow everyone passage.
The elderly Daoist priest led the way into the town.
Long Dong and the others glanced at the cultivators guarding the city gates to find that all of them wore respectful expressions. Nothing seemed to be amiss, so he also entered and followed along behind Master Purple Cloud after a brief hesitation.
Han Li passed by a couple of Foundation Establishment cultivators, and everything seemed to be completely normal.
However, right at this moment, a crisp cry suddenly erupted in the air above. A ball of silver flames suddenly shot forth, striking one of the nearby cultivators.
Silver flames immediately completely engulfed that cultivator.
Long Dong and the others were all flabbergasted to see this.
"What do you think you're doing? I've extended a kind invitation to all of you, yet you're attacking one of my juniors?" Master Purple Cloud's expression abruptly darkened as he rushed toward Han Li. He raised a hand, conjuring up a massive hand constructed from red light, which came crashing down toward Han Li.
Han Li initially wore a rather perplexed look on his face, but he instantly understood everything as soon as the silver flames enveloped that Foundation Establishment cultivator. However, this wasn't the right time to be mulling over his discovery. The massive red hand was crashing down toward him, and a vast invisible force was squeezing his body at the same time, making him feel as if a mountain were weighing down upon him.
If a normal cultivator were in his shoes, they wouldn't even be able to utter a single sound. However, Han Li was walking the path of simultaneous cultivation, and following the enhancement effects from the Dragon Scale Fruits, Heavenly Corpse Bead, and Bone Tempering Arts, his body was significantly more powerful than even the likes of Xiao Hong and the white-browed young man even without using the Provenance True Devil Arts.
As such, the immense force that was clearly supposed to completely immobilize him was shrugged off with ease, and he abruptly disappeared on the spot. In the next instant, he appeared over 200 feet away.
He had unleashed his Nine Gale Transformations. With the state of his current body and his cultivation base, he could easily unleash the Nine Gale Transformations even without using his Thunderstorm Wings.
"Get away from here! They're all puppets who have been possessed by Shadow Tribe beings!" Han Li roared as he hurtled through the air as a streak of azure light.
At the same time, the cultivator who had been engulfed by silver flames let loose a bloodcurdling howl as a grey shadow suddenly shot forth from his body. However, as soon as the shadow came into contact with the silver flames, it was devoured into nothingness.
Only a split second had passed from the moment that the silver flames had erupted from Han Li's body to the instant that Han Li had escaped from the elderly Daoist priest's sudden retaliation.
Everyone was initially completely puzzled and didn't know what was happening, but after hearing Han Li's cautionary words and witnessing the puppet within the silver flames, they immediately understood what was happening, and their faces turned deathly pale.
Spiritual light immediately erupted from their bodies as they fled into the distance.
The elderly Daoist priest was quite surprised that Han Li was able to escape from his attack, but he recovered from his brief stunned stupor. He immediately let loose a cold harrumph as he swept a sleeve toward one of the fleeing cultivators.
Countless red threads abruptly shot forth from within his sleeve, binding themselves tightly around that streak of light and forcing it to descend from the sky above.
The light receded to reveal a cultivator with an expression of shock and rage on his face, having already been completely bound by the countless red threads.