"You're looking for me, Senior?" A hint of surprise flashed through Han Li's eyes. "That's right, I am indeed here to see you. Have you forgotten my voice transmission from a year ago?" Di Xue's voice was just as sharp and metallic as ever."Of course not! What can I do for you, Senior?" Han Li was feeling a little uneasy, but he naturally wasn't going to feign ignorance in this situation. "You heard him, right, Fair Mu? Han brat agreed to help me voluntarily, so you can't refuse anymore," Di Xue chuckled.
"I never refused in the first place, but as I'm sure you're well aware, our top priority now is for Fellow Daoist Han to master his Divine Devilbane Lightning as soon as possible. As such, there's no way that I can loan him to you for three months. I can only give you one month at most. Otherwise, you're going to be hindering his progress too much," Mu Qing replied calmly as she took a sip of her tea.
"One month is nowhere near enough to finish what I'm doing. The puppets I'm refining are also extremely important, and can't be delayed. How about this? Hand him over to me for two months; that should just barely suffice," Di Xue conceded.
"I can give him to you for one and a half months at most, no more than that!" Mu Qing countered in a cold voice. Di Xue paused momentarily before nodding as he said, "Alright, one and a half months it is. However, I'll have to borrow your teleportation formation then."
"That won't be an issue. I'll teleport both of you straight to the Bloodflame Mountain, but you have to bring him back to me in person." Mu Qing's voice eased slightly upon hearing this."Haha, I can certainly do that. Come with me, Han brat," Di Xue chortled with glee as he rose to his feet.
More than half a day later, black light flashed from a teleportation formation on an obscure stone platform in front of a black mountain on the fifth level of the earth abyss. Two humanoid figures appeared on the teleportation formation, and they were naturally none other than Han Li and Di Xue.
As soon as Han Li recovered from his rush of dizziness, he surveyed his surroundings to find that there was another crimson-robed figure standing next to the teleportation formation.
As soon as he caught sight of Han Li, the crimson-robed figure cackled, "You're finally here, Fellow Daoist Han. My four Purpleblood Puppets require an injection of power from your Divine Devilbane Lightning. Only then will they be able to serve a substantial purpose when we get to the infernal river."
"Purpleblood Puppets!" Han Li's heart immediately jolted upon hearing this.
"Hehe, I'll tell you about the specific details when we get there." The crimson-robed figure was acting in a very polite manner, presumably because he required Han Li's services.
Han Li naturally wasn't going to state any objections, and thus, he flew toward the black mountain behind the two crimson-robed figures.
This mountain was around 40,000 to 50,000 feet tall, and the two crimson-robed figures were leading Han Li toward a point halfway up the mountain.
In the end, they arrived on a nondescript cliff over 1,000 feet up the mountain.
One of the crimson-robed figures strode forward and made a hand seal with one hand. He then began to chant something before abruptly raising his other hand. The scenes that unfolded next had Han Li completely flabbergasted,
The entire cliff began to tremor amid a loud burst of rumbling, and black light flashed as a gargantuan moss-covered stone wyrm head appeared. The wyrm head abruptly opened its massive eyes to reveal a pair of crimson eyeballs.
It swept a cold gaze across Han Li and the two crimson-robed figures, then opened its mouth to reveal a passageway that was shimmering with white light. "Come in!" one of the crimson-robed said emotionlessly before making his way into the passageway with his identical companion. Han Li recomposed himself and carefully examined the wyrm head through narrowed eyes for a moment before entering the passageway.
The passageway inside was remarkably spacious at around 40 to 50 feet tall, and all of the walls were paved with angular black stones. There were thumb-sized phosphorescent beads embedded into the walls at regular intervals, illuminating the path that led deep into the heart of the mountain. The two crimson-robed figures walked side by side and remained completely silent from the moment they entered the passageway.
After traversing through the passageway and descending over 1,000 feet underground, they arrived at a series of seven or eight completely identical entrances placed next to one another on a large plot of empty land.
This was a rather surprising sight to Han Li.
However, neither of the two crimson-robed beings stopped for even a single instant as they casually made their way into one of the passageways.
The entire mountain seemed to have been hollowed out, and there were countless passageways interconnected with one another, making this place resemble a massive diabolical maze.
Through these passageways, one could occasionally catch glimpses of puppets of different shapes and sizes, all of which were wielding different types of massive blades, patrolling through their respective areas.
Some of these puppets were constructed from metal and shimmering with golden light, some were of a murky grey color, having been constructed from rocks and stones, and there were also some agile puppets carved out of a spirit wood.
All of these puppets were emitting astonishing spiritual pressure, and there were even a few special puppets that possessed Deity Transformation Stage power. Han Li was quite astonished by what he saw.
He could tell that Di Xue's proficiency in the art of puppetry was most definitely superior to that of the Monarch of Soul Divergence.
Of course, that wasn't to say that Di Xue possessed far superior aptitude than the Monarch of Soul Divergence in the art of puppetry. Not only did Di Xue possess a Body Integration Stage cultivation base, there was a vast variety of materials and resources to be found in the Spirit Realm that couldn’t be sourced in the human world, so it would simply be unfair to compare the two. After traversing through this maze-like structure with the two crimson-robed figure's for a while, Han Li finally emerged into a cavernous space with a scorching crimson lake down below. This was a natural underground lava lake! There was a crimson palace floating on the surface of the lake, and even though it wasn't an extremely large palace, it was still over 10,000 feet in size.
The entire palace emanated an overwhelming aura of blood and gore, but its construction was absolutely exquisite. There was a massive crimson crystal that was several feet in size attached to the top of the palace, and it was emitting a vibrant crimson light. Han Li couldn't help but falter slightly upon seeing this.
This crystal almost immediately evoked recollections of the strange crystal Han Li had seen on the Spiritseal Tower of the Tian Peng Race's holy city. That crystal was just as massive and mysterious.
It appeared that some kind of extremely powerful restriction had to have been placed on those crystals.
The crimson-robed figures suddenly descended after leading Han Li to the edge of the lava lake.
One of them rustled a sleeve, and a yellow bell immediately shot forth from within before landing in his grasp. Yellow light flashed as a crisp clink sounded from the bell, and as soon as Han Li heard this sound, his consciousness immediately began to waver as he was struck by a sense of feebleness. His heart jolted with shock, and he hurriedly activated his Great Development Technique to dispel those debilitating effects. He then hurried retreated a step and appraised the two crimson-robed figures with wariness in his eyes.
He didn't believe that the two would suddenly try to kill him here, but he had never let his guard down even for a single instant.
One of the crimson-robed figures immediately turned around to appraise Han Li with a cold expression, and a hint of surprise flashed through his eyes upon seeing Han Li's ability to retain clarity of mind.
Right at this moment, a burst of violent tumbling and surging suddenly erupted from within the crimson lava in the lake down below, following which a giant beast that was around 100 feet in length emerged.
This was a shelled beast that resembled a giant turtle, but it possessed three elk-like heads with strange vibrant red coral-like horns on those heds.
The beast seemed to have been summoned by the bell, and as it swam quickly toward Han Li and the others as soon as it emerged from the lava.
"This is my gate guardian beast, a Chaotic Turtle Beast. This beast possesses a fire spirit body from birth, and can unleash three different types of spirit flames. It's extremely powerful when in its natural habitat of lava, and it took me a lot of effort to tame it. If we want to enter my Bloodflame Palace, we'll have to get around this beast first," one of the crimson-robed figures chuckled."I am truly in awe of your exceptional powers, Senior!" Han Li immediately replied upon hearing this.
He then cast his gaze toward the lava lake as blue light flashed through his eyes, and his expression changed drastically. With the assistance of his Brightsight Spirit Eyes, he was able to see that there were countless transparent threads up ahead, intertwining to encompass the entire lava lake down below.
One end of those threads was connected to the giant crystal on top of the palace, and if someone were to fly down recklessly from above without being aware of the presence of these threads, they would most likely be sliced into countless pieces.
Han Li's lips twitched and he drew a sharp breath upon making this discovery.
At this moment, the Chaotic Turtle Beast had arrived at the shore of the lava lake, and it opened its three mouths to let loose a strange cry that resembled frog croaks.
One of the crimson-robed figures raised a hand upon seeing this, and a black fist-sized ball shot forth amid an aura of blood and gore.
One of the demon beast's heads opened its mouth to lap up the black ball by expelling a burst of red light.
The three heads then let loose low cries in unison, seemingly in a display of joy and elation. It then turned around and laid a thick tail onto the shore of the lake to act as a bridge.
The two crimson-robed figures climbed along the tail onto the creature's back, then turned around to face Han Li. Han Li heaved an internal sigh before also making his way onto the beast's back.
One of the crimson-robed figures shook the yellow bell again, and the Chaotic Turtle Beast swam rapidly toward the Bloodflame Palace at the center of the lake with the trio on its back. The lake wasn't very large, and it only took moments before the beast reached the palace.
The three of them immediately rose into the air and flew over to the palace gates.
Han Li had only just descended onto the ground when the palace gates abruptly opened up from the inside, and two groups of beings emerged.
One group was clad in red armor while wielding fiery halberds, and all of their bodies were covered in scorching flames. The other group consisted of unarmed black shadows that were enshrouded in clouds of grey mist.
Han Li swept his spiritual sense toward them to find that these two groups of beings seemed to possess signs of life, so they didn't appear to be puppets. The two groups of strange beings strode forward at once before extending respectful bows toward the two crimson-robed figures. "Open the Yinflame Palace; I'm going to give Fellow Daoist Han a warm welcome!" one of the crimson-robed figures commanded.
The two groups of beings immediately sprang into action upon hearing this. Most of them rushed back into the palace while the remaining group split up into two neat lines as they stood respectfully on either side of the gates. None of them uttered a single word during this process, and it was as if they were all incapable of speech. Han Li's expression remained unchanged, but a hint of bewilderment welled up in his heart upon seeing this.