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The bead released a burst of azure light amid a faint thump, and an object began to take shape within the light.

As the light faded, the object was revealed to be a massive black pine tree.

The tree was extremely huge, yet its appearance was quite peculiar. There seemed to be an invisible line running directly down the center of the tree; on one side of the line, the tree was extremely lush and exuberant, yet the other half was completely shriveled up and devoid of leaves, as if it were a dead tree.

This was Mu Qing's wood spirit body.

She appraised the tree with a complex expression before flicking her 10 fingers in quick succession, casting one incantation seal after another, which all disappeared into the black tree.

The tree abruptly shuddered before lowering a small section of itself further into the ground, then falling completely still.

However, Mu Qing didn't stop there. She opened her mouth again to expel a ball of green blood essence, sending it flying toward the black tree before disappearing into a slight bulge on the tree trunk.

After that, Mu Qing began to chant something, and she raised both hands in unison to blast forth another two pillars of green light, both of which also vanished into the trees.

In the next instant, a ball of green light abruptly exploded from the spot on the tree trunk where the blood essence had just disappeared. The bark on the tree began to twist and warp before forming an extremely life-like set of facial features.

The face on the tree trunk was squirming incessantly and scrunched up in pain as if it were a living being.

Upon closer inspection, one would discover that this was none other than Jin Ling's face.

"Wake up!" Mu Qing yelled as she raised her eyebrows, then cast another incantation seal.

A small section of the massive black tree's trunk suddenly split apart down the middle, following which a golden ape leaped out from within.

The golden ape immediately knelt onto the ground, and said, "Jin Ling pays his respects to His Mistress! My Mistress, why have you awakened me? Could it be..."

"You may rise. It's a good thing you left a spiritual avatar of yourself within my body before we left. The original Jin Ling has already fallen, so you are Jin Ling now," Mu Qing sighed.

The golden ape's expression changed slightly upon hearing this, but it then said in a respectful manner, "So I really did die. I was wondering why I couldn't sense the existence of my true body. In that case, I'm willing to continue serving My Mistress in Jin Ling's stead! You sacrificed your blood essence to summon me, so you must have something for me to do, right?"

"That's right. The tracking mark I planted in Han brat's body has been destroyed, and I've lost track of him as well. I'm preparing to unleash my Wood Domain to find him, but in that case, I'll have to use the power of my true body. Hence, I'll need you to protect the spirit wood that is my true form, and I've set up a powerful formation nearby. Even if beings as powerful as Liu Zu try to force their way into this area, it'd be able to stop them for a while. The formation will buy you enough time to take my true body and escape from here," Mu Qing said in a solemn voice.

"Wood Domain? That's extremely taxing on your powers, My Mistress! If you unleash it now, you won't be able to unleash it again within the next 1,000 years! Are you sure you want to do that?" A surprised look appeared on the golden ape's face.

"I have no choice. The bead I saw in the devilish tomb last time contained power that was identical to my essential power, yet the purity and quantity of power imbued within that bead are more than 10 times that of the essential power within my body. If I can obtain that treasure, then take the time to absorb all of the power within it, not only will I be able to progress beyond my current cultivation base, there's a very good chance that I'll even be able to advance even further. Hence, that thing is even more important to me than the so-called Divine Infernal River Elixir," Mu Qing said with a determined look on her face.

"In that case, I'll be sure to keep your true body safe, My Mistress." The golden ape knew that it wouldn't be able to dissuade Mu Qing, so it nodded with a solemn expression and allowed her to proceed.

"That's all I needed to hear, Jin Ling. Your original body has already been destroyed, and this current body of yours is a wood ape body that I manifested through my own power. This body is not as powerful as your original one, so you're currently only an early-Great Spirit General. Here, I'll give this to you as well to bolster your power." After a brief pause, Mu Qing opened her mouth to expel an azure mirror.

The mirror was only around the size of a human hand, and the back of the mirror was lined with green wooden patterns. As soon as it appeared, brilliant spiritual light radiated in all directions, and it was quite apparent even from first glance that this was an extraordinary treasure.

"Isn't this your Heavenly Wood Mirror? This is something that you've been nurturing within your body for countless years, My Mistress; I wouldn't dare to take something so significant! You'll require this mirror to protect yourself in the devilish tomb." Jin Ling immediately waved its hands to try and refused the mirror.

"If my true body were to be destroyed here, what would be the use of this mirror? Besides, it's not like your unaware of this; I obtained another spirit treasure a few years ago, and its powers are not inferior to that of this mirror. On top of that, it's even more effective for combating devilish Qi," Mu Qing insisted.

Jin Ling hesitated for a long while upon hearing this before finally agreeing to take the mirror.

It pointed a finger at the mirror, and the latter immediately disappeared into its body as a streak of azure light.

"Aside from this Heavenly Wood Mirror, I'll leave these two Evergreen Spirit Swords to you as well. This pair of swords will be even better than the two you had before." Mu Qing thought to herself before making a grabbing motion toward the giant black tree.

Two of the tree's branches shuddered before detaching themselves. Following a flash of azure light, they transformed into a pair of shimmering azure swords before falling from the tree. On this occasion, Jin Ling didn't refuse Mu Qing's offering. An elated look appeared on its face as it sprang forward to catch the two flying swords, then inspected them momentarily before quickly strapping them to its back.

After doing all that, Mu Qing issued a few more instructions to Jin Ling before reverting back to her original form.

A streak of azure light then rose up into the air above the valley before quickly departing.

Not long after Mu Qing had left, Jin Ling activated the spell formation that she'd set up in the valley.

The space within the entire valley warped and blurred, creating an illusion that there was nothing within the valley, and it was impossible to tell that anything was amiss when looking at this mirage from afar.

Mu Qing flew through the air in an unhurried manner, and a different scene was unfolding around her.

At this moment, the area in a radius of 100 feet around her was filled with specks of green light. The surrounding projections of plant life swayed as bursts of pure wood-attribute spiritual Qi emanated from them.

Shimmering green light appeared over Mu Qing's body, following which a massive green tree projection emerged behind her.

It was as if she'd created her own world within the area encompassed under the green light.

Moments later, Mu Qing returned to the hill where she'd first discovered signs of Han Li's whereabouts, then descended onto the summit.

She raised her hands into the air, and the green light around her suddenly expanded toward all directions, encompassing the entire hill in the span of just a few breaths.

The projections of plant life all manifested into actual living entities in that moment, taking root on the ground below and swaying in the wind.

The entire hill had been transformed into a lush forest, and at the same time, the roots of the giant tree behind Mu Qing suddenly transformed into countless azure threads that shot forth through the air.

Some of them disappeared into the bushes while others vanished into the ground in a flash.

Mu Qing closed her eyes with a solemn expression and her brows tightly furrowed, seemingly trying to concentrate intently on something.

After about 10 minutes, she suddenly opened her eyes, and murmured to herself, "So he managed to eradicate the tracking marks by borrowing the powers of those two women. Looks like the secret technique they used is something that isn't known even to the ghost hag herself. However, now that I've managed to determine the direction that they've traveled in, I'll be sure to find them eventually."

After that brief monologue, Mu Qing abruptly made a hand seal, and the green barrier of light shrank once again. As the green light receded, the plant life that it had manifested all began to vanish on the spot.

In the moment that everything returned to normal on the hill, Mu Qing rose up into the air and flew toward the direction that Han Li had departed in.

Han Li was naturally unaware of the fact that all of the demon monarchs were targeting him at once. However, as a safety precaution, he was constantly changing direction as he flew through the air after departing from the hill with the two women.

In his mind, there should've been no way for the demon monarchs to track him down again, but he'd clearly underestimated their abilities.

At present, Han Li was flying over a vast expanse of yellow sand with the two women, and he was saying something to Yuan Yao and Yan Li during their flight.

"What? You're planning to find a spatial node to return to the Spirit Realm?" A cry of surprise escaped Yan Li's mouth, and she seemed quite stunned to hear this.

"Indeed. Through my research of space both in the human world and the Spirit Realm, I discovered that no matter the size of a space, spatial nodes will always exist, and the smaller a space is, the easier such spatial nodes are to find. Those so-called spatial rifts are actually just an alternative form of spatial nodes. If we can find the spatial node within the infernal river, then take a small risk, then there's a very good chance that we could return to the Spirit Realm," Han Li replied in a calm voice.

"But Brother Han, my senior martial sister and I have both heard much about the perils of spatial nodes. Not only are there spatial storms to contend with, we won't be able to control the location of the exit, either. Isn't that a little too dangerous?" Yuan Yao asked in a hesitant voice.

"There will be some risk involved, but with me leading the way, we'll have at least a 70% to 80% chance of passing through the spatial node safely. After all, this infernal rive is only a slightly larger space that is a subsidiary to the Spirit Realm, and not an actual realm in itself. That is, unless the two of you don't want to leave and wish to stay permanently within the infernal river instead," Han Li said with furrowed brows.

"To be honest, we can hide here and cultivate for a while until those people leave. The Yin Qi and spiritual Qi here are both extremely abundant, so it'll be quite beneficial to our cultivation," Yan Li proposed with a smile.

"That's not a good idea. Have you forgotten about the Mayfly Race, Fairy Yan? We don't know when those Mayfly Race reinforcements will arrive, and even the demon monarchs were extremely fearful of the Mayfly Race, so they're definitely not something that we can contend with. The infernal river is the holy land of their race, so they undoubtedly have a better understanding of it than we do. No matter where we hide, we still won't be safe. On top of that, are the two of you giving up on returning to the human race in order to find a way to recover your human bodies?" Han Li analyzed in a slow voice.

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