"This is an extremely important matter, so I certainly wouldn't make jokes about it," Han Li replied with a serious look on his face.
"If we can find a perfect solution, then that would naturally be for the best. Tell us what it is, Brother Han," Yan Li urged with an elated expression.
"The two of you don't actually have to struggle with this matter on your own; you can simply inform Senior Jiang of this predicament. Don't forget that Senior Jiang is a Grand Ascension cultivator; things that seem extremely difficult or impossible for us may be quite simple for him. Even if he can't reverse the process and allow the two of you to recover your human bodies right away, I'm sure he had some method to prevent you two from further transitioning toward ghostly beings. Why don't you raise the issue with Senior Jiang before making a decision?" Han Li suggested with a smile.
Both Yuan Yao and Yan Li were enlightened upon hearing this.
"That's a brilliant idea, Brother Han! We were too caught up with trying to convince the other person that our solution was the best one, and it made us lose sight of the bigger picture," Yan Li said with an excited look on her face.
Yuan Yao also nodded in agreement with this idea after a brief pause for contemplation.
"In all honesty, I have some other concerns that I'd like to raise," Han Li suddenly continued after a brief hesitation.
"Please do tell, Brother Han," Yan Li prompted.
Yuan Yao also turned to appraise Han Li with an unblinking gaze.
Han Li chuckled, but didn't immediately respond. Instead, he flipped a hand over to reveal a black object in his palm, which instantly expanded to around 10 feet in size.
It was none other than his Divine Essencefused Mountain.
He swept a sleeve through the air, and the small mountain flew out onto the roof as a streak of black light, then transforming into a grey light barrier that enshrouded the entire cabin.
The two women were a little surprised by what he was doing, but neither of them asked any questions.
Only then did Han Li raise his aforementioned concerns.
"My Divine Essencefused Light is nothing in the face of a Grand Ascension cultivator, but it'll alert me as soon as any spiritual sense attempts to infiltrate it. What I'm about to say next may be a little disrespectful to Senior Jiang, but I believe it needs to be discussed. Fellow Daoist Yan, you're adamant that Fellow Daoist Yuan should become Senior Jiang's disciple, but have you considered the notion that perhaps this senior doesn't want to use Fellow Daoist Yuan's powers to help him transcend his next heavenly tribulation, but for some other purpose instead? Or perhaps helping him transcend his next tribulation could be an extremely harmful or dangerous process to Fellow Daoist Yuan; in that case, what will you do?"
The two women exchanged a glance upon hearing this, but they weren't very surprised to hear these issues being raised. Yan Li forced a smile onto her face, and said, "Surely that's going too far, Brother Han. Senior Jiang is a Grand Ascension cultivator; he wouldn't lie to insignificant juniors like us."
Han Li raised an eyebrow upon hearing this, and only after staring at the two women for a while did he nod with a faint smile.
"It appears I was overthinking things, then. Seeing as the two of you have already considered this issue, I won't speak any further about it, but allow me to issue one final reminder to Fellow Daoist Yuan; Senior Jiang is extending an invitation for you to become his disciple, leaving you with the power to make the final decision, rather than forcing you under his wing. This indicates that the objective he wants to achieve can't be accomplished by force. In that case, you do have a certain level of leverage against him, which means that you're not completely doomed to follow his bidding. It would be very dangerous to try and abuse that leverage, but do be aware that it exists."
"Thank you for the reminder, Brother Han," Yuan Yao replied with a wry smile.
Han Li smiled before waving an arm through the air, and the Divine Essencefused Mountain instantly disappeared along with the grey light barrier.
After that, Han Li discussed a few more things with the two women and also speculated about why he was residing in a place like this.
However, Yuan Yao then insisted on going to see the elderly man right away to determine whether he'd actually be able to help them recover their human bodies.
Han Li and Yan Li naturally wouldn't oppose her, so the three of them emerged from the stone cabin together.
Yuan Yao then called out for the white ghostly figure that had brought them to this courtyard, and it immediately appeared as if it had never even left in the first place.
After hearing their request to see the elderly man, the ghostly being nodded before leading the way.
A short while later, Han Li and the others returned to the cavernous hall, where they were greeted by the sight of the elderly man once again.
The man was still sitting on the same chair as before, and a faint smile appeared on his face at the sight of Han Li's trio as he asked, "Have you already decided to accept my offer, Fellow Daoist Yuan?"
Yuan Yao extended a respectful bow toward the elderly man, and considered her response for a short while before carefully replying, "I am forever grateful for your immensely kind offer, and I would love to cultivate by your side. However, there is an issue that I need to address or I won't be able to accept your offer right away."
"Oh? An issue, you say? Hehe, why don't you tell me about it?" The elderly man's eyes immediately lit up, and he seemed to be quite confident in his ability to take care of any issues that Yuan Yao could raise.
Thus, Yuan Yao immediately revealed to the man her wishes to return to her human form.
"Haha, you made it sound like some kind of impossible predicament, but this is merely a trifling matter. I can refine several types of pills for you, then expend some magic power to expel the Yin power within your body, and it'd only be a matter of a few years before you can recover your human body. On top of that, it won't hamper your cultivation of the Chang Yuan Race ability at all," the elderly man chortled with glee, as if this were merely a simple task to him.
"In that case, I would certainly be willing to accept you as my Master, Senior Jiang! Yao'er pays her respects to her master!" Yuan Yao was also overjoyed by this outcome, and she immediately extended another respectful bow.
"Good, good! Rest assured, my disciple, I can wait a few years with no issues. Whenever you completely recover your human body is when you can begin cultivating that Chang Yuan Race ability." The elderly man swept a sleeve through the air, sending forth a burst of gently invisible power to help Yuan Yao back into an upright posture.
Tears suddenly welled up in Yuan Yao's eyes as she continued, "Master, you've already agreed to help me recover my human body, so I really shouldn't be asking for anything else, but Senior Martial Sister Yan Li has been like a true sister to me for many years. Would you be able to accept her as your disciple as well, and also help her recover her human body?"
A conflicted look appeared on the elderly man's face, and only after a long while did he heave a faint sigh. "I've already made an exception by accepting you as my disciple, so I won't be able to take Fellow Daoist Yan under my wing no matter what. However, I can help her recover her human body if that's what you want."
Yuan Yao still wanted to insist on the matter, but Yan Li cut her off with a surreptitious shake of her head toward Yuan Yao.
"I'm already extremely grateful that Senior Jiang is willing to expend the time and effort to help me recover my human body; I couldn't possibly hope to become Senior Jiang's disciple with my mediocre aptitude, so please don't ask for anything more, Junior Martial Sister."
Yan Li had spoken in an extremely earnest manner, and a slightly dejected look appeared on Yuan Yao's face, but she fell silent in the end.
She was also quite aware that a man of Senior Jiang's status wouldn't easily change his mind after making a decision. Agreeing to half of her condition was already a show of great generosity, so it wouldn't be realistic to ask for anything more.
Han Li had accompanied the two women into the hall, but he merely stood off to the side and refrained from saying anything. However, he was inspecting the elderly man with intense focus this entire time, trying to catch any signs of deceit in his words, but the elderly man appeared to be quite genuine throughout this entire process, and that came as quite a relief to Han Li.
It appeared that this Senior Jiang truly was looking for a disciple.
All of a sudden, the elderly man transmitted his voice to Han Li. "Fellow Daoist Han, I have something that I'd like to speak to you about alone; would you be willing to hear it?"
Han Li was slightly taken aback, but he quickly transmitted his voice in reply. "I'd be more than glad to hear it, Senior Jiang."
Yuan Yao and Yan Li could see Han Li and the elderly man's lips moving, but no sounds came out, so they were aware that the two were clearly conversing through voice transmissions. The two women glanced at one another before wisely waiting in silence.
"In all honesty, if I hadn't discovered that this female companion of yours possesses the Heavenly Yin Physique, I'd originally intended to take you as my disciple and inherit everything I have. However, I've taken Yao'er as my disciple now, and I also have to prepare for my next heavenly tribulation, so I simply don't have the spare capacity to take you under my wing as well. That's quite regrettable to me as I'm very interested in your simultaneous cultivation," the elderly man said in a forlorn voice.
Han Li was completely taken aback to hear this, and only after a while did he reply in a respectful voice, "That is indeed quite unfortunate for me, but such is life."
"However, seeing as you obtained the sword art left behind by Qing Yuanzi in the human world and used Golden Lightning Bamboo to refine your 72 Azure Bamboo Cloudswarm Swords, you're technically half a disciple of mine. If you're still interested in the new Azure Essence Sword Art and refining your Azure Bamboo Cloudswarm Swords again, I can bestow those methods upon you. However, you're not a true disciple of mine, after all, so you'll have to offer me something in exchange," the elderly man continued.
"The new Azure Essence Sword Art?" Han Li's heart stirred upon hearing this.
"That's right. The sword art that Qing Yuanzi left behind in the human world was only half-complete, and he only finished the second half after entering the Spirit Realm. With both halves, the sword art can support your cultivation all the way up to the early-Body Integration Stage. Only after taking over the body of this Chang Yuan being did I switch to a Chang Yuan Race cultivation art, but if you can master this sword art, then refine your flying swords again to rid them of their impurities, the sword formation you set up will allow you to fight on even terms with late-Body Integration Stage beings," the elderly man said with a smile.
"But I'm only a mere Deity Transformation cultivator; what could I possibly offer that would catch your interest, Senior?" Han Li was very tempted by this offer, but he still retained a hint of clarity and calmness in his mind.
"You may not have anything else, but surely you have some spare Golden Lightning Bamboo leftover, right?" the elderly man asked with narrowed eyes.
"Golden Lightning Bamboo?" Han Li was quite surprised to hear this.
"That's right. If you can give me enough of this material to refine three flying swords, I'll pass this new sword art onto you. If you have more than that, I can even help you refine your 72 flying swords," the elderly man chuckled.