Perhaps it was merely a coincidence or perhaps the golden-horned young man really did sense something, but as soon as Liu Shui'er's voice trailed off, he suddenly looked up, then raised a hand to summon a black bowl that hovered in mid-air.
Immediately thereafter, the young man began to chant something before flicking his 10 fingers toward the bowl in rapid succession, casting a series of incantation seals of different colors that vanished into the treasure in a flash.
A long ringing sound erupted from the bowl in response, and black light began to emanate from it as it swelled drastically in size.
In the blink of an eye, it had expanded to over 100 feet, and it was hovering in mid-air like a house. The lid on the treasure was then lifted, and boundless inky-black Qi poured forth from within, spreading in all directions in a frenzy.
It was as if night had suddenly descended, obscuring the entire sky, making it impossible for Han Li and Liu Shui'er to see anything using the Projection Crystal aside from a vast expanse of darkness.
Their expressions both changed slightly in unison, yet before either of them had a chance to say anything, black light flashed from the crystal, and everything returned to normal.
The image on the crystal appeared to be identical compared to what it had been, yet all of the Jiao Chi beings had abruptly vanished.
Liu Shui'er pointed a finger at the crystal, and spiritual light flashed as the image on the surface of the treasure changed into that of the ground down below.
However, even from that perspective, they were still greeted by nothing but the sight of yellow sand without a single Jiao Chi being to be seen.
"It looks like they've unleashed an illusionary technique to conceal themselves. We won't be able to see anything unless I force the Projection Crystal to project the scenes inside the restriction, but doing so would blow our cover for sure, so it's not really worth it," Liu Shu'er sighed in a resigned manner.
She then swept a sleeve over the crystal, and the image on it vanished like an illusion amid a flash of spiritual light. In the end, it reverted back to the appearance of a normal white crystal before being stowed away up her sleeve.
"So be it. These Jiao Chi beings are clearly quite cautious, and it would be unwise for us to alert them to our presence. From the looks of it, their target seems to be in this nearby area. I wonder if what they're doing will affect us," Han Li murmured to himself in a contemplative manner.
Liu Shui'er's heart stirred slightly upon hearing this, and she said, "That is indeed a valid concern. Do you have any good ideas, Brother Han?"
"These Jiao Chi beings significantly outnumber us, and all of them seem to be quite powerful, so I don't really have any good ideas to offer. All we can do is set up a few more formations to mask the fluctuations when we break the restriction of the restricted ruins. On top of that, even though the Jiao Chi beings have set up an illusionary technique to conceal what they're doing, that doesn't stop us from deploying some puppets or spirit beasts to the nearby area to keep an eye on them. That way, if something does happen, we'll be alerted and can adopt measures to prepare ourselves," Han Li replied after a brief pause.
Liu Shui'er was also silent for a moment before nodding in a resigned manner. "Looks like that's all we can do."
"Seeing as that's the case, why don't we begin setting things up right away? This is not a place we should stay at for much longer, so let's head to the restricted ruins now," Han Li immediately suggested.
"Of course. I'm just concerned about Fellow Daoist Shi. Hopefully, nothing has happened to him on the way here," Liu Shui'er replied with a concerned nod.
"The two of us were able to make it here unscathed, so I'm sure Brother Shi would be more than capable of doing the same. Besides, two months have only just passed since we split up; perhaps Fellow Daoist Shi merely took a slightly longer route, in which case it would only be normal for him to be late by a few days," Han Li said in a confident manner.
"I hope that's the case." Liu Shui'er could only heave a faint sigh in response.
At this moment, Han Li suddenly rustled a sleeve, and a white shadow shot forth from within before revealing itself to be a completely expressionless white-robed woman amid a flash of white light.
It was none other than his sentient puppet, Doll.
"Go and keep an eye on those Jiao Chi beings. Don't engage them in battle, just observe them from afar," Han Li instructed.
Doll bowed slightly upon hearing this before rising up into the air. However, just as she was about to depart, a thought suddenly occurred to Han Li, and he said, "Hold on, take these two things with you. Your top priority is to not be discovered."
Han Li flipped a hand over as he spoke, and a black veil suddenly appeared in his grasp along with a purple talisman.
The latter was none other than a High Zenith Invisibility Talisman.
Doll remained completely expressionless upon hearing this, but it made a grabbing motion to draw the two items into its grasp in an obedient manner, then flew away as a streak of white light.
"You seem to cherish that puppet a lot, Brother Han. But then again, that's no surprise; even I'm very envious that you possess a sentient puppet of such a high caliber," Liu Shui' sai with an amused smile.
"Hehe, surely you jest, Fairy Liu. With your wealth, I'm sure it's not a difficult task to purchase a sentient puppet. Come to think of it, these types of puppets are kind of gimmicky and most of the time, they're not even as useful as a spirit beast of the same power level. Even this puppet of mine was a present from someone else," Han Li replied with a faint smile.
Seeing as Han Li clearly didn't want to speak too much about his sentient puppet, Liu Shui'er changed the subject, and said, "That's true. Just the amount of top-grade spirit stones required to use such puppets poses quite a headache. Seeing as you've deployed a sentient puppet, I'll also send out a spirit beast to keep an eye on those Jiao Chi beings as well."
Thus, she patted a certain item hanging from her waist, and a burst of five-colored light suddenly erupted forth before vanishing into thin air in a flash.
Even through the use of his spirit eye ability, Han Li could only catch a very brief glimpse of what appeared to be a small winged mink with five-colored light emanating from its body.
Han Li was quite startled by this small beast's incredible speed, and he couldn't help but cast a meaningful glance toward Liu Shui'er.
However, she merely disregarded Han Li's reaction and rose to her feet as she said, "Let's go and wait for Fellow Daoist Shi near the restricted ruins."
Han Li naturally had no objections to this, and thus, both of them rose up into the air before flying away from the Jiao Chi beings as streaks of light.
Along the way, the scenery down below remained completely the same with nothing but yellow sand stretching as far as the eyes could see in all directions.
Han Li had arrived at this place a few days in advance, and he'd taken the opportunity to inspect the ruins here for himself.
During the process, he'd discovered that these ruins stretched for over 1,000,000 kilometers, and there were many places in those ruins where restrictions still existed, so it appeared to be quite a dangerous place.
Thankfully, Han Li had been warned by Cai Liuying and the others about this place prior to entering the Vast Glacial realm, so he knew to stay far away from those areas. Otherwise, he would've definitely triggered traps in those ruins such as the Lightning Bird puppet from earlier.
As for the restricted ruins that Cai Liuying and Duan Tianren were referring to, that appeared to be situated in one of the perilous places in this area.
After flying for several tens of thousands of kilometers, the two of them finally stopped, and Han Li narrowed his eyes as he cast his gaze downward.
There, he discovered a ball of white light that with a diameter of around 1,000 feet slowly rotating within the wind and sand down below. Despite the fierce winds blowing around it, the ball of light remained completely unmoved, and as soon as the gusts of sandy winds came into contact with this light, they would disappear in a flash as if they'd been devoured.
What was even more unsettling was that there were piles of beastly bones littered all around the ball of light, most of which had been buried by the surrounding yellow sands already. However, among the bones that were protruding from the sand, some had already been blackened by age, so they'd clearly been there for an extremely long time, while others were pristine and new, clearly belonging to beasts that had only died here relatively recently.
At this moment, Liu Shui'er was holding a palm-sized formation plate and was staring at it with rapt focus.
After a while, Liu Shui'er exhaled, and confirmed, "This is the place; this is the restricted ruins that master and Senior Duan were referring to."
Han Li glanced at the bones littered down below in a calm manner as he replied, "It looks like this place is indeed quite perilous, but seeing as the two seniors expended so much effort to gather the three of us, there has to be a good chance that we'll be able to break this restriction."
Liu Shui'er clearly knew a lot more about this restriction than Han Li did, and she said, "I certainly hope so. According to my master, this restriction was formed by High Zenith Azure Light, which ranked alongside Divine Essencefused Light in ancient times, and it can only be broken using Divine Essencefused Light. As such, the three of us should be able to break this restriction with our combined powers."
A hint of elation flashed through Han Li's eyes upon hearing this, and he exclaimed, "High Zenith Azure Light!"
Liu Shui'er had naturally noticed Han Li's reaction, and she asked, "Are you interested in this light, Brother Han?"
Han Li's expression instantly reverted back to normal as he replied, "I possess the Divine Essencefused Light, so I'm naturally quite interested in the lights that rank alongside it. From what I've heard, this High Zenith Azure Light is extremely lethal and can conjure up devastating invisible sword Qi that can kill unsuspecting enemies in an instant. I wonder if this light really is as extraordinary as the rumors proclaim it to be."
"Looks like you've done quite a lot of research into this High Zenith Azure Light, Brother Han. According to my master, this light is indeed quite fearsome, but it's not as lethal as the legends suggest. However, restrictions created using this light are extremely difficult to break through. Otherwise, my master would've most definitely tried to force her way into the restriction and obtain the treasures in there, even though doing so would incur a massive risk. On top of that, High Zenith Azure Light can't be acquired, and can only be naturally formed by the power of heaven and earth. As such, beings who have cultivated this light are far rarer than even those who possess the Divine Essencefused Light. In fact, it's said that no one has been successfully able to cultivate this light since ancient times," Liu Shui'er explained.
"In that case, there must be an extremely powerful treasure that can emit High Zenith Azure Light under that restriction!" Han Li immediately deduced.