"Seeing as you have no objections, I'll be sure to meet you at the center of the city at the agreed time. Also, my real name is Xu Qianyu, and you can refer to me as such, Senior. I wouldn't dare to refer to myself as 'fairy' in your presence," Xu Qianyu said as she lowered her head in a respectful manner.
Han Li faltered slightly upon hearing this before shaking his head with a smile. "Haha, there's no need to be so subdued, Fellow Daoist Qianyu."
Not long after that, Xu Qianyu took her leave and departed. Even though she had two days and her cave abode was quite close to Deep Heaven City, the return trip would still be quite time-consuming, so she didn't dare to delay.
Han Li paid a visit to the scholarly man and the others again, and gave them another list, this time with the materials he had already purchased removed.
After that, he returned to the Immortal Gathering Pavilion and didn't go anywhere else.
Almost at the exact same time, there were five or six cultivators gathered within a mysterious hall, and they seemed to be discussing an extremely important and confidential matter.
A white-robed elderly man with a head of silver hair sat with his brows furrowed, and said, "So you're saying there's no chance at all that he'll join our Deep Heaven City."
"I've already done my best, Elder Gu. However, this Fellow Daoist Han is solely dedicated to pursuing the Heavenly Dao and has no intention of joining any power," an old monk in a golden kasaya sighed in response.
It was none other than that Buddhist Monk Jin Yue!
Everyone gathered here possessed very powerful auras, and they were clearly all Body Integration cultivators as well.
These people were naturally none other than the elders of Deep Heaven City.
"In that case, we'll still be unable to fill our quota of 10 members on the panel of elders, which will severely compromise the power of our city. Prior to the battle against the foreign races, not long did our panel of elders have 10 members, we even had Fellow Daoist Silver Light, the backup elder that no outsiders know about. In the city's current situation, once the devilish disaster strikes, we'll be in an extremely dire situation. It's not like this hasn't happened in the past," a burly man in a black leather robe said in a cold voice.
"It's no use. There's no way that the Tyrant Sovereign, Holy Sovereign, and the seven demon monarchs would release any of their Body Integration cultivators to join Deep Heaven City. Everyone knows that the devil realm's arrival is inevitable, and perhaps it'll happen within the next 1,000 years. Everyone's gathering forces to try and protect themselves. After all, the last devilish tribulation only lasted just over 100 years, but during that time, almost half of all of the three sovereigns and seven demon monarchs at the time perished. No one wants to suffer the same fate as them," Buddhist Monk Jin Yue said in a resigned manner.
"Are you sure that the devil realm and the Spirit Realm will overlap once again within 1,000 years, Fellow Daoist Jin Yue?" a woman wearing a silver mask suddenly asked in a voice that was very pleasing to the ears.
"I'm absolutely sure that's the case. Not only have warning signs arisen on the holy island, Master Mo Jianli took a risk and used the star disc to make a trip to the Elder Devil Realm. There, he discovered that the elder devils of the devil realm are currently mobilizing troops on a widespread basis to prepare for battle, and it's clear that they're preparing to invade our Spirit Realm. Unfortunately, before Senior Mo had a chance to conduct any further investigation, he was discovered by a Sacred Ancestor of the devil realm and was forced to return to the Spirit Realm.
"From the current situation, it seems extremely likely that the devil realm will descend upon us, perhaps in only several hundred years. Our human and demon territories, as well as the territories of the neighboring few races, all constitute one of the regions where the devil realm will fuse into our spirit realm, so a massive tribulation is unavoidable," Buddhist Monk Jin Yue replied in a grim manner.
"If both the holy island and Master Mo have verified this, then it has to be true. In that case, the three sovereigns and seven demon monarchs, as well as the other major powers must've also received this information, so there's no way they'll be willing to replenish our panel of elders," the white-robed elderly man mused as he stroked his beard and narrowed his eyes.
"Indeed. At the same time, the neighboring foreign races will also be compressing their forces in anticipation for the upcoming devilish tribulation, so they definitely won't be attacking us during this time. The three sovereigns and seven demon monarchs were actually first established as a countermeasure to these devilish tribulations. In reality, not only have no Body Integration Stage elders joined our city since the attack from the foreign races, we haven't even managed to replenish many Spatial Tempering Stage and Deity Transformation Stage guards, and that was even after our panel of elders made a concerted recruitment effort," the masked woman said in a calm manner.
"Our Deep Heaven City suffered extensively at the hands of the foreign races during the previous battle. If we can't replenish our members, then we'll only be able to focus on self-preservation during the upcoming devilish tribulation, instead of sending people to actively slay the invading devilish beings like we did during the last tribulation," a man with a head of hair that resembled purple flames said with furrowed brows.
"There's not much we can do. These devilish tribulations are truly horrific ordeals for cultivators like us. It's a good thing that the devilish beings aren't interested in mortals without any spiritual power. They focus solely on plundering the resources of our Spirit Realm and slaughtering us cultivators, and they very rarely target mortals and ordinary beasts. Otherwise, our human and demon races would've most likely been wiped off the face of the Spirit Realm by these past devilish tribulations already," the white-robed elderly man said with a dark expression.
"Hmph, that's not because those devilish beings are kindhearted philanthropists; they're intentionally leaving the mortals behind like livestock so more cultivators like us can emerge from them, thereby giving them more targets to slaughter when they invade next. After all, the demon cores and Nascent Souls of cultivators like us are the best delicacies for devilish beings," Buddhist Monk Jin Yue said as a cold light flashed through his eyes.
"Furthermore, there are some resources that our two races can't relinquish. Otherwise, we could minimize casualties by gathering in one place and holding the fort until the devil realm separates from the Spirit Realm," the purple-haired man sighed in a resigned manner.
"Seeing as all of the other powers have already made other arrangements in anticipation for the upcoming devilish tribulation, we won't be able to force them to do anything. All we can do is protect Deep Heaven City as best as we can. From this day forth, let's withdraw the restrictions between this city and the neighboring cities so we can transfer the nearby normal people into Deep Heaven City en masse. On top of that, we'll send out some cultivators who are adept in earth-attribute cultivation arts to construct a few empty cities. All we can do is protect the mortals from the nearby area," the white-robed elderly man concluded.
"We still have some time before the devilish tribulation strikes, but it's a good idea to make some preparations in advance. Even though we have formations and restrictions to rely on, it would still be best to recruit as many high-grade cultivators as possible. After all, the most difficult parts of this ordeal to overcome will be the first few waves of attacks, which will be the most ferocious. If we can keep the devilish beings at bay, they'll most likely be forced to ease off to limit their casualties as well, thereby resulting in an impasse.
“It won't be possible for any beings of our human race to progress to the Body Integration Stage in the next few centuries, but I've heard that there are some beings in your demon race who are recently making breakthrough attempts to the Body Integration Stage, so I'll have to ask you to keep an eye on them, Fellow Daoist Bao," the white-robed elderly man suddenly said to the black-robed man.
"I'll be sure to do so. There are indeed a few exceptionally talented juniors who have recently appeared in our demon race, and there's a decent chance that one or more of them will be able to progress to the Body Integration Stage," the black-robed man replied with a nod.
Following a brief hesitation, the white-robed elderly man then turned to the masked woman. "Speaking of the demon race, there's something I would like to ask Fellow Daoist Silver Light, but I'm not sure if I should."
"We've been acquaintances for so many years; you can feel free to ask me anything, Brother Gu," the masked woman said in a rather curious manner.
"In that case, I'll go right ahead. Is Senior Ao Xiao of your demon race still alive and well?" the white-robed elderly man asked.
The masked woman faltered slightly before taking a glance at the black-robed man before chuckling, "Oh, so that's what you wanted to ask? That's certainly not a taboo topic. However, I'm not the only demonic elder here; why did you decide to ask me?"
"Why ask a question you already know the answer to, Fairy Silver Light? You may not be from the Silvermoon Wolf Race, but you possess part of the Silvermoon Wolf bloodline, and you had once stayed with Senior Ao Xiao for over 1,000 years. If anyone here were to know anything about Senior Ao Xiao's recent situation, then it can only be you," the black-robed man countered as he raised an eyebrow.
"That is indeed true. Senior Ao Xiao was sighted once on the Giant Cloud Mountain over 3,000 years ago, but no news of him has emerged since. Senior Ao Xiao is one of the two Grand Ascension Stage beings among our human and demon races, so we're naturally very eager to hear how he's doing in the face of the imminent devilish tribulation," the white-robed elderly man said in a solemn manner.
Everyone also turned to appraise the masked woman with concerned expressions upon hearing this.
A hint of hesitation flashed through the woman's eyes, and only after a long pause did she reply in a resigned manner, "I'm naturally aware of your concerns. Indeed, ever since our human and demon races were established in the Spirit Realm, no one has been able to transcend more than 20 major heavenly tribulations, and Senior Ao Xiao was approaching his 21st major heavenly tribulation all those years ago, so many fellow Daoists were quite concerned for him. After all, Senior Ao Xiao and Senior Mo are the two pillars who have ensured the safety of our two races for countless years. Rest assured, Patriarch Ao Xiao didn't perish during his last major heavenly tribulation. However, he had expended a lot of energy during the ordeal, so he's been in seclusion this entire time."
"Is that true?" An elated look immediately appeared on the black-robed man's face upon hearing this.
As a demonic elder, he was naturally more concerned than the human elders present about this Grand Ascension Stage patriarch of the demon race.
The white-robed elderly man and the others also heaved a collective sigh of relief.
"Several hundred years ago, I met Fairy Ling Long, who has been by the patriarch's side all these years, and according to her, the patriarch's recovery is going very smoothly, so he should be able to emerge from seclusion in full health soon," the masked woman assured.