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"Lady Li? Is that the one who married someone outside our family? When did she get here? Forget it, tell me about it later," the Long Family patriarch said in an implacable voice.

The Long Family Leader hurriedly answered in a respectful manner.

Even though he was the Long Family leader and the son of this Long Family patriarch, all of that ceased to matter ever since the patriarch had begun using that Heartless Dao cultivation art, which had gradually rid him of all emotions.

It was quite a treacherous task to be interacting with the Long Family patriarch on a daily basis, and even as his son, the Long Family leader didn't dare to let his guard down for a moment.

"Was that the half-dragon transformation granted by the True Dragon bloodline? It really is quite an eye-opening experience for me to see you face a demonic cultivator on equal footing with just your physical body alone," Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns said with a smile as she slowly flew over from afar.

"I'm a late-Body Integration cultivator, yet I wasn't even able to take down that early-Body Integration Stage demonic cultivator; am I supposed to be pleased with myself? Are you perhaps mocking me, Holy Maiden?" the Long Family patriarch asked in a cold voice.

Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns was completely unfazed by the Long Family patriarch's cold demeanor, and replied, "Hehe, of course not, Fellow Daoist Long. As we all know, demonic cultivators are vastly renowned for their powerful bodies, and in particular, ape-type demonic cultivators excel in this area. I'm sure I don't need to elaborate to you why it's impressive that you were able to face a Body Integration Stage ape-type demonic cultivator in direct battle with your physical body alone. If you had unleashed some other powerful abilities, you would've definitely been able to take down that demonic cultivator in a short time."

"If you truly think that, I'm afraid you're dead wrong, Holy Maiden," the Long Family patriarch suddenly said with a peculiar cold smile.

"Oh? Did you discover something during your fight earlier?" Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns asked in a befuddled manner.

Instead of replying to her question right away, the Long Family patriarch turned to all of the nearby Long Family cultivators, and instructed, "All of you, go back for now; I wish to speak to Fellow Daoist Thousand Autumns alone."

At the same time, the dragon horns and scales on his head and face faded away, and his golden eyes also reverted back to their original black color.

All of the Long Family cultivators naturally answered in a respectful manner before flying back to the fortress together, leaving the Long Family patriarch and Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns to converse on their own.

"From the precautionary measures that you're taking, I can't help but think that that demonic ape seems to be no ordinary being," Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns remarked after everyone had departed.

"I suspect that he's from the holy island," the Long Family patriarch said, and Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns was quite surprised to hear this.

"The holy island? Isn't that the sacred realm shared by your human and demon races?" she asked.

"That's right. Otherwise, it's very difficult to explain how that Body Integration Stage demonic ape could’ve appeared in the demon race. Once every 1,000 years, the holy island would select bright young talents from our two races to replenish their ranks. Countless years have passed since the establishment of the holy island, and no one knows exactly how many Body Integration Stage beings there are on the island, but I estimate that there will at least be 20 to 30 Body Integration Stage beings there. Aside from when matters that concern the survival of our two races arise, the Body Integration Stage beings living on the holy island are prohibited from leaving the island. It's exactly due to the existence of this island that our human and demon races have been able to survive in the Spirit Realm to this point," the Long Family patriarch explained in a solemn manner.

"Hehe, it sounds like your holy island is similar to the holy shrine of our Spirit Race. I'm also unaware of just how many Holy Spirit level beings there are in our holy shrine," Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns sighed.

After a brief silence, the Long Family patriarch continued, "There's also another reason behind my theory. According to my knowledge, the holy island is guarded by a demonic army, and one branch of that army is comprised of the extremely rare Vajra Apes. That giant ape resembles a Vajra Ape in appearance, and is far more powerful than the average early-Body Integration cultivator. I didn't use any powerful abilities during that battle, but that giant ape definitely had more tricks up its sleeve as well. Even if I had fought with all my power, I'm still not confident that I would've been able to prevent that ape from escaping. On top of that, if he really is from the holy island, then that would be another reason why I wouldn't want to force the issue."

"Is that demonic ape really that fearsome? Without fighting it personally, it's difficult for me to accurately gauge its power, but the layer of silver flames it conjured up is able to melt through space, and I did feel very threatened by it," Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns said as her smile finally faded.

"From what I've heard, the Vajra Apes possess an innate ability known as the Nine Nascent True Flames. This is an extremely powerful innate ability, but very few Vajra Apes actually manage to attain it and cultivate it to a formidable degree, so not many people are aware of just what those flames are like," the Long Family patriarch said.

"So you're convinced that the golden ape is a Vajra Ape?" Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns asked with furrowed brows.

"It's most likely the case," the Long Family patriarch replied in a confident manner.

"Alright, seeing as that demonic cultivator is from the holy island, we'll just have to let bygones be bygones," Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns chuckled after a brief silence.

"Hmph, it's not that I'm afraid of the Vajra Ape Race; I simply don't want to cross the holy island. On top of that, from the ape's parting words, it seems that this attack wasn't entirely unprovoked, so I'll have to investigate this matter," the Long Family patriarch said with a cold look in his eyes.

"I won't comment on your family's internal affairs, but regarding that other matter, we've already been talking for a day and a night, yet we still haven't arrived at a consensus. Are we going to keep up this stalemate? I've taken quite a risk to come here, and I have more things to do other than make contact with your Long Family." Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns' expression also cooled as she spoke.

"Our Long Family's conditions are quite simple, aren't they? As long as you're willing to provide 10 non-sentient waste spirits to our Long Family for every ark, we're willing to split you a third of the Giant Atlas Arks that we refine. Is that not a favorable enough exchange for your Spirit Race? According to my knowledge, you Artifact Spirit beings don't even view waste spirits as equals, so it should be a fantastic bargain for you to be able to exchange them for so many Giant Atlas Arks," the Long Family patriarch replied in a completely expressionless manner.

"Hmph, 10 is definitely out of the question. Our Artifact Spirit Race does indeed look down on waste spirits, but according to the laws of the entire Spirit Race, passing waste spirits onto foreign races is a crime comparable to treason. We're willing to offer only five waste spirits per ark at most. On top of that, I'm taking a huge risk to facilitate this exchange with your Long Family, yet you're only willing to offer a third of the Giant Atlas Arks in return, so the risk and reward involved is completely skewed and disproportionate."

"Forgive me for being blunt, but if I had known from the beginning that the Long Family would be so stingy, I would rather the blueprint fall into the hands of one of three sovereigns or seven monarchs. I'm sure they'd be more generous and sincere than your Long Family," Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns said in an indifferent manner as she tucked a few stray strands of hair behind her ear.

The Long Family patriarch appraised Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns for a long while before finally speaking again, "There's no need to try and goad me like this, Fellow Daoist Thousand Autumns. I'm sure you're aware that the Heartless Dao cultivation art I'm using has rid me of all emotional fallacies, so your mind games are futile. However, as a gesture of good faith, I'll make a compromise; we'll accept eight waste spirits per ark, and we'll give your Artifact Spirit Race 40% of all of the arks that we refine."

"40% and eight waste spirits per ark? I can agree to the percentage share, but at most, I can only offer you seven waste spirits per ark," Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns said in a cautious manner.

"Alright, seven it is, then. Now that that's settled, we have to discuss our collaboration in preparation for the imminent devilish tribulation," the Long Family patriarch agreed after a brief pause for contemplation.

Holy Maiden Thousand Autumns was ecstatic to hear this, and a gorgeous smile appeared on her face. "Of course. As long as the exchange can be smoothly facilitated, our Artifact Spirit Race would be more than happy to continue working with your Long Family."

"Please come with me, then, Holy Maiden; this is not a good place to talk, so let's return to the tower," the Long Family patriarch said as he made an inviting hand gesture.

It was as if he had already completely forgotten about that giant golden ape.

But then again, how could a brief interlude from an early-Body Integration Stage demonic ape compare in importance to the survival of the Long Family during the devilish tribulation?

Meanwhile, the golden ape had already descended on a completely deserted mountain tens of thousands of kilometers away. When it had used the silver flames to break through the restrictions around the Immortal Welcome Palace, it had naturally alerted the guards in the palace, but by the time they had arrived on the scene, the ape had already vanished into the distance.

The guards were only at the Deity Transformation and Spatial Tempering Stages, so there was no way that they would be able to catch him.

As such, they merely set off in pursuit as a formality, despite knowing that their efforts would ultimately prove to be futile.

After that, they sent some people to question some members of the Long Family briefly, and they were stunned to hear that the perpetrator was a Body Integration Stage demonic cultivator. As such, they could only turn a blind eye to the matter after doing some repairs.

However, news of this Body Integration Stage golden ape infiltrating the Long Family's territory quickly spread like wildfire among the other Body Integration cultivators attending the convention, and many of them sent out their subordinates to investigate this matter, all to no avail.

No one had ever heard of this giant golden ape before, and it had disappeared without a trace following the incident. This was quite frustrating to many people, and some of them also thought of the holy island.

Of course, the giant golden ape was naturally unaware of all of this. At this moment, it was situated on the summit of a mountain, and after inspecting its surroundings, golden light flashed from its body, upon which it transformed into a young man with a set of ordinary facial features.

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