“It's you!” Han Li appraised the purple-robed young woman before him with a surprised look on his face. This was none other than Dai'er, the demonic woman who had accompanied the Black Phoenix Monarch.
She was only at the early-Deity Transformation Stage, but it was said that she was extremely beautiful and was very renowned among the younger generation of the demon race. She was also clearly very much adored by the Black Phoenix Monarch as well.
However, she had been quite cold toward Han Li when they had first met on the Flying Immortal Peak, leading Han Li to wonder whether she really was the same Dai'er as the one that he knew.
As such, it naturally came as quite a surprise that she was suddenly paying him a visit.
"Greetings, Fellow Daoist. Could it be that you were sent here by Fellow Daoist Xiao?" Han Li asked in a calm manner.
"No, I wanted to come and see you for my own reasons," the purple-robed woman replied, and her voice was very pleasing to the ears, like the crisp chirping of a lark.
"You wanted to see me?" Han Li's expression changed slightly upon hearing this.
"That's right. I would like to speak with you in private," the purple-robed woman confirmed as she cast a quick glance toward Hai Yuetian, who was standing off to the side.
"Go somewhere for now, and don't come in unless I call for you," Han Li instructed as he turned to Hai Yuetian.
Hai Yuetian was very interested in what relationship this woman shared with his master, but he naturally didn't dare to go against Han Li's orders, so he could only forcibly repress his own curiosity before departing after extending a respectful bow.
As for Qi Lingzi, due to the incident with the Long Family, Han Li didn't even permit him to show himself in front of outsiders, so he naturally wasn't present on the scene.
There were people who were aware that Qi Lingzi was an in-name disciple of his, but Han Li wasn't concerned at all even if the Long Family patriarch were to learn this information and seek him out as a result.
He naturally had countless alibis prepared that could completely detach himself from that giant golden ape as two different beings.
After Hai Yuetian departed, the purple-robed woman immediately flipped a hand over to produce a handkerchief that was shimmering with faint white light, then offered it to Han Li with both hands for examination.
Han Li's expression changed slightly upon seeing this, and he sighed, "So it really is you, Dai'er!"
This handkerchief was only a low-grade spirit tool that he had given Dai'er when she was only a little girl. It didn't have any value to speak of, and it barely served any purpose. However, Dai'er was very fond of it and kept it with her at all times.
Now that she was bringing it out for Han Li's inspection, it was quite clear that she was the same little girl from back then.
A slightly complex look appeared on her face, and after a brief silence, she suddenly raised her hand before plucking out a smooth black hairpin from out of her luscious locks.
In the next instant, a ball of black light erupted from the phoenix hairpin, following which it transformed into a black feather that was around half a foot in length amid the cry of a phoenix.
Almost at the exact same moment, bright white light erupted from her face, making it very difficult for one to look directly at her. Even though Han Li had cultivated a spirit eye ability, he was caught completely off guard and forced to close his eyes for a split second. Blue light then flashed through his pupils as he instantly reopened his eyes, peering through the white light, and a peculiar look appeared on her face.
After the white light faded from her face, a set of exquisitely beautiful features that resemble those of a celestial maiden were revealed. Setting aside her unique disposition, her facial features alone bore a strong resemblance to those of Nangong Wan.
Anyone could easily mistake the two of them as twin sisters. However, upon closer inspections, differences could be derived between the two.
Nangong Wan's features were more gentle, and she appeared to be more benevolent and approachable. In contrast, Dai'er's facial features were just as intricate, but they were slightly colder and more aloof.
Through his Brightsight Spirit Eyes, Han Li was certain that this was her true appearance, and wasn't the product of any disguise or illusionary technique.
Even now, he could still see a resemblance between her current appearance and that of Dai'er's chubby and adorable face as a little girl, but there was naturally quite a stark contrast.
Han Li stared at this familiar yet alien face, and despite his calm and steadfast nature, he was rooted to the spot, at a complete loss for words.
"Uncle Han, do I look similar to Aunt Nangong now?" Dai'er asked with a hint of a smile on her face.
Han Li forcibly repressed his astonishment as he asked, "What happened? How did you take on this appearance after growing up? Have you seen Wan'er somewhere before?"
"I only learned Aunt Nangong's name from you, so how could I have seen her before?" Dai'er chuckled, and the smile on her face immediately erased her slightly cold disposition.
"Now that you mention it, some of the details from back then are coming back to me. However, I still don't really understand. How did you..." Han Li's eyes narrowed slightly in a hesitant manner, seemingly having recalled something, but was also unsure of something at the same time.
"Back when we were hiding under that pile of rubble, you told me many spectacular stories, all of which were about you and Aunt Nangong. On the final day, I wouldn't stop crying and kept on insisting to see my mother, so you brought out a jade slip that had Aunt Nangong's portrait inscribed on it to try and console me," Dai'er recounted in a soft voice.
Han Li's mind also wandered back to those days upon hearing this. At the time, the city had been destroyed by a beast tide, and he had hidden with Dai'er under a pile of rubble. The memory brought a faint smile to his face, and he chuckled, "At the time, you had a very adorable round little face."
"I recall all of that very clearly as well. I obtained my current appearance after reaching the metamorphosis stage, and my form was reconstructed through the stimulus of my Black Phoenix bloodline. As for why I took on this appearance that resembles Aunt Nangong so closely, I don't know of that myself. Perhaps it's because the portrait of Aunt Nangong on that jade slip had left with too deep an impression, so I instinctively strove toward that appearance during metamorphosis. As a Body Integration cultivator, I'm sure that you're aware that demonic cultivators like us have no bearing on what appearance we adopt during metamorphosis, so most of the process it outside of our control," Dai'er said before biting down on her lower lip in a display of embarrassment.
"I see. In that case, it does seem quite plausible." Han Li nodded in an enlightened manner, but he still couldn't help but feel slightly shaken as he appraised Dai'er.
Not long ago, he had just encountered Qin Su'er and was startled by her Great Captivation Technique, which allowed her to manifest the appearance of Nangong Wan, and now, he was greeted by another person who bore such a strong resemblance to his beloved Dao Companion.
Could this be a sign? Could it be that something had happened to Nangong Wan?
It seemed a little superstitious to be drawing such conclusions, but as a cultivator, Han Li couldn't help but be inclined to believe in such things. As such, his brows furrowed slightly in an involuntary manner, and he became slightly concerned.
At this moment, Dai'er continued, "I've never forgotten what you did for me all those years ago, but there's a clear divide between humans and demons, after all, and I didn't want to cause any trouble for you, so I intentionally gave you the cold shoulder when we first met several days ago. Back when I first arrived at the Black Phoenix Palace, I didn't meet my birth father first. Instead..." Dai'er suddenly began to recount her experiences in the Black Phoenix Race after she had parted ways with Han Li.
The stories were rather mundane, but she seemed to enjoy telling them and had a smile on her face the entire time.
Han Li listened patiently to her recount, and a soft and gentle look gradually crept into his eyes.
They chatted for several hours, and only then did Dai'er suddenly recall that there was something she had to do, upon which she reluctantly bade farewell to Han Li.
Han Li didn't try to keep her any longer. Instead, he imparted on her some words of wisdom as a senior before calling Hai Yuetian into the room to accompany Dai'er out of the hall.
After she departed, the smile on Han Li's face faded, and he heaved a forlorn sigh as he sat in silence alone in the hall.
Not long after that, Hai Yuetian reappeared in the hall and respectfully informed Han Li that Dai'er had already departed using the teleportation formation.
At this point, Han Li had already reverted back to his normal calm expression, and he instructed, "Go get your junior martial brother and come see me in my room."
After that, Han Li rose to his feet before making his way back to his room.
Hai Yuetian's eyes lit up in response, and he hurriedly accepted this instruction before rushing off to find Qi Lingzi in high spirits.
The next morning, Han Li departed from the Immortal Welcome Palace and appeared on a hill that was completely devoid of human and demon presence.
He sat down on a large rock before closing his eyes to rest, and he seemed to be waiting for someone.
After a while, a streak of light flashed through the air, and a humanoid figure appeared on the hill.
"You sure are early, Fellow Daoist Han. Looks like you're very much looking forward to the Black Realm Exchange Convention," the humanoid figure chuckled as he cupped his fist in a salute toward Han Li. This man was none other than Daoist Master Myriad Bone.
"Hehe, I am indeed looking forward to this. However, I decided to come early as a precautionary measure. This is my first time attending this convention, and I was afraid that I would miss it!" Han Li replied with a calm smile.
"Rest assured, the time given to us is definitely accurate. However, prior to setting off, I have to caution you on some matters so you don't incur any unnecessary trouble during the convention," Daoist Master Myriad Bone said as a serious look appeared on his face.
"Go right ahead, Fellow Daoist; I'll be sure to keep everything you say in mind." Han Li was slightly taken aback by the cautious demeanor that Daoist Master Myriad Bone had adopted.
Daoist Master Myriad Bone was quite pleased to see that Han Li was also taking this very seriously, and he said, "I'm sure you don't actually need to be warned about most of this, but the Black Realm Exchange Convention is different from normal occasions, so I feel inclined to caution you about some things."