The second level was naturally far more perilous than the first one, but it still posed no threat to Han Li and the others. After checking the map to verify their location, they traveled west for three days and three nights in succession.
Along the way, they slew some mid-grade demons and encountered several groups of law-enforcing cultivators. Even the weakest of these cultivators were at the Deity Transformation Stage, and there were even some holy race beings among them.
Jin Yue was the grand elder of the Tian Peng Race, so these law-enforcing cultivators naturally granted her passage without much interrogation.
However, Jin Yue was gradually becoming more and more unsettled by this. It was very strange that they had deployed so many people just to hunt down a single thief. Could it be that there were some hidden details involved in this matter?
Jin Yue had been the grand elder of the Tian Peng Race for many years, so she was naturally far more intelligent and sensitive than the average being. However, despite her growing suspicions, she made no outward displays of her emotions.
Thus, the three of them found the entrance to the third level quite easily, hidden beneath an underground river.
After drifting with the flow of the water for several hours, Han Li's trio arrived on the third level of the earth abyss.
Three days later, Han Li's trio was flying over a set of barren plains that was littered with rocks, when all of a sudden, they felt a disturbance in the world's origin Qi in the distance. Immediately thereafter, a streak of silver light appeared in the distant sky, followed by a resounding boom that made the entire earth tremor violently.
Han Li and Jin Yue's expressions both changed drastically as they exchanged a glance with one another.
"It seems like there are people fighting over there, Fellow Daoist Jin. Should we go and have a look?" Han Li asked after a brief hesitation.
"If there are any law-enforcement squad members nearby, it would be apparent to them that we're hiding something if we don't go and investigate such a massive commotion," Jin Yue said.
"In that case, let's go and have a look." Han Li didn't want to have to take any detours, but he knew that Jin Yue was right, so he agreed with a quick nod.
Lei Lan naturally had no objections, either, so the three of them changed directions and flew toward the place where the silver lightning had just flashed from.
After flying for close to 10,000 kilometers, they finally stopped and looked down at the carnage below with different expressions on their faces.
A massive crater with a radius of several hundred feet had appeared on the ground below, and everything around the crater was completely charred black.
There was a faint odor of scorched earth wafting through the air, and it seemed that this was the result of a lightning strike.
All of a sudden, Han Li raised a hand before making a grabbing motion toward a certain spot on the edge of the giant crater.
An item immediately flew out from under some rubble before landing in his grasp. He inspected the item to find that it was a damaged blue dagger. Even though there were cracks running all over its surface, it was still shimmering with spiritual light, indicating that it was quite a powerful treasure.
"Looks like everyone was reduced to dust by that bolt of lightning, and even their bonded treasures didn't manage to survive. It's quite incredible that just a single bolt of lightning was able to kill a group of Deity Transformation and Spatial Tempering cultivators. What are your thoughts, Fellow Daoist Han?" Jin Yue suddenly asked.
"Even from thousands of kilometers away, we could sense how ferocious this bolt of lightning was, so it's quite clear that the perpetrator is most likely extremely adept in lightning abilities. On top of that, I can sense a faint baleful aura from this dagger which still hasn't dissipated even following the death of its owner, so the victims should be members of the law-enforcement squad," Han Li replied in an assured manner as he tossed the dagger aside.
Jin Yue waved a hand through the air, and several other damaged treasures flew out from under piles of rubble. After inspecting the treasures, she nodded in agreement. "Indeed, I can sense the auras of three people who recently passed away here, and they were most likely killed by the mine warehouse thief."
"So that man is powerful enough to kill three law-enforcement squad members at once?" Lei Lan was quite alarmed to hear this.
"That's not all that remarkable. If he didn't have at least this much power, he wouldn't dare to do something so brazen. No one else has arrived on the scene aside from us, so it seems that there aren't any other members of the law-enforcement squad nearby. However, the squad members have all cultivated a sensory secret technique, someone will definitely be arriving soon; let's get out of here before that," Jin Yue said.
"Indeed, there are only several days of travel left until we reach our destination. The sooner we get there, the sooner we'll be able to breathe a sigh of relief," Han Li agreed.
Lei Lan also nodded in a contemplative manner. Thus, the three of them rose up into the air and continued onward as streaks of light.
Only after over half a day had passed did a dozen or so streaks of light arrive at the giant crater. At this point, Han Li's trio was already millions of kilometers away.
Seven days later, Han Li was situated over a black undulating mountain range with a white disk in his hand. There were several tens of small azure swords flying around him, and they were shredding hordes of oncoming giant crow-like demon beasts, sending their blood cascading down from above.
Standing beside Han Li was Jin Yue, and she was holding a golden mirror, which was expelling bolts of golden lightning that were shredding the nearby demon beasts into pieces.
As for Lei Lan, she was making a hand seal with a solemn look on her face, conjuring up a small net of silver lightning that had completely enveloped her entire body.
Occasionally, a demonic bird would crash into the lightning net, only to be instantly reduced to dust amid a loud thunderclap.
After flying onward for another hour, the black demonic birds finally began to thin our, and in the end, they dispersed and flew away after a few shrill cries.
Han Li's trio naturally withdrew their treasures and abilities upon seeing this before continuing on their journey.
For the rest of the journey, Han Li would occasionally glance down at the disk in his hand, which was clearly guiding him toward the correct location.
All of a sudden, a buzzing sound rang out from the disk, and white light began to swirl around it as it activated on its own.
"This is the place!" Han Li said in an ecstatic manner as he hurriedly stopped on the spot. Jin Yue and Lei Lan also stopped beside him.
"Is this really the right place? The surrounding space is very stable, and there doesn't seem to be any spatial nodes here," Jin Yue said as she looked around with her brows furrowed in skepticism.
"Rest assured, Fellow Daoist Jin; that senior gave me these coordinates, so they can't be wrong," Han Li replied with a smile.
"Alright, I'll trust your judgment then, Fellow Daoist Han. Seeing as I brought you here as promised, isn't it time you gave me the second half of the cultivation art?" Jin Yue asked with a serious look on her face.
"Rest assured, Fellow Daoist Jin; I wouldn't go back on my word. Here is the second half of the cultivation art," Han Li said with a smile as he turned a hand over to reveal a yellow jade slip, which he tossed to Jin Yue with a flick of his wrist.
Jin Yue's eyes immediately lit up as she caught the jade slip, then immediately pressed it against her own forehead.
Han Li then swept a sleeve through the air, and five five-colored formation flags flew out from within before revolving around him. The formation flags then transformed into five-colored pillars of light that erupted into the heavens.
He then made a hand seal before casting a dozen or so incantation seals in succession, all of which vanished into the pillars of light in a flash. Immediately thereafter, a five-colored light formation appeared at the center of the pillars of light, and it was glowing with bright and piercing spiritual light.
Han Li then began to chant something as one top-grade spirit stone after another flew out of his sleeve. Soon, over 100 such spirit stones had been released, and they all disappeared into the light formation.
Immediately thereafter, he tossed the disk in his hand forward, and it hovered in front of him as he flicked his fingers toward it in quick succession, seemingly working to activate it.
Lei Lan observed everything in silence, and as bright light began to glow from the disk, she couldn't help but turn to Jin Yue with a hint of concern in her eyes.
Jin Yue's eyes were still closed at this point, but there was clearly an elated expression on her face, so it seemed that the second half of the cultivation art was authentic. Lei Lan naturally heaved a faint sigh of relief upon seeing this.
All of a sudden, Han Li let loose a low cry before pointing a finger at the disk. At this point, it had transformed into a ball of white light, and it slowly hovered toward the center of the five-colored light formation, then fused as one with the formation amid a dull thump.
At this moment, Han Li stopped what he was doing and turned to Jin Yue. "What do you think, Fellow Daoist Jin? Is there anything you're dissatisfied with?"
"Not at all. This is indeed the second half of the cultivation art, and I must thank you on behalf of our entire race for this precious gift," Jin Yue replied in an extremely pleased manner as she finally withdrew her spiritual sense from the jade slip.
"Hehe, there's no need to thank me; this was a mutually beneficial trade, after all. In that case, I'll be taking my leave," Han Li said as he cupped his fist in a parting salute.
Jin Yue returned his salute with a smile, and said, "I wish you the best of luck, Fellow Daoist Han!"
"Hehe, thank you for your kind words. Holy Master Lei, I wish you luck in progressing to the holy race soon," Han Li chuckled as he turned his gaze to Lei Lan.
"Thank you, Senior; I'll be sure to work hard," Lei Lan replied with a curtsey and a rather complex look on her face.
"Alright, it's time for me to leave." Han Li gave the two women a quick nod before stepping into the five-colored light formation, following which a burst of chanting immediately rang out.
A burst of loud rumbling then suddenly erupted from the light formation, and countless silver runes surged forth in a frenzy. The white ball of light at the center of the formation also swelled to several times its original size, taking up almost the entire light formation.