Han Li's expression changed slightly upon hearing this, and he heaved a faint sigh before extending a salute toward Qing Yuanzi. "Of course. Please bid farewell to Fairy Yuan and Fairy Yan in my stead, Senior. I'll be taking my leave now."
Seeing as Han Li was so willing to comply, Qing Yuanzi's expression eased slightly, and he explained, "Hehe, please don't blame for being inhospitable, Fellow Daoist Han; it's just that it would be very detrimental for Yao'er to interact with you excessively during this critical juncture. If you stay with her for too long, it'll most likely be very difficult for her to overcome her inner demons when she attempts to make a breakthrough, so I must take the necessary precautions."
"You misunderstand, Senior; I see Fairy Yuan only as a close friend of mine," Han Li said with a wry smile, unsure of exactly how to explain the situation.
"You may only see her as a close friend, but that may not necessarily be what she thinks," Qing Yuanzi said with a hint of a smile on his face.
"I don't know how to explain myself, Senior, and I'm sure you don't want to hear my explanation anyway. In any case, it was all thanks to your support that I was able to obtain the Divine Infernal River Elixir, and I'll definitely remember your kindness. Hopefully, the next time we meet, you'll have already successfully transcended your tribulation, Senior," Han Li said as he extended a parting salute.
"I also wish you luck in progressing to the Grand Ascension Stage, Fellow Daoist Han." Qing Yuanzi returned Han Li's salute.
Han Li nodded upon seeing this, and he flew away as a streak of azure light, heading directly toward the spatial rift through which he had departed last time.
His cultivation base had been lacking in the past, so he could only depart through the spatial rift with Qing Yuanzi's assistance. However, now that he was at the mid-Body Integration Stage, he no longer required such assistance.
Qing Yuanzi hovered in mid-air, and only after the streak of azure light had completely vanished into the distance did he heave a faint sigh.
"That Han brat has certainly made some rapid progress. Now that he's obtained so much Divine Infernal River Elixir, it shouldn't be an issue at all for him to reach the late-Body Integration Stage in the future. However, it'll be quite unlikely for him to progress to the Grand Ascension Stage unless he encounters some opportunities. Then again, he possesses quite a vast array of powerful treasures and secrets, so it may not be impossible for him. I've assisted him to the best of my abilities here; if he does happen to become a Grand Ascension cultivator someday, perhaps he'll return the favor." After that, Qing Yuanzi withdrew his gaze and flew back toward his cave abode.
Over half a day later, violent spatial fluctuations suddenly erupted in the air above a certain nameless mountain in the infernal river, following which a giant black rift appeared out of thin air.
An earth-shattering boom rang out as a five-colored pillar of light erupted from the summit of the mountain, then vanished into the rift in a flash.
The spatial fluctuations then began to subside, and the giant rift also slowly sealed over. Soon, it was as if nothing had ever happened.
Time flew by, and over 300 years passed in the blink of an eye. To normal mortals, several generations had passed during this time, yet in the context of the entire Spirit Realm, this was only a tiny fleeting passage. To the almighty beings standing at the pinnacle of the entire Spirit Realm, 300 years was not a negligible period of time. Some powerful sects and major families could use this time to nurture several generations of brethren and disciples, and during these 300 years, massive changes had taken place in the entire human race.
At present, groups of armored guards were a common sight in the three human regions, and all of the major cities had been transformed into fortresses.
At the centers of these cities were a series of formations and restrictions that sprawled over the ground like cobwebs, stacking on top of one another and striking despair into the hearts of all potential enemies who were plotting against the human cities.
Several hundred years ago, Core Formation and Nascent Soul cultivators were very rare in normal cities, yet they were now frequently appearing before mortals. Some of the luckier mortals could even occasionally catch sight of a Deity Transformation cultivator.
On top of that, during the past few centuries, the number of mortal body refinement warriors had spiked dramatically to over 10 times the original population. Furthermore, they had all been equipped with far more powerful weapons and spirit tools than in the past. As for the mortals who weren't even able to cultivate body refinement techniques, they would also train in martial arts to strengthen their bodies and learn some self-preservation skills.
Almost all of these tasks were being willingly undertaken by the mortals as everyone had now been made aware of the news that the next devilish tribulation was imminent.
Over 100 years ago, envoys from the holy island had appeared at all of the major cities, and announced that the devilish tribulation would commence within 200 years. On top of that, they stated that this devilish tribulation was going to be far more perilous than previous ones, and that the human race was truly at risk of being wiped out should it fail to address the situation seriously.
Thus, the entire human race was thrown into a state of urgency, and all of the preparations were being made at several times the original speed. All of the materials and ingredients in the major markets were quickly sold out, and only some private medicine gardens belonging to powerful sects and major families still had some spirit medicines planted.
Even so, these spirit medicines were different from the precious spirit medicines planted in these gardens in the past. Most of the current ones were spirit medicines with short maturation periods, and were also very commonly used.
On top of that, all of the things that the major powers had been doing their best to hide in the past were now quickly being revealed.
Some of the major powers had even begun frequently exchanging some secret techniques and cultivation arts that they required, hoping to take themselves up another level using these new assets.
Of course, the most prominent powers within the human race were still Deep Heaven City and the three sovereign cities.
There were countless elite human and demon cultivators, as well as 10 Body Integration cultivators situated in Deep Heaven City, so it was virtually an impregnable fortress. As for the three sovereign cities, they were guarded by the three human sovereigns and all of the high-grade cultivators from the three regions, so they also seemed to be very secure.
The powers who ranked directly below these were naturally the likes of the top 10 human sects, and the true spirit families. They also attracted many mortals and vagrant cultivators who flocked to them for protection, and in just the past few centuries, their numbers had multiplied by more than tenfold, almost reaching their maximal capacity in the process.
Not only were the humans doing everything they could to prepare for the upcoming devilish tribulation, the demon race and the nearby foreign races had also mobilized in huge numbers. During the past 300 years, all of the races had frequently sent out envoys to exchange important information surrounding the imminent tribulation.
Under this tense atmosphere, there were a few hundred cultivators gathered on a mountain within a mountain range not far away from Deep Heaven City. There was a white-robed woman sitting on a giant rock at the very center of the group, and everyone was listening to her explain a certain complex cultivation art.
The woman appeared to be only 17 to 18 years of age, and her body was enveloped within layers of white lotus flower projections. There was also a deep blue lotus flower insignia on her glabella, which gave her a pure and ethereal appearance, almost as if she were a celestial maiden who had descended from the heavens.
There were cultivators of both genders and all ages listening to her pass on her knowledge, but most of them wore Daoist robe, while the rest wore blue robes with swords on their backs; they seemed to be from the same sect.
However, none of them possessed exceptional cultivation bases. There were only a few Core Formation cultivators among them, while the majority consisted of Foundation Establishment cultivators.
Two hours later, the woman finally concluded her lecture, then said in a calm voice, "Alright, that'll be all for today. The next lecture will be held three months from now, and the Dao of the five elements will be discussed. You can all leave now."
"Yes, Senior!" All of the cultivators extended respectful bows toward the woman upon hearing this before departing from the mountain on their treasures and spirit tools.
The white-robed woman looked on as these people departed, and all of a sudden, her brows furrowed slightly as she turned toward a certain large tree. "Senior Martial Brother Hai, these disciples belong to you and Senior Martial Brother Qi Lingzi, yet you're forcing me to teach them; don't you think that's unfair?"
White light flashed at the foot of the tree, and a handsome man in a set of blue robes appeared with a smile on his face. "I never wanted to take any disciples; I was swindled by our senior martial brother and ended up with this troublesome task before I even knew what was going on. Besides, your lectures are 100 times better than what the two of us can deliver. Otherwise, these people wouldn't have been able to make such astonishing progress in just a few centuries; there are even a few Core Formation cultivators among their ranks now."
"I can't be credited for the progress that these disciples have made; most of this is due to the leftover pills that Master gave to us. We no longer have any need for these pills, so your disciples are benefitting from them now. Speaking of which, why did you get involved in this? Senior Martial Brother Qi Lingzi took these disciples so he could take the Mistsea Daoist Temple to greater heights; what role do you play in this?" the white-robed woman complained.
"Hey, you can't blame me here; Qi Lingzi goaded me into doing this," the blue-robed man said in an indignant manner.
Spiritual light flashed as a yellow-robed Daoist priest abruptly appeared beside another tree, and he chuckled, "Hehe, you're not telling the truth there, Junior Martial Brother. You were smiling from ear to ear when all of those disciples referred to you as master."
This trio was none other than Han Li's three in-name disciples, Bai Guo'er, Qi Lingzi, and Hai Yuetian.
Their physical appearances hadn't changed at all during the past three centuries, but their auras and dispositions had undergone drastic transformations.