Chapter 2151: Silvermoon and Ao Xiao
Yuan Cha's expression darkened upon hearing this, and she cast a quick glance at Han Li and the giant golden crab before a cold smile suddenly appeared on her face. She then made a grabbing motion toward the small white hammer, and it was drawn into her grasp before vanishing amid a flash of golden light.
The giant wolf projection overhead also plunged into the hall down below and quickly disappeared.
In the next instant, countless blue runes surged out of the hall, and it flew away as a ball of blue light, retreating into the distance after just a few flashes.
At this moment, Yuan Cha's voice rang out from afar. "Seeing as Ao Xiao is sticking his nose into this battle, I'll retreat on this occasion, but your luck won't always be this good; if I see you again, you won't be able to get away so easily."
After that, the ball of blue light quickly vanished into the distant sky.
With the inclusion of Ao Xiao, Yuan Cha knew that there would be a good chance that she would place herself in a perilous situation if she were to insist on trying to strike down Han Li, so she had retreated without any hesitation.
Han Li heaved a sigh of relief upon seeing this, and both he and Daoist Xie reverted back to their human forms once again.
Han Li then raised a hand toward the two extreme mountains, which had been encapsulated by blue glacial ice, releasing two bursts of silver flame that melted the ice before drawing the mountains back up his sleeve.
Ao Xiao took a glance at Han Li before raising a hand to release a streak of white light, which transformed into a massive shimmering silver ship that was over 1,000 feet in length and split up into five levels with a series of halberd-wielding armored warriors standing on its deck.
"Come along," Patriarch Ao Xiao instructed as he and Silvermoon drifted into the hall on the top level of the ship.
The armored warriors all parted in a respectful manner to grant them passage.
Han Li immediately identified the armored warriors as puppets, and after a brief hesitation, he did as he was instructed, slowly flying toward the ship with Daoist Xie and Zhu Guo'er in accompaniment.
The silver armored puppets had clearly already received instructions from Patriarch Ao Xiao, and they merely stood on the spot and allowed Han Li's trio to enter the ship.
However, after making his way to the entrance of the hall, a thought suddenly occurred to Han Li, and he instructed Zhu Guo'er to remain outside while he entered the hall with Daoist Xie.
"I pay my respects to Senior Ao Xiao!" Han Li said as he extended a slight bow toward Patriarch Ao Xiao, who was seated on a golden chair.
Instead of immediately offering a response, Patriarch Ao Xiao merely appraised Han Li with a hint of a smile on his face.
As for Silvermoon, she was standing behind Patriarch Ao Xiao with her head lowered, seemingly unable to muster up the courage to look at Han Li.
"So you're the Han Li who managed to cultivate from the Deity Transformation Stage to the Body Integration Stage in mere centuries. After seeing you in action, I now realize that the rumors of your aptitude still haven't done you justice. You've already reached the late-Body Integration Stage, right?" Patriarch Ao Xiao finally spoke, and his tone was quite benevolent.
"I have indeed already progressed to the late-Body Integration Stage. I'm very honored that you've heard of me, Senior," Han Li replied in a calm manner, but he couldn't help but steal another glance at Silvermoon.
However, she still had her head lowered and didn't meet his gaze.
"I had heard about you ever since Silvermoon returned to the Spirit Realm, but I only started to pay attention to you after you reached the Body Integration Stage. After all, all Body Integration cultivators are extremely important to our human and demon races, so I had to keep some tabs on you. Silvermoon, come and thank Fellow Daoist Han. If it weren't for him, you wouldn't have been able to fuse the two halves of your soul back together and return to the Spirit Realm," Patriarch Ao Xiao said with a smile.
Silvermoon finally raised her head upon hearing this, but her expression was completely indifferent, creating a stark contrast with her earlier excitement. "Greetings, Brother Han, we may not have met ever since we separated in the human world, but I've never forgotten what you've done for me."
A hint of surprise appeared in Han Li's eyes as it didn't seem to him like Silvermoon was intentionally feigning indifference, but he quickly smiled, and said, "I was unaware of your true identity back in the human world, so please forgive me for any prior offense I may have caused. Furthermore, I didn't have to go to a lot of trouble to save you back then, so don't mention it."
"Haha, there's no need to be so cold and distant even though the two of you haven't met for so many years. Regardless of what you say, the fact of the matter is that you saved Silvermoon's life, and I'll be sure to reward you handsomely for that," Ao Xiao chuckled.
A thought suddenly occurred to Han Li, and quickly changed the subject. "Senior, this area is already under the control of the devilish army; have you come here to spy on the devilish army?"
"Yes and no," Patriarch Ao Xiao replied in an ambiguous manner after a brief pause.
Han Li was rather perplexed by this answer.
"Several months ago, our united army received news that the three devilish patriarchs seem to have changed their plans, and the devilish army has begun expanding their territory while corrupting a larger area with devilish Qi. I came here to verify if this was actually the case under the request from several fellow daoists, as well as to see if I could destroy a few Devilfication Formations set up in this area," Ao Xiao replied.
"I see. What is this Devilfication Formation, Senior? I recall that there are some areas in our human race that have displayed signs of having undergone devilfication; is that the same as what's happening here?" Han Li asked in a perplexed manner.
"If the Elder Devil Realm wants to truly claim a territory for itself in our Spirit Realm, then they have to devilfy an area to completely convert the spiritual Qi in that area into devilish Qi, and this transition requires a type of devilish formation that can make normal trees undergo this change. The devilish army has attempted to set up the same formations in our human and demon territories, but we discovered them very early and destroyed most of them before they could produce much of an effect.
"However, the situation in the Wood Tribe is a lot more troublesome. Not only have Devilfication Formations been set up over most of their territory, they've also begun setting up a super formation that will act as the primary formation several years ago. With this primary formation, they'll be able to connect tens of thousands of Devilfication Formations as one entity, and if they were to succeed, it would become extremely difficult to destroy the connected formations. However, if I can destroy a few of these formations, it would delay the devilfication process," Patriarch Ao Xiao explained.
After a brief pause, a hint of a smile appeared on his face, and he suddenly asked, "I haven't heard anything about you for the past few decades, Fellow Daoist Han; did you venture into the Elder Devil Realm with those from the true spirit families?"
Han Li's heart jolted upon hearing this, and after a brief hesitation, a wry smile appeared on his face as he replied, "How did you know about that, Senior? I did indeed enter the Elder Devil Realm with some fellow daoists from the true spirit families and the Spirit Race."
"All of you vanished off the face of the realm at the same time, and I'm aware of the existence of the Spirit Cleansing Pond and Clean Spirit Lotus, so it was easy for me to make the connection. Every devilish tribulation, cultivators from our races would venture into the Elder Devil Realm to seek out those two things, but barely any of them have ever succeeded. Seeing as you're the only one who's returned, I presume everyone else has already perished," Patriarch Ao Xiao said in a calm manner.
"Your wisdom is truly unmatched, Senior. Indeed, our journey into the Elder Devil Realm had been extremely perilous, and unfortunately, I'm the sole survivor of our group," Han Li sighed.
"With your cultivation bases, it would indeed be an extremely dangerous undertaking to venture into the Elder Devil Realm, but I'm sure you've reaped far more rewards than you imagined. Setting aside everything else, this fellow daoist is the golden carb within the Devilish Origin Sea, right? Why has his cultivation base dropped to this extent? Tsk tsk, if this Faux Immortal Puppet were at the height of its powers, even I would be no match for it. How did you manage to abduct it from the Elder Devil Realm?" Patriarch Ao Xiao chuckled as he cast his gaze toward Daoist Xie with a hint of yearning in his eyes.
"I see you're aware of Brother Xie's existence as well. Fellow Daoist Xie has already attained intelligence, so he's certainly not someone that I can simply abduct; he's only temporarily following me as I was able to offer him a mutually beneficial deal," Han Li replied in an ambiguous manner.
"I see," Patriarch Ao Xiao replied, but he was clearly unconvinced.
If the giant golden crab were that easy to lure away, then it wouldn't have remained in the Devilish Origin Sea for so many years.
Ao Xiao was extremely envious of this Faux Immortal Puppet, but he had no intention of trying to take it for himself. After all, obtaining such a puppet still didn't change the fact that he would struggle to transcend his next major heavenly tribulation.
On top of that, the fact that Han Li had progressed to the late-Body Integration Stage and seemed to have a chance of reaching the Grand Ascension Stage was extremely astonishing to him.
As a result, there was now potential for him to undo the one thing that he had always regretted.
With that in mind, he cast a glance toward Silvermoon, and even though his expression remained quite relaxed, a serious tone crept into his voice as he said, "Fellow Daoist Han, I won't force you to tell me what you experienced in the Elder Devil Realm, but I hope you can answer one questions truthfully: did you manage to enter the Spirit Cleansing Pond and consume the Clean Spirit Lotus?"