Chapter 2152: Art of Indifference
Han Li's expression changed slightly upon hearing this before immediately returning to normal as he asked, "Do you think I succeeded, Senior?"
Patriarch Ao Xiao momentarily before replying, "The Spirit Cleansing Pond and Clean Spirit Lotus are extremely renowned, and many powerful beings from several realms have tried to obtain them, but I've never heard of anyone who's actually succeeded. You've returned safely from the Elder Devil Realm, but there's still a very low chance that you've obtained those two things. However, for some reason, I can't help but feel like you've encountered greater opportunities than I imagine, so I'm going to go with my instinct and say that you've succeeded."
"Your instincts are very sharp, Senior," Han LI replied with a smile.
In the past, he wouldn't have revealed this information to such a powerful being, but now that he had cultivated his Holy Nirvana Physique to the Second Nirvana Transformation and he had the Profound Heavenly Spiritslash Sword and Daoist Xie as trump cards, he no longer had such inhibitions.
Furthermore, Han Li was very curious to see how Ao Xiao would respond to this news.
"That's fantastic! Seeing as you've already entered the Spirit Cleansing Pond and consumed the Clean Spirit Lotus, there's a very good chance that you'll be able to reach the Grand Ascension Stage in the future. In that case, it looks like I've made a grave mistake. If I had known that this would happen, I would've allowed Silvermoon to meet you rather than encourage her to use that cultivation art," Patriarch Ao Xiao sighed in a remorseful manner.
"What do you mean by that?" Han Li asked as his brows furrowed slightly.
"I was the one who made the choice to cultivate the Art of Indifference, so you're not to blame, Grandfather. If I hadn't used this cultivation art, how would I have been able to overcome the flaws in my mental state to progress to the Body Integration Stage? On top of that, after using this cultivation art, I've realized that emotions are completely superfluous and will only inhibit one's pursuit of the Great Dao," Silvermoon finally said in a calm manner.
"Art of Indifference? Why did she turn to such a cultivation art, Senior? Did an issue arise in her cultivation?" Han Li asked.
"This is what I wanted to speak to you about. However, this is not a good place to talk, and I've completed my mission here, so let's go back to the territory of our united army; I'll explain the situation to you along the way," Patriarch Ao Xiao replied.
Thus, Han Li could only repress his curiosity for now as he nodded in response.
"Fetch Fellow Daoist Han and Fellow Daoist Xie some tea, and set off for Cottonwood City right away. Take a seat, fellow daoists," Patriarch Ao Xiao said.
"Yes, Master!" Several mechanical voices rang out in unison outside the hall, following which the silver ship began to move.
Han Li and Daoist Xie sat down as they were told, and almost at the exact same moment, several silver-haired female servants made their way into the hall with platters in their hands, then poured cups of fragrant green tea for everyone.
Han Li was still thinking about Silvermoon, so he had no interest in tasting the tea and only took a customary sip as a polite gesture before setting the teacup down onto the table beside him.
In contrast, Daoist Xie appraised the tea momentarily before downing the entire cup in one go before asking, "This tea contains a special type of spiritual power that seems to be rather beneficial to me; do you have any more of this, Fellow Daoist Ao?"
"Haha, you're a straightforward man, Brother Xie. Rest assured, this Green Dragon Tea is quite rare, but I have a good supply. If you like it, you can take some with you," Patriarch Ao Xiao chuckled in response, clearly interested in establishing good relations with this powerful Faux Immortal Puppet.
"You have my thanks," Daoist Xie replied with a nod before falling silent.
Patriarch Ao Xiao naturally didn't take any offense to Daoist Xie's aloof attitude, and he turned to Silvermoon with a sympathetic look in his eyes as he said, "Ling'er, you've only recently begun cultivating the Art of Indifference, so your mental state isn't very stable yet. As such, you should go back to rest so no mishaps occur; I'll attend to our two guests here."
"Yes, Grandfather," Silvermoon replied before extending a slight curtsey toward Han Li and Daoist Xie, then departed from the hall.
Throughout this process, her expression remained completely aloof as if Han Li were nothing more than a stranger to her.
Han Li opened his mouth to say something, but decided against it in the end as a slightly dejected look appeared in his eyes.
A wry smile appeared on Patriarch Ao Xiao's face, and following Silvermoon's departure, he continued, "Fellow Daoist Han, I'm sure you've already learned about Ling Ling's life before she met you, right?"
"I have indeed heard about it from some other fellow daoists, but I've also heard that she seems to have remained by your side ever since she returned to the Spirit Realm," Han Li replied.
"That is indeed the case. After she returned from the human world, she went to the place where I was cultivating in seclusion and knelt outside for seven days and seven nights. I can still recall how thin and frail she looked when I finally caved and opened the restriction to let her in..." Thus, Patriarch Ao Xiao began to divulge a recount of events, and Han Li listened intently.
Time slowly passed by, and Patriarch Ao Xiao's account also progressed very slowly.
Even the most mundane parts of his story were elaborated on with great detail, and Han Li's emotions were constantly fluctuating during this time, but his expression remained unchanged.
"By the time I sensed that something was wrong, it was already too late. Ling'er had already attained initial mastery in the Art of Indifference, and even though she hadn't completely cut off her emotions yet, I didn't dare to allow her to leave my side, so I brought her along with me even on this dangerous mission. However, never did I think that you would be able to return from the Elder Devil Realm alive and run into me here; it seems that the heavens have brought all of us together," Patriarch Ao Xiao sighed as he finally completed his account.
Han Li was silent for a long while before he finally asked, "So the reason for Fellow Daoist Ling Long's indifference is the Art of Indifference? On top of that, only after she reached the Body Integration Stage did you discover that she's actually incompatible with this cultivation art, and if she were to ever attain full mastery of the Art of Indifference, she would suffer magic power backlash and lose her entire cultivation base. At the same time, Art of Indifference is a cultivation art that will regress if progress isn't made, so even if she gives up on it, she will still suffer from a host of negative after-effects."
Patriarch Ao Xiao was silent for a moment before replying, "Not only that, but due to her incompatibility with the Art of Indifference, it's had far less of an effect on her than expected. In her current state, she can return to her true self for around a third of a day, while the rest of the day would be spent in a state of complete indifference as you saw earlier. As she continues to progress, this window of time will only continue to dwindle until it completely disappears."
"So what you're saying is that Silvermoon can return to her true self for some time each day? I was wondering why her expression had differed so drastically from when she first saw me," Han Li said in an elated manner.
However, Patriarch Ao Xiao was far less optimistic. "Do you think it's a good thing for one's emotional and mental state to fluctuate violently every single day? If someone with lesser willpower were in her place, they would most likely go insane over time. Currently, I have to use a secret technique to forcibly mask the wounds on Ling Long's psyche once every few days, and that's why I can't allow her to leave my side."
Han Li's expression changed drastically upon hearing this, and he hurriedly asked, "Isn't there some way to undo the Art of Indifference? With your powers as a Grand Ascension Stage being, surely this wouldn't be too difficult a task, Senior."
Patriarch Ao Xiao hesitated momentarily before finally revealing, "If I had a way to undo all this, I would've undone everything long ago. Having said that, if it weren't for the fact that she had awakened her Seven Star Moon Physique, I would've been able to reverse her Art of Indifference. However, the situation has become extremely complex due to the incompatibility of her physique with this cultivation art, so there's nothing I can do."