Chapter 339: Astonishment
"Your esteemed self had better avoid calling yourself a rogue cultivator. Otherwise, I'd feel inclined to distrust you!" Han Li expressionlessly interrupted him.
Crooked Soul bitterly smiled. It appeared that as he was still unresigned, he had thought to say as such.
As a result, after some slight hesitation, he dispiritedly said, "It is as Fellow Daoist suspects. This one has an unusual identity; he is not from the State of Yue…"
"You aren't someone from our State of Yue?" Upon hearing this, Han Li's face revealed a fraction of the shock he felt in his heart.
"I was actually a Controlling Spirit Sect cultivator from the State of Tiandou." Crooked Soul slowly said.
"The Devil Dao Controlling Spirit Sect!"
Han Li couldn't help but narrow his eyes and stare at him with a gaze as sharp as a sword.
"That is correct. I arrived at this place several years ago but I hadn't expected that one of your country's cultivators would ruin my mystic body and reduce me to this state." As Crooked Soul spoke about the destruction of his body, he wore a helpless expression.
After a moment of thought, Han Li asked with raised eyebrows, "Your body was damaged six years ago?"
As Han Li's voice was calm, Crooked Soul was unable to make out Han Li's interest. He honestly replied, "That's right!"
"After you took possession of this body, you hadn't thought of returning?" Han Li calmly asked.
"This one had naturally wanted to do so. But it seems your esteemed self doesn't understand much about our Devil Dao." Crooked Soul's face continued to appear helpless.
"What was the matter? Although I know a few things about the Devil Dao, they are only bits and pieces from rumors." Han Li openly admitted.
"Our Devil Dao is particular about how strength is truth and how the weak are just prey for the strong. Only with strength would one be able to enjoy authority. Originally, my position at the Controlling Spirit Sect wasn't low. I had a dainty, pretty Dao Companion and a few obedient disciples. But now that my cultivation has greatly diminished, those things would no longer be mine if I returned. My position would most likely be coveted by my fellow disciples and fall to a hidden scheme." Crooked Soul explained with a cold smile.
After hearing this, Han Li wrinkled his brow and remained silent.
Crooked Soul continued, "This one's cultivation was lowered to this stage because he took possession of this body. Thus, this one is confident that he will be able to restore his cultivation within forty years and will be able to openly return. What, did Daoist Friend believe that I wished to remain in this backwater place where even birds don't go to shit?"
"From what you've said, you haven't encountered any other cultivators while you hid nearby Jia Yuan city?
"None. Daoist Friend is the first cultivator from the State of Yue I've seen after taking possession of this body." He said with a uneasy appearance.
"Then why is it that you tried to impersonate a Spirit Beast Mountain cultivator at the start?" Han Li closely continued with his interrogation.
"I believed that your esteemed self was a Seven Sects cultivator and didn't want to put myself at a disadvantage." Crooked Soul brightly assured.
Having heard that, Han Li suddenly smiled.
"Is that the truth?" Han Li amiably asked. However, his kind appearance caused Crooked Soul to feel a chill down his back.
"That's right! Could it be that Fellow Daoist is unsatisfied with something?" He cautiously asked with an uneasy expression.
"I've previously heard people say that it is easiest to deceive others with words holding seven parts truth and three parts lies. I wonder, how much of what your esteemed self told me just now is true?" Han Li slowly said this as he stared at him.
"Hehe! Daoist Friend's suspicions are far too strong. I am telling the truth." Crooked Soul was clearly uneasy. But once he thought of the consequences of telling the truth, he could only boldly continue to hold his ground.
"How about I mention a few things first? Your Devil Dao has already invaded our State of Yue. As such, we are now enemies. Thus, I now feel disinclined from torturing you for any secrets. I'll just rip out your soul and save myself some time." Han Li sinisterly said with a calm expression.
Having recently suffered, Crooked Soul's complexion turned pale.
"Invade your State of Yue? How is this possible? The timing is clearly off." In an instant, his pale face revealed an expression of remorse.
Han Li felt shocked.
"You knew of this matter? It seems I've truly underestimated you. Regardless, even if your status in the Controlling Spirit Sect was great, you are currently only a Qi Refinement cultivator! Don't blame me for being ruthless." Han Li gradually narrowed his gaze and said with a menacing expression.
Han Li turned his hand, causing the "Soul Congregation Bowl" to appear once more. Its dense, cold Qi immediately filled the air.
But what happened next left Han Li stunned. "Crooked Soul" didn't reveal any fear and stared at the alms bowl with a strange expression, causing Han Li feel ill at ease.
Han Li couldn't use the "Soul Refinement Technique"; he was only using it as a threat. If Crooked Soul truly intended to die, then Han Li could only watch on as he perished, taking his body with him. He did have a few soul extraction spells among the secret blood sacrificial techniques, but unfortunately, he hadn't practiced them in the least.
Just as Han Li thought this, Crooked Soul let out a long sigh before saying, "I have a few secrets on me. Furthermore, it has much to do with the life and death of your Seven Sects. However, what will guarantee that you will spare me after I reveal them? You might just kill me and refine my soul afterwards!" When he said the words "Soul Refinement", he couldn't help but twitch.
Having heard Crooked Soul speak so solemnly, Han Li stroked his nose and put away the alms bowl once more.
"What guarantee do you want? So long as it is reasonable, I will consider it!" Han Li responded indifferently as if he didn't consider the secrets to be of importance.
"Humph! I cannot trust a common oath. But to the best of my knowledge, those that cultivate the "Soul Refinement Technique" are able to swear forbidden oaths with their soul tools. If they were to break them, then their Soul Refinement technique will backlash and kill them.
"Alright, I agree!" Han Li agreed with the slightest hesitation, coldly laughing in his heart.
After that, Han Li took out the Soul Congregation Bowl and made a death-pledge in accordance to Crooked Soul's words.
Seeing Han Li so easily and cleanly swear the oath, Crooked Soul grew suspicious and faintly felt that something was amiss.
"I swore your death-pledge. Don't tell me that you have other conditions?" Han Li stonily interrupted Crooked Soul's doubts, deliberately revealing discontent.
"Of course not. This one knows what happens to those who are greedy. However, before I divulge these secrets, Daoist Friend must first tell me about the current circumstances of our Devil Dao and your Seven Sects as I am unsure whether this information is outdated." Crooked Soul was distracted for a moment before explaining with a big smile.
Han Li revealed a slight trace of hesitation before slowly describing the current circumstances of the Seven Sects and Devil Dao.
Crooked Soul attentively listened but once he heard of the great battle that was to take place in a month, his face revealed a slight sneer. Han Li, who had been paying close attention to his face, clearly saw this.
Once Han Li finished, Crooked Soul muttered to himself for a moment before starting.
What he said first left Han Li at a loss for words.
"Daoist Friend, if you are willing to hear me out, you have no need to hurry over to the Seven Sects' border camp. It is very likely the Seven Sects and the cultivators of their allied countries will have already been defeated. If you go, then you will only be throwing your life away." Crooked Soul said with a strange expression.
With an indifferent face, Han Li coldly stared at him, waiting for an explanation.
The Controlling Spirit Sect cultivator couldn't help but be impressed with Han Li's collected demeanor. Although he felt increasing trepidation toward Han Li, he still continued, "You probably don't know it, but Spirit Beast Mountain was actually one of our own sects. They had never actually broken their secret relations with our Controlling Spirit Sect, and their recent rebellion was just a cover. If I'm not mistaken, this cover was prepared by the six sects in order to wait for the cultivators of the two allied countries, dealing with the three countries' cultivators in a single move. Presumably, after the battle is over, our Devil Dao will reign over several countries." These slowly narrated words secretly left Han Li in shock.
"Cover? Isn't this too much? Spirit Beast Mountain took the initiative to reveal their relationship with your Controlling Spirit Sect. It would've been better if they had kept it hidden." Han Li asked with an unsightly expression after recovering from his shock.
"Did Fellow Daoist truly believe that the other six sects didn't know of Spirit Beast Mountain's origins? Apart from Spirit Beast Mountain, there is another sect among your Seven Sects that was once a branch of the Devil Dao, the most powerful among the State of Yue, the Masked Moon Sect. The Masked Moon Sect once originated from the Harmonious Bond Sect. However, the Masked Moon Sect ambitiously planned to become independant and have truly broken their ties with the Harmonious Bond Sect several hundred years ago." The words of the Controlling Spirit Sect cultivator continued to leave Han Li in shock.
Chapter 340: A Trap
"Even so, many cultivators were killed in that attack, including two Core Formation cultivators. To take such losses just to conceal Spirit Beast Mountain is inconceivable!" Han Li wrinkled his brow, unwilling to be easily convinced.
"If no Core Formation cultivators died, then how would the other six sects have been convinced? Furthermore, are you really sure that those two Core Formation cultivators were genuine?" Crooked Soul sneered.
"You mean…" Han Li stared at Crooked Soul with surprise.
"To the best of my knowledge, our Devil Dao sects possesses two or three forbidden techniques that forcefully raises the cultivation of a Foundation Establishment cultivator to nearly the point of Core Formation. Naturally, there are great defects to these techniques, and they can basically only be used once on a cultivator; once used, death by ruptured meridians was inevitable and the duration of their flared cultivation was pitifully short. However, this would have been enough to trick the Seven Sects for one battle."
Han Li grew silent and was mostly convinced.
With that in consideration, Spirit Beast Mountain could strike at an opportune moment during the confrontation between the Six Devilish Dao Sects and the Seven Sects along with their allies, and easily collapse the Seven Sects' arranged formations. With broken formations, the Seven Sects and their allies would be defenseless, falling prey to the Devil Dao.
"Even if what you said was true, the time for the decisive battle has not yet arrived. If I were to make a report, wouldn't I be able to turn the tide of the battle? Why would I want to run away?" After muttering to himself for a moment, Han Li asked with doubt.
"Do you really believe our Devil Dao will strike in accordance to the time that was agreed? According to our original plans, this announcement was to confuse our opponents and leave them vulnerable as they prepared. Although I don't know the specifics, I reckon that within a few days, our Devil Dao would launch a surprise attack on the main camp. That should be the moment when the Seven Sects will be most relaxed and reinforcements still distant. Does Fellow Daoist truly believe that your information would arrive in time and that the upper echelons would even believe you?" Crooked Soul smirked, clearly relishing the disaster that was about to befall the Seven Sects.
Han Li's calm expression finally broke, feeling worried in his heart.
If the Seven Sects were truly defeated, his coming days would not be easy. He would have to roam across foreign countries to avoid pursuit from the Devil Dao. His only other choice would be to repair the ancient transportation formation and start a new life of cultivation in a foreign land.
"Your esteemed self appears to fully understand the Devil Dao's plans. It seems your status was truly high. There is no need to worry. I'm not interested in finding out your true identity. However, I must ask if you have any evidence for this. You can't possibly expect me to be completely convinced with just words, yes?" Han Li solemnly asked after a moment of thought.
Han Li's question stunned the Controlling Spirit cultivator for a moment.
"In a moment of desperation, I had already lost my body. Does Fellow Daoist truly believe there is any evidence that was left behind? If Fellow Daoist has some patience, he will only have to wait a few days to hear the results of the battle." Crooked Soul bitterly smiled before answering as if it had nothing to do with him.
Han Li coldly smiled in response.
"Without a body, your soul somehow managed to escape. However, you're still alive and were even able to recover your magic tools and other valuables; I'm sure you were able to recover such evidence as well." Han Li cooly said, striking at the heart of the matter and causing Crooked Soul's bitter smile to freeze.
"Hehe! It seems I truly cannot conceal this from Fellow Daoist. Yes, I do possess a few secret letters between Spirit Beast Mountain and my own sect. In fact, I was in charge of relaying information in the State of Yue several years ago. But I wouldn't have thought…" When Han Li exposed him, Crooked Soul revealed slight embarrassment."
Han Li inwardly sighed in response to his admission. This person was surprisingly crafty. It seems he'd have to be a bit more careful; he didn't even know his age.
"Where did you put it?"
As Han Li bluntly asked this question, he started to sweep his gaze across Crooked Soul's body.
"The jade slip letters are in my storage pouch. I placed it at a nearby cave. How about I bring Fellow Daoist there?" Crooked Soul appeared to be rather cooperative.
"You don't have it on hand?" Han Li's gaze flashed with doubt.
"As you know, this body is a reanimated corpse. Although it far exceeds ordinary men, it had lost a majority of its senses. Therefore, I fear that during an unknown moment of carelessness, I would lose my storage pouch. For that reason, I left it behind at my dwelling." Crooked Soul explained this with difficulty, causing Han Li to feel something was amiss.
Han Li didn't say anything and carefully searched his body, ending up empty handed. He then asked with an icy tone, "Where is the cave? I will go and find it!"
Seeing that Han Li was so very cautious, Crooked Soul could only gloomily tell Han Li its location.
Han Li nodded and turned to depart. But something suddenly came to mind, and he turned around to ask, "How did you enter that corpse? Although the body would be easier to possess as it doesn't contain a soul, it still isn't a cultivator's body!"
Han Li was genuinely curious.
"I don't know!"
His answer caused Han Li's face to darken. But without waiting for Han Li to speak, Crooked Soul hastily explained, "I truly don't know why. During that time, I dragged my heavily injured body to Jia Yuan City and was on the verge of death. I could only desperately eject my soul and search in every direction for a cultivator to possess. However, I was unable to find a cultivator anywhere nearby. Just when I was about to give up hope, I found this soulless corpse. In a moment of desperation, I attempted to enter its body. Against all my expectations, I was truly amazed that I had succeeded."
The Controlling Spirit Sect cultivator appeared to be incredulous from this as well.
Han Li remained silent and stared at him for a moment. He suddenly walked toward Crooked Soul and slapped two additional Soul Lock talismans on his body before vanishing into the darkness.
Crooked Soul was left behind with a bitter expression. But a short while later, Han Li returned with a strange glare in his eyes.
Han Li was able to easily find the cave using the directions given. It didn't appear to be very large.
With a wave of his hand, a moonlight stone flew out of his storage pouch. Hovering above his head, the moonlight stone illuminated his surroundings.
Then, he looked into the dark cave and pondered for a moment before taking out his white scale shield and tortoise shell. With the two magic tools protecting his front, he carefully walked inside.
Like Han Li expected, the cave was not large. After walking for about twenty-five meters, he saw a cave wall blocking his path, the presumable end of the cave.
Han Li turned his sharp gaze and found nothing strange. He then lowered his head and looked at the ground.
According to what Crooked Soul said, the storage pouch should be buried underneath a bluestone and should be easy to find.
As expected, about six meters away, he found a meter tall pitch-black chunk of what appeared to be stone.
Without thinking much further, he took several steps forward and closely examined it under the moonlight stone's gentle light.
"Xi!" Han Li exhaled in surprise.
Stone it was not. It was clearly a large pile of remains, bones with traces of rotting flesh that released the faint smell of blood.
After recovering from his astonishment, he discovered that the bones were from fierce predators such as tigers and leopards and had traces of teeth marks as if something had been biting them.
Having seen this, Han Li sunk into thought before inwardly shouting, 'Not good!' He hastily turned to leave the cave.
However, it was already too late. A black shadow scuttled out of some unknown place and fiercely knocked against Han Li's white scale shield.
Suddenly, he was thrown off with intense force and fiercely slammed into the cave wall. Although he was shielded, the pain nearly caused him to pass out.
"What is this monster?" Han Li thought this with furious alarm through the severe pain.
But without waiting for Han Li to fall from the cave wall, the shadow pounced toward him once more.
Han Li reacted in fear, hurriedly placing both his defensive magic tools in front of him.
Dāng. A clear ring surprised Han Li.
This time, the impact didn't carry a great force. Bang. However, the white scale shield was evenly split into two pieces and had fallen onto the floor.
Han Li nearly bit his tongue from terror.
Inconceivable! That monster was actually able to split his white scale shield in two!