Chapter 346: Venerable Ancestor Ling Hu
Han Li and the small old man left the room together. Having heard the series of bell tolls, Xiao Cui'er, who was guarding the garden entrance, couldn't help but look back at the old man in panic.
The small old man wrinkled his brow and walked over to her, whispering something in her ear. Afterwards, the young girl was calm once more.
The old man then called out to Han Li, and the two flew off in the direction of the Official Hall.
On the way there, Han Li saw many cultivators travelling in the same direction. However, a large majority of them were Qi Condensation disciples; it was clear the sect's strength had greatly diminished. When the Devil Dao arrived, even with the great protective formations, the sect wouldn't be able to endure for long.
With solemn expressions, the two remained silent on their journey. Soon, they arrived at a huge stone hall.
At this moment, over a thousand cultivators gathered in front of the hall. However, the guards blocked them all from entering. They only allowed cultivators who were at least Foundation Establishment to enter.
Under the crowd's complicated gazes, Han Li and the small old man silently entered.
Once Han Li entered the Official Hall, he was shocked! It was not chaotic like he had expected. Instead, he saw over a hundred cultivators waiting in complete silence, respectfully gazing at a seated person.
This person wasn't the Yellow Maple Valley Sect Master, Zhong Lingdao. Instead, Sect Master Zhong Lingdao was actually standing at his side.
The old man had fully white hair, wore embroidered clothes, and had a yellow, withered expression. But for some unknown reason, Han Li's heart pounded upon seeing him and he found it hard to stop his limbs from trembling.
'What is this?' Han Li was amazed.
The old man had merely gazed at Han Li and the small old man, but that mere gaze caused Han Li to feel his body go ice-cold and his heart to feel stifled, as if his concealed secrets were seen through. Han Li couldn't help but grow pale from the shock.
"Hm? Your soul cultivation is quite good. What kind of soul strengthening cultivation technique do you use?" When the old man saw Han Li, his eyes flashed with amazement.
When Han Li heard this, he experienced both anger and terror.
He felt overwhelmed with disbelief. He did not sense any spiritual power from the old man, illustrating that the differences in their cultivation were like heaven and earth. However, Li Huayuan and the other Core Formation cultivators didn't make him feel this way. Could it be that this person is a…
After a moment of thought, Han Li was left dumbstruck. Having long flung his anger away from even the farthest of clouds, Han Li hastily replied with the utmost respect, "This one reports to Senior that he truly had cultivated a technique that has some relation to the soul. Senior's gaze is truly perceptive!" His reply held a tone of flattery.
The embroidered clothed old man faintly smiled and lightly waved his hand. Han Li and the small old man then tactfully stood among the crowd.
After the time it took to finish a meal, more than ten Foundation Establishment cultivators had arrived.
At that moment, Zhong Lingdao respectfully said to the old man, "Venerable Ancestor, all of the Foundation Establishment cultivators present in the sect have already arrived. As for Martial Senior Huang, he won't be able to return soon. He is currently at Heavenrock Mountain."
When the embroidered clothed old man heard this, he slightly wrinkled his brow and immediately instructed him with indifference, "Then so be it. We cannot afford to delay this further. We will start first without him."
"Yes, Venerable Ancestor speaks truly!" Zhong Lingdao strongly agreed with him.
The embroidered clothed old man chuckled in response and didn't say anything further.
"My fellow martial brothers, let me introduce you all to our Venerable Ancestor Ling Hu. As you have previously heard, he had entered Nascent Soul stage three hundred years ago and is our sect's sole Grand Elder. As of now, our sect had encountered an unprecedented crisis of extermination. Our Venerable Ancestor will fully explain this matter."
After finishing, Zhong Lingdao stepped off to the side.
Although a majority of those present had correctly guessed the identity of this embroidered clothed old man, an uproar emerged upon their suspicions being confirmed.
The crowd looked upon this Venerable Ancestor Ling Hu with a peculiar gaze. In the near thousand years that Yellow Maple Valley had existed, there had only been one Nascent Soul cultivator. At nearly eight hundred years old, it could be said that he was the unaging father of Yellow Maple Valley.
Ancestor Ling Hu lightly coughed in response to the chaotic situation, immediately silencing the entire hall. Who would dare to not give face to this venerable ancestor?
"Since you've all heard the Dragonwaking Bell, I won't beat around the bush. As of now, our Seven Sects along with our allied armies have suffered a huge frontal defeat, along with a disastrous amount of casualties and wounded. Although we've barely managed to establish a second defensive line, defeat is only a matter of time."
After the old man said this, all the cultivators in the hall paled. Han Li and the small old man looked at each other with complicated expressions but remained silent.
"Venerable Ancestor, how is this possible? The day of the decisive battle has yet to come? There is still a month!" A middle-aged cultivator couldn't help but ask this.
"It is because those at the frontline held the same thoughts as you that the Devil Dao was able to launch such a successful surprise attack!" The embroidered clothed old man bluntly rebuked him with dark expression. The middle-aged man thoroughly blushed and saluted him before hastily stepping back.
No one else dared to be so tactless, having seen the middle-aged cultivator's embarrassment. As a result, they suppressed the many doubts they held in their heart and silently waited for Ancestor Ling Hu to continue.
"This disastrous defeat cannot be completely blamed on our own force's carelessness and their lack of vigilance. There was a traitor among the Seven Sects: Spirit Beast Mountain. While they were solely standing guard, they actually opened the exterior formation and allowed the Devil Dao entry, leading to our disastrous defeat." As the old man said this, he revealed a trace of anger.
The crowd of cultivators suddenly came to a realization and loudly cursed Spirit Beast Mountain, causing the scene to become chaotic once more.
"Enough. There is no use in cursing. As the enemy's means were greater than ours, we have no other choice but to concede defeat. Currently, the most important matter is how to prevent our sect from being exterminated. Our remaining cultivators on the frontlines will only be able to last two or three days at most. Before that time comes, we must evacuate the State of Yue as soon as possible." Ancestor Ling Hu said with exceptional calm.
"Evacuate from the State of Yue?" Once that question was asked, the entire hall grew silent as if they were all stunned.
As cultivators who had lived their entire lives in the State of Yue, they found leaving hard to accept. For a while, nobody spoke in agreement.
"What? You find it hard to leave?" The old man said indifferently. He was hardly surprised.
"Venerable Ancestor, could it be that you and the other Nascent Soul Seniors have no method to repel the Devil Dao?" Eventually, a thirty-year-old youth hesitantly asked this.
"Of course we can. If us old fellows were to join hands, we should be able to easily exterminate those Devil Dao cultivators." The old man said straightforwardly.
"Then, could Venerable Ancestor…"
"But you all shouldn't forget, with the Six Devil Dao's grand reputation, how could they be lacking in Nascent Soul cultivators? We old fellows had already acted against them, but we were at a disadvantage. As a result, they compelled us to swear a death-oath such that as long as they did not participate in the battles, we wouldn't either. As such, the battles were restricted to the level of Core Formation cultivators." Ancestor Ling Hu sighed and revealed a surprising secret.
Han Li suddenly came to a realization as to why he had never seen any battles between Nascent Soul cultivators.
"If we do not move, they will be able to surround Yellow Maple Valley and deal with the sect in a single move. Since I am bound by oath, I will not be able to save you. Thus, I've already decided that the entire sect must depart the State of Yue. Furthermore, we aren't the only ones leaving. The other five sects will be joining us. As such, we will be able to rise back to power in a foreign land. When our strength is sufficient, we will return and fight for our rightful place in the State of Yue." Ancestor Ling Hu spoke with a cold smile. Naturally, he didn't find leaving the State of Yue to be intolerable.
Having heard the Ancestor's decisive tone, the others could only follow his commands; they didn't dare to voice any differing opinions they may have held.
"Most of the other affairs have been settled. However, there is still one dangerous task that must be done." Ancestor Ling Hu suddenly said something that shocked the crowd, causing them to look at each other in dismay.
"The following people I point to must follow me to the rear hall. The others will remain and listen to Sect Master Zhong's evacuation arrangements!" The old man then stood up from his seat and expressionlessly walked toward the crowd. The crowd continued to remain in shock.
"You, you, and you…" With no trace of politeness, he pointed to over half of the people present; Han Li and the small old man were included among the chosen. After finishing the selection, the ancestor walked toward the rear hall apathetically.
Han Li and the others were restless and hesitated for a moment before obediently following behind him.
Chapter 347: Evacuation
When they arrived at the rear hall, the old man was standing with his hands held behind his back.
Seeing that the many cultivators had arrived, he said with a calm expression, "Those of you that I had just chosen have good aptitude or have practiced exceptional cultivation arts. As such, you are the spark that will ignite our sect's revival. Therefore, I will give you all half a day to immediately return and retrieve your items. Afterwards, Martial Nephew Huang will lead you on your journey."
Everyone was shocked. Someone then asked in bewilderment, "Venerable Ancestor, don't we still have two more days before the Devil Dao breach our defensive line? Why the hurry?"
"Humph! While it will take two days to break through our defensive line, do you believe that they will allow those left behind to slip away? They will send men past the defensive line to attack the distant sects, most likely with the objective to obstruct our escape rather than extermination. For this reason, we will sacrifice those outside in order to buy time for you to retreat. But if you dare to leak this matter during the time you are to retrieve your items, our retreat will be met with great chaos, and I will have to personally dispose of the sect." The ancestor's voice was extremely callous, causing the hearts of those present to tremble.
"Yes, Venerable Ancestor."
Naturally, Han Li and the others didn't dare to object. They all respectfully agreed and went out to retrieve their items.
On their way back, Han Li and the small old man parted with much on their minds.
Because Han Li's Immortal's cave was too far away, he had to fly at full speed on his Divine Wind Boat.
Han Li's heart was in turmoil.
According to what Ancestor Ling Hu said, Han Li would no longer have to worry about his well-being. If they were to move to another country, he would be regarded as valuable due to the fact that manpower was lacking.
But at the same time, they would have to conquer territory in a new country in order to establish Yellow Maple Valley. As one of the remaining Foundation Establishment cultivators, Han Li would be preoccupied with miscellaneous affairs. He would no longer have much time remaining to cultivate!
Presumably, when this matter had been settled and the six sects have reestablished themselves, he would've already come across an opportunity to advance to the Core Formation stage. However, Han Li was unwilling to deal with these troublesome affairs for such a long period of time.
But as Han Li entertained the idea of making his escape, he had no idea whether or not he was still being observed by that old eccentric's spiritual sense. He didn't know if his actions could still be observed at this distance. If this were the case, he would be certain to meet a tragic end if he deserted.
Han Li felt great regret. Had he known that the situation had deteriorated to this degree, he definitely would've fled the country instead of returning!
Without any other option, Han Li could only return to his Immortal's cave.
Upon entering his Immortal's cave, he first headed to his bedroom and took all the talisman-filled storage pouches from underneath his bed. He then went to his storage room and put away his remaining rare medicine ingredients.
Lastly, he went to the secret room that held the spirit well spring and completely destroyed it, concealing the spirit well spring.
Since he was currently unable to transport this item, Han Li didn't want those from the Devil Dao to make use of it.
Having finished all that, Han Li inspected his residence thoroughly once more. Feeling that he hadn't overlooked anything, he called Crooked Soul out of the cave before carefully removing and putting away the formation flags and plates of the first set of the "Five Phases Reversal Formation".
After the formation spell disappeared, he looked at the large entrance of his Immortal's cave. With an intense gaze, he suddenly released two streaks of black light and smashed the mountaintop, thoroughly concealing his immortal's cave.
Subsequently, he released the Divine Wind Boat and brought Crooked Soul on board. After flying a circle around his former home, he finally flew off.
By the time Han Li returned to the Official Hall, most of the others had already arrived. Leaving Crooked Soul outside, he entered the hall by himself.
But what surprised him was that apart from tens of Foundation Establishment cultivators, several hundred Qi Condensation Disciples were also gathered outside the hall.
'Could it be that they will evacuate together with us?' Han Li thought doubtfully.
His eyes suddenly brightened upon seeing the small old man and Xiao Cui'er. They were quietly talking to each other with grim expressions.
Having seen this, Han Li walked over without hesitation.
"Martial Uncle Han!" Xiao Cui'er respectfully greeted Han Li when she saw him approach.
Han Li nodded to her with a smile and then turned toward the small old man, whispering, "What's going on? Are these Qi Condensation disciples travelling with us?"
Han Li spoke in a soft voice to avoid attracting the others' attention.
"To avoid being easily abandoned, these disciples either possessed exceptional aptitude or distinguished status. My own disciple also has exceptional aptitude!" The small old man spoke indifferently. But when he mentioned Xiao Cui'er, he revealed a trace of pride; Han Li found this somewhat humorous.
A short while later, Ancestor Ling Hu and a valiant middle-aged man appeared.
"I've just received information that traces of Devil Dao cultivators have been spotted nearby. We must all immediately set off. Obey Martial Nephew Huang's orders from now on! I will gather the remaining sect members to draw the enemy." Ancestor Ling Hu spoke with a solemn expression.
Han Li and the others were shocked by what they heard. The Devil Dao were truly swift!
The valiant middle-aged man who stood by his side followed up, coldly saying, "As time is pressing, I will keep it short. In this evacuation, I only have one demand. You must all listen to my orders. Those that disobey will be regarded as traitors. We will now depart!"
This person was truly quick and decisive! With those brief statements, he respectfully saluted the old man before taking the lead to leave the hall.
After a moment of astonishment, everyone rushed after him like a swarm of bees.
As a result, the grand crowd of several hundred cultivators took to the skies and hurriedly flew toward the northeast.
Over half a day later, the group had arrived at the Tai Yue Mountain Range. At that point, they slightly increased their speed.
Standing on the Divine Wind Boat, Han Li flew near the front of the group. When the small old man saw that Han Li's Divine Wind Boat could carry more, he dragged Xiao Cui'er into the boat with him without a trace of politeness. Han Li could only bitterly laugh in response and said nothing more.
Xiao Cui'er was a bit interested in Crooked Soul who stood behind Han Li and stared at him with wide eyes. Naturally, the young girl was able to somewhat see through Crooked Soul. After asking a few questions, she no longer pressed the issue.
After travelling over fifty kilometers through the Tai Yue Mountain Range, a streak of white light suddenly shot toward the group from behind. In the blink of an eye, it travelled past the group and into the hand of Martial Uncle Huang. It was a sparkling short sword with a jade slip tied to it.
The middle-aged man's face darkened and he waved his hand, stopping the group.
After taking the jade slip off, he casually flung the short sword away. Immediately after, it transformed back into a streak of white light and flew back toward its original location.
Martial Uncle Huang then probed the jade slip with his spiritual sense. A moment later, his face became very unsightly, and he immediately lowered his head in deep contemplation. It was obvious that a troublesome matter had occurred.
"The circumstances have changed. All Foundation Establishment cultivators step forward. I must assign you another duty." The middle-aged man turned around and said this with a dark expression.
These words left Han Li and company stunned. But after they looked at each other, Xiao Cui'er cleverly jumped off the Divine Wind Boat, and they obediently flew forward.
"Martial Uncle, what happened?" Many had witnessed the middle-aged man receiving a message from the flying sword.
"Venerable Ancestor sent us a message. The Devil Dao is about to arrive. It seems like they knew of our plan and separated into two groups. One group moved to surround Yellow Maple Valley, while the other group chased after us. In order to protect our continued retreat, I require a squad to follow me and draw them away. As I block them, those who remain will follow those that I assign and continue their escape from the State of Yue." Martial Uncle Huang said in an ice-cold tone.
Their hearts trembled upon hearing his words.
They weren't fools. Being assigned to block the Devil Dao would most likely result in death!
Although a majority of them evaded his gaze, Martial Uncle Huang started pointing without restraint. In a single breath, he had picked over twenty Foundation Establishment cultivators.
While the small old man managed to escape calamity, Han Li was unfortunately among those chosen!
Those that were chosen became deathly pale, but they didn't dare to utter any words of refusal.
With a wave of an arm, Martial Uncle Huang sent the others to continue their journey, leaving Han Li and company behind.
"We are pressed for time! I know that you all don't think very favorably of this assignment, but I don't need to you stake your all to meet the enemy. I only request that you mount an ambush and draw their attention away from our retreating forces." The middle-aged man said with a relaxed tone. He then took out about twenty green jade slips.
"Memorize the map inside the jade slip and then destroy it! If you are later separated, you will be able to regroup again in accordance to the map." Martial Uncle Huang waved his hand and streaks of green light shot toward the twenty-plus cultivators and floated in front of them.
Having heard Martial Uncle Huang's words, the others' complexion improved visibly. Since they didn't have to rigidly block the Devil Dao, their chances of survival were much higher. As a result, they all grabbed the jade slips and started to memorize the map contained within.
Han Li only skimmed through the jade slip in passing and didn't take it to heart.
After all, this assignment to remain behind and block the Devil Dao was a rare opportunity to escape. Han Li was unwilling to stay with Yellow Maple Valley to the very end for a later opportunity to reach Core Formation.