Chapter 368: Farmstead
But as Han Li was counting the number of mortals, he also felt the faint aura of several cultivators. It seemed these cultivators were in charge of maintaining order at the port.
As Han Li was thinking this, he and Crooked Soul were brought to a stone room inside the harbor.
The room was very simply decorated with only a wooden desk and a chair with a wrinkly old man sitting in it with his eyes shut.
Upon hearing Han Li and company enter, this Immortal opened his eyes.
A cold light suddenly shot out as his eyes opened. Han Li's heart shuddered upon seeing it. This person was unexpectedly a Foundation Establishment cultivator. In addition, his magic power was no less than Han Li when he had been at his peak.
This wrinkly, yellow-faced old man ignored Master Gu and Wang Changqing and directly swept his gaze toward Han Li and Crooked Soul. After seeing that Han Li was only a Qi Condensation cultivator, his expression became lazy once more. But after he took note of Han Li, he seemed to have glanced at Crooked Soul several more times.
"If you have business, be quick about it. Otherwise, don't interrupt my rest." He spoke dispiritedly and displayed some impatience.
By relying on his highly retentive memory, Han Li had acquired a rough understanding of the local language from Wang Changqing. Although he couldn't speak it, he could understand the meaning of others with some difficulty.
But since he didn't have any experience interacting with the cultivators of this land, he didn't say a word and only smiled as Master Gu and Wang Changqing spoke with the cultivator.
Master Gu respectfully addressed him as Immortal Yang. Then he moved closer to him and whispered something before turning around and pointing at Han Li. It seemed he was explaining his origins. Afterwards, he placed a few spirit stones in his hand.
Grasping the spirit stones in his hand, Immortal Yang's expression greatly eased up. He then took out a green jade medallion and stiffly asked Han Li, "Your name?"
"Han Li!" Han Li was able to say his own name fluently. As for how the other party would write them, he didn't care in the least.
Immortal Yang's hand flashed with green light, enveloping the entire jade medallion. After a short moment, the radiance faded away, revealing two strange symbols that Han Li hadn't seen before.
The yellow-faced old man then tossed the jade medallion towards Han Li.
"Properly put away the medallion. If you lose it, you must immediately come back here and receive a replacement. Otherwise, you will face punishment as a trespasser on Stalwart Star Island. Naturally, if you settle down here later, you will no longer require the jade medallion and can return it. As for that refined corpse behind you, it obviously doesn't need one." After saying this with a raspy voice, he no longer paid them any attention and closed his eyes once more.
Master Gu tactfully left at once.
However, Han Li seemed interested in how he saw though Crooked Soul's true identity with a single glance. After taking a good look at him, Han Li silently left the room.
Shortly after Han Li left, that Immortal Yang opened his eyes once more. He muttered to himself with slight bewilderment, "That refined corpse is truly odd. It is clearly a dead body, but it still releases Spiritual Qi! Could it be some sort of new corpse refinement technique?" The old man then sunk into a long period of contemplation.
After leaving the port, Master Gu hired a carriage being pulled by strange ox-like goats, quickly bringing them deeper into the island by traveling along a large road.
Along the way, there were countless similar vehicles going about their own business.
But once the carriage passed through several small, bustling towns, they saw far fewer carriages. As they traveled along a few small roads, pedestrians and carriages became exceedingly sparse.
After hurriedly travelling for half a day, the carriage finally arrived at a farmstead that occupied over two acres. The farmstead grew many odd crops that Han Li hadn't seen before.
There were crops that resembled grains and rice. However, their leaves were thick, flat and of a violet-red color. There were also crops that resembled cabbage. They released a faint scent, and although it possessed an extremely similar appearance to cabbage, there were no such cabbages that were as tall as half a man in the Heavenly South Region. There was even Choy Sum that bloomed small blue flowers…
More than ten farmers could be seen at each vegetable field. They were toiling at the fields in groups of two and three.
This provided quite a serene view of the farmstead!
As Han Li gazed at the farm with interest, the carriage had arrived at the large entrance of the farmstead's manor and stopped. Han Li brought Crooked Soul out with him and took a look around.
The manor was surrounded by green pine trees and neighbored a rather large hill. It appeared somewhat unusual, but could be considered to be quite tasteful with a serene environment. In addition, the manor was surrounded by earth walls six meters tall and one meter thick. Many houses lied within the walls, appearing to have been built recently.
'So this is the Gu Clan!' Han Li silently uttered a word of praise. But as he carefully examined the pines, his expression inadvertently changed because of an astonishing discovery. The trees that surrounded the manor faintly revealed the aura of a formation spell. It was obvious that a restriction had been placed here.
Although Han Li didn't view the formation spell to be exceptional by any means, it was still enough to trap a low level cultivator.
While Han Li was feeling somewhat suspicious, Master Gu got off the carriage and spoke with an apologetic smile, "Immortal Han, please take a rest at the manor! I'll call for some subordinates to prepare some of the island's specialty wine for the Immortal Master!"
Han Li took a random glance at the surroundings of the manor and replied with a smile, "Let it be. I don't wish to disturb Master Gu's home. It'll be fine if I reside there for the time being. After our affairs have been handled, I will search for a more permanent residence." Han Li then pointed in a direction off to the side.
Master Gu and Wang Changqing followed the direction Han Li was pointing to and saw that it was a small solitary hill. They couldn't help but be dumbstruck.
But after seeing that their many enthusiastic invitations had failed, they could only allow this strange immortal to head towards the small hill. They gave each other a mutual glance of helplessness before walking into the manor.
Han Li brought Crooked Soul with him on the small, sloped path towards the hilltop. He then took a glance down at the Gu Clan Manor from above.
He saw that Master Gu was heading towards the huge residence at the center of the manor while being escorted by a crowd of women and men. By the time he had arrived there, most of them have dispersed. Only a few beautifully clothed individuals followed him into the manor.
Han Li smirked slightly and turned around, busying himself with his own affairs.
He first went to find a relatively flat and even piece of land at the back of the hill. Then he quickly uprooted several of the thicker pines and cut them into pieces with magic tools. Afterwards, he had Crooked Soul…
An hour later, he had completed a simple small wooden house on the hill. The house had a wooden table, wooden chairs, and even a wooden bed.
In the following month, Han Li stayed in his house everyday, taking medicinal pills and refining Qi, striving to restore his cultivation as soon as possible.
As for Master Gu and Wang Changqing, they visited several times during this period and discussed matters pertaining to the contest. Afterwards, they hurriedly left, not daring to further disturb Han Li's cultivation.
But as Master Gu was a sensible person, he sent delicacies up to Han Li's home every few days for his enjoyment. Han Li gladly accepted them without a trace of politeness.
Many kinds of exceptionally sweet fruits were among these offerings, much to Han Li's enjoyment. They were clearly the island's local specialties since he had never seen them before.
During the last few days of the month, Han Li had managed to restore his cultivation to the fifth layer of Qi Condensation. He found this very surprising and felt his heart become more assured.
According to Master Gu, none of the cultivators that the ten clans had requested possessed a high level of cultivation. Apart from a few exceptions, a majority of them only possessed a cultivation at the sixth or seventh layer of Qi Condensation. As for the lots which would decide the fights, so long as Han Li's luck wasn't exceptionally terrible, he wouldn't have a problem in the contest.
In addition, Master Gu had scoured the nearby seas for three 'impressive' magic tools to increase Han Li's odds of success.
Han Li barely classified these items as high grade magic tools. He could only roll his eyes inwardly and accept them so that Master Gu would feel at ease.
Two days after Han Li restored the fifth layer of his cultivation, Master Gu and Wang Changqing paid Han Li a visit with nervous expressions. Han Li wordlessly entered their carriage drawn by strange beasts, and they hurriedly traveled to some area located at the center of the island.
Four hours later, they arrived at a city that seemed to be entirely constructed out of white stone.
As they entered the city, they saw a large amount of mortals guarding the city entrance.
They wouldn't bother anyone leaving the city, but entering the city would require one to show a command medallion, similar to the one Han Li possessed.
But when Han Li was about to enter the city, the guards took out a cylindrical object and shook it at Han Li several times. After it shined with a green light, they gave Han Li a respectful salute and moved to only inspect the medallions of Master Gu and Wang Changqing.
Chapter 369: Challenge (1)
Han Li sized up the soldiers. Although they didn't possess spiritual power fluctuations, they were full of vigour. It seemed they had trained in some shallow martial arts, but what caught his eye the most was the cylinder. There was actually such a wondrous item that could differentiate cultivators from mortals.
Han Li couldn't help but take another look at the cylinder.
Wang Changqing saw this and gave Han Li an explanation with a smile, "That is a spirit plate. It allows us mortals to identify who is an Immortal!"
"Spirit plate?" Han Li was somewhat surprised to hear this, but he immediately thought of the palm sized jade plate embedded in the cylinder and faintly nodded, not saying anything further.
Han Li then detachedly watched as the carriage traveled on the white stone street towards the center of the city.
There were countless pedestrians on the street, coming and going without stop or rest. The deeper they went into the city, the livelier it became.
A majority of the people wore white. Those that didn't wear white, wore a dull yellow, faint green and other such mild colors. There was no one wearing any bright colors.
In addition, those that didn't wear white were clearly of high status. These well dressed individuals would often have three or four shabbily dressed subordinates closely following after them.
Because there were far too many people and carriages on the street, their carriage was forced to slow down. After spending a long time traveling with such slow speed, their carriage finally arrived at a huge plaza in the city's center.
The plaza took up about five acres and was filled with a huge crowd. All Han Li could see was a vast sea of black-haired heads, hurriedly flowing in every direction without end.
Shops lined the plaza, each one fully packed with customers. At the very center, the shops seemed to be made up of temporary booths. They were abnormally overcrowded and were accompanied with fervent chatter. It appeared to be bustling with unusual amounts of activity.
Han Li estimated that with the density of the crowd, there were at least several tens of thousands of people in the plaza.
It was naturally impossible to further advance in the carriage through such a large crowd. Master Gu took the lead and descended from the carriage, bringing Han Li and company towards the palace-styled building at the side of the plaza.
The palace was over thirty meters tall, far taller than the other buildings around it. The huge gate of the palace was guarded by a line of soldiers with sparkling long spears in their grasp, preventing anybody from casually approaching.
"This is the Stalwart Star Island's first market day of the third month. That is why there are several times more people here at East Stone City. Basically, the many cities and towns on the eastern part of the island all come here to trade for rarities that would normally be hard to obtain." As Master Gu was leading the way toward the palace, he turned his head and gave Han Li an explanation with a faint smile.
Master Gu stepped forward and spoke with the gate guards. A guard then waved his hand, signifying that they could pass.
Master Gu hastily called out to Han Li and Wang Changqing before heading in.
Once they passed through the gate, it became much more shaded and quiet. In the corridor past the gate, there were several tens of individuals of seemingly high status having whispered conversations in groups of three. When they saw Master Gu arrive, they seemed to look at him with hostility.
But at this moment, the purple gate at the other end of the corridor opened, revealing a white clothed youth of about twenty years old. His appearance was delicate and refined, much like that of a frail scholar.
The youth gave Han Li a friendly glance before speaking courteously to Master Gu,"Are you Mister Gu? The others have already arrived. Cultivators that are participating in the challenge must go further in. As for you, Mister Gu, please wait outside."
From a single glance, Han Li was undoubtedly sure that the youth's cultivation was about the same as his current cultivation, the fifth layer of Qi Condensation.
Master Gu could only give Han Li an expectant look before stepping off to the side.
Han Li followed the youth through the gate. Afterwards, the gate immediately shut.
"My surname is Wen but Fellow Daoist can call me Wen Qiang. You seem quite unfamiliar. Could it be that you're new to our Stalwart Star Island?"
"I am Han Li. I've just arrived here last month!" Having a month of practice, Han Li was able to speak the local language without problem.
"Hehe, how admirable! Daring to journey from your homeland with your current cultivation, Daoist Friend's courage and insight must be outstanding! I wouldn't have been able to do it. I've never taken a single step off this island since birth." The youth spoke with admiration.
Han Li faintly smiled but didn't say anything in response.
Han Li followed the youth, eventually arriving at a round hall. There were over thirty cultivators there, sitting and standing, each wearing various expressions.
A shriveled old man sitting across from the crowd of cultivators spoke quickly, "It seems that everyone has gathered. Let's start drawing lots! Each fight will be decided in one round. Killing is forbidden and will result in disqualification."
He was the only Foundation Establishment cultivator among a room of Qi Condensation cultivators. It seemed he was the cultivator in charge.
Once the youth surnamed Wen entered the hall, he hurriedly went to stand by the old man and await his orders.
The old man didn't pay the youth any attention. Instead, he took out an azure jade cylinder with over twenty bamboo sticks.
"To participate in the challenge, draw a lot. Once the number of challengers matches the number of the representatives of the incumbent merchants, the remaining challengers will be qualified to challenge them."
The majority of the crowd stared at the jade cylinder as it was enveloped in a layer of azure light, concealing the sticks within. Naturally, the light repelled spiritual sense, and upon doing so, the owners of the spiritual sense seemed to have suffered and couldn't help but sway.
Those that didn't use their spiritual sense to probe the cylinder revealed schadenfreude. These cultivators naturally wished for Han Li and the other challengers to suffer a disadvantage.
As for Han Li, who possessed powerful spiritual sense, he would have no problem forcefully breaking through the azure light. However, this would be far to eye-catching. As such, Han Li could only helplessly look at the others in dismay and take his turn drawing lots.
When Han Li went up to draw his lot, he was unexpectedly able to see through the azure light, but all he saw was strange silver characters. He wrinkled his brow in response. He had completely forgotten that he still couldn't read the local writing!
But still, Han Li expressionlessly drew a lot as if nothing had happened.
"Number one!" The old man coldly shouted. The two cultivators that drew that lot immediately walked forward.
The old man bluntly said, "You two will compete on the stage over there. There is a formation setup, so there is no need to fear destruction from magic techniques. It will be your victory if you are able to take away their lot. So long as you don't kill your opponent, I don't care what methods or tricks you use."
"Yes, Senior!" The two participants bowed to the old man before walking towards the elevated platform at the back of the hall. The platform then flashed with white light and the two disappeared without a trace.
Shortly after, the two reappeared on the platform, revealing slight fatigue. One of them animatedly gave the old man two bamboo sticks. The other dejectedly walked out from the hall.
"Number two!" The old man coldly shouted.
Because the battles of Qi Condensation cultivators were simple, victory was decided extremely quickly. Battles ended almost as soon as they began. But Han Li was baffled to see that regardless of whether they won or lost, they were exceptionally happy.
"Number seven!" A cultivator walked out as soon as the old man yelled, but his opponent hadn't revealed himself.
"Number seven!" The old man yelled again with a gloomy expression.
Han Li suddenly walked out and hastily apologized, "Senior! I apologize! I had misread my number. I thought it said nine!"
The old man didn't pay any mind to what Han Li said and impatiently waved his hand. Han Li then tactfully went up to the platform with his opponent.
After a flash of white light, Han Li and his opponent appeared in a world of white mist. The area spanned about a hundred meters and was covered by the white mist in every direction.
The middle-aged cultivator spoke to Han Li with confidence, "Your cultivation is lower than mine by two whole layers. There is no need to fight. Fellow Daoist should forfeit. Else, I might accidentally give you a heavy injury!"
Seeing that this "expert" was only a seventh layer Qi Condensation cultivator and hadn't released a protective barrier like he had, Han Li faintly smiled.