Chapter 465: Surging Undercurrents
Yuan Yao's luminous eyes stirred. She chuckled and said, "What? Does Brother Han not want this animal? Or does he fear that I've given him a false Weeping Soul Pearl?" Her voice concealed a teasing tone.
Han Li didn't immediately reply and examined the pearl for a moment before saying, "I can tell it is legitimate from its Yin Ghost Aura. However, I do not know much about the Weeping Soul Beast. Could it that my body would suffer from refining the pearl?"
After Han Li said this, he rigidly stared into Yuan Yao's beautiful eyes.
"How could that be? If there was ever such a problem, I wouldn't have personally refined it. However, refining the pearl makes oneself feel unwell. So long as one bears with it, there is no problem." Yuan Yao had a calm expression and spoke with a uncaring tone.
"Feel unwell?" Han Li wrinkled his brow and stared at the woman for a moment before turning his gaze towards the pearl. He was sure that that she hadn't been entirely truthful, but he couldn't make it out as of now. After muttering to himself for a moment, he decided to take the pearl and put it away for later research. If it were truly harmful, he just wouldn't refine the pearl. So long as he had the pearl, he would be able to control the Weeping Soul Beast all the same.
After putting away the Weeping Soul Pearl, he calmly said, "Let's go! I will do my utmost to protect Lady Yuan for the rest of the way. But let's get the ugly talk out of the way first. If I come across a danger that fully occupies my attention, Fellow Daoist Yuan had best flee by herself!" He then touched the Glacial Ice Pearl that floated above his head, causing it to suddenly envelope them with chilled air.
"Of course. I understand what would happen if we were to truly encounter such a circumstance. However, I am quite confident that with Brother Han's gold and silver beetles, the odds of such a situation occurring is quite small." The gorgeous woman wrinkled her nose for a moment before revealing a smile as charming as a flower. .
Han Li bluntly admired the beautiful scene before him for a moment before wordlessly turning around and setting off. When Yuan Yao saw this, she followed after him with light steps and a faint smile. She soon walked alongside Han Li, creating a rather intimate appearance.
This was because the closer she was to Han Li's side, the more cool air that was present from the Glacial Ice Pearl. She naturally wanted to feel more comfortable.
"Now that I think of it, the path of ice and fire is somewhat strange. How could there be a black desert here along with such fierce winged ants? Not only can those ants fearlessly endure magic treasure attacks, they can spout black flames and can undergo swarm transformations. They also managed to break through one of my ancient defensive treasures. If I didn't have the Green Flameblasts, I wouldn't have lasted long enough to meet Brother Han." Yuan Yao grumbled with a relaxed expression as she continued walking. It was clear that she didn't recognize the Ironfire Ants.
Han Li was stunned by her words. He couldn't help but ask her with, "The black desert hasn't been seen before?" He felt that the appearance of such fierce exotic insects at this location was somewhat odd. Apart from cultivators with extraordinary abilities and exceptionally powerful magic treasures, it would be unlikely for even a late Core Formation cultivator to leave the black desert unscathed.
"No! This is the first time the black desert has appeared on the path of molten rock. Previously, other cultivators that underwent this trial merely faced high temperatures and dangerous areas. At most, they would encounter a few flame beasts as well. But these bizarre winged ants haven't been seen before. Had it been known that such ferocious winged ants existed on the path of molten rock, far fewer cultivators would've been willing to brave it." Yuan Yao replied without hesitation. Despite appearing to know quite much, she remained puzzled by the appearance of the ants.
"If that's the case, there must be something amiss with the paths of ice and fire!" Han Li muttered to himself with a contemplative expression.
"This is completely abnormal. Someone must've taken action." In a forest of blood red icicles on the path of profound ice, Layman Qing Yi looked at the sky with his arms behind his back.
Countless floating inch-large spheres of azure lights revolved around him, separating him from a dense swarm of several hundred silver beasts that surrounded him. These small beasts strongly resembled mice. Not only was their fur sparkling with silver light, but they also had a small, delicate horn on their heads.
They surrounded the old man as streaks of silver light and continuously struck at him like arrows with their horns. Each of the strikes released a thunderous boom in a display of astonishing momentum. However, the azure lights surrounding the old man's body remained motionless, completely unaffected by the erratic attacks of silver light.
"Courting death!" The Confucian-robed old man grew annoyed by the strange mice's attacks. After lowering his head towards them, he swept his sleeves outward with a cold expression. A burst of azure light immediately spread out, illuminating an area of forty meters in blinding brilliance.
After a short moment, the azure light faded away to reveal a ground filled with the corpses of the small, silver-furred beasts. Their bodies were densely pricked by thin azure needles that shone with a cold blue light.
Layman Qing Yi's expression was unchanged. It was obvious that the outcome was as he had expected. After indifferently glancing at the ground, he extended his shriveled right hand and lightly swept it across the air. The needles flew back towards him as azure streaks of light and disappeared into his body.
"Silverlight Mice! How could these damned animals appear at only the second trial? Could it be…" The old man pondered motionlessly and his expression grew sullen.
"Humph! Since these Silverlight Mice have appeared on the Path of Profound Crystal, the Path of Molten Rock should also have something equally inconceivable. I'm afraid that Youngster Han will encounter quite the problem!" Layman Qing Yi coldly snorted with annoyance and spoke to himself with slight apprehension. Soon after, he deeply sigh, disappearing from sight with several blurs.
The forest of blood-red icicles appeared quite strange with its ground littered with the corpses of the small silver beasts.
In some lightless place in the great canyon, two voices were calmly having a chat in the darkness.
"Weren't you too sloppy, using both Ironfire Ants and Silverlight Mice? Although we've always played our tricks in each of the treasure hunts, they were well hidden. The appearance of the black desert and blood icicle forest is far too brazen. Apart from the few that didn't encounter these obstacles, I fear that a majority of Devil and Righteous Dao cultivators will have died. When that time comes, those Nascent Soul cultivators will no longer be fooled." A voice spoke with slight fear.
"Fool? Did you truly believe that our previous actions in the Heavenvoid Hall were unnoticed by the Righteous and Devil Daos? They had long figured them out but they chose to feign ignorance due to our Star Palace's power. They also knew that we could only control a few of the Heavenvoid Hall's minor restrictions that wouldn't result in too great a death. In each treasure hunt, it would merely result in a few more deaths of the Righteous and Devil Dao Core Formation cultivators." The other voice unhurriedly replied.
"The black desert and the blood icicle forest are the most ferocious restrictions I can control. It is only somewhat of a pity for them to be used like this. After all, as the previous generation masters of the Star Palace, we've spent quite some effort to grasp them." He unhurriedly spoke with a tone of regret.
"There is nothing to regret! Right now, there are rumors widely spread that the two sages have reached a crucial point in their seclusion and cannot be contacted, causing the inhabitants of the Scattered Star Seas to be alarmed. However, this has caused the inner disciples of the Star Palace to become restless. They are completely reliant on us old fellows to handle the arduous affairs of the palace. With the Righteous and Devil Dao starting to stir, it is becoming far more difficult to suppress them. Although each of the sides alone prove no threat to us, it will become dire once they join forces.
"The only method we currently have is to forcefully cripple the strength of the two sides and cause them to become doubtful and unsure of our true circumstances. After all, given the many years that the Star Palace has governed the Scattered Star Seas, it is impossible for them to not have misgivings. So long as we can drag this on for a moment more, the two sages will be able to leave seclusion. At that time, even if the two sides joined hands, we won't have to worry about them. Our two Lord Sages' Divine Essencefused Light will be able to force that madwoman from Myriad Gates of Enlightenment and Devil Saint Island's Archsaint of the Six Paths to retreat."
"The usage of the Ironfire Ants and Silverlight Mice restrictions were unavoidable. Apart from these two restrictions, none of the others are nearly as destructive against Core Formation cultivators. They all lack the proper fierceness to admonish them and reflect our unyielding attitude. As for your fears of the two sides using this as a pretext to act, they are groundless. Those among the dead aren't their own personal disciples, and they are our opposition in the contest for the Heavenvoid Cauldron. What we've done isn't enough for them to act! At most, they'll be inwardly seething."
The cold voice sneered as he gave his long explanation.
The first voice remained silent as if approving of the other's judgements.
Chapter 466: Refined Crystal
"How many swarms have we hit since we've traveled together?" Han Li slowly asked as he looked at the insect corpses on the ground.
"Seven! Although we've encountered many ant swarms, we haven't encountered any that numbered in the ten thousands." Standing at Han Li's side, Yuan Yao obediently replied.
They'd already traveled together for half a day. Han Li frowned at hearing the number and his expression grew sullen as if he had worries on his mind.
After some thought, he swept his arm towards his Gold Devouring Beetles that had finished consuming the corpses. They followed his command, transforming into a cloud of sparkling light as they flew back into his floating spirit beast pouches. Han Li then calmly put them away.
"What? Fellow Daoist Han appears unhappy? We've already crossed through the center of the desert, the most dangerous area. The path out should prove to be much safer." Yuan Yao blinked upon seeing Han Li's expression and spoke with slight confusion.
"Safer? Do you really believe so?" Han Li glanced at Yuan Yao and sneered.
"Could it be that there are still more dangers ahead?" Yuan Yao unconsciously frowned and spoke without confidence.
With an indifferent expression, Han Li said, "I don't know if there are more dangers ahead, but I am certain of something. We will be quite lucky to not encounter any ant swarms that don't have any late stage ants. As of now, we've yet to encounter any megacolonies that contain late grade ants. We have to be more careful on the way out. If we don't encounter any mishaps after half a day more of walking, we should be truly safe."
Yuan Yao's complexion turned white, but after a short moment, she feigned indifference. She forced a smile and said, "Aren't you being paranoid?"
"I hope that is the case!" Han Li didn't continue speaking despite knowing that that the late stage ants existed among the Ironfire Ants. Although the strength of late stage ants are ordinary, their astonishing intelligence would be certain to prove more than troublesome.
Due to their previous conversation, they remained completely silent for the next four hours.
However, something strange had occurred. They hadn't encountered a single ant colony on their path. Yuan Yao had become conscious that something was amiss, and her face revealed a trace of unease.
But, when they mindlessly climbed up a tall sand dune, they saw an astonishing scene ahead of them.
"This is…" Yuan Yao wore a terrified expression. Her red lips moved several times, but no words came out. While Han Li's expression was a bit more calm, he was still quite alarmed.
In the sand ahead of them was a solidarity pillar of ice with a height of about a hundred meters.
The ice pillar was extremely cold. Not only did it flicker with faint white light, it also contained a black giant of the same height. The giant appeared hideous. It had wide, glaring eyes and a smooth, shiny bald head, and was frozen inside the pillar of ice. How strange!
After staring at it for a moment, Han Li immediately swept his eyes past the nearby sand. The nearby ground was filled with holes of all sizes as if a great battle had been fought there.
A strange expression stirred from Han Li's eyes as they fell upon the giant once more. But when Han Li gazed at one of the giant's eyes, he couldn't help but shout in surprise.
"Did Fellow Daoist Han discover something?" Yuan Yao couldn't help but turn her head and ask after hearing Han Li.
Han Li slightly smiled in response. He then narrowed his eyes and released his spiritual sense. After confirming that nothing was concealed in the nearby area, he bluntly walked down the sand dune and towards the pillar of ice in large strides.
"Humph!" Yuan Yao sulked and expressed discontent at Han Li's attempt to remain mysterious, but she still followed him. After all, she'd have to waste magic power to resist the high temperatures if she left the range of Han Li's Glacial Ice Pearl.
"Winged Ants!" When Han Li arrived about forty meters away from the pillar of ice, Yuan Yao spoke with astonishment.
At her current distance, she was finally able to clearly see the giant's true appearance, a formation of countless black winged ants! From a distance it could be passed off as genuine – a truly inconceivable affair! But as the Ironfire Ants remained completely motionless inside the pillar of ice, it was unknown whether they were alive or dead.
At that moment, Han Li stopped and started muttering to himself as he gazed at the ice pillar ahead of him.
After examining it, Yuan Yao slowly said, "Since these ants are already dead, let's go on our way! It's a waste of time to remain here."
"Are you truly certain they are dead? They still could be alive." Han Li felt doubtful.
"How could they still be alive?" Yuan Yao glanced at Han Li with astonishment and spoke with disbelief. "The Myriad Gates of Enlightenment has an ancient treasure named the Profound Yellow Mirror. Have you not heard of it? So long as the treasure reflects on something living, they will grow still from terror and become trapped in a pillar of icy crystal. After several days, the crystal ice pillar will eventually disappear."
"I've never heard of it before." Han Li's honest answer left the woman wide eyed and somewhat speechless. Han Li circled the huge ice pillar several more times before speaking with a pensive expression, "According to what you've said, these insects were disposed off by Wan Tianming."
"If it wasn't him, then who? What are you thinking? Apart from time itself, this crystal ice cannot be broken by ordinary magic treasures. Otherwise, the Profound Yellow Mirror wouldn't have such a famous name." Yuan Yao glanced at Han Li as if she had guessed what he was thinking and smiled.
After Han Li heard this, he calmly glanced at her. He then moved his hands at his waist and tossed out all of his spirit beast pouches. A huge cloud of Gold Devouring Beetles then suddenly appeared in the air.
"Go!" Han Li bluntly pointed at the ice crystal pillar. The gold-silver beetle cloud suddenly descended upon it and densely covered the pillar's peak in an instant.
"You still intend on having your beetles consume the winged ants' remains? Your beetles may be ferocious, but they can't chew through…" Yuan Yao's sentence remained half finished.
This was because the giant that was trapped by the crystal ice pillar was quickly being cut down at an amazing speed. In the blink of an eye, the giant's head had disappeared from view.
Yuan Yao's small mouth gaped open and didn't close until a while later.
Under the woman's astonished gaze, the Gold Devouring Beetles had completely devoured the huge pillar of crystal ice alongside the giant trapped within. All that remained was an egg-sized crystal ball that mysteriously shined with black light.
Han Li smiled upon seeing it appear and walked several steps forward before bending down to pick it up.
This item was called a "Refined Crystal". It was a rare material that was formed in the abdomen by beings that had frequent meals of ore that remained undigested. Although the cultivators that knew of its existence were a sparse few, Han Li had read a rumor of it from an ancient book and was unsure of its validity. But when he saw the pearl contained within the Ironfire Ant Giant's eye, he suddenly recalled this and his heart began to stir. He didn't expect that he would truly acquire the refined crystal.
It was a peak supplementary material for strengthening magic tools. So long as this material was joined together with a magic treasure, not only would its might increase, but the resilience of the magic treasure's body would immediately strengthen to a point of disbelief. After that point, it would be hard to imagine anything that could break it.
It was also unknown whether Wan Tianming had not known about this item or had overlooked it from negligence. Either way, it had benefited Han Li. So long as he took the time to refine it into his Bamboo Cloudswarm Swords, their strength would surely increase by another level.
While Yuan Yao didn't know about the refined crystal, she knew it was certain to be a good item from Han Li's happy expression. However, she had tactfully remained silent about things that had little to do with her.
The two continued on their way in silence.
In an extremely crude stone hall with an area of about two hundred meters and a height of about thirty meters was a transportation formation. Apart from the transportation formation at the center, each of the walls had a huge stone gate about ten meters tall. At the moment, each of the gates was sealed as tightly as a prison cell.
There were also about a hundred mismatched stone tables and chairs. These stone chairs were sparsely occupied by six cultivators with various expressions. Grandmaster Zenith Yin, Layman Qing Yi and Wan Tianming were the only Nascent Soul cultivators present. The other cultivators were late Core Formation cultivators; none of whom could be considered weak.
Each of their expressions were sullen, and they possessed no interest in talking. The stone hall's atmosphere was beyond stifling!
Grandmaster Zenith Yin was particularly dreadful with his ashen complexion. He stared at the transportation formation as his eyes continuously flickered with ominous glints.