Chapter 475: Wolf Head Puppets
Currently, Han Li and the others were walking through a maze-like series of intersecting stone passageways. Each intersection had a stone gate inscribed with strange talisman characters.
These stone gates were identical in size. They were over thirty meters wide and were in the shape of a square. They would always point in the direction of north, south, east, or west seemingly at random. However, they all shined with a faint white light. They were clearly affected by some sort of restriction.
Although he would only encounter a crossroads after a long distance, Han Li reckoned that during their entire time in the Inner Halls, they've already encountered at least eight stone gates. Each time, they neither changed direction or entered the stone gates.
They eventually arrived at an intersection that made Han Li's expression stir.
The gate there slightly differed from the others ones. Although its talisman characters and structure was the same, it was completely lightless as if the restriction on it had been extinguished. As a result, Han Li further looked at it with a strange expression.
Wu Chou saw Han Li's expression and spoke to him with a familiar tone, "Junior Martial Brother Han, this stone gate had already had its treasure seized by others. What is worth seeing? If it weren't for the fact that each person could only use a single Heavenvoid map fragment before being teleported out, I would've also thought to pick a stone gate and hastily see what was within. Once a Heavenvoid Map fragment was used to open a stone gate, one would be unable to leave until the treasure was acquired. As Core Formation cultivators we will only be able to acquire treasures on the first floor. Picking a room on the later floors would nearly be the same as suicide."
'Junior Martial Brother Han?' When Han Li heard Wu Chou address him as such in a voice transmission, he felt disgust spread throughout his body.
When Han Li eventually managed to recollect himself, he replied with a beaming smile, "Then why isn't Brother Wu choosing a gate on the first floor? Would it not be a waste of an opportunity to wait until you've arrived to the second floor or higher?"
"Sigh! I wish I could, but my esteemed grandfather had repeatedly warned me that I must stay by his side on this treasure hunt as I may prove useful." Wu Chou wore a reluctant expression as he glanced at the stone gate. A trace of greed flickered from his eyes.
Han Li slightly smiled and swept his gaze at the stone gate. So long as he entered and acquired the treasure it contained, he would be teleported outside. He would be keeping this in mind. Who knew whether or not he could use this as a method of escape?
At that moment, the group passed through another intersection and into the passage ahead of them. But at that moment, a heavy, muffled thud came from their front. The sound continued as if something huge was slowly heading towards them.
Zenith Yin and Qing Yi's expressions slightly changed and they halted, staring into the passageway ahead of them with grave expressions. In contaste, Man Huzi chuckled and revealed a trace of excitement. At the same time, his body flashed with golden light and a layer of golden scales suddenly covered his entire body. He had activated his Heavenbearing Devil Arts.
This was the first time Han Li saw the bizarre appearance of the Heavenbearing Devil Arts up close. He couldn't help but take a curious stare at Man Huzi's transformation.
Man Huzi keenly felt Han Li's stare and turned his head around, giving Han Li's sinister grin. The face covered in small scales made for a frightening sight.
Han Li's heart dropped, not knowing what he had meant by it. But still, he forced himself to return the smile.
Fortunately, after Man Huzi smiled, he immediately turned his gaze back.
The approaching thuds were now only about a hundred meters away.
But as the passage across from them was pitch-black, Han Li wasn't able to see within it. There were still restrictions inside the Inner Hall that restrained a cultivator's spiritual sense.
Still, Han Li noticed the cold glint from the old eccentrics' eyes. It seemed they were able see what it was.
Without waiting for Zenith Yin and Qing Yi to act, Man Huzi deeply roared, flying into the passage as a streak of golden light. A series of loud impacts followed afterwards along with deafening clangs of metal.
When Zenith Yin and Qing Yi saw this, they couldn't help but look each other in dismay.
Han Li was at a loss when a huge rumble sounded out as if something had been cleanly split into fragments.
Han Li's mind stirred and something came to mind.
In the next moment, only the sounds of Man Huzi's wild, carefree laughter could be heard.
Zenith Yin seemed to have thought of something and couldn't help but laugh. "Let's go! It is no longer a problem. We've already forgotten that we no longer have the same cultivation as we did three hundred years ago. The guards on the first layer are no longer a threat to us."
Qing Yi chuckled with a relaxed expression, "That's right. This old man had nearly forgotten this as well. The last time I came, I had just entered Nascent Soul stage, and the guards had left far too deep an impression. It was good that Brother Man had taken care of it with his Heavenbearing Devil Arts. Else, we would've spent too much effort on them."
Afterwards, the two began to take the lead with Han Li and Wu Chou closely following after them. The Bone Sage, who had originally been expressionless this entire time, wore a trace of disdain as he calmly followed them in the back.
After walking about thirty meters, Han Li saw Man Huzi in front of them with his hands behind his back. He was standing on something that was shining with silver light.
When Man Huzi saw Zenith Yin, he stretched his neck and indifferently said, "Not bad! This served quite well for a warm up. The Heavenvoid Hall this time around is truly interesting. However, it wasn't nearly as formidable as rumors had it!"
"It was because of the incredible force of Brother Man's Heavenbearing Devil Arts. Other cultivators used magic treasures in such a narrow area, so they had experienced a bit of trouble." Layman Qing Yi said with a smile. When Man Huzi heard his flattery, he chucked but said no more. The golden scales on his body quickly faded away, and he indifferently took the way. It seemed the previous fight had left him unsatisfied.
Zenith Yin and Qing Yi glanced at each other with a smile. Since Man Huzi was so willing to lead the way, they were more than willing to quietly follow after him.
When they walked past the silver item, Han Li stopped and lowered his head to look at the item.
'A mechanical puppet!' Han Li was astounded. It was indeed a puppet, but what grade of puppet was this to have not been instantly destroyed by a mid Nascent Soul stage cultivator?
Most of what was scattered across the ground were pieces of an unknown silver metal. Apart from this, there was a ruined half of a gold wolve's head, several pieces of jet-black, thick and reflectioness blades, as well as an assortment of several other oddities.
As the Bone Sage quickly passed him by, he indifferently said without turning his head, "Don't bother to look at them. While these items are certainly rare, they cannot be used to refine any magic treasures. Those long before have already tried."
Han Li was surprised by this, but he continued to look at the ground as if he hadn't heard. His gaze fell upon sparkling, dark-green gem on the ground. Its extremely cold aura gave Han Li a remarkable impression.
After muttering to himself for a moment, Han Li immediately placed these items into his storage pouch with a sweep of his hand before rejoining the others.
Han Li's thoughts were quite simple. Even if these items were truly useless, he could learn a bit about the ancient cultivator's achievements in puppet techniques from the puppet's composition and refinement techniques. After all, the highest grade puppets in his Puppet Sutra were grade four puppets, equivalent to only late Foundation Establishment cultivators at false core stage. It was a puppet he had seen before, the huge tiger that consumed an entire mid-grade spirit stone with a full powered strike. 1
The puppet with the golden wolf head was stronger than an early Core Formation cultivator. Although Man Huzi dealt with it like child's play without using any powerful magic treasures, Zenith Yin's and Layman Qing Yi's serious attitude towards indicated that it was unordinary.
With such good items in hand, it was only natural for Han Li to want to leave and research it. But as things stood, there would be no such opportunity for him to slip away a stone gate and escape with treasure as well. He understood all too well that despite walking ahead of him, the three Nascent Soul eccentrics were watching his every move through their spiritual sense. Wanting to stealthily slip away through a stone gate was merely wishful thinking.
With Han Li's temperament, it felt somewhat intolerable to leave empty handed from a treasure trove such as this. For now, he could view these puppet fragments as a consolation prize from the Inner Halls. As for the treasures of the Heavenvoid Cauldron, Han Li knew better than to have such fanciful expectations!Chapter 229. ↩
Chapter 476: The Second Floor
Following after the first encounter with the wolf head puppet, they encountered more puppets in quick succession. But under the unyielding transformation of the Heavenbearing Devil Arts, Man Huzi smashed them into pieces as if they were made of clay. Zenith Yin and Qing Yi didn't need to help the slightest.
With each encounter, Han Li bluntly gathered and put away the remains of each puppet, much to the confusion of the Bone Sage and Wu Chou.
As for the Nascent Soul cultivators, they turned a blind eye to Han Li's actions.
However, it was clear that they walked a path from Wan Tianming's party. When Han Li saw that the Devil Dao cultivators were still calm and unhurried, Han Li knew that these old devils probably had an approximation of where they were.
But ever since they encountered the puppet guards, Zenith Yin and the others no longer continued straight ahead. They began to take turns.
However, Han Li felt that there was something odd. From their earlier advance, Han Li had a clear feeling that all pathways were the same. But these three Nascent soul cultivators made a sudden turn to the left and another turn to the right without the slightest hesitation. It was as if they already knew the route in advance.
Were it just Zenith Yin and Qing Yi doing this, Han Li wouldn't find it strange. After all, they've been to the Inner Halls before. Perhaps they already memorized the route from their last time here. But this was clearly Man Huzi's first time coming here and he was leading them at the very front with Zenith Yin and Qing Yi following after him without any objections. Han Li found this baffling!
Han Li's mind set into motion as he stealthily swept the intersections for any differences or markings.
After passing several intersections, his efforts was vainly spent as he had found nothing. He could only leave the matter be for now.
After Man Huzi wrecked the eighth wolf head puppet along the way, they arrived at a small transportation formation.
The transportation formation was at the center of an intersection and emitted a faint, sparkling light.
"This will take us to the second floor. I wonder if Wan Tianming and his party had used any tricks. They actually managed to get ahead of us." Layman Qing Yi grumbled upon seeing the transportation formation, but a trace of a grin was still on his face.
Man Huzi coldly snorted and said without concern, "Humph! Let's go. Even if they're ahead of us, the Heavenvoid Cauldron isn't something that is so easily acquired."
Soon after, he let the way, entering the transportation formation in stride.
Layman Qing Yi smiled at the sight. After Man Huzi entered, Zenith Yin and Layman Qing Yi stood still. After taking a glance at each other, they heavily gazed at Han Li.
Han Li felt his heart shiver.
He had no choice but to enter the transportation formation under their supervision.
Han Li saw a flash of white light and regained his bearings before raising his head.
He was shocked. He was at another intersection of stone passageways. If it weren't for Man Huzi standing in front of him, Han Li would've thought that the transportation formation had failed.
While Han Li was at a loss, white light flashed from behind him, bringing along the rest of the party.
Just as Zenith Yin appeared, he took a look around. He grimaced and muttered, "What method did those Righteous Dao folk use to travel so fast? I can no longer find them."
Layman Qing Yi's eyes coldly glinted as he stood behind Zenith Yin. "Leave it be! I had felt it was strange as to why the Righteous Dao cultivators had made such a sly proposal outside. From we've seen, it seems they were scheming against us all along. But, it'll still be fine if they try to seize the treasure first. Actually acquiring the Heavenvoid Cauldron with Wan Tianming's Gold Threaded Silkworm is merely wishful thinking after all. They're merely testing what little luck they have. It wouldn't be too late for us to hide and lie in ambush."
"Brother Qing's words makes sense! However, we cannot delay for too long. We must quicken our pace." Zenith Yin nodded his head. He agreed a much improved expression.
Qing Yi spoke to Man Huzi with a solemn expression, "Brother Man, be careful! The snake puppets guards on this floor are somewhat troublesome. Fellow Daoist Wu and I can both provide assistance in taking them down. This way, we can save a bit of time and magic power. Let's prevent having a weakness the Righteous Dao can exploit."
"Snake puppet guards? That seems interesting! Do as you like." Man Huzi said with a careless tone.
The party of Devil Dao cultivators then continued on their way.
Not long after, Han Li discovered a difference between the first and second floor.
The crossroads on the second floor were much smaller than the first floor. They were also farther apart with a few fearsome traps and restrictions placed down along the way.
Although these things didn't pose a threat to a Nascent Soul cultivator, they were undoubtedly deadly to Core Formation cultivators. Han Li felt a cold chill down his spine as he followed after the others.
There was no question that he would've lost his life to the restrictions and traps had he entered the second floor of the Inner Halls alone.
By the time they crossed the intersection on the second floor, Han Li finally saw the "snake puppet guard".
The puppet appeared truly disgusting.
Its snake heads were both blue and red, but its body were also covered in jet-black scales. It also had two arms on both their back and front.
Its front two arms held green short spears, and its back two arms held glossy black whips with razor sharp barbs that glowed the grey Qi.
When the puppet saw them, it immediately charged towards them as a black streak of light without a sound. It's actions were extremely quick.
Man Huzi howled with laughter. He charged to meet it after activating his Heavenbearing Devil Arts.
The following scene left Han Li in awe. The snake demon puppet was extraordinarily swift with its green spears and flailing whips. Although its unceasing barrage of attacks didn't pose much of a threat to Man Huzi, he was forced to protect a few of his vital spots. As he wasn't using any magic treasures, he had no other actions open to him.
While it was unknown what materials the green spears were made from, they slightly deformed Man Huzi's gold-clad hands on impact, leaving behind two cuts.
An expression of astonishment was betrayed from Man Huzi's face.
It was at this time that Zenith Yin and Qing Yi decided to act.
Zenith Yin used the Heavenvoid Corpsefire that had inspired fear in Han Li when he had first met him.
A black ball of flame appeared his hand before turning into a fine black thread as it shot out.
Just as the puppet pierced through Man Huzi's Heavenbearing Devil Art, it had left its guard down. In an instant, one of its front arms was enveloped by black flames and disappeared.
As for the old man, Qing Yi opened his mouth and an azure thread of light wildly rushed out from his mouth towards the puppet.
The azure thread of light wrapped once around the puppet and bursted into a cluster of explosions, causing the puppet to tumble.
A fierce expression flashed from Man Huzi's face. Taking advantage of the opportunity, he released a low roar and the scene flourished with blinding light. He then appeared with his arm penetrating the abdomen of the puppet. A green gem was rigidly held in his grasp.
The snake puppet immediately lost the power to move and collapsed to the floor.
Man Huzi looked at the inanimate puppet and glanced at the green gem in his hand. With a malicious expression flickering from his face, he crushed the gem with a clench of his hand.
But after he unfolded his hand, he found the gem to be completely unharmed.
Even Man Huzi's ordinarily savage expression changed upon seeing this.
With his Heavenbearing Devil Arts infused into his hands, he would've been able to warp powered magic treasures, let alone a single gem. He should've been able to somewhat damage it at the very least.
As Man Huzi's face appeared somewhat blank, Qing Qi chuckled and walked over, "Brother Man, there is no need to be surprised! This strange stone had already been researched by others. Although this gem cannot be destroyed, it also cannot be refined or used to strengthen magic treasures. I reckon that unless the cultivators of antiquity were dealing with it, it just be a mere bauble. Even puppet refinement sects don't know what to do with the stone."
"The items of antiquity are quite unusual! Youngster, you seem to fond of such remains. Here!" Concealing his embarrassment from earlier, Man Huzi grimaced and casually tossed it to Han Li.
Han Li's mind went blank and he unconsciously received the item.
After he had realized what had happened, he silently put it away into his storage pouch.
After he swept his gaze around, he walked forward and swept up the snake puppet remains with a trace of politeness.