Chapter 507: Light in the Darkest Hour
Han Li received the ring and put it on without hesitation.
The old man smiled and said, "Good, you can now enter the city. During the day, there will be free movement, but there is an enforced curfew at night. When the battle starts, the ring will notify you. You can wait in your cave residence until then." After he finished speaking, he slowly closed his eyes once more and appeared to drift off.
After taking a deep glance at the old man, Han Li entered the city.
Not only were the streets of the city desolate, but he only occasionally caught glimpses of other cultivators in flight. The empty city made for dreary scenery.
Han Li's expression remained calm, but he inwardly rejoiced. From the apparent circumstances, the city market must certainly have been shut down. Had he not taken the time to make his preparations in Southclear Island, he would've surely suffered quite the headache.
Han Li softly chuckled before flying through the air towards his cave residence on Sage Mountain.
As he passed by the market city, Han Li glanced down to find that all the shops were closed as he had expected. There wasn't a single person in sight. Han Li lightly shook his head and quickly flew towards the thirty-ninth layer of Sage Mountain.
Upon entering Sage Mountain, Han Li keenly felt that the security on the mountain was far denser than the outer city. He was able to notice over ten different ripples through the air with his spiritual sense alone. But with the yellow ring on hand, the ripples in the air made way for Han Li. Despite all of this, there were no guards who appeared to question Han Li.
But what made Han Li frown was the late Core Formation cultivator that swept his spiritual sense past him.
Han Li feigned ignorance of this as he flew towards his cave residence. When he arrived, he examined the restrictions to find that nothing had been changed.
However, Han Li blankly stood outside the restrictions for a moment before letting out a sigh. He hadn't been gone for long, but he had encountered many close brushes with death, and now, he had no choice but to discard his cave residence of nearly a hundred years. This caused Han Li to feel somewhat sentimental.
He used his restriction control medallion to open the restrictions and slowly walked in, finding that everything was the same as he had left it.
Han Li first attended to the most important matter at hand, the Gold Devouring Beetles. After making certain that the Gold Devouring Beetles were sound, Han Li felt genuinely relieved. He immediately placed all of them in a spirit beast pouch that he had prepared earlier, and turned towards his medicine garden and placed everything into his storage pouch.
After this, Han Li decided to relax for the time being and slowly walked to the bedroom. He laid down on the bed and started to ponder about his plans for the future.
He was required to kill a Starfall Coalition cultivator of the same rank as him if he wanted to use the transportation formation to the Outer Star Seas. While this condition wasn't difficult for him to fulfill, Han Li was worried that before the battle started, the Star Palace would somehow learn that the Heavenvoid Cauldron had fallen into his hands. After all, he had no way of knowing when those Nascent Soul eccentrics would leave Heavenvoid Hall. If one of those old eccentrics where to divulge this information, it would be disastrous for him.
In addition to this, he had other misgivings. It was possible that after he fulfilled their condition, the upper echelon of the Star Palace would make up a frivolous reason to shamelessly deny him access to the transportation formation.
After all, what could the recruited cultivators possibly do, even if the Star Palace reneged on their agreement?
Although he had calmly agreed to the Star Palace's agreement at the entrance, he never intended on sincerely awaiting the Star Palace's orders.
He prepared to explore the surroundings of the transportation formation, and see whether or not he could stealthily use it. If the security was lacking, he would seize the first opportunity to use it.
As for whether or not he offended the collosal Star Palace, he didn't care in the least. In the end, he would still be pursued by those Nascent Soul eccentrics.
With those reassuring thoughts in mind, Han Li dozed off to sleep. The numerous surprises on the past excursions had left Han Li quite fatigued.
On the next day, Han Li awoke with roused spirits.
He slowly walked out from the cave residence underneath a clear and bright sky, before flying into the air and examining his surroundings.
Although there weren’t as many cultivators outside compared to during peacetime, it was completely different from yesterday. It seemed that this was the time where free movement was allowed.
Han Li first flew around his surroundings in a circle. After seeing that no one was monitoring him or paying any attention, he shot towards the fiftieth floor of Sage Mountain without any hesitation.
Security was tighter as he went deeper into the mountain. Soon, Han Li arrived above the Starry Sky Palace, where the transportation formation was located. However, he merely passed over it. Instead, he pretended to visit another hall instead, and used that short instance to quietly sweep his spiritual sense over the hall.
It went quite smoothly. The hall was nearly entirely devoid of any obstructions, but when he swept his spiritual sense past the inner portion of the building, he was blocked by a blue-yellow restriction. Fortunately, Han Li noticed it quite quickly and was able to retrieve his spiritual sense before touching the restriction.
His expression then sank. Although he reckoned he was able to force his spiritual sense past the restriction, it would alert any of the cultivators inside the hall. There was no way he would willingly do something so foolish.
At that moment, he unconsciously frowned.
Because of the restriction, Han Li was neither able to see the quantity of cultivators within the inner halls nor their level of cultivation. However, there was no reason for any Nascent Soul cultivators to appear there. In the most extreme case, there would only be late Core Formation cultivators present. After all, the Starry Sky Palace didn't hold any critical value towards the Star Palace's upper echelon.
After flying a far enough distance, Han Li flew in a circle and returned along a slightly different path.
When Han Li was on his way back, he indignantly released his spiritual sense to see whether or not there was a gap in the restrictions. While his exploration found no faults in the restrictions, he did hear a raspy voice.
"Fellow Daoist Zhang, how were the terms? Three thousand spirit stones per person on the transportation formation. This is the greatest amount we could offer."
When Han Li heard this, his heart began to stir. His sights quickly fell onto two cultivators beneath him, and he immediately slowed down.
One of the cultivators was a dark-skinned, middle-aged man while the other was a shriveled man with a sickly appearance. Both of them were mid Foundation Establishment cultivators. The one who had nervously spoken was the dark-skinned man.
The two were being careful, whispering at a place where no one else was present. But that didn't matter when Han Li's enormous spiritual sense enveloped them; he could hear everything they said with perfect clarity.
"Shh! Be careful. Let's talk about this through voice transmission." The shriveled man nervously glanced around, but Han Li managed to perceptively hide himself in an instant, entering a state of Qi restraint. At that same moment, Han Li's spiritual sense was immediately withdrawn from other areas and was completely focused on the two in preparation of eavesdropping on their voice transmissions.
As Han Li's spiritual sense far surpassed theirs, he was able to do this with the utmost secrecy. Were other Core Formation cultivators to attempt this, they would require an appropriate top grade secret technique to accomplish the same result.
"Although we may be distant relatives, it is extremely dangerous to secretly release people into the Outer Star Seas. He said that anything less than five thousand spirit stones per person, and he will have to decline. And this is considering that the Star Palace doesn't care about us Foundation Establishment cultivators. Were a Core Formation cultivator to hand over even more spirit stones, he definitely wouldn't be allowed through."
With an unsightly expression, the dark-skinned man roared, "Five thousand!? Are we filled with money! How are rogue Foundation Establishment cultivators supposed to come up with that many spirit stones!?" Even while outraged, he had still remembered to use voice transmissions.
The shriveled cultivator sighed and attempted to placate him, "It is far too dangerous to continue to live within the Inner Star Seas. Us rogue cultivators could fall victim to any calamity that appears. When that happens, our lives will be forfeit; what use will spirit stones have then? After all, we all reckon that the forces of the Star Palace are nearly equal to that of the Starfall Coalition. It is very likely the war will last several years if not several tens of years. I don't want to spend my days flying around while fleeing and hiding in fear. As for spirit stones, we all possess no small amount of rare materials we've been keeping in reserve. We should be able to use them to pay the remaining amount of spirit stones. In that manner, they would be willing to agree and give us face."
"Impossible! Are we going to pour out our entire fortunes to go to the Outer Star Seas? Absurd!" The dark-faced man shook his head in a miserly fashion.
The shriveled man was also distressed and bitterly said, "Fine, let's go back and see what the others think."