Han Li walked around on the platform and curiously examined a stone disc with a trace of astonishment.
The disc was over three meters wide and was placed flat onto the platform. There were many strange decorative patterns carved into it along with many profound talisman characters. Although there was no one currently operating it, it continuously emitted a purple mist that spiralled into the sky and covered the village.
As a proficient scholar of the Dao of formation spells, Han Li began to study the stone disc with narrowed eyes.
Not longer after, his expression fluttered before revealing a trace of enlightenment. He then furrowed his brow as he sunk deep into thought.
While Han Li was completely entranced, he suddenly heard an unfamiliar voice from behind him, "Could it be that Fellow Daoist has obtained some profound insights?"
Han Li's heart was shaken and he inwardly cursed in surprise upon realizing that someone had unknowingly appeared behind him. It would've been quite dangerous if they had meant him any harm. However, it wasn't entirely Han Li's fault for his carelessness as he was accustomed to having his spiritual sense surround his body. He was still slowly adapting to the loss of his magic power and spiritual sense.
Han Li grew inwardly vigilant and wordlessly turned around.
A white haired old man with long hair stood before Han Li. His face was full of wrinkles, but his eyes exuded a strong spirit, and he was currently looking at Han Li with a wide smile.
Han Li hesitantly asked, "Are you a cultivator?" He could no longer tell due to the loss of his spiritual sense.
The old man smiled and replied, "I am Bao Huanzi, an old cultivator from the Five Dragon Seas. You must be one of the two newly arrived cultivators."
'The Five Dragon Seas?' Han Li's mind stirred with interest upon hearing the name.
Han Li's expression relaxed and he said, "So it turned out to be Fellow Daoist Bao. My surname is Han and I am a vagrant cultivator of the Scattered Star Seas."
"The Scattered Star Seas? There was previously a fellow Daoist that originated from the Scattered Star Seas, but unfortunately, he perished during a mission after encountering a fearsome umbra beast. Regardless, there are truly too few Fellow Daoists proficient in the Dao of talismans. From how deeply engrossed you were while looking at the stone talisman, you must hold quite some skill in the area!" The old man sighed and quickly changed the subject.
"Stone talisman? Are you talking about the disc?" Han Li wore a baffled expression. This was the first time he had heard of such a thing.
The long-haired old man narrowed his eyes as he proudly said, "Hehe! It's no surprise that you wouldn't know of such things, as I reckon that stone and jade talismans have all but vanished in the other lands. Only a few sects in our Five Dragon Seas are still able to refine these ancient talismans."
When Han Li heard this, his baffled expression disappeared and replaced with a frown. He glanced at the old man and said, "I've truly never heard of stone or jade talismans ever being created in this world. I've spent quite some time studying the Dao of talismans, and the talisman characters on the stone disk leave me filled with amazement. Your explanation has dispelled some of my confusion, but is it mistaken on my part that I've perceived spell formation characteristics in these talismans?"
The old man revealed a trace of shock before rubbing his hands together and wearing a wide smile, "I truly didn't expect that Fellow Daoist was proficient in the both talismans and formation spells. You've earned my respect! Fellow Daoist Han isn't mistaken, this purple cloud stone talisman is quite a bit different from true stone talismans. In order to utilize umbra energy, it was altered with a few spell formation characteristics, effectively turning it into both a talisman and a spell formation. But as a result of this modification, it's power has also greatly decreased.
Han Li nodded his head with a pensive expression and took another glance at the stone disk. A trace of confusion flickered form Han Li's eyes, "From what you've said, you are able to use umbra energy to perform magic techniques by using umbra beast gems and spell formations. However, I don't see any beast gems embedded in the disc. Could there be something else that is peculiar about the stone talisman."
"It seems there is still much that Fellow Daoist doesn't know. Surely you've seen the Insidious Mauler from today. Although a majority of people in the village cultivate martial arts and have gained fleshly might beyond that of ordinary people, it isn't possible for a lone person to challenge great umbra beasts with martial arts alone. Even if they were able to defeat one with superior numbers, there would be many casualties and would be an unsustainable tactic. As such, we've use umbra energy to disable the enemy with a few magic techniques during the village's time of need. However, this also consumes the village's stockpile of gems so it must first be considered whether or not the village would be able to persist without them."
The old man smiled and paused for a moment before continuing, "Regardless, these beast gems are incredibly difficult to acquire. Generally, the larger the demon beast, the more likely there's a beast gem inside their skull, but that isn't a guarantee. There were several times where we invested great amounts of effort and resources to slay a huge demon beast, but no beast gems were found on its corpse. As for the villagers that slayed a few of the Firescale Beasts on their way back, they were actually able to find a beast gem among them but this tends to be an exception.
"In summary, the demand for beast gems is astonishingly high due to the constant assaults by the umbra beasts. However, we've only managed to maintain a stockpile of about ten umbra beast gems over the years so we only use them with reluctance. As a result, the beast gems are kept among the village elders, and are only to be used when required. After the battle is concluded, they are immediately returned. As for the stone talismans, they are instilled with several days worth of power and the talisman is left to persist for several days. The beast gems aren't allowed to be embedded in them, wasting the slots that were specifically refined for them." The old man appeared somewhat dissatisfied with the village elders' methods and rubbed a square groove at the side of the stone disc with a wry expression.
Han Li silently smiled in response. He reckoned the the old man had told him that last part in order to involve him in a power struggle within the village. However, Han Li didn't have the slightest interest in becoming tangled up in the matter.
It appeared that the old man in front of him had started behaving like a mortal after he was severed from the path of cultivation, and had involved himself in a contest for political power. Han Li sighed and felt that this was quite lamentable.
A trace of disappointment appeared in the old man's eyes when he saw Han Li remain silent. But soon, his expression recovered and he began to idly chat.
The old man casually mentioned, "It is unknown just how many years this forsaken land has existed. Although very few cultivators are sucked in, I reckon that over time several hundred cultivators have met their end here in the Umbra Realm. I've heard that Core Formation cultivators and even Nascent Soul cultivators have lived out their days in this land."
Han Li's expression stirred, "There have been Nascent Soul cultivators here?"
The old man sighed, "That's right. Although I don't know how many years ago it was when that expert had been sucked into this land, but he had once been an elder of this village. I guess that he was the same as you two, and was sucked into the ghost mist when there was an eruption of Spirit Extinguishing Qi. Normally, the strange fog would be incapable of capturing such a figure."
"That should be the case. However, the Spirit Extinguishing Qi is quite fearsome. I'd guess that only the Deity Transformation stage cultivators from legend would be able to resist it."
"Deity transformation stage! Hehe, Fellow Daoist's scope of thought is truly wide. With regards to the Nascent Soul cultivator, although he already died trapped in this place, he left behind a few records, some of which detail his cultivation experiences. While these items might be incredibly precious on the outside, but here? Heh..." The old man shook his head with a sense of regret.
Han Li animatedly said, "His cultivation experiences! I am very interested. Would Fellow Daoist happen to know where they are?"
Records of a Nascent Soul cultivator's experiences are extremely valuable. It was only natural for Han Li to want to take a look.
The old man rubbed the wrinkles on his face and casually said, "Hehe! I was excited like you when I first heard of this. However, after staying in this place for so long, I've completely lose interest in them. Without any magic power, the records are nothing more than drawings. If you're still interested in taking a look, all of the cultivators' remaining possessions are being kept in storage." The old man then pointed to a shabby stone building in a corner of the village.
Barely restraining his excitement, Han Li calmly said a few words of thanks to the old man.
Han Li chatted a bit more with the old man, but he was able to see Han Li's impatience and took the initiative to take his leave.
Han Li watched the old man's departing figure and pursed his lips. After a quick moment of deliberation, he shook his head and descended from the stone platform. He then quickly walked towards the storage room with the cultivators' remaining belongings .