After hearing their offer to take control of the village, Han Li indifferently asked, “So you wish to seize power?”
The red-faced old man spoke with a strange emotion flickering within his eyes, “That’s right, how can cultivators like us serve at the beck and call of those so-called elders? We should be the elders of the village, not those mortals. I am a grand Foundation Establishment cultivator. It is unbearable to have been controlled by mortals for this long. Because we had too few cultivators, we didn’t dare to take action, but with the addition of you two, success will be very likely.”
Han Li swept his gaze over the three and expressionlessly said, “I’m not interested. Please return. I’ll pretend that this discussion never took place.”
Han Li’s response had greatly shocked them. The long-haired old man then forced a smile and further attempted to persuade him, “Does Fellow Daoist truly wish to become an inhabitant of this village? So long as we seize the positions of elders in the village, the power will be divided amongst us few. As a result, even if the conditions are poor, we can act freely.”
Han Li stroked his chin and serenely said, “I think that you Fellow Daoists are misunderstanding something. The two of us never said we intended on staying in this village. We will be leaving in two days. As such, your words are based on nothing more than a fantasy. Lady Mei and I will have nothing to do with the matter.”
After a moment of shock, the long-haired old man couldn’t help but say, “Leaving? Are you two searching for another village since you are unsatisfied with this one? You two might not know this, but our village is the among the best villages in the area. The other villages’ conditions are far worse than ours.”
Han Li smiled and lightly shook his head in silence.
The hunchbacked old man wore a look of astonishment when he came to a realization. “Could it be that you two intend on climbing Stormwind Mountain?”
Han Li smiled and said, “What’s wrong? Since we are unwilling to remain here, is there anything strange about wanting to leave?”
With an odd expression on his face, the red-faced old man twirled his beard and said, “This isn’t something that is merely strange. Don’t you two realize that Stormwind Mountain is extremely dangerous?”
Han Li looked at him and flatly said, “Although I don’t know much about it, I’ve gained an approximate understanding from the chief elder.”
The hunchbacked old man’s face contorted several times before he fearlessly said, “Humph! What does he know of the Stormwind Mountain’s fearsomeness? He probably only knows from hearsay, but Fellow Daoist Yun and I have personally experienced the true terror of Stormwind Mountain. It isn’t something that cultivators can face without magic power. The tremendously powerful umbra beasts that surround the mountain are an instant death sentence if you alarm them. Even if you manage to luckily slip past them, the violent Yin winds and the illusory mist are incredibly deadly. There wouldn’t be the slightest chance of climbing to the top of the mountain. Furthermore, being able to leave the Umbra Realm during an appearance of a crevice in space is only a rumor as no one has truly tested it. Perhaps it isn’t even possible to begin with.”
Han Li’s expression stirred and he asked with great interest, “You two Fellow Daoists have already climbed Stormwind Mountain? Could you tell us about it?”
The red-faced cultivator revealed trepidation as he slowly said, “Of course, Fellow Daoist Han. We also wish to talk of it in the hopes that Fellow Daoist will abandon his hope of succeeding by a fluke. Originally, Fellow Daoist Jin and I were unwilling to spend the rest of our lives here when we had just arrived at the Umbra Realm. After spending a year in preparation, we set off to Stormwind Mountain together along with three other Fellow Daoists. Before we even arrived at the peak, one of our members was discovered by an umbra beast and was devoured. The rest of us painstakingly pushed forward, but two of our ranks were frozen from the Yin winds a quarter way up the mountain. As Fellow Daoist Jin and I carried a few ember stones on our body, we were able to persevere.
“But as we climbed higher, the Yin winds became increasingly more powerful and we were incapable of keeping steady footing. In the end, we only made it halfway up the mountain before were blown off a cliff by the gales; we hadn’t even reached the illusory mists. Surviving by sheer luck, we lost all will to continue onward and could only return helplessly. And after we managed to return to the village, we were bedridden for several months due to having the Yin winds penetrate deeply into our bones. Once we eventually recovered, we completely abandoned any thoughts of climbing Stormwind Mountain.”
Han Li rubbed his chin and pensively muttered, “That is quite fearsome!”
The old man spoke in a sincere tone, “It was far more fearsome than could be described. Please, perish the thought and abandon the attempt. Although it may seem possible, the mountain will take your life. Besides, you are still young. Once we reach our end, all the authority in the village will fall into your hands.”
“Fellow Daoists, please don’t try to change my mind. I will only abandon my hopes after personally failing in the attempt. Naturally, if I am truly incapable of reaching Stormwind Mountain’s peak, then I will give deep consideration towards your proposal.”
The three were somewhat displeased at his response and further attempted to persuade him. However, Han Li remained completely determined.
Helpless, the three turn their gazes to Mei Ning, but she only said, “I will follow Brother Han’s decision regardless.” Their gazes turned blank at her response.
Fortunately, Han Li hadn’t refused them. If he managed to survive his attempt to climb the mountain, they would have another opportunity to recruit him. Since they were unable to persuade them, they could only force a smile before taking their leave.
After they reached a distance away, the hunchbacked old man solemnly asked, “Do you think they will betray us?”
The long-haired old man shook his head. “Betray us? What do they have to gain from betraying us? Surely you saw that the youngster surnamed Han is an intelligent person. He wouldn’t do something so foolish, and the woman is following his lead as well. We can only hope that the two will realize the truth once they draw close to Stormwind Mountain and will turn back. After all, our revolt only has a fifty-fifty chance of success. With the other two, our strength would be considerably increased. Fortunately, Youngster Han unwittingly eliminated the greatest obstacle, Feng Tianji. His martial arts would’ve posed a difficult problem otherwise.”
The red-faced old man nodded his head, “That’s right. This person is truly cautious and wouldn’t do something so strenuous and unrewarding. But just in case, we should send people to monitor them to avoid any potential mishaps.”
“Brother Yin is quite thorough. Please have it done. However, we must be careful and avoid having him discover them. Regardless...” A doubtful expression appeared on the long-haired old man’s face.
The hunchbacked old man was confused and asked, “Regardless?”
The long-haired old man muttered, “It might be an error on my part, but I felt that Youngster Han seemed completely confident that he could depart from the Umbra Realm. He was completely unphased when we mentioned the dangers of Stormwind Mountain. Could it be that he truly has a way to climb to the peak of Stormwind Mountain?”
The hunchbacked old man shook his head and dubiously said, “How is that possible? The Yin winds are unsurmountable. Brother Yun, I, and the countless frozen corpses around the mountain can attest to this. It is only a vain thought to believe one could actually escape this place.”
“Yes, it must’ve been a trick of the eyes!” After some thought, the long-haired old man concluded that it was truly impossible and smiled in self-mockery.
But when the red-faced old man heard this, his heart suddenly stirred and a thought came to mind.
When the three old men departed, Han Li spoke a few words to Mei Ning and left the room. He went over to the residence of the middle-aged man surnamed Feng and saw that he did truly die from having his throat torn open by the Gold Devouring Beetle.
After taking a look at his corpse from a distance, Han Li left and began to continue his inquiries with the villagers about the circumstances of the land, the whereabouts of other villages and the distribution of the umbra beasts. Eventually all of these small details were gathered together in his mind as information vital to escaping this land, and he was able to draw a detailed map from the villager’s descriptions.
In the following two days, Han Li finished most of his preparations and went to inform the village chief elder that they intended on climbing Stormwind Mountain.
The plump old man naturally felt that this was a pity and urged Han Li to stay, but after seeing Han Li’s unwavering resolve, he didn’t push the issue.
After Han Li returned to the residence, he and Mei Ning slept through the night. But in the early hours of morning on the next day, someone stealthily paid them a visit and knocked on their door.
When Han Li saw the red-faced old man, he was shocked. “Fellow Daoist Yun!”
“Fellow Daoist Han, I will keep matters short. Although I don’t know whether or not you truly have the ability to leave this land, you could be considered my last hope. If you truly are capable of slipping past the disasters of Stormwind Mountain, I hope that you can deliver this box to my Heavenly Talisman Sect.” With a serious expression, he took out a rough case made of bone and handed it over to Han Li with both hands.