After glancing at the jade box in his hand for most of the day, Han Li sighed and slowly placed it back into his storage pouch. Azure light then flashed from his hands and the azure jade slip reappeared.
Should he take the risk to refine a second Nascent Soul? He would put the decision off until he fully comprehended the incantations for the profound Nascent Formation Arts. This matter was dangerous and extremely difficult, as such it would be better if he were cautious. With his mind made up, he sank his spiritual sense into the jade slip and entered a state of obliviousness.
Not far away from Han Li, Silvermoon was peacefully cultivating in her own secluded room. All of the other miscellaneous tasks were being handled by Han Li's ape puppets.
Time quickly went by, and yet another year had passed.
One day, two streaks of light, one azure and one white, flew in the direction of Han Li's cave residence. Two silhouettes could be faintly made out from within them. They were the two Drifting Cloud Sect elders, a silver-haired old man and a sallow-faced middle-aged man.
They couldn't help but exchange a smile when they saw that the restrictions around Han Li's residence were in full effect.
The middle-aged man surnamed Lu flicked his finger and sent a previously prepared letter talisman into the restrictions in a streak of fiery light. Once the talisman disappeared from sight, he smiled to the silver-haired old man and said, "It seems ever since Junior Martial Brother Han returned, he remained within his cave residence in diligent cultivation.
The silver-haired old man surnamed Cheng spoke with a strange expression, "That is to be expected. How else could Junior Martial Brother Han have formed a Nascent Soul in two hundred years? It is a pity that the end of my lifespan is drawing close. I am incapable of treading further on the path of Immortal cultivation, and I reckon you know this too."
The middle-aged man hastily consoled him, "Senior Martial Brother Cheng must be joking. He still has another two hundred years ahead of him at the very least."
The silver-haired old man shook his head and calmly said, "Hehe, Junior Martial Brother Lu, how could I not know of my own circumstances? Perhaps if I hadn't been wounded from the last battle, I might've been able to live another two hundred years without a problem. But despite my full recovery, the battle caused great harm to my vitality. It is something that cannot be solved through meditation."
"Senior Martial Brother!" The middle-aged man's expression changed and he thought to say something, but the old man interrupted him with a wave of his hand.
The old man slowly said, "Even if I enter no further battles, I will live only sixty years more at most, that much is certain. There is no need to comfort me. Why else would I have so painstakingly roped Junior Martial Brother Han into our Drifting Cloud Sect? I have even done my best to befriend him. Normally, even if we were truly impatient about taking him into our sect, we would've done a meticulous investigation into his background. Fortunately, our hasty judgement has turned out to be correct. Although this person's history is somewhat complicated, he holds no ulterior motives towards our Drifting Cloud Sect."
The middle-aged man was stunned, "Senior Martial Brother sent disciples to investigate Junior Martial Brother Han's background?"
"That's right. Although Junior Martial Brother Han's background is rather vague, with his name and appearance, I've sent disciples to stealthily make some inquiries into the State of Yue, and ended up with a rough background of our Junior Martial Brother Han. You might not believe it, but over a hundred years ago, our Junior Martial Brother was originally a Foundation Establishment cultivator of Yellow Maple Valley. During that time, he had earned a small reputation for himself. It was said that during the war with the Devil Dao, he alone managed to kill many cultivators of the same grade.
"But when Yellow Maple Valley was later routed, that Treacherous Ghost Linghu abandoned him for some reason. Afterwards, there was no further trace of Junior Martial Brother Han. Perhaps he was cultivating in concealment and had only recently emerged when he reached late Core formation stage. He then arrived at our Drifting Cloud Sect and formed a Nascent Soul. It seems that during this missing period, Han Li should've had some fortuitous encounters."
The middle-aged man sneered, "It is quite ridiculous for him to be abandoned at the time. Throwing away a sect disciple that happened to be such a rare cultivation genius! In a short amount of time, he managed to cultivate from Foundation Establishment stage to Nascent Soul stage! I reckon that old ghost Ling Hu would be driven mad if he knew about this matter! After all, Yellow Maple Valley hasn't been faring very well in the Nine Nations Union. It should be quite difficult for his sect to rely on him alone. If I recall correctly, he should've entered Nascent Soul stage the same time Senior Martial Brother Cheng did. The end of his lifespan should also be drawing near."
"That's right. Old Ghost Ling Hu is just a bit older than me, but he is quite a bit more proficient at extending his lifespan. Additionally, Yellow Maple Valley should also have no problem after his death. They can just rely on the repute of their allied Nascent Soul cultivators. I've also had similar worries for the Drifting Cloud Sect when I passed, and feared that Junior Martial Brother would find it difficult to stand alone!
"Were if not for the sacred spirit veins of the Dreamcloud Mountains, Junior Martial Brother would've found it difficult to preserve the sect by himself. But even so, many would look at our sect with greed once it appears any weaker. My original thoughts were to urge Junior Martial Brother to take the initiative to withdraw from the Dreamcloud Mountains once I passed, avoiding any potential calamity the sect may encounter. But now that Junior Martial Brother Han has joined us, the situation has changed.
"Although Junior Martial Brother seems to be a cultivator who is wholeheartedly dedicated to pursuing the Immortal Dao and is disinterested in sect affairs, I am actually relieved by this. So long as we carefully win him over, our sect will continue to exist without worry for another thousand years!" The silver-haired old man twirled his beard in his hand as if he had a plan up his sleeve.
The middle-aged man hesitated for a moment before worriedly saying, "But while Junior Martial Brother Han may be a cultivation genius, his age is too young and he just recently condensed his Nascent Soul. I don't know whether or not his skills are up to par."
With a pensive expression, the silver-haired old man said, "Yes, I also share the same worries. After all, there are a few cultivators wholeheartedly dedicated to pursuing the Dao that are unwilling to spend much time cultivating powerful abilities. While this results in a deep cultivation, these cultivators may be unable to defeat cultivators that are a grade lower than them. Although I don't believe Junior Martial Brother Han to be such a cultivator, it would be better to test this. As such, I will be staying behind to guard the sect. You will accompany him to the trade meet."
"Does Senior Martial Brother mean to say..." The middle-aged man revealed a sudden trace of understanding.
The old man smiled and thought to say something further when the mist in front of him suddenly parted. The old man immediately grew quiet as the middle-aged man followed suit.
The two walked into the path that opened through the fog without any reservations and disappeared from sight.
The largest trade meet in the Heavenly South convened at the northmost country of the Nine Nations Union, the State of Yu. Deep within the mountains of this country laid Soaring Heavens City, the capital of the Nine Nations Union. Cultivators from all over the continent flocked to this country.
Be it man or woman, young or old, all of those that resided within the city were cultivators. This city alone even had seven cultivators at mid Nascent Soul stage or higher stationed there, resulting in the immediate deaths of any cultivator who dared to cause trouble in the city. As a result, regardless of a cultivator's affiliation, none dared to act imprudently within.
Two months before the start of largest trade meet in the Heavenly South, the Nine Nations Alliance activated a spell formation with a resounding reputation, the Greater Light Extinguishing Formation, to protect the city in place of a majority of its normal restrictions.
Because a few cultivators have already made their way to the city out of impatience or otherwise, there were already stalls placed inside. Trade was already being conducted between cultivators.
While the official days of the trade meet would have treasures of all kind in great number, they weren't something that common cultivators could afford. They would rather find a few suitable uncommon materials ahead of time instead.
The quiet, cold Soaring Heavens City soon became bustling with activity as if it were filled with the liveliness of the marketplaces in common mortal cities. However, those walking the streets of the city were cultivators of high rank and the currency being used were spirit stones.
The city only possessed a single auction house which was under the control of the Nine Nations Union. It had also begun to appraise and auction off all sorts of rare treasures, contributing to the liveliness of the city.
Just as the trade meet was only half a month away, there were three streaks of light steadily flying through the sky several thousands of kilometers away.
Once the three lights grew closer, they were revealed to be two men and one woman. The woman was a cool and elegant beauty. She flew at the side of a youth with a common appearance that wore a rather intimate expression.
The third person in their party was a blue-robed middle-aged man whose clothes fluttered through the wind in a display of unordinary majesty.