The Heavenly South's State of Dongyu had a small province named the Ning Province that was unremarkable apart from the fact it bordered the Chang Province which contained Devilfall Valley.
The Ning Province was separated from the Chang Province by an endless mountain range and consisted mostly of desert with trees and rivers sparsely found throughout. There were also only meager spirit veins found throughout, leading to only a few small cultivators clans taking hold there. But it was also free, as there were no major factions contending for the land.
To the Ning Province's Southwest, there was a mountain range by the name of the Spirit Scale Mountains where one of the many spirit veins was located. The mountain range itself only spanned fifty kilometers and its spirit vein spanned only five.
The tallest mountain of the Spirit Scale Mountains and two of its small mountains were where a few cultivators had reluctantly taken residence. Given the area's small size, these three mountain peaks were divided amongst three cultivators clans: the Huang, Li, and Wang Clans.
These clans were all small and new. Even the strongest amongst them, the Huang Clan, had two Foundation Establishment cultivators at most. The disciples of their sects were only lowly Qi Condensation cultivators, with a majority of them only being at the fourth layer. The several thousands of clan members that lacked spirit roots had no choice to settle in the surroundings of the Spirit Scales Mountains.
The three clans were not only close in distance, but their relationships were friendly as well. In the past hundred years, many of the disciples in the three clans have even married each other, forming deeper bonds. If one were to investigate more closely, they would find that although the Spirit Scales Mountain's spirit veins were meager, there was a nameless spirit spring at the top of the main mountain.
While the spring wasn't on par with something as rare as a spirit well, it was miraculously useful. When its spring water was mixed with spiritual herbs, one could create a spirit tea that could cleanse the marrow of disciples at the level of the sixth layer of Qi Condensation and below, benefiting their future cultivation. Although the three clans knew that this wasn't a good area for cultivation, the spring was the main reason why they reluctantly remained.
And although the spirit spring had a miraculous effect, water would only flow from the spring a few days during each year; it wasn't nearly enough for the clans to use. As a result, the clans' elders came to a decision to seal off the spring and open it once every ten years.
The amount of water accumulated over the span of ten years was enough for the three clans to use once. As a result, the clan would take in disciples once every ten years so that the water wouldn't come to waste.
The three clans had no choice but to bind over this trifling spirit well and keep guard over it, opening it every ten years for the use of their young disciples.
One day, at the peak of the Spirit Scales Mountain, the grand ceremony to open the spring was being conducted. In front of a three meter tall black cliff, there were several tens of disciples from each of the clans lined up. They looked all around them with excitement.
The oldest of the disciples were in their late teens and the youngest of them were only eleven or twelve. The most powerful these young cultivators were at the fourth layer of Qi Condensation, but a majority of them were only at the first or second layer.
At the very front, there were a dozen older cultivators at the tenth layer of Qi Condensation and above. Standing at their center were three old men, two at early Foundation Establishment stage and one at mid Foundation Establishment stage.
These dozen of cultivators were each holding spell flags in front of the stone wall and were continuously chanting, dissolving the spell formation that sealed the spring away. There were eight restriction talisman that was stuck on the stone wall, each of them pulsing with various-colored light.
Under the guidance of the three old men, the dozen cultivators quickened their incantations and the old men then raised their spell flags.
A short moment later, the three old men simultaneously raised one of their arms and shot out a spell seal, engulfing the wall in light and releasing the talismans on the wall.
At that moment, disciples holding jade boxes quickly rushed up and carefully put away the spirit talismans before immediately withdrawing. These restriction talismans were rare treasures to the small clans and they didn't wish to lose them.
Without the restriction talisman binding the mountain wall, white light shined from it and it began to tremble. The three old men standing in front simultaneously waved their spell flags and threads of light flew out from the point of the flags, each disappearing in the white light.
The stone wall intensely shook and the ground began to tremble. The stone wall opened up by splitting in the middle, revealing a thirty meter wide gap.
The young disciples of the three clans widely opened their eyes and focused on what laid within.
Since the three clans all viewed this spirit well as a treasure, an ordinary disciple would likely only see the actual spirit spring once in their lifetime, so these disciples didn't wish to miss it. But to tell the truth, any child from the clan was able to clearly describe the appearance of the spirit spring.
There was a three meter wide pool carved out from a large block of white jade that laid thirty meters deep into the cave. At a glance, the half-filled pool of spring water was completely pure, but what was even more notable about it was an indescribable fragrance that soothed the body and refreshed the soul.
An uproar was raised from the young disciples, but when the pale hairless old man turned around, he immediately silenced them with a stern glare.
He was the Huang Clan's Elder Huang Yuanming, a mid Foundation Establishment cultivator. He could be considered the first cultivator of the Spirit Scales Mountains. Not only did he inspire respect in the disciples of his own clan but also the disciples of the Wang and Li Clans.
The grey-robed old man at his side saw this and happily said with narrowed eyes, "Hehe! Brother Huang's influence is quite effective. You've made those youngsters obedient."
The third azure-robed old man added on with a tone of admiration, "Of course. Brother Huang's cultivation has already reached mid Nascent Soul stage. Perhaps he will still be able to reach late Foundation Establishment stage."
Huang Yuanming chuckled. "You little brothers must be joking. If there is still an opportunity to advance my cultivation at my age, I would rather give it to our juniors. Let's hurry and brew and spirit tea for those youngsters. There seems to be more spring water here than in the past. This is a find matter indeed."
The other two clans were inferior to the Huang Clan and were only able to barely raise a Foundation Establishment cultivators of their own. These two cultivators were long time friends with Elder Huang.
The two old men smiled and didn't further mention the matter. Then they began to command the assigned disciples to step forward and begin their tea brewing.
Two disciples then stepped forward from each of the clans and they head straight to the pool. But before they arrived, an astonishing scene suddenly occurred.
Thunder suddenly rang out ten meters above the pool and rainbow light wildly flickered, bringing forth a black sphere of light. The jet-black sphere strangely crackled and began to deform to create a three meter tall spatial tear. Then a silhouette appeared from the rainbow light and dropped down into the jade pool.
Afterwards, the spatial tear wildly blurred before disappearing without a trace.
When the silhouette fell into the pool, he yelped and quickly stood up. All of the cultivators present watched this with bizarre expressions.
Even Huang Yuanming, the leader of the cultivators, was left completely speechless.
A silhouette was a young man wearing azure scholar robes. He was surprised to find to have fallen in front of so many cultivators. After a brief moment of embarrassment, he regained his calm.
His body glowed with azure light and his drenched robes suddenly dried and released steam.
Han Li seemed to step into the air and floated above the water. Afterwards, his gaze turned to the most powerful cultivator present, Huang Yuanming, and spoke with a tone of unquestioning authority, "Where is this place? Am I still in the State of Dongyu?"
Huang Yuanming had already swept his spiritual sense past Han Li and found it to be unfathomably deep. This clearly illustrated that he was a Core Formation stage cultivator at the very least. Out of fear of offending him, he deeply bowed and carefully replied, "This is the State of Dongyu's Ning Province. May I know your esteemed name, Senior?"
The two cultivators also sensed Han Li's unfathomable cultivation and were also alarmed, hurriedly bowing with a deferential smile.
Han Li blinked with surprise and muttered, "The Ning Province..." He then wore a pensive expression.
After twenty seven years from the battle in Devilfall Valley, Han Li had finally escaped from the ruins of the Spirit Ether Garden.