Han Li's gaze wasn't focused on the bat but the cultivators that were standing on top of it. Although they were quite some distance away, he was still able to clearly see them with his Brightsight Spirit Eyes.
The group of cultivators had four men and four women. The men wore embroidered robes, jade bands, and magnificent ornaments. As for the women, they wore golden belts, white robes, and were barefoot. From their attire, one could clearly tell they weren't from the Soaring Tribes. All of them were at Foundation Establishment stage apart for the two Core Formation cultivators that were leading them. And much to his relief, it appeared they hadn't come for him.
As these thoughts quickly flashed through Han Li's mind, the twenty-meter-long bat flew above the caravan and wildly flapped its wings before stopping above it.
A windstorm suddenly assailed them, blowing several carriages over and scattering their contents out onto the ground. Many of the mortals present even fell to the ground.
In that moment, the Soaring Tribes cultivators were all deeply shocked by this display and looked at each other in dismay.
"Who is your leader? Come out and speak." A forty-year-old man standing on top of the bat swept his eyes across the caravan and spoke coldly in the Soaring Tribes language. This person was one of the two Core Formation stage cultivators. The other Core Formation stage cultivator was a white-clothed woman that had a beautiful icy appearance.
When Ying Lu heard this, he felt his heart drop and immediately walked out in the front. But when he bowed and attempted to speak, he was interrupted by the middle-aged Core Formation cultivator with an annoyed expression, "I'm not talking about the mortals, but the cultivators." The huge bat then waved one of its wings and shot out another gust of wind, blowing Ying Lu several steps back and nearly causing him to fall onto the ground.
When the Soaring Tribes cultivators saw this, they were filled with terror. It appeared these cultivators didn't come with good intentions.
A moment later, they all looked in Han Li's direction. After all, in the cultivation world, leadership defaulted to the one with the highest cultivation.
When Han Li saw this, he felt a wave of gloominess. However, he then discovered that Feng Yue and one other Soaring Tribes cultivator had yet to emerge from their carriages.
It was understandable why Feng Yue hadn't emerged. After all, the proximity of his incoming death had left him on the edge of despair. He had nothing to fear from offending a high-grade cultivator. As for the other cultivator, he was the curious Soaring Tribe cultivator that only possessed a Foundation Establishment cultivation. It was quite questionable why he hadn't emerged.
'Could it be they came for him?' Han Li pondered.
Helpless, Han Li could only step forward and ask, "May I ask what brings you two Seniors over here? If you wish to find someone, something, or have us perform some other task, we are willing to do our best to comply."
A cold glint appeared in the middle-aged man's eye when he heard Han Li speak in a tone that was neither servile nor arrogant. He glanced at his cloak and said, "If you want to talk to me, take off your cloak. I wish to have a look at your face."
When Han Li heard this, his heart grew sullen, but since he never revealed his true appearance in his battle against the Soaring Tribes cultivators, the demand wasn't cause for alarm. Without another word, Han Li took his cloak off to reveal an ordinary face.
The cultivators standing on the bat all gazed at Han Li and he even sensed a secret technique employed through the man's eyes to observe him.
A moment later, the man withdrew his gaze and turned to the woman at his side, saying, "That's his true face. He isn't the traitor." The woman nodded and then she swept her gaze past the other cultivators in the caravan and shook her head.
At that moment, the middle-aged man turned to Han Li and said, "Tell your companions to come out. We're looking for someone and suspect they might be hiding amongst you. After we find him, we will leave the rest of you alone."
Then, the middle-aged man's lips moved, sending a series of voice transmissions out, and he waved his hand. The six Foundation Establishment cultivators flew off from the bat and they surrounded the carriages containing Feng Yue and the other Foundation Establishment cultivator.
The two carriages were completely silent. When the others saw this, the air became so heavy, they could hardly breathe. The tribe leaders who hired these two cultivators turned deathly pale.
Han Li frowned but remained silent.
When the man saw that the carriages were silent, he couldn't help but coldly laugh. With a wave of his hand, several fist-sized fireballs appeared in the air and shot down towards one of the carriages.
At that moment, a bitter laugh sounded out from one of the carriages. "Commander Gu, I already fled for the Soaring Sky Plains and traveled such a far distance. There is no need to execute me here, unless you absolutely insist on having this be my place of death?" Before he finished speaking, the carriage erupted and a blanket of white glacial Qi spread out, extinguishing the fireballs upon contact.
A burly youth in his late twenties made an appearance as he held a snow-white crystal ball in his hands, his expression continuously changing.
When the cultivators on the huge bat saw this, they revealed expressions of joy.
The middle-aged man's smile then faded away and he malevolently said, "Jiang Jianying, the Snow Crystal Pearl was in your possession as expected. My Mistress had you bring this pearl to North Ice Mountain's Sage North, but you dared to steal it away. You still have the audacity to speak? If you obediently return with us, we'll spare your soul."
At that same time, the six Foundation Establishment cultivators blurred and surrounded the youth, leaving him nowhere to run.
When the youth heard this, he smiled with rage. "Having me go to Sage North was the same as having me be a sacrifice. Wasn't I assigned that task because I had ice-attributed spirit roots? I would've been ideal sacrificial material to refine for this pearl. If I didn't run, I would've died!"
Standing on the bat next to the middle-aged man, the icy woman snorted and said, "So what if that were the case? Don't forget your current cultivation was all due to the medicine pills our palace gave to you. Otherwise, you would've perished a hundred years ago as a beggar, let alone become a cultivator. Not to mention the palace even allowed you to marry and have descendants. There is no problem in the palace asking for your body in return."
"Nonsense!" The youth scoffed, "Even if the palace didn't take me in, another large sect would have, given my mutated spirit roots. As for my wife and children, they are only small acts of kindness in exchange for my life. The palace can't actually believe that to be fair." He then raised the snow-white pearl and a pure white mist spouted out from it, surrounding him in a mist of ice spanning over sixty meters.
"You held such rebellious thoughts?" The woman emotionlessly said, "It is no wonder you didn't care for your family. We will have to bring you back to the palace to deal with your betrayal. Do you believe the Snow Crystal Pearl will be enough to deal with us? You're delusional." She waved her hand and the six Foundation Establishment cultivators raised scarlet spell flags in their hands. The flags then shot out of their hands and transformed into scarlet fireballs before condensing together into a single thirty-meter-wide fire cloud.
When the youth showed himself, the parties involved began to speak the language of the Great Jin. The other Soaring Tribe members were left at a complete loss. As for Han Li who already learned their language ahead of time, he was particularly dumbstruck when he heard their conversation.
What palace were they talking about? And a commander? Their words were greatly different from what one would expect of a cultivation sect. Rather, it was reminiscent of the various powers that existed in the Scattered Star Seas. Could it be the cultivation world of the Great Jin was as complicated as the one in the Heavenly South?
While the Soaring Tribes members couldn't understand their conversation, they knew that matters had turned for the worse. The mortals had already gone into hiding. As for the Soaring Tribe cultivators, they didn't dare to depart out of fear of causing a misunderstanding and could only protect themselves from accidental injury.
As the fire cloud slowly pressed down on the icy mist, steam roiled and dispersed in every direction in a rather lackluster display.
Although the Ice Crystal Pearl was rather wondrous, its user was a mere Foundation Establishment cultivator. He wasn't able to refine the treasure and make use of its true abilities. As soon as the confrontation began, it became obvious the icy mist was at an immediate disadvantage. The burly youth knew things were far from good and mustered the icy mist with all the might he could, but he was trapped by the fire cloud.
Not long after, the ice mist began to shrink and the burly youth wasn't able to block the fire cloud no matter how much magic power he poured into the pearl. After a few minutes, the mist had shrunk to the size of ten meters.
When the Core Formation woman saw this, she turned to the man at her side and said, "Commander Gu, take action. Since he is still useful, capture him alive."
"Be at ease. It will be done." The man nodded and then shot towards the icy mist in a streak of white light.
When the six Foundation Establishment cultivators saw this, they all formed a hand incantation and released the fire cloud.
The icy mist roiled and a short moment later, a huge bang sounded out along with a muffled hum before the mist slowly faded away.
The middle-aged man was firmly standing in place as he held the unconscious youth in one hand and the Snow Crystal Pearl in the other. Given the huge disparity in their cultivation, the old man struck down the youth with ease.
The icy woman wore a satisfied expression.
"Look after him. This trip can be considered a success." The middle-aged man handed over the youth to one of his subordinates and then pensively looked at the Soaring Tribes members who witnessed this battle.
The woman frowned and said, "Don't overreach yourself. This is the Endless Sky Plains, not our Nine Immortals Palace. Although we are acquainted with the Endless Sky Temples, it would be best not to incur any trouble. The Soaring Tribes are very defensive of themselves."
"I understand. Then let us set off. Yi! This is..." The man nodded and was about to leave when he unconsciously swept his gaze past one of the items left onto the ground and yelped with alarm.
When Han Li followed his gaze, he saw a transparent fist-sized stone.
It appeared quite peculiar. Its exterior was crystalline and its interior shined with a golden flame. Most of its exterior was filthy and unremarkable, but after the earlier steam wiped away the dirt that surrounded it, the stone regained a trace of its original appearance.
Just as Han Li was pondering where he had seen this stone before, Monarch Soul Divergence suddenly shouted out its name, "A Goldflame Stone! It's actually a Goldflame Stone! Youngster Han, your luck is quite good."
At that moment, he recalled the item was one of the crucial ingredients he needed to craft the Sevenflame Fan. It hadn't been seen in the Heavenly South for countless years and it was only something that could possibly be found in the Great Jin.