The Long Province was a large province located on the western portion of the Jin Empire. It has tall and expansive mountains, areas filled with toxic miasma, and venomous animals of all kinds.
This province was different from other areas of the empire. Only the illustrious Righteous Dao Sect — the High Sun Palace — and one of the ten great devilish sects — the Devilwood Sect — ruled over this large area. No external powers were able to involve themselves with the province.
As native cultivation factions only consisted of small sects and schools, they weren't able to pose the slightest threat to these two vast and powerful sects, and were forced to subject themselves under the control of either sect for protection. As a result, the region was split into the west and east.
In the west was the Heavenpeak Mountain Range where the High Sun Palace ruled. The mountain range spanned over a hundred thousand kilometers of wilderness. The palace was located on a mountain named South Sky Mountain at the very center of the mountain range. Tens of thousands of the sect's disciples resided in the various mountains nearby. With the addition of the surrounding mountains acting as a natural fortress, no cultivators dared to attack the High Sun Palace. Even particularly reckless individuals were unable to break through the grand spell formation surrounding the mountain which consisted of thirteen layers of fearsome restrictions.
But one day, when a group of High Sun Palace disciples flew out from the Heavenpeak Mountain Range, an azure streak suddenly flashed from the top of an unknown mountain nearby. There was an azure-robed youth that stood on a huge boulder with his hands held behind his back. He was silently staring at the group of disciples from behind.
Monarch Soul Divergence voice echoed through the youth's mind, "Youngster Han, do you truly plan on acting against the High Sun Palace? The sect is amongst the top sects of the ten great righteous sects of the Jin Empire. It doesn't seem wise to provoke them."
Han Li indifferently said, "I know, but we've already collected most the materials we need for the Triflame Fan. Now, we are only missing the Vast Yang Bird's plume feather and the Scarlet Fire Flood Dragon's scales. We already acquired information from the market city that many ferocious flood dragons have begun devouring cultivators on the eastern coast of the Jin Empire, and there seemed to be a red flood dragon amongst them. Even if it isn't the Scarlet Flame Flood Dragon, we may as well try our luck and see if it is another fire-attribute flood dragon. As for the Vast Yang Bird, we've looked through all the markets in the south to find that only the High Sun Palace raised it. Where else would we get its plume feather? I have no choice but to risk provoking them."
"I'm not telling you that you shouldn't steal the plume, but why don't you deal with them out in the open instead? With your current mid-Nascent Soul cultivation and the rare treasures in your possession, they might be willing to sell it with consideration of your might." Monarch Soul Divergence said with a chuckle.
Han Li let out a cold laugh and said, "Stop joking, Senior. An exchange will require both sides to have nearly equivalent strength. I am only a mid-Nascent Soul cultivator and they have a late-Nascent Soul cultivator in their ranks. How could a Junior like me catch their attention? Furthermore, the High Sun Palace's two Vast Yang Birds are considered a legacy of theirs. They wouldn't allow me to pluck its feather and cause a great decrease in its cultivation. If I brought out lowly treasures, they wouldn't be valuable enough to be worthy of their consideration, but if I brought out rare treasures instead, they would be tempted to kill me over it. Since I am a mere vagrant cultivator, they don't need to give me much consideration given the scope of their power. I am not willing to risk my safety over their whims. If I were a late-Nascent Soul cultivator, I might be willing to give it a try."
Monarch Soul Divergence pondered in silence for a spell and said, "Your words are reasonable. However, you've been wandering around the edge of the mountain range for over ten days. Could it be you're waiting for a Vast Yang Bird to fly out? But from your actions, it also seems like you're looking for something. Just what are you planning?"
Han Li's eyes wavered and he smiled, saying, "It's nothing. I'm only finding a suitable place to put down a trap."
"Set up a trap? Since you dared to act against the High Sun Palace, it is right to be stealthy. Tell me about your plans."
Han Li glanced at the heart of the mountain range and chuckled, "Wait until I find a suitable location and I'll tell you about it in detail. They have a larger and a smaller Vast Yang Bird. I wonder which one is more suitable to trap."
Monarch Soul Divergence lazily asked, "What's the point of talking about it? I hear the larger Vast Yang Bird is a grade-eight demon bird. Do you think you'll be able to capture it in a short amount of time?"
Han Li pondered for a moment and then nodded, "That's right. The only reason why birds of antiquity would remain under the control of the High Sun Palace is because their intelligence is difficult to awaken and they are unable to take human form in the mortal realm. I hear the smaller of the two birds should be weaker by an entire grade so it should be easier to deal with."
With a regretful tone, Monarch Soul Divergence mentioned, "But if you use the plume of the grade-eight Vast Yang Bird to refine the Triflame Fan, its might would be even greater."
Han Li shook his head, "Forget it. Nothing in this world is perfect. It is simply too dangerous to deal with the grade-eight Vast Yang Bird. In the extra time it would take, I fear I would alarm many High Sun Palace disciples. I don't want to repeat what happened in the Soaring Sky Plains."
Monarch Soul Divergence chuckled, "Yes, that sounds right. But regardless of their size, they will only occasionally fly out from the High Sun Palace. How do you plan on capturing one of the birds?"
Han Li coldly smiled and said, "Don't worry. I've already used the Dreamtear Technique on one of their disciples. Fearing that the birds would become difficult to control in prolonged confinement, the sect releases the birds every month to stretch their wings. This will be our opportunity to act."
"Since you already know this, there is no use for any of my advice. However, you mustn't take too long and miss the trade fair at the Jin Empire's capital city. It should have many materials that I'm missing for my puppet body." Monarch Soul Divergence warned.
"The capital trade fair is one of the three great trade fairs in the Jin Empire and only occurs once every ten years. I wouldn't want to miss it in any case. When this is done, I'll hurry over to the empire capital and afterwards, we'll have to find those flood dragons on the empire's east shore." Han Li said his future plans with a calm tone.
"That will do. But nevertheless, your recent actions have earned my respect. I originally believed you would need at least four years in order to reach your current collection of materials. I didn't think that you'd be able to effectively tackle the problem from two angles. With your hidden and open methods, you were able to gather most of the items you needed in only a single year. Tch tch, your decisiveness to act are beyond my expectations." It was clear from Monarch Soul Divergence's voice that he was greatly satisfied with Han Li's methods.
Han Li paused for a moment as his expression stirred. He then said, "I also wished to use a slower, more reliable method to look for materials, but time was limited. Although Senior's primal soul has the support of the Soul Nurturing Wood, its effects are clearly too weak. If I wish to create your Nascent Soul-grade puppet body, I'll need to be as quick as possible."
After a wry chuckle, Monarch Soul Divergence helplessly said, "So you were being considerate. I knew I couldn't hide it from you. I can only last three or four years at most. My primal soul is on the verge of scattering. But at the speed that you're collecting materials, I have high hopes my puppet body will be refined before I reincarnate."
After letting out a long sigh, Han Li said with a serious tone, "Ever since I've met Senior, you've helped me many times. I'm not a heartless person and I've committed these acts of kindness to memory. I will do my utmost to fulfill your dreams."
Deeply touched, Monarch Soul Divergence also let out a sigh and honestly said, "In truth, I was only helping you in self preservation. After all, if I were to fall into someone else's hands, I feared that nothing good would come of it."
Han Li smiled and in a flash of azure light, his body disappeared in the wind.
Two days later, Han Li discovered a small valley filled with peach trees. The valley was stained pink from the blooming peach blossoms that littered it.
Han Li floated above the valley and observed it in its entirety, then releasing his spiritual sense to cover a fifty kilometer area.
With an expression of satisfaction, he flew to the center of the peach tree forest and muttered, "Not bad, this place is quite remote and there are no High Sun Palace cultivators stationed nearby. This valley is ideal to place down a spell formation."
Then without another word, Han Li began to set himself to work.
In a single breath, eight sets of various formation flags and plates were placed in the forest. Five of these formations were meant to conceal auras and isolate Qi from the outside while three of them meant to restrain the spell formation. Additionally, he placed down an illusion formation, covering the true appearance of most of the forest.
Monarch Soul Divergence viewed this with great curiosity, but barely managed to keep himself from asking any questions.
With everything set up, Han Li went to the center of the peach tree forest and sat down cross-legged, entering a meditative state.