The city nearest to the Chang Province was named Birchleaf City. It was thousands of kilometers from the Myriad Link Mountains, but there were cultivators unwilling to sleep outside and they decided to sleep in the city instead. This had scared off the small sect originally occupying the city and made them flee back to the sect's mountain.
Although there were many cultivators gathering there, there were many inns in the city as well. There were no problems for them finding accommodations.
Among these inns, was a somewhat mediocre one by the name of the Good Fortune Tavern. There were two groups of cultivators checked in there, with each one staying in a different wing of the courtyard.
In one of the rooms, there were three people sitting around a wooden table and discussing something. These three were all young and beautiful female cultivators. They were Violet Spirit and Mei Ning, who Han Li had last seen at Skyfirst City, and the third woman was the white-robed woman surnamed Song.
At the moment, Violet Spirit was concealing her true appearance under the guise of a common female cultivator with only a slight beauty.
The three were softly discussing something with a serious expression. The walls around them glowed with white light as if under a restriction that prevented them from being eavesdropped on.
Violet Spirit frowned and asked with a worried tone, "Big Sister Song, you still haven't received word from Brother Han? It won't be long before the miasma clears entirely. If Brother Han doesn't appear, we will miss the best time to enter Devilfall Valley."
Cultivator Song smiled and said, "Little Sister Violet Spirit, you might not know this, but despite Martial Senior Cheng's proclamation that Martial Uncle Han had suffered injuries, I had learned in truth that he actually journeyed to the Far West. Although I don't know what business he has there, the journey there and back should take a year at the very least. He won't be returning here in a hurry. Besides, there are still several months left. I've left behind the location for where to contact us back at the sect. Once he returns, he will immediately seek us out. We just have to hope that he arrives on time. It's not as if there are cultivators in the Far West that can hold down Martial Uncle Han Li."
Reminded of the matter of the Umbra Realm, Violet Spirit couldn't help but say, "That is hard to say. Even if Fellow Daoist Han's cultivation is profound, there are matters that can't be resolved with a powerful cultivation." Then with a flicker of her eyes, she continued, "Big Sister Song, now that you've mentioned Martial Uncle Han, it seems you now speak of Brother Han with great respect. When you spoke of him before, you didn't hold him in such high esteem." With that said, Violet Spirit wore a mysterious smile.
Cultivator Song faintly blushed but she soon regained her calm. "If Little Violet Spirit is also capable of slaying a cultivator at the peak of mid-Nascent Soul stage, I would also hold you in high regard. Senior Martial Uncle Han is now on par with the three great cultivators of the Heavenly South. As his Junior, is it strange for me to speak of him with respect?"
Violet Spirit giggled and said, "This is only natural. It came as shock to me when I heard of his accomplishments. Ten years ago, he was still only a Core Formation cultivator like us, but now, he possesses astonishing abilities worthy of our admiration. It is hard to believe. Had we known this earlier, it would've been better to force him to take Little Sister Mei as a concubine. That would've guaranteed Little Sister Mei Ning a stable path of cultivation."
When Mei Ning heard this, she blushed, but she only snorted and said nothing else. A trace of sadness appeared in her eyes. Han Li had given her the choice, but it was a pity she had hesitated. With Han Li being the giant figure he was now, she could no longer easily mention the matter.
"Mei Ning nearly became Martial Uncle Han's concubine? This is the first time I've heard of this." After a moment's pause, Cultivator Song smiled and turned to Violet Spirit. "I've always believed there was some kind of relationship between Little Sister Violet Spirit and Martial Uncle Han. After all, your beauty is otherworldly. It is hard to believe that there is a man able to resist your charms."
Violet Spirit snorted and said, "Had I known at the time that Fellow Daoist Han would later possess such powerful abilities, I might've devoted myself to him. Had I become his Dao Companion my cultivation would be making far greater progress than now." She curled her lips to form a mysterious smile, hiding whether or not she was joking. This led to Cultivator Song feeling at a loss as to whether or not she should cry.
After a moment's hesitation, Violet Spirit deliberately said, "If Brother Han truly agrees to help us, we'll be able to smoothly acquire the Spirit Kindle Fruit, given his vast abilities. Big Sister Song, are you certain that you will not be entering Devilfall Valley? Mei Ning also doesn't wish to go because of the sudden rise of cultivators entering the valley. With her cultivation, it will too difficult for her."
With a moment of thought, Cultivator Song earnestly replied, "I've put much thought into it, but I'm different from the two of you. Although I am only at the early Core Formation stage, I am only a step away from the next level. It isn't worth it for me to brave such great dangers. As for the treasures of the valley, I am not willing to exchange my life for them. I know my limits."
"Since Big Sister Song has already decided, I won't persuade you. In truth, if Fellow Daoist Han doesn't arrive on time, I will not be heading into the valley alone. With so many high-grade cultivators coming along, the danger will be greatly increased and killing for treasures won't be an uncommon affair.
"If an early Core Formation cultivator like me were to enter, that's just asking for trouble. My mind isn't that muddled." Violet Spirit bitterly smiled and spoke with a dejected tone, leaving Mei Ning and Cultivator Song stunned.
With a strange expression on her face, Cultivator Song muttered, "I didn't expect for the Ghost Spirit Sect's plans to be leaked out. At the start, I believed that Little Sister Violet Spirit had leaked the information and planned to take advantage of the chaos."
In a display of feigned anger, Violet Spirit bluntly said, "Take advantage of the chaos? How could I do that? Naturally, the fewer cultivators that enter the valley, the better. It is only under those circumstances that we are able to forcibly catch the Ghost Spirit Sect off guard and pick the Spirit Kindle Fruit."
Suddenly, a familiar man's voice appeared outside the room, "Oh? So it wasn't Fellow Daoist Violet Spirit that spread the information? It seems to be the doing of someone else."
"Martial Uncle Han!"
Violet Spirit and Cultivator Song immediately recognized his voice and shouted out his name with pleasant surprise.
Violet Spirit raised her hand and struck the door with a spell seal. In a flash of white light, the door slowly opened.
There was a youth in his twenties standing there with his hands held behind his back, wearing half-worn out clothes. He looked at the three women with a slight smile on his face. It was Han Li who had returned from the Far West after spending two years there. He was carrying a foot-long yellow bamboo tube behind his back that was slung there as if he didn't have the mind to keep it in a storage pouch.
After some careful examination, Han Li appeared somewhat different from before. His bearing and temperament seemed to have undergone a significant change. He appeared even more unwavering and collected so that it gave people an unfathomable impression.
Without further thought, Cultivator Song hastily stepped forward and gave him a curtsy, respectfully saying, "I pay my respects to Martial Uncle Han!"
"Brother Han, you've finally arrived. I was starting to think that something had occupied you and you wouldn't be able to make it on time!" As if flustered, Violet Spirit stood up with a trace of a blush on her face. It was unknown how long ago Han Li had arrived. Could it be that he had heard the entire conversation?
When she recalled saying that she would've devoted herself to him, she couldn't help but reveal a trace of embarrassment in spite of her quick wit and relaxed manner.
"Since I've made an agreement with you, it is only natural to come on time." Han Li smiled and took a deep look at her before calmly entering the room.
Mei Ning bit her lip and gave Han Li a salute. He waved his hand and had her stop before taking an empty seat by the table.
Violet Spirit quickly regained her calm and sat back down. As for Cultivator Song, she hesitated before sitting back down.
Leaving the matter of Devilfall Valley for later, Violet Spirit asked, "Brother Han, when did you return to the Heavenly South? Was your journey to the Far West smooth?" She then reexamined him with an odd gaze.
Han Li smiled and said, "I encountered a few small problems in the Far West. Although they were resolved smoothly, it had taken up a bit of time. Else, I would've returned half a year ago."
Violet Spirit and Cultivator Song couldn't help but look at each other, curiosity filling their hearts. A small problem for the current Han Li couldn't have been a small matter. But so long as Han Li didn't want to talk about it, the two would not pursue the topic as a matter of shrewdness.
"Earlier I heard that only Lady Violet Spirit wishes to enter Devilfall Valley." Han Li turned his gaze to the other two women and calmly asked, "Martial Niece Song, Mei Ning, have you already made up your minds over the matter?"
"Since Martial Uncle already knows this, Martial Niece won't conceal it. After some thought and discussion, Fellow Daoist Mei Ning and I both feel that this journey will be too dangerous, so it'd be better for us to not go. I don't wish to risk my life over saving thirty years of cultivation. And not long before, Fellow Daoist Mei Ning acquired a medicine pill that will benefit her Core Formation. She also doesn't wish to put herself in danger. Devilfall Valley's title as the most dangerous area in the Heavenly South isn't something to scoff at. And since the Spirit Kindle Fruit is in the depths of the valley, the risk is even greater."
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