The masked woman was looking right back at Han Li without showing any weakness, but there were waves of shock surging through her heart.
She had thought that Han Li would be easy prey for her to capture, only to discover that he was far more powerful than she anticipated. As such, she was starting to become rather hesitant.
With the assistance of the Divine Essencefused Light and the Divine Essencefused Mountain, she was confident that she would have at least a 70% chance of victory if a battle were to ensue.
However, it would be close to impossible for her to kill or capture Han Li on her own.
If she were to do so, there was a good chance that Han Li would be able to escape and thereafter, the Star Palace would have earned itself a late-Nascent Soul Stage enemy. Thus, even as one of the Heavenly Star Sages, she didn't dare to act rashly in this situation.
As such, both Han Li and the woman fell silent. The entire palace was immediately enshrouded in a suffocating atmosphere that struck one with a sense of asphyxiation.
All of a sudden, Han Li's expression darkened as he raised his hand and feigned a grabbing motion.
Spiritual light immediately flashed as a large azure hand emerged. The hand flew through the air like lightning, plucking a streak of fiery light out of thin air before clamping it firmly within its palm.
The masked woman raised her eyebrows upon seeing this and a hint of surprise flashed through her eyes.
"I'd advise you not to go sending out voice transmission talismans, fellow Daoist. I don't want to be attacked by two cultivators of the same cultivation base as mine at the same time. As far as I'm aware, I haven't done anything to offend the Star Palace, so why do you harbor so much enmity toward me?" Han Li asked in a cold voice. At the same time, a layer of azure flames surfaced along the large azure hand, instantly reducing the streak of fiery light into nothingness.
"There seems to be a misunderstanding, Fellow Daoist Han. I have no intention of harming you. I'm merely attempting to express my gratitude toward you for saving my daughter all those years ago." The masked woman fell silent for a moment before a smile suddenly appeared on her face. The heavy atmosphere within the palace was suddenly relieved with her words.
"Daughter? Could it be that Fellow Daoist Ling is..." Han Li faltered slightly before an enlightened look appeared on his face. His expression also eased in response.
He knew that this woman's true intention clearly wasn't to express gratitude to him, but he decided to defuse the situation by playing along with her lies.
Han Li didn't consider it to be a problem to engage a late-Nascent Soul cultivator in battle. After all, he had slain late-Nascent Soul cultivators in the past and now that he had progressed to that cultivation base himself, he was far more powerful than he once was. However, at the same time, he was not interested in making enemies everywhere he went.
Furthermore, he was currently situated in the Heavenly Star City and was naturally rather wary of the Divine Essencefused Light.
"It seems you've already guessed it; Yuling is our only daughter and if it weren't for your help all those years ago, she would have most likely perished already. My Dao Companion and I have always been very grateful toward you," the masked woman said in a warm voice.
"No wonder Fellow Daoist Ling's aptitude is so exceptional; it makes sense that she's the daughter of the Heavenly Star Sages!" Han Li smiled in response.
"Surely you jest, Brother Han. In terms of cultivation aptitude, no one is a match for you. You've progressed from the Core Formation Stage to the late-Nascent Soul Stage in less than 200 years. That's simply unheard of! No one has been able to cultivate at such a phenomenal rate in the history of the human world; Yuling cannot compare to you." The masked woman chuckled as she shook her head.
She was very stunned by Han Li's insane rate of progression, and was trying to indirectly prompt him to reveal how he had made such extraordinary strides.
Han Li could naturally read between the lines and sense the indirect questions being posed, but he merely gave an ambiguous smile and didn't speak any further on this topic.
"I've heard a lot about the two Heavenly Star Sages and I would love to have a good chat with you, but I still have important matters to attend to, so I'm afraid I can't stay any longer. I would like to use the Star Palace's teleportation formation; you don't mind, do you?"
Han Li glanced at the teleportation formation before turning back to appraise the masked woman.
"Of course not! I have a guest elder badge here that you can take if you'd like. I know that with your status, you wouldn't actually want to become a guest elder at the Star Palace. This is just something that I'm lending to you on behalf of my Dao Companion and myself. With this badge, you'll be able to summon and use all of the resources of the Star Palace in the outer seas. Please accept it as a gesture of our gratitude." The masked woman immediately accepted Han Li's request and pulled out a shiny golden badge from a storage pouch hanging from her waist, which she tossed toward him.
Han Li was rather surprised by this gesture and he reflexively caught that golden badge being tossed at him. He examined the badge with a cursory glance before replying, "Thank you for your hospitality." After a brief hesitation, Han Li placed the badge into his storage pouch.
A hint of elation flashed through the masked woman's eyes upon seeing him accept the guest elder badge. She then took this opportunity to say, "When you return from the outer seas, my Dao Companion and I want to extend a formal invitation for you to come join us at our cultivation spot and discuss some experiences on our paths to the Deity Transformation Stage. Would you be interested in that?"
"Deity Transformation Stage? I've only just progressed to the late-Nascent Soul Stage and I would love to exchange cultivation experiences with cultivators of the same level, but my top priority is to fortify my cultivation base for now. However, if I do get the chance, I would visit you and your Dao Companion for sure." Han Li contemplated momentarily before turning down her invitation with an apologetic expression.
Late-Nascent Soul cultivators were extremely rare in the human world and to be able to hold a discussion with such cultivators was indeed a rare opportunity. However, he didn't want to plunge himself into a perilous situation for this opportunity. With his current power level, he was confident that he would be able to take on several late-Nascent Soul cultivators at once and emerge from the battle unscathed. However, that didn't mean that there was nothing in the human world that could pose a threat to him aside from Deity Transformation cultivators.
If he weren't careful, he could be trapped in an ancient restriction or some kind of powerful large-scale formation spell. If he were to be attacked by late-Nascent Stage cultivators in that situation, the outcome may not fall in his favor.
Thus, he immediately decided to euphemistically turn down her invitation to visit their cultivation spot. A hint of disappointment appeared on the masked woman's face upon hearing this.
As for whether she actually harbored ulterior motives in the invitation that she had extended to Han Li, even she couldn't be sure of that herself.
However, seeing as Han Li had turned her down, she was naturally not going to force the issue. Instead, she merely moved on to other conversation topics and continued to chat amicably with him.
Han Li gave a few polite responses before taking his leave.
The masked woman didn't try to stop him. Instead, she stepped away to the side, allowing him access to the teleportation formation. At the same time, she drifted away even further into the distance as a gesture of reassurance to Han Li, indicating that she wasn't going to disrupt his teleportation.
A faint smile appeared on Han Li's face and he paid this no heed as he strode on ahead.
The two Star Palace cultivators hurriedly stepped aside in a respectful manner, granting Han Li free passage to the teleportation formation.
However, as they did so, the Core Formation Stage couple and their disciples were revealed to him.
The graceful man didn't dare to say anything, either, and he immediately tried to drag his daughter away to get out of Han Li's path. However, to his surprise, the Core Formation Stage woman with whom he had been happily married to for over 100 years suddenly made her way over to Han Li, before extending a respectful bow.
"Wen Siyue pays her respects to Senior Han! Congratulations on progressing to the late-Nascent Soul Stage, Senior! If it weren't for your help all those years ago, I wouldn't be standing here today." This Core Formation Stage cultivator was none other than the woman who had almost become Han Li's servant in the Outer Star Seas, Wen Siyue.
"Siyue... You... You Recognize this senior?" The graceful man was rather flabbergasted.
Han Li turned toward the woman and said calmly, "Long time no see. I see you've also reached the Core Formation Stage; looks like you haven't been slacking off with your cultivation. Otherwise, with your aptitude, it would've been slightly difficult for you to reach this stage."
"It's all thanks to the pills you left for me, Senior. Otherwise, I would've never reached the Core Formation Stage!" Wen Siyue replied in a respectful manner.
"Your father and I are old acquaintances, so it was only right for me to help you out; you don't need to thank me. You look like you're in a hurry to get to the outer seas as well. Let's go together. This woman is an acquaintance of mine; you wouldn't mind if I took these people with me to the outer seas, would you?" Han Li turned and asked the masked woman.
"Of course not! Feel free to take them with you." the masked woman replied without any hesitation.
"You have my thanks."
Han Li nodded and didn't say anything further to Wen Siyue. Instead, he merely raised a leg and somehow appeared in the teleportation formation after taking just a single step. He had clearly just employed the "Distance Minimization Technique" that only late-Nascent Soul cultivators were capable of unleashing.
Wen Siyue and the others were all startled to see this before turning to Han Li with awe and veneration in their eyes. Only the thin and frail young woman's eyes lit up with curiosity as she looked at Han Li.
Han Li cast an incantation seal toward the edge of the formation before pulling out his Greater Teleportation Medallion. Just as white light began to glow within the formation, he turned to the masked woman with a smile, and asked, "By the way, I don't seem to have learned your name yet. Would you be so kind as to disclose it to me?"
"My name is Wen Qing." The masked woman was slightly taken aback by this question initially, but she still replied with a smile.
Right in this instant, Han Li disappeared amid the white light, and it was unknown whether he had heard her response or not.
The smile on the masked woman's face immediately disappeared.
She said in a frosty voice, "For granting them access to the teleportation formations, both of you will receive 20 lightning whiplashes each as a punishment. If you dare to do this again, I won't be so kind."
"Thank you for sparing our lives, Palace Master! We definitely won't ever do it again!"
The two petrified Star Palace cultivators were both horrified and elated upon hearing the punishment dictated by the woman. They were elated as the punishment was a lot less severe than they had thought it would be, but also horrified in that 20 lightning whiplashes would most likely make them bedridden for an entire month.
After delivering this verdict, a flash of light erupted from the masked woman's body and she disappeared on the spot.Previous Chapter Next Chapter