Chapter 1189: Within the Cave Abode

A short while later, Han Li sat on the main seat within the hall of his cave abode, and he was surrounded by four beauties, all of whom wore extremely respectful expressions and didn't dare to make a single sound.

Only after Mu Peiling's trio returned to the cave abode did they learn that not only had Han Li progressed to the late-Nascent Soul Stage, he was also the undisputed number one cultivator of the Heavenly South Region. The three women were quite shocked to hear these, and their awe and veneration toward Han Li were only compounded as a result.

Han Li wore a cold expression on his face, and was scolding Mu Peiling's trio. "There's no need to worry about the second Nascent Soul; it's already been captured, and I'm going to erase its sentient will soon, then refine it into my second Nascent Soul again. However, the three of you sure are quite brave; don't you know that the inner valley is an extremely dangerous place even for Nascent Soul cultivators?"

"Martial Uncle Han, we only took the risk to venture into the inner valley as the Illusionary Spirit Herb was of the utmost importance to us. We won't do something so reckless ever again," Song Yu explained with her hands clasped behind her back. Han Li had been acquainted with Song Yu even prior to reaching the Nascent Soul Stage, so he couldn't bring himself to scold her any further. Instead, his brows furrowed as he asked, "Illusionary Spirit Herb? Are you trying to refine the Illusionary Destruction Pill to assist in a breakthrough?" 

"Indeed, Master, that was our objective," Liu Yu replied in a truthful manner.

"If that's the case, you don't need to go searching for the Illusionary Spirit Herb anymore. I just so happen to have a vial of Illusionary Destruction Pills with me. Excessive consumption of pills during breakthroughs isn't advisable, so two pills for each of you will be enough." Han Li patted the storage pouch hanging from his waist, and a small green vial appeared in his hand, which he casually tossed toward Liu Yu.

This vial of pills was something that he had obtained from a certain Nascent Soul cultivator he had slain in the past. They served no use for him, so he decided to do the three women a favor by giving it to them.

Only after Liu Yu had reflexively caught the vial did Han Li's words register in her mind, and she immediately extended a gesture of gratitude toward Han Li in a shocked and elated manner.

Song Yu and Mu Peiling were also ecstatic as they extended grateful salutes.

"There's no need for formalities; its just a vial of pills. I called all of you here because I have a few things to tell you," Han Li said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

"We'll be sure to listen carefully, Martial Uncle Han," Song Yu replied in a respectful voice.

The other two women also adopted serious expressions in preparation to hear what Han Li had to say.

"The three of you should know that I've never liked to meddle in the sect's affairs. However, as the grand elder of the sect now, it wouldn't be appropriate for me to continue in this manner. I've left all of the troublesome matters for our Martial Uncle Lü to take care of, but I'll need a disciple to correspond with and assist him in overseeing the matters within the sect during my periods of seclusion. Liu Yu, would you be willing to take care of some matters within the sect in my place? Of course, I won't ask you to do this for me free of charge. I'll teach you some secret technique mantras and also reward you with a few treasures, all of which will make you one of the most powerful cultivators at your cultivation base. Hehe, even though you were forced to become an in-name disciple of mine in the beginning, if you agree to undertake this duty, I can officially make you my disciple," Han Li offered with a meaningful look in his eyes.

"Is that true, Master?" Liu Yu blurted out as her eyes lit up.

Han Li smiled and answered her question with one of his own. "Would I lie to you at my current status?" 

"If that's the case, then I would be honored to accept this task!" Liu Yu replied without any hesitation.

Perhaps it was the prospect of attaining more power and influence within the Drifting Cloud Sect that was alluring to her, or perhaps it was the idea of officially becoming Han Li's disciple that was that appealed to her. Maybe it was a combination of those two factors that prompted her to so readily agree to this arrangement. In any case, Han Li had achieved his first objective, and he nodded with a content expression.

He waved his sleeve through the air, and a white jade slip appeared in his hand. He then pulled out a pair of green bracelets, a fiery ruler, and a shiny golden flying sword from his storage pouch, and bestowed all of those items upon her.

Liu Yu accepted the jade slip and the treasures with both hands, and she bowed over and over again to express her gratitude with an overjoyed expression on her face.

She didn't know that techniques were recorded within the jade slip, but just these ancient treasures alone were unimaginable treasures to her, and were more than enough to satisfy her.

"Go and pay a visit to Senior Martial Brother Lü. I'll inform him of this arrangement right away through a voice transmission," Han Li instructed.

Liu Yu immediately nodded before departing following a final respectful salute.

After she had left, Han Li flipped over his palm, and a voice transmission talisman appeared in his hand.

He spoke a few words into the talisman before sending it on its way, and it disappeared into the distance in a flash as a streak of light. Everyone else looked on in silence, and no one dared to disrupt Han Li during this process.

"Martial Niece Song, I also have something for you to do," Han Li said as he slowly turned to Song Yu.

"Please enlighten me, Martial Uncle Han," Song Yu immediately replied.

Han Li paused for a moment before continuing, "It's not actually an extremely important matter; I was only hoping that you'd be able to keep an eye out for cultivators with inherently powerful spiritual sense from birth among the disciples recruited by the sect during the next few years. I want to take one as my disciple and instruct them in person."

"An inherently powerful spiritual sense from birth? Disciples of that nature are extremely rare so I can't make any guarantees, but I'll do my best." Song Yu was a little hesitant after hearing this request.

"It's alright, this is not an urgent matter. It's just something for you to keep in the back of your mind. I can see that you've already reached the peak of the mid-Core Formation Stage. In that case, your chances of making a breakthrough by taking the Illusionary Destruction Pill alone won't be very high. I also have a vial of Yin Essence Pills here, which aren't as renowned, but they're extremely potent for female cultivators. You can try taking a few when attempting your breakthrough, Martial Niece Song." Han Li raised a hand as he spoke, and a small black vial appeared in his hand amid a flash of azure light, then flew soundlessly toward Song Yu.

As expected, Song Yu had never heard of this obscure Yin Essence Pill, but she certainly wasn't going to ignore a recommendation from a great cultivator like Han Li. 

Thus, an elated look appeared on her face, and she accepted the jade vial with words of gratitude.

Han Li spoke with Song Yu for a bit longer before sending her on her way. He then turned his gaze toward Mu Peiling.

Mu Peiling's body stiffened slightly in response, and she reflexively lowered her head as a faint blush appeared on porcelain-like skin.

A complex expression appeared in Han Li's eyes as he asked in a gentle voice, "You've been my concubine for over a century now, right?"

Mu Peiling raised her head in the end, and quietly replied, "That's right, my Lord. Back when you first accepted me as your concubine, you had only just reached the Nascent Soul Stage, but you're already a late-Nascent Soul great cultivator now."

"Back when I had accepted you as my concubine, I had planned to use your virgin body to cultivate the Copulation Essence Arts in order to assist me in my breakthroughs. However, I've since progressed at a rate that has been extraordinary, even to me, reaching the mid-Nascent Soul Stage, then the late-Nascent Soul Stage through alternative avenues, yet the Copulation Essence Arts are only effective during Nascent Soul Stage breakthroughs." "My Lord, are you banishing me from the interconnected peaks?" Mu Peiling's features immediately paled.

"Banish you? Of course not. However, you chose to become my concubine in the beginning mostly because you were forced to do so by your family. You're already a Core Formation cultivator now, so no one will be able to force you to do anything against your will. I also don't want to keep you by my side in such an ambiguous manner any longer. On one hand, it would be a waste of the best years of your life; on the other hand, Wan'er is about to break free from the ice wall in the next few years, and I have to be able to give her a proper explanation of what's going on between us." Han Li's words faltered here.

"So what do you plan on doing with me, my Lord?" Mu Peiling asked as she bit down on her lower lip.

"It's quite simple; I'll give you two options, just like I did back then, and you can choose one of them. The first option is that I'll give you a materialistic reward for your efforts in cultivating the Copulation Essence Arts for these past years. I'll then release you from the interconnected peaks, and you'll be completely free to marry anyone you like. In that case, we would be cutting all ties with one another!"

"My Lord, with your current reputation, even if you were to release me and vouch for my purity in person, which cultivator in the Heavenly South Region would dare to marry me?" Mu Peiling murmured with a wry smile on her face.

Han Li's brows also furrowed upon hearing this, but he continued, "The second option is quite simple as well; if you're truly serious about cultivation and would be willing to dedicate your life to it, I can allow you to continue to stay on the interconnected peaks. Officially, you'll still be known as my concubine, but I can treat you as a disciple and provide you some guidance in your cultivation path. Of course, your cultivation aptitude is actually quite good, so I can also get Wan'er to make you an official disciple of hers. After all, Wan'er's cultivation art is more suitable for female cultivators anyway, so perhaps you'll benefit more from her guidance."

Han Li looked at Mu Peiling with a calm expression, and concluded, "Of course, there may still be some negative rumors spread about you, but this course of action will keep that to a minimum."

Mu Peiling fell silent after hearing the options presented by Han Li.

Han Li didn't try to hurry her, either, and merely waited patiently for her decision.

After a prolonged silence, she suddenly asked, "Can I choose neither of those options?"

"What do you mean by that?" Han Li's brows furrowed slightly.

Following another brief silence, a decisive look appeared on Mu Peiling's face as she said, "I want to become a true concubine of yours, my Lord! I want to stay with you for the rest of my life!"

"You want to become my concubine? That won't work." Han Li's expression changed slightly as he shook his head.

"Why? Do you despise me for my lowly cultivation base or find me unsightly to look at, my Lord?" Mu Peiling's face paled even further.

"That's not the case. You already possess a mid-Core Formation Stage cultivation base, which isn't lowly by any means. Your beauty also ranks in the top 10 among all female cultivators that I've ever seen," Han Li sighed.

"Then why are you rejecting me? Are you afraid that Elder Nangong won't agree to this arrangement?" Mu Peiling asked.

After a brief silence, Han Li heaved a resigned sigh, and said, "That's only one factor of consideration. The most concerning thing to me is that I'm completely dedicated to my pursuit of the Great Dao, and going into seclusion for several decades at a time will be a regular occurrence for me in the future. It would be fine if you could reach the Nascent Soul Stage and attain a lifespan of over 1,000 years, but if you can't, then you'll most likely only be able to see me a few times in between my bouts of seclusion before you pass away. That would be a waste of your life, and I don't want to see that." 

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