Han Li's voice wasn't very loud, but it was like a loud thunderclap in the elderly man's ears, and he was instantly jerked awake.
"Ah, welcome! I'll find a room for you right away, Senior." The elderly man shuddered before sitting bolt upright, then hurriedly pulling out a shimmering white treasure that bore the appearance of an accounts book and quickly searching through it.
Han Li's brows furrowed upon seeing this. This elderly man was a cultivator as well, so why was he so unalert? It appeared that he wasn't pretending earlier and really had fallen asleep.
Just as these thoughts were running through his mind, he cast a glance at the elderly man's face, upon which his expression changed drastically, and he exclaimed, "You... You're Senior Martial Brother Xiang! Why are you here?"
The sickly old man was none other than the Xiang Zhili, who had entered the spatial node in the human world ahead of Han Li.
His soul lamp had been snuffed out along with those of Old Devil Hu, Eccentric Wind, and the others not long after they'd entered the spatial node, so he should be dead. That was why Han Li was so stunned to see him alive here.
The elderly man abruptly faltered upon hearing Han Li's words, and only after a short while did he slowly raise his head to look up at Han Li.
"Junior Martial Brother Han, it really is you!" the elderly man murmured with a peculiar expression that was caught somewhere between a smile and a grimace.
"Yes, it's me. Why are your cultivation base and aura so..."
Han Li swept his spiritual sense toward Xiang Zhili, upon which a confused look appeared on his face.
Xiang Zhili had been a Deity Transformation cultivator even back in the human world, yet his cultivation base had since regressed to the Core Formation Stage, and his aura was extremely feeble, as if his body had sustained severe damage.
Xiang Zhili stared blankly at Han Li for a long while before a thought suddenly seemed to have occurred to him, and he hurriedly rose to his feet as he said, "Junior Martial Brother, you also came to the Spirit Realm through a spatial node, right? You seem to have progressed significantly in your cultivation as well. This is not the place to talk; there won't be any customers anytime soon anyway, so come with me and we'll talk elsewhere."He then led Han Li toward a door situated on the side of the hall, and Han Li hesitated momentarily before following along.
After entering through the door, the two of them arrived in a long corridor, on either side of which a series of exotic plants were growing. Xiang Zhili didn't lead Han Li very far before pushing open a nearby stone door and inviting Han Li into the room.
"Take a seat, Junior Martial Brother. Never would I have thought that I'd see you again in my life. In my current state, I'm almost too embarrassed to be in your presence," Xiang Zhili chuckled with a wry smile as they both took a seat. His voice was very dejected and sullen, and he seemed to only be a shadow of his former self.
"What happened to you in the spatial node all those years ago? Are the other two still alive?" Han Li asked.
"Eccentric Wind and Old Devil Hu both died. We were extremely unlucky and encountered multiple spatial storms along the way. On the last occasion, two spatial storms stacked on top of one another, and I was the only survivor among us three. However, I'd lost almost all of my cultivation base from unleashing too many secret techniques in quick succession in order to save myself. What little cultivation base I have now is a result of many years of arduous cultivation," Xiang Zhili sighed in a resigned manner.
"The spatial node was indeed an extremely perilous place, so the fact that you survived is very much a silver lining on an otherwise dark cloud. However, the soul lamp that you'd left in the human world had already snuffed out, and why are you here on the Thunder Continent as opposed to in human territory?" Han Li asked.
"My soul lamp was most likely snuffed out due to the secret techniques I used to save myself. The after-effects from using those secret techniques left me in such a terrible condition that I was as good as dead. As for why I'm here on this continent, I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that question. I was able to barely survive the spatial storms that I encountered, but as soon as I emerged from the spatial node, I ended up here. If I hadn't been saved by someone, I wouldn't even be alive right now. From the sounds of it, you ended up in the human territory of the Spirit Realm after emerging from the spatial node. In that case, I can only assume that the spatial storms blew me completely off course." There was still a hint of lingering fear in Xiang Zhili's eyes as he recalled his horrific experiences in the spatial node, even after so many years had passed.
Han Li merely nodded without giving a reply this time.
"Why are you here doing this kind of job, Senior Martial Brother Xiang? Have you thought about returning to the human race?" Han Li asked with a serious expression.
"The owner of this inn is a Stone Cocoon being, and he's the one who saved my life. He's quite kind-hearted and also quite powerful. He also seems to have some status in the Stone Cocoon Race, and I decided to look after his inn for him to repay him for his kindness, and also because I have nowhere else to go. As for returning to the human race, I'd already given up on that dream long ago. There is indeed a teleportation formation under the control of the 13 Heavenly Cloud Races that could facilitate teleportation to other continents, but it's said that an enormous amount of spirit stones is required to activate the formation each time, and just that expenditure alone is enough to strip a holy race being of all their wealth. Even if I were to return to the height of my powers, I'd still be far from entitled to use the formation. Besides, even if I were to teleport to the Tian Yuan Continent, in my current state, there's no chance for me to pass through the primordial world to travel to human territory. On top of that, there's no chance for me to ever reach the Spatial Tempering Stage, so I'm planning to spend the rest of my life here," Xiang Zhili replied with a forlorn shake of his head.
Han Li didn't know how to comfort him after hearing that.
"By the way, I haven't heard about your experiences yet. Even though I can't return to the human race, I still want to hear about how us humans are doing in the Spirit Realm. Can you tell me about that, Junior Martial Brother Han?" Xiang Zhili asked.
"There's not much to show and tell in terms of my experiences. After reaching the Deity Transformation Stage, I also traveled to the spatial node according to the coordinates you sent me, and I ventured into it along with the Ice Phoenix, who had also reached the Deity Transformation Stage by then. I was quite lucky in that even though I also encountered spatial storms, I was able to emerge largely unscathed with the assistance of the Ice Phoenix's spatial abilities. As for the current situation that the human race is in, I can't say that we're thriving. At most, we're just barely able to get by. As for the specifics..." Han Li gave a brief recount of his own experiences, but refrained from disclosing the fact that he'd also once completely lost his cultivation base. As for the matters surrounding the human race, there was nothing strictly confidential anyway, so Han Li was happy to disclose the current situation to Xiang Zhili.
"So we have three territories and a large number of Body Integration cultivators among our ranks? In that case, I can breathe a sigh of relief." Xiang Zhili listened intently to Han Li's story before heaving a long sigh.
Han Li fell silent again for a short while before suddenly asking, "Is there really a super teleportation formation in the 13 Heavenly Cloud Races? How did you hear about this, Senior Martial Brother Xiang?"
"Hehe, do you intend to use the teleportation formation as well? It's not really a confidential matter. Not only is there one in the 13 Heavenly Cloud Races, the Jiao Chi Race and the Night Race also have one each. Among the major races in this area, only the Explosion Race is apparently yet to construct one. Teleportation formations capable of teleporting beings between continents are only accessible to beings at or above the Body Integration Stage, and you're not a Heavenly Cloud being, either, so it's going to be very difficult for you to secure approval to use the formation. Thankfully, the 13 Heavenly Cloud Races aren't too xenophobic toward foreign beings, so you should just settle and cultivate here; you'll be able to keep me company then. You can consider returning to the human race after progressing to the Body Integration Stage. By the way, what's your cultivation base at the moment? I can sense that you're far more powerful than you were back in the human world, but I'm unable to detect your exact cultivation base," Xiang Zhili muse with a curious look on his face.
"I'll have to think about the teleportation formation later, but at present, I've fortunately been able to progress to the Spatial Tempering Stage." Han Li made no effort to hide his cultivation base.
"The Spatial Tempering Stage? You really have been progressing extremely quickly, Junior Martial Brother Han. In that case, you no longer have to worry about the limitations of a lifespan," Xiang Zhili sighed in an envious manner upon hearing this.
"Technically, I'm immortal, but with the major heavenly tribulation that strikes me one every 3,000 years, my worries are certainly far from over. Each successive heavenly tribulation will be fiercer than the previous one, and I'll eventually die anyway unless I can ascend to the True Immortal Realm," Han Li said with a faint smile.
"That's not the same thing. After reaching the Spatial Tempering Stage, you'll have thousands of years between heavenly tribulations, so you'll be able to take your time in your cultivation. With your brilliant aptitude, who's to say you won't be able to ascend to the True Immortal Realm in the end?" Xiang Zhili chuckled with a shake of his head.
"Our human and demon races have had no lack of freakish prodigies, yet how many of them have managed to ascend to the True Immortal Realm in the end? I'm only focusing on taking my cultivation one step at a time, rather than looking ahead too far and being overly ambitious," Han Li said with a wry smile.
"Hehe, let's discuss this matter at another time. I have to look after the inn for now, and I'll come to your room tonight for a more in-depth chat. You wouldn't refuse to see me, would you, Junior Martial Brother Han?" Xiang Zhili chuckled.
"Of course not. I've only just arrived in Cloud City, so I also have some things that I need to ask you about." Han Li nodded in response.
Thus, Xiang Zhili picked out a relatively secluded room for Han Li to stay in before returning to the hall.
Han Li set up a restriction within the room, then sat down in a cross-legged manner and fell into deep thought.
The fact that he'd encountered Xiang Zhili here forced him to reconsider some things.Previous Chapter Next Chapter