Chapter 1980: Unexpected Trouble

Thus, Han Li emerged from the teleportation formation and strode out of the hall.

Not long thereafter, white light flashed again, and another two humanoid figures emerged within the teleportation formation; they were none other than the sword-bearing elderly man and the hideous elderly woman.

Han Li paid no heed to this and rose up into the air before flying back toward his own abode.

During his flight, he released his spiritual sense throughout the surrounding area, and he discovered that compared to when he had first left, Deep Heaven City was currently a lot more peaceful.

Aside from the patrolling guards on the streets, there were very few vagrant cultivators around.

The number of patrolling guards had also increased by severalfold, and all passing cultivators had to undergo stern examinations before being granted passage.

There was a tense atmosphere throughout the entire city.

With the enormous spiritual pressure that Han Li was giving off, there were naturally no patrolling guards who dared to get in his way. Thus, the stone pagoda that he had been residing in quickly appeared in the distance, and he flew directly into the hall on the highest level.

After looking around, a faint smile appeared on his face.

Everything was identical to how he had left it, but the floor was spotlessly clean, clearly indicating that the room had been regularly cleaned and looked after. It seemed that his disciples hadn't slacked off during his absence.

Han Li sat down onto the chair at the center of the hall, then swept a sleeve through the air.

Two talismans immediately shot forth before vanishing into thin air as two balls of fire, following which Han Li closed his eyes and waited in silence.

Moments later, two humanoid figures appeared outside the hall amid flashes of spiritual light. One of them was a handsome blue-robed young man, while the other was a young daoist priest with a wide grin on his face.

They were none other than Han Li's disciples, Hai Yuetian and Qi Lingzi.

Elated looks immediately appeared on their faces at the sight of Han Li, and they immediately rushed forward before extending respectful bows.

"We're so glad you've made a safe return, Master!"

"Oh? Did you two think that something had happened to me?" Han Li asked with a hint of a smile on his face.

"It's been a long time since you returned to Deep Heaven City, and there were some rumors being spread in the city, stating that you may have already perished by the hands of a Sacred Ancestor. However, those rumors are clearly all false now that you've returned safe and sound," Hai Yuetian said in an excited manner.

Qi Lingzi also nodded emphatically in agreement.

"Those rumors aren't entirely unfounded; I did indeed encounter some trouble and was forced into an extremely perilous situation by some Sacred Ancestor clones," Han Li said as his brows furrowed slightly.

Qi Lingzi and Hai Yuetian's smiles immediately faded upon hearing this.

"But that's all in the past; I'm back now, aren't I? On top of that, I encountered a great opportunity during this trip, and I can now begin preparing for a breakthrough to the late-Body Integration Stage," Han Li continued with a smile.

"You're going to make another breakthrough? That's fantastic! I look forward to the day Master becomes the most powerful cultivator in Deep Heaven City!"

"Allow me to congratulate you in advance, Master. With your incredible powers, even a Sacred Ancestor clone would be no match for Master after you reach the late-Body Integration Stage!"

Qi Lingzi and Hai Yuetian were both extremely elated to hear this and immediately began to flatter Han Li.

Han Li couldn't help but chuckle with amusement, but a thought then suddenly occurred to him. "How is Fellow Daoist Ice Phoenix doing? I don't seem to have detected her presence with my spiritual sense."

Hai Yuetian and Qi Lingzi's smiles stiffened upon hearing this, and they exchanged a peculiar glance before one of them replied in a hesitant manner, "Master, Senior Ice Phoenix was invited to a gathering."

Han Li was immediately able to identify that something was amiss, and his expression darkened slightly as he asked, "Are you two hiding something from me?"

Qi Lingzi's heart stirred upon hearing this, and he hurriedly replied, "We wouldn't dare, Master; it's just that we're not sure how to inform you of the situation. Truth be told, Senior Phoenix isn't attending this gathering of her own volition." 

"What do you mean? Is she being forced by someone else?" Han Li was rather surprised to hear this. "It seems that someone became aware of Senior Phoenix's true form, and they've constantly been nagging Senior Phoenix during the time you've been away. Due to your absence, there was no way for Senior Phoenix to avoid his harassment," Hai Yuetian said as a resentful look appeared in his eyes.

Han Li's eyes narrowed slightly upon hearing this, and after a short while, he asked in a cold voice, "Fellow Daoist Ice Phoenix is a Spatial Tempering cultivator; who would dare to harass her? Our human and demon races have forged an alliance during this devilish tribulation, so her identity as a demon shouldn't be an issue here. I know all of the elders of the city; even during my absence, I'm sure they wouldn't do something like this. Could it be that this is an outsider who only recently joined Deep Heaven City?"

"Your wisdom is truly unmatched, Master! I heard from Senior Phoenix that this man is a grand elder of Heavenlean City who only recently joined Deep Heaven City. You took such huge risk to reinforce their city, yet he's repaying your kindness by doing something like this; what an ungrateful piece of scum!" Qi Lingzi grumbled in an enraged manner.

"Heavenlean City? That's rather interesting. I've met both of the Body Integration Stage grand elders of the city; which one of the two is behind this?" Han Li asked as he stroked his own chin.

"It's Master Azure Dragon of the Nine Star Sect!" Hai Yuetian replied without any hesitation.

Han Li raised an eyebrow as he said in a cold voice, "I see. What reason does he have for harassing Fellow Daoist Ice Phoenix? There must be some enormous benefit to be reaped for him if he dares to do something like this despite knowing the relationship between Fellow Daoist Ice Phoenix and myself."

"Senior Ice Phoenix never mentioned this to us, but we heard through other avenues that this Azure Dragon seems to wish to engage in dual cultivation with Senior Ice Phoenix, and is willing to make her one of his concubines," Hai Yuetian replied after a brief pause.

Everything immediately became clear to Han Li upon hearing this, and he chuckled coldly, "Dual cultivation, eh? Hehe, what a sly old bastard!"

He didn't know how Master Azure Dragon had managed to identify the Ice Phoenix's true form, but it seemed that he was aware of the benefits of Ice Phoenix Origin Yin Qi, and that was why he was trying to court the Ice Phoenix at all costs.

As for why he still hadn't achieved his objective, this was partially due to the Ice Phoenix's unwillingness to oblige, and also due to the fact that he couldn't force himself upon her as he had to maintain his reputation in the eyes of the other Body Integration cultivators in the city. Of course, the reason why he dared to be so reckless in the first place had to be because he had thought that Han Li had already perished.

Han Li contemplated the situation for a moment before asking, "What is Fellow Daoist Ice Phoenix's stance on this? Is she against this?" 

"Of course she's against this! In the beginning, she constantly hid in the pagoda to avoid this Master Azure Dragon, but after that, he somehow forced her to meet him a few times outside the pagoda. Senior Ice Phoenix was very careful and made sure to meet him only in places where there were many people around, but I heard that this Master Azure Dragon is becoming quite impatient and has threatened on multiple occasions to use force if Senior Ice Phoenix continues to resist. We've always been very concerned about this, but we know that the elder of the city won't step in unless that Master Azure Dragon actually does something out of line. I'm assuming this is also why Master Azure Dragon had refrained from taking drastic measures up to this point." Qi Lingzi was clearly smarter than Hai Yuetian and offered his own analysis.

Han Li nodded in response as a hint of killing intent flashing through his eyes. "Perhaps so. Do you know where this gathering is being held?" 

"I heard that it's going to be a small exchange convention held at the Origin Pocket Pavilion. However, only cultivators at or above the Spatial Tempering Stage can attend the convention, so we were unable to accompany Senior Ice Phoenix," Hai Yuetian replied in a resigned manner.

"You two wouldn't be able to make any difference even if you had accompanied her. So be it, I'll make a trip there myself and bring her back," Han Li said with a dark expression before rising to his feet.

He then flew directly out of the stone pavilion, and Qi Lingzi and Hai Yuetian were both quite startled by Han Li's abrupt departure as they hurriedly extended respectful parting salutes.

When the two of them raised their heads again, Han Li was already nowhere to be seen.

The two of them couldn't help but exchange a glance upon seeing this.

"Master normally doesn't interact much with Senior Ice Phoenix; I didn't think he cared that much about her. Do you think Master has feelings for her? Perhaps we'll have to start referring to Senior Ice Phoenix as 'mistress' soon!" Hai Yuetian said as a suggestive smile appeared on his face.

"Hehe, it's best for us not to discuss our seniors like this, but it's certainly a possibility." Qi Lingzi was giving quite a straight-laced response, but the look on his face clearly indicated that he was very curious as well.

Hai Yuetian naturally rolled his eyes at him upon seeing this.

At this point, Han Li was already several tens of kilometers away.

He had stayed in Deep Heaven City for quite some time, and during that time, he had visited the renowned Origin Pocket Pavilion on two or three occasions.

The pavilion was rather far away from his stone pagoda, and he couldn't fly at full speed in the city, so it would take him some time to get there.

As he was flying through the air, there was a contemplative look in his eyes, indicating that he seemed to be pondering something.

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