Chapter 2351: The Key

In a small valley on the outskirts of the Myriad Moon Mountain Range, over 100 high-grade cultivators wearing different attire were gathered together, manning an unknown giant formation

A burly brocade-robed man with an authoritative appearance was standing off to the side, overseeing the proceedings in an expressionless manner.

......

In a swamp that was filled with countless venomous insects, there was a shimmering azure cauldron sitting on a blue stone platform.

Three hideous elderly men were seated around the stone platform with their eyes shut, seemingly cultivating something.

......

"The eight nations near the Qi Yun Mountain Range were all destroyed? How is that possible?"

In a giant city countless kilometers away, a green-robed elderly man was staring at a yellow-robed man with an incredulous look in his eyes.

"I wouldn't dare to lie about something like this, Master Bi Ying. Everyone in those eight nations, regardless of whether they're officials or normal citizens, disappeared a month ago, and not a single survivor was found," the yellow-robed man replied in a fearful manner.

"What about all the sects in the Qi Yin Mountain Range? Surely they would've noticed something as extraordinary as this," Bi Ying said with a dark expression.

"I conducted an investigation into this as well, and all of the people in the 19 sects in the Qi Yun Mountain Range also vanished just like the people in the eight nations," the yellow-robed man replied with a wry smile.

"They all disappeared as well? Those 19 sects aren't anything noteworthy individually, but combined, they form a formidable power that can't be ignored; even our trade guild wouldn't be able to wipe them out completely in secret. Haven't you discovered any leads in the wake of something this bizarre?" Bi Ying asked.

"We did manage to discover some leads. As soon as we discovered what had happened, we immediately sent some people to the eight nations and 19 sects to investigate. Once there, we discovered no signs of struggles taking place in any of the nations or sects, which means that everyone was either voluntarily taken away, or the perpetrator was so powerful that the nations and sects couldn't even resist at all," the yellow-robed man replied.

"Which one of those do you think is most plausible?" Bi Ying asked.

"I think it's very likely to be the latter," the yellow-robed man replied.

"Why is that?"

"Setting aside all of the citizens of the eight nations, there's no way that the cultivators of the 19 sects would've willingly left their sects. On top of that, we discovered some traces of a residual Blood Dao aura in the Qi Yun Mountain Range. As you know, only Blood Dao cultivation arts include methods to drastically enhance one's power through blood sacrifices. The residual Blood Dao aura in the Qi Yin Mountain range was extremely fearsome, so it was definitely left behind by Grand Ascension Stage Blood Dao powerful beings, and only those beings would do something as brazen as this," the yellow-robed man analyzed.

"That makes sense. In that case, the perpetrator is most likely the owner of that Blood Dao aura. This is an extremely important matter, but the entire trade guild is preparing for the sparring match against the Infernal Realm, so we can't divert too much of our efforts. Having said that, two of those eight nations are subsidiaries of our trade guild, so we can't just turn a blind eye to this, either. Here's what we'll do: the Blood Cry Sect and the Wind Snake Race are the closest powers to the Qi Yun Mountain Range, go deliver the results of your investigation to them.

"Both of those powers have Grand Ascension Stage beings among their ranks, and they both have ties to the Qi Yun Mountain Range, so they'll definitely step in. I'll also ask Daoist Yan Yu to collaborate with the Grand Ascension Stage beings of those two powers to investigate this matter together," Bi Ying decided.

"I understand, Master Bi Ying; I'll arrange that right away," the yellow-robed man replied with a respectful bow.

......

There was a huge green lake situated to the north of the Qi Yun Mountain Range, and there were some fish and prawns swimming within the lake that were visible from the surface.

The lake seemed to be as normal as normal could be, but there was an unfathomably deep underwater canyon on the lakebed.

A series of profound restrictions had been set up in the air above the canyon, encompassing the entire length of the canyon.

Beneath the restrictions were clouds of blood mist that refused to disperse, staining the entire canyon a bright red color, thereby making it impossible to see into the canyon.

Beneath these clouds of blood mist was a reddish-black river of blood that was giving off a rank and gorey odor. The river was over 1,000 feet wide and stretched as far as the eyes could see, extending into the extremely far distance along the canyon.

Atop this flowing river of blood sat a murky humanoid figure who was making a hand seal with one hand, while holding a shimmering object in his other hand.

Streaks of viscous blood were flowing into the object incessantly from the river down below.

......

Half a month later, Han Li was meditating in the courtyard when a clear ringing sound suddenly rang out from his body, and his eyes immediately sprang open as he swept a sleeve through the air to release a streak of golden light.

This was a golden talisman, and after appraising the talisman for a moment, he stowed it away before vanishing on the spot.

Several hours later, Han Li departed from Blood Crane City with the blood soul and the others, heading directly toward the Myriad Moon Mountain Range.

Meanwhile, Xiao Ming was situated in the palace at the center of Blood Crane City, and not long after Han Li's departure, he exclaimed, "What? That human Grand Ascension Stage being has already left the city and is traveling toward the Myriad Moon Mountain Range?"

A man at the Body Integration Stage was standing respectful before Xiao Ming, and he replied, "That's right, I came to inform you right away as soon as Senior Han left the city."

"You did well; you can go now," Xiao Ming instructed as he waved a dismissive hand.

The man immediately left the hall as he was told.

Spatial fluctuations erupted beside Xiao Ming, and Mistress Wan Hua and Daoist Qing Ping appeared. "So Han Li also went to the Myriad Moon Mountain Range. With his powers, that's going to be very troublesome."

Mistress Wan Hua was the one who had spoken, and the wariness in her voice clearly indicated that she had been slightly traumatized by Han Li's power.

"It couldn't be a coincidence, could it? Fellow Daoist Han said himself that he had some other important matters to attend to in this area, and the Heavenly Cauldron Palace hadn't opened yet, so if he's here for it, then he's setting off a little too early," Xiao Ming speculated.

 "I think we'd just be fooling ourselves if we write this off as a coincidence. There is indeed still some time left until the opening of the palace, but Fellow Daoist Han isn't the only one who's already gone to wait in the mountain range. There are most likely already many people gathered in the Myriad Moon Mountain Range, so it wouldn't be surprising if he were going there for the same objective," Daoist Qing Ping replied in a calm manner.

"It looks like both of you are of the opinion that Fellow Daoist Han is also here for the Heavenly Cauldron Palace," Xiao Ming mused.

"I can't say for sure, but there's a very good chance that this is the case. Do you have any effective strategies against such a formidable competitor, Brother Xiao?" Daoist Qing Ping asked.

"That's not required. Regardless of how powerful he is, he won't be able to enter the palace without a key. Even if he does manage to obtain one, the Heavenly Cauldron Palace is filled with restrictions. You're a direct heir to Daoist Tian Ding, and I'm a master in the art of formations; we have nothing to fear!" Xiao Ming chuckled in response.

Daoist Qing Ping faltered slightly upon hearing this before a smile appeared on his face. "That's true, forgive me for my lack of composure. Regardless of how powerful that man is, as long as we can find the core of the palace before him, we'll have nothing to worry about even if he allies himself with other powerful enemies."

Mistress Wan Hua's expression also eased significantly upon hearing this.

In contrast, a contemplative look appeared on Xiao Ming's face.

......

Seven days later, Han Li was seated on a stone chair in the main hall of a temporary cave abode he had created in the belly of a mountain in the Myriad Moon Mountain Range. 

He was currently listening to a report from the blood soul.

"... Hence, my true body created me and left me outside the Heavenly Cauldron Palace with the Heavenvoid Cauldron as a safety precaution prior to entering the palace with her key. As long as she doesn't return at a set time, her clone, which is me, would be automatically activated with most of my memories sealed away. According to the divination of my true body, the Heavenly Cauldron Palace is about to appear for a second time soon, and we'll have to enter the palace if we want to save her.

"The Heavenvoid Cauldron is a replica key to the Heavenly Cauldron Palace refined using a secret technique recorded in the Golden Jade Tome. The replica key isn't as potent as a true key, so it would be too dangerous to enter the Heavenly Cauldron Palace through the front entrance, but my true body discovered a weakness in the formation of the Heavenly Cauldron Palace, one that even this replica could exploit for a chance to grant someone entry into the palace..."

After a while, the blood soul finally completed her recount of what had happened to Fairy Ice Soul.

"I see that you've recovered all of your memories, Fellow Daoist Blood Soul; that's truly worthy of celebration. Back when you made that deal with me using the Heavenvoid Cauldron, your memories were sealed, so you didn't know about the Heavenly Cauldron Palace and Daoist Tian Ding; all you knew was that the cauldron was the key to a mysterious place that was extremely alluring even to Grand Ascension Stage beings. However, you never said that this cauldron was only a replica key; that seems to be slightly different from the terms of our agreement," Han Li said.

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