“Of course I have no objections in letting Senior examine the Heavenvoid Cauldron once I recover.” Han Li calmly replied.
“Good!” Monarch Soul Divergence said with a relaxed tone, “Since you’ve agreed, the matter is done. As for any nearby cultivators, there is only one on board this ship, a girl at the third layer of Qi Condensation. You don’t need to pay her much mind.”
‘The third layer of Qi Condensation?’ Han Li felt somewhat surprised and then he opened his eyes.
Han Li looked to the side of the bed and saw a girl of only fifteen years of age. When she saw Han Li open his eyes, she joyfully shouted out, “Yi! Old scholar, he’s awake!” The girl was quite adorable with wide bright eyes and fair skin.
“Yes, I can clearly see.” Sitting in a chair at the girl’s side sat a grey-robed old man. He appeared around the age of sixty and had a kind face. He was examining Han Li with a calm expression.
“Old scholar, look after him. I will go and inform the Young Miss!” Before Han Li could say anything, the girl quickly chattered to the old man and quickly ran off.
Han Li was stunned by the sight of this, but the old man simply chuckled as he shook his head. He kindly smiled at Han Li and said, “I hope you don’t take offense at the girl’s temperament.”
Han Li returned the smile and sat up, slowly saying, “I don’t dare to. Are you the two who saved me? Where is this place? I...”
“We’re on a boat in the Mystic River. While your life laid uncertain inside the river, my clan’s Second Young Miss gave the order to save you. As for me, I am He Wen, a scholar that the Clan's Mistress hired.”
Han Li cupped his fist and said, “So it was like that. My surname is Han and I will have to thank this Young Miss for saving my life.”
With a smile on his face, the old man curiously asked, “Our Young Miss certainly does have a compassionate heart, but it is hard to say whether or not she will see you. Will Mister Han say how he was sealed inside a block of ice and still lived? I am quite curious.”
“This...” Han Li hesitated for a moment before saying, “I don’t wish to deceive you sir, but it is inconvenient for me to say.”
“That’s fine. Everyone has their own difficulties.” The old man waved his hend in a kindly manner and let the matter go.
At that moment, the girl rushed back with a spring in her step and said, “Scholar, the Young Miss will have this man rest for the time being. She’ll leave the rest for later.” The girl then curiously examined Han Li.
When Han Li saw this, he smiled at her. As a result, the girl slightly blushed and lowered her head, thinking, ‘This person is a bit unremarkable. He is a bit lesser than the Young Miss’ past friends. Why is she treating him with such consideration?'
“Since its the Young Miss’ command, how about Sir Han rest for now? I'll be taking my leave.” The old man stood up and then walked out of the room.
Han Li naturally uttered another word of thanks before the old man left the room with the girl. Now that Han Li was alone, he looked up to the ceiling for a short while before letting out a sigh.
In the following two days, no one had disturbed him apart from a maid bringing three meals a day. This was to Han Li’s satisfaction as it gave him more time to take medicine pills and meditate.
As for the girl at the third layer of Qi Condensation that Monarch Soul Divergence had mentioned, Han Li had examined her a bit with his spiritual sense. The girl was beautiful and behaved in a humble manner. She was the “Second Young Miss” that gave the order to save him. She should’ve seen through his identity as a cultivator.
And from the idle chats of the others on board, Han Li found the general circumstances on the boat.
The people on the boat belonged to the clan of a military officer surnamed Cao of the Liao Province. He was rushed to be mobilized in order to replace his predecessor and his clan slowly followed after him. There were only a few members of his clan: His original wife, two concubines, and three children.
The “Second Young Miss” was born from the original wife and was said to have a weak and sickly body when she was young. She was fostered by another woman during her childhood and had only recently returned to the clan. The other two children were born from the concubines. The eldest daughter was already married away to a suitable clan. As for the son, he was the youngest of the children at twelve years old.
The other noteworthy individuals included Scholar He, Master Zhou, and an icy-eyed Steward Wang who was in charge of the other servants. There were also two guards on board, Wang Tieqiang and Gao Dashen.
When Han Li paid close attention to these individuals, Han Li felt a strong circulation of true Qi from the body of Steward Wang, far deeper than the superficial martial arts of the two guards.
Although Han Li found this somewhat odd, he withdrew his spiritual sense once he figured out the circumstances on the boat and focused his attention on cultivation.
Two days later, the Second Young Miss sent a young maid to invite Han Li over. Of course, Han Li didn’t refuse and he was led to one of the larger rooms on the boat.
When the Second Young Miss saw Han Li, she sent away the others in the room and smiled at him.
“Brother Han must also be someone from a Daoist sect! My name is Cao Mengrong, a disciple of the Profound Jade Sect. Might I know which sect Brother Han is from?” The girl spoke with a polite tone. It seemed she concluded that Han Li originated from a Daoist sect since she wasn’t able to detect any devilish Qi, Buddhist light, or the strict Qi of Confucian sects.
“The Profound Jade Sect?” Han Li frowned. He hadn’t heard of this name before, but it didn’t come as a surprise. There were innumerable smaller sects in the Great Jin.
When Cao Mengrong saw that Han Li was hesitant, she smiled and said, “My sect is merely a small obscure sect in the Liao Province. It is natural for you to not know of it.”
“Fellow Daoist Cao is quite modest. I am but an unaffiliated cultivator. I’ve only recently entered the cultivation world of the Great Jin and I am not familiar with the sects here. I’m afraid I’ve made a fool of myself.” Han Li cupped his fist and assumed an embarrassed appearance.
“So it turned out Brother Han had recently come back to society,” Cao Mengrong sweetly smiled with bright eyes and said, “I’ve also only left my apprenticeship recently, but my sect is truly a small one. However, Brother Han is so young and possesses a particularly profound cultivation. This is truly worthy of congratulations!”
“It’s nothing much,” Han Li casually replied, “I’ve only managed to reach this stage through luck.”
When she saw that Han Li didn’t go into detail, she wore an understanding smile and dropped the matter. She instead changed the subject, asking, “Why was Brother Han floating in the river inside a block of ice? Could it be that you were attacked?”
“That is mostly the case. And I must thank you for saving me!” Han Li bitterly laughed, unwilling to go further into detail.
With a firm expression, the woman said, “It was only a trivial affair. In truth, I saw that Brother Han would’ve escaped from the ice sooner or later, with or without my help. However, it is quite startling to the mortals for you to float in the river like that so I decided to meddle. In addition, it is only natural for unaffiliated cultivators and small sect cultivators to assist one another.”
When Han Li heard this, he felt somewhat surprised and gave the girl an appraising glance. He then silently nodded his head and said nothing more.
“Ah yes, how is Brother Han recovering? If Fellow Daoist would like, you may stay on the boat for a few more days. I also hope you’d be willing to provide me with some cultivation guidance.”
Han Li pondered for a moment before answering, “I don’t have more important matters on hand, so I may as well stay for few more days. However, providing you guidance will be out of the question, but we can exchange our cultivation experiences.”
Cao Mengrong was overjoyed to hear this. She had left her apprenticeship earlier because of her limited aptitude. As a result, she hadn’t learned any deep magic techniques. Having a superior cultivator such as Han Li to provide some guidance was exactly what she had wanted.
After setting up a time for the occasion, Han Li chatted with the girl for a moment before he respectfully took his leave.
Once Han Li returned to his room, Monarch Soul Divergence asked, “Youngster Han, why did you agree to remain behind. Don’t you wish to find a spirit vein to help restore your magic power?”
“Naturally, I will be looking for a spirit vein, but they will certainly be occupied by the various sects of the Great jin. Furthermore, there seems to be more cultivators in the Great Jin than I expected. If I rush out at my current cultivation, it will prove dangerous. I don’t wish to carelessly walk into death while I don’t have the power to protect myself."
“Oh! So you plan on...”
“I have enough medicine pills on hand and several spirit well objects,” Han Li slowly said, “A year will be enough for me to recover my Foundation Establishment cultivation and will still give me plenty of time to find a method to dissolve my baleful Qi. As for the girl, she seems quite shrewd, but her cultivation is shallow and she holds no malicious intent. I’ll have her make a few things clear about the Great Jin cultivation world before I head on my way. And since I’ve only just arrived at the Great Jin, I can afford to wait a year.”
“Do as you wish, but I don’t have much time left,” Monarch Soul Divergence worriedly said, “After a few more years passes, I fear that it will be too late for me. After all, it will take you quite some time to collect the materials for my grand puppet.”
“Senior, don't worry.” Han Li explained, “As I look for the method to dissolve my baleful Qi, I will also look for the materials. However, the best method would be to acquire the assistance of a sect. This way, we can cut down on the time needed.”
“Acquire their assistance? This isn’t the Heavenly South where we can draw on your fame and title. It won’t be so easy. The larger sects won’t pay attention to you and the smaller sects don’t have the capability. After all, the materials that I want are rarely ever seen in this world.”
“The specifics have yet to be determined, so let’s take this a step at a time. Perhaps I won’t even need to find them and they’ll just come knocking on my door,” Han Li jokingly replied.
Afterwards, he ceased talking to Monarch Soul Divergence and took out a set of formation flags from his storage pouch. Then, he placed down a simple restriction around him before taking a medicine pill and meditating on the bed.