Not long after the Yin Sifting Sect members departed, two cultivators appeared from a nearby building in a blur.
When the two saw that there was no one left at the entrance, they solemnly spoke to each other through voice transmissions before tailing the Yin Sifting Sect members out of the market.
When they arrived at the market entrance, the two immediately set off in their separate directions. One of them waved a small flag and their body disappeared into a cloud of purple smoke, chasing after Ge Tianhao’s group. The other cultivator streaked through the sky in the direction of the imperial city.
Near a nameless mountain close to the Jin Capital, Old Man Fu glanced at Han Li with a curious look and said, “Don’t you have anything you want to ask?”
After the teleportation, Han Li carefully glanced around the transportation formation and had found nothing amiss, much to his relief. He calmly replied, “What’s the point? I am somewhat puzzled as to why Brother Fu used a transportation formation to leave the market, but I’m sure you have your reasons.”
Han Li’s careful actions hadn’t gone unnoticed by Old Man Fu, but he wasn’t angered in the slightest. Rather, he was quite satisfied by his show of caution.
Old Man Fu narrowed his eyes and then wore a mysterious smile. “In truth, my reason wasn’t much. I simply acquired information that there were Yin Sifting Sect cultivators waiting at the entrance of the market. I may have reckoned that Fellow Daoist Han wouldn’t wish to see them, so I decided to use teleportation to avoid them. I hope you didn’t feel I was being too meddlesome.”
“...Fellow Daoist Fu, what do you mean by that?” Han Li’s heart trembled but he managed to keep a calm attitude.
Old Man Fu chuckled, still wearing his mysterious smile, and slowly said, “There is no need to worry. If I truly wished to mean you harm, I would’ve set up an ambush here. When Brother Han stood in front of the Treasureshine Hall, didn’t you clash with Ge Tianhao and his sect members?”
After a moment of silence, Han Li replied, “I didn’t expect that Brother Fu would know this. But why did you help me? I’m not convinced that you would risk offending the Yin Sifting Sect over our appointment.”
Old Man Fu calmly stated, “Risk offending the Yin Sifting Sect? It appears Brother Han is unaware of my background. I am the Enforcement Elder for the Nine Serenities Sect. We’re already at odds with the Yin Sifting Sect to begin with. I will happily obstruct them if the opportunity arises. Though, the main reason I helped you is because I have a request.”
When Han Li heard that he was an elder of one of the ten great Devil Dao sects, he was alarmed and grew vigilant. “The Nine Serenities Sect? It seems I’ve been disrespectful. I’ve long heard of the grand reputation of your esteemed order. But, why would a sect as powerful as yours need my help?”
“This is a private matter so I cannot ask them for help,” Old Man Fu said with a smile, “However, there is no hurry. After the trade fair is done, we can discuss the matter further. There are benefits to be had, but if you dislike the conditions, I won’t force you to agree.”
After some consideration, Han Li smiled and said, “In that case, I’ll agree to the favor.”
Since he had already offended one of the great ten Devil Dao sects, it would be best not to offend another one. As such, he decided to give an empty promise and leave the matter for later.
“I see Brother Han is also a straightforward person! Let’s go, the trade fair isn’t far away.” A happy expression appeared on Old Man Fu’s face and then he took off into the distance.
With haste, they arrived at a barren mountain range over a thousand kilometers away from the Jin capital. They circled around one of the countless mountains and dropped down in front of a stone cliff dirtied with earth and moss. It didn’t appear the slightest out of the ordinary.
Han Li’s attention wasn’t focused on the cliffside, but rather his surroundings. He discovered that they were in a deep overgrown valley. If he wasn’t led here, he wouldn’t have noticed there were cultivators present in the area.
It was clear Old Man Fu had been there before. He casually waved his sleeve and a small palm-sized plate flew out. It flickered with white light and sank into the stone without a trace.
Soon, the cliff-face began to glow with dazzling yellow light and suddenly disappeared to reveal a huge cave that was over thirty meters wide. There were two green-robed, middle-aged cultivators standing at the cave’s entrance. They both possessed late-Core Formation cultivation, and one of them was holding onto Old Man Fu’s plate.
The one holding the disk saluted the two and then spoke with a neutral tone, “So it was originally Senior Fu. This other Senior appears unfamiliar. May I ask for your esteemed name?”
Old Man Fu glared at him and bluntly said, “This is Fellow Daoist Han, a cultivator from overseas. Since I’ve already given him a recommendation, what is there to check? Quickly give him an identification so we may join in the trade fair.”
“Hehe. Since Senior Fu was the one who recommended him, there will be no problems of course. This is a Nascent Soul-stage identity plate. If Senior violates any of the trade fair rules, we will take it back. This plate will allow you to take part in four trade meets, though you will only have to pay for the first one. The rules require you pay ten thousand spirit stones for the plate.” The green-robed cultivator courteously gave Old Man Fu back the jade plate and then took out one for Han Li.
“Here are the spirit stones.” Although Han Li felt a bit of heartache, he readily handed over a storage pouch containing ten thousand spirit stones.
After counting the spirit stones in the bag, the green-robed cultivator smiled and handed over a plate that had the number three hundred forty-seven written on it. “Here is the jade plate. Please take care of it.”
Han Li glanced at it and raised his brow. “Three hundred forty-seven? Are there that many people participating?”
“Of course not,” the other green-robed cultivator explained, “A portion of these seniors will not be attending the trade fair for various reasons. In my experience, there will only be about two hundred people.”
“Oh, that is still quite a few.” Han Li nodded with understanding.
“Alright, it is about time that we join the trade fair. If I have the opportunity, I’ll give my regards to your master.” Old Man Fu then led Han Li deep into the cave.
As Han Li followed behind him, he said, “Their cultivation wasn’t weak. From your tone, it sounded as if they had the same master.”
Old Man Fu chuckled and asked, “Do you know of the four great vagrant cultivators of the Great Jin?”
“Yes, of course. Is their master one of them?” Han Li asked with a curious tone.
“That’s right. Their master is Fellow Daoist Yi Xitian who possesses the most mysterious abilities of the four. He has already been in late-Nascent Soul stage for many years now, though his cultivation is nearly immeasurable. In the past, I had the opportunity to personally witness him use his grand abilities to slay a grade eight demon beast with ease. It is said that he is one of the two in the Great Jin who possesses the greatest chance of ascending to Deity Transformation stage. Since the organizers of the trade fair had selected the two of his disciples to act as gatekeepers, I reckon they intend on drawing support from their master’s fame.” After Old Man Fu gave Han Li the explanation, he let out a deep sigh of admiration.
“May I ask who is the other Fellow Daoist to have the possibility of entering Deity Transformation stage?”
With a wry smile, Old Man Fu answered, “The other person is the Buddhist Cleansing Fire Sect’s Monk Jademoon. In a sparse four hundred years, he had already entered late-Nascent Soul stage. He is a prodigy that only appears in the cultivation world once every ten thousand years. While I do consider myself one of the outstanding talents, we aren't close to exceptional when compared to those two.”
“But Brother Fu’s cultivation is quite profound and I hold you in quite some admiration. Late-Nascent Soul stage appears to be a single breakthrough away for you.”
“Nonsense, I’ve remained trapped in my stage of cultivation for three hundred years, and have long given up hope of reaching late-Nascent Soul stage. Yet, it appears you’ve achieved mid-Nascent Soul stage not long ago. Perhaps you’ll reach a breakthrough in the near future.”
“Brother Fu is quite funny. How could such a thing happen?” Han Li dryly laughed. Of course, he wasn’t about to take his words seriously.
With Old Man Fu taking the lead, Han Li eventually saw a white light shine in front of him and a large hall bustling with activity from the opening. He couldn’t help but grow excited.
In an area over fifty kilometers away, Ge Tianhao wore a fierce expression and black Qi was roiling from his body. He was holding onto the head of an unfamiliar cultivator in a rigid grasp, forcefully extracting the memories of the victim’s soul using secret soul searching techniques.
The victim’s appearance became warped, his eyes flickered, and his body trembled in a display of gruesome agony. The Endless Sky Saintess and a middle-aged black-robed cultivator were watching at the side.
A short moment later, the victim of the soul search suddenly trembled and fell to the ground with a stream of black blood flowing out his nose.
Ge Tianhao frowned and he set the corpse alight in a black inferno, instantly turning it to ash. He then closed his eyes and began to look through the memories he extracted.
When Ge Tianhao eventually opened his eyes, the Saintess asked, “What was his identity? Why was he stealthily following us?”