The Huayuan Province was a large territory on the eastern shore of the Jin Empire. Most of its towns and cities were constructed on the coast, and there were many overseas cultivators that would arrive here to trade various demon beast materials for a few cultivation resources from inland. As such, the province’s markets were prosperous all year long and the sects were abundantly wealthy, reaping large sums of spirit stones year after year. There were even a few smaller markets farther away, but due to their favorable location, they were also doing quite well.
Kaijiang Village was a small town in the province over a hundred kilometers off the shore. There was a modest mountain nearby less than a kilometer tall. It possessed an inferior spiritual vein and could barely be considered to be a spiritual mountain.
While this Hundred Bamboo Mountain was beneath the notice of larger powers, it was home to a small sect by the name of Heavenly Talisman Sect. The sect seemed to be of the lowest level in the cultivation world, and all the members combined totaled a little over a hundred.
Despite the Heavenly Talisman Sect’s poor condition, it had a vast and long history. Tens of thousands of years ago, Daoist Heaven Talisman, the founder of the sect, had created three secret talismans whose power shook through the entire Great Jin, managing to bring the sect on par with the ten Great Righteous Sects. Although it wasn’t known as the greatest sect during its climax and didn’t have a lineage that spanned back to ancient times, it had tens of thousands of members and was the peak sect in the province.
Although the Heavenly Talisman Sect was highly accomplished in the Dao of talismans, their cultivation techniques were rather ordinary, and talismans could only accomplish so much. Several generations after their rise, they experienced a massive decline. Over the passage of time, they only barely managed to continue existing by passing down a few of their secret talisman techniques.
Apart from a few other cultivators from small sects, there were rarely high-grade cultivators that have visited. As such, the disciples on guard duty would often find themselves idle, and would rather chat with one another than to cultivate.
One day, two Qi Condensation cultivators on guard duty both let out a depressing sigh.
A male disciple in his late teens muttered, “Senior Martial Brother Li, is the market truly going to close? Although I’ve only entered the sect recently, I still know that the Three Essence Market is where nearly half of our income comes from. Without those spirit stones, how can our sect continue to exist?”
A youth in his mid-twenties of a plump stature helplessly said, “What can we do? Several days ago, the Spirit Wind Sect gave our sect master the last notice that either our market will merge with theirs or they will close it in three months. They’re bullying us with their strength!”
“Merge markets? That sounds possible.” The youngster disciple wore an astonished expression.
“Hmph! Possible? I heard a martial uncle say that after we merge we’re not allowed to interfere with any of the businesses there. The Spirit Wind Sect will simply give us a thousand spirit stones every year. That’s less than a third of what we currently make, and isn’t anywhere near enough!” The older youth said with an indignant tone.
The younger disciple blinked in disbelief and puzzlingly said, “The Spirit Wind Sect might be a larger sect, but how could Gold Mist Mountain, Bright Sun Valley, or our own sect agree to such a small amount? The Three Essence Market is something that our sects had created. If we were to join hands, we have nothing to fear from them.”
The older youth snorted and explained, “If it was only the Spirit Wind Sect, then our sect would have nothing to fear. But I heard that Yang Fiend Sect has a hand in this matter. A genuine mid-grade sect like theirs isn’t something that a small sect like ours can resist. Today, the sect master had invited the masters of our allied sects to discuss a plan of action. They aren’t in a better position than us and will not easily give up on the market.”
“The Yang Fiend Sect? This... That is something that our Heavenly Talisman Sect can’t provoke. It seems it will be difficult for our sect to make it past this trial.” The younger disciple was dejected when he heard that sect’s name. If their sect received fewer spirit stones, then so would the disciples as well.
The older youth sighed and said, “Leave the matter be. This isn’t something that low-grade disciples like us can deal with. Let’s just guard the mountain the best we can. If we keep on talking about this and a martial uncle finds out, we won’t just lose spirit stones, we’ll- Yi! What’s that!?” Suddenly, he looked to the sky and shouted out in astonishment.
When the younger disciple heard this, he looked to the sky as well and saw a light shine from a distance. Afterwards, a ten-meter-long azure streak shot towards their direction.
As the azure streak approached them with incredible speed, the younger disciple shouted out in alarm, “It seems a Senior is coming to visit us, but who is that??” Although he wasn’t acquainted in the cultivation world for long, he understood that the streak of light wasn’t something that a Foundation Establishment cultivator could produce and felt greatly uneasy.
The older youth was at a loss and muttered, “I don’t know. Perhaps he’s come to pay a visit to the Martial Ancestor.” The words only served to console himself.
Soon, the azure streak arrived above them. As if catching sight of the two disciples, the streak of light dropped to the ground and faded away to reveal an azure-robed youth in his early twenties with his hands held behind his back. Despite his ordinary appearance, he possessed an impressive bearing. When the two met his gaze, they could feel the pressure of a mountain weighing down upon them. It had already been four months since Han Li had left the underground trade fair and fled from the Elder Devil.
He indifferently asked, “Is this the Hundred Bamboo Mountain’s Heavenly Talisman Sect?”
Sensing Han Li’s immeasurable cultivation, they soon determined that this cultivator was a senior of at least Core Formation cultivation. After exchanging a glance, the older youth deeply bowed and said, “Yes, Senior. Is there anything I may help you with?”
Han Li nodded and said, “It seems I’ve found the right place. I am carrying something deeply related to your esteemed sect and wish to see your sect master. Go and make the report.”
“Yes. Please wait a moment, Senior.” The older youth flusteredly took out a sound transmission talisman and whispered a few words before tossing it into the air. The talisman then flew into the mountain’s restrictions in a streak of fiery light.
Han Li had already swept past the small mountain with his spiritual sense while he calmly stood. Although there was a layer of restrictions present, he was able to sense the general circumstances of the mountain. He frowned as a result.
He already knew that the Heavenly Talisman Sect wasn’t large before he arrived, but the sect only had a hundred members and he could only sense the faint aura of an early-Core Formation cultivator. It was exactly as Old Man Yun in the Umbra Realm had told him, the sect was on the verge of death.
Of course, Han Li hadn’t come here solely to return the Spirit Subjugation Talisman’s refinement method. There were also rumors of several Venomous Flood Dragons appearing in the Huayuan Province.
Soon, a flicker of yellow light appeared behind the two gatekeepers along with a thirty-meter tall gate, followed by three cultivators walking side by side.
They moved past the two gatekeeping disciples and were shocked upon seeing Han Li. A yellow-robed old man quickly stepped forward and deeply bowed towards him, respectfully saying, “We are honored by your presence.This Junior is Yue Zhen, the Heavenly Talisman Sect Master. I hope you don’t take offense that I wasn’t able to greet you from a distance!”
Although he wasn’t able to see through Han Li’s true cultivation, he had much experience as the sect master and had met many Nascent Soul cultivators and now sensed an equally powerful presence. He couldn’t help but feel fear.
Such a powerful cultivator could kill a small sect like theirs with ease. It was difficult to tell whether this occurrence would result in disaster or happiness.
From the sound transmission talisman, he originally believed that it was a Core Formation cultivator. As such, he called on the sect’s sole Core Formation elder to come to the gate, but now he saw that was a meaningless action.
When Han Li saw their fearful appearance, he couldn’t help but chuckle. “There is no need to be alarmed, as I have no malicious intentions. I have come here to return something I was entrusted with. ”
Yue Zhen felt his heart relax when he heard him and excitedly said, “This junior is a bit confused, but let’s not talk here. Please come in and have a seat. We can have the discussion there.”
After pondering for a moment, Han Li nodded. “Yes, that’s fine. This matter isn’t something that a few words can clearly explain.”
“Then I welcome you, Senior.” Yue Zhen rejoiced and he hastily stood to the side, respectfully having him enter first.
Han Li didn’t refuse and stepped past the gate.
With a solemn expression, the other cultivators obediently followed.
The Hundred Bamboo Forest wasn’t very large, so they quickly arrived at the sect buildings on top of the mountain. Han Li and the sect master then entered the main hall.
To his surprise, there were two middle-aged cultivators already sitting in the hall. They frightfully stood up after sensing Han Li’s cultivation and hastily bowed.
Han Li waved his hand for them to sit back down, but they didn’t dare and only stood at the side. Yue Zhen apologetically said, “Fellow Daoists, this is a guest of the sect. We’ll have to talk about this matter another time.”
“Hehe, We are honored by your presence, Senior. Please go ahead.”
“That’s right, we’ll be taking our leave.”
The two cultivators quickly came to an understanding and wore an expression of admiration before bowing once more and departing from the hall.
Then, white light flashed from the outside and a colorless streak shot in, revealing a white-robed old man.
When Yue Zhen and the others saw him, they hastily saluted with a smile and paid their respects. “Greetings, Martial Uncle Wen.”