After Han Li carefully examined the old man, his expression shifted and said, “Would you prefer me to address you as Senior Martial Brother Xiang, or Senior Martial Brother Li?”
The old man blinked and his previously odd look had completely disappeared. Then with a smile, he said, “I don’t quite understand what Senior Han is saying. Could it be that I resemble an old acquaintance of yours?”
Han Li frowned and narrowed his eyes. “There is no point in trying to conceal yourself. As you well know, cultivators have vast and accurate memories. In the Trial of Fire and Blood, we were among the few Yellow Maple Valley disciples that managed to survive. How could I have forgotten you after so many years?”
During the time of the Trial by Blood and Fire, this was the old man who had proposed to form a group with Han Li. At the time, he was named Xiang Zhili and possessed cultivation at the tenth layer of Qi Condensation. It had been greatly surprising that he managed to emerge alive, but Han Li’s amazing accomplishments had caused the others to overlook him.
His survival in the trial and careful nature faintly gave Han Li an impression that he was hiding a secret.
After Han Li achieved Foundation Establishment, he became a disciple of Li Huayuan, a Core Formation elder of Yellow Maple Valley. With no further contact with Old Man Xiang, Han Li gradually ceased to think about him, and after the Devil Dao’s invasion of the State of Yue, the old man’s survival was unknown.
In the past, he was already old and despite the hundreds of years that had passed, he was still a Qi Condensation cultivator and appeared completely the same. Even a Foundation Establishment cultivator would’ve long perished from age. It was completely unthinkable that he would rediscover him so many years later at a small sect in a foreign country.
At the very least, during the Trial of Blood and Fire, he was certain to be a character of hidden power. It was unknown what his intentions had been at the time.
Han Li stared at the old man as various thoughts flashed through his mind.
The old man spoke with a steady tone, “There are countless mysteries in this world, and it appears that there is someone who looks exactly like me. But I can assure you, my surname is Li, not Xiang. If I truly was this person, why would I deny it?”
A trace of astonishment appeared as Han Li’s face sank.
After a moment of silence, his expression relaxed, “Perhaps I am mistaken, so let’s leave it be then. How about Fellow Daoist point me to a few records on talisman refinement?”
The old man chuckled and said, “As per our namesake, we do have quite a few records on hand. However, the more profound accounts are on the second story. Please follow me, Senior.” He then led Han Li to the second story as expected of an ordinary low-grade disciple.
The first two stories were similarly arranged and filled with many shelves.
As Han Li glanced around, the old man had already begun to quickly move through the halls with a swiftness that was unexpected of his age.
A short moment later, he picked out a pile of jade slips with great skill and panted as he held them in his hands. With a fawning tone, he said, “Senior, here are the floor’s talisman refinement records. There are a few on the third floor as well. I’ll go ahead and save you the trouble of finding them.”
Han Li stroked his chin and wore a friendly smile. “There is no need, these jade slips are already enough to last me two days. I’ll personally look for those records should I have the time. You may go ahead and attend to your duties.”
“Then I won’t further bother your studies. If Senior has any commands, please call out to me. I will be staying downstairs.” The old man widely smiled and then placed the jade slips on a nearby table before carefully walking down the stairs.
After Han Li watched him descend, his smile slowly faded away to a heavy expression.
“Is Senior Soul Divergence able to see through his cultivation? I already swept my spiritual sense past his body, and although I was able to break through a layer of his illusions, I still wasn’t able to determine his true cultivation. It was as if his entire body is composed of illusions.”
“It is the same with me. Even with my superior spiritual sense, I couldn’t see past him, ” Monarch Soul Divergence replied.
“...Could it be this person’s spiritual sense is far beyond that of both mine and Senior’s?” Han Li said with some disturbance.
“Very unlikely, even if a cultivator were to possess spiritual sense stronger than ours, it wouldn’t be by such a great amount that they would be able to completely evade our detection. Under these circumstances, this person either cultivated an extraordinary secret technique, possesses a grand treasure, or even...” Monarch Soul Divergence then trailed off.
“Even what?” Han Li asked.
Monarch Soul Divergence hesitantly said, “There is one other possibility. This person has already entered Deity Transformation stage. He would be able to scatter the entirety of his spiritual power from his meridians into his physical body, and would also be able to phase away his Nascent Soul for a short while so that no one would be able to detect it.”
Despite Han Li’s steady disposition, he couldn’t help but betray shock. “ Senior must be joking. A Deity Transformation cultivator?”
Monarch Soul Divergence calmly said, “Although I wasn’t able to enter Deity Transformation stage, I have done a bit of research on the topic. These are the most basic abilities that they can perform.”
Han Li let out a deep breath and said, “I didn’t question their abilities, but whether they’d stay in this world.Shouldn’t Deity Transformation cultivators be capable of ascending to the spiritual realm?”
With a perplexed tone, Monarch Soul Divergence answered, “While I had roamed the world in the past and have yet to discover one, I’m certain they still lingered in this world, and in no small number either. The ability to ascend to the Spirit Realm and whether they have the power to are two different things. I’m not too sure of the details, but after they enter Deity Transformation stage, they can’t often show themselves like ordinary cultivators or disaster will afflict them.”
“So it was like that? Senior, how come you’ve never mentioned this to me?”
Monarch Soul Divergence annoyedly snorted. “What would be the point? You haven’t even reached late-Nascent Soul stage yet. I’m sure you’d come to realize this once you were able to advance past that. Why else would Deity Transformation stage cultivators all agree to disappear from the cultivation world?”
Han Li wryly smiled and said, “Then the cultivator downstairs has a chance of being a Deity Transformation stage cultivator.”
“Yes, but even if he isn’t a Deity Transformation cultivator, he still gives me a sense of fear. You’d best avoid provoking him.”
After some thought, Han Li said, “So you also had the same sensation. That was why I had changed my tone after I went up to the second floor. Since this person travelled all the way here, he should have his own objective in mind. For the time being, let’s pretend nothing’s wrong.”
“Yes, and if possible, let’s depart from the Heavenly Talisman Sect as soon as we can. If this person is truly what we fear, he could decide to kill you to keep his secret,” Monarch Soul Divergence warned.
Han Li shook his head, “But if I leave to quickly, it could end up provoking him instead. For the time being, let’s stay a few more days. Since he’s concealed himself and changed his name, he must under the effects of the limitation you mentioned if he’s a Deity Transformation cultivator.”
Monarch Soul Divergence dryly laughed and uttered, “Your words do make sense. It seems I haven’t thought the matter through.” He then changed the subject and said, “But now that you’ve mostly recovered from the drain of using the Bloodshadow Evasion Technique, you should begin refining my puppet body.”
Han Li grunted in agreement. “I’ll get right on it after I finish slaying those flood dragons. After all, Scarlet Flame Flood Dragon scales must be acquired soon as they won’t stay there forever. As for the Black Phoenix Feather, there is no need to hurry over the matter. I can acquire it after the puppet body is finished.”
Monarch Soul Divergence heartily laughed with satisfaction. “That will do. So long as I can see that puppet body before I perish, I will have no regrets.”
Han Li smiled when he heard this and didn’t speak any further. Then, he waved his sleeve, releasing several formation flags around him. In a flash of light, the flags disappeared to be replaced with a faint azure mist covering the entire floor.
Although he didn’t believe that the old man would suddenly attack, it never hurt to be prepared.
Han Li then walked up to the table with the jade slips, and took one into his hand before immersing his spiritual sense into it.