Now reduced to a face of light on the Keen Spirit Peacock, Grand Immortal Xu glanced at both the puppet and Gui Ling who held Lin Yinping in her grasp. He hesitated for a moment and could only wryly smile, “What does Brother Han wish to ask?”
The puppet shined with silver light before disappearing. Han Li then blurred several times and arrived at Gui Ling’s side. “From your tone, nurturing the Gold Devouring Beetles to their final stage doesn’t seem to be something I can do on my own — quite strange. To the best of my knowledge, exotic insects during ancient times were able to naturally mature to their final stage and proved to be a grave threat to ancient cultivators. Your Gold Devouring Beetles should’ve been passed down from then as well.”
“If we followed ordinary methods, it would’ve been possible to slowly mature them over tens of thousands of years, but cultivators don’t live that long. Even if they were passed down from generation to generation, few clans or sects could persist for that time. Gold Devouring Beetles in particular take an exceedingly long time to mature, and later generations would lose heart in nurturing them. As a user of these beetles, you should understand the gaps in power between the last two forms. It’s almost like they are entirely different species.
“That’s true. And my beetles haven’t shown the slightest sign of progress after reaching their current stage. There should be some technique that your temple uses to nurture them. How much time does this save?”
“It can reduce the time needed to a third. If you were to use a few rare materials and only nurture a select few, you would be able to shorten the process even further.”
“That effective? Then my efforts haven’t been in vain. So then, are you not afraid I will turn my beetles on you after I’ve matured them?”
“Fellow Daoist must be joking. I have heard of your Gold Devouring Beetles before. They haven’t even begun the process of their final evolution. With our technique, you’ll need thousands of years of effort, and even then, success isn’t guaranteed. When the time comes, it’ll be neither of our problems.” Grand Immortal Xu spoke bluntly.
“You’re quite calm about this. In several thousand years, those beetles could fall into the hands of my descendants. Perhaps your hall will have come up with a counterplan by then.” Han Li spoke with a mysterious smile.
“That could be true. Are you saying you do not want the technique? I’d be willing to agree to other conditions.”
Han Li pursed his lips and held his hands behind his back. “I never said anything of the sort. Even if I can’t mature them in my lifetime, it can be passed down to others. I’ve always been interested in cultivating insects.”
A trace of surprise appeared on Grand Immortal Xu’s face, “Then just wait a moment. I will give you a duplicate of the technique in a jade slip. Fellow Daoist should’ve already nurtured the beetles for many years. You’ll be able to tell if it's genuine at a glance.”
After a short delay, white light flashed and Grand Immortal Xu’s face of light entered the peacock’s body.
Han Li faintly smiled and used this opportunity to examine the state of the palace.
After the three demons entered it, it had been deathly quiet.
He frowned, having expected at least some kind of action, and asked Gui Ling a few questions through voice transmission.
She paused in surprise from what he said, but she promptly answered him.
Han Li nodded but his face turned sullen.
“It’s done.” The peacock opened its mouth and spat out a white streak.
Han Li’s eyes lit up and he brushed his sleeve towards the air, catching the streak with an azure mist.
The white beam faded to reveal a palm-sized jade slip.
Han Li then took the paper up to his head and softly pressed it against it as he immersed his spiritual sense inside.
As he continued to read, more surprise was revealed from his face, and he soon came to a realization. He was able to immediately comprehend the slip’s contents.
After the time it took to make a cup of tea, Han Li eventually withdrew his spiritual sense from the item and he sighed. He looked at the Keen Spirit Peacock and said, “Fellow Daoist Xu, what was the name of the tribe elder who created this method of nurturing the beetles? I truly hold them in high esteem. Who would’ve thought one would be able to forcefully channel world Qi into the beetles as elemental Qi. This isn’t something that an ordinary person could discover in one lifetime. And it must’ve taken an immense effort, going through countless failures until the correct method was proven.”
“Ever since our temple acquired the Gold Devouring Beetle eggs, we have gathered elders skilled in insect techniques specifically to research a method to nurture these beetles. It took well over a thousand years before this method was finally created. It is a pity that the number of eggs were too few and the materials too rare. Else, we could’ve matured these beetles on a larger scale.”
Han Li nodded and felt little surprise. If it weren’t for his small bottle and the miraculous effect of Rainbow Skirt Grass, he wouldn’t have been able to mature so many beetles to their current stage as well.
“Alright, I’ve saved you two and you gave me the technique as well. Our agreement is completed. You can now end yourself and I’ll allow your soul to head on the path of reincarnation. Or if you prefer, I can destroy your soul along with that bird.” Han Li’s expression turned sullen and he stared at the Keen Spirit Peacock with open hostility.
As soon as that was said, thunder rang out from behind him and the silver-white wings emerged. He held his hands in a fist and an eruption sounded out as his body was covered in a layer of dancing golden lightning.
At the same time, silver light flickered from behind the Keen Spirit Peacock, along with the appearance of his human-like puppet. Red light flickered from its hand and a small bow flared green.
The peacock trembled in terror and unfolded its wings, covering itself in a layer of golden light. It opened its mouth and a ball of golden light was released: Grand Immortal Xu’s Nascent Soul. In the blink of an eye, it arrived above the peacock’s head and stared at Han Li as he coldly laughed.
“Fellow Daoist, stay your hand. Your relation with our temple has yet to reach irreconciliation. We can make peace. Even if you don’t personally fear the pursuit of our three Grand Immortals, do you not care about the feud between your sect and our future tribesmen?”
Han Li’s expression turn stern, “Do you want to force me to kill all of your Grand Immortals during my lifetime?”
Seeing that Han Li gave him an opportunity to speak, he felt somewhat more at ease. “What do you mean? We only pursued you as a matter of preserving our status. You were only a mid-Nascent Soul cultivator and you killed so many of our Nascent Soul Immortals. We were forced to apprehend you and even then, you seized the incarnation of our holy beast and invoked the temple’s ire. We had no choice but to chase you into the Great Jin. But now it is different. You control two late-Nascent Soul stage beings and your own skill is equivalent to one as well. You now have equal standing to our Endless Sky Temple. As we don’t wish to end this conflict in mutual destruction, words will give a far better result. Furthermore, the path ahead is extremely dangerous. If we join hands, we will be able to more easily preserve our lives.”
“...Are you finished?” Han Li expressionlessly asked.
Grand Immortal Xu felt his heart drop and he cautiously asked, “Do you feel that I wasn’t telling the truth?”
“I’m not opposed to letting you go, but how can I trust a few trifling words?” Han Li said with a sneer.
“Of course not!” Grand Immortal Xu hurriedly shouted, “Our temple’s saintess is here. She can use a secret technique to call upon the true spirit of the Endless Sky Holy Beast. That will imprint their marking on you, inviting you to become a guest elder of our sect. As such, so long as you return the holy beast incarnation to us, we can finish the transaction when we return. The temple will no longer pursue you in the future.”
“The holy beast’s marking?” Han Li muttered in surprise, “I have heard about when I traveled in the plains. That only core members of the temple are marked. Those that hold it cannot hold feelings of hostility for one another, or the marking will activate and the offender will be subjected to a strange curse. Their spiritual sense will be subjected to torture, a fate equivalent to death.”
Seeing that Han Li was somewhat tempted, he eagerly continued, “So you do know about it. We are only pursuing you for the Holy Beast incarnation. The Immortals that you’ve killed is only a trifling matter given the strength that you’ve displayed.”
Han Li tightly frowned and his expression wavered.
Grand Immortal Xu tacitly kept silent. He could only wait for him to come to a decision, but he couldn't entirely hide the unease on his face.
He clearly understood that if Han Li truly wished to kill them, their Nascent Souls wouldn’t be given the chance to escape. He could exterminate them with a single thought.
With his life at another's mercy, he felt completely panicked.