[TL Note: Crooked Soul will not longer be referred to as a clone or a doppelganger. He will now be referred to as Han Li's avatar. It better represents what Crooked Soul actually is: "an incarnation in human form".]
Chapter 416: Sand Mountain
Han Li unconsciously frowned in thought before saying, “Brother Jin, could you give me some time to think about this? I can give you an answer in two days.”
“Of course! Please, think it over. If you don’t accept, I will go and see if there are any other rogue cultivator formation spell experts willing to give it a try.” Jin Qing replied with a tone of much consideration.
After a moment more of idle chatter, he saluted Han Li and took his leave.
Han Li stood in his original spot as he watched Jin Qing flying farther away, muttering to himself irresolutely.
Ancient cultivator ruins weren’t exactly a rare find in the Scatter Star Seas, and what they contained greatly varied: from absolutely nothing at all, cultivation insights from ancient cultivators, or even precious items such as previously extinct materials or magic treasures.
In short, a majority of ruins would have something to salvage, but what one discovered would depend on luck.
However, Han Li truly didn’t wish to journey in search of an ancient cultivator’s ruins. The Scattered Star Seas were currently beset by waves of concealed turmoil, and anywhere outside of Heavenly Star City was neither safe nor secure. In addition, Han Li hadn’t been tempering his Bamboo Cloudswarm Swords for long so he couldn’t greatly rely on their strength.
As such, he was truly hesitant to embark on a journey at this time.
Had someone else asked him, Han Li would’ve already refused but, unfortunately for him, he had a good relationship with Jin Qing. Since he had given Han Li a few cultivation pointers the first moment he met him, Han Li found it embarrassing to refuse him.
After standing still a while longer in contemplation, Han Li eventually raised his head and lightly sighed, “I still have two days. I should think about this some more.”
With that, Han Li let the matter go. With a swift turn, he returned to his cave residence.
Two days later, Jin Qing arrived outside his cave residence once more. Han Li had eventually decided to agree due to their friendship, and for the slight excitement he felt towards the ancient cultivator ruins. Who knows what magnificent items could be found within?
Jin Qing was naturally overjoyed and left Heavenly Star City alongside Han Li and Crooked Soul, heading towards the ancient cultivator ruins.
Over the years the nearby cultivators had tacitly understood that Crooked Soul was Han Li’s avatar, Jin Qing wasn’t surprised to see him tagging along.
Two months later, Han Li and the others were flying through a remote area of the Scattered Star Seas.
According to Jin Qing, they shouldn’t be far away from their destination, given the long amount of time they’d been flying. As expected, they caught sight of a large island less than half a day later.
The island was expansive with a radius spanning over five hundred kilometers. However, a majority of the island was covered in hills and mountains. From a glance, everything seemed to be covered in yellow dust.
Han Li gazed down at the island and asked Jin Qing with surprise, “It’s this island?”
“That’s right. We found this island by following the map. I heard from the nearby mortals that this island is completely uninhabited. Not only are there no spirit veins nearby, but for some unknown reason, there are no trees living on this island either.” Jin Qing explained with a slight trace of puzzlement.
Han Li was slightly surprised and pondered for a moment before speaking with a smile, “That’s a good sign! The more unordinary the island, the more likely it is to actually be an ancient cultivator ruin.”
“Hehe! Originally, we also thought the same. We ended up searching the entire island until we found the most likely location.” Jin Qing spoke with satisfaction.
Han Li faintly smiled. After taking a look around, he casually asked, “You said that there was a formation spell shrouding an area? Where is it?”
“There is a huge sandy mountain fifty kilometers to the east. One of its sides is sealed off by a large formation.” Jin Qing spoke without hesitation.
Han Li grinned and said, “Let’s go then! Maybe your partner already arrived and dissolved the formation spell.”
“Hehe! To tell the truth, that wouldn’t be bad. It would be much less troublesome. At most, they’d just take a larger portion of the treasures within.” Jin Qing stroked his chin and wore a sly expression. When Han Li saw his expression, he involuntarily laughed.
The two were only joking. Everybody knew that ancient cultivator formations weren’t something that could easily broken through without at least a month or two of trial and error.
“Let’s go, Fellow Daoist Han! We’d better not keep them waiting.” Jin Qing called out to Han Li before flying off in a streak of azure-white light.
Han LI faintly smiled and chased after him with Crooked Soul on their magic treasures.
To a Core Formation cultivator, fifty kilometers was something they could easily traverse in a mere moment.
A huge yellow mountain entered Han Li’s sight. It was about a three kilometers tall and was entirely covered in yellow sand. As there wasn’t a single trace of green, it gave its viewers an awry feeling as if it were made entirely out of sandy yellow dirt.
As they flew closer to the mountain, a gale suddenly blew, throwing sand and pebbles into the sky.
The unending gale immediately caused the nearby area to turn pitch-black, due to the dense layer of sand kicked up by the wind blocking the light.
Han Li and company held no fear towards a sandstorm. With a flash of brilliance, their bodies were covered in a layer of light, allowing them to steadily fly forward.
After flying through the sandstorm for five kilometers, it suddenly disappeared, and they were able to easily arrive at the base of the sandy mountain.
Jin Qing then flew a small circle around the mountain with Han Li, eventually arriving at several, extremely crude stone buildings. It seemed that they were built by using a stone transformation technique as the buildings all shared the same monotonous grey.
Before anyone had descended, the door to one of the buildings opened with two men and one woman walking out. The men were both Core Formation cultivators while the woman was a Foundation Establishment cultivator.
“Fellow Daoist Jin, you’ve arrived! How timely! We had only arrived recently.” The cultivator at the center was a refined youth that wore white clothes. Upon seeing Jin Qing, he cordially called out to him in a rather friendly manner.
“Fellow Daoist Hu came earlier, as I expected. After all, he didn’t have to go back to Heavenly Star City and fetch Fellow Daoist Han.” Jin Qing replied back in an amiable tone. It seemed their relationship was quite good.
“Fellow Daoist Han?” The young cultivator’s gaze shifted between Han Li and Crooked Soul several times, not knowing who was who.
“I am Han Li. This person is my Senior Martial Brother Crooked Soul!” Han Li cupped his fists towards the youth and smiled. On his journey here, Han Li had come to an agreement with Jin Qing that it would be best to conceal the fact that Crooked Soul was his avatar.
Han Li also discovered that while this cultivator Hu appeared young with smooth and taut skin, there were wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. It seemed that while his age was quite old, he was good at maintaining his appearance.
This cultivator Hu should be the cultivator that had simultaneously discovered the two pearls with Jin Qing.
“I am Hu Yue. Although this is the first time I’ve seen you two, I hope that we will exchange cultivation insights in the future, as there are far too few rogue cultivators that are capable of reaching Core Formation.”
Hu Yue was quite adept at socializing. With only a few words, Han Li had already acquired a decent impression of him. Afterwards, he introduced the other two to Han Li.
“These two are Fairy Shi Die[1. Her name, 石蝶 Shi Die (pronounced di-eh), literally means “Stone Butterfly”.] and Brother Jian. Fairy Shi is a greatly renowned formation spell master from Red Moon Island. I am confident that with Fellow Daoist Han alongside her, we will be certainly able to break through the formation. As for Brother Jian, he is a mid Core Formation cultivator, and will prove to be quite useful after the formation is broken.” Hu Yue introduced them with a smile.
“Let’s get the ugly matters out of the way first. I am only here to assist you in breaking the formation. If any dangers appear after the magic formation breaks, I will not be able to act as I’m only at Foundation Establishment. Also, I will get first pick of whatever spoils that appear.”
The female cultivator called Shi Die had an ordinary appearance. However, her expression was haughty, and her words didn’t contain a trace of politeness, much to the other’s surprise.
“Red Moon Island? Could it be that Fellow Daoist Shi has some relation to Red Moon Island’s Daoist Master Shi?” Jin Qing asked with a hesitant appearance.
After glancing at Jin Qing, she gave an indifferent reply, “He is my father.”
“Hehe, since it is like that, we will agree with your conditions!” Upon hearing her reply, he gave an immediate response, causing Han Li to look at him in astonishment.
Han Li then heard Jin Qing’s voice transmission, “Fellow Daoist Han! Daoist Master Shi had treated me with great kindness long ago. I hope Fellow Daoist Han will forgive me.”
Han Li remained silent and casually smiled towards Jin Qing.