Once the old Daoist heard what Han Li wanted, his uncontrollable excitement promptly faded away. With his newly restored calm, he said, “It seems Fellow Daoist Han plans on using this to extort me.”
Han Li calmly said, “Extort? Those words are mistaken. Until now, I’ve never made any demands of you; rather, I gifted you with several rare soul stones. If Fellow Daoist doesn’t feel this arrangement to be profitable, just pretend I never asked the second question, and you can keep those soul stones.”
Daoist Heavencrystal’s expression relaxed and then began to waver while Han Li simply stood at the side without urging him in the slightest.
After a long while, the old Daoist coldly said, “If I give you the puppet designs, you will more or less be able to tell whether they are legitimate. But how can I possibly know if you were telling the truth about the Umbra Beasts?”
Han Li unhurriedly responded with a tranquil tone, “To tell the truth, even if Fellow Daoist knew where the Umbra Beasts are, he would have no method of getting there. Not only is that place deadly beyond belief, but even if one is fortunate enough to enter, there is no way to return. Even I was only barely able to escape alive. Even if you don’t believe me, my soul stones are genuine all the same. I’ll give a portion of them to you for the puppet refinement designs. Enough so that Fellow Daoist definitely won’t suffer a loss. Besides, what use are puppet refinement methods without the soul stones required to use them.”
Daoist Heavencrystal frowned and revealed a trace of hesitation.
After the old Daoist deliberated on what there was to gain and lose, his expression relaxed before he said, “Fine! I have no interest in mulling over whether the supposed source of your soul stones is real. I will only ask how many soul stones you plan on using to exchange for the puppet refinement designs? If it’s too few, I would rather just monopolize them.”
While Han Li was happy about this outcome, he betrayed none of it in his voice, “I will have to see the value of the ancient puppet designs first. If they are only on the level of the puppets that were traded during the day, then I have no interest in looking at them.”
The old Daoist wore an odd expression, “Those puppets were only defective goods I found. From what you’ve said, it seems the more powerful these puppets are the more soul stones you are willing to pay.”
Han Li pursed his lips, “That’s right. If there are designs to refine a puppet that can match the strike of a Nascent Soul cultivator I would be willing to exchange thirty soul stones for it.”
Daoist Heavencrystal seriously asked, “Would these soul stones be of the same quality as the ones you’ve given from the start?”
‘Could there truly be designs for ancient puppets on the level of Nascent Soul cultivators?’ Han Li was amazed at the prospect and immediately grew overjoyed. Without any restraint, he said, “Since when have my words been false?”
“Fine. This jade slip contains the designs for the ancient puppets. I will be directly giving it to you, not lending it.” The old Daoist quickly took out a white jade slip from his storage pouch and tossed it to Han Li while a cunning expression appeared on his face.
Han Li was stunned by his actions and faintly felt like something was amiss. After some thought, he bluntly took the jade slip and swept his spiritual sense through it. After a long while, Han Li’s complexion fluctuated between red and white before he started glaring at Daoist Heavencrystal in silence.
The old man beamed back at him and said, “What’s wrong? The greatest of these puppet designs are able to match the strike of a mid Nascent Soul stage cultivator. Is there something not in accordance with your request?”
Han Li angrily said, “Humph! What part isn’t? The main ingredients for these puppets are heaven-defying materials on the level of ten thousand year old Ironwood. And the supplementary materials aren’t just rare, I’ve never even heard of them. Where am I supposed to find them?”
“Hehe! You have this humble Daoist’s sympathies, but there is little I can do. Look on the bright side, there’s an illustration accompanying each of the materials. Perhaps Fellow Daoist may come across them with enough luck and will even manage to acquire enough to make a puppet!”
As the old Daoist anticipated, Han Li’s expression quickly grew furious and he asked, “Could it be Fellow Daoist Heavencrystal has already found the materials? Why else would he be gathering soul stones?”
With a calm expression, Daoist Heavencrystal said, “When did this humble Daoist say that he would be personally refining the puppets? I merely found two half-finished high grade puppets from the ruins. With these soul stones, I’ll be able to use them. There is no need for me to create them from scratch.”
“You...” After hearing this Han Li grew silent for a long while.
“Alright, this humble Daoist already gave you the puppet refinement designs. Now about the...”
“They’re yours!” Before the old Daoist could even finish speaking with his insincere smile, Han Li unhappily swept his sleeve across the table. With a flicker of green light, a small pile of soul stones appeared.
Daoist Heavencrystal was overjoyed, but he thought he should say something further out of embarrassment. Han Li dismissed this by waving his arm and saying, “Because I was careless, I suffered quite a loss, but I have no complaints. Now that the debt has been settled, I will be taking my leave.” Han Li gave a salute before gloomily leaving the building.
The old Daoist glanced at Han Li’s departing figure and shook his head with closed eyes. He then nodded his head and excitedly placed the pile of gems into his storage pouch. He had managed to trade some unusable puppet designs for so many soul stones. It was only natural for him to feel satisfied. With these soul stones, he will be able complete those half finished puppets. However, the old Daoist was truly shocked to see Han Li take out so many soul stones and couldn’t help but think higher of him.
Unbeknownst to the old Daoist, Han Li’s gloomy expression had completely disappeared when he walked several streets away. Instead, he was holding onto the white jade slip with a strange smile on his face.
While ten thousand year old Ironwood would prove difficult for others to acquire, it would only take Han Li a bit of time. As for the supposedly unknown materials, they seemed to be salvageable from the remains of the puppets he found in Heavenvoid Hall if he remembered correctly.
If luck would have it, he should be able to gather the materials needed to create several high grade puppets. With strength rivalling Nascent Soul cultivators, these puppets would increase his combat power severalfold. His previously obsolete puppet techniques were about to once again become one of his killing moves.
Furthermore, the jade slip also contained several designs for puppets that were equivalent to of Core Formation cultivators. Although they could be considered rare, they were still purchasable with large quantities of spirit stones. These weaker puppets might not pose a threat to Nascent Soul cultivators when in small groups, but if he were to create several hundreds of them they would have the power to force a Nascent Soul cultivator to dodge.
However, these were simply musings. Even the lowest grade puppet designs had a cost equivalent to common magic treasures. Creating several tens of them, not to mention several hundred, was something that Han Li couldn’t afford at the moment.
Refining several hundred of the Thousand Bamboo School’s grade three puppets had nearly bankrupted him. Even after selling off most of his demon beast materials at the time, he was still barely able to afford them. The cost of the Nascent Soul level puppets paled even more in comparison. Han Li wryly smiled at the thought and gained his bearings before heading towards the city’s west gate.
Although the day was already late, it made no difference to him whether or not the sun was shining. As such, he decided that it was still a good time to seek out the owner of the Auric Essence.
With the official start of the trade fair, cultivators from various regions of the Heavenly South Continent now crowded the city. On the start of the second day, auction houses began to start accepting bids on various valuables. The rare goods that were displayed attracted the eyes of many wealthy cultivators.
A middle-aged cultivator standing at the very front of the hall wore a wide smile on his face and said, “The chunk of Auric Essence is sold to this Fellow Daoist for seven hundred sixty thousand spirit stones.”
There was an emerald tray sitting on top of a red wood table which had a walnut-sized piece of faint gold ore that appeared entirely unremarkable.
Afterwards, a silver-robed cultivator excitedly walked forward and handed over the spirit stones before acquiring the Auric Essence.
Sitting in the audience, Han Li simply sighed before taking his leave from the auction hall. Although the following items that were to be auctioned were even more precious, he had little desire for them.
On that night, he was able to easily find the owner of the Auric Essence with his spiritual sense. However, the owner would only exchange it for a grade seven demon beast egg or a legendary treasure refinement material named Divine Unity Paste. Possessing neither, Han Li could only depart in disappointment.
But from what was said, Han Li realized that he only possessed enough Auric Essence to temper seven of his swords.
But despite this, Han Li had still participated in the auction for the Auric Essence. But once the price exceeded five hundred thousand spirit stones, Han Li had completely given up. It seemed it would still be quite a while before he could complete the Aureate Sword Formation.
Having left the auction, Han Li went around the city, buying supplementary materials for puppet refinement. After he finished, he headed towards a corner of the city.
He recalled what Marquis Nanlong had previously said. As it was already the fourth day of the trade fair, he curiously headed towards the location mentioned in the jade slip.
After Han Li swept the surroundings with his spiritual sense, he stood in front of a stone building with an ordinary appearance. He approached the door, and it opened before he even knocked on it.
A long-bearded, purple-robed man wearing a jade crown then walked out of the building.
Marquis Nanlong spoke rather enthusiastically, “Fellow Daoist Han, you’ve arrived. Let me introduce you to our associates.”