When Huang Mingli heard Han Li’s desire to depart, he agreed with an embarrassed smile. He then flew off to the east on his magic tool while Han Li leisurely followed after him with a calm expression.
As Huang Mingli flew, he turned his head to steal a glance at Han Li’s face, and carefully asked, “Senior’s face is quite unfamiliar. Have you been in secluded cultivation for a long time? Junior might’ve heard of your name before!”
Han Li casually said, “My surname is Li. I’ve remained in my cave residence for secluded cultivation until recently, when I finally formed my core. It isn’t surprising that Fellow Daoist Huang hadn’t heard of me before.” Of course, Han Li didn’t give his real name.
The small old man didn’t notice anything amiss from Han Li, and could only speak words of congratulations despite still holding a few doubts in his heart.
Huang Mingli was quite tactful and didn’t further inquire about Han Li. Instead, he took the initiative to tell Han Li about a few of the recent confrontations between cultivators and demon beasts. However, from his deep sighs, it seemed the old man didn’t hold much hope towards humanity’s future in the Outer Star Seas.
Although the endless conversation was almost entirely one-sided, Han Li had gained a much greater understanding towards the current circumstances of the Outer Star Seas.
Nothing strange occurred in the following half month, allowing Han Li and the small old man to eventually spot a small, peaceful island in the distance. This island was only about fifty kilometers in area and possessed sparse amounts of spiritual Qi. Apart from a small growth of vegetation, the island only consisted of bare grey rock and appeared like any other desolate island.
It was an optimal location for a secret city. But even in that case, about half a day out, Han Li and the old man concealed their flight and approached the island under the guise of concealment techniques.
This, of course, was a requirement for entering the secret city.
When Huang Mingli beseeched him to conceal himself, Han Li silently complied without any complaint. This was a great relief to Huang Mingli as Core Formation cultivators weren’t always particularly easy to deal with in his experience.
Huang Mingli flew a circle around the small island before landing on a heap of rocks.
When Han Li saw this, a strange expression flickered from his eyes. If he wasn’t mistaken, there shouldn’t be any restrictions there. Could it be…?
As Han Li continued to mull this over, Huang Mingli stepped towards a large rock beside him and knocked three times on the stone with practiced familiarity. A short moment later, the huge rock suddenly split open to reveal a three meter wide hole.
Huang Mingli immediately stepped into the hole and softly said a few words into it. He then turned to Han Li and shouted, “Senior Li, it’s right here. Let’s go in!”
Han Li indifferently looked down and descended from the sky.
The hole led to a set of slanted stone stairs. To the side of the stairs stood a grey-robed, white-haired old man with a late Foundation Establishment cultivation.
Upon seeing Han Li enter, the old man smiled at him and spoke in a manner that was neither arrogant nor humble, “Senior, welcome to our market city. I hope Senior will be able to find what he needs.”
“I hope so as well.” Han Li calmly replied as he climbed down the stairs.
Han Li realized that in order to prevent any demon beasts from detecting spiritual Qi, formation spells couldn’t be established. As such, the only option left to maintain secrecy was building everything underground.
After walking down the stairs for a short time, Han Li’s eyes brightened.
There was an expansive underground world before him. The ceiling was twenty meters high with occasional pillars of transformed grey stone supporting it. There were many small square buildings at the center of the cavern, each sporting their own sign. There were over a hundred cultivators trading amongst these stone buildings.
At Han Li’s side, Huang Mingli pointed to a set of descending stairs beside a stone pillar and said, “Senior Li, this floor is only for trading ordinary items. If Senior wishes to acquire rare materials, it would be best to go down to the next floor.”
Han Li glanced at the stone stairs, but didn’t move. He asked with a deep voice, “If I wanted information on the whereabouts of a high grade demon beast nest, where could I find it?”
Huang Mingli was obviously startled upon hearing this. A trace of confusion flickered from his eyes before he answered with great familiarity, “It would depend on what grade of demon beast Senior requires information about. If it’s grade five or six demon beasts, Senior can head over to the Wind Whisper Pavilion. They specialize in selling the whereabouts of difficult to acquire treasures and high grade demon beasts, allowing one to acquire them based on their own skill. However, they won’t have any information on demon beasts of a higher grade. In that case, your only option would be to ask other Core Formation Seniors. After all, the whereabouts of demon beasts of that grade aren’t easily divulged. Senior could participate in the trade gathering specifically for Core formation cultivators. Perhaps that is where Senior can find what he is looking for.”
“Trade gathering?” Han Li’s expression revealed a trace of excitement.
Huang Mingli carefully explained, “That’s right! Normally, only other Core Formation cultivators have the materials and treasures that a Core Formation cultivator would need. As a result, every time the market city opens, the city lord will hold a meeting where Seniors gather together for a private, small-scale exchange, where they can trade for what they wish. The city lord would also take out several rare items for the meeting as well.”
With a faint smile, Han Li slowly asked, “When does this trade gathering take place?”
The small old man promptly replied, “Senior Li will likely have to wait a few more days. I reckon around halfway through the opening of the market city, Senior will receive an invitation to join.”
When Han Li heard this, he narrowed his eyes and wore a pensive expression as if he were thinking about it.
A short moment later, he glanced at Huang Mingli and spoke without restraint, “Fellow Daoist Huang, I plan on going the rest of the way alone so we’ll be parting ways here. I no longer require your assistance.” Han Li didn’t wish to have someone following him around while he was searching for the Thousand Leaves Dew.
The small old man wasn’t particularly surprised by Han Li’s words. With a beaming smile, he said, “Senior’s words suits Junior’s intentions as well. Junior happens to want to go buy a few materials. Then I will bid you goodbye. If Senior requires any further assistance, then please do not hesitate to find me.” Huang Mingli respectfully saluted Han Li and bid his farewells. He then headed into a nearby materials store. It seemed he wished to first sell off those demon breasts corpses from before.
Han Li was quite satisfied with how tactful and quick-witted the old man had behaved.
He swept his gaze past the nearby stores and walked into the store across from him with his arms behind his back. The first store he entered had piles of all sorts of medicinal ingredients. ……
Inside a quiet room, Han Li was resting with eyes closed. He felt somewhat gloomy.
During his first day in the market city, he had browsed both floors of the market city and found plenty of Demon Echo Grass but none that had grown near a grade eight demon beast. In addition, the Wind Whistle Pavilion didn’t have any information on demon beasts of grade seven or higher. He could only wait for when the trade gathering convened and see if any other Core Formation cultivators had relevant information.
In the following two days, he had no intention of heading out and rented a quiet room specifically to cultivate and see whether or not he could break through his current bottleneck. In the end, he had achieved nothing.
Thumps came from the door of his room. Although Han Li had anticipated this he still indifferently asked, “What is it?”
A woman’s pleasant voice respectfully said, “Senior Li! Junior is under orders to invite you to the trade gathering. Would Senior be interested in participating?”
Han Li slowly replied, “Yes, of course I am!” He then opened the stone door and walked out of the room.
There was a white clothed woman standing outside with a lowered head, respectfully waiting for him. When she saw Han Li appear, she immediately raised her head and revealed a charming face.
When Han Li saw the woman’s beautiful face, he felt his heart tremble. After staring at the woman’s face, a flicker of astonishment appeared within his eyes.
‘How could it be her? What is she doing here?’ Han Li thought, astonished.
The woman saw Han Li staring at her, causing her to blush. She then lowered her head and uncomfortably asked, “Senior, is something wrong?”
Han Li quickly regained his bearings and calmly said, “It’s nothing. Lead the way.”
The white clothed woman faintly felt that something was amiss, but she respectfully agreed and walked away with calm steps.
Gazing at the woman’s silhouette, Han Li unconsciously frowned and wore a face full of confusion.
Passing through the plaza of the second floor, the woman brought Han Li to a remote stone wall.
The woman gently pressed her hand against the wall, creating ripples of white light and revealing a stone door covered in talisman characters.