"You're far too kind, Brother Han; it was the restrictions you set up in advance that limited the phenomenon. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to do anything with my powers alone," the Ice Phoenix chuckled.
"So you really did progress to the mid-Body Integration Stage! That's fantastic! You won't even have to fear late-Body Integration cultivators now, Master," Hai Yuetian exclaimed in an excited manner.
"What nonsense are you spouting? I can't compare with late-Body Integration cultivators. By the way, you came back at just the right time. I'm planning to venture into the primordial world soon, and even if everything goes smoothly, it'll most likely be a century or two before I return. Prior to my departure, I have to see you and your martial brother and martial sister so I can give you some guidance in your future cultivation. The three of you have to strive to become a lot more powerful prior to the commencement of the devilish tribulation. I heard from Fairy Phoenix that Qi Lingzi has already reached the Nascent Soul Stage, and Guo'er has also progressed to the late-Core Formation Stage, so she'll be able to manifest a Nascent Soul within the next 100 years as well. In contrast, you're progressing far too slowly," Han Li said in a serious manner.
Hai Yuetian was rather alarmed by the serious tone of Han Li's voice, and he countered, "But Master, I'm a simultaneous cultivator, so it's only normal for me to progress slightly slower; I haven't slacked off in my cultivation at all."
"I'm naturally aware of how difficult simultaneous cultivation is, but do you think the elder devils will care about your hardships? Only by becoming more powerful can you ensure your own survival during the devilish tribulation," Han Li scolded.
Hai Yuetian didn't dare to argue any further, and he replied, "Yes, Master; I'll be sure to work harder on my cultivation."
"Alright, I'm going to notify Qi Lingzi and Guo'er through the Myriad Distance Talismans to return as quickly as possible. In the meantime, I'll instruct you in your cultivation, so don't go back to Deep Heaven City just yet. For now though, I have something to discuss with Fairy Phoenix in private; I'll speak to you later," Han Li instructed.
"Yes, Master," Hai Yuetian immediately replied in a respectful manner before exiting the hall.
Following his departure, Han Li turned to the Ice Phoenix with a smile, and said, "Congratulations, Fairy Phoenix; not only have you recovered your past cultivation base, you've even made further improvements."
"It's all thanks to you, Brother Han. Without your generous supply of pills, there's no way I could've recovered to this extent so quickly. However, my progress is nothing when compared to yours, Brother Han. Progressing from the early-Body Integration Stage to the mid-body Integration Stage in just a few centuries is truly an astonishing feat. I presume you're planning to attempt a breakthrough to the late-Body Integration Stage prior to the commencement of the devilish tribulation," the Ice Phoenix said with a smile.
"Hehe, I do indeed plan to do that. I'll most likely have to borrow your Heavenly Phoenix Origin Yin Qi when the time comes," Han Li replied.
"Rest assured, Brother Han, I should also be at the pinnacle of the Deity Transformation Stage by then, and my Origin Yin Qi will be even more effective for you at that point. However, even though my cultivation base is nowhere near your level, through reading the tomes in the cave abode, I've learned about just how difficult it is to break through to the late-Body Integration Stage. How confident are you in making this breakthrough, Brother Han?" the Ice Phoenix asked.
"Hehe, our human race has over 100 Body Integration cultivators, but less than 10 of them have reached the late-Body Integration Stage. All of the fellow Daoists who have reached that level are exceptional talents, so I certainly wouldn't dare to proclaim that I have any chance of progressing to that stage. All I can do is give everything I have," Han Li replied in an ambiguous manner.
"Hehe, if someone else had said this to me, then I'd believe them, but seeing as it's Brother Han we're talking about, I'm sure you're at least 30% to 40% confident in your ability to reach the late-Body Integration Stage," the Ice Phoenix said with a hint of amusement in her eyes.
Han Li faltered slightly upon hearing this before bursting into laughter. "Haha, if that's what you want to think, then I certainly can't say anything to change your mind."
"Speaking of your plans to make a breakthrough to the late-Body Integration Stage, I must say that it's not a wise decision to leave the human race for so long at a time like this. The devilish tribulation is imminent, and we may have forged an alliance with the neighboring few races, but that'll only make the primordial world around the territories of these races even more chaotic," the Ice Phoenix continued as a concerned look appeared on her face.
"I'm naturally aware of that, but this journey is an extremely important one, and it's one that I must undertake," Han Li replied with a serious expression.
"In that case, I'm sure you have your reasons, and I won't try to dissuade you. However, you've only just made a breakthrough to the mid-Body Integration Stage, so I'd advise you to consolidate your cultivation base before embarking on your journey," the Ice Phoenix said with a wry smile.
"Thanks for your concern, Fairy Phoenix. I have no intention of leaving right away; it'll be at least two to three years before I embark on this journey. During this time, I'll have to trouble you to look after my three disciples," Han Li said with a smile.
"Hehe, even if you didn't ask, I would've been sure to instruct them diligently, so you can rest assured, Brother Han," the Ice Phoenix replied with a smile.
Han Li was ecstatic to hear this, and he said, "Then I'll have to thank you in advance, Fairy Phoenix. By the way, following my departure, if you encounter some insurmountable problems, you can take the identification item I gave you and seek out the Gu Family or Buddhist Monk Jin Yue of Deep Heaven City..."
Two months later, Qi Lingzi hurried back to Han Li's cave abode from Deep Heaven City, and Bai Guo'er also returned after half a year.
Thus, the three disciples were instructed by Han Li in person, and all of the questions they had in their cultivation were quickly resolved.
Thanks to Han Li's efforts to keep this information confidential, the outside world remained completely oblivious to the fact that he had progressed to the mid-Body Integration Stage.
Hence, three years passed by in a flash.
On this day, the gate of the cave abode was slowly opened, and Han Li emerged in his usual set of azure robes, followed closely by the Ice Phoenix and his three in-name disciples.
"There's no need to accompany me any further than this, Fairy Phoenix. In my absence, you three have to make sure to work hard in your cultivation. If you encounter any problems, you can consult with Fairy Phoenix," Han Li said to his three disciples after cupping his fist in a salute toward the Ice Phoenix.
"Yes, Master; we'll be sure to remain conscientious in our cultivation."
"Have a smooth journey, Brother Han."
The three disciples all extended deep respectful bows, while the Ice Phoenix also extended a parting curtsey.
Han Li nodded before azure light flashed from his body, and he didn't say anything further before rising up into the air. Moments later, he had vanished into the distance.
The Ice Phoenix withdrew her gaze before turning to Han Li's three disciples. "Let's go back. Hopefully, your master will be back soon. Don't be in a hurry to leave the cave abode; make sure to thoroughly digest all of the information that your master taught you first."
The trio naturally gave affirmative replies, following which the four of them returned to the cave abode. The azure stone gate fell shut once again, and peace and quiet returned to the surrounding area.
Meanwhile, the azure streak of light flew away at a rapid speed, and within it, Han Li was contemplating something with a peculiar look in his eyes.
All of a sudden, he rustled a sleeve, and a ball of golden light shot forth from within before revolving around him.
He made a grabbing motion, and a buzzing sound rang out from the golden light before it was drawn into his grasp. The golden light then faded to reveal a menacing fist-sized beetle.
The beetle was of a shimmering golden color and was completely identical in appearance to his usual mature Gold Devouring Beetles, except it had vibrant colorful patterns all over its body.
Han Li stared at the insect before suddenly whistling at it, and the beetle abruptly spread its wings, then flapped them rapidly while the vibrant patterns all over its body lit up with piercing radiance.
An incredible scene then ensued.
The patterns on the beetle's body warped and twisted, and it gradually became transparent, blending into the spiritual light around it.
Han Li raised his hand, and the spirit insect rose up into the air before vanishing in a flash, as if it had never appeared in the first place.
A faint smile appeared on Han Li's face upon seeing this, and he suddenly made a grabbing motion. Colorful light flashed between his fingers, and the hidden spirit insect was revealed again, caught firmly within his grasp.
However, the insect's body was still seemingly flashing in and out of existence.
"Those Rainbow Pills really are as effective as the legends proclaim; they made the already mature Gold Devouring Beetles mutate and evolve again. Not only are they now far faster than before, they also attained a concealment ability. This ability is going to be very useful in battle," Han Li murmured to himself as a pleased smile appeared on his face.
This ferocious-looking beetle was none other than one of his newly mutated Gold Devouring Beetles. The mutation had taken place after they had devoured the Rainbow Pills Han Li had refined using the demon cores of the Flying Rainbow Fish he had obtained in the Vast Glacial Realm, and Han Li had been very pleased with this result.
Not only did these new Gold Devouring Beetles attain the ability to conceal themselves at will, they've become far more powerful and ferocious than their past selves. Han Li was confident that if he could control 10,000 of these spirit insects at once, even a late-Body Integration cultivator wouldn't be able to do anything except flee for their life.
Unfortunately, even after reaching the mid-Body Integration Stage, his spiritual sense was still nowhere near powerful enough to support so many of these beetles at once. However, if he could progress to the late-Body Integration Stage, then master the second stage of the Spirit Refinement Technique, there was a very good chance that he would be able to control that many Gold Devouring Beetles. This was why Han Li was so eager to progress to the late-Body Integration Stage. Once he reached that level, he would be able to attain a new trump card.
With that in mind, he heaved a faint sigh before sending the Gold Devouring Beetle in his hand flying back into his sleeve.
The azure light around him then tremored slightly before accelerating as it flew toward Deep Heaven City.