However, Han Li was not impatient! The central area of the forbidden area was truly different from the outer regions.
In areas outside of the central area, spiritual grasses and wondrous fruits for the most part grew without patterns and at random; one could find traces of them at any location, and it was often first come first serve. Those who managed to pick them would also immediately retreat far away. Thus, in these areas, conflicts over medicinal ingredients very rarely occurred. More often, people would die either because they were being cleaned up by other people or because others were killing them to steal their treasures.
However, in the central area, things were not the same! According to the lucky disciples who had been able to return, this central area was very large, taking up almost a third of the forbidden area, and was entirely encircled and surrounded by the stone wall. If one started counting from the four large copper doors, the entire area could be split into three outer layers. It was similar to a common fruit, containing the skin, the “meat”, and the pit; each layer was very distinct. How very peculiar!
The elegant picturesque place that Han Li was currently in was the outermost layer of the central area.
According to the information, the distance to the next layer was actually not too large; it should only be half a kilometer. Inside this layer, the plants and flowers were all incredibly rare and scarcely seen, not easily found elsewhere in this world. However, very few of these could be used to create spiritual medicines for them to be of any practical use to cultivators. Everybody could only admire and fiddle around with them.
Many people from the Seven Great Sects reasoned that this layer was purposefully arranged in this way by the master of the forbidden area, intending to turn this layer into a flower garden of sorts. The extremely eye-catching and contested plants were originally used by the owner of the forbidden areas to relax and enjoy. If one wanted to find anything of use, it would be better to go to other areas to look, and one would comparatively need to worry less!
The high-grade spiritual medicines that were useful to cultivators all grew within the second layer of the central area. The disciples from various sects entering this area were all mostly aiming for this layer. The three main ingredients for refining the Foundation Establishment Pill were also in this layer and were naturally their main goal. Han Li was also determined to get these spiritual ingredients!
Speaking of this second layer, when Han Li merely saw the information related to it, he was stunned for quite a while!
This second layer was a huge ring-shaped mountain range; the entire year, it was completely sealed off by fog so dense that one couldn’t see their hand in front of their face. This mountain also contained caves, secret valleys, cliffs, and other natural formations. There were also stone houses, stone temples, and other human constructs, as well as many kinds of spiritual ingredients grew in these locations.
(TL: ‘ring-shaped mountain range’ means a ring of mountains chained together)
The materials that the ugly man and Han Li had primarily exchanged were the distribution charts of the locations of these spiritual ingredients. This was because nobody could guarantee that when they walked into these locations, the currently existing materials would exist in the area which they were in. Thus, in this aspect, the more distribution charts one had, the better, since one could more easily piece the information together and begin searching!
However, the fog on these mountains was too thick and wide! When cultivators normally entered this mountain, they would permanently be lost within this dense fog and could only slowly feel their way forwards, one step at a time. As for whether or not they could emerge again, that depended entirely on their own luck.
But what caused one’s head to hurt even more was that countless demonic beasts lived on the ring-shaped mountain range, from the lower grade one Flame Mouse and Chasing Wind Rabbit to the peak grade one Golden Light Python and Ice Fire Wolf. It roughly contained all of the grade one demonic beasts that the Seven Great Sects had heard or would hear about in the future.
Even the seven or eight of the weakest of demonic beasts could be easily dealt with by a sixth or seventh layer cultivator. However, if the the elite disciples from the Seven Great Sects were to meet peak-level beasts, their only option was to escape as quickly as possible.
Luckily, the last kind of demonic beast was very rare in these mountains, and most of them had become guardians of some spiritual ingredients. It would be unlikely to come across them!
Thus, the majority of the more vicious demonic beasts were of upper grade one. However, they could be easily dealt with under the cooperation of many of the elite disciples. Of course, if one were to run into them alone, a bloody battle would be inevitable.
Regardless of whether it was the dense fog on top of the mountain or the demonic beasts that occupied the mountain, if they were to encounter one of these alone, these proud and arrogant elite disciples might reluctantly try to take a risk and enter to pick spiritual ingredients. However, if two of them encountered each other, they would have no choice but to look at each other in dismay. Going up and down the mountain under these circumstances was definitely a one-way trip!
Thus, the first few groups of disciples that had ever entered the forbidden area only picked some normal spiritual ingredients outside the central area before considering it done. They had never entered the ring-shaped mountains before!
However, a few excursions later, a cultivator from the Masked Moon Sect had racked his brains and defined a magic treasure called “Precious Moon Sun Pearl”. This object actually could not attack enemies or protect oneself; its only use was to emit a strange light that could pierce through many kinds of dense fog or poisonous miasma. It was specially created for use in the forbidden area!
As expected, the Masked Moon Sect disciples that obtained this treasure were able to shine very brightly in the next opening of the forbidden area!
With their backs faced against the other sects, and after getting rid of most of the dense fog, they began to reap the rewards of the ring-shaped mountains. Relying on that time’s harvest, they produced large quantities of Foundation Establishment Pills; then, they broadly recruited other disciples, and their sect’s strength increased greatly. From then on, the Masked Moon Sect was established as the State of Yue’s top cultivator sect.
However, as the saying goes, there wasn’t a wall in this world that didn’t let wind through! News of the Masked Moon Sect’s use of the Precious Moon Sun Pearl to harvest a great amount of spiritual ingredients still spread. Not long after, the other six sects came looking for them, unwilling to let them keep their profit to themselves.
(TL: “There isn’t a wall in this world that doesn’t let wind through” means that there is no such thing as an absolute secret.)
The Masked Moon Sect, unwilling to anger everyone yet also unwilling to give up their precious pearl like this, finally gave it up after bargaining with the other six sects. Ever since, this became the common item of the Seven Great Sects.
The Seven Great Sects would take turns wielding this treasure. After every trip to the forbidden area, the sect holding the precious pearl would have to hand it over to another sect for preservation.
However, regardless of which sect controlled the precious pearl, as soon as they entered into the forbidden area, disciples of that sect would have to, under the supervision of disciples from other sects, use this treasure at a certain time period according to a rule that was set beforehand. One could not purposefully hasten or delay the dispelling of the fog.
This way, all of the disciples that had reached the central area on time could enter the ring-shaped mountain range at the same time to pick spiritual ingredients. This method appeared incredibly fair.
This kind of agreement made it seem as if the Masked Moon Sect had suffered heavy losses, since they had no choice but to give up their dream of claiming the spiritual ingredients in the forbidden area for themselves. However, the Masked Moon Sect had been able to avoid the destruction of their entire sect, leaving them the opportunity to gradually increase their strength.
As of current, the Masked Moon Sect was the most outstanding one of the Seven Great Sects, and its strength could be said to be bottomless! If the various sects did not join together, it would be impossible to defeat them!
This was also the reason why Han Li was not impatient and couldn’t calmly lie to the ugly man!
This time, the Seven Great Sects had already arranged the time for the clearing of the dense fog before entering. It would be on the morning of the third day.
Earlier, Han Li had no time to rest and was rushing towards the central area precisely because he was afraid that he would have been stopped by somebody, thus preventing him from entering the mountain when it was time. Now, since he had already entered the central area, there was no need to be anxious anymore! If he were to rush to the second layer now, he would only be there to stare at the dense fog!
As for the third layer within the center of the forbidden area, it was even more mysterious!
As long as one stood at the peak of the ring-shaped mountains, anyone could clearly see that within the vast area contained by the second layer, there was a huge, soaring pagoda roughly three hundred meters tall erected in the central area. Surrounding the pagoda was a dense, green forest, causing the water flow to be obscure around the pagoda. This place was the supposed third layer and was also the centermost part of the forbidden area!
When the elders from the Seven Great Sects heard the descriptions given by their own disciples, they immediately knew that it was the dwelling of the owner of the forbidden area. They truly coveted the items inside of this pagoda!
However, at the border between the second and third level, there was a strong restrictive barrier with an unknown name still operating, a layer that stopped all of the disciples who tried to barge their way in through it. This restrictive barrier was not one that could be broken by a Qi Condensation cultivator, and even Foundation Establishment cultivators and above also had no way of entering that section of the forbidden area. Thus, the items contained in this pagoda were still a complete mystery!
Han Li had no interest in the huge pagoda in the third layer! To him, being able to find enough spiritual ingredients in the second layer and then immediately being able to retreat was already cause to thank the heavens and gods for their blessings and protection.
Han Li coped with the ugly man in front of him for a full quarter of an hour before he finally freed himself from his nagging, entered a patch of vegetation on the side, and immediately disappeared! Before disappearing, he glanced at the opposing person and saw that that Zhong Wu continued to lazily stand in the same spot, as if he didn’t have the slightest intention of leaving!
It seemed as if these “experts” would not rest until they had gotten rid of the vast majority of the disciples who had come to take advantage of the situation for their own gain! Most likely, the other three doors would have people who were doing the same thing!
As Han Li thought this, he began to search for something in a place far away from the copper doors.
Underneath a giant tree, Han Li discovered an inconspicuous tree hollow, causing his heart to become happy.
After slipping in headfirst, he prepared some small protective measures at the opening of the whole, and without thinking about anything else, he proceeded to fall into a deep sleep.
Han Li needed to rest well, because when the fog around the ring-shaped mountains was to be broken early next morning, only the Heavens knew what would happen! He first had to recover peak condition before completing his business.
However, he believed that those who could stand in front of the ring-shaped mountains tomorrow morning, waiting for the dense fog to be broken, would definitely not be very numerous! Each one would likely not be easier to deal with than that Feng Yue!
Han Li slept very soundly. It wasn’t until early in the morning of the second day that he started to slowly awaken.
The most important day in the forbidden area finally was drawing near!