After cleaning himself up, Li Ye prepared to take Nie Tian to the inter-spatial teleportation portal in the central square. Just as they were about to depart, Hu Han appeared.
"Oh, you're here," Li Ye said. "I'm going to arrange for Hua Tian's trip to the Void Illusion Mountain Range. I'll be back soon."
"The Void Illusion Mountain Range?" Hu Han seemed surprised as she looked at Nie Tian, her eyes wide. "He's only at the Lesser Heaven stage. I'm afraid that he'll be murdered before he can get there."
Li Ye snorted and said, "He'll teleport to the heart of the Void Illusion Mountain Range, instead of taking a long journey to get there."
Upon hearing those words, Hu Han's eyes lit up, and she said with a pleading tone, "Lord Li, I've worked for you for more than a year. I'm recently a bit short of spirit stones, so I'd like to go with him and try my luck in the Void Illusion Mountain Range. Plus, his cultivation base is too low. Even if he doesn't have to travel on foot to get there, it will still be dangerous for him to stay there alone. I can look after him for you."
Although Hu Han had assisted Li Ye with equipment forging for a long time, he had never been warm to her.
From what she could tell, Li Ye had never considered her as one of his own. She was also aware that Pei Qiqi, who was an expert in spatial magics, had set up a small teleportation portal in the Void Illusion Mountain Range.
Originally, only the Dark Moon, Wild Fire, and Blood Skull had the skills and resources to set up teleportation portals in the Void Illusion Mountain Range.
They had never allowed others to set up new ones in the mountain range.
And they only allowed their own members and those who were attached to them to use the portals.
Pei Qiqi was one of the very few who was both capable and respected enough to have their own portals set up in the Void Illusion Mountain Range.
Hu Han had long since overheard that Pei Qiqi had established a small scale teleportation portal in the Void Illusion Mountain Range, but Pei Qiqi had never allowed others to use it, only Li Ye and herself.
Therefore, when she learned that Li Ye was going to let Nie Tian use the portal, she thought that she might be able to take advantage of the opportunity and tag along.
"You want to go too?" Li Ye frowned.
Hu Han nodded repeatedly and said, "Don't you worry. I'll never reveal the location of the portal to others, and I'll even pay for the trip. Furthermore, if you allow me to go with Hua Tian. I'll keep an eye on him while we're there. Should any danger come up, I'll do my utmost to protect him."
Li Ye pondered in silence.
As a matter of fact, neither Nie Tian nor Hu Han understood why he had attached so much importance to Nie Tian that he had been willing to vouch for him and include him on their trip to the secret mine.
The major reason was that Nie Tian had been brought to them by Hua Mu, and Hua Mu was sworn friends with his master. He even had a feeling that there was a great deal of mystery between the two of them.
That made Nie Tian different from the others.
After pondering for a while, Li Ye took out a dark-green medicinal pill from within his ring of holding and held it out to Hu Han. "There's no need for you to pay. If you really want to go, take this Heart Crushing Pill. You probably already know how it works. If you take it, I'll allow you to go with Hua Tian."
The moment she saw the pill, Hu Han's expression flickered drastically.
She seemed torn with indecision as she asked, "When will you give me the antidote?"
"When the two of you come back." Li Ye said with no expression.
Hu Han clenched her jaw as she grabbed the pill. Then, after a deep breath, she swallowed it and said, "Okay now?"
Li Ye emphasized, "Remember to keep Hua Tian safe. If he doesn't return with you, you won't get the antidote."
Hu Han gave a bitter smile and nodded in assent.
"Don't think ill of me. I just like to be on the safe side. Your cultivation base is way higher than his, and it's not like you're in Shatter City. I'd never know if you somehow decided to kill him in the Void Illusion Mountain Range." Li Ye was blunt with his intentions. "You're right. You've worked for me for more than a year, but I can't say I know you well. No decent and honest person would come live in the Realm of Split Void. Plus, I’ve heard stories about you."
Hu Han's face grew grim as she said, "I see. I knew you wouldn't trust someone like me."
Li Ye turned to her and said, "You go ahead and wait for us at the teleportation portal. We'll be there shortly."
Hu Han didn't say another word and walked out of the room.
Li Ye waited for her to disappear from his sight, then snorted and said to Nie Tian, "Watch out for this woman, Hua Tian. I've heard about some of the stuff that she's done. She's not a simple person. If it weren't for the fact that she had agreed to take one of my Heart Crushing Pills, I wouldn't have let her go with you. She can't do anything to you while you're in Shatter City, but it's hard to say when you leave the city."
"Are you afraid that she'll kill me?" Nie Tian sounded surprised.
"I can't rule out that possibility if she hadn't taken the Heart Crushing Pill," Li Ye replied. "You've got to remember that there isn't a single person in the Realm of Split Void who doesn't have a complicated past, especially a woman like her."
"Oh, but why do you think you can trust me?" Nie Tian was curious.
"Because Mr. Hua brought you here, and his relationship with my master…" Li Ye didn't finish his sentence. "Umm… You're no outsider to me. Let's just leave it at that. Come on, time to go."
A short while later, Nie Tian and Li Ye arrived at the grand inter-spatial teleportation portal in the central square of Shatter City, where Hu Han had already been waiting.
On their way to the square, Li Ye had given Nie Tian some advice, along with a green jade bracelet and a map, on which a safe route had been marked out for him.
After Li Ye handed a number of spirit stones to Liu Kang, the Blood Skull member who managed the portal, he beckoned for Nie Tian and Hu Han to step into the portal.
Seconds later, the spell formation was activated, and Nie Tian and Hu Han disappeared in a cluster of blindingly bright light.
In the next moment, the two of them appeared in the small teleportation portal Pei Qiqi had set up in the Void Illusion Mountain Range.
After switching to another environment, Hu Han suddenly became much more talkative. She shot a glance at Nie Tian and said, "I've never seen Li Ye behaving so friendly toward anyone."
Nie Tian smiled and said, "I'm only here to practice cultivation. I have no interest in exploring. The region I'm going to has long since been fully explored. Therefore, there won't be any strong spirit beasts or explorers in that region."
"Okay, I see." Hu Han looked deeply at him, as if she wanted to see through what was special about him. However, the young man in front her seemed every bit as ordinary as any other.
She couldn't figure out why Li Ye, who had a high opinion of himself, would attach such importance to Nie Tian.
Hu Han took out a hollow, diamond-shaped stone and handed it to Nie Tian, saying, "Here, take this Sound Stone. You can use it to communicate with me as long as we're within five kilometers of each other. But if we're any further apart, they'll stop working. I'll try my best to remain within that distance from you while I explore. Should you encounter any trouble, use it to call me, and I'll be there as soon as I can."
Nie Tian grabbed the Sound Stone and held it close to his mouth. As soon as he whispered into it, he heard his voice coming out of the Sound Stone in Hu Han's pocket.
"Remember, be safe." Hu Han said with a straight face. "If you die, no matter how, I'll suffer the same fate."
"Of course!" Nie Tian said, smiling. "I didn't come here to die. I like living."
Just as Hu Han was about to turn around and leave, she hesitated. After a moment of pondering, she said, "Forget it. I'll escort you to the place you're going to first, in case something happens to you on your way there."
"Alright,” Nie Tian said.
Then, Nie Tian put on the green jade bracelet. When he was enveloped by a green power shield, he walked out of the cave with Hu Han.
Right before Hu Han stepped out of the cave, a faint red light shield surrounded her, keeping the poisonous spiritual Qi away.
After Nie Tian showed Hu Han the route on the map, Hu Han led the way for Nie Tian. From time to time, she would unleash her psychic awareness to scan the vicinity, and lead Nie Tian away as soon as they saw any spatial rifts.
The two of them marched cautiously through the Void Illusion Mountain Range. After all, unlike Pei Qiqi, neither of them had mastered any secret magics. They had to be extra careful to steer clear of spatial rifts and spirit beasts.
It took them six full hours to arrive at the the place Li Ye had marked out for Nie Tian on the map.
"This is it. I just checked. As Li Ye said, there isn't any sign of life in this area. You'll be safe here." After escorting Nie Tian to his destination, Hu Han only said a few words, then rapidly left the place.
It was already deep into the night.
Numerous stars were shining brightly in the sky.
Nie Tian was so eager to refine his vortex of star power with the starlight that he didn't even take surveillance before rapidly finding a spot and starting to use the Fragmentary Star Incantation to channel starlight from the sky.
Deep in the night, in a remote corner of the Void Illusion Mountain Range.
Nie Tian was sitting cross-legged, using the secret magic he had learned from the first part of the Fragmentary Star Incantation to channel star power from the heavens into the vortex of star power in his spiritual sea, and condense that power into stardew.
Meanwhile, a Heaven Eye hung high in the sky, scanning the vicinity for signs of movement, in case spirit beasts or Qi warriors entered the area.
As numerous streams of star power began to continuously penetrate the green light shield and converge on him, he had a feeling that it seemed that he didn't need to focus solely on the spell to continue the process. Therefore, he spared some attention to study the first part of the Fragmentary Star Incantation.
As soon as he sent a wisp of his psychic awareness into one of the hexagrams on his chest, he saw a large number of ancient symbols lined up in perfect order.
"Huh?!" With a single glance, he noticed that the record about the method to channel star power from the heavens was no longer there.
At that moment, he suddenly received a flash of enlightenment; whenever he fully grasped a magic or spell from the Fragmentary Star Incantation, the part that recorded the magic or spell would disappear.
Then, it occurred to him that Hua Mu used to tell him that by the time he had refined those two fragmentary star marks, he wouldn't have anything to fear, and would be able to openly return to his home.
He hadn't truly understood what he had meant, but now he did.
By the time he had mastered every spell and magic in the first part of the Fragmentary Star Incantation, evey magical symbol in the hexagram that carried the mysteries of the incantation would disappear.
That would be when he had truly merged the incantation with himself.
With these thoughts in mind, he commanded his psychic awareness to move on to the following spell.
He soon realized that aside from the starlight channeling spell, there were three other spells recorded in the first part of the Fragmentary Star Incantation.
They were Starstrike, Starshift, and Starfall.
Starstrike was a powerful attacking spell. Starshift was a spell that would allow him to teleport from one position to another, while Starfall was a spell he could use to change the course of shooting stars from outer space and redirect them to bombard his enemies.
The power source of all three of them resided in the stardew in the vortex of star power.
He only used his psychic awareness to briefly scan the three spells and learn their unique traits, but didn't actually learn how to cast them.
"What's in the middle part?" With that thought in Nie Tian's mind, a wisp of his psychic awareness flew into the other fragmentary star mark on his chest to learn what mysterious magics were recorded in it.
As he did, he already had a feeling that his psychic power was quickly running low.
That was when he realized that by only using his psychic power to briefly examine the ancient symbols and learn what spells were recorded in the Fragmentary Star Incantation, he had consumed a large proportion of his psychic power.
However, he was determined to check what magical spells were written in the middle part of the Fragmentary Star Incantation.
It was at that very moment that the seven stars in his soul suddenly began to shine brightly.
Numerous wisps of soul power floated out from within the stars and joined his psychic power before they entered the hexagram together.
Nie Tian immediately came to a realization, "It's forcing me to use my soul power! I'm forced to summon power from the fragmentary stars to read the middle part of the Fragmentary Star Incantation!"
Then, he only briefly scanned the spells that were recorded in the hexagram before retracting the mixture of his psychic power and soul power.
The significant consumption of psychic power made him feel depleted and muddle-headed.
Because of that, the efficiency of his channeling of the starlight from the heavens was also undermined. The speed at which he refined star power into stardew declined substantially.
However, thanks to the brief scan, he had already learned what spells were recorded in the middle part of the incantation.
They were all spells regarding cultivating soul power and using soul power to attack, defend, or communicate with spirits in spiritual souls.
As a matter of fact, his eyes had been caught by one of the spells: Starchain. However, just as he was about to learn what it was about, he was struck by a sudden rush of exhaustion, and felt that even his pure soul power wasn't capable of giving him more time.
"The first part of the Fragmentary Star Incantation is about channeling star power into the spiritual sea, forming a vortex of star power, condensing stardew, and using star power to cast spells.
"The middle part of the incantation is about cultivating soul power and using it to cast mysterious spells."
His brief examination allowed him to have an overall idea of the first and middle parts of the Fragmentary Star Incantation.
He also realized that his priority was to learn every spell and technique recorded within them.
Every time he fully mastered one spell, the symbols that carried the spell would disappear from within the fragmentary star marks.
By the time there wasn't a single symbol left in the two hexagram marks, it would mean that every spell and technique they carried had been engraved in his mind and had become a part of him.
Therefore, even if the Heaven Palace Sect somehow found him, they wouldn't be able to strip the incantation from him.
At the same time, in the Realm of Flame Heaven…
On top of a high mountain peak outside the Hell Sect, Ning Yang from the Heaven Palace Sect had a grim expression on his face after being awoken from his cultivation. Frustration could be seen in his eyes as he stared at the pervading demon Qi in front of him. Low in spirit, he asked, "You're here. Any word?"
Standing beside him, Su Lin's long, white garments fluttered in the wind. Adding in the chilly moonlight, she looked like a female immortal that had just descended from the moon.
Su Lin stepped closer to Ning Yang and shook her head. "No. We have every sect in the Realm of Flame Heaven searching for Nie Tian for us, but there's still no news regarding his whereabouts. I even sent out a number of our sect members to ask for his information. They all came back empty-handed.
"It's almost as if this Nie Tian person has vanished into thin air."
Ning Yang let out a sigh and said, "We can't find him, which means that we can't return to our sect. My martial uncle sent people to inform me that the spatial rift near our sect is also leaking demon Qi day and night.
"If this goes on, it won't be even ten years before we will be forced to move our sect."
Su Lin pondered in silence for a moment before asking, "Have you learned the profound knowledge in your fragmentary star mark?"
Upon hearing these words, a sinister expression appeared on Ning Yang's handsome face.
He grunted like a trapped beast, and vigorously smashed his fist onto the stone ground next to him.
Sizable cracks extended in the solid stone ground up to a hundred meters away.
Numerous huge rocks rolled down the mountaintop and fell to the bottom of the valley. It took a long time for the rumbling sounds to stop.
"In order to study the knowledge in the fragmentary star mark, I've already used up the star power that I obtained in the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace. But all that I've seen…" Ning Yang paused to take a deep breath. Then, he shook his head and said, "I can't see very clearly, but I'm certain that the final part of the Fragmentary Star Incantation is about entering and cultivating in the three domains!"
Su Lin's expression flickered. "What?! That means only the ultimate experts who are in the Void Domain, the Saint Domain, and the God Domain will be able to learn and use it?"
Ning Yang nodded in frustration and said with a hateful tone, "This damn incantation must be practiced step by step. Only by mastering the first and middle parts of it will I be able to learn the method to channel star power and cultivate my soul. And only when these are accomplished, and I reach the peak of the Soul realm, will I be able to use the method in my part of the incantation to cultivate!"
"Without knowing how to channel star power and develop soul power, I can't even get a good understanding of the method, much less use it!
After realizing what had happened, Su Lin looked him in the eye and consoled, "Don't worry, martial uncle. We'll find that Nie Tian person soon, and you'll have his two fragmentary star marks. Then, you'll be able to start with the first part of the incantation and learn the whole thing."
With these words, Su Lin said with an envious expression on her face, "Only the mysterious Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace, which has vanished for centuries, has divine methods of cultivating in the Void Domain, the Saint Domain, and the God Domain. Even our sect doesn't have them, and so we are merely groping in the dark."
"What I fear the most is that Nie Tian might master the knowledge in his two fragmentary star marks before we can find him." Ning Yang's face was very grim. "By that time, even our sectmaster won't have the ability to strip those two fragmentary star marks from him.
"If his fragmentary star marks have become a part of him while I can't even study mine, I'll be forced to give mine up to him!"
Those thoughts made Ning Yang fume with anger.
Upon hearing his words, Su Lin's face also grew long. She said, "I'll send some of our people to search in the other realms of the Domain of the Falling Stars."
As soon as she uttered these words, Su Lin turned around and left.
After she disappeared from his sight, Ning Yang finally broke. He threw his head back and roared Nie Tian's name before smashing the mountaintop into stone pieces.