It was an isolated island in the middle of an ocean that stretched as far as the eye could see in the Realm of Flame Heaven.
Hua Mu, Pei Qiqi, and Nie Tian arrived on this island from the Blood Skull's grand teleportation portal in Shatter City.
The three of them walked out of the teleportation portal inside the mountain's belly and found that it was already midday. The sun shone fiercely above the lonely island.
Nie Tian was holding a dark-red saber in his hands. He would infuse it with streams of power of different attributes from time to time and marvel at it.
This saber, with the name "Flame Star," was none other than the masterful spiritual tool Li Ye had customized for Nie Tian.
The Flame Star was 1.5 meters in length and dark-red in color. Its hilt was made of wood-attributed spiritual materials, and its blade was forged from essence extracted from numerous Star Stones, along with precious fire-attributed spiritual materials.
Its blade was engraved with numerous complicated, detailed spell formations, which would allow it to channel and circulate flame power, wood power, and star power within itself.
Holding the beautiful saber, Nie Tian could almost still hear Li Ye's endless bragging and detailed explanation regarding it.
Li Ye's pleased and proud face constantly flashed across Nie Tian's mind, making him realize this saber was the culmination of his equipment forging career.
According to Li Ye, the Flame Star fell into the level three Premium grade.
Since it was custom-made for Nie Tian's needs, it could be bolstered by Nie Tian's three different types of spiritual power, making it Nie Tian's go-to spiritual tool for a long time in the future.
Numerous bright spots that contained refined spiritual power flashed across the marvelous spell formations on the Flame Star's surface. Eyes narrowed, Nie Tian felt the subtle flow of his spiritual power within the Flame Star as he tried to learn more about this remarkable piece of work.
The more he fiddled with it, the more marvelous he felt it to be. Clearly, he had already grown attached to it, and he couldn't help but marvel at it from time to time.
He clicked his tongue as he said, "I never thought I'd say this, but Li Ye does have true talent. The moment I laid my hand on the Flame Star, I could tell it suited me perfectly, as if it was born for me and no one else."
"Yeah, of course. You're the only reason it exists," Pei Qiqi replied with a plain tone.
Hua Mu shot a glance at him and said, "Alright, I've never seen you put it down since the moment you got it. You'll have plenty of time to learn the features of the Flame Star later. You don't need to figure them all out now."
With these words, Hua Mu summoned his Lightning Shuttle and beckoned for Nie Tian and Pei Qiqi to get on board.
Pei Qiqi's eyes lit up as she exclaimed softly, "A Lightning Shuttle! Wow, Mr. Hua! I can't believe you actually possesses such a rare air-transportation spiritual tool!"
Even for the Wild Fire, Dark Moon, and Blood Skull, they only owned ground-transportation spiritual tools.
None of the three major forces of the Realm of Split Void had ever possessed a fast air-transportation spiritual tool like the Lightning Shuttle.
As far as she knew, only a handful of sects that were as powerful as the Heaven Palace Sect possessed similar air-transportation spiritual tools, and only their top figures would have access to those rare treasures.
The fact that Hua Mu had a Lightning Shuttle was enough evidence of his substantial wealth and lofty status.
"Actually, it was thanks to your master that I came to own it," Hua Mu said with a smile. "There are very few Qi warriors who know how to forge a Lightning Shuttle in the entire Domain of the Falling Stars. Luckily for me, your master is one of them. So, I gathered all the required spiritual materials and asked her to forge this Lightning Shuttle for me."
"How come I didn't know about this?" Pei Qiqi was curious.
A complicated look flashed across Hua Mu's eye as he said, "That was a very long time ago."
Pei Qiqi seemed to have understood something, and thus didn't pursue the matter.
As soon as she and Nie Tian both stepped into the Lightning Shuttle, Hua Mu started it. Then, it rose up into the air and disappeared into the distant horizon like a bright flash in broad daylight.
As the Lightning Shuttle traveled at an immeasurably fast speed, Hua Mu took the time to explain the perilous situation to Nie Tian.
It had been about two years since Nie Tian had left the Realm of Flame Heaven.
During this period of time, the speed at which the three spatial rifts had leaked demon Qi into the Realm of Flame Heaven, the Realm of a Thousand Devastations, and the and Realm of Mystic Heaven had surpassed everyone's expectations.
It had only been two years and yet one fourth of the Realm of Flame Heaven was already drowning in raging demon Qi.
The Hell Sect had been forced to move from their original location.
The Heaven Palace Sect from the Realm of Mystic Heaven was also on the verge of being submerged by demon Qi, so it wouldn't be long before they were driven out of their headquarters as well.
The situation was just as bad in the Realm of a Thousand Devastations.
Nie Tian had been missing for a long time. Numerous sects and forces had joined the search. Yet, none of them had been able to ferret him out.
As time passed, rumors emerged that Nie Tian, who had obtained two fragmentary star marks, was already dead.
Even though people in the Realm of Mystic Heaven and the Realm of a Thousand Devastations felt insecure and uneasy after hearing such rumors, since those two realms were overseen and ruled by powerful sects, no significant turmoil had occurred.
However, as for Realm of Flame Heaven, perhaps due to the widely-spread rumor of Nie Tian being dead, and the fact that the raging demon Qi had been spreading exceedingly fast, everyone in the Realm of Flame Heaven had started panicking, as if they couldn't see any hope.
It wasn't long before the sects that had connections with other realms started to pull some strings and arrange for their core disciples to evacuate from the Realm of Flame Heaven.
Soon afterwards, word of such actions leaked out, making the clans that clung to those sects, as well as the mortals who lived in cities like Black Cloud City, feel terrified and desperate.
After all, they knew in their hearts that the power of those sects was very limited, and they couldn't possibly evacuate every man and woman from the Realm of Flame Heaven.
As the desperate emotions spread out among the people, the situation in the Realm of Flame Heaven grew increasingly complicated and hard to contain.
Mortals and low-level Qi warriors sensed their imminent doom, and thus gave in to their evil side and did whatever they liked. As a result, numerous mortal cities were plagued by constant killing, raping, and plundering.
The disciples of the major sects who had low cultivation bases and statuses were also drowned in desperation, and thus abandoned themselves.
Sects and clans that used to plot against the Realm of Flame Heaven also gave up their original plans and cut off their connections with the Realm of Flame Heaven.
Living in such peril, people in the Realm of Flame Heaven grew increasingly pessimistic. Qi warriors were no longer in the mood for practicing cultivation, and mortals were no longer in the mood for cultivating their lives. They either sat around and waited to die, or sought one last spur of joy before their deaths.
Nie Tian, who had been considered highly by the major sects after returning in triumph from the Heaven Gate trial, also became the target of people's scorn.
In many people's opinions, since Nie Tian hadn't had the ability to refine his two fragmentary star marks two years ago, he should have been smart and handed them to Ning Yang from the Heaven Palace Sect, so that Ning Yang would be able to seal the spatial rifts and save them from their miserable lives where they worried about the inundation of demon Qi and mass invasions of Demon armies day and night.
It didn't matter to them anymore whether Nie Tian was dead or alive. To them, Nie Tian had already become the source of all of their miseries.
They all believed that he was the reason why the Realm of Flame Heaven was what it was now.
The Heaven Palace Sect and powerful sects from the Realm of a Thousand Devastations harbored the same opinion, as they also considered Nie Tian to be a brat who didn't understand the greater good, and it was none other than his rash decisions that had put the entire Domain of the Falling Stars into such a perilous situation.
On the Lightning Shuttle.
Nie Tian looked down at the vast, open ground. Eyebrows knitted, he suddenly said, "What happened to my grandfather and aunt?"
"Your master sent them to the Realm of a Hundred Battles not long ago," Hua Mu replied with a bitter smile. "There was no other choice. As long as your grandfather and aunt were still in the Realm of Flame Heaven, they would face hostility wherever they went. Even some people within the Cloudsoaring Sect were resentful towards them because of you.
"It would have been very dangerous for them to continue to stay in the Realm of Flame Heaven.
"In order to prevent unpleasant things from happening to them, your master could only secretly send them to the Realm of a Hundred Battles."
Nie Tian's expression was very grim as he asked, "What do you mean by unpleasant things?"
Hua Mu let out a sigh and continued, "Some people think if you're still alive, your aunt and grandfather would be the best tool to make you emerge by yourself and hand over the fragmentary star marks. Desperation always brings out the worst in human nature.
"At first, when the spread of demon Qi didn't seem as fast, and people's lives weren't threatened, everything seemed fine.
"However, as the spread of the demon Qi accelerated, raging demon Qi filled an increasingly larger area. Yet, there was still no sign of you.
"Everyone panicked, and all they could think of was how to stay alive. That was when all kinds of ideas regarding ways to force you to reveal yourself appeared in their minds.
"Your master was under a lot of pressure for sheltering your grandfather and aunt.
"As he realized the situation was getting out of hand, he eventually secretly sent your grandfather and aunt away. Furthermore, he couldn't tell anyone where he had sent them. He was afraid that the Heaven Palace Sect and powerful sects from the Realm of a Thousand Devastations would adopt similar approaches and threaten your grandfather and aunt's lives.
"The worst of human nature indeed," Nie Tian said coldly.
"We're almost at the Cloudsoaring Sect." Han Mu said with a soft voice.