Blackish-violet demon Qi filled heaven and earth. Not only would the human Qi warriors' vision be compromised when they were in it, but their senses would also be influenced to a great extent.
Standing atop that mountain peak, the few figures were all wreathed in faint spiritual light, which protected them from the corrosion of the demon Qi.
Each and every one of them was a person with great power and influence in the Realm of Flame Heaven.
Among them were Chang Sen from the Hell Sect, Ghost Eye from the Ghost Sect, and Fang Hui from the Spiritual Treasure Sect, all of whom were powerful Worldly realm Qi warriors.
Aside from them, Huang Fan, an elder from the Heaven Palace Sect, and Su Lin were also waiting silently.
Only representatives from the Cloudsoaring Sect, Grayvale Sect, and Mystic Mist Sect hadn't shown up yet, due to the long journeys they had to take to get here.
As the dark-red light unleashed by the Blood Lotus gradually entered their view, everyone atop the mountain peak seemed to be suddenly enlivened.
The moment the white-garbed Su Lin caught sight of Nie Tian on the Blood Lotus, she couldn't help but call out, "Nie Tian!"
"Are you sure it's him?" Huang Fan asked in a soft voice.
Huang Fan was the powerful expert the Heaven Palace Sect had sent to the Realm of Flame Heaven to take the third fragmentary star mark from Ning Yang.
He was at the late Profound realm, the same as Chang Sen, the strongest man in the Realm of Flame Heaven.
Originally, he had come to the Realm of Flame Heaven for Ning Yang. However, after learning that Ning Yang had disappeared from the Realm of Flame Heaven, he had chosen to stay.
The reason for that was that he was convinced that Nie Tian would eventually return to the Realm of Flame Heaven.
After learning about Nie Tian's stories and that the first thing he had done after returning from the Heaven Gate trial had been to awaken the Bone Blood Demon and lift the Blood Sect's siege, Huang Fan was convinced that Nie Tian was affectionate and faithful, and that once he refined his fragmentary star marks, he would return to the Realm of Flame Heaven as quickly as he could.
His assessment had been accurate.
The Blood Lotus descended upon the mountain peak.
After the two of them got down, Li Jing didn't put away her Blood Lotus, but rather stared at Huang Fan with her eyes filled with vigilance, and said, "Here. I've brought him to you."
"Greetings." Nie Tian bowed in a respectful yet proud fashion.
Chang Sen, Ghost Eye, and Fang Hui all nodded briefly in reply.
Only Huang Fan from the Heaven Palace Sect unleashed wisps of his soul power to carefully examine Nie Tian with his eyes narrowed.
A moment later, a slightly surprised expression appeared on his face as he said, "You practice different types of incantations. Yet, you managed to step into the middle Heaven stage in two years. Quite impressive, I've got to say."
During these two years, Su Lin, a promising disciple of the Heaven Palace Sect, had made the same progress in her cultivation as Nie Tian.
However, Su Lin only practiced only one type of incantation, and all the secret magics she practiced were of the same attribute. Her being able to make such rapid progress had a great deal to do with the fact that the Heaven Palace Sect had provided her with endless cultivation resources, and that she possessed amazing talent.
Nie Tian had needed to hide from numerous search teams sent out by different forces. In addition, he had needed to spend time to learn and refine the fragmentary star mark. The fact that he had managed to advance to the middle Heaven stage under such circumstances greatly amazed Huang Fan.
Chang Sen and Ghost Eye were also secretly amazed by Nie Tian's exceedingly fast cultivation.
With a frown, Chang Sen from the Hell Sect said, "Brother Huang. Nie Tian is here now. Where is Ning Yang? According to you, only when the three fragmentary star marks become one will we be able to start the restrictive spell left by the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace and use the grand spell formation formed by these three gigantic mountain peaks to seal that spatial rift.
"If Ning Yang doesn't show up with his fragmentary star mark, won't Nie Tian's return be in vain?"
Ghost Eye and Fang Hui also frowned, unpleasant expressions appearing on their faces.
During the past six months, they had communicated with Huang Fan occasionally, from whom they had learned that, in light of the urgency of the situation, the Heaven Palace Sect had already planned to take the third fragmentary star mark from Ning Yang and give it to Nie Tian.
That was why they had been waiting for Nie Tian to show up as soon as possible after refining his fragmentary star marks.
Now that Nie Tian had appeared, the fragmentary star mark on Ning Yang had become the heart of the matter.
"Ning Yang won't be coming." With a calm expression, Huang Fan looked deeply at Nie Tian for a while before asking with a hoarse voice, "Were you the one who killed him?"
Upon hearing these words, everyone's expression turned pale with fright, with Huang Fan and Su Lin being the only exceptions.
Nie Tian shook his head, and said in a composed manner, "What? Ning Yang was at the late Greater Heaven stage, and his cultivation base doesn't do justice to his actual strength. Given my limited cultivation base and strength, how could I possibly kill him?"
"But he's dead!" Huang Fan raised his voice. "And his fragmentary star mark is now in your possession. How do explain that?"
Meanwhile, Su Lin glared at Nie Tian, her eyes filled with burning enmity.
Everyone from the Realm of Flame Heaven seemed to be dumbstruck.
"How did you know that Ning Yang was dead?" Nie Tian asked curiously.
Huang Fan let out a snort and said, "Ning Yang was one of the Heaven Palace Sect's chosen ones. Of course we have ways to know whether he's alive or dead. We learned about his death the moment he died. However, soon after his death, you showed up in the Realm of Flame Heaven with all three fragmentary star marks. There's no way that we'll believe you if you say you had nothing to do with his death!"
Nie Tian turned a blind eye to his intimidation, and said with a plain tone, "I didn't kill him. He was killed by a Phantasm.
"After I refined the first fragmentary star mark, I discovered that I could sense Ning Yang's existence, but when I went to find him, I happened to see that he was fighting a Phantasm. The Phantasm killed him in order to take his fragmentary star mark. However, it somehow flew towards me on its own and merged with my body."
"Are you talking about the Phantasms that appeared in the Realm of Split Void?" Huang Fan asked, lowering his voice again.
The Heaven Palace Sect was extremely resourceful and well-informed, so that it was only natural that they had learned about the Phantasms that had appeared in the Realm of Split Void.
Before, they had only learned that Ning Yang had died, but they hadn't been aware of where had he died, and the fact that he had been hiding in the Realm of Split Void.
The Heaven Palace Sect possessed a special instrument which allowed them to store a strand of their most talented disciples' souls.
Once one of them died, his or her strand of soul would automatically dissipate and vanish from the instrument.
However, it only allowed them to learn their chosen ones' life or death, not determine their accurate location through the soul strand.
That was why they only knew that Ning Yang was dead, but didn't know how and where he died.
"Yeah, Ning Yang was killed by one of the Phantasms that descended upon the Realm of Split Void." Nie Tian clung to his statement. "There's a special region to the east of Ash City in the Realm of Split Void, which people call a forbidden region because, in that region, meteors fall from the heavens from time to time. Since Ning Yang hadn't been able to learn and refine his fragmentary star mark, and he believed that region had some kind of connection to the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace, he went there to try his luck and see if he could find ways to refine his fragmentary star mark.
"I, on the other hand, needed large amounts of Star Stones to practice the Fragmentary Star Incantation, so I was there as well.
"I saw Ning Yang rush towards a meteor right after it fell from the sky and crashed into the earth. However, nobody knew there was a Phantasm hiding inside that meteor."
He hid the part where he, Pei Qiqi, and Xue Long had joined hands and killed Ning Yang, but rather blamed all that on the Phantasm.
Huang Fan, as well as the Profound realm experts from the Realm of Flame Heaven, frowned as they listened to Nie Tian's narration and pondered its authenticity.
After Nie Tian was finished, everyone remained silent for a while, as if they were judging how much of the story he just told was truthful, and how much was not.
Only after a long time did Huang Fan snort coldly and say, "I'll believe you for now, but now that we know that Ning Yang died in the Realm of Split Void, we'll send people there to conduct a thorough investigation. If we ever find evidence that it was you who killed Ning Yang, you'll have to atone for your crime!"
"What do you mean?" Li Jing asked coldly.
Huang Fan shot a glance at her and said calmly, "It's simple. Whoever kills one of our chosen ones will have to compensate us. Our sect poured in endless effort and resources to cultivate Ning Yang and make him what he was. If we find out that he killed Ning Yang, then he will have to join the Heaven Palace Sect and fill the void he has left."
Upon hearing these words, the expressions of everyone present grew strange, even including Su Lin.
It seemed that even she didn't expect that the fuming and angry Huang Fan's punishment for killing Ning Yang would be for the criminal to join the Heaven Palace Sect.
Soon, Chang Sen and the others came to their senses.
They gradually understood Huang Fan's thinking. Now that Nie Tian had gathered all three fragmentary star marks, it meant that he would receive the complete legacies of the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace.
That being the case, whichever sect Nie Tian decided to join, he would be able to bring brand-new, profound cultivation concepts and secret magics to that new sect.
As a matter of fact, the reason why the Heaven Palace Sect had prepared to take Ning Yang's fragmentary star mark and give it to Nie Tian, after learning that Ning Yang hadn't been able to refined it, was that they wanted to offer it to Nie Tian on the condition that he agreed to become a disciple of the Heaven Palace Sect.
However, Huang Fan hadn't expected that Nie Tian had taken the fragmentary star from Ning Yang without their arrangement.
Considering that, their plan to lure Nie Tian to join the Heaven Palace Sect using the third fragmentary star mark would be destined to fail.
Therefore, Huang Fan thought of a new way, where he would use Nie Tian's killing of Ning Yang as an excuse to force Nie Tian to join the Heaven Palace Sect.
Once Nie Tian joined the Heaven Palace Sect, that would mean that the legacies he had obtained from the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace would also belong to the Heaven Palace Sect.
"We can focus on that later, but at present, our number one priority is to seal the spatial rift," Chang Sen from the Hell Sect said.
"Alright." Huang Fan nodded in assent. Then, he turned to Nie Tian and asked somewhat suspiciously, "Nie Tian, you've only refined one fragmentary star mark; do you have confidence that you'll be able to start the spell formation left by the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace and use it to seal the spatial rift?
"The grand spell formation has been here all along," Nie Tian explained. "I just need to start it with the three fragmentary star marks."
Spirited, Chang Sen said, "Good. Do what you have to do. No one will interrupt you."
Afterwards, Nie Tian sat down on the mountain peak, which he knew was one of the three mountain peaks that formed the grand spell formation, and started communicating with the three fragmentary star marks on his chest.