In a location several hundred kilometers away from where Nie Tian and Dong Li were, giant rocks split open, creating a deep rift in a grayish-brown extinct volcano.
Intense spatial fluctuations suddenly spread out from the depths of the newly-formed rift.
Moments later, a group of Qi warriors dressed in the Flame God Sect’s garments walked out of the rift.
Their leader was a tall, burly, bald man in his prime.
He was none other than “The Flame God”, Xia Yi. The entire Domain of the Falling Stars knew this middle Soul realm Qi warrior to be an extremely formidable figure.
Xia Yi rose into midair, overseeing the deadly and silent region. Bulging veins could be seen on his bare arms, as if burning lava was flowing in them instead of blood. “The Tool Sect’s assessment pageant will begin soon. Split up and gather earthflame essence from nearby volcanoes with the spiritual tools I’ve prepared for you.
“I need a copious amount of earthflame essence to break through into the late Soul realm. The result of this operation will determine whether I can make that breakthrough or not.”
With a wave of his hand, Xia Yi signaled for the powerful experts from the Flame God Sect to move out.
The powerful experts Xia Yi had brought were mostly at the Worldly and Profound realm, Tang Yang being one of them. Since cultivators with cultivation bases at the Profound realm or higher would be able to travel through the air, the Profound realm experts rose up and flew off in different directions upon hearing Xia Yi’s order. “We won’t disappoint you, sectmaster!”
Tang Yang and the other Worldly realm experts had to fly towards nearby volcanoes that had smoke and flames rising from them in air-transportation spiritual tools.
They were all well-aware that their sectmaster had come to a critical point in his cultivation.
In order for Xia Yi, who had mastered all kinds of fire incantations, to advance to the late Soul realm, a substantial amount of earthflame essence would be needed.
However, earthflame essence only existed in the hearts of active volcanoes.
The incomparably large volcano that stood beside the Flame God Sect was the foundation of their sect. Bearing the future of their sect in mind, Xia Yi couldn’t take earthflame essence from that volcano.
Furthermore, as large as it was, it was only one volcano.
It would be almost impossible for him to break through into the late Soul realm with the earthflame essence within it alone.
Throughout the entire Domain of the Falling Stars, the Realm of Unbounded Desolation had the most volcanoes.
Even though he knew perfectly well about the rule established by the Tool Sect, he had decided to snatch this prey from the tiger so that he could advance to the late Soul realm.
The fact that he had brought so many powerful experts from the Flame God Sect made it clear that he expected war.
Xia Yi let out a cold harrumph, looking off into the direction of Desolate City and the Tool Sect. “The Tool Sect... After I enter the late Soul realm with the earthflame essence I gather from here, all of the volcanoes in the Realm of Unbounded Desolation will belong to the Flame God Sect!”
Seeing that all of the Flame God Sect experts were off to their tasks, he took out a Sound Stone and spoke into it with a frown, “How is it going over there, Zhao Shanling?”
Floating above numerous erupting volcanoes, the skinny man replied with a sinister and sickly smile, “Don’t worry, Flame God. Everything is going according to plan. The Death Reign is moving quickly towards the Tool Sect. Wherever it passes, no lives will survive!”
The Flame God nodded slowly from hundreds of kilometers away. “Good. Once I enter the late Soul realm, I’ll help you take back what belongs to you! You’ll have the Tool Sect, and we will rule the Realm of Unbounded Desolation together!”
“That’s right! The sectmaster of the Tool Sect should have been me!” Zhao Shanling laughed wildly.
On a volcano that was thousands of meters high.
Halfway up the crimson, stony volcano, a cave led directly towards the lava inside of it. Facing the pool of lava, a middle-aged, yet still attractive, woman was switching between hand seals, channeling fiercest flame power up from the heart of the volcano into a huge axe that was floating above the pool of lava and shining with dazzlingly golden light.
From time to time, the huge axe would dip into the pool of lava.
As the elegant and beautiful woman practiced her secret incantations devotedly, the originally faint inscriptions on the surface of the huge axe gradually grew clearer.
Standing behind the woman, an old man with a bushy beard stared hard at the large axe without blinking. Even his breaths were slightly rapid.
The old man’s name was Qin Yi. He was a member of the Water Moon Chamber of Commerce, currently at the late Profound realm, only one step away from entering the Soul realm. Regarding seniority, he should be considered Qin Yan’s great-grandfather.
That large axe was being custom-made for him. If things went smoothly, it would come out as a Spirit Channeling grade treasure.
The charming, middle-aged woman was Pei Qiqi and Li Ye’s master, Zhen Huilan.
The forging process had already lasted several months. Now, it had come to a critical moment.
The figure of a man suddenly descended to the mouth of that volcano. It turned out to be Hua Mu.
Standing by the mouth of the volcano, Hua Mu gazed down and could vaguely see the large axe floating over the pool of lava.
Qin Yin sensed his arrival, and thus flew out of the cave to the mouth of the volcano. Upon seeing that it was Hua Mu, Qin Yi let out a sigh of relief and said with a smile, “You scared me... Why are you here?”
Before Hua Mu had a chance to talk, his eyebrows rose as he added, “What? After avoiding her for so long, you finally failed to fight the desire to meet her, didn’t you? But she’s forging a spiritual tool for me now. You’ve caught her at a bad time.”
Hua Mu smiled bitterly. “I only decided to come because I know she’s forging a spiritual tool for you, and she would too busy to see me.”
Qin Yin let out a sigh. “Why are you hiding from her?”
Hua Mu’s expression grew grim. “My clock is ticking. It won’t be very long before my lifespan runs out. As a dying man, I can only sneak a glance at her. What else can I do?”
“Are you sure there’s no way to extend your lifespan?” Qin Yi asked with furrowed eyebrows.
“What can I do? Unless I can find the Fruits of Life, or...” Hua Mu shook his head and decided not to mention Nie Tian. “Forget it. If I can somehow live through this tribulation and gain more years, I won’t hide from her anymore. But if I can’t, then everything will be over soon. It’s better that we don’t meet again.”
“If you don’t want to meet her, then why did you come?” Qin Yi asked.
Hua Mu smiled bitterly. “I don’t know. Stupidity, huh?”
Qin Yi didn’t try to persuade him. “I can’t understand you… You haven’t started a family your entire life. Now that your time is coming, why don’t you find yourself a disciple? Look at Huilan. At least she has Li Ye and Qiqi to carry on her legacies. What do you have?”
Hua Mu shook his head. “It’s not that easy to find a disciple. I set my mind on one, but someone beat me to it and took him in already.”
The two of them chatted and caught up on various other matters.
All of a sudden, Hua Mu’s expression flickered drastically as he jerked his head to gaze off into the distance.
He vaguely saw a cluster of pale-gray smoke rapidly moving in the Tool Sect’s direction.
Hua Mu gasped with astonishment. “The Death Reign! Zhao Shanling is back!”
A shudder ran through Qin Yi. “Zhao Shanling!? How does he dare return to the Realm of Unbounded Desolation?”
“The appearance of the Death Reign and return of Zhao Shanling... I’m afraid an upheaval will soon take place in the Realm of Unbounded Desolation!” Hua Mu took a deep breath. “You stay here and protect Huilan. I’ll go inform the Tool Sect!”
“Sure!” Qin Yi nodded vigorously.
Hua Mu vanished in the next moment.
In the Tool Sect.
As the sectmaster of the Tool Sect, Qi Bailu was sitting at the end of a great hall filled with large equipment forging cauldrons. Eyes narrowed, he nodded repeatedly as he listened to the elders report the arrangements regarding the assessment pageant.
Solemn and dressed in frosty white garments, Qi Bailu seemed like a man of few words.
On the enormous stone wall behind him was engraved a map of the Realm of Unbounded Desolation, where each and every volcano was marked out.
At this moment, of all the spots on the map, three were flickering, as if they were on the verge of going out.
Qi Bailu jerked around to look at the three flickering spots. A hint of rage appeared in his eyes as he said, “People are gathering earthflame essence regardless of our rule, and they are doing it simultaneously in different locations!”
The elders of the Tool Sect also grew angry looking at the changes on the map. Some of them started venting their anger.
“They must have death wishes!”
“These newcomers seem to have forgotten about our rule. I can’t believe they would actually dare to gather earthflame essence during the assessment pageant!”
“Do they assume that we can’t spare our hands to deal with them?”
As they spoke, a few other spots started to flicker on the map, as if they were also losing earthflame essence.
“Something is wrong!” Qi Bailu said with a frown. “Send Worldly realm and Profound realm disciples to those locations, and find out what’s going on with those volcanoes! Report any findings to me immediately!”
The elders rapidly walked out of the great hall to obey their sectmaster’s commands.