At the end of a mountain valley.
A cluster of thick, pale-gray smoke was slowly penetrating and dissolving a ward of slithering lightning bolts formed by multiple Tool Sect elders.
A number of thunderballs were floating in midair, flickering and giving rise to heaven-shaking, earth-shattering rumbles from time to time.
Beast-like shadows could be vaguely seen within those thunderballs. They were apparently struggling and trying to break away from the thunderballs as the Death Reign closed in on them.
"We can't hold much longer, sectmaster," An elder with dangling, long, white eyebrows, who resembled Zhu Bin, said with a suffering expression. "It'll take the Death Reign a quarter hour at the most to breach our last defensive ward."
The elder was named Zhu Lian, Zhu Bin's cousin and a late Profound realm cultivator.
Eyebrows furrowed, Qi Bailu gazed at the slowly approaching Death Reign. With a helpless sigh, he ordered, "Inform all supervising disciples to urge the equipment forgers who are attending the assessment assembly to stop and return to Desolate City. Tell them not to stay in Desolate City, and that they need to evacuate via the inter-realm teleportation portal as soon as possible."
Standing next to him, an elder who was responsible for giving out orders answered with a grim expression, "Got it, sectmaster." Then, he took out a Sound Stone and whispered Qi Bailu's order into it.
Afterwards, Qi Bailu asked the elders around him, "Have Zhu Bin and my junior martial sister found that traitor yet?"
Qi Bailu nodded as he summoned Zhu Lian to his side and said, "Here's what we'll do: you'll take everyone here back to our sect's headquarters. Once you're back, activate the grand protective spell formation. I'll stall the Death Reign for you."
With these words, an object flew out from within his cuff.
It was a bronze mirror with a smooth surface, within which torrential flames could be seen, as if it was sealing a mysterious fiery dimension.
The treasure was named the Flame Mirror, a seventh level Spirit Channeling grade treasure. Even in the entire Domain of the Falling Stars, it was considered one of the most prestigious spiritual tools in existence.
After whooshing out of Qi Bailu's cuff, the palm-sized bronze mirror rapidly expanded and filled the entire mountain valley within seconds.
Endless flames poured out from within it, aggravating the fluctuations of spatial energy in the valley.
It was as if the Flame Mirror was serving as a medium that connected the mountain valley with a dimension of infinite flames.
Soon, not only the mountain valley, but also the adjacent areas were engulfed by the raging flames that poured out of the Flame Mirror.
Standing at the end of the valley, powerful experts from the Tool Sect looked at the Flame Mirror and the endless flames before them, feeling as if they were looking at a completely different world.
Qi Bailu's figure faded, as if he had turned into an faint shadow which could vanish at any moment. "Go, Zhu Lian! Take all of our sect members back to our headquarters! No one is allowed to come out before I return!" With these words, he vanished completely into thin air.
Simultaneously, his vague figure appeared in the middle of the torrential flames within the gigantic Flame Mirror.
He continued to summon endless flames from that mysterious dimension and rapidly turned into an enormous man of flames, as if he had become the imperial lord of that mysterious dimension and the infinite flames within it.
As the cluster of thick smoke formed by the Death Reign continued to press forward, Zhao Shanling's voice rang out from the depths of it. "My beloved senior martial brother, you've finally summoned your Flame Mirror. I can't wait to see if your Flame Mirror is able to stop my Death Reign!"
The might of the Death Reign seemed to suddenly surge, causing the thunderballs before it to instantly become dim and lifeless.
"Why are you still here?!" Qi Bailu shouted.
Zhu Lian made a grasping motion in the air, and the thunderballs flew back to him. With reddened eyes, he looked at Qi Bailu and said, "Take care, sectmaster! We'll be waiting for you in our headquarters!"
"Let's go!" He took the initiative to fly towards the Tool Sect.
The other Profound realm experts from the Tool Sect also leaped into the sky and sped away after him, bearing their grief.
"Zhao Shanling, don't you imagine that you'll be able to do whatever you want by hiding in the dark and controlling your Death Reign!" Qi Bailu's voice echoed out from within the enormous Flame Mirror. "Master's biggest mistake was expelling you into the boundless void, instead of killing you. The reason why master made that mistake was that he treated you as his child and couldn't bear to kill you. But I won't make the mistake he made!"
Zhao Shanling laughed unceasingly like a madman. "What you have now should have belonged to me, senior martial brother. Of the three of us, you were the least talented. The spiritual tool you forged back then was the weakest. I should have been the winner of the contest!
"What did I do wrong by exterminating those puny sects and unifying the Realm of Unbounded Desolation?
"Even though those old bastards in our sect knew the Tool Sect benefited from what I did, they paraded their pretended benevolence and righteousness in front of everyone, and even used my deed as an excuse to punish me!
"I've returned this time to take back what should have been mine! Whoever dares to question me again shall die!"
The cluster of thick pale-gray smoke created by the Death Reign finally came into contact with the raging flames unleashed by the Flame Mirror.
At midday, the sun was high and fierce.
Li Jing's Blood Lotus took Nie Tian and the others to a silent mountain valley surrounded by extinct volcanoes.
After tens of thousands of years, the earthflame essence within them had long since run out.
After landing, Li Jing had a brief conversation with Nie Tian, telling him that Zhen Huilan had asked her to pass word to him that she wanted Nie Tian to contact Hua Mu.
Nie Tian was aware that, since Hua Mu was a senior member of the Spirit Condor, he would be able to get in contact with Hua Mu as long as he returned to Shatter City in the Realm of Split Void and found Hu Rong, who was also a member of the Spirit Condor.
It was just that the inter-spatial teleportation portal was located in Desolate City, and that was where Zhao Shanling's Death Reign was heading. Hence, he couldn't go there for a while.
Furthermore, considering the turmoil that was hitting the Realm of Boundless Desolation, it wouldn't be safe to travel around at this moment.
Therefore, Nie Tian and the others decided to stay in this silent mountain valley until the situation stabilized.
Under the scorching sun, Nie Tian practiced cultivation in the lotus position while Dong Li sat not far from him, lolling against a large rock.
"It seems that the Realm of Unbounded Desolation isn't as hot as when we first came here." Nie Tian said with furrowed eyebrows as he refined his vortex of flame power with Flame Crystals. "Neither Desolate City, the Bonebrutes' former headquarters, nor the Bone Sect's ruins were in the middle of active volcanoes, yet I felt unbearably hot in those places."
"But since we returned from... you know where, I don't feel as hot as I did before."
Holding a odd-looking, black spirit stone, Dong Li's bright eyes moved about as she pondered. A moment later, she said, "I bet it's because those people from the Flame God Sect have taken significant amounts of earthflame essence away from the volcanoes in the Realm of Unbounded Desolation, which is causing the atmosphere to change."
Intrigued, Nie Tian asked, "The deprivation of earthflame essence can cause such a tremendous change?"
"Yeah." Dong Li nodded. "But that doesn't concern us. We don't planning on staying in the Realm of Unbounded Desolation long-term anyways. Also, there's no need to worry about the loss of earthflame essence here. As far as I know, the Tool Sect has their way of channeling flame power from other dimensions to replenish the deficient flame power in the Realm of Unbounded Desolation."
"The Tool Sect can actually do that?" A shocked expression appeared on Nie Tian's face.
"It's said that the Tool Sect's grand protective spell formation connects a few small, fiery dimensions. Even Qi Bailu's Flame Mirror has a similar function, which allows him to summon raging flame power from other dimensions to attack his enemies." Dong Li chuckled. "You should know that many of the spatial rifts in the Void Illusion Mountain Range in the Realm of Split Void which lead to fiery dimensions were purchased by the Tool Sect at high prices."
"Most of them aren't fit for creatures to live in, but contain considerable amounts of flame power."
"In order to make use of said flame power, the Tool Sect established inter-spatial connections with those fiery dimensions using their grand spell formation and the Flame Mirror."
"The Tool Sect is the only sect that can do that. As formidable as Xia Yi is, he's only one man."
"After all, the Flame God Sect's strength isn't as deeply-rooted as the Tool Sect's. If, like the Tool Sect, the Flame God Sect had also accumulated a number of fiery dimensions over thousands of years, Xia Yi wouldn't have come all the way to the Realm of Unbounded Desolation to collect earthflame essence to prepare for his next breakthrough in cultivation."
Nie Tian was carried away as he marveled subconsciously, "The Tool Sect's strength is indeed astonishingly profound."
As he was absorbed in his thoughts, his eyebrows suddenly flickered as he sensed that the green aura in his heart had suddenly grown restless again.
"Another bloodline transcendence!"