Soon, Nie Tian and Dong Li caught up to Pei Qiqi and Li Ye.
By the time they caught up, Pei Qiqi started marching forward again with an expressionless face.
She didn't try to ask Nie Tian about Dong Li's identity again, but rather walked in silence, as if she didn't even know him.
Seeing her indifferent attitude, Dong Li, who originally wanted to have some fun, felt bored and thus let go of Nie Tian's arm.
Li Ye didn't seem bothered by any of this. Face full of smiles, he bragged on and on about his breakthrough in cultivation and becoming a Premium grade equipment forger.
While listening to him, Nie Tian snuck glances at Pei Qiqi from time to time, and discovered that she didn't seem to want to talk at all.
Nie Tian didn't want to bother her while she was in such a state. Thus, he just chatted randomly with Li Ye, with Dong Li joining the conversation occasionally.
A few days later, the four of them came to a stop by the foot of an enormous volcano where the Tool Sect was located.
When Dong Li had first lead Nie Tian to find suitable volcanoes for his Flame Dragon Armor, Dong Li had intentionally steered clear of the Tool Sect. Therefore, this was the first time he had been to this ancient sect.
Looking up, Nie Tian could see with great clarity that there were numerous stone caves scattered halfway up the magnificent volcano, making it almost look like a beehive.
From time to time, equipment forgers would go into or come out of the stone caves, where they were clearly using the flame power of the volcano to forge spiritual tools.
At the foot of the volcano stood a forest of stone pavilions that were dozens of meters high. Many Tool Sect members seemed to be bustling amongst them.
After coming to the Tool Sect's giant front gate, which was made of stone, Pei Qiqi took out a Sound Stone and whispered something into it. Then, she turned around, and her cold gaze found Nie Tian.
Confusion appeared on Nie Tian's face.
"Li Ye and I are going back to Desolate City. You wait here. Someone you know is coming here to meet you." With these words, she turned right around and left for Desolate City.
"Remember to come and find me in Desolate City at the place I told you about after you're finished here," Li Ye said waving his hand.
Watching the two of them leave, Nie Tian wondered why Pei Qiqi told him to wait here.
Standing in front of the Tool Sect's front gate, Dong Li said, "Outsiders can't possibly get into the Tool Sect, especially at such a sensitive time. If I state my identity, they'll probably let us in and throw us a grand reception, yet I don't wanna do that."
Nie Tian examined the magnificent stone gate as he pondered Pei Qiqi's intentions.
Moments later, two people came out through the stone gate.
A strong shudder ran through Nie Tian as soon as he saw them.
Wu Ji, who had received Pei Qiqi's message, walked through the stone gate. Facing an unfamiliar young man and woman, he asked with his warm voice, "My friends, did you see a blue-robed young woman?"
Also confused, Fang Hui, who came out with him, muttered, "We came as soon as we received the kid's message. Why is she not here?"
Nie Tian realized why Pei Qiqi had told him to wait here the moment he saw Wu Ji.
Eyes reddened, he looked blankly at the thin old man before him, at a loss for words.
Even though Dong Li had never met Wu Ji, from Nie Tian's subtle expression, she sensed what was happening. Therefore, she said in a low voice, "I'll return to Desolate City now. My clan has a residence there. Come and find me when you're finished, but don't you dare go missing on me again."
With these words, she sensibly left in the direction Pei Qiqi and Li Ye had left in.
After she was gone, Nie Tian took a deep breath and said, "Master."
Wu Ji's eyes lit up as he suddenly realized the identity of the unfamiliar-looking young man before him. Immediately afterwards, he whispered, "Don't talk. We'll find another place."
Fang Hui was also astonished.
Neither Wu Ji or he had thought the young man before them would be Nie Tian, who had gone missing for quite some time.
He had heard about Nie Tian's trip to the Realm of a Hundred Battles and his secret deal with the Dong Clan, which had allowed Nie Donghai and the other Cloudsoaring Sect members to return to the Realm of Flame Heaven safely.
However, he had no idea where he had gone to afterwards.
Later, Wu Ji had learned from Hua Mu that Nie Tian had gone on an exploration trip to a Phantasm relic in the Realm of Dark Underworld with Dong Li, and eventually disappeared along with the Spirit Pearl.
Just a few days ago, Hua Mu had asked him if Nie Tian had appeared.
Wu Ji quickly calmed down and started walking away from the Tool Sect, expressionless. "Come with me."
When the three of them were far enough from the Tool Sect, he grabbed Nie Tian by the shoulder and shot up into the sky. Relying on his Profound realm abilities, he sped away through the air.
Fang Hui followed along.
A quarter hour later, Wu Ji came to a stop at the foot of a mountain that was hundreds of kilometers away from the Tool Sect, and stood in the shade of the mountain.
Just as Nie Tian was about to speak, Wu Ji waved at him. He contacted someone with his Sound Stone and formed a ward to isolate their voices from the outside world. Only then did he finally let out a sigh of relief and say, "You know Pei Qiqi, right?"
Nie Tian nodded.
Wu Ji smiled. "She's a good girl. I was guarding Fang Hui while he forged a Spirit Channeling grade spiritual tool for the assessment assembly. That was when she sought me out and told me that Zhao Shanling had returned to the Realm of Unbounded Desolation. She also told me that his Death Reign was floating directly towards the Tool Sect.
"The volcano Fang Hui was using to forge his Spirit Channeling grade spiritual tool stood right on the Death Reign's path. I took her advice and told Fang Hui to end his equipment forging process in order to save those rare spiritual materials for next time.
"That was before the Tool Sect confirmed the news of Zhao Shanling's return.
"Fang Hui made a quick decision to end his equipment forging process, and the two of us evacuated from that volcano as quickly as possible. As we expected, soon, the Tool Sect realized that they seemed to be unable to stop the Death Reign, and thus told everyone the truth about Zhao Shanling's return.
"Being informed just a few days late, the other renowned equipment forgers, who had hoped to join the ranks of Spirit Channeling grade equipment forgers just like Fang Hui, lost almost all of the valuable spiritual materials they had spent decades to gather.
"Because we were informed in time, Fang Hui lost only thirty percent of his materials, thus preserving his chance of coming back to attend the next assessment assembly."
Nie Tian was shocked after hearing these words.
He had never thought that Pei Qiqi would have done him such a huge favor and kept silent about it. Thanks to her, Wu Ji had been able to make plans beforehand and escape danger.
"How did she know that you were guarding Senior Fang?" Nie Tian asked, confused.
Just as Wu Ji was about to explain, his eyebrows rose. Smiling, he said, "He's here."
A streak of glorious light sailed through the sky like a falling star and stopped before them.
As the light gradually faded away, a man appeared from within. Wu Ji created an opening in his ward, and the man walked in.
"You told that girl to inform me, right?" Wu Ji asked the man.
Hua Mu nodded, smiling.
"Mr. Hua!" Nie Tian bowed respectfully.
Hua Mu's gaze switched back and forth between Nie Tian and Wu Ji before he turned to Fang Hui and said, "If you don't mind, I have something to say to them."
Sensible, Fang Hui clasped his hands towards him and walked out of the ward.
"Fang Hui and I are sworn friends," Wu Ji said.
Hua Mu nodded gently. "I know that. But this is regarding Nie Tian. You and I are the only ones who know about his special bloodline. What I'm about to tell him is too important, and had best stay a secret. Also, considering the unfavorable situation he's in, we need to do our best to protect his secrets. The less others know about him, the better."
After a moment of silent pondering, Wu Ji nodded, taking his point.
"Nie Tian!" Hua Mu exclaimed softly. "From now on, you'll need to be even more discreet, and you shouldn't use the Flame Dragon Armor again anytime soon!"
Nie Tian was confused. "Why?"
Wu Ji sighed. "The Flame Dragon Armor was originally from the Flame God Sect. After collecting enough earthflame essence, Xia Yi, the Flame God, will definitely attempt to break through into the late Soul realm. It won't be a problem for us if he fails. But if he succeeds and enters the late Soul realm, no one in the Domain of the Falling Stars will be able to overtake him in battle.
"Originally, the Heaven Palace Sect could have sheltered you, but that chance was lost when you refused to join the Heaven Palace Sect.
"Once Xia Yi advances to the late Soul realm, that patriarch in the Heaven Palace Sect will only be able to match his strength equally. Under such circumstances, even if you changed your mind and joined the Heaven Palace Sect, I doubt that they would ruin their relationship with Xia Yi just to let you keep the Flame Dragon Armor."
Nie Tian immediately realized what a dangerous situation he was in.
"By the way, why did you refuse to join the Heaven Palace Sect?" Hua Mu asked, confused.
Nie Tian had nothing to hide when facing Hua Mu and Wu Ji. Therefore, he brought out the truth, "The Heaven Palace Sect made a deal with the Demon outsiders, trading something the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace sealed away in their realm for the precious materials that late Soul realm expert needs to break through into the Void domain. Those materials seem to only exist in the Demons' realms."
Hua Mu gasped with astonishment. "You witnessed all that?!"
Nie Tian smiled bitterly. "I kind of had to, since I was there to seal that spatial rift when they made the deal. Those people from the Heaven Palace Sect needed me to stop the Demons' army from invading through the spatial rift, so they couldn't keep me from learning the truth."
Suddenly enlightened, Hua Mu said, "Now I finally get why the Heaven Palace Sect demanded you so strongly from the Yin Sect and the Yang Sect afterwards. They weren't just after your fragmentary star marks." Then, Hua Mu took a deep look at him and sighed. "Even though you're blessed with many incredible opportunities, the burden on your shoulders is also unmatched."
Wu Ji's eyebrows knit together. "If that's the case, the Heaven Palace Sect surely won't give up before they get you. They're only exercising patience right now because of the Yin Sect and the Yang Sect's firm stance on this matter. If the deal you talked about works out, and that patriarch in the Heaven Palace Sect enters the Void domain after getting those spiritual materials he needs, he probably won't care about the Yin Sect and the Yang Sect's stance anymore."
Hua Mu smiled bitterly. "Meanwhile, Xia Yi won't give up on retaking the Flame Dragon Armor. After entering the late Soul realm, he'll probably help Zhao Shanling take the position of the Tool Sect's sectmaster first. But once he learns about your whereabouts, he'll spare no cost to get you."
Wu Ji and Hua Mu's analysis of his situation made Nie Tian's hair stand on end and gave him a bad headache.
With a frustrated and helpless expression, Hua Mu said, "It's a pity that I don't have much time left. If I had another hundred years, perhaps I'd be able to make another breakthrough in my cultivation and help you in some way."
Wu Ji chimed in. "Yeah. If I had more time, I'd have a chance to advance to the Soul realm and perhaps provide you with some help."
"Another hundred years?" Nie Tian grinned. "Master, Mr. Hua, I obtained something during this trip to the Realm of Unbounded Desolation by accident. I think it'll help you solve your lifespan crisis temporarily."
Hua Mu sighed deeply. "Nothing but Fruits of Life can give us additional years."
Without saying another word, Nie Tian took out two wooden boxes from within his bracelet of holding. He handed one to each of them and said with a bright smile, "They happen to be Fruits of Life."