Nie Tian looked up and noticed Pei Qiqi, who was standing by the window and looking down at them with an expressionless face.
He nodded briefly at her as Dong Li forcibly dragged him towards the end of the street.
Only a few Qi warriors could be seen strolling about in the lonesome street. Most of them were at the Greater Heaven stage or the Worldly realm.
Those who dared to stay in Desolate City after word of Zhao Shanling’s return had spread possessed either extraordinary cultivation bases or powerful backgrounds.
Dong Li dragged Nie Tian to the end of the street and entered a rough, small restaurant.
She led Nie Tian directly up to a room on the second floor. As she pushed the door open, he saw Dong Baijie sitting by a table in an unconstrained fashion, drinking by himself.
Upon seeing him, Dong Baijie rose to his feet and said with a smile on his face, “We meet again, Nie Tian.”
The window to the street was shut. Plates of snacks and fruits filled the table, along with a half bottle of wine.
Nie Tian realized that Dong Li had already let go of him, as if she wanted to keep a distance from him in front of her elder brother.
Surprised, Nie Tian asked, “How come you’re also here in the Realm of Unbounded Desolation?”
Dong Li sat by her brother’s side, while Nie Tian sat across the table from him. As soon as he sat down, Dong Baijie poured a cup of alcohol for him and answered with a broad laugh, “I’m here for Little Li.”
“Cheers!” Dong Baijie raised his cup and emptied it. Then, with a sincere expression, he said, “This shows my respect for you. Thank you for helping Little Li in the Realm of Dark Underworld and bringing her such a great fortune in the Realm of Unbounded Desolation. I knew you were no ordinary person!”
He had met with Dong Li soon after he had come to Desolate City with the other Dong Clan members.
Afterwards, he had a private meeting with Dong Li to ask about her recent experiences.
Dong Li had never kept secrets from her older brother, who loved her dearly. Therefore, she had told him about what she and Nie Tian had been through in the Realm of Dark Underworld.
She had even told him about them coming to the Realm of Unbounded Desolation to gather earthflame essence for Nie Tian’s Flame Dragon Armor, along with them finding that magical place, obtaining Fruits of Life, and Nie Tian letting her take the credit for finding Zhao Shanling.
Dong Baijie had been flabbergasted by their experiences. Meanwhile, he had an increasingly strong feeling that he had made the right decision by befriending Nie Tian.
However, since even Dong Li herself didn’t understand how Nie Tian had been able to find the entrance to that magical place or locate Zhao Shanling, she had left out some of the details.
Therefore, Dong Baijie had attributed all of Nie Tian’s incredible abilities to his three fragmentary star marks.
The fact that Dong Li had helped the Tool Sect find Zhao Shanling, thus ending the turmoil in the Realm of Unbounded Desolation, had already put the Tool Sect in the Dong Clan’s debt. Not only had Dong Li received wide attention, but her status in the Dong Clan had also risen significantly.
That was before she revealed the fact that she had obtained a Fruit of Life.
After she returned to the Dong Clan and gave that Fruit of Life to their patriarch, her status in the Dong Clan would probably see another boost.
She had only gained such great fortunes because she had come to the Realm of the Unbounded Desolation with Nie Tian.
Meanwhile, Dong Baijie could tell that, after their trips to the Realm of Dark Underworld and the Realm of Unbounded Desolation, Dong Li no longer gnashed her teeth and stomped with fury when she talked about Nie Tian.
On the contrary, he noticed that, when she talked about their exciting encounters together now, she tended to beam with joy.
When he made jokes about her and Nie Tian, she would tell him to cut it out, yet her face was always full of smiles.
“Bottoms up!” Nie Tian chugged his cup of alcohol and then asked, “Well... did people in your clan ask about the thing I obtained from the Phantasms in the Realm of Dark Underworld?”
“Stop.” Dong Baijie interrupted him.
Nie Tian stopped and looked at him, his face filled with confusion.
During their secret meeting before he had gone to the Realm of Dark Underworld with Dong Li, Dong Baijie had told him not to worry, and that Dong Mingxuan would keep an eye on Dong Li and stop her if she crossed the line.
That meant Dong Mingxuan knew about his actual identity.
He thought Dong Li might have told people in her clan about his acquisition of the Spirit Pearl. He had gone on that trip to the Realm of Dark Underworld with powerful members of every major power in the Realm of a Hundred Battles. All the others had gained nothing, while he had ended up obtaining the Spirit Pearl. He had wondered how he should explain it.
Dong Baijie assumed a serious expression. “The truth is that I didn’t tell Uncle Mingxuan or anyone about your identity. No one knows what you’ve obtained in the Realm of Dark Underworld. Even if your identity was exposed and people learned that you went to the Realm of Dark Underworld under the name Wu Tian, you’ve got to insist that you obtained nothing, and that the thing that chased you somehow flew away on its own.”
A surprised expression spread across Nie Tian’s face.
A faint smile appeared on Dong Baijie’s face as he continued, “You’ve already done enough by bringing Little Li such great fortunes. Also, I don’t care what the other clans in the Realm of a Hundred Battles want.”
Nie Tian was surprised that not only would Dong Baijie not demand the Spirit Pearl from him, but he would also help him keep it a secret.
Dong Li rolled her eyes at him. “Don’t worry. No one’s ever seen you with it anyways. As long as you deny having it and I don’t tell people you do, things will be fine.”
After a pause, she added, “Sectmaster Li and the others from the Blood Sect returned to Desolate City before you did. I took the liberty of telling them that you still had important business to attend to, and you had already left Desolate City. They left for the Realm of Flame Heaven after hearing that.”
Nie Tian nodded. “Oh, I see.”
Seeing the puzzled expression on Nie Tian’s face, Dong Li explained, “We received word that the Heaven Palace Sect and the Flame God Sect are still looking for you. Not many people know about you coming to the Realm of Unbounded Desolation. It’d safer for you and the Blood Sect if you don’t spend too much time with people from the Blood Sect.”
Dong Baijie nodded slightly. “You stayed at Li Ye and Pei Qiqi’s. You must have heard about the changes in the Realm of Split Void. Do you want to go on an exploration trip with us?”
Anticipation also filled Dong Li’s face as she said, “It won’t be long before the word of what happened in the Realm of Split Void spreads to every corner of the Domain of the Falling Stars. By that time, every major sect will send people there. Our clan is already making arrangements and preparations. You’ll be safe if you go with us. What do you think?”
“Well...” Nie Tian pondered in silence for a few seconds. “I’ll be there in the Realm of Split Void. Perhaps I’ll also enter those spatial rifts. But I’ve already promised someone that I’ll go with Master Zhen.”
“You promised Pei Qiqi, did you?” Dong Li asked with a cold snort.
“Not her,” Nie Tian explained.
Dong Baijie didn’t dwell on it. “Alright. Since we’re going to the same destination, I suppose it doesn’t really matter if we enter those spatial rifts together. Perhaps we’ll meet on the other side. We might be able to work with each other then.”
With these words, he handed a Sound Stone to Nie Tian and said, “Keep this Sound Stone on you. After we enter the dimension inside those spatial rifts, as long as we’re within 250 kilometers of each other, we’ll be able to communicate through it. There are only three of them. You, Little Li, and I each will hold one.”
“Okay." Nie Tian accepted the Sound Stone and put it away in his bracelet of holding.
“Keep in mind that the Void Illusion Mountain Range will soon become the target of every major sect in the Domain of the Falling Stars, so be careful,” Dong Baijie reminded him solemnly. “You’d better not reveal your identity to anyone, lest the Heaven Palace Sect or the Flame God Sect get to you. As powerful and lofty as Master Zhen is, she won’t necessarily be able to shelter you. You’d better act with discretion.”
“Thanks, I got it.” Nie Tian nodded.
“Come on,” Dong Baijie said with a broad laugh, raising his wine cup. “Enough about trivial matters. Drink up!”
Smiling brightly, Dong Li also rolled up her sleeves, raised her wine cup, and started drinking with them.
Dong Baijie and Dong Li brought out quite a few drinking games. As Nie Tian chugged down one cup of hard alcohol after another, his clear eyes gradually grew sleepy.
Upon seeing that, Dong Baijie proposed to end the drinking party and saw Nie Tian out of the restaurant.
After bidding farewell to Dong Baijie, Nie Tian briefly circulated his internal power, and the smell of alcohol on him rapidly dissipated.
Soon, he returned to the stone pavilion where Pei Qiqi and Li Ye lived.
Upon entering the front gate, he saw Zhen Huilan sitting in the hall. Li Ye and Pei Qiqi were standing beside her. The three of them were talking and laughing.
The moment Zhen Huilan saw him, she recognized him and said, looking surprised, “It’s you.”
An embarrassed smile appeared on Nie Tian’s face as he bowed respectfully towards her and said, “Greetings, Senior Zhen. Sorry for not informing you earlier of my...” He realized that Zhen Huilan must have found out about his identity.
Zhen Huilan waved her hand. “That’s alright.”
Eyebrows furrowed, she asked, “How did you end up with that girl from the Dong Clan?”
“Girl from the Dong Clan?” Pei Qiqi went blank briefly before suddenly coming to a realization. “That woman you were with was Dong Li from the Dong Clan?! The same woman who organized her Fang members to chase after you outside Shatter City?!”
“You know that she’s Song Li?” Nie Tian was taken aback.
“Master just told me.” Pei Qiqi’s face turned ice-cold. “If you know who she was, why were you so intimate with her? How open-minded of you! Have you forgotten all about what she’s done?”
Nie Tian felt increasingly embarrassed. “Umm... It’s quite complicated. It’ll take forever to explain.”
Zhen Huilan looked deeply at him. After a moment of silence, she said, “Forget about that. We set out for Shatter City now. You just remember to handle your relationship with her properly. That girl is full of vicious tricks. She did whatever she liked and took quite a few lives in the Realm of Split Void. I suggest you keep your distance so that you don’t get yourself killed.”
Nie Tian nodded obediently.