Before the four Ice Pavilion Sect disciples could carry out their plan, Nie Tian suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
While he hid in the dark, it didn't occur to him to change his bloodstained garments or clean himself up. Even now, dried blood could still be seen on his neck.
The intense bloody smell he gave off and his terrifying look temporarily bewildered the four Ice Pavilion Sect disciples.
Zhao Le snapped back to reality. A bleak, gruesome, white mist instantly wreathed him, along within a strong killing intent. "It's you?!" he said with a cold smile. "You want this black phoenix as well?" A hint of disdain appeared at the corner of his mouth.
Lying beside him was the Thunder Mountain Sect disciple who had stayed behind to pillage the black phoenix.
Wang Rong's face grew cold as she let out a snort and chimed in, "You are just one person. What makes you think that you can take this black phoenix's corpse? Do we still need to avoid conflict with this guy, senior martial brother?"
Xuan Ke remained silent, his expression grim.
Nie Tian took a glance at the few rings of holding in Xuan Ke's hand and said, "I know you lot followed me here, and I know that you've been watching me from the dark for a long time. Without me, none of you would have found this place or looted those rings of holding from these Heaven Palace Sect and Thunder Mountain Sect disciples."
"What are you saying?" Xuan Ke asked.
Intense killing intent brimmed Nie Tian's eyes. "The black phoenix's corpse is of great significance to me. I'll take it at all costs. My suggestion for you is that you take those rings of holding and leave now."
"What if we don't?" Zhao Le smiled sinisterly.
"Then every one of you will die here," Nie Tian said with a plain tone.
"Who the hell do you think you are!?" Before Xuan Ke could state his attitude, Zhao Le launched an attack. As his fingertip blossomed with frosty light, a sparkling and crystal-clear spear of ice shot out of his cuff.
The ice spear was a Premium grade spiritual tool that had been obtained from a glacier that was at least ten thousand years old. Afterwards, it had been refined with the essence of frosty iron over and over.
The target of the ice spear was none other than Nie Tian's throat.
As the ice spear approached, Nie Tian, who had been standing unwavering like a blood-soaked rock, started to have a feeling like he had been thrown into a world of ice and snow, where nothing could escape the frigid coldness.
Frosty wind whistled across the land, ringing in Nie Tian's ears. The land the ice spear passed over froze instantly, and started making crackling sounds.
In Nie Tian's eyes, everything before him was rapidly being devoured by deadly coldness.
He felt as if he were standing before sky-reaching glaciers that were hundreds of thousands of years old, and they were going to crush him in the next moment.
"Ice Heaven Imprisonment!!" As Zhao Le let out an explosive roar, the slender ice spear instantly unleashed a mist of frigid coldness, which instantly enveloped Nie Tian, filling his vision with illusions of glaciers.
Nie Tian snorted coldly as his Flame Star flew up into the sky like a dragon, dragging a tail of three colors behind it.
Afterwards, the Flame Star emanated blinding light, eliminating all of the illusions that floated in the air.
Nie Tian suddenly vanished from Zhao Le's view and psychic detection.
"Starstrike!" With these words, a mysterious formation formed by bright starsparks, that looked like stars that had been shining in the depths of the universe for millions of years, suddenly shot towards Zhao Le's chest.
At the same time, Nie Tian's blurry figure appeared behind Zhao Le.
Xuan Ke's expression flickered the moment he saw the formation of starsparks, which seemed to carry the profound will of eternal stars.
Without the time to think, he swung his frosty sword to stop the mysterious star formation.
Upon contact, sparks of starlight and frosty light filled the air. The profound and mighty star power in the star formation instantly overwhelmed the frigid coldness Xuan Ke had vested his sword with.
Bulging veins appeared on his sword-bearing arm, as if bone-piercing rivers were now running through those veins towards his hand.
His hand shook slightly, as if the bone-piercing power in his veins was rapidly neutralizing the residual star power in his hand.
"Senior martial brother!" Wang Rong and Luo Xue exclaimed at the same time, brandishing their spiritual tools as they attempted to attack Nie Tian.
Zhao Le also manipulated his ice spear to circle around to attack Nie Tian from behind.
At that very moment, Xuan Ke caught sight of a black phoenix soaring in the distant sky and the unearthly Dong Li spreading her arms in front of its chest.
"Stay your hands!" Xuan Ke shouted.
His frigid voice seemed to have frozen time, since Zhao Le and the other two froze upon hearing him.
Nie Tian also stopped attacking. He reached out with one hand, and the Flame Star flew into it.
Holding the Flame Star, he turned to look at Xuan Ke, looking as calm as always.
"Like you said, we'll take the rings of holding, and that black phoenix's corpse is yours." Xuan Ke seemed to have suddenly changed his mind.
"Why, senior martial brother?!" Zhao Le exclaimed, looking very disgruntled.
Wang Rong and Luo Xue's faces were also filled with confusion.
Nie Tian nodded and said, "Alright, take those rings of holding and leave. I hope you're not trying to play a trick, pretending to leave while you secretly summon your friends to get back at me. If that's what you're thinking, I won't show any mercy the next time we meet."
"Hey, brat!" Zhao Le thundered. "Who do you think you are?! What the hell made you so arrogant?!"
Xuan Ke raised his hand, signaling for Zhao Le to shut up, then he took a deep look at Nie Tian and said something that surprised his subordinates. "How long it has been since we last met?"
"Quite a few years I believe," Nie Tian answered plainly.
Since he had used the secret magics he had acquired from the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace, he had suspected that he wouldn't be able to keep his true identity hidden from Xuan Ke any longer.
He and Xuan Ke had both been in the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace. Xuan Ke had derived some enlightenment from the legacies in the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace. Since he had cast all scruples aside and launched a Starstrike, it was only natural that Xuan Ke, who had a keen perception, was able to see through his identity.
"Dong Li from the Dong Clan, she's with you, right?" Xuan Ke asked.
Nie Tian nodded. "The black phoenix's corpse is intended for her."
"I see." Xuan Ke didn't beat around the corner. "We, disciples of the Ice Pavilion Sect, won't try to take this black phoenix from you. I hope you have what it takes to guard it from the claws of the Heaven Palace Sect and the Thunder Mountain Sect. I don't think they're going to give up on it."
With these words, before Nie Tian could give any response, he glanced at his three subordinates, turned around, and left.
Zhao Le and the other two were completely confused to discover that he actually knew Nie Tian. Now knowing what was happening, they could only follow Xuan Ke away.
Through his Heaven Eyes, Nie Tian saw that Xuan Ke did as he had said he would and evacuated from the area, with no sign of him going against his word and setting up an ambush in the vicinity.
After marching quite far from Nie Tian's location, Wang Rong came to a stop and asked with a frown, "Who was that guy, senior martial brother? Do we really just leave him be? That black phoenix is definitely of great value. Otherwise, the Thunder Mountain Sect and the Heaven Palace Sect wouldn't have killed each other for it. Do we really want to give such a precious treasure away?"
"I would have hesitated if Dong Li hadn't appear, but since I saw her coming to his aid, there was no use for us to stick around," Xuan Ke said with an expressionless face. "With Dong Li there to help him, their strength would have most likely been higher than ours."
"But they're both only at the middle Greater Heaven stage!" Zhao Le exclaimed, seeming somewhat worked up.
Xuan Ke gave a cold snort. "Dong Li is the Dong Clan's core disciple. None of you can match her strength. As for that guy, even though he's still at the middle Greater Heaven stage, I don't think even I'd be able to defeat him."
Wang Rong gasped with astonishment and asked, "What?! Who is he exactly?!"
With a deep sigh, Xuan Ke said, "The only successor of the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace's legacy throughout the Domain of the Falling Stars, Nie Tian."
The moment Nie Tian's name came out, Zhao Le, Wang Rong, and Luo Xue fell silent.
They were well-aware that, even though in recent years Nie Tian had been hiding from the major sects throughout the Domain of the Falling Stars, he had surfaced to single-handedly seal the spatial rifts in the Realm of Flame Heaven, the Realm of Mystic Heaven, and the Realm of a Thousand Devastations.
Not to mention his incomparable contribution to the safety of the Domain of the Falling Stars, the fact that he had been able to seal those spatial rifts proved that he had managed to seize that last fragmentary star mark from Ning Yang's hand.
Ning Yang had been a household name. Almost everyone had agreed that he was the most powerful of the younger generation among all the sects in the Domain of the Falling Stars.
The fact that Nie Tian had seized that last fragmentary star mark from him was enough evidence to his resourcefulness.
After that, Nie Tian had turned down the Heaven Palace Sect's offer, which had made him even more famous.
It was a miracle that he, who didn't have a powerful sect to back him, had lived this long after refusing the Heaven Palace Sect.
Everyone believed that, given enough time, Nie Tian, who had received the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace's legacies, would eventually grow into the most prominent star in the Domain of the Falling Stars.
That was the reason why Zhao Le and the others suddenly stopped questioning Xuan Ke's decision after learning that it was Nie Tian who they had contended against.
They also realized that, since Nie Tian dared to admit to his true identity, he must have the confidence to beat them in a battle.
"When I first met him," said Xuan Ke, "he hadn't obtained any fragmentary star marks or learned any secret magics from the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace, and his cultivation base was poorer than mine, Su Lin's, and Wu Ling's. However, he managed to beat all of us and obtained the first fragmentary star mark. After that, he entered the next section and took the second fragmentary star mark from Dong Baijie.
"I can't tell how powerful that man has become after all these years.
"So, to be safe, I decided to give up on that black phoenix. Also, if he and Dong Li take it, those from the Heaven Palace Sect and the Thunder Mountain Sect won't come seek trouble with us, and we can stay out of this mess."
After hearing these words, his three subordinates followed him fell silently.
At this moment, on the other side, Nie Tian said to Dong Li, who had just landed before him, "Go ahead and take whichever part you need. I'll guard you this time!"