In Graydusk Forest...
Li Langfeng was sitting by the Wood Thriving Formation and gazing off into the distant sky with a grim expression on his face.
The Bone Blood Demon was standing straight like a mountain beside him.
More than three dozen dead mutant spirit beasts were scattered by its feet.
Most of the mutant spirit beasts were at the fourth or fifth grade. Two were at the sixth grade, which meant they had been as powerful as Profound realm experts when they had been alive.
All of them had died at the hands of the Bone Blood Demon, and the Bone Blood Demon had already drained them of their rich blood with the Blood Refining Incantation.
Even so, the bones, meridians, and internal organs of those corpses still contained copious amounts of flesh power.
After observing his surroundings for some time, Li Langfeng came to a realization. "The tainted spiritual Qi of Heaven and Earth seems to be converging on the deepest parts of Graydusk Forest..."
The thought made him wonder what existed at the heart of the forest. Something dangerous, he bet.
Eight days had passed, and Nie Tian was still trying to break through into the late Greater Heaven stage with numerous spirit jades and cultivation materials of different attributes.
Li Langfeng had noticed that, over the past eight days, Nie Tian had drained dozens of spirit jades and many other cultivation materials.
But even so, he still hadn't finished his breakthrough.
"Why would it take so many materials for him to make a breakthrough in cultivation? Even though he cultivates three types of power at the same time, he shouldn't need this much spiritual energy."
Back when Li Langfeng had entered the late Greater Heaven stage, the spirit jades and spirit stones he had consumed weren't even one fifth as many as Nie Tian had consumed so far.
He had heard that the more powerful a Qi warrior was, the more spiritual energy they would require when they tried to make breakthroughs in their cultivation.
However, after seeing Nie Tian consume so many materials, he still hadn't sensed any changes from Nie Tian. How profound and solid was his cultivation base?
Shuffling sounds came from the distance. Li Langfeng didn't even turn to look, as he assumed that more mutant spirit beasts had come to their own grave.
However, as the sounds came closer, Li Langfeng frowned and thought to himself, "They're not mutant spirit beasts. If they were, their steps wouldn't be this light. Can they be outsiders...?"
Upon this thought, his face suddenly turned grim.
He had learned of the perilous situation in the Void Illusion Mountain Range from Nie Tian, and that even the Soul realm experts from the powerful sects were failing to stop the seventh grade outsiders.
Once the Void Illusion Mountain Range fell into the outsiders' hands, nothing would stop them from pouring into the three major cities and the rest of the Realm of Split Void.
He wouldn't be surprised if the outsiders came to this area.
Therefore, he unleashed his soul awareness and scanned the source of the movements. A complicated look appeared in his eyes as he thought to himself, "They're humans..."
Then, he instantly turned to the Bone Blood Demon and said, "Please don't kill them if they come here. I have questions to ask them."
The Bone Blood Demon's grayish-green eyes glittered slightly, but Li Langfeng wasn't sure what that meant.
However, he didn't have the time to check if it had understood.
"Who's there?" he shouted.
The group of people, who actually weren't heading in his direction, were thrilled to realize that there were other humans in the vicinity, and thus hurried over.
Moments later, a group of cultivators appeared in front of Li Langfeng.
Li Langfeng was taken aback as he thought, "Fu Heng from the Wild Fire!"
"Nie... Nie Tian?!" A woman in a water-blue dress exclaimed as soon as she caught sight of Nie Tian, who was still cultivating inside his Wood Thriving Formation.
She was Hu Han, who had betrayed him once.
Back when Nie Tian had first come to hide in Shatter City, even though he had adopted the name 'Hua Tian', he hadn't altered his appearance.
Because of that, Hu Han was able to recognize him at first sight. It was only recently that she had learned that 'Hua Tian' was actually Nie Tian.
A skinny, small young man, who was holding Hu Han's hand, had two fingers missing from his left hand. With a curious and surprised expression, he gazed at Nie Tian and asked, "Big sister, is that the Nie Tian people have been talking about?"
Hu Han lowered her voice and said with a sigh, "Yes, he is. Back when you were held hostage by Ma Jiu from the Dark Moon, I had no choice but to trick him to go to the Void Illusion Mountain Range. He was almost killed on that trip."
Hu Xuan lowered his head and said, "I'm sorry. I should have been more careful."
"That's already in the past." With these words, Hu Han, who had a curvy physique, smiled bitterly and clasped her hands towards Li Langfeng. "Greetings, Mr. Li."
Hu Han had worked with the Dark Moon for a period of time, and Li Langfeng used to be a famous guest elder of the Dark Moon. Therefore, it was only natural that she knew him.
However, Li Langfeng didn't seem to remember her. After giving her a quick, puzzled look, he turned to look at Fu Heng and asked, "Why are you here?"
Li Langfeng noticed that some of them were Wild Fire members, and others were cultivators from Ash City. Most of them didn't look familiar.
Back in the day, Fu Heng had been the commander of the Wild Fire's forces in the Void Illusion Mountain Range. He, Ma Jiu from the Dark Moon, and Gu Yu from the Blood Skull had been rather powerful and well-known.
However, years had passed, and many things had changed. Fu Heng was only at the early Worldly realm, but Li Langfeng had already entered the late Worldly realm. Now, he wouldn't stand a chance if he were to fight Li Langfeng, not to mention that the Bone Blood Demon, whose fame had already spread across the entire Realm of Split Void, was staring down at him like a tiger staring at its prey.
Fu Heng gave a bitter smile and said, "Brother Li, I didn't expect that we'd run into you and Nie Tian here. Many people thought you had already left the Realm of Split Void."
"I asked: why did you come here?" Li Langfeng sounded somewhat impatient.
Fu Heng sighed. "It seems that you still haven't heard what happened. The Void Illusion Mountain Range has already fallen into the outsiders' hands. An early Soul realm expert from the Ice Pavilion Sect was killed by a seventh grade outsider. Zhao Luofeng and Ling Dong from the Heaven Palace Sect also sustained serious injuries. All of the Soul realm experts have retreated from the Void Illusion Mountain Range by now."
Li Langfeng gasped with astonishment. "What?!"
Desperation could be seen in Fu Heng's eyes as he went on. "The other Soul realm experts were also injured, some more seriously than others. People finally decided to evacuate from the Realm of Split Void. Naturally, those from the major sects were the first to return to their sects through the teleportation portal in Ash City. We could only watch them leave, one group after another."
With these words, Fu Heng took a pause. An angry expression appeared on his face as he continued, "The bastards from the Thunder Mountain Sect left a thunderball in the portal. The portal exploded right after they disappeared.
"Those who were stuck in the Realm of Split Void could only split up and run in different directions, hoping to escape the merciless outsiders.
"We are one of the groups that escaped. We didn't dare to go to the Void Illusion Mountain Range. None of Shatter City, Ash City, or the Land of the Abandoned were safe, so we could only come to this remote, uninhabited area. Hopefully, the outsiders won't come looking here."
Eyebrows furrowed, Li Langfeng said, "I suppose those people from the Thunder Mountain Sect destroyed your teleportation portal because they were afraid that outsiders would go to their realm through it. But why didn't they destroy it after you left through it?"
Fu Heng gritted his teeth. His eyes were wreathed with flaming rage as he said, "They knew that if they left us behind, we'd scatter and run, so it would take the outsiders some time to take care of us. During this time, they would be able to get those they want to protect behind their grand sect-protecting spell formation."
Li Langfeng let out a cold snort. "That does sound like them. You've only got this many?"
As soon as he uttered these words, he saw that the group started to look very aggrieved and bitter.
"Our group was much larger than this." With these words, Fu Heng glanced over his shoulder at the dozen people standing behind him. "Originally, we had about a hundred people in our group. However, as we marched deeper into Graydusk Forest, we started to encounter mutant spirit beasts. The deeper we went, the higher the grade of the mutant spirit beasts became. The others all died at the fangs and claws of the powerful mutant spirit beasts."
Li Langfeng was well-aware that they must have gone through fierce battles against mutant spirit beasts, and suffered great losses.
"Then why did you still come this deep into the forest?" He asked curiously.
"Sure, the mutant spirit beasts are formidable, but the outsiders are more dreadful," Fu Heng said. "We thought that since there are powerful mutant spirit beasts in the depths of Graydusk Forest, if we go deep enough, perhaps the outsiders will sense the danger, and give up on searching for us in these woods. "
Li Langfeng pondered briefly, then said, "Actually, you're very lucky to have made it this far. If the Bone Blood Demon didn't kill off the mutant spirit beasts in the vicinity, you'd be all dead before you could get here."
He thought Fu Heng and his group was indeed very lucky.
Considering their cultivation bases and strength, it was almost unimaginable that they could make it this deep into the forest.
The reason why they still had a dozen people with them was because the route they had picked happened to be the same as Nie Tian's.
They had only made it to this part of the forest because the Bone Blood Demon had already killed most of the mutant spirit beasts that lived on this route.
Fu Heng had also realized this the moment he had arrived and caught sight of the numerous dead mutant spirit beasts.
He understood what Li Langfeng meant, and thus said with a imploring tone, "Yes, we know that we can't go any deeper. So would you please let us set up camp here with you, since we're all sufferers of the Realm of Split Void?"
He knew that with the Bone Blood Demon to protect them, they would be safe as long as no seventh grade outsiders came after them.
In the eyes of Fu Heng and the others, the Bone Blood Demon would be a powerful backer.
After a moment of hesitation, Li Langfeng said, "I can't make the decision for Nie Tian. But I'll let you stay here until he wakes up. Then, he'll decide for himself as to whether you can stay with us."
"Many thanks!" Fu Heng expressed his gratitude solemnly.
The others, including Hu Han, also bowed gratefully.
"You can set up camps five hundred meters from here," Li Langfeng instructed. "And don't try to approach Nie Tian."
Fu Heng and the others quietly backed away, but Hu Han and her younger brother didn't.
"Why are you still here?" Li Langfeng sounded slightly impatient.
Somewhat hesitant, Hu Han knelt towards the Wood Thriving Formation and said, bowing her head, "I betrayed Nie Tian once. I just want to kneel here until he wakes up. Hopefully, he'll forgive me."
"Sister!" Hu Xuan exclaimed, his voice filled with heartache.
"Go with the others!" Hu Han said. "This has nothing to do with you. I did a terrible thing, and I need to atone for it. I'll let him decide what he wants to do with me when he awakens."