In the middle of the abandoned but well-preserved city that Nie Tian had seen on his way to the Graydusk Forest, a man was sitting in the lotus position. Five Birdmen and Blackscales were bound by belts of spiritual power and floating over his head.
All of them were covered in wounds. Spatial blades were still flashing across them every once in a while, creating more gashes on their badly mangled bodies. Even their bones were exposed in some places.
A dozen more dead Birdmen and Stonemen were scattered around that man.
"Who are you talking about?" Li Langfeng asked cautiously.
"Zhao Shanling!" Nie Tian said, his expression flickering.
Li Langfeng was taken aback upon learning that Zhao Shanling was still in the Realm of Split Void, then he asked, "You saw him?! Did he see you?!"
Nie Tian smiled bitterly and said, "Considering his cultivation base, since I saw him, he must have seen me as well."
Li Langfeng felt a numbness in his scalp as he said, "Yeah… So what do we do?"
"I don't think we have a choice. We can only go and meet him now." Somewhat helplessly, Nie Tian commanded the Bone Blood Demon to fly towards the abandoned city.
In fact, the moment Nie Tian's Heaven Eyes flew close to that city, Zhao Shanling had noticed them.
Knowing Zhao Shanling's strength, and the fact that he practiced spatial power, which was probably the most mysterious and profound power in this world, Nie Tian knew that there was no way he would be able to escape from him.
As long as Zhao Shanling wanted to catch up to him, even the Bone Blood Demon wouldn't be of much help.
Therefore, he might as well go over there and meet him openly to see what he had to say.
After killing a large number of mutant spirit beasts in the Graydusk Forest, the Bone Blood Demon had absorbed tremendous amount of blood, and enhanced its battle prowess noticeably.
The way Nie Tian saw it, with the Bone Blood Demon by his side, even if Zhao Shanling wanted to kill him, he wouldn't succeed so easily.
A few minutes later, the Bone Blood Demon flew into Zhao Shanling's sight with Nie Tian and Li Langfeng on it.
Zhao Shanling seemed surprised. "Ah, it's you."
Even though he had long since discovered Nie Tian's Heaven Eyes, he hadn't linked them with Nie Tian at the first moment. Actually, he had thought it was some Worldly realm or Profound realm cultivator from the Wild Fire or the Dark Moon who was so daring as to peep at him.
Nie Tian then commanded the Bone Blood Demon to descend. "Greetings, Senior Zhao," he said.
However, he still kept a rather safe distance from Zhao Shanling. Furthermore, he had instructed the Bone Blood Demon with his thoughts that, if Zhao Shanling made any aggressive move, it should attack him immediately and with full force.
"From the look of it, the ring of holding I gave you is indeed of an important use," Zhao Shanling said with a gruesome smile. "I can't believe that you actually harnessed a puppet that possesses Soul realm strength. Impressive, very impressive."
At that moment, one of the Blackscales that were bound by spiritual power belts and floating in the air recognized Nie Tian. His expression flickered as he exclaimed in the human language, "You're that Son of the Stars! H-how did you come back?!"
Surprised, Nie Tian looked up at him. After searching briefly in his mind, he suspected that this Blackscale might have been among the ones that survived and escaped from the island.
Since he had faced a large number of outsiders back then, and this specific Blackscale wasn't one of the most powerful ones, Nie Tian didn't have any memory of him.
Upon hearing those words, the look in Zhao Shanling's eyes suddenly became meaningful as he gazed at Nie Tian. "A Son of the Stars..."
PHOOH! PHOOH! PHOOH!
One spatial blade after another flashed across the sky, killing every Birdman and Blackscale that was fastened like floating balloons.
Zhao Shanling frowned as he watched them crash heavily to the ground, as if he were pondering something.
Nie Tian, however, didn't say a word. He secretly circulated spiritual power within him and snuck a glance at Li Langfeng, signaling for him to be prepared.
Nie Tian knew that Zhao Shanling was an unpredictable man. As a man with no scruples, it would never occur to him to follow the rules made by the major sects.
Perhaps he wasn't even concerned with the calamity the Domain of the Falling Stars was facing.
Perhaps even if the Realm of Split Void was lost and the other realms were also plunged into the abyss of misery, he wouldn't be stirred.
It seemed that all that he cared about was himself. No turbulence or calamity in the outside world would affect his state of mind.
After a short while, Zhao Shanling laid his eyes on Nie Tian. His face split into a smile as he asked, "Why haven't you returned to the Realm of Flame Heaven, Nie Tian?"
"I was delayed by some trivial matter," Nie Tian said.
"You were at the middle Greater Heaven stage the last time I saw you, but now you're already at the late Greater Heaven stage," Zhao Shanling said, "It seems that you failed to leave the Realm of Split Void in time because you were in the middle of your breakthrough. But now, it won't be that easy to return since you've missed your chance."
Before Nie Tian could say anything, he let out a low chuckle and went on, "The situation in the Realm of Flame Heaven doesn't look good, you know."
Nie Tian's heart jolted as he heard these words.
"Come to think of it, it's actually quite interesting..." Zhao Shanling said. With a strange expression, he turned to look in the direction of the Void Illusion Mountain Range. "There are a large number of unstable spatial rifts in the Void Illusion Mountain Range, all of which are very complicated. Most of them lead to realms that aren't fit for humans to cultivate, and don't produce useful spiritual materials.
"However, a few of them were created by the Void Palace Sect a long time ago, and lead to the other realms in the Domain of the Falling Stars.
"Those spatial rifts are very hard to find. I suppose even the outsiders would have to go through some trouble to find them. But the strange thing is that a spatial rift that leads to the Realm of Flame Heaven somehow appeared after all those so-called major sects had left."
Nie Tian was taken aback. "What?!"
Li Langfeng's expression also flickered upon hearing these words.
"Let me put it this way then," Zhao Shanling said with a cunning smile. "Someone deliberately exposed that spatial rift that leads to the Realm of Flame Heaven, so that the outsiders would be directed to the Realm of Flame Heaven. Since those from the major sects destroyed every single inter-realm teleportation portal before they evacuated, the outsiders will have to rely on the spatial rifts in the Void Illusion Mountain Range to invade the other nine realms in the Domain of the Falling Stars.
"Originally, it would have taken them quite some time to find spatial rifts that lead to the other nine realms in all those unstable spatial rifts.
"However, who would have known that someone was kind enough to give them a hand. They actually presented a spatial rift that leads to the Realm of Flame Heaven to the outsiders."
"Who did this?!" Nie Tian asked furiously.
"I've no idea." Looking at Nie Tian, who was fuming with fury like a erupting volcano, Zhao Shanling took his time to say, "As far as I know, a large amount of outsiders have already swarmed into the Realm of Flame Heaven through that spatial rift. The situation in the Realm of Flame Heaven now doesn't look good."
Nie Tian's heart burned with anxiety, as he wished he could grow wings and fly to the Realm of Flame Heaven.
Upon thinking of those who he cared a great deal about being stranded in the Realm of Flame Heaven, where they had no powerful spell formations or Soul realm experts to protect them, Nie Tian's heart sank. Bloody images kept appearing his mind.
"I'll find out who exposed that spatial rift to the outsiders! I swear it!!" Nie Tian roared like a beast.
"It seems that you want to return to the Realm of Flame Heaven." Zhao Shanling said, raising his eyebrows.
After all, even with the Bone Blood Demon by his side, Nie Tian wouldn't be able to turn the situation around. The way he saw it, it would be a very unwise decision.
"I do!" Nie Tian said with decisiveness that could sever nails and chop iron.
"Every existing inter-realm teleportation portal has been destroyed," Zhao Shanling said, smiling. "I'm the only one who can get you to the Realm of Flame Heaven now."
Nie Tian's mind suddenly cooled down. "Senior Zhao, what do you want in return for helping me return to the Realm of Flame Heaven?"
This maniac before him, who was a Soul realm expert in spatial magics, might be the only one who could get him to the Realm of Flame Heaven by establishing another teleportation portal, or through some other means.
Zhao Shanling snorted with a smile on his face and said, "Not so quickly. Let me tell you about the situation in the Realm of Split Void before you make your decision. There are only two seventh grade outsiders in the Realm of Split Void now. It appears that the outsiders are only using the Realm of Split Void as a transfer station.
"Most of the outsiders that are currently in the Realm of Split Void are still garrisoned in the Void Illusion Mountain Range. They didn't spread out to kill humans in remote areas like Graydusk Forest.
"They didn't seem to be interested in chasing humans to those places just to kill them.
"So unlike what most would think, the Realm of Split Void is actually safer than the other realms right now. It's not necessarily a bad choice to stay here. Perhaps going to the other realms would be the wrong thing to do."
"So what are you suggesting, Senior Zhao?" Nie Tian asked.
"I suggest that you hole up in Graydusk Forest. With that puppet by your side, you'd be safe there." Then, with a cold snort, he added, "You'd be seeking death by returning to the Realm of Flame Heaven."
"I must go back!" Nie Tian said with great determination. "I'll even die if I have to!"
Zhao Shanling took a deep look at him, then shook his head. "Stupid young man... Forget it. I'll help you. But you'll have to do something for me if you somehow survive this tribulation."
"What is it?" Nie Tian asked instantly.
"You'll need to survive first," Zhao Shanling said with a disdainful snort. "The way I see it, you'll most likely die in the Realm of Flame Heaven."
Nie Tian nodded slightly, not saying a word.
"Follow me closely." With these words, numerous mysterious sparks that seemed like time nodes started to shine in the depths of Zhao Shanling's pupils.
Fizzing sounds echoed out from the space between him and Nie Tian, and soon, a slender spatial rift appeared. His figure blurred and shot right into it.
Without delay, Nie Tian summoned the Bone Blood Demon, and they both disappeared into the spatial rift. Li Langfeng followed along.
In the next moment, Nie Tian found himself in one of the huge craters in the forbidden region. At the bottom of the crater was a large meteor.
A crack appeared on the meteor, which quickly grew wider and wider. Nie Tian stored the Bone Blood Demon in his ring of holding, and walked into the crack with Li Langfeng.
In the crack stood a simple, unsophisticated teleportation portal, which was thrumming with waves of spatial fluctuations.
"Get in. I'll take you to the Realm of Flame Heaven." Zhao Shanling said with a casual tone.