In a remote corner of the Realm of a Hundred Battles.
The corpse of the last seventh grade outsider was being burned by blazing flames over a lake.
Underneath the seventh grade Fiend, numerous dead fish could be seen floating on the surface of the lake. There were also many dead low-grade spirit beasts around the lake. Some had even been reduced to pools of blood.
Faint, deadly smoke filled this area, corroding heaven and earth.
Zhao Shanling, Hua Mu, Dong Wangling, and the others had formed a circle around the seventh grade Fiend and watched him being gradually burned to ashes.
The corpses of the other seventh grade outsiders they had killed were floating beside them. Apparently, they had kept their corpses after killing them.
Not counting the seventh grade outsiders' storage rings, just their bones alone had many uses.
The seventh grade Fiend was the only one that none of the human experts dared to take.
That was because every inch of the Fiend contained deadly toxins. Even the toxic smoke that had leaked from his pores before he had been killed had poisoned the fish in the lake.
When he had sustained injuries, his blood had touched some nearby low-grade spirit beasts. Those spirit beasts were instantly reduced to pools of blood.
Hua Mu and the other experts had all agreed that they must not keep this Fiend's body, and thus decided to burn it away with all sorts of fire-attributed materials.
Only after they watched the Fiend's body burn to ashes did they feel relaxed.
"I don't want his storage ring, do you?" Qian Buhui from the Pill Pavilion Sect said with curled lips. "Perhaps only people from the Poison Sect would be interested in his possessions."
At this point, the outsider invaders had finally been wiped out.
With Zhao Shanling, who was an expert in spatial magics, on the team, the Soul realm experts had located and slaughtered the fleeing outsider experts one by one without much effort.
Now, it was time to split the spoils.
"I can take that Fiend's storage ring back to the Spirit Condor," Hua Mu said. "But I don't think it's time for us to split the spoils. Instead, we might want to think about our next move."
Even Qin Yan had received word of the current situation from the Spirit Condor's headquarters. It was only natural that Hua Mu had a thorough understanding of the current situation.
From him, these Soul realm experts had long since learned that the outsider forces had already pulled out of the other realms and gathered outside the Heaven Palace Sect.
They also knew that the Heaven Palace Sect had demanded that they go help defend their sect.
"Word has come that Xia Yi has entered the late Soul realm," Hua Mu said, his eyes narrowed. "Xia Yi has said that he's willing to go contend against Basto, the outsider commander. Basto is at the late seventh grade. If we're considering fighting him one on one, Xia Yi is probably the only one who can.
"However, he insists that only if Nie Tian gives him the Flame Dragon Armor will he be strong enough to fight Basto.
"Many sects, including the Heaven Palace Sect, the Poison Sect, the Heaven Expanse Sect, the Thunder Mountain Sect, and the Spirit God Sect, have stated that Nie Tian should put the general interest first, and give that Spirit Channeling grade treasure back to Xia Yi.
"Meanwhile, Li Muyang and a few others have suggested that Nie Tian should let Xia Yi borrow it for the time being, and Xia Yi should return it to Nie Tian after the war is over.
"To this point, a mutual understanding hasn't been reached.
"It seems to me that, aside from Brother Zhao, the rest of us will all want to support Nie Tian. So what are your opinions on this matter?"
Hua Mu wasn't sure what kind of relationship Nie Tian had with Zhao Shanling, but he knew that Nie Tian had put himself in great danger by coming to the Realm of a Hundred Battles, so the local forces would probably stand by Nie Tian in his time of need.
As one of the Spirit Condor's potentates, he was very close to Nie Tian, so the Spirit Condor would naturally stand by Nie Tian as well.
As for the Ice Pavilion Sect, it was because of Nie Tian that Xuan Ke had made it back from that other dimension. If there were no mishaps, they would choose to support Nie Tian as well.
Zong Zheng, the patriarch of the Ice Pavilion Sect, was the first to state his opinion. "Together, we can pressure Xia Yi into agreeing that he'll only borrow the Flame Dragon Armor for now and that he'll return it to Nie Tian after the war is over. He has just entered the late Soul realm. It's true that he'll need an agreeable fire-attributed spiritual tool to defeat Basto.
"And the Flame Dragon Armor will be the ideal spiritual tool.
"This battle will determine the life or death of the entire Domain of the Falling Stars. So I think it's acceptable that he borrow the Flame Dragon Armor for now. I know it's too much to ask if he demands that Nie Tian give it to him."
Qian Buhui nodded. "I think so too."
The others nodded one after another, agreeing that this was a fair and reasonable solution.
Only Zhao Shanling smiled and said, "I doubt that you lot can decide for Nie Tian."
Everyone was taken aback.
Zhao Shanling then created a spatial rift that led to the Dong Clan.
"I'm curious what Nie Tian will have to say," Zhao Shanling said with a meaningful look on his face. "My senior martial brother gave in to me to save the countless lives in the Domain of the Falling Stars from this calamity. However, if he let himself bound by no scruples, he could have sent the Tool Sect disciples into those fiery realms and ignored my demand.
"But I knew that he would succumb, and he did.
"Now, I wonder how Nie Tian will choose, facing a similar situation."
With these words, he took the initiative to enter the spatial rift and arrive in the Dong Clan within a breath's time.
The other Soul realm experts exchanged glances, absorbed in their thoughts.
A few seconds later, Hua Mu nodded and said, "He's right. We should hear Nie Tian's opinion first."
Afterward, all of the Soul realm experts that were gathered in this place entered the spatial rift, taking the outsider corpses with them.
Inside the Dong Clan...
Zhao Shanling and the other Soul realm experts walked out of a spatial rift one after another.
At first glance, Hua Mu saw Nie Tian, who was sitting silently on the ground, his eyes closed.
Dong Qianqi, Dong Tengfei, Qin Yan, and many Dong Clan members were standing beside Nie Tian. They were all looking at him as if they were hesitant to talk to him.
Upon seeing the returning Soul realm experts, Qin Yan hastily stepped over and bowed. "Greetings, Seniors."
Upon seeing Hua Mu, Nie Tian rose to his feet and bowed respectfully. "Uncle Hua."
Seeing that Hua Mu and Dong Wangling didn't say anything, Zong Zheng said, after a moment of hesitation, "Nie Tian, I'm Zong Zheng from the Ice Pavilion Sect. You must have learned of the situation. Our opinion is that we can pressure Xia Yi into agreeing that he'll only borrow your Flame Dragon Armor so that he can deal with Basto. He'll return the Flame Dragon Armor to you as soon as the war is over.
"If he refuses to do so, we'll join up and force him to hand it over. The bottom line is that the Flame Dragon Armor belongs to you. We certainly won't allow him to take what is yours."
After hearing this, Nie Tian's gaze swept across the faces of the Soul realm experts, one after another. Finally, he asked, "Do you all agree to this solution?"
"It has nothing to do with me," Zhao Shanling said with an indifferent expression.
After a moment of silence, Hua Mu said, "I'll leave it to you, Nie Tian."
Dong Wangling chimed in, "Mr. Hua and I share the same opinion. We want you to decide for yourself."
Zong Zheng, Qian Buhui, and the others seemed surprised by these two's words.
Nie Tian remained silent for some time before turning to Zhao Shanling and asking, "If I refuse to give in to Xia Yi, will you unseal the spatial rift so that Xia Yi and your brother in the Heaven Palace Sect will be able to seek trouble with the Realm of Flame Heaven in the future?"
He knew that Zhao Shanling had worked with Xia Yi before to take the Realm of Unbounded Desolation and that Zhao Luofeng was Zhao Shanling's older brother.
Zhao Shanling's attitude would mean a great deal.
If he decided to side with the Heaven Palace Sect and Xia Yi, the Realm of Flame Heaven would be in trouble if he refused to cooperate.
Zhao Shanling took his time to say, "I promised you that I'd seal that spatial rift. If I unseal it, I'll be violating our deal. So whatever you decide to do, nothing will happen to that spatial rift."
Nie Tian felt slightly relieved.
However, Zhao Shanling then added, "But there still are inter-realm teleportation portals in the Realm of Flame Heaven. Once the outsiders are taken care of, the local sects might reopen those teleportation portals. If they do, the Heaven Palace Sect and the other sects would still be able to send forces there."
Nie Tian's expression remained calm as he asked, "I just want to know whether you're going to help the Heaven Palace Sect and Xia Yi."
He knew that if the Heaven Palace Sect and the other sects decided to seek trouble with his friends and family, they would be able to retreat to arcane realms like the Green Illusion dimension and hole up there.
As long as Zhao Shanling didn't help them reestablish the connections, his master, Nie Donghai, and the others would be safe.
Then, when his cultivation base was high enough to solve the mystery hidden under the forbidden region in the Realm of Split Void, he would probably have the ability to get them out of the Green Illusion dimension.
With a cunning laugh, Zhao Shanling said, "I've long since forgotten what familial love is. As for friendship... Hehe... Do you think I'm friends with Xia Yi? People like me don't need friends, and won't have friends.
"The only thing you need to consider is the fate of the Domain of the Falling Stars because that's what Xia Yi is using to threaten you.
"My senior martial brother didn't want this calamity to go on, and he didn't want to watch more people die, so he gave in to me.
"So what about you? What's your decision going to be?"
After a quick glance over the crowd, Nie Tian said with determination, "I won't even lend the Flame Dragon Armor to him!"
Upon hearing this, Zhao Shanling let out a wild laugh and said loudly, "Good! Now you're talking!"
Though he had known Nie Tian for some time now, he had never thought highly of him just because he had been chosen to be the successor of the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace, or because he possessed the powerful Bone Blood Demon that followed him wherever he went.
But now, after Nie Tian made a decision that was completely different from his senior martial brother's, approval and respect appeared in his eyes for the first time as he looked at him.