A total of eight ancient starships returned from the Dead Star Sea. Star banners hung high on each and every one of them.
All of them seemed to have suffered heavy blows, as their hulls were covered in cracks and multicolored blood. All eight of them sailed directly towards the floating land where Nie Tian was.
Moments later, they berthed right outside it.
After a brief moment, one of them left the starship group and flew towards the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace’s quarters.
“It’s Fang Yuan!” Han Wanrong’s voice suddenly echoed out from the grand palace. Nie Tian could see her worried face from afar.
Numerous members of the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace were bustling about on this floating land, along with people like Quan Zixuan and Qu Mingde, who were subordinates of Sons of the Stars.
Many of them seemed to recognize the ancient starship and its owner by the star banners they hung.
People started whispering in each other’s ears.
“It’s Fang Yuan! The fifth Son of the Stars!”
“He led his subordinate forces into the Dead Star Sea quite a while ago. From the look of it, things didn’t go well.”
“Countless powerful outsiders cruise the depths of the Dead Star Sea on their ancient starships year-round. It’s definitely not easy to win a battle against them, even for him.”
“If I remember correctly, he left with thirteen ancient starships. But he only brought eight back...”
A strapping young man suddenly leapt from the ancient starship.
More than a dozen dead Demons could be seen bound by glittering Starchains in his star-lit domain as he flew towards the palace where Han Wanrong was.
After pondering for a brief moment, Nie Tian also flew towards the palace on his Star Boat.
The Starchain-bound Demon corpses hit the ground heavily in front of the palace. The young man didn’t have the slightest delight on his face as he said in a sullen voice, “Would you please count these Demon corpses for me, Aunt Han?”
Han Wanrong looked heart-ached as she asked, “What happened?”
Just as Fang Yuan was about to answer, he noticed the Star Boat. Taken aback, he asked, “Who’s this?”
“This is Nie Tian, the seventh Son of the Stars. He has only just finished his path of stars and received our sect’s acknowledgment recently.” Han Wanrong gave him a brief introduction of Nie Tian. “You’ve spent far too long fighting in the depths of the Dead Star Sea where we can’t get word through to you. So you probably don’t even know about his existence.”
Fang Yuan nodded slightly. “I did stay a bit too long in the Dead Star Sea this time.”
The Star Boat descended. Nie Tian jumped off it.
Han Wanrong beckoned to him. “Nie Tian, this your senior martial brother, Fang Yuan. Like you, he’s also a Son of the Stars, the fifth Son of the Stars.”
Immediately afterwards, she turned to the others that had gathered to this place and said with a cold tone, “Nothing to see here.”
Then, she showed Nie Tian and Fang Yuan into the palace.
Standing in the spacious hall, Fang Yuan and Nie Tian measured each other up.
Starlight filled Fang Yuan’s pupils, as if two starry rivers were flowing in the depths of his eyes, with countless tiny stars drifting about in a mysterious way.
Under his piercing gaze, Nie Tian had a feeling that he couldn’t hide anything from him.
Fang Yuan frowned. “You distract yourself with far too many incantations. As a Son of the Stars, you were given our most valuable legacy: star power incantations. Why would you still waste your time practicing flame power and wood power incantations?”
Nie Tian smiled. “Unlike you, I was already practicing those incantations before I gained my fragmentary star marks from a Heaven Gate trial.”
“But you could have given up those incantations after you won our sect’s acknowledgment.” Fang Yuan said with a curious expression.
“I thought it would be a huge waste, so I did nothing about them. Then, as time passed, it just didn’t seem to matter anymore...” Nie Tian didn’t want to continue this subject, and thus asked, “What did you run into in the Dead Star Sea?”
At this moment, Han Wanrong shot a glance at the Demon corpses Fang Yuan had brought back with him, and rapidly determined their grades. Then, she signaled for Fang Yuan to put them away.
As soon as Fang Yuan lifted his hands, the Starchain-bound Demon corpses disappeared into his ring of holding.
Afterwards, the three of them leapt into the air and entered a secret room on the top floor. The inter-domain teleportation portal in the hall was still operating, bringing in new arrivals and sending away those who had finished their transactions and wished to return.
Han Wanrong was one of the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace’s twelve elders, and the overseer of this realm. Both Nie Tian and Fang Yuan were Sons of the Stars, whose statuses were as lofty as hers, if not loftier.
Even though many of the cultivators that were currently on this floating land had higher cultivation bases than Nie Tian and Fang Yuan, none of them were qualified to join their talk.
Standing unswerving and determined like a solid rock, Fang Yuan said, “I ran into grand patriarch Cardy, the clan chief of the Gaytons Clan from the Second Demon Realm. The Gaytons Clan has a total of three ninth grade grand patriarchs. Cardy is at the late ninth grade. The head of my clan had his domain badly damaged. Even now, the residual power Cardy left in his domain is still taking its toll.”
Han Wanrong’s expression flickered drastically. “Cardy the Blood Warden! You actually managed to save eight of our ancient starships from his claws, while taking out more than a dozen of his clan members?! This is something you should be proud of.
“Cardy is at the late ninth grade. Even I don’t know if I’d be able to defeat him in battle.”
Fang Yuan didn’t seem lit up by her words at all as he said, “My people suffered even more casualties. We lost nineteen Void domain experts. And the head of my clan, who’s also at the late Saint domain, is seriously injured.”
Han Wanrong sighed. “Cardy the Blood Warden is among the top ten most powerful outsider grand patriarchs. It’s understandable that his battle prowess is shockingly high. Any of those grand patriarchs shows promise to become a tenth grade grand monarch one day.
“Even though the head of your clan is at the late Saint domain, which matches Cardy’s grade, there’s actually a big gap between their strength and battle prowess.
“Judging by their actual strength, I’m afraid Cardy can probably handle Yan Zhan, Wei Lai, or any other powerful elder of our sect in battle. Your clanmaster didn’t have his domain destroyed. That’s already a remarkable thing to do.”
Fang Yuan’s face was still very grim. “Right before I encountered the Blood Warden, I was sweeping across dead stars in an area with He Lianxiong from the Heaven Span Pavilion. We were actually not far from each other. However, when the Blood Warden showed up with his fleet, I sent him three signals asking for help, and he didn’t answer once!
“We weren’t that far away. I was certain that he received my signals!
“If he came to my aid with his people, we would have been able to leave without suffering serious casualties, even if we couldn’t defeat the Blood Warden together!”
An icy look filled Han Wanrong’s eyes as she said, “He Lianxiong?! How could you trust a guy like him?!”
“Isn’t he close friends with Junior Martial Brother Sikong?” Fang Yuan asked, looking confused. “I ran into him by accident, and noticed that he had quite a few powerful subordinates with him, so I decided to work with him to sweep that area. Plus, he reached out to me first.”
“He and Sikong Cuo?” Han Wanrong said with a bitter smile. “That was a long time ago. According to what I heard, Sikong Cuo set him up the last time they explored a new domain together. A lot of his subordinates were killed. After that, he hates Sikong Cuo’s guts, and I suppose our sect too.”
Fang Yuan was taken aback. “I didn’t know anything about that...”
“Of course you didn’t,” Han Wanrong said, looking frustrated as well. “You spent far too long in that Dead Star Sea. You were in there when the two of them broke up. And you were still in there when he led his fleet into the Dead Star Sea. It wasn’t your fault that you didn’t know about this.
“But since he reached out to you and abandoned you in a moment of danger, I’m afraid that was all part of his plan.”
“Junior Martial Brother Sikong! It’s him again!?” Fang Yuan grew testy. “Hasn’t he caused enough trouble for our sect? Can’t you guys do something?”
From the look of it, Sikong Cuo didn’t have a good name among the seven Sons of the Stars of the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace.
“I’m in no place to tell a Son of the Stars what to do and what not to do,” Han Wanrong said in frustration. “Even grand elder Mo Heng can’t get him to clean up his behavior. Our sectmaster spends most of his time traveling. Both our vice sectmasters place high value in him, as they think he might be the one to ascend to power eventually.
“Besides, he has recently entered the Void domain.
“Even though people don’t like him, he’s made tremendous contributions to our sect. And he’s never suffered a loss from his covert struggle against the other three sects.
“Many elders think he may actually surpass those who came before him and rise to power eventually. The elders need to think about their future as well, so it’s understandable that they don’t want to become his enemies.”
Fang Yuan’s expression flickered with astonishment. “He’s entered the early Void domain already?! What allowed him to progress so fast?”
“He gained a significant fortune from the new domain he explored with He Lianxiong. That was why he broke through so fast.” Judging from the way Han Wanrong talked about Sikong Cuo, she didn’t have any positive feelings towards him either. However, there seemed to be nothing she could do. “He became a Son of the Stars far later than you did, but his cultivation base has already caught up to yours.
“So in some people’s eyes, he’s already surpassed you.”
Fang Yuan didn’t say a word.
At this moment, a clamor came from outside the palace.
Han Wanrong went blank briefly before sending her soul awareness out to determine the reason for it.
Moments later, she suddenly turned to Nie Tian and said with a strange expression, “Your subordinates are having a conflict with Sikong Cuo’s subordinates.”
Fang Yuan was first surprised, then fixed Nie Tian with an intrigued look, as if he wanted to see how Nie Tian would deal with this conflict between subordinates.
“Do you know why?” Nie Tian asked.
“Apparently, they have their eyes on the same item,” Han Wanrong answered. “Fighting of any kind is forbidden here. But if necessary, they can take it out into the starry river.”
“Sikong Cuo...” Nie Tian muttered as he rapidly walked out of the palace towards the source of the clamor.
He had seen some of Sikong Cuo’s subordinates when he had visited Fragmentary Star City for the first time. Each and every one of them seemed vicious and unruly.
Some of them had even mocked him.
Everything seemed to contribute to his negative feelings towards Sikong Cuo, the person who had become a Son of the Stars just before him.
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