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As the night gradually lifted, the dense demon Qi that had submerged the entire mountain range for two years finally dissipated completely.
Soon after, a silver lining appeared in the distant sky, which was adorned by a flew clouds. Day broke.
However, the atmosphere among Nie Tian and the others on the mountaintop didn’t lighten up as the crisis ended.
The air became still as the two sides reached a standoff.
Huang Fan stared silently at Nie Tian and the others for a while before he took a deep breath and said to Nie Tian with a somewhat relaxed tone, “Before I escorted you to the Realm of a Thousand Devastations, our sectmaster told me that as long as you agreed to join the Heaven Palace Sect, you’d become its chosen one.
“You’ll have unconditional and unlimited access to all the valuable and unique treasures you need.
“Whenever you come to problems you can’t solve in your cultivation, the sectmaster and grand elder will do whatever it takes to straighten things out for you.
“Not only that, but you’ll even have the opportunity to learn from the most powerful expert in our sect. He’ll also help you with problems that you run into on your cultivation path.
“Your grandfather and aunt will be taken to the Heaven Palace Sect, where they’ll live the rest of their lives in comfort and affluence.
“Furthermore, we’ll also make sure that you get to keep the Spirit Channeling grade treasure that you obtained from the Flame God Sect. We’ll communicate and make arrangements with the Flame God Sect so as to eliminate their idea of getting it back from you.
“If you join the Heaven Palace Sect, perhaps you’ll get to control the future of the Domain of the Falling Stars.
“There’s a good chance that, in several hundred years, you’ll take the position of sectmaster of the Heaven Palace Sect, and become the most powerful figure in the Domain of the Falling Stars.”
Seeing that using force wouldn’t work, Huang Fan immediately changed his tactics, and attempted to lure Nie Tian in with tremendous benefits, hoping that he would open his eyes to what he would get after joining the Heaven Palace Sect.
Upon hearing Huang Fan’s promises, the members of the Yin Sect and the Yang Sect were all secretly shocked.
As powerful as they were, they didn’t think they would be able to turn down such a handsome offer if they were in Nie Tian’s shoes.
He would get everything he needed as he pursued his cultivation; Zhao Luofeng and Ling Dong would help him with any difficulties he ran into; formidable experts would teach him without holding anything back; he might even be given the position of sectmaster of the Heaven Palace Sect in the foreseeable future, and become the most powerful person in the Domain of the Falling Stars.
Being offered everything a Qi warrior would ever want at such an young age, would this young man from the Realm of Flame Heaven actually be able to refuse?
Kong Hong, Liu Ling, and the others all gazed at Nie Tian with incomparably complicated looks in their eyes, waiting for him to give his answer.
Even they believed that the best choice for Nie Tian would be to accept the offer and go back to the Heaven Palace Sect with Huang Fan.
However, Nie Tian was still frowning, as if he were still weighing things over.
“The Heaven Palace Sect...” Nie Tian muttered inwardly.
He recalled his experience in the Heaven Palace Sect. When he had followed Huang Fan to the Realm of Mystic Heaven and seen the Heaven Palace Sect for the first time, he had been shocked by its incredible magnificence, and thus convinced that it lived up to its name as the most powerful sect in the Domain of the Falling Stars.
When facing the invasion of the Astarte Clan from the Sixth Demon Realm, the entire Realm of Flame Heaven hadn’t been able to stop it. All they had done was wallow in desperation.
The situation had also been very dangerous and critical when the Realm of a Thousand Devastations had defended against the Demons from the Fifth Demon Realm.
He could sense that the strengths of the different demon realms also varied.
The Fourth Demon Realm seemed much more powerful than the Fifth Demon Realm and the Sixth Demon Realm.
When the Heaven Palace Sect had waited for the Demon invaders from the Fourth Demon Realm alone, not only hadn’t their members shown the slightest fear under Zhao Luofeng and Ling Dong’s leadership, but they had even looked forward to the Demons’ appearance.
Eventually, they had forced Auden to agree to their proposal.
With this alone, Nie Tian saw how powerful the Heaven Palace Sect was.
However, when he had arrived at the spatial rift, Zhao Luofeng, Ling Dong, and the other Heaven Palace Sect members’ attitudes towards him didn’t make him feel the slightest bit of warmth, as if they hadn’t attached any importance to him.
Aside from that, he had been deeply disgusted by their secret deal with the Demons.
On the other hand, the way the Yin Sect and the Yang Sect in the Realm of a Thousand Devastations treated him made him very comfortable.
Furthermore, he had a feeling that these two sects had some kind of connection with the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace, and he was the only living successor of the legacies of the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace in the entire Domain of the Falling Stars.
Hidden within those three lofty mountain peaks were one boat and two scrolls that seemed to be somehow related to the Yin Sect and the Yang Sect.
After weighing the pros against the cons in his head, Nie Tian became increasingly determined. Thus, he turned to Huang Fan and said apologetically, “I’m very sorry, Senior Huang, but I have no intentions of becoming a member of the Heaven Palace Sect. If Sectmaster Zhao wants to ask me about other matters, I’ll be happy to go the Heaven Palace Sect another time. I still have some unfinished business in the Realm of a Thousand Devastations. I can’t go to the Heaven Palace Sect with you now.”
Huang Fan suddenly let out a cold harrumph and raised his voice. “Nie Tian! You’re being a fool for not appreciating our kindness!”
Nie Tian’s eyebrows furrowed as he didn’t say a word.
“Brother Huang,” Kong Hong said, looking displeased. “If you have to use force to break a melon off the vine, it won’t taste sweet. (see note 1) I think it’s time that you went back to the Heaven Palace Sect yourself.”
Liu Ling's bright eyes were also filled with a fierce look as she said, “Brother Huang, if you need our assistance in any other matter, we’ll surely exert all our power to help you. But if you want to force Nie Tian to go back to the Heaven Palace Sect with you, we regret that we cannot comply with your wish!”
“I demand to speak to your sectmasters!” Huang Fan sounded furious.
“I’m here.” Li Muyang from the Yang Sect seemed to have heard Huang Fan’s words and thus instantly appeared in front of him. He smiled in an unrestrained way as he said, “I’ve heard your conversation. I can tell you right now that Kong Hong’s attitude on this coincides with mine.”
Shock could be seen on Huang Fan’s face.
Apparently, he didn’t dare to adopt an imposing manner in Li Muyang’s presence, and thus seemed somewhat overshadowed.
His cultivation base was only at the late Profound realm, while Li Muyang, who was standing in front of him, was an expert at the middle Soul realm, one of the few experts in the entire Domain of the Falling Stars to reach such a realm.
He knew perfectly well that Li Muyang was even more powerful than Ling Dong, the grand elder of the Heaven Palace Sect.
Zhao Luofeng was the only person throughout the Heaven Palace Sect whose strength matched Li Muyang’s.
Perhaps the old man who practiced secluded cultivation year-round, and exhausted all means to gather enough unique materials to break through into the Void domain, was the only one in the Heaven Palace Sect who could overtake Li Muyang.
“It’s our sectmaster’s will that Nie Tian joins the Heaven Palace Sect!” Huang Fan made his stance clear.
Li Muyang’s expression didn’t change a bit as he said with narrowed eyes, “I won’t stand in the way if Nie Tian is willing to go with you. However, if he isn’t, I won’t allow you to take him to the Heaven Palace Sect by force.”
Huang Fan was going to say something when Li Muyang stopped him with a wave of his hand and continued, “I’m not after the legacies Nie Tian obtained from the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace, and I don’t intend to force him to stay in the Realm of a Thousand Devastations. If he wants to leave, he can go whenever he wants. I won’t try to stop him. Of course, I also don’t want you or anyone else to stop him from going where he wants to go!
“You can go back and tell Zhao Luofeng that this is my stance on this matter!”
After making sure that Anguz had disappeared into the spatial rift, Xing Huanyue, the sectmaster of the Yin Sect, put away her Moon Wheel and said from afar, “My stance is the same!”
Huang Fan’s expression flickered dramatically.
As every powerful expert in the Domain of the Falling Stars knew, Li Muyang and Xing Huanyue didn’t get along.
Their cultivation bases were equally matched, and as the heads of the Yin Sect and the Yang Sect, they had been struggling in secret for years.
Almost every ten years, the two of them would find a secluded place to start a fierce battle, where killing would be allowed, under the name of learning from each other by exchanging moves.
Sometimes, their battles would last months.
Conflicts also often broke out between disciples of the Yin Sect and the Yang Sect. People would be wounded or killed all the time.
The two of them could almost never reach a mutual understanding on any matter. There were very few cases where they didn’t have any friction.
However, their opinions were surprisingly unified on this matter.
Considering the Heaven Palace Sect’s strength, either the Yin Sect or the Yang Sect would be at an overwhelming disadvantage if they were to face the Heaven Palace Sect alone.
However, if the Yin Sect and the Yang Sect teamed up, as powerful as the Heaven Palace Sect was, they would have to pay a significant price to gain a final victory.
Huang Fan weighed over his choice of words before he dropped his imposing manner and said, “Alright. I’ll go back to the Heaven Palace Sect and relay your stance on this matter.”
“I’ll take you to the teleportation portal, Brother Huang,” Liu Ling said without any hesitation.
“There’s no need!” Huang Fan waved his hand, declining her good intention of giving him a ride on the Silver Chariot. Instead, since he had reached the Profound realm, he exploded into the air and shot into the distance.
Right before he disappeared into the distant sky, he jerked his head back and shot a cold look at Nie Tian.
Under his ice-cold gaze, Nie Tian’s body stiffened as a surge of coldness ran through him.
At that moment, he realized that his refusal might have provoked Huang Fan’s killing intent.
The fragile friendship between them, which had been built since they had met in the Realm of Flame Heaven, had officially come to an end.
From now on, in the eyes of Huang Fan and the Heaven Palace Sect, he might no longer be the promising seed they would cultivate with their heart and soul, but rather an insult they would exert all means to erase.
“Kid, I’m very curious why you would turn down the Heaven Palace Sect’s handsome offer,” Li Muyang said, intrigued.
The others also had confused expressions on their faces, as if they all found it hard to understand.
Even Xing Huanyue, the sectmaster of the Yin Sect, quietly descended and examined him with a strange look in her eyes.
1. The literal translation of the saying is: a forcibly picked melon is not sweet. So it basically means if something is not meant to be, there’s no use forcing it. This saying is also very commonly-used.