Proceeding forward, it was obvious that Zhang Xuan's clone had toned down quite a bit. It was not showing its usual smugness and narcissism at all.

It seemed like the eeriness of the City of Collapsed Space had surpassed his expectations as well.

It was little wonder why few would dare venture in here. Just the air of degeneration lingering in the area would already be fatal to most cultivators.

Through the Eye of Insight and Library of Heaven's Path, Zhang Xuan was able to foresee most dangers in advance and circumvent them, thus sparing him from much trouble. Nevertheless, over the course of less than ten li, he had still ended up being attacked thrice and nearly fallen into a trap twice.

That being said, they overcame the challenges and marched on. Soon, they sensed an intense pulsation of energy just ahead of them.

Zhang Xuan and his clone exchanged glances before stealthily advancing.

A vast square came into view.

On the left was a lady dressed formally with a copper mask on her face. There was an altar floating quietly not too far away from her with sky blue flames blazing on it. It seemed like the ritual had already begun.

Her hair was fluttering in the air as she infused all her zhenqi into the altar, causing the surrounding space to distort.

On the right was a familiar face—the middle-aged man from the Hall of Gods. He was staring at the altar with utterly cold eyes.

Fu Chenzi?

Not too far away, there was a figure lying diagonally on the ground. Fresh blood was spurting from his chest, indicating the severity of his injuries. It was none other than Fu Chenzi from the Ethereal Hall.

Zhang Xuan had guessed that Fu Chenzi might have encountered the middle-aged man along the way, but who could have thought that the latter would have sustained such severe injuries?

Could that copper-masked lady be Palace Master Du Qingyuan? Zhang Xuan thought as he looked over.

He could not tell what the ritual was for, but he could sense overwhelming zhenqi surging through the copper-masked lady's body. Judging from her strength, it was apparent that she had already reached the Semi-Divinity realm.

The only lady of the Six Sects who had reached this realm was Du Qingyuan, so the person before him was likely her.

The middle-aged man gazed at Fu Chenzi coldly and said, "Does your master intend to make an enemy out of the Hall of Gods as well?"

Zhang Xuan was a little perplexed.

He had not watched the entire battle earlier, but should Fu Chenzi not be stronger than the middle-aged man? It was true that anything could happen in a battle, but considering that he was joining hands with Du Qingyuan now, it was hard to believe that he would end up sustaining such a severe injury.

Otherwise... could it be that the middle-aged man had intentionally admitted defeat so as to allow Fu Chenzi to lead the way?


Such was not completely implausible.

Through his interactions with them, he felt that the Hall of Gods was unscrupulous in the means they resorted to in order to achieve their goals, and even sacrificing themselves was not beyond them. It was not unthinkable for them to use such a ploy.

"If you could do anything—cough cough—to our hall master, you would have long made a move!'1 Fu Chenzi scoffed coldly as he coughed out blood. Following which, he turned to the copper-masked lady with difficulty and warned, "Palace Master Du, you must be careful. He has a Semi-Divinity artifact with him!"

The copper-masked lady did not bother responding to Fu Chenzi's warning. Instead, she continued looking at the middle-aged man with cold killing intent in her eyes.

Hu!

A massive palm that cast a shadow over the lands suddenly appeared in the sky, crushing down with incredible might.

Great Azure Palm, not bad!" The middle-aged man laughed loudly as he charged forth with a sword in his hand.

Ding!

Holding back the massive palm in the sky with the sword in one of his hands, he raised his other hand and thrust a palm strike right toward the nearby altar.

You are courting death!" the copper-masked lady spat coldly.

In retaliation, she thrust a flurry of palm strikes toward the middle-aged man. As a result of her relentless attacks, the surrounding space was strained into distortion, making it seem as if the entire area was going to explode from the shockwave.

However, with speed as swift as lightning, the middle-aged man was able to skillfully maneuver through her palm strikes without sustaining any damage.

"Palace Master Du, you seem far weaker than how the rumors made you out to be. Is it the effects of the ritual? Well, regardless of what it is, it's a fact that you aren't a match for me in your current state. Hand over your altar obediently, and I can consider sparing your life. Otherwise, don't blame me for not going easy on you!" The middle-aged man smirked.

Known to be one of the strongest experts of the Six Sects, Du Qingyuan's strength was so great that even the middle- aged man was not entirely confident that he would be a match for her. Yet, for some reason, even though the other party's attack seemed powerful on the surface, it felt like there was no substance behind them.

Could she have depleted her strength due to the ritual and resorted to putting on an act to scare him off?

In any case, this worked in his favor. As long as he could successfully obtain the altar, the contribution that he had made to the Hall of Gods would surely earn him an advancement in his cultivation!

On the other hand, the copper-masked lady paid no attention to the middle-aged man's words and continued her offense.

The flames burning on the altar were growing more and more brilliant by the moment, as if a connection was swiftly being forged with the Firmament.

"Since you don't know your place, don't blame me for not going easy on you!"

Seeing how the copper-masked lady refused to give up on the ritual, the middle-aged man sneered coldly as he raised his palm.

Hu!

A halberd materialized right in his hand. With a powerful leap, he pierced the halberd toward the other party furiously. Wuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

A massive tear in space appeared along the trajectory of the halberd. After being infused with the energy of a Semi- Divinity realm cultivator, the tip of the halberd emanated a menacing glow, as if it would reduce anything before it to dust.

A Semi-Divinity artifact? Zhang Xuan narrowed his eyes.

He could tell that the halberd was no ordinary Semi-Divinity artifact. Even the metal chain that he had with him was a notch weaker than it. It seemed like it was still possible for there to be huge disparities in the might of Semi-Divinity artifacts.

Sensing the tremendous power behind the halberd, the copper-masked lady could not keep her cool anymore. With narrowed eyes, she abruptly turned her head and glanced at the altar not too far away from her.

"Even if I die, I'll drag you down with me!"

With a furious roar, she reached out toward the altar and grasped at it.

Hula!

The sky-blue flames on the altar shot over and formed a blazing wall of fire right in front of the copper-masked lady.

If the middle-aged man wanted to get to her, he would have to first destroy the altar.

However, the mission that his master had passed down to him was to acquire the altar, so the altar would have been completely useless once it had been destroyed. Thus, he could not possibly choose such a course of action.

He pulled back his halberd and glared at the copper-masked lady with narrowed eyes. "You darned spinster!"

You can rest assured that I'll destroy the altar with my own hands before I die. I'll be letting my predecessors down, but I believe that they wouldn't want to see the treasure of our Starchaser Pavilion falling into the hands of a bunch of beasts! Just try me!" The copper-masked lady laughed manically.

In terms of strength, she was definitely no match for the middle-aged man before her. To make matters worse, the middle-aged man even had a Semi-Divinity artifact with him. There was no way she stood a chance.

Since that was the case, the least she could do was ensure that the other party did not get what he wanted. She knew that he wanted the altar, and that meant that she was able to caution him using it.

"Humph!"

With tightly clenched fists, the middle-aged man glared at the copper-masked lady with a terrifying look on his face. A moment later, however, the frown between his brows loosened, and a sadistic smile crept onto his lips. "Since that's the case, perhaps I should start with him first!"

Hong long!

The halberd immediately changed its target toward the old man lying feebly on the ground—Fu Chenzi.

Fu Chenzi's face paled. He tried to gather his strength to protect himself, but due to the severity of his injuries, he was unable to even push himself off the ground.

With a desolate look on his face, he turned to the copper-masked lady and cried out, "Palace Master Du, hurry up and leave! With the altar in your hands, he won't dare make a move on you. There's no need to worry about me..."

The copper-masked lady clicked her tongue in irritation before grabbing the altar and dashing in front of Fu Chenzi. "Continue what you were doing if you really want the altar to be destroyed, so..."

Hu!

The halberd halted in midair. 'You b*tch..."

The middle-aged man was so furious that he could have exploded on the spot. Tremendous might crackled around the halberd, causing a shockwave to ripple into the surroundings. Even though he had halted his attack, the sheer momentum of it had already caused the ground around him to crack.

Peng!

At this critical moment, the face of the copper-masked lady suddenly turned ghastly pale. A spurt of fresh blood escaped from her lips, and she fell forward, crashing heavily onto the ground.

With a look of disbelief in her eyes, she turned around and saw the severely wounded Fu Chenzi rising to his feet, wiping away the blood trickling down his lips.

"My sincere apologies, Palace Master Du. We can't afford to allow the altar to be damaged in any way, so we could only resort to trickery. I hope that you can understand where we are coming from."

With a swift series of movements, Fu Chenzi extinguished the sky-blue flames on the altar and sealed it with his zhenqi, making it impossible for the copper-masked lady to control it anymore. After that, he stowed the altar into his storage ring.

You b*stard," the copper-masked lady cursed furiously. "Even the lofty Ethereal Hall has decided to bow down to the Hall of Gods as well?"

Never in her wildest dreams did she expect that even Fu Chenzi, who had pitted his life to protect her earlier, would actually be in cahoots with the Hall of Gods! Everything that had just happened was an act!

Even Zhang Xuan, who was hiding to the side, could not help but recoil a little at the sight.

He had thought that it was weird how the middle-aged man had allowed Fu Chenzi to defeat him so easily back at Starchaser Palace. His initial assumption was that the middle-aged man was taking a step back to bait Starchaser Palace into making a move so that he could track them down and eventually get to where Du Qingyuan was.

However, the issue with that hypothesis was that there was no guarantee that Fu Chenzi would be heading to where Du Qingyuan was and that Starchaser Palace would even make a move at all.

After all, this was a battle of time. If Starchaser Palace could last long enough for Du Qingyuan to complete her ritual and acquire the protection of a god, the tables would be turned. The middle-aged man did not have the luxury to be wasting time on an uncertain possibility.

This drew his attention to Fu Chenzi's words and actions. After all, without Fu Chenzi's intervention, the middle-aged man would not have been so successful in finding Du Qingyuan.

He had a feeling that Fu Chenzi had been playing on the worries of Chu Yin and First Elder Zhao Yue back then in order to pressure them into revealing Du Qingyuan's whereabouts, and that had brought up a sliver of doubt within him that Fu Chenzi might have been working together with the Hall of Gods.

However, he had swiftly tossed the notion away because he did not think that an elder of the Ethereal Hall would have colluded with the Hall of Gods!

"Since the altar is already in our hands, there's no reason for us to keep her alive any longer." The middle-aged man harrumphed.

"Indeed." Fu Chenzi nodded in agreement.

He channeled his energy into his palm to execute a decisive blow on the copper-masked lady, but at this crucial moment, footsteps suddenly echoed in the air.

Huhu!

Two figures appeared in the square.

They were two of the four Heavenly High Immortals subordinated to the middle-aged man.

"Have you cleared away that pest who was following us?" the middle-aged man asked nonchalantly.

"That pest is extremely cunning. He seemed to know that we were lying in wait for him, so he fled before we could even make a move," one of the Heavenly High Immortals replied awkwardly.

"He fled?" the middle-aged man asked with a hint of displeasure in his tone.

"If I'm not mistaken, that person seems to be the new head of the Sevenstar Pavilion. It won't be too easy to get rid of him," Fu Chenzi said with a shake of his head.

"The new head of the Sevenstar Pavilion," the middle-aged murmured with a frown.

"Un. I felt that his rise was a little too abrupt, similar to that of Hall Master Zheng Yang and Sect Leader Zhang Xuan. As such, I tried looking into his background, but I haven't been able to gather anything so far," Fu Chenzi said grimly.

"However, we don't have to pay him any heed. Let's take the altar back to our master first. We'll deal with that fellow in due course."

"Yes, this matter takes priority." The middle-aged man nodded. He shot a glance at the copper-masked lady once more and said, "Let's head out after you get rid of her."

Very well!" Fu Chenzi nodded.

The two Heavenly High Immortals suddenly stepped forward at this moment and said, "Please allow me to do it. I wish to redeem myself for failing to capture Pavilion Master Liu Yang..."

Following which, one of them quickly moved over to the copper-masked lady's side whereas the other one remained beside the middle-aged man.

"I'll leave it to you then." The middle-aged man nodded before turning around to leave the area. Hu!

All of a sudden, two powerful surges of sword qi burst forth simultaneously. They were directed right toward the backs of the middle-aged man and Fu Chenzi respectively.

The two Heavenly High Immortals, who were Zhang Xuan and his clone in disguise, had made their moves. The middle- aged man and Fu Chenzi were completely caught off guard by this assault, such that the sword qi pierced a gaping hole through their bodies in an instant.

"You …"

Not expecting their own subordinates to assault them, the faces of the middle-aged man and Fu Chenzi warped in disbelief.

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