As he spoke, black smoke was flowing out from the clone's wounds. Just like before, his body was automatically expelling the air of degeneration that had seeped into his wounds.

"What a pity that such wounds don't last too long on my body. I don't think that I'll be able to determine the concentration gradient of the air of degeneration for you at this rate... Ah!"

With a cry of agony, the clone lowered his head, only to see Zhang Xuan's sword lodged in another part of his body.

You don't need to worry about that. It'll be tiring, but I'm willing to take up the responsibility of ensuring that there are plenty of wounds on your body so that you can get the job done," Zhang Xuan said with a smile.

With veins bulging at his temples, the clone felt tempted to smash Zhang Xuan's head in.

With a helpless sigh, he dragged his wounded body around the area to test the concentration gradient of the air of degeneration.

Just as Zhang Xuan had guessed, there was indeed a visible difference in the concentration of the air of degeneration in the area. It did not take the clone too long to find the region where the concentration of air of degeneration was the highest.

What was surprising was that it was located in a region that had very little rubble but plenty of plants.

Thick vines could be seen creeping up the walls and covering the roofs.

Having narrowed down the location, Zhang Xuan heaved a sigh of relief.

He quickly scanned his surroundings for a moment before bringing out over a hundred formation flags with a flick of his hand. With a tap of his finger, all the formation flags flew out and planted themselves in the surroundings, forming a wind wall.

After this was done, Zhang Xuan flew up into the sky and shouted, "Palace Master Du, I am Liu Yang, the head of the Sevenstar Pavilion. I don't have any ties with the Hall of Gods or the Ethereal Hall. I know that you are somewhere below, and I implore you to show yourself so that I can treat you. Otherwise, you won't even last an incense's time[l] under the corrosion of the air of degeneration. If I'm not wrong, your innards and meridians are already starting to collapse under the corrosion, such that even breathing isn't easy for you!"

With the severity of the copper-masked lady's injuries, she would find it hard to survive even outside, let alone in the City of Collapsed Space. Once the air of degeneration seeped into her wounds, it would slowly corrode her innards as well, destroying her vitals.

If her condition persisted, she would not last too long even if she was a Semi-Divinity realm expert.

Hong long!

The vines suddenly exploded, and the copper-masked lady flew out from within. Her body was trembling nonstop due to the excruciating pain. However, her body still remained upright despite her current condition, and she was staring at Zhang Xuan warily, seemingly still unwilling to trust him.


She was afraid that this young man was yet another card prepared by the Hall of Gods in order to lure her out. Most likely, this young man should have already noticed that the altar she had left behind was a fake!

The warriors from the Hall of Gods were beings devoid of feelings. To them, there was nothing more important than accomplishing the missions that they were tasked with.

She knew just how valuable the altar was, and it would not surprise her if the Hall of Gods was willing to sacrifice a few Semi-Divinity realm experts in order to acquire it. Besides, even though it appeared that the young man had killed those two, who could say for sure that it was not just another illusion to trick her?

As such, she was unwilling to trust the young man before her. She could not allow Starchaser Palace to fall to ruin due to her misjudgment!

"I have already hidden the altar in the depths of the City of Collapsed Space. None of you will be able to find it, so there's no need to keep up with the pretense. If you wish to kill me, I suggest you get it over and done with. You won't be getting anything out of me!" the copper-masked lady scoffed.

You are really misunderstanding my intentions," Zhang Xuan said with a sigh. He flicked a jade bottle over and halted it right before her. "Drink the recovery medicine inside here. Otherwise, even if I don't make a move, there's no way you'll get out of here alive."

The copper-masked lady scanned her surroundings and confirmed that there was no way she would be able to escape quickly. Seeing that there was no way around this, she reluctantly took the jade bottle and drank it.

The young man was right. Her innards had been corroded by the air of degeneration, and her energy had nearly dried up. The severity of her injuries was much worse than those of Elder Bai Ye back then. If not for the fact that she had reached the Semi-Divinity realm, she would have already died.

Any escape routes had been sealed by the formation set up in the area. Regardless of whether what was in the jade bottle was poison or an antidote, it made no different to her. At the very most, she would just explode her cultivation and bring the young man down with her!

After drinking the jade bottle, her face suddenly began twitching.

A moment later, she spurted a mouthful of blood. However, the blood was not red in color but pitch-black. As it landed on the ground, black smoke swiftly evaporated from it and dissipated into the surroundings.

"This..."

The copper-masked lady widened her eyes in incredulity.

She knew about the situation in the City of Collapsed Space very well, and it was for that reason that she had set up the formation involving the Inner Demons Flowers in advance to whittle down the forces of the Hall of Gods.

For many years, everyone had believed that one's fate was sealed once the air of degeneration seeped into one's body. Yet, she was cured just by drinking a bottle of water.

"Who are you?" the copper-masked lady asked with narrowed eyes.

It was impossible for those from the Hall of Gods to be so kind as to treat her of her affliction. Besides, she had never heard of the Hall of Gods possessing the means to expel the air of degeneration from one's body. The very fact that several warriors of the Hall of Gods had died here in the past proved that.

Given so, it was highly likely that the young man really was not in cahoots with Fu Chenzi and the others.

"I told you earlier. I am Liu Yang, the new head of the Sevenstar Pavilion. I have come here in search of you not to find the altar but to inquire about some personal matters." Zhang Xuan clasped his fist.

"You wish to inquire about some personal matters?"

"Indeed. I heard that Palace Master Du conducted a ritual above the Vacant Sea to summon a god. May I know if that god was Luo Ruoxin?" Zhang Xuan asked nervously.

However, the copper-masked lady simply looked at him quietly with a frown.

Sensing some wariness from the other party, Zhang Xuan pulled out the crimson pendant and said, "You should recognize this artifact, right?"

Considering how Shark One and the others were able to recognize this pendant despite having only seen it once, as the one who had summoned Luo Ruoxin down to the Azure, Du Qingyuan should be very familiar with it.

"This is... a possession of the Spirit God?" The copper-masked lady's eyes widened as she staggered backward a little. With an incredulous look on her face, she asked, "Could it be that... you are Sect Leader Zhang Xuan?"

"Indeed." Zhang Xuan nodded as he quickly canceled the effects of the disguise amulet to revert to his original appearance.

The copper-masked lady quickly kneeled down and greeted, "Elder Jiang Yao of Starchaser Palace pays respects to Sect Leader Zhang!"

"Jiang Yao?" Zhang Xuan frowned.

The copper-masked lady took off her copper mask and revealed the appearance of a middle-aged lady. With her gaze lowered deferentially, she explained, "We received intelligence that the Hall of Gods intended to snatch the altar, so our palace master instructed me to disguise myself as her. I would come to the City of Collapsed Space and find a way to kill them while she hid the altar at a discreet location."

"This..." Zhang Xuan blinked.

It seemed that Du Qingyuan was an extremely meticulous person. Considering that she was up against the Hall of Gods, it was only right for her to go this far.

And her efforts had paid off. It was clear that she was the victor in the war of wits after all that had happened.

Most likely, she might have guessed that First Elder Zhao Yue and the others would not be able to keep silent about the matter for too long, so she had intentionally leaked fake news to them so as to lure those from the Hall of Gods over to the City of Collapsed Space.

This would buy Du Qingyuan more than enough time to complete her ritual.

"But your cultivation realm..." Zhang Xuan remarked questioningly with a frown.

Based on what he knew, Starchaser Palace should not have any Semi-Divinity realm experts other than Du Qingyuan. After all, the only way they could advance their cultivation to the realm was through the centennial Azure Bridge!

So, how could the other party possibly have reached the Semi-Divinity realm as well?

"It's the god blood," Jiang Yao explained.

Zhang Xuan widened his eyes in realization.

Even a few droplets of blood from the god was enough for the Blackback Tortoise and the three sharks to make the final step forward. As the person who had summoned the god, Du Qingyuan should have been able to acquire quite a few droplets of god blood.

With that, it would not be too much of a surprise for some Semi-Divinity realm experts to appear in the ranks of Starchaser Palace.

However, as such an occurrence would shake the balance of power among the Six Sects, Starchaser Palace had chosen to hide this matter. Most likely, the reason Jiang Yao had been chosen to consume the god blood was because she was a close confidant of Du Qingyuan, similar to what Elder Feng was to Kui Xiao.

After confirming that Jiang Yao knew nothing about Luo Ruoxin at all, Zhang Xuan asked with a frown, "May I know where Palace Master Du is at the moment?"

"Our palace master instructed me that to treat you with the utmost respect and fulfill all of your requests unconditionally, Sect Leader Zhang. However, I'm afraid that I don't really know," Jiang Yao said with a bitter smile.

“Sect Leader Zhang?" Zhang Xuan frowned.

He was slightly perplexed by the address. It was true that he was the hall master of the Myriad Beasts Hall and the pavilion master of the Sevenstar Pavilion... but sect leader?

Where did that title come from?

"Yes." Jiang Yao was slightly surprised to see that Zhang Xuan was confused by her manner of address. "You are the sect leader of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion."

The entire continent was aware of this matter, so it was not possible that the person in question was unaware of the matter, right?

Zhang Xuan's lower jaw slackened, and his mouth remained agape for a long while. Then, he sighed deeply and said, "Let's put that aside for the moment and leave the City of Collapsed Space. I'll need you to help me contact Palace Master Du and inform her that I am looking for her. I believe that I should be able to help her deal with the threat coming from the Hall of Gods."

Knowing that the young man before her wielded great authority in his hands, Jiang Yao hurriedly nodded. "Alright!" Thus, Jiang Yao quickly led Zhang Xuan toward the exit.

The City of Collapsed Space was a sinister region filled with all sorts of menace, but Jiang Yao was familiar with the terrain, and Zhang Xuan was able to spot threats from a distance with his Eye of Insight. This allowed them to circumvent most danger along the way.

Even if they were unlucky enough to encounter some danger along the way, they were strong enough to get past them without sustaining any injuries.

Just like that, they were able to successfully return to the desert after an hour of travel.

Tension finally escaped from Jiang Yao's body as she finally stepped out of the City of Collapsed Space. She turned to Zhang Xuan and said, "I'll try to get in touch with our palace master."

She had been prepared to lose her life in that dark, eerie place, so when she felt the warmth of the sun embracing her body once more, she felt like she had just been born anew.

Taking out her Communication Jade Token, she quickly set up a formation in order to extend the device's range. A moment later, she said, "I have already sent a message to our palace master. Let's return to Starchaser Palace for now. Our palace master will head there as well once she receives my message."

"Un." Zhang Xuan nodded.

Riding on Shark One, the two of them quickly headed back to the Sea of Exiled Stars.

In a distant spacetime, the head of Starchaser Palace, Du Qingyuan, was standing in front of an altar, muttering softly beneath her breath.

In response to her mutterings, the altar was emanating a divine aura, causing the flames on top to blaze furiously.

Hu!

Some time later, an illusory figure gradually materialized atop the altar.

"Priestess, state your affair..."

The voice of the figure was distinct yet distant, almost as if it had traveled across dimensions in order to reach here.

"I wish to meet the Spirit God." Du Qingyuan kneeled to the floor.

"The Spirit God has already departed," the figure replied.

Du Qingyuan was silent for a moment before she spoke once more. "There is something that I would like to report. The Hall of Gods has made a move against the Six Sects, and the timing for the descent of the Azure Bridge has been arbitrarily changed. I suspect that something might have happened with the Hall of Gods."

The figure frowned. "Do you know of the reasons behind those changes?"

"I do have a conjecture in mind, but I'm not too sure about its veracity," Du Qingyuan replied. "To be able to incite the Hall of Gods to interfere with secular affairs and attempt to snatch the altar, I suspect that it has something to do with..."

Boom!

Before she could finish her words, the spacetime behind her suddenly distorted, and yet another person appeared within this dimensional plane.

Pah!

With a light flick of his hand, the figure atop the altar dissipated into fleeting mist.

The person walked straight toward the altar to grab it, and in retaliation, the altar released a powerful burst of energy. However, the person dispelled the burst of energy with a flick of his finger.

Just like that, the altar fell into his hands.

Seeing how neither the god nor the altar was able to stop the person, Du Qingyuan's eyes narrowed in utter astonishment. She was just about to make a move when the other party suddenly turned to look at her with a faint smile on his lips.

"Palace Master Du, we meet once again."

"As I thought, it's really you?"

Du Qingyuan felt as if her heart had been plunged into the depths of an icy river. [1] An incense's time is roughly fifteen minutes.

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