Black Cloud City, the Nie clan.
After asking the An clan, Pan Tao, Jiang Lingzhu, and the others to spread the news that one of the Heaven Gates was about to appear in the Hell sect, Nie Tian went back to his room and started cultivating whole-heartedly.
He had been making preparations for stepping into the Heaven Gate.
Ever since he learned from Hua Mu that one of the Heaven Gates would open up somewhere near the Hell sect, and that Qi warriors of the Lesser Heaven, Heaven, and Greater Heaven stages from many sects would be able to enter it together, he had been secretly readying himself psychologically.
Cultivators of the Realm of Flame Heaven weren’t the only ones that would step into that miraculous heaven and earth; powerful competitors from other realms would go through the other two Heaven Gates and also participate in the trial.
However, he was only in the early Lesser Heaven stage, the weakest among the three Heaven stages. If he entered the unknown dimension with his current cultivation base, he would be like a lamb in the middle of a pack of wolves.
Therefore, he needed to improve his strength as much and as fast as possible.
Sitting cross-legged in the middle of his stone room, he used the Qi Refining Incantation and a spirit stone to take in the spiritual Qi of Heaven and Earth, trying to sense even the most trivial changes to his spiritual sea.
Inside his misty spiritual sea, the vortex of spiritual power was turning slowly, unceasingly attracting and refining the misty spiritual energy scattered within his spiritual sea.
He gathered his attention and examined the vortex with his soul. He found that after a round of refinement, the spiritual energy that had been pulled into the vortex of spiritual power seemed to have become even purer and richer.
The newly refined spiritual energy flowed to the edge of the spiritual sea and formed a circular ribbon of thick, white mist.
With a closer examination, he discovered that the spiritual energy was exceptionally condensed and vigorous, and the power it contained was rather formidable.
On the other hand, the spiritual energy that hadn’t been refined was also scattered around in the spiritual sea, but it was much thinner and carried much less power.
Having learned the movements within his spiritual sea and the process of how the vortex of spiritual power refined the spiritual energy, he gained a better understanding of cultivation at the Lesser Heaven stage.
After stepping into the Lesser Heaven stage, due to the formation of the vortex of spiritual power, the speed of gathering the spiritual Qi of Heaven and Earth had become many times faster than in the Qi Refining stage.
The gathered spiritual energy would initially be attracted into the vortex of spiritual power. Then, the vortex of spiritual power would refine the energy, making it purer.
After refinement, the pure spiritual energy would disperse to the edge of the spiritual sea, forming ring of dense mist.
In the Lesser Heaven stage, a cultivator’s spiritual sea wouldn’t expand at all, but instead, the spiritual energy within his or her spiritual sea would undergo round after round of refinement.
The refined spiritual energy would flow to the furthest edge of the spiritual sea, forming circle after circle of condensed mist, gradually surging and pressing toward the center.
Throughout the refining process, the vortex of spiritual power would also continuously attract spiritual energy from the outside world, and merge it with the spiritual energy scattered within the spiritual sea.
He found that the unceasingly rotating vortex of spiritual power seemed like a well within his spiritual sea, which constantly gathered faint spiritual energy from the surroundings and purified it time after time.
After multiple rounds of refining, the exceptionally rich and condensed spiritual energy would sink to the bottom of the “well”, before soon showing up on the edge of the spiritual sea again.
By condensing at the edge of the spiritual sea, the circular ribbon of refined spiritual energy would press the relatively sparse spiritual energy toward the “mouth of the well”, so that it would undergo a new round of refinement.
It was a unceasing cycle.
Having recently entered the Lesser Heaven stage, Nie Tian hadn’t finished his first cycle yet.
After a period of concentrated practice, he had only managed to form one ring of pure spiritual energy at the farthest edge of his spiritual sea.
He still had a long road ahead before he could complete the first refining cycle of his spiritual sea.
According to his calculations, if he continued to cultivate with spirit stones, he would probably still need half a year to finish his first refining cycle.
And that was the speed he could only reach with the help from spirit stones.
In case there weren’t a steady supply of spirit stones, and he merely relied on the spiritual Qi of Heaven and Earth, he would very likely need to spend three to five years to complete the first refining cycle of all the faint spiritual energy scattered in his spiritual sea.
Moreover, in order to step from the early-stage into the middle-stage of Lesser Heaven, he might need to go through more than one complete cycle of refinement.
His eyes snapped open. Staring off into the pitch-black night sky, he couldn’t help but let out a sigh. “This is such a consuming process.”
He had long since heard that the Qi Refining stage was merely the foundation, and only by entering the Lesser Heaven stage, one would be considered as a beginner Qi warrior.
The difficulty of every breakthrough of the cultivation base after stepping into the Lesser Heaven stage would far exceed that of the breakthroughs within the Qi Refining stage.
Before, he didn’t have a deep understanding of it. Now that he had advanced to the Lesser Heaven stage, and understood the miraculous refining process within his spiritual sea, he finally truly realized the hardships lying in front of him.
“Even if I take advantage of the spirit stones that my master has given me, and practice day and night, I’ll still need at least half a year to finish one cycle of refining the spiritual energy in my spiritual sea.
“Furthermore, one cycle is probably far from enough. I’ll have to keep practicing and practicing.
“It might take years to finish several cycles, and by that time… I would only be able to reach the threshold of the next breakthrough…
“In order to make the breakthrough, I’ll need to be in the right mental state, and come across proper enlightenment.
“From the look of it, I’ve only made the first step in my endless cultivation path.”
Numerous, mixed emotions rose in Nie Tian’s heart.
Aside from practicing cultivation, a Qi warrior also needed to learn and practice spiritual incantations, try to comprehend the profundity of the incantations, pick the right spiritual tool, and try to resonate with it.
Due to their unique talents or interest, some Qi warriors chose to spend a large amount of time studying equipment forging methods, or trying to fathom profound magical symbols and spell formations.
Each and every one of the ways to improve a Qi warrior’s strength was time consuming, and required intense study.
On the other hand, the lifespan of a Qi warrior wasn’t limitless, and would only increase as his or her cultivation base rose.
Many Qi warriors failed to break through into the next cultivation level before their lifespan ran out, and therefore passed away.
He had the feeling that his master Wu Ji was currently facing such a thorny problem.
Staring off into the moonless, dark sky, Nie Tian made his resolution. “Only by cultivating at a high speed and advancing rapidly will I be able to constantly increase my lifespan and thus continue with my cultivation.”
He was determined to enter the Heaven Gate and train himself in the bloody trial, even though he couldn’t change his inferior cultivation base in the near future.
Suddenly, a tiny flaming spot appeared in the pitch-black night sky. It seemed to be in the deepest part of the vast void, and was very dim at first, but became increasingly clear as time went by.
“It’s a moonless and starless night. How come there’s a spot of fiery light in the sky?” Curious, he looked even harder into the night sky.
Before long, more and more flaming spots appeared in the dark sky, one after another.
For some unknown reason, looking at the increasing number of bright spots, the sense of an imminent big event rose in his heart.
Moments later, a corner of the sky had already been filled with countless fiery spots, every one of which was bright and dazzling, dragging their colorful tails, and dashing crossing the pitch-black sky.
“Falling stars!” Jiang Lingzhu’s voice echoed out from a nearby stone pavilion.
Stepping onto the balcony, Nie Tian saw Jiang Lingzhu and Ye Gumo standing by their window. It seemed they were also attracted by the unusual scene in the sky, with their gazes fixed on those falling stars.
Soon, the falling stars grew increasingly clear.
Hundreds of falling stars, trailing with flaming tails of different colors, seemed increasingly splendid and gorgeous, and gradually caught everyone’s attention!
Lots of children and juniors of the Nie clan couldn’t stop cheering with their faces filled with excitement. “Meteor shower! It’s a meteor shower!”
“Something is wrong…” Staring at the increasingly clear and dazzling falling stars, Nie Tian’s face turned grim, as if he knew something terrible was about to happen.
All those stars didn’t flash across the sky. Instead, it seemed that their target was the Realm of Flame Heaven where everyone was standing!
All of a sudden, he remembered something Hua Mu had said to him right before he left: “When it’s time for the Heaven Gate to open, omens will present themselves in the sky!”
The thought made him nervous. He was almost certain that the falling stars had been caused by the Heaven Gate!
“Is it really the Heaven Gate that has caused this unusual change?”
Only an hour later, thousands of multicolored, dazzling falling stars seemed to be almost at their fingertips.
The originally densely-packed falling stars seemed to be suddenly influenced by some kind of unknown magnetic field, and splashed out in every direction, plummeting towards every corner of the Realm of Flame Heaven.
About ten of them blasted their way towards the Cloudsoaring sect and Black Cloud City.
One after another, the elders of the Nie clan became alarmed. The streets within Black Cloud City were also gradually filled with nervous people, all of whom looked up at the sky with terror in their eyes.
“Oh my god! Meteors are falling in our direction!”
“Dear lord! How can it be?”
As of this moment, not only everyone in the Cloudsoaring sect, Black Cloud City, and the other nearby cities, but also the powerful experts that had been besieging the Cloudsoaring Mountain, started to look up to the heavens, trembling with fear.
The Realm of Flame Heaven was a part of the Domain of the Falling Stars, where, just as its name implied, meteors streaked across the sky from time to time.
However, those falling stars had always flashed across the sky and disappeared in seconds, with very few of them actually landing on land they lived on.
But tonight, it seemed that the meteor shower that had abruptly appeared in the sky had specially targeted the Realm of Flame Heaven!
The ground suddenly trembled. Apparently, some meteor had already crashed into the earth in the ice-cold wilderness outside of Black Cloud City, which gave birth to a terrifying blast that shook the entirety of Black Cloud City.
Jiang Lingzhu shrieked, “Cloudsoaring Mountain!”
Nie Tian looked over with rapt attention, and saw that a few flaming meteors, trailing by multicolored blazing tails like pouring waterfalls, had crashed into the Cloudsoaring Mountain.
In the adjacent Black Cloud City, loud rumbling sounds kept coming from every direction, and the ground wouldn’t stop from shaking. Many commoners couldn’t withstand the shock wave and were killed as they slept.
Even Nie Tian felt his Qi and blood rushing to his head, causing him to experience dizziness.
He immediately channeled his spiritual power to shield himself while gritting his teeth, staring at the bright sky.
A meteor emanating orange flames suddenly grew incredibly huge in Nie Tian’s sight, hurtling towards Black Cloud City.
Seconds later, it crashed into the Yun clan, sending out devastating blast waves in Black Cloud City. Almost simultaneously, the desperate wails of commoners rang out here and there within the city.
Half of the stone pavilions in the Nie clan collapsed due to the strong blast, including the one Nie Tian was in.
Fortunately, he had been alert and jumped out of it the moment before it was reduced to a pile of debris.
Standing on the cracked stone ground, he saw Jiang Lingzhu, Ye Gumo, Pan Tao, and others running towards him with their faces full of fear.
He could hear miserable wails coming from every corner of the Nie clan.
Meanwhile, outside of the Nie clan, cries had filled every inch of Black Cloud City.