The finger Nie Tian used to point in between the corpse’s eyebrows was infused with his psychic power, as well as a wisp of soul power from the seven fragmentary stars in his soul.
As his soul power infiltrated deeper and deeper, he discovered that there wasn’t any damage in the dead man’s head.
Normally speaking, if the man had died from a powerful psychic attack to his soul, his brain would have been damaged and become less intact.
However, from what Nie Tian could tell, the man’s brain was perfectly fine, yet his soul was long gone.
Therefore, his conclusion was that the man hadn’t died from a powerful psychic attack like Han Mu had said.
After Nie Tian stepped to one side, giving her space, Dong Li crouched down and simulated Nie Tian’s actions by narrowing her eyes and pointing her jade-like, slender finger in the middle of the man’s eyebrows.
However, since she didn’t have any fragmentary stars in her soul and she hadn’t entered the Worldly realm, she could only wield her psychic power, not the more profound soul power. Therefore, she couldn’t perceive the inside of the man’s head as Nie Tian could.
The same went for Han Mu.
A moment later, she withdrew her hand, rose to her feet, and turned to gaze at Nie Tian and Han Mu.
With a smile, Han Mu said, “Perhaps Wu Tian is right.”
Dong Li snorted coldly. “Why would you trust his judgment instead of your own?”
With a justified expression on his face, Han Mu said, “Well, since he was able to escape from our pursuit and blockades repeatedly in the Realm of Split Void, he must have his unique way of perceiving matters.”
Meanwhile, off to the side...
After examining another corpse, Qian Xin from the Pill Pavilion Sect asked the early Worldly realm expert beside him, “What’s your take on this, Uncle Qiu?”
Qiu Liang didn’t answer, but instead turned to look at Shen Zhong.
“Even though we’ve joined your exploration operation in the Realm of Dark Underworld, you are the decision-makers,” Shen Zhong said at a slow pace. “Our sectmaster told us to let you solve any problems on your own and learn from them, as long as it’s not life-threatening. We do know how these men died, but we won’t just tell you. You’ll have to find the answer yourself.”
Qian Xin nodded. “I see.”
Moments later, the few talented youngsters from the Realm of a Hundred Battles, who had spread out to check the corpses, regathered to exchange their thoughts.
Cao Qiushui and Qian Xin’s conclusions coincided with Han Mu’s. Both of them assumed that those men had been killed by sudden and powerful psychic attacks. Furthermore, those who did it must possess very profound cultivation bases, and considered the belongings of these members of the Spirit God Sect not worth looting.
After all, the victims’ rings of holding and spiritual tools were all there. Not a single one was missing.
Only experts with extremely high cultivation bases would turn a blind eye to those valuable resources.
Dong Li, however, presented the theory that those men had died because someone had taken their souls, which was Nie Tian’s original conclusion.
She finally chose to trust Nie Tian.
An astonished expression filled Qin Yan’s face as she asked, “How do you know that, Li?”
Dong Li didn’t answer, but rather shot a sideway glance at Nie Tian from afar.
Qin Yin immediately picked up her signal. A brilliant light flashed across her beautiful eyes before she said, “I agree with Li. These people from the Spirit God Sect must have died from losing their souls. There isn’t any sign of brain damage. Therefore, they didn’t suffer powerful impacts from psychic attacks.”
As they talked, Nie Tian listened, standing off to the side.
As he heard Qin Yan say that last sentence, the light of excitement appeared in his eyes. He couldn’t help but take another glance at her.
Even though Qin Yan’s cultivation base was the highest among those juniors, at the late Greater Heaven stage, she hadn’t entered the Worldly realm and transcended her psychic power into soul power.
Therefore, she could only perceive matters with her psychic power, which meant she wouldn’t be able to perceive trivial details.
However, she seemed to have come to the same conclusion as him on her own. Nie Tian couldn’t help but attach more importance to her, and at the same time, be on guard against her.
Cao Qiushui seemed to have great faith in Qin Yan. He jumped out and said, “I trust your judgment.”
With a gentle laugh, Qin Yan turned to Qian Xin and said, “Even though we didn’t kill them, we’d better get rid of these corpses. Otherwise, powerful experts from the Spirit God Sect might discover them and turn this area inside out searching for their murderers. Once they find us, they will probably connect their deaths to us.”
Qin Xin nodded and whispered an order to a member of the Pill Pavilion Sect.
The man took out a dark-green potion and poured some on the chest of each corpse.
Wisps of green smoke rose from the corpses, and moments later, all of the corpses melted away, not even leaving a bone.
The man gathered the victims’ rings of holding and spiritual tools, divided them up, and handed them to Dong Li, Cao Qiushui, Gu Haofeng, and Qin Yan.
Seeing the corpses being reduced to nothing but blood, Nie Tian felt a numbness in his scalp.
Han Mu saw through his confusion and thus explained to him, “That thing is called a Carcass Melting Potion, a product of the Pill Pavilion Sect. When men die and their spiritual power dissipates, they’re nothing more than piles of meat. Then, a few drops of the Carcass Melting Potion will easily melt their bodies. However, it won’t be so effective on living people, so you don’t need to be nervous about it.”
Nie Tian frowned. “The Carcass Melting Potion will easily melt a man’s body as long as he’s dead?”
“Not necessarily.” Han Mu shook his head. “Some people emphasize the cultivation of their fleshy bodies, and thus possess outstandingly strong fleshy bodies. Even when they are dead, their bones, flesh, and blood will contain significant amounts of power. So for that kind people, the Carcass Melting Potion won’t work so well.”
Nie Tian nodded, showing that he understood.
Cao Qiushui waved at the crowd. “Let’s go back.”
Everyone grew vigilant due to the mysterious deaths of the Spirit God Sect Qi warriors . They rapidly returned to the location where the others were gathered.
Dong Li and the other young leaders informed the Worldly realm experts who had stayed behind of their findings, as well as their speculations.
After hearing their descriptions, Dong Mingxuan’s expression grew grim. “I hope that’s not the work of a Phantasm.”
Dong Li was taken aback. “A Phantasm!”
Dong Mingxuan let out a sigh. “Sucking away their enemies’ souls and turning them into Specters is the Phantasms’ classic attack method.”
Dong Li gasped. “The Phantasms’ classic attack method?!”
“From what I know, the incantations the disciples of the Spirit God Sect practice seem to have something to do with the Phantasms,” Dong Mingxuan said with knitted brows. “Many many years ago, Qi warriors from the Spirit God Sect discovered a few Phantasm relics in the Realm of Dark Underworld. From those relics, they derived the profound truths of souls. After adding in their own understanding and through centuries of modification, they eventually formed their own unique incantations.”
“People from the Spirit God Sect don’t have some sort of relationship with the Phantasms, do they?” Dong Li asked.
“I don’t think so,” said Dong Mingxuan, “After all, by the time the Spirit God Sect was established in the Realm of Dark Underworld, the Phantasms in this realm had already been killed or driven out of the Domain of the Falling Stars by powerful experts from the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace. They only separated and studied the part that was fit for human cultivators from the Phantasms’ incantations, and derived their own incantations from it.
“It’s not likely that they have any connections with the Phantasms. Otherwise, the other powerful sects in the Domain of the Falling Stars would have annihilated them.”
At that moment, Cao Qiushui called out, “Alright, everybody be careful. Let’s move out!”
As the team got back on the road, Nie Tian continued to keep a low profile, and they discovered more dead human bodies in a few more locations.
Some of them were from the Flame God Sect, some were from the Spirit God Sect, but the majority of them seemed to be from a few other local sects that were less influential and powerful.
The corpses were almost identical to the first ones they had encountered; every single one of them had their soul sucked away.
The recurring groups of corpses clouded everyone’s mind like a haze, making them gradually realize that unforeseen events might happen during this exploration trip to the Phantasm relic.
A few days passed...
Under Cao Qiushui’s leadership, the team came to a vast mountain valley. The moment they arrived, Nie Tian caught sight of a few of the Specters that Cao Qiushui had mentioned.
A faint, gray, misty layer of phantasm Qi filled the bottom of the valley, within which Specters could be seen floating about, as if they were patrolling.
None of them were in solid form. Instead, they looked like clusters of gray clouds. The more powerful ones were vaguely in human shapes, though their faces were still obscured and distorted.
Strange energy fluctuations spread out from within them, carrying a frigid and gruesome aura as they dispersed into their surroundings.
After a quick glance. Cao Qiushui couldn’t help but exclaim, “There are several times more Specters here now than the last time I was here! What happened during this period of time? Why did so many more Specters pop out so abruptly?”
“Those new Specters are from the dead humans we encountered on our way,” Shen Zhong from the Pill Pavilion Sect said with an expressionless face. “If I’m not mistaken, the miserable deaths of those cultivators were the work of a Phantasm... or Phantasms.”
Just like the others, Nie Tian’s expression flickered dramatically upon hearing Shen Zhong’s words. “Phantasms!”
A bloodcurdling scream rang out from the depths of the misty valley, which sounded like a man’s last scream before death.
“Someone is in there!” Qian Xin exclaimed.