Even though she couldn’t stop secretly cursing Nie Tian, Dong Li trusted his judgment.
She felt very secure following him, even though she knew that many local Qi warriors were searching in the vicinity.
She believed that Nie Tian would be able to guide them out of this area.
Her strong trust in him came from the repeated failures and losses she had suffered from him, as well as the fact that he had saved her from the Spirit Pearl’s influence when she had almost given in and been devoured by the mountains of corpses and seas of blood
Nie Tian heard her quiet curses, but said nothing.
With the help of his nine Heaven Eyes, he gained a thorough understanding of every local Qi warrior’s location and movements.
Now that the fragmentary stars in his soul had expanded to the size of fists, both the coverage and perception of his Heaven Eyes had risen to a whole new level.
Following Nie Tian’s directions, the two of them effortlessly steered clear of every local Qi warrior in the vicinity.
Two days passed...
Under Nie Tian’s leadership, they marched out of the area roamed by local search teams, and found themselves at the foot of a grayish-yellow mountain peak.
Nie Tian found a suitable spot and sat down on the ground, saying, “We can finally have a rest. Those local Qi warriors are only searching the area around the lake. Now that we’re far enough from the lake, we should be safe for now.”
Dong Li also heaved a sigh of relief.
Over the past two days, she had followed Nie Tian closely as the two of them marched on at a fast pace. Whenever she felt like it, she would secretly curse Nie Tian for not appreciating her kindness.
However, now that they were out of danger, she surprisingly kept quiet, and didn’t start bickering.
Just like Nie Tian, she sought another clean rock and sat down on it, her cold gaze fixed on him.
Nie Tian, however, remained expressionless as he took out a number of spirit stones and started recuperating.
As he practiced the Qi Refining Incantation, the spiritual power within those spirit stones was rapidly drawn away by him.
In the meantime, the spiritual Qi of Heaven and Earth started converging on him and pouring into his spiritual sea from every direction.
Nie Tian’s eyebrows flickered.
Since he had returned to the Realm of Dark Underworld as soon as he had entered the Greater Heaven stage, he hadn’t had a chance to thoroughly sense the difference between the Greater Heaven stage and the Heaven stage.
Now, he sensed with great clarity that, the moment he started practicing the Qi Refining Incantation, a copious amount of the spiritual Qi of Heaven and Earth started converging on him.
Even when he stopped practicing it, the spiritual Qi of Heaven and Earth that had been gathered to this place didn’t dissipate, but rather continued to slowly infuse into his spiritual sea.
Eyes narrowed, he examined himself and everything around him with rapt attention, and he was overcome by a feeling that he had become one with heaven and earth.
Dong Li’s eyes suddenly lit up. “Greater Heaven stage!”
With her eyes fixed on Nie Tian, she asked, “You’ve only been gone for less than two months. How could you have entered the Greater Heaven stage within such a short time?”
The whole way here, she had fought her curiosity and kept all her questions to herself.
Where had Nie Tian been during this period of time? Where was the Spirit Pearl?
At this moment, after being shocked by the fact that Nie Tian had actually advanced into the Greater Heaven stage within such a short time, she could no longer suppress her curiosity.
However, just as she was going to ask, Nie Tian muttered in a low voice, looking overjoyed, “Interesting...”
That was because he realized that his spiritual sea, the seven vortexes of spiritual power, and the vortexes of star power, wood power, and flame power were all very different from before.
Back when he had been at the Heaven stage, all of the vortexes had remained in the same location in his spiritual sea.
However, after advancing to the Greater Heaven stage, the vortexes had started to move in some profound pattern in his spiritual sea as they revolved on their own axes. At first glance, they seemed like tornadoes whooshing across his sea of spiritual power.
As they floated about, they seemed to form mysterious formations from time to time.
Such a change in his spiritual sea allowed him to attract and absorb spiritual energy from his surroundings even when he wasn’t practicing the Qi Refining Incantation.
Right now, the spiritual Qi of Heaven and Earth seemed to be naturally drawn in by his seven vortexes of spiritual power and infused into his spiritual sea.
He could also sense wisps of faint wood power rising from the nearby dense forest before flying into his vortex of wood power.
Even though it was currently nighttime, the heavens were misty and gray in the Realm of Dark Underworld year-round. No sun, moon, or stars could be seen in the sky.
However, he could still feel starlight invisible to the naked eye penetrating the layers of gray cloud and infusing into his vortex of star power.
The only type of power he couldn’t sense was flame power, since there weren’t any active volcanoes in the vicinity.
Meanwhile, as he started practicing the Qi Refining Incantation devotedly, the speed at which he absorbed energies from his surroundings enhanced severalfold, and so did the speed at which he channeled power from the spirit stones.
After entering the Greater Heaven stage, the efficiency at which he absorbed energy had improved significantly.
Even though he still couldn’t figure out the profound reasons behind this phenomenon, it made him realize his breakthrough into the Greater Heaven stage meant much more than having an additional vortex of spiritual power.
“Where... where have you been during this whole time?”
After a moment of hesitation, Dong Li gave in to her intense curiosity and gave voice to the question in her heart.
Nie Tian stopped meditating and leveled his chin to look at her.
Dong Li was bewildered.
Nie Tian’s eyes had somehow become so much brighter that she didn’t even dare to look directly at them.
That was when she realized that miraculous changes must have happened to Nie Tian during the time he was gone.
Normally speaking, the brighter a man’s eyes looked, the more refined the man’s psychic power would be.
Since she, who was also at the Greater Heaven stage, couldn’t even bear to gaze into Nie Tian’s eyes, it meant that his cultivation of psychic power must have gone through significant improvement during this period of time.
Then, it suddenly occurred to her that the changes in Nie Tian’s eyes probably had something to do with the Spirit Pearl.
However, what she didn’t know was that the changes had actually been caused by the nine fragmentary stars in his soul, which contained extremely pure soul power.
His eyes were already very bright when he wasn’t practicing the Fragmentary Star Incantation. Once he used the secret magics recorded in the Fragmentary Star Incantation, nine sparks of starlight would even appear in the depths of his pupils.
After a quick glance at Nie Tian, Dong Li withdrew her gaze. With a self-mocking laugh, she shook her head and said, “Nevermind.”
A puzzled expression spread across Nie Tian’s face. “Hmm?"
“That should be one of your biggest secrets.” Dong Li said with a cold snort. “There’s no point in me asking, since you won’t tell me the truth anyway. Instead of listening to your lies, I’d rather not ask about it.”
After a brief pondering, Nie Tian said, “Alright then.”
She was right. He indeed wouldn’t tell her about what had happened to him.
“The Spirit Pearl didn’t return to the Phantasms’ ancient starship, did it?” Dong Li asked in a soft voice.
“No, it didn’t,” Nie Tian answered.
“Good.” Dong Li nodded and looked down, as if something that had been weighing on her mind was finally lifted. Then, she suddenly said, “Two months ago, you asked me to take you as far as away from the lake as possible. Did you do it so that you could have the Spirit Pearl for yourself? Were you worried that Shen Zhong, Gu Han, and the others would demand it from you afterwards if you had somehow obtained it?”
Only then did it occur to her that the reason behind Nie Tian being so urgent to leave the lake area could be that he hadn’t wanted to share the Spirit Pearl with the other explorers from the Realm of a Hundred Battles.
Nie Tian smiled bitterly. “Of course not. I’m not you. I’ll never be that good with schemes. Back then, I just felt that Qin Yan, Cao Qiushui, and the others wouldn’t be able to help me. I thought that getting far away from that ancient starship might make the Spirit Pearl give up on chasing after me.
“Also, I didn’t know how the battle between your seniors and the Phantasms would end.”
“Really?” Dong Li asked, a skeptical expression filling her face.
Nie Tian nodded. “Really.”
Eyebrows furrowed, Dong Li pondered in silence, and said after a moment, “This time, the five major powers in the Realm of a Hundred Battles mobilized quiet a few people to explore the so-called Phantasm relic, yet we didn’t come to find anything worth noting. But you, on the other hand, got that Spirit Pearl… So, what do you plan to do next?”
Nie Tian fell silent upon hearing her question.
Originally, he had only come because he wanted to keep his word. However, the Spirit Pearl had somehow followed him into the mysterious dimension, where he had refined and absorbed every single discarnate soul and Specter within it.
Not only had the Spirit Pearl ended up in his possession, but he had also entered the Greater Heaven stage.
Apparently, he was the one who had benefited from the exploration trip the most.
Normally, people on the exploration team would have to divide whatever spoils they discovered.
Looking at Dong Li, he took the Spirit Pearl out from within his bracelet of holding after a moment of hesitation. Handing it to her, he said, “Here, take it.”
Dong Li grabbed the Spirit Pearl, examined it with her psychic awareness, and failed to find anything fascinating inside. “What happened to it? Where are the Specters within it?”
Nie Tian smiled at her, but remained silent.
With a cold snort, Dong Li handed the Spirit Pearl back to him and said indignantly, “I think it goes without saying that you’ve already taken away the parts that are truly valuable, right?”
Nie Tian didn’t deny it. He nodded and said, “Do you want this pearl or not?”
“Forget it,” Dong Li said, shaking her head. “By the way, I didn’t tell anyone about what happened to you and the Spirit Pearl. My martial uncle, Shen Zhong, and the others took my word and believed that the Spirit Pearl chased you off somewhere. After a long and fruitless search, they eventually returned to the Realm of a Hundred Battles.”
“Many thanks.” Nie Tian said.
“As for this Spirit Pearl, I don’t know how to use it, and I can’t take it back to the Dong Clan without provoking questions. You can have it.” Looking coldly at Nie Tian, she continued, “But you’ve got to remember that you owe me a favor, considering that you’ve taken the only truly valuable gain from this trip! Even though you’ve saved me once, you’ve got to remember that you owe me!”
“Okay..." Nie Tian nodded in assent. “Oh right, do you know a place that’s famous for its rich flame power?”
“The Flame God Sect, of course,” Dong Li answered.
Nie Tian smiled bitterly.
The reason he was asking about a place that was rich in flame power was so that the Flame Dragon Armor would be able to recharge itself. However, he had accidentally acquired the Flame Dragon Armor from someone from the Flame God Sect. How would he dare to blunder into the Flame God Sect’s turf?