There was a small bamboo forest between the Cloudsoaring Mountain and the short mountain peak where Wu Ji lived.
Two clear creeks ran past a few nicely-designed bamboo buildings in the bamboo forest. Secluded and silent, it was an ideal place to live.
Before, this place had belonged to an elder of the Cloudsoaring Sect. Now, it had been reassigned to the Nie Clan.
Jiang Zhisu, the sectmaster of the Cloudsoaring Sect, had even personally established a secret spell formation with bamboo to channel the spiritual Qi of Heaven and Earth toward it from its surroundings.
In fact, the spiritual Qi of Heaven and Earth in the bamboo forest had been rather rich to begin with. After the spell formation was established, more spiritual Qi of Heaven and Earth gathered to this place, making it even more suitable for Qi warriors to practice cultivation.
Nie Donghai had settled down in this bamboo forest with Nie Qian and a few Nie Clan members with exceptional cultivation talent since they had returned from the arcane realm.
Over the past two weeks, this secluded bamboo forest had become the most popular place in the Cloudsoaring Sect, or perhaps even the entire Realm of Flame Heaven.
Worldly realm and Profound realm experts from the other realms had come to visit Nie Donghai all day long.
None of them had come empty-handed. Some had brought spiritual tools and materials that suited Nie Donghai and Nie Qian's needs, while others had brought medicinal pills and armor, many of which were at the Premium grade.
No matter how Nie Donghai had declined, they had insisted on leaving the gifts, saying that they were tokens of their regard.
Some of them had even expressed that they were willing to take some of the young talented members of the Nie Clan to cultivate in their sects.
That included Profound realm experts from the Ice Pavilion Sect, the Dong Clan, the Yin Sect, the Yang Sect, and the Tool Sect.
However, Nie Donghai had declined them all, saying that he needed some time to consider their offers.
Even so, those experts had left agreeable cultivation materials and authentication objects for the Nie Clan teenagers they had set their minds on.
As long as Nie Donghai agreed, those Nie Clan teenagers would be able to join those powerful sects from different parts of the Domain of the Falling Stars, holding the authentication objects they were given.
After seeing another group of visitors off, Nie Donghai stood at the opening of the bamboo forest. His face was filled with gratification as he looked down at the rings of holding they had left in his hand
Only years ago, the Nie Clan had been an insignificant subordinate clan of the Cloudsoaring Sect.
Back then, any Nie Clan youngster who had wished to become an outer disciple of the Cloudsoaring Sect would have to enter the ninth level of Qi Refining by the age of fifteen.
If they failed to do so, they wouldn't be allowed to join the Cloudsoaring Sect, even though the Nie Clan had managed spirit stone mines for the Cloudsoaring Sect for centuries.
Who would have thought that, in just a few years, experts from sects that were much more powerful than the Cloudsoaring Sect would come a long way to visit him in the bamboo forest, and offer to take in gifted Nie Clan youngsters as their disciples?
Nie Donghai had never imagined that the Nie Clan would enjoy such treatment one day.
While he and Nie Qian trained the Nie Clan youngsters in the bamboo forest, his two brothers and the other Nie Clan elders remained in Black Cloud City.
His brothers, who had fought him for the position of the clanmaster before, now begged him to return and preside over their clan.
The elders also behaved meticulously whenever they escorted clan youngsters, who they deemed talented, to the bamboo forest, as if they were very afraid that they would anger him.
Even though he almost never returned to Black Cloud City, all of the Nie Clan members in Black Cloud City tried everything within their power to smoothen their relationships with him.
After all, every Nie Clan youngster who was sent to the bamboo forest would receive agreeable spiritual tools, incantation scrolls, and medicinal pills from him, which would lay solid foundations for their future cultivation.
Almost all of these valuables had been given to him by Nie Tian.
Then, provided with exceptionally rich spiritual Qi of Heaven and Earth, all of the Nie Clan youngsters progressed rather quickly in this blessed place.
Even many disciples of the Cloudsoaring Sect felt jealous of them since even the Cloudsoaring Sect couldn't give many of the precious materials and incantations that were generously given to the Nie Clan youngsters.
That still didn't include the lavish gifts the Worldly realm and Profound realm experts from the other realms had presented to him.
Nie Donghai made some rough calculations and reached the conclusion that just the gifts he had recently received alone were more valuable than what the Cloudsoaring Sect had accumulated over the past thousand years.
"The Nie Clan is finally rising to prominence!" Nie Donghai thought to himself, his eyes welling up with emotions.
At that moment, he overheard some girls chatting and laughing in the depths of the bamboo forest where Nie Qian lived. A gratified smile appeared on his face as he muttered to himself, "I won't have to worry about Nie Tian's marital problems!"
In the depths of the bamboo forest.
Many well-dressed and beautiful girls were chatting merrily in Nie Qian's five-story residence.
Ye Qin from the Yin Sect, Qin Yan from the Water Moon Chamber of Commerce, An Shiyi and An Ying from the An Clan, and Yu Tong from the Blood Sect were there. The rest were beautiful young women that Nie Tian had never met before.
They were either chatting with girls from the Nie Clan or gathered around Nie Qian, asking to hear about Nie Tian's childhood.
In a corner of the building, An Shiyi was gazing at the balcony on the first floor, where Nie Qian was laughing heartily at Dong Li's joke. A bitter look could be seen in her eyes.
Dong Li had been the first to come here from the Realm of a Hundred Battles.
It seemed that she had gained Nie Qian's trust and favor soon after they had met. She had behaved very warmly towards her, and now she even started to refer to her as aunt.
Meanwhile, Nie Qian enjoyed Dong Li's company, who was a great beauty from a noble background and had a sweet mouth.
Because of that, she had arranged for her to live in her residence, which was a privilege that none of the other young women had.
Even An Shiyi and An Ying had been arranged to live in a small building beside Nie Qian's. Every time they went to visit Nie Qian, they would see Dong Li sitting beside her. Watching them talk and laugh, the An sisters couldn't help but feel left out.
An Ying snorted angrily. "That woman is so daring! Isn't she known for seducing men and using her charms to get her way? How is she still unbesmirched?"
An Ying had asked around and learned that Dong Li had somehow assured Nie Qian of her virginity soon after her arrival.
After realizing that what she had heard about Dong Li were only stories made up by men who couldn't get her, Nie Qian had started to respect and like her more and more.
Adding in that Dong Li had intentionally played up to her, Nie Qian now believed that Dong Li would make an ideal wife for Nie Tian.
An Shiyi gave her sister a hard look and berated, "Don't you say that again! Miss Dong and Little Tian are made for each other. We should be happy for Little Tian."
"Don't tell me that you've never thought about taking your relationship with Nie Tian to the next stage," An Ying said in a low voice. "You know that Grandpa Nie likes you and that Senior Li from the Blood Sect also wants you to take that step. Even though she didn't say those exact words, she'd like it if Nie Tian could marry you eventually."
An Shiyi snorted softly and said, "I don't want to talk about this ever again. Little Tian only sees me as his older sister. How can I harbor such improper thoughts towards him?"
"Is that really how you feel?" An Ying asked, frowning slightly.
"Yeah!" An Shiyi answered with an indisputable expression. However, a hint of helplessness flashed across her eyes.
At one of the clear creeks...
Yu Tong from the Blood Sect was sitting alone on the edge of a large rock, with her hands propping up her chin and her slender, jade-like calves swaying idly in the creek.
A desirable woman from the Blood Sect approached her without making a sound. Watching her staring blankly into the creek, the woman asked with a frown, "What are you still doing here, junior martial sister? Have you even visited Nie Qian once since we came here?"
"Why would I want to visit her, Senior Martial Sister Lin?" Yu Tong asked expressionlessly.
Lin He gave her a stern look and said with a berating tone, "Our sectmaster demanded that you stay in this bamboo forest of all places in the Cloudsoaring Sect since the day we arrived. Don't tell me that you don't know why she made such an arrangement."
"No, I don't know," Yu Tong said indifferently.
"You're lying!" Lin He raised her voice slightly. "Nie Tian is now the most popular person throughout the entire Domain of the Falling Stars. You can see that almost all of the most beautiful young women from all over the Domain of the Falling Stars are now gathered in this bamboo forest. You must know what their seniors' intentions were in sending them here.
"You have your advantage over them. Why don't you use it? If you can cling to Nie Tian, that rapidly growing tree, not only will you become the sectmaster of the Blood Sect one day, but you'll lead the Blood Sect to a bright future."
Lin He paused briefly before continuing with an admonishing tone, "I heard that Nie Tian took advantage of you on more than one occasion. The way I see it, he must have an eye for you. As long as you take action, you'll have a good chancing of winning him over."
"Would you stop already?!" Yu Tong blurted angrily. "Since when has that become something to brag about? To me, it's a humiliation that I'll remember for the rest of my life."
Lin He shook her head, as she apparently didn't agree. "Humiliation? If Nie Tian took advantage of me, I would have let people know and considered it my greatest fortune! I don't think it's a humiliation at all. In fact, if that little rascal wants to, I'd beg him to take advantage of me!"
Yu Tong let out a cold snort. "Go beg him then. He's such a lustful asshole. He might actually do it." Then, with a deep sigh, she added, "I know what you mean, senior martial sister, but he and I are no longer at the same level. Before, I considered him my lifelong opponent, but I don't anymore.
"The gap between us has become so large that I won't be able to catch up to him, no matter how hard I work."
Upon hearing these words, Lin He sighed deeply in frustration and gave up on talking Yu Tong into action. "Yeah, who would have thought that the kid would skyrocket to such a high level? Those powerful experts from the major sects even came to pay their respects to his grandfather... He's no longer in our league."
"He's way out of our league." Yu Tong corrected her.