After learning that everything was still well in the Realm of Flame Heaven, and that his family was still safe, Nie Tian finally set his mind at ease and settled in.
Lu Mingfei was the Spirit Condor's founder and Lu Yuanxi's forefather.
He had built a grand spell formation to protect the entire mountain valley before leaving to explore the starry river. According to Lu Yuanxi, even the early Void domain expert from the Lei Clan wouldn't be able to sense the existence of their headquarters as long as that spell formation was activated.
For this reason, the Spirit Condor's headquarters' exact location was a mystery to most people.
As Nie Tian cultivated in a secluded open area in the valley, he discovered that that mysterious ward wouldn't stop starlight from coming through.
Therefore, as he cultivated with the Fragmentary Star Incantation, the Nine Stars Flower, which had taken root at the bottom of his vortex of star power, continued to absorb star power and grow.
Thanks to the Nine Stars Flower, the efficiency of him refining and expanding his vortex of star power had improved significantly.
Now that the upgrades to his vortexes of spiritual power, wood power, and flame power had all been completed, all he needed was for his vortex of star power to be upgraded, and he would be set for his next breakthrough.
Then, given the right enlightenment or opportunity, he would be able advance to the Worldly realm.
He had a feeling that once he entered the Worldly realm and transformed his psychic power into soul power, he would be able to unveil what the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace had left underneath the forbidden region in the Realm of Split Void.
Perhaps by that time, he would also be able to get that air-transportation spiritual tool and the two scrolls that seemed to have connections to the Yin Sect and the Yang Sect out of the three lofty mountain peaks in the Realm of a Thousand Devastations.
Both Hua Mu and Zhao Shanling had reckoned that since the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace had chosen to open Heaven Gates and select their successor in the Domain of the Falling Stars, they must have left something for their successor.
That something might very well be the means by which he would be able to leave the Domain of the Falling Stars and visit the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace's headquarters.
His master, Wu Ji, suspected that the reason why Nie Tian, who had already obtained three fragmentary star marks, was still trapped in the Domain of the Falling Stars was that the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace hadn't finished testing him.
If he was able to accumulate enough strength and make consecutive breakthroughs without their help, then they would fully acknowledge him and eventually show him the way to leave the Domain of the Falling Stars.
He believed that advancing to the Worldly realm was the key to prying into the depths of the earth under the forbidden region and obtaining what the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace had left for him.
Therefore, Nie Tian spent day and night cultivating. He even threw in extra Star Stones to improve his efficiency.
During this time, he acquired some information through the Spirit Condor.
People from the Lei Clan were still traveling among the nine realms in the Domain of the Falling Stars, detecting spirit minerals with their special tools.
They discovered many spirit mineral veins in the Realm of Flame Heaven, the Realm of a Thousand Devastations, the Realm of a Hundred Battles, and the other realms. Some were already being explored by local powers, while others were discovered for the first time.
Immediately after their 'discoveries', the Lei Clan claimed those that contained rare minerals like Icy Crystal Essence.
The Yin Sect, the Yang Sect, the powers from the Realm of a Hundred Battles, and many other sects all made the same decision as the Ice Pavilion Sect, and gave up their right to those mineral veins.
Not just that, but members of the Lei Clan and the Thunder Mountain Sect did whatever they liked wherever they liked. Many crimes were committed.
However, many major sects, including the Heaven Palace Sect, chose to keep silent and bear with them.
Shortly afterwards, Nie Tian learned through the Spirit Condor that Xia Yi seemed to have reached some sort of agreement with the Lei Clan. He was willing to join the Divine Flame Sect along with all of his sect members when the Divine Flame Sect arrived.
In return, the people from the Lei Clan promised him that, since he practiced flame incantations, he would mostly likely win the Divine Flame Sect's favor and be rewarded with the position of an elder of the Divine Flame Sect.
If Xia Yi, who had already entered the late Soul realm, could actually become an elder of the Divine Flame Sect, then he would be able to learn even more profound flame incantations and gain access to all kinds of precious materials that he would need to break through into the Void domain.
Deeply tempted, Xia Yi now couldn't wait for the people from the Divine Flame Sect to arrive so that they could discuss the details.
After a few days, Nie Tian received word that Zhang Zhongchi from the Poison Sect and Lu Minhuang from the Spirit God Sect had both entered the late Soul realm.
The fact that the two of them were able to break through into the late Soul realm in just four years' time had a great deal to do with the outsider invasion.
The Poison Sect's poisonous incantations and the Spirit God Sect's soul incantations had profound connections with the Fiends and the Phantasms.
After the humans of the Domain of the Falling Stars had won the war against the outsider invaders, the Poison Sect and the Spirit God Sect had exerted all means to obtain records regarding the Fiends and Phantasms' bloodline power, which they had looted from the outsiders.
Those records had turned out to be extremely helpful to Zhang Zhongchi and Lu Minhuang. Their understanding of poisonous and soul incantations had risen to a whole new level, which had eventually resulted in their breakthroughs in cultivation.
After ending their secluded cultivation, the two of them soon announced that they were willing to become subordinate sects of the Divine Flame Sect.
Adding the Thunder Mountain Sect, the Heaven Expanse Sect, and the Flame God Sect, there were already five major sects in the Domain of the Falling Stars that had chosen to submit to the Divine Flame Sect, even though their representatives hadn't actually arrived yet.
The submission of these five sects fueled the Lei Clan's arrogance. They sent word that any sect or clan in the Domain of the Falling Stars that refused to become a subordinate force of the Divine Flame Sect would have to leave their realms and move to their arcane realms.
Upon receiving such warnings, the sects and clans that hadn't submitted grew restless, and started to met each other in private to discuss their options.
On this day...
Nie Tian's eyes snapped open while he was cultivating with Star Stones in his thatched cottage in the Spirit Condor's headquarters. "I've finally refined and expanded my vortex of star power to its limit! Now the lake of stardew can hold three times as much stardew as before!"
He looked up at the starlit sky through the half-open door, nine sparks shining brightly in the depths of his eyes.
In his senses, his nine vortexes of spiritual power were growing increasingly active in his misty spiritual sea, giving him a curious feeling, as if they were going to merge.
Ever since he had entered the Lesser Heaven stage, every time he had made a breakthrough in his cultivation, a new vortex of spiritual power would come to form in his spiritual sea.
At this moment, he had a total of nine vortexes of spiritual power in his spiritual sea, all of which brimmed with power of the same attribute.
These nine vortexes were now spinning rapidly at the center of his spiritual sea. From time to time, they would scatter to the edge of his spiritual sea and then gather to the center. Every time they gathered to the center of his spiritual sea, he would have a feeling that they were going to merge and become one. However, it never happened.
As for his vortexes of flame power, wood power, and star power, they were scattered in three spots on the edge of his spiritual sea, forming a triangle that enveloped all of the vortexes of spiritual power.
These three vortexes of different powers didn't show any signs of merging with each other.
However, Nie Tian had a feeling that once his nine vortexes of spiritual power merged with each other, they would also go through changes.
The door to his cottage was pushed wide open, and Hua Mu walked inside. Smiling, he said, "I sensed that you were finished with your cultivation."
"You're back, Uncle Hua!" Nie Tian exclaimed happily. "How did it go with Senior Zhen?"
Hua Mu smiled. "She's entered the Soul realm."
With these words, the smile gradually drained from his face as he asked, "What happened during the four years you spent roving the space disruption zone with Zhao Shanling?"
Even though he hadn't shared his encounters with Lu Yuanxi or Zong Zheng, he didn't keep any secrets from Hua Mu.
Bit by bit, he explained in detail what he had experienced in the space disruption zone during the past four years to Hua Mu.
After Nie Tian was finished, Hua Mu's expression flickered in shock as he said, "You actually eliminated competition from the Trisword Sect and the Bliss Mountain Sect and took Master Voidspirit's legacies?! You're such a couple of daring maniacs! If what you said is true, sects like the Divine Flame Sect, the Trisword Sect, and the Bliss Mountain Sect are powerful ancient sects from the Domain of Heaven's Boundaries. You can never tell anyone about you killing their elders!"
Nie Tian gave a dry laugh and said, "I didn't expect that some clan from the Domain of Heaven's Boundaries would happen to find our domain."
Eyebrows furrowed, Hua Mu said, "People from the Divine Flame Sect are going to arrive soon, and I'm going to meet them in the Realm of Unbounded Desolation."
Nie Tian was taken aback. "The Spirit Condor is going to submit to them as well?!"
With a helpless expression, Hua Mu said, "We don't have a choice. Since we aren't powerful enough, we can only live by their rules. But as the Lei Clan's master sect, perhaps the Divine Flame Sect won't be as hard to communicate with as the Lei Clan. The reason why I'm going to the Realm of Unbounded Desolation is because I want to see what kind of terms the Divine Flame Sect will give us. If their terms are acceptable, I guess it won't be the end of the world to become their subordinate force."
"Will you only have to give spiritual materials as tribute to them if you become their subordinate force?" Nie Tian asked curiously.
Hua Mu shook his head. "Of course it's not that easy. If a master sect gets into a war with other sects or outsiders, their subordinate forces would have to answer summons and assist their master sect to win the war. What I fear the most is that the Divine Flame Sect might use the sects in the Domain of the Falling Stars as cannon fodder in their future battles, sacrificing our people to win their battles.
"If that's really what they're thinking, we might as well move to our arcane realms and wait for opportunities there."
"I want to go to the Realm of Flame Heaven and talk to my master." Nie Tian said.
Hua Mu's expression grew grim as he said, "That won't be necessary. Your master is also going to the Realm of Unbounded Desolation. He's also on the list of experts that are required to go pay their respects to the people from the Divine Flame Sect."
Surprised, Nie Tian said, "But my master isn't at the Soul realm."
"Even though he hasn't entered the Soul realm, he practices time manipulation magics, which is very rare," Hua Mu said. "Your master is going to represent the sects from the Realm of Flame Heaven. I assume that the people from the Divine Flame Sect will have a strong interest in his knowledge. It's very likely that your master will win their favor and be treated as an honored guest."