"What is it?" Zhen Huilan asked curiously.
Eyes closed, Nie Tian focused on communicating with the Flame Dragon Armor's soul, the nine fragmentary stars in his soul shining more and more dazzlingly.
Thanks to the profound tie between his nine fragmentary stars and the Blood Core, Nie Tian felt as if he himself was in that secret underground room.
The room was built in the middle of a mineral vein. Each and every wall was filled with fiery, crystalline stones.
After some time, Nie Tian's eyes snapped open. "Let's get down there and take a look."
With these words, he flew downwards into the crimson stone palace atop the majestic volcano.
On the bottom floor of the stone palace, he found the stone tunnel that the Flame Dragon Armor had entered and flew into it with Zhen Huilan, Li Ye, and Pei Qiqi.
Moments later, they came to the secret room deep underneath the enormous volcano where the Flame Dragon Armor was.
The Flame Dragon Armor was floating in the middle of the room that was made of fiery crystals. Blazing patterns could be seen drifting about on its surface.
One streak of crimson aura after another flew out of the fiery crystals in the walls before disappearing into the Flame Dragon Armor's Blood Core.
Nie Tian observed with rapt attention and discovered that each and every crystal seemed to contain a copious amount of concentrated flame power, which looked like boiling lava.
A number of stone shelves stood by the walls, and a tangerine cauldron could be seen in the middle of the room.
The cauldron seemed to have been built into the room. At this moment, streaks of flame power were also flying out of the crystals in the walls into the cauldron.
Raging flames filled the cauldron. Like boiling lava, they made the temperature in the room very high.
Images of numerous evil spirits were engraved on the cauldron, along with symbols that looked like the Phantasms' language.
It seemed that the cauldron had been used for equipment forging, and that this room had belonged to a Phantasm equipment forger. With a soft exclamation, Zhen Huilan explained to Nie Tian, "Phantasms that are not born with a gift to cultivate flame power also have to find sources of flame power in order to forge equipment and weapons.
"The special spell formations engraved on the cauldron allow it to take it upon itself to channel flame power from the crystals in the walls and refine it.
"Then, the refined flame power can be used to forge tools or cultivate.
"I suppose this is the reason why Xia Yi made such rapid advancements in his cultivation."
One streak of fiery aura after another flew out of the crystals in the walls into the Flame Dragon Armor's Blood Core.
However, the refined flame power inside the cauldron didn't seem to be subject to the Flame Dragon Armor's channeling.
Intrigued, Nie Tian stepped over to the cauldron and unleashed a wisp of his psychic awareness to examine it.
However, before his psychic awareness even reached the cauldron, he experienced a strong stabbing pain in his head.
Meanwhile, the numerous evil spirits that were engraved on the cauldron seemed to come back to life.
"Wait!!" Zhen Huilan called out urgently. "This Phantasm's equipment forging cauldron is guarded by evil spirits. Your cultivation base is still too low. Don't try to sense it with your psychic awareness!"
"Guarded by evil spirits..." Nie Tian muttered to himself.
The Phantasms' knowledge regarding souls was more profound than that of most other outsider races. Zhen Huilan's eyebrows furrowed as she explained, "As you know, the Realm of Dark Underworld was originally the Phantasms' territory. Back in the day, the Spirit God Sect's founder discovered some Phantasm relics by accident. After coming to unique understandings of soul power, he founded the Spirit God Sect.
"However, I didn't expect that Xia Yi had actually discovered this Phantasms' equipment forging room, and practiced cultivation with the help of this cauldron in secret.
"Phantasms normally rely on fierce flame power to forge tools. Afterwards, they would vest those tools with soul spell formations. Those evil spirits on the cauldron seem to be a soul spell formation created by a Phantasm equipment forger."
With these words, she reached out and pointed at the cauldron with one finger.
The tip of her finger blossomed with fiery light as the evil spirits on the cauldron were stirred, and started to roar soundlessly.
Her expression flickered. A shred of fear flashed across her eyes as she hastily withdrew her hand. "This thing is far beyond ordinary. The evil spirits on the cauldron are much more powerful than I expected. Even I can't handle them very well.
"I suppose Xia Yi never figured out its mechanisms either. He probably only used it to channel flame power to achieve rapid advancement in his cultivation."
"Master," Li Ye chimed in, "do you think that Heaven-shattering Crystal Cannon was made with a similar cauldron?"
The eyes of Pei Qiqi, who had remained silent the whole time, grew wide as she heard these words.
"That's actually very likely!" Zhen Huilan exclaimed. "That Heaven-shattering Crystal Cannon came with that ancient starship, and the Phantasms retrieved that ancient starship from the Realm of Dark Underworld. Since this is one of the Phantasms' equipment forging rooms, it's very likely that the Heaven-shattering Crystal Cannon was forged in a place like this!"
Very excited, Li Ye said, "The Heaven-shattering Crystal Cannon has broken into three pieces. Perhaps it's impossible to fix it with humans' equipment forging skills. But maybe we can fix it with this cauldron. That'd be awesome, wouldn't it?"
His words enlightened Nie Tian, who went blank briefly before saying, "The Heaven-shattering Crystal Cannon wasn't the only curious item on that ancient starship. There was something else."
With these words, he took out the Spirit Pearl from within his ring of holding.
The moment it flew out, numerous fiery sparks shot out from within the equipment forging cauldron, giving rise to a muffled boom.
Not just that, but the evil spirits that were engraved on the cauldron seemed as if they were somehow attracted to the Spirit Pearl.
The evil spirits, which had been sealed within the cauldron for an unknown amount of time, started to struggle violently in attempts to charge out of it.
At the same time, the Spirit Pearl escaped Nie Tian's control and flew into the blazing flames in the cauldron in the blink of an eye.
Immediately afterwards, the evil spirits that were struggling and howling madly suddenly fell silent.
That was when Nie Tian noticed that the evil spirit engravings gradually grew blurry before vanishing completely.
Zhen Huilan couldn't help but exclaim, "That pearl has actually absorbed the evil spirits that were sealed within the cauldron!"
Startled by the scene, Li Ye called out hastily, fearing that something dangerous might happen, "Get that pearl out of there, Nie Tian!"
Pei Qiqi looked rather nervous as well.
"It's alright," Nie Tian said calmly. He knew that nothing major would happen since the Flame Dragon Armor was still absorbing flame power.
Back in the day, the Spirit Pearl had hounded him in the Realm of Dark Underworld. At that critical moment, the Flame Dragon Armor had taken it upon itself to create a portal and drag him into that wondrous heaven and earth. The Spirit Pearl had followed along.
However, the Flame Dragon Armor had forcibly refined the Spirit Pearl with a grand spell formation of flame dragon skeletons. The torrential flames had purged the evil spirits inside the Spirit Pearl and turned them into pure soul power, which had caused two new fragmentary stars to form in his soul.
Since the Flame Dragon Armor was still absorbing flame power at its own pace, Nie Tian was convinced that the Spirit Pearl wouldn't be able to cause any major problems.
Then, after a moment of hesitation, he took out a skull and a prismatic crystal from within his ring of holding.
"Senior Zhen, this is a skull I got from a Spirit God Sect disciple. A Phantasm's soul is sealed inside of it.
"I gained this prismatic crystal from a floating Phantasm corpse in the broken dimension we visited years ago. After what could be thousands of years, that Phantasm corpse was bereft of any flesh aura. A mere touch reduced it to flying ashes. Only this prismatic crystal between his eyebrows remained intact."
With these words, Nie Tian handed the skull and the prismatic crystal to Zhen Huilan, thinking that she might be able to see something in them.
The Spirit Pearl, the skull, and the prismatic crystal had all belonged to Phantasms.
He had preserved them for years and had tried to study them many times.
However, the only thing he had found out was that the Spirit Pearl had the ability to collect souls, and there was a star map that had the Domain of Heaven's Boundaries marked out in it. He had learned nothing about the other two items.
Zhen Huilan was one of the most brilliant equipment forgers throughout the Domain of the Falling Stars. He wanted to see if she could discover something about them.
Nie Tian reminded hastily, "Be careful, Senior Zhen. The Phantasm soul within that skull has shown a strong desire for that prismatic crystal that's the size of a fingernail. There might be some special ties between them. Don't let it get its way."
Zhen Huilan held the skull in one hand and the crystal in the other. After a brief examination, she discovered that, like Nie Tian had said, the soul within the skull was ramming into the special soul ward Nie Tian had established nonstop, as if it would stop at nothing to gain that crystal.
"Curious... This is so very curious." Zhen Huilan marveled repeatedly.