Zhen Huilan took a close look at the skull and the prismatic crystal, while unleashing her Soul realm expert's immense soul awareness to examine them bit by bit, like peeling an onion.
Meanwhile, Nie Tian noticed that crimson light gradually appeared on the surface of the skull and the prismatic crystal.
The crimson light was a combination of Zhen Huilan's soul power and flame power. At this moment, it was slowly infiltrating the skull and the prismatic crystal.
During this process, the Flame Dragon Armor continued to float in the middle of the room, absorbing flame power from the fiery crystals in the walls.
Fizzing sounds kept coming from the cauldron, which seemed to have become a part of this Phantasms' equipment forging room.
As the evil spirit engravings rapidly disappeared from the cauldron's surface, Nie Tian could no longer sense anything curious from it.
The Spirit Pearl rose from the raging flames in the cauldron and started spinning in the air.
Nie Tian made a grabbing motion toward it, and it flew into his palm. Then, he examined it with a wisp of psychic awareness.
The star map within the Spirit Pearl had become even clearer than before. Meanwhile, numerous souls were gathered around the star map, as if they were there to fuel the star map with their soul power.
Originally, each and every soul inside the Spirit Pearl had been refined into pure soul power by the Flame Dragon Armor.
Later, when the outsiders had invaded the Domain of the Falling Stars, the Spirit Pearl had absorbed numerous discarnate souls from the dead outsiders.
Now, thanks to those discarnate souls, the star map was fully revealed, showing a clear path to the Domain of Heaven's Boundaries.
As he examined the star map very closely, he discovered that a few souls that had been engraved on the cauldron's surface were now in the star map.
Those powerful souls had left deep impressions on him, so he recognized them right away.
At this moment, they were gathered at a location on the star map.
"That's somewhere between the Domain of the Falling Stars and the Domain of Heaven's Boundaries..." he thought to himself.
Increasingly intrigued, he examined that specific area with rapt attention. That was when he realized that small spots of light could be seen where those souls were gathered.
On the star map, the Domain of the Falling Stars and the Domain of Heaven's Boundaries were separated by countless other domains and realms.
There were ten shining spots in the area where the Domain of the Falling Stars was. Nine of them represented the current nine realms of the Domain of the Falling Stars, and the last one represented the Realm of Split Void, which had been discarded.
Meanwhile, there were thirty-six shining spots where the Domain of Heaven's Boundaries was, each representing one of its thirty-six realms.
Aside from these shining spots, there were also a number of dark spots where the Domain of the Falling Stars and the Domain of Heaven's Boundaries were, which seemed to be dead realms where there was no longer any spiritual energy of Heaven and Earth.
Nie Tian counted and realized that there were less than ten dark spots where the Domain of the Falling Stars was, but a few dozen dark spots scattered around shining spots of the Domain of Heaven's Boundaries.
"Of the hundred realms in the Domain of Heaven's Boundaries, only thirty-six are still suitable to cultivate in, and they're currently controlled by the five major sects and three major clans," Nie Tian thought to himself. "Those dark spots are probably dead realms that were no longer suitable for Qi warrior sects to set up headquarters in.
"But those souls are not anywhere close to the Domain of the Falling Stars or the Domain of Heaven's Boundaries. Instead, they're in a place between the two domains.
"Those spots aren't shining, so they're probably not realms. Meanwhile, they're not dark, so they can't be dead realms. So what are they exactly?
"And why are those powerful souls gathered in that area? Does this have some profound meaning?"
A series of questions entered Nie Tian's mind, and he wracked his mind for answers. After some time, his eyes suddenly lit up.
"Can it be…?!" He suddenly recalled what Yue Yanxi had told him previously.
Yue Yanxi had told him that there had been a region between the Domain of Heaven's Boundaries and the Domain of the Falling Stars that had remained completely impassable for thousands of years.
That was the reason why no ancient starships from the Domain of Heaven's Boundaries had been able to sail through that forbidden region to the Domain of the Falling Stars before.
Only very recently had the Lei Clan discovered that changes had happened in that region, making it less deadly.
Yue Yanxi had also said that the Divine Flame Sect was currently exploring that region, since they were convinced there were still secrets to uncover there. He had even invited Nie Tian to go there himself.
Looking at the star map inside the Spirit Pearl and recalling Yue Yanxi's words, Nie Tian suddenly came to realize that the place on the star map where those powerful souls were now gathered was most likely the forbidden region Yue Yanxi had referred to!
As soon as this idea entered his mind, it occurred to him to find Yue Yanxi and confirm his speculations with him. It was just that he didn't know whether Yue Yanxi was still in the Domain of the Falling Stars.
"Nie Tian." Zhen Huilan interrupted his thoughts.
She shook her head and said with a sorry tone, "I can't seem to find anything worth noting about this skull or this prismatic crystal.
"I can only tell you is that the soul within this skull doesn't have any memories left. All it has now are its basic instincts.
"Since it's bereft of memories and intelligence, I couldn't communicate with it. I tried a few times, but not once did it respond. Its only desire that I can sense is to merge with that prismatic crystal.
"However, I don't think the soul in the skull and that prismatic crystal belonged to the same Phantasm.
"Since you obtained this prismatic crystal from that other dimension, it probably belonged to another Phantasm that used to be very powerful. As far as I know, the prismatic crystals between a Phantasms' eyebrows have similar functions to our minds. They're vessels of soul power, memories, and awareness.
"Plus, Phantasms rely on them to summon soul power and cast soul magics.
"But sadly, I don't know much about the Phantasms, and I can't figure out that soul's motives behind such actions. Even still, it's too much risk to let it merge with that prismatic crystal.
"Well, if Lu Minhuang were still alive, perhaps he could give us an answer."
With these words, Zhen Huilan put the skull and the prismatic crystal in Nie Tian's hand. Then, she took a glance at the cauldron and said, "I'm considering taking that cauldron back so I can study it with my senior martial brother, along with people from the Spirit Condor. If we're lucky, perhaps we can actually figure out a way to fix the Heaven-shattering Crystal Cannon with it."
Nie Tian nodded. "Alright."
Zhen Huilan raised her hand, and hundreds of streaks of flames shot out of her palm. Like chains of refined steel, they wrapped themselves around the cauldron, and with a violent move, hauled it out of the floor of fiery crystals.
In the next moment, the cauldron flew into her ring of holding.
"You can take your time to have your Flame Dragon Armor absorb flame power from all these fiery crystals," Zhen Huilan said. "Qiqi, Li Ye, and I will be waiting for you up there."
"Okay," said Nie Tian, his eyes fixed on the Flame Dragon Armor.
Afterwards, Zhen Huilan left the underground secret room with Pei Qiqi and Li Ye.
Nie Tian didn't say a word as they did. He stared unblinkingly at the Flame Dragon Armor, overwhelmed by the scene of the Flame Dragon Armor madly absorbing flame power from all the fiery crystals.
Three days later...
The Flame Dragon Armor had completely drained the spiritual mineral vein that used to power the Flame God's Wings grand spell formation.
Not a shred of flame power could be sensed from the secret room made of crimson crystals.
However, the Flame Dragon Armor's Blood Core was now filled with unprecedentedly profound flame power.
It seemed that the Flame Dragon Armor had absorbed its fill.
Originally, the connection between him and the Flame Dragon Armor's soul had been subtle and vague, and it had required some effort to get messages through.
However, now that the Blood Core had gathered enough flame power, the soul within it seemed to have finally fully awakened. The connection between it and him was clearer than ever.
A wisp of soul awareness came from the Blood Core, and Nie Tian captured it instantly. "I've finally truly awoken, master," it said.
A violent shudder ran through Nie Tian as he couldn't help but exclaim, "You... You can actually talk to me now?!"
"That's right, master," The soul responded instantly. "We'll be able to communicate more efficiently and directly from now on. Do you want to revisit that Ancientspirits' graveyard now?"
Nie Tian was confused. "Ancientspirits' graveyard?"
"The place where titans are buried, along with a few patriarchs of my kind, flame dragons," the soul answered.
Completely puzzled, Nie Tian asked, "Are the Ancientspirits a race?"
"Yes, ancient beasts, dragons, and titans are all Ancientspirits. In ancient times, we Ancientspirits were the first owners of the starry river. Back then, we ruled almost every domain throughout the starry river. Later, other races gradually rose to prominence and gained the power to stand up to us as equals, so our sole dominion of the starry river came to an end.
"After that, humans, which were the weakest of all races, found their way to power as well, and also rose to the ruling circle in the starry river.
"Now is a time when many races thrive and rule different parts of the starry river. Now may be the most prosperous time this starry river has ever seen, but it may also be the most turbulent, since wars break out among different races without ceasing."