Normally, minor breakthroughs in cultivation wouldn’t cause heaven-shaking, earth-toppling changes. Only major breakthroughs would.
Nie Tian made a minor breakthrough by advancing from the early Worldly realm to the middle Worldly realm.
His breakthrough happened incredibly smoothly.
Five soul crystals were drained of their soul power and crumbled. As the glittering powder slipped from his hand, his sea of awareness rapidly settled down.
His true soul and the nine star souls had finished a new round of refinement.
His nine star souls shone slightly brighter, and had grown a bit in size, but hadn’t gone through any substantial changes.
According to the records regarding star souls in the second fragmentary star mark, star souls would develop similar features as true souls after growing to a certain point.
Even if his true soul was eliminated, as long as one of his star souls still existed, he would be able to regather his soul and return to life.
However, the refinement of his star souls was far from reaching such a level.
However, his true soul had gone through some minor changes after this round of refinement.
His true soul was originally illusory and blurry, but now that he had entered the middle Worldly realm, countless fine strands had appeared inside of it.
Those fine strands were soul strands, which contained incomparably rich soul power. Like a person’s meridian network, they filled every corner of Nie Tian’s true soul.
Nie Tian was suddenly enlightened. “After a cultivator enters the Worldly realm, their breakthroughs in cultivation will be closely related to the refinement of his soul. Perhaps his spiritual sea won’t go through noticeable changes, but his true soul will develop new and interesting traits.”
Subconsciously, he took out another soul crystal.
This time, he avoided using his nine star souls, but rather tried to channel soul power from it with his true soul.
Immediately afterwards, he saw that the soul strands within his true soul started to take in wisps of soul power like sponges absorbing water.
The speed at which soul power was channeled into his true soul had improved significantly compared to when he had been at the early Worldly realm.
“So the so-called soul refinement is about gathering one’s soul awareness into a true soul first. True souls are illusory and blurry at first, but as cultivators’ cultivation bases advance and their true souls grows stronger, soul strands will form and spread out inside of them. Will the next step be to condense soul power into internal organ-like substances within my true soul?
“As refinement goes on, true souls will continue to go through changes. Meridian-like soul strands will come to form, then internal organ-like soul clusters will come to form, and then true souls will gradually take on their owners’ appearances. Even though true souls are illusory, they contain endless wonders...”
Nie Tian paid close attention to the changes his true soul was going through, and quickly realized what the focus of his future cultivation would be, as if he had foreseen what changes his true soul would go through after his future breakthroughs.
Wu Ji had never told him what changes he would go through with every breakthrough he made.
However, as he actually made these breakthroughs, he realized that he didn’t need anyone to tell him anything. What was supposed to happen would happen. All he needed to do was accept it.
Then, Nie Tian refocused his soul awareness on his spiritual sea.
After the breakthrough, his spiritual core was still only the size of a fist, and filled with liquidized spiritual power that flowed within it like water.
Even though the size of his spiritual core hadn’t gone through any noticeable changes, he felt that the amount of spiritual power it could hold had increased several times over.
His spiritual core had been filled to the brim with spiritual power before he had made his breakthrough.
However, at this moment, he saw that his spiritual core was only one fifth full now, which meant that even though the size of his spiritual core hadn’t changed, its capacity had increased fivefold.
If he filled his spiritual core with spiritual power now, he would have five times more spiritual power at his disposal than before.
Afterwards, he focused his attention on his vortexes of three different attributes.
The three vortexes were spinning unceasingly. The spiritual lake at the bottom of each vortex had expanded to three times their original size.
Whether it was his spiritual core or the spiritual lakes at the bottom of the three vortexes, they were all filled with liquidized power.
Compared to gaseous spiritual power, liquidized spiritual power was much more concentrated and refined.
Then, his focus moved on to the Nine Stars Flower at the bottom of his vortex of star power.
To his surprise, he discovered that a new blossom had come to shine brightly and purely on the plant, where there had only been three before.
Each of the four blossoms seemed like a star-filled domain that had shrunk a million times over, with countless sparks flickering in them.
Taken aback, he withdrew his soul awareness.
Without him noticing it, the bottom of the Star Boat that he was standing on was already covered in crystalline powder.
Chang Sen, Fang Hui, and the other experts had guarded him for days without interrupting him.
During this time, they had witnessed Nie Tian take out and madly channel power from soul crystals, spirit jades, Star Stones, and spiritual materials that contained flame power and wood power.
Now, after taking in and refining a significant amount of each power, the violent changes inside of him had finally settled down.
That was when Chang Sen and the other experts realized that he had entered the stable phase of his new cultivation base.
“Nie Tian!” Dong Li’s loud exclamation suddenly echoed out from Cloudsoaring Mountain’s direction and caught Nie Tian’s attention.
Nie Tian, who had just finished with his breakthrough, was taken aback, unsure of why she had come.
However, he soon saw Dong Li flying over at full speed on an air-transportation spiritual tool.
Something didn’t seem right.
“Didn’t you say that you’d wait for me in the Realm of Split Void?” Nie Tian asked, looking confused.
“Master Zhen has died...” Dong Li said in a soft voice.
Nie Tian’s expression flickered drastically. “What!?!?”
According to Hua Mu, Zhen Huilan and Pei Qiqi had discovered a secret spatial rift in the Void Illusion Mountain Range. They had assumed that it had something to do with the disappearance of the Void Palace Sect, and thus had gone through it to explore the place it led to.
Why would Zhen Huilan die all of a sudden?
Dong Li’s face was very grim as she said, “Master Zhen’s dead body seems to have flown out of one of the spatial rifts in the Void Illusion Mountain Range. People from the Blood Skull found her, but Pei Qiqi hasn’t shown up yet.”
Strong grief rapidly consumed Nie Tian.
He couldn’t help but remember the days when he had left the Realm of Flame Heaven to live in Shatter City.
There, he had become friends with Li Ye and Pei Qiqi, and Zhen Huilan had always secretly looked after him.
Without Zhen Huilan to take him in, he wouldn’t have been able to survive in Shatter City by himself. Ever since then, Zhen Huilan had stood by him and provided him with unconditional help when Hua Mu hadn’t been around.
It was Zhen Huilan who had taken him to the mysterious dimension that consisted of two parallel continents.
Afterwards, when they had faced great danger, it was Zhen Huilan who had stayed and single-handedly fought multiple experts from the Spirit God Sect and the Flame God Sect so that he and Pei Qiqi could escape.
All these years, Zhen Huilan and Pei Qiqi had helped him on many occasions.
He had never ever expected that Zhen Huilan would die so suddenly.
Zhen Huilan was Hua Mu’s soul mate. Hua Mu had been through a lot before finally gaining a Fruit of Life recently and solving his lifespan problem, yet she had somehow died a mysterious death.
Besides, she was Qi Bailu and Zhao Shanling’s junior martial sister.
It was her who had taken Li Ye in as her disciple and raised him for Li Muyang from the Yang Sect and Xing Huanyue from the Yin Sect.
Her death grieved Nie Tian, and would surely sadden Hua Mu and the others beyond measure as well.
“Let’s go!” With a grieved expression, Nie Tian jumped onto Dong Li’s air-transportation spiritual tool. They dashed back to the teleportation portal in the Cloudsoaring Sect, through which they returned to the bamboo forest in the Realm of Split Void.
Upon seeing Nie Tian, Nie Donghai said weakly, “Master Zhen helped you significantly, Little Tian.”
Nie Tian nodded solemnly. “I know.”
He summoned the Star Boat and flew to the Void Illusion Mountain Range at full speed.
In a remote corner of the Void Illusion Mountain Range, Zhen Huilan’s ice-cold body was placed under numerous interweaving spatial rifts.
Hua Mu, Li Ye, Qi Bailu, Li Muyang, and Xing Huanyue must have received the news earlier, and were now gathered in front of her.
Hua Mu trembled unceasingly as he looked at Zhen Huilan’s body.
Li Ye was on his knees, wailing.
Qi Bailu didn’t make a sound, but the flames of fury filled his eyes.
Nie Tian jumped off the Star Boat. A shudder ran through him as soon as he took a look at Zhen Huilan’s corpse.
Zhen Huilan’s corpse was placed on the ground face-down. Her entire back was covered in gashes that cut to the bone, which were still exuding frost power and making her corpse icy.
Fierce residual sword intent was still coming from the gashes, as if it hadn’t completely dispersed even after so long.
Upon a closer look, the gashes were clearly created by a sharp sword, and together they formed the pattern of a mountain peak planted with numerous straight swords.
Nie Tian let out a furious roar. “The Thousandsword Mountain Sect!”
He had seen similar patterns on the garments of Ke Jinpeng, Sha Yan, and the other Thousandsword Mountain Sect disciples.
He instantly realized that the person who had murdered Zhen Huilan was from the Thousandsword Mountain Sect.
The Thousandsword Mountain Sect was from the Domain of Heaven Python, which was a human domain that was even more powerful than the Domain of Heaven’s Boundaries.