Eight days passed in the blink of an eye.
Over this period of time, Nie Tian moved between places by the vast, black lake to form new Wood Thriving Formations.
Once all the trees and plants around him withered away, he would move to another location covered in lush plants and vegetation.
Each time, he would just sit in the profound spell formation, allowing the concentrated wood power the spell formation channeled from the vicinity to pour into his spiritual sea.
He had filled his vortex of wood power with pure wood power soon after he had started. What he had been doing over the past few days was expanding and refining his vortex of wood power with the copious amount of wood power that continued to converge on him from the trees and rare spirit plants in his surroundings.
It soon occurred to him that he would probably be able to finish the refinement of his vortex of wood power within two weeks or so.
Once that was accomplished, it meant he was ready for his next breakthrough in cultivation.
Recently, he would examine the green aura in his heart from time to time.
That green aura was the embodiment of his bloodline. This time, it had lain dormant for an unprecedentedly long time.
Up until now, it hadn’t showed any sign of finishing its transcendence and awakening a brand new bloodline talent.
On this day, he once again switched to another location by the lake, and just as he was about to focus on refining his vortex of wood power, Pei Qiqi appeared quietly.
Dong Li and the others hadn’t come to check on him recently because they knew that he was busy with his cultivation, and had been busy gathering rare spiritual materials on this island instead.
No one was anywhere near the vast, black lake but him.
Pei Qiqi paced towards him and stopped right in front of the Wood Thriving Formation. “I overheard the others’ conversations and they said it won’t be long before a spatial rift that leads to the Domain of the Falling Stars will open in this place.”
Then, eyes glittering with curiosity, she gazed up into the colorful mist that floated over the vast, black lake and added, “I thought those spatial rifts led to outsiders’ realms, don’t they?”
No one, including Pei Qiqi, knew about the conversation between Nie Tian and the ancient awareness he had encountered in the depths of the lake.
Nie Tian smiled. “You’re right, but changes will happen in a few days. Remember to come here by then. We’ll return to the Domain of the Falling Stars together.”
“Why are you so sure of it?” Pei Qiqi asked curiously.
Nie Tian nodded and said, “Trust me. I won’t be mistaken.”
Pei Qiqi’s eyes lit up upon hearing his words. But in the next moment, her expression turned grim as she said, “So I guess this is not the realm where the Void Palace Sect immigrated.”
“Probably not,” Nie Tian agreed.
He had long since suspected that Pei Qiqi had something to do with the Void Palace Sect, which had once been the ruler of the Domain of the Falling Stars.
Her parents might be members of the Void Palace Sect, who had gone to that promising realm to explore new heaven and earth, but never returned.
Back when she had heard that the six spatial rifts that had mysteriously appeared in the Void Illusion Mountain Range might have something to do with the Void Palace Sect, she had become very excited, and insisted on going through them.
However, after his conversation with the ancient awareness, Nie Tian realized that this realm didn’t seem to have any connection to the Void Palace Sect. Rather, it had profound connections to the Ancient Fragmentary Star Palace.
“Although this realm doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the Void Palace Sect, we’ve gained incredible fortunes here.” Pei Qiqi didn’t seem thrilled at all as she said these words. After a moment of silence, she added, “I still haven’t gotten in touch with my master.”
Nie Tian tried to comfort her by saying, “Considering Master Zhen’s profound knowledge of spatial power, I’m sure she’ll find her own way to return to the Domain of the Falling Stars. You don’t need to worry about her.”
Pei Qiqi sighed, looking down. “I hope you’re right...” Then, she took a quick glance at Nie Tian and asked, “Can you help me heal my injuries now?”
“Of course,” Nie Tian answered without hesitation. With a thought, he removed one of the tree branches, and the ward instantly disappeared. Then, after she was inside the formation, he placed that tree branch back, and the ward was reactivated.
Standing behind Pei Qiqi, Nie Tian placed his hand on her back and practiced Heavenly Wood Heal.
Inside of her, he could see that quite a number of spatial blades were still damaging her meridians, flesh, and bones.
Then, he healed her internal injuries with the extremely rich wood power the spell formation continuously channeled into him from the vicinity. He didn’t need to consume much of his own power.
After sensing that her injuries were fully healed, Pei Qiqi said in a very soft and cautious voice, “The spatial power I allowed into myself back when we were at that floating volcano contains the bloodline essence of a powerful outsider. Even though I don’t know who that person is, I derived bits of enlightenment from it, enlightenment that benefited me greatly.
“I... I’m not like the others. Actually, I am not exactly human.”
Nie Tian withdrew his hands from her back and asked, shocked, “Is that why you don’t want unnecessary contact with other people?”
Still with her back facing him, Pei Qiqi said, looking downcast, “I’m a freak.”
“No, you’re not,” Nie Tian said in a soft voice. “If what you said is true, then we’re the same.”
Pei Qiqi’s expression flickered. She sprang around and asked, her eyes shining with excitement, “Are you also...?”
Nie Tian nodded slightly.
In the next moment, he noticed that Pei Qiqi’s sweet shoulders shivered, as if huge waves of emotion were surging in her heart.
She only calmed down after a long time. A hint of a smile appeared at the corner of her mouth as she said, “I see.”
It seemed that, the moment she learned that Nie Tian and she were the same, she felt very relieved. Her face beaming again, she said, “I suspected this before, but since I never saw proof, so I didn’t think it was true.”
She suddenly felt closer to Nie Tian.
Nie Tian lowered his voice and said, “You’re the only one I’ve told about this. Even Dong Li doesn’t know about it.”
Pei Qiqi gave him a hard look before rising to her feet and saying, “Alright, I’ll come back when the spatial rift that leads to the Domain of the Falling Stars opens. We’ll return together.”
Nie Tian nodded. “Good. We came together, and we’ll return together.”
With these words, Pei Qiqi flashed away, light as a feather.
The smile on Nie Tian’s face lingered as he resumed his cultivation.
Time flew. Two days passed...
On the tenth day, the colorful mist over the black lake suddenly started to surge like a sea in storm. The spatial rifts in the depths of the mist began to thrum with extremely unstable power.
High in the distant sky, the boundless gray clouds started converging on one spot, and soon, an enormous vortex came to form.
Awoken from his cultivation, Nie Tian jerked his head up to examine the great changes.
The vortex was so enormous that people would be able to see it even from ten thousand miles away.
This vortex was the very one that had sent them to his place. It was just that now it was upside down, with its wide end at the bottom and its pointed tip piercing into the gray clouds.
The sudden changes not only stirred Nie Tian, but also the others that had been searching for spiritual materials in other parts of the island.
Soon, Dong Li, Ye Qin, Chen Hao, Qin Yan, and the others arrived by the vast, black lake.
Each and every one of them looked very excited, as if they were looking at the gate to their home.
Until now, some of these people had been suspicious about Nie Tian’s previous statement that a spatial rift that led back to the Domain of the Falling Stars would appear within two weeks.
Now that they were looking at the huge vortex that had mysteriously appeared in the sky, they now believed that Nie Tian was right.
However, it was Nie Tian, who had promised everyone a way to return home, that seemed rather puzzled, since the agreed two weeks’ time hadn’t come yet.
“It seems that the time has come!” Qin Yan tore her glittering eyes from the surging, colorful mist and turned to ask Nie Tian, “Which of those spatial rifts leads to the Domain of the Falling Stars?”
Looking suspicious, Nie Tian said, “The time hasn’t come yet. We still need to wait.”
“But the ladder to the top continent has clearly formed,” Cao Qiushui said, frowning. “Doesn’t that mean that the gate to the top continent is open now? Alright, how do we go through it? Do we go through those spatial rifts in the colorful mist, or do we fly to the vortex on our air-transportation spiritual tools?”
“Did I not make myself clear?” Nie Tian blurted. “I said that a spatial rift that leads to the Domain of the Falling Stars would appear in two weeks, right in the middle of that colorful mist. We don’t need to go through that vortex to the top continent and go back through the spatial rifts that we used to come here. All we’ll need to do is go through that new spatial rift.”
“So that’s what you meant,” Cao Qiushui said.
The others also seemed as if they had just understood.
On islands far across the black sea, the surviving Worldly realm and Profound realm human Qi warriors also caught sight of the upheaval in the sky.
They had gone through a series of fierce battles with the outsiders and lost many people. Ecstasy appeared on their stricken faces.
They either sailed across the black sea on their air-transportation spiritual tools, or soared through the sky by relying on their advanced cultivation bases. Either way, they rushed towards the vortex at their fastest possible speed.
All of them assumed that the enormous vortex was their only chance of returning to the Domain of the Falling Stars. Once they missed it, they would probably have to wait for a very long time before the gate opened again.
At the same time, numerous fifth grade, sixth grade, and even seventh grade outsider experts also caught sight of the changes in the distant sky, and rushed over at full speed.
At that moment, a sharp ring came from Xuan Ke’s Sound Stone, which he kept in his inner pocket. He reached for it and held it to his ear. Moments later, he said, “It’s our senior. They asked where we are and told us to go through that vortex as soon as possible.”
Then, Ye Qin, Chen Hao, Qin Yan, and Dong Baijie’s Sound Stones made sounds one after another.
“The effective range of our Sound Stones should have been quite limited, but why are they all able to get in contact with us all of a sudden?” Dong Li asked, looking suspicious and puzzled. “We tried everything to get in contact with our seniors, but nothing worked. So why do our Sound Stones suddenly seem to be able to work over such long distances?”
“It seems that the formation of the vortex has triggered some kind of change.” Ye Qin said.
“Nie Tian, what do you think?” Xuan Ke asked with a grim expression. “Should we listen to our seniors and go through the vortex, or should we keep waiting here?”
The others also shot their inquiring gazes towards Nie Tian.
“The choice is yours. You can leave if you want to,” Nie Tian said, looking as calm as ever. “But those of you who trust me should stay here and return to the Domain of the Falling Stars with me.”
Upon hearing these words, many began to hesitate, not sure what the right thing to do was.
4. The swords of love: Gan Jiang and Mo Ye
According to the historical text Wuyue Chunqiu, King Helü of Wu ordered Gan Jiang and Mo Ye to forge a pair of swords for him in three months. However, the blast furnace failed to melt the metal. Mo Ye suggested that there was insufficient human Qi in the furnace so the couple cut their hair and nails and cast them into the furnace, while 300 children helped to blow air into the bellows. In another account, Mo Ye sacrificed herself to increase human Qi by throwing herself into the furnace. The desired result was achieved after three years and the two swords were named after the couple. Gan Jiang kept the male sword, Ganjiang, for himself and presented the female sword, Moye, of the pair to the king. The king was already very unpleasant since he ordered the sword made in three months time but Ganjiang did not come back in three years, when he discovered Gan Jiang had kept the male sword, he was angered and had Gan Jiang killed.
Before his death, Gan Jiang had already predicted the king's reaction, so he left behind a message for Mo Ye and their unborn son telling them where he had hidden the Ganjiang Sword. Several months later, Mo Ye gave birth to Gan Jiang's son, Chi, and years later she told him his father's story. Chi was eager to avenge his father and he sought the Ganjiang Sword. At the same time, the king dreamed of a youth who desired to kill him and, in fear, he placed a bounty on the youth's head. Chi was indignant and, filled with anguish, he started crying on his way to enact his vengeance. An assassin found Chi, who told the assassin his story. The assassin then suggested that Chi surrender his head and sword, and the assassin himself will avenge Ganjiang in Chi's place. He did as told and committed suicide. The assassin was moved and decided to help Chi fulfill his quest.
The assassin severed Chi's head and brought it, along with the Ganjiang sword to the overjoyed king. The king was however uncomfortable with Chi's head staring at him, and the assassin asked the king to have Chi's head boiled, but Chi's head was still staring at the king even after 40 days without any sign of decomposition, thus the assassin told the king that he needed to take a closer look and stare back in order for the head to decompose under the power of the king. The king bent over the cauldron and the assassin seized the opportunity to decapitate him, his head falling into the cauldron alongside Chi's. The assassin then cut off his own head, which also fell into the boiling water. The flesh on the heads was boiled away such that none of the guards could recognize which head belonged to whom. The guards and vassals decided since all three should be honoured as kings (With Chi and the assassin being so brave and loyal). The three heads were eventually buried together at Yichun County, Runan, Henan, and the grave is called "Tomb of Three Kings".