Zhuan Yi and Sirius vigilantly swept their surroundings, neither of them had heard what Yao Jun had so they weren't even able to form a rudimentary guess as to where they were. That was especially the case for Zhuan Yi, the air here felt completely different from what she was used to. Everything around her felt so light that it was as if she was being held up by the wind, as if a casual move from her hand was all it would take to tear open the surrounding space.
"That didn't seem like something you were planning on doing, what exactly just happened?"
The one she directed her question at was obviously Yao Jun, he had hastily grabbed hold of her and Sirius just before the spatial tunnel opened around them. She hadn't been able to sense anything, but he had obviously gotten some premonition of the strange event. But Yao Jun only shook his head, he too was borderline blind.
"I'm not quite sure. I heard a voice seemingly call out to me and got the premonition that something was about to happen, so I grabbed onto you guys so that I could react at a moments notice. Not even I expected for a spatial tunnel to appear and whisk us away. So I'm sorry about dragging you along, but I'm not entirely sure where we are so I can't make any promises as to when you'll be able to return to your kin."
Yao Jun laid it out as simply as he could, he didn't know where they were and he had no idea when she would be able to return to her kin. He would of course help her in this endeavour, he was the one who had accidentally dragged her along after all so he couldn't escape this responsibility. But contrary to what he expected, Zhuan Yi didn't seem too bothered by it.
"It's fine, my kin have already retreated to the third hideout so they will be safe even without me. And our main enemy, the Basilisks, have already been driven to extinction by you so they are unlikely to be attacked even if someone manages to find them by some stroke of luck. I'll consider this a good chance, I've found myself rather curious about you and where you'll end up, sticking around to sate that curiosity will probably also net me some good rewards over time."
A man that had become an inscrutable existence, possibly a minor universe, what sort of stage could such a being reach? Zhuan Yi didn't know, she had never seen any records describing such a being so it might very well be that no one knew. As such, the curiosity she had been feeling had only grown stronger, she wanted to know, she wanted to see. Where would the apex predator stop, and just how many races would fall prey to his maw?
"Alright, suit yourself. Sirius, are you able to contact Little Gray?"
Yao Jun simply nodded his head and accepted Zhuan Yi's plans, she had at the very least proven herself trustworthy so he wasn't against her following him. Sirius fiddled with the communication orb he held after Yao Jun addressed him, but he shook his head so it seemed like that bit of luck wouldn't be on their side.
"No, it won't connect to the other side, I fear that we may be too far apart. I told him that he should meet us by the floating island we visited first, but I am uncertain if he will keep waiting there once there is no word from us."
Yao Jun's brows furrowed slightly at the news, it was less than satisfactory to be separated from Little Gray, especially when Little Gray would remain in such a dangerous area. The fact that it wouldn't connect was also quite worrisome, adding a bit more credence to Yao Jun's guess.
That particular communication treasure was supposedly capable of connecting both ends of the major universe they had just been in, so for it to be out of range, the distance they had travelled could only be imagined. He didn't feel comfortable about the separation, but he knew that it was something he just had to accept, he would just have to trust Little Gray.
"Little Gray can be a bit impulsive and impatient when things go wrong, but he's no fool, he'll at the very least make sure that he stays alive. We'll just have to trust him to remain calm for long enough, after all, he knows that dying is forbidden. As such, we can focus on ourselves for the moment and figure out where we are. Well, there's something I want to try first though."
Yao Jun spoke up about Little Gray's nature mostly to calm himself, he was keenly aware of how irrational his companions could become when something dangerous may have happened to him. In that regard, they were surprisingly similar to him, which was actually one of the reasons he could ease some of his worries. Impatient yet calm, still able to maintain their presence of mind and make mostly proper decisions.
Yao Jun closed his eyes after he finished talking, not wasting a second when it came to testing out what he was curious about. The four planets and the eight fragments orbiting around them instantly appeared in his vision, he was always perfectly aware of their state and what happened on them, but this type of looking at them felt more familiar to him.
He still felt a constant prodding at the back of his mind, as if the space that the planets existed in was nagging that it was too small and constrained. It wasn't so great of a sensation that it disturbed him so ignoring it was quite easy, but now he was going to indulge it a little to test out something.
He drew in a deep breath, unlike the last time he did this he actually had a body now so he didn't have to just mimic the sensation. He could feel the surrounding Qi get drawn in with his breath, entering his mouth and then instantly appearing in the space around the four planets. The Qi merged into the space, much like the energy he had absorbed when he first awakened and there was nothing in the white space.
As such, he could easily conclude that the energy he had absorbed back then was in fact Qi, meaning that this possible universe could grow through normal cultivation. But that wasn't the only experiment he was planning on performing, so he didn't linger on the results of the first one for too long.
He drew in another deep breath and sucked in more Qi, but this time he didn't merge it into the space around the planets. He followed the formula of the Monarch's Nine Rebirths, his soul cultivation manual, a familiar crushing sensation bearing down on his consciousness. He felt a slight cracking sensation, a flash of weariness assaulting his consciousness. But he was already quite familiar with this sensation so he simply ignored it and drew in some more Qi, following the cultivation manuals steps to reform the shattered soul.
He couldn't feel his soul, at least not in the same way he had been able to in the past. But following the steps still produced the same sensation so he obviously still had a soul, and if he had to guess then he would say that his soul was merged into the four planets and the space around them, just like his actual body was.
The rebuilding sensation quickly reached a crescendo, the four planets shaking violently as a result. And just as the sensation reached its peak, the four planets collapsed in on themselves and turned into practically invisible dust. This was another scene that Yao Jun was already quite used to, so he ignored it and repeated the soul cultivation process once more.
A new molten stone core quickly appeared, separating into eight parts that started to grow independently. He expected eight planets to appear in front of his eyes, but to his surprise, only seven of the cores turned into planets. The eighth core started to bubble and seethe, gas leaking out and igniting, forming a burning golden orb. Serving as the centrepiece of the seven planets, a sun had appeared, the closest three planets scorched bare while the next two planets were far away enough to grow plants.
Yama was growing on one of these two habitable planets, but the tiny Ba-Shei slithered around on the second of the three scorched planets, seemingly not bothered by the fire at all. The planets that they had resided on earlier had been destroyed and reborn, but neither Yama nor Ba-Shei were affected, they had actually grown a tiny bit larger compared to before.
Once the seven planets and the sun had fully formed, Yao Jun could also conclude that soul cultivation would also be able to grow this strange space. That accounted for two of the three energies that had merged to form his new energy, meaning that he only had to test out the last one.
He swiped his interspatial ring and brought out one of the bodies that Sirius and the others had offered to him while they were in the Thousand Arms Master's tomb. He followed the method of his body cultivation system, the Blood Ocean's Hunger, and condensed the corpse into a single drop of blood.
The drop of blood contained all the energy that had been gathered in the body, and since the body had been a Heavenly Deity, the small crimson drop radiated a rather savage aura. Yao Jun pushed the drop into his chest, and just like with the Qi earlier, it instantly appeared inside the space containing the planets.
The drop melted in front of his gaze, diffusing into the surrounding space and filling Yao Jun with the same sensation he felt whenever he absorbed such a drop of blood in the past. It felt like it was melting into his blood and becoming part of him, vanishing as it merged with space. The planets and the sun didn't tremble or collapse, but Yao Jun was so closely tied to them that he could sense that the entire space, and even the planets and the sun, did in fact grow a bit stronger.
His eyes opened after he ascertained the truth, an inquisitive yet pleased light swimming in his eyes. He still wasn't sure of what he had become, but it seemed like not only had his three types of energy merged into one, cultivating any one of them would simultaneously cultivate the others.
It might even be so simple as to say that all of his energy sources had merged together into a single whole. His body, soul, and what should be his dantian had all fused into a single whole, the state of one reflecting the state of the others. He had never heard or read about a case like this, but he felt that it was the best way to describe his current situation.
And it was a situation that countless cultivators would be willing to give up everything they had for. After all, how ludicrous would it be that you could cultivate your soul and strengthen your body and Qi at the same time? It was an advantage that not even Divine Beast blood could bring about, unfair would be the only word that could be used to describe it.
Yao Jun had finished experimenting with what he wanted to know, and while the space inside him still nagged at him that it was too small, he ignored it for now. Things had to be done in order, and the thing at the top of the list right now was to figure out exactly where they were.
"All right, we've got some planets over there so how about we head over there to see if we can't learn where we've ended up?"
He didn't tell Sirius or Zhuan Yi what he had just experimented with, and neither of them bothered to ask. He was still in what could be considered the lowest realm of cultivation, but they could feel that he had actually grown a little bit stronger after his experiments. But the strangest part was that it wasn't just the Qi he radiated that grew stronger, the Monarch Essence and Anima Essence they could just barely sense within his aura had also grown at the same rate as his Qi.
But they were only just barely able to sense these changes, because every trace of his aura was sucked into the depths of his body and vanished the moment Yao Jun opened his eyes. This wasn't something he had control over, his energy just naturally gathered within the perfect isolation that was the strange space within him, only when he used it would it leak out and become noticeable.
Neither of the two had anything to say about Yao Jun's plan to head to the distant planets so the group of three started to move straight away. But they immediately noticed a slight problem, Yao Jun was simply far too slow. In terms of energy, he was barely in the earliest stages of cultivation, the speed he could output was basically crawling when compared to Zhuan Yi and Sirius.
It was quite laughable that a man who had been fighting peak stage Sovereign Gods just recently was now so slow that it was almost painful. But only Zhuan Yi was willing to actually laugh at it, grabbing onto Yao Jun's shoulder with one hand and Sirius's shoulder with her other hand. Large wings grew out from her back, the three of them shooting forwards as she flapped her wings.
She was after all an early-stage Sovereign God, she was faster than Sirius who was only an Earthly Deity so it would indeed be better to have her take charge. And thanks to her speed, the distance between them and the planets was quickly shortened, the group locking onto the largest one.
"That city over there, it's the largest one so it should be the capital. It's surrounded by a large array, so landing by the gates should be the best option, drawing too much attention while we don't know about our surroundings isn't the wisest choice."
Yao Jun pointed towards a large circular city he could see in the distance as he spoke, the city covered almost a tenth of the planet so calling it gargantuan wouldn't be an understatement. Of course, compared to the likes of the Province capitals that Yao Jun had seen in the major universe it was still lacking quite a bit. But even so, it was at least a few tens of thousands of kilometres in diameter.
Zhuan Yi nodded her head in agreement, the arrays surrounding the city wouldn't be able to stop her, but breaking through them would still draw the attention of the entire city. She flapped her wings and shot into the distance, landing a bit away from the city so that they wouldn't be seen as they landed.
Her wings vanished as their feet touched the ground, merging back into her body while a small part of them became part of her robe and covered up the small openings that had been created when she spawned the wings. Yao Jun gazed at the city that rose up in the distance, they had been able to observe it slightly as Zhuan Yi flew them past it.
"Let's hope that the checkpoint isn't something too troublesome, we may have to leave if it is."
They had seen several guards posted by the entrance of the city, they seemed to form a checkpoint that inspected those that tried to enter the city. He didn't know what they were searching for, but he wouldn't hesitate to leave if he felt that things were about to go wrong.
The group headed towards the city, not moving as fast this time so that they could match Yao Jun's pace, which drew much less attention than their full speed. But even so, it didn't take too long for them to reach the city, which was surrounded by a large moat whose bottom seemed to be filled with sizzling coals that created a defensive wall of intense heat around the entire city.
There were some others waiting in front of the checkpoint, giving Yao Jun and the others the chance to inspect the people ahead of them. But rather than calling them people, it was probably better to call them beings from a different race. Some of the guards he saw had skin that was unnaturally dark, almost resembling charcoal, while others had more normal skin but clearly pronounced crimson or orange veins. The traits were quite peculiar, and they felt rather familiar to Yao Jun, but before he could figure out why they looked so familiar, it became their turn to stop by the checkpoint.
"Halt! Everyone who wishes to enter the city must be checked, please give us a few seconds."
One of the guards stopped them by lowering the spear he was holding, one of the other armoured people stepping forward. The man held two crescent moon-shaped crystals, one of which was flickering with a soft black light. He brought the other crystal towards them, holding it right in front of their chest.
The crystal lit up slightly when it got close to them, but the other crystal remained unchanged, simply continuing its flickering. The guard held the crystal in front of Zhuan Yi and Sirius as well, but the result was always the same, it just lit up slightly and nothing else. Seemingly satisfied, the guard pulled back the crystal and stepped back, the other guard raising his spear.
"Good, you're clear. You may enter, enjoy your stay."
The guard slid his gaze past Yao Jun's group and directed it towards the group behind him. But Yao Jun stopped him as he was about to wave the next group forward.
"Excuse me, but could you tell me what the scan is for? Are you searching for something?"
Very few cities would put in place checks like this, it generally meant that they were worried that something rather dangerous, most likely an enemy, was going to slip in. And if this city was expecting to be on the receiving end of an attack, then Yao Jun would have to make sure that his group was quite careful as they entered. But no matter what he did, nothing would have been able to prepare him for the answer that the guard gave him while eyeing him sideways.
"You a newcomer to the territory? There's no need to hide it, some spies from Titan's Gate recently launched an attack in the midst of the city so we're on high alert to prevent any new spies. From what I've heard, there are even some worries that the Nine Heavens Demon God himself will launch an attack to free the prisoners we took after the last attack. Please understand our precaution."