\*I did it!\* Excitement filled Wang Baole when he heard those words. His heart started racing. The exhilaration that he felt at that moment surpassed what he felt when he had unlocked the first palace. After all, he gained entry to the first palace based on his credentials. His entry to the second palace, on the other hand…
*It was because of my hard work!* Wang Baole jutted his chin out proudly as he watched the ice encasing the second palace shatter and fall to the ground. Then, a blue light burst from the palace and rose to the heavens!
Waves of energy rippled in the air, and the earth trembled. Its tremors were fiercer than when the first palace had been unlocked. Despite his Nascent Soul realm physical body, Wang Baole was still forced to retreat thousands of feet away. He waited for the series of shock waves, powerful as a tsunami, to flood the area and slowly dissipate. Then, quieting the excitement in his heart, he began to approach rapidly.
He soon reached the front of the palace and eyed the crack between the doors and the blue light spilling from the opening. Grinning happily, and filled with excitement and anticipation, Wang Baole took a step in.
A familiar sensation washed over him. When his vision cleared, he saw himself standing in a familiar spot, in an area similar to that of the first palace. The statues and the interior architecture were all familiar sights. Only this time, the bead was emanating a blue light.
Below the bead sat a figure. He wasn't the elder from the first palace. This time, it was a middle-aged man with an expressionless face.
He glanced over at Wang Baole. It didn't give Wang Baole the same feeling as when the other elder had looked at him, he didn't feel like he was being seen through. Instead, an instinctive terror unfurled inside him. The man before him seemed to possess terrifying, unimaginable power. Wang Baole's breathing quickened, and he hurriedly lowered his head in greeting.
"Senior, greetings, I'm Disciple Wang Baole!"
The man didn't speak, he only stared coldly at Wang Baole. Wang Baole had no idea if he was looking at him or if he was looking through him, at the skeletal Divine Armament arm that Wang Baole had put away. His silence made Wang Baole nervous. As his imagination ran wild with panic, the middle-aged man suddenly spoke.
"This palace… allows one to overcome all barriers to one's breakthrough in cultivation. If you are able to pass the trial with your current level of cultivation, you may make full use of the palace to reach the Nascent Soul realm!"
"The Vast Expanse Dao Palace has in its records nine hundred and thirty-eight different varieties of Nascent Souls, which have been collected through the ages. Should you pass the trial, you may select one from a range of souls determined by the results of your trial!" the man said coldly, his face devoid of any emotion. His voice was different from the one Wang Baole had heard outside, but they were similar in their lack of emotion and their robotic quality.
Wang Baole had realized earlier that the middle-aged man was also an illusion, like the elder in the first palace. Despite his knowledge of Dharmic Armaments, he wasn't able to discern how these three palaces were being operated, but he could somewhat tell that both the elder and the middle-aged man were likely Artifact Spirits.
The middle-aged man's words continued to resonate in the air amidst Wang Baole's contemplation.
"The souls you will be given a choice of are dependent on your performance and luck. If you manage to endure the force of my spirit energy for ten counts, you will be qualified to select any soul that is not the ten most powerful souls in our records!
"If you last for twenty counts, you will be able to choose any of the ten most powerful Nascent Souls. Sixty counts, and you will have the right to decide if you wish to attempt… to master the only legendary Nascent Soul the Vast Expanse Dao Palace possesses—the Stellar Nascent Soul!"
*The Stellar Nascent Soul?* Wang Baole's eyes widened when he heard that. He suddenly recalled what he had read up on about Nascent Souls during his time at the Dao Palace.
There were many different types of Nascent Souls to be found in the Dao Palace. The Nascent Soul realm was also considered an important stage that divided the great realms. The evolution from core to Nascent Soul was akin to the formation of a second life. It would drastically transform a cultivator.
The key to this transformation was the quality of one's Nascent Soul!
The better the quality, the greater the impact to and transformation of a cultivator. Wang Baole learned from his initial research that if one were to exclude a cultivator's mystic techniques and Dharmic treasures and look solely at the cultivator's cultivation when considering his battle prowess, one could set said level of cultivation as a basic unit. The quality of one's Nascent Soul would determine how many times this basic unit was multiplied to determine how powerful this cultivator was in battle.
The consequent power that was going to be unleashed in battle would, of course, differ depending on the number of times this basic unit was multiplied. The difference in a Nascent Soul's quality could result in a vast difference in power!
A Nascent Soul's quality dictated how well it would fuse with nomological laws. That, in turn, determined one's strength in battle and consequently, one's future in the world of cultivation. Most importantly… Wang Baole remembered the Dao Palace mentioning something in their records!
There were five extremely rare types of Nascent Souls that were found across the countless civilizations in the universe. They were deemed legends. The original Vast Expanse Dao Palace had gotten its hands on one of them through sheer luck. However, records in the current Vast Expanse Dao Palace stated that this legendary Nascent Soul had been lost!
Wang Baole had asked Little Missy about that Nascent Soul, but she had told him not to be overly ambitious. It was clear to Wang Baole that she knew nothing about the Nascent Soul.
That was why Wang Baole had been overcome with excitement when he had heard the middle-aged man mention the legendary Nascent Soul, the Stellar Nascent Soul. He burst out into excited laughter before the man could finish speaking.
"I choose the Stellar Nascent Soul!" Wang Baole's eyes shone brightly. He was afraid of the potential repercussions that he might have to deal with for cheating his way in. To prevent any unhappy repercussions, he immediately started reciting the sutra in his head after declaring his choice!
He had made up his mind, he wasn't going to rely on his own hard work this time. His firm belief was that he had worked hard to get to where he was now. Everything he had now had been the result of his own blood, sweat, and tears. The occasional reliance on external help wasn't against his principles.
Wang Baole recited the sutra excitedly. The skies began to thunder, and the palace began to shake as a presence that came from the deepest part of the universe descended upon them, sending the entire ancient sword quaking. It landed inside the palace and weighed heavily down on the middle-aged man!
The middle-aged man's eyes widened. He didn't fight back or struggle. He shut his eyes, extended his senses, then opened his eyes again. There was a strange look on his face as he looked at Wang Baole and nodded.
Wang Baole had been fraught with anxiety until he heard those words. Excitement overwhelmed him. He was about to say something when the middle-aged man gave him a deep, unfathomable look.
"I should have expected this from someone who entered with a Dao Disciple's aura. I admire your courage. To think that you actually dared to select the legendary Nascent Soul, the forbidden art that almost no one has managed to master!"
"What?" Wang Baole, who had been bouncing with excitement, was stunned to hear those words. He gasped at the mention of "forbidden art". He had a bad feeling about this. Before he could question the man in detail, the latter lifted his right hand and pointed at Wang Baole!
"You will get what you wished for. Proceed with your breakthrough!" the man said, not giving Wang Baole any chance for regret or argument. Starlight shot out from his finger and darted into Wang Baole's forehead!
Wang Baole felt an explosion in his head, and his vision blurred. He felt as if his feet had left the ground and he was being swept upwards by the starlight, towards the heavens!
He shot through the skies and into space. Around him was an unfamiliar patch of space, an illusion. Stars sparkled brightly around him. Before he could regain some clarity in his mind, vast amounts of information about how to refine the Stellar Nascent Soul suddenly flooded his brain!
Information about the Nascent Soul surged into his head, and his understanding of this Nascent Soul grew clearer. As his knowledge about the Nascent Soul grew, the waves of emotions inside him surged. He couldn't control his tragic scream in the end.
"I don't want to practice this anymore! I made a mistake… I was wrong, really really wrong about this. I don't want to learn this anymore. Little Missy, Senior Brother, save me…"
The Stellar Nascent Soul, one of the five great legends of the entire universe, had been acquired by the Vast Expanse Dao Palace through luck. The Dao Palace had realized how extreme the cultivation method of the soul was and labeled it a forbidden art!
The theory required having the cultivator extract his Golden Core and initiate a collision with a planet that had been melded with a powerful Planet realm cultivator. Failure would result in the destruction of the core and the cultivator's death. Success would result in the birth of a Stellar Nascent Soul.