His hand… grasped at nothing but air….
“Hao’er!!” Bai Xiaochun’s consciousness began to rise up from within the blankness, pushed by an indescribable wave of grief!
His eyes snapped open to see… nothing. The twenty-two-colored flame was gone, and Bai Hao along with it.
Only a tiny wisp of the fire remained, a spark, the last trace of Bai Hao that remained in the world. As it fell onto the back of Bai Xiaochun’s hand, it burned him, leaving a small mark.
Bai Xiaochun shivered, his hand frozen in midair in front of him, his eyes filled with tears.
Although he had not been able to see Bai Hao’s final moments clearly, he could sense that his apprentice was now no more….
Tears fell down onto his withered skin, and the ground beneath his feet, as more grief than he ever imagined could exist overwhelmed him.
It wasn't that Bai Xiaochun had never experienced the death of a friend or loved one. But this was different. Bai Hao’s passing filled his mind with a deep, deathly stillness….
It was a grief the likes of which led, not to screaming and yelling, but to silence and the shedding of tears….
He thought back to the first time he had ever seen Bai Hao. He thought back to the moment when his soul awakened. He thought back to how they had relied on each other to survive in the Wildlands….
From now on, Bai Hao, I'm your Master!
Hao’er, how do you think Master did this time around!?
Hahaha!! Don’t worry, your Master has a lot of experience with this kind of thing.
As the memories flitted through his head, he shivered uncontrollably. He still couldn’t pull his hand back, and in fact, made another attempt to grab hold of Bai Hao. He refused to believe that his apprentice had truly perished….
“Hao’er….” he murmured, tears streaming down his face. Then he began to weep, the sound of which echoed out with the most profound grief and pain possible….
“Why? Why are people always fighting and killing each other…? Why do people have to die…? Why…? Immortal cultivation is about living forever, isn’t it…? Why…?”
As he wallowed in his tears and grief, he couldn’t help but ask the same questions he had wondered about from the moment he started down the path of cultivation. Time passed, and his voice grew weaker and weaker.
He only had the tiniest scrap of life force left in him. Bai Hao’s departure had inundated him with grief, a grief that was not the type that could be expunged with mere tears.
And thus, the grief built upon itself, becoming a cold wind that extinguished the last spark of warmth left inside of him. It became a tempest that sealed away anything and everything….
In the moment before the tempest sealed away his life itself, Bai Xiaochun looked up at the gravekeeper, and within his gaze… was profound grief and… hatred!
By now, he understood that, whether it was Du Lingfei or Bai Hao, the person responsible for how everything had turned out… was the gravekeeper….
He didn’t know why the gravekeeper had done all these things, but it didn't matter. There was no way he could forgive him!!
The hatred within Bai Xiaochun’s eyes was something that had never before appeared, or even existed within him!
He was a happy-go-lucky person, with a simple heart. And yet, all of that was now overwhelmed by the hatred, locked away and sealed within his memories.
He chuckled, and then closed his eyes.
The gravekeeper saw the hatred, and could sense the life force in Bai Xiaochun withering like an unbloomed flower because of the grief…. The gravekeeper sat there in the crumbling pagoda, and he sighed.
Had it been possible, he would never have let Bai Hao perish. But not even he could save Bai Hao’s soul after it became the fuel for a twenty-two-colored flame. He might have been able to secretly feed a bit of life force into him in the end… but even he wasn’t sure if that would have done anything.
“Bai Xiaochun….” he murmured, his ancient voice echoing out into the ruins of the third portion of the city, which was spread out around him.
“Please know that, although I came up with this plan… I didn’t orchestrate every single detail….
“The reason why all of this is happening is… the Undying Live Forever Technique….
“The undying aspect corresponds to Yang, and the live forever aspect corresponds to Yin….” Although his voice entered Bai Xiaochun’s ears, it could not reach his grief-stricken consciousness.
It almost was as if the gravekeeper wasn’t directing his words at Bai Xiaochun… but rather, himself. It was as if he was attempting to bolster his own convictions and faith.
“These two codices of Arch-Emperor’s magic were passed down for many years. They are partly that which is eternal, and partly that which is tribulation. Perhaps both, perhaps neither. They represent… hope….” The gravekeeper seemed more ancient than ever in this moment..
“Sadly, one codex alone is difficult to master. It would be rare to find someone who could succeed even among those with a strong bloodline tracing back to the Arch-Emperor, much less those in the world today, in which the bloodline is weak…. And even if someone succeeded… they would be unable to combine the Yin and the Yang, and achieve the next breakthrough. After mastering one codex, there could be no more progress.
“To cultivate the Live Forever Codex after the Undying Codex would be difficult beyond imagination…. From ancient times until now, no one has ever done it…. After all, the only way to practice such cultivation… would be to die first!
“The reason for that is… the opposite of that which is undying, is that which dies. And the opposite of that which lives forever is that which lives for a short time. Both of those equate to death….
“The connection between that which is undying and that which lives forever… is death! However, that death is not a true perishing. For example, the Blood Ancestor. He held his breath in the past to awaken today!” Normally speaking, the gravekeeper would not give voice to words such as these. But there was little need for propriety now. Bai Hao was dead, and thus, the Hell-Emperor was dead. Because of that, the gravekeeper knew… that the end of the world was at hand.
From this moment on, there would be no cycle of reincarnation. Dead souls would roam the lands now that the Underworld River had dried up, and Bai Hao had passed away….
As for any souls which had remained in the river, they would be unleashed on the world….
“Only by experiencing death can someone who has mastered the Undying Codex build the bridge…. Only then can that person qualify to cultivate the Live Forever Codex. However, to truly master that codex… requires time. Too much time….” The gravekeeper sighed.
Time was not something he had in abundance. Nor did he have any way to predict what other unforeseen circumstances could arise that would destroy his hopes and plans.
Before Bai Xiaochun, there had been the Blood Ancestor. The gravekeeper and the Blood Ancestor had only been able to discuss this plan, not carry it out…. But now that Bai Xiaochun was here, and had mastered the Undying Codex, things were different.
He had given up on the Blood Ancestor, and focused all his hope on Bai Xiaochun!
Because of that, and because of other important factors, the gravekeeper had adjusted his plan, and was now more confident than ever.
“Ah, Daoist Heavenspan…. If you ignore his evil, he is truly spectacular…. I would never have thought of his plan to concoct an Undying Live Forever Pill….” The gravekeeper closed his eyes.
He wanted Bai Xiaochun to take the Blood Ancestor’s place, to become the new hope. He would have Bai Xiaochun cultivate… the Live Forever Codex!
It would not be done in the usual fashion, but… it would work!!
Even the gravekeeper marveled at Daoist Heavenspan’s plan to create an Undying Live Forever Pill. It was a technique he had learned from, and modified! He had made a new plan, to plant the scrap of an aura from the Live Forever Codex into Bai Xiaochun!
That aura would be a seed that the gravekeeper could use other methods to catalyze, and push to completion faster than ordinary!
The gravekeeper opened his eyes and looked at Bai Xiaochun.
“In the end…” he murmured, “it was Daoist Heavenspan’s desire to leave this world, and the way I foiled his efforts, that forced him to resort to his final backup plan….
“In his madness, he went so far as to sacrifice his own child…. And I… will take this opportunity to make use of the Celestial and Du Lingfei…. I will plant just a bit of the aura of the Live Forever Codex into Bai Xiaochun….”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
In connection with an undisclosed upcoming chapter, I’m going to be having a huge AWE art contest with big cash prizes. There will be two categories: 1) Character Art, and 2) Dramatic Moment. I would love to have some suggestions from fans about what characters and dramatic moments would be good subjects for original art. And even if you don't have any suggestions, please take a moment to upvote your favorites. I think this will be a valuable resource for artists who are considering entering the contest. The contest will not actually be held until a bit after this chapter goes live, so depending on your sponsor level, that could be weeks or months away. Please click through to this page to give your suggestion about the contest! Thanks so much!