"Bai Xiaochun? Scared?” Feeling very pleased with himself, Bai Xiaochun tried as much as possible to flaunt his veins of steel, as if the slightest word of provocation would cause him to throw all caution to the wind and fight it out to the death with his enemies.
The shocking result of him throwing out so many Soul Convergence Pills led to more silence as virtually all of the Skin Flayers on top of the wall looked over at Bai Xiaochun, their jaws hanging open and their eyes shining with ardor.
Even Zhao Tianjiao could barely breathe. His words earlier had been casually spoken, and he had never imagined that Bai Xiaochun would react the way he did. With the mere wave of his hand, he eradicated a huge number of vengeful souls.
He wasn’t the only one. In addition to the Skin Flayers in the area, someone had been watching unseen from the huge coffin off in the distance. That gaze seemed to be completely fixed on Bai Xiaochun for a long moment before retracting back into the coffin.
“I've gone through just about everything you can imagine,” Bai Xiaochun declared. “Back when the Spirit Stream Sect and the Blood Stream Sect were about to go to war, I was the one who single-handedly stopped it. After the sects joined forces, we went on to subjugate the entire cultivation world of the Lower Reaches!” Looking off into the distance, he tried to look as heroic as possible.
“Later on, I charged into battle with a million other cultivators, including those from the Pill and Profound Stream Divisions. In fact, I was the one who came up with the name of the River-Defying Sect!” As he swished his sleeve, the wind blew his hair, making him seem even more impressive than before.
“When the River-Defying Sect fought the Sky River Court, I led the charge, cutting down countless enemies. I even took control of the body of the Blood Ancestor to fight the Sky River Court’s reserve power, the Dire Skybanyan!
“Fellow Daoist Li, now do you understand why I wasn’t very shocked by the sight of the battlefield earlier? On my path of cultivation... I’ve already experienced far too many wars.” There was a tenacity visible in Bai Xiaochun’s expression, and something in his eyes that seemed both profound and ancient.
Because of that, he seemed more than ever like he had veins of steel, and lacked any fear of death. Anyone who saw him at this moment would be shocked, and even Li Hongming was panting a bit.
These weren’t stupid people; none of them knew Bai Xiaochun, and since this was their first time meeting him, he seemed completely and utterly impressive. Plus, his Soul Convergence Pill truly had shaken the entire battlefield, and left everyone’s’ minds spinning.
On the battlefield beyond the Great Wall, the savages were trembling in fear, and none of them even dared to advance. As for the remaining vengeful souls, they were already backing up.
“Xiaochun, Elder Brother really misjudged you!” Zhao Tianjiao said, sounding a bit self-reproaching. Thinking back to everything that had occurred since he had met Bai Xiaochun, he quickly clasped hands and bowed apologetically.
Letting his sleeve drop, Bai Xiaochun lowered his voice and said, “It's no matter. Elder Brother, you're not the first person to assume that I, Bai Xiaochun, am afraid of death. And the truth is that I actually do fear dying. But the reason is that I fear dying for no reason, and fear that my life will be devoid of a future!”
At the moment he felt wonderful, and couldn’t help but muse that the events just now would ensure that in the future, no one would ever dare to say that he was scared of fighting in battle.
“Xiaochun....” Zhao Tianjiao said, shivering a bit.
“I understand your sentiments, Elder Brother Zhao,” Bai Xiaochun replied, “so there’s no need to speak them aloud. Fellow Daoist Li, the battle is not over yet. I suggest you issue orders to take advantage of the opportunity I’ve won you, before it fades away!”
Li Hongming looked deeply at Bai Xiaochun, and without saying a single word, waved his hand toward the battlefield outside the Great Wall.
The magical cannons on the Great Wall rumbled to life, sending beams of destructive light out into the enemy forces, and at the same time, large numbers of cultivators flew into the air, unleashing divine abilities and magical techniques in a riot of colors.
Soon, rumbling sounds filled the air. The vengeful souls struggled to fight back, but Bai Xiaochun continued to throw out Soul Convergence Pills, making it impossible for them to rally together. As a result, they continued to fall back across the battlefield.
Bangs rang out one after another as he tossed numerous medicinal pills out. One 300-meter-area after another was opened up, and the seemingly endless tide of souls was finally being beaten back. Miserable shrieks and bloodcurdling screams rang out without end.
As the tide of souls shrank, the beasts and the savages had no cover, and were unable to defend themselves against the blasts of the magical weapons. Soon, they were being cut down like chaff, with the survivors devolving into sheer madness.
Savages relied on vengeful souls for almost everything, and using them as cannon fodder to charge the Great Wall was one of the primary tactics of the Wildlands forces. But now, that tactic was completely useless!
Hearts trembling, the savages finally realized that too many strange things were occurring in this battle, and that they had no chance of surviving. Having no other choice, they began to retreat.
Before, it had seemed the battle would last until night fell, but as of this moment, evening hadn’t even fallen, and it was already concluding. The Skin Flayers almost couldn’t believe what was happening. In all their years fighting savages and vengeful souls, they had never experienced anything like this.
As the Wildlands forces retreated, Li Hongming clasped hands and bowed to Bai Xiaochun.
“Many thanks for your help in this battle, Fellow Daoist Bai,” he said sincerely.
The Great Wall was designed as a defensive barrier, so unless dire circumstances presented themselves, the cultivators wouldn’t go beyond its bounds for protracted lengths of time. Therefore, it wasn’t just Li Hongming who turned to bow to Bai Xiaochun, all of the Skin Flayers in the area who had stayed behind also joined in.
“There’s no need to thank me,” Bai Xiaochun said somberly. “I do everything for the Heavenspan River and Sea, for my comrades-in-arms, and for my sect! If anything, I should be thanking you! Without your year-round service here on the wall, where could any of us safely practice cultivation?!
“Ladies and gentlemen, Fellow Daoists, thank you, all of you!” With that, he clasped hands and bowed deeply.
His words were spoken with a sincerity and deep emotion that touched the hearts of all present, and caused them to approve of Bai Xiaochun even more than before. As for Li Hongming, he laughed heartily and then said, “Brother Zhao. Brother Bai. Come, come. I will personally arrange for a feast so that we can eat and drink to our heart’s content!”
With that, he smiled and led the way off of the Great Wall.
His attitude was completely different this time around. Along the way, he passionately introduced the various areas of Great Wall City, and even told them some things he knew about the Wildlands. Instead of taking them to an inn, he led them to his own personal residence. There, his maidservants laid out a huge feast, and they began to socialize and eat.
“Brother Zhao, if you go outside the Great Wall, you will be completely surrounded by danger. I know that you have an impressive background, but you still have to watch out for yourself. Here, take this jade slip. These are all the maps I've collected during my years doing missions outside. Perhaps they will be of some use.” After handing over the jade slip, he raised his cup in a toast to Zhao Tianjiao.
“Many thanks!” Zhao Tianjiao said, nodding his head somberly as he accepted the jade slip and drank with Li Hongming.
“Brother Bai, I’m sure you have grand aspirations of your own that you will be pursuing, but no matter what happens, if you need help in any aspect, just say the word and I’ll be there.” From the sincere way Li Hongming looked at Bai Xiaochun, it seemed that he really did approve of him, and even wanted to be friends.
Instead of responding with words, Bai Xiaochun simply raised his drinking vessel and took a long drink. Then the three of them all joined together in a round of contented laughter.
Chen Yueshan remained off to the side, watching them with a smile and occasionally refilling their drinking vessels.
Time passed, and soon it was late in the night. The three young men were all Core Formation cultivators, and were sincerely interested in being friends. Their conversation flowed naturally, and they even exchanged some tips about puzzling cultivation problems. Overall, it was a very beneficial conversation for all of them.
Eventually, the sky began to grow light, and Zhao Tianjiao put down his drinking vessel. Eyes shining, he rotated his cultivation base to dispel the effects of the alcohol, and then rose to his feet.
“Xiaochun. Brother Li. It’s time for me to take my leave. I hope that when I return, the three of us can once again eat and drink together!” With that, he clasped hands in farewell. Next, Bai Xiaochun and Li Hongming watched as Zhao Tianjiao and Chen Yueshan went to say their farewells to their friends and followers at the other table. Then they left the courtyard, escorted by some of the Skin Flayers to leave the Great Wall and head... into the Wildlands! Their friends and followers all went their own separate ways.
“Stay safe on your travels, Elder Brother Zhao!” Bai Xiaochun murmured as he watched them leave. In his heart, he truly admired Zhao Tianjiao, both for his cultivation base and his temperament. He even felt a bit of an impulse to follow him out into the Wildlands. However, he managed to quickly suppress that terrifying impulse before it could do anything.
“Elder Brother Zhao has his path, and I... I have my own road to follow.” Taking a deep breath, he lifted his drinking vessel and drained of the last bit of alcohol.
“My road leads back to East Sea City,” he thought. “I’ll find somewhere there to spend a few years, and then decide what to do. I definitely don’t want to stay in this crappy place for any longer than I have to.” Fully convinced that this was the right course of action, he rose to his feet to bid farewell to Li Hongming.
“Brother Bai, I know that you're anxious to be on your way, and I don’t have much time on my hands either. I have some orders to carry out, and hope that we can meet again soon in the future. And now, let me escort you to the side gate.” With that, he led the way toward one of the side gates of Great Wall City. As they walked along, the bright, morning sun shone down to light their path.
Bai Xiaochun would occasionally look out at the sky which hung over the area outside the Great Wall, and send his well wishes in the direction of Zhao Tianjiao and Chen Yueshan. Before long, they were at the side gate.
All he had to do was walk outside, and then he could return along the path he'd traveled to come here.
Turning to Li Hongming, he sighed and said, “Brother Li, if we’re connected by destiny, then we’ll meet again.”
Li Hongming hesitated for a moment, then said, “Xiaochun.... You know, I really feel like this is the best place for you. Why don’t you think about joining the Skin Flayers? If you enlist, then I can definitely expedite your application!”
“Huh?” As soon as Bai Xiaochun heard the words spoken by Li Hongming, the sentimental feeling in his heart vanished, to be replaced by trembling fear. He didn’t want to stay at the Great Wall for any longer than he had to. It was just too dangerous. He was about to shake his head in refusal, but realized that doing so would be a bit embarrassing.
Sighing, he said, “I would love to join. Unfortunately, I’m well aware that the process of enlisting with the Skin Flayers is very complicated. I don’t want to add any trouble to your busy life, Brother Li. One day, if I can do it completely on my own merit, then I’ll definitely join the Hall of Steel Veins.... Well then, I guess I’ll be off now!” Fearing that Li Hongming might do more to try to get him to stay, he turned to leave.
However, before he could take a single step, a grave, somber voice echoed out through the air.
“Do you really want to join the Skin Flayers?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter