This was the most intense moment of deadly crisis Bai Xiaochun had ever experienced during his entire life. There was nothing he could do to stop what was happening. He didn't even have the strength to struggle. With the Celestial having physically taken matters into his own hands, it seemed a foregone conclusion how things would end up.
Bai Xiaochun’s path of cultivation would end with Du Lingfei, the two of them refined into a medicinal pill by this enormous spell formation, which the Celestial would then use to transcend the bounds of the world in which he lived.
Never could he have imagined that things would end up like this, not even after having been told by the Frigid Matriarch that he would eventually have a falling out with the Celestial.
Bai Xiaochun had always naively believed that because of Du Lingfei, the Celestial wouldn’t do anything too harmful to him. Furthermore, he had the gravekeeper and Bai Hao on his side, and a vast array of secret weapons that had filled him with confidence.
Except… all of that had been as realistic as the reflection of the moon on a shimmering lake….
He was losing consciousness, yet strangely, Du Lingfei’s aura also gave him a strange sense of clarity.
“What if all of this… is part of the gravekeeper’s plan…?” he murmured.
Seemingly in concert with Bai Xiaochun’s speculation, the gravekeeper, who sat cross-legged in the pagoda in the ruins of the third level of the subterranean Arch-Emperor City, opened his turbid eyes.
“Bai Xiaochun,” he murmured bitterly, “I hope… that you won’t hate me. This is my mission… and the mission of the Hell-Emperor.” His gaze penetrated the void, passing to the ends of the Wildlands, to a huge river that no one could see. There in the inky, endlessly flowing darkness was the antithesis of all of the life force of the Heavenspan Sea. This river… represented death.
Its waters were filled with infinite vengeful souls, all of them howling and screaming as they were carried along by the river water into the cycle of reincarnation….
Its name: the Underworld River.
At the furthest end of the Underworld River… was a pitch-black palace, rife with an aura of death. It was cold beyond belief, without even the slightest hint of a flame anywhere.
It was the… the Underworld Palace!
Sitting inside of the palace, clad in imperial robes, was the reigning Hell-Emperor, Bai Hao. Radiating off of him was an intense aura of death.
He normally wore a stern expression, but now, his face was a mask of anxiety. His mood affected the Underworld Palace and the Underworld River, causing waves to spread out across its surface.
He had personally witnessed the Celestial’s enormous hand defeat the gravekeeper, as well as his own attempt to interfere.
He had watched helplessly as the sinister Celestial took Bai Xiaochun away, and although he couldn’t be sure of all the details, he was convinced that his Master was in critical danger!
And he knew that the only person in the world who could save his Master… was himself!
He well knew how weak the gravekeeper was, and that he could pass away into death at any moment. Sadly, Bai Hao also knew that, despite being the Hell-Emperor, he was currently not a match for the Celestial….
“Master….” he murmured bitterly. Many memories floated up in his mind, memories of the time he had spent with his Master in the Wildlands.
Bai Xiaochun was his only family, and there was no one who Bai Hao felt more gratitude to than him. He had even sworn an oath to protect him with his own life….
His days spent with his Master… were the happiest he had ever experienced.
The memories faded away… leaving behind a single image, an image that would always be a part of his soul.
It was an image of Bai Xiaochun standing there with his back to him, calmly accepting him as an apprentice….
“Master….” Bai Hao murmured, smiling. It was a smile filled with staunch determination!
He knew that if he wanted to go to Heavenspan Island and take his Master away from the Celestial… then there was only one way to do it!
And that was… to concoct something that could break through the limitations of the world itself…. Twenty-two-colored flame!
It hadn’t mattered to Bai Hao that Bai Xiaochun was already a deva. He had continued his auguries and research into twenty-two-colored flame. Eventually, he had come to the realization that in this world, the limit for flame conjuring was twenty-one-colored flame.
With the exception of some special circumstances, it would be impossible to succeed with twenty-two-colored flame. According to the limitations of the world, everything from twenty-one-colored flame and below was considered mortal fire. However, everything from twenty-two-colored flame onward was immortal fire!
There could be nothing more powerful in this world than a twenty-two-colored flame, if it appeared. In fact, it could burn anything that existed.
Fire like that could be used to fight the Celestial, and could enable Bai Hao to rescue Bai Xiaochun!
Unfortunately… there were no souls within this world that could be used to concoct a twenty-two-colored flame. Even using all of the souls within the Underworld River would yield nothing more than the limit of twenty-one.
“There’s only one way….” he thought, shivering with fear. After a moment, though, the determination in his eyes grew stronger!
It was a method Bai Hao had come to understand due to two reasons. The first was that Miao Lin’er’s clan had attempted to use him to conjure a flame. The second was that he was now the Hell-Emperor. That method was to use his own soul… to conjure that most consummate of flames… a twenty-two-colored flame!
That was the only way!
And since Bai Hao was the Hell-Emperor, and had complete control of the Underworld River, that meant that he controlled all of the souls that were part of the cycle of reincarnation!
“Master… I can save you….”
As he smiled, tears streamed down his cheeks, but his decision had been made.
The price to pay was enormous, but he could accept it… without any regrets!
Soon, Bai Hao… would cease to exist. And yet… he had no complaints!
Bai Xiaochun was his Master. In the moment that he had kowtowed to become an apprentice, he had decided… that he would do anything to pay back that kindness!
His tears were not corporeal. As they fell from his face, they became a part of the Underworld River. Sighing, he rose to his feet, then threw his hands wide.
“Souls, come to me!” The endless torrent of vengeful souls outside of the Underworld Palace surged and began to head in his direction, forming a massive vortex.
Bai Hao performed an incantation gesture with his left hand, then touched his forehead, which caused his entire body to burst into flames!
It was a one-colored flame….
His hands began to blur with incantation gestures as the surrounding sea of souls spun and spun. One soul after another entered Bai Hao, causing the flames that surrounded him to flicker in astonishing fashion.
Two-colored flame. Three-colored flame. Four-colored flame….
In only a few breaths worth of time, the sea of fire surrounding Bai Hao reached epic proportions. It was soon featured sixteen colors!
And things kept going!
If there was anyone in the entire world who could surpass Bai Xiaochun when it came to conjuring flames… then that person was his apprentice, the Hell-Emperor Bai Hao!
Rumbling sounds continued to echo out as the flames burned around Bai Hao. Countless souls dove madly into him as a seventeenth color appeared, then an eighteenth and a nineteenth….
Things weren’t over yet!
The determination in Bai Hao’s eyes couldn’t have been more intense. Waving both arms out in front of him, he caused the entire Underworld River to shudder from beginning to end.
At that point, Bai Hao looked out into the void and unleashed an incredible howl.
At that point… his soul began to burn. With that power, along with the souls from the Underworld River, and with the river itself as the base, Bai Hao's eyes slowly lit up with twenty-one colors…. And then, another color appeared!
It was… a twenty-two-colored flame!
Nothing happened out in the Wildlands when the twenty-two-colored flame appeared. Everything seemed normal. The cultivators continued to fight, and yet, their hearts suddenly quivered. It was as if their souls were trembling due to the imminent arrival of some powerful, invisible force!
Nascent Soul cultivators. Devas. Even the demigods…. All of them were so shaken that they gasped!
It wasn’t just in the Wildlands that such things happened. All living beings in the lands of Heavenspan, from cultivators to animals, even the vegetation and the mortals, all reacted similarly. Then, high in the sky appeared… the world net!!
At that point, all beings in the world heard a voice. Although it was only a murmur, the pressure weighing down on them was impossible to even describe!
“Master… I’m coming to save you!”
Er Gen released this picture of Bai Xiaochun and Bai Hao around when this chapter originally came out, so I thought it was good to save this one for here. It depicts the moment recalled in this very chapter. I'll add this to the AWE art page after this chapter gets released publicly.