The leaves of autumn had all fallen, and the cold of winter had set in. Although the coldest days of the season had not yet come, it was still cold enough that most people didn’t want to go outside. The bite of the wind was like blades against the face.
It was still possible to see a few leaves on the ground, but they were all dry and yellow, and would collapse into fragments at the slightest touch. Only once in a while would a leaf be seen dancing in the wind. But now that winter had arrived, none of them seemed willing to stay in the town, and would fly off into the distance as quickly as possible.
It was in such weather that Madam Sun had left the warmth of the buildings in town and come to the dilapidated temple to talk with the father and son that lived there. After all, if she succeeded in her task, the compensation she would receive from Widow Zhang would be considerable.
Because of that, she wouldn’t give up easily. She tried over and over again to convince Bai Xiaochun and the Giant Ghost King to agree to the deal. She emphasized that for the two of them, it was the kind of rare chance that would only come around once in a blue moon, and that they definitely should not allow the opportunity to slip by.
She talked up the good looks of the younger widow, and repeatedly pointed out how profitable the shop was. Over and over again, she explained out how much they would be losing out if they didn’t agree.
The Giant Ghost King wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Despite being a demigod cultivator, there was no reason for him to be cruel in his refusal. All he could do was tell Madam Sun that they would think about the proposal, and then ask her to be on her way.
After she left, he turned back to Bai Xiaochun and sighed.
“See? I’m just too dashing. This is how it was back in Giant Ghost City. It was so bad I preferred to stay indoors. Whenever I went out, the women would all go crazy! Young and old alike!” Although his words were spoken as if in frustration, it was impossible for him to hide how pleased he was with himself.
“Who would have thought that in a little town like this where nobody even knows I'm a cultivator, the same thing would happen again? I guess it’s really my fault.” He sighed.
Bai Xiaochun wasn’t exactly pleased to see the Giant Ghost King moaning and groaning about how amazing he was. It was worse that Widow Zhang had obviously been using Bai Xiaochun as a bargaining chip to try to gain the Giant Ghost King’s approval. Otherwise, why else would she have offered her daughter to Bai Xiaochun in marriage after she had only been widowed for a month?
“I can’t believe that I, Bai Xiaochun, am not even as attractive to these mortals as this old fogey.” Not willing to accept the truth of it, he looked at the preening Giant Ghost King out of the corner of his eye and snorted coldly.
“Congratulations, father-in-law! Who would have thought that you would put down roots in this little town? I'm sure you’ll really prosper here! You absolutely, positively must not refuse the offer. Oh, you’ll also need alcohol for the wedding. So why don’t you go get another jug?”
By force of habit, the Giant Ghost King glared at Bai Xiaochun, and prepared to start arguing. But then he rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
“Now that I think about, I remember seeing this Widow Zhang before. I'm pretty sure I passed her on the street on the way to get alcohol. If I remember… she blushed when she saw me. She’s actually pretty good-looking. Nice figure, attractive rear end… a real hottie!” The Giant Ghost King’s eyes began to shine brightly, especially upon describing what Widow Zhang looked like.
“Wait, hold on a second. I should head over to that shop to double check. After all, she’s making an offer in good faith, and I've always been a straightforward and candid person. I can’t take advantage of her good faith.”
The Giant Ghost King had been somewhat of a pervert even back in the Wildlands, especially when it came to attractive women of his own age. That much was obvious from how he had secretly asked Bai Xiaochun to bring him that one particular woman from the clan outside of Giant Ghost City.
Here he was, down and out in the Eternal Lands, and yet his personality hadn’t changed. Now that his passions were aroused, he didn't care what kind of sarcastic things Bai Xiaochun said. Full of zest, he hurried out of the temple.
“Xiaochun!” he called over his shoulder. “You’ll have to drink alone today. I’ll be back later.”
Bai Xiaochun was a bit stunned. Although he knew of the Giant Ghost King’s lecherous nature, he would never have been able to guess that the man would even be attracted to mortal women. How could a demigod expert be like that…?
Bai Xiaochun smiled wryly at how eagerly the Giant Ghost King rushed out of the temple, and was about to yell something after him when, all of a sudden his eyes flickered, and then began to shine with a light much more intense than anything which had appeared in them in recent days.
He wasn’t the only one to react in such a way. The Giant Ghost King suddenly stopped in his tracks and looked up. Instead of the fiery light of passion which had just been burning in his eyes, his expression was now as cold as Bai Xiaochun’s.
The biting winter wind wasn’t even close to being as cold as their gazes, and in fact, it didn’t dare to remain, and died down.
Moments later, a whistling sound filled the air, along with three distant beams of bright light. As they got closer to the town, it was possible to see that within them were… three deva cultivators, natives of the Eternal Lands!
Two of them simply continued to fly overhead, but the third, a middle-aged man with an intimidating expression on his face, came to a stop in midair above the town. As he did, he unleashed a deva aura that caused rumbling to fill the air like heavenly thunder.
All of the mortals in the town began to tremble in fear, and no matter where they were or what they were doing, dropped to kowtow to the figure up above.
In the Eternal Lands, mortals didn't view the immortals as figures of legend and myth. Although they didn’t necessarily see them every day, they were by no means rare. In fact, even this small town had an official residence set aside for them. As the deva fluctuations filled the town, four figures emerged from a rather large pagoda. They quickly flew up into the air toward the deva, and then kowtowed in greeting.
One of them was the old man who had taken his apprentice to the temple some time ago, the Core Formation cultivator. Another of the four was that very apprentice, the boy who was in the Qi Condensation level. The other two were young men, both of whom had Foundation Establishment cultivation bases. The entire group was visibly sweating as they greeted the deva.
“Greetings, Immortal!” the old man said respectfully.
The deva looked at the man with a piercing gaze, then clasped his hands behind his back and spoke in a voice that echoed out like thunder in all directions.
“I bear orders from the demigod preceptor of Crosspeak Prefecture, Master Dust-Origin. All inhabits of Crosspeak Prefecture are hereby commanded to participate in the manhunt for people from the Heavenspan Realm!
“Every single one of them must be tracked down and delivered to the local prefecture, even the corpses!
“Anyone who harbors or assists refugees from the Heavenspan Realm will be severely punished, and possibly have their clan exterminated! If anyone is found guilty of negligence by allowing Heavenspan cultivators to reside in the area, they will have their cultivation base crippled! There will be no leniency in this regard! And anyone willfully violating any of these orders will bring greater disaster onto themselves than they can possibly imagine!
“Of special importance are any Heavenspan cultivators in the Foundation Establishment level or higher. Hold nothing back to capture them! Anyone who does will be handsomely rewarded by the Vile-Emperor!”
His words were spoken in callous and grim fashion, and left everyone in the town trembling, especially the Core Formation cultivator. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he said, “We will follow the orders of the preceptor down to the smallest aspect! If any Heavenspan denizens appear in our area, we will put our lives on the line to do just as the Vile-Emperor and the preceptor command!”
The deva nodded slowly, then scanned the area with divine sense. Finding nothing unusual, he turned and sped off into the distance to the next location on his list of places to make the announcement. Generally speaking, a voice transmission would have been sufficient, but in order to emphasize the importance of the matter, this deva and his compatriots were personally taking the announcement to everyone in Crosspeak Prefecture, and simultaneously inspecting the area.
After the deva left, the town did not simply go back to business as usual. No one would dare to take the words of a deva lightly, and thus the old man in the Core Formation stage immediately passed down orders, instructing the gang in town to perform a thorough search.
Back in the temple, Bai Xiaochun’s eyes shone with cold light, as did the Giant Ghost King’s.
“I could smell the blood of Heavenspan cultivators on him,” Bai Xiaochun said. The Giant Ghost King snorted and flew up into the air.