It was a dark night, and the winter wind only continued to grow stronger.
The wind sobbed, growing colder as it scraped over the lands, the towns, and the millions upon millions of residents in the land. As the wind rose into the sky, it met the black clouds above… and thunder rumbled.
Based on the thunder, anyone could tell… that rain would fall soon, or perhaps snow.
And so it did. It was either rain mixed with snow, or snow mixed with rain. In this, the beginnings of winter, it was difficult to tell….
The dilapidated temple could do nothing to keep out rain or snow, and before long, it began to drip down onto Bai Xiaochun and the Giant Ghost King.
The precipitation caused the withered leaves to rustle, as if they wished the falling snow would simply become rainwater, having forgotten that oftentimes freezing rain is colder than snow.
Bai Xiaochun reacted to the Giant Ghost King’s words in similar fashion. Although he didn’t shiver, it was hard to say whether his heart became as cold as falling snow, or as cold as freezing rain.
“You’re right,” he murmured. “We can’t let things go on like this. The time has come to attack. Kill as many as we can….” Out of reflex, he reached out, grabbed the nearby jug of alcohol, and prepared to take a drink. However, the Giant Ghost King stepped forward, eyes blazing with anger as he slapped the jug out of Bai Xiaochun’s hand.
It spun off to the side, where it shattered, the alcohol quickly mingling with the rain and snow.
“Drinking?!” the Giant Ghost King said, nearly shouting. “Is that all you know how to do?!
“I know you’ve been through a lot, but so what? Did nobody else lose people? Who lost the most? You? Me? What about everyone else? Everybody from the Heavenspan Realm lost friends and loved ones!
“If these Eternal Lands were completely filled with malice and evil, then you could drink yourself to death and I wouldn’t care. But that’s not the case!
“Did you ever think about Zimo? Did you ever think about the elder generation from your River-Defying Sect? What about all your friends? What about everybody who looks up to you?!” Although the Giant Ghost King was yelling at Bai Xiaochun, to some extent, he was also speaking to himself. He too had become somewhat lost.
“Attack them?! What, you and me? How many do you think we can kill? Don’t you remember what you used to be like back in Arch-Emperor City in the Wildlands? Where did that Bai Xiaochun go? Remember your clever plots? Remember the Proclamation of Universal Grace? Remember how you made a Foundation Establishment-level soul into a deva soul? You got the Grand Heavenmaster to back you, and then you forced all of the nobility and aristocracy to cower in front of you!
“Slaughter should always be the last part of the plan. That’s what you do when you go crazy and have nothing else to lose. You don’t go around attacking people as your opening move!” The Giant Ghost King looked truly disappointed. He had long since come to the realization that, at this point, Bai Xiaochun was not the same old Bai Xiaochun who feared death. It was like he had gone crazy, shifting from one extreme to the other!
Furthermore, the Giant Ghost King knew that someone who was only interested in slaughtering enemies would never be able to rise to prominence in these Eternal Lands.
“What we need to do now is look for people from the Heavenspan Realm!” he said, flicking his sleeve. Then he continued to speak, driving each word home like a hammer slamming into a nail. “No attacking. No drinking. No more wallowing in despair!”
Bai Xiaochun sat there quietly. He was now trembling visibly, and his eyes were bloodshot. The Giant Ghost King’s words had struck him deeply, stabbing into his heart like a sharp knife. A moment passed. Then he looked up.
“I'm not wallowing in despair!” he said, his voice hoarse. “And I already went looking for them!”
Waving his hand, he caused a small pile of medallions to pour out of his bag of holding and pile up next to him.
They were identity medallions from Heavenspan cultivators. Clearly, these were not from rogue cultivators, but rather, cultivators from powerful organizations in the Wildlands and the four Heavenspan Rivers. They were objects that cultivators would normally use to transmit messages or prove their identity.
“You know what I found? Corpses! All I could do was bury them and take their identity medallions!” Bai Xiaochun's eyes bulged as he spoke, as though all of the anger and resentment he had been building up inside of him were finally being released.
“I want to keep looking too,” he continued hoarsely, “but what if all we find is more corpses? I know…. I know I shouldn't give up. But the Eternal Lands are huge! Just one prefecture is as big as the entire Heavenspan Realm! The third immortal domain alone has well over a dozen Heavenspan Realms inside of it! How am I supposed to search through all of that?!”
The Giant Ghost King looked at the pile of command medallions for a long moment. Then he shifted his gaze back to Bai Xiaochun and said, “If we can’t find them, maybe we can get them to find us!”
The Giant Ghost King’s eyes began to shine even more brightly. “That would also give them hope. And if they have hope, they can endure. That’s what we need to do!”
“Hope….” Bai Xiaochun murmured. As he looked at the Giant Ghost King, his eyes finally began to come to life.
“That’s right. Hope!” Eyes glittering, the Giant Ghost King began to pace back and forth in the temple. “Xiaochun, we need… to seek asylum with the Saint-Emperor!
“The Vile-Emperor wants slaves. Working out a deal with him doesn’t seem possible. Supposedly the Saint-Emperor is a bit sanctimonious, but at least his dynasty openly proclaims themselves to be kind. That gives us a basis to try to work out a deal!
“However, if we seek asylum, we can’t go empty-handed. Just showing up and asking for help isn’t impressive at all. We need to bring the Saint-Emperor… a blood tribute!
“Yes! The head of an enemy!” The more the Giant Ghost King thought about his idea, the clearer it became.
“Xiaochun, if we want to prepare a blood tribute, then we need to accomplish something major in the Vile-Emperor Dynasty. We need to get famous! We need to do something… that will shake, not just the Vile-Emperor Dynasty, but all of the Eternal Lands!
“If we can’t find all of our people, we can at least let them know we’re here! Let them know where we are! In the darkness of night that these Eternal Lands are for the people of the Heavenspan Realm, the two of us… can be blazing torches!
“The brighter and more dazzling we are, the easier it will be for them to find us. And at the same time… we can gain stronger positions. Shake the other two imperial dynasties, and buy some breathing room for the people of Heavenspan!
“When someone is powerful, no one will dare to bully him or his people!”
Bai Xiaochun was panting, clearly deeply shaken by what the Giant Ghost King was saying. At long last, his eyes were no longer blank, but rather, filled with hope!
Hope for the Heavenspan Realm, and hope for himself!
“If we offer a blood tribute to the Saint-Emperor, he’ll have no other option than to give us official positions in the government! And then we can use the power of the Saint-Emperor Dynasty to forge a new place in the Eternal Lands for the people of Heavenspan!”
The Giant Ghost King’s booming voice resonated back and forth inside of the temple. Outside, the rain and snow continued to fall harder and harder. The tattered temple walls and ceiling did nothing to conceal the weeping of the wind. Water and snow continued to build up inside of the temple, to the point where the scattered leaves were covered.
Bai Xiaochun stared at the leaves for a long moment, then looked up. All of a sudden, his aura changed, and his eyes began to glitter brightly.
“What kind of blood tribute should we prepare?!”
When the Giant Ghost King saw the anticipation in Bai Xiaochun’s eyes, his own heart began to pound.
“How about the heads of a few of the Vile-Emperor’s demigods?”