Celestial Virūpākṣa recovered quickly. A moment later, he rose to his feet, his eyes blazing as he looked around at the crowd.
Prince Ur-Demon and Reverend Devourer did the same. Their eyes were filled with boundless madness and hatred, to the point where it seemed likely that, if they found out who was responsible for their plight, they would unleash insane rage.
The two months of torment they had experienced had frequently left them wishing they could die. At the same time, they had come to the conclusion that there was only one explanation for what had occurred: someone had been targeting them specifically.
They weren’t sure how the deed had been done, but they were sure someone was behind it.
The shocked onlookers could see that something strange was going on, and began to consider what it might be. At the same time, Bai Xiaochun was feeling a bit guilty, and was marveling at how powerful these three must be to have endured what they had.
“I can't let them find out it was me. Otherwise they’ll definitely go crazy.” Having reached this point in his train of thought, he looked around quickly, and began to imitate the expressions on some of the other cultivators’ faces.
“It was definitely you, Bai Xiaochun!”
Bai Xiaochun whipped his head around to find Celestial Virūpākṣa glaring at him with bright red eyes.
His heart leaped with fear, but he simply frowned.
“What exactly do you mean?!” he said, slowly rising to his feet, and trying to look confused. Celestial Virūpākṣa took a step forward, but Prince Ur-Demon quickly reached out to block his path.
Prince Ur-Demon looked closely at Bai Xiaochun for a moment, then looked around at the crowd.
“Ladies and gentlemen, presumably all of you experienced some strange situations in this trial by fire. For example, in the trial that only had nine stairs, there was a moment when one hundred stairs appeared. And in another, one puppet became ten, or even a hundred!
“I’ll be honest with you all. We three celestials joined forces to get past the eighteenth and nineteenth levels. But in the twentieth level, we faced an unending horde of minotaur monsters. That might have been something we could accept, but then we found that we couldn’t perform teleportations. Fine, maybe we could accept that too. But after four hours passed, we were unable to leave. We were stuck in there all this time, up until a few moments ago!
“Clearly, something very abnormal is going on, something that should never have happened!
“Of course, anomalies are always possible, but there shouldn’t have been more than one such strange occurrence!” Everyone was shaken by what they were hearing, especially Gu Tianjun and Sima Yunhua.
It was definitely true that a lot of strange things had occurred within the past few months. Although everyone had suspected something strange was going on, no one had any proof, nor any way to provide an explanation.
Now that Prince Ur-Demon was speaking things aloud, people began to occasionally glance over at Bai Xiaochun, who simply blinked and tried to maintain a serious, suspicious expression on his face.
As for Prince Ur-Demon, he was virtually staring at Bai Xiaochun the entire time, his eyes flickering with hatred.
“I suspect that someone in our midst somehow became the owner of the damaged fan. In fact, that person has likely already secretly passed the twentieth level!
“That is the only explanation, the only way that someone could target all of us, and keep us three celestials trapped in the twentieth level!”
As everyone looked on in stunned silence, Gu Tianjun shivered and suddenly said, “The person most likely to be responsible is Bai Xiaochun!”
“I can’t be certain if Fellow Daoist Bai is the one responsible,” Sima Yunhua added coldly. “However, it wasn’t very long ago that Fellow Daoist Gu and I joined him in attempting to pass the eighteenth level. Once inside, the sand giants completely ignored him!” At this point, many in the crowd began fanning out, as if to surround Bai Xiaochun.
Bai Xiaochun was very nervous, and knew that if he wasn’t very careful, he could make a deadly mistake. Taking a deep breath, he tried to look furious as he shouted, “This is all because I'm from the Heavenspan Realm, isn’t it? It's because I’m the only celestial from the lands of Heavenspan!
“You two laid a deadly trap for me in the eighteenth level! And did you forget how the sand giants also ignored you, Sima Yunhua? It wasn’t just me!
“As for you, Celestial Virūpākṣa, you were the one targeting me, from the very beginning! That makes me the perfect person to frame!
“You think I passed the twentieth level already!? Well everyone can see the standings, and look, I never got past the seventeenth level!” Bai Xiaochun was just beginning to add some more when Reverend Devourer narrowed his eyes and cut in.
“We’ll all know very soon whether or not it was you,” he said. “The time limit is almost up, and soon everyone will find out who the new owner of the fan is! Then everything will be made clear!”
Everyone else in the crowd seemed to agree with Reverend Devourer.
Bai Xiaochun was feeling very nervous, but couldn’t think of anything to do. Not only was he surrounded here, but people would surely continue to be angry with him once they were back in the Saint Emperor Dynasty.
He actually didn’t want to have anything to do with the damaged fan now, but now that everyone had their divine sense back, his hands were tied.
As Bai Xiaochun stood there nervously, Virūpākṣa’s eyes glittered with killing intent, and Sima Yunhua chuckled coldly. A moment later, the fan began to vibrate, and a force of expulsion appeared, pushing the group out of the main square of the damaged fan.
As they were propelled in the direction of the Eternal Immortal Domains, the Saint-Emperor and the Vile-Emperor appeared. Although they were there to escort their people home, they also took advantage of the moment to try to get to the fan, which now seemed unprotected.
However, it was in that very moment that the fan tipped to the side and then flew off of the hand of the enormous sovereign. Instead of heading toward any given person, it began to sail off into the darkness of the void.
Bai Xiaochun breathed a sigh of relief, but at the same time was a bit shocked. Based on everything that had happened, he had assumed the fan would come to him.
Of course, he didn’t let his surprise show.
After all, the Vile-Emperor and Saint-Emperor were speeding off into the distance, using unknown techniques to try to reach the fan and enter it.
Bai Xiaochun was nervous, but because of the presence of the two emperors, and also how everyone was suspicious of him, he didn't dare to try to reach out and connect with the fan. Feeling very frustrated, he glanced at Celestial Virūpākṣa, Prince Ur-Demon, and Reverend Devourer, and then settled his gaze onto Gu Tianjun and Sima Yunhua.
“Do you people see that?!?!” he said, almost shouting. “First of all, I didn’t perform any incantation gestures. Second of all, I didn’t use any divine sense. Third of all, I didn’t even move a muscle. That fan… didn't even move in my direction!
“The person who tampered with the trial by fire was obviously not me! And I clearly didn’t get past the twentieth level, much less become the new owner of the fan!
“I met with the same misfortune as all of you. Obviously, I’m not the one to blame!
“Someone used you, Celestial Virūpākṣa!!
“And you misjudged the situation, Prince Ur-Demon!
“What about you, Reverend Devourer? Why haven’t you said anything yet? And then there’s you, Sima Yunhua. Things aren’t settled between the two of us!”
His words were met with silence. None of the celestials could offer a single retort.
Everyone looked in the direction of the disappearing fan. Although Bai Xiaochun hadn’t directly mentioned either the Saint-Emperor or the Vile-Emperor, based on what he had said, and what was happening now… people had come to their own conclusions about the matter.
Unfortunately, there was no way to confirm the theory. Celestial Virūpākṣa said nothing. He simply turned and left. Mixed emotions could be seen in Prince Ur-Demon’s eyes, and Reverend Devourer’s face was extremely grim as the two of them left.
Sima Yunhua and Gu Tianjun exchanged a glance, then sighed inwardly. Shaking their heads, they left. Before long, everyone was taking advantage of the magical light left behind by the two emperors to return home to the dynastic capital cities in the Eternal Immortal Domains.
After returning to Saint-Emperor City, Bai Xiaochun finally breathed a true sigh of relief. The crisis had passed. However, the matter of who controlled the fan had him feeling very anxious.
“How come it didn’t come to me? Is it because I didn’t call out to it?”