“This is very inappropriate, Fellow Daoist Aged Spirit!” Bai Xiaochun said, his voice echoing back and forth in the enormous main hall. “We must act on evidence! Marquis Zi Lin has been slandered, and we need proof of who did it! I find it hard to believe that the mighty Celestial Ghostmother of the Vile-Emperor Dynasty would slander a trifling demigod!
“Unless… our Marquis Zi Lin managed to offend Celestial Ghostmother. But if he did, then it wouldn’t matter if he felt it was safe in Godsifter Prefecture. Ghostmother could easily slip in without anyone realizing it and just kill him!”
Bai Xiaochun left the demigods in the hall deeply shaken, including Marquis Zi Lin. As for Celestial Aged Spirit, he simply narrowed his eyes and allowed Bai Xiaochun to speak. He knew that Bai Xiaochun had been appointed to serve in the second immortal domain by the Saint-Emperor himself, and possessed the same official authority as himself.
At the moment, he didn’t regret demoting the Giant Ghost King to provoke Bai Xiaochun. In his opinion, the second immortal domain should only have one voice of authority, and in fact, the Saint-Emperor himself had hinted that he also felt the same. Regardless, Celestial Aged Spirit knew that he had to strike a blow to Bai Xiaochun’s credibility and reputation.
It didn’t matter that Bai Xiaochun had been keeping a low profile, and spending all his time practicing cultivation. To Celestial Aged Spirit, that wasn't enough. He wanted to actually make a move, and therefore, he stripped the Giant Ghost King of his title of preceptor. When Bai Xiaochun was then powerless to do anything about it, it would ensure that everyone in the second immortal domain knew that Celestial Aged Spirit was the only true authority.
However, he had to admit that in some ways, he had underestimated this King Heavenspan. That was something that he had begun to realize as soon as the rumors about Marquis Zi Lin reached his ears.
“Don’t you see how suspicious this all is!?” Bai Xiaochun said, forcefully slapping his hand down onto the arm of his throne. The demigods in the hall all struggled to breathe. Although Bai Xiaochun’s words weren’t particularly incisive, considering his status and the level of his cultivation base, they were still like deadly weapons that pierced all the way to the souls of the demigods.
“The ten of you oversee the capital city. Are you telling me you really can’t see how odd this all is? Just think for a moment!
“It’s a good thing I’m here. I can only imagine how things would be with only the ten of you around. Is this really how you usually handle affairs? Fine, let me ask the ten of you a question…. You say that Marquis Zi Lin hasn’t betrayed our country, but… would you stake your life on it?!” He virtually yelled his final sentence, causing something like a tempest to whip through the main hall. The ten demigods’ faces went pale in response, and they shivered and subconsciously stepped back a bit.
None of the demigods dared to act as a guarantor for Marquis Zi Lin. However, Marquis Zi Lin was under enough pressure as it was, so therefore, he braced himself, clasped hands, and said, “Celestial Bai, I'm innocent! Someone is slandering me!”
Inwardly, though, he was cursing. He might have had his doubts before, but as of this moment, he was convinced that Bai Xiaochun was the one responsible for the slander. He didn’t dare to say it, of course. Nor did anyone else in the hall, although they all had come to the same conclusion…. Everyone was thinking the same thing, but saying it aloud was a different story.
A demigod could not openly criticize a celestial, no matter the circumstances. And therefore… this interchange was doomed to be one-sided.
“I'm not qualified to pronounce your innocence," Bai Xiaochun continued. "We need proof. Perhaps in other situations we could let the matter slide, but this is different…. This is a matter of treason! A matter of losing an entire prefecture! Without evidence to rely on to judge the matter, we will have to let His Majesty the Saint-Emperor make the final judgement!” He didn’t even look at Marquis Zi Lin when he spoke; he stared straight at Celestial Aged Spirit.
Marquis Zi Lin was about ready to explode, but barely managed to keep control.
“The loss of that prefecture has nothing to do with me!” he said. “When a mighty celestial like Ghostmother makes a move, a demigod like me can’t do a thing about it!!”
Bai Xiaochun’s eyes widened into a glare. “Shut up! It would have been better to keep your mouth shut. But now that you mention it, I'm curious why Celestial Ghostmother didn’t actually kill you! And not only did she not kill you, she just let you go!? You say you didn’t betray our nation. Fine. Where’s the evidence?!”
Marquis Zi Lin was truly about to go mad. He was trembling where he stood, blue veins bulging out on his face. He could sense the killing intent in Bai Xiaochun, and also realized that the other demigods seemed to be edging away from him. He opened his mouth to say something, but that was when Celestial Aged Spirit finally intervened.
“Enough!” Frowning, Celestial Aged Spirit looked at Bai Xiaochun with narrowed eyes. “I’ll be Marquis Zi Lin’s guarantor,” he said coldly. “Satisfied, King Heavenspan?”
Marquis Zi Lin couldn’t have been more excited, and immediately decided that he would devote his life to serving Celestial Aged Spirit!
“No, it’s not okay!” Bai Xiaochun replied. Although he hadn’t anticipated that Celestial Aged Spirit would do this, he was quick to make adjustments to his plan. Thanks to all of his experiences in recent years, he was quickly able to change the speech he had planned earlier.
Rising to his feet, he began to speak in a thunderous voice that seemed laced with pain and bitterness.
“I'm not satisfied with your attitude, Celestial Aged Spirit!
“I’m not satisfied that the Saint-Emperor Dynasty has apparently become a place where evidence doesn’t count for anything, and a simple guarantee can resolve all issues!
“I'm not satisfied that your trust is worth more than the safety of the countless citizens of the Saint-Emperor Dynasty!!”
His words were spoken with courage and conviction. For most of the demigods present, it was as if a completely different Bai Xiaochun had come, and they were visibly shocked.
Celestial Aged Spirit’s eyes were as cold as ice as he stared at Bai Xiaochun. He opened his mouth to respond, but there was no way Bai Xiaochun would give him that opportunity. Flicking his sleeve, he continued with his speech.
“Now that this matter has come to light, it doesn’t matter whether or not you guarantee that Marquis Zi Lin is innocent. The door has been opened for many criticisms to be laid forth. For one thing, isn't it very suspicious that Ghostmother would say what she did, and that such a commotion would result?!
“You’re the guarantor, Celestial Aged Spirit? Very well. In that case, I won’t soulsearch Marquis Zi Lin. But until all of the investigations have been carried out, we need to prevent anything unexpected from happening. Therefore, to live up to the responsibilities assigned to me by the Saint-Emperor, and also to protect the safety of the innumerable citizens of the Saint-Emperor Dynasty, I hereby order that Marquis Zi Lin be imprisoned immediately! Only after the investigations are complete and the truth comes to light can he be released!”
At this point, the gathered demigods realized what was happening.
“So, it's because Marquis Zi Lin took Giant Ghost’s position as preceptor of Godsifter Prefecture…. This is Bai Xiaochun’s counter-strike!” The ten demigods all bowed their heads and averted their gazes, hoping to avoid being drawn into a conflict between two celestials. Although they were all loyal to Celestial Aged Spirit, they also needed to avoid offending Bai Xiaochun.
Earlier, when Bai Xiaochun was keeping a low profile, they might have had the guts to say something offensive. But now, they realized that he was truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing. His methods were a bit crude and cruel, but they were effective. Furthermore, he apparently had the ability to convince Celestial Ghostmother to help him.
His counter-strike was a bit too obvious, and very lacking in finesse. It was almost as if he had just picked up a glob of dog excrement and smeared it across the face of his opponent.
A person who would resort to such cruel methods was frightening to even think about, and was the type that no one would intentionally provoke.
Marquis Zi Lin also realized what was happening, and as a result, his eyes were bloodshot with panic.
He knew that if he was imprisoned as Bai Xiaochun had ordered, than there was no way he would be able to clear his name easily. In fact, who knew what other things could happen on the outside that would make things worse for him? His intuition was telling him that if he was imprisoned, there was probably an eighty percent chance he would never again see the light of day.
“Exalted Celestial,” he said shakily, “I’m being unjustly accused! Really!” Perhaps if Bai Xiaochun had handled things with finesse, he wouldn’t be as terrified as he was. But seeing how effective his bald-faced smear tactics were made him fear that Bai Xiaochun would go to any lengths to achieve his goals.
As his terror mounted, he looked over at Celestial Aged Spirit. After all, it was Celestial Aged Spirit who had sent him to Godsifter Prefecture to begin with. He had initially been leery of going there, but Celestial Aged Spirit had given the orders, and he had had no choice but to abide by them.