It was late in the night, and the dim moon cast a pale, fragmented light over the lands. Coupled with the patchy clouds, it made everything murky and difficult to see. The occasional cries of various beasts could be heard, along with the wails of lonely souls that drifted to and fro.
This was not Bai Xiaochun's first time outside the Great Wall, but the last time, he had been in the middle of a battle, whereas this time, he was out alone, and that was terrifying. After all, despite being in the great circle of Core Formation, he was still a bit leery of ghosts and souls.
He wasn't afraid of them as much as he had been in the past, mostly because of his years serving at the Great Wall, and his deeper understanding of the Wildlands.
Although he hadn't seen everything there was to see in the world, he had seen enough that he didn't fear the specters of the dead like he had in the past.
As he sped along through the night, it was impossible not to notice the skeletons of savage giants sticking up from the soil. Sighing, he thought, "The whole reason I got into immortal cultivation to begin with was because I want to live forever. Who would ever have thought that my path would bring me to a place like this?"
Shaking his head, he proceeded along, contemplating how fate liked to drag people down all sorts of different paths, paths they might never have intended to walk.
Another moment passed, and he cleared his mind of such thoughts and focused on being careful. He even slowed down a bit. By this point, he was about three or four kilometers away from the Great Wall, and more and more souls were becoming visible. Although the amount of souls was nothing compared to the soul tide that would fill the area during battles, there were still enough of them that Bai Xiaochun had to be extra careful.
Most of the lone souls weren't humanoid in shape, but were spheres of mist that pulsed with icy coldness. Occasionally, they would converge together into the form of beasts or vicious spirits that would then pounce on the carrion-eating animals in the area.
Some of the souls would burrow into the corpses lying on the ground, as if attempting to possess them. However, most of the corpses in the area were too old and stiff, making such efforts fruitless.
As Bai Xiaochun moved forward, he was careful to give any souls he saw a wide berth. It wasn't that he couldn't handle them in a fight, but rather, that there was no need to do so. There were too few of them, and they were too low quality for him to even care about. Besides, if a fight broke out, it could attract attention, and perhaps cause other problems. If there had been enough souls that it would be worth it to attack and collect them, he might have thought about it. But right now, it wouldn't be worth it.
Eventually, when he was only about half a kilometer away from the little valley that was his destination, his eyes began to shine as he looked up ahead of him.
"That's quite a large number of souls." From what he could see, there were over a thousand random souls flying about, occasionally letting out shrill cries. Normally speaking, there wouldn't be so many souls in this area. However, because of Bai Xiaochun's Soul Convergence Pills, many of the souls in the attacking forces had fled and scattered, to gather in places like this.
"More than a thousand souls would be a good bit of battle credit." Starting to get a bit excited, he inched forward, then pulled out a Soul Convergence Pill, quickly disabled the explosion effect, and threw it forward with all his might. The pill became a bright beam of light that landed right in the middle of the flock of souls, where it shattered, unleashing a gravitational force that quickly sucked in all of the more than 1,000 souls.
Then Bai Xiaochun rushed over, grabbed the soul sphere and giddily tossed it into his bag of holding. After looking around to confirm that he hadn't attracted any unwanted attention, he proceeded toward the valley.
The moment he entered the valley, he realized that there were a few hundred souls inside, and his delight grew.
"Who would have thought that I would make a bit of extra profit on this little venture?" As of this moment, he was pleased with how lucky he had gotten, and how smoothly things were going.
After glancing around the valley one more time, he pulled out another Soul Convergence Pill, and was just preparing to throw it out when all of a sudden, his heart trembled. Eyes sparkling with vigilance, he turned to look over his shoulder.
Behind him, a cloud of red mist was billowing out of the ground. However, it didn't seem to see Bai Xiaochun, and flew right past him into the valley.
That red mist was a soul that, upon entering the valley, took the form of a vicious bird head, which then began to attack and consume the other souls in the valley.
"It's at the Nascent Soul level!" Bai Xiaochun exclaimed to himself. As the soul in question attacked and consumed the other souls, its red color grew brighter, causing Bai Xiaochun to lick his lips.
Souls of that level weren't as valuable as deva beast souls, but were still worth quite a bit of battle credit. However, Bai Xiaochun was still a bit hesitant.
"Logically speaking, that soul should have attacked me first. Why didn't it? Maybe... it can't see me?" Something about the situation seemed very strange, so he carefully took a few steps forward into the valley. However, not a single soul in the valley even looked his way.
In fact, some of them even flew right past him as they attempted to flee the Nascent Soul-level soul.
"They really can't see me?" he thought. Both surprised and emboldened, he hurried further into the valley and looked around at the souls flying everywhere, his eyes shining more brightly by the moment. Finally, he reached out with his hand, grabbed one of the passing souls and threw it into his bag of holding.
Not even the crimson Nascent Soul-level soul seemed to be paying attention to him, and was simply going around attacking other souls.
Before long, there were almost no souls left other than the crimson one, and by that point, Bai Xiaochun was fully convinced that the souls couldn't see him. Heart pounding, he reached up and felt his face to confirm that he was wearing his mask.
"Last time I was on the battlefield, the souls could definitely see me. But this time they can't. It must be... because of this mask!" Then, oh so carefully, he reached up and took the mask off.
The instant it left his face, the crimson soul suddenly shivered and turned to stare straight at him. Then it opened its mouth, apparently preparing to scream and pounce on him.
However, before it could make a noise, Bai Xiaochun quickly put the mask back on. The crimson soul seemed surprised, but quickly closed its mouth and then began searching around the valley, apparently looking for traces of whoever it was it had just seen.
Seeing all this happen caused Bai Xiaochun's excitement to grow.
"What a goldmine!! I can't believe the mask can do this too! It's a good thing I didn't get rid of it back then." With that, he walked up to the confused crimson soul, and before it even realized what was happening, reached out with lightning-like speed, grabbed it, and threw it into his bag of holding.
"Got it! This mask is like a precious treasure for collecting souls. If I use it with my Soul Convergence Pills, I should be able to get enough battle credits to become a major general in no time!" The more he thought about the prospect, the more excited he got. He quickly walked the length of the valley to make sure that his mission could be counted as having been accomplished, then looked up to see that dawn was nearing. Walking out of the valley, he decided that since he was invisible to souls, and also had about a thousand subordinates shadowing him, that he was actually in a very safe position.
Unless a huge army of savages showed up all of a sudden, he wasn't really in any danger at all.
Having reached this point in his train of thought, he made a decision.
"It would be a big pity to go back right now. Since I'm outside the wall already, I might as well take the time to collect a few souls for battle credit."