Any cultivator within one of the glowing spheres merely had to look in the direction of the text on the stone stele, and the words would appear in their minds. Although the descriptions of the trials by fire seemed simple, anyone who took 1st place in any of the trials listed on the stele would be named the overall 1st place winner!
It didn’t matter which trial by fire it was, or when the cultivator started it. As long as they took 1st place, they would immediately be teleported to the third level of the labyrinth, which was the location of the deva soul!
However, the description wasn’t clear about whether or not others might also be able to reach that third level. Based on the way the rules were described, it seemed possible that if the 1st place winner didn’t acquire the deva soul quickly enough, then the 2nd and 3rd place winners of the trial by fire might also be teleported to the third level, and thus have a chance to acquire the deva soul.
There was also a point explaining how the further one proceeded in a trial by fire, the more brightly that person’s glowing sphere would shine. From that, Bai Xiaochun could tell that Mistress Red-Dust was further along than anyone else. Likely, she would take 1st place and get the deva soul.
Bai Xiaochun felt a bit disappointed about that. After all, he wasn’t absolutely set on winning another deva soul, but if he could do so without much trouble, he would be more than happy.
At this point, though, there didn’t seem much hope. He had arrived too late, behind over a thousand others. Sighing, he looked closer at the stele to see the information about the various trials by fire.
The first was a trial regarding battle prowess.
“No way am I gonna do that one,” he murmured with the shake of his head. “All the fighting and killing doesn't suit me at all!” The second trial by fire caused his eyes to glitter. It was a trial of medicine concocting.
“Medicine concocting, huh? I'm pretty good at that!” Enthused, he proceeded down the list.
“Divine ability trial? Equipment forging trial? God soul trial? None of those will do. There’s no way I could match up with Granny Red-Dust in divine abilities. I can’t forge equipment, and I haven’t even formed a god soul yet, whatever that is. I guess medicine concocting is the best bet for me.” Bai Xiaochun was starting to get interested in the idea, especially considering how boring it was. With that, he continued to look at the rest of the trials.
“Supreme unity trial? Spirit enhancement trial? Intrepid body trial?" Bai Xiaochun had no idea what the supreme unity trial was about, so he dismissed it. As for the intrepid body trial, he had his speculations.
“Sounds like that’s a test of fleshly body power. Definitely not for me. Too dangerous.” He continued to look down the stone stele, upon which were at least a hundred different trials by fire of all sorts. Many of them were tests of things Bai Xiaochun had never heard of, and eventually, his attention was drawn back to the trials of medicine concocting and spirit enhancement. However, he was still hesitating.
“It’s too bad that time is so limited, otherwise I would pick the medicine concocting. But when it comes to spirit enhancement....” Bai Xiaochun’s eyes narrowed a bit, glittering with a mischievous light as he realized that this was the perfect opportunity to cheat....
“If I can use my turtle-wok, then a spirit enhancement trial wouldn’t be hard for me at all. Maybe I would still have a chance of snatching 1st place away from Mistress Red-Dust!” The more he thought about it, the more excited he got.
“Yeah, might as well. I have no chance of catching up in medicine concocting, so I guess I should place my bet on spirit enhancement. If I win, I’ll get a deva soul, and if I lose, no harm done.” And thus, his decision was made. Focusing on the spirit enhancement trial, he followed the description on the stone stele, allowing his mind to sink into the words.
Rumbling sounds filled his mind, and everything around him began to spin. All of a sudden, he realized that his soul was leaving his body and flying toward the stone stele.
Shocked, he looked back to see himself sitting cross-legged in meditation in the glowing sphere. Because his soul was no longer in his body, the mask on his face stopped working, and slowly fell down onto his chest.
Bai Xiaochun was taken aback by this unexpected turn of events, and yet there was nothing he could do to change the situation. In the next moment, his soul slammed into the stone stele.
More rumbling sounds filled his mind, like the sound of thousands of ghosts screaming simultaneously, trying to shred his soul to pieces.
Thankfully, it didn’t last for long, only a few breaths worth of time. Then the sounds faded away, his blurred vision turned clear, and he found himself in a private chamber of some sort.
The walls were pitch black, and seemed oppressively sinister. The chamber was completely empty except for three stone daises, each one roughly waist-high. Atop the center dais was a withered yellow leaf that seemed completely ordinary in nature, and in fact, that was exactly what it was. It was a leaf so ordinary that it couldn’t have been more mundane.
Floating above the left-hand stone dais was a slowly-burning tongue of red flame. The flame wasn’t very hot, only a bit more than ordinary flame from the mortal world. However, Bai Xiaochun could instantly tell that it was no ordinary flame; it was the one-colored flame that was commonly seen in the cultivation world.
On the right-hand dais were some random materials such as rocks, vegetation, and metals, as well as some other things that Bai Xiaochun didn’t recognize.
However, there was something familiar about them, and after a moment, he realized that they reminded him of some of the things he had seen Big Fatty Zhang use when performing spirit enhancements.
Other than the three stone daises, there was nothing else in the room. Clearly, this room was designed to be a spirit enhancement workshop, and the current task was to perform a onefold spirit enhancement.
Bai Xiaochun looked around, and took a moment to study the one-colored flame. Then he thought back to how the mask had fallen off his face outside, and started to get nervous. Finally, he gritted his teeth and said, “I'm probably fine. The glowing spheres are really tough, otherwise, the people who showed up first would have ended up getting killed. First things first, I need to see if I can summon my turtle-wok....” After all, he didn’t have his bag of holding in this place, nor any of his other belongings. Therefore, he took a deep breath and then waved his finger like he usually did to summon the turtle-wok.
Instantly, a black light shot out, resolving into the shape of the turtle-wok!
Bai Xiaochun was taken aback, but quickly began to laugh proudly.
“It came in with me! Hahaha! I can’t believe it actually came in with me!!” Eyes shining brightly, he thought about what it would be like to take 1st place and get his hands on that deva soul.
“With my turtle-wok, who can possibly compete with me?!
“Hmmphhh! When Bai Xiaochun wants to take 1st place, who dares to stand in his way!” Confidently swishing his sleeve, he stuck his chin up proudly. However, he knew that time was of the essence, so he quickly suppressed his excitement and walked up to take the one-colored flame. Then, he excitedly threw it into the turtle-wok.
In response, the turtle-wok trembled and soaked up the flame, and the designs on its surface began to shine brightly.
More confident than ever, Bai Xiaochun chuckled and then carefully picked up the withered leaf. After looking it over and confirming it was just an ordinary item, he muttered, “What a waste to enhance a leaf like this.” However, he felt fairly certain that, no matter what items he enhanced here, he would not be able to take them with him, so in the end, it didn’t really matter how the fuel was used. Therefore, he tossed the leaf into the turtle-wok.
Instantly, the turtle-wok’s designs flared with light that coalesced onto the leaf. A moment later, the blinding light faded away, and a single silver design could be seen on the surface of the leaf!
Bai Xiaochun quickly picked it up and looked at it. Other than the silver design, he couldn’t find anything else about it that was unusual.
“What a waste,” he thought, shaking his head. Looking over at the left-hand dais, he saw that another tongue of flame had appeared, this one with two colors. Of course, it was none other than two-colored flame.
“I guess it doesn’t matter. This is just a trial by fire, and none of this stuff belongs to me anyway. No skin off my back.” With that, he casually took the two-colored flame and started another spirit enhancement.
Before long, the leaf had two silver designs on it. Then a third, a fourth, and so-on, until there were a total of eight. By this point, Bai Xiaochun was really bemoaning the whole situation.
“An eightfold spirit enhancement....” he murmured, looking at the leaf in his palm. It was still withered, but was clearly more durable and tough than before. It was even glowing a bit, and was obviously much more than an ordinary leaf. It was now some sort of treasure.
At this point he had another idea, considering that it had become a valuable treasure. If he could brand it to himself, then perhaps it would recognize him as its master, and then allow him to take it away with him when he left....
Hoping for the best, he performed an incantation gesture and pointed out, sending his personal mark into the leaf, which glowed in response. It was a success!
Pleased, Bai Xiaochun took the nine-colored flame and began to perform another spirit enhancement....
Before long, there were a shocking ten silver designs on the surface of the leaf. Although it still looked withered, its fundamental nature had changed, and it now glowed with a bright light. Anyone who looked at it would take it to be jade or some other precious stone!
“Tenfold enhancement....” Bai Xiaochun murmured. Looking over at the stone dais, he watched as an eleven-colored flame took form, entrancing and eye-catching.
Most accurately speaking, the eleven-colored flame wasn’t actually made up of eleven colors. However, Bai Xiaochun could tell just by looking at it that it was eleven-colored flame!
It was impossible to describe exactly how he knew it. Further, there was something about how the fire was constantly changing that tugged at his soul with shocking power.
Thinking back to the golden design on the fire soul arrow, Bai Xiaochun’s eyes glittered, and he thought, “In the past, I speculated about what miraculous transformations would occur with an elevenfold spirit enhancement....”