Of the two requirements, the latter was the most important.
After all, even in the Wildlands, Nascent Soul cultivators were no rarity. That was especially the case because powerful necromancers could make soul medicine that gave them an advantage over the soul cultivators. For them, it was much easier to break through from Core Formation into the Nascent Soul stage.
Therefore, the most difficult of the prerequisites was to gain candidacy qualifications!
“How do you get the candidacy qualifications?” Zhou Yixing asked, looking very serious, his heart pounding in his chest. The matter of the hell-emperor choosing a successor was a monumental one for the entire Wildlands, so even Zhou Yixing, despite not having a Nascent Soul cultivation base at the moment, was still thinking of trying to join the competition.
Bai Xiaochun sat there listening thoughtfully as the two soul cultivators explained everything they knew. After all, the matter was no secret.
“To get candidacy qualifications,” said one of the soul cultivators, “you have to be a necromancer. Most importantly, you must have performed at least a fivefold spirit enhancement on your Nascent Soul. That’s the only way to get candidacy qualifications!”
As soon as Zhou Yixing heard this explanation, his face fell. “How are you supposed to do that?!?! Nascent Soul spirit enhancement is a high-level skill, legendary even among necromancers! It’s true that doing such a thing can lead to explosively quick cultivation progress, and also incredible power. But... very few people can even attempt to do such a thing! And a fivefold enhancement... isn’t that courting death!?!?”
Bai Xiaochun’s eyes glittered brightly. He had never heard of anything like this before; the idea of performing a spirit enhancement on one’s own Nascent Soul seemed unimaginable, and also incredibly difficult.
After all, there was always the chance of a spirit enhancement failing, and that probability would increase with each enhancement from the first to the fifth. If an enhancement on a magical item failed, then the item would be destroyed, but if an enhancement on one’s own Nascent Soul failed... then presumably, the outcome would be the same.
A failure leading to the destruction of one's Nascent Soul would result in being obliterated from existence. Not very many people would dare to attempt such a thing.... Bai Xiaochun was shocked, and at the same time, realized why Zhou Yixing’s face had drained of blood. Obviously... the only people who would make such an attempt would either be supremely self-confident, or utterly crazy.
“That’s definitely the requirement,” said the soul cultivator. “Even still, the chance to become the successor of the hell-emperor has already got many Nascent Soul experts preparing to compete.... Don’t forget that in Arch-Emperor City, there is that mysterious stone stele that came from the Underworld River itself. Supposedly, it can sense if anyone in the Wildlands comes close to meeting the two prerequisites, and will then list their names publicly, showing how many spirit enhancements have been performed on their Nascent Soul.
“The name list on that stone stele is right out in the open for everyone to see. I heard that the names of seven or eight chosen Nascent Soul experts are already there.... After a sixty-year-cycle passes, whoever occupies the 1st place spot on that stone stele will become the successor of the hell-emperor....” After hearing this next set of information, Zhou Yixing’s ambitions were instantly crushed. The entire thing seemed completely insane. The idea of performing five spirit enhancements on his Nascent Soul seemed more like trying to play chicken with death five times in a row.
On the other hand, Bai Xiaochun blinked and said, “A fivefold spirit enhancement on your Nascent Soul? That doesn’t seem very hard.”
“Not very hard?” Zhou Yixing blurted, staring at Bai Xiaochun with wide eyes, clearly having forgotten his place for the moment. By now, Zhou Yixing was convinced that there was no way he could ever participate in a competition like this, and his excitement from before began to wane.
“Even if you think a fivefold spirit enhancement isn’t hard,” he said tartly, “do you really think that all you have to do to stay in 1st place is that? The Nascent Soul chosen are definitely going to be fighting it out to the last man. The fivefold spirit enhancement is just the beginning. If you want to get into 1st place and stay there, you’ll probably have to perform more spirit enhancements than that!
“When the time comes, think about the fact that all of the chosen in the competition will come from powerful organizations and groups. Five definitely won't be the limit. I bet we’ll see seven or even eightfold enhancements!
“You know, there’s even a legend that if you can perform a fifteenfold spirit enhancement on your Nascent Soul, you can break through into the mid Nascent Soul stage. An eighteenfold enhancement will get you into the late Nascent Soul stage. A twentyfold enhancement is the great circle. There probably isn’t even a need to mention the legendary realm of a twenty-onefold spirit enhanced Nascent Soul, which is guaranteed to push you into the Deva Realm! But who would possibly dare to attempt such a thing!?”
By this point he realized that he had just spoken a bit impetuously, and his heart began to pound. Worried that he might have pushed the boundaries too far, he said, “It’s definitely a dead end. Literally. Besides, if you want to fuse with heaven and earth and reach the Deva Realm, you can also use fifteenfold spirit enhanced magical items. Although there’s always a chance of failure using that method, it's still a much more stable path to take.”
An imperceptible flicker of light ran through Bai Xiaochun’s eyes as he suddenly came to a deeper understanding of how Wildlander necromancers became devas.
For one thing, it had to do with the ranking of the necromancer in question. After all, the requirement to make a cultivation base breakthrough in such a fashion was to perform a fifteenfold spirit enhancement on a magical item, and to fuse with heaven and earth.
And only celestial necromancers could conjure fifteen-colored flame....
“It seems that everything in the Wildlands has to do with necromancers....”
Necromancers could progress their cultivation by performing spirit enhancements on their nascent soul. However, it was a path in which one step could lead to the heavens, but a misstep could lead to the Nine Serenities underworld. Life or death would be determined in the briefest of moments.
At least... that was how it would be for most people. As for Bai Xiaochun, his heart was already racing madly as he contemplated his turtle-wok and its spirit enhancement abilities.
“If I ever reach the Nascent Soul stage one day... then maybe I can use my turtle-wok to advance my cultivation base by leaps and bounds. In fact... it might not even be impossible to become a deva.”
Of course, he knew that such matters were for the distant future. Right now, the most important thing was to get back to the Great Wall, and also, get more deva souls.
He had already formed three deva soul clones, which meant that he couldn’t achieve cultivation base breakthroughs with deva beast souls anymore. The only option he had now was to find metal- and earth-type deva souls.
The more he thought about deva souls, the more anxious he got.
By this point, the two soul cultivators had finished all of their explanations. Looking at Bai Xiaochun with pleading eyes, they clasped hands and bowed.
“Exalted one, the entire Wildlands has been shaken by this matter recently. Whether it’s the princes in the imperial city, or the chosen from the cities of the kings, or the necromancer clans, they’ve all gone crazy.... They’re using every method they can think of to fight for the chance to become the successor of the hell-emperor.
“It’s the same in Giant Ghost City. Not only is the city itself demanding large amounts of soul medicine, the three great necromancer clans are also doing the same thing in the hopes of improving the cultivation bases of their clan members. Because of that, the taxes have been raised very high recently....
“In fact, the orders only came down recently that our soul medicine tribute requirement had been more than doubled.... Our Blackmountain Tribe really can’t meet the requirement, so we had no choice but to try to think of some other way to pay up.” The more they talked, the more the Blackmountain Tribe soul cultivators seemed to sink into despondency.
“Grandmaster Bai, we beg of you to help us. If you can concoct five hundred portions of low-grade soul medicine for us, we would be more than willing to pay a soulhoarding pagoda in exchange.” The two soul cultivators clasped hands and bowed deeply, and then one of them pulled a small gray pagoda out of his garment and respectfully held it out toward Bai Xiaochun.
A gray mist pulsed out of the little pagoda, completely surrounding it and making it difficult to see it clearly. At the same time, it emanated a feeling of ancientness, as though it had existed since primeval times.
The five levels of the pagoda were all integrated smoothly, making it look more like a conical tower than a traditional pagoda. Even more surprising to Bai Xiaochun, he could sense the power of spatial magic within it, something very similar to bags of holding.
“Soulhoarding pagoda....” he murmured to himself. Although he had never seen a soulhoarding pagoda before, at a single glance, he could tell that this was an item used in the Wildlands to collect and hold vengeful souls!
If you put vengeful souls into a bag of holding, they would slowly deteriorate in much the same way that food would rot away if left out in the open. Only the legendary soulhoarding pagodas could keep vengeful souls fresh indefinitely.
As Bai Xiaochun examined the soulhoarding pagoda, Zhou Yixing looked on enviously. Although soulhoarding pagodas weren’t exactly rare, they were still very valuable, and were highly prized by necromancers. As for this particular pagoda, it was clearly very well crafted, and very old.
Although a five-story soulhoarding pagoda might not be anything particularly amazing to extremely powerful necromancers, to ordinary necromancers, they were like precious gems. However, to Bai Xiaochun, it seemed like little more than a bag of holding.
“What so amazing about that?” Zhou Yixing grumbled inwardly. “I had one before too....” And yet, he couldn’t help but be a bit envious. His previous soulhoarding pagoda, which had been gifted to him by his clan patriarch, only had three stories. Unfortunately, after being injured by Bai Xiaochun in the labyrinth, he had encountered another powerful enemy, and in the resulting fight, the pagoda had been destroyed....
As Zhou Yixing stewed in his envy, Bai Xiaochun looked thoughtfully at the soulhoarding pagoda. Then, his eyes flashed as if with lightning.
“Now I understand why I kept failing at conjuring eleven-colored flame!!”
1. The Chinese character I’m translating as “hoard” is the same as the character in “bag of holding.” So it could also be a “soul holding pagoda.” Or conversely, you could change bags of holding to “bags of hoarding”