“Bai Hao must have accidentally revealed his shocking talents in flame conjuring to someone, and incited jealousy. That's what got him killed!
“I would bet money that the person responsible for his death is that Madam Cai.... However, there’s still something I can’t help but wonder about. Would Bai Hao’s father have treated him that way if he knew about his spectacular talents? After all, any necromancer clan would view a genius like that as a true qilin son!
“Bai Hao.... Did you tell your father about how talented you were? If not, then I guess it's a moot point. However, based on what's left of your notes, it seems you really looked forward to telling your father the truth. In fact, you seemed absolutely set on giving him the formula for fifteen-colored flame....
“If you did tell your father, and then got killed anyway, then this whole thing is a lot more complicated....” Bai Xiaochun wasn’t inclined to contemplate the matter, and yet was unable to do anything except that. As he pondered the situation, a feeling of profound sadness rose up in his heart. He couldn’t help but feel sorry for Bai Hao, who had simply dreamed of being noticed by his own father. Bai Xiaochun sighed.
“Bai Hao, I once promised you that if fate would have it, I would get revenge for you.... Well, at the moment, I really need your flame conjuring techniques, and I’m not the type of person who takes advantage of others. You might have perished already, and left for the underworld, but I still want to take you as my apprentice!
“I’ve never had any apprentices before, so you’ll be my first. I guess it’s just karma. The two of us are separated by life and death, but I'm still going to be your Master!” On the one hand, Bai Xiaochun felt sad about everything that had happened to Bai Hao. On the other hand, he was using Bai Hao’s identity and was trying to track down his research.
“Starting now, you’re my apprentice, and I'm going to find out exactly who it was that killed you!” As Bai Xiaochun contemplated this new state of affairs, his eyes flashed with anger, and his opinion of the Bai Clan fell even further than before.
Sticking his chin up, he coldly murmured, “The higher my profile, the sooner they’ll try to kill me!”
Although he knew that he would be putting himself in danger, considering that he was now Bai Hao’s master, he had no other choice. Besides, he still had his crystalline soulhoarding pagoda to fall back on.
“What a headache. I'm not the type of person who likes to show off, and yet here I am, being forced to do just that.” Shaking his head, he sighed, left his hut, and began to make certain inquiries.
He soon learned about several places in the Bai Clan where clan members would go to participate in trials by fire. All clans had places like that. As for the Bai Clan, they had special trials for spirit enhancement, flame conjuring, and soul medicine concocting.
There were rewards depending on the ranking one achieved, but Bai Xiaochun didn’t really pay much attention to that. Considering all the sects he had been part of in his life, he was familiar with such arrangements.
“Well,” he thought with the shake of his head, “I guess I’ll just have to go look at the rankings.” It was actually somewhat exhilarating to be in the great circle of the Gold Core stage and be preparing to go mess with a bunch of Foundation Establishment children. Filled with excitement, he headed toward the spirit enhancement trial.
Before long, he was standing in front of a stone stele that listed the Bai Clan’s spirit enhancement rankings. Surrounding the stone stele were a handful of spirit enhancement workshops. Compared to the Starry Sky Dao Polarity Sect Superstars, this ranking list was rather short. However, Bai Xiaochun didn’t care about that. There were actually quite a few people gathered in the area, either to challenge the trials, or to watch.
“I'm not here to bully anybody,” he thought to himself. “I’m just here to draw out the killer!” Clearing his throat, he looked around once more and then selected a spirit enhancement workshop.
Considering that Bai Xiaochun was competing against Foundation Establishment cultivators, there was little question about what would happen. The stone stele quickly began to glow, and then Bai Hao’s name appeared on the list. At first, it wasn’t even in the top 100, but it began to rise quickly. Soon it was in the top 30, and then it leaped... all the way into 1st place!!
It happened so quickly that few people even noticed what had occurred. But then, the light from the stone stele grew increasingly bright, and people began to gasp and look over.
“Bai Hao... took 1st place?! A sevenfold spirit enhancement!?!?”
“Heavens! That... that speed is incredible!!”
“This Bai Hao... he’s not that bastard son, is he? How could he have become so powerful so quickly?!?!”
“How is this possible!?!? Even when Bai Qi was in Foundation Establishment, the most he could do was a sixfold spirit enhancement. I can’t believe that Bai Hao can do a sevenfold enhancement!!”
As the crowd buzzed with conversation, Bai Xiaochun cleared his throat and walked out of the spirit enhancement workshop. Seeing all the shocked glances being sent in his direction felt quite wonderful.
“Hmmmphh. I'm not doing this for myself. I'm here so my apprentice can feel what it's like to be the subject of worldwide adoration.” Bai Xiaochun hadn’t become so underhanded that he didn’t feel embarrassed about competing with Foundation Establishment cultivators when he was in the great circle of the Gold Core stage.
Even still, he couldn’t help but stick his chin up, wave his sleeve, and head toward the next trial.
At the trial for soul medicine, there were even more people than at the trial for spirit enhancement. After all, spirit enhancement was a very difficult thing. Comparatively speaking, concocting soul medicine was actually much easier. And since the Bai Clan was a necromancer clan, they were obviously talented in this regard.
The highest name on the ranking list had used the time it takes an incense stick to burn to concoct 27 portions of low-grade soul medicine. After seeing that, Bai Xiaochun’s spirit soared, and he quickly selected a soul medicine workshop.
Before long, the same thing which had happened moments before happened again. After enough time passed for an incense stick to burn, Bai Hao’s name appeared in 1st place in the soul medicine rankings!
Furthermore, he had actually concocted 50 portions of low-grade soul medicine!!
That was shocking, to say the least. For someone in the Foundation Establishment stage to do something like that was completely eye-catching, and as soon as the other members of the clan saw it, cries of disbelief rang out.
“1st place... 50 portions!!”
“That’s impossible! Bai Hao... I know him! He’s a nobody. How could he have reached 1st place!?”
“Like the saying goes, a bird might not sing for years, but when it does, its song will shock everyone!!”
Bai Xiaochun emerged to hear such conversation, and immediately felt quite pleased.
“Hao’er,” he murmured, “if your spirit is out there watching, there’s no need to offer any thanks to Master. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything.” Murmuring to himself, Bai Xiaochun strutted off to the flame conjuring trial.
News about Bai Hao’s name getting onto the spirit enhancement rankings quickly began to spread through the clan. Before long, it was the talk of the clan, and of course, the news soon reached Madam Cai.
The area beneath the pagoda in the east district was filled with luxurious mansions. Inside one of them, Madam Cai smashed a flower vase onto the ground, her eyes blazing with killing intent. “Kill him. We must kill him!! He mustn’t be allowed to rise to prominence!!”
Standing in front of her was a young man with a grim expression on his face. He wore clothing just as luxurious as hers, and was extremely handsome. This was none other than that Bai Hao’s older brother, Bai Qi. Looking down at the shattered remnants of the flower vase, and then back up at his mother with her raging killing intent, he said, “Mother, please, calm down. He’s nothing more than a bastard. There’s no need to worry so much about him.”
Madam Cai looked up at her son and angrily said, “Maybe other people don’t realize the truth, but surely you do? Can’t you see how skilled he is in flame conjuring? If your father finds out about his talents, it would be a big threat to you. The boy has to die!”
Even as Madam Cai ground her teeth in frustration, Bai Qi chuckled. “You’re overthinking things, mother. The last time you sent people to kill him, the plan wasn’t executed perfectly. As the clan chief, father obviously knew about it, and yet, did he say anything afterward? Did he do anything to punish you?”
In response to his words, Madam Cai’s eyes widened.
“Mother, you really don’t need to get all worked up over a small thing like this. If Bai Hao thinks he can make a break for fame, then I’ll just go personally to cut him down a notch or two.” Shaking his head, Bai Qi casually turned and walked away.
After he left, Madam Cai thought about the matter more, and still did not feel at ease. Taking a deep breath, she pulled out a jade slip to transmit a message.
“I want him dead tonight!”
Outside the residence, Bai Qi’s lips twisted up into a cold grin as he took out a bone slip, which contained a message regarding Bai Hao’s current position. After discovering that he had gone to the flame conjuring trial, Bai Qi headed in the same direction, an expression of scorn on his face.
“Pretty soon, you’re going to find out that no matter how hard you work, and no matter what you do, a single slap of my palm can reduce you to nothing!”