“Master….” Bai Hao said, staring blankly at the person who looked exactly like himself. He was a bit confused about why this person would call himself his Master. He didn't remember ever having a Master before. If anything, the only ‘Masters’ he had ever had before his death were the handful of secret cultivation texts he had acquired back in his clan.
He had all of his memories up to the moment of his death, but everything after that was mostly blank. All he remembered was a haze of violent madness in which he swam endlessly through blinding fog, consumed with the desire to eat any living thing he encountered.
Those memories of madness caused him to gasp, and filled his heart with indescribable terror.
It was almost as if the moment he closed his eyes in death, he had gone to sleep. Now he was awake, and yet, his heart was filled with more confusion than ever. Then he looked down at himself, and found that his own hands would pass through his body if he tried to touch himself.
“I’m a soul body….” he murmured, a glint of sadness appearing in his eyes. As of this moment, he realized that he really had died. “But if I’ve become nothing more than a soul, then why do I still have all my memories?”
All of the things he was currently experiencing had Bai Hao feeling extremely confused.
As for Bai Xiaochun, he stood there with his hands clasped behind his back, glancing down out of the corner of his eye at Bai Hao, trying to look as profound as possible. He was also secretly measuring him up, and when he realized that he was simply staring off into space, and completely ignoring him, he started to feel a bit awkward, and even a bit miffed. With that, he loudly cleared his throat to remind Bai Hao that he was standing there.
In response, a strange expression appeared on Bai Hao's face, and he looked up again at Bai Xiaochun. Gradually, his eyes began to flicker thoughtfully, and he said, “Senior, are you the person who appeared beneath that tree right before I died?”
From the way he spoke, it seemed as if he were putting the pieces of the puzzle together even as the words left his mouth.
Each word struck Bai Xiaochun’s like lightning, and his eyes flickered at how incredible Bai Hao was. Only a few words had been spoken since he woke up, and he had already deduced Bai Xiaochun’s identity.
“The reason you look like me, Senior, is that you must have assumed my identity after I died. As for why we are now able to meet again in person, though… I really can’t wrap my mind around that.” More confusion appeared in his eyes, as if he almost couldn’t believe what was happening.
Bai Xiaochun gave him a profound look. Although he had always known Bai Hao was intelligent, he could never have imagined that he would be this intelligent.
“That’s correct. After you died, I looked through your bag of holding, and then took your place in the Bai Clan….” With that, he proceeded to explain to Bai Hao about how he had taken him as an apprentice. Then he went on to recount everything that had occurred during his time in the Bai Clan, with the exception of a few points that were unnecessary to explain.
As Bai Hao listened, it was impossible for him to hide the complex emotions he felt. He could almost visualize all the scenes Bai Xiaochun described, especially the incident in which his father had confronted him in the place where his mother had died. That was when his father had revealed that he was aware of how talented Bai Hao was in flame conjuring, and yet had gone on to talk about him submitting, and had even revealed open killing intent. At that point, hatred and anger began to burn brightly in Bai Hao's eyes.
Bai Hao was familiar with his clan, especially Madam Cai and the clan chief. As such, he immediately realized… that everything Bai Xiaochun was telling him was true.
Eventually, Bai Xiaochun explained how, as Bai Hao, he had killed Bai Qi, turned traitor against the clan, and had later used his power as a follower of the Giant Ghost King to exact harsh punishment upon the clan. He had killed the clan chief, executed Madam Cai, and installed the fifth young lady as the new clan chieftess. Bai Hao's chest heaved, and his mind reeled under the waves of shock that were caused by Bai Xiaochun’s words.
The things which Bai Xiaochun had done for him were things he himself could never have done even if he wanted to.
Finally, Bai Xiaochun explained how he had randomly encountered Bai Hao’s soul in the Necromancer Kettle. He also went on to describe, without any exaggerations, the dangers which had been involved. In fact, he actually glossed over that danger to some extent, giving mostly just an overview.
However, Bai Hao was smarter than the average person, and realized that within the glossed-over areas of the story, there definitely were moments of profound danger and crisis. Shivering, he looked up at Bai Xiaochun, eyes shining with gratitude.
Although he realized that this person had obviously done many things out of his own self-interest, he had also helped him get the vengeance he deserved, and would have sought for himself if he could….
Before he could complete his sentence, he was interrupted by Bai Xiaochun, who said, “And that’s everything that happened. Don’t put too much thought into it. You’re my apprentice, and I'm your Master. With me around, people can only dream of bullying you!”
He slapped his chest proudly to emphasize his words.
“Do you want to know who your Master is? I'm the majordomo of Giant Ghost City, and also the inspections commissioner. There is only one person who ranks higher than me, and tens upon tens of thousands who rank below me. Hmmmphh! I even kidnapped the Giant Ghost King once. And in the Necromancer Kettle, I kidnapped the heirs apparent and chosen from almost all of the important clans and organizations in the Wildlands! Crown princes, heirs apparent, princesses? Hah! I defeated each and every one of them! Oh right, there was also some guy everyone called the second prince!” With that he went on to brag a bit more about everything which had occurred in the Necromancer Kettle, and this time he didn't gloss over anything. He actually described everything in vivid detail, the way he normally would.
Bai Hao responded by looking at him with mute astonishment.
“Just stick close to your Master from now on. I already have formulas for everything from one- to seventeen-colored flame. Considering your latent talent in flame conjuring, I want you to start researching the formula for eighteen-colored flame. Later on when I’m powerful enough, I’ll form a new body for you. Come, come, hurry up and kowtow to Master. Then I can give you the gifts I owe you for becoming my apprentice!”
With that, he clasped his hands behind his back again, then lifted his chin and tried to look as strict as possible. At the same time, he glanced at Bai Hao out of the corner of his eye, waiting for him to kowtow in formal fashion to become his apprentice.
A complex expression could be seen on Bai Hao’s face. As a soul body, he could sense from the soul power fluctuations in the area that a large quantity of soul medicine had recently been used in the surrounding mountains….
And as a necromancer, he knew that restoring the memories of a soul was a heaven-defying process of incredible difficulty. Clearly, this person who called himself his Master had completely bloodshot eyes, and he was obviously working hard to appear to be in good condition. However, he couldn't cover up how wan he was. It was obvious that he had worked very hard, and paid a huge price, to restore Bai Hao’s memories.
“Does he really care about me…?” he thought, a warm feeling building up inside of him. At this point, he recalled how, upon first recovering his memories, this person who called himself his Master had been looking at him with deep concern.
That concern gave rise to emotions that Bai Hao had not felt for a very long time. No one in his life had ever cared about him other than his mother. As a young man in the Bai Clan, he had often been humiliated. As he grew older, he had harbored a deep if ignorant hope that he could gain the approval of his father, and perhaps the entire clan. But in the end, he had been cruelly slaughtered…. As of this point, it was all in the past.
After a long moment, he rose to his feet, walked over to Bai Xiaochun, and dropped to his knees. His expression was serious and sincere. He didn’t want to sit around thinking about the past. He knew that this Master of his had already gained vengeance for him, a kindness which filled him with profound gratitude. From the bottom of his heart, he was absolutely willing to be his apprentice.
“Everything from the past ended with my death,” he thought. “Now that I'm awake again, my Master… is my only family!” As he swore this oath in his heart, he thought about the sincere concern Bai Xiaochun had showed for him, and was convinced that he had finally found a second person in his life who cared about him.
Taking a deep breath, he said, “Bai Hao offers formal greetings, Master!”
Then he kowtowed deeply three times. After that he rose to his feet, then dropped back down to kowtow again.
Three expressions of respect. Nine kowtows!!
Bai Xiaochun was moved by what he was seeing, and his heart trembled with emotion. After silently accepting the kowtows, his gaze softened, and a profound feeling filled him that was a mixture of joy and pity.
Wrestling his emotions under control, he laughed heartily and said, “Stick with Master, my little apprentice, and you will eat the best food and drink the best alcohol. You can do anything your heart desires!”
With that, he waved his hand, sending Bai Hao into a soulhoarding pagoda.
Within that soulhoarding pagoda, Bai Hao would have a large measure of freedom. He could come out into the open at any time he wished, and because of certain special aspects of his soul body, could take virtually any form he wished.
After a moment, Bai Hao hesitated. Despite having taken this man as his Master, he felt like there was something a bit unreliable about him. “Master… would it be possible for me to know your honored name…?”
Sounding extremely high and mighty, Bai Xiaochun responded, “Ahem. Remember, your Master’s true name is one that cannot be divulged to anyone else in the Wildlands. If it became public, it could lead to drastic events that would affect all creation. It would be a calamity for the Wildlands! Your Master’s name… is Bai Xiaochun!”