After taking Bai Hao back with him to Giant Ghost City, the seven days of protracted exhaustion led Bai Xiaochun to go into secluded meditation to recover.
Before closing the door of the meditation chamber, Bai Hao requested that he be allowed to go out and explore a bit. After all, he had been dead for quite some time, and felt like seeing Giant Ghost City and the rest of the outside world. It was a very natural thing.
After a bit of thought, Bai Xiaochun decided there was no reason not to accommodate his wishes, although he did offer a whole slew of warnings before letting him go. After all, Bai Hao’s soul body was unique in many ways. Now that his memories were back, he could take almost any form he wished. Furthermore, considering how intelligent he was, as long as he was careful, he shouldn’t run into any trouble.
However, just to be on the safe side, he left a branding mark on him. That way, if Bai Hao ran into any trouble, Bai Xiaochun would be able to track him down immediately.
Having accomplished these things, he felt comfortable enough to go into secluded meditation. As for Bai Hao, he changed his appearance and then left.
Bai Hao had long since burned Bai Xiaochun’s name into his memory; he would never forget it for the rest of his life. However, even more unforgettable were the things he heard people talking about after leaving Bai Xiaochun’s side. Virtually everything he heard… caused his anxiety to build….
“Hey, keep your voice down. Don’t let Bai Hao hear you. Bai Hao is completely shameless. He’s vicious and merciless, to the point where he killed his own father and reviled his own clan!”
“That’s nothing! I have a good friend who’s a guard at Devil Penitentiary. He told me that back when Bai Hao was a guard there, he was the number one dark inquisitor in Devil Penitentiary! You don’t know what dark inquisitors are? They’re normal inquisitors whose hearts have turned to darkness! The prisoners that Bai Hao interrogated in Devil Penitentiary all ended up screaming with indescribable bitterness!”
“Heh heh. Majordomo Bai? Yeah, he's like a bolt of lightning that can shake heaven and earth. It’s been years since a freak like him has appeared in the world. He had a Core Formation cultivation base, and yet he actually kidnapped his highness the king!”
“Bai Hao is completely vicious! He even likes to take the wives of other men…. In order to get his hands on Mrs. Chen, he killed the chief of the Chen Clan! I heard that he keeps her in his residence even now, and ravishes her a hundred times a day! Completely outrageous!”
“All of that is nothing! The most important thing to know is that Bai Hao is a complete and utter daredevil. Only recently, he kidnapped the chosen and heirs apparent of almost all the nobility and aristocracy in the Wildlands! I saw with my own eyes the horrid state all of those chosen were in. It didn’t matter if they were guys or girls, they had all been tormented to the point of being skin and bones! It was completely terrifying!”
When Bai Hao heard such things, he was at first puzzled, but soon left completely flabbergasted. The realization that his Master had done so many shocking things left him feeling more than a bit jumpy.
He began to make some discreet inquiries of his own about the things which had occurred, and soon learned that it was absolutely true that his Master had kidnapped the Giant Ghost King while only in the Core Formation stage. Plus, there were other things which had occurred. After his rapid rise to prominence in the city, he shook down all three of the great clans. He was so well-known in the city that his name could be used to stop children from crying!
“How fearless…. I can hardly even imagine it!” Bai Hao eventually reached the point of being speechless. However, during his time making inquiries, he also heard people talking about the Bai Xiaochun whose name was listed on the Hell-Emperor Stele, and soon learned that there was a bounty on his head. It was at that point that he realized that the fact that his Master had revealed his true name to him showed a deep level of trust.
Although Bai Hao was a Wildlander, he had already died once, and didn’t care as much about things from his previous life. It wasn't important to him who exactly Bai Xiaochun was; he was his Master to whom he had kowtowed nine times!
Eventually he returned to Bai Xiaochun’s secluded meditation chamber. By this point, he was convinced of how incredible his Master was. Smiling wryly, he returned to the soulhoarding pagoda in Bai Xiaochun’s bag of holding. At that point, Bai Xiaochun opened his eyes, looked down at the bag of holding, and then smiled faintly. The entire reason he had revealed his true name to Bai Hao was because he trusted him. Perhaps such an expression of trust was very sudden, but it came from Bai Xiaochun’s heart. Based on everything Bai Hao had said and done so far, Bai Xiaochun truly approved of him.
On the same evening that Bai Hao returned from exploring the city, while Bai Xiaochun was still working on getting back into top shape, the Giant Ghost King sat on his throne in the royal palace, frowning at his transmission jade slip.
He had just received a message from the imperial palace in Arch-Emperor City. The message had not been worded very strongly. In fact, it had taken the form of a single question.
Why hasn’t Chen Manyao been returned yet?
It was a simple and calmly worded message, and yet it caused the Giant Ghost King’s mind to reel. After all, the person who had sent the message was none other than… he who controlled the Son of Heaven! He who could issue orders to everyone in creation…. The Grand Heavenmaster!
The Giant Ghost King would rather offend all three of the other kings than provoke the Grand Heavenmaster. Part of that was because the Grand Heavenmaster was in a far higher place in the Demigod Realm than any of the four heavenly kings. But the bigger reason was that the Grand Heavenmaster was a profound schemer, the type that could strike dread into the heart of anyone with whom he dealt.
“Chen Manyao….” the Giant Ghost King murmured. He had heard that name before, and knew that she was one of the Grand Heavenmaster’s personal apprentices, and a top rate beauty.
However, Chen Manyao had not been among the chosen whom Bai Xiaochun had handed over to him. It only took the briefest of moments for the Giant Ghost King to come to a conclusion about what was going on. Not sure whether to laugh or cry, he immediately began to curse.
“Brat bastard! I’d bet money that he’s entranced with her good looks. Considering his age, it's definitely time for him to have a Daoist partner…. But definitely not Chen Manyao!” Although the Giant Ghost King felt a bit of a headache coming on because of his fear of the Grand Heavenmaster, he actually wasn’t angry at all about Bai Xiaochun keeping Chen Manyao in custody. In contrast, he actually felt a bit of admiration. Because of all of the things which had happened between the Giant Ghost King and Bai Xiaochun, the level of formality which might have once existed between them had long since vanished. After all, he had said earlier on that if Bai Xiaochun helped him win the ghost king fruit, he would come to view him as his son and heir.
As far as the Giant Ghost King was concerned, Bai Xiaochun was the most outstanding and daring individual in his generation in the entire Wildlands. Furthermore, the more he learned about the way Bai Xiaochun thought, the more the wily old fox in him approved! Bai Xiaochun could be daring, crafty, and adaptable, but also knew when to back off. Such a combination in one person was hard to come by!
Were it not for that admiration, he would surely have gone completely mad because of the way Bai Xiaochun kidnapped everyone in order to screw him over.
At the moment, the Giant Ghost King was right in the middle of laughter and tears. Sighing, he realized that Bai Xiaochun was actually acting in much the same way he himself would…. With such thoughts on his mind, he cursed inwardly a few more times, then rose to his feet and vanished from within the royal palace.
When he reappeared, he was outside of Bai Xiaochun’s secluded meditation chamber. After looking around, he snorted coldly, but refrained from doing what he had last time and simply entering unannounced.
“Bai Hao!” he said, filling his voice with plenty of cultivation base pressure. Inside, Bai Xiaochun was performing some breathing exercises. Upon hearing the Giant Ghost King’s voice, a tremor ran through him, and his eyes widened. Before he could do anything else, though, the Giant Ghost King sensed that he had opened his eyes, and entered the meditation chamber.
A bit shocked, Bai Xiaochun scrambled to his feet to clasp hands in formal greeting.
“Greetings, Your Highness!” Inwardly, he was cursing at how annoying it was that the Giant Ghost King loved to secretly ambush him. This was the second time! How could someone as important as the king be so ignorant regarding manners? However, it was also obvious that, considering how anxious the Giant Ghost King seemed, he would likely not have come for any good purpose.
“Your Highness,” he said quickly, “I was careless in my cultivation and damaged my nascent soul! Considering how badly I'm injured, I definitely can’t go anywhere. Oh, and I already consumed nine Heavencleaving Good Fortune Pills, so those won't do any good.” In the hopes of not making the same mistake as last time, he claimed to have consumed nine of the pills, instead of the three which he had actually consumed. And of course, he made his statement without blinking a single time.
Glaring, and clearly not very pleased at Bai Xiaochun’s attitude, the Giant Ghost King snorted and said, “Do you have Chen Manyao?!”
The words struck Bai Xiaochun like lightning, and instantly caused his heart to start racing.
He most certainly did have Chen Manyao in his custody. Up to this point, he still wasn’t sure how to deal with her. Worried that she might recognize him, and that that would cause problems, he had decided that he couldn't let her go.
He quickly shook his head and put a very confused look onto his face.
“Who is Chen Manyao, Your Highness? Sounds kind of like a girl’s name. Oh, don't tell me you’ve taken a liking to her, Your Highness? Fear not,” he said, thumping his chest with his palm, “your humble servant will definitely be able to get her for you!”
Any person who didn’t know Bai Xiaochun very well would have been easily taken in. After all, his acting skills were top notch, and whether it was his wording or the expression on his face, they were all very convincing. It really seemed as if he didn't know anyone by the name of Chen Manyao.
But the Giant Ghost King did know Bai Xiaochun, and therefore, his glare intensified, and he growled, “Stop playing dumb! You listen to me, Bai Hao. You can’t touch Chen Manyao! She has a very important background….”
A profoundly serious expression could be seen on the Giant Ghost King’s face, and the pressure rolling off of him felt like thunderclouds.
Such tactics would intimidate virtually anyone else, but Bai Xiaochun was familiar with the Giant Ghost King, so he put on a pained expression.
“Your Highness, I really don’t know anyone named Chen Manyao!”
“Enough!” the Giant Ghost King said impatiently. “It’s only the two of us in here, so stop with the act. I know that you took a liking to Chen Manyao because of her beauty. But she’s one of the beloved apprentices of the Grand Heavenmaster! He’s already asked about her, so hand her over immediately! She’s just a hot girl, right? What's the big deal about that? I’ll make up for it with plenty more girls.” As far as he was concerned, it really was a minor matter. It was only a single girl they were talking about, and thus, he really couldn’t understand why Bai Xiaochun was acting this way.
Seeing that the Giant Ghost King wasn’t going to back down caused Bai Xiaochun’s nervousness to mount. He really, really didn't want to let Chen Manyao go. It had to do with his poor little life! However, despite thinking desperately, he couldn’t come up with any backup plan. As for the Giant Ghost King, he could see that Bai Xiaochun was hesitating, causing his anger to rise.
In fact, he was so infuriated that intense coldness immediately spread out in all directions.
“Bring Chen Manyao out immediately, Bai Hao. Don’t make me use force!” His voice was as cold as winter snow, and his eyes burned with cold fury. The meditation chamber even began to ice over!