Although Giant Ghost City wasn’t extremely far away from Arch-Emperor City, it still took Duke Deathcrier months of work to get them close.
And he was a deva. If Bai Xiaochun had been piloting the ship alone, the spiritual power wastage would have been immense. Even by replenishing himself with soul medicine, it would have been difficult to keep going for very long. Most importantly of all, he would have faced ten times the amount of danger.
Whether it was the bizarre creatures that inhabited the Wildlands, or the hordes of souls with their profound death auras, they were all things that left Bai Xiaochun trembling in fear. Of course, the souls would have been easier for him to deal with, but as for the beasts, they were shocking to the extreme.
At one point along the way, he saw a towering tree that was so shriveled it looked dead. However, it could move, and would consume anything that got too close to it.
He saw an enormous beast that resembled a hippopotamus. It was sleeping, but its snores were so mighty that they caused the sky to vibrate, and shook the lands for hundreds of kilometers in every direction.
There was a flock of vicious vultures that followed the giant ghost battleship for several days before begrudgingly letting it go.
The sight of all the bizarre creatures left Bai Xiaochun’s mind reeling. They encountered a few cloudgyres, which caused even Duke Deathcrier’s face to flicker. Only by piloting the ship at full speed did he manage to evade them.
At one point, Bai Xiaochun noticed that the ground down below was pitch white, and assumed it was snow. However, closer examination revealed that it was a sea of bones, covered with waves just like water. The powerful aura radiating up from the sea of bones caused Duke Deathcrier’s face to turn pale. Drawing upon a taboo magic, he negated the aura of the giant ghost battleship, and then pushed forward at full speed for several days until the sea of bones vanished behind them.
The sights changed, and the winds blew past. Thanks to this journey, Bai Xiaochun truly came to understand that crossing the Wildlands without using a teleportation portal was something that only devas could do.
Duke Deathcrier’s face grew more and more grim as they faced one danger after another. He was not happy at all about the situation. It was all because of a single order from the Giant Ghost King, and all because the damnable Bai Hao had refused to use the teleportation portal. Because of that, he, a mighty deva, was forced to be a bodyguard.
It didn’t matter that Bai Hao was favored by the king, Duke Deathcrier was still feeling very disgruntled. However, there was no way for him to vent his feelings, so he simply ignored Bai Xiaochun.
Bai Xiaochun knew that he had dragged Duke Deathcrier into the matter, and therefore, took the initiative to try to smooth things out. Although he didn’t completely succeed, his efforts were moderately successful.
One day, as the giant ghost battleship streaked through the air in a beam of light, Bai Xiaochun was able to catch sight of a heaven-shaking, earth-shattering city up ahead, a city far more magnificent than Giant Ghost City.
In terms of size, it could contain at least ten Giant Ghost Cities. The green city walls towered over the surrounding plains, casting immense pressure into the hearts of anyone who looked at them. There were countless restrictive spells locking the entire area down, taking the pressure of heaven and earth and using it to protect the city.
The power of the five elements was harnessed to suppress even lightning and thunder. As a result, the city looked like an enormous beast of paragon-like power, resting but ready to erupt with power at a moment’s notice.
Countless towering green pagodas could be seen within the city walls, each one of which had an enormous crystal ball at its top. Each crystal ball had violet mist sealed inside of it which crackled with lightning, and occasionally transformed into huge eyes!
It was difficult to put into words how much life force thrummed inside of the enormous city. However, the amount of qi and blood that Bai Xiaochun could sense was astonishing.
“How many people live there?!” he thought, shocked. As he examined the city, he couldn’t help but look up to see… another city floating in the air above the main city!
It was smaller than the city below, and completely golden in color. There was something domineering about it that made it stand out from everything else in the area, as if it were something that could suppress the entire Wildlands.
Even the air around it seemed to be crushed by its presence, as if this city were something completely different than everything else in heaven and earth. Considering the golden light that shone out from it, it almost seemed like an enormous golden sun, or a gigantic golden castle in the clouds.
It was none other than… the imperial palace of the Arch-Emperor Dynasty!
Eight islands floated in the air around the imperial palace, each of them covered with clouds and rainbows. They appeared to be something like guard stations, there to protect the imperial palace against any outside forces!
From what Bai Xiaochun could tell, the rainbows on those islands vastly surpassed those from the Starry Sky Dao Polarity Sect. After all, there was only one rainbow structure in the Starry Sky Dao Polarity Sect, but here, each of the islands had one!
Furthermore, those islands were only one part of the defensive network protecting the city.
Countless soul cultivators in golden armor were on patrol, making Arch-Emperor City completely and utterly astonishing to behold!
Bai Xiaochun had seen quite a few cities in his life, and Arch-Emperor City existed on a different level than all of them, and that included the Starry Sky Dao Polarity Sect.
All of a sudden, Bai Xiaochun felt as if he understood the world a bit better. And that was before he even studied the four armies which were encamped in the four cardinal directions around the city, filled with countless Wildlander cultivators.
Above each army flew a banner identifying it. One of them featured a huge green battle-axe, which showed that they were the forces from Nine Serenities City. There was a blood-colored banner without any symbol on it at all, which represented War Champion City.
As for Spirit Advent City, their symbol was a vicious-looking eye that seemed to peer out at all heaven and earth as the banner rippled in the wind…. Last was Giant Ghost City’s banner, which was easily identifiable because of the giant ghost sigil on it. The giant ghost had its arms spread wide, and wore a vicious expression, as if it wished to rip the heavens to shreds.
“So those are the four legions….” Bai Xiaochun thought, mind spinning. All of a sudden, he felt the nervousness that came along with being in the headquarters of the enemy.
“What would happen if they found out that I'm Bai Xiaochun…?” he wondered. The mere thought caused his face to turn as ashen as death. It was at this point that he realized he had missed something, and looked up at the clouds in the sky. Suddenly, the enormous head of a dragon dipped down out of the clouds, its enormous whiskers floating in the air beside it as it stared coldly at Bai Xiaochun. A moment later, it lifted its head back up into the clouds.
“A dragon!!” he thought, his eyes widening. Then he could see the long, serpentine form of the dragon swirling through the clouds, as well as its terrifying claws. Off to the side, Duke Deathcrier gave a cold harrumph, but didn’t say anything. Instead, he kept his gaze fixed reverently on Arch-Emperor City.
This was the heart of the Wildlands!
As a deva, Duke Deathcrier understood matters much better than Bai Xiaochun. He knew… that what was visible out in the open was only a part of what made up Arch-Emperor City. There was more of it underground…. There was a third city underground that was ten times larger than the part which rose up above the plains!
“Three cities above,” he murmured to himself, “three in the middle, and three below…. They formed what was spoken of in legend… the nine heavens!” He had never seen the true Arch-Emperor City, which was something that had only existed in the distant past. Back in its golden age, Arch-Emperor City was like nine collective heavens that dominated the world.
However… after Heavenspan rose to prominence, Arch-Emperor City declined. Then a grand war was fought in which heaven and earth were split apart. Heavenspan replaced the Arch-Emperor Dynasty, and occupied the island in the middle of the Heavenspan Sea.
As for Arch-Emperor City… it was during that war that the lower three cities were shattered, and the middle three cities were crushed. The only thing that remained were the top three cities, which fled to this location, gasping for life, where they remained down to this day, attempting to recover….
Currently, only the top two cities were visible above ground, with the third city remaining beneath the earth, buried and incapable of rising.
Finally, Duke Deathcrier looked away from Arch-Emperor City and took Bai Xiaochun to the west side of the city, where the Giant Ghost Legion was camped.
Before long, they were at the entrance of the camp. Having no desire to remain around any longer, Duke Deathcrier waved his sleeve, sending Bai Xiaochun flying off of the giant ghost battleship and down to the main entrance.
Voice hard as stone, he said, “The task assigned me by his highness the king is now accomplished. You’re on your own now, Bai Hao.” Without another word, he turned the giant ghost battleship and sent it speeding into Arch-Emperor City itself. Clearly, he had his own matters to attend to. Furthermore, he would return to Giant Ghost City via teleportation portal, not by making the long journey on the ship.
Duke Deathcrier’s arrival caused quite a stir in the Giant Ghost Legion. Beams of light immediately flew over to the main entrance of the camp, and the two squads of soul cultivator guards stationed there immediately looked from the departing giant ghost battleship over toward Bai Xiaochun.
“Who goes there?!” one of them said, his voice threatening and seemingly dripping with blood. Clearly, these guards were the type who had seen countless bloody battles, and had frightening murderous auras.
Bai Xiaochun blinked a few times as he watched Duke Deathcrier leave, then turned to face the main entrance of the army camp. Scowling on the verge of tears, he decided that since he had gotten this far, he might as well keep going forward one step at a time.
“There’s no way I’m going to lose any face,” he thought. “I'm a big-shot here too. After all, the Giant Ghost King is giving me his daughter’s hand in marriage!” Having reached this point in his train of thought, he looked at the soul cultivator who had just called out to him from the main entrance. Sticking his chin up, he put on the most unfathomable expression he could muster.
Tossing out his identity medallion, he clasped his hands behind his back and proudly said, “I am the grand majordomo and inspections commissioner from Giant Ghost City, Bai Hao, and this is my identity medallion. Take me immediately to see your sergeant major. She is my fiancée!”