Bai Xiaochun settled his aura and calmed his thoughts. Forgetting about matters pertaining to Mistress Red-Dust, he waved his hands out in front of him to summon a fifteen-colored flame from his bag of holding.
He had originally succeeded at fifteen-colored flame by acquiring some from the three great clans, and then reverse-engineering the formula. Were it not for the fact that he was worried about accidentally revealing his identity, he would already have performed fifteenfold spirit enhancements on everything he owned.
“Well, there’s nothing I can do for now. I’ll just have to settle for fourteenfold enhancements. Otherwise, people might get suspicious, and that would put me in danger.” After mentally reviewing the formula, his eyes flashed, and he performed an incantation gesture with his right hand, then waved his finger.
Even more vengeful souls poured out of another soulhoarding pagoda, until there were so many that they produced a tempest.
Thankfully, Bai Xiaochun had set up powerful restrictive spells, and also had the protective concealment provided by his mask. Because of that, not a single fluctuation rolled out into the open to alert anyone to what was happening.
From the outside, Bai Xiaochun’s tent seemed completely still and quiet. In fact, as the guards went about their evening patrol, none of them even looked over at him.
An hour flew by, and Bai Xiaochun was completely focused on the task at hand, making constant adjustments to the fifteen-colored flame, and also carefully controlling the sea of souls around him.
If he made the slightest error in fusing the souls into the flame, it would lead to a failure. Therefore, sweat dripped down his face and neck as he worked, carefully feeding the souls in, and occasionally adding special souls into the mix as they were needed.
Although it was an exhausting process, he gritted his teeth and kept on going.
“I need to get stronger! That’s my only option here in the Wildlands. If my identity gets exposed, at least then I’ll have something to fall back on….” The incident earlier with Mistress Red-Dust had been exhilarating, but had also left him feeling like he had come close to losing his poor little life. Because of that, he knew that he had to do everything possible to make the progress he needed.
There was a stubborn focus within him, something that had first appeared way back in the Spirit Stream Sect when he was concocting medicine. Now that his poor little life was on the line, it was even more fully on display.
Soon his eyes were bloodshot, and a vicious expression could be seen on his face. Off to the side, Bai Hao was getting nervous; this was his first time seeing his Master acting like this.
“Master is really going for broke in this conjuring session….” he thought nervously. Just when he was about to give some advice, Bai Xiaochun’s expression flickered, and something went wrong with the fifteen-colored flame. It flared brightly, then went dim, and finally, a popping sound could be heard as it transformed into countless motes of light that scattered in all directions.
“Dammit!” Bai Xiaochun roared. Pulling out another fifteen-colored flame, he immediately started over. This time, he spent longer. Eventually, the sun shone brightly outside, and Bai Xiaochun’s eyes were completely bloodshot, and he was even panting. He had spent the entire night getting the sixteen-colored flame to the point of being thirty percent complete. However, in the final moments, when he thought he could finish the flame in one final burst, he made a mistake, and the fifteen-colored flame did the same thing as before. It flared with light, then vanished.
“How could this be happening?!” Tugging at his hair, he pulled out the formula again and started to study it. As for Bai Hao, he stood off to the side muttering for a bit, until his eyes finally glittered.
“Master, perhaps the problem is that we’re in an army camp, and the overall murderous aura is too strong. Although the murderous aura doesn’t have a specific shape, it can still affect the vengeful souls….”
As soon as Bai Xiaochun heard the explanation, his eyes lit up. It did make sense.
“Well done, apprentice!” he said, slapping his thigh. “You’re absolutely right.”
Spirits lifting, he produced another fifteen-colored flame and was about to start working when Bai Hao continued, “Master, why don’t you rest up a bit first? You don't seem to be in the best shape to conjure flame….”
“Ah, don't worry, Master is in perfect shape at the moment.” Clearly not worried, Bai Xiaochun began to work with the fifteen-colored flame. This time, he took even longer than last time. An entire day went by. By evening of the following day, he was clearly exhausted. His eyes were bright red, and he looked extremely nervous as he stared intently at the vanishing flame in front of him.
“How could this be happening…? Another failure…. I resolved the issues caused by the murderous aura, but something else went wrong! I refuse to believe that I can’t resolve all the issues!” By this point, he had already lost track of the time, or where he was. Gritting his teeth, he produced another fifteen-colored flame and then started conjuring.
Bai Hao was getting very nervous. Something seemed very off about Bai Xiaochun, and he seemed completely unstable. Occasionally he would try to persuade him to stop, and at first he would respond, but eventually just stopped listening. That only made Bai Hao even more nervous.
“This just isn’t the way to conjure sixteen-colored flame! If he keeps going on this way, something unexpected is going to happen….” Bai Hao was extremely apprehensive as he watched his Master work, and he felt a dangerous, pulsing aura building up. Meanwhile, Bai Xiaochun’s expression turned fierce as he sent a huge group of vengeful souls into the fifteen-colored flame.
In one fell swoop, he was fifty percent done with his work, and his excitement surged. However, it was in that moment when, all of a sudden, the flame flickered wildly, and a terrifying energy rolled out of it. Another color appeared within the flame, a sixteenth color, but then, just as quickly, that color disappeared, changing it back into fifteen-colored flame.
As this unstable development occurred, the terrifying fluctuations rolling out of the flame became more obvious. Bai Xiaochun was going mad with anticipation, and refused to give up, instead working as hard as he could to get the flame under control.
“Stop, Master!” Bai Hao shrieked, terror written on his face. “The flame is unstable! It's too horrible to contemplate what could happen if you lost control!!”
However, even as the words left his mouth, Bai Xiaochun’s face fell, and he lost control over the flame. Instantly, the terrifying fluctuations erupted out with full force.
Fire and blinding light filled the tent. Bai Hao was trembling in despair; even though his soulhoarding pagoda would offer some protection, considering how close he was to the explosion, there was no way he would be able to escape unharmed.
“I'm finished. Finished….” he wailed inwardly. However, even as the flames erupted out, Bai Xiaochun moved with blinding speed. He grabbed Bai Hao, and then a black flash of light could be seen, which was none other than his turtle-wok. Then he dropped to the ground, curled up, and placed the wok over himself and Bai Hao.
It happened with the fluid ease and indescribable speed that only came with a very familiar action….
The instant the turtle-wok thumped down, a deafening boom split the air!
It was late in the night, and most of the soul cultivators in the camp were resting. The sudden sound of the explosion immediately awoke virtually all of them, and yet, before they could react, a massive sea of flames began to roll out.
It was a gigantic mass of fire that was occasionally fifteen-colored and occasionally sixteen-colored. Furthermore, it didn’t fall from the sky, but rather, spread out from Bai Xiaochun’s tent. Viewed from afar, it was possible to see countless tents being reduced to ash, and everything in the area being scorched black….
Nearly half of the camp was affected. As the sea of flames spread out, countless shrieking sounds could be heard as the vengeful souls that Bai Xiaochun hadn’t had time to collect back up were transformed into souls of fire that made the incident even more destructive.
Countless structures were destroyed, and innumerable tents became ash. Anything that wasn’t directly destroyed was instantly engulfed in flame. Furthermore, the fire was unique in that it could also burn armor, causing vast numbers of soul cultivators to throw their armor off, simultaneously screaming in pain.
The entire army was thrown into chaos by the sudden explosion.
“What’s going on!?!?”
“I'm on fire!!”
“Heavens! What’s happening….”
Countless figures emerged into the open, some to fight the fire, others to search for the source of the explosion.
It only took moments for the shouts and cries to reach a deafening level.
Meanwhile, back where Bai Xiaochun’s tent had once stood, a big black wok could be seen on the ground. Slowly, the bottom lifted up by just a crack, and an eye peered out.
Bai Xiaochun blinked a few times, then stuck his head out to see everything around him on fire, and the camp in pandemonium. Next to him, Bai Hao also looked out tentatively. He was still shaking from the mere thought of the danger they had just been in.
Clearing his throat guiltily, Bai Xiaochun said, “Don’t worry, like I said, Master has a lot of experience in these kinds of things. Look, not a thing happened to either of us!”
Stunned, and even more nervous than before, Bai Hao replied, “Master, we… just caused a huge disaster….”
Although Bai Xiaochun was actually terrified, he had to put on a good front for his apprentice, so by way of comfort, he said, “It’s fine. In terms of the aftermath to this kind of thing, um… Master… has a lot of experience in that too.”