Bai Xiaochun’s expression flickered slightly. If it were a competition of spirit enhancement, then as long as he had enough flame, he could be completely confident. However, Sima Tao and Sun Yifan were obviously aware that he had defeated Chen Xiong in just such a competition, and that he could perform fifteenfold spirit enhancements. Besides, when it came to spirit enhancement, because of how success rates worked, no one could ever be absolutely confident in winning.
That was why they didn’t mention spirit enhancement. And when all was said and done, necromancers also had to be proficient in the other skills of flame conjuring and soul medicine concocting. And because flame conjuring was how one went about concocting soul medicine, the foundation of everything came down to flame conjuring.
However… Bai Xiaochun was not completely confident when it came to flame conjuring. At the moment, he still couldn’t conjure seventeen-colored flame, and even had problems succeeding consistently with sixteen-colored flame.
And thus, his expression flickered slightly.
Although Sima Tao and Sun Yifan couldn’t compete with Bai Xiaochun in a battle of words, they had both lived many years and experienced many things. As a result, they could instantly tell what he was thinking.
Seeing that, Sima Tao added, “If we’re going to compete, then we also need to have a little wager. The stakes are the right to stay in Arch-Emperor City! If you lose, you have to get the hell out of the city, never perform spirit enhancements again, and also give up your shop! If you win, then I’ll hand my shop over to you!”
“And mine as well!” Sun Yifan said with a cold smile. “Since it’s two on one, we won’t try to take advantage of you!”
“If it’s a wager you want, then I guess I’ll have to gamble a bit!” Bai Xiaochun said, clasping his hands behind his back and emphasizing his words with a cold harrumph. As far as he was concerned, it didn’t matter that Sun Yifan and Sima Tao were Nascent Soul cultivators. Bai Xiaochun had a Heaven-Dao Nascent Soul, and had defeated over a hundred top chosen. He had even come out victorious over the half-deva Junior Champion King. Considering all that, these two necromancers shouldn’t be a problem at all.
Just as he was contemplating whether or not to drive them away, Sima Tao apparently realized what he was thinking. If this Bai Hao wasn’t already a legend for his bravery and ferocity, Sima Tao would have simply challenged him to a fight, instead of bringing up the matter of flame conjuring. But now that he could tell that Bai Xiaochun was contemplating escalating things to outright fighting, he knew he had to do something.
“Bai Hao, you’re a Nascent Soul necromancer, and a famous one at that. If you try to beat us up, we might not be able to fight back. But resorting to violence will only delay things today. And there will always be a tomorrow! Even if you don’t agree to our challenge today, we’ll come back a second time!” Sima Tao had experienced a stroke of inspiration due to his nervousness, and it immediately caused Bai Xiaochun to frown.
“Fine, Bai Hao,” Sun Yifan jumped in, “I’ll also put up 1,000,000,000 vengeful souls! If you win, you can have them all!” Obviously, Sun Yifan had also realized that Bai Xiaochun wasn't completely confident when it came to flame conjuring, and that it was important to force him into the challenge no matter what!
Sun Yifan had thought his plan out well. He knew that if he caused a big enough scene, and attracted enough attention, then if Bai Hao wanted to continue to do business in Arch-Emperor City, he would have to take the challenge seriously.
And when it came to attracting attention from an audience, the best way to do it was offer huge stakes in a bet. It was exactly the same thing that had happened with Chen Xiao.
And that was why he offered up 1,000,000,000 vengeful souls!
As expected, his words caused an immediate stir. After all, 1,000,000,000 vengeful souls was a mind-boggling number. It was the same number that had propelled Bai Xiaochun to the rank of major general back on the Great Wall. Even the true spirit back there had been completely shocked and moved by that number.
“Another shocking wager is taking place because of Bai Hao's shop. Last time it was 800,000,000 portions of soul medicine, and this time it’s 1,000,000,000 vengeful souls!!”
“This is monumental!” There was already a clamor of conversation, and many people were excitedly taking out jade slips to send message to their friends.
Meanwhile, Sima Tao realized what Sun Yifan was thinking. Gritting his teeth, he said, “I’ll also throw in 1,000,000,000 vengeful souls!”
His words only served to throw oil onto the fire; numerous cries of astonishment could be heard erupting from the crowd.
“Heavens! Another 1,000,000,000!?!?”
“That’s 2,000,000,000 vengeful souls! That number… is staggering to even think about!!”
“This goes way past the 800,000,000 portions of soul medicine. Hurry, this news is priceless! We have to spread word!” More and more soul cultivators began sending messages to friends, and it didn’t take long before all of Borough 89 was shaken. Other surrounding boroughs were similarly affected. By this point, Bai Xiaochun’s neighborhood, which had once been a relatively remote and out-of-the-way location, was now getting packed with excited crowds.
When Bai Xiaochun looked around and saw that people were rushing into the area from all over, he suddenly felt a lot of pressure, and his eyes even turned a bit bloodshot. Looking back at Sima Tao and Sun Yifan, he realized that he had been backed into a corner. If he didn’t accept the wager, then these two would be free to spread rumors about him tampering with their soul medicine, which would get the whole city mad at him.
“Alright,” he said through gritted teeth. “How are we going to do this?”
Sima Tao chuckled coldly in his heart at how they had forced Bai Xiaochun’s hand. Voice tranquil, he said, “We’ll set a certain type of flame, and a time limit. Whoever can conjure the most during that time will be the winner. Brother Sun. Bai Hao. What do you think?”
Generally speaking, there were two main types of competitions that would occur between necromancers. One was to see who could conjure the flame with the most colors, the other was to see who could conjure more flame in a given time period.
The first type would show what overall level the necromancers had achieved, and the second would show how skilled they were in it.
Although Sima Tao had come up with the idea for a competition on the spur of the moment, he had abundant life experience as a necromancer, and knew that, considering this Bai Hao could perform fifteenfold spirit enhancements, he was obviously at the celestial rank, just like himself and Sun Yifan.
He had never even considered that he could be an earthly necromancer. After all, the number of earthly necromancers who existed in the Wildlands could be counted on one hand. Furthermore, they were the type of people who wandered from place to place and were rarely seen.
Celestial necromancers couldn't conjure eighteen-colored flame. At most, they could handle seventeen-colored flame. Of course, even those who could only did it with difficulty, making that type of flame unsuitable for wagers.
Sixteen-colored flame was a different story, though. Sima Tao was very familiar with sixteen-colored flame, and could produce it quite consistently. Considering his level of experience and skill, he was very confident in being able to win a competition involving that type of flame.
Sun Yifan was essentially thinking the same thing, and quickly nodded in response.
“Let’s compete in sixteen-colored flame,” he said, smiling coldly inside. “How about this: we can all start from one-colored flame and work up to sixteen-colored flame. Whoever can conjure three flames first will be the winner!”
Sima Tao laughed heartily. “Perfect! That’s an even more simple method than the usual one. And fairer too. All of the Fellow Daoists who are here to watch can serve as witnesses!”
Although they had made a show of giving Bai Xiaochun the option of giving an opinion, they had spoken so quickly that he had been given no such opportunity.
And yet… nobody present was willing to point that out. After all, the method suggested by Sun Yifan was just as Sima Tao had said, very fair.
The truth was that both Sima Tao and Sun Yifan were people who had been famous for years already, and had deep reserves of skill. In contrast, Bai Xiaochun was a newcomer to the necromancy scene, and nobody would think to describe him as being very skilled.
Bai Xiaochun’s heart thumped when he heard the details of the wager, and he immediately got a bad feeling. When it came to fifteen-colored flame, he was actually very confident. In fact, he could succeed with virtually one hundred percent certainty. But sixteen-colored flame was different. Even with the improvements Bai Hao had made to the formula, he was still only capable of roughly a thirty percent success rate.
Furthermore, he hadn’t had the opportunity to discuss the matter of flame conjuring with anyone else besides Bai Hao. Although Bai Hao was skilled, not even he had ever been in much contact with other celestial necromancers. Therefore, not even he was sure of what success rates were common when it came to sixteen-colored flame.
After all, success rates were not often discussed by necromancers with outsiders. Usually, they kept things like that a secret.
Most other people in this situation would either bow their head in defeat, or impulsively take the bet. But not Bai Xiaochun. He blinked a few times, then looked at Sun Yifan and Sima Tao and angrily said, “That’s not a fair bet. I can only manage a twenty percent success rate with sixteen-colored flame! How am I supposed to win like that!?”
His words caused many jaws to drop in the audience. After all, many people had at least heard of the supposed success rates for sixteen-colored flame. Although none could be absolutely certain, they at least had a general idea.
“Twenty percent success rate? Seems a bit exaggerated.”
“Sixteen-colored flame is one of the most advanced forms of multi-colored flame, and has a very low success rate. Only earthly necromancers can produce it consistently. Celestial necromancers are all different, but for the most part, they can’t make it very easily.”
As the audience chattered, Sima Tao threw his head back and laughed sarcastically. “Nice try, Bai Hao! To tell you the truth, I only have a twelve and a half percent success rate when it comes to sixteen-colored flame. Brother Sun is a bit more adept than me, but even he can’t get past fifteen percent.”
Sounding utterly serious, Sun Yifan said, “If you can manage a twenty percent success rate, then you don’t have to worry at all. You’ll definitely win!” With that, he looked at Bai Xiaochun as if to say, what, did you really think that was going to scare us or something?
“Fine, you’re on!” Bai Xiaochun said, eyes glittering.