Chen Haosong’s pupils constricted slightly. If what Mistress Red-Dust had just said was true, and the Giant Ghost King had already brought the matter to the Grand Heavenmaster, then just as she had said, almost no one would dare to touch Bai Hao until the Grand Heavenmaster weighed in on the situation.
However, the reason for saying that almost no one would dare to touch him… was that there was still another person in Arch-Emperor City who qualified to disregard the Grand Heavenmaster.
He was, of course, the current Arch-Emperor!
However, the Arch-Emperor would not casually do such a thing.
As Bai Xiaochun looked back and forth between Mistress Red-Dust and Chen Haosong, he finally began to recover his senses after the sudden interchange which had just occurred. Only now did he start to get nervous, and sigh anxiously inside.
“How could I be this unlucky…? Is my poor little life going to be in danger…?” The fact that the matter had been escalated up to the level of the Grand Heavenmaster was not comforting at all, and in fact, had his heart beating rapidly.
Although Bai Xiaochun had never seen this Grand Heavenmaster, he knew exactly who he was!
He was Chen Manyao’s Master, whom Bai Xiaochun had encountered as a shadowy projection back in the River-Defying Sect. Because he had been in the Heavenspan River region at the time, it had been impossible to tell the man’s cultivation base level. But now that he thought about it, whatever methods he had used to accomplish that task back then had not been simple.
Heart thumping with anxiety, he began to brainstorm as many ideas as possible of how to escape Arch-Emperor City if things went south….
“What do I do, what do I do…?” he thought. At this point, Chen Haosong took out a transmission jade slip and sent a message to the Grand Heavenmaster. The other heavenly duke also took out a jade slip.
Silence descended onto the area, and with it, great pressure began to weigh onto Bai Xiaochun. As far as he was concerned, he was the unluckiest person in the entire world. From the moment he had arrived in Arch-Emperor City, he had kept his tail between his legs, and yet, had constantly run into trouble.
As the deadlock continued down below, it was high above the city in the imperial palace, in a location that represented the greatest power in all the Wildlands, that an old man sat cross-legged in a palace hall, thinking.
Although he was ancient in appearance, he radiated a bizarre aura that made him seem anything but old. It was almost as if his ancient features were a mere façade; clearly, if the power of his qi and blood erupted out, it could encompass all of Arch-Emperor City.
He wore simple garb, little more than a white robe. Although there was nothing luxurious about it, that robe would cause any person in the Wildlands who saw it to immediately feel nervous.
And that was because the robe revealed his status, a status so high that, despite wearing the most common of clothing, he looked like he was garbed in a river of stars.
He was the Grand Heavenmaster!
He was currently looking at a transmission jade slip, which abounded with information about what was happening in Borough 89. Quite a few people had messaged him about it, and although it wasn’t a very important matter in the grand scheme of things, it was enough to make the Grand Heavenmaster put a fair bit of thought into it.
“How amusing,” he said, a cold, bizarre smile spreading across his face. “This Bai Hao seems to whip up a storm wherever he goes…. The Giant Ghost King wants him as a son-in-law. The Spirit Advent King wants me to execute him so his daughter will forget about him. The Nine Serenities King’s son wants to assassinate him…. It seems that all of the four heavenly kings have been dragged into issues revolving around Bai Hao.
“And that’s not to mention that the incident in Borough 89 has dragged almost all of the heavenly dukes and heavenly marquises into it…. Even those who didn’t show up personally in Borough 89 have children involved.
“I can’t believe that one little Bai Hao managed to do all of this…. Very amusing. Of course, in addition to Bai Hao, there are other culprits. Namely… the two imperial princes….
“Did someone put them up to it? Did someone inspire them to pit Zhou Hong against Bai Hao, and cause so many lives to be lost in the process? I don’t think that those two princes could come up with a plan like that. The only person who could do something so ingenious… would be the Arch-Emperor himself.” Finally, he looked up, and his eyes glittered with cold light as he looked deeper into the imperial palace.
“You don’t want to be a puppet, and so you’re taking advantage of this situation to make a strike from the shadows…?
“Unfortunately, there is something of which you’re completely unaware. This Bai Hao that you so blithely thought to use has many other secrets, secrets so outrageous you couldn't even imagine them. The highest likelihood of all is that he’s actually Bai Xiaochun…. After all, when he was outside of Arch-Emperor City, back when I was preparing to investigate him, he unleashed… the Hell-Emperor Fist!!” The Grand Heavenmaster’s eyes narrowed as an uneasy feeling rose up in his heart.
“Hell-Emperor, are you trying to tell me to trust him…?” With that, he closed his eyes and put out of mind the issues regarding Bai Hao’s true identity, and his connection to the Hell-Emperor. Then, he turned his thoughts back to what was happening in Borough 89.
“It seems to me that Arch-Emperor City has been quiet for too long. The Arch-Emperor is starting to get ideas…. Therefore, the question is, of all the nobility and aristocracy connected to the imperial court, which of them… are loyal to the Arch-Emperor?” A grim look appeared in the Grand Heavenmaster’s eyes as he looked back down at the jade slip.
“This Bai Hao… has offended just about all of the nobles and aristocrats in Arch-Emperor City. Even the events of the Necromancer Kettle alone were enough to earn him public ire. In that case… I think having this Bai Hao alive would be much better for me than having him dead!” The Grand Heavenmaster smiled. The more people this Bai Hao offended, the more it meant that he was actually a free agent in the city, unconnected to anyone.
“Whether he’s Bai Hao or Bai Xiaochun doesn’t matter.” To the Grand Heavenmaster, it would be very valuable to have an unaffiliated government official on his side!
Furthermore, the hints given by the Hell-Emperor had the Grand Heavenmaster more interested in Bai Xiaochun than ever before. And the coincidence that he was backed by the Giant Ghost King made him even more enticing.
“If he actually becomes the Daoist partner of that Zhou Zimo, then that would cast some doubt onto my theory. But there’s no way the two of them will get together!” The Grand Heavenmaster knew that Bai Xiaochun was the perfect tool for him to use now that the Arch-Emperor seemed to be planning something. Furthermore, he had offended all the important people in the city. By giving him a chance, he could make him feel as if his only backer was the Grand Heavenmaster, a relationship which would only grow deeper as time progressed.
Furthermore, what he had heard about Bai Hao’s shakedowns in Giant Ghost City showed what kind of person he was. He would definitely make use of power to gain revenge. And that would help the Grand Heavenmaster seek out and sever any secret relationships that were developing between the aristocracy and the Arch-Emperor!
Having reached this point in his train of thought, the Grand Heavenmaster made his decision.
“Head immediately to Borough 89 with a Dharmic decree…. Bai Hao is to be appointed as inspections commissioner, and given command of 1,000 troops! And bring him to me immediately!”
Even as the Grand Heavenmaster’s words began to echo out, the air in front of him distorted, and a shadowy figure appeared. The figure seemed surprised when the position of inspections commissioner was mentioned, but bowed his head respectfully, voiced his assent, and then vanished.
Back in Borough 89, Bai Xiaochun was frowning as his mind raced with various thoughts regarding what was to come. Although he had a really bad premonition about what was going to happen, there was no way to escape at the moment, so he was forced to wait nervously.
“If I really have no other options, then I’ll find an opportunity to slip away. I still have a few Heavencleaving Good Fortune Pills left, and I can also use my mask to change appearances again if I really have to.”
As time passed and his anxiety mounted, Bai Xiaochun felt the pressure mounting. He was so nervous his heart itched as though it had grown grass, and his mouth and throat were completely dry.
“I can’t rely on the Giant Ghost King either. If he wanted to save me, he could have used the teleportation portal to come here by now….” At this point, he was in no mood to try to do anything brave. Casting a sidelong glance at Mistress Red-Dust and Chen Haosong, he slowly began to edge backward.
However, in the instant that he moved, the faces of Chen Haosong and the other heavenly dukes flickered. Mistress Red-Dust’s eyes glittered, and then all three devas suddenly looked in the same direction.
When Bai Xiaochun realized what was happening, he followed their line of sight to find the air distorting, and a black-robed figure stepping out into the open.
The sight of this newcomer caused Chen Haosong’s eyes to widen, and it was the same with the other heavenly duke and Mistress Red-Dust.
The nine heavenly marquises’ hearts began to tremble with fear.
Bai Xiaochun was almost crazy with nervousness, to the point where his heart was about to burst out of his chest. He was even worried it might just stop beating.
It was at that point that the black, shadowy figure, whose facial features weren’t even distinguishable, looked at Bai Xiaochun with glittering eyes.
“So, you’re Bai Hao!” The coldness of the voice seemed to Bai Xiaochun to be filled with killing intent, making him as nervous as a scared bunny rabbit.
“I’m not Bai Hao….”