When Bai Xiaochun arrived outside of Heavenmaster Hall in the imperial palace, he immediately noticed that it was not devoid of people like it had been in the past. There were several dozen cultivators present who had come to offer formal greetings to the Grand Heavenmaster.
One of them was Chen Haosong, along with the old man who Bai Xiaochun had seen with him earlier. Those two were heavenly dukes, and there were three other heavenly dukes present. Although Bai Xiaochun didn’t recognize them, he could tell from their auras that they were devas.
The rest of the people present were all heavenly marquises. Four of them Bai Xiaochun recognized as people from the group of nine who had besieged him.
All of them had unsightly expressions on their faces as they waited for the Grand Heavenmaster to summon them for their audience. As soon as Bai Xiaochun arrived, all of their gazes came to rest on him.
“Bai Hao!!” many of them growled through gritted teeth.
Chen Haosong’s eyes glittered especially coldly, and he clearly desired to kill Bai Xiaochun. After all, he was close to the Heavenly Marquis Li, and at the moment, it was unclear whether the man was alive or dead!
All of the nobility and aristocracy in Arch-Emperor City had been shaken by the fact that two heavenly marquises had been arrested by the Grand Heavenmaster. After inquiries were made, and it became clear that Bai Xiaochun was behind it all, their hatred for him grew, although they didn’t dare to do anything about it directly.
When the gazes of five devas, and a whole group of half-devas, all came to rest on Bai Xiaochun, it made it feel as if countless mountains were weighing down on top of him.
The coldness of the gazes caused Bai Xiaochun’s mood to sink even lower, and at the same time, he started to get nervous.
“I can't believe how badly these people want to kill me! They don’t dare look at the Grand Heavenmaster this way, but they have no qualms when it comes to me. They’re clearly bullying me because they have superior cultivation bases!” Heart shivering with fear, he looked back at the group.
It was at this point that Chen Haosong spoke.
“How dare you hoodwink the Grand Heavenmaster, Bai Hao! If you have proof that Heavenly Marquises Li and Chen are traitors, then hand it over immediately for me to see!” His words were accompanied by an explosive killing intent, and a dangerously incisive gaze that made it clear that he would cut Bai Xiaochun down in cold blood if he could.
Bai Xiaochun’s expression flickered as he struggled to deal with the pressure crushing down onto him. The energy rolling off of Chen Haosong was like a mountain slamming into him. Ears ringing, he took a few steps back, his face turning pale in the process, and even his cultivation base teetering unstably.
All of a sudden, an intense sensation of deadly crisis rose up inside of him, causing his heart to tremble. However, that was also when a glint of hatred appeared in his eyes as he thought back to the tragic scene of that pit filled with 10,000 corpses. Instead of trying to stabilize his cultivation base, he actually bit his tongue as he staggered backward, and then sent the resulting blood spraying out of his mouth.
“What gall you have, Heavenly Duke Chen!” he shouted. “Are you trying to kill the inspections commissioner right in front of Heavenmaster Hall!?!? Don’t tell me you’re planning to mutiny right here and now!?” A mere thought on his part reached out to the Corpse Trooper Blood Battalion, causing numerous corpse troopers to fly over with killing auras surging.
Another cold flash of light passed through Chen Haosong’s eyes, but he knew how to hold his tongue when necessary. Although he had put some cultivation base power into his words moments ago, he had only hoped to intimidate Bai Xiaochun a bit, not hurt him. Of course, the only reason he had held back from intentionally hurting him was because they were all standing right outside of Heavenmaster Hall.
Never could he have imagined that Bai Xiaochun would actually accuse him of something he hadn’t done! And on top of that, he used it as an excuse to summon the Corpse Trooper Blood Battalion.
Chen Haosong frowned, as did the other four heavenly dukes at his side.
A light of madness sprang up in Bai Xiaochun’s eyes. He was convinced that these people wouldn't dare to kill him here. After all, what would have been the point in the Grand Heavenmaster using him to issue a warning, if he then simply allowed people to kill him?
Either way, Bai Xiaochun was not worried about actually facing a threat to his life right here. He was still in a foul mood, and felt like venting a bit, so therefore, he decided he might as well perform a bit of a test.
“I dare you to try that again, Heavenly Duke Chen!!” he shouted. At the same time, the murderous aura roiling off of his 1,000 corpse troopers grew even more intense. All of their gazes were focused directly on Chen Haosong, as if they would attack him at the slightest provocation.
“You wouldn’t dare!” Chen Haosong said, his expression flickering as he yet again realized how devious Bai Xiaochun was.
“I wouldn’t dare? There’s nothing I won’t dare to do! I smacked the Giant Ghost King across the side of the head! I kidnapped more than a hundred people in the Necromancer Kettle! I personally fought hundreds of chosen simultaneously in Borough 89. So, tell me again what it is that I don’t dare to do! Make one more move, and you’ll see for yourself!”
“Are you threatening me!?” Chen Haosong said through narrowed eyes that burned with killing intent.
At this point, Bai Xiaochun decided to completely throw caution to the wind. Rage surging, he looked at the rest of the people who had gathered, and angrily shouted, “And if any of the rest of you dare to make a move, then I won't let it drop! Fudge! If I can threaten a heavenly duke, then what makes you think I’m scared of some heavenly marquises!? You people listen to me. From here on out, you’d best be careful around me. As the inspections commissioner, I’m going to be keeping my eye on all of you!”
Although the heavenly marquises simmered with rage, when they saw that Chen Haosong was simply holding his ground and didn’t dare to move… then they obviously had no choice but to simply glare angrily at Bai Xiaochun.
Of course, Bai Xiaochun wasn’t scared at all when it came to people simply staring at him, and looked back at them unflinchingly.
Chen Haosong’s expression grew more unsightly, and even as he seemed to be on the verge of losing control of his anger, someone cleared their throat inside of Heavenmaster Hall. Then, the door slowly opened, and the Grand Heavenmaster strolled out.
“How can we maintain a united front with all of this squabbling!?” he said in a hoarse voice.
Everyone, including Chen Haosong, turned, clasped hands and bowed.
“Greetings, Grand Heavenmaster!”
As he stood there in front of Heavenmaster Hall, the Grand Heavenmaster seemed a bit stooped. He looked old, and not very threatening at all, and yet, everyone gazed at him with terror lurking in the depths of their eyes.
“Presumably you've come here in such a large group because you have something important to discuss. Am I right?”
Sounding very respectful, Chen Haosong said, “Grand Heavenmaster, we will take your words of counsel to heart. The reason Junior has come here today is to report that things are not going well in the fighting at the western Great Wall. I would like to request the use of one of the secret treasures, the Heavenspan Thorn….”
The other heavenly dukes went on in similar fashion, reporting which tribes were having problems, or what precious treasures had appeared. Some offered news from the Heavenspan River region.
Most of the heavenly marquises followed suit. They reported about random things that didn’t have anything to do at all with Heavenly Marquis Li or Chen. Although Bai Xiaochun learned a bit more about the situation in the outside world from listening to their reports, he knew that all of these people were wily old foxes, and didn’t really need to state their true goal outright. All of them coming here today in unison was enough to send a very clear message.
Furthermore, it didn’t make it seem like they were loyal to the Arch-Emperor. The position of inspections commissioner had been left vacant for many years, but now that it was filled, two heavenly marquises had been apprehended almost immediately. That was enough to get all of the nobility and aristocracy jittery, and it was only normal that they would try to get some more clarification about the situation.
However, not everyone seemed to be willing to let things go at that. One of the heavenly marquises seemed to be slower on the uptake than everyone else, and after everyone else had given their reports, said, “Grand Heavenmaster, um, about Heavenly Marquis Li….”
In response, everyone else looked over at him in shock, and many of them even began to sweat nervously. As for the Grand Heavenmaster, he turned toward the person who had just spoken, a dark look in his eye.
“Speak up,” he said slowly. “I couldn’t quite hear that.”
“Louder!” the Grand Heavenmaster repeated.
Sweat began to pour down the heavenly marquis’s face. Trembling, he blurted, “Your humble servant… has no questions to ask!”
The Grand Heavenmaster nodded, and then looked around at the group silently. After a few painful moments ticked by, Chen Haosong took his leave, and then one by one, the rest of the group left.
At that point, only Bai Xiaochun and the Grand Heavenmaster were left outside of Heavenmaster Hall.
Bai Xiaochun blinked a few times. The scene which had played out just now was something the likes of which he didn't often see…. The Grand Heavenmaster had only spoken a few short sentences, and yet had come off sounding incredibly impressive.
Even as Bai Xiaochun pondered the subject, the Grand Heavenmaster broke the silence.
“Sometimes I really have to admire that Celestial on Heavenspan Island…. I really don’t measure up to him!” With that, he looked over at Bai Xiaochun. “So among the group just now, who do you think are the ones loyal to the imperial clan?”
1. At this point I would like to explain something that confused me at first. Chen Haosong bears the same surname as the Chen Clan that Bai Xiaochun just cleaned out. However, Chen Haosong is not a member of that Chen Clan. He has his own duke-level Chen Clan, a point which is made more clear later on in the story. For now, I think it makes things a bit easier to understand to point out that he is not connected to the marquis-level Chen Clan.