The sinister old man attacked with lightning-like speed, to the extent that Mistress Red-Dust and the other heirs apparent didn’t even have time to react. In fact, Mistress Red-Dust was actually inclined to do something, but simply wasn’t fast enough to.
The old man’s cultivation base erupted with deva fluctuations as he appeared right in front of Bai Xiaochun. There, he called upon the powers of a deva to become one with all creation and take the shape of an enormous magical symbol.
Of course, Bai Xiaochun was shocked, and immediately tried to back up. From what he could tell, this old man was more terrifying than Chen Haosong. A single strike from him… would be completely catastrophic!
“I say one thing he doesn’t like, and he tries to kill me!?!?” Bai Xiaochun was scared to death. However, even as he tremblingly backed up from the sinister man, the Grand Heavenmaster smiled. It was a profound and meaningful smile, and at the same time, a flicker of praise could be seen in his eyes. Reaching out, he waved his right finger in Bai Xiaochun’s direction.
Instantly, a shield of black light appeared around Bai Xiaochun, almost like a bubble that completely surrounded him.
All of this takes a bit of time to describe, but actually took place in the time it takes a spark to fly off of a piece of flint. Then, the enormous magical symbol that was the incarnation of the sinister old man slammed into the bubble.
A huge boom rang out, and the entire imperial palace quaked.
The bubble collapsed, and the old man appeared, face ashen as he coughed up a mouthful of blood. The backlash sent him tumbling backward to slam into the ground inside the main hall, where he coughed up some more blood. Then he turned to look at the Grand Heavenmaster.
“Grand Heavenmaster, you--” Before he could finish speaking, the Grand Heavenmaster looked at him, causing him to tremble. Whatever else he had planned to stay stuck in his throat.
“Calm down and let Bai Hao finish speaking,” the Grand Heavenmaster said coolly. As for the Arch-Emperor, he was now gripping the arms of the dragon throne so tightly that blue veins could be seen bulging out on the backs of his hands!
Bai Xiaochun swallowed hard. The black bubble from moments ago had ensured that he came out of the incident completely unharmed. However, the sensation of deadly crisis he had felt still lingered, causing his heart to tremble. And yet, he had already started down this path, and there was no turning back. A cold gleam in his eye, he calmed himself and spoke in a loud voice.
“Listen, you ignoramus. I'm not trying to deceive His Majesty. This is a deva soul! Are you blind or something? Furthermore, I didn’t ask your opinion about the matter. Grand Heavenmaster: would you mind providing an assessment? What type of soul is this, sir?”
The mysterious smile on the Grand Heavenmaster’s face was visible for everyone to see as he replied, “A deva soul!”
As soon as the words left his mouth, the imperial princes and princesses gasped, and their faces flickered with various emotions. Some of them, such as the second prince and the grand prince, went completely pale.
“The Grand Heavenmaster is trying to get father to bow his head in submission!! He’s going to force him to say that it's a deva soul!! The Grand Heavenmaster is reasserting his authority!!”
Even the most unintelligent of the officials and aristocracy could see what was going on. In response… the facial expressions of everyone present changed immediately, with few becoming excited or happy.
Mistress Red-Dust took a deep breath and looked over at Bai Xiaochun with a complicated expression. Zhou Hong’s eyes were lit up with fear as he realized that the Grand Heavenmaster was going to force the Arch-Emperor’s hand. The more Zhou Hong thought about how Bai Xiaochun was going about this task, the more terrified he became.
The Junior Champion King stood there quietly, and the heir apparent of the Spirit Advent King bowed his head. Chen Haosong and the other heavenly dukes stood in silent introspection, clearly hoping that they didn’t get dragged into what was happening.
Bai Xiaochun could see the veins bulging out on the Arch-Emperor’s hands, and could sense the killing intent in his eyes. Although it was a frightening sight, Bai Xiaochun reminded himself that he was on the side of the Grand Heavenmaster. Furthermore, he couldn’t help but think back to how the imperial clan had been behind the attack on his spirit enhancement shop.
Gritting his teeth, he said, “The Grand Heavenmaster said that it's a deva soul. Your Majesty, what do you say, sir? What kind of soul is this…?”
In response, the Arch-Emperor sat there on his Dragon Throne, his eyes growing colder than ever. All of the heavenly marquises and heavenly dukes stood there with hearts pounding, averting their gazes downward.
The veins on the Arch-Emperor’s hands bulged larger than ever, and his eyes were colder than the coldest winter wind. It looked like he desired wholeheartedly to skin Bai Xiaochun alive!
The person to speak next was the second sinister old man. Inside, he was grumbling bitterly, but as a servant to the imperial clan for many generations, he felt that he had to speak up. “What gall you have, Bai Hao! This is complete hogwash! That’s obviously a Foundation Establishment-level soul. How could anyone think it's a deva soul?!”
At this point, Bai Xiaochun took in a casual, lazy breath. Then, he glared at the old man and raised the Foundation Establishment-level soul high into the air. Slowly turning to look at the assembled aristocracy and officials, he cleared his throat.
“Heavenly Marquises. Heavenly Dukes. Would you mind helping out a bit? Is this a Foundation Establishment-level soul, or a deva soul!?” Bai Xiaochun was really starting to get excited, as he had finally reached the end goal of his plan. Everything that he had done up to this point had been a feint. He had intentionally let everyone believe that he was going to try to force the Arch-Emperor to abdicate, or at least bow his head. But the truth… was that his goal was not to force the hand of the Arch-Emperor, but rather… all of the government officials and aristocrats!
All of this had stemmed from his assertion that he could give the Grand Heavenmaster a chance to see what Bai Xiaochun could not; what everyone was thinking.
Bai Xiaochun’s unexpected words caught everyone off guard. All of a sudden, veins bulged out on the Arch-Emperor’s face as he realized that things were far worse than he had initially taken them to be. As for the two sinister old men, their faces completely drained of blood.
The imperial princes and princesses trembled, and some of them were even sighing inwardly. All of the aristocrats and officials suddenly felt like they were suffocating. Earlier, they had hoped to stay out of what had appeared to be the Grand Heavenmaster and the Arch-Emperor butting heads. And at first, it had seemed that they were succeeding. But then, with no warning at all, this damnable Bai Hao turned everything around and targeted them!
Mistress Red-Dust’s eyes went wide, as if this was her first time truly seeing Bai Xiaochun. The Junior Champion King and the heir apparent of the Spirit Advent King were both gasping in terror.
Bai Xiaochun’s act from earlier, and the way he had controlled the flow of events, had been masterful, to say the least. Almost no one could have been prepared at all for the realization that Bai Xiaochun’s true goal was actually the officials and aristocrats!
However, there were a few in the audience who had not been caught completely off guard. Chen Haosong and the other nine heavenly dukes had actually begun to speculate from the very beginning that Bai Xiaochun was putting on an act.
Some of the heavenly marquises had also begun to work things out earlier on. And yet, that understanding didn’t help them resolve the issue they now faced, and all of them were cursing vehemently in their hearts.
As for everyone who had had issues with Bai Xiaochun in the past, the sudden turn of events caused their faces to fall, and their hatred of him to grow even more intense.
By this point, everyone could tell that the Grand Heavenmaster was helping this Bai Hao, and was using the soul in question to determine the attitudes of everyone present!
It was an issue that everyone present wished to avoid, but now they were stuck in a dead end. As such, the hatred they felt toward Bai Xiaochun penetrated all the way to their marrow. In the past, they had been able to take advantage of the general political instability to their own advantage. But now, they had to publicly reveal their loyalties. And that was not an easy choice to make. If they stated that Bai Xiaochun was holding a Foundation Establishment-level soul, the Grand Heavenmaster would most definitely not forgive and forget. But if they said it was a deva soul, then the Grand Heavenmaster would have his hooks in them well and good. And that meant that if the Arch-Emperor ever managed to gain power back, they and their clans would definitely be purged by death.
Of course, some could consider attempting to secretly maintain loyalty to the Arch-Emperor, while simultaneously proclaiming themselves for the Grand Heavenmaster. But that would not be easy, considering that they were speaking out publicly. Whether or not the Grand Heavenmaster believed their act or not wouldn’t matter. Nor would it matter that the Arch-Emperor might understand their actions. Not only would it be a big embarrassment, but they would be giving their enemies an opportunity to use against them. The slightest slip-up later on in the future could lead to terrible results.
Most important of all in the situation was the fact that there was no way the Grand Heavenmaster would actually trust any proclamations of loyalty made here today. And yet, that wasn’t what he wanted…. He wanted the power that would come with everyone siding with him, whether they were sincere or not.
With that power, he could easily crush all of the influence the Arch-Emperor had secretly built up. Not only would everyone realize that they had once again been dominated by the Grand Heavenmaster, but anyone who had once felt loyalty to the Arch-Emperor would now be struck with terror.
This was a show of strength, and at the same time, a threat!
“This Bai Hao is a good-for-nothing wretch!! How shameless!!”
“So ruthless. Dammit!!”
“He’s forcing us to publicly reveal our stance!” Hatred swelled in the hearts of all present, and at the same time, fear of Bai Xiaochun.