The appearance of a whole new group of corpse troopers in the Inspections Manor was a source of complete shock to many people, especially the nobility and aristocracy, among whom numerous speculations began to run wild.
“This doesn’t make sense….”
“Bai Hao is supposed to be stuck in an inescapable quagmire!”
“The only option he had was to resign as the inspections commissioner…. But now, he's not only fine, he’s actually stronger than before!”
Everyone in Arch-Emperor City was completely shaken, and the nobility and aristocracy immediately poured all the resources they could into investigating what was happening. That was especially true of the leaders of the various clans who had banded together to capture Bai Hao.
Although they felt like something was off about the situation, they could find no explanation. Furthermore, they didn’t dare to make too much of a scene, and could thus only wait, stewing in their speculations until the truth came to light.
The chosen who had been in conflict with Bai Xiaochun were all grinding their teeth furiously that he had unexpectedly extricated himself from a deadly situation, and even come out stronger than before.
“How come he’s not dead!?!?”
“It must be a bluff!”
Virtually all of those chosen soul cultivators were from the direct bloodlines of various important clans, and many of them were the successors selected by the older members of the clan. They were the very ones who had access to vast amounts of cultivation resources, and had thus reached their current level of cultivation.
There were many bastards and other siblings and relatives who were eclipsed by their glory, people who were vastly separated from them both in terms of cultivation base and the resources they had access to.
Of course, such people were still members of great clans, and thus surpassed ordinary soul cultivators in most aspects. But in terms of cultivation resources, their only hope to truly benefit was to make sure they stuck closely to the chosen successors in the clans.
This had been the state of affairs in the aristocracy of the Wildlands for many generations. Although occasional situations arose in which people rebelled against their clan’s arrangements, they usually suffered miserable fates.
When Zhao Dongshan heard the news about Bai Hao, he was in a courtyard in his clan. He was so angry that he lashed out at a nearby tree, which shattered into countless fragments that peppered other nearby members of the clan. However, none of them dared to dodge to the side, and merely stood there quietly.
Many of the people present were siblings of Zhao Dongshan, many of them bastards. Outside the clan, they could act in grand and domineering fashion, but inside the clan, they had to bow their heads and act fawningly to the successor, Zhao Dongshan.
At the moment, Zhao Dongshan’s face was extremely grim, and his eyes burned with unyielding light.
“Bai Hao!!” he growled through gritted teeth. He feared Bai Hao, but even more so, was jealous of him. Bai Hao had trampled him underfoot from the Necromancer Kettle all the way to Arch-Emperor City. Furthermore, it had only been a few months since Bai Hao had forced him to offer formal greetings the way a junior would to a senior. His anger still burned hot because of that incident.
However, he could only suppress his killing intent in his heart, at least until Bai Hao was thoroughly and utterly defeated. After all, he couldn’t ever forget the fate of Li Tiansheng.
“I refuse to believe that he’ll remain in power forever!” Angrily flicking his sleeve, he looked around at those siblings of his who had been born out of formal wedlock. He was a fundamentally irritable person, and because he was the appointed successor in the clan, he often acted in overbearing fashion toward the other clan members.
“All of you line up. I want to do some sparring!” He immediately headed toward one of the younger members of the clan, who was a sibling of his. The young man’s expression flickered, but he didn’t dare to refuse to fight. However, almost as soon as he made a move, it was obvious that he wasn’t a match for Zhao Dongshan. A boom rang out, and the young man tumbled backward, blood spraying out of his mouth.
The other clan members’ expressions flickered, and their scalps tingled in fear. However, they had no choice in the matter. One by one, more booms and crashes could be heard as dozens of Zhao Clan cultivators were flung this way and that, coughing up blood.
“Useless trash, all of you!!” Zhao Dongshan shouted. Although his words angered all of the other clan members, they knew that he was venting his frustration, and that they had no option of resisting. They simply had to endure.
Zhao Dongshan was aware that they were only enduring because they had no other choice, and yet, he didn’t care. He was the clan’s successor, its future heavenly marquis. No matter how angry the other clan members got, they had to simply bow their heads, lest they be accused of rebellion.
Zhao Dongshan snorted coldly and prepared to vent a bit more frustration when, all of a sudden, a bright beam of light shot toward them from some distance away. It was none other than an old servant, who had an expression of alarm on his face, and was panting furiously, as though he had just experienced some terrifying ordeal.
He was actually preparing to fly right over Zhao Dongshan and head directly to the heavenly marquis pagoda. However, Zhao Dongshan frowned and shouted, “What’s got you in such a hurry, Sun Fu? Some disaster or something?!”
The old man apparently didn’t hear him, which led to no small amount of irritation on Zhao Dongshan’s part. In fact, he waved his hand, causing a rumbling sound to fill the air as the old man was knocked out of the air. Blood oozed out of the corners of his mouth as he looked around, surprised. That was when he noticed Zhao Dongshan looking at him with a grim expression.
“Something big has happened, Crown Prince!!” the old man said in a shaky voice. “Everybody outside is talking about it…. The Grand Heavenmaster is about to issue a Dharmic decree, something called a Proclamation of Universal Grace. At its core… it will force all the clans to distribute their resources evenly among all the potential heirs in the clan…. It doesn’t matter if you’re a bastard or a non-successor, as long as you have the right blood in you, you’ll be treated equally!!”
Zhao Dongshan felt completely and utterly thunderstruck. It seemed too incredulous to believe, so much so that he stepped forward and grabbed the old man. “What did you just say?!”
“I'm not making it up!” the old man said, shivering. “Everybody outside is talking about it….”
Zhao Dongshan was just about to start yelling again when, all of a sudden, the sound of bells could be heard from the imperial palace, ringing out to fill all of Arch-Emperor City.
Whenever those bells tolled, it meant something extremely important was happening.
As the bells tolled, a somber voice could be heard speaking, reaching the ears of everyone in the city!
“The founder of the Arch-Emperor Dynasty once said…
“That all living things should be treated equally….
“From this day forward, from the imperial court on down, the children of the clans, whether they be bastards or non-successors, will have equal access to the wealth and resources of their clans!
“A new golden age is about to begin for our imperial dynasty!”
Everyone who heard the words felt as though their hearts were leaping in their chests. Zhao Dongshan was gasping for breath, his eyes shining with disbelief as he stood there trembling, his mind a blank. All of a sudden, he looked around at all of his siblings.
Before, they had averted their gazes, but now, they looked back at him with blazing eyes. Zhao Dongshan recognized that fire… it was ambition!
“Impossible. This is completely impossible….” he said, shivering. Meanwhile, all of the other clans in Arch-Emperor City had descended into deathly silence. As for the heavenly marquises, their expressions flickered, and their minds felt like they were about to explode.
“This Proclamation of Universal Grace is going to be the end of the dynasty!!”
“This is absurd! What does the Grand Heavenmaster think he’s doing!?!?”
“Dammit. Dammit! Whose idea was this? Why does this Proclamation of Universal Grace seem like just as vicious a plan as what happened on the day of ancestral sacrifices!?!?”
The immediate response to the Proclamation of Universal Grace was for Arch-Emperor City to go completely silent. But then, a huge commotion ensued. That was when the crushing demigod might of the Grand Heavenmaster descended from the imperial palace.
At the same time, the auras of five heavenly dukes joined the Grand Heavenmaster’s to fill the city….
That was when Bai Xiaochun opened his eyes within his secluded meditation chamber in the Inspections Manor. Slowly rising to his feet, he took a step forward to appear in midair above the manor, his bloodshot eyes shining with cold light.
Swishing his sleeve, he loudly said, “Corpse troopers, assemble immediately…. The time has come to enforce the Proclamation of Universal Grace!”
As his voice rang out, all of his 5,000 corpse troopers flew over, murderous auras burning with intense power.
“We’ll start with the heavenly marquis clans!” With that, he flew up into the air, followed by the corpse troopers. His first destination… the Zhao Clan!