Zhou Yixing was convinced that Bai Xiaochun was not simply trying to frighten them, and was thus deeply shaken. And yet, no matter how he looked, he couldn't see anything along the bank of the river.
Wu Dao’s expression flickered, and after a moment of hesitation and further examination, a strange expression appeared on his face.
“Grandmaster Bai, um… there really isn’t anyone there.”
Stunned, Bai Xiaochun looked at Zhou Yixing for confirmation, who simply smiled and nodded. Heart pounding, Bai Xiaochun looked back. The black-robed old man was still sitting there just like before. By this point, Bai Xiaochun realized that there was something familiar about him, although he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.
“Am I the only one who can see him?” he said, face turning pale and scalp tingling. However, it was at this point that Bai Hao’s nervous voice was transmitted into his mind.
“Master, I… I can see him too…. There’s an old man there, fishing….”
After a moment, Wu Dao took his leave, still a bit suspicious about everything. He even took some subordinates over to the Underworld River bank to search around, but none of them found anything.
As for Bai Xiaochun, he could clearly see an old man sitting next to where Wu Dao was now standing by the riverbank, and yet, Wu Dao didn't seem to be able to see the old man at all.
Feeling very nervous, Bai Xiaochun watched the old man the entire night. He simply sat there, fishing until dawn came, whereupon he faded away along with the Underworld River.
The next day, Bai Xiaochun was completely jumpy, and even plastered himself with some paper talismans he had in his bag of holding. And yet, that didn’t make him feel much better.
When Bai Hao saw how nervous his Master was, he hesitated for a moment before saying, “Master, why don’t we go over tonight to take a closer look? It almost seems like he’s calling me….”
“You really have the guts to go for a closer look?” Bai Xiaochun said nervously. “Hao’er, you listen to me! That guy’s not a soul, he’s a ghost! Souls aren’t very scary. After all, I’ve used a lot of souls in my necromancy. No, that’s a ghost!! Don’t let him hypnotize you! In fact, considering that old ghost has shown up, we need to get out of here. This place is dangerous.
“Hao’er, back when your Master was in the Fallen Sword Abyss, I saw a girl ghost…. Even thinking about that causes chills to go up my spine.”
Whenever Bai Xiaochun thought about it, he realized that one of the main reasons he was so afraid of ghosts was because of that little girl back in the Fallen Sword Abyss.
Then he thought about how that girl had possessed Gongsun Wan’er, and then done all those strange things in the labyrinth, and his heart trembled with even more fear than before.
Bai Hao hesitated for a moment, and then said, “But I'm a ghost too!”
“You’re different. That’s… an old ghost! Old ghosts like that who have existed for many years are always very vicious!” Even as he spoke, he smacked a few more paper talismans down onto himself.
Bai Hao blinked a few times, but didn’t say anything more to try to convince Bai Xiaochun. And thus the day passed in relative agony for Bai Xiaochun. Eventually, midnight came again… and the rumbling sounds filled the sky. The sky rippled, and the Underworld River began to rush through the riverbed. And then… once again, Bai Xiaochun saw that black-robed old man sitting on the river bank.
“There he is again!!” he gasped, his face falling. Turning, he called out to Zhou Yixing, absolutely convinced that this evil place was haunted and that they shouldn’t stay there. “I’m an earthly necromancer! Any ghost that would dare to appear in front of me must be incredibly powerful….”
With that, he immediately sent Zhou Yixing and Song Que to work packing bags to get ready to leave. However, moments later, he realized that their small party was missing someone.
“Where’s Hao’er!?” he blurted. Spinning, and eyes widening, he noticed that Bai Hao was floating down toward the Underworld River, seemingly in a trance!
He was almost halfway to the bank, and was only a few hundred meters away from the black-robed old man.
“This is ridiculous bullying, you old ghost!!” Bai Xiaochun growled angrily. Although he was afraid, his anger over the fact that this old ghost was hypnotizing his apprentice caused him to start shaking physically. Letting out a shout, he began to speed toward the Underworld River.
As he moved, he smacked his bag of holding, producing numerous paper talismans, which he smacked down all over himself.
“Let go of my disciple, you old ghost!”
Although he was moving quickly, it was to his surprise that he found he couldn’t perform any teleportations. Even still, he was like a beam of light that shot toward Bai Hao, who was now only about 300 meters away from the old man. After closing in, he reached out and grabbed him.
Bai Hao shivered as he came to his senses. Then his face fell. As for Bai Xiaochun, he was relieved to see Bai Hao regain his senses, and yet, it was only a moment later that his terror spiked as he realized that the old man had noticed him. Oh so slowly, the man began to turn around. As of this moment, Bai Xiaochun felt a sensation of terror that was impossible to even comprehend. Gripping Bai Hao tight, he screamed and prepared to flee.
However, that was when the old man’s face became visible, and although his expression was cold and sinister, as soon as Bai Xiaochun caught sight of his features, his scream died, and he stood there with an incredulous look on his face.
“Great-Grandpa Gravekeeper….” he blurted.
This old man was none other than the mysterious black-robed figure who had saved him back in his Spirit Stream Sect days! During the fighting in those nameless mountains, he had been mortally wounded by a chosen of the Luochen Clan, and had then encountered this very black-robed old man!
This old man had not only saved his life, he gave him part of… the Undying Codex!
Never could Bai Xiaochun have imagined that after all the years that had passed, he would encounter this benefactor right here on the banks of the Underworld River!
Instantly, his fear vanished, and was replaced with joy. Meanwhile, the gravekeeper looked at Bai Xiaochun coolly for a moment, then looked back toward the river and started fishing again.
“Master, you… you know him?” Bai Hao had been struck with fear merely by looking at this old man; were it not for his master, he would probably have fallen right into the Underworld River because of the daze he had entered.
“Of course I know him! This is the benefactor that I've told you about so many times!” Bai Xiaochun’s eyes were already shining. He could tell that this gravekeeper was an incredible individual; after all he had been able to pull Bai Xiaochun back from the very brink of death.
Despite how his own cultivation base had climbed far beyond the level it had been that year, even now he couldn't ascertain the gravekeeper’s level.
That was saying a lot, considering that Bai Xiaochun had encountered demigods before. And yet, the feeling he got from the gravekeeper… was that he was beyond the demigod level.
“More powerful than a demigod…. Heavens! What level of cultivation base does Great-Grandpa Gravekeeper have?!” Enthused, he hurried over to the gravekeeper’s side.
“Great-Grandpa Gravekeeper,” he said, “it’s me, Bai Xiaochun! Um… I'm wearing a mask, so you can’t see my real face. Sir, do you remember what happened back in those mountains…?”
It seemed like the gravekeeper hadn’t even heard him; he simply went on fishing.
Bai Xiaochun was nervous, but also knew that he had to seize this rare opportunity. After a moment of hesitation, he said, “Um… Great-Grandpa Gravekeeper, can you help me out here? Send me back to the Heavenspan River? Whaddya say…?”
However, the gravekeeper didn’t seem to be listening. No matter what Bai Xiaochun said, he didn't respond at all. Bai Xiaochun kept talking until his mouth turned dry and dawn was approaching. And yet, the entire time, the gravekeeper never even looked at him. Eventually, he faded away along with the Underworld River.
“What do we do now, Master?!” Bai Hao said. He had been standing there the entire time while his Master uttered countless words.
Bai Xiaochun sighed and waved his hand dismissively.
“Master is going to teach you a lesson today, my apprentice. It’s called if you set your mind to it, you can crush rocks and tear apart metal!”
During the course of the following half month, Bai Hao came to fully understand exactly how focused his Master could be. Every single night at midnight, Bai Xiaochun would go find the gravekeeper and go through another round of entreaties just like he had the first night.
Zhou Yixing and Wu Dao were completely taken aback by what was happening. Of course, all they could see was Bai Xiaochun acting like a maniac, standing by the bank of the river talking to himself. And since they couldn’t hear what he was saying, it made the whole scene even stranger.
On one occasion, an underworld rainbow appeared near Bai Xiaochun, and when Wu Dao and the others went to harvest it, they could see up close what it looked like when he muttered to himself. It was really shocking, and they left as soon as they could.