Bai Xiaochun ignored all of the stares. After all, he knew that the remarkable powers of the gravekeeper made him vastly more powerful than even the Grand Heavenmaster.
However, not even half a month of fawning prompted the gravekeeper to pay him even an iota of attention. By this point, Bai Xiaochun felt like a ball of fire that was starting to sputter out.
It was also obvious that only he and Bai Hao were able to see the gravekeeper, who simply sat there the entire time fishing. Of course, what he was fishing for was vengeful souls, not fish.
The vengeful souls would always struggle mightily to take the bait, and yet, the gravekeeper only took away one vengeful soul per day.
Bai Xiaochun sighed and looked at the gravekeeper, then turned with a frown to glance at the Underworld River. Next to him was Bai Hao, who had witnessed his Master working hard for an entire month, with no results to show for it.
Lowering his voice, he said, “Master, this member of the senior generation is anything but ordinary. Don’t feel discouraged….”
“I know,” Bai Xiaochun replied through gritted teeth. “This guy is definitely anything but ordinary. However, you don’t need to worry. Master has a lot of experience dealing with old guys like this!” Bai Xiaochun was mostly convinced that he had just taken the wrong angle. Therefore, the next night, he found a fishing pole, sat down next to the gravekeeper, and started fishing with him.
“Becoming kindred spirits with someone can work wonders!” Fully convinced, he sat there fishing with the gravekeeper for another half a month while Bai Hao looked on, not sure what to make of the situation.
By this point, an entire month had gone by, and yet no matter what Bai Xiaochun did, the gravekeeper didn’t pay him any attention. Finally, Bai Xiaochun sighed and decided to just give up.
Scowling, he said, “Hao’er, in this instance I've chosen to teach you an important lesson via my own actions. It’s true that if you set your mind to it, you can crush rocks and tear apart metal! However, sometimes the wrong person comes along, and you’ll end up wasting your time.”
Bai Hao blinked a few times, but ended up holding his tongue and nodding in response.
And yet, despite Bai Xiaochun claiming that it was time to give up, he simply couldn’t bring himself to actually do it. Not wanting to waste time, though, he decided to practice working with nineteen-colored flame.
“Well, sometimes when you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself. If this old codger is going to be too stubborn to help, then my only other option is to improve my flame conjuring ability, and achieve a cultivation base breakthrough. Once I step into the Deva Realm… then I can easily cross the Wildlands on my own.” He sighed inwardly. Despite the fact that nineteen-colored flame could only be conjured by earthly necromancers, the fact was that Bai Hao’s formula still wasn’t complete.
Over the following few days, Bai Xiaochun and Bai Hao discussed flame conjuring and nineteen-colored flame, right there next to the Underworld River and the gravekeeper. Although, as far as they were concerned, the gravekeeper might as well have not been there.
Bai Hao had his theories, and Bai Xiaochun had his experience. Working together, they began to make progress. Not quickly, but not slowly either.
Unfortunately, there were certain areas that left them stymied and at an impasse, no matter what new angles they came up with.
“This isn’t going to work,” Bai Xiaochun said. “When conjuring eighteen-colored flame, I can only get it to work in the 9-meter state. However, if I do things the same with nineteen-colored flame, then its seems to me that it would only work in a 3-meter state. That's the only way I would be able to spot the new color. And that would be so difficult it would basically be impossible.”
Bai Xiaochun was getting frustrated, and Bai Hao was lost in thought.
“If only there were a way to get those colors to stop flickering so quickly….” Bai Hao muttered. “Unfortunately, it would probably require a lot of outside force.” His eyes flickered with the light of augury, but even after a protracted period of time, he didn’t come up with any new ideas. Bai Xiaochun also wracked his brains, and yet, it was to no avail.
Another seven days went by, during which time they continued to remain stuck in the same place. That night, Bai Xiaochun finally began to consider giving up on his work with nineteen-colored flame, and just let the ideas come naturally over time. However, it was in that exact moment that the gravekeeper, who hadn’t said a single word during all of these weeks, suddenly spoke in a gravelly voice.
“Why are you trying to get the flames to flicker more slowly? Why don’t you try to split the new color into multiple parts? That way, you’ll have more chances of spotting it.”
His words struck both Bai Xiaochun and Bai Hao like a bolt of lightning. Master and apprentice both stared at each other, their eyes shining brightly!
It all made complete sense! In Bai Xiaochun's attempts to conjure eighteen-colored flame, he had always worked with a single portion of that new color. However, if there were a hundred such portions of color, or even ten, then even if the flickering occurred more quickly, he would still have plenty of chances to get lucky and latch onto the new color!
“That’s right! It makes perfect sense! Master, let’s rework everything from fifteen-colored flame upward. Then, by the time we get to nineteen-colored flame, there will be plenty more of the new color to work with!!” Delighted, Bai Hao’s eyes began to flicker with even more augury light. Clearly, he was very moved.
Bai Xiaochun was equally excited. It seemed like a simple idea, the type that anyone would be able to understand upon first hearing it. But considering how much of a rut they had been stuck in, without someone to point it out to them, they might have wasted a huge amount of time coming up with it on their own.
Bai Xiaochun took a deep breath, stood, and then clasped hands to the gravekeeper, as did Bai Hao. However, the gravekeeper didn't have anything more to say, and simply continued fishing.
At the moment, Bai Xiaochun didn’t have the time to ponder the gravekeeper. He continued to contemplate the matter as Bai Hao performed auguries. Several days later, they resolved the issue. That didn’t mean that Bai Xiaochun was completely ready to work with nineteen-colored flame, but it did provide immense help to his ability with eighteen-colored flame!
In fact, it immediately improved his success rate. Now, the only main limitation he faced was getting all of the seventeen-colored flame he needed to create an eighteen-colored flame. From now on, he wouldn't be able to use any type of seventeen-colored flame other than tongues conjured by himself.
Generally speaking, the whole method needed to be started from fifteen-colored flame. However, that wasn’t necessarily a huge problem for Bai Xiaochun. Although he had only come up with this new idea recently, the boost it gave him when working with eighteen-colored flame was worth it.
After all, each failure with eighteen-colored flame meant a massive loss of resources.
A few words from the gravekeeper had resolved a major issue for this Master and apprentice team. Therefore, after exchanging a glance, they began to continue their discussion about various issues regarding nineteen-colored flame, all right there in front of the gravekeeper.
“When you take ten tongues of eighteen-colored flame and combine them, the fluctuations and instabilities make it difficult for them to merge together….”
“The pressure created after merging them, and the way they contract, are both big problems. What are we supposed to do? It would be difficult considering my current cultivation base level….”
“Also, I wonder if nineteen-colored flame comes with lightning tribulation….”
All sorts of questions poured out of their mouths, and after each one, they would cast sidelong glances at the gravekeeper. As long as he didn’t say anything, they could continue the discussion along related subjects.
Eventually, it was with a bit of a begrudging expression that the gravekeeper offered some more advice. Every time he did, Bai Xiaochun and Bai Hao were thrilled. Slowly but surely, all of their issues were being resolved.
With the help of the gravekeeper, Bai Xiaochun’s skill in flame conjuring slowly improved, and Bai Hao’s understanding of the theories involved grew more profound. In fact, Bai Hao seemed to benefit even more than Bai Xiaochun. Everything the gravekeeper said seemed to strike him like lightning, leaving him more confident, and his formulas more complete.
Eventually, he realized that what he was doing was very specific and unique. The formulas he was creating were all based on Bai Xiaochun’s cultivation base, divine sense, and strong suits.
In all of the Wildlands, Bai Xiaochun would be the only person who would actually be able to use this formula to concoct flame.
Another few months sped by. Bai Xiaochun was completely immersed in his flame conjuring research, as was Bai Hao. Although they still took time to rest when necessary, they worked so hard that Bai Xiaochun’s skill grew significantly on a daily basis!
Master and apprentice both advanced by leaps and bounds in a very short period of time. It was almost impossible to describe how much they were benefiting. And although no expression could be seen on the gravekeeper’s face, deep within his eyes was a gleam of a smile. He appeared to be ignoring Bai Xiaochun and Bai Hao, but the truth was that he was actually paying more attention to them than to his fishing.
As Master and apprentice discussed various matters, it was impossible for Bai Hao to hide the reverence and love in his eyes. At the same time, it was also impossible for Bai Xiaochun to disguise how much he cared for his apprentice. When the gravekeeper saw that, the smile deep within his eyes grew wider.