Only the Grand Heavenmaster and the other most powerful figures were privy to the general truth of the matter. To them, the matter of the Hell-Emperor’s successor was no big surprise. The main thing they weren’t sure about was whether the Hell-Emperor would arrange for Bai Xiaochun to continue to use the identity of Bai Hao.
After all, the name Bai Xiaochun was very sensitive, and therefore, having someone named Bai Hao as the next Hell-Emperor would resolve many issues.
As the news was still rocking the Wildlands, roughly a month into Bai Xiaochun’s session of secluded cultivation, the Underworld River materialized in the sky above the Wildlands!
It took only a moment for everything to turn dark, and massive pressure to weigh down.
Everyone looked up into the sky and saw the huge Underworld River, churning and seething as countless souls inside turned in a specific direction and prostrated themselves in worship!
They weren’t the only souls to do so! All of the souls in the Wildlands in general all did exactly the same thing!
The direction they bowed in was none other than Arch-Emperor City!
Numerous structures in Arch-Emperor City had begun to shine with black light, including the heavenly marquis pagodas, the heavenly duke pagodas, and the imperial palace. The old dragon in the clouds above the city let out a massive roar, but didn't dare to fly up into the sky.
The common people, the nobility, the aristocracy, the Grand Heavenmaster, and even the Arch-Emperor, all walked out into the open and looked up at the river.
Gasps could be heard in the city, as well as in other locations in the Wildlands….
Everyone knew exactly what was happening….
The Hell-Emperor’s legacy was being passed onto his successor!
With the Underworld River having taken over the sky, everything was cast into darkness. Neither sun nor moon were visible, although, there was something like starlight that spilled down onto the lands below.
Anyone who looked closely would see that the supposed starlight actually came from innumerable souls within the Underworld River. Soul fire burned on them, which from a distance, made them look like stars. It was something most people were seeing for the first time in their lives!
It was with bated breath that everyone stared up at the huge river. They felt pressure that seemed to come from within their bones, or their souls, a pressure that resulted in feelings of reverence. Soul cultivators and savages alike, regardless of the level of their cultivation bases, including even the Grand Heavenmaster and other powerful experts like him, all felt their hearts pounding with awe.
It was something instinctual, something branded into their blood, something that even the wild beasts in the Wildlands possessed.
It was hard to say who did it first, but soon, endless crowds of people were dropping to their knees in worship. Everywhere in the Wildlands, people bowed in the direction of Arch-Emperor City. Common people and aristocrats alike, the Grand Heavenmaster and the four heavenly kings, all bent over in worship!
All living things offered obeisance!
It was a show of respect to the Underworld River, and an expression of reverence for the Hell-Emperor!
Bai Xiaochun didn’t participate, because he was still in secluded meditation. And there was one other person who refrained from offering worship. The Arch-Emperor! Despite being a mere figurehead in the modern age, he was still the Arch-Emperor, and he was the only person who qualified to continue to look up somberly into the sky.
Gradually, a figure appeared within the seething, howling Underworld River up in the sky. It was the gravekeeper, and this was the first time he had ever shown his face to the throngs of living beings in the Wildlands!
He didn’t look at all like he had when dealing with Bai Xiaochun. He wore a black robe, but this one was decorated with swirling underworld dragons. It made him seem like a supreme and venerable being, an effect which was enhanced by the imperial crown he wore. He truly seemed like an emperor, the type who could shake all of the Wildlands!
The people in the Wildlands were all deeply shaken by the sight of the gravekeeper. Gasps could be heard, and many eyes began to shine with passion and veneration. The truth was that, to these people… the Hell-Emperor was in some ways more important than the Arch-Emperor!
After all, the position of Arch-Emperor was hereditary, and passed down from generation to generation. But up til now… there had only been a single Hell-Emperor in heaven and earth!
To the people of the Arch-Emperor Dynasty, the Hell-Emperor… was like a divine figure, a god to whom they prayed!
The sound of their voices joined together, rolling out across the Wildlands and causing everything to tremble.
Their god was present, causing everyone to be deeply moved!
As the thunderous sound of their voices filled all creation, the gravekeeper waved his right hand, causing a silence to fall.
At that point, the Underworld River seethed, and a second figure came into view!
He was young and handsome, with fair skin, wearing a long black robe, and emanating an energy that seemed capable of suppressing the boundless light of the soul fire. As he stood in front of the gravekeeper, there was nothing about him that seemed out of place. In fact, it almost seemed… like he belonged there.
The instant he came into view, countless people in the Wildlands gasped in shock, and there were many who couldn’t hold back from blurting out their thoughts.
“Earthly Necromancer Bai Hao!!”
“So the rumors were true! Bai Hao… is going to be the next Hell-Emperor!!”
Zhou Hong, Little Wolfgod, and the other chosen were all shaking visibly, their hearts filled with bitterness. If they had such a reaction, there was little need to mention the others who had had conflicts with Bai Xiaochun. Thankfully, most people had been prepared for this outcome, otherwise there would have been many more people who lost their composure.
However, the Grand Heavenmaster and the four heavenly kings, those who were more familiar with Bai Xiaochun than the average person, were actually stunned by what they were seeing.
“That’s not Bai Xiaochun! That's the soul slave who always kept him company….” The Grand Heavenmaster was the first one to understand the truth. It was for the sake of this Bai Hao that Bai Xiaochun had killed a heavenly marquis! That was how the Grand Heavenmaster had come to learn that Bai Hao was Bai Xiaochun’s apprentice!
“His apprentice is going to be the Hell-Emperor!!” Even the powerful Grand Heavenmaster was shaken by the development.
The four heavenly kings had similar reactions, especially the Giant Ghost King.
They had seen Bai Xiaochun close up. That, coupled with their powerful cultivation bases, ensured that they detected the differences between Bai Hao and Bai Xiaochun!
Although such differences might not be visible with the naked eye, they were as plain as day to the acute divine sense of the demigods.
“They're not the same person!” the Giant Ghost King thought with a gasp. This turn of events was something he could never have predicted. He had assumed that Bai Xiaochun would be the one to succeed the Hell-Emperor! He was also aware of who Bai Hao was, and therefore, was just as stunned as the Grand Heavenmaster!
Chen Haosong and the other top most powerful experts were also incredibly perceptive, and were thus able to come to the conclusion that Bai Hao and Bai Xiaochun were not the same person!
As for Zhou Yixing, he knew Bai Xiaochun better than anyone in the Wildlands. Although his cultivation base wasn’t sufficient to perceive the truth, there were other ways for him to tell!
“That’s… milord’s apprentice Bai Hao?!” Zhou Yixing was stunned. In contrast, Song Que didn’t notice any differences at all, and remained as excited as he had been before.
Of the people who had witnessed that spectacular battle recently, some did not notice the clues, and had mixed feelings as a result. Others did notice the clues, and were shocked. Regardless not a single person wasn’t shaken in some way as they looked at those two figures high up in the sky! At the same time, the Hell-Emperor Stele in the middle of Arch-Emperor City slowly faded away into nothing.
It was in that exact same moment that, back in the Underworld River Restricted Area, in Bai Xiaochun’s temporary immortal's cave, a tremor ran through him, and intense rumbling sounds filled his body as the Celestial’s blood-hair transformed into ash.
Indescribable levels of life force coursed through him, pushing his Undying Bones all the way to the very peak!
When that happened, his eyes opened. He currently felt power swirling within him the likes of which defied imagination! And it was ready to explode out into the open at any moment.
When it did, he could topple mountains and drain seas!
“The great circle of the Undying Bones!”
His eyes began to shine like heavenly bodies, illuminating the entire immortal’s cave!