Upon seeing that Bai Xiaochun’s reservations had been cleared up, a smile broke out on Patriarch Spirit Stream’s face. The truth was that he cared very much for Bai Xiaochun, and not just because of how he had just defeated the three enemy devas.
Bai Xiaochun was the heart and the soul of the River-Defying Sect. It didn’t matter that the Spirit and Blood Stream Divisions were now fully integrated; there was no one who could replace Bai Xiaochun!
Most importantly, Bai Xiaochun had the most orthodox and proper background within the Spirit Stream Division!
All of a sudden, the patriarch seemed to remember something. “Xiaochun, you were missing for a long time in the Wildlands. Now that you're back, I have to ask: did you hear about the matter of the Celestial selecting a new apprentice?”
“The Celestial is picking a new apprentice?” Bai Xiaochun said, a look of shock appearing on his face.
The patriarch nodded. “Even I'm not too familiar with what happens in this situation. However, the entire affair should be kicking off soon. All four of the riversource sects are making preparations.
“According to what I heard, any Nascent Soul cultivator can join the running. As long as they’re from the Heavenspan River region, it doesn’t matter if they belong to a sect, a clan, or even if they’re a rogue cultivator. All Nascent Soul cultivators qualify to go to Heavenspan Island!” Patriarch Spirit Stream sighed. Considering how old he was, he knew that he wasn’t suitable for such a position. After all, there was no shortage of Nascent Soul cultivators in the Heavenspan River region.
For one Nascent Soul cultivator to beat so many others to win a spot would be like a mortal being able to ascend to the heavens!
However, there was hope for Bai Xiaochun. Despite the fact that he could clearly defeat almost anyone else in his generation, he clearly had not yet become a deva.
Despite being merely a half-deva, he had killed one true deva, crippled another, and forced a third to flee. Patriarch Spirit Stream had never heard of anything like that happening in the eastern Heavenspan River, and although he couldn’t be sure if something as heaven-defying had occurred in the other three major rivers, he knew it was definitely unprecedented.
This was Bai Xiaochun’s first time hearing about the Celestial taking a new apprentice, but all it did was cause him to shake his head. Because of what he had witnessed in that spectacular battle in the Wildlands, he just didn’t have a very good impression of the Celestial….
The mention of the Celestial immediately got him thinking about Hou Xiaomei, so he asked the patriarch about her.
“Hou Xiaomei and Ghostfang were both taken to Heavenspan Island about a decade ago, along with several thousand others. That was accomplished, not by battle, but by assessment of talent and other factors. Hou Xiaomei apparently had unusual talent in certain areas. Assuming she follows instructions and excels in cultivation, she’ll have a chance to become a special guard there!
“This sort of thing only happens once every few hundred years. Out of those 10,000 cultivators, only a few hundred will end up as special guards.” Patriarch Spirit Stream clearly didn’t know a lot about the situation, but obviously had high hopes for the outcome. At the moment, there was a lot of work to do to get the River-Defying Sect back in order, and therefore, Patriarch Spirit Stream turned to leave.
As he did, he recalled how close Hou Xiaomei and Bai Xiaochun were, and looked back to say, “If you want more details, you should go ask Song Junwan. The selection formalities occurred in the Starry Sky Dao Polarity Sect, and Song Junwan was there as well. Unfortunately, she wasn’t selected.”
Bai Xiaochun nodded, choosing to keep his reservations about the Celestial to himself. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Patriarch Spirit Stream, it was just that his suspicions were too shocking. Still feeling a bit unsettled about the whole thing, he took another moment to look out at the graves, then took a deep breath and left.
Before long, it was evening, and a bright moon hung high in the sky. Most of the disciples of the River-Defying Sect were practicing cultivation. After all, the repair work couldn’t be completed in a day, and they needed time to recover from the weariness of battle.
It was at this time that Bai Xiaochun finally took the opportunity to go find Song Junwan. On the one hand, he had been missing her badly for years, and on the other hand, he also wanted to find out more about what happened to Hou Xiaomei.
Song Junwan had finally taken a break, and was in her immortal's cave, recovering from her weariness with medicinal pills. However, there was one person who went to see her before Bai Xiaochun. And that was Song Que.
Considering that Song Que was a chosen of the Song Clan, it was only natural that Song Junwan was very concerned about him. And the fact that he was now in the Nascent Soul stage was wonderful for the clan.
Despite the fact that Song Junwan held seniority over Song Que, as soon as he arrived, she rose to her feet to meet him. However, Song Que didn’t dare to rely on his cultivation base to act like the ranking cultivator. Hurrying forward, he said, “There’s no need for that, Aunt Junwan. Que’er has come to offer greetings.”
Acting with the utmost courtesy, he clasped hands and bowed, just like he had back when his cultivation base was far inferior to hers.
Song Junwan was very pleased with how circumspect he was being. However, that didn’t stop her from offering some advice.
“Que’er, now that you have a Nascent Soul, it’s only proper for me to receive you formally. Although we can’t forget matters of protocol, in the cultivation world, strength demands respect.”
Song Que smiled bitterly, reminding himself that if it weren’t for Bai Xiaochun, things would be very different. Considering that he was very close to the mid Nascent Soul stage, everyone in his clan with the exception of the patriarch himself would bow in greeting to him.
However… considering who Song Junwan was, and her relationship with Bai Xiaochun, Song Que had no choice but to suppress his bitterness. Although he was a bit pleased to see how depressed Bai Xiaochun was recently, he didn’t dare to reveal that openly. Not only had his time in the Wildlands forced him to grow up a bit, but it had also instilled a deep reverence for Bai Xiaochun that even he wouldn’t admit existed.
Furthermore, Bai Xiaochun had repeatedly brought up the matter of himself being Song Que’s uncle. Because of that, matters of seniority relating to Song Junwan were far from simple.
If it weren’t for that, his first visit wouldn’t have been to Song Junwan, but rather, to the Song Clan patriarch.
“There’s no need for that, Aunt Junwan. In your eyes, ma’am, Que’er will always be the same boy he was years ago.” With that, Song Que took a deep breath and then bowed formally to Song Junwan.
Song Junwan’s smile grew wider, and her eyes warmer. She was proud that a qilin son like this had risen up in the clan, and immediately asked him about his adventures in the Wildlands.
In response, he hemmed and hawed, giving a vague, awkward recounting of what happened after he went missing. If it had been anyone else, he would have acted a bit more arrogantly. But right now, he wasn’t quite sure how to behave around Song Junwan.
Song Junwan could tell that something was off about Song Que. She frowned, which made her seem both more beautiful, and also more grim. Just when she was about to ask some more pointed questions, she heard Bai Xiaochun’s voice outside the immortal's cave.
“Wan’er, my darling,” he said passionately, “I'm back!”
The instant his voice entered the immortal's cave, Song Que’s heart began to pound. As for Song Junwan, her face flushed, and her eyes flickered with a bit of anger. For him to act romantically with her in front of someone from the younger generation not only caused her heart to start racing, it was also a bit embarrassing. She quickly waved her hand, causing the immortal's cave door to slam open.
Bai Xiaochun strode in and immediately saw Song Que.
“Eee?! Que’er! What are you doing here?”
Song Que’s face darkened.
When Song Junwan saw Song Que’s expression, she suddenly looked a bit apologetic. She knew that it was partly her fault that Bai Xiaochun was treating Song Que like this, and was about to say something when Bai Xiaochun cut her off.
“Wan'er, you have no idea what kind of place the Wildlands is. It’s incredibly dangerous. Deadly situations crop up no matter where you go. In order to save Que’er, I almost revealed my secret identity! I even offended a bunch of aristocrats, and ended up shaking down some heavenly marquis clans!
“Did you hear that? Heavenly marquises! The Wildlands is huge, but they only have 108 of them. Every single one is a really important and famous person!” Sighing in reminiscence, he thought back to the heavy price he had paid to rescue Song Que.
“I’ll never forget how bad of a situation Que’er was in when I first found him out there in the Wildlands. He was poked full of so many holes he looked like a sieve! One of those heavenly marquis clans had turned him into a living spirit stone!
“Do you know what a living spirit stone is, Wan'er? They force them to eat all kinds of medicinal pills and stuff, forcing their qi passageways to expand. That increases their cultivation base, which they then force to rotate, sending cultivation base power through all the holes they poked in them. That in turn creates a small area abundant in spiritual energy!
“And then… that clan’s junior generation can practice cultivation without any spirit stones!” Bai Xiaochun’s vivid description caused Song Que to involuntarily think back to the dark times of the past. At the same time, Song Junwan gasped, and her expression turned grim.
“That’s outrageous!” she said furiously. She looked over at the bitter expression on Song Que’s face, and could tell that Bai Xiaochun was not exaggerating. All of a sudden, she realized why Song Que had been stumbling for words earlier.
“Thank you for what you did, Xiaochun!!” she said. Earlier, she had intended to prevent Bai Xiaochun from saying anything to Song Que. Instead, she looked at him emotionally, and then gave a curtseying bow at the waist.
“There’s no need for all the formality!” Bai Xiaochun replied. “I did all of that for you, after all.” Clearing his throat, he stepped forward, slipped his arm around her supple waist, and then thumped himself on the chest. “You’re Que’er's aunt, and I’m his uncle. We’re family! If I didn’t help him out there in the Wildlands, who would? If I didn’t save him, who would? It was the proper thing to do, and not a big deal at all.”
Although Song Junwan’s face turned scarlet, she didn’t push him away. In fact, her expression softened. Before, she had felt as if they were growing apart, but now, with his hand around her waist, that feeling was gone.