Song Que’s shout seem to vent all of his depression and frustration. However, Big Fatty Zhang had simply been too biting, and even though Song Que didn’t want to, he suddenly envisioned himself greeting all of Bai Xiaochun’s friends.
“Uncle Baocai…. Uncle Tianyou…. Aunt Xiaomei…. Uncle God-Diviner….” As far as Song Que was concerned, it would be worse than heavenly tribulation. Trembling, he glared with bloodshot eyes, not at Bai Xiaochun --didn’t dare to do that-- but rather, at Big Fatty Zhang. From the look on his face, if one more wrong word was uttered, he would fly into a rage and attack.
Big Fatty Zhang was actually startled by Song Que’s shout, and started to get a bit nervous. After all, Song Que had quite a reputation in the Blood Stream Sect. However, considering that Bai Xiaochun was standing right there, it didn't seem likely that Song Que would actually do anything. Besides, Big Fatty Zhang really looked forward to the prospect of being addressed as an uncle.
That having been said, he was still surprised at Song Que’s reaction to such a small thing.
Off to the side, Sun Wu was stunned by what he was seeing. He had no idea of the backstory involved, and only knew that Bai Xiaochun was a deva patriarch.
From Sun Wu’s perspective, a Nascent Soul cultivator like Song Que was a junior to Bai Xiaochun, something completely and utterly natural….
“No wonder Senior Bai was so anxious to get over here. As it turns out, his Daoist partner is Fellow Daoist Song’s aunt….” Considering that, Sun Wu also felt that Song Que was acting a bit disrespectfully.
“Senior Bai hurried over here as quickly as he could to save Song Que, who didn't even offer greetings? And then he just turned to leave? No wonder Senior Bai is angry….” Although Big Fatty Zhang’s demands had seemed a bit excessive, Sun Wu could still understand them.
Finally, he put a warm smile onto his face, looked at Song Que, and said, “You did well to put your trust in me, Fellow Daoist Song. Clearly, the heavens have blessed you. Who would have thought that you were so close to the exalted Senior Bai? I can only be envious of the fact that you are a junior to him!”
Song Que wished he could say something, but couldn’t think of anything to say. Big Fatty Zhang was trying to take advantage of him, and Sun Wu was making it worse. Although he wanted to start arguing, the truth was that Sun Wu really had saved his life.
Song Que’s frustrations built and built, until he felt like he was about to go crazy. Finally, he simply threw back his head and howled at the top of his lungs. As he did, Bai Xiaochun sighed.
To see Song Que acting this way actually left Bai Xiaochun feeling a bit bad.
“Alright, Big Fatty Zhang. Leave Que’er alone. The child has had it very rough. Que’er, you shouldn’t be going around alone. Come with me, alright? It will be a lot safer that way.”
Song Que felt like crying when he heard that. Bai Xiaochun’s words had touched directly on the most sensitive part of his heart. In the face of such bald-faced provocation from Big Fatty Zhang, it was very moving to see Bai Xiaochun being so kind.
However, even in the moment that his gratitude swelled, Bai Xiaochun looked over and said something that ruined everything….
“Calm down, Que’er. Be a good boy, now. I'm not going to let anyone bully you!” Fearful that Song Que was taking everything the wrong way, Bai Xiaochun reached out and tousled his hair.
“AAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!” Song Que howled, his heart overcome by madness and humiliation at having eight generations of extremely bad luck heaped upon his head.
From the moment he had met Bai Xiaochun to now, his life had been an endless stream of frustration. As he howled, his weak spiritual power and tenuous hold on his emotions caused a stream of blood to spray out of his mouth. Then he flopped down onto the ground, unconscious.
“He passed out again…?” Bai Xiaochun murmured, feeling a headache coming on. Big Fatty Zhang stared down at him in shock, puzzled at how poorly Song Que took a simple joke….
“Look at how mad you got him, Eldest Brother. Ai… Well, you just carry him on your back for now.”
Big Fatty Zhang was also scowling on the verge of tears at the strangeness of it all. From what he could remember, Song Que was definitely not like this. Hoisting Song Que onto his back, he looked over at Bai Xiaochun.
“Xiaochun, what did you mean when you said that he passed out ‘again’? He’s passed out before in the past?”
“Oh, you have no idea. The poor child was harmed mentally back in the Wildlands. Whenever he gets too excited, he passes out. It's fine…. He’ll wake up in the next two or three days.” Clearing his throat, Bai Xiaochun quickly changed the topic of conversation, and then led the shocked Big Fatty Zhang and Sun Wu off into the distance.
As the group flew along through the swamp, ten days passed by. Soon, they were getting close to the edge of the swamp, beyond which was a vast plain covered by a sky as overcast as the swamp’s.
Although things had remained peaceful and quiet during their journey through the swamp, Bai Xiaochun had not come out without certain gains. In his hand, he held a seed.
It was emerald green, and pulsed with a frigid qi that turned his entire hand cold as he held it.
The seed had once been a flower, which he had encountered a few days ago.
The petals of that flower had resembled moons, and despite being somewhat stunted in appearance, looked very unique growing alone in the middle of a swamp. Upon approaching the flower, Bai Xiaochun had noticed how it seemed to notice him, and then try to shrink down into the ground below. Curious, he had gone closer, which was when he had noticed that the frigid qi emanating from the flower closely resembled the frigid qi that came from cultivating the Frigid School Will-Evolving Incantation.
Surprised, he had expended a bit of effort to dig up the flower. By the time he got to it though, it had shriveled up into a seed.
After some study, Bai Xiaochun realized that in the process of blooming, the flower would absorb frigid qi from the surroundings. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much frigid qi in the swamp, which had prevented the flower from growing to its full potential.
“Maybe with enough study, I can put this flower to use in my own cultivation of frigid qi. I think I’ll call it a moonflower.” With that, he continued to lead his small group along. Along the way, they saw corpses here and there, some from the other three rivers, and some from the Starry Sky Dao Polarity Sect.
The sight of the corpses caused everyone’s moods to sink. Song Que had long since regained consciousness. Originally, his expression had been very grim, but after traveling along and seeing all the corpses, his attitude changed.
“What kind of trial by fire is this…?” That same question floated in the minds of everyone present. As for Big Fatty Zhang, Song Que, and Sun Wu, they knew that without Bai Xiaochun there to protect them, they would all have likely died inside the swamp….
“Maybe this so-called trial by fire isn't actually about finding an apprentice for the Celestial… but all about that exit!” Such were the thoughts of Bai Xiaochun. By now, they had been within the trial by fire for about two months.
During that time, he had confirmed that ordinary Nascent Soul cultivators simply could not survive. Even those who were in the great circle could only rely on incredible battle prowess and pure luck to pass through any of the four main areas.
Because of that, Bai Xiaochun was fairly certain… that even if the Celestial really wanted an apprentice, it wasn’t necessary to pick one via such a deadly trial by fire.
That left only one obvious solution to the riddle….
“The Celestial’s true goal is to find that so-called exit….
“In that case… it would mean that even he doesn’t know where it is. And that means… that not even the Celestial is truly familiar with the lands in this trial by fire!!
“This supposed trial by fire is merely a casting out of pawns. He’s just hoping that if he throws enough people into the mix, someone will find the exit!
“There must also be some other secret at play here. Otherwise, why would the Celestial make up a story about accepting an apprentice? That was just… to trick people into coming!” The more Bai Xiaochun analyzed the situation, the more unsightly his expression became. Of course, he also couldn't be certain that his analysis was correct.
Either way, the trial by fire was very dangerous. Both the desert and the swamp left him feeling very jumpy.
Without his Godkiller technique, he would have been in even more danger in the swamp.
All of these thoughts got him even more worried about the other people left in the trial by fire. Originally, there had been over a thousand, but now, it was likely that more than half were dead.
As for the others, they would surely have come to the realization that the trial was dangerous beyond imagination, and that something fishy was going on.
However, such realizations did little good…. Clearly, until someone found the exit, everyone would be facing death at every corner.
Even the supremely powerful Bai Xiaochun was still feeling a lot of pressure. Although he had calmed the swamp down, he knew that was only on the surface. During his travels, his divine sense had revealed on numerous occasions that there were things hiding in the depths.
Such entities didn’t reveal any hostility when his divine sense touched them, but he also knew that without his Godkiller technique, they would have been deadly threats.
“What the hell kind of place is this?!” Even as he pondered the situation, he finally left the swamp and entered the endless plain.
Wind scraped across the plain, which seemed to be filled with nothing more than an undulating sea of grass, interspersed with occasional corpses that had been gnawed at by unknown teeth….
The sight caused Big Fatty Zhang, Song Que, and Sun Wu to feel jumpier than ever. From the sight of the few corpses they could see, it was obvious that the plain was a very dangerous place.
After flying over the grass for about ten days, Bai Xiaochun’s face suddenly fell. He had just detected a burst of killing intent, something that caused the air to grow cold around him. Backing up, he shouted, “Eldest Brother, get everybody out of here. Don’t worry about me!!”
As soon as the words left his mouth, a sound like rumbling thunder echoed across the plain, and two huge faces appeared up above in the sky.
They belonged to none other than… the twin Master Cloud Lightnings!