"Mmph!" Ma Xiaotao grunted softly as the hand that was tightly latched onto Huo Yuhao's shoulder relaxed a little more. Ma Xiaotao's Ultimate Fire and Huo Yuhao's Ultimate collided once more, and both their bodies were jolted painfully, as if they were being electrocuted.
Huo Yuhao couldn't raise his left arm anymore, as his shoulder was severely injured, and his tendons and blood vessels were damaged. But that wasn't important to him - what was important was that he had finally taken the most crucial step.
"Sister, sister, wake up! Wake up! I am Huo Yuhao, and you are Ma Xiaotao. We are both students from Shrek Academy, and you are my sister, my sister! Sister, sister…"
He called out to Ma Xiaotao again and again, and he applied strength continuously through his arm that was wrapped around her waist. The Ice Jade Empress Scorpion's patterns gradually glimmered into view on Huo Yuhao's back as he began to strengthen his Ultimate Ice.
Intense chills emerged from his body and transformed into countless thin threads that fought against Ma Xiaotao's Ultimate Fire. But amidst this contest of extremes, a grey soul ring glimmered beneath Huo Yuhao's feet and discreetly absorbed the energies of darkness within Ma Xiaotao's Ultimate Fire.
Huo Yuhao was no longer the weak and small soul master that had participated in the Continental Advanced Soul Master Academy Soul Dueling Tournament with Ma Xiaotao back then. His soul power had reached Rank 60, and he just needed another soul ring before he would become a Soul Emperor. He might possibly reach an even higher level.
Huo Yuhao had completely absorbed the origin energy of Ultimate Ice that the Snow Empress had infused into his body a long time ago, and his soul power was so pure that even Xu Sanshi, who was nearing Rank 70, would gasp in amazement.
How was Huo Yuhao able to defeat and kill that spiritual-type evil soul master, an eight-ringed Soul Douluo? Besides the power of his three ultimate skills, his personal cultivation formed an important foundation for this feat.
The truth was that Huo Yuhao could almost obtain two soul rings instead of just one. The foundations of his soul power were nearing Rank 70, because of the gift that the Snow Empress had given him a long time ago: formidable soul power, which had brought him incredible pain and agony. This soul power had always been there, and as the hard times ended, the good times began.
This also meant that Huo Yuhao had a chance to directly become a Soul Sage if he could find suitable soul rings, and was the same reason why he had the stamina to resist Ma Xiaotao. He was only Rank 60, but his endurance and the strength of his soul power were close to Rank 70, while his Element wasn't any weaker than hers.
Huo Yuhao would be considered a powerful individual in the world of soul masters today... or rather, a quasi-powerful individual. He already had the confidence to resist his sister face-to-face, while his strong control over his spiritual power was also part of his foundation and confidence. At this moment, he was using Ultimate Ice to support his spiritual power in an attempt to awaken Ma Xiaotao, and he was also weakening the energies of darkness inside her body.
The most empirical difference between Ma Xiaotao and Tang Ya was that the evil soul masters had directly controlled Tang Ya's heart and mind. In addition to the drugs and whatnot that those evil soul masters had given her, Tang Ya was almost completely lost and confused. In contrast, one of Ma Xiaotao's most substantial problems was presented by her martial soul, the Evil Phoenix. All sorts of hallucinogens or psychedelics were futile against someone who possessed Ultimate Fire like she did. Those evil soul masters were able to control her heart and mind, but they were only able to do so because they took advantage of her confusion and her emotional characteristics.
Huo Yuhao continuously weakened the energies of darkness within her body so that her confused will and consciousness could gradually recover. Even if Ma Xiaotao couldn't awaken completely, she would at least be able to retrieve part of her memory.
What Huo Yuhao had inherited from the Calamity Necromancer Electrolux allowed him to discreetly purify the evil aura's fundamental existence within Ma Xiaotao's body. If Huo Yuhao was as powerful back then as he was today, he wouldn't have been afraid of Ma Xiaotao going mad at all.
Ma Xiaotao's right hand finally relaxed completely. Her right hand was still on his shoulder, but her confused and befuddled eyes gradually became clear and transparent, while those dancing flames in her eyes were slowly receding.
"Sister, sister…" Huo Yuhao continued to call out to her, and every single call came from deep within his heart. Every single exclamation was filled with his intimacy with Ma Xiaotao.
"You are… Yuhao…" Ma Xiaotao's voice didn't sound so hoarse, as the Ultimate Fire on her body ebbed.
Huo Yuhao slowly withdrew his Ultimate Ice at the same time.
"Yes, I am your Huo Yuhao! I am your little brother. Wake up, sister, wake up!"
"I am Ma Xiaotao! I'm not the Holy Lady, I'm not the Holy Lady…" Ma Xiaotao's eyes were becoming increasingly clear, and Huo Yuhao continued to dispel the energies of darkness within her body as her eyes became brighter and brighter. The dark red flames that were emanating from her body slowly became fiery-red.
"We have a chance!" Huo Yuhao was elated as he enhanced his absorption of Ma Xiaotao's darkness. He patted Ma Xiaotao softly on her back again and again as he continued to guide her with his spiritual power.
"I am Ma Xiaotao. What am I doing here?" Ma Xiaotao muttered as if she was in a daze.
Huo Yuhao gently released her from his embrace. He raised his head and stared into her eyes.
The dark red colors in Ma Xiaotao's eyes had abated. Even though her eyes couldn't be considered impeccably clear and transparent, she didn't have that coldness from before.
"Yuhao! You're Yuhao. How have you become so tall?" Ma Xiaotao stared at him with a dazed look in her eyes.
Huo Yuhao answered, "That's because I've grown up! Sister, I am Yuhao."
Ma Xiaotao suddenly saw his shoulder and asked, "What happened to your shoulder? Who was the one that hurt you so much? I'll kill him." Her eyes instantly became sharp as she spoke.
"Calm down, sister, calm down. I did that to myself by accident, and I'm alright. You need to calm down." Huo Yuhao urgently tried to explain. He couldn't let Ma Xiaotao descend into her original state of confusion because of any emotions that were rippling in her heart.
"What's happening to me, Yuhao? Why do I feel so muddleheaded? I feel like I've been this way for a long time. I've finally seen you after so long! How have you been?"
Huo Yuhao said gently, "I've been well, sister. Life has been tough on you these days. Ever since you lost control of your martial soul during the big competition, we took you back to the academy for treatment, but the Hallmaster of the Illustrious Virtue Hall, Jing Hongchen, entered the academy and destroyed your treatment room. The Holy Ghost Church, which consists entirely of evil soul masters, took that opportunity to kidnap you before they turned you into another person with their evil sorceries! Can you remember anything?"
Ma Xiaotao quivered when she heard "the Holy Ghost Church", and seemed to regain her memory slowly. "The Holy Ghost Church - I am the Holy Ghost Church's Holy Lady. No, why have I become the Holy Ghost Church's Holy Lady? No! I am Ma Xiaotao, I am Ma Xiaotao!" Her eyes were starting to become confused and bewildered once more.
Huo Yuhao lifted his right hand and pressed it against her forehead as he channeled threads of cool soul power into her.
Ma Xiaotao shivered from the cold, and her eyes became clear yet again. "Where are we, Yuhao? I seem to have forgotten many things, but my brain seems to contain many things too! What do we do? What should I do?" She displayed some weakness as she spoke, and she took a step forward and hugged Huo Yuhao again. Her delicate body was still trembling faintly.
Huo Yuhao gently patted her back and said, "It's alright, sister. What happened in the past has already happened, and as long as you recover, you'll still be Ma Xiaotao, and you'll still be my sister. Sister, you should try to clear your head, and you should try your best to think back."
Ma Xiaotao seemed to gain quite some comfort in Huo Yuhao's embrace, and her emotions finally slowly settled down.
"I think I can remember... I can remember some things. Have I done many bad things, Yuhao?" Ma Xiaotao's voice sounded a little grief-stricken.
"No, sister, you have never done anything bad or wrong. The Holy Ghost Church's Holy Lady is the one who has done those things, and not you. Furthermore, I have never seen you harm anyone. You need to relax... we are in grave danger at the moment, and you have to calm down as quickly as possible."
"Alright." The necromantic halo beneath Huo Yuhao's feet had absorbed much of the darkness within Ma Xiaotao's body. Ma Xiaotao could finally control her own emotions with her willpower, and memories flooded into her brain like a tsunami.
"I've killed people, Yuhao. I've killed many people—innocent people! And soul masters! I have…"
Huo Yuhao swiftly interrupted her and said, "Don't say that, sister. I already said, the Holy Ghost Church's Holy Lady did all that, not you. Do you understand? You didn't do all those things."
Ma Xiaotao was momentarily stunned. "Not me? I didn't do those things?"
"That is correct; you weren't the one. Those people died at the Holy Ghost Church's hands." Those were the words that came out of Huo Yuhao's mouth, but he couldn't help but shut his eyes from all the pain that he felt. He could tell from Ma Xiaotao's status within the Holy Ghost Church that she was different from Tang Ya. Perhaps Tang Ya wasn't strong enough, or her abilities were insufficient, so she hadn't come into contact with much of the Holy Ghost Church's duties and administration. However, with Ma Xiaotao's abilities and her cultivation rank, and with her frighteningly exalted status…
"I understand. Thank you, brother." Ma Xiaotao stood up straight and stared at Huo Yuhao. Her eyes were actually entirely clear at this moment.
"Yuhao, you're using Ultimate Ice to help me suppress the riling emotions in my mind, but how are you able to suppress my evil aura from rising again? I don't know what the Holy Ghost Church has left behind in my body, but that thing has been integrated into my martial soul, the Evil Phoenix. Because of it, that thing has been affecting my emotions and my mental state."
Huo Yuhao lowered his voice and said, "I'm using some special methods to absorb the energies of darkness inside your body, but I can feel that these energies are still rising continuously. As soon as I stop absorbing them, I'm afraid they will come back again. In your case, you have to completely fix your martial soul's problems so that you won't be affected anymore."
Ma Xiaotao sounded despondent and defeated. "Completely fix my martial soul's problems? That's a lot easier said than done. Not even Elder Mu had a solution back then."
Huo Yuhao felt a pain in his heart when she mentioned Elder Mu, but he didn't tell her that Elder Mu had passed away. Huo Yuhao knew that it was best that he didn't stimulate her in any way.