Bai Yunfei was gone!
Gone without a trace and within a second! His person was nowhere to be seen, his aura nowhere to be felt, and his very being not able to be sensed through Xiao Qi's bond with him!
Everyone had been so relaxed when they finished the battle with the black-scaled serpent. But now that this happened, everyone was back in high tension and alarmed beyond all else.
"Eh? There's someone over there!"
Zheng Kai cried out as they looked around. Ecstatic, Long Lan turned to where Zheng Kai pointed at, thinking that they had found Bai Yunfei. To the left where the Cataclysmic Seal had once flattened the mountain there stood a single man in black robes.
It took a brief moment for Zheng Kai to identify the person. "That's not Yunfei! That's….the first elder?!"
"So there really was someone from the Underworld School following us…..If the first elder is here, then maybe…." Zheng Kai's eyes flashed with the light of deep thought. "Let's see if the first elder has anything to see, let's head on over!" He spoke to the two other soulbeasts.
Two beams of wind were already flying on over before Zheng Kai was even done with his sentence.
The first elder of the Underworld School was standing there on the flat ground with a look of confusion on his face. He was staring at the hole Bai Yunfei had been in front of just a moment ago.
"First elder! Do you know where Yunfei's gone to?!"
The two soulbeasts and Zheng Kai touched down on the area next to the first elder, with Xiao Qi already speaking to him.
The first elder glanced at Xiao Qi for a moment and then nodded. "I saw….Bai Yunfei falling into this hole…."
Without waiting for anything else, Xiao Qi dove straight into the hole!
"Xiao Qi! Hold up!" Zheng Kai cried out, but it was too late, Xiao Qi was already too far deep into the abyss of the hole.
His hand flew up to stop Long Lan from entering the hole, "Don't go in, Long Lan! Listen to what the elder says first!"
A little surprised by the abrupt action of Xiao Qi, the first elder shook his head. "It's no use. Bai Yunfei is….no longer here."
The juxtaposition of the elder saying Bai Yunfei had fallen into the hole and that Bai Yunfei wasn't here confused Zheng Kai. "First elder….what do you mean by that?"
The first elder didn't look very clear himself. Taking a moment to recompose and think, he replied, "I won't lie to you. I was watching your group battle the black-scaled serpent from afar. When you killed it, I saw Bai Yunfei come here and stare at the hole."
He pointed at the hole. "He only glanced at it and turned away. But then when he looked back at it for a better look….it looked as though he was dragged in. Sucked in. And then….he was gone."
"I….." Zheng Kai didn't know what say. He blinked a few times. 'Dragged in'? 'Sucked in'? What did that mean?
And why was it that they couldn't sense Bai Yunfei's aura when he was sucekd in? The first elder's recounting of the events didn't really make sense, but he hadn't a reason to lie, so….what in the world was going on?
"If Yunfei really is in this hole, then why…."
"I cannot say for certain….I may have seen Bai Yunfei drop into the hole, but his aura disappeared the very moment he fell out of sight…." The first elder shook his head. "I can guarantee that Bai Yunfei's aura does not exist here in this hole."
Zheng Kai was even more confused now. Sending his soulsense into the hole, he scoured it for any signs of life. For several hundred meters he felt nothing, and after a while, Zheng Kai reached the limit of how far he could send his soulsense. By that point, he couldn't even sense Xiao Qi's aura.
"Long Lan, can you sense anything?" Helpless, Zheng Kai could only ask Long Lan who was stronger than him.
"I can sense Xiao Qi's aura…." Long Lan nodded, "But….not Yunfei's."
"What in the world is going on here!" Zheng Kai bursted out with great vexation. "How can a living person just disappear like that?!"
Back in the main halls of the Underworld School.
The headmaster Mo Yanbai was still seated upon his large throne. The other elders like Mu Chen were standing by his side as they all listened to a middle-aged woman give a report.
"....The entire continent is already aware of this. From what I've seen, the major schools and families are already mobilizing, and so are several of the more minor ones. Everyone's heading for the Southward River Province. By the time I made my way back, I came across the Water and Wood Schools, and even someone from the Wang in Wenhan City."
The woman paused here to take a brief sip of her tea. After the sip, she set the cup down and waited for Mo Yanbai to say something.
The entire hall was silent. No one even knew what to say and were still trying to digest the information.
It was Mu Chen who spoke up first after a while. "Elder Wu, do you think this piece of information is true?"
The woman was elder Wu, an elder of the Underworld School. Understanding the questioning tone behind Mu Chen's voice, the woman shook her head. "I didn't believe the information at first. That was already something of the legends from nearly a thousand years ago, how could an entire 'furnace' of it appear? It's ridiculous beyond belief….but with all the major factions mobilizing their forces, I had to rethink the information. If there's smoke, there's fire, and something like this wouldn't spread so far without some semblance of truth to it. The Beast Taming School was the first to disseminate this information, but they were the first to mobilize their forces. As such, I would have to posit that this information is true…."
She turned to Mo Yanbai. "What do you think we should do, headmaster? Since we are the closest school to the spot, we have the advantage if this piece of information is true. We might not be able to win by ourselves, but we are still strong enough to get a fair share of the profits. It's a once-in-thousand-years chance for our school…."
The headmaster stared at everyone there for a long moment before he responded. "It certainly does sound unbelievable to hear, and I would prefer that it be untrue, but in the off-chance that this really is true, it would be our school that would be missing out on the chance. As elder Wu said, the legendary place is within our boundaries, so we hold the advantage. We may as well take the plunge, it won't take much effort on our behalf.
"Therefore, I declare that our school will be participating!"
The faces of the elders all lit up with elation at the announcement. As like the elder, the words of elder Wu was a bit skeptical, but they all wanted to believe in the miniscule chance that the information was true and not miss out on such a 'grand event' like this.
"As elder Wu said before, this is an event where every major school or house is participating in. This means the older generation will be bringing the best talents of the next generation and have agreed to not fight themselves. What might that be?" Mo Yanbai asked elder Wu.
"That….is something far harder to believe. 'That' place everyone is heading towards has a restriction where no Soul King can enter. Every faction is bringing the strongest of their prodigies, all of which are peak late-stage Soul Exalts….the whole soul cultivator world is calling this a gathering of the greatest geniuses to fight over 'that' thing."
Mo Yanbai nodded. "Hidden areas like those are generally with restrictions of some kind. But to limit even Soul Kings from entering must mean the rules of restriction are very strong….."
"It's not as if Soul Kings can't enter," Elder Wu supplemented. "But it's said that this hidden area is 'extremely' weak. The soulforce of a Soul Exalt is within the limitations of what this hidden area can withstand, but the soulforce of a Soul King will trigger a collapse. To try and force it again will lead to unpredictable results."
"So I see…." Mo Yanbai muttered. "In that case….all of the competitors should theoretically be starting off on the same foot. A competition between Soul Exalts….hm. If we are to believe this is all true, then the winner of this little competition will also signify that one winning party has a prodigy far stronger than everyone else. That in itself is already a very big advantage……"
Elder Qi began to chuckle then. "Haha, the benefits of such an arrangement like this is easy to see, but what about the disastrous detriments? The schools and houses might be in agreement now, but when the battle truly begins, then it'll be every man for themselves. The prodigies of every faction will be gathered there, and many of them will be buried there. That in by itself will be a tremendous blow to any group…."
"That is a risk we cannot ignore." Mo Yanbai nodded gravely, "So we must be careful as we go through with this. If possible, we will pull out and not risk the lives of our talent pool."
The other elders nodded in agreement. "Then by the will of the headmaster, whom shall we bring with us?" Mu Chen asked.