Because of the more than 100 sand giants, Sima Yunhua and Gu Tianjun had no way to cause any problems for Bai Xiaochun. In fact, they didn’t even have time to think about him.
If they lost focus for even a moment, they would be in real and profound danger. They alternated between coughing up blood and consuming medicinal pills until, finally, the teleportation power kicked in.
As the teleportation light built up, they suddenly felt the relief of having escaped a dangerous experience by the skin of their teeth. At the same time, their hope of getting past the eighteenth level vanished completely.
As they left, Bai Xiaochun opened his eyes and stood up, looking very pleased with himself. After brushing the sand and dust off of himself, he stuck his chin up, flicked his sleeve, and coolly said, “With the flick of a sleeve, I, Bai Xiaochun, reduced celestials to ashes. Their biggest mistake was pissing me off to begin with!”
Bai Xiaochun was extremely pleased with this latest addition to his usual monologue, and decided he should use it again in the future if he could.
Meanwhile, the sand giants had all stopped moving, and were just standing there, motionless. Bai Xiaochun looked them over, and felt a bit sad. It wasn’t that he hadn’t considered taking them with him. Sadly, based on the powers he had gained from the damaged fan, he knew that such puppets could exist only in the eighteenth level. Outside, they would be mere illusions.
“I wonder how the sovereign who made this fan was able to do all this.” At this point, Bai Xiaochun contemplated passing the eighteenth level just to annoy Sima Yunhua and Gu Tianjun.
After a bit of thought, he decided that doing so would be too suspicious. Therefore, he sighed and gave up on the idea. Moments later, he was teleported away.
The instant he reappeared outside, a beam of sword qi slashed toward him.
Thankfully, he had been prepared for such a thing. Glaring, he unleashed a fist strike right into the sword qi.
A boom rang out, and he staggered backward several hundred meters. However, the sword qi collapsed, and Gu Tianjun, who had already been injured and relying on the power of medicinal pills to keep going, was hit by the backlash, and sent tumbling several thousand meters away. When he ground to a halt, he looked up at Bai Xiaochun with a glare.
“You tricked us, Bai Xiaochun!” he growled.
Sima Yunhua appeared next to Gu Tianjun, eyes shining with cold light as he too stared at Bai Xiaochun.
If the two celestials hadn’t been injured, Bai Xiaochun would have played it a bit safer. But they were both badly hurt, so he wasn’t scared of them at all.
Glancing at them snidely out of the corner of his eye, he said, “First we need to clear up the issue of who tricked who! If the two of you want to keep causing trouble, then fine, bring it on! I’ve had enough of the likes of you.”
With that he raised his voice loudly. “Alright, everyone, pay close attention. I'm not picking a fight with these two, they’re bullying me! When we get back to the Saint-Emperor Dynasty, I’ll ask His Majesty to make a fair judgement about it!”
Gu Tianjun could offer no response to Bai Xiaochun’s sharp words, other than a few guttural grunts. However, the killing intent in his eyes grew explosively strong. Sima Yunhua, on the other hand, was a bit more rational. After staring at Bai Xiaochun for a moment, he smiled.
“Apparently I underestimated you, Fellow Daoist Bai.” With that, he clasped hands and bowed, then turned and headed off to meditate.
Gu Tianjun remained standing there for a long moment. Eventually, he snorted coldly, suppressed his killing intent, and walked some distance away. For one thing, he knew that he was too badly injured to fight Bai Xiaochun. For another thing, he somehow had the feeling that, in this place, it didn’t matter that he had a higher cultivation base. He was still in great danger when it came to dealing with Bai Xiaochun.
After Gu Tianjun and Sima Yunhua backed down, the other cultivators who had gathered to watch the scene could already guess what had happened.
That was especially true of Preceptor Seadeep and the others from the Saint Emperor Dynasty. The fact that Sima Yunhua and Gu Tianjun had conceded, and also the sight of Bai Xiaochun’s fist strike, left them all shaken.
“Obviously there was some friction between those three…. And in the end, Bai Xiaochun came out on top!”
“He seems relatively harmless, but the truth is that from the moment Bai Xiaochun entered the damaged fan, he hasn’t lost any major conflicts!”
“And he just got all the way to the eighteenth level without expending any effort at all!!”
Everyone looked over at him with fear lingering in their hearts. When Bai Xiaochun realized that, his heart swelled with pride.
“Ai, what can I do? Wherever I go, I end up the center of attention. It’s not like I do it on purpose!” Shaking his head, he found a place to sit cross-legged and relish his victory. At the same time, he was starting to get antsy about the time limit ending. There was only about half a month left.
Things went just as Bai Xiaochun had prayed they would. Time flew by, and before long, it was only two days before the time limit ran out. By this point, just about everyone had given up on the challenges. Only four or five people refused to quit. For them, there was no longer any excitement to be found in their attempts, only dogged persistence.
Gu Tianjun and Sima Yunhua eventually recovered and went back to try to handle the eighteenth level again. But after failing a few times, they sighed and gave up.
Everyone was talking about Celestial Virūpākṣa, Reverend Devourer and Prince Ur-Demon. They were still missing, and no one had any idea where they were stuck. Many people had come to the conclusion that they had come across some other good fortune. Even Gu Tianjun and Sima Yunhua seemed to believe that.
When Bai Xiaochun heard such talk, he merely cleared his throat.
Two days passed. It was at that point that, for the first time since the trial by fire began, everyone could use their divine sense again!
It was a strange and wonderful sensation for everyone.
Gu Tianjun and Sima Yunhua were particularly delighted. They had participated in too many trials by fire to count in their lives, but had never been as frustrated as they had in this damaged fan.
They could accept defeat, but this damaged fan almost seemed to hate them. No matter how hard they tried, the fan just wouldn’t let them succeed.
Not a single person seemed to regret that the the end of the trial had come. In fact, many of them breathed sighs of relief. The past two months had been like a torment for most of them.
“Maybe it’s Celestial Virūpākṣa, Reverend Devourer or Prince Ur-Demon who will get the ultimate good fortune!” That was what many people were thinking.
When the final moment came, the fan’s spirit automaton again awoke. It had been gone for a long time, and therefore, it was a bit startling. However… it was to everyone’s shock that, in that very same moment, the light of teleportation rose up in the main square, and three people crawled out of it….
Yes, they literally crawled….
Their clothing was in tatters, and they had blank looks on their faces. They were also trembling, although they didn’t realize it, and were spattered with blood. These were the very three people that everyone had suspected of acquiring the good fortune of the trial by fire. Celestial Virūpākṣa. Prince Ur-Demon. Reverend Devourer.
Everyone stared over in shocked silence at the three celestials, who looked as if they had been trampled by an army of tens of thousands of men and horses. Moments later, people began to cry out in surprise and alarm.
“Heavens. Wait, they didn’t actually get any good fortune? What happened to them!? I can’t believe they were tortured to this state!!”
“Look at their expressions. That’s what you look like when you fall into despair over and over again. And look at all the blood….”
Bai Xiaochun’s voice could be heard amongst the others. Sounding dramatically shocked, he pointed and said, “How could this have happened!? I thought I had it bad, but it turns out you three had it way worse!”
No one was really paying attention to him, though. The demigods from the Vile-Emperor Dynasty, including Li Donghao, hurried over to help the celestials to their feet.
Prince Ur-Demon and Reverend Devourer seemed to be in a slightly better state. Although they were gasping for breath, they were already recovering mentally. However, Celestial Virūpākṣa seemed to have been the focus of special attention…. As soon as Li Donghao reached out to him, Celestial Virūpākṣa noticed his towering frame and shrieked, “Don’t touch me! I said don’t touch me…!”