Chapter 247: What's That?
The ten Dharma protectors, Bai Xiaochun included, all had different reactions to Song Junwan's words. As for Song Que, his expression darkened slightly, but other than that, didn't change much. Because of his position in the Song Clan, he actually knew more about the blood master trial by fire than most did.
After all, if he hadn't failed to reach Heaven-Dao Foundation Establishment, he would have been the one taking the lead in this trial by fire. However, because he wasn't a match for Xuemei, the Song Clan had chosen Song Junwan as the one to vie for the Middle Peak blood master position which the clan had held for generations.
Because of how things had played out, Song Que was on the bad side of many of the older generation of the Song Clan. In turn, the rise of Nightcrypt had put even more pressure on him. That was especially true considering that Song Junwan had come to favor Nightcrypt. Song Que was left with few options.
The Song Clan had deep roots in the Blood Stream Sect, and had many direct bloodline clan members. Song Que was the face of the current generation of direct bloodline descendants, but that only meant that there were plenty of people hoping to see him fail miserably so that they could then replace him.
He needed to blaze a path for himself, to go all out with everything he had, to try to make sure his aunt succeeded. Only in that way would he be able to prove how valuable he was. That was also the only hope he had of eventually succeeding his aunt as blood master in the future.
Suppressing his revulsion for Nightcrypt, he was the first one to speak up after Song Junwan finished talking.
"I will do everything in my power to gain victory in the Blood Wasteland, and I will definitely not allow any infighting to occur. Grand Elder, please rest at ease. If anyone dares to cause problems, then if we get out alive, and that person also survives, then I'll teach him what it means to live a life worse than death!" Song Que's eyes shone with intense light, and were filled with killing intent.
As for the other Dharma protectors, they were left with little choice of what to do. In the Blood Stream Sect, cultivators loved to fight each other. But in this case, if they lost, they would all die. Therefore, they had to band together as a team to fight and defeat their opponents.
After a moment of silence, the Dharma protectors began to speak out.
"Grand Elder, as long as you can fulfill your promise, then I won't hesitate to put my life on the line!"
"The Song Clan has treated me well, and I'll definitely repay the favor!"
Already, they were less on guard against the people standing next to them.
Bai Xiaochun was starting to get anxious, and couldn't help but feel that Song Junwan had conned him.... He had been aware that the trial by fire would be dangerous, but never could he have imagined that the danger would be completely out of his own control. If the entire team failed, he could end up dead....
Even as he was sighing inwardly, he suddenly realized that the whole group was looking at him. Without any hesitation he tilted his head back arrogantly, a cold look in his eyes as he said, "For Junwan, I would go through hell or high water! It's my duty!"
Strange looks could be seen on the faces of the other Dharma protectors, and Song Que gritted his teeth. However, he knew that he had no choice but to let go of his hatred for Nightcrypt. Snorting coldly, he looked away.
Song Junwan glanced at Bai Xiaochun apologetically, but didn't offer any words of consolation. Instead, she offered one final warning.
"There are three people you need to be especially careful of. They are Yang Hongwu, Xiao Qing and Zhang Yunshan! Of those three, Yang Hongwu and Zhang Yunshan likely possess powerful magical items. As for Xiao Qing...." Her expression suddenly flickered with dread. "He should have reached Core Formation long ago, but hasn't.... In the past, he served as Patriarch Limitless' personal attendant!"
With that, she went on to give more details about the group of three cultivators.
Bai Xiaochun's nervousness was mounting. About the same time that Song Junwan finished speaking, Xuemei also finished explaining matters to her Dharma protectors, who all seemed to be bursting with killing intent and murderous auras, and were looking over menacingly at Bai Xiaochun and those around him.
Of course, Song Que took the lead in doing the same, and Bai Xiaochun was more than happy to join in. Even back in the Spirit Stream Sect, he had participated in such staring contests.
"Hmmmph! I'm not afraid of anybody in competitions like these!" Although his eyes widened into a glare, he couldn't stop thinking about the three people Song Junwan had just described, and after finding them in the group, he fixed their facial features in his mind.
He would well imagine that he might run into them in the Blood Wasteland, and end up fighting bloody battles over the keys.
Only a total of seven people would be able to enter the third level, the Ancient Blood Path. Whoever those people ended up being, they would have a profound influence on who became blood master in the end.
At this point, Xuemei took a deep breath and said, "Shall we open the door, Song Junwan?"
She waved her right hand through the air, and a bright red light appeared in her palm, which flew out into the air in the form of a blood-colored command medallion.
That command medallion instantly became the center of all attention. Even Bai Xiaochun took a closer look. Both Xuemei and Song Junwan possessed such medallions, which not only let them bypass the first level, but ensured that they didn't need to get a key to enter the Ancient Blood Path.
"It's like all the decisions about this trial by fire were made behind closed doors, and everybody knows it...." Sighing, he looked over at Song Junwan. Song Junwan's eyes flashed as she also extended her right hand, causing the second blood-colored command medallion to appear in her palm.
Blood-colored light spread out from the two command medallions, flying up into the air above the platforms. As the light spread out, everything was bathed in crimson, and at the same time, the outline of a huge door appeared. As the door opened, pulses of heaven-shaking, earth-shattering energy rolled out. Two beams of blood-colored light then shot toward Song Junwan and Xuemei, connecting with their command medallions and merging into their bodies.
"The second stage is starting. Follow me!" With that, Song Junwan flew into the air, followed closely behind by Song Que. The other Dharma protectors flew out into formation around Song Junwan, Bai Xiaochun included, and the entire group shot toward the blood-colored door.
They managed to beat Xuemei into motion, and even as the eleven of them flew into the door, Xuemei and her group sped into motion behind them, transforming into beams of light that also shot toward the door.
Soon, not a single person could be seen on the platforms. The blood door slowly faded away, and within a few breaths of time, was gone.
The Blood Wasteland looked exactly as its name implied. It was a huge desert, filled with crimson sand and grit. Just looking around, it seemed like a completely barren wasteland.
Hot, screaming winds gusted, sending sand flying around everywhere. It seemed bleak and destructive, a place devoid of life.
Within the swirling deadliness of the desert sands, bleached bones were occasionally revealed, the remains of people who had died in previous trials by fire for the Middle Peak blood master position.
Bai Xiaochun instantly sensed the aura of death which pervaded the entire area. Then he saw a nearby skeleton, and his pupils constricted.
He wasn't the only one who had such a reaction.
"After the time it takes an incense stick to burn, the first key will appear," Song Junwan said. "Whenever a key appears, it will send a huge pillar of light up into the sky, a pillar of light that will not disappear, not even when the key is attained....
"Everyone split up. When that first pillar of light appears, head in that direction.... Remember, fighting each other over the keys is not allowed. Whoever gets it first must be offered protection by everyone else!
"I plan to offer myself up as bait to Xuemei. Knowing her deviousness, she won't wait until the Ancient Blood Path opens up before trying to kill some of you. She'll definitely start here, and will probably ask for help from her Dharma protectors to kill me!
"Even if she wasn't planning to do that, I'll try to goad her into it. If she did have that plan all along... well then, I think she'll be surprised at how things turn out. For the next fourteen hours, everything is up to you Dharma protectors!" With that, she flew off by herself.
Some distance away, she called out in a powerful voice that spread out in all directions, "Xuemei, do you dare to come out and fight me!?"
Not too far away from Bai Xiaochun and his group, Xuemei and her team were just now appearing. When she heard Song Junwan's voice, her eyes flickered coldly.
"Don't worry about me," she said to her people. "You go get the keys. I'll handle Song Junwan!" With that, she flew in Song Junwan's direction.
It only took a moment before they were closing in on each other, eyes bursting with killing intent. Apparently, Patriarch Limitless and the Song Clan patriarch had reached an agreement. Song Junwan had a higher cultivation base, but didn't possess any spectacular precious treasures. As for Xuemei, her cultivation base wasn't quite as high, but she had many precious magical items, and was at the peak of Earthstring Foundation Establishment. As such, they were relatively evenly matched. In the blink of an eye, explosive combat was already underway.
As the two began to fight, booms filled the sky, rumbling out in all directions.
Everyone else looked on with serious expressions. Song Que was actually shocked that Song Junwan would be so daring. However, after only a moment of hesitation, he picked a direction and started flying. Everyone else followed suit, their admiration for Song Junwan growing.
Bai Xiaochun blinked a few times as he watched Song Junwan, then quickly picked a direction and sped into motion.
"I never would have thought Song Junwan would put herself up as bait to get Xuemei to fight.... She must be well prepared for this. But then again, so must Xuemei. Presumably, it won't be easy to secure a complete victory in the second stage. I bet the two shrews are just trying to feel each other out." Shaking his head, he sped along, already having decided that no matter what happened, he would not try to fight for the first key.
"Let them fight over the first key, I don't care. Whoever gets it will have a bitter struggle keeping it until the end." Although this trial by fire didn't seem as intense as the Fallen Sword World, there was a time limit. Furthermore, the threat of death hung over everyone's heads. The fighting to come would surely result in bloody carnage.
"Hmmmmph! Whoever runs into one of those keys first is going to have some bad, bad luck. No... no wait, bad, horrific luck!" As he sped along, he pondered the best way to hide safely off in the distance. Occasionally, he would look around, sighing. That was when... all of sudden, right up ahead of him... a blood-colored light appeared.
"What's that?" he said, taken aback. Within the space of a few breaths of time, the light grew so intense it hurt his eyes to look at it. Then, it turned into a pillar that shot up into the sky.