Bai Xiaochun didn’t say anything. He sat there on his throne looking at the Grand Heavenmaster, a slight smile on his face that contained a hint of approval.
Bai Xiaochun had not always possessed this skill. He had learned it from the Saint-Emperor. Actually, Bai Xiaochun was a very quick learner, something that had benefited him a lot in his life. Whenever he encountered someone who was more outstanding than him in some way, he would imitate that facet of their personality or behavior.
Of course, he wouldn’t sit there quietly smiling if he were dealing with the Giant Ghost King, or other people he was close to. But this was the Grand Heavenmaster, an ambitious and ruthless political master. Although he had come to offer help of his own initiative, Bai Xiaochun knew that a powerful cultivation base alone would not be enough to keep him in check.
And thus, he subconsciously imitated the Saint-Emperor, smiling in warm and encouraging fashion.
When the Grand Heavenmaster saw that, he also smiled. It was a sincere smile, backed by an emotional sigh. Earlier, he had been committed to his plan, but now he was absolutely convinced that this was the right thing to do. Just like the Giant Ghost King, he truly felt that Bai Xiaochun had grown up.
Almost as soon as that thought entered his head, though, he realized that it wasn’t appropriate. Although he and Bai Xiaochun would not have a strictly formal political relationship, there was still a need to maintain propriety. If he always thought of Bai Xiaochun as a child who had grown up, then one day that could lead to a major disaster.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, and when he opened them again, the only thing they held was deep and sincere respect. Clasping hands, he bowed to Bai Xiaochun, and then somberly continued speaking.
“Celestial, the way to resolve the first problem, the key to establishing a firm foundation, is actually very simple. Whether it comes to winning the hearts of the people, or gaining the political upper hand, I can help you do that very easily.” From the way the Grand Heavenmaster spoke, and from the intelligent gleam in his eyes, it seemed he was absolutely confident in being able to do as he had said.
“The simplest method would be to call upon your authority as a celestial to issue a decree stating that every government official in the second immortal domain, from the Foundation Establishment stage up to the Demigod Realm, will have their monthly stipend doubled. And the expense will be paid by the capital city!
“If Aged Spirit refuses to agree, then it will arouse public anger. If he agrees, then your reputation will increase. He will definitely have a tough time deciding what to do. After all, the money actually isn’t yours, Celestial, you’ll just be delivering it.”
When Bai Xiaochun heard this, his eyes brightened. It was definitely a ruthless move. He could use someone else’s money to win the hearts of the people, and give his opponent an unsolvable dilemma. It seemed just as vicious of a plan as his smear campaign.
“That having been said, Celestial, I feel that establishing a foundation here is actually of little value. With Celestial Aged Spirit so close, no matter what advantage you gain, Aged Spirit can always figure out a way to bypass the law and attack you directly.
“Thankfully, your cultivation base gives you a measure of protection against petty plots and schemes. And that is also one of your greatest strengths.
“Therefore, I would like to ask you to consider carefully what you want to do. Our true goal is not to just establish a foundation here. We want to take advantage of your position to make plans for the future. We want to secure something truly beneficial, for example… the northern part of this immortal domain, which now no longer belongs to the Saint-Emperor Dynasty….” At this point, he gave Bai Xiaochun a meaningful look.
Bai Xiaochun thought about the vague words the Grand Heavenmaster had just spoken, but after a moment, still didn’t understand fully. However, he did get the point that their true goal should be… the north!
“Acquire more than just titular power,” he said.
The Grand Heavenmaster smiled and bowed to Bai Xiaochun again.
“Before getting into more details, allow me to address the second of the problems I mentioned earlier. Because of the interference of the two imperial dynasties, there is only one way to prevent the people of Heavenspan from being assimilated. And that is to achieve… independence!
“That is all we need. We don’t even need to ask for an equal split of the Eternal Lands with the other dynasties. We just need a place for the people of Heavenspan to gather.
“However, if you show even the slightest hint of having that goal, Celestial, it will bring sure disaster! Sadly, every day that goes by in which we don’t have our independence, the weaker our position gets!
“So, to return to talking about the first problem, if you can solve that one, Celestial, then we will have made major progress. At that point, we can easily do something to establish our independence!
“Furthermore, in order to avoid arousing the suspicions of the Saint-Emperor, I believe that we should strive, not for political independence, but rather… financial independence!
“The Saint-Emperor Dynasty won’t mind if a prefecture exists that is devoted to spirit enhancement!” A faint smile of confidence could be seen on the Grand Heavenmaster’s face. To him, it was almost being like back in his early days in the Arch-Emperor Dynasty, when he had single-handedly shaken the world.
“In terms of the third problem I mentioned, in the world we live in, respect is given to the powerful. If one day you can become an archaean, then all of our problems will be much easier to solve. Therefore, I wish to wait for that day to truly make our move. Once you are an archaean, then you will have the power you need to succeed!” With that, the Grand Heavenmaster stepped back a few paces, clasped hands, and bowed.
“Celestial, if you approve of my plan, then please appoint me as a vice-preceptor in Plumflower Prefecture! Of all of the eleven prefectures controlled by the Saint-Emperor Dynasty, Plumflower Prefecture is closest to the north, and is also the most suitable prefecture to act as a buffer between the two existing dynasties!
“It is like a bridgehead, a prefecture from which armies can easily march northward if necessary! I’ve already done a thorough analysis of the devas under the command of the prefecture there, and am confident of how to work with them. Within three months… that prefecture will belong to the Saint-Emperor Dynasty in name only. We will be the ones who truly control it!” The Grand Heavenmaster seemed completely and utterly confident in his plan.
A strange expression could be seen on Bai Xiaochun’s face. Although most of what the Grand Heavenmaster said made sense, the last part seemed the most credible. After all, when it came to seizing control and manipulating a puppet ruler, then if the Grand Heavenmaster was called second best in the Eternal Immortal Domains, there would be no one to occupy first place.
After a moment of thought, Bai Xiaochun nodded and said, “Let’s do it!”
As he did, the Grand Heavenmaster smiled and rose from his bow. Subsequently, Bai Xiaochun called upon his authority as a celestial to make the necessary arrangements for the Grand Heavenmaster. Earlier, it wouldn’t have been very easy, but right now, the demigods in the capital city were terrified of Bai Xiaochun, and were all scared of offending him. Therefore, all his demands were quickly met.
Surprisingly, Celestial Aged Spirit didn’t interfere either. Apparently, he was waiting for the right moment to strike his own fatal blow.
A few days later, the Grand Heavenmaster got his official appointment, and left the capital city for Plumflower Prefecture. Before leaving, he offered Bai Xiaochun some advice based on his speculations about what Celestial Aged Spirit would do.
Bai Xiaochun considered the advice, and after the Grand Heavenmaster left, decided that he couldn’t sit around passively. Clenching his hands into fists, he said, “I can’t just let that Celestial Aged Spirit sit around waiting to make a move. I need to force him to come to a compromise!”
Having made his decision, he took action. The first thing he did was follow through with the vicious plan that the Grand Heavenmaster had come up with.
He was a celestial, so although he didn’t really have any direct subordinates of his own, it wasn’t a difficult thing to have news about something spread. Before long, everyone in the second immortal domain was talking about the same rumor.
“Did you hear? King Heavenspan suggested that all cultivators in the second immortal domain have their stipends doubled!!”
“Heavens! That means expenditures in the second immortal domain are going to skyrocket! There’s no way Celestial Aged Spirit will agree to that, is there!?”
“If this happens, I'm definitely going to go offer my thanks to King Heavenspan in person!!”
Talk spread so rapidly that it was like a windstorm. Some people tried to suppress it, but that turned out to be impossible.
Anyone who tried to quell the rumors became suspect…. After all, it was a matter that would benefit everyone involved!
The demigods in the capital city were quite alarmed. But this was an even more ruthless move than the matter with Marquis Zi Lin, and therefore none of them dared to do anything.
When Celestial Aged Spirit heard the news, his anger burned hot, and he very nearly erupted into a rage. Just as the Grand Heavenmaster had predicted, Aged Spirit would come out on the bottom whether he agreed to the matter or not!
“Damn that Bai Xiaochun!!”
When it came time for the next official governmental meeting in the capital city, Bai Xiaochun calmly proposed the matter openly!