Not counting the imperial palace, Arch-Emperor City consisted of ninety-seven subdistricts which were referred to as boroughs. The central district of the city occupied about ten percent of the city as a whole, and the north district was the largest, occupying roughly twenty percent.
Bai Xiaochunâs spirit enhancement shop was located on the edge of Borough 89. Although it couldnât be considered a very fancy shop, considering that it was located in Arch-Emperor City, it was fundamentally extraordinary.
However, it took Bai Xiaochun a long time to find it. It was already late into the night, and yet the shops on the street were all brightly lit, with customers going in and out constantly.
After finally locating the shop, Bai Xiaochun was depressed to find that it was actually relatively small. The storefront was only about nine meters wide, whereas most of the other storefronts on the street were at least fifteen meters wide.
There was a sign on the door that had three simple words on it: Spirit Enhancement Shop.
Bai Xiaochun was a bit stunned by the simplistic wording and the worn-out nature of the sign. Inside, the shop was narrow, but stretched back relatively far from the street. There also appeared to be a courtyard in the back. Unfortunately, no matter which way one examined the shop, it was obviously a lot smaller than the others in the area.
The interior was lit with lamps, but they werenât very bright, ensuring that it didnât really stand out to the crowds of passersby.
The only good thing that Bai Xiaochun noticed was that there were actually customers in the shop. One of them was a young man who appeared to be panting in anger. Before Bai Xiaochun had even walked all the way inside, the young man erupted in anger.
âI canât believe you actually ruined my Trimoon Streamcloud Pearl!! Dammit, all I asked you to do was perform a twofold spirit enhancement! Twofold, thatâs all! Y-y-youâŠ.â The young man was speaking so loudly that even people outside of the shop could hear him, and soon, some of the passersby were whispering about what was going on.
âHe must be new here, otherwise he would never have picked this place to get spirit enhancements.â
âExactly. This spirit enhancement shop produces nothing more than trash. The true miracle is that it's still in business.â
Upon hearing the talk around him, Bai Xiaochun frowned. Then he watched as the young man stormed out of the shop, cursing it well and good before moping off dejectedly. Bai Xiaochun sighed. From what he could tell, other than its value as a place to rest his head, it seemed relatively worthless.
âAh, whatever. All I wanted was a place to hole up for bit anyway.â Shaking his head, he walked further into the shop. Once inside, he saw the clerk, who was leaning up against the counter looking bored to death. The shelves on the wall were mostly empty. As for the items that did occupy them, Bai Xiaochun could tell that they would be useful for performing threefold or perhaps fourfold spirit enhancements.
The clerk looked over at Bai Xiaochun and yawned, then ignored him. Bai Xiaochun looked around again and sighed. Then he walked up to the counter and put the deed jade slip down onto it.
The clerk seemed surprised, then suspicious. âYou want that jade slip enhanced? Alright, let me explain how things work. Success or failure donât matter. You pay up front, and if the result is a failure, I wonât take any responsibility.â
Then he picked up the jade slip and looked at it. At that point, his eyes went wide.
âYouâre the owner?!â he blurted, shooting to his feet. After examining Bai Xiaochun, he sat back down.
Fairly certain that he had come to the right place, Bai Xiaochun replied, âI believe this is my shop.â
âWhatever. Since youâre here, how about you pay me my salary? 3,000 portions of soul medicine for this year, and 3,000 for next year, up front. If you donât pay up, I'm not moving a muscle!â With that, he sat there looking proudly at Bai Xiaochun. This clerk wasn't very good at performing spirit enhancements, but he was very familiar with Arch-Emperor City, and how to run the shop. Therefore, as far as he was concerned, there was no way this owner could do without him.
âSalary?â Bai Xiaochun said, stunned. With that, he asked a few more questions about the shop. Soon, he came to understand that the shop hadnât always been the way it was now. After Bai Xiaochun acquired ownership, all of the old staff had been dismissed by the clan who had previously owned it. The only person left behind to manage things was this clerk.
The clerkâs spirit enhancement skills were average at best, and because of that, the shop had slowly been in decline. As of now, it was actually notorious within the city, and virtually no one would patronize it. The only people who entered its doors were travelers who the clerk would con out of a bit of spirit medicine, and who would never again return.
Bai Xiaochun wasnât quite sure what to say. However, from the way the clerk was sitting there, he seemed like he was prepared to cause quite a scene if he didn't get his salary. Therefore, Bai Xiaochun patted his bag of holding to produce 3,000 portions of soul medicine, which he tossed over to the man.
âAlright, get out of here!â
âYouâre kicking me out?â the clerk said, stunned. Not looking very pleased, he took his soul medicine, flicked his sleeve, and left. âIt won't even take a month before that guy is begging to have me back. There are a lot of spirit enhancement shops in Arch-Emperor City, and all of them are always squabbling and competing. Heâll have to pay an arm and a leg to get a real necromancer to come over and perform spirit enhancements.â Chuckling coldly, he hurried away.
After the clerk left, Bai Xiaochun looked around for a bit before closing the front door and placing a restrictive spell on it. Then he straightened up the shop, as well as the courtyard and the small residence attached to it. Several hours later, deep in the night, he finally sat down in the courtyard and looked around, sighing.
âThis can't compare at all to my mansion back in Giant Ghost City!â Shaking his head, he contemplated how much he missed Giant Ghost City. He also regretted how conscientiously he had handed over Chen Manyao. Hadnât he done enough at that point?
Bai Xiaochun was not very happy at all with the shop, but Bai Hao had the opposite reaction. As a ghost cultivator with special soul body abilities, he was actually very pleased with everything he saw. After looking around, he sat down next to Bai Xiaochun and excitedly said, âMaster, this place is great. Since we canât get back to Giant Ghost City any time soon, why don't we settle down here? The spiritual power in the area is very beneficial to me.â
Even as he spoke, he changed his appearance to look like a middle-aged man.
âYou think this spiritual energy is good?â Bai Xiaochun responded dully. âOne of these days Master is going to take you to a place where the spiritual energy is exponentially better than here. You just wait.â
âDonât feel down, Master. This place isnât bad at all. Why donât you focus on your cultivation, and let me handle the day-to-day affairs of the shop?â Bai Hao lived in the soulhoarding pagoda in Bai Xiaochunâs bag of holding, and was a ghost cultivator with special soul body powers. Furthermore, he was protected by the powers of Bai Xiaochunâs mask. Because of that, he wasn't worried about anyone figuring out who he really was. Besides, before his death, he had been a mere Foundation Establishment cultivator, and the furthest he had ever been away from his clan was the Jungle of Lost Souls, where he had died.
The idea of running a shop in Arch-Emperor City was extremely exciting to him.
Bai Xiaochun could see how enthusiastic Bai Hao was about the matter, and that actually improved his mood a bit. Looking at Bai Hao thoughtfully for a moment, it was easy to tell that he already felt a bit at home.
âYou know what, youâre right. You had a hard lot in life, my apprentice. Plus, because Iâm still using your identity, after you came back as a ghost cultivator, you havenât been able to interact with any other living people. Thatâs really not fair to you.â With that, Bai Xiaochun performed an incantation gesture with his right hand, sending some of the power of his mask over onto Bai Hao.
âMasterâŠ?â Bai Hao said, looking surprised.
âFrom now on, just pretend that youâre my soul slave. With my skill in spirit enhancement, I can bring this shop back from the dead with the flip of my hand.â Many necromancers in the Wildlands had what they called soul slaves, which were usually unable to do much more than perform very simple tasks.
To have Bai Hao pretend to be a soul slave would forestall many suspicions about who exactly he was. Plus, by using his ghost cultivator ability to change his appearance, it would be highly unlikely that anyone would ever be able to figure out who he was.
Bai Hao was getting even more excited. Clasping hands, he bowed deeply to his Master.
With that, Master and apprentice settled down in the shop. A few days went by before the doors of the shop opened. Although nothing about the shop looked very different, the spirit enhancer who operated it was as different from the previous one as heaven was from the earth.
However, the name of the shop was definitely not appropriate, and even after being open for about half a month, it was obvious that all the other shops on the street were very busy, but this one wasnât.
When Bai Xiaochun realized that, and thought back to the grand words he had spoken to Bai Hao, he started feeling antsy. After some thought, he gave some new instructions to Bai Hao.
âApprentice, after some thinking, Iâve decided that the reason people arenât coming to the shop is that the name isnât attractive enough. Therefore, we're going to change names. From now on, we'reâŠ The Number One Spirit Enhancement Shop Under Heaven!â