Zhou Hong looked askance at Xu Peng. Considering what he knew about Xu Peng’s personality, he knew that it wouldn’t be possible to change his mind.
Unfortunately, Gongsun Yi had refused his invitation with a sarcastically worded message explaining that he didn’t need to resort to plots and schemes to earn back the face he had lost, that he would do so with his own battle prowess.
Although Zhou Hong wasn’t too pleased about that, afterward, he had been left with no other option than to meet with Xu Peng. After all, he had certain misgivings about the Junior Champion King, and didn’t want to get involved with him.
“Don’t worry, Brother Xu, this Bai Hao has already reached a dead end. I know we can’t kill him, so my plan is to simply humiliate him and make sure he won’t stick around in Arch-Emperor City. We just need to drive him back to Giant Ghost City.” That really was what Zhou Hong wanted. Having this Bai Hao stuck in Giant Ghost City, out of sight and out of mind, was much different from having him right in Arch-Emperor City, making a big scene. Besides, the former would give him the chance to achieve even greater success eventually.
Right now, the political climate in Arch-Emperor City was very unstable, so if Bai Hao managed to consolidate his power, it could make him very difficult to deal with later.
“Oh?” Xu Peng said with a smile. “I’d love to hear the details.” With that, he looked over expectantly.
“Well,” Zhou Hong replied, “I haven’t thought through all of the specifics yet, but we can’t just let him do whatever he wishes around here. His shop is getting really popular, right? My plan is to call over one of the top grandmaster necromancers from Nine Serenities City and set up a shop right next to Bai Hao’s.
“When it comes to battle prowess and fighting, Bai Hao is definitely incredible. But I refuse to believe that he’s just as good at doing business. If we cut off his source of income, he’ll get desperate enough to start making mistakes, and then we’ll have the advantage.”
The truth was that Zhou Hong had already worked out a complicated plan, but didn’t want to reveal that fact to Xu Peng. He was actually still disgruntled that he couldn’t just attack Bai Hao and deal with him directly. Unfortunately, he couldn’t beat him in a fight, and therefore had to resort to schemes to get his revenge.
Xu Peng listened attentively, and in the end, gave an enigmatic smile. He was no fool, and knew that Zhou Hong must have other plans that he wasn’t revealing. However, Xu Peng still wanted to try to take advantage of the situation for his own benefit, and in any case, there couldn’t be any harm in opening a shop. In fact, it might even help out the situation. Finally, Xu Peng nodded.
“That sounds like a good idea, Brother Zhou. In fact, how about I invite a grandmaster necromancer from Spirit Advent City? We can both open shops, right in Borough 89!”
The two of them laughed heartily, and then went about making the arrangements.
Half a month later, Bai Xiaochun was still in the middle of researching the formula for seventeen-colored flame. Bai Hao was finished with his improvements to the techniques, but still needed to work out some of the particulars.
Business kept getting better, and there never ceased to be a line going out the door. It was also during that half a month that the two shops on either side of Bai Xiaochun’s changed ownership.
After closing briefly for renovations, they both re-opened, larger and more luxurious than ever before. In terms of the specific businesses involved, they sold soul medicine and offered spirit enhancement services!
Most shocking of all were the names attached to the signs above the shops.
One was Sima Tao, the other was Sun Yifan!
When those two names were revealed, it caused a big stir in Borough 89. It only took a short period of time before people were talking, not only about Bai Xiaochun’s shop, but about these two newly opened shops!
“Sima Tao…. He’s a grand elder from the Sima Clan in Spirit Advent City! And he's also a celestial necromancer. He's adept at spirit enhancements, and is widely accepted as the number one spirit enhancer in Spirit Advent City!”
“He’s so famous! Everybody says that he’s one of the few necromancers who might actually break through into the earthly rank!”
“Sun Yifan is no ordinary individual either. He's a rogue cultivator without a clan, but who earned the favor of the Nine Serenities King. After that, he achieved a meteoric rise to his current rank of celestial necromancer!”
“You know what I heard? Supposedly, he was so grateful to the Nine Serenities King that he agreed to become his high counselor. In terms of his skill in necromancy, it's on par with Sima Tao’s!”
The entire city was shaken by these two names, and despite the incident which had occurred with Chen Xiong, many people began to pay much closer attention to see what would happen. After all, Borough 89 wasn’t in Arch-Emperor City’s central district; it was located more toward the fringes of the city. For two grandmasters to suddenly set up shop in a place like that was very telling.
“They’re making a move on Bai Hao….”
“One from Nine Serenities City and one from Spirit Advent City…. They’re challenging him without making any open moves. I smell a plot.”
Bai Xiaochun was angered by this new development, which immediately cast him in a bad light. Despite the fact that he could perform a fifteenfold spirit enhancement, in terms of both cultivation base and reputation as a spirit enhancer, he could only be considered someone of the Junior generation to these two.
Almost immediately, business began to shift to the shops operated by the two grandmasters. The soul medicine being sold there was high-grade, and every portion was marked with an official seal guaranteeing its level of quality, which also made the medicine something of a collectible. As far as spirit enhancements went, both necromancers had enhanced multiple magical items to the point of a fifteenfold enhancements. In fact, Sun Yifan’s masterwork was a magical device he had enhanced sixteen times for the Nine Serenities King!
Bai Xiaochun was stuck right between those two other shops, and it only took three days for his business to take a critical hit.
Bai Xiaochun was not happy at all. Upon walking out to inspect the two other shops, he found that they were indeed larger than his. When you added in how their work was guaranteed by means of a seal, it really made his own shop seemed too simplistic.
“What’s the meaning of this!? Can’t beat me in a fight so now they’re going to try to put me out of business!?” Both of the other two shops were completely bustling, and although his shop wasn’t completely empty, it was nothing like it was before. “Nine Serenities City… that must be Zhou Hong. And Spirit Advent City. Hmm. I didn’t take any life force from Xu Shan. Why would she have it out for me?”
Quite a few people noticed that Bai Xiaochun had walked out onto the street to look at the other shops. Even Sima Tao and Sun Yifan noticed, but seemed to view him as little more than business competition, and didn’t pay him much heed.
As far as they were concerned, Bai Xiaochun might have impressive battle prowess, and even have a Nascent Soul cultivation base, but in terms of spirit enhancement and necromancy, he couldn't compare to them. They had spent the majority of their lives immersed in necromancy, and had vast amounts of experience. There was no way that some up-and-coming brat could even come close to their abilities.
After sizing up the situation, Bai Xiaochun stalked angrily back into his shop. Although he hadn't originally cared too much about this spirit enhancement shop of his, considering that his future cultivation was tied to multi-colored flame, and he needed to do a lot of research, it meant that he had a greater need for vengeful souls than ever. In fact, the number involved was difficult to even process mentally.
He couldn’t go back to Giant Ghost City, and there was no way to shake down any clans. Mistress Red-Dust wouldn’t be of any help at all. That meant that the only other possible way to get souls was to beat people in fights, which was far too dangerous as far as Bai Xiaochun was concerned.
Without souls, he couldn’t conjure flame, and without multi-colored flame, he couldn’t increase his cultivation base. Without a higher cultivation base, he would never be able to get out of the Wildlands. That, coupled with all the pressure from Mistress Red-Dust, had him feeling very anxious.
He was alone, with no clan to back him up, and without any stipend of souls from the Giant Ghost King. If he wanted to conjure flame and improve his cultivation base, then he had to rely on vengeful souls.
His hope had come to rest in his shop, and he had originally assumed it would be able to support him to the point where he could increase his cultivation base and leave the Wildlands.
But now that these two new shops had opened up, Bai Xiaochun’s plan was completely wrecked. Besides, if things kept going on the way they were, the other chosen in the city would surely get involved. If things got to the point where he had no business at all, then he would be in very serious trouble, and might even get killed.
“No, I have to think of a way!” Back in his shop, he sat there thinking, a frown on his face as all sorts of ideas ran through his head. However, no matter what ideas he came up with, they had flaws that he couldn’t deal with, considering how weak he was overall.
Off to the side, Bai Hao looked at his Master, and then at the people outside going mostly to the other two shops. After a moment, he said, “Master, I have two plans that can resolve the situation!”