Along with the words came a beam of light, slicing through the air. It was none other than the heir apparent from Nine Serenities City, Zhou Hong. He wasn’t alone either. He was flanked by dozens of henchmen, as well as a group of several hundred cultivators wearing black armor.
The black-armored soul cultivators had expressionless faces, and completely ignored everyone present as they spread out in the area, performing incantation gestures as they set up a spell formation.
As soon as the spell formation was activated, a massive gravitational force appeared, which immediately sucked away all of the foul gas in the area.
The sight of the gas vanishing filled the other soul cultivators in the area with complete shock.
“The heir apparent of Nine Serenities City….”
“It’s Zhou Hong….”
The truth was that Zhou Hong was actually feeling very nervous. Even the smallest incident in Arch-Emperor City could have profound implications outside. He might be an heir apparent, but that didn’t mean he had the luxury of letting his guard down. After all, relations between the four heavenly kings weren’t very good at the moment.
At the moment, it didn’t matter whether or not Sima Tao and Sun Yifan were truly responsible for what was happening. The soul medicine had their mark on it, which meant that they couldn’t extricate themselves from the situation. Furthermore, neither could Zhou Hong. The truth was that Zhou Hong was even more worried than Bai Xiaochun was about things getting out of control.
After all, this was Arch-Emperor City!
In his anxiety, he had called in some favors to stop the city guards from getting involved. After all, once they did, it would be impossible to prevent reports from going up the chain of command.
That didn’t mean that a lack of a report would keep the matter hidden. However, once someone did report the matter, formal action would have to be taken.
After ensuring that the city guard would wait a bit before taking action, Zhou Hong quickly came over with members of his father’s own personal guard, who used a powerful spell formation to get rid of the foul gas.
It had been a lot of things to take care of in a short time, and he was feeling extremely frustrated about the matter. However, there was nothing he could do. As soon as he arrived on the scene, he called out, “It doesn’t matter how all of this happened. It was probably just a mistake. Don’t worry, everyone, I will provide compensation that will surely leave you feeling very pleased!”
Immediately, his henchmen spread out and started taking care of everything.
Those who had been directly affected by the soul medicine were given handsome compensation, and actually ended up profiting quite well. Furthermore, everyone understood that this hefty remuneration was also a way to buy their silence.
The other soul cultivators who had been affected by the disaster were also given compensation, and although it was less than what the actual victims received, they were all very satisfied. As for Zhou Hong, although he was loath to pay such a heavy price, he really had no other options.
Bai Xiaochun watched through narrowed eyes, unable to hold back his admiration for how quickly Zhou Hong had taken care of everything. Apparently, Zhou Hong was even more nervous than he was about causing a larger disaster.
After seeing how happy everyone was at the compensation, Bai Xiaochun looked up in thought for a moment, then cleared his throat, lowered his voice, and spoke to the other shop owners behind him. “Our shops were damaged too!”
The shop owners all began to grumble and then complain aloud. Not too far away, Zhou Hong's heart felt like it was dripping blood as he forced himself to calm down. Gritting his teeth, he waved his hand, sending a person over to Bai Xiaochun and his group to discuss the matter. Before long, a bag of holding was given to Bai Xiaochun.
At this point, everyone felt very pleased, although Bai Xiaochun was feeling a bit guilty. Considering how badly everyone had suffered, he took his own share and began to distribute it among those who had been directly affect by the soul medicine, leading more and more people to cry out his name in admiration.
The smiles on the faces of everyone in the crowd sent stabs of pain into Zhou Hong’s heart. Never could he have imagined that his little scheme against Bai Xiaochun would not only fail, but also cause great injury to himself.
“Well, at least things are all worked out now,” he told himself comfortingly. He was just about to open his mouth to speak to the crowd when he saw all of the soul cultivators who had been given compensation rushing over to clasp hands to Bai Xiaochun.
“Grandmaster Bai, many thanks to you for taking a stand for justice!”
“You’re a great person, Grandmaster Bai!”
“Fellow Daoist Bai Hao, I owe you a big favor for what you did today!”
They weren’t the only ones to react in such a way. The shop owners also clasped hands and offered expressions of gratitude. Moved, Bai Xiaochun immediately announced that everyone present could have a discount the next time they came to his shop, which made people even more happy.
Zhou Hong was the one who actually gave out the compensation, but the person everyone thanked was Bai Xiaochun. It left Zhou Hong’s mind spinning, and he simply couldn’t control his emotions. Profound hatred for Bai Xiaochun immediately blossomed in his heart.
Unfortunately for him, he could only wrestle it into check. After all, he didn't want to dig himself further into a pit. After a long moment, he simply left. And thus it was that the incident with the foul gas was resolved.
Bai Xiaochun stood there looking at the crowds dispersing, his hands clasped behind his back. Then, feeling very pleased with himself, he walked back into his shop, musing that his apprentice’s plan really had been amazing.
“Beautifully executed final move!” he said, laughing heartily and giving Bai Hao a look of praise. Bai Hao felt both embarrassed and pleased. After all, his Master was the only family he had, and his approval left Bai Hao feeling wonderful.
Bai Xiaochun spent some time bragging and boasting, then went into the back room, very pleased with not only having avoided disaster, but also coming off with a bit of profit.
Savoring the victory, he took out the formula for seventeen-colored flame and continued his work with it.
Three days passed by in a flash. During that time, Zhou Hong was run ragged dealing with the aftermath. He spread bribes high and low, and put out fires left and right. When everything was said and done, nobody came looking to ask questions.
It was on the evening of the third day that he finally called Sima Tao and Sun Yifan over to discuss the matter. After the three of them were seated in a locked chamber, he grimly asked, “Did you find out what happened? Was it Bai Hao?!”
Sima Tao and Sun Yifan didn’t say anything at first. A moment passed, and then Sima Tao braced himself and bitterly said, “The two of us used every trick in the book. We even asked for some help from some fellow experts we know. We really can’t find any signs that the soul medicine was tampered with.”
“No signs at all?” Zhou Hong replied angrily. “Then what's wrong with it? Don’t tell me the two of you really are responsible!?!?” He wasn’t being polite at all. Normally speaking if he had spoken like this, Sima Tao would have been very displeased, and would have immediately rebuked him. After all, he wasn’t a mere counselor to the Nine Serenities King, he was a grand elder from the Sima Clan in Nine Serenities City.
Even Sun Yifan would have responded with little more than a cold snort. After all, he was a high counselor to the Spirit Advent King, and would be well within his rights to scold a prince from Nine Serenities City.
But in the current circumstances, both of them had little choice but to accept the treatment.
Wording things carefully, Sima Tao said, “To be able to tamper with soul medicine and leave behind no evidence is a level of necromantic skill that neither of us has ever even heard of before. The only way it could be done is with some legendary secret magic of some sort or another.”
“Although we weren’t able to learn anything from the soul medicine itself,” Sun Yifan added through gritted teeth, “we did come up with another clue. All of the soul medicine in question was purchased from our shops, and after looking into our records, Brother Sima and I were able to determine that over the course of the last month, we had quite a few suspicious customers!” Bones aching with hatred, he pulled out a jade slip that he handed over to Zhou Hong.
Zhou Hong’s eyes flashed as he accepted it and looked it over. Then he rose to his feet and left to make various arrangements. Soon enough, the full power of the heir apparent of Nine Serenities City was on display as a massive investigation was carried out. Over the course of the following few days, clues were unearthed one by one.
Although all of the suspicious people who had purchased the medicine were wearing disguises, Zhou Hong’s network ran wide and deep. Soon, he uncovered the fact that on the day of the disaster, every person in that suspicious group had used Arch-Emperor City’s teleportation portal to travel to Giant Ghost City!
Soon, it was also uncovered that the entire group of people had originally teleported into Arch-Emperor City on the same day!
Although the exact times were staggered, it was obvious that they were working together.
“I don’t care if I can’t prove it directly, Bai Hao, I'm convinced that this was all your doing!!” Anger burning, Zhou Hong gritted his teeth and sent messages to Sima Tao and Sun Yifan.
Once Sima Tao and Sun Yifan got the news, their minds reeled, and their fury also began to rage.
“You framed us, Bai Hao!!”
“How shameless, Bai Hao!!”
The mere thought of Bai Xiaochun’s act that day got their blood boiling, and they immediately rushed out of their shops and headed toward Bai Xiaochun’s.