The sun shone brightly in the middle of the sky. Wu Qi sat behind the long table placed in front of the City Lord Mansion, sipping a fragrant tea out of a small teacup held in his hand. Eight small, celadon green plates were placed before him, each serving different delicately made desserts. They were the finest desserts meticulously prepared by the chefs in the City Lord Mansion.
The tea was high quality, a spirit tea harvested from deep in the mountains next to An He City. The desserts tasted excellent. There were also two beautiful, obedient servant girls standing next to Wu Qi and waving fans in their hands, sending a gentle breeze blended with a faint fragrance that caressed his face. Wu Qi felt that such enjoyment had slowly degenerated him.
The flag above his head fluttered in a gust of strong wind. Some idlers were seen standing under the eave of the buildings opposite to the mansion, peering in Wu Qi's direction for any activities. Every now and then, people dressed like itinerant cultivators would walk past the City Lord Mansion, carefully and quickly glancing at the notices pasted on the walls to the left and right of the entrance. Wu Qi noticed that these cultivators were tempted, but when they were about to walk towards him, they were always dragged away by their companions to leave in a haste.
Smacking his lips, Wu Qi turned to one of the servant girls standing next to him and asked, "It's been two days. Why hasn't anyone come for the recruitment?"
Both servant girls dared not to answer the question. Instead, they bowed slightly and said in a low voice, "We have no idea!"
No idea? Wu Qi downed the remaining tea in the cup, grabbed two cakes from a plate and swallowed them in a mouthful, then clapped his hands and made a call, "Monk, come here and take the watch. If anyone is here to enroll, bring them to Reverend San Le. Mm, I don't believe that with such good conditions, nobody will come to enroll themselves!"
He rose to his feet, getting ready to go around the city and find out some info. Suddenly, he saw an old man clad in a green outfit hiding behind the curtain inside a pill shop opposite the mansion, peering in his direction through the opening with a pair of narrowed eyes. The old man had only an early-stage Gold Core cultivation base. His eyes were filled with vigilance, and even a slight look of disgust.
The old man was hiding behind the curtain, and had half of his face covered by the shadow of the door. If not for his keen eyesight, it was almost impossible for Wu Qi to see him.
Wu Qi frowned, leaving the chair and giving it to Guarding Heart, who had just come out of the mansion. Smilingly, he walked towards the pill shop. The old man's expression changed drastically as he saw Wu Qi walking towards him. Without hesitation, he grabbed the edge of the door and was about to shut it.
But, Wu Qi would not let the old man do that. With a step, he came next to the door and held it with one hand, then greeted the old man across the curtain, "Fellow Daoist, why are you behaving as if you are seeing things? Hehe, could there be any misunderstanding between us?"
The old man's face turned blue instantly. He let loose of the door in a panic, staggered back a few steps and kept bowing to Wu Qi while saying, "Fellow Daoist, Senior, have I offended you in any ways...?" Even as he said that, the old man shuddered, and his teeth were chattering. Obviously, he was terrified by Wu Qi's visit.
Noises were heard coming from the surroundings. Without the need of unleashing his divine will, with just the information that came from a celestial fiend puppet who hovered on a cloud high up above the city, Wu Qi was able to learn everything that happened around him. From dozens of nearby shops operated by cultivators, their managers and workers had come out carefully, using all kinds of excuses to greet each other, their glances all fixed on Wu Qi.
Wu Qi looked over his shoulder in surprise. Instantly, all those managers and workers ran back to their shops,, and some with timid nature even shut their doors and put up the notice of 'the shop is closed'. Wu Qi raised his head to give the sky a glance- the sun still shone brightly in the middle of the sky. It was midday, so why had they closed their shops at this hour?
Laughing dryly, Wu Qi walked into the pill shop. He cupped his fist and bowed at the old man, then said, "Don't be panicked, fellow Daoist. I come with no evil intention. I just have a few questions for you."
The old man grabbed a cloth with his trembling hand, using it to wipe a dustless shelf next to him. With a rather hoarse voice, he asked, "Senior, what are the questions? I'll definitely answer them without hiding anything from you!"
Darting his eyes from side to side, Wu Qi asked with a smile, "Fellow Daoist, what sect are you from?"
Instantly, the old man dropped to his knees and began to pound his forehead forcibly on the floor as he said, "Have mercy on me! Please have mercy on me, Senior! I am from a small and unworthy sect. All my seniors have died a horrible death in the mountains nine days ago, and I've no more Seniors in my sect. Wuwu... if Senior takes a fancy on my puny property, Senior can just take it... I've spent three hundred years in laborious cultivation, going through all the hardships to just form my Gold Core... Senior, please have mercy on me!"
Wu Qi was stunned.
He stared at the old man with a blank expression, who was crying and shedding bitter tears. At last, he managed to recover from his shock and asked, "Do I look so terrifying to you?"
The old man continued his kowtow as he cried out, "Senior Arhat Wrath from Minor Serene Buddhist Land is dead, Golden Pavilion Temple is destroyed, and Jade Pagoda Temple is wiped out... Please have mercy on me, Senior... It hasn't been an easy process to go through three hundred years of cultivation and form my Gold Core... I can't throw away my little bit of pure Yang energy just like this!"
Wu Qi was thrown into a confusion again. While frowning, he spent quite a long while in pondering, and finally pulled up the old man and snapped, "Stop crying and talk properly! If you cry again, I'll rip off your skin and pull out your tendons, then send your soul into the Nether Hell and let you burn eternally in the Nether Flame!"
As his loud roaring echoed out, even more sounds of door slamming were heard coming from the surroundings. But, the old man quickly stopped his crying, using the same cloth as he wiped his face and then forced a smile to it. After that, he bowed his head and in a low voice, began to explain the reason of the strange atmosphere that lingered in An He City.
When Jing An, the monk, was the City Lord, the powers in the region around the city were relatively balanced. Euphoria Heavenly Palace and Jade Pagoda Temple were locked in a stalemate. The two powers with formidable backing had achieved a balance through both open strifes and veiled struggles, and the rest of smaller powers were more than happy to seek their opportunity of development in between. As Jing An was a monk, he ruled the city with the heart of a Buddhist cultivator, so these smaller powers could live rather peacefully.
But, everything had changed in just a short half a month.
Euphoria Heavenly Palace had wiped out Jade Pagoda Temple and besieged Golden Pavilion Temple. Jing An, the monk, had fallen, and the City Lord was replaced by Reverend San Le. The situation did not look bad if that was all, as although Reverend San Le was an evil cultivator, as long as Golden Pavilion Temple still stood strong, the two major powers could still counterbalance each other. At most, Reverend San Le would be greedier by taking a bigger cut on their revenues, and the smaller powers could still have peaceful days in the city.
But, too bad that the situation turned worse with the sudden interference from Liu Yi and the people behind him, with Wu Qi giving them a big push from the back. Golden Pavilion Temple was completely wiped out. In addition to that, the Sect Leaders and Elders from the various immortal sects in the regions around An He City were eliminated by Wu Qi's death trap, while the leader of the righteous path, Arhat Wrath, was entirely devoured by Patriarch Muji. Even his bone ashes were refined by the latter.
For the moment, Euphoria Heavenly Palace became the only power in An He City and the surrounding regions, and Patriarch Muji was like a dark cloud that heavily pressured on the hearts of everyone from the smaller powers. Euphoria Heavenly Palace had a notorious reputation for abducting innocent men and women. Now, with the falling of Arhat Wrath, there was nobody who could stop them from doing anything wantonly. Also, as the backing of various smaller powers were wiped clean in the mountains, it was impossible to ask these disciples and apprentices from smaller powers to not be panic-stricken!
This old man before Wu Qi for example, the strongest man in his sect was his Grand Elder, who had only a cultivation base of mid-stage Nascent Divinity realm. Because of curiosity, this Grand Elder went into the eastern mountain, wanting to see the exact look of the remains of a Ganoderma Immortal. Of course, he did have the intention of gaining some benefits there. But, little did he expect that it was a no return trip, and even a few other Nascent Soul Elders in the old man's sect were killed. At present, his sect was left with only a few Gold Core cultivators. On the other hand, Wu Qi and his company were backed by Patriarch Muji.
On one hand, these disciples from smaller powers were reluctant to abandon the properties of their sects, and on the other hand, they were very scared of Wu Qi and the company. Therefore, for the past few days, they were as restless as ants on a hot pan. Their minds were troubled, but none of them could figure out what to do next.
Wu Qi was recruiting itinerant cultivators to join City Lord Mansion. But, with Euphoria Heavenly Palace's notorious reputation, who dared to join them just because of the seemingly lucrative salary? All cultivators attached the utmost importance to their own cultivation base and energy essence, and yet, Lady Qiao was famous for seizing her disciples' pure Yang energy. Although there was a rumor that she was dead, but with Euphoria Heavenly Palace's track record, who dared to take the risk?
"I see!" Wu Qi looked at the old man who had both legs trembling with fear helplessly, "Does Euphoria Heavenly Palace really have a notorious reputation?"
The old man laughed dryly and did not dare to answer that. In fact, not only did Euphoria Heavenly Palace have a notorious reputation, just by hearing its name alone would make one want to retch. All its disciples were evil cultivators who no other cultivators dared to offend. Even if Wu Qi placed gold and silver before those itinerant cultivators, none of them would dare to join City Lord Mansion just because of the money, let alone he just had a flagpole erected before the mansion.
Looking at how the old man was laughing dryly, a flame of anger rose from the bottom of Wu Qi's heart. How could he neglect this issue? Did Euphoria Heavenly Palace really have a notorious reputation?
However, as all the seniors from the various immortal sects around An He City were dead, why should he be reasonable to these cultivators who chose to stay in the city?
Snorting coldly, Wu Qi patted the old man's shoulder, spun, and left the pill shop. He walked slowly to the front of the City Lord Mansion, ripped off the two notices pasted next to the entrance, and flew up into the sky. Hovering above the city, he took a deep breath and cried out at the top of his voice, "All the itinerant cultivators in An He City, listen here! From today onwards, all of you will be Euphoria Heavenly Palace's outer sect disciples! You will have no salary! Your only option is to bow your head and obey whatever I ask you to do!"
He cast a few thunderbolts and threw them down randomly, collapsing a few buildings in the city. After that, he shouted, "From today onwards, all the shops in the city will be Euphoria Heavenly Palace's private properties! All managers, workers, and anyone with a cultivation base above peak Houtian realm, immediately register yourself in the City Lord Mansion! You will be Euphoria Heavenly Palace's outer sect disciples as well! Whoever does not register himself will be killed! Whoever dares to hide his accounts will be killed! Whoever dares to hide his money secretly will be killed!"
Waving his hands back and forth, Wu Qi threw several dozens of thunderbolts down again. "All in all, from today onwards, Euphoria Heavenly Palace has officially occupied An He City! Those who comply with us will thrive, and those who resist will perish! All cultivators, prepare a record of all the properties your sect possessed and submit it to us today! Those who refuse to do so will be killed!"
After catching his breath, Wu Qi said in a deep voice, "I will guarantee the safety of those who join Euphoria Heavenly Palace as outer sect disciples today. Anyone who joins later than today, hehe, he or she will be treated as cultivation vessels!"
An uproar broke out within the city immediately. Groups after groups of cultivators rushed out from all directions, some on clouds and some on flying swords, crying and yelling as they scrambled their way towards City Lord Mansion. In just the time to finish a pot of tea, the mansion was completely surrounded by several tens of thousands of cultivators, who roared and shouted at the top of their voices, crying and asking Reverend San Le to recruit them as soon as possible!
Wu Qi was pleased with the outcome, roaring with laughter.