On the border between Mingu Province and a sixth-grade province under Zhong Province's jurisdiction, there stood a nameless mountain range.
Hundreds of years ago, Zhong Province's Directorate of Celestials had turned this nameless mountain range into a testing ground for new Oracles, where they carried out experiments for various strange curses, spells, and sacrifices; and even fought with strong demons. It had been inaccessible for a long time.
If one happened to visit here, a casual walk between the mountains might put one in a danger of being possessed by some ghost who had escaped from a random experiment in the past, and have one's blood essence and soul seized; if one heard someone calling one's name and answered, one might have one's soul taken away instantly; if one saw a clean and refreshing little stream and took a sip out of it, it was very likely the water was poisoned by some Oracle who specialized in the research of poisons, and the water was so potent that a single drop of it could kill tens of thousands of people...
It was a region riddled with dangers, a barren land devoid of natural products, and a mountain range that neither Mingu Province nor Zhong Province would pay attention to. All year round, novice Oracles from Zhong Province infested this place. No immortals or itinerant cultivators were to be found here; even all the little demons who had just gained their sentience and learned how to cultivate with natural energy had been wiped out. There was nothing worthy of attention in this mountain range that spanned for millions of miles across.
However, as the common people always said — the darkest spot could always be found right beneath a lamp. An itinerant Heaven Immortal named Immortal Gourd had gathered a group of itinerant cultivators and established a pretty large immortal market right within this mountain range. After centuries of development, thanks to the 'protection' provided by those novice Oracles and Immortal Gourd's extraordinary caution, it had become the largest, safest, and most secretive immortal market in both Zhong Province and Mingu Province.
However, Gourd Immortal Market had very strict rules and complex safety regulations. Only immortals introduced by friends who were absolutely reliable could enter it through teleportation formations built in different places. So far, no one had ever found out where the immortal market was located in the mountains, nor who or which powerhouse was behind it.
Deep beneath an unknown mountain, some five hundred miles underground was a naturally formed, gourd-shaped cave. This was where the Gourd Immortal Market was located. The cave measured three hundred miles long, with the smaller part being about one hundred and thirty miles in diameter and the larger part being about two hundred and seventy miles in diameter.
Numerous shops floated mid-air in the huge gourd-shaped space, divided into nine distinct levels from top to bottom.
The shops on the topmost level were all tall, luxuriously built buildings that looked as grand as palaces, owned by the most powerful immortal leagues and cultivator clans in Zhong Province and Mingu Province. One of the most luxurious shops with nine courtyards and four miles around was the 'Myriad Immortal Palace', which was owned by, unsurprisingly, the Myriad Immortal Alliance. Its main business was the selling all kinds of flying swords and magical artifacts, as well as the buying all valuable natural treasures.
From top to bottom, the shops shrunk in size, and those at the lowest level were simply small, two or three-storied buildings made of green bricks that looked ordinary. These shops were effectively the strongholds of some weaker itinerant cultivators, who were here to do some small business in order to earn energy stones for cultivating. And whenever they were lucky enough to purchase valuable treasures, they would immediately send them to shops owned by those powerhouses such as Myriad Immortal Palace in exchange for large sums of energy stones and immortal stones.
The whole Gourd Immortal Market consisted of about seven thousand shops. The vast space was divided into nine levels from top to bottom, each separated by streets condensed from clouds. The space between shops was wide enough, and with the complex defensive mechanisms in place, all guests' privacy was well protected.
It was clear that Immortal Gourd had spent a lot of effort and money here, for he actually obtained hundreds of giant stone pillars from Directorate of Celestials and erected them on the streets on all levels. Dazzling green light filled the cave, rendering all invisibility magic or escape arts completely useless. In addition, these pillars also connected with underground spirit flames, forming a powerful Earth Fire Formation. If anyone dared to create trouble here, hundreds of stone pillars would shower the troublemaker with green fires that could melt even ordinary Gold Immortals instantly.
With such tight protection, there had never been an accident in centuries since the Gourd Immortal Market was built.
Sitting in the backyard of a small palace on the third level of Gourd Immortal Market, Lu Buwei flipped through a thick ledger placed in front of him as he mentally calculated all the income and expenses for the month, while jotting down lines of numbers in another. Gradually a smirk of satisfaction appeared on his face. Shaking his head and humming a little tune, he pleasingly jotted down the last few numbers in the ledger.
After being badly injured in the Dark Abyss and forced to flee for his life, it took Lu Buwei almost no time to get himself into Gourd Immortal Market with his extraordinary approach and ability. At first, he took temporary shelter as a shopkeeper in an ordinary shop; when he had spent a year mending his wounds, he killed the owner and his whole family, seizing their souls to reform his heavenly ghosts.
With his extraordinary business skill, Lu Buwei thrived in Gourd Immortal Market in just a few years, turning a medium-sized shop on the seventh level into a large trading shop on the third level. At present, his 'Spring and Autumn Trading' employed hundreds of people, including dozens of Heaven Immortals; his monthly income in the form of energy stones and immortal stones was astronomical.
The Lu clan who stayed in outer heavenly realm had also sent a large number of elite experts to Pangu Continent in the past few years. Secretly, Lu Buwei gathered his people and made them set up shops in Gourd Immortal Market, instructing them to do all kinds of business outside at the same time. On the surface, Lu Buwei had only one shop; but in fact, there were eighteen large trading shops controlled by his people in this immortal market alone.
The eighteen shops were originally owned by the itinerant cultivator clans in Pangu Continent. But, Lu Buwei had gradually infiltrated and eroded their power by various shameful means. Of the over five thousand people from these clans, only about a thousand were left now, who had turned into Lu clan's slaves and lackeys with their souls controlled by him.
Lu Buwei's ability to rebuild such a large business in such a short time was truly amazing.
After verifying the current month's income and expenses, he opened the door of a secret room and put all the ledgers in it. He spent some time in the room to admire the heaps of immortal stones and valuable treasures, before laughing triumphantly and leaving. Being in a good mood, Lu Buwei went back to his bedchamber and told his juniors to bring the few girls who had just been sent to them yesterday, and then took some time to spend his seeds on them.
These girls were all very beautiful, captured from the Featherman tribes and sold as slaves by some slave traders amongst the immortals. Lu Buwei had an unusual appetite for girls, so when he saw them, he bought them at once. Today was the first time he had enjoyed these unfortunate girls.
After torturing the girls to his heart's content and seizing their virginity in the most brutal way, Lu Buwei, in an even better mood, took a shower and dressed himself up like a wealthy landowner; he then waddled into the lobby of his shop to entertain the customers with great hospitality.
The shopkeepers and assistants in the lobby were all the younger generations in Lu Buwei's family. When they saw their Patriarch coming into the lobby to personally entertain the customers, they immediately used the best attitude to attract customers, lest Lu Buwei caught them in the wrong.
Spring and Autumn Trading was very lucky today. Within a quarter of an hour of Lu Buwei's arrival in the lobby, more than a dozen itinerant cultivators came here to sell the spirit herbs they had harvested, which included several rare herbs of great value. Lu Buwei generously offered them good prices and brought all the spirit herbs. One of them, Violet Dragon Blood Fruit, was worth 100,000 times as much as all the energy stones he paid!
Violet Dragon Blood Fruit was an upper-grade spirit herb that could be used to concoct Gold Immortal pills, but Lu Buwei only bought it for the price of an ingredient used to concoct middle-grade Heaven Immortal pills, along with several other herbs of similar quality. The profit he made from this single deal was simply incredible!
Just as Lu Buwei was returning to the backyard with a few spirit herbs in his hands for a closer look, Patriarch Yuan Hua, his face gloomy, followed an itinerant Heaven Immortal slowly through the front door of Spring and Autumn Trading. Lu Buwei's body gave a sudden shiver. He took a deep breath and said to himself, "How could there be such a strong smell of blood? It would be very beneficial to my Heavenly Ghost Grand Magic!"
Patriarch Yuan Hua shuddered, too. He stopped to look at Lu Buwei, then pricked up his eyebrows in surprise and said with a nod, "He has actually formed the body of heavenly ghosts? Hehe, if I can have tens of thousands of heavenly ghosts guarding my sea of blood, its power will be able to increase at least a hundredfold! And, my Blood-draining Ghost Flag also needs a lot of fiends and heavenly ghosts inside. I was worried about where to find those heavenly ghosts, and here's where I finally find them!"
Hundreds of feet apart, Lu Buwei and Patriarch Yuan Hua stared at each other as if they were lovers reunited after a long separation.
It was only after a full quarter of an hour when Lu Buwei dropped his spirit herbs and hurried out of the door to bow to Patriarch Yuan Hua with a cupped fist. "It is my honor to have someone as prestigious as you visiting my shop! Please forgive me for not welcoming you earlier!"
Patriarch Yuan Hua was grinning from ear to ear as he said, "We are destined to meet each other! Fellow Daoist, if you can work together with me in terms of cultivation, it will be of great benefit to both you and me! Hahaha, the combination of Blood Sea Grand Magic and your countless heavenly ghosts will certainly bring us the Great Dao!"
After a moment of pondering, Patriarch Yuan Hua threw out a question, "Fellow Daoist, if you are willing to acknowledge me as your master, I'll teach you all the secrets of Blood Sea Grand Magic. What do you think?"
With his body of heavenly ghosts, Lu Buwei was actually the best candidate to cultivate the Blood Sea Grand Magic. Patriarch Yuan Hua was all alone now, and he genuinely wished to take in some disciples. He knew very well that in order to complete his tasks, he must have several disciples with him.
'Acknowledge him as my master?' Lu Buwei thought as he knitted his eyebrows into a tight frown. After all, he was the Patriarch of his own clan, and had his own ambition. So, how could he acknowledge someone as his master so easily?
Patriarch Yuan Hua did not persuade further with words. Instead, he smiled and released all his power; the enormous pressure forced Lu Buwei back a few steps.
Lu Buwei looked at Patriarch Yuan Hua in astonishment and delight, then hastily bowed to him and said, "That's a good suggestion! Senior, please come to my shop to discuss in detail!"
Patriarch Yuan Hua burst into laughter as he strode into the shop, paying no more heed to the itinerant Heaven Immortal who had brought him here.