Bai Xiaochun blinked a few times, his heart racing. He still wasn't sure if he could believe how things were playing out, and also couldn’t understand why Gongsun Wan’er would act so strangely when it came to his Sutra of Former Reincarnation.
“Don’t tell me that my divine ability has some sort of fatal flaw?!” All of a sudden, he felt very nervous. The truth was that he had had suspicions very early on. Whenever he used his Sutra of Former Reincarnation, it seemed to result in very unusual and shocking results, and if word about that spread, it could damage the reputation of the technique.
“I created a grand divine ability, a magical technique that surpasses anything ordinary!” Not wanting to pursue that line of thinking too far, he decided that it must have something to do with Gongsun Wan’er herself, and her memories.
“That’s got to be it. I, Bai Xiaochun, am an upright and proper person. Of course the techniques I create are upright and dignified. How could I possibly make anything shady or underhanded?” Having comforted himself in this way, he looked back at Gongsun Wan’er’s palace of operations, and considered whether or not to go inside. As he did, the main door quietly slid open.
Panting a bit, he looked up at the evening sky, then back at the door, torn about what to do. Finally, he sighed.
“Ah, whatever. This is for the sake of all the countless citizens of Mistysea Prefecture, and for the good of everyone from the Heavenspan Realm! How could Bai Xiaochun ever put his personal issues above those things!?” Gritting his teeth, he threw caution to the wind and strode forward into the palace of operations, a very serious expression on his face.
As he entered the depths of the palace, he felt as if he were doing something very moving and tragic. Eventually, he found Gongsun Wan’er, sitting there clad in a pink garment, her face expressionless.
For some reason, this Gongsun Wan’er seemed completely different from the Gongsun Wan’er who had called him sweetie only moments ago. This version was staring at him with a gaze as cold as ice.
“Unless you can make that despicable magical technique of yours work forever,” she said grimly, “then don’t even think about using it on me again. If you do, I’ll immediately mobilize all of my forces in the north and destroy your Mistysea Prefecture!” Her eyes shone with frigid coldness, and she even rotated her cultivation base. As of this moment, Bai Xiaochun realized that Gongsun Wan’er seemed almost exactly like the old Ghostmother!
“If you think I won’t follow through with the threat, then give it a shot and find out.” Her gaze remained icy cold, and her words were spoken with unwavering determination.
Bai Xiaochun frowned. This version of Gongsun Wan’er seemed exactly like Ghostmother, to the point where he began to suspect that something had gone wrong with Gongsun Wan’er’s efforts to absorb her. She was acting so differently from before that she almost seemed like a stranger.
“Although,” he thought, “I do have plenty of ways to deal with cold personalities. After all, Song Junwan and Zhou Zimo both started out that way.” He blinked a few times, but then his expression turned very somber, and he tucked his hands behind his back, his veins of steel pulsing to full effect.
All of a sudden, he looked completely different from before. His gaze hardened, and he spoke in a voice that sounded exactly like a celestial’s voice should.
“Yes, you could mobilize all of the north to destroy Mistysea Prefecture. But remember: back when I kidnapped you the first time, I was only a demigod. Do you really think… I couldn’t kidnap you a second time if I wanted to?!”
Before she could answer the question, he continued to speak.
“The reason I’ve come here, Gongsun Wan’er, is not to spar verbally with you. In Mistysea Prefecture, our spirit enhancement abilities are renowned under all heaven. We have a sterling reputation in the Saint-Emperor Dynasty. I'm sure your northern prefectures could make use of such abilities, but right now, the borders are locked down, making it impossible for us to have any dealings with the northern cultivators!
“I’ve come here today to discuss a trade deal, not to beg or plead for anything! Therefore, you need to keep yourself in check as well!” Bai Xiaochun spoke very sharply, which had not been his original intent upon coming. Instead of asking Gongsun Wan’er for help, he was making it seem like she was the one who needed help from him.
Instantly, Gongsun Wan’er’s gaze sharpened, and she laughed coldly. “Are you kidding me? You take one of my prefectures away from me, and then come back to me and make it seem like you’re offering alms to the poor? Did you cultivate yourself into stupidity, Bai Xiaochun?!”
“Stop worrying about the loss of Mistysea Prefecture,” Bai Xiaochun replied confidently. “You lost a single prefecture, but the profit from the spirit enhancement trade that you can gain now will vastly surpass anything that you would ever have gotten from a single prefecture!”
“Trade?” Gongsun Wan’er replied icily. “You have your borders closed to us, not the other way around. And any trade deal would benefit Mistysea Prefecture, but would be useless to me!”
“Useless? Gongsun Wan’er, I know full well that you’ve lost the trust of the Vile-Emperor. You can pretend that you came here of your own volition, but the truth is that you are being marginalized. In fact, you’re in much the same position as me. And I refuse to believe that you’re happy with the situation. If you were content to leave things as they are, you wouldn’t have made such a scene in invading the north. In any case, I have a better solution, something that can allow both of us to advance our positions by leaps and bounds. And the key to it all is cooperation!
“Open up trade between Mistysea Prefecture and the other northern prefectures. Not only will it increase your overall power, it will also benefit you financially. Furthermore, you can be the sole agent for Mistysea Prefecture in the rest of the Vile-Emperor Dynasty! You would essentially control all spirit enhancement outside of the Saint-Emperor Dynasty!
“I’m talking about good faith cooperation here. So tell me, Gongsun Wan’er, what possible reason could you have to refuse?” As Bai Xiaochun spoke, a thoughtful expression appeared in Gongsun Wan’er’s eyes. The truth was that everything he said made sense, and conformed with her needs. The development of spirit enhancement in Mistysea Prefecture was important to her, and furthermore, the potential profits of being an agent to the entire Vile-Emperor Dynasty defied imagination!
It could significantly change her standing within the dynasty. Because of all that, she had no choice but to calm down a bit and think about the trade proposal.
Although she could tell that he was spinning things to make it seem like everything was in her favor, it was also possible to tell that she could profit as well. Therefore, there was definitely room for negotiation.
When Bai Xiaochun saw that Gongsun Wan’er was considering the matter, he breathed an inward sigh of relief. He was glad to see her acting reasonable and willing to communicate.
After a long moment passed, she frowned and said, “I need to think about the matter in detail. I’ll give you an answer tomorrow!”
Bai Xiaochun’s eyes glittered. By this point, his chances of success were high. The fact that she told him she needed to think about the subject and reply the next day was a show of good faith.
Nodding, he said, “For the time being, I won’t return to Mistysea Prefecture. I’ll wait in the city until tomorrow morning, then return here to get your answer.”
Just as he was turning to leave, Gongsun Wan’er’s eyes flickered, and she waved her hand. In response, a beautiful handmaiden walked out and clasped hands in greeting.
“Qing’er, we have a guest from afar. King Heavenspan. Please take care of him.” With that, Gongsun Wan’er rose to her feet and vanished. As for Bai Xiaochun, he rubbed his nose as he pondered that, although this version of Gongsun Wan’er was perfect for negotiating with, he actually liked the version of her that called him sweetie. Although she was less reasonable, he actually missed her.
“Hold on,” he thought. “No. I have to keep my distance from this Gongsun Wan’er. She’s changed too much.” Dispelling any such thoughts of missing her, he looked over at the pretty young Qing’er, who was nothing less than a feast for the eyes.
When Qing’er saw him looking at her, she seemed a bit frightened. Giving a curtseying bow, she led him out of the palace of operations and toward a tavern outside of it.
The palace was located on top of a huge mountain, and had other buildings and structures around it. Further down, at the base of the mountain, was the largest city in the prefecture, which was roughly the same size as Mistysea City. Despite being evening, it was still a lively and bustling place.
As they walked along, Bai Xiaochun looked down at the city below, and Qing’er would occasionally glance at him curiously out of the corner of her eye. As they reached their destination, a local tavern, Bai Xiaochun chuckled and looked at her.
“Is there something you wanted to ask me?”
Qing’er took a hesitant breath and then replied, “Exalted one, you are the number one most powerful expert from the Heavenspan Realm. I even heard that you’re a grandmaster of spirit enhancement. You see… I'm very curious about the subject of spirit enhancement. I've seen some enhancements performed, and it’s a very mysterious thing. Is it true what people say, that spirit enhancement runs in the blood of the people of Heavenspan?”
“You've seen spirit enhancements being performed?” Bai Xiaochun asked.
Qing’er nodded. Unable to prevent a look of worship from appearing in her eyes, she said, “Of course! Right here in this very city, we have Grandmaster Zhou. The only person more famous than him is you, King Heavenspan. If you have time, you should go watch him perform a spirit enhancement.”
“Grandmaster Zhou?” Bai Xiaochun replied, a look of shock appearing on his face.