The scene, which had attracted the attention of the other nearby Cultivators, caused their expressions to change. Many seemed to be at a loss, unsure of exactly what had happened. But now, they all knew that Meng Hao was not someone to provoke.
Even though they didn’t know exactly what had happened, Meng Hao’s trembling first customer did. His heart pounding madly, he slapped his bag of holding and produced six Spirit Stones, which he respectfully handed over. He regretted having hesitated in front of the Pill Cultivation Workshop in the past. By fretting over his Spirit Stones at that time, he’d ended up with no medicine. And now, he didn’t have any Spirit Stones to go buy anything for himself.
Meng Hao accepted the Spirit Stones, produced a Blood Coagulation pill and Skeletal Relaxation Pill, and gave them to the man.
“Many thanks for your patronage,” he said with a wide smile. “Come back again soon.” Once again, he looked weak and feeble. But to the Cultivator standing in front of him, he was a vicious beast in sheep’s clothing. Trembling, the man made his exit.
As he left, Meng Hao decided not to return to his spot on the rock. He grabbed the Pill Cultivation Workshop Outlet banner and began to stroll about the Public Zone. He stopped next to two battling disciples, sticking the banner into the ground.
“Brother, it seems you’re injured,” he said, stepping forward. “You also seem somewhat listless. You don’t seem to be in the right state to be fighting.”
The two disciples stared at him in amazement. Having just seen him knock someone out, they hesitated, and at the same time, both backed up a bit.
“I happen to have some Spirit Refreshment Pills from the Pill Cultivation Workshop. Take one, and you will be completely reinvigorated, your victory guaranteed. Since today is our opening day of business, it only costs one Spirit Stone. How convenient!” Meng Hao continued to walk forward, his face filled with sincerity.
“I already have some medicinal pills,” said the man he had been giving his sales pitch to. He slapped his grab of holding, and a Spirit Refreshment Pill appeared, which he popped into his mouth.
Upon seeing this, Meng Hao sighed. He had watched his first customer for some time before determining that he had no medicinal pills. With a light cough, he looked at the second man standing in front of him. The man gave a cold harrumph, then produced his own medicinal pill and swallowed it, sighing inwardly.
But Meng Hao wasn’t disheartened. He circled back to the boulder, continuing to watch the two of them. As time passed, they seemed to be looking worse and worse off. Soon, it was clear they were out of medicinal pills, and the critical juncture in the fight had arrived. Victory and defeat would be decided.
His spirits risen again, Meng Hao hefted the banner and approached them again.
“Brothers, the moment of life or death has arrived. You don’t have any medicinal pills left, but don’t worry, I have some right here.
“At this critical juncture, buy one of my Soul Congealing Pills. It will restore your energy in a flash, and even recover your spiritual energy. Brothers, you’re not buying a medicinal pill, you’re buying spiritual energy. Aiyo, you’re injured!” Meng Hao’s words distracted the Cultivators. A flying sword hit one of them in the arm, sending out a fountain of blood. He retreated backward with a scream.
Meng Hao was even faster than him, following and continuing his speech, looked as weak and scholarly as ever.
“Brother, now is the time. You’re bleeding profusely. Quick, buy a Blood Coagulation Pill. If you don’t, the danger is just too great.”
“Get out of here!” the man’s opponent roared at Meng Hao. He charged his injured opponent.
“Give me a pill,” said the injured Cultivator, his face pale. Retreating several paces, he gritted his teeth and pulled out a Spirit Stone. A Blood Coagulation Pill shot from Meng Hao’s hand onto the wound on the man’s arm. The blood flow began to slow. He focused his attention, then leaped back into the fight.
“Aiya, Brother, it seems you’re out of medicinal pills. Look, I have plenty. Now that your opponent bought one, he’s bursting with energy. But you’re injured. Why don’t you buy a Blood Coagulation pill?
“Oh no, you got slashed again. You must be really tired. Take it slow, and don’t be discouraged. Brother, I still have a Skeletal Relaxation Pill.
“One Spirit Stone for one pill. You should buy pills quickly. The sages said, Spirit Stones have a price, but a life is priceless.” Meng Hao slowly circled them. Sure enough, they were out of medicinal pills, and soon, they began buying. Feeling pressure from each other, they bought quite a few. The battle grew more serious. Their fighting today was more intense than four or five normal battles.
Originally, it had been a fairly simple fight, but with the Pill Cultivation Workshop Outlet here, things were complicated. With dangerous fighting, comes injury. The two cannot be separated.
Flop. Flop. The two men had finally exhausted every scrap of energy. They dropped to the ground, unconscious, Spirit Stones spent and medicinal pills eaten up. Even their magical items were destroyed in the battle, seemingly together along with their wits. How tragic.
As far as Meng Hao was concerned, he had saved their lives. Or at least one life. Hefting his banner, he once again strolled around the plateau, and once again found two Cultivators locked in devastating combat. From the look of it, even if they had healing medicine, it was gone by now. Eyes glistening, he stood the banner up next to the two of them.
“Brothers, your complexions seem bad, and you’ve received some serious injuries. But fear not, I have medicinal pills. One Spirit Stone buys one pill; your recovery is guaranteed.
“How come you aren’t saying anything? Don’t tell me you don’t trust me? Just now another disciple bought some of my pills. The result for his opponent was death.”
Shortly, each of the men bought a pill, then again, and again, until they had no more Spirit Stones left. After much bitter battling, they ended their fight in a tie, with nothing to show for it except empty bags of holding.
Meng Hao shook his head, picked up the banner and found a new place to do business.
By the time the sun set, Meng Hao had been everywhere in the Public Zone, selling medicinal pills. In the end, wherever he went, the battling would instantly cease, and the participants would leave. Eventually, Meng Hao stared out over an empty Public Zone. Contentedly patting his bag of holding, he left.
It was late at night when he arrived at the Immortal’s Cave. He sat down cross-legged and excitedly began to take inventory of his spoils.
“One, two…” He grew more and more excited as he counted. “Altogether I have fifty-three. I’m rich. This method is much faster than robbing people. It’s also much safer. No need for killing.”
“I don’t have many medicinal pills left, so tomorrow I’ll go to the Pill Cultivation Workshop and buy some more. If I want the business to do well, I should buy out all of this month’s healing medicines. If I don’t have enough Spirit Stones, I’ll just buy as much as I can. The scarcer the pills, the easier they’ll be to sell.”
Meng Hao opened the bag of holding he had taken from the unconscious Cultivator. Inside were a few Spirit Stones, two Spirit Condensation Pills, and a pink-colored medicinal pill.
He held the pill up and examined it. He recognized it as one of the Pill Cultivation Workshop’s Cosmetic Cultivation Pills, an expensive pill. It was worth about ten Spirit Condensation Pills, and could be considered one of the most expensive products available.
“This pill is designed to maintain one’s physical appearance. It would be a waste for me to use it on myself.” He figured the previous owner must have been trying to ingratiate himself to a female disciple. Not thinking any more on the subject, he put the pill into his bag of holding.
As he was looking down contentedly at all the Spirit Stones and medicinal pills, the main door of the Immortal’s Cave suddenly creaked and began to open. It happened so quickly, Meng Hao had no time to gather up all his spoils.
A woman entered, surrounded by a halo of moonlight. She was beautiful, but cold and expressionless. She wore a long silver robe that made it seem as if she had donned the moon itself.
It was none other than the Reliance Inner Sect’s Elder Sister Xu.
As she entered the Immortal’s Cave, moonlight fell onto the Spirit Stones and medicinal pills which lay in front of Meng Hao. A sliver of astonishment suddenly cut through her cold demeanor.
“Greetings, Elder Sister Xu,” said Meng Hao, scrambling to his feet. His right hand swept up the Spirit Stones and medicinal pills. He stood there, looking embarrassed.
Elder Sister Xu didn’t say anything. She just looked at Meng Hao, nodded, then turned to leave.
Look surprised, Meng Hao followed after her.
“Elder Sister Xu, you took the trouble to come here, why not stay a bit?”
“There’s no need,” she replied coldly. “I’ll be going into secluded meditation starting tomorrow, and I just wanted to check in on you.” She looked him over, then walked out of the cave.
Meng Hao felt embarrassed, regretting having not collected up the Spirit Stones more quickly. In that case, he would have looked a bit worse off, and perhaps Elder Sister Xu would have been willing to help him out some more.
At the same time, he felt a bit of warmth in his heart. Elder Sister Xu appeared cold and indifferent, but she had come here to see him, which meant she remembered him. His heart thumping, he slapped his bag of holding and produced the pink-colored medicinal pill.
“I’ve been wanting to thank you, Elder Sister Xu. I saved up quite a bit of Spirit Condensation Pills so that I could trade them for this Cosmetic Cultivation Pill. Please accept it. In my eyes, only you are worthy of such a pill. From the moment I entered the sect, I’ve had a dream, that you would stay young forever, and be eternally beautiful.” Without so much as a wink, he solemnly and respectfully held out the pill.
Elder Sister Xu stopped walking and looked back at him. She glanced silently at the pill in his hand, then accepted it.
“Even though Spirit Condensation Pills are common in the sect, they are only effective up to the fifth level of Qi Condensation. We Cultivators place much importance on our Cultivation base. We live in the world of Cultivation, a place where life and death hang in the balance. You can’t be like this in the future. You may be intelligent, but you need to work more on your cultivation.” This was the first time Meng Hao had heard Elder Sister Xu speak so much. As she spoke, he nodded respectfully.
“As long as Elder Sister Xu likes it, I’m willing to trade for it,” he said, lowering his head and blinking. He looked a bit shy.
“This pill… I’ll accept it this time, but next time don’t trade your pills like this.” She put the pill away, hesitated for a moment, then pulled out a pink-colored jade pendant which she handed to Meng Hao.
“This is a magical item,” she said. “You need to protect yourself.” She began to walk down the mountain.
“Many thanks, Elder Sister Xu,” said Meng Hao. “Would you allow me to accompany you while you walk? I haven’t seen you for so long, and I have some questions regarding Cultivation that I hope you can clear up for me.” He knew that this was an important opportunity. This was the only person he had to rely on, so he needed to get close to her. If he could walk with her through the Outer Sect and be seen by others, perhaps fewer people would be willing to mess with him in the future.
Elder Sister Xu hesitated. She was an indifferent person, and usually didn’t say much. She had never spent time with male sect members, and it felt a bit strange to have Meng Hao standing there next to her. She was about to refuse, but after he finished speaking, she thought bashfully of the Cosmetic Cultivation Pill he had given her, and she nodded quietly.
The moon shone down gently on the two of them as they walked.
Just then, at the peak of the North Mountain, a tall old man stood up, clad in a gray robe. As he looked down on the scene, a look of admiration appeared on his face.
“Excellent. This pup Meng Hao isn’t bad at all. He truly grasps the correct interpretation of the Reliance Sect. He knows how to find someone to rely on. And he also knows that if he protects his relationship with that person, then he will always have someone to rely on.” This was the same old man who had expressed admiration for Meng Hao on Pill Distribution day. The more he learned about Meng Hao, the more he liked him.