“This… looks kind of like a bag of holding, but a bit better.” Meng Hao moved it back and forth in his hands, then used his spiritual power to feel it out a bit. Suddenly, his body began to tremble, as if it had been struck by invisible lightning. His eyes widened, revealing complete astonishment. After a long time passed, he lowered his head and looked into the bag.
“It’s so big…” he murmured. It was a bag of holding, but was so large inside that it seemed as if it could contain heaven and earth. The insides were misty, and so boundless that Meng Hao’s heart immediately shook.
It appeared as if entire mountains and rivers could be stored inside. Even though it was empty, its massive capacity was enough to call the bag itself a precious treasure.
Meng Hao’s mouth and tongue were dry. The Spirit Stones had made him happy. The medicinal pills had made him quiver with eagerness. And then there were the magical items. The scroll painting had shocked him and the spiritual might of the black colored net had left him shaken. But this bag left his head buzzing. It took a long time to pull himself together.
“I’m rich. This is true wealth…” Meng Hao muttered to himself, gripping the multicolored bag tightly. But then the expression on his face suddenly changed.
“If that was truly some great Sect’s trial by fire, it wouldn’t be a big deal if I interfered, but they surely won’t let me get away with so many treasures, medicinal pills and Spirit Stones.” His heart began to thump, and a conflicted look appeared on his head. However, he was determined not to give up the treasures he had acquired.
He organized everything carefully, then breathed in deeply and looked out at the evening. He emerged from the cave and left the mountains, looking thoughtfully at the walled city off in the distance.
“I have a lot of medicinal pills,” he muttered to himself as he gazed at the city with glittering eyes, “but I don’t recognize any of them. Therefore, I can’t safely consume any of them.” He began to walk toward the city.
He moved quickly, and soon approached the city gate, above which were written three characters.
Eastern Refinement City.
The characters had an ancient feel to them, and had clearly been there for more than just a few years. Their faded surfaces made one feel as if they had seen ages come and go.
“Refinement is similar to Cultivation. And this is the East. The meaning of this city’s name is relatively straight-forward.” [TL note: The character for “Refinement” is pronounced similar to the character for “Cultivation.”]
As soon as Meng Hao stepped foot into the city gate, he saw two disciples standing there chatting. Their gaze settled onto Meng Hao.
They wore light blue robes and were both at the third level of Qi Condensation.
“Fellow Daoist, please pay your tax before entering the city.” His smile disappeared as he felt the pressure of Meng Hao’s Cultivation base.
“Fellow Daoists, I can tell from a glance that you are from a great Sect. I myself am from a small Sect, and I just came off the mountain. This being my first time here, could I trouble you two Fellow Daoists to give me some information about this place?” Meng Hao was innately scholarly, and spoke in a very polite manner. The two low-level Cultivators were instantly impressed, and the young man who had just spoken laughed.
“Well spoken, well spoken! Fellow Daoist, your Cultivation base is quite refined. If this is your first time out of the Sect, then I suspect your name will become quite well-known in the future.” The young man smiled as he spoke. For someone with such a profound Cultivation base to treat him so politely left him feeling quite pleased. “This is Eastern Refinement City, founded by the Three Great Sect Alliance of the State of Zhao, and one of the great Cultivation Cities in the State of Zhao. In order to enter, you have to pay a tax of one Spirit Stone.
“The cost is actually three Spirit Stones, but for you, just one will do. Please note, fighting is forbidden within the city limits. Violators will be punished severely by the three Sects. You must not forget this point.” He held out a wooden tablet to Meng Hao.
Meng Hao thanked him hurriedly and paid his one Spirit Stone. Then, he saluted with clasped hands and passed through the city gate.
He felt a bit of regret about the Spirit Stone. It was only one, but it was still money as far as Meng Hao was concerned. He might have over eight-thousand more in his bag, but he was very familiar with the copper mirror’s appetite for Spirit Stones, and knew that it wasn’t actually very much at all.
“What an expensive tax. If I didn’t absolutely have to come here, I wouldn’t pay it.” He walked quickly through the city, looking around. Dusk was falling, but the city still bustled, with people walking to and fro everywhere. The streets were filled with shops, most of which emitted brightly glowing lights. A single look confirmed that this was no ordinary place.
Everyone was a Cultivator. As he walked through the city, he didn’t see a single mortal. However, all of these Cultivators were of the Qi Condensation stage. Scanning the crowds, Meng Hao only saw about three people who, like him, were at the seventh level. Most were at the sixth, or lower.
Meng Hao walked down the broad streets, looking for shops that sold medicinal pills. He didn’t buy any, but rather asked questions. Three days passed, during which time Meng Hao traversed the entire city, visiting over thirty medicinal pill shops.
Even still, he only could find out information about seven or eight of the dozens of types of medicinal pills in his bag of holding. And yet, Meng Hao was excited. Of the pills he had learned about, each and every one was considerably expensive. One of them was a Spirit Establishment Pill, worth fifty Spirit Stones, only useful at the seventh level of Qi Condensation.
In his bag of holding, he had eight of them altogether.
“Too bad there are so many pills that I still don’t know anything about.” On the third day, Meng Hao hesitated, then finally walked into an extremely luxurious building in the western district of the city.
It was three stories tall and emitted a glowing light. Even from a long distance, one could see its shine. Before, Meng Hao noticed that almost everyone who entered was of the sixth level of Qi condensation. There were even some of the eighth or ninth levels, and it seemed this was the only building they were willing to enter.
When he saw the name on the building, he was even more resolved to enter.
Hundred Treasures Pavilion.
The inside was filled with carved balustrades and marble steps. Everything seemed to be made of jade, and as soon as he stepped inside, Meng Hao instantly felt a dense spiritual force brush against his face. A dazzling assortment of displayed items met his eyes; medicinal pill bottles, flying swords, pearls, banners and other items could be seen everywhere.
There weren’t a lot of Cultivators present, so it was relatively quiet. They walked around separately in groups of four or five, each one accompanied by a young woman wearing a long, pink dress. The girls’ voices were light and airy, and they humbly answered all queries about the various items.
None of that was of very much interest to Meng Hao, though. What really captured his attention was some distance away on the second floor. Next to the stair case was an enormous Pill furnace. Wisps of smoke curled around it, and sitting next to it was a middle-aged man in a long black robe. He sat there cross-legged, back straight, expressionless, doing breathing exercises with his eyes closed.
He emanated a trace amount of power, but it was difficult to sense, as if he were keeping most of it hidden. If he didn’t, the entire pavilion would probably begin to collapse.
“A Foundation Establishment Cultivator…” Meng Hao’s pupils constricted. This middle-aged man emitted the same type of aura as Grand Elder Ouyang, making it immediately obvious to Meng Hao that his Cultivation base was at the Foundation Establishment stage, far above everyone else’s.
“I wonder if the day will ever come in which I have a chance to be a Foundation Establishment Cultivator.” After all the things he had experienced in the Reliance Sect, his heart was filled with the desire to become powerful. Right now, his head was lowered, but his eyes were filled with determination and stubbornness. His resolve was even stronger than ever.
“By using the Cultivation method of the Sublime Spirit Scripture, when reach Foundation Establishment, it will be a Flawless Foundation, much more powerful than Cracked or Fragmented. I will be strong even among Foundation Establishment stage Cultivators.” He took in a deep breath and raised his head. A young woman in a pink dress approached him. She was beautiful, and wore a relaxed smiled on her face. She greeted Meng Hao with a slight bow. As she did, the front of her dress dropped, revealing an abundance of milky tenderness.
“Daoist Brother, do you need any assistance?” she asked.
Meng Hao’s face immediately turned scarlet, and he murmured to himself that he shouldn’t look at inappropriate things. Despite his determination, he couldn’t help but glance down, and his heart began to race. Even though he had been in the Reliance Sect for three years, he hadn’t spent time with any female disciples other than Elder Sister Xu. As for what he was looking at now he hadn’t seen anything like it in his entire life. His face was a bit dark, but at the moment you couldn’t tell at all.
“Do you have any jade slips which describe medicinal pills?” he asked with a dry cough, trying to cover up his embarrassment.
The girl was young, but her demeanor suggested she was quite experienced. She could instantly sense Meng Hao’s awkwardness, and was quite amused. Throughout her years, she had seen many customers, but few like Meng Hao. Holding back a laugh, she smiled and leaned closer toward him so that he would catch a scent of her perfume.
When the fragrant scent reached his face, Meng Hao’s face grew even redder. His eyes, however, contained no lasciviousness. Instead they were wide and clear; he was fundamentally not given to lust. He was just inexperienced with women, thus his flushed face.
“Of course we have jade slips regarding medicinal pills,” she said with a wink. “Please follow me, Daoist Brother.” She found his increasing awkwardness to be very cute. She turned, her waist swaying, her curves entrancing. Meng Hao couldn’t help but look, and again his heart began to race. With a bitter smile, he gave a light cough and hurried to follow her.
She led him to a lattice shelf off to the side which was filled with various pieces of jade. Amongst them, on a white tray, were three slips of jade, inscribed with the characters Three Jade Slip. “These jade slips introduce most of the medicinal pills that can be found in the State of Zhao. However, this is a copy, so the contents are somewhat unclear.”
When she saw Meng Hao raising his hand to take them, she smiled. “You can’t look unless you buy. The Three Jade Slip costs one hundred spirit stones.” When she smiled, two beautiful dimples appeared. As she looked at Meng Hao, she thought that even though his face was a bit dark, it contained a scholarly and youthful charm.
As her perfume wafted around Meng Hao, he pulled his hand back and focused himself. He looked thoughtfully at the Three Jade Piece. It seemed just a bit too expensive, and he was hesitant to part with that many Spirit Stones.
“Is there anything that provides even more information than this?” he asked after a while, clenching his jaw. His whole purpose in coming here had been to buy a jade slip such as this.
“Of course!” replied the girl with another wink. “Follow me.” She led Meng Hao to another corner, then pointed to a jade slip on a shelf. It was covered with small cracks.
“This is not a copy. It’s an ancient jade slip which contains records of the various medicinal pills of the Southern Domain. It even details information about poison pills and their antidotes. Furthermore, it contains very realistic artistic depictions of the pills. Unfortunately, it is cracked, and will eventually shatter. You will only be able to read it four or five times.”
Upon hearing her words, Meng Hao’s heart quivered. He needed it, not for long-term use, but to solve the problem of his current situation.
“Daoist Brother, I hope you don’t mind,” she said with a smile, leaning close and lowering her voice. “The cost of this item is two hundred Spirit Stones. You should understand that if it wasn’t cracked, it would be worth over one thousand. If you really want it, I can help you apply for a cost reduction. But, how will you thank me?”
This chapter was sponsored by Jon Liu, Juan Reyes and Mitchell Kutchuk