Chapter 11: Pill Cultivation Workshop Outlet
Not too far ahead of him, Meng Hao saw someone screaming for help. Before the person could get off of the plateau, the huge man’s flying sword hit him, piercing his neck. He fell twitching to the ground in a shower of blood, rattled out a last breath, then died. The huge man grabbed his victim’s bag of holding, then turned and headed back into the Public Zone.
Meng Hao watched the grisly scene unfold, then further observed what was happening on the plateau. The sounds of slaughter drifted along with the wind, which carried the scent of blood and gore into Meng Hao’s nostrils.
“You can get rich overnight in this place, but it’s also extremely dangerous. For cultivation, for Spirit Stones, people put their lives on the line. It’s not really worth it.” Meng Hao frowned. He was almost at the peak of the third level of Qi Condensation, but what was happening up there was just too chaotic. It would be too easy to be injured, and if he were robbed, it would have a long-lasting effect.
Meng Hao thought about the lack of Spirit Stones in his bag. If he depended on receiving Spirit Stones distributed by the Sect, who knew how many years he would have to wait. Muttering to himself, he looked up at the Cultivators on the plateau. They fought fiercely, each and every one having suffered injuries. Suddenly, Meng Hao had a flash of inspiration, an idea.
His idea grew more and more clear, and his eyes began to shine. He turned and hurried off, not to the Immortal’s Cave in the Southern Mountain, but rather down to the Outer Sect. He skirted the main square, and eventually arrived at a building.
The building appeared to be ancient, and was surrounding by the fragrant aroma of medicine. Inscribed above the doorway were characters which read: Pill Cultivation Workshop.
It wasn’t his first time coming here. Actually, in his first month after being promoted to the Outer Sect, he had come here once to check out the various medicinal pills which were for sale. That was when he had learned about the Fasting Pills you could buy which would prevent hunger for several days.
The only currency used here was Spirit Stones and Spirit Condensation Pills. Unfortunately, the exchange rate was very unfair. For example, one Spirit Condensation Pill could be traded for ten Fasting Pills. Because of this, few people came here, and it tended to be cold and deserted.
When he arrived, Meng Hao didn’t hesitate. It wasn’t large inside, and sitting cross-legged right in the middle of the room was a sickly looking middle-aged man. Surrounding him on the interlocking wooden shelves were an assortment of gourd bottles, inscribed upon which were the names of various medicines.
There were Blood Coagulation Pills which could treat external injuries, Skeletal Relaxation Pills to relieve fatigue, Spirit Refreshment Pills to temporarily increase energy and of course Fasting Pills and Appetite Control Pills. There were even Marrow Growth Pills which could treat broken and crushed bones.
There were many types of medicines, but all of them were considerably costly. For most, the cost of three to ten pills was one Spirit Condensation Pill. To most disciples of the Inner Sect, a Spirit Condensation Pill was worth fighting over, so few were willing to come here and trade them away.
Meng Hao strolled around the Pill Cultivation Workshop muttering to himself, his eyes glittering. Then, he pulled out five Spirit Condensation Pills and exchanged them for a handful of different types of medicines.
It seemed the sickly man didn’t see customers like Meng Hao very often. He brightened up immediately, handing over the bottle gourds of medicine.
Placing all the bottles gourds into his bag of holding, Meng Hao left, carefully taking a circuitous route through the mountainous forest back to the Immortal’s cave. By the time he arrived, night had fallen.
He sat down cross-legged, looking at the four bottle gourds.
“The sages said, if you do not expend, you will not profit. I’ve paid a lot this time, and I’m going get a lot in return.” Quietly comforting himself in this way, he stood and left the cave, returning shortly with a long tree branch about the thickness of his arm, along with a large pile of leaves.
He pulled a green robe out from Zhao Wugang’s bag of holding and tore the seams apart, then laid it out in front of him. It seemed the right size, so he pulled another robe out, tore the seams, and placed it with the first. He looked down, contented.
Next, he crushed up the leaves to produce a thick sap. Then, he dipped his fingers into the makeshift ink and wrote several large characters onto the cloth in sweeping calligraphy.
He looked at it, feeling quite satisfied, then closed his eyes and began doing breathing exercises.
The night passed, and early the next morning, he picked up the tree branch and left the cave hurriedly.
It didn’t take long to reach the plateau, and despite the early hour, there were already a few disciples there locked in battle. The fierceness of the fighting was readily apparent. Ignoring the other Cultivators, Meng Hao passed the large stone tablets and walked onto the plateau. His eyes scanned the surroundings, until falling to rest on a boulder which stuck up out of the ground along the border.
He walked over and sat down cross-legged on the boulder, looking every bit the peaceful and harmless scholar. Occasionally some of the others would look at him darkly, whereupon he would reveal some of his cultivation level. Frightened, they left him alone. He decided to wait until more people arrived.
Time passed, and gradually, more and more fellow disciples arrived in the Public Zone. Soon, there were about twenty people. Some of them looked at the kind, scholarly Meng Hao, and started to walk toward him. All he had to do was reveal a bit of his cultivation level and they would retreat in shock.
After a while, he figured there were enough people. He slapped his bag of holding, retrieving the cloth strip. He attached it to the tree branch, which he then stabbed into the clay soil next to the boulder. The mountain breeze lifted the cloth up, turning it into a streaming banner. It caught the attention of quite a few of the people nearby, particularly the characters written on it.
“Pill Cultivation Workshop Outlet.”
The dark green characters seemed to flash, causing the facial expressions of the nearby Reliance Sect disciples to change. Some seemed astonished, others confused. Some sneered and others frowned.
“Pill Cultivation Workshop Outlet? What does that mean?”
“Don’t tell me that guy is an apprentice alchemist sent by the Sect’s Pill Cultivation Workshop?”
“He looks familiar…”
Discussions broke out on the plateau after Meng Hao revealed the flag. But after a bit of time passed, the fighting and robbing resumed. Blood showered and screams rang out.
Meng Hao’s eyes shone as he looked about at the people in the Public Zone. Not far off from him were two Cultivators of the second level of Qi Condensation, locked in combat, their eyes red. One of them had a shoulder sliced open by his opponent’s flying sword. Blood showered out, and he seemed to be in quite a difficult position.
“Brother, come here,” called out Meng Hao. “Brother, the sages said, it is unwise to risk one’s life when injured. You seem to be bleeding quite profusely from your shoulder. It won’t benefit you to let yourself be killed. I happen to have a Blood Coagulation pill here from the Pill Cultivation Workshop. It can heal all of the sword wounds on your body in less time than it takes to take three breaths.” As Meng Hao made his sales pitch, the two fighting men ignored him and continued to fight. The injured Cultivator’s eyes grew redder, and the wound on his shoulder grew worse. Then, blood poured from his chest as his opponent’s flying sword hit him again.
“Look, you got wounded again,” admonished Meng Hao of his first potential customer. “Quick, come buy a Blood Coagulation Pill! Otherwise, you might be defeated. All you have to do is give me one Spirit Stone, and I’ll give you the Blood Coagulation Pill. It’s definitely worth it.”
“Shut up,” roared the injured Cultivator, retreating a pace. “The Pill Cultivation Workshop is a rip-off, but they charge one Spirit Stone for five Blood Coagulation Pills. You’re even worse!”
“Ai, it’s not expensive. Your life is much more precious than a Spirit Stone. If you die, then all your Spirit Stones will belong to someone else. All you have to do is buy some of my medicine, and then you’ll have the chance to win and snatch your opponent’s bag of holding. All for the price of a single Spirit Stone. Is that expensive? You’re not buying medicine, you’re buying your own life.” Meng Hao stood. Perhaps his words had affected the wounded Cultivator. He struggled backwards a few paces, hesitation showing on his face.
“Dammit,” roared the man’s opponent, pointing his flying sword. “If you mess things up for me, then after I kill this guy I’ll come after you!”
“I’ll buy it!” said the injured man, slapping his bag of holding and producing a Spirit Stone which he shot toward Meng Hao. Meng Hao snatched it out of the air and tossed back a Blood Coagulation Pill. The Cultivator grabbed it and placed it onto his shoulder wound. It stopped bleeding almost immediately.
Refreshed, his spirit enlivened, he leaped back into the fight. Suddenly, his opponent retreated, blood flowing out from his wounded chest.
“Brother, Brother,” said Meng Hao, switching customers. “Your opponent bought one of my Blood Coagulation Pills and is now brimming with energy. I think if you don’t buy one as well, you will be facing much peril. I don’t just have Blood Coagulation Pills. I also have Skeletal Relaxation Pills to counter fatigue. I’ll give you one each for two Spirit Stones. That will guarantee you healing and plenty of energy. You’ll definitely be able to achieve victory.”
“You… you…” said the first man indignantly. He didn’t know what to say. Was this Pill Cultivation Workshop Outlet Pill boy here to help him or hurt him? He had just gone from a miserable situation to one of hope. Then, this happened. He attacked more incisively in his indignation. The scene playing out in front of him was exactly the same as when he had bought his medicine.
“If you win, then you’re actually spending someone else’s Spirit Stones on the medicine,” said Meng Hao enticingly, holding the medicinal pills in his hands. “It’s really worth it.”
“I’ll take it,” said the man who had already bought a pill.
“Dammit, give it to me,” said the Cultivator who had originally held the upper hand. Despite his hatred for Meng Hao, hearing the other man demand the medicine caused him to grit his teeth and open his mouth.
“I’ll give three Spirit Stones!”
“Brother, he’s offering three. If you can’t top that, I’ll have to give the medicine to him. Take care!”
“I’ll give four!”
“Brother, he’s offering four. Four!”
“Dammit. I give up. Die!” The Cultivator who had originally held the upper hand turned on Meng Hao, furious. At first, the battle had been quite simple. But once Meng Hao got involved, everything got complicated. He flew toward Meng Hao, murderous intent filling his face, clearly aiming to exterminate him.
As he neared, Meng Hao’s visage, meek, scholarly and business-like, suddenly changed, growing somber and stern. Just before the Cultivator reached him, he took a step forward, his right palm slapping forward. Spiritual energy poured out with a bang.
The Cultivator flew back with a shriek, overwhelmed by the spiritual energy of Meng Hao’s third level of Qi Condensation. The attack had struck him unconscious.
Meng Hao snatched his bag of holding, and then his somber, stern expression changed, and he was once again the weak scholar. All the onlookers were shocked.
“Brother, I believe you just offered me six Spirit Stones,” he said shyly, looking a bit embarrassed.
The other Cultivator’s face paled, and his body trembled. He stared at Meng Hao with astonishment and terror. How could he ever have imagined that things would turn out this way? How could this apparently weak and feeble person have changed so much? It was almost as if what he had just witnessed was a dream.