Chapter 14: Threats
Upon hearing this, Cao Yang’s body went stiff. It wasn’t just him. Everyone backed up, looking at Meng Hao in dread.
“Buy… buy some more?” said Cao Yang, shaking, his voice weak. Were it not for Meng Hao holding him up, he would have toppled over.
“One pill, one Spirit Stone,” said Meng Hao affably. He retrieved several Anti-hemostasis Pills from his bag of holding. “I’m honest with all customers, Brother, please rest at ease. I won’t take advantage of your misfortunate to raise prices. Just ask any of the Brothers nearby. The Pill Cultivation Workshop Outlet’s reputation is quite good.”
Seeing all the pills, Cao Yang’s face paled. And then he looked at the amiable expression on Meng Hao’s face and his back grew cold. Heart trembling, he gritted his teeth.
“Brother, you can really tell the good from the bad. These are genuine Pill Cultivation Workshop products.” As he spoke, he produced some Blood Coagulation Pills and held them out.
Cao Yang looked at the medicinal pills with a start, then glanced bitterly at Meng Hao’s bag of holding. He looked back at Meng Hao’s face and saw it filled with care and concern.
Cao Yang wasn’t stupid, and he understood Meng Hao’s intentions. The blood drained from his heart. But right now his life was the most important thing, and he had no other options. He took out more Spirit Stones from his bag of holding and reluctantly handed them over.
Meng Hao took them with a smile, then placed the medicinal pills into Cao Yang’s hand one by one. In a short period of time, the Spirit Stones in Cao Yang’s bag of holding had been replaced by a pile of medicinal pills.
Cao Yang’s heart bled even more. Looking pained, he trembled.
Then he saw that Meng Hao still held five pills in his hand and a look of shock and desperation filled his face.
“Those other pills should be enough to help you recover. These five are for after that, to help you maintain your health.” He spoke considerately as he gazed at Cao Yang.
“I don’t have any left, I really don’t,” Cao Yang said, looking at Meng Hao, about to cry.
Meng Hao said nothing, looking as amiable as ever. Cao Yang’s scalp tingled. Gritting his teeth and ignoring his own distress, he pulled out some magic items, including flying swords, magic wands, Spirit Condensation pills and the like.
“I have no spirit stones, only these things,” he said desperately.
“Magic items are also acceptable,” said Meng Hao, taking them and putting them into his bag of holding.
Moments later, Cao Yang, carrying his bundle of medicinal pills, hobbled off, supported by the arms of some fellow disciples.
Meng Hao patted his bag of holding contentedly. It was only morning, and he had already sold out. He decided that it was best to quit while he was ahead, so he collected his flag and told the remaining Cultivators he would see them tomorrow. Conversations broke out as he strode down from the plateau.
Half a month flashed by, during which time, Meng Hao grew to be quite famous among the low-level disciples. They all knew about the Pill Cultivation Workshop Outlet on the plateau.
Even more talked about was the owner of the shop, who looked like a delicate scholar, but who had an explosive temper. Rumors spread.
One afternoon, Cao Yang walked out of his house, his face pale. Despite his poor complexion, his wounds had healed. The pills he had bought from Meng Hao at an exorbitant price were actually quite effective in helping him to recover.
He had hidden away for the past half month, and today was the first day he had been able to walk around. He looked hesitant at first, but finally walked through the Outer Sect, eventually reaching an area with few buildings. He stopped in front of one of them.
“Cao Yang requests an audience with Elder Brother Lu,” he said, standing outside and clasping his hands in front of him respectfully.
Sitting inside cross-legged was a man of about thirty years of age wearing a green robe. He was not a handsome man, but had an appearance of excessive arrogance. His eyes flickered open, and he looked out at Cao Yang appraisingly.
“What transpired?” he said coolly.
“Well, Elder Brother Lu, I … I was robbed a few days ago.” Cao Yang blurted it out, feeling nervous. People outside said that Elder Brother Lu was his cousin, but in reality, they were not related. Elder Brother Lu usually meditated in seclusion, and did not really care about Cao Yang at all.
He knew that whenever Cao Yang had some hardship, he would come calling.
Hearing his words, Elder Brother Lu seemed a bit annoyed.
“Who was it that robbed you?” he asked coolly.
“It was an Outer Sect disciple named Meng Hao,” replied Cao Yang.
“Meng Hao?” Elder Brother Lu thought for a moment.
“He’s completely ignorant and incompetent,” said Cao Yang hatefully. “But he opened up a shop on the plateau, hawking medicinal pills to disciples who get injured in battle.”
“Hawking medicinal pills?” said Elder Brother Lu with a frown. His eyes flickered.
“Yeah. Now he’s one of the most famous disciples in the low level. He opened up that shop and then forces people to buy from him. Now, everyone is complaining and ashamed to be associated with him at all. They all despise him. He’s aroused the wrath of heaven and earth! I beg Elder Brother Lu to administer justice.” Anger covered Cao Yang’s face as he thought about his own wretched experience that day.
Actually, Elder Brother Lu didn’t care at all about the things Cao Yang had just said. And yet, his eyes shone.
“My Cultivation base has reached this level because of all the low-level disciples I robbed. How come in all my years in the Reliance Sect, I never thought to open a store and hawk medicinal pills…” He sighed and slapped his thigh.
Upon hearing the noise from inside, Cao Yang stared in confusion at the building, not sure what it meant. He didn’t dare to ask. Moments later, Elder Brother Lu sent him away, with no assurance whatsoever that he would aid him in seeking vengeance.
The following morning at dawn, Meng Hao headed toward the plateau carrying his banner. He was in a good mood. He had grown accustomed walking the path to the plateau. When he reached it, he sat down on the boulder.
As soon as he appeared, the faces of the other Cultivators on the plateau grew pale. In the past half month, they had been tormented by Meng Hao until they were completely dispirited. But, if they didn’t come, how could they rob from other disciples? Killing outside of this area was not permitted, so they had no choice but to come. What they usually did was stop fighting as soon as Meng Hao showed up.
But people’s killing spirit would inevitably arise, animosities would be stoked. Even though Meng Hao’s business had slowed, he still made profit.
It is worth mentioning that ever since Meng Hao opened his shop, there were much fewer deaths. He was quick to point this out, and it had become a key feature of his sales pitch.
As usual, Meng Hao looked about for potential customers. He thought to himself that this really wasn’t the best method. The shopkeepers in Yunjie County always had assistants. Even as a new idea was coalescing in his mind, he caught sight of a man in the distance, about thirty years old. He looked extremely arrogant, and in his hand he held a banner which looked just like Meng Hao’s. Written on the banner were several large characters.
Pill Cultivation Workshop Outlet Number 2.
This was Lu Hong, the number one disciple in the lower level. His Cultivation base was similar to Meng Hao’s, just a hair away from the peak of the third level. Meng Hao glanced at him, then paid him no attention. Of course there would always be imitators in business, although Meng Hao wasn’t too pleased with the name on the banner.
The other Cultivators on the plateau looked at each other for a moment, then went back to their fighting. About an hour later, Meng Hao caught sight of two combatants. He hurried over and planted his banner next to them. At the same time, Lu Hong hurried over and planted his banner.
As the two banners were planted, the combatants dripped with cold sweat. As far as they were concerned, the people standing there were very powerful. Normally, one would be enough to make them uncomfortable, but here were two, standing there staring.
“Brother, buying a medicinal pill will ensure your safety,” said Meng Hao hurriedly. “One Spirit Stone per pill. I treat all customers fairly.”
“Buy Lu’s pills, they’re just as effective,” said Lu Hong from the other side. He looked at the two, murderous intent flashing briefly in his eyes.
The two combatants trembled down to their guts, having lost any desire to fight. They produced Spirit Stones and handed them over to Lu Hong, then raced off. Meng Hao frowned. This was clearly robbery, and if things went on like this, the Public Zone would soon be empty. That wasn’t his desire.
By afternoon, Meng Hao’s business had dropped significantly. Other than an order in the morning, he sold nothing at all. Lu Hong, who didn’t care a bit about right and wrong, forced people to buy. If they didn’t buy, then he attacked them. Soon, the plateau was completely empty.
Lu Hong looked down at the dozen or so Spirit Stones he had acquired. He looked cool and indifferent on the outside, but inside he burned with excitement.
“This really is a good business. If I had thought of this before, I wouldn’t have been made fun of for robbing so many lower level disciples. If only that Meng Hao weren’t here, I’m sick of him.” He had not come because of Cao Yang, of course, but rather to imitate Meng Hao’s business model. Now that he had a taste of it, he wanted to have the monopoly. He looked murderously at Meng Hao.
“I’ll practice a few more days,” he thought, “then kill him.”
The next day, thanks to Lu Hong’s powerful reputation as the number one disciple in the low level, few people showed up in the Public Zone. Those who did show up were ones who hadn’t been present the day before. They had no choice but to buy medicinal pills. Meng Hao wasn’t willing to do business like Lu Hong, so he didn’t get a single order.
The more Lu Hong looked at Meng Hao, the more his murderous intentions grew. By evening of the third day, when Meng Hao was making his silent exit, he heard Lu Hong’s arrogant voice from behind him. The few people present all heard.
“If I see your banner tomorrow, I’ll cripple your Cultivation base.”
Meng Hao stopped for a moment. He said nothing, but his eyes filled with cold power. He stalked off, returning to the Immortal’s cave.
“You’re the one who copied me,” said Meng Hao, his eyes fierce. “Then you stole my business, like a turtledove stealing the nest of a magpie. Then you say you’ll cripple my Cultivation base!” Thinking of the murder in Lu Hong’s eyes, Meng Hao pushed open the stone door of the second room in the Immortal’s cave. Instantly, thick spiritual energy began to pour out. Meng Hao sat down cross-legged.
He absorbed the several months’ worth of accumulated spiritual energy. As dawn approached, he opened his flashing eyes. He had experienced a breakthrough. No longer was he a hair away from the peak, he was at the peak of the third level. Now he was just a step from the fourth.
But that step was not an easy one. The higher one’s Cultivation base, the more difficult it was to progress, especially to the fifth and seventh levels. Those levels were often bottlenecks, extremely difficult. Meng Hao frowned, gritted his teeth, and forced himself to open the bag of holding and take out all of the Spirit Condensation Pills he had earned recently. Then he used copper mirror’s mystical ability along with all his valuable Spirit Stones to duplicate even more Spirit Condensation Pills.
Spirit Condensation Pills were of limited use, but with a large amount, there would be some effect. Each time he used this method, though, its efficacy would be reduced.
“If I don’t cripple him first, he will destroy me tomorrow.” Without hesitation, he popped the pills into his mouth.
The spiritual energy in his body lacked a bit, so as the huge amount of Spirit Condensation Pills dissolved, his body began to shake. He felt his Cultivation base erupt like a flood. His mind hummed, and his consciousness faded a bit. When things grew clear, his eyes glittered. And yet, he still had not reached the fourth level of Qi Condensation. He ground his teeth. With no other choice, he duplicated more Spirit Condensation Pills and swallowed them.
Once, twice, three times. His mind vibrated violently, as if it were being smashed by turbulent waves. Then there was a bang, and his eyes grew blurry.
Massive amounts of filth oozed out from his pores, and as it did, Meng Hao’s vision slowly grew clearer, his body cleaner. After about an hour, his eyes glittered dazzlingly, and he was completely clear-headed.
“The fourth level of Qi Condensation!” He felt his Cultivation base roiling like a massive river. As he rotated it, it sounded like a roaring tempest, astonishing and frightening.
His expression calm, he retrieved five flying swords from his bag of holding, spoils from the past half month. They were all products of the Treasure Pavilion, standard issue, and all looked exactly the same.
There were some other magical items which he had procured. He heaved a deep sigh, then closed his eyes and began to meditate, awaiting daybreak.
“After entering the sect and beginning my Cultivation practice, I had no choice… but to rob some people to improve my Cultivation base. But I don’t want to hurt too many people. Thus, I came up with the idea of running a business. But now my business has been stolen away, and I’ve been threatened with crippling… That is pushing things too far!”
When dawn broke, Meng Hao opened his eyes and left the Immortal’s cave. He washed, then headed straight for the plateau.