Though Jiang Chen was no expert at dealing with young girls, he knew that girls of such an age were typically extremely curious. The more mysterious one seemed, the more one could pique her curiosity. Thus, when faced with Miss Keke’s inquisitiveness, he returned no explanation, merely a faint smile. The more he refrained from speaking, the more unfathomable he would appear.
His mysterious affectation did indeed make Miss Keke look at him in a rather different light. Yet, her gaze was not that of a newly-charmed young girl, but one filled with interest, fascination, envy, and admiration. There was the very real desire to unravel any secrets he held. After a few moments, the supervisor returned to the resting area, making straight for Jiang Chen.
“Friend, the boss has agreed to an audience with you after hearing about the deal.”
Jiang Chen had fully expected that sort of answer. “Is Master Mu present or not?”
The supervisor hadn’t seen anyone brave enough to haggle so rudely on the very grounds of the Star Mill before. But this deal was too important for them for him to get angry. “Why don’t you go and see?”
“Take me there then.” Jiang Chen waved a hand.
Miss Keke hastily put herself at the front. She walked right beside the supervisor, whispering a few phrases into his ear. Her voice was as soft as the sound of a mosquito, but Jiang Chen’s Ear of the Zephyr ability allowed him to clearly hear every detail. She was telling the supervisor that he hailed from Myriad Abyss Island.
The latter’s body shook when he heard that particular piece of information. He turned his head to glance back at Jiang Chen, his gaze somewhat more inspecting than before. He wasn’t as gullible as Miss Keke. He did not immediately accept the information at face value.
The Star Mill was not far from the Star Harvesters’ headquarters. It was only a short walk between one point and the other. The building itself was quite majestic. It was situated among more common elements in Pillfire City, but its dignified style was comparable to at least a handful of hidden sects.
“Friend, keep your eyes to yourself after you enter the headquarters. Clean up your act before the boss especially, because, otherwise… heh heh…” The supervisor warned. Jiang Chen’s cheerful expression remained unchanged. The warning seemed kind-hearted on the surface, but it was actually just an intimidation tactic. Any amount of additional pressure during the negotiation process would only help them in negotiation.
He had no intention of being led by the nose. They passed through numerous checkpoints before reaching the heart of the headquarters. Walking past a well-guarded gate unveiled a carefully decorated courtyard. The Star Harvesters really were measurably more cultured than the average gang. However, he saw it as simple pretentiousness. A gang was coarse and crass by nature. Anything that they did to the contrary was a pointless veneer.
“I’ve brought the guy you wanted, boss.” The supervisor came to a stop on the outer edges of the courtyard, speaking into its interior.
“Bring him in,” a commanding voice boomed from behind an apricot grove.
“Go in.” The supervisor threw Jiang Chen a look.
Past the grove stood a burly, yellow-robed man. Both hands behind his back, he looked out over a pool of clear water. The rock formations within the pool were mountain-shaped, water slowly snaking their way down their craggy tops. It was quite the scenic view. However, the man’s figure ruined the picture’s overall composition. He was the Star Harvesters’ boss, Gai Zonglin. As he turned to face his visitor, the boss’ eyes shone like lightning. It almost felt like two bolts zapped through the air towards Jiang Chen. His gaze was as ferocious as a tiger’s, seemingly intent on making their target thoroughly uncomfortable.
Thankfully, Jiang Chen had a disciplined heart. He showed no cowardice despite the overbearingness of the gaze. He smiled, returning a cupped fist salute. “I’ve heard for a long time now of the peerless bravery of the Star Harvesters’ boss. Having met him today, I can believe that the rumors are wholly accurate.”
In the wider world, Gai Zonglin was nicknamed ‘Peerless Brave’. He was very happy with it and thoroughly enjoyed the epithet. However, his current expression was as impassive as when Jiang Chen had come in. “I hear that you want to make a deal with us Star Harvesters? How do you want to go about it?”
Jiang Chen looked all around him. “I don’t see anyone I’d want to make a deal with.”
Gai Zonglin raised an eyebrow. “I lead the Star Harvesters. Who else are you going to make a deal with, if not me?”
“I am absolutely certain of your leadership over your gang,” Jiang Chen smiled faintly. “So I’d like to make why I’m here obvious as well. I’m here for Master Mu.”
“Master Mu?” Gai Zonglin snickered. “Are you interested in his innate wood constitution as well? Forgive my bad eyesight, but which Pillfire City faction do you represent?”
“I represent no one,” Jiang Chen stared plainly and forthrightly into Gai Zonglin’s eyes.
“…Except my own master,” the young lord smiled once more.
“Who is your master?” Gai Zonglin was moved.
“Even if I say his name, I doubt that you would recognize him, Boss Zonglin.”
Gai Zonglin roared with laughter. “In all the Upper Eight Regions, there is no senior with any degree of fame that I do not know, no matter what sect or faction he hails from. Why don’t you try me?”
“My master is not from the Upper Eight Regions,” Jiang Chen shook his head tranquilly.
“From a middle or lower region, then?” The gang boss felt his interest drain away. A guest from either of those places could only waste his time.
“Does someone have to come from one of those places? The human domain is not the only place in the world.” Jiang Chen’s smile was ruminant.
“What do you mean?” It was a perplexing statement for Gai Zonglin.
“Has Boss Gai heard of Myriad Abyss Island?” Jiang Chen asked.
Gai Zonglin trembled, his eyes ablaze with a shocked stare. “Myriad Abyss Island? Is your master from there?”
“Is that a problem?”
Gai Zonglin tossed an ambiguous look towards the Star Mill’s supervisor, who hurriedly defended himself. “He didn’t tell me that earlier, boss. Miss Keke said something to that effect, but I don’t know if I could believe it myself.”
The boss slowly nodded. “Word of mouth alone is no proof,” he said calmly, eyes trained on Jiang Chen. “The Myriad Abyss Island is a blessed place heard of only in myth. Even the Upper Eight Regions’ best and brightest have never set foot there. How do I know that you’re not telling tall tales?”
Jiang Chen chuckled. “You’re right, words alone are insufficient. But, does who I am matter to the exchange itself?”
“Of course it matters,” Gai Zonglin snickered. “If you’re just another run-of-the-mill swindler, the Star Harvesters has no interest being tricked by the likes of you.”
“When did the human domain become so rich? Can some common swindler simply afford to give away three sky rank spirit herbs? The Star Harvesters have great stature here in Pillfire City, I understand. How many sky rank spirit herbs can you provide on the spot?” Jiang Chen remarked indifferently. The question stumped Gai Zonglin, but he was quick to rally.
“Three sky rank spirit herbs are not enough to trade for Master Mu,” Gai Zonglin contested coolly. “If you want to trade sky rank spirit herbs for him, come back with a hundred!”
This initial offer touched on the patently absurd. A hundred sky rank spirit herbs were significantly more valuable than just one genius pill master. When the Star Harvesters bought Mu Gaoqi, they had paid at most around a single herb’s worth. If they were to accept Jiang Chen’s offer on the spot, they would have a two hundred percent profit margin. Unfortunately, the Star Harvesters had an extremely large appetite. They had gone to to great lengths to embellish Mu Gaoqi’s selling features solely to maximize their profit.
“A hundred herbs?” Jiang Chen chortled. “You have an impressive appetite, Boss Gai. If I had a hundred sky rank spirit herbs, I could just give thirty of them to Emperor Pillzenith and ask him for the favor instead. If Emperor Pillzenith were to ask you for Master Mu, I daresay that you’ll yield nine times out of ten.”
“I’m brave enough to ask the question, and I hope you’re brave enough to answer. If Emperor Pillzenith really does make that specific request, would you have it in you to deny him?”
“Emperor Pillzenith is an honorable and respectable man. He would not blackmail the Star Harvesters for no reason. Your question is nonsense.” Gai Zonglin retorted dismissively.
“The emperor hardly needs blackmail you. Would you consider a present of three sky rank spirit herbs from His Majesty to be insufficient?” Jiang Chen grinned shrewdly. “You know best how much you spent on this slave when you first bought him.”
Gai Zonglin could muster no response.
“Are you willing to hear a new offer, Boss Gai?”
“Go ahead,” the boss looked sober as ever.
“Three sky rank spirit herbs, plus a true sage rank ancient pill recipe.” Jiang Chen made his first formal offer.
“If the recipe is something that’s well-known or worthless, then it’s worth even less than another spirit herb. An exclusive recipe, perhaps several spirit herbs. The total value won’t exceed more than ten herbs. You’re slashing down the prices by quite a bit. My price was a hundred sky rank spirit herbs, but you’ve reduced it to less than a tenth.” The boss sneered coldly.
“We’re still discussing the price, no? It is the seller’s right to quote an astronomical price, but it is also the buyer’s to cut the figure down to earth. Everything the Star Harvesters have done in this case is to look for the right buyer, from whom you can ask a high price. I’ve given you what I think is fair, and most would agree. It’s up to you to decide, Boss Gai.” Jiang Chen had more to offer, but he didn’t want to reveal all his cards just yet.
“My answer is the same as before. Impossible.” Gai Zonglin’s tone was as firm as ever. “I will, however, make you a counteroffer. Thirty sky rank spirit herbs, and three unique ancient pill recipes. If you come from Myriad Abyss Island, I’d think this is easily affordable.”
He was one of the most black-hearted merchants Jiang Chen had ever seen.
The young lord clearly did not have as many as thirty sky rank spirit herbs. He had harvested some from Mt. Mirage’s restricted area, but not more than several. His explorations in the desolate wildlands added to this number, but he was still definitely short of thirty. The current price was highway robbery, clear and simple.