Chapter 729: A Revolting Business Custom
“Miss Huang’er, you're here!” Jiang Chen was ecstatic to suddenly see her. The two of them had slowly become accustomed to each other's presence after the long journey they'd spent together. The few days of separation had left Jiang Chen with a foreign feeling, one of emptiness and loss. Seeing her again immediately brightened his mood, filling his heart with contentment. Even though it was evident that Huang'er hadn't deliberately dressed up, her casual clothes imparted a certain unexpected charm.
“Sir Jiang, I followed your marks here. Have you found any news of big sister Gouyu?”
Jiang Chen nodded as he composed himself once again, “There are a few leads, but nothing certain yet. I was just getting ready to take a closer look.” Without leaving out any details, he explained what he had learned so far.
Huang’er frowned, her slender brows knitting together a little when he finished. “If that’s the way things are, then we should go check things out without delay.”
Huang’er stopped herself after raising a foot, having thought of something. She giggled. “I should probably disguise myself again.” Saying this, she nonchalantly passed a hand across her face. A mask glimmered into existence, hiding the beauty beneath.
Jiang Chen smiled, knowing that she hadn’t done so to be pretentious, but rather to avoid unnecessary trouble. If Huang’er were to appear with her actual appearance in a place as seedy and disreputable as the Fish and Dragon District, there was no telling how much annoyance it would cause. Huang’er’s actions were intended to avoid trouble for him as much as it was to avoid trouble for her.
The two of them quickly returned to the Fish and Dragon District. To avoid suspicion, they took their time to circle around the slave markets several times before heading towards Myriad Puppets Pavilion. As a major establishment within the slave markets, Myriad Puppets Pavilion was noticeably different from the normal stores. The two of them were greeted with a sense of extreme luxury as soon as they stepped foot inside. Compared to the scattered stalls outside, both of them wondered for a moment if they'd entered the wrong door.
No slaves were on display inside. That alone was a marked difference from the stalls outside. Instead, an attendant appeared near instantly beside them, ostensibly to greet these new customers. “Honored customers, what kind of goods are you looking for?”
Jiang Chen had already mentally prepared himself before walking in. The more cautious one appeared to be in this kind of store, the less respect one received. Better to look calm and impenetrable, so that others couldn't gauge one's depth. Only then would they pay attention.
“What goods are there?” Jiang Chen wandered in a circle before haughtily seating himself on a chair.
“What grade of goods is the honored customer interested in?” Employees of large stores rarely had the bad habit of being overly arrogant. The attendant didn’t dare slight the customer upon seeing how importantly he seemed to carry himself.
“The higher the grade the better, of course,” Jiang Chen smiled faintly. “If I could examine the goods in person, that would be best.”
“Of course, that’s not a problem. However, we do have a custom in this business. If you’d like to examine the goods, you’ll have to make a down payment,” The attendant chuckled.
“Money is no object,” Jiang Chen casually waved a hand.
“Haha, honored customer, you misunderstand. Our humble store never questions our customers’ financial abilities. Many of our largest transactions do not take spirit stones.”
“You don’t take spirit stones?” Jiang Chen furrowed his brow. Currently, it was the one thing he didn't lack in. The spoils from the battle at Infant Shriek hadn't been anything of note, since those cultivators had been careful enough to stash their important belongings somewhere else. On the other hand, they had carried plenty of everyday items such as spirit stones. When it came to spirit stones, he was definitely a millionaire now.
“Certainly. The biggest sales we make can in fact cause a stir within the upper echelons of Veluriyam Capital. Special goods demand special means of transaction. If there are no assets of interest on the other side of the bargain, we will definitely not easily part with our top quality goods.”
Hearing this, Jiang Chen scowled imperceptibly. Why does a business have so many rules?
“Let’s see the goods first,” Huang’er abruptly opened her mouth off on the side, plonking something down with calculated indifference.
The attendant took a closer look, and almost had his jaw drop with surprise. Was … was that a piece of spirit marrow? Spirit marrow was also a kind of spirit stone, but it was the very purest essence of its kind. The distilled spiritual strength inherent within a piece of spirit marrow could rival that of ten thousand, even a hundred thousand spirit stones. However, a hundred thousand spirit stones were easy to obtain, but obtaining a piece of spirit marrow was particularly difficult. Spirit marrow had many more uses than spirit stones, for example, etching formations, crafting pills, creating talismans…
The eyebrows of experts may not even twitch if spirit stones were placed before them. Most of the time, wealth held no meaning for the strongest of the strong. But when something like spirit marrow appeared, it held an allure that even the most elite cultivators could not resist. This was the good thing about spirit marrow. Even one piece was more alluring than a hundred thousand spirit stones. If one had a hundred thousand spirit stones, one might still be considered poor in the world of martial dao. But if one had a single piece of spirit marrow, then one was definitely rich.
Spirit marrow was not something the ordinary poor would possess. As expected, the attendant’s eyes brightened when he recognized the spirit marrow. The two had been served by this particular attendant up until now, but the latter immediately offered an apologetic smile, “Honored customer, please wait a moment.”
It didn't take but a moment for a well-dressed middle-aged man to approach them. His moustache danced on his face as he spoke with a wide smile. "Honored customers have paid us a visit! Please excuse our rudeness.”
“How should we address you, shopkeeper?” Jiang Chen asked, smiling faintly.
“My surname is Li, so please feel free to call me Shopkeeper Li.” The middle-aged man’s beaming expression was the height of enthusiasm.
“Shopkeeper Li, I came here today because I heard that your Myriad Puppets Pavilion is one of the giants in this business. I hope we're not disappointed.”
Shopkeeper Li maintained an easy smile, “Ah, not at all, not at all. If the two of you have any special needs, please don't hesitate to mention it to this humble shopkeeper.”
Not in a rush, Jiang Chen lightly drummed his fingers rhythmically upon the table. A similarly easy smile hung on his face. “Shopkeeper Li, we are in recent need of new manpower, ideally a group with reasonably good talent with pills. If I may ask, how many units of this type can the Myriad Puppets Pavilion supply?”
“However many you would like, honored customer.”
“Oh? How impressive.” Jiang Chen laughed. “If that’s the case, shall we take a look at the goods first?”
Shopkeeper Li nodded, “That shall be arranged immediately. Honored customers, please follow me.”
The shopkeeper led Jiang Chen directly towards the back, past the anterior hall. The space suddenly broadened—its immenseness far surpassed anything Jiang Chen could've imagined. They swiftly arrived at a patch of unoccupied ground in the back. Shopkeeper Li spoke, “Honored customer, please wait shortly. We are already organizing the goods for display.”
Barely a brief moment passed before thousands of slaves were trotted out. However, Jiang Chen was stunned upon seeing them emerge. The slaves were each wearing a mask and plastered with sealing talismans, erasing their personal auras. Their faces couldn't be seen, and the ripples of their consciousness completely indiscernible. From far away, they all looked almost exactly the same. Jiang Chen and Huang’er exchanged a look, the two of them equally speechless.
“Shopkeeper Li, how am I supposed to examine the goods like this?” Jiang Chen was greatly put out. “I can’t see their faces or sense the level of their cultivation.”
Shopkeeper Li laughed, “Honored customer, this is customary in our line of business. Their senses are all sealed away before being sold and their true appearances hidden. You can only view their associated explanatory papers to examine the goods. Each slave has the details of their cultivation written, as well as their features of note, specialties, et cetera. The overview is quite accurate. If you find that the goods differ from their brochure after you receive them, we accept refunds without question. Don't worry, the Myriad Puppets Pavilion makes all of its business deals in earnest.”
Jiang Chen cursed internally. Could reading an explanatory brochure really be called ‘examining the goods’? He almost wanted to give Shopkeeper Li a beating, but firmly tamped down on that impulse. But what kind of examination was this, exactly?
“Honored customer, what do you think? Shall we go over them one by one, or…?” Shopkeeper Li asked, his expression quite eager. How could he know that Jiang Chen was furiously angry in his heart?
“Shopkeeper Li, since their senses have been sealed away, does that mean they won’t be able to hear what we are saying?” Jiang Chen said, not altering his voice, purposely using the one he had used at Regal Pill Palace. Since I can’t see their faces and can’t detect them by the ripples of their consciousness, surely someone that knows me would give me a sign if I raise my voice? But no such result came. The slaves were truly like wooden puppets, and had no reaction whatsoever. They stood straight at attention, almost like the walking dead.
“Hehe, they can’t hear, see, or feel. They can't sense anything before the seals are removed, much like a puppet,” Shopkeeper Li chuckled.
“Shopkeeper Li, I have a strange quirk. Even my slaves must be of fair appearance. How about you take off their masks and let me take a peek?”
Shopkeeper Li’s face was the very picture of a salesman's happy smile, but he still shook his head. “Honored customer, we can't do that. This custom is ironclad for our business, and can't be broken.”
“Customs are fixed. People should be flexible,” Jiang Chen offered further encouragement.
Shopkeeper Li produced a placatory smile, “Honored customer, everything else can be discussed, but this absolutely can't be done. If I gave you this chance now, my boss would kill me immediately. We are doing business together, you and I. Does the honored customer honestly wish for me to lose my life?”
The lack of flexibility in Shopkeeper Li’s words filled Jiang Chen with consternation. He thought a moment, then suddenly asked again, “Shopkeeper Li, I hear that you’ve recently gotten a new shipment of goods in stock, with very high quality. Could you take that shipment out separately for a stroll?”
Shopkeeper Li was momentarily taken aback, “We have received many batches of goods recently, which shipment do you mean?”
Jiang Chen wanted to directly say 'the shipment from the Myriad Domain’, but he knew that he couldn't; that would expose him immediately. “How many batches are there? Why don’t you bring them all out, since I need a lot anyway.”
Jiang Chen had heard that there were quite a lot of Regal Pill Palace people sold. There were at least several dozens, perhaps even several hundred. Shopkeeper Li grinned briefly, “Actually, all of the new goods are here already. We have a high rate of inventory turnover, and new goods generally can be completely replaced in a fortnight. We received all of these within the past two months.”
“Oh? Are you sure that they are all here?” Jiang Chen asked, yet again.
“They are all here, except the most outstanding, which are individually listed as some of our finest goods. Those finest goods are only offered for sale in our auction, and won't appear here.”
“There are more, higher quality goods? May I see them?”
Shopkeeper Li smiled wryly. “The finest goods can only be seen at auction. Even my authority isn't enough.”
The more Jiang Chen heard, the angrier he grew. How were they supposed to do business? If he couldn’t examine the goods, who knew if the group from Regal Pill Palace was here or not? Buy all of them? The group numbered almost two thousand! Though he was incredibly wealthy, even he might not be able to shoulder this burden. What if the people he wanted wasn't within this group, wouldn’t he be out tons of money then? Loss of money aside, if he exhausted his wealth here, what else could he do in the short term to rescue his fellow sect members?