Xiao Chen's head rose and saw that the young man was a disciple who was his senior with powers that have long stagnated in the level of Lv 9 Body Refining Realm.
Reinvigorated with fervor, Prince Zhao hurried to pick up the broken pot he tossed aside and began knocking on it again, "Heh! Excellent, brother! This is a true Qi-refining Pill from the Elixir Room of the Black Dragon Peak! We are honest purveyors of medicinal needs. Moreover, you can truly feel being a real man..."
Pouting doubtfully, the young man asked, "Can I first have a look?"
Prince Zhao put his broken pot aside and showed him a Qi-refining Pill, "Look closely! This is a grand production by the Elixir Room! It has the seal of the Elixir Room as authentication!"
The young man held the elixir to his nose and sniffed. He could neither confirmed its authenticity. However, this had also attracted many of the other disciples who snuck closer to have a look at the purported goods from the cellar of the Elixir Room.
"Did you say that these came from the Elixir Room? Surely this cannot be true. How could the elixirs from the Elixir Room be sold here?"
Still banging on his broken pot, Prince Zhao, still yelling at the top of his voice, heard this and quipped, "Good question there, brother! It is not possible for one to get their hands upon such quality goods from the Elixir Room! We have channels of our own, you see..." With that, his eyes squinted knowingly, "Well, you know, eh..."
Prince Zhao returned to banging on his broken pot as he then continued crying, "Heh heh heh! Come come come! Come have a look! Hot and fresh buns from the Elixir Room... Oh, no! It's elixirs!"
The young man frowned, "How much for this elixir?"
Prince Zhao paused and replied, "Do not worry, brother. Our goods are top-notch; only for three Spirit Stones! Also, since it's our opening day, you will be receiving one Energy-fortifying Pill and three Energy Pills as a reward for your support!"
"Three Spirit Stones? That's a tad expensive, don't you think? The gang from the southern mountain sold three elixirs for only one Spirit Stone."
Everyone huddled around them began to talk and discuss. They were still doubtful that the elixirs were true products from the Elixir Room otherwise they would have even paid ten Spirit Stones.
Xiao Chen rose to his feet and smiled to the young man, "Take it, Senior Brother. Consider it a gift from us for our opening day."
Hearing this, Prince Zhao immediately spoke into Xiao Chen's ear in a hushed tone, "That's three Spirit Stones, Senior Brother Xiao! We should at least charge him for one Stone! Surely there's no need to just give it away for free?"
Xiao Chen only smiled in return. The young man asked sheepishly, "Are you really giving this to me for free?"
"Indeed. Just take one and try its effects," said Xiao Chen with a welcoming gesture, smiling.
"Very well. You have my thanks, Junior Brother." The young man stowed away the elixir and walked away, eager to sample the elixir which he received for free. The crowd too began to scatter.
Prince Zhao frowned dolefully, "Perfect, Senior Brother. Not only we have not sold anything the entire morning, but you have even given one away for free. We should just call it quits. I think you're hardly material for ambitious endeavors."
Xiao Chen only wore a smile, but he gave no reply.
At noon, everyone took out the food that they brought along and began eating and drank only plain water. Due to the considerable distance to the mess hall and the limited hours that the Sky-gazing Gorge was open, many elected to spend more time on their training rather than traveling.
From afar came a clear voice like ringing bells in the air, chirping joyfully to him, "Heh heh, Young Master!" It was Lil Ruo who came with his food.
Xiao Chen frowned as he noticed everyone watching jealously. He whispered to her, "Why are you here?"
Wearing a white dress that made her stood out, Lil Ruo hopped gracefully to him like a dryad from the fables. Smiling, she said, "I have asked for permission from Elder Wu. He said I could come and deliver food to you, Young Master."
"I see." Xiao Chen replied, nodding. Lil Ruo handed him the food carrier. Prince Zhao peered over to pry on its contents, his mouth salivating with hunger. Princes Qi and Yan feigned a cough and recited some incantations, conjuring a bun which they had set aside earlier.
The mouths of the rest of the other newer disciples around them were wide-opened with amazement, "Wow! You all know how to use the Divine Vessel technique!"
Prince Zhao was pleased with himself, saying, "Nah. It's just a simple trick!" He made a few hand seals, only to find himself stuck midway. He cried frightfully, "Oh my God! I'm stuck! You two! Come help me!"
"Arg, you bothersome fool. We can't even eat in peace." With their buns stuffed into their mouth, Princes Qi and Yan came over and placed their palms on his back and channeled some of their spiritual energies into him. Finally, Prince Zhao was able to remove his bun from his Divine Vessel.
The princes looked at their dried and shriveled bun which was anything but fresh and soft. Prince Zhao ogled hungrily at the steam wafting from Xiao Chen's lunch in the food carrier and gulped. He giggled and said, "Urm, Senior Brother Xiao... My bun is cold and hard that it's too difficult to eat. Can I leave it to warm in your carrier for a moment?"
Shaking his head lightly, Xiao Chen pulled out three chicken drumsticks from the food carrier with a smile and handed to them three.
The evening passed swiftly without any incident. Xiao Chen had not asked the three princes to continue peddling their wares after their lunch. At his cottage that night, he brewed another round of elixirs. The following morning when they returned to the Sky-gazing Gorge, they found that the entire Gorge was noisy with a loud din.
"I have finally reached Lv 1 Qi Refining Realm! Hahahaha!" It was the young man who had received the elixir without any charge from Xiao Chen yesterday, dancing jubilantly in the midst of curious and astounded onlookers.
Seeing that Xiao Chen had arrived, more than a dozen of people rushed and surrounded him.
"Do you still have the Qi-refining Pill from yesterday? I want ten of them!"
"Me too! I want ten too!"
"Ten! Do you think you're buying vegetables from a market!" Prince Zhao took a breath and began shouting, "Come come come! New elixirs, fresh from the boilers of the Elixir Room! Each for five Spirit Stones!"
"Five? I thought you were selling for three apiece?"
"Yesterday? That was our opening day promotion. It's five Stones for each elixir. We have only three for sale, first come first served!" Prince Zhao continued bellowing at the top of his voice.
"I want them!"
"They're mine! No one else!"
"Is it true that you have only three? Please give me one! I'll pay 10 Stones for them!"
Thus, Xiao Chen returned to his cottage with tens of Spirit Stones that night. Holding two more flasks, Prince Zhao continued howling, "We have Energy-fortifying Pills and Energy Pills too! Also from the Elixir Room! Come and get them! This is our clearance sale! Three more days and it's no more!"
Hence, for the next few days, Xiao Chen made quite a haul. Tens of people waited at the entrance of the Sky-gazing Gorge each morning, waiting for Qi-refining Pills. Even his Energy-fortifying Pills and Energy Pills were also for sale, even though the sales of these other two paled in comparison to the Qi-refining Pills.
Soon, everyone at the Sunset Peak, including those from the gangs of the southern mountain and North Mountain, came to know of the new disciples selling elixirs from the Elixir Room. Xiao Chen then also gave some Energy Pills and Energy-fortifying Pills to his fellow new disciples, earning him respect and friendship that many of them looked to him as their leader.
Everyday, Lil Ruo came without fail, delivering food to him.
Somewhere else, at the territory of the southern mountain gang, a few young men were grumbling bitterly, "Damn! From where did this new source of elixirs sprout from? Our elixirs are selling badly! How are we to report this to Brother Ye!"
"What can we do? There are no rules forbidding others to sell elixirs! But this is terrible! They are selling so cheaply that everyone is going to them!"
At sunset, Xiao Chen and his companions began leaving. He now has enough Spirit Stones to help him increase his powers. He must find ways to reach Lv 2 Qi Refining Realm as soon as possible.
Following behind him, the three princes were chattering merrily. Prince Zhao called to him cheerfully, "Can we have one of those Qi-refining Pills, Senior Brother? We too want to reach the Qi-refining Realm as early as we can!"
"No." Xiao Chen replied bluntly. Wearing a serious expression, he spoke to them, "You can have the Energy-fortifying Pills or the Energy Pills. As much as you want to. But not the Qi-refining Pill. Not even one."
Prince Zhao replied mournfully, "Please don't be so stingy, Senior Brother. We know that the Qi-refining Pills do not come cheaply. How about..."
"No," said Xiao Chen, his head shaking, "These are powers that you should achieve through training and meditation. It would be best if you do not depend on foreign augmentations that are not yours, to begin with. You will regret one day if you indeed enhance your powers using these elixirs."
Prince Zhao listened intently, nodding, "Oh... You seem to have a point. But I still want to try one..."
This was the very conundrum that Cultivators faced: many knew the consequences of using elixirs such as Qi-refining Pills to increase their powers, but not many could withstand the temptation of enjoying a sharp climb in their powers. Moreover, there have only been a handful few who had reached high levels in their pursuit of the arcane arts of the Immortals. Hence, elixirs that bestowed upon its users abrupt rise in their powers such as Qi-refining Pills and Foundation Building Pills have always been most heavily sought among all other elixirs and medicine.
Xiao Chen shook his head again, "Very well. I can let you have the Qi-refining Pills. But be warned: you should reach the Qi Refining Realm on your own strength, not with foreign help, especially if you can help it. Remember." He looked for three Qi-refining Pills which appeared to be the best of his handiwork and handed to them.
"One more thing. I will be trying for Lv 2 Qi Refining Realm soon. I will not be coming with you to the Sky-gazing Gorge tomorrow." He finished and turned immediately towards the direction of his cottage.
Even though he now has a huge amount of Spirit Stones, he would still need to assimilate the spiritual energies on his own fully. On that night, he consumed close to thirty Spirit Stones.
Then he continued his meditation in the courtyard, sitting cross-legged outside as he flushed all vital meridians in his body. By noon, two white radiance burned over his shoulders, both left and right, its fumes rising into the sky.
Immediately, he could feel a surge of power churning within him. Even though Lv 1 Qi-refining Realm was but only one step below Lv 2, the gap of power between both Levels were distinctly huge.
He struck at a massive boulder with a stroke from his palm. His stroke struck it far away, throwing it dozens of meters behind before it exploded in mid-air, reducing into dust.
"Finally... Lv 2 Qi Refining Realm..."
Seeing that he was deep in his meditation, Lil Ruo had been keeping herself out of his way. Now that he was up, she ran out of the door, exclaiming happily, "My congratulations, Young Master!"
Xiao Chen smiled lightly to her. Suddenly, frantic footsteps could be heard from the outside. Two people had come to his cottage. One of them was Wang Yue, who had once shared a table with him during their lessons. Another was a girl who looked almost the same age.
Xiao Chen's brows rose curiously, noticing their hastiness, "How can I help you, Junior Sisters?"
"T-this... this is bad!" Wang Yue was panting so hard that she could hardly speak. The girl accompanying her spoke, "Something has happened! At the Sky-gazing Gorge!"