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Cheng Qiantai looked at the 10,000 Crimson Soul Pills with utter disbelief. It took him a long while to regain his composure. His throat was a little dry when he asked, "This, what's the meaning of this?"
A mischievous chuckle escaped from Ling Xiao's lips as he said, "Master, I told you the Northern Jade Sect would profit the most even if we only get 20% of the profit. I can refine 40,000 Crimson Soul Pills with the medicinal ingredients those guys sent over. I purposely exploded the cauldron to distract them so I could hide these pills. I've already exceeded Clear Sky Continent's norm in concocting medicine. When they believe I can only make 30,000 pills with that much ingredients, we'll have 10,000 Crimson Soul Pills leftover for ourselves."
Cheng Qiantai looked at this disciple's face which was covered in dark soot. He couldn't find the words appropriate for a moment like this. Never in his wildest dreams did Cheng Qiantai anticipate that Ling Xiao planned so far ahead. Ling Xiao only did this with the wellbeing of the sect in mind. This isn't shady business ethics! Cheng Qiantai wracked his mind for arguments to convince himself of the righteousness of his disciple's actions, while approving of Ling Xiao's methods.
Unbeknownst to Cheng Qiantai, Ling Xiao had actually concocted 50,000 Crimson Soul Pills. What expression of surprise and shock would his face show if he found out? However, Ling Xiao hid the final 10,000 pills somewhere only he knew. Although he considered himself a noble man, it wasn't to the extent he would sacrifice everything for the sect and end up with nothing himself.
"Xiao'er, let's go." Cheng Qiantai stored the 10,000 Crimson Soul Pills in his chain's depository. When he was about to leave, Ling Xiao spoke up, "Master, you can't let anyone in the sect know of these 10,000 Crimson Soul Pills. Well, save for Senior Brother, that is."
Cheng Qiantai stopped dead in his tracks, the expression on his face changing. "What you're saying is-"
"The merchants association you do business with, Glorious Star, they have an exemplary reputation. They won't divulge we're selling pills. Master, who do you think knows that we're selling pills other than the people in the sect? Moreover, who knows I'm the one concocting them?" Ling Xiao rhetorically asked, a frown on his face. He couldn't expel this feeling of foreboding from his heart.
Cheng Qiantai pondered momentarily before coming to a conclusion. "Alright. I'll take note of this. Xiao'er, you better go back and rest."
"Yes, Master." Ling Xiao nodded in agreement before finding his way home.
During the next few weeks, Ling Xiao didn't rest as instructed. Rather, he went about sweeping everywhere he could. If a bird flew low in the sky, he would jump up and sweep the sky clean of this dirt. Nothing was safe from Ling Xiao's sweeping frenzy, not even the worms on the walls.
As the days passed by, the other disciples lost the initial surprise they had when they saw Ling Xiao sweeping by. It had become rather dull. They were well aware of Ling Xiao's status in the sect, and that he could act as he pleased. Perhaps the only thing that still made them raise their eyebrows was the fact he was quickly becoming more proficient in his use of the metal broom. Then again, his body had also doubled in size.
It wasn't just Ling Xiao's physique that saw large changes, his temperament was also nothing like before. It was now somewhat similar to a Chain Soul Master's.
Although others were shocked to see Ling Xiao's rapid improvements, he himself only wailed in anguish. Fuck! Master said I only need to consume 10 Crimson Soul Pills to ascend to the orange rank. I've already eaten 100 of them! Why is nothing happening? That damned Demonic Seven Souls Chain! How many pills do you want me to swallow before you're happy?
Only Cheng Qiantai knew Ling Xiao had consumed multiple Crimson Soul Pills. Worry started to sprout in his heart as time went by, yet no indication of Ling Xiao's advancement to the orange rank appeared.
If Ling Xiao couldn't reach the orange rank in time, he couldn't win the Sunken Wind Valley's newcomers tournament. There were only two months left before it started!
Worry weighed heavy on Cheng Qiantai's mind. The subsidiary sects of the Sunken Wind Valley had to participate in the yearly newcomers tournament. As long as one of their disciples placed in the top 10 at least once every five years, they would be fine. However, if they failed to do so, Sunken Wind Valley's rules dictated the sect would have to close its doors, and send their disciples to join fellow branch sects.
Five years ago was the last time one of Northern Jade Sect's disciples placed in the top 10. Back then, it was Li Yuanhuan who ranked sixth in the newcomers tournament. But he had ascended to the yellow-rank and could no longer be regarded as a newcomer.
Originally Cheng Qiantai had placed all his hopes, all be they minute, on his daughter Cheng Yu. But with the arrival of Ling Xiao the hope for the survival of his sect soared. If his daughter was a saving paddy, Ling Xiao was a sturdy rope!
However, it now seemed this rope wasn't as sturdy as he thought. How could Cheng Qiantai not feel sick with worry? He helplessly sighed when he looked at Ling Xiao who had a look of indifference on his face.
Seeing his Master so worried, Li Yuanhuan suddenly had an epiphany. He asked, "Master, is it possible Junior Brother has an Amalgamated Soul Body?"
"An Amalgamated Soul Body?" Cheng Qiantai jumped up from his chair. An incomparably zealous look blossomed in his eyes. "Why didn't I think of that before? Of course that's possible! It really is!"
Ling Xiao was confused for a moment. "An Amalgamated Soul Body? What's that?"
"Almost all Chain Soul Masters are free to cultivate however many soul stones as they please. But there is an exception. A small handful of people are born with an Amalgamated Soul Body. It doesn't matter how much they cultivate one soul stone, it's useless. They can only ascend to the next rank if they cultivate all seven souls simultaneously," Li Yuanhuan explained.
Ling Xiao understood right away what his Senior Brother meant. Didn't he himself have the Demonic Seven Souls Chain that required him to cultivate all seven souls? However, the Demonic Seven Souls Chain was meant for his demonic soul, not his celestial.
Ling Xiao guessed the reason why Cheng Qiantai thought he had an Amalgamated Soul Body had something to do with him cultivating the Demonic Seven Souls Chain and his twin soul.
For a celestial and demonic soul to coexist, one had to balance both powers before they could ascend to the next rank.
Cheng Qiantai lowered his voice to a whisper. "Xiao'er, you must keep this a secret at all costs. If not, you'll attract unwanted attention."
Ling Xiao couldn't help but chuckle under his breath. Cheng Qiantai didn't need to make this fact clear to him. He wouldn't be so stupid as to announce something like: "Greetings world! Meet me, Ling Xiao, genius extraordinaire!"
"Since that's the case, we have to hurry and find Junior Brother six other celestial soul stones," Li Yuanhuan urged.
Cheng Qiantai nodded. "That's right. Huan'er, Xiao'er, disguise yourselves and follow me. We're going to Glorious Star."
Glorious Star was the largest merchants association in the Clear Sky Continent. Where there was a Chain Soul Master, there was a branch.
"If you have the money, we have the goods." This was Glorious Star's slogan.
After disguising themselves, the three of them snuck into the Glorious Star branch located in Northern Jade City.
A youthful girl came up to greet them, "Esteemed guests, my name is Zhao Shanshan. Can I help you with anything?"
In all honesty, this girl was a sore to the eye. However, she had an infectious smile that made people want to approach her. But Ling Xiao was in no mood to get to know this girl. He just wanted to buy what he had come to buy, and leave.
Cheng Qiantai's voice turned to a whisper as he asked, "Do you sell red-ranked soul stones here?"
Zhao Shanshan replied with a kind smile, "Yes, we do. Esteemed guests, which one do you want? What kind of skills are you looking for?"
Cheng Qiantai looked at Ling Xiao, indicating that he should make up his mind.
"Show us what you have and briefly explain their uses to us," Ling Xiao replied like a seasoned shopper.
"Esteemed guests, please follow me."
The three of them followed Zhao Shanshan into an exhibition hall. Here, various soul stones shining with crimson rays of light were laid out atop the tables, emitting an attractive glow.
Zhao Shanshan smiled and pointed at them. "The red-ranked soul stones are all here. Please, take your pick."
Slips of paper were attached to the soul stones. The skills stored within these soul stones were clearly described on these accompanying slips of paper. The dazzling lineup was a feast for Ling Xiao's eyes, making them spin as he was spoilt for choices.
"Master, I think it's better if you help me choose. I really don't know where to start." Ling Xiao was telling the truth. He really didn't know which ones he should go for.
Cheng Qiantai looked over the options multiple times before making his choice. He picked up six different soul stones, everything but a Strength Soul one. "As long as you cultivate them well, any skill can be useful to you. How much do these six soul stones cost?"
Zhao Shanshan was beaming from ear to ear as she replied, "One soul stone costs 100 orange gems. That adds up to a total of 600 orange gems."
"6 red-ranked soul stones are equivalent to 60 Crimson Soul Pills. It's not too expensive," Ling Xiao muttered to himself.
The matter of his thoughts of vengeance against the female brothel keeper seemed to have slipped his mind. Back then, 100 red gems were a small fortune to him!
Just as Cheng Qiantai purchased the 6 soul stones, they heard a familiar voice drifting in from outside. "How many red-ranked soul stones do you have for sale? I'll buy them all!"
Ling Xiao and Cheng Qiantai exchanged glances, extremely loathsome expressions creeping onto their faces. "We don't wish to see them. Is there somewhere we can hide?"
Zhao Shanshan was quick on her toes. After all, she was deemed worthy to be a receptionist at Glorious Star. Once Cheng Qiantai voiced his request, she immediately took the three of them into an adjacent drawing room.
Moments after she guided the three of them into their hiding spot, the voice of the Sect Master from the Sunny Spring Sect travelled into the shop, "Where's the receptionist? Is there no one doing business here?"
Zhao Shanshan quickly walked out, beaming with smiles. "I'm here. Esteemed guests, do you want to buy all the red-ranked soul stones?"
Li Yuanhuan frowned when he recognised the fellow's voice. "What are they buying so many red-ranked soul stones for? Have they come all the way here because the Glorious Star branch in their city ran out of soul stones?"
Cheng Qiantai raised his eyebrows. "That's their business. The main question is, where did they find so many gems to buy these soul stones with?"
"What do you think, Master? Need it be said?" Ling Xiao hinted.