Chapter 39 - No Customers
After a night of sleeping under the cart, the next morning came, and with it the hustle and bustle of the market. Chem Al and his disciples opened up the wooden boxes to display the medicinal pills. Now they were ready for the day.
“How many pills do you think we will sell?” Sei Vi asked. She wasn’t the only one excited. The other disciples, plus all the villagers, were in anticipation of the money they were going to make. They expected a stampede of people rushing in to buy everything they had by the end of the day.
Chem Al didn’t answer her. Based on the journals, he knew that they weren’t going to sell very well. He just didn’t realize how bad it was going to be.
No one came.
An hour passed, then another, and another. Despite shouting out, “Medicinal pills for sale!” again and again, they didn’t sell a single pill. Although it wasn’t noon yet, they should have had at least one customer by now.
Then miracles of miracles, a passerby stopped and looked at their cart. It was just a cursory look, but it gave them hope. Sei Vi jumped in before he could leave. “Hey, mister! Come closer. Is there anything we can interest you with?”
“Ah, you have a decent cultivation, but what if I told you we have a way to make you stronger at a faster rate. Take a look at him.” Sei Vi grabbed Chem Au to display him. “This warrior is only fourteen years old but with a cultivation already at the twentieth level. Amazing isn’t it?”
The potential customer nodded. A poor village boy with that strength was practically unheard of.
"He got this strong because of this." Sei Vi held up a Primary Profound Pill. "You just need to swallow it and it’ll make you stronger. For the price of one high jade stone, it can be yours."
"One high jade stone?" the potential customer yelled, alarmed. "You expect me to buy a small thing like that at such a high price? Forget it!"
"But, bu..., I guarantee it’ll make you stronger. It is definitely worth the price."
"Do you take me for a fool? You probably hired some strong cultivator, lied about his age, and dressed him up like a poor villager to sell your fakes! You think I haven’t seen this trick before? Well I'm having none of it." The lost customer left.
Sei Vi watched him go; so did the rest of the villagers. This wasn't turning out like how she had thought it would be. One of the main reasons she wanted to practice alchemy was to make money. She looked over at her Master who didn’t look worried at all, which only annoyed her.
For the next hour, the disciples continued to try to sell to any potential customer. They either showed them the strength of the village's guards or lowered their prices, but there were still no takers. It looked hopeless.
The villagers looked at their village chief in dismay. They were selling ordinary crops that they had grown on their little farms, but they were selling better than his pills were. Why hadn’t anyone come to buy a pill?
Sorka Bo looked at this situation with glee. The villagers had placed a lot of their hope on the money they would make from this. He could already see the disappointment growing on their faces. And that disappointment would lead to anger, which would lead to throwing out the cripple and bringing back his father as the village chief. This was better than he could have hoped.
The three disciples were certainly disappointed, especially Sei Vi. She stomped over to her Master. “Why aren’t you worried? We’re not selling anything!”
Although Chem Al appeared casual, his heart did ache a little. His pride was hurt. These were pills made by him! Yet there were no buyers. He remembered in his past life people would pay exorbitant prices for one of his pills. Even if he was lazy and made a simple first tier pill, kings and sect leaders would come from thousands of miles just to get a chance to purchase it.
But this was no longer the case. He told himself that he was no longer the Grandmaster, and the fame of The First Alchemist hadn't yet spread, so he couldn’t rely on titles to sell his pills.
Still, although the journals told him that at this point in time selling the pills would be difficult, he didn’t expect that there would be absolutely no customers! This really hurt his pride as an alchemist!
Chem Al sighed, then tried to explain to his disciple. “Disciple, because of my amazing pills, you must have forgotten. In the outside world, medicine isn’t really trusted by the people. They do look for ways to help them get stronger and to improve their health, but they know that most of the so called medicine out there doesn't work. And let's face it, most of the people who sell what they call medicine at these poor markets are just scammers. Just listen...."
Sei Vi opened up her ears like her Master told her to. And that was when she heard them. Most of the people here were selling food and such, but ever so often she could hear someone shouting something deceptive.
"Do your legs not work like they used to before? Take these herbal roots and tie them to your legs. It’ll make them stronger so you can walk again!"
"If your loved ones are sick, burn this incense. I guarantee it will rid the spirits that plague them!”
"Snake oil! Get your snake oil here! It'll make you strong and viral, especially in the bedroom!"
Chem Al was reminding her why most people didn’t trust medicine. It was something he had learned last year when he came to this market. He was horrified at how backwards medicine was a hundred thousand years ago. That was not to say that there weren’t scammers in the future selling fake medicine. It was just that there weren’t quite as many as the ones here.
He looked down at his ragged clothes, and at the clothes that everyone else was wearing. Of course no one was buying from them. They were a group of poor villagers selling medicine from the back of a cart. Who the hell would trust them?
"Kind of reminds me when I tried to sell medicine at a market back when I was young," Sheng Yi said, then gave a light chuckle. She knew better than anyone else of how untrusting people were towards medicine.
“Then what she would do?” Sei Vi practically shouted. Changing the prejudice a city full of people had towards medicine seemed impossible.
“Relax,” Chem Al said. “We just need to spread the word about our medicinal pills in one giant leap.”
“How are we going to do that?” Sei Vi asked. Her fellow two disciples were wondering the same thing.
"Big brother!" Chem Al shouted.
Chem Au stepped up. "What?"
"I need you to win the city's martial arts tournament!"
Around 100,000 years later
Whoever the girl was, she looked scared and helpless. Her clothes were in disarray and she was sweating a lot as if she had been running. She stumbled forward like she was looking for a helping hand, then collapsed in front of the table where Mi Ling and his group was.
Mi Ling stepped up. "Are you okay?" he asked. She didn't say anything, but she gave a weak nod. Mi Ling picked her up and led her to a chair, feeling how soft yet malnourished her body was. He asked one of his three alchemist friends for some kind of recovery pill, then asked Mr Choco for some water.
The girl took the pill, then drank the water. She slowly recovered, her skin becoming less pale. She was breathing easier.
"Are you feeling better?" Mi Ling asked again.
"Y-Yes," the girl said.
"Good. My name is Mi Ling. Can you tell me your name? And what happened to you?" This wasn't the sort of situation that Mi Ling has ever been in before, but he read enough books to have an idea of what to say.
"My name is Su Li. I was shopping in the market when some people started to chase me. I ran in here looking for help."
"You poor dear. Don't worry, you're safe here," Mr Choco said.
"We should call one of the turtle shell guards," Mi Ling said.
"No." Su Li shook her head. "It's okay. I'll just stay here for awhile and hopefully they'll be gone by then."
"Are you sure?" Mi Ling said.
Su Li nodded.
After Mr Choco said that she could stay for as long as she needed, Su Li rested at the table where Mi Ling and his group sat. They continued to ask her more questions about who could have been chasing her, but she gave vague answers. It seemed that she either didn't know who they were or she didn't want to talk about it.
Seeing how shaken up the girl was, the group decided it was best to move onto other topics. They continued their discussions from earlier, with Ren Sha every so often trying to get Su Li to join in, to tell something about herself. That was his idea of chatting her up. She told them that she lived in a poor neighborhood with her ailing mother, but don't worry, she was recovering.
They talked for awhile until Fen Yue mentioned that enough time had passed for those who had been chasing her to wander off somewhere else by now.
"I guess I should be going. My mother is probably waiting for me," Su Li said.
Mi Ling could see that she still looked worried. "Don't worry. We'll go with you."
"We will?" Da Xiang spoke up, surprised. He still had two and a half tons of brownies left to eat.
Mi Ling nodded. It wasn't like they had anything more important to do. Since the three alchemists were meant to guard Mi Ling, everyone paid their tab and then followed Su Li out the door. Their carriage was still there, and after Su Li gave the driver directions to her home, they were on their way.
They passed through the crowded market and the usual hubbub of noise.
"Coffee beans! Fresh coffee beans straight from the rainforest!"
"This sword can cut down any foe and will make you the envy of your friends!”
"Snake oil! Get your snake oil here! It'll make you strong and viral, especially in the bedroom!"
Passing through, it took nearly an hour for them to enter a poorer neighborhood. Finally, they stopped in front of Su Li's home. It was quaint, but a little run down.
"Thank you for the ride. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this," she said, but when it came time to exit the carriage, she still looked worried even though there was no way the people who had chased her would have followed her all the way here.
"I'll walk you to your door," Mi Ling jumped in.
Su Li thanked him, and the two walked to her home. Before they reached the door, Mi Ling gathered up his courage and said, "Here is my transmission mark. If you need any help at all or you just need to talk, contact me with a jade transmission slip."
Su Li smiled. And it was a genuine smile that seemed to wipe away almost all of her worries. She looked more beautiful than ever, and Mi Ling felt like a hero for bringing such a smile to her face.
"Thank you." Su Li kissed him on the cheek before entering inside.
A smile of his own plastered itself on Mi Ling’s face, although his was more slightly stunned. He stood there for a second looking at the door, then slowly strolled back to the carriage.
Before he made his way back, Fen Yue quickly turned to her two fellow alchemists and said, "Find out everything you can about that girl."
Author Notes: Sorry for being gone. I had a spot of laziness eating my soul. I will be more professional in the future.
Author Notes #2: This is a rough draft. Please tell me in the comments if you see something wrong.
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