Chapter 47 - Negotiations with the Li Clan
It was the day of the finals. Almost everyone from Chem Village was waking up with a hangover; a consequence from celebrating the fact that one of their own had made it to the finals. They were so happy that even if Chem Au were to lose this last match, they would still be proud that he had made it this far.
Chem Au, one of the few who stayed sober, was spending the morning checking his body’s condition. Thanks to his little brother’s medicinal help and a night of rest, he felt fine.
Speaking of his little brother, where was he?
Chem Au looked around but couldn’t find him, so he went to ask Sheng Yi where he went.
“My disciple? I don’t know where he's gone off to. He said he had something to do in the city.”
“What?” Chem Au grew worried, rightfully so. With the attention his little brother had recently gained from his pills, and the fact that he had no cultivation that could help him in a fight, this made the city dangerous.
“Don’t worry, Sorka Jiu went with him. He’ll be fine.” Sheng Yi waved it off.
“Oh….” Chem Au felt a little relieved. If Sorka Jiu was there, then there was at least some protection. Still, Chem Au wondered what his little brother was doing.
Deeper in the city, Chem Al was currently outside the gates of the Li clan.
“Hey! Let me in already! I’ve come to bargain!” Chem Al shouted.
“Get lost, kid!” One of the guards tried to shoo him away by waving his sword.
“Hmph! Still not letting me in? Do you know who I am?”
“I don’t care who you are. Like I keep telling you, the Patriarch is not someone with enough free time to bother with a brat like you. Now go away or do you want me to separate your head from your neck?”
“Oh, big words from a lowly guard? Who are you to say who the Patriarch will or will not meet with, because I can tell you that he will definitely want to meet with me,” Chem Al said. “What do you think the Patriarch will do to you when he finds out that you didn’t let me in? I wouldn’t be surprised if you were beheaded for such a mistake!”
The guard started to waver. The person in front of him was just a kid with no cultivation and was wearing something only a poor villager would wear. However, he was speaking in such a confident and domineering way. Maybe he was someone important, someone that couldn’t be offended. The guard didn’t know what to do.
Seeing the guard starting to sweat, Chem Al said, “I understand your reluctance. Staying at your post for these past few days, you probably didn’t get a chance to attend the tournament and see the great me perform miracles. Just go tell the Patriarch that a village boy with pills has come to visit. Use those exact words. He’ll know who it is.” Chem Al then casually tossed a high jade stone at the guard. “For your troubles….”
Surprised, the guard clumsily caught the high jade stone, then pocketed it. As a lowly guard outside the gates, he didn’t receive much pay. This generous gift, in which no poor villager could give so casually, finally persuaded him.
“I… I will at least convey your message. No promises that the Patriarch will meet with you.” The guard then left.
Chem Al waited.
It wasn’t long before the guard came back and escorted him in, acting in a placating manner in case he had offended this mysterious youth that the Patriarch wanted to meet.
The next thing Chem Al knew, he was sitting in a comfortable chair in a gorgeously decorated room where a beautiful maidservant was pouring him some tea.
Soon the Patriarch arrived. The people that followed him were his son, Li Qinli, and a few elders of the Li clan.
“I hope you have better tea than this.” Chem Al grimaced at the cup in his hand. “Serving such poor quality tea to your guest isn’t a good start for a negotiation.”
“What negotiation?” The Patriarch felt stumped. When he had gotten the message that the pill handling village boy he saw from the tournament had come to his clan’s household, he allowed him in because this was a chance to find out more about these pills. It shouldn’t be difficult to pry out any information out of him. After all, that boy's background seems to just be from some lowly village.
But instead he comes in and finds that very same boy sitting leisurely in a chair while drinking tea in a calm and noble manner as if he had done this a thousand times before. He didn’t look nervous. He wasn’t staring all around at the richly decorated room in bewildering wonderment. In fact, he actually had a look of disdain at the tea he was drinking.
Who was this kid? Was he just pretending to act confident?
Before the Patriarch could say anything else, one of the elders jumped in. “How dare you! Is that any way to speak to the Patriarch?”
Indeed, Chem Al could be seen as acting arrogant since the first words he had said to the Patriarch was criticizing his tea. There were no polite greetings or subservient bowing to one's betters.
Chem Al shrugged. “I’m merely giving advice, but I can see that it wasn’t well taken. Anyway, I didn’t want you to see me as some common villager who hasn’t experienced the world. If we’re going to negotiate, it has to be as equals.”
The Patriarch paused. That was exactly how he saw the village boy, but he was starting to realize that he would need to reassess his earlier judgment. He gave a sigh, then asked, “Negotiate what? You came in here speaking of some sort of negotiation, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Oh? Aren’t you curious about the pills? What if I told you I can get you hundreds or even thousands of them?”
The Patriarch’s heart jumped. He tried to calm himself. If this was some sort of negotiation, then he couldn’t show the other side how excited he was. He coughed. “What makes you think I’m interested in your pills? A so called medicine from a poor village, it’s definitely suspicious.”
Chem Al smiled. “...White Calci Pill. I see you’ve used it last night.”
The Patriarch’s eyes widened. “H-How did you know?”
Chem Al touched his own arm as he looked over at Li Qinli who was standing off to the side. “Since the tournament began, I noticed that your son had a slight bone fracture running through his right forearm. But now it’s gone, leading me to conclude that you finally gave one of my pills a try. Took you long enough. Now that you’ve tried it, let’s negotiate on how interested you are in my pills.”
“Y-you can tell we used that pill just with that? Impossible!”
Chem Al shrugged, as if telling them to believe what they will. “Are you interested in my pills or not?”
The room was silent. Everyone was either staring with a dumbfounded or skeptical expression at the village boy.
Finally, the Patriarch gave a cough. “I admit that these pills are of some interest to me, but if I’m going to negotiate for them, I would rather do it with your Master.”
“Surely you don’t expect me to believe that these pills were created by you? I want to talk to the real person behind this, the person that sent you here.”
Chem Al threw back his head and laughed. “My Master is someone of infinite wisdom that can shake the world, and you think that you’re worthy enough to deserve an audience?”
Miles away, Sheng Yi sneezed.
“Why you!” one of the elders shouted. “The one before you is the Patriarch of the Li clan, the second most powerful clan in Vera City! Only the City Lord is more powerful. And you dare to say he’s not worthy? What can...”
“Correction.” Chem Al held up a finger. “The Li clan is the second most powerful clan of a small city on the edge of the Continent.”
The elder started turning red and was about to bluster in response, but the Patriarch motioned for him, and everyone else, to settle down. This could be a good thing, he thought. At the end of the day, the person before him was just a little village kid. How much experience could such a young boy have in negotiations? This could make things easier.
“Do you represent your Master?” the Patriarch asked. “Will all of our agreements be valid?”
Excellent, the Patriarch thought. “What’s your price?”
“Oh, this isn’t about money.” Chem Al shook his head. “If I wanted money, I would have been negotiating with the City Lord instead of you. What I want is something only your clan, specifically your son, can give me.”
“My son?” the Patriarch glanced at Li Qinli
“I need him to lose in the Finals.”
“What?” Li Qinli shouted, jumping to his feet.
The Patriarch was surprised as well, but then calmed down after holding his son back. Emotions would only bring one misery during a negotiation. Could this be a tactic to rile him up, cloud his mind? “Hmm, you’re asking for something big. My clan has spent a lot of resources to train my son, and winning the tournament shows off his strength, giving my clan prestige over all the others. I guess you can say that this tournament displays which clan has the brightest future. Giving that up is hard to do.”
Chem Al scoffed. “Prestige in a tiny city?” he said, as if comparing them to a big frog in a small well. “If that’s enough for you, then I should leave now. But before I do, tell me something because, since I don’t practice martial arts, I don’t have a clear understanding of these tournaments. I have heard that after winning last year’s city tournament, your son was qualified to enter the main tournament in the Capital.” Chem Al then rubbed his right forearm again. “Tell me, how far did he get before getting injured?”
Li Qinli grimaced. In fact, everyone in the room had a dark look on their face. There was an uncomfortable moment of hesitation before the Patriarch finally said, “He never made it past the Eliminations.”
“Oh?” Chem Al feigned surprise. “Again, please explain to me because I don’t understand these kinds of things very well, but aren’t the Eliminations held at the very beginning of the main tournament in order to weed out all the weaklings before the preliminary rounds begin?”
And there it was again, that moment of uncomfortable silence.
This was a sore point for them, especially for Li Qinli. Last year, for the first time he had finally won the city tournament. It was his proudest achievement, filling his head with dreams of fame and recognition. And then he entered the main tournament and was defeated instantly.
“Not very prestigious to lose so early, is it?” Chem Al said. “Can you honestly say that you will do better this year?”
Li Qinli glared at the weak boy, and was about to jump up and loudly retort his assured victory in the main tournament, but then his father placed a hand on his shoulder, holding him down.
The Patriarch, with a calm mind, was more open to Chem Al’s words. He knew that his son had hit a wall this year. For some reason, whether it was because of his injuries or his defeated mental state, he was facing a bottleneck that he couldn’t break through. They needed help.
“I can help you with that,” Chem Al said, as if reading his mind. “All you need to do is allow the participant from my village to win the tournament.”
The Patriarch was silent, weighing every factor in his mind, but then he wondered about something. “Strange. You seem to look down on the prestige that winning the city tournament will give you, yet I get the feeling that you desperately want your participant to win. Why?”
An extremely dark look came across Chem Al’s face. “Because I don’t know what the consequences will be if he doesn’t win.”
There was a time when he absolutely believed that Chem Au would win the tournament without any trouble, but after seeing him skewered by that spear in his last match, doubts started to form in Chem Al’s mind. He had to make sure that Chem Au will win this tournament no matter what.
With Chem Al deep in thought, Li Qinli took this moment of silence to berate the Patriarch. “Father! You can’t seriously be considering this his offer, can you? Throwing the match? Where’s the honor? Where’s the….” Li Qinli continued on with his complaints. Normally, he was very respectful towards his father, but this time he couldn’t hold it in.
“Enough!” the Patriarch finally shouted. He then settled down, finally coming to a decision. He faced Chem Al and said, “Let’s talk.”
Thus began the long, arduous negotiation. The question was how much was Chem Al willing to pay to help his big brother win the tournament. The Patriarch discovered that he had to use every tactic he knew to get even a smidgen of an advantage over the boy, but in the end, they were able to reach an agreeable compromise.
With the negotiations finally over, the Patriarch wiped the sweat off his forehead, feeling as if he had just done battle with a wily, trickster monkey. He was about to sit up with his hand out, ready to shake on the deal, but then the little village boy dropped a huge gift on his lap.
“Along with our deal,” Chem Al said, “I would also like to donate another five thousand Primary Profound Pills to your clan.”
“F-Five thousand?” the Patriarch’s mouth fell open, but then he grew suspicious. Nothing in life is free. “Why?”
“As a token of friendship,” Chem Al said. “Since you’re the Patriarch of one of the most powerful clans in Vera City, you must be a good judge of character, someone who knows when to make friends and when to make enemies. I hope that you will think of me and my village as your friends.”
The Patriarch eyed the village boy. “Are you expecting trouble in the future?” he asked, guessing the boy’s intentions.
Chem Al shrugged. “My pills will be in very high demand. Maybe a little too much.”
And that was the gist of it. The Patriarch finally realized that this meeting wasn’t just about this year’s tournament, it could also potentially be a partnership that would last for years to come. The benefits were obvious. If he were to ally himself with this boy and his Master, that would give the Li clan a huge advantage over the other clans, solidifying their position in Vera City, and maybe even go beyond that.
However, that was a problem as well because who knew what power beyond this city’s borders will covet those pills. The Li clan would have to help defend this boy’s village against such unknown threats. Was he willing to put his clan through that storm?
Finally, the Patriarch stood up and held out his hand, concluding that high rewards meant taking high risks. “From now on, the Li clan is a friend to… uh….”
“Chem Village.” Chem Al smiled, shaking his hand.
The Patriarch smiled back. “Chem Village. From now on, we are allies.”