Phoenix’s Requiem - Chapter 134
Chapter 134: Into The Underground Market
Yun Ruoyan had no clue whether or not Li Mo truly knew how to read someone’s mind, but he did bring her to a rather secretive underground market.
Not long after they got on the carriage, Li Mo booted the driver out and began driving her himself, rushing through secluded areas of the capital. Yun Ruoyan didn’t step out of the house frequently and wasn’t familiar with the area, so she became lost in a matter of moments.
If Li Mo were to drop her off here, Yun Ruoyan would probably have a very hard time finding her way back home.
“Why are we circling the area like this?” Yun Ruoyan poked her head out the window of the carriage and called out to Li Mo in the front.
“There’s an array guarding the entrance to the market, so we have to travel via this circuitous route,” Li Mo called back, his head not turning. “What, are you afraid I’ll sell you off? You’re too ugly to be worth anything.”
“I…” Yun Ruoyan wanted to claim herself a beauty, but she forced her words back into her mouth. Even as an ugly girl, she had suitors aplenty; she had no interest in seeing what things would be like when she revealed her true appearance, thank you!
Li Mo smiled when he heard her indignant tone, followed by muffled words.
“Have you been using the salve I gave you?”
“Good, good. Keep using it, and you’ll eventually become beautiful.”
The carriage finally stopped in a narrow alleyway, and Li Mo motioned for Yun Ruoyan to get off the carriage after handing her a black robe. After finding a place to tie up the horses, he walked into the alleyway with Yun Ruoyan in tow.
Despite the morning sun, the alleyway was dark, with only faint beams of light scattering down from above. The alleyway started out wide enough for both of them, but as it became narrower and narrower, she could only follow behind him in single file.
As Yun Ruoyan looked up at Li Mo’s lofty back, it felt as if his inky robe was blending into the darkness. Yun Ruoyan couldn’t help wanting to pull on his robe, but just as she stretched a hand out, she changed her mind.
“Ouch!” Just then, Li Mo suddenly stopped and Yun Ruoyan bumped into his back.
Her nose twinged, and she was just about to thump him when Li Mo announced, “We’re here.”
Li Mo stretched a hand into the darkness before them, peeling it back as though it were a curtain. Light shone in through the gaps between his fingers, along with a mishmash of noise.
“Partridge grass, thunder-god’s vine—fresh, poisonous stock!”
“Selling a first-grade poison pill for cheap!”
“Only three cobra fangs left! If you’re interested, buy it now!”
Yun Ruoyan glanced at the sight from behind Li Mo’s back. The skies were sunny, and the streets were packed—it really didn’t look any different from a regular market.
No, there was one difference. Everyone here was dressed in a black robe, and all they sold were poisonous herbs and ingredients.
“Where are we?”
“An underground market, where you can purchase things you normally wouldn’t be able to.” Li Mo turned and tucked a strand of Yun Ruoyan’s stray hair into her hood. “Alright, let’s go.”
Li Mo walked out of the alley and into the sunlight with Yun Ruoyan in tow.
“What do you need?”
“Cicada wings, baji grass, nightshade, a bear’s gallbladder…” Yun Ruoyan listed seven or eight different types of ingredients, all of which Qiuqiu had tasked her to find. As a young girl from a noble household, Yun Ruoyan hadn’t heard of any of the ingredients on the list.
“How much money did you bring?”
“Two hundred taels of silver,” Yun Ruoyan replied pridefully. She’d heard Qiuqiu mention that poisonous herbs and other ingredients all grew in fetid swamps or deep forest, and were far harder to procure than regular spiritual herbs. As a result, they commanded quite a high price.
Two hundred taels of silver was more than half of her total assets, and it took her considerable effort to wrest it from Peony’s hands.
“Cicada wings, two pairs of cicada wings!” Yun Ruoyan suddenly heard a vendor call out from a stall to the side.
“Oh, look, the cicada wings I need!” Yun Ruoyan struggled free from Li Mo’s grasp and ran over.
“Mister, what are your prices?” Yun Ruoyan ran up to the stall owner and asked. Not only was he wearing an inky robe, he even covered his face up with a mask, revealing only his eyes.
“Miss, do you want high-grade, mid-grade, or low-grade wings?” What made Yun Ruoyan feel particularly surprised was that, although the hawker’s voice sounded like a male’s while he was advertising his wares, it was now the deep, hoarse voice of an old woman.
She didn’t express her amazement. In an equally low voice, she asked, “Didn’t you only say that there were two pairs?”
“Oh, I mean that there were two pairs of wings of each grade,” the owner continued. “There are six pairs in all. Which type would you like, Miss, and how many?”
Yun Ruoyan turned to Li Mo. His arms were crossed, and he clearly wasn’t planning on helping her.
“How much will that pair be?” Yun Ruoyan asked.
“These are mid-grade cicada wings, and they’ll cost thirty taels of silver.”
“What? Thirty taels a pair?!” Even though Yun Ruoyan was prepared for high prices, this was still too shocking for her. Her monthly stipend was only three taels, and that was already half the year’s expenditure for a regular family! And she had to pay ten times that for a pair of cicada wings? That was daylight robbery!
But what left her mouth agape was yet to come.
“Sorry, Miss, it’s thirty taels for one wing, and sixty for a pair,” the owner hurriedly corrected with a jovial tone. Whether it was mocking, Yun Ruoyan couldn’t tell; she was still in shock from the price.
“Well, Miss, are you interested?” the owner continued to offer her his wares cordially. “If so, I’ll even give you a free pair of low-grade cicada wings.”
Yun Ruoyan was a little conflicted. This was her first time here, and she didn’t understand anything about the market. The price shook her, but she was afraid that she wouldn’t find any other store selling the same ingredients…
Just as she was about to bite, Li Mo pulled her away.
“Miss, why’re you leaving? Wait, I’ll give you a steeper discount!” the man’s voice rang out from behind them.
“Li Mo, what’s the matter?”
Only after pulling Yun Ruoyan to a corner did Li Mo release her. “That’s fake.”
“Fake? How could you tell?”
“It was too cheap.”
Yun Ruoyan’s eyes widened even further.
Li Mo told her that, because everyone was disguised in the underground market, there were always vendors who would try to pass off counterfeit goods to unwitting shoppers like her. Of course, there was no possibility of returning said goods.
Ingredients as rare as cicada wings commonly sold for eighty taels apiece, with no possibility of negotiation.
“What? Eighty taels apiece…” Yun Ruoyan patted the silver in her pockets, more than half her accumulated wealth—enough to buy only a single pair.
In the end, Li Mo pulled Yun Ruoyan to a stall in a dilapidated corner. A tall, thin man stood behind the counter, wearing an unhooded dark robe along with an ink-black mask.
“Mistress, Mistress!” Qiuqiu murmured to Yun Ruoyan, “This man’s a fifth-rank poisoner! What’s a man like him doing here, selling pills at an underground market?”
Poisoners were naturally rarer than pillmasters, let alone such high-ranking ones. The poison concocted by a fifth-rank poisoner would command a far higher price than spiritual pills from his pillmaster counterpart, and such high-ranking poisoners were in no dearth of money.
When that man saw Li Mo approaching him, he stood up and gave him a small bow. Only when Li Mo nodded did he sit back down; the two men clearly knew each other.
And since they were familiar, Yun Ruoyan was at ease as she inquired about the ingredients she was looking for. This man seemed to have all that she wanted, but the prices were shockingly expensive.
Yun Ruoyan made a mental tally in her head: to purchase all that Qiuqiu had requisitioned would cost at least 1,200 taels of silver.
She was a full thousand taels short.
Li Mo glanced at Yun Ruoyan’s furrowed brows and pained glance as he sidled up to her. “If you don’t have enough money, I’d be happy to loan you some. You just have to agree to one of my simple requests.”
Li Mo’s warm breath landed on her cheek, immediately making her think of his sudden kiss back at his manor.
She… actually didn’t seem to be as repugned by his intimacy as before.
During the sudden kiss in the morning, she continued using her tried-and-true tactic of pretending to be dead. In shock, however, she realized that she had already grown somewhat accustomed to Li Mo’s presence, a realization that shook her.
The Slaughtering King might be able to compel her body, but not her mind! No matter what ploys the Slaughtering King was laying for her, she wouldn’t fall for it!
“No! Slaughtering King, I can’t take advantage of your generosity.”
Li Mo didn’t force her.
After a moment of discussion with Qiuqiu, Yun Ruoyan used all her silver to buy a few cheap ingredients to practice making a few low-grade pills.
As for the rest of the ingredients on her list, she could buy them later after somehow getting enough money to do so.
Just as they were about to leave, Yun Ruoyan saw the masked man hand Li Mo a dark box, which he stowed away right as he received it.
Yun Ruoyan didn’t see Li Mo pay the man anything before turning to usher her away.
Eager to get back to her rooms to practice concocting poison after purchasing the requisite ingredients, Yun Ruoyan didn’t lag behind. Both of them headed directly for the exit.
But just as they passed a certain stall, Qiuqiu suddenly called Yun Ruoyan back, claiming to have felt a cauldron specifically used for concocting poison. Of course, poison could be made with regular pill furnaces, but their efficacy would be considerably reduced.
“Mistress, such cauldrons are exceedingly difficult to find. From its aura, this is at least a mid-grade cauldron, and you might not ever find one such again.”
Yun Ruoyan immediately stopped walking, but her pockets were empty.
What was she to do?!