It didn't take long for Fang Xing to collect everything of value from these unconscious people and, just as he was about to leave, he thought of something.
Turning back, he took out all of the gold leaves he had collected and shoved them into the pockets of the wealthy man who'd previously owned the [Nine Snakes' Sword]. Then he took a low-grade Flying Sword from another man and placed it into the pockets of the mustached man.
Within minutes, Fang Xing had jumbled up all of the remaining items among everyone -- all except for the Spirit Stones, which he had taken every last one for himself.
Fang Xing gave himself a pat on the back for his own cleverness before walking in front of the mustached man, starting to slap the living daylights out of him to satisfy his vendetta. "This is what you get for trying to scam me at the pavilion! See if this will teach you a lesson!"
With all of the bashing and kicking, the man went from a skinny, mustached man to a newly swollen one. Fang Xing even untied his own pants before dumping some fresh urine all over the man's still peacefully-sleeping face. Finally satisfied with this, Fang Xing gave a nod of pleasure before swaggering out of the market just as he had swaggered in.
The silver moon rested quietly over the lands of Qing-Yun, and not even a bird could be heard. In a valley nearby, a clutter of people laid still upon the ground.
The mustached man was the first to regain his consciousness around two hours later. Remembering what had happened before he passed out, he nervously checked his belongings to find all of the golden leaves he'd exchanged for were gone. He let out an aggrieved howl, only to suddenly pause as he felt something else.
Though the golden leaves had all disappeared, a low-grade Flying Sword was found in its place and -- quickly calculating the costs in his head -- he found that the sword was actually worth slightly more than the missing leaves! There was no way he would try to find and actually return the sword back to its original owner now. Just as he was about to leave, he looked up to see everyone else was fast asleep, with only the few in the second tier seeming to be almost awake….
Without much hesitation, the man scavenged whatever valuables he could within his reach before hastily leaving the scene.
The remaining disciples all had the same reactions to having their missing Spirit Stones be replaced by something that did not belong to them before.
At first, most of them had wanted to find where their original items had gone, but these ideas were quickly replaced by the fear of having to return the items that had replaced them. Moreover, there was the possibility that they would be unable to retrieve their original item….
As though it had been mutually agreed upon, everyone quietly left the market without speaking a word.
Some -- like the mustached man -- even took the chance to grab other things from the surrounding people, and the later one regained consciousness, the fewer items they had remaining.
"WHO DID THIS? I, Luo Xi, will remember you for this!" The wealthy man who had once owned the storage ring and expensive sword let out a heart-wrenching cry, scaring away a nearby group of birds.
Elsewhere, the bandit responsible for all of this had already returned to his cozy cottage in good spirits.
'What a haul that was!'
After counting through his newfound riches, he found over thirty Spirit Stones: this would usually take a regular outer court disciple seven to eight years to save up. This wasn't even factoring in the [Nine Snakes' Sword] and the storage ring. Though storage rings with its owner's mark are locked for anyone aside from the owner, the wealthy man was only in tier one and did not have the ability to leave his mark on the ring yet. For Fang Xing, this had become a simple matter.
Looking inside, Fang Xing's smile broadened even further.
Aside from the [Nine Snakes' Sword], there were also some bottles of medicinal pills to improve one's physical strength and a few dozens of golden leaves. Fang Xing's financial status had suddenly improved by a large chunk.
In particular was that Flying Sword. Its body was a fiery red with nine golden snakes intricately carved around its handle. It was as though they were hibernating, ready to awaken should an enemy present itself….
Even the look alone was impressive!
After activating the [Book of Revelation], it was clear that a total of nine spells had been confined within the sword. Together with the materials used to make it, it was no wonder the man had paid over ten thousand gold for this.
Rather curious, Fang Xing tried to activate the sword, and it was only then that he had understood why the man had wanted to exchange it for Spirit Stones: its Qi usage was well beyond what they were able to handle right now. With such a high quality, the user had to be at least second or third tier before they could comfortably make use of the sword.
It was a good loot nonetheless, and as Fang Xing placed the sword back into the storage ring he gave a thought to himself, 'It may just come in handy one day.'
"What a good man…." Fang Xing spoke in an emotional manner, praising the wealthy man's character as though he had given Fang Xing such wealth by choice. 'I'll definitely make sure to visit him again the next time I see him!'
Now that Fang Xing had enough resources for the next few years, there was nothing to stop him in his quest to grow stronger!
It had already been some twenty or so days since his single Spirit Stone had been used up, but thanks to the Black Market he would no longer have to worry about insufficient cultivation resources for at least another year.
It was unfortunate, but this was exactly what cultivation was like. One would require an endless flow of resources in order to steadily make progress.
Unless, of course, one had good zi'zhi.
Those that were unlikely to get their hands on such a large amount of resources -- such as somebody like Yu -- would likely never be able to make a breakthrough and could even regress instead. It was fortunate for Yu that he was already at the lowest level of cultivation and could not fall any further.
A few days after the incident at the Black Market, there had been several secret investigations on who this mysterious bandit was. Since the market itself was against the sect rules, however, no one dared to make the investigations public… and even then, the person they had been looking for was a slender young man with a husky voice; it had nothing to do with Fang Xing….
It was only after the plump Taoist Yu had mentioned the news to Fang Xing that he admired his own foresight in choosing the [Mask of Wanluo].
No one -- not even Yu -- knew about his newfound wealth.
During the day, Fang Xing would either sleep or waste his time away with Yu, and once night fell he would take out his Spirit Stones for Qi fluctuations. With the help of this uninterrupted flow of Spirit Stones, his improvements became significant, though he also found himself going through more and more of the Stones at a faster pace; one Spirit Stone now only lasted ten days.
With an ample amount of Qi flowing through his meridians each night, Fang Xing could feel a change within his entire body: his bones had become stronger, more supple, and filled with energ. For immediate benefits there was its healing power, and Fang Xing now healed much faster when recovering from physical wounds. There were even improvements to his immune system towards illnesses that could kill ordinary people.
Most important of all the benefits was the ability to better contain the Qi within himself.
The change was so great that Fang Xing could feel the damage caused by the Hwa'jin consumption slowly start to repair itself.
With such an extreme rate, Fang Xing mastered tier one in only two short months afterwards and was only a step away from stepping into the second tier. As for how his level of cultivation compared to the rest of the new recruits, it would be considered above average; most of the new recruits in A-Rank had only just stabilized tier one and were getting ready to break through into tier two.
Those with worse zi'zhi would be far, far behind.
Not everyone would have the same diligence and resources as Fang Xing. Most A-Ranked disciples would only be allotted two Spirit Stones to use per month, yet Fang Xing would go through three each month without even blinking.
But of course, there was still no comparison between Fang Xing and those who have both money and zi'zhi at their disposal. Not only had they joined the outer court three months before him, they also had the capital to purchase as many Spirit Stones as they wanted. These people would be well into their second tier.
If one had chosen the path of a cultivator, there unfortunately wasn't much of a choice when it came to resources.