Fitch could feel his mind going blank. He was speechless with a face filled with bafflement. "...Book?"
With his usual kindly smile, Lin Jie started to tuck the book Thick Black Theory into Fitch's arms. "As I said before, 'a fragrant wine fears no dark alley.' As long as the books I sell are good enough, it doesn’t really matter if the book has a title or if the shop has a signboard."
In his stupor, Fitch was late to react and flailed frantically to grab the book. As he was about to voice another query, he noticed the bookstore owner giving him a meaningful grin. "You can now attest to the credibility of this statement. Once you’ve finished reading the book, the questions you currently have will naturally be answered.”
Pointing to the book, Lin Jie continued, “From what I see, your expectations of others to change their views to better suit you is simply a complete pipe dream. Why not try a hand at achieving your own goals instead? Change your strategies and trajectories, implement more subjectivity. Create the environment you want by yourself, yeah?
“It's a cutthroat world out there after all. Different species require different sustenance, hence the competition isn’t that intense. Competition only gets more intense the closer the species are to one another.
“If you want to stand out from the crowd and gain everyone’s attention, you would still require some new perspectives.”
With the young man now closer than before, Fitch didn't know if he was imagining things, but the bookstore owner seemed to exude an aggressive pressure that was reinforced by his face partially obscured by shadows. Even though he was grinning, those dark eyes were like an absolutely daunting abyss.
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Fitch peeked at the book in his arms and saw the words Nest of Evil in a strange font on the surface of a hard leather cover. At that moment, his mouth went dry.
What... What sort of answer is this?
Did he ask a question just now? I-it seemed more like a discussion... It was like he was taunting me about whether I was utilizing the right mind manipulation methods to influence the doorman.
Those words 'Your method is wrong' combined with the previous depiction of the doorman were clearly pointed to this question.
That means to say, this book contains the 'correct method.' But... Is this really alright? I had tried using this ability to cause him some trouble yet now, he's teaching me the proper way instead?
Fitch stared at the book in hand with a puzzled expression on his face.
However, he had finally come to a realization—it appeared that this self-proclaimed “owner of an ordinary bookstore” had clearly been joking with him.
He clearly wasn't ordinary, nor was his bookstore ordinary.
Perhaps his business was something along the lines of selling special books that contained power to transcendent beings. And it was probably why he had been invited by Ji Bonong.
Fitch couldn’t help feeling regret when he figured this out. He knew that transcendent beings would be attending the banquet, yet he never expected to meet one right at the entrance.
Moreover, from the looks of it, this person seemed much more powerful than himself. Fitch could be considered a self-taught transcendental being, and while he wasn't able to calculate his own power level, it remained a hard fact that his own ability had been nullified.
Not only that, he had nearly made an enemy. Fitch felt that it had been fortunate that his ability didn't take effect...
As Fitch was rejoicing for that, a hint of doubt came into his head.
But, could this single book... really have a means of making his ability stronger?
Fitch had used a mind ability not obtainable by conventional means. With enough preparation, this ability used on an unsuspecting person could even impose a mental influence up to Pandemonium-rank. Upon repeated influencing, the subject's cognition and thought process would be permanently altered.
This could be personally attested to by Fitch, and the results were very satisfying.
Was there really a ‘proper method’ in using this simple yet devastating ability?
Under the current circumstances, Fitch’s ability had been completely ineffective, and his thoughts were seen through. In short, he had effectively lost this invisible confrontation, ending in utter defeat.
However, he was still confident in this ability of his.
This ability wasn't like any other transcendental power. It was neither innate, nor was it a skill acquired via training.
A few months prior, he had still been just an wandering musician performing on the streets to make a living. Yet on one night, he received a power sought by countless others that transformed him into a musical genius overnight.
And the cause had been rather simple.
On a certain night, as Fitch was overjoyed at having finally found his 'ticket' into this new world, an anonymous figure appeared and gave him a glass bottle with a swirling black crystalline mist of an elixir within.
According to that individual, this elixir was the ‘soul’ of a deceased transcendent being which could grant a powerful ability to manipulate minds when consumed. However, the downside was that the ability had no room for growth; its strength would forever remain at the state at the original being's time of passing and would also be influenced by the deceased soul.
As for the price... These implications were of no concern to a drifting wanderer. Risks were definitely present, but at the time, Fitch was already blinded by what he perceived as a life-changing fate to have any coherent thought.
So... given these parameters, how could this deceased soul's ability be enhanced? And how would it be considered the right way?
Fitch placed the book down and stared dazedly at Lin Jie’s back, the latter having already started to make his way inside. “I'll only know the answer after I've read it... This sales pitch is way more energizing than even those trending dramas on television," he muttered to himself.
But—Fitch’s mind was already on the verge of reminding him—it didn’t matter if this book was effective or not, Lin Jie’s words had already stirred him.
The word 'cutthroat' was on point. Fitch's innermost desire was to be able to stand above the rest of his peers, to use them as a stepping stone to ascend his position, to receive the attention of many more.
He didn’t want to return to the pitiful life where no one would miss him even if he died in a ditch!
Be it the intrusive mental influence or defeating the top and leading musicians, all of it was to satisfy this innate desire of his.
Indeed, simply manipulating minds to supplement me doesn't yield very impressive results, especially when there are more people involved. Moreover... that guy mentioned that my ability would only remain at Pandemonium-rank for an eternity. But what I desire... that alone would never be enough.
He scrutinized the book in hand, and just as he was about to flip it open, he suddenly realized that Lin Jie had yet to mention its price. Thus, he quickened his pace to catch up and swiftly inquired,“M-Mr. Lin, h-how much are you selling this book for?"
Noting the movement behind him, Lin Jie broke into a smile, having hooked a potential customer on his reel. Hands behind his back, Lin Jie cleared his throat and turned over. “You are the very first person I’ve met at this banquet, so I'll give this book to you as a celebration for our new friendship."
...Moreover, you don't look like you are the sort that's very rich... But if you are able to attend this banquet, then you count as a potential customer.
Fitch's mouth gaped as if he were a goldfish, but he was unable to feel any relief. Instead, his heart only sank.
Back when he had received that 'deceased soul,' he had already known that there was no free lunch in this world. Anything that didn't cost money always had the highest 'price tag.'
Lin Jie chuckled. “ ‘The calluses on your hands and feet will only get thicker, and coal which has been tainted by dirt will only turn darker when washed’... I hope you can fully comprehend the principles written in this book and become successful in your endeavors.”