(Note to readers: grand elder will be changed to ancestor from now on. This has been changed in the previous chapters as well.)
The surrounding outer sect disciples, as well as the eliminated contestants, now had a common enemy as they bellowed loudly at Bai Xiaochun.
"Shameless, Bai Xiaochun, you're simply too shameless!"
"To win like this, I can't accept that!!"
"Beat Bai Xiaochun down!"
As the surrounding voices intensified right before his eyes, so did Bai Xiaochun's alarm. Since it had already come to this, even if he displayed his skill in Lifting the Heavy as Though It Was Light, he wouldn't be able to quell the audience's raging fury. In fact, he anticipated that it would probably achieve the opposite effect, it would give them a deeper impression of shamelessness… so he quickly turned towards Elder Sun.
"Elder Sun, I'm ranked first. Quickly announce it!"
Elder Sun smiled bitterly while Li Qinghou, who was beside him, released a long sigh. He could never have imagined that telling Bai Xiaochun to participate in this small competition would lead to this kind of consequences.
"Uh...never mind. This time's small competition, Bai Xiaochun, ranked first!" Elder Sun shook his head with a bitter smile. The moment his words resounded out, the surrounding people all angrily glared at Bai Xiaochun.
Bai Xiaochun felt that he was very powerful, but with this many people… the way he was being stared at made his heart anxious. But just as he wanted to exit the stage and leave this threatening atmosphere, Du Lingfei, at the side, was awakened by others. She breathed heavily while furiously gnashing her teeth and shot a death glare towards Bai Xiaochun, before a shriek left her mouth.
"Bai Xiaochun, in this time's small competition, I, Du Lingfei, cannot accept this!
"Since you've become number one, then count your rank as something I, Du Lingfei, bequeath to you. But I cannot accept you as a person. Do you dare to compete with me once more?"
Bai Xiaochun chuckled without pausing his footsteps. In his heart, he thought that there must be something wrong with him if he agreed to compete another time with that crazy girl. If she fainted again, what would he do then?
"We won't compete in battle techniques. The two of us are both outer sect disciples and medicine apprentices of Scented Cloud Mountain. We will compete in herbology achievements!" Du Lingfei's gaze was fixed on Bai Xiaochun as she enunciated her words one by one, her voice imbued with resolution.
"If you win, then you can take that Green Pine Sword. Otherwise, with regards to what has transpired today I, Du Lingfei, will never forgive you!"
Bai Xiaochun suddenly stopped in his tracks. When he heard 'compete in the herbology achievements', he turned his head to look at Du Lingfei, hesitating for a brief moment.
"Bai Xiaochun, if you can exceed me in herbology achievements, then you can also take this Soaring Cloud Incense!" When Du Lingfei noticed that Bai Xiaochun had stopped and saw his hesitation, her eyes revealed hatred and even a faint killing intent towards Bai Xiaochun. Since she was afraid that he would not dare to accept her challenge, she reached into her storage pouch and retrieved a stalk of bluish-purple incense.
The moment the incense was taken out, waves of Qi wafted out. When the surrounding outer sect disciples saw this Soaring Cloud Incense, their eyes were slowly filled with envy.
"A spirit medicine of the first level, the Soaring Cloud Incense… it can be counted as good among first level spirit medicines. It is quite valuable and will produce miraclous effects on Qi Condensation practicioners of the seventh level and below."
"This should be something that cost Du Lingfei quite a lot. She must have prepared it in order to break through the fifth level of Qi Condensation…"
"Senior Sister Du is already ranked within the top twenty on the first three stone steles in the Ten Thousand Medicine Pavilion. This Bai Xiaochun is destined to lose!"
Bai Xiaochun instantly recognised the Soaring Cloud Incense. The effects of this medicine were introduced in the Soaring Cloud Grass's section in the third volume of herbs. Instantly, his heart was stirred, especially after hearing the people around him say that his opponent was within the top twenty in the stone steles of the Ten Thousand Medicine Pavilion, his eyes could not help but brighten up.
"You… you're really in the top twenty of the herbology stone steles?" Seeking confirmation, Bai Xiaochun retreated a few steps before asking.
"Are you competing or not?!" Du Lingfei ground her teeth and said.
"But I've only studied only up to the third volume of herbs…" Bai Xiaochun replied with some hesitation.
"Then I'll compete in the first three volumes with you! Do you dare to or not?" Du Lingfei bellowed in rage, feeling as though she was about to explode.
"I'll compete… are you satisfied now?" When Bai Xiaochun heard her say this, his expression was one of tearful sorrow, but on the contrary, flowers had bloomed at the bottom of his heart from joy. He felt as though the Sister standing in front of him was rather silly.
Bai Xiaochun's words raised a commotion in the audience. Du Lingfei also took a deep breath. Although the spirit Qi within her had not recovered much, her physical strength had somewhat replenished. She glared harshly at Bai Xiaochun before she took a few steps forward and cupped her hands towards Elder Sun.
"Disciple Du Lingfei requests Elder to witness the battle of herbology between Bai Xiaochun and I."
Elder Sun's impression of Du Lingfei only improved further and further. He stroked his beard while listeneing to her, before he finally opened his mouth with a trace of a smile.
"That's fine. Today, this old man will bear witness here. Since we're on the topic of competing in herbology, why not let the ancestor set the test?" Elder Sun looked towards Li Qinghou.
Hearing this, Li Qinghou looked deeply at Bai Xiaochun before nodding his head.
With this development, the surrounding disciples instantly grew excited. Even Du Lingfei felt invigorated, bowing to Li Qinghou in respect once again.
This kind of competition where he was able to display his superiority without any violence was what Bai Xiaochun liked the most. As he stood there in that moment, he no longer put on a tear-stricken expression, rather, he lifted his chin, appearing as lofty as the heavens. When the surrounding people saw this, they were even more displeased. Even Du Lingfei humphed coldly at him.
"The path of herbology is flexible and unpredictable. Although it is only three volumes worth of content, there still exist numerous variables. Today, I will set two problems. Let's see who will attain victory between the two of you." Li Qinghou said blandly, his gaze sweeping across Bai Xiaochun and Du Lingfei as he raised his right hand. With a pat on his storage pouch, two stalks of seeds appeared in the center of his palm.
"In my hand are two batches of flower seeds. Using your spirit Qi as a catalyst to stimulate the growth of these herbs, the victor shall be the person who can produce the most spirit flowers."
Just as Du Lingfei received her batch of seeds with hesitation, Li Qinghou flicked a medicine pill that shot directly towards her. She caught it with a startle.
"This pill will restore your cultivation to peak condition." Li Qinghou's calm voice carried over. Du Lingfei was pleasantly surprised and hurriedly swallowed the pill after thanking him. In the span of a few breaths, her entire body shook before her eyes sparkled with the light of the flowing spirit energy. Her inner strength had been completely restored.
When Bai Xiaochun saw this scene from the side, he felt somewhat displeased but did not dare to say anything. Looking down at the spirit seed resting in his palm, he did not immediately begin to catalyse it, instead, he brought it in front of his eyes and inspected it carefully.
"If you can't recognise it, I can tell you straightaway -- this is the seed of the Blue Spirit Flower." Du Lingfei glanced scornfully at Bai Xiaochun before ignoring him completely. She closed her eyes and circulated the Qi within her body and guided it into her hands. Strands of Qi surged directly into the seeds.
Very soon, crisp green sprouts emerged from the seeds resting in her palm which grew with lightning speed. Before long, they had already reached a chi tall. Even after the first blue-coloured spirit flower blossomed, the plant continued growing.
Only at this moment did Bai Xiaochun stop examining the seed. He appeared as if he had realized something.
Li Qinghou had been observing Bai Xiaochun all along. When he saw this scene, a trace of nearly undetectable shock was revealed in the depths of his gaze.
During the time Bai Xiaochun had spent pondering, the surrounding disciples were all looking at Du Lingfei. By this point, the spirit plant in her hands had already grown to a height of two chi and a second flower had bloomed.
When the spirit plant in Du Lingfei's hands sprouted a third flower, Bai Xiaochun finally mobilised his inner Qi, sending it into the seeds. Instead of maintaining a continuous flow, his Qi ebbed and surged. When the seeds finally sprouted, he even blew out a puff of air, blowing the seedling away.
Time continued to flow. After the time it took for an incense stick to burn, Du Lingfei's face turned slightly pale but she clenched her teeth, and within a single breath, the spirit plant she was holding grew to the point where a sixth flower blossomed. Only then did she exhale, put the spirit plant aside and bowed in respect towards Li Qinghou.
"Six spirit flowers. This can be considered as a high grade product. Not bad." Li Qinghou nodded.
In her heart, Du Lingfei was satisfied. When she looked towards Bai Xiaochun and noticed that the latter's spirit plant was not even a single chi long, the contempt in her gaze grew even fiercer.
At this moment, the surrounding outer sect disciples all grew excited.
"That's Senior Sister Du for you. For six blue spirit flowers to bloom, that's truly extraordinary. That Bai Xiaochun hasn't even created one, what an utter trash."
"For this kind of catalysis competition, the first step is to observe what kind of seed is involved and then catalyse based on the growth patterns of each kind of seed. In this area, Senior Sister Du's skill is can already be considered exceptional."
While the audience were still discussing this, the spirit plant in Bai Xiaochun's hands slowly reached the height of one chi. Immediately afterwards, a somewhat wilted blue flower popped out. Compared to the blue flowers produced by Du Lingfei, it appeared malnourished. But suddenly, amidst the mocking laughter of the spectators, a second small blue flower began to bloom despite the height of the plant clearly being a mere one chi. And then, a third flower, then a fourth one, a fifth, a sixth, a seventh...
In the short span of a few breaths, a whole nine flowers had actually sprouted on the spirit plant in Bai Xiaochun's hands.
This scene caused a great shock to ripple through the audience as they carefully observed this inconceivable development.
"Blue Spirit Flowers bloom only once every chi. How can there be nine flowers on a single chi!" Du Lingfei was also stunned, feeling as though what was happening was simply unbelievable.
But it wasn't over yet. The moment the ninth small blue flower appeared, Bai Xiaochun opened his eyes and took a deep breath before exhaling abruptly. When this breath, which was saturated with spiritual energy, landed on the nine small flowers, the nine flowers shook in unison before their colour changed into an azure shade in the blink of an eye.
Azure originates from blue but it is superior to blue!
"This...This isn't a Blue Spirit Flower!" Within the surrounding crowd, someone instantly recognised the flower, widening his eyes and shouting in shock.
"Azure Spirit Flower, as a seed, it is almost indistinguishable from the Blue Spirit Flower. And its catalysis methods are entirely different. If the method used to catalyse Blue Spirit Flowers is used on it, then only Blue Spirit Flowers will appear which is a complete waste of the seed."
Everyone in the audience was taken aback as they stared at Bai Xiaochun in disbelief.
At this moment, Bai Xiaochun opened his eyes and put the Azure Spirit Flower in his hands aside. He chuckled before clasping his hands behind his back and looking towards Du Lingfei.
His ability to create herbs had already reached a level that was difficult to describe. Upon careful inspection, he had instantly picked out the differences. To him, deduction of merely this level was child's play.
Du Lingfei's expression changed as she felt like someone had just slapped her face. She took a few steps back, glanced at her own Blue Spirit Flowers, before looking at Bai Xiaochun's Azure Spirit Flowers. She could only feel shame burning on her face. Just now, she had loftily pointed out the other party's shortcomings, but now, the tables had turned and everything was testimony to the fact that she had wasted those seeds.
"This Bai Xiaochun must have gotten lucky. I was looking at a Blue Spirit Flower while he was looking at an Azure Spirit Flower. That must be the case. It should not be because he can differentiate between them!" Du Lingfei clenched her teeth and reasoned in her heart.
"Bai Xiaochun has won the first round. This type of flower is indeed not Blue Spirit but rather, Azure Spirit. They might look the same but their patterns are different. It is just that if a person isn't careful, then the differences are hard to spot and they are easily mixed up." Li Qinghou said blandly as he eyed Bai Xiaochun. With a wave of his right hand, a stalk of spirit grass appeared in his palm.
This spirit grass was very unique. It actually displayed four kinds of colours and each of its nine leaves were different. Among the two flowers that had bloomed, one was black and the other was white, and they appeared to be spiritually connected as they swayed and knocked against each other repeatedly, as though each flower wanted to suppress the other. Although it appeared to be a single entity, upon closer inspection, some marks caused by grafting could be spotted.
"The first round tested catalysis. Then for the second round, we shall focus on recognition. How many kinds of spirit grass were grafted together to form this spirit plant I am holding? The person who gets the highest number of correct answers will be the victor."
Li Qinghou levitated this stalk of spirit grass in front of them as his gaze landed on Bai Xiaochun. He wanted to see whether this child who he had brought into the sect could startle him once again.
Du Lingfei gritted her teeth. She felt that she had been too negligent earlier so with great concentration, she took out a jade tablet and walked closer to the spirit grass.
A trace of interest appeared in Bai Xiaochun's gaze as he also approached it. The two of them inspected the plant for a long time, recording on their jade tablets every once in a while. At some point, Du Lingfei rubbed the bridge of her nose and took a few steps back, gazing at Bai Xiaochun with a darkened, indecipherable expression. She had managed to distinguish eight types of plants. As for the rest, no matter how hard she tried to identify them, she could not recognize them.
But Bai Xiaochun had not only concluded his observations, his eyes were also slowly brightening up. He even hummed softly as he circled around the spirit grass a few times, occassionally releasing a shocked cry, as though he had been struck with a delectable enlightenment.
"So this is actually possible?"
"This is… interesting!"
The surroundings had fallen into complete silence as they looked at Bai Xiaochun. They also did not believe that Bai Xiaochun had been able to recognize the plant from earlier. Most of them thought that it was only because Bai Xiaochun had good luck and directly assumed that it had been the Azure Spirit Flower and then catalysed accordingly.
"Act, keep acting!" From the bottom of her heart, Du Lingfei looked down on him. The more she looked at him, the more she despised him.
Time continued to flow. After the time it took for an incense stick to burn had passed, Bai Xiaochun had still not finished. He was truly completely absorbed in his task, to the extent that he had forgotten it was a competition. This kind of grafted spirit grass seemed to have opened a floodgate within Bai Xiaochun's mind. He no longer looked at those tens of thousands of herbal medicines as individual existences, instead, he integrated them together.
After a long time, Bai Xiaochun reluctantly retreated. As he gazed at the spirit grass, his eyes revealed obsession and admiration.
Li Qinghou and Elder Sun looked at each other before Li Qinghou suddenly opened his mouth.
"Okay, now the two of you can say the spirit grass you identified aloud. Du Lingfei, you go first."
Du Lingfei gnashed her teeth, took out her jade tablet and began to list them out first.
"This disciple could only identify eight herbs. They are the Water Sky Ripple, First Root of Frost, Ground Dragon Fruit, Dawn Mist Grass… and the last one is the Yellow Earthen Essence!" As she finished speaking, Du Lingfei looked at Bai Xiaochun. She did not believe that Bai Xiaochun could exceed her. One should know that although eight kinds did not seem like a lot, in reality, identifying a part of a near perfectly grafted spirit grass was extremely difficult. To be able to identify eight was already quite a lot.
"Hm, if Bai Xiaochun also shamelessly says the same, then the jade tablet can act as evidence!" Du Lingfei smiled coldly as she reasoned darkly.
Bai Xiaochun coughed once. As he noticed that all the gazes of the audience were on him, he flourished his short sleeves and took out the jade tablet he had recorded on just now.
"Outside of the eight kinds that Senior Sister Du identified, this disciple has identified sixty-seven kinds of medicinal herbs. Unfortunately, I could not recognise thirty-one of them. I am only familiar with thirty-six." When Bai Xiaochun spoke till here, without him even completing his sentence, the surrounding disciples had already all broken into exclamations of shock.
"Sixty-seven kinds, how is this possible!"
"For this kind of recognition task, recognizing eight kinds is already the limit. How can he recognize several dozens of types and more!"
Du Lingfei fixed her gaze on Bai Xiaochun and laughed coldly. Of course she would not believe the other party's words and had decided that at that moment, Bai Xiaochun was just blindly bluffing.
"Junior Brother Bai, you might as well have said you identified thirty thousand types. If it's like this, why not just recite the first three volumes of the herb almanac? You'll definitely guess many of them." Du Lingfei mocked.
Regular chapter 2/3 for the week