After kicking Wen Bao out, Wang Lu bore a glum look.
“Is everything alright?” Hai Yun Fan asked.
“Everything’s fine. It’s just the situation is a little bit more complicated than I anticipated.” He gave a snort of contempt. “I thought everyone was an idiot in this stupid village. But it seems that some key characters possess a high IQ.”
“To put it simply, the quest here in the Garden of Peaches is supposed to be about gaining favourability from specific villagers. However, in all quests one must overcome a set amount of obstacles; for Wen Bao, it would be the wife of the Village Chief. I thought these sorts of quests would be quite straightforward and simple, but these characters are quite high-levelled and rather dynamic in personality. We’ll have to use our brains well in order to succeed.”
“Well, as usual, I didn’t catch most of what you were saying, but what I think you’re trying to get at is that most of the quests here should have simple solutions?”
“Of course. In easy quests, all you’d need to do is analyse the pattern going on and win favors from people. The scholar we met in the village and the one I told Wang Zhong to face just then – as long as you can get good grades in class and avoid getting into trouble with your classmates, you can easily pass. Quests like the steamed bun shop, where you only need to work and make enough contribution, are straightforward and easy quests. Although with Wen Bao, things are quite different. It’s not an easy task to gain favourability from Old Auntie Liu. He’s triggered a high-level quest, which is a good opportunity, but I don’t think he can complete it considering his IQ and EQ.”
“Well that’s making me nervous. But the harder a quest is, the better the rewards will be right?”
“Of course, of course. That principle is always correct. I imagine I scored brilliantly in the Cloud Wave Map because the villagers treated me like the Chief’s father. So if we do well in this quest, imagine how much sweet the rewards will be.”
Hai Yun Fan nodded. “In accordance with convention, the Red Ridge Mountain and Ice Wind Valley, the places after the Cloud Wave Map, are the key trials on the Immortal Path. If the truth is like what you said, that our performance here would affect our performances in upcoming trials, then I think I’d like to try my luck.”
“You finally decided to give a try?”
“I feel confident now that I’ve spent the last few days listening to your wisdom.”
“So do you want to try and find the perfect tactic to complete this trial?”
“I’ll leave that for geniuses like you. I’m only concerned with finding the right place for me.”
Hai Yun Fan walked out of Wang Lu’s room after ending the conversation. Wang Lu smiled as he walked away. “Nice. Little Hai’s finally doing his quest. This is going to be fun.”
Hai Yun Fan’s involvement soon made an impact on the village. Other than the genius Wang Lu and the pageboy Wang Zhong, he was the first person to walk out of the Cloud Wave Map and enter the Garden of Peaches. With a performance better than the three allied princelings, he surprised many people, as not many possessed superior powers. Compared to those with a Heaven, Earth or Variation Spirit Base, the second son of the Cloud Mountain Emperor did not seem as impressive. Even the sects of the Cloud Mountain Empire had assessed Hai Yun Fan. He was of mediocre intelligence with a high-tiered fourth grade, or perhaps a low-tiered third grade spirit base. His performance on the Golden Bridge was not considered ‘ideal’. But after the Cloud Wave Map, Hai Yun Fan suddenly became considered one of the few high achievers.
But which was more important: Spirit Base, Intelligence, or Mentality? While there is not a definite answer to the question, more than half of the elders amongst the Ten Thousand Celestial Alliance possessed a spirit base up to third grade.
So Hai Yun Fan’s third grade spirit base was not great but not bad. With the incredible amount of mentality he demonstrated as one of the best performers in the Cloud Wave Map, he would have had a bright future like most elders in the Alliance.
The other participants in the village trial all stopped what they were doing to see what was going to happen. But Hai Yun Fan just walked around at night and talked to villagers casually at random.
This tactic was also employed by most other competitors, as they were not sure what their goal was. By talking to as many of the villagers as possible, they would be able to use the response or reaction to determine their next step.
The villagers’ reactions towards Hai Yun Fan were not as immediate or as exaggerated as Wen Bao’s. After the first night, some of the villagers did show moderate interest towards him, but as they seemed to be relatively unimportant characters, they were quickly dismissed. Hai Yun Fan had never actually humbled himself unduly. Although he had said that finding the right position for himself would be enough, in his heart he was not satisfied with anything below an ‘A Rank Quest’. The humility he showed to Wang Lu was only reverence for superiors.
After the first night, Hai Yun Fan realised that he would not be as lucky as Wen Bao to have a high-tiered quest come to him. Thus, in the morning, Hai Yun Fan approached the Village Chief’s front door and knocked with his usual energy, even though he had not slept at all.
According to Wang Lu’s theory on the correlation between the quests and rewards in the Garden of Peaches, the Village Chief undoubtedly represented the A Rank or higher quests. By entangling himself into the emotional dispute between the Chief’s wife and mistress, Wen Bao had gotten himself involved in an A Rank Quest. Thinking about it, Hai Yun Fan wondered what would happen if he got himself directly involved with the Village Chief himself.
Although the Village Chief did not seem to have a preference for Hai Yun Fan, he stayed at his residence until the afternoon. He came into the backyards afterwards to meet Wang Lu.
“Hey there Little Hai. Did you find anything in the old man’s room?”
Hai Yun Fan lifted a slight smile. “Not bad. I did what you said, and got a big breakthrough.”
“Broken through by that old guy? Well, you are a cute little boy and he’s a lonely old man…”
“Again, I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but I just want to confirm one thing with you.”
Realising Hai Yun Fan was being serious, Wang Lu put down the drumstick he was eating and asked, “What’s the matter?”
“My quest might affect Wen Bao… perhaps even more people. I hope you don’t mind.”
“What do you mean?”
“To put it simply, I got involved in the Village Chief’s family dispute. I spent the whole morning trying to win his confidence. I myself am confident that I’ll be involved with whatever happens next.”
Wang Lu widened his eyes in surprise. “Good for you, Little Hai. Mediating emotional entanglements for old people at such a young age. You’ve got potential.”
“He’s only the head of a small village. He’s not too hard to manipulate. The only problem is I have to confirm what I need to do next. Wen Bao’s unexpected appearance triggered the conflict between Mrs He Lu and Old Auntie Liu. My mission is to resolve the conflict, so the Chief can live a peaceful life. But there are many ways to resolve this dispute.”
Wang Lu nodded. “You’re getting there, Little Hai.”
“I came up with several solutions. The easiest one, was to somehow make Mrs He Lu disregard her past grudges with Old Auntie Liu. After all, no matter what the Village Chief has done, they have lived together for many years. Old Auntie Liu was only an interlude in their life.”
Wang Lu laughed. “Ha, if you chose that tactic, I’m afraid I’d only award you sixty out of a hundred points at most.”
“The Village Chief is still thinking about Old Auntie Liu, so he doesn’t like it when his wife complains about her. Also, Old Auntie Liu also hates to be neglected.”
“But this is only his desire. An inappropriate one.”
“So in order to make my plan more elaborate, I could use coercion and bribery to force Old Auntie Liu to give up her desires. She started this mess, after all. She quits, and the Village Chief will be able to live peacefully again. But if she quits, her long-cherished dream may not be realised, and Wen Bao’s quest may be affected that way.”
“Indeed. The A Rank quests might have been designed such that those involved need to compete to achieve completion; or they might have been designed in order to test communication between the competitors involved. But this is Wen Bao we’re talking about, so there’s nothing to be worried about.”
“Wait. Isn’t Wen Bao worth anything to you?”
Wang Lu shrugged. “This has nothing to do with me. I’m just thinking from your perspective. I didn’t think he was worth anything in your eyes, so I tried to move you along a considerable suggestion. It’s much harder for Wen Bao to overcome his issue though, so in the worst case scenario, he just cements a content relationship with Old Auntie Liu. Anyways, what is your decision?”
“I don’t want to choose either of the two solutions. I have a third approach, and I want your opinion on it.”
“A third solution?”
“Yes. Framing Mrs He Lu such that the Village Chief can divorce her on legitimate grounds, and revive his love with Old Auntie Liu. This way, Wen Bao can complete his quest and the Village Chief can get what he wants as well, putting me on good terms with him. What’s more, this process shouldn’t be too complicated…”
“But this isn’t completely ethical, isn’t it? Such a plan would be considered a crime in sects with strict rules. I want to know whether the designer of this trial would accept this sort of tactic or not, and you’re best person I know who thinks most similarly to the designer. So, would this person approve of my plan or not?”
Wang Lu paused and thought about it for a while. “Hmmm… If I were the designer, I would have given you more than ninety points.”
“And then nothing. I’ve designed the levels and gave you a mark – what else would I do?”
Hai Yun Fan laughed. “Thank you for reminding me. No matter how much thought the designer put into this village trial, the final decision will be made by the Spirit Blade Sect. A virtuous, upright sect – I probably shouldn’t use such malicious tactics. By the way, what would you have done for this quest?”
“Me? Hah! Do you want to know what the perfect solution is?”
“I’ve already decided on my solution and I won’t change it. But I’m also curious about what you would do.”
Hai Yun Fan’s upbringing in a proud heritage did not allow him to copy the ideas of others’, even when Wang Lu, the genius he respected, was the one who came up with the idea. But he was also curious to find better ideas.
“Easy. Convince Mrs He Lu and Old Auntie Liu to be bi-sexual, and then let the Village Chief live his happy life.”
“Oh come on, don’t look at me like that. It’s a perfect solution. Everyone gets what they want, no unethical actions, no more enemies and no more grudges. It’s an absolutely brilliant solution!”