Though Wang Xuetong marveled at this sight, he and the other judges didn't hold Jiang Chen up. The young man was permitted inside. The formation master offered further praise after Jiang Chen entered. "Just now, a lot of people were clamoring about challenging several zones in succession. I thought that they were naïve and reckless. I didn't imagine that someone would actually do it!"
"Haha, perhaps it's a scion of some noble house who's having some fun. It's only been a little more than a day. Neither martial dao nor pill dao are easy subjects to master."
"Yes. I'm not sure anyone can complete both sets of questions with even three days. My guess is that he's given up already because he finds it too difficult. He might be trying his luck elsewhere." The judges' opinions of Jiang Chen were surprisingly uniform.
One of them led Jiang Chen to his seat. The youth was given a set of questions on a scroll very quickly. The scroll was very similar to that of the pill dao scroll. There were thirty questions in all, sorted by the same kind of ranking system. Because the set of questions was cross-disciplinary in nature, their required answers were much more esoteric. However, this was no problem for him.
In his previous life, he'd managed the Tianlang Library. His scholarship was unrivaled. No subject was foreign to him. Though his expertise in them wasn't nearly the same as his expertise in pill dao, it was still incomparable knowledge on the Divine Abyss Continent.
Though the questions contained much variety and tested minute details, this suited Jiang Chen's tastes perfectly. Any of the candidates here might have a staggering amount of expertise in a single discipline: some were experts at refining talismans, some were lords at setting formations, and still more were adepts at math and machinistry, medicine and astrology, beast-taming, weapon-smithing… the list went on.
One had to have at least a passing knowledge of many or all of these to do anything cross-disciplinary. It was commonly said that truly difficult things should be left up to professionals. However, Jiang Chen was different from the common man. He had professional talent in every field, capable of doing anything on a whim by himself. Despite this, he wasn't as adroit with other disciplines the same way he was with pill dao.
Some questions warranted extended consideration to answer. Still, a day or so of time was more than enough for him to show his prowess. At the tail end of the third day, he finally completed the entire set of questions. Penning his identification number as a concluding act, he impressed it with the seal on his participant token. This marked the end of the general zone selection.
Jiang Chen rolled up his scroll with confidence. He didn't make a show of submitting it early this time. His time was about up anyway, so there was no point doing so. He firmly believed that while the rest of the candidates might be lords of certain disciplines, they did not nearly have the same breadth as he. Therefore, the test was essentially in the bag. As for the discipline of pill dao, Jiang Chen did not believe it possible for him to lose to anyone there.
Not that he was expecting to lose here either, of course. At least one of the three spots belonged to him for sure. It was a confidence born out of scholasticism. A confidence given to him by the memories from his previous life.
Time was up. Everyone had to submit their scrolls. Lin Zhirong stretched languidly, then felt his eyeballs bulge at the sight of something incredible. He rubbed his eyes with vehemence and tried to calm himself, then looked into the distance. Good heavens, he wasn't hallucinating!
"Brother Shao Yuan?" It was difficult to believe what his eyes were telling him. Lin Zhirong suspected for an instant that he was having vision problems. Reality told him, though, that it wasn't the case. The one he saw was Jiang Chen, plain as day.
Seeing Lin Zhirong's ghastly expression as the disguised youth lunged towards him, Jiang Chen returned a kind smile. "How did you do?"
Lin Zhirong was in no mood to reply. He glanced over his fellow youth like he was looking at a monster. In particular, he stared at Jiang Chen's neck; was there a second head growing from there?
"Brother Shao Yuan, so you really did come to the general zone after all! Don't tell me you gave up the test in the pill dao zone?" Lin Zhirong sighed. "You're a lot more good-for-nothing than I could ever be. I always thought I was the wasteful and frivolous one, but you've beat me, all right… haha, I definitely feel a sense of defeat here!"
"Who told you I was gave up on pill dao?" Jiang Chen was speechless.
"Er, hmm. If you didn't give up, how did you get here? I didn't even notice you come in." During the testing process, all the candidates were enclosed in a formation. They had no communication with the outside world. Thus, no one else had noted Jiang Chen's entry.
"Couldn't I have finished the pill dao test?" Veluriyam's young lord shot back. It was one thing for a couple of people to have that kind of reaction. The fact that absolutely everyone did, even his newfound friend, Jiang Chen found to be a little depressing.
Lin Zhirong stared at Jiang Chen the same way one would at an abomination. He tried to keep a straight, unsmiling face, punching at Jiang Chen's shoulder playfully. "Don't mess around, man. You're telling me you finished the pill dao test? It's not the same thing as taking a nap or eating a meal, you know! How could it have been that simple?"
He didn't believe it. Jiang Chen was about the same age as him. A genius with this much life experience did not have enough of a foundation to accomplish something so absurd, no matter how talented he was. That went against common sense itself!
"Alright, look, Brother Shao Yuan. If you were crushed by the pill dao test, that's okay. It's all in the past! It's better to live in the present and be merry. Hey, why not let me treat you to a drink?"
The color on Jiang Chen's face was getting worse and worse. Lin Zhirong tried to console his new friend, his words and expression both as soothing as could be.
Jiang Chen had no words left. The world was a strange place. He had told anyone who asked the truth, and only the truth. Yet, no one had taken him seriously.
"All of the participating candidates, please refrain from leaving the Temple of Cleansing Fire. You may rest for a few moments outside, but do not go too far. In four hours, we will reveal the results, and the selected ones' identification numbers will be posted in the most prominent place here."
Ignoring Lin Zhirong's mutterings, Jiang Chen strode straight out of the Temple. He had been extremely busy for the entire three days past. He needed a break for sure. Outside the complex, he noticed that the adjacent square was filled with tens of thousands of people. People darted to and fro, and the atmosphere was tangibly aflame.
Clearly, everyone here knew that this was the day the nine arena lords would be announced for the Bounty Arena. They were waiting for the new lords to make their first public appearance and for a first look. Those who were interested in becoming assistants were especially keen in attending today.
Scanning the crowd, Jiang Chen found Lin Yanyu hidden within. Their eyes met for the briefest of moments, then simultaneously looked away. There was no greeting exchanged, and indeed no need for it. Seeing how relaxed his master was allowed Lin Yanyu to relax himself. It seems that master is doing very well. Obtaining an arena lord's spot should be no problem for him.
He was as excited as anyone else present. He had awaited here for three days solely for the moment of the big reveal.
Within the Temple of Cleansing Fire, all of the scrolls from the three areas had been gathered.
"Weren't a lot of people planning on doing multiple sets of questions? How come there's no sight of them, hmm?" one of the judges from the martial dao zone said.
"Now that you mention it, there was one person like that." Wang Xuetong replied with a wry smile. "We at the general zone received him, actually."
"Oh? Did he go there from the pill dao zone? There was no one from the martial dao zone that left early," the first judge said.
Pill King Blue Phoenix, of the pill dao zone, harrumphed coldly. "That flighty youngster only came for the attention. He made a lot of noise, but I doubt he has anything to show for it. How can you call that challenging multiple subjects? In my opinion, he was challenging his own ability to make multiple messes of things."
Everyone laughed at that. Pill King Blue Phoenix's temperament was widely known, and he was not blamed for it.
Emperor Peerless, of the martial dao zone, was the only one to become serious at the pill king's words. "Pill King Blue Phoenix, was there really someone who came out from the pill dao zone that wanted to challenge another subject? Who was it, may I ask?"
"You'll hardly know a good-for-nothing like him, emperor. I hesitate to defile my lips by mentioning him." The pill king was evidently incensed.
The emperor chuckled. "It is natural for young people to do ridiculous things in their youthful audacity. If all of them followed rules and sense all the time, there would be no fun left in the world. I took a look before, and only two youths signed up this time, is that right? Do you mean the young man that looks his age, or the one that doesn't?"
Emperor Peerless had a keen eye characteristic of many masterful seniors. A single sweep was enough for him to roughly discern what each candidate was like. The emperor had known that both Jiang Chen and Lin Zhirong were youngsters as soon as he set eyes on them. Lin Zhirong's disguise into a middle-aged lecher hadn't escaped the emperor's eyes.
Pill King Blue Phoenix shook his head in silence. The formation master, on the other hand, chuckled. "The kid that disguised himself as a middle-aged man has been in the general zone all this time. Our pill king is talking about the other youth."
"Interesting, interesting." Emperor Peerless inclined his head slightly, the corners of his mouth slightly curving. He made no further comments, instead waving his hand. "Let's keep at it with the marking, everyone."
The emperor's appearance under these circumstances lent him a degree of legitimacy and face, even to the personnel of the Temple. Thus, no one thought it inappropriate for him to utter such a command. Accordingly, the rest of the judges began to mark the scrolls once more. A short while after, a bewildered shout was heard from the general zone.
Master Wang Xuetong was its source. All eyes focused on the formation master as if by prior agreement. They were curious about what could have evoked such a noise from him.
Wang Xuetong's expression was as odd as could be. "How is this possible?! How?!" He cried out. It was as if he'd just seen the most improbable thing in the world.
"What's not possible, Master Wang? What do you see?"
"Yes, is there a problem with the scroll? Or has a marvelous answer appeared?"
Wang Xuetong's facial muscles shivered a little. He couldn't resist slamming his palm against the desk. "A genius, a true genius… all thirty questions, flawlessly complete. This is the general zone test!"
There was an immediate uproar at his words.