Pill runes? Pill King Hong's eyes lit up. He was somewhat of an expert and definitely no slouch when it came to pill dao. Pill runes was actually a subject that he'd devoted the biggest chunk of his time and effort towards. It could be viewed as his home territory. There was nothing to be scared of here for the pill king.
"Pill runes? Are you sure?" Greatly emboldened by this turn of events, Pill King Hong finally began to calm down with confidence.
"Are you man enough? On with it." Jiang Chen snorted.
His irreverent attitude made Pill King Hong all the more incensed. "Fine, as you wish. We will each ask each other three questions on pill runes. However… if you lose, you have to tell everyone who sent you!"
"Who sent me?" Jiang Chen smiled faintly. "What, you're not worried that I'll just make something up?"
"Hmph, you'll have to back it up with an oath on your inner demons, of course. How would we guarantee your honesty otherwise?" Having home field advantage gave Pill King Hong more and more courage. He was supremely confident in his specialty.
"Alright. Let's take the oath, then." Jiang Chen was unmoved. "If I lose, I'll clearly and truthfully state who sent me. If I speak one word of falsehood, may my inner demons consume me on the spot." Having done his part, he looked to his opponent. "Now you."
Pill King Hong harrumphed, but followed suit. "if I lose, I will also…" He cut himself off, having remembered something suddenly.
"What? Cat got your tongue?" Jiang Chen snickered. "Guilty as charged, I guess. You want me to make an oath, but you aren't brave enough to do the same yourself? You must come from pretty low origins, then. Can it be that you had certain ambitions in mind by coming here? If you aren't brave enough to make the oath, then we'll call the bet off. A craven snake like you should get out of this city as soon as possible!"
Veluriyam's young lord spoke with hostility. It was patently obvious that these people were here solely to sow discord. Lecturing in front of Taiyuan Tower's doors was a slap to the store's face, with the more sinister goal of replacing it in the public perception.
Though Taiyuan Tower occupied a reasonably lofty place in Veluriyam Capital, Jiang Chen didn't believe that it was important enough to become public enemy number one. He suspected that the plot against Taiyuan Tower was only the first step of the villain behind the curtain. A testing of the waters. Jiang Chen coolly locked eyes with Pill King Hong, not allowing the man another moment of evasiveness.
The pill king's face darkened. "What do I have to be scared of?"
"Good, good!" Jiang Chen roared with laughter. "Don't be so wishy-washy about it, then. Take the oath."
The onlookers were stirred up by the young man's words. Pill King Hong's lectures were quite nice, but if he was from an outside faction that had come to make trouble, then many here would think twice about supporting him.
If it was an internal struggle, they would remain neutral. But if was he a foreigner here to purposely throw them into turmoil? That was something that could not be accepted. His vague and faltering attitude made everyone all the more distrustful of him.
"Pill King Hong, if you're not a wuss, make your oath now!"
"That's right. No matter what, Veluriyam Capital isn't interested in having pot-stirring foreigners on our soil."
"If you don't swear that oath, then you're a coward who's already confessed your guilt!"
Pill King Hong sneered. "I swear," he proclaimed loudly, "that if I lose, I'll definitely say who sent me. And if I don't deliver, let my inner demons consume me on the spot!"
Now that the oaths had been made, Jiang Chen returned to an easy smile. "Since you were so worried, I'll let you have the first question."
The pill king had expected to get into another red-faced argument about question priority. His opponent was being unexpectedly generous. Ordinarily, Pill King Hong wouldn't have cared less for this right. But the situation was somewhat strange, and though his opponent seemed rough around the edges, the pill king couldn't actually see through him. There was no reason for him to decline.
"Alright," he nodded emotionlessly. "I'll ask the first question."
There was a wave of booing from the crowd. The disappointment at Pill King Hong's lack of courtesy was evident. As a lecturing pill king, he should have been more gracious towards his challenger. What kind of behavior was accepting such a straightforwardly polite offer?
Pill King Hong didn't react to the heckling from the audience. Instead, he glanced coolly at Jiang Chen. "First question. There is a kind of pill named the Scarletrune Heartseal Pill. How many main materials are there and how many supplemental ingredients?"
"Is that one question or two?" Jiang Chen snickered.
"This is one kind of pill. The two are part of the same question. You can ask me in the same way, if you like." The young man's reaction assured Pill King Hong that he likely didn't know the answer. Plus, the pill king had many more questions of the same kind. If he pulled out a few more of the same kind of question, his opponent was sure to fumble one.
The amount of knowledge involved in pill dao was immense. No mortal man could possibly fully grasp all of its intricacies. The worst result he could imagine was going even. That was, if both sides failed to answer the other's questions. As long as that happened, he had plenty of room to maneuver.
Jiang Chen nodded slightly, still aloof. He looked at Pill King Hong meaningfully. "The Scarletrune Heartseal Pill has no main or auxiliary ingredients. It has three ingredients only, all of them equally important."
With regards to pills, it was likely that all the pill masters in the world combined couldn't beat Jiang Chen's knowledge. After all, the level of pill dao research he had been exposed to in his previous life was far too many levels above their understanding.
Pill King Hong was astounded by the answer. His entire body shook with incomprehension and he couldn't speak for a long time. His expression belied his thoughts.
"So, what do you think? Are you satisfied with my answer?" Jiang Chen didn't allow his opponent to play dead.
Pill dao battles could not be fudged. Either the answer was true, or it was not. If Jiang Chen had the correct answer, Pill King Hong could not deny it despite any wishes to the contrary. If he did, and news of it got out, he would lose all credibility.
"I suppose that's good enough." The pill king tasted bitterness in his mouth. He looked defiantly at the youth. "Ask your question!"
The fact that his question had failed in stumping his opponent made Pill King Hong feel a bit uneasy. If he couldn't answer any of the questions he was about to be asked, then he would decisively be declared the loser. He had banked on his own questions being unanswerable as well, but that didn't seem to be working out.
Therefore, he no longer had the initiative. Even the possibility of getting a tie looked murkier by the minute. He could only desperately hope that he was able to answer the question about to be thrown at him.
His face full of smiles, Jiang Chen spoke with an indifferent tone. "My question is: there's a pill called the Azurerune Brightmoon Pill. I'm not going to imitate you. In fact, let's make this simple. What color is its main material? I can clearly tell you that it only has one. As long as you manage to guess its color, you'll pass."
To an outsider, the question almost sounded like a freebie. Right off the bat, it was made clear that there was only one main material, and the only answer needed was the color. Compared to the stringency and pitfalls with which Pill King Hong had crafted his question, this was a lot more straightforward and aboveboard.
The onlookers all clapped at the question's announcement. Despite their bias against the guy who'd so disruptively interrupted their lecture midway, the proceeding events had changed their mind about him. In terms of gallantry, the new person far surpassed the pill king lecturer. Unlike his opponent's, his question was sensible, possibly even benign.
Everyone looked at Pill King Hong interestedly, curious if he could pass the ball back by answering the question correctly. Beneath the veneer of simplicity was an elementary truth: it was impossible to answer if one hadn't heard of the pill in the first place. This question tested one's breadth of knowledge.
Pill King Hong looked grave. The Azurerune Brightmoon Pill? He searched his mental recesses for an answer, digging for a hint or trace of information about the pill. Alas, no matter how hard he wrung his brain out, there was nothing that came up about it whatsoever. He had never heard of the pill before today.
Though he hadn't uttered a word yet, his cornered expression was enough to tell all. He couldn't answer the question. There was no need for Jiang Chen to tell the pill king to hurry up. Veluriyam's young lord only needed look nonchalantly, posturing that his opponent could have all the time in the world.
Seconds creeped into minutes. The watchful gaze of countless eyes put a mountain of pressure upon Pill King Hong. He knew that wordplay wouldn't solve the problem, but he was yet hoping for one of his well-hidden colleagues to sneak him a potential answer.
But though they were present in every corner, none of them did so in the end. They couldn't tell him something that they didn't know, either. The brusque challenger had mentioned nothing of the sort relating to any of his conspirators, apparently comfortable with the possibility of their assistance.
As time went on, it was the audience members who first lost their cool.
"Oi, can you answer the question or not? If not, then what's the point of playing silent? It's not exactly a complicated question that needs a long speech. You just have to name a color. Whether you can or cannot, there's no need for hesitation. Are you trying to stall for time?"
"Isn't that right? Wasting our time is the worst!" Condemnations were heard all around.