The young people present felt their blood heat up at Ziju Min’s words. Geniuses of Yan Zhenhuai’s caliber however, maintained their composure. The latter’s only reaction was a slight raise of the eyebrow. A hint of perplexity, and just that.
In the end, martial dao dominated the mainstream.
In the Ten Divine Nations, martial geniuses were the most welcomed kind. Many such geniuses were predisposed for pill dao greatness, of course, but basically none had made it to the peak of both categories.
This didn’t mean that pill dao was unpopular in the divine nations though. Pill masters were quite prominent in their own right.
Because there were so many martial experts and so few pill ones, many cultivators who couldn't attain peak in the former often considered pivoting to the latter. Unfortunately, pill dao wasn’t something that could simply be picked up.
In fact, it emphasized heritage even more than martial dao did. Without heritage or tutelage, it was difficult to achieve much of anything in pill dao – marking it different from martial dao.
The top geniuses who were born with the talent were another matter entirely, of course.
Ziju Min didn't go on a particularly long-winded speech. After a few casual discussions about pill dao, he passed the torch back to House Xiahou.
The master of ceremonies smiled. “Everyone, are you not excited? Senior Ziju has taken Miss Ying as his personal disciple, and now he’s announced this great news to us. Why not take this opportunity to show off your skills to him? Today, we will give you that chance. We’ve discussed it with Senior Ziju as well as Miss Ying. The next segment will be a pill dao battle.”
A pill dao battle?
The young people below the stage were uniformly curious.
How was that supposed to work? These geniuses weren’t totally clueless about pill dao, but they were hardly experts. Thus, no one was particularly panicked about the prospect of the event.
They were already guests at House Xiahou. No matter how their host wanted to play, they would be happy to follow.
In fact, some were rather expectant. After all, Ziju Min represented the Eternal Sacred Land. If he took an interest in any of them, it would be a life-changing experience.
Geniuses at Yan Zhenhuai’s level may not be interested in such a thing, but each house had plenty of geniuses at different levels. Resource allocation was a very real issue. Those who knew they didn’t have much of a future would often have second thoughts.
Someone like Yan Jinnan for example, wouldn’t hesitate to grasp at an offered straw. There wasn’t much more that his house could offer him.
He would have to rely on himself if he wanted to achieve anything more. Because Yan Jinnan knew he was incapable of doing that on his own, he would have varying thoughts about what he wanted to do in a situation like this.
“Brother Huai, we aren’t very good at pill dao.”
“Well, observe then,” Yan Zhenhuai retorted coldly. “We seek only self-preservation today. It’ll be fine as long as we don’t lose any reputation or face.”
However, his plan wasn’t going to work as the others weren’t going to let him.
“It took us quite a while to think of a more interesting method of competing. Simply gathering everyone up to compare pill dao prowess would be too crass. For today, we’re going to have everyone participate in a quiz.
“There are twenty questions in total, and all of you have the chance to answer. The first that does so correctly receives ten points. To avoid malicious participation, an incorrect answer will lose twenty points. After all twenty are finished, the party with the most points will be crowned the victor. This competition isn’t a personal one—each house receives points as a team. We will see which house has the most pill dao knowledge and talent very soon!”
The method of the competition was still disappointingly mundane. But having the teams be house-based was a new spin on the genre.
“This method is interesting,” someone suddenly yelled. “But it’s no fun if it’s just for comparing against each other! Why not give out some prizes too?”
“Yes, we need prizes! It’s just less fun without them.”
“Absolutely. Something must be on the line.” The larger factions’ geniuses all wanted to contribute something.
Ones like House Yan however, kept quiet. They had the self-awareness to understand that their average status and prowess in the area meant they had nothing to back up anything they said. Therefore, there was no response from them to the calls for pitching in with prizes.
Even Yan Qingsang, who tended to be the loudest of the bunch, was a bit wilted. He didn’t seem to care much about the pill dao competition. He just wanted the birthday banquet to finish as soon as possible. He didn’t want to stay another moment in this deplorable place.
House Yan could remain quiet, but the others weren’t going to let them off the hook easy.
Very quickly, someone laughed jokingly to Yan Zhenhuai. “Brother Zhenhuai, isn’t House Yan keeping too low a profile? Aren’t you interested in a potential prize?”
“What, is House Yan too cowardly to make even casual bets like these now?”
These words were purely provocative in nature. Yan Zhenhuai knew that as well. Alas, the circumstances meant that the other factions had been driven into a frenzy already. Though he didn’t want to participate, he could hardly refuse.
House Yan would really be looked down on then.
“If you’re scared, Brother Zhenhuai, we can reduce the bet.”
“Yes, we hear that House Yan is tight on resources these days. We can accommodate them with a small bet.” These apparently concerned voices were filled with schadenfreude.
Jiang Chen had nothing to say about the others’ self-satisfied demeanors. Were they really that talented in pill dao? How were they so sure House Yan would lose?
Finally, the largest factions’ geniuses came to a consensus. The large factions participating in the pill dao contest would contribute a hundred million each, which made nine in total.
Among the sacred land, three sects, and seven factions of Eternal Divine Nation, House Xiahou was the host and thus ineligible. Meanwhile, the sacred land was too lofty to engage in betting with the other factions.
That left three sects and six factions for the bet. Out of these, two houses had no desire whatsoever to be here. House Yan was one of them.
A hundred million spirit stones was an extremely hefty amount. Even Yan Zhenhuai wouldn’t be able to produce that much offhandedly. In fact, it was rather exorbitant.
“Ole Brother Zhenhuai, everyone’s waiting on you! Only House Yan hasn’t responded. You can’t be so down in the dumps as to not afford this little bet, can you?”
“It’s just a hundred million. That’s nothing at all. If you win, you’ll get all the other stones!”
“You worried about your wallet, younger brother?”
The other factions attempted to rattle Yan Zhenhuai, their inflammatory words wanting to drag him into the event.
Everyone else firmly believed that House Yan was here only to add to the pot. A house with as little foundation as that had no right to be viewed as their equal in anything, pill dao included. Thus, their coaxing was simply a dig to raise the stakes for their own house on a potential win.
Yan Zhenhuai was stuck between a rock and a hard place. At this juncture, participating in the bet would only lose his house the contributed stones.
He had enough self-awareness to know that. It was precisely because of this that he didn’t want to waste a hundred million sky spirit stones. The house wasn’t what it had once been. A hundred million spirit stones was a significant sum.
But nonparticipation to save spirit stones would only disappoint the other houses, potentially leading to being sidelined even more in the future. That trend was already occurring, and available space for House Yan to survive would only grow tighter as time went on.
Yan Zhenhuai suddenly became rather anxious.
As an observer, Jiang Chen saw through Yan Zhenhuai’s hesitation. “Go persuade Yan Zhenhuai to participate. Say you’ll contribute half of the hundred million,” he messaged Yan Qingsang.
“Huh?” Yan Qingsang was stunned. “Brother, we’re not going to get anything back. What’s the point of giving away spirit stones to these animals?”
Jiang Chen smiled. “If you want to make some money, you should participate. Remember, you need to insist that profit be allocated in the same way as the stake is funded. No stake now means no stones later.”
Yan Qingsang glanced at his friend, his resolve loosening. His trust in Jiang Chen almost surpassed that in Yan Zhenhuai. His brother gave him a very reassuring look back.
Yan Qingsang grit his teeth, coming to a decision.
“Brother Huai, we may be sure to lose our money, but we can’t lose our face right now. We’ll live even if we lose a hundred million. If we don’t participate, House Yan will be pushed away even further. Let’s bet with them. We can pool the hundred million together.”
“You can do that yourself,” Yan Jinnan stated coldly. “This bet is designed to ruin us. If you’re walking into this obvious trap, you must’ve lost your brains somewhere.”
The other two smiled wryly, shaking their heads as well. Neither was willing to put forward any stones.
Yan Zhenhuai squinted at Yan Qingsang, surprised at his clan brother’s eagerness. “Qingsang,” he couldn’t resist remarking, “you do understand that you’re giving away the stones, right?”
“So what if I am? Sometimes we have to take some pretty daunting risks. I have fifty million here. Are you in, Brother Zhenhuai?” Yan Qingsang gnashed his teeth.
His declaration shocked everyone else.
Fifty million sky spirit stones? Yan Qingsang really had hit his head somewhere. Why waste these stones on those bastards rather than spending it himself?
Yan Zhenhuai knew acutely that House Yan had to suffer this loss today. Others were referring to him by name, and every other faction had participated. They couldn’t possibly abstain. The prospect of losing money was no longer important!