Even Yan Qingsang had offered to pay fifty million stones. Yan Zhenhuai could afford to front the rest. Determination flashed through through the eyes of the house’s leading genius.
“I’ve underestimated you, Qingsang. I’ll pay the other fifty million!” He looked over at the others, giving them a last opportunity to chip in. Even if they were going to lose, he hoped the youths of House Yan could be more proactive.
To his disappointment, Yan Jinnan had his eyes fixed on the ceiling while Yan Xinmei had been battered out of her senses. One of the two other youths was staring at the cups on the table, and the other had closed his eyes like he was meditating.
Yan Zhenhuai was rendered speechless by their denial of the reality.
He didn’t used to think much of Yan Qingsang, but it was turning out the latter was one of the more dependable ones among the younger generation. At least he knew to look at the big picture, and he cared about the house’s honor and glory.
The two of them pooled a hundred million stones together.
“Haha, Brother Zhenhuai, I thought House Yan wasn’t going to participate! Good, good. Even a starved camel like House Yan is bigger than a healthy horse. You’ve still got it.”
“Good for you, younger brother Zhenhuai.”
Those around them changed their tunes the bet was in, but Yan Zhenhuai maintained an aloof expression. He knew they only had their profit in mind. They were more friendly to him now simply because they considered him a cash cow.
That friendliness would only last until the end of the contest.
Yan Zhenhuai sighed inwardly. Many of those who called him younger brother were actually younger and weaker than he was.
However, his house’s had decline convinced them that they could climb all over House Yan. What they called him therefore completely changed as a result. He knew how fickle people could be, so he didn’t pay them that much attention.
With House Yan’s a hundred million stones, the betting pool now amounted to nine hundred million stones from the nine factions.
“Ladies and gentleman, our discussion concludes that only the top three participants would be rewarded. The first place will get six hundred million stones; the second, two hundred million; and the third, one hundred million. Does anyone have a different opinion?”
A wager had to have winners and losers, and there must be more people losing than winning. It wasn’t unreasonable for the winners to be limited to three participants.
“If not, then let’s get started!”
No one asked Yan Zhenhuai for his opinion after putting in the bet. Clearly everyone assumed that House Yan would just follow their lead and accept any conditions.
Just before the conditions of the wager were settled, Yan Qingsang suddenly stood up. “Wait.”
Everyone’s attention snapped to him. Even Xiahou Ying looked at him with surprise from the elevated stage. Someone from House Yan was bold enough to speak up, and it wasn’t Yan Zhenhuai?
A strange hint entered their gazes. None of them expected Yan Qingsang’s abrupt action.
“What do you have to say?” someone asked coldly.
“I do indeed have something to say. Since it’s a wager, we have to make sure the losers will honor the bet. What if someone refuses to pay up afterwards? We have the two seniors present here, and there are many masters from Eternal Sacred Land as well. I believe we should give our explicit consent to the wager, and we aren’t to go back on our words.”
That was something most hadn’t considered. They’d assumed that everyone would follow the rules on such an occasion. But what Yan Qingsang said did make sense. It would be better to get everyone’s promise first.
After some discussion, everyone gave their word that they would honor the wager. In truth, none of them thought that House Yan would win. Even though it was Yan Qingsang who had spoken up to remind them, they ignored him afterwards.
In particular, Yan Jinnan and the other youths in the family looked at him like he was out of his mind. Had he been drop-kicked in the head?
They had grown up with him. Even though they weren’t actually close like regular brothers, they did know everything about one another. None of them believed that Yan Qingsang had enough talent to perform well in the contest. In fact, they believed that his level of pill dao was the worst among the young geniuses. They were ready to laugh at him once he failed.
“Wonderful! Everyone seems to be very interested in the pill dao contest. Please give me your attention. All factions have fifteen minutes to assign two members as your responders. Only they are allowed to compete for the chance to answer. We don’t want the contest to fall into chaos with everyone trying to answer.
“Of course, if the two responders can’t give an answer, the other members in your faction may jump in. You’ll get your points still. Now, pick your responders. Remember, other than these two, the others won’t get a chance to answer even if they raise their hands.”
Yan Qingsang and Yan Zhenhuai were the ones who’d fronted the wager, so naturally they were the responders for House Yan.
The others weren’t going to cause trouble, or they really would be making an enemy out of Yan Zhenhuai. His heavy gaze swept through every one of them. “This pill dao contest is tied to the honor of House Yan. You may not have chipped in for the bet, but don’t keep an answer to yourself if you know it.”
He knew the other youths very well. They were likely to stay on the sidelines because they considered the contest unrelated to them. He had to knock some sense into them first.
Because the youths were still very fearful of him, they nodded and promised their help.
“I won’t keep it from you if I know the answer, Brother Huai.”
“It’s all for House Yan. Even though we didn’t chip in for the wager, we’ll help for the family’s sake.” They paid appropriate lip service to Yan Zhenhuai.
He nodded slightly, a meaningful gaze sweeping through every one of them.
Yan Qingsang silently transmitted to Jiang Chen, “Brother, you were the one who prompted me to participate. What strategy do you have? I’m not very good at pill dao.”
Jiang Chen smiled. “Watch me closely. Raise your hand as soon as my eyelid twitches. Don’t hesitate.”
“But...are you confident?”
“As long as you trust me.” Jiang Chen didn’t waste time in explanation.
Yan Qingsang had come to trust Jiang Chen unconditionally. He made up his mind to do as Jiang Chen said. As soon as an eyelid twitched, his hand would shoot up as fast as possible.
Fifteen minutes flew by. Every faction was ready and the contest officially commenced.
It was clear that Ziju Min of the Eternal Sacred Land cared a lot about the contest. He was personally moderating it.
“Attention, contestants, the first question has to do with spirit herb cultivation. In different seasons, Bonemending Sunflower can be cultivated with different spirit herbs to accelerate growth through a combination of spirit energy. Which the spirit herbs most suitable for raising along with the Sunflower? Please give two or more answers.”
The very first question was meant to intimidate the contestants. Many of them sucked in a breath when they heard it. A lot of them hadn’t even heard of the spirit herb before. Those who had thought it could only be found in nature, not cultivated.
The crowd quieted down.
A number of geniuses looked hesitant. They seemed to have some vague idea, but they couldn’t form a structured answer. At the moment, there were some who were considering raising their hands, but they didn’t have the courage to do so.
Every faction started out with zero points. Getting points deducted would put them in the negative. No one wanted to risk falling behind at the very start; they’d rather not give an answer instead.
Jiang Chen’s eyelid twitched. Yan Qingsang, however, was preoccupied and didn’t even notice it.
Jiang Chen moved his eyelid again. This time, Yan Qingsang was busy looking around, taking in everyone’s reaction.
Exasperated, Jiang Chen kicked him under the table. Yan Qingsang started and finally realized that Jiang Chen was staring at him. He raised his hand on reflex.
The room was shocked by his action.
When Yan Qingsang reminded everyone to promise to honor the wager, they took him as a joke. Jhat was he planning? Was he a pill dao genius who had been hiding his talent?
They didn’t think it was possible. Yan Qingsang wasn’t even the strongest in House Yan. He was in no place to speak up now. He must’ve raised his hand on impulse in the heat of the moment.
Many people stared at him with a snide smile, waiting for him to embarrass himself. They wanted to see for themselves if this young man actually had an answer, or was simply so wrecked by his nerves that his hand shot up on reflex when no one had dared answer.
Just how would he humiliate himself?
Even Yan Zhenhuai was surprised. He didn’t have any hope that Yan Qingsang would know the answer, and hadn’t expected a hand to go up given the circumstances.