Everyone restored their original expectations for Yan Qingsang. He was just a two-bit character in House Yan after all! There was no need to pay him much attention.
After every question, Ziju Min secretly focused his attention in Yan Qingsang. When the young man failed to reply time and time again, he felt rather disappointed. He’d thought there was an opportunity to excavate a pill dao genius. Perhaps the youth really had just been lucky.
Xiahou Ying was very pleased at Yan Qingsang’s now lackluster performance. House Yan trash is just trash after all. He lucked out on the previous answers, but he’s wilted now. Yan Qingsang is just an ant, so I suppose it wasn’t easy for him to even make the showing he did at the beginning. Glad he knows his place, hmph…
She had no desire to see Yan Qingsang perform with any degree of excellence.
They were now on the seventh question. Jiang Chen’s strategy of playing dead hadn’t changed. If Yan Qingsang was too showy in the competition and garnered unwanted attention, that would be a tremendously bad thing.
His friend needed some time out of the limelight to cool off. Some reverse acceleration was necessary. It was ultimately a disadvantage for Yan Qingsang to attract outside scrutiny.
Jiang Chen’s silence for five questions in a row made the Yan genius anxious, but the young man was largely helpless about the affair.
There was no reaction for the eighth question either. Now that Jade Lake Sect had answered three questions correctly, they’d obtained thirty points, surpassing House Yan as current first place.
House Feng, House Beigong, and the Starlight Sect had managed to answer one question each. House Yan was second place with twenty points.
No one was particularly surprised at Jade Lake Sect taking the lead. The sect had deep pill dao foundations.
It seemed that Yan Qingsang had bumbled upon the right answer twice in a row, but he had nothing more to show after that. Finally, House Yan was behaving like everyone expected. Wasn’t this more their real speed?
Yan Jinnan’s clouded mood began to brighten once more. He gazed at Yan Qingsang mockingly.
“Looks like your luck’s run out, Qingsang,” he smiled. “I’m glad you didn’t manage to scam me into putting stones out.”
Yan Qingsang glared back with a roll of his eyes. “I can do whatever I want because I have money to. You’re both useless and poor. What can you do other than making snide comments? Worthless!” He spared no courtesy whatsoever for Yan Jinnan.
Yan Zhenhuai furrowed his brow as well. “Be quiet, Jinnan. The house’s reputation and name is at stake, and the only thing on your mind is making fun of others?”
Yan Jinnan played innocent. “I just think Yan Qingsang was being malicious from the start, Brother Zhenhuai. He intentionally wanted to drag us into it to scam our stones!”
“So? Did you put any in?” Yan Zhenhuai retorted icily.
Yan Jinnan had nothing to say to that.
“If not, then shut up and watch. Even if you don’t want to cheer for the house, you shouldn’t lose us face by behaving like this.” Yan Zhenhuai was thoroughly disappointed by Yan Jinnan.
How could a person like that be counted among the house’s geniuses? Internally, he struck Yan Jinnan’s name from his list of family hopefuls.
“Enough. Everyone, please be quiet. Here is the ninth question. This is a question about spirit herb combinations. We will provide twenty-seven kinds of spirit herbs. You may combine any number of them as you like. If you can create three recipes, you may raise your hand to answer.”
Images of twenty-seven spirit herbs appeared before the audience.
Jiang Chen swept his eyes across them. His brain computed all the possibilities at a rapid pace and quickly found what he was looking for. However, he turned to Yan Zhenhuai this time. “Brother Zhenhuai, raise your hand to answer. I’ll answer it.”
According to the rules, only two were allowed to raise their hands from each faction, but the actual answer could be given by anyone present.
Yan Zhenhuai blinked, but raised his hand without hesitation upon seeing Jiang Chen’s serious manner.
Jiang Chen wanted to answer himself so as not to sell out Yan Qingsang. If Yan Qingsang were to answer this question, his performance would be too incredible to ignore. It was better that he take the flak for this one.
The speed with which Yan Zhenhuai raised his hand defied everyone else’s expectations. The rest of the crowd was still knee-deep in serious research, attempting to come up with their first recipe. Were House Yan’s members going to utterly defy expectations today?
Ziju Min glanced at Yan Zhenhuai with mild surprise.This genius hadn’t gone to the ancient jade festival. Thus, there was no heritage to explain his potential skill. Had he solved this difficult question that quickly? If he’d relied on his own strength, then his pill dao talent was terrifying indeed.
Yan Zhenhuai smiled serenely under the collective gazes of the crowd. “I raised my hand, but Brother Shao Yuan here will be answering. Come, Brother Shao Yuan.” He inclined his head ever so slightly at Jiang Chen.
Jiang Chen stood up with his own smile. “Master Ziju,” he cupped a fist, “this question is a famous puzzle from the ancient times. Its name is the Trinonary Sages’ Puzzle.”
“Oh?” Ziju Min’s eyes lit up. “How do you know this?”
The pill immortal was shaken up internally. To tell the truth, he hadn’t heard of the name at all before. He had only seen fragments of its description in an ancient tome, specifically relating to someone else’s thoughts on its study. The puzzle was an extremely difficult one, and Ziju Min had thought it impossible for anyone to come up with the answer.
He had put it forward largely to test the waters. And yet, this young man had blurted out the name of the puzzle straightaway.
“Can you give the three pill recipes the question asks for?” Ziju Min said.
“If three, they’d be the elementary ones. The Sumeru Pill, the Windgrace Pill, the Violet Fragrance Pill… these are quite easy to refine. Please review them, Senior Ziju.”
Ziju Min drew a sharp breath. The three pills mentioned were only basic combinations in the Trinonary Sages’ Puzzle?
In the fragments Ziju Min had read, only five combinations had been recorded. But the young man’s tone made the actual number sound much greater than that!
The pill sovereign mused for a moment, then nodded slightly. “Your three recipes are correct. Where did you find out about this Sages’ Puzzle, if I may ask?”
Jiang Chen smiled easily. “My ancestral heritage is somewhat related to pill dao. My family has researched the Trinonary Sages’ Puzzle for generations. Just like its name, there are twenty-seven combinations in all!”
Ziju Min was paralyzed in shock. Twenty-seven combinations?
This… this was beyond his comprehension. As a pill immortal, he was one of the foremost authorities of pill dao in Myriad Abyss Island. He’d never heard of such a thing though. Twenty-seven spirit herbs could create twenty-seven pills? Was the puzzle truly this complex?
“Are your words true?” Ziju Min gazed at Jiang Chen.
“Absolutely.” Jiang Chen smiled. “But we seem to be getting off-topic. Question nine only asked for three of those recipes.”
He could clearly see Ziju Min’s interest in the Puzzle. It was likely that the older man didn’t know much about it. His reaction wouldn’t be like this otherwise.
“Your answer is more than fine, my young friend. Another question outside the contest, though. Where does the Trinonary Sages’ Puzzle come from?” Ziju Min persevered shamelessly.
“Legend has it that the puzzle was created by an ancient master over several centuries. Twenty-seven spirit herbs can be combined into twenty-seven different kinds of pills. Apparently, no one’s broken that record since. If someone can come up with the twenty-eighth, he would surely leave his name in history.”
In the heavenly planes, this puzzle was a rather famous one. If there were only rumors and fragments in Divine Abyss Continent, that meant the continent was a level far lower than the heavenly planes.
The other factions’ geniuses were perplexed by Jiang Chen’s eloquence. And where had this fellow come from? Since when did House Yan have someone like this? They’d never even heard of someone called Shao Yuan.
But his appearance and words marked him as someone extraordinary. His scholarship and manner distinguished him that much at least. Was this the rise of another difficult opponent?
Everyone came to the sudden realization that House Yan’s score had risen once more. It was in first place along the Jade Lake Sect now, both factions having thirty points each.
It looked like they’d prematurely discounted House Yan with Yan Qingsang’s silence. Though there still wasn’t a peep out of Yan Qingsang, this Shao Yuan had come out of nowhere to earn another ten points. House Yan could very well end up in the top three.
The house probably wouldn’t get first place – there was the Jade Lake Sect after all – but beating the other factions didn’t seem particularly unlikely. Almost half of the questions were done. House Yan led ahead by a considerable margin.
Some factions hadn’t earned any points at all yet.
Ziju Min considered Jiang Chen thoughtfully for quite a while before nodding lightly. “Thank you for sharing, little friend. If I may, I’d like to consult you about this afterwards.”
The word ‘consult’ from Ziju Min astonished his collective audience. The other geniuses glanced sidelong at Jiang Chen, unable to process what they had just witnessed.
Xiahou Ying was one of the few who scrutinized Jiang Chen closely the most. Clearly, his display had piqued the girl’s curiosity.
Jiang Chen curved his lips, then returned to his seat.
Yan Zhenhuai was very pleased about the increase in House Yan’s points.
Yan Qingsang grinned excitedly as well. He wasn’t at all upset by Jiang Chen’s show of skill. He could guess easily enough that Brother Shao Yuan had done so to protect him.