When Jiang Chen sat back down, he felt unified attention from several fronts concentrate on House Yan once more. The factions that hadn’t thought much of the house were considering it with wary eyes a second time.
The Jade Lake Sect had proceeded at its own pace before, but its members were clearly troubled now. They glanced in House Yan’s direction with some regularity from time to time.
Jiang Chen knew that lying low previously had earned him a brief reprieve. It wasn’t going to be easy to fool their opponents any more. Now that House Yan had thirty points, the other factions would view it as a rival to surpass regardless of his efforts.
Still, it wasn’t a worrying development. As long as they proceeded according to plan at a decent tempo, things would remain under control.
As the dark horse of the competition, House Yan unavoidably became the focus of attention. Without Jiang Chen’s active participation, they had no advantage in the proceeding questions.
Because he wanted to contain their momentum, Yan Zhenhuai and Yan Qingsang were forced to poorly combat the pill geniuses by themselves. Whenever they had an inkling of what the answer could be, others had often already taken spoken it.
Sixteen questions came and went.
Jiang Chen acted only once more after the ninth. House Yan now stood at forty points. The Jade Lake Sect on the other hand, had reached fifty points in a valiant attempt at victory.
These two were the frontrunners in the competition. The third-highest total among the other factions had at most twenty points. It seemed quite difficult for anyone else to contest either leading party’s position.
Only four questions remained. It was time for Jiang Chen to mount a counterattack in the eleventh hour.
Ziju Min was mildly surprised at House Yan’s lackluster performance. He was a bit suspicious; given their ability before now, their score should’ve been much higher. Were they hiding their strength?
He himself was quickly scared by the thought flickering through his mind. Hadn’t House Yan been synonymous with mediocrity a short while ago? Why did he think it was hiding its ability?
“Question seventeen is about the fire used to refine pills…” Ziju Min went on.
Jiang Chen blinked without hesitation. Yan Qingsang raised his hand instantly. Because it had been a while since he’d done so, everyone else blinked as well.
Whenever Yan Qingsang raised his hand like this, his answer generally carried a lot of certainty behind it. Certainty that Jiang Chen gave him, of course.
When he cleanly gave the correct answer once again, Ziju Min pondered him thoughtfully, then turned to Jiang Chen, then to Yan Zhenhuai. House Yan’s youths were absolutely pretending to be out of their element. One of them had to be an expert in pill dao.
But which of the trio was it? Yan Zhenhuai was the most likely candidate, then the young man named Shao Yuan. Yan Qingsang was the least likely.
Of course, there was another possibility as well. If the ancient jade that Yan Qingsang had dug up in Bluesmoke was extremely valuable and contained a heritage beyond pill emperor, then…
Ziju Min didn’t know the actual reason. However, he was sure that House Yan had hid its own strength. It was showing vestiges of its true ability only now.
Only three questions remained. House Yan and the Jade Lake Sect were tied at fifty points each.
Among the remaining factions, two were at twenty, three more at ten, and two hadn’t gotten any points at all. First place wasn’t the only position in jeopardy, third place looked rather uncertain too.
It was impossible for the other factions to catch up, and many were beginning to regret having participated in the first place. Some cursed House Yan for feigning incompetence.
That house had seemed rather reluctant about buying in with a hundred million in the beginning — it had seemed an exorbitant sum to them. But now, it seemed that House Yan’s geniuses had intentionally taken that attitude. It’d been a front to mask their incredible ability.
Even the Jade Lake Sect’s geniuses were having similar doubts. However ,the sect had ever been proud of its pill dao skills. Even if they had any suspicions, they wouldn’t raise them – out of contempt, if nothing else.
Besides, there was nothing in the rules about using a bit of trickery to conceal one’s capabilities. A contest like this often saw the application of some strategy.
“The last three questions are before us. Please focus on what I’m about to say. They will determine your final ranking! Both first and third place are up in the air right now.” Ziju Min reminded everyone.
He didn’t really need to; his entire audience was aware of what was at stake. Everyone wanted to take home the last three questions – even a faction with zero points could get third place if it got all three right.
Though the prize was only a hundred million sky spirit stones, at least that meant there wouldn’t be any loss of capital. Furthermore, it was honorable enough to take the bronze here.
As for first and second place, even the most optimistic of factions knew it was impossible numerically. It was a fight between House Yan and the Jade Lake Sect.
The sect was a rather odd one. Among the three sects, it had a perfect male-female ratio. Each male disciple it took in was always accompanied by a female one. Thus, it had the occasional moniker of ‘Yin Yang Sect’.
Of course, that didn’t mean its disciples were allowed to intermingle freely. In order to become dao partners, interested students had to pass rigorous trials from the sect as well as meet a number of criteria. Additionally, compatibility of all kinds had to be appropriate to garner the sect’s approval.
Its standards were even stricter on any outsiders. It was almost impossible to become the dao partner of anyone from the Jade Lake Sect, whether male or female. It kept a very tight grip on all its disciples.
Therefore, the faction that attracted the most animosity in Eternal Divine Nation wasn’t House Yan, but the Jade Lake Sect.
House Yan was disliked solely because it was weak. Such a thing was common to humans in general. One would not earn respect without strength. The Jade Lake Sect, on the other hand, was disliked because it was completely unreasonable.
Even though Xiahou Ying was full of reasons for hating House Yan, she nevertheless found herself at a bit of an impasse. How were the other factions doing so terribly?
Why were these two at the top of the chart? Why couldn’t another power win the competition?
Among the factions in attendance today, she disliked House Yan the most; but she positively despised the Jade Lake Sect. She felt that it was far too arrogant. Only House Xiahou had the right to act like that! The sect didn’t deserve anything.
Thus, she had good reason to be upset – at least in her own eyes.
The tense struggle for placement continued.
The sect was ready for a brawl. Its desire to take first was quite intense. Its so-called foremost genius, Pang Wei, warned Yan Zhenhuai with a veiled glare that he didn’t want any competition for the accolade.
Yan Zhenhuai ignored the threat entirely. House Yan was inferior to the Jade Lake Sect to a certain degree, but that didn’t mean he was going to give up in this kind of situation. It was a golden opportunity for the house to make its name known. There was no reason for him to be scared witless by the anemic attempt at intimidation.
He wasn’t going to give up either the six hundred million prize for first place or cede the potential glory accorded to his house.
“Qingsang, Brother Shao Yuan, Jade Lake’s Pang Wei warned us just now to try to curb our momentum. I think he and his buddies want us to concede. Don’t mind him! Do whatever you need to win. I will personally take responsibility for anything that ensues.”
Yan Qingsang was furious when he heard. “Are those bastards trying to keep us down too? House Yan isn’t at the point of being a public enemy yet, right? They go too far!”
Jiang Chen smiled slightly. “Calm down, Brother Yan,” he advised Yan Qingsang. “The more they engage in this kind of behavior, the more fearful they are. This is an opportunity for us.”
There wasn’t much time for them to discuss, but Yan Zhenhuai’s attitude set the tone for their ensuing actions. They were going to give it their fullest!
Now that Jiang Chen knew what the leading youth from House Yan thought, he had nothing to be worried about. He would secure a decisive victory for House Yan in the final three. House Yan needed the honor from this victory to solidify its status. If the house became socially precarious, he would find it hard to make his way in Eternal society as well.
Though he didn’t particularly like the house, he had to be on House Yan’s side for Huang’er’s sake.
Question eighteen was another about pill recipes.
This time, an incomplete recipe was presented for perusal. Some supplemental spirit herbs were missing, and the geniuses were supposed to figure out exactly which ones.
This question was actually very difficult. If the answering person was unfamiliar with the recipe and attempted to come up with the answer on his own, it’d be almost as difficult as ascending to the skies.
But for Jiang Chen, any question that related to pill recipes was a freebie for him. He indicated that Yan Qingsang should raise his hand without hesitation.
The genius was becoming better and better at working with Jiang Chen. He complied incredibly quickly, but the Jade Lake Sect had matched his speed this time. Pang Wei had raised his hand almost simultaneously. Now this was a tricky dilemma.
The others looked on at the two vying factions with some interest. Because they had no chance at winning first place, they found it far more enjoyable to watch the show.
“Ying’er, these two factions raised their hands at the same time. Can you come up with an idea to decide who should answer?” As a senior, Ziju Min found it inconvenient to show any bias. He belonged to the Eternal Sacred Ground and had no inherent favoritism toward any of the factions. He didn’t want to make a decision that would anger either one.