The second battle over the Mirage Introspection Pill was several magnitudes larger and more important than the last. This time, even the Jade Lake Sect’s heavyweights were present. Almost every expert from the sect was here, and a few other invited pill dao greats as well.
They were in clear disbelief that Silverstripe Grass could replace Illusory Spirit Grass. How could a truth that was public knowledge be so easily overturned?
The battle was held in a place neutral to both sides. Leading on Jade Lake’s side was Old Immortal Brightstar. He was an ancient savant of the sect who’d lived for many, many years. Within his sect, he was considered the best of the best. His presence here showed the gravity that the Jade Lake had assigned to the situation.
“Daoist Ziju, I have no intention of offending the sacred land with this battle. It’s solely my fixation with pill dao technique alone. I want to solidify our current authoritative understanding of the Mirage Introspection Pill once and for all.”
Old Immortal Brightstar had some right to put on airs before even Ziju Min. He was so much older and had a much longer history in the world. In fact, he technically was a senior to Ziju Min.
Ziju Min smiled slightly. “You’re right, Daoist Brightstar. The truth must be brought to light and protected. Let us take this opportunity today to find out what that truly is.”
Both men were polite on the surface, but a hidden undercurrent of rivalry was clear enough.
Brightstar cackled. “Exactly. Let’s use today to get to the bottom of this. We have so many pill giants and gurus here that no one will be able to pull off any tricks. Let’s get back to the main topic at hand. Daoist Ziju, please introduce Shao Yuan onto the stage.”
Ziju Min glanced at Jiang Chen without further ceremony. The young man strode out calmly from his position at the older man’s side. There would be no courtesy spared for people looking to cause him trouble.
Old Immortal Brightstar scrutinized Jiang Chen closely, pride flaring upon his wrinkled face.
“Extremely young.” He proclaimed this with the tone of a wizened senior.
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. “You are as astute as your name suggests, Old Immortal Brightstar.”
“Young man, I have some doubts about the Mirage Introspection Pill. What sleight of hand did you use to trade the Silverstripe Grass for Illusory Spirit Grass?”
“Hardly, sir. If Silverstripe Grass is the best choice in the first place, what need would I have for sleight of hand? It’s no fault of mine that the Jade Lake Sect has put Illusory Spirit Grass on a pedestal all these years.” Jiang Chen could hear the obvious undertones in the old man’s words. He implying that Jiang Chen had used deceitful methods!
Thus, he didn’t hesitate for a moment in firing back.
“You’ve a glib tongue, young man.” A helper whom the old immortal had invited rebuked from the opposite side.
“Isn’t that right? A youngster’s talent is wasted if not applied to the straight and narrow. I hear that you’ve become a student of the Eternal Sacred Land, young man. You’re blessed to have Daoist Ziju’s guidance. I hope you learn some morals and ethics from him. It’s not good to resort to dishonesty in the world of pill dao. We have a zero tolerance policy for that around here.”
A different man was speaking up, using his age as a cudgel. He was going so far as to declare that Jiang Chen had cheated.
Ziju Min didn't wait for Jiang Chen to strike back. He smiled himself. “Stop scaring the young man, fellow daoists. The young should be encouraged for their innovations, even if they aren't necessarily correct. If you only frighten and threaten, you will demoralize all those in the field who are your juniors. Plus, others will get the wrong idea that you’re trying to keep them down.”
And who was Ziju Min?
Though he didn't possess great seniority in the world of pill dao, he was backed by the Eternal Sacred Land. He spoke with the commensurate confidence to match it.
Frankly speaking, he greatly despised that these pill masters were leaning on their seniority. Since they’d already agreed to a battle, they should’ve been fine with putting their skills to the test, rather than this juvenile name-calling.
Jiang Chen behaved with perfect magnanimity. “Master Ziju,” he smiled, “words have never been able to truly defeat someone before. I thought only young men enjoyed the sound of their own voice, so today has been an eye-opening experience. I maintain that I will teach them the necessary lesson through my actions.”
He was brimming with displeasure for these old codgers as well. However, he didn’t want to get into a shouting match right now. The quicker this pointless charade could conclude, the better.
If not for Ziju Min’s enthusiasm for this, he would have no interest in participating in the first place. Why would he want to prove something that had already been proven?
Moreover, he didn’t care about these people’s approval. Their denial of the truth only served to highlight their stupidity. What was there to prove to a bunch of idiots?
“Alright, that’s enough. There’s no reason to waste time in pointless argument. Why not let the battle commence?”
“Absolutely. Let’s start!” Many pill dao representatives had been invited; most had remained neutral arbiters. They were more interested in an exciting contest than anything else.
Jiang Chen’s eyes focused. “Let’s.”
“Bring out the materials for examination.”
Aside from the difference of respective grasses, all the materials given to both parties were identical.
Ziju Min was excessively cautious. He appraised the materials with hands-on interest, worried that an issue would arise in this stage. After ensuring there were no problems whatsoever, he nodded. “You may begin.”
Worried about cheating, the Jade Lake Sect wanted to test Jiang Chen’s materials as well.
After a period, both parties and the judges were satisfied with the veracity and nature of their ingredients.
“The materials have been examined. Let the contest… begin!”
The last time Jiang Chen refined the Mirage Introspection Pill, it’d been his first. Thus, he had been somewhat unfamiliar with the process despite its success. His second time felt rather different.
Most importantly, he had a different attitude this time around. The last time had been a simple competition, but this time, he wanted to vent his fury.
He poured his entire being into the refinement process as a result. Whenever he fully devoted himself to refining a cauldron of pills, the results tended to be terrifying.
Compared to his last two hour refinement, he was aiming for a completion time of approximately one hour. Despite that, he didn’t rush for the sake of cutting down on time.
Each step was neatly and cleanly executed. The methodology within contained many unexpected surprises. Seemingly ordinary steps contained the essence of his pill dao knowledge from his previous life.
Though only pill dao experts were present, they were nevertheless collectively astounded at the perfection in the minutiae of Jiang Chen’s pill refinement. The smallest of movements to warm the cauldron seemed inconsequential at first glance, but actually contained tremendous detail.
Kindling flame was done with an elegant but effective flourish, pleasant merely to behold. Many of the observers found this remarkable indeed.
Even Ziju Min was somewhat moved.
He had known Jiang Chen’s pill dao talent to be tremendous; he’d seen the youth in action and considered the latter’s foundations extremely solid. But things no longer appeared as simple as that. This young man was a humongous treasure trove, possessing finds seemingly without end.
The rapidity of Jiang Chen’s refinement condensed his actual time into two-thirds of his prior experiment’s.
One hour was barely up when his cauldron hummed loudly.
Over at the Jade Lake Sect, Old Immortal Brightstar was overseeing the refinements of several pill dao experts. They proceeded at varying paces, but none were able to match Jiang Chen’s pace.
This odd phenomenon elicited uniform seriousness from every Jade Lake attendee. Pang Wei was especially incredulous. It hadn’t been long since they’d last seen each other, but that kid had gotten even faster!
“Pang Wei, what is this? How come his speed is different from what you said?” An executive from the sect had noticed the discrepancy.
Pang Wei felt large beads of sweat drip down his back as uncertainty and doubt visited him. These developments were entirely beyond his expectations.
“Don’t worry, Elder Ge. That kid pursued speed exclusively, so I doubt his results will be any good. He’s only shaming himself.”
“Yes. I don’t believe that the pill can be refined in just over an hour. Even the most expert pill dao experts in Myriad Abyss don't have that power.”
“Look, he’s about to open his cauldron. Maybe it’s all trash inside, hahaha!” The sect members were entirely skeptical.
Ziju Min’s eyes were glued to Jiang Chen’s cauldron. A keen light exuded from them, radiating more anxiety than Jiang Chen himself.
The lid opened to release bestial roars from within. Five-colored smoke poured out, wafting upward into the air. It was a scene extraordinary simply to witness.
Jiang Chen slapped his table lightly, making his cauldron to shake. In the next moment, the heart-shaped Mirage Introspection Pills leaped out like imps. They were crystalline and translucent, extremely beautiful to behold. Everyone was charmed by their splendor.
The finished pills this time numbered fifteen.
This exceeded Jiang Chen’s previous record. A cauldron of fifteen meant that there had been barely any waste. More importantly, all fifteen were nothing short of perfect. There was no pill immediately worse than the rest.
The sight of such remarkable pills would be engraved into the mind for the rest of one’s life.
Ziju Min’s suspended heart settled back down into its original place. He could naturally tell that nearly all fifteen Mirage Introspection Pills were of supreme rank. There were one or two high rank ones. No medium or low rank pills were in sight.