His productivity and quality were both incredibly high, with even more incredible speed of refinement. Jiang Chen’s results had overturned the observers’ collective understanding of the Mirage Introspection Pill in every respect.
His refinement finished, the young man placed the fifteen pills before the neutral judges. “Everyone,” he smiled faintly, “actions speak louder than words. These are the results from my refinement. Please review them.”
He’d intentionally increased his volume to attract the Jade Lake Sect’s attention.
Several pill dao masters from the sect had participated in the battle, but none of them had even started on the finishing stages of the refinement process, much less be completely done. These words made a mockery of their efforts.
They’d desperately wanted to prove that he’d been dishonest, but he’d used the simplest and most aboveboard process to slap them in the face. And they, so-called upright and true pill masters, were showing everyone that no one was even close to finishing.
Without comparison, it was difficult to determine excellence in many things. The comparison between Jiang Chen and the Jade Lake Sect exacerbated the issue. How could it have been dishonesty that produced so many high-quality pills in such a short period of time?
After submitting the pills, Jiang Chen returned to Ziju Min’s side without further prompting. “Master Ziju, I’m glad I didn’t disappoint you.”
Ziju Min smiled. “Very good. It seems I’ve underestimated you yet again, Shao Yuan. Each detail in your refinement hides great mystery in its simplicity. I feel that your pill dao knowledge far surpasses that of a normal young genius. Which great master did you have the blessing of studying under? Even if you’d started learning pill dao as a fetus, it would still be amazing for you to have accomplished this much.”
Jiang Chen smiled back. “My family has passed down pill dao heritage for generations. When I was young, I was once enlightened. After that, I seem to receive pointers from another in my dreams. I always awake after learning many other things about pill dao.”
An explanation like that would be laughed out of the room by ordinary people. But those in the world of martial dao believed such claims implicitly.
Ziju Min sighed. “Is that so? I see now. Rather than being taught by another in your dreams, I think you have memories from a previous life. Perhaps you were once someone extremely important and capable. The reincarnation of your spirit failed to erase all of your recollections, and they are manifesting in your current life.”
Ziju Min really was a very astute man. Truth was, Jiang Chen was indeed carrying memories from a previous life. He’d just explained it in a more subtle and indirect way to make it more believable.
Yan Qingsang was right behind Ziju Min. He was astonished to see Jiang Chen finish the refinement so easily, but gave his friend a thumbs-up anyway.
Old Immortal Brightstar’s usually reddish visage was darkly dismal. Jiang Chen’s quick completion far surpassed their own results, and the old man knew they had lost.
The Jade Lake Sect wasn’t the only loser today. The so-called truth they’d held on to for so many years had entirely collapsed. Perhaps Silverstripe Grass really was the best choice for the Mirage Introspection Pill?
Finally, the sect members finished their refinement one by one, displaying their results as they did so.
The best performer out of them all had managed to produce twelve pills, but only three were supreme rank. Jiang Chen had convincingly and unquestionably crushed his competition in every aspect.
The silence that ensued was quiet enough to hear a pin drop.
The pill masters who’d participated in the contest were numb with despair, their faces ashen. They had applied their utmost strength to the task, but this outlandishly capable youth had finished his own refinement in an overwhelmingly triumphant way. The gap between the two sides was far too large to bridge.
Ziju Min smiled serenely. “Daoist Brightstar, the results are out. I think I don’t need to give a formal conclusion. We all have eyes, do we not?”
The old immortal was somber. After quite a while, he recited in a hoarse voice, “Daoist Ziju, the spoils go only to the victor. I have nothing to say. You may consider this affair concluded. The Jade Lake Sect admits defeat, although we will reserve judgment on the Mirage Introspection Pill. How the pill is defined in the future is entirely up to you.”
His tone showed that he was still reluctant to yield the argument. The battle and bet was lost, but the pill’s redefinition was left up to Ziju Min. The subtext was that the Jade Lake Sect wouldn’t acknowledge it.
Ziju Min smiled easily. “Redefining the Mirage Introspection Pill isn’t one man’s business. The truth will be accepted by everyone sooner or later.”
“Daoist Ziju,” one man piped up in question. “Truthfully, I’ve tried replacing Illusory Spirit Grass with Silverstripe Grass in the refinement process. We all have, in fact, but none of us have succeeded. That’s why we suspected him in the first place.”
Jiang Chen curved his lips. “Gentlemen, the truth isn’t limited to what you know. It’s rumored that there’s a pill that allows someone to attain godhood in a single instant, ascending from empyrean to the divine realm. Does it mean that it doesn’t exist if you can’t refine it? Can you call those who can dishonest for being privy to that knowledge?”
He stood up suddenly, sweeping his sleeves about himself to draw a large circle.
“The worlds of pill and martial dao are both as vast as oceans. The amount you and I know constitute the area within this circle, and outside it lies the great unknown. If you think that your comprehension spans all possible truths, well… I think that’s a patently ridiculous stance to take.”
Jiang Chen’s analogy was very accurate and embarrassed some a great deal.
That’s right. Who would dare say that there were no truths save for what they knew? No one had the confidence to make such a bold claim. The knowledge of each and every man was limited in some way.
Many neutral judges who’d been invited today sank into contemplation with this philosophical comparison. The young man’s explanation was excellent food for thought. Ziju Min was as amazed as the rest.
He was musing over the wisdom that Jiang Chen’s words contained as well. The more he mulled it over, the more accurate he found the portrayal.
Ziju Min sighed. “Everyone lives within his own circle and works to enlarge it to the best of his abilities. But compared to the boundless infinity of the world, even the largest circle is limited by its own boundaries. None of you possibly believes themselves to have comprehended the world, yes?”
Old Immortal Brightstar was at a loss for words. He felt the same consternation as Ziju Min and the rest. He wavered in that moment.
Was Silverstripe Grass really better than Illusory Spirit Grass? Had common knowledge about the Mirage Introspection Pill been wrong all along? Had their staunch counterattack been unjust?
The old immortal let out a long sigh. His gaze upon Jiang Chen lost much of its hostility, curiosity welling up in its place.
“Young Shao Yuan, I’ve lived for more than ten thousand years, but I’ve never heard of the possibility that Silverstripe Grass is more appropriate for this pill. Perhaps we old men are the ignorant ones. I do have one unresolved question. What secret is there to using the Silverstripe Grass? How come our attempts have never resulted in complete pills?”
“Every detail in pill dao may affect the success of finishing the refinement. Silverstripe Grass is delicate in nature and requires great finesse to avoid ruining the whole batch. Therefore, plenty of experimentation and familiarization with the process is required before achieving success.”
“Young man, do you have any tips on using Silverstripe Grass in the recipe? Can you share them with us, or is it an exclusive secret of yours?” Old Immortal Brightstar knew that the request was a bit unreasonable.
Jiang Chen smiled slightly. “It’s nothing worth keeping a secret about. However, I’m currently a student of the Eternal Sacred Land. Publicizing these tips would thus require Master Ziju’s approval.”
All eyes turned to Ziju Min.
The pill sovereign nodded to himself and admired the youth all the more. There was no arrogance or audacity after the young man’s victory, and he knew to respect the opinions of his seniors.
The more time Ziju Min spent with him, the more he liked him.
“Daoist Ziju, it would be supremely beneficial if Silverstripe Grass were to replace Illusory Spirit Grass in the pill’s recipe. You are a pill dao giant in your own right – you won’t keep that from us, will you?”
Ziju Min smiled indifferently. “I’ve never kept anything to myself that could benefit the entire world of pill dao. I steadfastly supported Shao Yuan in this not because I have some grudge against the Jade Lake Sect or my peers in pill dao, but out of my desire to improve our divine nation’s pill dao skills as a whole. I hope that our nation’s cultivators spend more time on pill dao and it sees more activity over time. Only then will we stay ahead of other factions to remain among the Ten Divine Nations’ ranks.”
Though his speech carried suspicions of self-promotion, his starting point did indeed consider all his stated considerations. He really did want the nation’s pill dao level to increase as a whole, and for all the nation’s factions to place more importance on it.
Eternal Divine Nation was certainly not the weakest among the ten, but its pill dao was nearly last place. As one of the Eternal Sacred Land’s most esteemed pill dao masters, Ziju Min carried a great deal of responsibility on his shoulders.
The attention the Mirage Introspection Pill had attracted was very effective at stimulating collective passion for pill dao as a whole. Ziju Min’s attitude won him public respect.
“Master Ziju, if the sacred land can share the secret of Silverstripe Grass, it would be the great fortune of the nation’s pill dao factions.”
“Yes. This will allow us to leave our own colorful mark in the pill dao history of the Ten Divine Nations!” All kinds of praise was showered upon Ziju Min.