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Shi Xuan knew that Jiang Chen was intentionally shaming him as part of overall tactics. He was too important to take it sitting down regardless of his own tolerance for such actions; not that he had much of it in the first place.

I need to get rid of this kid after all this is over. My hatred cannot be sated otherwise.

The older man was truly angry now.

He knew deep down that the young man was doing exactly what he’d done when he was younger, issuing his own challenges against the older generation of pill dao giants.

His own methods had been rather extreme and underhanded at times; but the same couldn’t be said for this young man so far. His openness seemed to be even more effective. Getting a taste of his own medicine gave Shi Xuan a rather different impression—everything seemed thoroughly malicious.

A thought flashed through his mind. Was this karma?

He had challenged many pill dao giants through unorthodox methods, and he was now being challenged as a pill dao giant by a younger man in turn?

Malice filled his heart. This can’t be. Absolutely not! How can I, the great Shi Xuan, be aggravated by this clown? I’m going to kill this kid after the battle, no matter the cost!

Infuriating others was his personal hobby, a way to quickly climb up the social ladder. But he didn’t brook the same from others at all. To him, it was the gravest of sins.

Even the top ten pill dao masters in Myriad Abyss wouldn’t be able to make heads nor tails of my formation diagram in the heat of the moment. I doubt that kid will find half a clue in the time given, much less its problems.

Shi Xuan had a lot of faith in his formation diagram. Therefore, he considered it impossible to lose the second round. He was already beginning to ponder whether he could fend off his opponent’s counterattack.

However, the young man chose this moment to laugh. “I thought this diagram would be a lot harder,” he sighed. “This seems almost too trivial to be serious. Isn’t this just rudimentary doodling? What worth is there in this diagram? Shi Xuan, did you give me the wrong one?”

Shi Xuan felt something rise to his throat. He was furious enough to cough up blood.

The wrong one?

He was very proud of the diagram. Though it had been hastily drawn, it had been imbued with the profound essence behind the actual formation. And yet, the kid had called it a doodle! From a beginner, no less?! Was there anything more insulting? 

Shi Xuan was well and truly enraged. Without being constrained by his circumstances, he would’ve wanted nothing more than to charge at his young opponent and land a few well-deserved punches.

Thankfully, reason overcame impulse in the end. If he really did that, his good reputation would be lost for life.

Suppressing his anger with visible effort, he took a deep breath before continuing icily. “Looks like you can’t stop running your mouth. You say my diagram’s a doodle of a beginner, but where’s your answer? Don’t tell me you can’t figure out what’s wrong with something this simple?”

Frankly, Shi Xuan didn’t believe Jiang Chen for a minute. He was firmly of the opinion that the young man was pretending.  

Stretching lazily, Jiang Chen drawled, “Something as crude and amateur as this diagram is a failure in itself. The idea that you want me to find one specific problem is too difficult. There are problems everywhere, honestly. But since this is a battle, I’ll trouble myself to…

“Ah, that’s too much effort. I’ll just draw the right diagram perfectly. The wiser observers should understand my work.”

A formation diagram that may have been convoluted for Shi Xuan was simplicity itself for Jiang Chen. It seemed that Myriad Abyss was uncommonly backward when it came to formation diagrams. In the young man’s expert opinion, the diagram was incredibly primitive.

The pill dao formations common to the heavenly planes possessed overwhelming complexity that was headache-inducing. The formation in front of him was really only fit for a child. 

In his previous life, Jiang Chen didn’t care to use diagrams of this caliber to teach even the most artless of students. He got to work swiftly, keeping his eyes closed all the while. In fact, he drew so quickly it seemed like he was the one doodling.

It didn’t take long for him to depict the formation in its entirety.

“Here, that should be it. Take a look. I’ve labeled every issue with your diagram on my version. Don’t try any tricks!” Laughing, Jiang Chen turned to Yan Qingsang. “Brother Yan, come. Take the diagram to any audience members interested in it.”

Since there was no judge, it fell to the pill dao giants watching to maintain fairness. There was a basic amount of that much objectivity present, at least. Fundamentally, truth couldn’t be twisted into falsehood.

After the review, everyone marveled at the intricacy of Jiang Chen’s diagram. Many pill dao giants were speechless at his skill. What kind of young man was this? He could draw such amazing pill dao formation diagrams despite his youth. Every stroke in his diagram was the work of a master.

Jiang Chen’s diagram quickly made its way into Shi Xuan’s hands.

The older man paled as soon as he glanced over  it. A heavy blow hammered his chest. He could almost visualize a mocking expression in place of the diagram; it brought him such shame that he wanted to bury his head in the sand.

Nondescript panic filled his heart, plunging him into a frozen abyss of terror. His pride and joy had been crushed so easily and effortlessly—and demeaned in the process to boot!

The ‘doodling of a beginner’…

A comment like that was the harshest of slaps to a pill dao master. Was something so valuable to Shi Xuan considered worthless trash?

The others from the Flora Sacred Land felt a shadow travel through their hearts when they saw Shi Xuan’s expression and reaction. They were far from thrilled about the battle’s proceedings.

Though the second round wasn’t yet over, there was more than enough cause for concern. If Shi Xuan couldn’t complete his opponent’s question, then…

The unthinkable would occur.

Shi Xuan couldn’t afford to lose the battle. Losing meant the destruction of his reputation and the surrender of his freedom as a slave. He was supposed to be a future pillar of the Flora Sacred Land, someone they absolutely could not afford to sacrifice!

Though he hadn’t completely grown into his strength yet, he was already top three in the sacred land. Furthermore, he had plenty of unexplored potential.

Alas, he was being defeated by someone supposed to be his prey. His miserable failure here would be entirely unexpected, to say the least.

“Brother Shi,” one of the Flora pill dao giants messaged. “Do you want us to find an excuse to stop this bet midway?”

“Yes, we can’t let it go on.”

Then, something astonishingly embarrassing occurred. The messages were intercepted by ripples from an unknown formation, which captured and played back the voices perfectly to the entire crowd.

There was raucous laughter from the other attendees.

The two pill dao giants from the Flora Sacred Land reddened with chagrin. They thought they were streaking in darkness, but their indiscretion had been spotlighted for everyone in the street to see. It felt more disgusting than swallowing a fly.

Jiang Chen chuckled. “Look how helpful your peers are, Shi Xuan. They’ve thought of a way out for you already. Shall I helpfully wait for them to think of a good excuse? And then give you a push when they do?”

The laughter from the audience intensified.

Shi Xuan was on the verge of total breakdown. One humiliating thing after another had corroded his confidence. Even his peers’ scheme was in the open.

If they called it off now, the Flora Sacred Land would forever have a stain upon its record. It would henceforth be one of the biggest jokes in Myriad Abyss’s pill dao world.

Shi Xuan really wanted to extract himself, but he knew it to be impossible. He had to press on, no matter how uncomfortable it made him.

If he performed well, he at least had a chance to make this round a draw. If he could answer Jiang Chen’s question, then win the third round later on, they would be tied. An excuse would be reasonable then.

Sometimes, elegance could be sacrificed for the sake of safety.

However, Jiang Chen clearly wasn’t planning to give him the chance. For his question, he planned to dispense with scholarship in favor of a different approach.

“My second question doesn’t relate to pill recipes or formations. Here’s a chance for you to turn the tables. Under equal conditions, let us compare our kindling techniques. How about it?”

Kindling a flame was a very important technique when refining pills. Good fundamentals in this area meant improved control over the amount of heat applied. In other words, it intimately related to a pill master’s true level.

Everyone was stunned at the simplicity of Jiang Chen’s proposal. They had expected a very difficult problem from him. Wasn’t he intentionally giving Shi Xuan an opportunity to come back?

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