Chapter 500: Temporarily First
Many of the elders guessed that Jiang Chen had simply passed over the more difficult questions to finish faster. Given the difficulty level, it was an entirely reasonable supposition. Candidates who finished faster would hold a greater advantage if everyone’s scores were similar.
“This Jiang Chen is still too young, it seems. He couldn’t retain his composure and thought the finals would be as casual as the preliminaries.” An elder sighed softly.
It was apparent that some of the elders had already made their own judgements about the quality of Jiang Chen’s answers, given that he’d finished in an hour. They all felt that Jiang Chen was doing this for the limelight, placing far too much emphasis on speed. This kind of method would absolutely impact the quality of his answers.
Elder Yun Nie, on the other hand, remained serene and impartial. Jiang Chen was someone he had his eyes on. From what he knew of Jiang Chen, the latter wasn’t the sort to lose his cool so easily. He must have had his own reasons for handing in his answers this early.
However, the rules prevented him from looking at Jiang Chen’s scroll before all the others had finished. All the scrolls had to be graded at the same time.
At that moment, Mu Gaoqi was answering the last couple of five point questions in his room. He was quite agitated at this moment, because he’d just discovered the fruits of his discussion with Jiang Chen last night. The last three questions were directly referencing two of the ancient recipes they’d talked about! This made Mu Gaoqi feel that a stroke of luck had descended from the heavens and smacked him upside the head.
“Brother Chen, you are truly my benefactor.” Mu Gaoqi was excited beyond belief. “It’s impossible for me to get anything wrong on the two point and three point questions, and I’m quite certain about the five point questions earlier. If I can answer two of these final questions correctly, I’ll be able to sit at a solid 95 points! Even Ouyang Chao won’t be able to do this, right??”
It would be a lie to say that Mu Gaoqi wasn’t flustered at this moment. However, he quickly calmed down. He knew that now wasn’t the time to be proud. He who laughed at the end would laugh the loudest.
When he reached the last question, Mu Gaoqi was at a loss when faced with the ancient recipe. But he quickly made the decision to give up on it. As opposed to wasting time here, he was better off checking his other answers. He should make certain there were no mistakes and hand it in earlier to gain more time. After all, it was highly likely that a competition of this caliber would come down to completion time when deciding the final rankings.
Mu Gaoqi’s greatest gains after following Jiang Chen, apart from pill dao knowledge and the baptism in the spring, was the shift in his personality. He’d been indecisive and spineless before, afraid of loss, but now there were some hints of determination and resolve in his personality.
Outside of the testing area, the elders were still sitting there. Even fifteen minutes after Jiang Chen, not even one person had walked out. “Heh heh, everyone, who do you think will be second?” An elder started chatting to pass the time.
“I’m going to guess that it’s Elder Ouyang’s grandson, Ouyang Chao?”
“Mm, I too look favorably upon Ouyang Chao. He’s a scion of the Herbal Hall after all! From where I sit, he’s a dependable asset, with a solid foundation in theory. He’s absolutely a hot contender this time!”
“Haha, it seems that everyone thinks the same as me. We think highly of Ouyang Chao!”
Elder Ouyang De smiled gently, his heart filled with pride. He firmly believed that his direct grandson Ouyang Chao would seize one of the residences. He’d never once doubted it. Even if Linghu Feng hadn’t been stripped of his qualifications, Ouyang De didn’t believe that anyone could threaten Ouyang Chao. Even though he couldn’t quite see through Jiang Chen, even if the latter had taken a slot, the other would still go to his grandson.
Therefore, he was quite at ease and had a proud smile on his coolly composed face. A figure walked out of the chambers as they continued chatting.
“Mm?” Ouyang De’s body suddenly trembled, because he was the first to realize that this wasn’t his grandson, but someone else. This person was noticeably younger than Ouyang Chao, and a few hints of a lighthearted, carefree attitude about him that didn’t resemble Ouyang Chao. His robe and upswept hair made him appear quite ethereal, and it gave him a vaguely otherworldly feeling.
“Mu Gaoqi?” An elder recognized the person.
One had to say, Mu Gaoqi truly didn’t have much influence in the sect. He didn’t have much of a backer in the Herbal Hall, and wasn’t a scion of the Hall either.
Elder Yun Nie was also slightly surprised to see Mu Gaoqi. He knew of the name, and that Mu Gaoqi had recently grown close to Jiang Chen, but what surprised him at this moment wasn’t just Mu Gaoqi’s speed, but rather his demeanor.
There was a particularly otherworldly aura that wreathed around Mu Gaoqi, making him appear quite extraordinary. This kind of aura was almost nonexistent among the pill dao geniuses of the entire Regal Pill Palace. No wonder the Regal Pill Palace disciples all called him the Wood Demigod. He certainly wasn’t a simple character indeed.
“Disciple Mu Gaoqi has completed the first category and requests to enter the second.” Mu Gaoqi’s personality had previously been weak, but now he seemed to able to stand on his own two feet in front of so many sect elders. He didn’t look the least bit uncomfortable.
“Mm? This Mu Gaoqi is normally vacillating and cowardly, unable to even speak in front of sect heavyweights. How is he so at ease today, and neither cringing nor arrogant to boot?” Some of the elders were surprised as well.
The more Elder Yun Nie saw of Mu Gaoqi, the more he liked what he saw. He nodded, “Go, lead him to the second category.”
After Mu Gaoqi left, Ouyang De’s expression became a bit ugly.
Everyone favored Ouyang Chao, and he had tacitly agreed to it as well. But the second to come out was Mu Gaoqi, not his grandson!
“Heh heh, young folks now are unable to remain calm. In my eyes, a pill dao genius should be as steady as Ouyang Chao!” An elder firmly in Ouyang De’s camp tried to comfort the elder in this manner. “Indeed, Ouyang Chao’s mindset is steady and he keeps his cool in the face of adversity. This is the basic quality of a pill master.”
Yet the other elders seemed to have temporarily gone deaf, not joining in on the stream of praises. It was obvious to everyone that Hallmaster Yun Nie seemed to admire Mu Gaoqi a tad. Since the Hallmaster liked this boy, it wasn’t a good idea to overly praise Ouyang Chao. When it came to fawning on Ouyang De or Elder Yun Nie, did such a decision even need second thought?
Ouyang Chao finally emerged after two thirds of the allotted time had passed. One couldn’t glean any trace of emotion from his face. Baby faced Ling Hui’er walked out shortly thereafter, with her stunning body on display. When the others saw how she was slightly pouting, they could tell that she wasn’t quite satisfied with how she’d displayed her skills in the first category.
Ouyang De actually really wanted to ask Ouyang Chao how he’d done, but he controlled himself in the end. If he asked now, he would give others something to criticize about and might even disturb Ouyang Chao’s train of thought. As such, he kept his mouth shut.
The second category was that of vision, and it was a truly important dividing line for a pill master.
Supreme observation was required to prevent any accidents from happening when refining pills. An eye for detail was even more necessary when determining the growth of spirit herbs, and an absolute prerequisite for selecting seeds of proper grade.
There were only ten questions in this category, and each was worth ten points. There were five topics to focus on, identifying seeds, flames, cauldrons, pills, and recipes. There were two questions within each topic, for a total of ten questions.
For someone trained in the God’s Eye like Jiang Chen, his vision truly had no equal. Add that to his rich knowledge of pills, there was no doubt about his victory.
He used an even shorter span of time to complete the ten questions of the second category. When he emerged, most candidates had only just finished the first category, and the elders who’d previously questioned him were speechless.
They were no longer certain that Jiang Chen was purposefully pursuing speed. Even if a young pill master was a genius, they still wouldn’t have this speed.
He likewise displayed an implacable momentum in the strength of heart category, completely unstoppable in his progress. When he emerged from the third category, the scores for the answers to theory had just been tallied up.
Jiang Chen’s name was at the top of the ranking with a full score.
Astonishment rippled across the scene. The elders were struck speechless, and had no idea how to react. They even felt their faces burn with the feeling that Jiang Chen had slapped them all.
“What a perverted genius, this is absolutely astounding! Finishing the scrolls in an hour. And with full marks… is Jiang Chen really from the sixteen kingdoms?”
“Indeed! It makes more sense if he came from the Upper Eight Realms! From the sixteen kingdoms? This doesn’t make any sense at all. Just how strong are the Precious Tree Sect’s foundations that they could cultivate such a genius?”
All of them sighed, hearts awash with deep emotion.
A few of them whose thoughts ran a bit quicker couldn’t help but wonder if Palace Head Dan Chi was colluding with Elder Yun Nie to ensure that Jiang Chen won? However, they didn’t say anything.
If this wasn’t the case, then why was Jiang Chen so powerful? He didn’t seem like it at all! It didn’t make sense for him to achieve this score with his age and background.
Of course, they could only speculate. They didn’t dare voice anything out loud. Wouldn’t they just be courting death if they questioned the Palace Head or Elder Yun Nie?
Ouyang De’s face was ashen; he was the most dejected out of the group. Thanks to Jiang Chen’s performance, his grandson was firmly suppressed. The most critical thing wasn’t just that Jiang Chen was first in the rankings, but that Ouyang Chao had only come in third place! Mu Gaoqi actually held second!
Jiang Chen: 100 points
Mu Gaoqi: 95 points
Ouyang Chao: 90 points
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