Chapter 501: The Only Uncertainty
Although it was only the results from the first category, Ouyang De still couldn’t accept his grandson being ranked at number three. In his heart, he’d never thought that Ouyang Chao would fall short of the champion’s rank, much less than be ranked at number three! Not only was this a humiliation for Ouyang Chao, it was even more so for Ouyang De.
He’d been the crowd favorite before the competition and had enjoyed so much support, all sorts of fawning compliments and lavish praises. The continued flattery had been music to Ouyang De’s ears, and he’d accepted it all.
If Ouyang Chao really did lose out, it would make the Ouyang clan a laughingstock in the eyes of everyone.
Jiang Chen was a lone man kicking up a dust cloud up front, far ahead of the others and soon vaulting into the fourth category of manipulation. This category involved both refining pills and cultivating spirit herbs. There were three topics in total.
The first was about cultivating spirit herb seeds. To succeed, one had to plant the spirit herb seeds and have them germinate in three days. Completion was worth 20 points.
The second topic of refining pills was worth 40 points. If the pill refined was of lower rank, that would earn 10 points. Mid rank would be 20, upper rank 30, and supreme rank 40 points.
The third was relatively complex, requiring candidates to draw a refinement formation. This would undoubtedly the highlight of the competition, and was worth 40 points.
All three of them together were worth 100 points.
Jiang Chen received the seeds and its the accompanying materials, traveled to the cultivation area and observed the soil there to make an analysis before returning to the testing area. He made a few adjustments to the materials on hand and returned to the cultivation area to plant his seeds.
With that, the first topic was temporarily concluded; all that remained was regular fertilization. Jiang Chen made some time calculations before entering the second topic of refining Origin Fostering Pills.
The Origin Fostering Pills were the most popular pills in the Regal Pill Palace. Along with Spirit Consolidation Pills, these were the two pills most used in the sect.
Those who could refine the Origin Fostering Pills by themselves amongst the younger generation were few and far in between. A few decades of work were needed to do so successfully. Although Mu Gaoqi didn’t boast of proper training, his innate wood constitution and potential in pills allowed him to stand among the few who were capable of refining the Origin Fostering Pills alone.
For those geniuses entering the finals, this was also the first time that they were attempting to independently refine the Origin Fostering Pills. As for Jiang Chen, although he hadn’t personally refined this pill before, it didn’t mean he didn’t know how to. He only hadn’t wanted to waste his time. After all, the thousand Origin Fostering Pills he’d gained from Elder Yun Nie was enough for him to use for quite a while.
There were enough materials to produce six Origin Fostering Pills from one cauldron. The contest only required candidates to hand in their highest quality pill. Therefore, it was fine if there was one supreme rank and five other trash pills in the cauldron. Of course, the ingredients had special marks on them to exclude the possibility of taking out a pre-made Origin Fostering Pill to cheat.
Jiang Chen entered the pill refining room and took out the Skyweave Cauldron that Palace Head Dan Chi had gifted him. As he looked at it, he thought “Palace Head Dan Chi must’ve had certain hopes in gifting this cauldron to me. If I can’t use this cauldron to refine a supreme rank pill, it would be an insult to the cauldron.” Nevertheless, Jiang Chen was in no hurry. He meditated on the complete refining process, simulating it once in detail, before finally beginning.
He didn’t place all the ingredients in the cauldron in his first go, but used enough for one pill to experiment. As the process wound to a close, he opened the cauldron to find an upper rank pill.
Unsatisfied, Jiang Chen went back over his refining process, perfecting it further. He once again fired up the cauldron. On his third try, he opened the cauldron to find a supreme rank pill.
The Origin Fostering Pill wasn’t a particularly complex pill. In the Regal Pill Palace, many elders refined it in batches. Elder Yun Nie, for example, always refined twenty to thirty pills per cauldron. They usually ended up as upper rank pills. If he put his mind to it, it wasn’t a big matter to produce supreme rank pills either. Even when he refined in batches, Elder Yun Nie had a twenty to thirty percent chance of forming a supreme rank pill.
Jiang Chen’s second topic was over with the emergence of the supreme rank pill. When he left the pill refining room, Jiang Chen went to fertilize his seeds, then took a quick break before taking the third challenge, the final one of the competition. He would be finished with this last category.
Jiang Chen had striven for perfection in all his previous categories, and his results had been almost flawless. Most of these tests were child’s play to him. However, this last one did pose a slight bit of technical difficulty.
To Jiang Chen, he had studied formations in his past life, but he hadn’t had much experience in manipulating pill refining formations in this life. Still, this didn’t stump him, merely making him spend a bit more time, and time was the last thing he was short on. He was ahead of the other geniuses by almost an entire category. When he’d entered the last category, many candidates were still stuck at strength of heart. There weren’t many who’d entered the fourth category, so he had plenty of time.
Mu Gaoqi had emerged from the strength of heart category at this time. He had performed above his usual level in the first and second categories, but strength of heart had always been one of his weaknesses. Although it’d seen some improvement thanks to Jiang Chen in the past few days, he still hadn’t performed up to his own expectations.
“Sigh, I really need to do well in this category; it can’t be the one that drags me down. It’s a good thing that I did well in the first two. If I perform at my usual ability in strength of heart, it’ll only eliminate the advantage I build up in the first two categories. The true test is in fourth category! Manipulation of pills is my strength!” Although Mu Gaoqi wasn’t a scion of the Herbal Hall and was called self-taught by others in the Regal Pill Palace, his ability in manipulation was widely acknowledged. His innate wood constitution gave him a unique edge that others couldn’t copy.
The rankings for the first three categories were refreshed shortly after all the candidates entered the fourth category. Jiang Chen only seemed to have consolidated his first place, with full marks.
At this point, all the elders were numb to this result. All of them had now separated into two camps, either on one end of the spectrum. One side acknowledged that Jiang Chen was an unparalleled genius, and the other was certain that Palace Head Dan Chi and Elder Yun Nie were colluding to cheat for Jiang Chen.
Those who thought Jiang Chen to be cheating were waiting to see him make a fool of himself in the fourth category. If he received full marks in the first three and saw a tremendous drop in his scores in the last category, that was absolute evidence of cheating and grounds for them to bring up complaints. Therefore, they all watched him carefully, waiting for the sight of his spectacular failure.
This group of people included Ouyang De. He had firmly convinced himself that someone was helping Jiang Chen cheat. However, he was slightly gratified to see Ouyang chao’s score finally rush forward, beating Mu Gaoqi to take second place with 280 points.
Mu Gaoqi had had a poor performance in the strength of heart category and was now at third with 270 points, tying with Ling Hui’er. Fourth place was sitting at 260 points, and the rest weren’t more than 240 points. There was basically no hope of a Sovereign Area residence for them in the future.
Of course, nothing was absolute. The fourth category was quite intricate and it was still very possible for something out of the ordinary to develop in the fourth category, particularly since the fight for second was such a tight race.
Although Jiang Chen was at 300 points, those who thought he was cheating felt certain that he would reveal his true colors in the last category and be dragged down from his throne. Although Ouyang Chao’s advantage wasn’t that apparent in second placeo, Ouyang De felt even more reassured when he saw his grandson ranked second. With his understanding of the self-taught Mu Gaoqi, it was highly unlikely that he would surpass Ouyang Chao in the fourth category.
Of course, Ouyang De didn’t know that Mu Gaoqi had been baptized in the spirit spring, nor did the former know that Mu Gaoqi now possessed the spirit pearl of fire and ice. Only Jiang Chen and Mu Gaoqi knew of these two trump cards.
The baptism in the spirit spring had enhanced Mu Gaoqi’s potential. He would be even more masterful at cultivating spirit herbs, refining pills, and exercise more minute control over ingredients. The spirit pearl would enable him to have finer control over fire, and the greatest ace of all was the discourse the two had the night before. That discussion alone had allowed Mu Gaoqi to gain at least 20 more points in the previous categories!
This was why he was solidly in the top three, otherwise, with the previous Mu Gaoqi would have been trailing Ouyang Chao by over 10 points!
Shortly after Mu Gaoqi and the others entered the fourth category, Jiang Chen was sitting in the pill refining room, looking at his almost completed formation etching. This was just an initial draft, and as easy as breathing to Jiang Chen.
If it wasn’t for the fact that he’d yet to attempt this in this life and had acted rather cautiously, he would’ve long since been completed. Although it was a simple formation, he still took great care. This was worth 40 points, so he didn’t tolerate any mistakes.
Jiang Chen finally carved in the final stroke after an hour. Apart from the formation etching, there was also much to calculate with spirit stone allocation, intra-formation resonance, arrangement… There was much theory even to a novice formation.
Jiang Chen heaved a long sigh of relief when he confirmed that there were no mistakes after a round of checking. He had been hard at work for almost two straight days by now, and although he felt a bit tired, all of this was worth it. He firmly believed that with this kind of performance, a Sovereign Area residence was absolutely within his grasp. All he had to do now was to silently wait for the spirit seed to sprout and wait for the final results.
He wasn’t worried about himself. The only thing he was uncertain about was whether Mu Gaoqi could triumph over Ouyang Chao. He was most concerned about Mu Gaoqi’s performance in the strength of heart category. If Mu Gaoqi made it through that, then he’d have no problem winning out over Ouyang Chao. If to the contrary, the competition between the two would be up in the air and determined at the last possible second.