Chapter 748: A Game of Life and Death
“House lord, does Pill Master Zhen dare to play this game? You invited him, after all. The stakes are life and death. I hope they’re not too high, hmm?” Wei Tiantong smiled, his tone layered with a false kindness.
Wei Tianxiao snuck a glance at Jiang Chen, who nodded imperceptibly. Emboldened by the gesture, he laughed, “Ole Fifth, it is I who should say that to you.”
“There are never any stakes too high for me,” Wei Tiantong chuckled. “Pill King Yu, my reputation hangs on you today.”
Smiling faintly, Pill Master Yu flicked a glance at Jiang Chen with some vehemence. “Kid, this place is too cramped. There's no room for us to show off our abilities without hurting the others here. How about we find an open space?” Pill Master Yu jerked his head towards Jiang Chen in challenge.
Standing up slowly, Jiang Chen headed outside.
“Come on everyone, let’s go watch.” Wei Tianxiao took the lead after him with an easy smile.
Wei Tiantong was amused at his brother’s feigned calm, and looked on him with scorn. Wei Tianxiao, you really don’t come around until you hit a dead end. You may be pleased now, but you’ll soon be miserable! Thinking that he had definitely gotten the best of Wei Tianxiao, Wei Tiantong didn't wish to lose in posturing. “Let us spectate the proceedings. It would be a shame not to,” he clapped.
The House Wei courtyard was quite spacious. Pill Master Yu and Jiang Chen occupied the east and west sides respectively.
“Kid, can you finish your arrangements in ten breaths? If you can’t, you better say so now so I can let you off easy.” The pill master raised his gaunt eyebrows, his tone sinister.
Jiang Chen scoffed, “Ten breaths? Do you work at a snail’s pace? If you can’t get it done in three breaths, you should boot yourself out of here. Needing ten breaths and claiming to be a pill king… I am quite suspicious of your actual qualifications.”
The people on Wei Tianxiao’s side laughed uproariously at those words. Pill Master Yu had been handedly repelled, but he was inwardly stern. Three breaths? Was this kid all brag and bluster, or did he have real knowledge and skill? He hesitated a little in the heat of the moment.
On the other hand, Jiang Chen was impassive about the entire affair. “Excuse me, can one of you declare the start of the competition? Who's going to keep time?”
Elder Feng suddenly intoned, “I shall.”
Being a neutral elder in name, Elder Feng’s oversight of the situation was agreeable to both parties. “Are you prepared? Then, begin!” The elder’s words were certainly clear-cut.
Though a breath of time in the world of martial dao differed from the time of the breath of an ordinary person, three was still a remarkably short time. Knowing that there would be a fierce battle today, Jiang Chen had made a few preparations before setting out. At Elder Feng’s signal, Jiang Chen swiftly and expertly deployed a small formation into the surroundings. His quick movements showed off the significant extent of his improvement in the art, and he set at least four poisons into the formation.
One was the Divine Tree of Dreams, pacifying and sedating those who were exposed to it. One was Spirit Restraint Powder, which he had snatched from the hands of Wei Qing of the Walkabout Sect within the Myriad Domain. It had played a significant role in dealing with Gong Wuji and company. Yet another was a type of poison that Jiang Chen had mixed himself. Though it was not particularly strong, it was the most evident. Jiang Chen planned for it to deceive his opponent. The last and deadliest was a toxin Jiang Chen had made from the Divine Befuddlement Miasma. It was hidden within the formation as the finishing blow. All but the most masterful pill kings would easily miss it.
Incorporating both clear and hidden elements, the fourfold poison formation was four separate layers of insurance. It was quite clever. And yet, Jiang Chen had accomplished this easily within three breaths.
Comparatively, Pill Master Yu was in somewhat in a rush. He had proposed ten breaths because he felt that he was already quite fast, and wanted to use the time frame to trip up Jiang Chen. Unexpectedly however, it'd turned out to be a snare for himself instead. His setup could be considered only satisfactory after three breaths.
Jiang Chen was in no hurry and smiled merrily. “Pill Master Yu, it seems that you have not yet mastered your skills. Three breaths may be too hard for you. Shall I give you a handicap of seven more? That way, you can have some more time to prepare so that you are not sore when you lose."
Though Pill Master Yu wanted to take him up on the proposition, he was unwilling to lose face in front of so many people, and harrumphed. “Kid, the only thing you have left is your glib tongue. I hope you’re still able to laugh about it in a bit.”
As he said this, he left his own arrangements and began to walk into Jiang Chen’s. The same was true for the latter.
“Good, now, please enter your opponent’s trap. The countdown … begins!” Elder Feng bellowed.
Sneering, Pill Master Yu walked with great strides into Jiang Chen’s predetermined area. However, his gaze was not on Jiang Chen’s trap, but on his own. He was quite confident in his own arrangements. Upon entry, not even a sixth rank pill king would last a quarter hour, much less a second rank one. Seeing Jiang Chen step into his trap, Pill Master Yu let the hint of a malicious smile peek out. Kid, you ignored the easy way out. You just had to bring yourself to ruin. Let’s see how stubborn you are in a bit! I won’t remove the poison even if you beg on your knees, heh heh… I’ll see you ravaged by the poison to a slow and agonizing demise. It will truly be a marvelous scene… Pill Master Yu’s heart was filled with an indescribable happiness upon thinking of that cruel outcome.
For a master of poisons, to have an enemy wail beneath one’s feet in their death throes was the highest reward and the greatest fulfillment. He spent some time leering in his daydreams before remembering he was also present in his opponent’s trap, and spared it a casual look. A young second rank pill king, possibly not even a real one… what kind of wondrous trap could his opponent set? He didn’t believe it at all. It’s still a thousand years too early for you to trick me!
As a master of poisons, Pill Master Yu was consequently also an expert of antidotes. He held no regard for ordinary poison setups, and had even experienced some extraordinary ones, so he did not lack appropriate stratagems. He was unafraid of spending even several hours in one, much less fifteen minutes.
“Hmm? This looks like a formation,” Pill Master Yu scrutinized it carefully, his heart reeling a little. “That kid has a few tricks up his sleeve. Hmph, is he shaming himself by bringing out such an obvious poison formation? And another, Spirit Restraint Powder… haha, it may be rare, but such a poison cannot stop me!” He'd already discovered two poison setups in a short span. “Someone who can set up something like this in only three breaths can’t be considered only good for show. I shouldn’t be too complacent, perhaps he has other hidden poisons here.”
Experiencing Jiang Chen’s abilities firsthand, Pill Master Yu no longer underestimated the young man. He began to closely inspect the surroundings. Though he was confident, he did not feel the need to be blind with arrogance. It was his life’s creed. He could boast a perceptive certainty, but without unseeing hubris.
Suddenly, sighs of marvel came from the crowd. Startled, Pill Master Yu looked across the courtyard. He sneered faintly when he saw the results. His opponent had already sat down cross-legged within his trap. I thought the kid was actually skilled, but I guess that wasn’t true after all. Is he already failing to hold on? Fifteen minutes… he’ll be lucky if he can last half that time! Sitting like that to seal off his qi ocean and consciousness to avoid the poison… it’s too late already! If not for worry of his own situation, Pill Master Yu was almost ready to thoroughly admire his opponent’s pathetic state within his poison trap. It would be excellent entertainment.
On the outside, both Wei Tianxiao’s and Wei Zhi’s expressions froze. From what they could see of the situation, the person in their corner seemed to have the disadvantage. Jiang Chen was already sitting down cross-legged, and looked like he was in full defense. However, the opposing Pill Master Yu was free to peruse the condition of his opponent. The comparison of skills was obvious.
Wei Tiantong was pleased by the turn of events, especially with the gradual replacement of Wei Tianxiao and Wei Zhi’s confident smiles with expressions of shock. He had the impulse to throw his head back and laugh. “House lord, the second rank pill king you invited looks like a sham, huh? Is he giving up this quickly? That’s just embarrassing,” Picking at the opportunity, Wei Tiantong smiled with contempt and ridicule.
“Just like I said, he's a common mountebank. And you didn’t believe me! How right I was,” Wei Xiu laughed with a similar pleasure and then turned to Wei Jie with a lecturing tone. “Younger brother Jie, look at you, fraternizing with these knaves all the time. I don’t mean to patronize, but I am truly worried about this less-than-upstanding behaviour!”
Wei Jie was about to throw up. “House brother Xiu, have you already single-handedly declared victory? The fifteen minutes are not up yet, but you’re in such a hurry. Those who aren't in the know would think you’re just a scion from a minor house, inexperienced in the matters of the world!”
Wei Xiu’s face colored, “Why don’t you keep trying to beat your head against the wall, you’ll get a reality check soon.”
Elder Zhuo and Elder Feng glanced at each other. Given the circumstances, even they thought that the contest was already over. Pill King Zhen was quite skilled, but perhaps the pill king Wei Tiantong had hired was still one step ahead.
Pill Master Yu’s expression changed suddenly. He stared into the middle of the formation, his eyebrows slightly upturned, like he’d discovered something new. In fact, he had found the third poison setup. The tasteless, scentless Divine Tree of Dreams. Though he didn't know precisely what poison it was, it had a soporific effect on him. His eyelids fluttered together, and his mind was assaulted by a wave of fatigue.
Several pills of refreshment in succession were taken out and swallowed rapidly before Pill Master Yu managed to suppress the hypnotic feeling. His forehead beaded with cold sweat, “What a horrifying poison! This kid has more than a few devious tricks up his sleeve! Good thing I didn’t miss it!” Mentally rejoicing, he looked across the courtyard again. A silent Jiang Chen was seated there, statuesque and unmoving. It looked like the youth had lost all vital signs!