Due to strong demand, Jiang Chen had no choice but to join the judges. Now, there were eight judges instead of just seven. Thankfully, the slight increase in the number of judges wouldn't affect the contest. In fact, Jiang Chen's participation was exactly what everyone had been hoping for. It gave these pill dao geniuses the opportunity to display their talent before Pill King Zhen.
The moment Jiang Chen got close, he immediately sensed two or three concealed, unfriendly gazes snaking across his body. However, he paid them no heed and sat amongst the judges with a leisurely smile on his face. Beside him, Sacred Peafowl Mountain's first-rate Pill King Yi gave Jiang Chen a friendly smile and messaged, "Pill King Zhen, you should've been the judge of this festival instead of me, but because you didn't return sooner, I had no choice but to take your place and pad the numbers. However, although I'm aware of your skill, the rest of the judges here may challenge your authority. You must be careful, Pill King Zhen."
Jiang Chen was slightly startled by this initial reminder, but he quickly came to an understanding. The human heart was dangerous, and jealousy was one of its original sins.
Although he hadn't wanted to put himself in the limelight, there were certain things in the world that one couldn't avoid. He was the one who had chosen to sit down in the judge's seat, so he feared neither the jealousy nor the hostility of others that might result from it. When a person disliked someone, they could always think up a reason to attack them. Not once in his life had he thought to please people like this, so he chose to ignore them instead. If they really were foolish enough to provoke him, he had all kinds of ways to humiliate them up his sleeve.
Jiang Chen had participated in many pill battles in the past, but this was the first time he'd taken the role of a judge in this lifetime. Therefore, he was a little uncomfortable being in the judge's seat. When Jiang Chen looked through the rules for the first time, he quickly understood how the system worked. After researching it for a couple more times, he fully grasped the rules.
"Let us begin." Jiang Chen nodded towards the other judges. Pill King Yi was Sacred Peafowl Mountain's representative, so naturally, out of everyone present, he had the right to speak first. Upon seeing Jiang Chen's nod towards him, he immediately started.
"Alright, all participants, please pay attention to my words. I hereby announce that the semi-finals of the Pill Pagoda Battles start now. Everyone will be on the same starting line regardless of your status as a noble or wandering cultivator. We will choose the top thirty-six people out of the two hundred present to enter the Veluriyam Pagoda. All battles shall happen under our fair supervision, and we guarantee that there is no chance for either bribery or fraud to happen beneath our watch. If any one of you is planning to cheat in this contest, I can tell you to eliminate that thought right now. If you are caught, you will be exiled from Veluriyam Capital forever!"
Pill King Yi swept a dignified glance across all participants before he continued his speech with a serious look. "Finally, I would like to remind you all about one thing. To all those who have attended this contest with the ulterior motive of discovering the Veluriyam Pagoda's secrets, I would advise you to erase that thought as well. Veluriyam Capital has caught countless spies since ancient times, and every one of them shared the exact same fate—death!"
Pill battles had many formats, but the basis of them were all the same. The semi-finals of the Pill Pagoda Battles were split into three segments. The first segment was a test of basics. The second segment was a test of theory. The third segment was a test of pill refinement. The test of basics evaluated a participant's foundational skills. These were very important to a pill dao genius. It was an incredibly wide subject, and the test of basics would evaluate even a participant's natural talent.
After all, talent was the first of many unavoidable obstacles one must face in either pill dao or martial dao. Nothing could be achieved without it. For example, in his past life Jiang Chen didn't have the talent to cultivate because he had been born with a yin constitution. Not even his father, the almighty Celestial Emperor who could reverse even the sun and moon, could change this.
Without talent, everything else was utterly irrelevant. The two hundred pill dao geniuses quickly started and finished the test of basics. Although the test of basics had plenty of components to go through, they were structured so orderly that Jiang Chen didn't need to work too hard to earn his 'pay' as judge. All he needed to do was to go through the motions. There was nothing special about this test of basics and the results quickly came out.
As it turned out, thirty out of the top thirty-six were all noble youths. Only six of them were wandering cultivators. It was made immediately clear that the noble-born had an overall advantage over the humble-born. However, when the test of basics came to an end, the name on the number one spot of the leaderboard surprised a lot of people. The spot didn't belong to a noble, but rather, to a wandering cultivator.
Even Jiang Chen had to gasp in admiration when he looked through Lin Yanyu's test results. Foundation wise, Lin Yanyu's skill was even better than Mu Gaoqi's. In terms of raw talent alone, Lin Yanyu might be a tad inferior because Mu Gaoqi possessed an innate wood constitution of high order. However, Lin Yanyu came from a family with an illustrious history, and every one of his foundational skills, excluding talent, was more solid than Mu Gaoqi's.
Mu Gaoqi might be ranked amongst the top five if he were to participate in this test, but he would never be able to claim the number one spot. It wasn't that he was incapable, but that Regal Pill Palace hadn't been able to fully tap into Mu Gaoqi's abilities before disaster had hit. If Mu Gaoqi had been given thirty years of time to temper his skills in Pillfire City before he participated in this contest, then Lin Yanyu might not hold any advantage over him.
A hundred years after that, Lin Yanyu might even lose to Mu Gaoqi. But as of now, Lin Yanyu was without a doubt the best pill dao cultivator of the bunch. Even Jiang Chen was speechless. Pillfire City does not shame its title as the greatest power in pill dao. To think that the youth of a random family in Pillfire City would possess such extraordinary talent! Thank heavens Pillfire City doesn't know how to cherish their talents because they're flooded with them, or there would have been no way for Veluriyam Capital to obtain someone as amazing as Lin Yanyu at all.
Lin Yanyu proved just how far below Veluriyam Capital was to Pillfire City in terms of pill dao. It definitely wasn't a gap that could be closed in just three to five years' time. Although Jiang Chen admired Lin Yanyu a great deal, he didn't overtly show his emotion. This was because he knew that some of these judges were hostile towards him. If he were to show unusual admiration towards Lin Yanyu's performance, these judges might be tempted to show hostility towards Lin Yanyu too. He would be dragging Lin Yanyu into his own mess. The first segment ended, and Lin Yanyu currently placed first amongst all the participants. This result caused a discussion to break out among the judges too.
"Just who is this wandering cultivator? How is he so talented? Why did a genius like him come to our Veluriyam Capital?"
"We should investigate his background a bit. He can't be a spy from our enemies, can he?"
Jiang Chen didn't say anything despite being within earshot. However, just because he stayed quiet didn't mean that the others couldn't force him to break his silence. The old ninth-rank pill king under Emperor Shura wore a wide grin. "Pill King Zhen! You're a reputable man, and I would like to hear of your opinion on this subject. Do you think that this wandering cultivator who seems to have appeared out of nowhere could be an enemy spy?"
His question was extremely provocative. On the surface he was talking about the wandering cultivator Lin Yanyu, but in reality the term implicated Jiang Chen too. After all, Pill King Zhen had also appeared out of nowhere just like Lin Yanyu. Another judge smiled when he heard this, "If I remember correctly, Pill King Zhen is a wandering cultivator too, isn't he? Brother Bu, aren't you implying that Pill King Zhen is an enemy spy too?"
This pill king under Emperor Shura's wing was called Pill King Bu. With a smile that didn't reach his eye, he responded, "Pill King Zhen, I am not trying to attack you. Please don't take this the wrong way."
Jiang Chen smiled indifferently and countered with a look of astonishment, "Were you talking to me just now? I thought you were talking to yourself."
Provoke me, will you? Then I will treat your words like how I treat farts. Jiang Chen's casual deflection of the attack was like a smear of mud on Pill King Bu's face. It made the pill king feel extremely embarrassed. That other judge cackled again, "Brother Bu, wouldn't you agree that the saying that the young replaces the old is definitely true? To think that someone of your achievements would be ignored so thoroughly by a junior. What a saddening sight this is!"
This judge had been fanning flames and sowing dissension between Jiang Chen and Pill King Bu since the beginning. The pill king's face turned chilly as he shot Jiang Chen a cold look, "You sure know how to be deaf and mute, Pill King Zhen!"
Jiang Chen smiled. "Do you really think that I should respond to everything you say?"
"Tsk tsk, you think you're something hmm! You truly are the pill dao genius who shattered the invincible legend of Pillfire City. I guess we old folks are no longer worthy of your attention, are we, Pill King Zhen?"
Jiang Chen smiled and answered in a deadpan voice, "Let me correct you there for a second—I have no idea who you are to begin with, so it's not 'no longer' but 'never been, and never will be'."
This person had been continuously trying to create drama, and Jiang Chen never gave face to people like this. Therefore, his response was to slap him painfully in the face with all the rudeness he could muster. He turned completely red after this mockery. It was at this moment that Pill King Yi shot a glare at the three of them and scolded softly, "Men, you may insult each other all you want after we leave this place, but for now please stop embarrassing yourselves in front of a crowd."
Once done, Pill King Yi stood up again and announced to the participants beneath the stage, "Everyone, the second segment of the battle is the test of theory. We have eight judges here, and every one of us will be issuing a question. You must answer each question with careful exposition so that we may study and enjoy the full depth of your pill dao."
The test of theory was a test of knowledge, foundation, and true ability. Originally, the participants only needed to answer seven questions in total, but Jiang Chen's participation meant that they had to answer one more question. Therefore, more time was also added to the clock. Once Pill King Yi had made his declaration, he told the other judges, "Please begin making your questions now, fellow judges."
The questions were made up on the spot and restricted to a certain spectrum of subject matter so that no one could cheat during the test. To Jiang Chen, drafting a question was as easy as pie, but he didn't work half-heartedly. He carefully formulated the question in his head before he finally wrote it down. He would strive his utmost in anything that he did. The question needed to be reasonably focused so that the gap between a first-rate genius and an average genius could be clearly distinguished. Otherwise, he would only be wasting his efforts if he were to draft a general question that had no distinction at all.
Jiang Chen finished composing his question only after fifteen minutes had passed. By now, the rest of the judges were done composing their questions too. In fact, Pill King Bu was shooting Jiang Chen a provocative glance. "Pill King Zhen, I wasn't there to witness your glory with my own eyes when you took down Pill King Ji Lang. However, I dare say that even you might not necessarily be able to solve the question I've composed."
Jiang Chen smiled coolly and remained indifferent. However, Pill King Bu wasn't going to let matters slide just like that. He continued, "If the participants are allowed to vote for the one question they think is of the highest quality, I'm sure that they will choose the question that I composed."
Pill King Yi smiled faintly in response, "I see that you are very confident, Ole Bu."
Pill King Bu smiled proudly, "I am confident. I have been famous for a few hundred years, and no one-hit wonders who aim solely for fame is going to beat me!"
One-hit wonders, aim solely for fame. Everything he said was directed at Jiang Chen.