The seven judges before him had given fairly ordinary pill recipes. Though the recipes weren't entirely unremarkable, there were no surprises. The participating pill geniuses originally had illusions of receiving some new pill recipes, but although the recipes were new, their quality made them completely useless. Only Pill King Zhen's recipe remained. There was still some anticipation, but it had been greatly reduced since the beginning of the round. There were even feelings of lethargy among some present.
Jiang Chen could feel the dreariness in the air. If he had been a participant, he would have also been dejected with how tight-fisted the top-ranked pill kings were being.
"I'm sure that everyone here is very tired after a month of exertion. But, you must pay special attention to this next segment. The pill recipe that I am about to teach is not for the distracted or the dull. Frankly, one day isn't enough, especially without your full attention. This is a top-rank pill that even emperor realm cultivators can use!" Jiang Chen's speech was like a fresh infusion of blood into the participants' bodies. Their eyes instantly lit up as they looked at Jiang Chen, full of anticipation once more.
"A pill that emperor realm cultivators can use? So, an earth rank pill, then?"
"Ho, an earth rank pill! That's definitely suitable of being called a top-rank pill!"
"As expected of our city's idol! Pill King Zhen is always generous."
"Haha, that's what I thought too. There's no way that the great Pill King Zhen would let us down. Man, the pills before were such a bore."
The participants were none too pleased about the recipes that the judges had presented before. Just because it was customary didn't mean that it wasn't beggarly. Without the competition at play, they would have no interest whatsoever in learning such recipes. On the other hand, Pill King Zhen instantly differentiated himself from the people before him in both poise and largesse. He acted in a way that was well-deserving of his fame. There was a lot of discussion and cheering from the crowd because of it.
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. He didn't care too much about not stealing the other judges' limelight anymore. Honestly, he had his own complaints about their selfishness. The judges were all pill dao seniors of considerable renown. It was normal for such people to help their juniors. Why let the youngsters go home empty-handed from this rare festival?
That these pill kings couldn't reward the youths even a little, at a time like this… No wonder Veluriyam's pill dao couldn't surpass Pillfire's. In terms of accomplishment, it wasn't even a third of their rival's, and this was one of the reasons. He had decided to present the Hundredfold Marrow-Cleanse Pill out of this consideration. Its properties allowed it to easily be classified as an earth rank pill. Comparatively, the other seven judges' pills were all garbage. There was no contest.
Jiang Chen's heart was moved when he saw the participants' eyes brimming with emotion. He pressed both hands down to signal silence. He had clearly underestimated the weightiness of his command. The hand signal alone was more effective than any words could have been. Every participant closed their mouth in unison, and noise was gone from the arena instantly.
He was a little surprised, but then smiled, "This is the moment that everyone's been waiting for. Because I didn't want to let you guys down, the pill that I am presenting today is indeed an earth rank pill. It is called the Hundredfold Marrow-Cleanse Pill, with the power to invigorate muscle and marrow for any body-refining cultivator. Furthermore, it cleanses the aftereffects of old, long-healed wounds, and strengthens your meridians as well. It can do many things, and has no side effects. Truly, it is one of the best body-refining pills available out there." Jiang Chen slowly introduced the pill to his captive audience.
"The… Hundredfold Marrow-Cleanse Pill?" Pill King Yi couldn't help remarking aloud.
"What, have you heard of this pill before, Brother Yi?" The other judges were curious.
Pill King Yi's expression was complicated as he looked on, impressed. "Yes, I had the fortune of seeing it in an ancient manual," he nodded. "But there is no record of the recipe for it in Veluriyam Capital. If this pill spreads, Veluriyam's weakness in this area will be strengthened." Having said this, the pill king suddenly stood up, "Pill King Zhen, I'm sorry to interrupt. May I say something here?"
Jiang Chen smiled at Pill King Yi's sudden interjection. He knew that the old pill king had something important to say. He waved, "Sure thing. Please go ahead, Pill King Yi."
Pill King Yi looked sternly at the participants. "Everyone," he bellowed. "That Pill King Zhen wants to teach you this remarkable recipe is something I both envy and admire. However, I must first play the part of a villain. Everyone here must make a heavenly oath not to spread this recipe out of Veluriyam Capital. Even if you do teach it to someone else, they too must be loyal to Veluriyam. Otherwise, I cannot let the recipe be taught to you."
Everyone understood what he was getting at, including the other judges, who nodded approvingly. Sure, there was always internal strife, but their attitude towards outside enemies was uniform. Nobody wanted something good that Veluriyam possessed to be stolen by another faction, especially one like Pillfire City. A good pill recipe making its way into their hands was like a lamb making its way into the jaws of a tiger. Veluriyam was already at a disadvantage against Pillfire. It wasn't worthwhile at all for this recipe to be lost to them.
Pill King Yi wanted to ensure that this didn't happen—a demand echoed by the other judges, and even Jiang Chen himself. He didn't want his recipe to be another's unintentional benefit. The recipe of the Longevity Pill was an excellent reminder of what kind of trouble such recipes could cause. It had almost made the bastards at Pillfire an absurd amount of money. He wanted to avoid making this same mistake. Though the Hundredfold Marrow-Cleansing Pill couldn't remotely compare to the Longevity Pill, Jiang Chen still didn't want the fruits of his labor to be simply taken away by Pillfire City again.
It wasn't an unreasonable request. None of the participants were against it, and all made their appropriate heavenly oaths in order to keep the recipe a secret. Only afterwards did Jiang Chen begin to teach. The Hundredfold Marrow-Cleanse Pill was ten times, perhaps even a hundred times more complicated than the recipes given by the previous judges.
Every participant had to give 120% effort in order to understand it. Thankfully, Jiang Chen had put a considerable amount of thought into how he would convey its finer points, reducing the recipe's complexity a fair bit. It was impossible that such a recipe could be internalized in only a day's time otherwise. Still, the studying process was tiresome and painful for many, with the end result only being seventy or eighty percent proficiency. Exactly how much they managed to learn was up to their own powers of comprehension.
Jiang Chen had taught all he needed in just the one day. He wasn't going to repeat himself. All the materials were ready at the beginning of the second day, and the refining process properly ensued.
The vast difficulty of this pill was apparent at once from the get-go. The weaker participants barely managed to retain all the information regarding the refining process. Success was very uncertain, but nobody complained. Everybody knew how big of an opportunity this was. If they could fully understand the pill, it would be a lifelong benefit to their understanding. Because they had been taught in the exact same way, any lack of understanding was entirely attributed to their own weakness. There was nothing to lament.
Jiang Chen's altruism put the other judges to shame. There was no jealousy or antagonism here. It was obvious that Pill King Zhen truly was on a different level from the rest of them. It was them instead who should be honored to be sharing the same position as him. Even the great emperors up on their platform had vastly mixed feelings about him. Emperor Void spoke words of sincere praise, "Brother Peafowl, you truly know this Pill King Zhen well. His generosity is unmatched. I cede this to you."
The other great emperors were similarly impressed. Emperor Shura was the only one unaffected. He looked at Jiang Chen, deep in thought; his eyes held a glimmer of something within, almost like he wanted to see right through him.
Emperor Peafowl took in the reactions of all present, though he didn't comment himself. His smile was as cheery as it had always been. He had already anticipated Jiang Chen's actions entirely. Jiang Chen was a real genius, a young man of great fortune that his All-Seeing Eyes had locked on to. He couldn't possibly be matched by mortals who tended to the tedium of their daily lives.
For the two hundred candidates, the three-day refining process was a rare trial, a battle and a struggle. Even Lin Yanyu, who had come out of Pillfire City, was shocked at the recipe for the Hundredfold Marrow-Cleanse Pill. He knew now that Pill King Zhen truly was the same person as Daoist Huang, who had taken care of him back in the wildlands. He had always thought that Daoist Huang was a martial dao genius. Only presently did he realize why Pill King Zhen had such a resounding reputation here in Veluriyam. This Hundredfold Marrow-Cleanse Pill was explanation enough.
Lin Yanyu had shown remarkable performances in the first two rounds of the Pill Pagoda battles. In the same characteristic fashion, his understanding of the pill surpassed his peers. It only took two and a half days out of the three allotted for him to refine a cauldron of the Hundredfold pills. In terms of speed, he was the first. Following him, a fair few others finished their refining processes as well.
Still, more than half of the participants hadn't finished by the end of the three days. Their scores were understandably zeroed, but Jiang Chen didn't interrupt them. He wouldn't do so unless they stopped themselves first. Sometimes, the pill-refining process deepened a pill master's understanding of the dao. It was a rare occurrence and hard to intentionally replicate. To interrupt them was to interfere with their cultivation. Everyone concluded their refining on the fourth day. Some were successful, while others had failed.
Jiang Chen had no reaction to their joy or sorrow. He had given them the opportunity—it was up to them to grasp it. He began to tally up the scores. The quality of Lin Yanyu's pills allowed him to take the foremost position. Even Jiang Chen was impressed by his pill dao intuition. Without hesitation, Jiang Chen gave the young pill master full marks. The others who had managed to finish within three days received their scores as well.