“Pill King Zhen, the rising star!”
“Pill King Zhen, our biggest idol!”
“Pill King Zhen, sweeping the competition!” Different catchphrases sprouted up all around the arena. Under such an exciting atmosphere, anyone who broke the stifling silence was rewarded with a throng of followers. In that moment, at least a hundred thousand members of the audience shouted in unison. They spoke words of encouragement almost entirely in unison. The clean uniformity of the chant, coming from mouths of the hundred-thousand-strong, carried an astonishing force with it.
It had a kind of magic to it, spreading out from the arena proper into every nook and cranny of the city’s streets. In the next moment, the entire Capital was infected by the wild fanaticism in the air. Young and old shouted with one voice from every corner. Veluriyam Capital was like a pot of boiling water. Waves of cheers passed through the air above the city again and again, scaring the birds in the trees into flight.
Jiang Chen was bewildered by the cheering crowd as he walked up the stone steps. He’d always been at the forefront of cultivating his dao heart. The fortitude of his Boulder Heart allowed him to remain calm in midst of any turmoil. At this particular moment, however, he had trouble holding back his emotions. He cycled through surprise, shock, then affection. Currents of warmth ran through his chest, filling his heart. When else in either of his lives had he received such support and approval?
As the son of the Divine Celestial Emperor, he had been the object of respect by many in his previous life. However, the only reason for this respect had been the loftiness of his station—or rather, his father’s. But at this moment, Jiang Chen could feel the people’s sincere and heartfelt blessing. There could only be one reason: as a representative of Sacred Peafowl Mountain, he had defeated Veluriyam Capital’s long-time enemy, the provocative Pillfire City. That victory had won him widespread devotion in the Capital.
Anyone lucky enough to be a resident of the city was proud of that fact. They had no tolerance towards those swaggering outsiders from Pillfire. Pillfire City did surpass Veluriyam Capital in many pill-related matters, history and ability both, but that didn’t mean that anyone from Veluriyam Capital was simply going to take the humiliation lying down and totally ignore their harassment.
Jiang Chen had defeated Pillfire City with his strength alone. In fact, his appearance had ended in the utter demolition of Pill King Ji Lang’s unconquerable myth, sending the other pill king packing with ease.
The events surrounding this had been propagated as a legend, becoming the storytellers’ favorite tale. In Veluriyam Capital’s hour of danger, Pill King Zhen had answered fate’s call! He alone had come to turn the tide, the destined hero and savior of Veluriyam’s fortunes. That was perhaps a little exaggerated, but the battle had propelled Pill King Zhen’s fame into the stratosphere when told from the multitude of accounts present. It had directly led to his idolization by the masses. Even yesteryear’s young lord Fan hadn’t held such a glorious record. In light of this, how could Pill King Zhen’s emergence as a martial genius at the Veluriyam Pagoda Meeting not fill everyone with anticipation?
Zhuang Jie’s carefree figure was already waiting in the arena. He had arrived earlier than his opponent in order to give a strong impression of intimidation. He wished to overwhelm his opponent with his superior presence from the onset. Though he didn’t want to admit it, the pill king who’d hailed from unknown origins was definitely one of the toughest enemies he’d ever face. For someone whom everyone had perceived as only a pill genius, coming so far was no mere coincidence.
Zhuang Jie had no fear of any other genius on the Rankings, even Ji San. There were only two exceptions: Mie Chenzi and Pill King Zhen. Before the battle, Emperor Vastsea had urged him not to underestimate Mie Chenzi, to take him on with complete seriousness. The latter’s unexpected forfeiture had surprised everyone. This immediately put Zhuang Jie up against the number one cultivator in the Genius Rankings, Pill King Zhen.
To tell the truth, he would have rather faced Mie Chenzi than Pill King Zhen. Everyone had bore witness to Pill King Zhen’s string of countless victories, but no one could see where his limits lay. Not even Emperor Vastsea could make heads or tails of it. However, Zhuang Jie was still the heir to a great emperor at the end of the day. He attached a great deal of mental importance to Pill King Zhen, but he also believed that he had a chance.
A thorny challenger like Pill King Zhen had to be rallied against with every little advantage. Even the respective senses of presence during their entrances were part of that. Thus, the mass cheering on all of his sides devastated him as he stood upon the arena. They were applauding and encouraging the pill king more and more as time went on! Almost the entire city was in on it. It caused Zhuang Jie’s readied bearing to collapse instantly.
None of it could be of any use given the amount of people vocally supporting Pill King Zhen. No matter how tough of a demeanor he put on externally, there was no way he could hope to surpass an entire city’s worth of support. Zhuang Jie felt a little sour internally. He refused to accept it! He refused to accept even the pill king in question. How could a mere outsider steal so much thunder? How long had it been since Pill King Zhen’s arrival in the Capital? What was the basis for the man’s status as the beloved of thousands? It was so unfair.
He was the heir closest to Emperor Vastsea, a noble and a young lord. What did Pill King Zhen do to deserve his accolades, hmm?! Under more ordinary circumstances, Zhuang Jie might not have been so jealous. But because this was happening just before their battle. Zhuang Jie felt victimized and like he had been sent into the background as a result of it.
It was a supreme mockery of him, without question. He was a young lord genius, the heir to a great emperor… but he had to be the background material to this Pill King Zhen? The humiliation sank its fangs into Zhuang Jie like a venomous snake. He was extremely irritated beneath the surface. Most of all, he wanted to decimate his opponent in the arena. He wanted to stomp on the pill king underfoot and mercilessly shame him. Only after that could his hatred be abated!
These short-sighted rats are cheering for a mere pill king! I suppose the only reason for it is because he defeated a so-called genius from Pillfire City? Do they not know that pill dao is insignificant in the grand scheme of things? In the world of martial dao, force of arms is the only eternal truth. I will absolutely steamroll him today. When he’s helpless beneath my heel, maybe then these fools will see how useless their object of adoration is before a young lord genius! The thunderous cheering unquestionably incited Zhuang Jie to anger ahead of time. It burned more energetically within him with each passing moment.
Jiang Chen, on the other hand, finally stepped onstage amidst universal ovation. He had never been in such a transparently cheerful mood before. The sounds of cheering and applause enlivened his heart. His horizons were broadened all of a sudden, greatly expanding both his heart and mind. The only thing I did was defeat Pill King Ji Lang in self-defense. I’d only wanted to protect the Longevity Pill that was rightfully mine. I’ve never done anything for these people, yet they’re showering me with adoration. If I’m still going to carry on hiding myself and caring only for my own well-being, how am I supposed to live up to that?
Jiang Chen hadn’t treated Emperor Peafowl’s call with particular enthusiasm before now. He’d always been running from it, unwilling to shoulder the responsibilities that hadn’t originally belonged to him. But he suddenly understood, in this moment, what kind of responsibility was conferred to a real genius. Emperor Peafowl had said this about him: he had a talent that others lacked, but he lacked something else in turn—the vigor of a youth, a certain kind of duty and verve.
Jiang Chen did possess these traits, but he’d always been wary about displaying them. He realized now, though, that he could not shirk the responsibility given to him by fate and fortune. He could not allow himself the cowardice, if only for these people who admired him. When he finally made his way onstage, Jiang Chen felt the final lock sealing his heart click open. He returned a wave to the surrounding crowd, his smile plain and candid. He had made his decision.
Unfortunately, Zhuang Jie took the gesture to be the greatest insult of all. What do you really amount to, Pill King Zhen? That you’re posing so pretentiously in front of a young lord genius like me? All of their support is supposed to belong to me. What gives you the right to just come here and take it?
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you? A sensationalist, fishing for compliments,” Zhuang Jie’s tone was cold. His reptilian-like gaze snaked over Jiang Chen repeatedly.
This was when Jiang Chen finally noticed his opponent, his expression freezing with incomprehension for a moment. He tossed his opponent a glance. As a young lord genius, Ji San had rated the other man as someone who was significantly more difficult to deal with than Gu Zhenshan.
“So you’re Zhuang Jie?” He frowned when he saw the open hostility present in his opponent’s eyes.
Zhuang Jie sneered. “Your pride has been spoiled by only a sliver of favoritism. You’re just a puffed-up scoundrel. My name isn’t fit to be called by someone as shallow as you.”
He was very displeased. Even the act of Jiang Chen saying his name offended him. A genius from the Genius Rankings should have called him ‘senior brother Zhuang’. As for whether he needed to grace such an address with a response… that depended on his mood. Even the scions of great clans had to follow that rule when they saw the emperors’ true disciples. It was considered discourtesy to do otherwise. In stark contrast, this Pill King Zhen was calling him directly by name! Zhuang Jie dispensed with all civility.
Jiang Chen had evidently not expected his opponent to be fixated on such trivial matters. They were already in the arena, yet Vastsea’s young lord was still holding on to every inch of his pride. He could see the steel in his opponent’s look. Evidently, Zhuang Jie was not a fan of him. There was no need for him to pretend to be amiable towards someone who treated him with such open hostility. Jiang Chen saw all in the windows to the other man’s soul. Moreover, he knew that it was entirely unrealistic for someone who flew beneath Emperor Vastsea’s banner to harbor any positive sentiment towards him. It was common knowledge that the Emperors Vastsea and Shura were in cahoots together. Jiang Chen became stern. There was no need to waste words on someone who spouted such abusive language anyway.
“You don’t have anything to say to that, huh? I guess you’re playing dumb.” Raising an eyebrow, Zhuang Jie snickered. “I can’t deny that you’re reasonably skilled, and you’re a master showman to boot. But today, I’m going to tear away your façade. I’ll make it clear to everyone that the number one cultivator in the Genius Rankings is useless before a young lord!”