Chapter 252: Crushing
“You and me, a contest of plant and vegetation knowledge!” said Chen Jiaxi, glaring at Meng Hao. In his opinion, Fang Mu had finagled his way to being a Furnace Lord, and was far too young to compare to him, considering how many years he had spent working with plants and vegetation.
He had utmost confidence in his ability. True, there were people within the Sect who could surpass him, but he was absolutely sure that he could achieve victory over this trifling, sharp-tongued Fang Mu.
Even as he spoke, he waved his right hand, causing two black, withered branches to fly out of his bag of holding.
“Dried Spring Equinox Sapling!” thought Zhou Dekun, staring at the dried branches.
“These treasured items have been passed down since ancient times! Dried Spring Equinox Sapling!” Chen Jiaxi grabbed one of the branches and held it in his hand.
“Grandmaster Fang Mu. You most likely do not recognize this item, so allow me to explain. This plant is rarely seen in the modern world, and does not occur naturally. The ancient method used to produce it has long since been lost. It has many uses, but it is because of one of its most amazing uses, that it came to be called the ancestor of all plants! Contained within this ancient plant is the essence of most types of plants and vegetations.
“As such, an alchemist such as myself can fill my Spiritual Sense with all my knowledge of plants and vegetation, imbue it into this Dried Spring Equinox Sapling, and cause it to sprout! The greater the body of knowledge, the more sprouts will appear. This will clearly prove which of us has the greatest mastery of plants and vegetation!” Chen Jiaxi only had these two stems of Dried Spring Equinox. He had previously acquired them through a series of lucky coincidences, and considered them to be precious treasures.
Now that he had been pushed into a corner, he pulled them out in his attempt to grow his reputation in the future.
Meng Hao’s expression was the same as ever, although inside he was actually leaping up and down with excitement. He had read about the Dried Spring Equinox Stem in the ancient records. It had miraculous usages that were difficult to explain. One of its greatest functions was its ability to improve the success rate when concocting medicinal pills!
By adding one of the stems to a batch of medicinal pills, the success rate would be increased significantly, perhaps even to one hundred percent.
Without the slightest hesitation, Meng Hao took the Dried Spring Equinox Stem in hand and glanced down. In his heart, he felt that it was a bit unfortunate. This particular Dried Spring Equinox Stem was somewhat small, only about as thick as a finger.
“Grandmaster Fang, let’s begin!” said Chen Jiaxi eerily. He sounded like he couldn’t wait to crush Fang Mu.
All of the Cultivators from the Black Sieve Sect looked on with expressions of concentration. The benefits they had received from this particular alchemy lecture were hard to quantify. Han Bei sat in the crowd, looking at Meng Hao.
Zhou Dekun was feeling a bit anxious. He had heard the story of the shocking way Meng Hao had passed the test to become a master alchemist. But he was still worried. Seeing his expression, Chen Jiaxi’s confidence grew stronger.
He didn’t wait for Meng Hao. Instead, he poured Spiritual Sense into the dried stem on his palm.
With a cold laugh, he said, “The appearance of one sprout indicates mastery of one hundred thousands types of plants and vegetation. Two sprouts represents two hundred thousand variations. Grandmaster Fang, I suggest you take the situation very seriously.” A bright glow began to emanate out from the dried stem, filling the entire square and attracting the attention of all the onlookers.
Meng Hao’s expression was the same as ever. His Spiritual Sense burst out, flying directly into the dried stem.
Time passed slowly, enough for a single incense stick to burn. Suddenly, a green sprout appeared on the dried stem in Chen Jiaxi’s hand, the same you might see during the spring equinox.
“One hundred thousand plants… Grandmaster’s Chen has already shown mastery of one hundred thousand plants!”
“Who knows how many Grandmaster Fang… huh?” Even as the Black Sieve Sect Disciples began to discuss the proceedings, two sprouts appeared on the stem in Meng Hao’s hand!
Meng Hao’s expression was calm as the two sprouts appeared. However, the onlookers were shocked, as was Chen Jiaxi. His eyes went wide. He had never seen anyone be able to produce two sprouts from the dried stem in the time it takes one incense stick to burn.
“It doesn’t matter,” he comforted himself. “Considering my skill with plants and vegetation, I will definitely be able to defeat this finagler in the end!” A snide expression filled his face. However, it was at this exact moment that….
A third sprout appeared, then a fourth, a fifth, and… nine sprouts appeared in total! It all happened in the space of about ten breaths!
The scene caused gasps of astonishment to fill the air. The Black Sieve Sect Cultivators were completely astounded.
“How is this possible….”
“Nine sprouts. That represents nine hundred thousand medicinal plants, nine hundred thousand variations! This Grandmaster Fang is so young, how could he have such terrifying skill with plants….”
Suddenly, a tenth sprout grew out of the dried stem. Chen Jiaxi, on the other hand, had only produced three sprouts.
“Impossible!” thought Chen Jiaxi, his eyes growing red. He just couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His hair was in disarray, and he let out a wild howl as he attempted to make more sprouts come out as quickly as possible. Actually, he hadn’t clearly stated earlier what level of mastery he had obtained. In reality, he only knew nine hundred thousand plant and vegetation variations, placing him at the peak of the second realm.
As such, he really could only cause nine sprouts to appear.
It was at this moment, right after the ten sprouts had appeared on the stem in Meng Hao’s hand, that suddenly… a flower bud appeared. It wriggled out, immediately attracting everyone’s attention, even Chen Jiaxi’s and Li Yiming’s.
A popping sound rang out as the flower bud opened… into a tiny white flower!
Li Yiming’s face drained of blood. “An ancient Dried Spring Equinox blooming… it’s… it’s…” His expression was one of ultimate astonishment. He was well aware of the significance of the dried stem blooming.
His voice filled with excitement, Zhou Dekun said, “One hundred thousand medicinal plants, one million variations, one hundred million grafting variations…. The blooming of the ancient tree represents the millions of grafting variations. If ten flowers appear, it represents all one hundred million graft variations!!” He had never imagined that Meng Hao’s skill with plants and vegetation could have reached such a shocking level.
Most Furnace Lords’ mastery of plants and vegetation stopped somewhere in the tens of millions. Only Violet Furnace Lords could reach the level of one hundred million grafting variations.
“You… you….” Chen Jiaxi gaped in astonishment at Meng Hao, his mind reeling. His vision began to grow dim. Even in his wildest dreams, he would never have imagined that Fang Mu’s mastery of plants and vegetation could have reached this shocking state. Had he known, he would never have attempted to compete against him.
His voice quavered, and his body trembled. He was about to say something more when suddenly a second flower appeared, then a third and a fourth….
One flower after another, rocking Chen Jiaxi’s spirit. The Cultivators in the square were thrown into a frenzy. They stared at Meng Hao with looks of complete shock and disbelief.
Six flowers. Seven flowers. Eight flowers. Nine flowers….
Every new flower sent waves of astonishment through the hearts of the onlookers, even Patriarch Violet Sieve and the two Patriarchs next to him. Their breathing was ragged as they watched Meng Hao, their eyes burning.
Finally… the tenth flower appeared!
When the tenth flower appeared, Chen Jiaxi’s vision went black. He was on the verge of passing out. Anguished howls of grief welled up in his heart. This turn of events could never have been predicted. How could he have encountered someone so… inhuman here in the Black Sieve Sect? In truth, were he to know that Fang Mu was Grandmaster Pill Cauldron, he would certainly pass out immediately.
“Inhuman…” thought Zhou Dekun, his body trembling, his vision blank.
This was not a competition between two people. Fang Mu had completely crushed Chen Jiaxi. There was simply no way for him to even fight back. He was utterly and thoroughly defeated.
Patriarch Violet Sieve and the two others were breathing heavily, staring fixedly at the calm Meng Hao, as if he were some sort of precious treasure. A massive commotion of conversation exploded among the Black Sieve Sect Cultivators.
The Cultivators in attendance all had some knowledge of the Dao of alchemy. How could they not understand the significance of what they were seeing…?
“Grandmaster Fang Mu!!”
“The dried stem blossomed ten times! The ultimate achievement, one hundred million grafting variations!!”
Amidst uproarious hubbub, Meng Hao suddenly lifted his head. Without even looking at the dried stem, he put it into his bag of holding. Obviously, he didn’t plan to return it.
“So, do you still want to compete in plants and vegetation?” he said. In front of him, Chen Jiaxi’s face was deathly pale, and his entire body was quivering.
He tilted his head back. His hair was dishevelled, and his eyes shone with demented insanity.
“YES!” he cried, staring at Meng Hao, his eyes filled with jealousy and hatred.
He hated that his opponent was so young, yet possessed such mastery of plants and vegetation. He hated that his opponent was an East Pill Furnace Lord. He hated that his opponent left him speechless, both with his words and his Dao of alchemy. He especially hated that his opponent wouldn’t let him win, wouldn’t let Chen Jiaxi trample over him to rise to prominence.
His hatred seeped into his bones, giving rise to devilish insanity.
“We will compete in Instantaneous Formula Scrying!” said Chen Jiaxi, his voice hoarse. Down below, Li Yiming had planned to pull him back. However, after seeing the wild, animalistic look in Chen Jiaxi’s eyes, he simply sighed inwardly.
“Alright, if you want another competition, you’ll have it,” said Meng Hao coolly. Glancing over at Chen Jiaxi and his maddened state, he added another thought: “However, a competition like that bores me. If you want to compete, then let’s make a bet. Any pill produced that the other party can identify, will be surrendered immediately!”
Zhou Dekun gasped at the viciousness of it. This would truly be the fatal blow.
Li Yiming’s face twisted. At the same moment, Chen Jiaxi seemed to recover some of his common sense. However, he couldn’t let go of the hatred within his heart. He pushed his common sense down, ignoring it.
“Fine! I won’t stop until I win!!” His voice rang out, causing all of the Black Sieve Sect disciples to let out a collective gasp. Li Yiming and Zhou Dekun both seemed to be shaking with anxiety.
‘I won’t stop until I win’ indicated that the competition wouldn’t be over as long as there were medicinal pills to produce. The only way it could end would be for someone to quit, and that would be the ultimate defeat.
Li Yiming was incredibly worried as he watched red-eyed Chen Jiaxi slap his bag of holding to produce a medicinal pill, which he then tossed over to Meng Hao.
Meng Hao grabbed it and looked at it.
“World Mirage Pill. Heavenly Dawn sap, Hundred Tombs soil, Peace Dissemination leaf, Ninth Sexagenary grass….” Having finished speaking, Meng Hao placed the medicinal pill in his bag of holding and looked at Chen Jiaxi.
Chen Jiaxi glared at him. He wanted to say that Meng Hao was wrong. However, they were both alchemists. To do that would lose him even more face than being openly defeated, and he would lose any right to continue.
He slapped his bag of holding to produce another medicinal pill, which he threw over to Meng Hao.
“Frigid Lightning Pill,” said Meng Hao coolly. “Not many of these pills exist. It requires root of Seasonal Glory Grass, harvested amidst the snows of winter, as well as Gold and Iron sap, Lightning Fire Grass….” He continued to list out dozens of medicinal plants.
“This pill… interesting. I’m not sure of the name, but it contains power to strengthen the arms. It’s obviously a body-refining pill. It contains Indomitable Mountain flower, Containment sapling….”
“This… this is actually a magic pill which can melt the blood and transform it into explosive power. It contains crushed Green Burst, Celestial Heaven oil….”
“Fellow Daoist Chen, you have many unique pills. Excellent, excellent. I’m not sure the name of this pill, but it’s clearly a poison pill. It contains….”
Time passed by slowly. Zhou Dekun stared on in shock. Chen Jiaxi seemed to be on the verge of collapse, his face as pale as death as he tried to outdo Meng Hao. However, he really had no chance. He was essentially just handing over his medicinal pills….
In the time it takes for only half an incense stick to burn, he had already delivered nearly a hundred different medicinal pills over to Meng Hao….