Chapter 466: A Contest of Controlling Fire
“Have you heard? The master of the Soaring Clouds area, Yan Hongtu, wants to duel with the new core disciple Jiang Chen!”
“I’ve heard that they’re betting on three matches, using martial dao and pills as the first two arenas. If the results of the first two are inconclusive, they’ll choose another subject for the third bet.”
“Heh heh, I hear the forfeits are quite large!”
“Aren’t they now! If Jiang Chen loses, he’ll need to be Yan Hongtu’s follower for three years. If Yan Hongtu loses, he’ll have to hand over his stipend for the next three years to Jiang Chen. It’s been set down in paper and ink, and apparently they’ve made an oath to the heavens and earth!”
“A follower for three years on one hand, and three years of stipend on the other. These two really have some balls, huh!”
“Hmph, Yan Hongtu is sinking to new lows of depravity. It’s one thing to play around at being a king in the Soaring Clouds area, but now he’s bullying newly ascended core disciples! He really is disgracing himself.”
“The monkey reigns in the mountains when the tiger is absent. Yan Hongtu is a smart one alright. He knows that he’d only be a nameless pawn if he entered the Sky Pillar area, yet he is a king if he remains in the Soaring Clouds area.”
“I’ve heard that Jiang Chen has a truly impressive background. The Palace Head formed an alliance with the Precious Tree Sect just for him, and Jiang Chen actually trounced an inspector from the Sky Sect when he was only in the spirit realm. He’s not someone to overlook!”
“Heh heh, there’s also something called hyperbole. So what if it’s an inspector from the Sky Sect? Aren’t there medicore and trashy people in the Sky Sect? ”
“No matter what, Yan Hongtu won’t gain much face even if he wins after bullying a disciple who recently ascended into the origin realm. If he ends up losing though, then he’s completely done for in this life.”
“That’s very true. A character like Yan Hongtu is destined not to amount to much. He's probably thought this through, otherwise he wouldn’t be acting such a fool like this.”
The news of Jiang Chen and Yan Hongtu dueling spread through the Rosy Valley like wildfire.
“Young master, all of Rosy Valley is talking about the duel.” Xue Tong was a bit worried. Yan Hongtu was at fifth level origin realm and the boss of the Soaring Clouds area, far beyond Jiang Chen in both cultivation level and seniority. It would be a bald faced lie to say that Xue Tong wasn't worried at all.
“Xue Tong, what are you worried about?” Gouyu was completely dismissive of the hubbub. “If the young master dares answer the challenge, then he must have his own reasons. When have you ever seen the young master lose any bet?”
This made a lot of sense once everyone had the opportunity to think it over.
“Haha, the young master is a natural winner! He was like this in the Eastern Kingdom, the Skylaurel Kingdom, again in the sixteen kingdoms alliance, and will definitely be the same in the Regal Pill Palace!” Qiao Shan’s voice boomed loudly.
Mu Gaoqi, also known as the Demigod of Wood, came rushing over as they chatted amongst themselves. He had a wry smile on his face, “Brother Jiang Chen, you were simply too impulsive. Yan Hongtu has been renowned for many years and possesses an absolute advantage in the Soaring Clouds area! Even if you wanted to duel him, you should’ve waited a few more years before doing so!” It was clear that Mu Gaoqi was truly worried.
“Have no fear, Doaist Gaoqi. I promised that I would explore the spirit spring with you three months from now. I have no intention of delaying that deadline. What the hell is that Yan Hongtu? Is he even worthy of me being his follower for three years?”
It wasn’t that Jiang Chen was arrogant, but that he had long since thoroughly probed just how much weight there was to Yan Hongtu.
Mu Gaoqi sighed when he saw Jiang Chen this determined. “Brother Jiang Chen, there are many rules to a contest of pills. I’ll explain them to you first so you’re not caught off guard…” He was obviously the most anxious one right now. If Jiang Chen happened to lose and became Yan Hongtu’s follower, then his own plans would be deeply affected as well.
That spirit spring was simply too important to him.
Jiang Chen didn’t decline Mu Gaoqi’s enthusiasm and patiently lent an ear to all his explanations. Jiang Chen was more or less familiar with the rules after one go through. Although Mu Gaoqi had never participated in a duel, he’d witnessed at least fifty, if not a hundred of them during his time in the Rosy Valley.
Such conflicts weren’t rare, and the application for the duel was quickly approved.
An elder had taken the responsibility from the Regal Pill Palace side to organize the duel. “Our Regal Pill Palace was founded on the basis of the dao of pills. When the disciples of our sect duel, the first duel is one of pills, and only then martial dao. Are there any objections?” He looked at the two he was addressing; Jiang Chen’s expression was at ease whereas Yan Hongtu brimmed with confidence, itching for the chance to prove himself.
“I have no objections.” Yan Hongtu’s voice rang out loudly, seemingly wanting to suppress Jiang Chen using volume alone.
Jiang Chen said faintly, “No objections.”
The organizer nodded when he saw the two combatants express no objections. “Alright, as there are myriad topics that pills touch on, the topics will be selected at random. A referee will oversee the match, and the match must stay within the bounds of the sect’s rules. The victor will be determined after three matches. I will now begin to select the topics.” He’d selected three crumpled bits of paper from a randomly scattered pile as he spoke.
“The topics of the three pill matches will be: fire control, cauldron inspection and pill refinement.”
A ghost of a smile curled Yan Hongtu’s lips, utter confidence in every crease of his face. He’d heard many rumors of Jiang Chen’s martial dao potential, and was well aware of his opponent’s strength. However, he was at fifth level origin realm, whereas Jiang Chen was at first level. There was no reason for Yan Hongtu to fear.
As for the dao of pills, he was even more confident given his background of the Regal Pill Palace. Jiang Chen was from the poor backwater that was the sixteen kingdoms alliance, how much could he possibly have seen of the dao of pills?
Skill in the dao of pills?
Yan Hongtu smirked contemptuously, completely dismissing Jiang Chen in his heart. “Jiang Chen, let me teach you a lesson today in what a true disciple of a great sect is, a true genius of the Regal Pill Palace! Hah! Do you think you’re worthy?” Yan Hongtu’s provocation was full of disdain.
Jiang Chen truly couldn’t be bothered with verbal sparring. That Yan Hongtu seemed to be quite confident in his ability in the dao of pills. Well, the higher he soared with that faith, the more satisfying it would be for Jiang Chen to crush him.
It was always such a gratifying feeling to smack an enemy down like a fly using the art they were most adept at.
“The first topic is controlling fire. Control over fire is an absolute prerequisite for setting foot on the path of pills. If one cannot even control fire, then they are an absolute failure of a pillmaster.”
“Do you see the twelve small cauldrons in front of you? There are twelve types of fire within, including but not limited to, heavenly fire, earthly fire, ghost fire and odd fire. But at their very heart, they are all fire. Both of you have fifteen minutes. Whoever can awaken the higher number of fires using their arts within this period will be the victor. Remember, your skill with fire must first resonate with them before awakening them.”
Resonance with the origin of the flames was a common subject in the area of fire. And to be honest, this method was widely used by fire experts to test many different kinds of fire. The true heavyweights, those at a heavenly level, were well versed in the methods of resonating with various sources of fire to investigate their properties.
Fire was one of the original forces of the universe. Who knew how many types, shapes and forms of fire existed between the heavens and earth? Some types of skyfire were as small as a speck of dust, but held enough power within them to destroy an entire city, or even a world.
“Your fifteen minutes starts now.” The first match officially started with the judge’s command.
Yan Hongtu, the epitome of confidence, made a hand seal and brought a flame in the shape of a peony into existence. His gaze was full of gravitas as he started setting up flames around the small cauldrons.
One had to say that Yan Hongtu was quite adept at controlling fire. It only took a blink of an eye to awaken two cauldrons of fire. When he flicked a glance over at Jiang Chen, he saw Jiang Chen looking intently at the cauldrons as if they held mesmerizing patterns, not making a move at all.
“Haha, this country bumpkin has no idea how high the heavens go! He probably doesn't even know how to control fire!” Yan Hongtu’s preconceptions were unshakeable, and he only saw Jiang Chen at a complete loss of what to do.
Jiang Chen had indeed not begun to act. He also had no interest in how much fun Yan Hongtu was having. He’d entered that state where he had once again lost himself in thought. The distractions of the outside world washed off him, leaving his dao heart unaffected.
He observed each small cauldron and analyzed it, a wealth of information flowing through his mind.
“Mm, this is the Phantom Whitefire, that’s Volcanic Trueflame, and Heartwood Spiritfire, Azurethunder Oddfire over there….” Jiang Chen’s mind kept analyzing the origin of the flames in the small cauldrons, and had completely seen through all of them in short order. He snapped his fingers, a bizarre fire glyph appearing in mid air. He stretched it to and fro, like strumming a zither, creating a uniquely beautiful melody and rhythm.
The small cauldrons suddenly lit up like candles being lit in succession. Flames of every color and shape flared into existence.
One flower, two flowers, three flowers…
Twelve flowers of different flames were joyously burning after a short span of time. The flames climbed higher and higher, seemingly dancing with joy at finally finding someone who wholly understood them. The flames seemed to form a strange sort of communication with Jiang Chen's fire glyph.
“Mm?” The referee had also thought that Jiang Chen hadn’t known how to control fire when the latter hadn't made a move earlier. But now that Jiang Chen had finally moved, the flames in the little cauldrons moved like they'd been lit all along. The referee’s mouth hung open, categorically stunned at the sight.
The rhythm of the dancing flames being lit was simply too beautiful. It had gone from left to right in single file, as neat and orderly as standing in line. It was just like someone had lit them easily and swiftly, at a dead even tempo.
Jiang Chen’s movements had been incomparably elegant, making him a joy to watch. At that moment, the fifteen minutes ran dry.
Yan Hongtu had been wholly focused on his cauldrons, awakening seven fires by the time the bell rang. He turned with a gleeful face, ready to see Jiang Chen make a fool out of himself. However, the sight that faced him turned him to stone. The arrogant smirk still hung on his face, but now appeared quite ironic.
All twelve flames had been awakened in the twelve cauldrons, and their figures were far superior to his own.
“How… how is this possible??” If it hadn't been for the referee present, he almost wanted to believe that Jiang Chen had cheated!
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