Chapter 543: Jiang Chen’s Strange Actions
In the instant Jiang Chen had felt Ding Tong’s hostility before the Pill Battles, he’d known that there could be no compromise with him. Ding Tong hadn’t come calling because he truly wanted to recruit Jiang Chen, but rather because he’d realized that it wasn’t possible to surpass Jiang Chen in the Pill Battle Rankings. This was nothing more than an intimidation tactic to scare Jiang Chen into backing out.
Did he think Jiang Chen a three year old child, to be hoodwinked by these kinds of tricks? Nevertheless, Ding Tong’s actions were certainly enough to keep Jiang Chen on his guard. His origin was a complete mystery, and Jiang Chen had enough cause to suspect that he wasn’t actually part of the Tristar Sect. His participation in the Pill Battles was probably part of some unspeakable conspiracy as well. The only thing that remained shrouded was whether Ding Tong was keeping the Tristar Sect in the dark, or were they in on the plan as well?
As far as Jiang Chen could tell, especially with the suspicious behavior Sect Head Zhu had shown, he felt it likely that the Tristar Sect was in it up to their ears. Sect Head Zhu hadn’t been as calm as Palace Head Dan Chi when Ding Tong was undergoing the bloodline tests, even though he’d hid it well. Jiang Chen’s God’s Eye had reached a level where that slight flicker in Sect Head Zhu’s emotions had been clear as day. However, at this point, all this was merely suspicion and supposition. It wasn’t enough to create a plausible argument. Besides, this plot seemed to implicate many, and his current identity and status weren’t enough to persuade the crowd of his words. He might even cause the Regal Pill Palace to fall into an awkward situation. Moreover, he was already under general suspicion due to his outstanding results. If he decided to try and point out something amiss about Ding Tong, it would only look odd to onlookers.
As a result, Jiang Chen decided to do nothing for now and just silently observe Ding Tong.
After a night of rest, the competition continued bright and early the next day. The third round involved spirit herbs, and Mu Gaoqi’s eagerness for battle was on the verge of exploding.
However, this competition of spirit herbs wasn’t just simply cultivating a spirit herb or two.
“Now, please enter each area according to your number. There, you will find three thousand seeds. Your task is to locate the five seventh level saint rank seeds hidden among them. Each seedling must correspond to the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. Then, you must germinate those seeds within seven days.”
When the rules were announced, it was apparent that this was one of the more complex rounds. Not only did they have to pick out only five seeds from three thousand, but they had to make sure that the seeds corresponded to the five elements, which had further implications when they had to be cultivated into seedlings. And to boot, all of this had to be completed in seven days!
“Remember, there are 600 total points that one can win in this round. Identifying the five seeds will result in 100 points, each seed being worth 20 points. Growing each seedling earns you 100 points. However, don’t think that simply growing a seedling nets you the full hundred points. The quality of the seedling is paramount. If the seedling is of lower rank, you will receive 30 points. Middle rank seedlings will earn 60 points, and upper rank, 80 points. Only supreme rank seedlings will you earn the full 100 points.
“Therefore, if you want to receive all 600 points, you must identify the five correct seeds and raise them to be supreme rank seedlings. Of course, if you identify the wrong seeds from the beginning, then your efforts for the latter half will all be for naught. Remember, seventh level saint rank seeds. If you pick the wrong rank or attribute, you’ll forfeit all your points. This round is where the wheat will be separated from the chaff. If you don’t acquit yourself well, you could lose a great deal of points and see your ranking fall drastically.”
Everyone stood at solemn attention. If they performed well in this round, they could seize a lot of points. But if they didn’t, they would lose quite a bit instead. This was truly a double edged sword.
“Do you see the ground beneath your feet? This area is where you’ll be cultivating your spirit herbs. All of the materials you need have been made ready for you. Finally, there are no restrictions on using any heaven defying materials you already own. Apart from not leaving this area, there are no other restrictions on this round.”
Every area was covered in seals that cut off communication to the outside world. Each candidate could use any method or technique they wanted, but they couldn’t ask for outside help.
“Alright, the competition and time of seven days starts... now. You are now forbidden from leaving for the next seven days. If you set even a toe outside this area, you will be deemed as having cheated and will receive a zero for this round.”
The costs of cheating were high. Once someone was deemed as having cheated, they would basically have to withdraw from the Pill Battles. There was no way they would be able to obtain a decent ranking.
Jiang Chen closed his eyes and took a moment to breathe, listening closely to all the rules. The more one prepared, the more likely that they would be able to save time later. As such, there was no need to start at a frantic pace. It wouldn’t be too late to make his move after he’d carefully heard all of the details. He only slowly opened his eyes after the examiner announced the start of the round.
There were a full seven days to this round with a lot of flexibility. This was why Jiang Chen wasn’t overly focused on speed. Haste made for waste.
Three thousand seeds were an astonishing number to comb through. Pill masters with slightly lower cultivation levels would find it very difficult to pick out the 5 seventh level saint rank seeds of the five elements—and this was from the perspective of the Myriad Domain geniuses. If it were up to those from the Precious Tree Sect to attempt this, possibly even Forefather Thousandleaf would be unable to accomplish this. But of course, this was as easy as a simple twitch of his fingers to Jiang Chen. No matter what level the seeds were, he only needed to touch them, perform a simple examination, and take a sniff to be able to determine their level. Even if there were the occasional ones he was uncertain of, he’d be able to draw a firm conclusion after taking another look.
He’d gone through all of the seeds in roughly fifteen minutes, selecting about twenty likely candidates and sweeping the rest to the side.
Of these twenty, he had selected high, low, and medium saint rank seeds. The only requirement they had was to select seventh level saint rank seeds that corresponded to the five elements. He’d actually locked onto the proper five seeds a long time ago, but had suddenly thought of something else as he’d selected the seeds.
Jiang Chen took a look at the current conditions. It was already difficult enough to cultivate all five into supreme rank seedlings. It was also apparent that the organizers were quite stringent, and that almost no one could walk away with full points under these conditions. However, Jiang Chen was striving for full marks.
He also knew that if he could gain full points in this round, his score would leave everyone else behind in the dust. This opportunity was just far too good to pass up. His pill dao potential had been thoroughly revealed in the previous two rounds anyways, so he didn’t mind exposing himself a bit more.
His strange actions baffled Palace Head Dan Chi. “What’s Jiang Chen doing? He's selected so many seeds; is he planning on cultivating all of them and then picking the successful ones?” He was puzzled, and couldn’t fathom what Jiang Chen was planning.
It wasn’t that this method wasn’t allowed. If anyone really could cultivate large numbers of seeds into seedlings and then pick out the five correct choices, there was nothing in the rules against it. At the same time, it was an impossible task. And the reason for that was threefold.
First, the materials provided had been precisely portioned out. They were just enough to cultivate the minimum 5 seventh level saint rank seedlings. There just weren’t enough for cultivating all twenty seeds.
One could alleviate that problem by forking over money for materials, but the second problem still remained. Everyone only had that bare patch of dirt to work with. There was only so much space, and it certainly wasn’t big enough to house more than five seeds.
Third, raising seedlings required infusion of one’s energy. An overly dense concentration of seeds was bad for the development of the spirit herbs, and if they didn’t receive enough spirit energy over the seven days, then there may not even be five seedlings at the end.
To use an analogy, the degree of comfort between having five people in a house and fifty in the same house were completely different. With the same amount of resources and space, the more seeds that were cultivated, the less spirit power and space were available for each seed, and that would affect their rate of development.
Therefore, Palace Head Dan Chi couldn’t understand Jiang Chen’s actions no matter how he thought about it. If he hadn’t known that Jiang Chen wasn’t the sort for tomfoolery, he would’ve thought that his disciple was playing with fire.
Naturally, there were others who thought precisely that, such as Wei Wuying, Tristar Sect Head Zhu and Wang Jianyu from the Sacred Sword Palace. Jiang Chen’s performance had been so stunning before that he naturally attracted many gazes in this round. Wei Wuying was utterly delighted to see Jiang Chen behave so erratically. He hadn’t thought that Jiang Chen would have such sophisticated methods when he witnessed the cauldron preheating round earlier, but he was absolutely sure of his judgement on Jiang Chen’s current actions. Jiang Chen was going against every ounce of basic knowledge of spirit herb cultivation. The result was obvious, all actions that went against common knowledge were destined to be fruitless.
However, they’d learned their lesson this time, and didn’t make a dig at Jiang Chen or jeer at him. They only watched him coldly, prepared for a good show. If Jiang Chen came crashing down in this round, then his previous advantages would have been rendered meaningless.
“You won’t find trouble if you don’t go looking for it. This Jiang Chen is too full of himself and has gone courting death!” Wei Wuying was completely looking down on Jiang Chen now. He didn’t believe that such random crazy actions would result in a high score!
Sect Head Zhu was also privately rejoicing, only wishing that Jiang Chen would continue this run of madness and hand the championship over to Ding Tong. As for Wang Jianyu, he had no ambitions when it came to the Pill Battles. The only thing he wanted to see was the Regal Pill Palace’s abject humiliation.
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