Chapter 1919 – Don’t You Want to Return the Favor?
This was the second time that he had heard of this artifact after entering the Azure.
It seemed like the top echelon of the Azure revolved around this single artifact. Regardless of whether it was to acquire top-notch cultivation techniques or high-tier pills, one required an Ethereal Token. From the looks of it, they would not be able to get anywhere without an Ethereal Token.
All Zhang Xuan needed was a sufficiently high-tier pill to temporarily stabilize his wounds so that he could absorb the mercury-like spiritual energy from the surroundings and convert it into Heaven’s Path zhenqi. Once that happened, all of the problems would swiftly be resolved. He would be able to remove the gu from Dan Xiaotian’s body and teach him swordsmanship, thus saving the young man from his current plight.
“The city we live in is simply too small, so there’s no Ethereal Hall here. As such, there are no vendors selling the Ethereal Token.” Dan Xiaotian frowned.
“Is there no other way to acquire it?” Zhang Xuan asked.
“There is one way a person can get an Ethereal Token in our city,” Dan Xiaotian said, “but it’s simply so difficult that it’s no exaggeration to say that it’s completely impossible!
“Back when the Hongyan Market was first established, in order to draw more customers into its premises, the owner inscribed ten difficult questions and created a list of prizes corresponding to each of the questions. As long as one is able to solve a question, one will be able to acquire the corresponding prize. It successfully drew huge crowds to the Hongyan Market, and nine of the questions have been solved thus far.
“The prize of the final question remaining is an Ethereal Token, and there are many people who are dying to lay their hands on it. However, due to the sheer difficulty of the question, it remains undeciphered to date!”
“Bring me there!” Zhang Xuan said.
Even if there was a vendor selling Ethereal Token there, it was not as if he had the money required to purchase it. Of course, with his means, he should be able to make money quickly, but that would be a great deal of trouble. Thus, it would be best if he could acquire the Ethereal Token like that.
Knowing that there was no other way around this matter, Dan Xiaotian nodded in agreement.
As Zhang Xuan’s injuries were simply too severe and even walking put huge strain on his body, they could only travel to the Hongyan Market in a carriage.
It took roughly two hours for them to finally arrive before a massive marketplace. Dan Xiaotian leaped out of the carriage before carefully supporting Zhang Xuan. Together, they headed to the wall where the ten questions were inscribed.
As a popular tourist attraction site, there was a huge crowd swarming in the vicinity.
The possibility of being able to obtain an Ethereal Token for free was too great a temptation, so it was understandable that people wanted to give it a try.
“Sigh, it’s wrong again…”
“You have been here ten times over the past two months, but you still haven’t succeeded. Why do you just keep coming back to embarrass yourself time and time again?”
“What’s wrong with that? It’s not as if I’m embarrassing you. Besides, you came here many more times than me!”
“If it’s that easy to solve this question, it wouldn’t have remained undeciphered even after all these years…”
The crowd gradually thinned as challengers failed one after another.
The system that verified the accuracy of the answer was rather similar to the Wall of Dilemma that he had encountered in the past. Basically, every answer provided would be evaluated on the spot to determine whether it was right or not. This was also why it attracted a huge crowd every day. Perhaps, one might just stumble upon the correct answer by luck.
On the way here, Zhang Xuan had learned from his conversation with Dan Xiaotian exactly how valuable the Ethereal Token was. Every single token was so precious that even Ancient Sage experts would have difficulty forking out the money for one.
Judging from Dan Xiaotian’s depiction, it seemed like even if he could bring out everything in his storage ring and sell his possessions there, he still might not be able to afford one.
At the same time, he gained a deeper understanding of the Azure.
As those living in the Azure had lived their life amid the mercury-like spiritual energy, their constitutions were exceptionally resilient, surpassing even the Otherworldly Demons of the Master Teacher Continent.
Just like his previous self, most of them possessed the strength of a Saint 1-dan at birth, and that would increase all the way to Saint 9-dan when they finally matured as an adult.
Someone like Dan Xiaotian, who was only at Saint 6-dan despite already being on verge of adulthood, was deemed a weakling with no future ahead of him.
For example, despite being of similar age to one another, his fiancée, Xue Qin, was already at Great Sage 3-dan consummation, making her one of the strongest experts in the city.
The city they were in, Xuanjiang City, was not an extremely large city, such that Ancient Sages were the most powerful existences there. One thing of note was that it was under the jurisdiction of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion, which explained why it was recruiting disciples in the region. The lord of Xuanjiang City was Xue Qin’s father, Xue Yao, and he was known to be the number one expert within the city. That being said, his cultivation was only on the same level as Zhang Xuan, Dimension Shatterer realm primary stage.
So, once Zhang Xuan recovered his strength, there would be no one else in the city who would be able to pose a threat to him anymore. As such, he had decided to make this his first priority.
Zhang Xuan placed all of those thoughts to the back of his mind and raised his head to take a closer look at the wall not too far away.
“Let me see what kind of question has put so many at a loss, such that it remains unsolved even after so many years. Even if a Nurturing Yang Pill is forged to the level of Perfection, the yang energy that it harnesses is still so violent that it can’t be controlled by the cultivator consuming it…”
It did not take Zhang Xuan too long to finish looking through the question.
The question was not too complex. Basically, it was prompting others to solve one of the key problems surrounding the Nurturing Yang Pill via proposing feasible modifications to its forging process.
The Nurturing Yang Pill was one of the necessary cultivation resources for cultivators practicing yang cultivation techniques. It would fill them up with the vigor and drive required to further their cultivation.
The pill formula was the work of an ingenious apothecary, capitalizing on the synergistic properties of many medicinal herbs in order to amplify the eventual medicinal energy deposited within the Nurturing Yang Pill. However, the pill had a fatal flaw.
After consuming the Nurturing Yang Pill, due to the massive buildup of yang energy, cultivators would have to seek an avenue to vent their ‘heat’. Once they vented their heat, it would result in a huge loss of yang energy, which was extremely wasteful of the resource.
This was a problem that many apothecaries had sought to resolve, but it still remained an issue. Improving an already ingenious pill formula was simply no easy feat. It was for this reason that no one had succeeded even after so many years.
“Nurturing Yang Pill?”
After reading the question, Zhang Xuan tilted his head slightly in confusion.
The Master Teacher Continent had all kinds of pills, and he boasted an understanding of countless of them due to the incredible number of books he had read. Yet, he had never heard of the Nurturing Yang Pill before.
Fortunately, perhaps in consideration that the general public would not have too much of an understanding of this pill, the other party had left behind a detailed pill formula and its forging process.
Zhang Xuan took those into the Library of Heaven’s Path, compiling a book out of them.
“I see, I see…” Zhang Xuan nodded.
There were many differences between the medicinal herbs of the Master Teacher Continent and the Azure, so the pill formulas and forging processes varied greatly from one another. Luckily, the Library of Heaven’s Path was still working perfectly. With a glance, all of the flaws and errors in the combination of medicinal herbs and the forging processes became apparent to him.
Dan Xiaotian also noticed the smile on Zhang Xuan’s lips, and he could not help but ask out of curiosity, “Teacher… do you know of the solution to resolving this problem?”
He had also looked into this matter for quite a while, but it was to no avail. Could his teacher really have an answer to the problem with just a single glance?
“I do have an idea in mind.” Zhang Xuan confirmed Dan Xiaotian’s thoughts.
Dan Xiaotian widened his eyes in shock, and he hurriedly asked, “Then… how should the problem be resolved?”
“If we are just looking at this single issue, the solution isn’t actually that complicated. In the pill formula of the Nurturing Yang Pill, there’s a medicinal herb known as Inferno Grass Stem. The problem can be resolved by switching that medicinal herb with the Spirit Matriarch Grass!” Zhang Xuan explained with a lowered voice.
“Spirit Matriarch Grass… Isn’t that a yin attribute medicinal herb? Will we really be able to forge the Nurturing Yang Pill if we add something like that?” Dan Xiaotian was a little surprised by the answer.
Due to his crippled condition, he had studied quite a lot regarding pills and medicine. The Inferno Grass Stem was not the most potent medicinal herb in the pill formula, but it played an indispensable role in forming the ultimate product. He did not think that a pill could be formed if one swapped it for the Spirit Matriarch Grass. On the contrary, the Spirit Matriarch Grass would neutralize the yang energy, thus causing all of the medicinal energy to be cancelled out.
“Yin and yang exist as complements to one another. While the Spirit Matriarch Grass is a yin attribute medicinal herb, it is able to serve as a medium to nourish and calm the medicinal properties of the key ingredient, Crimsonfire Flowerleaf. This will solve the problem without causing any depletion in the medicinal energy of the pill,” Zhang Xuan explained.
The complementary properties of yin and yang were common knowledge on the Master Teacher Continent, and it was a concept often used in pill formulas. Yet, to think that no one in Xuanjiang City knew of this. From the looks of it, it seemed like despite the stronger average prowess of those in the Azure, in terms of the development of occupations, it was nowhere close to the Master Teacher Continent.
On the Master Teacher Continent, Kong shi’s ideals had been propagated for tens of thousands of years, encouraging the open sharing of knowledge and furthering of mankind’s wisdom. In comparison, it was obvious that the Azure was severely lacking in comparison.
“This…” Dan Xiaotian was perplexed.
He was just about to ask about the matter when he heard some chatters behind him. Following which, he saw the crowd around the wall opening up a pathway for a group of people.
“Who are they? They seem to be quite lofty?” a middle-aged man amid the crowd asked in displeasure.
“Shh! Don’t speak nonsense.” A knowledgeable soul hurriedly hushed that middle-aged man up. “Those are the experts from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion who are here to recruit menial disciples. Do you see that man in the middle? It’s said that he has a deep understanding of pill forging…”
“They are the experts from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion?” The face of the middle-aged man who had spoken earlier paled in fright.
He hurriedly backed off to the sides to allow the approaching group to pass through.
The Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion commanded great prestige in Xuanjiang City, and no one would dare challenge their authority there.
At the same time, Zhang Xuan turned to take a closer look.
The person standing at the forefront of the group was a cold-faced young man, probably in his mid-twenties. He was dressed in a gray robe, and there was a sword tied to his waist. His eyes flickered with a hint of rational coolness, giving the impression of a person who would never let his feelings get in the way of his decisiveness.
Despite his young age, the young man’s cultivation was impressive, reaching Ancient Sage 4-dan Dimension Shatterer realm.
There was no such expert on the Master Teacher Continent, but it felt like it was not too rare to see cultivators of such a level here at all… The Azure sure was a frightening place!
While Zhang Xuan was assessing the young man, he could not help but notice that Dan Xiaotian’s body had tensed up along with the arrival of the group. Glancing over, he saw that the latter’s fists were tightly clenched. Tracing the latter’s line of sight, he saw Xue Qin, the young lady who had dropped by the Dan Clan earlier to coerce Dan Xiaotian into backing out of the marriage agreement, walking right behind the gray-robed young man.
She wore a tight purple dress that shaped out her proud figure beautifully, and its low neckline revealed her fair-colored neck. Her head was tilted upward slightly, and she emanated an aura of pride and loftiness.
The fact that she was allowed to follow the experts of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion around was more than enough to show that she had already been confirmed as a disciple of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion, and for a small place like Xuanjiang City, it could indeed be considered an impressive feat.
“Such a problem actually stumped you all for so long?” the gray-robed young man remarked as he swiftly read through the problem on the wall. He gestured to the young man behind him and said, “Write down the answer for me. Change the Inferno Grass Stem to Spirit Matriarch Grass.”
The young man hurriedly walked over to the wall to write down the answer.
Not expecting the other party to see through the crux of the problem with a glance as well, even coming up with the same answer as his teacher, Dan Xiaotian widened his eyes in astonishment. He turned to his teacher and exclaimed, “But we were the ones who found the answer first!”
He had been doubting the accuracy of his teacher’s answer when those from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion came over and gave the same answer. That meant that there was really no mistake with his teacher’s answer.
However, if it was the group from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion who gave the answer instead, it meant that the Ethereal Token would go to them instead.
Just as Dan Xiaotian was about to rush over, he felt someone grasp his wrist tightly. It was his teacher.
“Don’t bother, it’s too late now…”
Dan Xiaotian turned his head over and saw that the young man from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion had already written down the answer on the wall before pressing his palm down on it lightly.
A brilliant red light flashed from the surface of the wall.
“It’s the correct answer?”
“As expected of an expert from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion! He was actually able to solve the problem with just a swift glance!”
“I have long heard that the experts of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion were figures who stood at the peak of this world, and it seems like that’s truly the case. Their reputation is not unfounded at all…”
“The number of disciples accepted by the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion each time around is extremely limited. I wonder how many people from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion will be able to meet the mark this time around. It might just be a mere menial disciple, but it symbolizes the opportunity to rise to become an outer disciple, then an inner disciple, and finally a direct disciple…”
“My bet is that there will be just three people. It has always been like that!”
A huge commotion broke out amid the crowd.
Even a question that had stumped the whole of Xuanjiang City for more than a decade was solved so easily by the group from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion. Those from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion were truly extraordinary beings.
“Young master, I would like to congratulate you on solving the final problem of the Hongyan Market. This is the reward that we have prepared for you!”
Very soon, a slightly plump middle-aged man walked over with a fawning smile on his face. He was holding onto an opened wooden chest carefully with both of his hands, and sitting in the middle of the chest was a palm-sized token.
The token was densely inscribed, and one could feel slight pulsations of spiritual energy coming from it.
“Is that the Ethereal Token?”
“I heard that even a single one of those costs a hundred thousand Ethereal Coins?”
“Wow. I don’t think I can’t ever afford that in my entire life…”
They might all be cultivators who had grown up in the Azure, but the Ethereal Token was a commodity that only the upper echelons of the continent possessed. There were only a few of them in Xuanjiang City, so most of them had never seen one before.
The gray-robed man grabbed the Ethereal Token in between his two fingers and drove his zhenqi through it. After confirming that it was the real deal, he nodded in satisfaction before sliding it into Xue Qin’s hands. “I’ll give it to you.”
Xue Qin’s eyes widened in delight as she received the Ethereal Token, and even her breathing hastened from agitation.
It was not just the value of this gift that excited her. What was more important was the significance behind the gift.
It was already a huge blessing for her to be able to become a menial disciple of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion, but to receive a gift directly from the young man before her… With this, she would become the envy of the entire town!
Holding onto the Ethereal Token tightly, Xue Qin bowed down and said, “Thank you, Senior!”
After giving her thanks, she suddenly noticed Dan Xiaotian amid the crowd, and a sharp glint flashed through her eyes. She immediately made her way over to the latter, and with a mocking smile on her lips, she said in a hushed voice, “You’re here as well? Were you trying to obtain this Ethereal Token to turn your situation around? What a pity though, it’s already mine! You really should learn your place. Do you think that a person like you is worthy of possessing an Ethereal Token? Naive!”
Previously, she had been afraid that the rejection of the marriage proposal would affect her reputation, but with a senior from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion taking such care of her, she had nothing to fear anymore!
What did Dan Xiaotian even count as? They were already in two different worlds, so what did she have to fear about him?
Of course, there was also the fact that the area was filled with men from the City Lord Manor, so no one would dare leak the news out. Not even the wandering cultivators who had dropped by to try their luck would dare speak a word of the matter as long as they valued their lives.
Besides, she was not speaking too loudly, so it would be hard to discern what she was saying.
“You…” Dan Xiaotian’s body stiffened at being humiliated once more.
“Who is he?” the gray-robed young man suddenly asked.
“He’s just a friend I have met in the past…” Xue Qin scoffed at Dan Xiaotian one last time before turning around to face the gray-robed young man, replacing her scorn with a sweet smile in the blink of an eye.
“Let’s go!” the gray-robed young man said before walking away.
Xue Qin quickly rushed forward to keep up with him.
Dan Xiaotian trembled quietly with a lowered head for a moment before he turned to Zhang Xuan with an apologetic look on his face. “I’m sorry, Teacher…”
His teacher had already revealed the correct answer, but he had actually doubted his teacher. If not for his teacher spending some time to explain the matter to him, the Ethereal Token would already have been theirs.
“To receive such a valuable gift from her senior… It seems like that fiancée of yours didn’t acquire her position as a menial disciple of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion through proper avenues,” Zhang Xuan remarked deeply before turning to look at Dan Xiaotian with a smile on his lips.
“Do you wish to return the favor?”
“Return the favor?” Dan Xiaotian was taken aback.
Xue Qin already had the experts of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion on her side, so how could they possibly exact vengeance on her?