"Watch closely!"

Without explaining himself, Zhang Xuan walked forward and shouted, "That friend from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion over there, may I ask you to stop for a short moment?"

The gray-robed young man continued walking away without any hesitation, as if not having heard Zhang Xuan's voice at all.

The edges of Zhang Xuan's lips crept up as he continued. "Friend, the answer you provided is inaccurate. I don't think that it's very fair for you to leave with the Ethereal Token just like that!"

His voice was extremely loud, suppressing the surrounding voices in an instant. Everyone turned to look at him with stupefied looks on their faces.

The other party was an expert of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion, and to actually claim that he was wrong so publicly…

Are you tired of living?

The gray-robed young man halted in his tracks and turned around to look at Zhang Xuan with a deep frown etched on his forehead.

With an awful look on her face, Xue Qin coldly spat, "Dan Xiaotian. If you don't want to die, you'd better keep your subordinate's mouth in check!"

She recognized the mummy standing before her as none other than the person who had spoken up against them earlier at the Dan Clan. It was out of magnanimity that she did not pursue his insolence, but who could have known that he would dare to continue spout nonsense?

"H-he isn't my subordinate. He's my t-teacher!" In a moment of anxiety, Dan Xiaotian began stuttering once again.

"Teacher? No matter what, the Dan Clan was still once a formidable existence. When did you fall so far such that even weaklings like him are worthy of being your teacher?" Xue Qin remarked disdainfully.

"I don't think it's any business of yours who Dan Xiaotian acknowledges as his teacher. Unless… you are still dreaming of becoming his fiancée," Zhang Xuan replied calmly.

"You…" Xue Qin's body stiffened upon hearing those words.

Seeing Xue Qin's response, a cold glint flashed through the eyes of the gray-robed young man. He gazed down at the mummy before him coldly and said, "You mentioned that my answer isn't correct?"

"Indeed," Zhang Xuan replied. "To show you that I'm not making things up, I am even willing to make a bet with you. The one who loses will be subjected to the other party's command!"

"You are courageous to speak to me in such a manner," the gray-robed man remarked as he assessed Zhang Xuan nonchalantly. "Tell me, what is your basis for determining that my answer is wrong."

"There's no need for that. There's a much easier way to resolve this problem than with our mouths. All we need to do is find an apothecary to forge the Nurturing Yang Pill based on the answer you have provided and feed that pill to someone. You will understand once you see it," Zhang Xuan said.

"You want to test the practicality of the solution I have provided?" The gray-robed young man frowned.


The first response that came to his mind was to reject Zhang Xuan's request because he felt that it was too troublesome, but when his gaze swept across the crowd, he noticed doubtful looks on their faces.

So, after a brief moment of silence, he raised his hand and said, "Bring an apothecary over!"

The young man following behind him quickly left the group, and not long later, he returned with the plump middle-aged man who had brought the Ethereal Token over earlier, as well as two apothecaries.

The plump middle-aged man snapped his fingers, and a large army of attendants immediately rushed forward to set up a table of medicinal herbs and two cauldrons.

"I need the two of you to forge the Nurturing Yang Pill according to the formula over there!" the plump middle-aged man instructed the two apothecaries.

Nodding, the two apothecaries swiftly began forging the Nurturing Yang Pill. They followed the instructions written on the wall precisely, adding medicinal herbs one after another with impeccable timing. When it was finally time to add in the Inferno Grass Stem, they threw the Spirit Matriarch Grass in instead.

As soon as the Spirit Matriarch Grass was thrown in, the two cauldrons immediately began rattling nonstop. One of the apothecaries could not contain the billowing energies within the cauldron, and eventually, the entire cauldron exploded deafeningly on the spot.

It was fortunate that protective measures had been taken beforehand, so no one was hurt as a result of the accident.

Nevertheless, the explosion still intimidated many people amid the crowd. They hurriedly backed a distance away as they continued watching the pill forging process worriedly.

The remaining apothecary was clearly more skilled as he controlled the responses of the medicinal herbs adeptly. An hour later, a set of freshly baked Nurturing Yang Pills was finally delivered out of the cauldron. Its surface glistened beautifully with a natural shine.

It seemed that their luck was not too bad. Not only were the pills formed, they had even reached the level of Perfection.

"Good!" After seeing the pills, the gray-robed young man nodded in approval.

He quickly scanned the crowd before beckoning a young man over. "The cultivation technique you practice seems to be yang attribute in nature. I need you to help me test the medicinal properties of the pill!"

Perhaps due to his trust in the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion, the young man swallowed the pill without any hesitation. The pill swiftly melted in his mouth, and a tremendous amount of yang energy swiftly flowed into his meridians. It took only an instant for the young man's face to turn scarlet.

The young man hurriedly sat down to drive his zhenqi, hoping to keep the influx of yang energy under control for his own assimilation, but the more he tried to control the yang energy, the greater the backlash he faced. Eventually, white smoke began rising from the top of his head.

It did not take too long for his eyes to start reddening as the heat started getting the better of him.

"Ahh, I can't stand it any longer!"

Unable to take it any longer, the young man rushed up to one of the aunties watching the spectacle and reached out to rip her clothes.

Tzla!

The ripped clothes scattered all over the ground. Without any hesitation, the young man began to force himself on the auntie to carry out some indescribable act, but there was an abrupt sharp pain at the back of his neck before he collapsed onto the ground.

The gray-robed young man of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion had stepped in at the vital moment to prevent a tragedy from occurring.

The fact that the young man had only gone berserk after eating the Nurturing Yang Pill showed that his pill formula was insufficient in resolving its problems. Not only so, the side effects seemed to have worsened. The young man who had consumed the pill could not control his impulses at all.

"The pill formula that I have come up with does have some problems…" With an awful look on his face, the gray-robed young man turned his head over to Zhang Xuan and asked, "However, how did you know about it? Do you, by any chance, know the correct answer?"

To be honest, he had heard of this problem prior to coming to Xuanjiang City, and he had conducted quite a bit of research before coming up with the correct answer. He definitely did not manage to solve the problem as easily as he had made it appear.

The main reason he wanted to put up such an act was to bulk up the reputation of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion in Xuanjiang City.

Just that… who could have known that instead of bulking up the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion's reputation, he would end up being humiliated instead?

As displeased as he was, he knew that it would unwise for him to lose his temper. He would only embarrass himself further if he displayed a lack of graciousness.

"I do have an answer," Zhang Xuan replied with a smile.

He whispered into Dan Xiaotian's ear, and the latter looked at him with a bizarre expression. After confirming that Zhang Xuan was not joking with him, he walked up to the wall and penned down an answer with a brush before handing it forward.

Just like before, a red light flashed from the wall.

The gray-robed young man frowned as he impatiently remarked, "The person checking the answer is right here, so why don't you just read it out loud?"

What was the point of beating about the bush when the manager of the Hongyan Market was already standing among them? The young man could just read out the answer, and they would be able to discern whether it was right or not together.

Dan Xiaotian looked at his teacher, and after receiving a confirmatory nod, he began reading out the answer that he had written out earlier with an awkward look on his face. "Change the Inferno Grass Stem to Spirit Matriarch Grass!"

The crowd was silent for a moment before a huge commotion broke out.

"Huh?"

"Was I hearing things?"

"Isn't the answer the same as the one that the young man from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion came up with?"

The gray-robed young man also narrowed his eyes as a menacing aura flowed out from him. "Are you trying to mock me?"

The other party had confidently pointed out that he was wrong, but he had ended up giving the same answer. Just what the hell was the other party up to?

Dan Xiaotian himself was feeling a little giddy as well. He had completely no idea what his teacher was up to.

Don't you know that trying to make fun of an expert like this is a huge taboo? You'll lose your life!

"You are thinking too much," Zhang Xuan replied calmly before shooting an exasperated glance at Dan Xiaotian. "What are you doing? There is still a label at the end, right? Read it out!"

"Ah, right…" Dan Xiaotian nodded as he hurriedly continued. "After the solution, there's a bracket that states 'not local'."

"Not local? Wait a moment, what does that mean?"

Everyone was bewildered by the additional label. Even the gray-robed young man was unable to make sense of what was happening.

What did 'not local' refer to? Was there some kind of difference between the local Spirit Matriarch Grass and those not from the region?

"The Nurturing Yang Pill serves to reinforce the yang energy of a cultivator. In order to stabilize the effects of the pill, swapping the Inferno Grass Stem with the Spirit Matriarch Grass is indeed the ideal solution. In fact, the solution you have proposed would have surely worked out if the pill forging was conducted anywhere else," Zhang Xuan said as he slowly walked up to the cauldron and touched the medicinal sludge from the exploded cauldron earlier.

"However, the solution simply doesn't work here! Xuanjiang City has its back facing the Xuan River, and that's where its name originates from. This river originates from the sea, and what flows through it isn't freshwater but saltwater!"

The crowd nodded in agreement.

While Xuanjiang City was not located near the sea, it was connected to it through the Xuan River. However, it was a pity that what flowed through the Xuan River was saltwater, making it unsuitable for drinking or commercial activities. As such, despite its decent location, it had still failed to develop into a major city. Among the territories of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion, it could only be considered a third-rate city.

Its economy was not doing too well at all.

"As a result, the farmlands in the area were irrigated with saltwater, and the plants growing in the region carry some salt content. At this point, I would like to invite everyone to take a closer look at this medicinal sludge. Do you notice anything peculiar about it?" Zhang Xuan asked as he showed his hands to the others.

The crowd leaned in to take a closer look. Amid the black mess on his finger, there was a layer of white powder. It was faint, but as Saint cultivators, they were able to easily tell what it was.

The gray-robed young man also walked up to the medicinal sludge to take a closer look before touching it slightly. White powder stained the tip of his finger. He brought it to his lips and licked it, and there was a slightly salty taste.

"It's salt!" The gray-robed young man nodded.

Following which, Zhang Xuan continued his explanation. "The Spirit Matriarch Grass lives in marshlands, thriving in dark, damp locations. Its leaves should have carried a slight acidity, but this is neutralized by the salt content of the other medicinal herbs, and that ruins the yin attribute of the Spirit Matriarch Grass. As such, it is unable to serve as a medium to calm medicinal energies contained in the other medicinal herbs, resulting in the yang energy becoming even more violent after losing the Inferno Grass Stem. That's also why the young man completely lost control of his rationality earlier after consuming the Nurturing Yang Pill. He was completely overwhelmed by heat!"

"This…"

"There's actually such a factor?"

Fervent discussions could be heard all around.

Had pill forging always been such a delicate process such that even a slight change in the environment would make a huge difference?

The gray-robed young man was slightly taken aback. Was this really why his pill formula had failed?

He swiftly examined the remaining medicinal herbs that had not been used for the pill forging. With a tap of his finger, he ignited one of the medicinal herbs, and upon closer examination, he noticed some salt amid the ashes too.

"Pill forging is a very delicate process. The difference in a single medicinal herb or a single process could easily result in failure. Countless medicinal herbs could be ruined just because of a slight difference. Naturally, an apothecary has to take note of the geographical location, the local climate, the state of the cauldron, one's state of mind, and the techniques utilized in the forging process. All of this has to be considered before one embarks on the pill forging. A mistake is a mistake… I know that someone from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion won't deny that, right?" Zhang Xuan asked with a gentle smile.

"My misjudgment has indeed resulted in a failed pill forging, I'll admit that much!" Knowing that he would only hurt his reputation if he argued his way out of this, the gray-robed young man harrumphed coldly. "I'll give the Ethereal Token to you then!"

Without any hesitation, he took the Ethereal Token from Xue Qin's hands and tossed it over to Zhang Xuan.

"I…" Xue Qin's face twitched as she felt a burning sensation on her face.

It was just a moment ago that she had obtained this invaluable treasure, but in less than two hours, it was already another man's possession.

"I shall humbly accept the gift!" Zhang Xuan replied as he slipped the Ethereal Token into his pocket. Then, his eyebrows suddenly shot up as a realization seemed to have struck him. "Oh right, I nearly forgot. I mentioned earlier that I wanted to have a bet with you and that the one who lost the bet would have to listen to the winner's command… You didn't agree to the bet explicitly, but neither did you reject it. Since that's the case, should I take it that the bet is still effective?"

Seeing that Zhang Xuan was pushing the boundaries, the eyes of the gray-robed young man narrowed threateningly.

He had never thought that a person from this remote city would actually be able to corner him to such an extent!

On the other hand, Zhang Xuan seemed to be completely oblivious to the gray-robed young man's rage as he pointed to Xue Yan nonchalantly and said, "Well, my command isn't anything much. I just want you to give Xue Qin over here three crisp slaps in my stead!"

"What?" Xue Qin's face warped in horror upon hearing those words.

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