"What's going on?"
The disciples at the Lecture Hall looked around with confused expressions as Elder Deng brought a second cauldron onto the stage alongside enough ingredients to make two Advanced Spirit Refreshment Pills.
"Are they doing more lectures today?" asked one disciple.
"No, not that I am aware of any."
A few moments later, Elder Deng turned to face the crowd and began to speak, "A few minutes from now there will be a small competition between an honored guest and one of our own, Core Disciple Qing Shan, and you are all welcomed to bear witness of such event!"
His announcement instantly raised the crowd's excitement and caused the atmosphere to turn lively, and many disciples began appearing from every direction to witness this spectacle.
"We get to witness senior apprentice-sister Qing concocting pill? This is an extremely rare sight that I cannot afford to miss!"
"Could the guest be that handsome young man just now? He can also concoct pills?"
"If senior apprentice-sister Qing has agreed to compete with him, then his ability as an Alchemy Master must be quite remarkable!"
"He's not only handsome but also capable… Ah… I wonder if he's taken yet."
Many minutes later when they finished setting up the stage, Su Yang casually walked up and picked one of the two cauldrons to sit down. Beside him was a small table that had just enough ingredients to concoct a single Advanced Spirit Refreshment Pill.
There are no rooms for errors during this competition, as a single mishap, even the slightest, could easily render the entire pill useless.
Sometime later, Qing Shan also showed up on the stage, but she was not wearing her normal sect clothes but robes made specifically for pill concoction. Because Alchemy Masters usually sweat buckets during the process, robes that could absorb all that sweat were made.
Before Qing Shan sat down, she looked at Su Yang's relaxed face and spoke, "Don't worry, I will wipe that arrogance off your face real soon."
Su Yang did not reply to her and only smiled slightly.
Once both Qing Shan and Su Yang were seated behind a cauldron and the crowd was quiet, Elder Deng stood in the middle of the stage and said, "The two on the stage will be competing with each other with the Advanced Spirit Refreshment Pill as their goal. Whoever achieves the highest quality in the end result will win, and they will have four hours to complete the task."
"It does not matter if one finishes faster than the other — if both of them are able to complete the pill within the allotted time, I will announce the winner based on the quality of the pill. If one of them burns the ingredient at any time during the process, it will be considered as a loss."
"If neither of them are able to finish the pill within the allotted time or they burn the ingredients during the match, it will result in a tie."
Elder Deng quickly explained the rules to the crowd.
"Only four hours? Even Elder Li took five hours to complete the Advanced Spirit Refreshment Pill, yet they are given only four hours?" One of the newer disciples said with a surprised look.
"This is senior apprentice-sister Qing that we are talking about! She has concocted the same pill in under three hours before, much less four hours! I'm sure that Elder Deng had increased the time because of that young man!"
"It's too late to back down now!" Qing Shan said to Su Yang, who looked a bit baffled by the rules, with a smug look on her face.
"F-Four hours?" Su Yang was indeed a bit shocked by the rules. He didn't think that they would be given four whole hours to concoct a mere Advanced Spirit Refreshment Pill! In his eyes, it was no different than taking an hour to boil an egg!
"I have to sit here for four hours or at least until she's finished?" Su Yang began regretting accepting the challenge but for all the wrong reasons.
"Are both of you ready?" Elder Deng turned to ask them after announcing the rules.
Qing Shan eagerly nodded whilst Su Yang nodded while yawning.
Su Yang, who was seeming uninterested in the event before it even started irritated Qing Shan even further, but because she was about to concoct an Earth-grade pill she forced herself to ignore him and clear her mind.
"That arrogance! I will surely wipe it off your face!" She thought to herself before grabbing the ingredients beside her to inspect each and every single one of them.
Although they were prepared by her own Sect and was guaranteed to be fresh, Qing Shan still decided to inspect them by herself, as any decent Alchemy Master should be cautious even with the simplest things.
There were twenty-eight different herbs and medicine required to concoct the Advanced Spirit Refreshment Pill, and it had taken Qing Shan over ten minutes just to look over them.
Once she confirmed that there was no fault with the ingredients and they were clean, she proceeded to take half an hour to grind the herbs one by one with the grinder on the other side of her.
Just the beginning steps have taken almost an hour from her limited four, yet she hasn't even begun to concoct the pill. However, Qing Shan was neither feeling worried or rushed, as her movements were slow and elegant, almost like she was performing an artistic performance.
After all the ingredients are grounded to powder, she began to heat up the cauldron by creating flames with her Profound Qi and controlling it so the cauldron does not become too hot too fast or take too long to heat up.
Controlling the flames is considered to be the most difficult part to Alchemy by almost every Alchemy Master out there, especially during the creation of the pill, so one would normally engulf themselves in controlling the flames and thinking about nothing else.
Meanwhile, Su Yang only casually sat there with his eyes closed, looking almost like he's asleep. Ever since the competition started, Su Yang closed his eyes and hasn't moved a single muscle since then.
"This little brat! He's clearly trying to mock both of us by not taking this seriously!"
This greatly angered Elder Deng, who thought he was simply fooling around and not taking his challenge seriously, but he resisted the urge to approach him and decided to wait until the entire thing's over before letting him have a piece of his mind.
However, in truth, Su Yang was actually awake, and he was Cultivating at that. Because he didn't want to waste any more time he decided to use these few hours to Cultivate the Yin Qi in his Dantian. Even if he does not manage to Cultivate all of the Yin Qi, he will at least relieve some of the pressure on his body.
A little over an hour into the match, when Qing Shan finally finished heating up her cauldron, she used what little free time she had to peek at Su Yang to see what he was doing, and to her surprise, he was actually Cultivating without a care in the world! The ingredients beside him looked untouched, so he clearly hasn't even started to concoct the pill yet!
"This bastard! He's clearly doing this just to mock me!"
Su Yang's actions made Qing Shan feel anger that she has never experienced before. However, despite her anger, she did not outright stop the concocting her pill to yell at him. Instead, she decided to focus on completing the pill first. At this point, she no longer considered this as a competition with Su Yang but a showcase of her skills to her fellow disciples.
Once the cauldron was heated enough, Qing Shan picked up one of the many grounded ingredients beside her and threw it into the cauldron before quickly closing the lid and returning to controlling the flames.
A few minutes later, Qing Shan opened the lid back up to throw another grounded herb inside the cauldron, and she repeated this process for the next two hours.
With her entire body soaked in sweat, Qing Shan had her entire focus on the cauldron before her. She was so fixated on creating the Advanced Spirit Refreshment Pill that she'd already forgotten all about Su Yang and the match. In her mind right now there is nothing besides the cauldron and the pill that was slowly forming inside.
After a few more minutes, Qing Shan's eyes flashed with a profound light, and she slapped the cauldron lid open, causing a billow of dark grey smoke to emerge from the cauldron.
This grey smoke did not mean that Qing Shan had burned her pill. Instead, it meant that she was successful in extracting the impurity within the pill.
"So much impurity! It should be at least a medium quality pill!" Elder Deng smiled upon seeing the grey smoke being released into the sky.
Once all the smoke dissipated into the air, Qing Shan opened her palm to catch the pill that left the cauldron itself, almost like it was controlled by an invisible hand.
Qing Shan looked at the white pill with only a tiny number of grey spots in her hand with a satisfied smile before giving it to Elder Deng for inspection.
"90% quality! It's a high-quality pill!"
When Elder Deng announced the result to the crowd, almost every disciple there shouted in excitement.
"As expected from one of the best Alchemists in our Sect, senior apprentice-sister Qing!"
"Not only did she concoct an Earth-grade pill in under four hours but it also came out as a high-quality pill!"
Under the crowd's cheering, Qing Shan turned to look at Su Yang, who was still sitting there with his eyes closed.
However, before she could open her mouth to speak, Su Yang's eyes snapped open, and within his gaze flickered with profound lights.
"Although I was only able to Cultivate half of the stored Yin Qi, my Cultivate base has soared to the peak of the True Spirit Realm! Once I Cultivate the rest, there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to enter the Earth Spirit Realm!"
Su Yang then looked at Qing Shan and the pill in Elder Deng's grasp and spoke, "Hm? You are finally done?"
A vein of anger appeared on Qing Shan's smooth forehead upon hearing his casual tone, but before she could say anything, Su Yang moved his hands and directly tossed all twenty-eight herbs into the cauldron, dumbfounding everybody there.
"What the hell is he doing? He still thinks he has enough time to concoct a pill?"
"What a disappointment. I thought he was some kind of genius, but he turned out to be a fool."
The disciples expressed their discontent with him loudly.
However, Su Yang did not stop moving and closed the lid once all of the herbs were inside the cauldron.
He then waved his sleeves, causing a ring of flames to surround the cauldron.
When Qing Shan and Elder Deng saw how casually he controlled the flame and felt its perfect temperature, their eyes widened with shock and their jaws loosened slightly, and they stood there frozen like statues made of stone.
But not even a moment later, the flame suddenly expanded, engulfing the entire cauldron in flames.
"He really is an idiot! If he uses such strong flames, the ingredients inside will burn within seconds!"
"He didn't even grind the herbs before throwing them inside the cauldron…"
"His effort is like someone rushing to finish his work the last second after slacking for the entire day…"
Not even a minute later, Su Yang retrieved the flame and slapped the lid off the cauldron. The next second, a billow of pitch black smoke could be seen escaping the cauldron.
"Hahaha! Look! He really did burn it!"
"What a fool!"
"No… this is…"
While the disciples mocked Su Yang, both Elder Deng and Qing Shan had other thoughts racing through their heads. They were unable to smell the smell of any burning herbs, so the black smoke could not have been caused by burning. However, they have never seen anything like this before, so what's the meaning of this?
"Go ahead," Su Yang casually said to Elder Deng with a smile. "Inspect it."
Elder Deng forcefully swallowed his saliva and slowly approached the cauldron with trembling legs, his heart filled with an ominous feeling.